Florida/Alabama Roadwalk Journal Entries

Friday—February 20, 1998
Trail Day—51/1
Trail Mile—845/20
Location—Ball Field Announcers Score Box, Sneads

The roadwalk into Chattahoochee is literally a breeze, for I have a gentle breeze to my back and the weather is again fair. There is very little traffic but I’m offered many rides. Lots of friendly dogs along the way with none wanting to take my leg off for a change. I’m in by early afternoon and head for the Home Place Café for a grand fried chicken dinner.

The roadwalk out of here is no fun. I’m on busy US90 and must cross the new Apalachicola River Bridge. There’s a fully paved emergency lane and I keep tight against the concrete sidewall but the trucks and heavy traffic are really barreling at me and I get a good sandblasting. The bridge continues for what seems better than a mile. Then, I’m finally able to pull well off and walk in the grass. Just west of the bridge I pass the Apalachee Correctional Institution. To those of you older folks like me, facilities like this used to be called “prisons.” Here, convicts (now called inmates) are housed to the tune of near fifty bucks a day. I’m thinking; with this luxury, I could be pounding out near-fifty mile days and still be averaging the good old budget standard of a dollar a mile! But I decide that my fifteen-mile, fifteen bucks per day…and my freedom are a much better deal. By late evening I enter the little village of Sneads. Here I head to the supermarket for a few provisions. 

There’s a ball field complex right next and I head over to search a quiet corner to pitch for the night. There is no shrubbery or any cover to be found, just the dugouts, score boxes, the usual backstops and chainlink all around. I check out the dugouts. They’re all dark, dank and dirty. For some reason I decide to take a look at one of the score boxes. There must be half a dozen or more standing high on stilts, perhaps twelve feet off the ground. Each is secure with chainlink gate and each has a ladder leading to a trapdoor in the floor. To my surprise, the first gate I check is unlocked and the trapdoor is wide open, so up and in I go. This place is neat! It is equipped with benches and a long built-in table along the full shuttered wall facing the field. There are fluorescent lights and the place is clean. The first order of business is to close the shutters to hold in the warmth of the day. By dropping the trapdoor I have more than enough room to roll out my sleeping bag. There may be no armoire, no vault to store my valuables, no concierge desk nearby, nor an Ivon Geotz to prepare his famous Mediterranean cuisine for my exquisite dining this evening, but this is definitely and truly a Hiker Trash Ritz-Carlton Penthouse!

“And one summer-morn forsook his friends,
And went to learn the gypsy-lore,
And roamed the world with that wild brotherhood,
And came, as most men deem’d to little good…”

[Michener, The Drifters]
Saturday—February 21, 1998
Trail Day 52/2
Trail Mile—863/38
Location—Planted Pine by CR271 South of Hornsville

On my way out of Sneads this morning I stop at a little mom-n-pop restaurant hooked to the side of a gas station and am served a fine tank-topping breakfast. What a beautiful warm morning as I head north for a roadwalk on CR271. The road crosses many little inlets and streams leading to Lake Seminole, then finally follows the shoreline for miles. Boaters are out in numbers, fishing along the shore and many greet me as I hike along. One laments that all would be better if the fish were abitin’. When I suggest that he has already caught a perfect day, all in the boat raise a cheer to that! 

What a glorious spring-like morning. This is the first day in a long while that I have really felt the comforting warmth of the sun. I am thinking about the book, Walking With Spring, written by Earl Shaffer in 1981. Earl was the first to thru-hike the AT after its official dedication in 1937 (a group of scouts thru-hiked the AT southbound in 1936). He did it in 1948, just after returning home from the war. The book is aptly named, for it was that on his thru-hike Earl literally walked with spring. For you see, as one hikes north from Springer Mountain an interesting coincidence occurs; that being the simultaneously changing tilt of the sun to the earth which moves spring north with you! And if you can hike at the rate of 15 to 20 miles per day you remain on that very day that you met spring…until spring slowly accelerates to bid you farewell and leave you behind somewhere in Virginia.

My walk with spring has already begun, because I have seen my first azaleas blooming in a neatly-kept farmyard south of Bristol, Florida. Red buds and azaleas are in full bloom along the streets in Chattahoochee, and by the roadway this morning, in the woods I see the beautiful white bloom of the wild pear. So Earl, I’ll be hiking with spring, but much earlier and for a considerably longer time. There are two distinctions, the good Lord willin’, I hope to make as I hike along this year. One that I’ll be the only person to walk near the entire breadth of the eastern North American Continent, and the second, that I’ll have enjoyed spring longer than anyone else in America!

By evening I have made it to just south of Hornsville, to pitch in the planted pine by the road. This day and this roadwalk have been delightful!

“Content with birds and trees and flowers
In mellow age I find
‘Mid monastery’s holy hours
God’s Peace of Mind.”

[Robert W. Service, Tranquillity]

 

Sunday—February 22, 1998
Trail Day 53/3
Trail Mile—876/51
Location—Planted Pine by SR75 South of Gordon, Alabama

I am greeted by a cold, very dreary morning. By the time I reach the Alabama line I’m in the middle of a hard-pounding electrical storm. I cross from Florida into Alabama at 10:00 a.m. this day. Florida will be the longest state to hike by far, nearly 900 miles. One down, 15 to go! Reflecting now, I find it most fitting to be leaving Florida in the driving rain! El Nino does not heed this line that man has drawn, so it is that we continue on together. I will truly not miss the water, mud and muck. It remains to be seen if anyone else succeeds with much of the FT this year. The Good Lord has seen fit to provide me safe passage, and for that I am truly thankful.

The rain comes harder and I am not only soaked but becoming very chilled. So I pull into Chattahoochee State Park. The Park is open but there is no one around. As I slog clear to the river and back I find no place to get out of it, save the office front porch, so I pitch right there on the wooden floor with my tent pegs stuck in the floor cracks. I can’t get into my tent and sleeping bag fast enough as I am shivering uncontrollably from the familiar descending stages of hypothermia. As soon as the reflex tremors subside I fall into a very deep sleep which lasts for well over two hours.

