Hey y'all. Thanks for opening.
My grandpa, Jimmy Taube, passed away recently. As I've reflected on memories over the past couple of days, I respected and admired him more than I realized. I sent a message through my angelic Aunt Dede to him in his last couple of weeks to make him aware of the positive impact he had on me. I'm glad I did. He would have never known. He didn't do it for show, it's who he was.
From my first memory of him, I can see him treating my Nana like a queen. Always. Never missed a beat. It was the little things. He always held the door, tucked her chair in under her, and my favorite, he would hum throughout every meal just to reassure her how much he appreciated her efforts in the kitchen. It was all so smooth, subtle, and natural.
Working with kids, I've learned through first hand experience that children are sponges. They observe and absorb. I slip and drop an F bomb in practice, then Jonny Feltingoff says it (Sorry Sharon!).
Thankfully, Grandpa Jimmy set a better example. Women everywhere lamented the day my lovely Nana took him off the market. The consummate gentleman, gone. That's how I feel. Blessed for the chance to learn from him, but yearning for more.
I'm sitting in an incredible busy restaurant in the middle of a hiker festival. A place that, despite an abundance of enamoring traits, severely lacks contemporary manners. On the way in, I held the door for a group of ladies. They surveyed each other with slight grins, overzealously said thank you, and walked in ahead of me. With the door in one hand and a beer in the other, I smiled and poured a splash a beer from my cup in tribute to Jimmy.
Even in grungy hiker form, your legacy is carried on. It's an honor.
First off. Minimal foot pain! It was those piece of shit Under Armour shoes that messed me up. I'm back in the boots and back in my groove. Thank you for your concerns!
So I left y'all in Damascus, VA where I left a good portion of my liver and a larger portion of my dignity on the karaoke stage.
My body was beat to hell, but thanks to a certain trail angel, I managed to carry on.
Imagine a car, let's just say this car is tall and handsome with a set of legs that would make 1990 Julia Roberts put a pair of ratty sweatpants out of shame. This car also lights up the room with every smile and inappropriate anecdote.
Talking about a friend.
Now lets say this car runs on dirty, siphoned gasoline that's been resold and watered down 3-4 times, yet manages to drive dozens of miles in the rain or heat every single day.
One morning, the car awakes exhausted and unsure of the near future. Just as doubt creeps in, it see's an object flying through the sunrise. It blinks and squints. It can't be a dream, everything hurts. The car thinks its dying, and opens up its long arms, ready to meet it's maker.
Turns out, the flying object was the spirit of a mother of three named Niki Rubin swooping in to deliver a resupply box of food. I open the box and got hit with a puff of euphoric mist.
This wasn't any euphoric mist though. It was non-GMO, cage free, grass fed, gluten free, organic euphoric mist from Whole Foods (or Fresh Market, dunno).
There was a Pro-Bar called SuperFood Slam that is about fifteen energy packed foods held together by Fitness Fairy Dust. I could feel the engine's in my body activate. I flew through the mountains with a smile, waving to chipmunks and farting out butterflies.
Seriously though, I took a shit, buried it, and slept through a night of rain. The next morning, right where the poo grave stood, I saw a sunflower with strawberries and flax seeds hanging from it. Unbelievable!
Thank you for the amazing resupply Niki and Cole. I miss y'all.
After Damascus came the Grayson Highlands. The hills are bald, which means wind. They're also at 5,000 feet, which means said winds are frigid. Despite that, it was magical. There were wild ponies grazing and yes, frolicking, throughout the open fields. Mumbles, who was previously introduced, got some incredible photos of our time there.
The following night, I hiked past the groups intended destination. After begrudgingly backtracking to find them, I ran into them hiking on. Knee-deep in frustration, it began to rain. We found a campsite and I started the painful process of hanging a hammock in the rain.
Delighted in how dry I managed to stay, I laid down in my promptly hung hammock and got situated. Five minutes in, a smile just creeped in under my offensive mustache as the tree I hung from snapped, dropping me into a mess of mud and wet leaves. The first, and most devastating thing I lost? A dry pair of butt cheeks. Like a kid in high school who just tripped at lunch and flipped his tray of food on himself, I sat there in shame and held a pity party for a brief period of time.
I quickly hopped up, wrapped everything important in my sleeping bag, and handed it off to Mumbles in the next tent over to keep dry. I untied all the stakes and searched for two new trees that weren't made of wet drywall. I'm only wearing puffy rain pants and a pair of Croc's, so I look like a pale, hungry, elongated Alladin without a vest. Just as I get my shelter hung and a glimmer of hope creeps in, I notice my hammock itself had been dropped during the transfer. It's soaked.
I saw red.
Before the adult in me could step in, I ripped my hiking poles from the mud and swung them through every branch in my general vicinity. I saw my boots and proceeded to spike them like Rob Gronkowski after a kilo of cocaine.
With no more gear around me to ruin, I settled for a string of profanities thrown in all directions yet at nothing in particular.
Mind you, Beach Party, Mumbles, and Gnarwhal are all fifteen feet away in their tents. The embarrassment and shame settled in and I finished the setup. The next morning we laughed about it, with Mumbles admitting, "I almost invited you to crash in my tent but I was genuinely scared to at one point." Whoops.
