Location- Some kind of closet at a picnic area
Elevation- 3,465 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 21.6 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 329.5 miles
Weather/Temp- cloudy, windy, 60-50s
Injuries- object in my leg
Pain level- low
Spirits/Morale- tired but high
Days without shower- 4
Hunger/craving- getting higher
I woke up very early this morning to a heavy stomping sound, and peered out of my hammock to find the source of the commotion. Another “hiker” was doing the PCT with a pair of horses, which he had tied to two separate trees about 30 feet away from where my hammock was hung. One horse was black, and the other was a light brown, tan. The black one had managed to walk itself around the tree so tight, that it’s lead had somehow got tangled around its left leg, near the base of the tree. So it’s head was stuck almost against the tree, and also against its own leg, about 3/4 of the way down to the hoof. It’s back legs were shaking, and it was trying to free its tangled leg, stomping it in the process, pulling its own head down further against the tree in an awkward position.
I quickly looked around and saw no other people up and about. I didn’t know where the owner was, or which tent was his, so I threw my long johns on quickly and hopped out of the nest.
If you’ve read my book “Lost on the Appalachian Trail,” then you know I have an irrational fear of large animals, especially horses. They might make me nervous to be around, but I still love them. I approached the horse slowly, rubbed her muzzle, then leaned down to try and lift her leg free of the lead. It was too tight for me to lift it out of the loop, so after looking around again, I began to untie the lead from the tree. This made me nervous, because I wasn’t sure what the horse would do once the line went slack, and wasn’t attached to anything but my hands.
I unlooped the now free end from around the tree, unwrapped it from the horse’s leg, braced myself for a bucking, galloping, reaction (that never came), then quickly looped the lead back around the tree and did my own fancy knot. The horse just stood there looking at me, so I pet her for a few moments, then took a lame selfie with her. My first (non dog) animal friend of the trail!
If I could describe the owner of the horses with one word, that word would be “HardcoreHippieStoner.” I don’t remember his name, but I remember him saying that he had never owned or ridden horses before he (recently) came into possession of these ones. For some reason, he thought it would be a great idea to ride them from Mexico to Canada, with basically zero experience. Kudos to him, but I feel for the horses. Tons of ledge walking on cliffs and canyons out here. I heard a story that a horse two weeks ago had fallen from the trail and died. I hope those ones don’t share the same fate.
Why did I give the owner that description? 1.) His appearance. 2.) His expressions and the way he talks. 3.) He had a lot of weed and psychotropic mushrooms with him (that he flaunted). Good lord I hope he doesn’t eat them while he’s riding…
Horse rescue aside, today was somewhat of a grind, and a somber day for me. Katana had a little hitch in her step this morning, and despite nothing being outright apparently wrong with her paws, I found a tender toe pad while I was putting pressure on each individual one. I’ve already got some special wax and booties waiting about four to five days away, so I’m looking forward to experimenting with those.
Not wanting to make anything worse, I carried her for every step of the almost 22 miles today; that was the grind.
The somber part of the day was that I spent most of it thinking about Baltimore Jack. Jack passed away yesterday morning, but the reality of his death only really sunk in today.
In short, Baltimore Jack was an Appalachian Trail legend. He had traversed the entire AT a total of 9 times, and had spent every minute of his life around the trail, helping hikers for more than 20 years. I met Jack about a half dozen times on my Appalachian Trail thru hike back in 2014. He was the one who chose the trail name “Mayor” for me, and we had developed a friendship throughout our multiple encounters up the trail. I even got to see him in the final town of Monson, way up in Maine, right before catfox and I finished the trail. I met him in the first 30 miles of the trail when I was injured, and also in the last 100 miles of the trail, and several times in between. It was very good timing.
I thought mostly about the last time I saw him, back in early March of this year. I did a section hike of the first 200 miles of the AT to prepare for the PCT. I ran into Jack in Franklin, North Carolina, and he immediately recognized the catfox and I from nearly two years before. We shook hands and caught up as he held and pet Katana. Before we parted ways, he gave me a number for someone in the town of Erwin, TN, whom we could stay with and would take care of us. He also gave me the address to where he was staying in Franklin, and invited me and Schweppes to come have a drink later. In the end, we went to bed early that night, never taking Jack up on his offer. That decision haunted me all day today. I wished I’d gone to spend more time to catch up with him, and now I’ll never have that chance again. It kills me to think about.
Jack was an amazing human being, with nothing but love in his heart for the hiking community. He was a bottomless source of wisdom and advice, as well as one of the last true free spirits in this world. He was passionate, and opionated, but there was nothing he wouldn’t do for someone if he could. Ultimately, he couldn’t kick his bad habits before they kicked him; Jack loved to cook and eat, and he loved his whiskey…
The day kinda flew by while I was consumed with my thoughts, but I was only slightly distracted from the extra strain catfox was putting on my neck and shoulders over that many miles.
Schweppes, Mason, and myself all called it a day at a secluded little picnic area near the shore of a huge lake. We slept in what I can only describe as a boiler room that set between two bathrooms in the picnic area. It’s dark, dank, and creepy, but it’s out of the cold wind and rain that began rolling in this evening, so it will do.
We have less than 14 miles to reach a McDonald’s tomorrow. I despise them when I’m living in the plastic world, but out here, after 5 days of backpack food, McDonald’s looks like the fountain of youth…I can’t wait.