As I look out, the sky is clearing somewhat and the storm seems to be moving on. So I pack up and head on north, to pitch in the planted pine near a lovely field just off CR75. The rain continues off and on all night. I have picked up a piece of plastic that can be lashed over my tent. This keeps the deluge from coming straight through.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in
seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

[Marcel Proust, The Power of Travel]

 

Monday—February 23, 1998
Trail Day—54/4
Trail Mile—896/71
Location—Planted Pine by SR95 North of Columbia

I picked up an hour when I crossed the Chattahoochee River, so now I’m on the eastern edge of the Central Time zone. It’s almost like being on daylight savings time, for now I have daylight, as far as the hours go, much later into the evening. This time setup I much prefer. Another gloomy, rainy day is shaping as I stop for breakfast at a little black-run cafe in Gordon. I’m a southern boy and I like my grits. And here I’m served some of the finest grits I’ve had staring back at me in a long time. I go for the biscuits, gravy, sausage and eggs too! Everybody wants to hear my story about where I’ve come from and where I’m headed. Folks always tend to roll their eyes back when I give them my pitch. The blacks do too. But when they roll their eyes back it’s much more dramatic…a real hoot! The grits and the coffee keep coming and I can hardly waddle out of the place.
Chirp Trees are starting to bloom now. Don’t know about Chirp Trees? They’re swamp (red) maple. When the seedwings fall, pick a dry one up. Break off the end bulb and place the reed cross-wise on your tongue, back about an inch with the feather-edge forward. Then touch your tongue lightly against your palate and say “shhhhh.” With a little practice, you’ll be able to “chirp” all of the wonderful nostalgic old Stephen Foster songs! So off I go “chirping” along today, entertaining myself through the gloom and the rain. It’s a Huckleberry Finn day all the way! I hit a sub shop in Columbia for supper then move on to pitch in the planted pine just north of town on CR95.

“Happiness ain’t a thing in itself—it’s only a
contrast with something that ain’t pleasant.”

[Mark Twain]

 

Tuesday—February 24, 1998
Trail Day—55/5
Trail Mile—911/86
Location—Piney Woods by SR95 near Abbie Creek

The day dawns clear and cold and I quickly crank the old jitney, getting it rolling along and up to normal operating temperature. Yes indeedy it’s going to be a fine day. My plans were to cut over to CR97 and head on north hard by to the Chattahoochee River but the going along SR95 has been most pleasant and I decide to continue on its friendly path into Haleburg, population 106. As I make my entrance, the berg’s most prominent citizens, the neighborhood dogs, quickly hail me. I am treated with courtesy and kindness, but everyone in town soon knows that someone has arrived! As I pass through, the wind picks up from the north, so I jiggle and tug the throttle a bit and lean into it for the remainder of the day.

I’m always ready for a little diversion, some excitement if you will, and my share comes full measure today. As I’m happily chugging north, totally enwrapped in my usual little daydream cocoon, I am soon graced by the presence of two big, BIG Black Angus bulls, one on either side of the road. It’s immediately apparent they’re having a turf problem. Judging by the respective holes they’ve dug and are standing in, this display of Taurus might didn’t begin just a few moments ago. Accessing the situation I’m not at all pleased with what I see, for the only thing physically separating these rhino-sized mammoths (and me near in the middle) is a thin, almost invisible filament-sized strand of electric wire running both fence lines. I abruptly halt some distance from them.

They continue facing off, each as close to the wire as possibly. First the bull to my right thrashes and stomps angrily, followed in perfect queue by the bull to my left, each kicking and throwing dirt like some out-of-control backhoe. The larger of the two has worked up a full frenzy, throwing dirt everywhere, much of it landing on his back and on the top of his head! I’m really not the least bit anxious to go parading right through the middle of this thunder party, for I can feel the ground shake and tremor even as I hold my distance. As I continue standing here, trying to explain to myself in a most convincing manner, that there is this whole road width through which to pass, it is that I become puzzled and taken by the road’s incredibly narrow appearance! And as I ponder proceeding, the possibility of needing a quick path of retreat finally strikes me. It’s then I realize that there isn’t a thing, save a power pole, anywhere close to hide behind. By enduring the insignificant electric jolt for just a second these fearsome hulks could charge full tilt right through the wire and into the roadway! Then what would they do, indeed what would I do? Aww, Jeez! This is really scary. This is surely more excitement than this old man has ever hoped for or could possibly want!

For the last four days I’ve been diligently rolling along this highway on my odyssey and the logging trucks have been diligently rolling along to the mill. Over this short course of time we’ve become like old friends. There’s “Haulin’ Heavy,” “Dixie Red,” “Road Runner,” “Rebel” and many others. From each I get that delightful, wanderlust-tugging airhorn blast as they pass me by…WOONK…WOONK…WONK, WONK. Ya gotta smile and feel that tingle clean up your spine!

Well, these fellows pass here many times each day, and here comes one now. He quickly sees my dilemma. I hear the, “SKOINK…SKOOINK of his airbrakes as he slows to let me jump the running board and in just seconds I’m past and out of harm’s way! Thanks, Dixie Red!

Near dusk, as the wind settles down for the evening, I settle down too, just off SR95 near Abbie Creek. What a remarkable, adventure-filled day! This one sure will remain in this old man’s memory for a long, long time. Folks, you gotta believe me, there’s more to this hiking and backpacking thing…there’s more to it than just climbing mountains!

“A truly wise person kneels at the feet of all
creatures and is not afraid to endure the
mockery of others.”

[Mechtild of Magdeburg, 1265]

 

Wednesday—February 25, 1998
Trail Day—56/6
Trail Mile—936/111
Location—Piney Woods by CR95 at Chester Chapel Church

I’ve definitely been heading for higher ground, no big hills, just a gradual steady pull the last few days. You wouldn’t even notice it rolling along in an automobile, but it’s there, and I can definitely feel its gentle tug as I hike along. I suppose I should start remarking about some of these little communities that I’m passing. I don’t have a clue where the folks come up with some of these names. Up just ahead this morning is the little country crossroads of Screamer. Ha! See what I mean? Say, fella where y’all from? Uhh, well, I be from Screamer, how about you? Oh, I’m from Smut Eye, over by The Bottle!
The pleasant roadwalk continues. Traffic is definitely not a problem. The logging trucks that have been running fairly steady give me all the room they can, swinging into the other lane if there’s no oncoming traffic. The road finally claims the ridge here at Screamer and from this vantage I can see across Lake Eufaula to the east, all the way into Georgia. This roadwalk isn’t anything like I had anticipated. It has been most pleasant and I am enjoying it very much. I even pass two well-built beaver dams today. I stop for water at Chester Chapel Church and then pitch in the piney woods across the road. A most pleasant, uneventful day.