Per usual, trying times evolve into memorable experiences. The destination for the following night was the Partnership Shelter right outside of Marion, Va. I hung my hammock in the attic between two open windows and enjoyed the breeze all night.
Prior to, we hitched into town and resupplied. On our way back out, we began walking the wrong way. A Good Samaritan in a beautiful new Escalade informed us we were walking in the wrong direction. He offered a ride so we hopped in.
He, by the way, is Dr. Gates. He says his dad, who's dental practice he took over, is Dr. Gates, but we call him that anyway. He and his wife to go Bonnaroo every year and love the outdoor life. Woulda never guessed. The next day, I went to his office to thank him again for the ride, and he greeted me with a bag of free dental products to hand out to hikers. Despite what the news channels might say, people are fucking awesome. Don't lose faith y'all.
So we returned to Partnership and it wasn't the glamorous paradise we left it. A famous hiker named "Grizzly Bear from Maine" had drank himself into a coma. I walked up to find him asleep in his own puke, in the damn shelter where people sleep. His name originated from his appearance. He's medium height, has a grey beard, and weighs in around 400 pounds of density. I tell you his stature to emphasize just how horrifying/humorous it was to see his entire bag of balls hanging from the bottom of his shorts. They shuddered and shook with each labored breath. Thanks Griz!
The next couple of days were fun. I've hiked with Gnarwhal, Mumbles, Beach Party, Kinda, and Murphy over the course of those days. If one of these fabled bears I've heard about actually appeared, I'd happily jump in front of them. I love 'em.
So I'm at Trail Days now. It is like a Woodstock for hikers. I have been putting off any partying (beer doesn't count) until I finish this post, so it's time for me to join my friends.
We had to drive two hours (btw, that two hours of driving took me two damn weeks to hike!) to get to Damascus from where we got off Trail. The girls and I did 32 miles on our last day before our extended break, my longest day yet. Three days later, I'm still recovering.
I'm going to answer some questions emailed to me and save the Trail Days experiences for the next post. Should be a shit-show. Hopefully my brains still intact and I can adequately relay the events.
Before I sign off, I want to make my readers aware of a podcast. It's called "On The Bus". You can find it on iTunes. I simply wanted to drop the name, I haven't listened yet, but I plan on reviewing it in my next post. I grew up competing against one of the hosts and I genuinely cannot wait to soak it all in during my next day in the Green Tunnel that is the Virginia section of the AT.
Please contact me at Colby.Wohlleb@gmail.com with any questions, suggestions, or comments! I do my best to respond to everything. If I don't, I simply missed it and apologize.
1) Do you carry toilet paper on you? How does that whole situation work? I carry toilet paper, yes. Imagine nature calling, in the woods, and not having it. Yikes. The process involves digging a hole and hanging one hand off a tree. There are privy's (outhouse's) at the shelters. Call me uppity, but something about sitting on an absurdly filthy toilet seat with the heat of other's fecal matter warming Route 66 between my bum and balls that scares me away from Privy usage. Quick funny story. I met a guy recently who equally hates privy's. He woke up one night in the pitch black of night and had to go. With bears roaming, I understood him wanting to use a sheltered toilet. He sat down, and just as he settled in and let it rip, snow started to fall. He knew because his privy didn't have a roof. He shat while it snowed right on his head. I laughed as I typed this.
2) What's your trail name? Young Gandalf. Gandalf Gosling, Trail Magic Mike, Coach, Daddy G, Ken Spliffey Jr. Whatever you prefer.
3) Did your foot/ankle situation feel better on April 20th because it was... April 20th? Something about that particular day helped with the pain. If only there were medical research backing the benefits of an herb that grows naturally from God's green Earth to help with pain relief that didn't result in a life altering addiction to pills. Side note, my shin splint and tendinitis earned me a full prescription pain killer. Threw that out.
4) How much alone time do you get on the trail? Do you ever purposely walk ahead or fall behind? Personally, I require a couple hours of solitude a day. I hike alone almost every day. The clarity of mind is addicting. In the simplest of terms, when I'm hiking alone, I feel like my thought process has an endless landscape to pull from. There are no distractions, only inspirations. It's amazing.
5) Do you miss "normal" life, or do you feel like you're in the groove and could continue on the trail forever? I love how normal is in quotations. I feel like I could continue forever. I miss my friends and family, but I see my brother happy and hustling and I know my mom loves where she is, so all is well. I've always wanted to step away and observe from a distance. This may sound arrogant, but t's relieving to know the gears still turn when I'm gone.
6) What's on your trail soundtrack? I listen to music that reminds me stuff. Ya know how a song will make you think back to where you were when you heard it or who you were with? I went through iTunes and compiled a playlist of songs like that. I hike to nostalgia. I would LOVE if my friends would read this and send me a song that reminds me of them. I'll have a piece of you out here.
7) Has the trail changed your book? More than I could have ever imagined. I have a running outline of things. During the spell I had with my foot injury and cold weather, I split my main character into 2 people I've always wanted to write about. The story line has changed. The mood has changed. It's a lot of fun to think about while you're moving along the Trail. Can't wait for some extended rest to crank out some words.