“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”

[Thoreau]

 

Thursday—February 26, 1998
Trail Day—57/7
Trail Mile—949/124
Location—Terrace Motel, Eufaula

What a beautifully clear, warm day, perfect hiking weather! I stop for coffee at White Oak and then head for US431. There’s about seven miles of this major highway to hike to reach Eufaula, but the shoulders are wide and the traffic is moderate. Most drivers are very courteous, honking or waving at me as they pass. I arrive in Eufaula by noon and head straight for Pierces for dinner. I like traditional southern cooking and the blacks sure know how to cook. The fare served up this noon is them good ol’ pig knuckles and greens, Umm…Um!

This town has seen few if ever any hikers I’m sure, but I’m able to get a good Hiker Trash deal at the Terrace Motel. I haven’t had a shower, save what Ma Nature has seen fit to provide since Torreya and my hiking garb is just the least bit soiled. The hot shower feels soooo-good! I wash my clothes in the tub and string them to dry on my makeshift line in front of the TV. Supper is at Captain Ds. I like the extra cracklings they serve free in a little paper side basket. All you need do is ask!

As I head back after supper and just at sunset El Nino has finally caught up with me. As I hasten along, the gray, rolling clouds descend, thunder rattling and crashing. I duck into my room just as the bucket brigade begins in earnest. What a joy to have secure shelter and to be out of it for a change! The storm continues, pulsating throughout the night with lightning illuminating the room like so many flashbulbs. But I am warm and dry, so smug and snug in a luxurious bed with linen and a pillow! I dearly needed this short hiking day. This is “give the dog a bone” day and I feel only a tinge of guilt about the extravagance lavished upon myself and the gleeful manner in which I have indulged. This has been a most, most welcome time for rest and recuperation and even in the presence of El Nino’s anger I sleep soundly, her attention-seeking, carnival-like sideshow clamor so much a dream!

“A carelessness of life and beauty marks the
glutton, the idler and the fool in their deadly
path across history.”

[John Masefield]

Friday—February 27, 1998
Trail Day—58/8
Trail Mile—966/141
Location—Piney Woods by US431 near Comers Pond

Leaving Eufaula on a blustery, overcast day I pass many beautiful homes, many antebellum. All are impeccably restored and painstakingly maintained. Here is the old south in the most-grand and finest tradition. I can close my eyes and see the beautiful belles in hoops and bustles poised on the grand porticos and along the colonnade. Some of these remarkable old homes are mansions in the truest sense, all listed in the National Register of Historic Places. As I proceed along North Eufaula Avenue I first pass the Holleman-Foy home. This beautiful structure is adorned with the most striking semicircular porch roof, supported by tall Corinthian columns. Beneath this and above the grand entrance is a recessed, arched balcony giving the appearance of the most-stately rotunda. Just two blocks north I pass the Shorter Mansion constructed in 1884, a stunning example of Neo-classical Revival architecture. It has such a spectacular presence, graced on the fore and both sides by 17 Corinthian columns. And just next door is the Foy-Beasely home. The exterior of this glorious old structure still proudly shows forth its original brick veneer, a remarkable square tower, dentil molding and a most notable porte-cochere. There are many other grand old homes gracing both North Eufaula Avenue and the adjoining streets as I pass. Over 700 structures within the city are on the National Historic Register. Just in the next block is the Drewry-Mitchell-Moorer home. This is a lovely Italiante structure with broad verandas on three sides, supported by elaborately carved columns.

The traffic on US431, as it turns out, is not nearly as bad as I had anticipated. In fact the sojourners here are most friendly and accommodating. Thus, in my memory will this visit remain. Indeed, in my memory will this roadwalk remain; a journey with the kind and friendly people of Alabama. Slowly but surely I am coming to realize that this entire Florida/Alabama roadwalk is shaping to be, and most assuredly will be, a memorable and grand affair!

I stop today at two black-run community stores. At the first I meet proprietor, Harold Purifoy. Harold becomes intrigued as he is immediately put to the task of setting his mind to the possibility of a 3400-mile hike. He keeps shaking his head. He cannot comprehend that I have actually walked from Miami to his store. He wrestles most uncomfortably with the fact that I have indeed walked this distance…to now stand here before him! As he cogitates, I pull up a stool. We then proceed to have a most relaxed and enjoyable conversation. Soon comes an old fellow, a Vietnam Vet. He goes to the cooler, grabs a cold one and pops it right on the spot. (Dang, Harold, I hope this doesn’t get you in trouble). He then joins in the conversation. Of course, by now I’ve gone to the ice cream chest and helped myself to a pint of the local best! As I plunk down a couple of bucks, Harold will have nothing to do with it. I linger, and Harold and I talk for the longest time.

The old vet has long since departed the store as I shoulder my pack to go. It is then that I discover this kind old gent has left behind a five-dollar bill…right there on my sleeping bag stuff sack! At the second store I am greeted with kindness and the grandest southern hospitality…and given a free energy-boosting trove of confections! Count with me now, One, Two, Three…yes Three! Three Trail Angels in the span of less than three hours! Folks, please keep in mind that this white boy has seen only one other white boy in the span of the last three hours!

I have been looking with great anticipation toward the first of the grand and majestic white pine, but I suspect I’ll have to venture much further north before seeing one. But I believe, I truly do believe that I have seen the last of the scrub palmetto and the cabbage palm.

There’s a subject to which I have been giving much thought. Since meeting so many kind folks on this roadwalk it certainly must not be coincidence, the interesting repetition and narrow spectrum of questions I am constantly ask. There are basically two. The first, “Hey, old feller, where ya headed?” I’ve started hitting ’em straight out with it…KA-BAM—Maine! The almost universal exclamatory response: MAINE! Then their eyes kind of glass over and I get a blank stare…far away, for a moment or two! Then they manage to stutter out, “Th, Th, That’s a long ways.” End of conversation! This odyssey is worth it just to see this happen over and over again. It’s a gut bustin’ hoot!
The second, “Aren’t you afraid of snakes and bears?” I say, “Hell, yes, I’m afraid of ’em, the same as you and everybody else! I don’t want to stumble into a pit of vipers or have a not-so-gentle Ben cuff me around any more than you do. But truth be known, you’ll probably see as many snakes passin’ through your backyard as I’m gonna see on this whole odyssey. And as for bears? If you’re lucky enough to see one in the wild, and lucky is the correct word, for it’s a joy to see these animals, I’ll tell you this. Out here on the trail, if I see a bear, I’ll be lucky to get a glimpse of his butt! Should I want to see the whole bear, head and butt, I’ll have to go to the zoo, same as you. Bears in the woods are no problem!”

I pitch in the piney woods off US431 near Comers Pond, past the water tower. For some reason or other El Nino has failed to find me today!

“You only life once, but if you work it right,
once is enough.”

[Joe E. Lewis]

 

Saturday—February 28, 1998
Trail Day—59/9
Trail Mile—984/159
Location—Piney Woods by CR169 near Uchee Creek

The day dawns cold—40 degrees—but very clear. I get the old jitney cranking and am out at 7:00 a.m. There is much more traffic today on US431. This will probably be one of my toughest roadwalk days. I no sooner get rolling good (It takes me awhile to get rolling good!) than I come to this neat crossroads country store at Pittsview. Here is an interesting old rusty tin-roofed mom-n-pop gas pumpin’ café. Looks like breakfast time to me, since so far this morning I’ve experience the repeated grand joy found only in a peanut butter sandwich! As I head in I give a nod to a couple of questionable looking characters pumping gas. The greasy spoon is way in the back and I no sooner get my order in for the full spread of bacon, eggs, biscuits, grits, the works and sit down with a tin of coffee than one of the fellows from out front comes to my table. I nod again as he approaches. Next thing I know he’s square in front of me and I’m hearing, “You wouldn’t by chance be the Nimblewill Nomad, would you?” Jeez! I come right up out of my chair! What to hell is this? I’m in the Alabama backwoods, 400 miles from no place…and this guy walks right up and asks if I’m the Nimblewill Nomad! Damn, now I know how Bocephus feels. I gotta get some bigger shades!

Here I meet Patrick Jackson. Soon comes his friend Ed Talone. Turns out they’ve just completed some section hiking on the FT and are headed home the round-about way to Pat’s place in Tennessee and Ed’s place in Maryland. They had seen my scribbling in a couple of trailhead registers while on the Florida Trail and when they see me this morning they put two and two together! We stand chuckling and shaking our heads. Then we sit down, continuing to chuckle and shake our heads! We look at each other in total disbelief, finding this whole screwy thing incredibly hard to believe. We’re probably the only three people on the whole continent who have given the FT a go this year and here we sit, in the back room of a little lean-to no body has ever heard of…in the ‘Bama boonies. Public enemy #1 on the run couldn’t hope to get lost any better than this! Dang, folks, I know you don’t want to hear this and it’s gonna make you cringe…but can you think of a better example of, “It’s a small world!”

We have a grand time “bench hiking” for the better part of an hour, talking and enjoyed each other’s company. In the course of conversation I mention that I would sure like to know how to get hold of Ed Garvey. Right there on the spot Ed rattled off Garvey’s home phone number in Falls Church, Virginia. He knows it by heart, says he (Ed and Ed) talk on a regular basis. I’m flabbergasted, can’t believe it. I grope in my pack for a pad and pencil as he rattles off the number for the fourth time! We linger, not wanting to break the spell of this incredibly enjoyable coincidence, but unfortunately, as in all good things…

There’s a grand, modern and well-illuminated store with cafe near the junction of SR169 and CR22 north of Seal. The rain has joined me again so I head in for a break and for supper. The special posted on the marquee says “Catfish Dinner.” That’s all the encouragement I need. The catfish is great and the kind folks let me loiter around the rest of the afternoon as I jot notes in my journal about this amazing day!
The rain relents as evening approaches and I’m able to hoof it on up the road to pitch in the piney woods by CR169 near Uchee Creek.

“I want to travel the common road
With the great crowd surging by,
Where there’s many a laugh and many a load,
And many a smile and sigh.”

[Silas H. Perkins, The Common Road]

 

Sunday—March 1, 1998
Trail Day—60/10
Trail Mile—999/174
Location—Lake Shore by CR169 South of Opelika

The folks in Florida have no long distance hiker’s association but it’s an idea whose time has come. So, henceforth, from this day forth and forever there will be the “Wanderlust Society.” In addition to others who will soon step forward and be recognized as charter members, the founders are, Joan Trail Angel Hobson, Frederick Vagabond Guhse, John Daruma Brinda and Eb Nimblewill Nomad Eberhart. As of February 28, 1998, two new inductees have been added to the Wanderlust roster. They are, Patrick Garcia Jackson and Ed Tric Talone. This brings the membership of the Society to a grand total of six so far. The requirements for Society membership are only three. They are: 1) You must be a FTA member and profess to be a Florida Trail long distance hiker; 2) You must have a bona fide trail name, that’s all we will accept, and 3) You must take the Pledge of the Wanderlust, which appears at the end of this journal entry. That’ it!

There is very little traffic on SR169 making for a most enjoyable roadwalk today. I stop for breakfast at a little mom-n-pop (and daughter) barbecue place in Crawford, then later I pull up on the road shoulder for lunch. It’s funny watching motorists rubberneck as they drive by! Come to think of it, I suppose it is a little unusual to see someone lounging by the side of the road eating a sandwich. I Pitch for the evening on the grassy shore of a lovely little lake about 11 miles south of Opelika. Picturesque countryside, a wonderful hike today!

PLEDGE OF THE WANDERLUST

There’s a trail way up yonder I’m preparin’ to hike,
It has no beginning or end.
But awaitin’ that journey, Ol’ FT and I’ll be…
A’chasin’ rainbows ’round the next bend.

[N. Nomad]

 

Monday—March 2, 1998
Trail Day—61/11
Trail Mile—1008/183
Location—Motel 6, I-85/US280, Opelika

One of the not-so-much-fun conditions I find associated with getting old is decreased circulation. I dearly suffer from this in my fingers and hands, so when the temperature starts dropping, everything I try picking up also starts dropping! Ice is about as I roll out this morning and before I manage to break camp and get going, my fingers pretty much quit working. Continuing the roadwalk, I’ve noticed over the past few days a steadily increasing stream of pickups and trailers with “hogs” heading south for Daytona Bike Week. “Hardly Ableson” owners affectionately call their motorcycles “Hogs.” You can see what I not so affectionately call them. I’m sure the American-made machines of today are well built and dependable, but I could never keep my old Harley ’47 “Springer” running. It seemed I was in a crouch beside it much more than I was astride, riding it!

I’ve been trying to reach Marty Dominy at every opportunity since Eufaula, with no success. Dialing the right phone number would probably have helped! Marty is president of the Benton MacKaye Trail Association and he’s also one of the founding members of the Georgia Pinhoti Trail Association. Marty is at the point, the driving force in new trail building in the southern Appalachians. He will be sending me marked-up topos and other maps to guide me along the proposed Georgia Pinhoti route. Here in Opelika, the end of my trek for today, I finally reach Marty by calling the right number. I am relieved to know that the maps will be waiting when I arrive at Goodwater, a little village near the southern end of the Appalachians. What faces me up ahead, and before I reach the Appalachian Trail, is a fair amount of bushwhacking. When the Georgia segment of the Pinhoti Trail is completed however, it will connect the Alabama Pinhoti Trail with the Benton MacKaye Trail…which links up with the Appalachian Trail near Springer Mountain!

This whole glorious idea, opening the southern Appalachians, and in the process providing the hiker and backpacker the opportunity to gain a broader perspective and a deeper appreciation for these grand old Appalachians and what they are truly about, was the dream of one R. Michael Leonard. I quote from an article written by Mr. Leonard in this winter’s issue of the beautiful Outdoor Alabama magazine: “In early 1985, Alabama Conservation Magazine (the former name of Outdoor Alabama) published an article I wrote entitled, ‘It’s About Time for a Plan to Connect Alabama’s Mountains to the Famous Appalachian Trail.’ The article set out a plan for correcting the 50-year-old oversight of having the Appalachian Trail system end in north Georgia instead of in east central Alabama where the Appalachian Mountain range actually ends.”

*Little did Mr. Leonard know, I suspect, that during this same time another man, Richard Anderson was dreaming the same dream about the northern Appalachian Range. For it was that in June of 1994 le Sentier International des Appalaches/International Appalachian Trail, an international non-profit organization, was officially formed and charged with the goal and task of completing a trail from Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, through northern Maine, to the far reaches of Canada where the Appalachian Mountains plunge to the sea at the spectacular Cliffs of Forillon, Cap Gaspe, Quebec!

Today is a short mileage day. Just as well as the day remains very cold, the wind kicking, and yet another storm seems to be brewing. I stop at Motel 6 near I-85 and US280 to lavish myself once again with a warm room, a bed…and another luxurious hot shower; my reward for reaching the four-digit mark in trail miles! I go for the evening’s full spread at Shoney’s.

“Always will I take another step. If that is of no avail
I will take another, and yet another. In truth, one step
at a time is not too difficult…”

[Og Mandino] 

*I have added this as I edit my final manuscript, for I feel it is timely and appropriate. Indeed, I did not know about this grand SIA/IAT until approaching ATC headquarters in Harpers Ferry some 1400 miles and four months on up the trail. N. Nomad

 

Tuesday—March 3, 1998
Trail Day—62/12
Trail Mile—1028/203
Location—Wildlife Clearing, Piney Woods by US280 near Camp Hill

The rain holds but the day is cutting cold. The wind continues hard as it has the full day past, pushing me back relentlessly as it rumbles through with its refrigerated freight from the north. This is an angry wind and I can feel its bitterness clear to my core. Oh, the ides of March, they are yet 12 days ahead. I dearly pray this is not a grand rehearsal!

I stagger along today as the nor’wester continues buffeting me. Maintaining my balance becomes even more a chore for I have my hands in my pockets to keep them from turning any darker blue. I can see a Kroger ahead and I pull right in and head for the deli. Here the lady presents the most sympathetic expression as she sees the forlorn old Nomad approaching. She turns and before I know it she’s got a sausage biscuit and a steaming cup of coffee setting on the top of the case, even before I have a chance to greet her! She says, “Here, mister, you need this! It’s on the house.” As I linger to answer her questions and give her my pitch about this odyssey, she refills my Styrofoam cup and hands me a jelly roll!

Back on the road and fighting into it, just before noon a pickup pulls beside in the wrong lane from behind. The driver quickly rolls his window down, hands me a familiar looking package, and before speeding away just as quickly…says, “Bet you can use that!” Oh, yes! A hot, hot double cheeseburger! I holler back, waving at him, “Thanks, THANKS.” But he doesn’t hear me. I’ve always savored chomping into a juicy, thick double cheeseburger, but as I stand here on this windy highway this morning, I can’t remember ever thinking about how warm and great one feels in your hands!

Now in the little town of Waverly I head for the post office. Here I ask the postmistress if she can tell me the hours of service for Goodwater. She jots the hours down for me and then just to make sure, she gives them a call. Looks like I’m in luck. I hope to get into Goodwater, still about forty five miles north of here, sometime Friday. The post office is open until 4:30 p.m. during the week, and just in case I miss, I still have a shot at getting my mail Saturday morning from 9:30 until 11:30. I have supper at a little mom-n-pop general store in Waverly and pitch for the evening in a lush little wildlife clearing just off US280.

“The measure of a man’s life is the well
spending of it, and not the length.”

[Plutarch]

 

Wednesday—March 4, 1998
Trail Day—63/13
Trail Mile—1043/218
Location—Small, Old Natural Blowdown Terrace on Hillside by US280 near Peckerwood

I take the side-road from US280 into the little community of Camp Hill. I have another grand full-course breakfast at a little black-run store. From here I follow the back streets through Camp Hill to the railroad tracks The exhaust fumes from the heavy diesel trucks and buses are starting to work me over pretty good and each time I hear the crackle and cackle of my now falsetto-like voice I hearken back to the bumbling, acne-faces, puberty phase of my not-so-nimble childhood. So a change to a less hacking prone atmosphere is definitely in order, if for no other reason than to get my mind off the unpleasant memories which now accompany my funny voice, memories from those ill-fated days of utter failure at girl conquering. The suave lady’s man I most certainly was not!

The hike on the railroad grade is going fine through Dadeville and into near Jackson Gap. It’s a most welcome break being away from the constant rumble, drone and fumes of US280. Now I know I’m climbing. Even the rail grade is pulling a steady tug, in some places most steep I figure for any locomotive pulling railcars. I’ve jumped up on one of the rails, and with the aid of a couple of sticks I’m soon throttled up to full locomotion. Filled with glee and now in this little repetitive-motion trance I fail to notice a side spur up ahead. Coming upon it, and parked there is this Norfolk Southern Railway service vehicle. We’ve all seen these contraptions, the truck up on the tracks with the neat little steel railroad wheels front and rear. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to actually ride in one, to be tooling down the tracks, no need to hold the steering wheel or even pay any attention to where you’re headed for that matter!

Oh yes, I forgot to mention; here also are two Norfolk Southern Railroad employees. Uh-Oh! Well I’m greeted cordially enough, in a manner I consider to be most diplomatic. We talk the time of day and they both want to hear my pitch. I can see they don’t really want to be angry with me, but at the same time there is this unsettled air of formality. And so now with much restraint is it explained to me that I am trespassing on private property, just like twenty or thirty signs they know I have passed have also explained! Their tact seems even more amazing as they relate the grim story of the two teens that recently jumped to their death in the rocks below the Tallapoosa River Trestle, trying to outrun the train. That trestle is just a few miles ahead. Short of having me arrested, turning me around and making me walk back the way I came would surely have given them some satisfaction, but instead and no doubt due to kindness they suggest I continue on to the next rail crossing and move back over to US280. What fumes?

I pitch on a small flat blowdown ledge on the side of a very steep hill near Peckerwood. I listen, and sure enough, in just a moment I hear it again. It’s a donkey. Yes, a donkey…and yes, the name of the place is Peckerwood! The rain is back. So I listen to the donkey, the rain and then the trucks, the donkey…the..rain, and th—ZZZZ

“Not till each loom is silent,
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Shall God reveal the pattern
And explain the reason why.”

[Unknown]

.

Thursday—March 5, 1998
Trail Day—64/14
Trail Mile—1056/231
Location—Empty House Trailer Behind Carpet Store, US280, Alexander City

This day is not starting out so great. It is raining steady and this rain has that no-nonsense kind of permanence about it…and it is very cold. Making and breaking camp are the two most vulnerable times of the day for me. I’ve never learned how to effectively cope with them during bad weather. There’s usually a trick to everything. The more you practice, the easier it gets. But in the rain, and with one of these little lightweight, dink tents like mine, there’s just no way that I’ve been able to figure to get everything set up or repacked without a major soaking. So I start this day not only soaked, but cold and soaked. Looking on the brighter side however, a wet pack is heavy and lugging this thing will help me warm up faster!

Just across the Tallapoosa River there’s a convenience store complete with grill. I’ve really been chugging but still haven’t warmed up, so in I head to get out of it. When folks around southern Alabama see someone backpacking their byways it’s obviously a novelty to them. Here this morning a fellow comes over to my booth right away. He says he’s seen me on the road and asks two or three of the usual questions—the ones that have the T-shirt answers—and I smile, inviting him to join me. Come to find, the old fellow knows all about the Talladega National Forest, so I also get in a few questions. The rain has shifted from steady, to steady with pounding waves, so after finishing my breakfast I linger and we both keep downing the coffee. The rain finally settles back to light and steady and the sky actually brightens a little, so I bid the old fellow good day and head back out.

I am actually able to make it into Alexander City between the waves of rain. But as I pass a strip center, the wind picks up and another wave starts coming through, so I head for the covered walkway and flop down on one of the bus benches. Sitting here now for only a moment and trying to decide if I want to hit the grocery store for a few provisions, up pulls this little Honda. Down goes the window a crack and I hear a wee tiny voice, “Come here a minute, mister.” I get back up and take the few steps…to stare down into the widest, whitest eyes of the littlest kid I’ve ever seen, the most petite black child with this bright and glorious expression of alarm! Our mutual stare is finally broken as the mother instructs her daughter, “Give da man da money, child!” Up and out the window thrusts this little hand with a wad of bills. I look in disbelief, a five and three ones. I’m thinking, “Don’t refuse this kindness.” I manage to reach for them, “My…My goodness ma’am, thank you, thank you so much!” As I stoop down to look across, the lady says, “I saw you walking the road south of here for the last two days, I wish there was more I could do to help you.” I don’t know what to say. I turn, stand a moment, then shoulder my pack and head out across the parking lot.

I hadn’t gone twenty paces than I hear steps behind me. I turn to see the black lady running towards me, so I stop. Heaving a sigh, she says, “Mister, give me back that money!” I’m shaking my head, “Yes, ma’am, Oh…Yes ma’am.” I reach in my pocket and hand her back the wad of bills. She says, “Here, take this ten!” Then turning, she says again, “Mister, I wish there was more I could do for you.” I’m taken aback again by this incredible show of kindness, but manage, “Well ma’am, there are a couple more things you can do for me. First, would you please tell me your name?” She stops, “My name is Angela.” With not much composure I say, “Well Angela, have you ever been away from home, away from your family and friends for a long time, long enough to really get to feeling sad and lonely…when all you really needed to fix everything back right was a good old solid hug?” Well folks, stop reading here for just a moment, sit back in your chair, close your eyes and try to visualize this picture. Here’s this grizzly old white guy, the only white guy probably in three counties; scroungy soaked clothes, filthy backpack, beard, mangy wet hair…and a very professionally dressed little black girl, standing in the middle of this shopping center parking lot in Alexander City, Alabama, in the poring rain, hugging each other! Who says there are no miracles anymore!

As Angela returns to her daughter waiting on the walkway I raise my voice so she can hear, “Angela, I want to take this money right now and get a hot meal, where’s a good place?” She shouts back, “Two blocks up the street, Ella’s Country Kitchen.” I wave good-bye to Angela and her little daughter and head for Ella’s. Only moments later, and as I enter the restaurant and drop my pack, guess who’s standing there right in front of the serving line…Oh Yes! It’s Angela! She says, “Take a tray and get whatever you want.” I manage to blurt, “Angela, you’ve already given me money to buy this meal.” She then explains, “These are my friends, they run this place. They want to help you!” The black waitress who brings my drink, then some extra rolls later, comments how good it is to see someone really enjoying their meal. We strike up a conversation and as the dinner crowd begins thinning out I ask her to sit down and relax for a minute. She is taken as I explain how I have been befriended today and how the Lord has so generously provided for me. I ask her if she knows Psalm 23. She then takes my hand and begins…and we recite together, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” Who says no one really cares about their fellow man anymore!

Back out on US280 and with the rain changing from steady and cold to hard, steady and cold, I managed to find an old empty house trailer with the door hanging open behind a carpet store. The floor in the back bedroom is sloping hard to the west, but it is clean and dry. Here I make my bed for the night. It rains hard, pounding in waves till morning, rocking the old trailer.

“…He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He
leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul…”

[Psalm 23] 

 

Friday—March 6, 1998
Trail Day—65/15
Trail Mile—1065/240
Location—Covered Walkway, Goodwater Baptist Church, Goodwater

I manage to get on the road by 7:00 a.m. The sky is making a half-hearted effort to clear, but half-hearted isn’t going to get it done. The forecast is for rain through Sunday and continuing cold. What a memorable and joyful milestone I reach this morning. For now on a high ridge south of Goodwater, and on CR85 I get my first glimpse of the mountains to the north…the grand and majestic Appalachians where I’ll be spending the next six or seven months in time and near 2,500 miles in distance. The reality that I am here after walking the flatlands for so long is a reality hard to accept.

I pull into Goodwater before lunch and head straight for the post office. I really hit the jackpot. Here is a package with many needed items and a beautiful card from wife, Cindy. There’s a pile of cards and letters from both my sons and from many very dear friends. Springer Mountain and my home at the base of Springer are the next objective in the many objectives, which lie ahead in this odyssey. I box up some items I no longer need from my pack, read the cards and letters one last time, then box them up to mail on ahead and home. Here also is the package I’ve been awaiting with much anticipation from Marty Dominy with all the finely detailed hand-drawn maps for the northern section of the Alabama Pinhoti and all of the completed, roadwalk, and bushwhack sections of the Georgia Pinhoti. These maps will get me across the (until now) uncharted no-man’s-land between northeast Alabama and Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the grand old Appalachian Trail.

I enjoy a fine supper at Mike’s where I meet Police Officer, Joe Davidson. Joe explains that there are no motels or boarding houses in Goodwater, but that he’ll try finding me a place for the night. Goodwater is a dandy little trail town. One really nice aspect I’ve found with many of these little off-the-beaten-path communities through which I have passed, is the survival of their old downtown districts. Here in Goodwater exist few, if any places we know in modern jargon as “outskirts.” Most of the two story and false-front stores in the old downtown are still occupied, doing business and appear in fairly good condition for their age. I like communities with these intact old business districts for a number of reasons, not the least being the ease with which I hearken back to the little town where I lived as a child. The simple design of it all is driven by the fact that years ago folks walked from their homes to the grocery store, the post office and to work. Consequently these little bergs weren’t spread out forty different directions. Reverting to shank’s mare, we backpackers unavoidable journey back in time, not only as we trek across the near ageless backbone of these mountains but also during the roadwalks o’er the byways and through the villages along the way. Little communities like Goodwater, that time has passed over are back there in time too, literally remaining in step with us. This enjoyable aspect of hiking can only be experienced and understood by one who hoists and shoulders a pack for the long journey!

Joe has no luck finding me a room for the night but in the course of conversation I get the impression that I won’t be hassled if I find a dry place to get out of it…for yet again the hard steady rain is setting in. Looking around I find a number of places that I can enter, as through the backs of old buildings and numerous unlocked storage sheds. But I don’t want to push my luck so I finally decide to bed down under the walkway awning at the Goodwater Baptists Church. The rain continues all night but luckily there is no wind, as here I have found no room to pitch my tent.

“The hills are our symbol of eternity. There
they stand, the evidence of things seen, as
everlasting and unchangeable as anything
man may know.”

[Maurice Brooks, The Appalachians]

 

Saturday—March 7, 1998
Trail Day—66/16
Trail Mile—1068/243
Location—Pavilion, Hatchet Creek Presbyterian Church

I am up at 6:00 a.m. and move away from the church before anyone comes by. The day appears to be clearing and not as cold. My first stop this morning is the Piggly Wiggly for a few provisions. I figure my next resupply will be in Heflin so I need provisions for about four days. I check the post office one more time. No more mail, but I’m not disappointed, as this has been the best mail drop by far. I head over to Mike’s, but the restaurant isn’t open yet. There’s activity at the gas station/food store nearby so I try there for some breakfast. Here I meet Randy, a truck driver, and his mom who works the grill. Randy, who is ahead of me in line, asks his mom to put a couple more sausage biscuits and a coffee on his tab for “The Hiker.” Next thing I know, I’m enjoying a fine breakfast complements of Randy and the house!

As I make one more pass down the main drag, approaches an old black man in bib overalls, one bib strap loose and dangling. As I nod and pass, he says, “Mister, could you stop a minute?” I smile and pull up as he fumbles in one of his floppy bib pockets. Momentarily, his bony wrinkled old hand outstretched; he motions me to take three wadded-up one-dollar bills! He says, “Here, I want you to take these.” He stands with the most puzzled and perplexed look on his deep-rutted face, most like, “What am I doing giving this white man my money?” Again, as on Thursday in Alexander City, I must resist the temptation to refuse this incredible expression of kindness. As I accept the money and thank the old man, he raises more erect to stand with much beaming pride, and with such a bright countenance most like Angela’s child. On my way north out of town now on CR7 I think back to my feelings while crossing the state line into Alabama. For it was with much doubt, hesitancy and tepidity that I embarked on this leg of my odyssey. I knew I would be hiking through near-total black communities for many days, and truthfully, I was scared. But now I am so ashamed. Since that day there has been not one moment of fear or anxiety, save the situation on the railroad tracks, which was my own doing. I have never been in the presence of a more gentlepeople, young or old, nor have I ever been treated with such kindness and compassion by total strangers…never, ever before, that I can recall in my memory!

The uphill pull is serious and steady now. As I climb, a wide valley opens into view. There are mountains all around, picturesque mountains. The rain begins again in a manner leaving little doubt as to its intent. The higher peaks are soon engulfed in the cold swirling clouds. Hatchet Creek, just to the west of the road is running wild, out of its banks and all over the bottom lands. Thunder in the distance demands more of my attention as it approaches. I can see the lightning as the storm becomes more intense, heading straight at me. I no sooner reach Hatchet Creek Presbyterian Church than the deluge comes in buckets. I seek shelter under the old pavilion behind the church. Soon the storm totally engulfs the church with the most violent thunder and lightning, the rain crashing against the old roof as if from a waterfall.

It has now just turned afternoon, but this may well be it for today. I am wet and cold and the wind is whipping the storm into a swirling mist all around and within the pavilion. Now that I have stopped walking I am getting very cold. So I hoop and tie-off my tent on one of the long wooden tables and call it a day. In my bag and in my tent I am soon warm, feeling reasonably secure. The storm continues driving the rain in a rage, most near a cataclysm, slamming it against the old pavilion. I am sure this is not the worst blast this old structure has had to endure, but it’s getting a good shaking today. It is a huge post and beam affair. Without exaggeration I would say it is as big as a good-sized barn. The old roof is near a 10/12 pitch covered with cedar shakes and around three sides are built lean-tos with a 6/12 pitch. The whole structure is totally rustic, not a brushmark of paint anywhere, weathered to that glorious driftwood shade of gray. And here it stands in proud but uncomplimentary contrast to the beautiful, pristine, pure white of the sanctuary right next. I am visited just after dark by a deputy sheriff making his rounds. He asks for some identification, the usual questions. Seems sure I’m going to get sent back out in the storm, but as we talk I can tell he has made up his mind not to run me off. Finally, he says he can’t see any sense in sending me back out in it. I quickly agree! The rain and wind continue very hard all night but I remain warm and secure under the roof of the old pavilion.

“…a wild weird clime…
out of space—out of time.”

[Poe]

 

Sunday—March 8, 1998
Trail Day—67/17
Trail Mile—1075/250
Location—Hatchet Creek Trading Post

As I roll out this morning the sky is dark, completely overcast, and a steady light rain greets me as I leave the church. The pull continues. I keep climbing and climbing. The road soon enters to open into yet another wide, beautiful farm valley. I see spring daffodils blooming for the first time in the fields all along, their bright yellow blooms and wide, green bracts adding happy dabs of color here and there in contrast to the near-monochromatic grays and browns of winter. The serviceberry or shadbush is starting to brighten the gray woods with its showy white blooms. I soon hear thunder behind me. The storm is coming at me once more, closing fast as I cross SR148. In less than half an hour, thunder and lightning are all around me again. I soon come to Hatchet Creek Trading Post, an old house, aged brownish-gray with such a proud appearance, crowned and adorned by the most remarkable rusty metal roof. As I climb the porch steps the storm begins unleashing its fury again.

The door is open, and as I look in I am greeted and invited to enter. Here I meet Tom Mountain Man Hess, proprietor of Hatchet Creek Trading Post. In just a moment I also met Paul Tall Paul Wright, a young fellow who also lives here. Tom has a most inviting fire glowing in the fireplace, and I need not the least bit more encouragement as he motions to a chair and offers me a cup of coffee! As I linger and we talk, he becomes intrigued by the notion that I am bound for Maine over the ridges and through the valleys of these majestic old Appalachians, and that indeed, I have in fact walked from the Everglades to where I now sit. So it is that Mountain Man invites me to stay for supper and to spend the night. The electric storm is chugging through in full locomotion; the rain pounding hard in waves again. As I glance with the most tentative expression toward the rain rattling the window, I tell him, “My Momma didn’t raise no dummy” and with an ear-to-ear grin I promptly accept his kind invitation!

The supper Paul prepares can best be described as a feast! During the course of the afternoon and into the evening I manage to down the better part of a gallon of coffee, the last cup carefully seasoned with a tablespoon of ‘Bama’s smoothest and finest. After supper, and relaxing again by the fireplace, Mountain Man tells me much about his life. We then go from room to room as he shows me many bright paintings and other forms of art he has created. It is in mentioning that there are so many things to see that I learn that each creation represents at least one day of the four years he has spent in Talladega Prison! Until now he hasn’t mentioned that part of his life, but I quickly learn and it seems…Mountain Man found and brought out some of the treasure from the Superstition Mountains. A no-no! He now shows me numerous paintings of the Superstitions, all in a primitive but balanced and pleasing style. He also shows me much other handiwork, medicine pouches, jewelry, belts, purses, pipes. You name it; all created by Mountain Man and all in the same primitive, but appealing form. Now he pulls out this big wooden box. It is full of all kinds of gadgets, tools, brushes and many other things needed to create his works of arts, ingeniously made from all sorts of things one might find around a prison!

As we relax by the fire again I ask Mountain Man, “What else haven’t you told me about your life!” Oh yes, there’s more! Seems as though Mountain Man has also gained pretty fair notoriety for his ability to grow large, LARGE quantities of marijuana. Also a fairly serious and punishable offense…and for which he also eventually got caught! He seems to have no regret though. In fact, as we continue along this path, he mentions that, “Ha! I got off light with only four years!” I quickly figure this guy out though. Mountain Man wants to give you the impression, and he would have you believe that here is one mean hombre…definitely public enemy #1! It’s really quite comical hearing him try to spin this, because it’s so plainly evident that he has not, nor could he ever truly hurt anyone. What’s so hilarious; and as hard as he tries, he can’t hide the fact that he doesn’t have a mean bone in his entire body! His gentle nature and peaceful countenance is an absolute dead giveaway. In awhile Mountain Man gets up and leaves the room to return in a moment with some gifts for me. He had seen me admiring a finely designed and constructed medicine pouch, put together without a single stitch, and also a finely embossed leather bracelet. Both of these fine works he now hands to me, each a bit of a calendar, each a day in his life in prison. I tell him how very proud I am to have them and that it humbles me that he would give me such objects of obvious sentimental value.

I learned a lot this day from Tom Mountain Man Hess, but one thing he just would not reveal to me is how he has trained a Dominique (dominecker) hen to fly up, sit on the back of a chair in the corner of the front porch, and crap in a bucket! I turn in around 9:00 p.m. and sleep very soundly, with only the slightest recollection of hearing the wind whistling through the cracks in the old house or the rain snaring its tat-a-tat on the rusty tin roof.

“These are a mountain man’s mountains—
wide, tall, and awesome.”

[Thomas Connelly, Discovering the Appalachians]

 

Monday—March 9, 1998
Trail Day—68/1
Trail Mile—1089/14
Location—Near Adams Gap, Cheaha Wilderness, Talladega National Forest

Tom sends me off with a breakfast of fresh (very local) eggs cooked in his old cast iron skillet right over the fireplace embers. What a most memorable time I’ve had at Hatchet Creek Trading Post. I know I’ll return to spend time here again. The day greets me with its gray overcast and rain is most certainly just behind the curtain. And indeed another encore begins just as I turn onto SR77 to head for Porter Gap. Tom has given me a poncho and I quickly cover my pack with it. The rain stays with me but not in the torrential fits that I’ve had to endure in recent days. 

I arrive at Porter Gap before noon, and the rain, which has accompanied me for most all this walk through southern Alabama, arrives with me. The roadwalk over the past few days has introduced me to the beginning of the Appalachian Mountain Range, but here at Porter Gap, the southern terminus of the Pinhoti Trail I am at the true beginning of a marvelous network of trails which will soon traverse this entire grand and glorious Appalachian Mountain Range. The Alabama Pinhoti is the start of it and follows the Talladega National Forest to the northeast, ending some 120 miles from here by trail at the Alabama-Georgia State line. 

As I turn onto the Pinhoti I have ended my journey to the west. From here I head north and east. The courtship with this trail lasts for about twenty minutes, and then it’s up, up, up as I crest the first ridge before descending into Chandler Gap. Here it is no longer raining, the precipitation having turned to snow! The snow showers continue intermittently all day and into the evening. And the flakes are still falling, turning the forest a wonderland of white, as I pitch for the night near Adams Gap. I am very fortunate to have the gloves that Mountain Man insisted I take, for it is getting biting cold. I don’t attempt a fire but instead, set up and roll in as fast as I can to get warm. It’s PBJs for supper tonight. I am in the lee, the ridge forming a natural windbreak, but the wind whips the tent most of the night just the same, as the snow continues.

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by frost.”

[J.R.R.Tolkein]

%d bloggers like this: