March 2 – 5, 2020
Yep… I just about put down roots and moved into this small town.
The past four zero-days have been nothing but nasty non-stop rain. I’ve been happy to spend all that time relaxing here in Cave Spring. Our stay here has been an adventure unto itself. The townsfolk have been nothing but welcoming and kind.
I spent my first night in the town’s only motel, which turned out to be seedier than a watermelon. I’m talking no hot water, suspicious activities all night long, and 1 am parking lot grill-outs. The place was abuzz like an incognito hub for illicit recreations you’d want to avoid on a Sunday night before starting a work week.
Best Place in Town
The next day I got set up in a 1930’s era boarding house called the “Hearn Inn.” Billy Wayne gave me the recommendation and follow-up info. It ended up being cheaper and quieter than the motel, and still in the heart of town. Everything was no more than a two minute walk away. The building belongs to the town, and a caretaker comes by every evening to settle up with any guests who might be staying. Other than that, you have the run of the place pretty much all day and night. It’s an amazing setup in a historical building (photo is above).
In the past four days I’ve become real familiar with the nearby restaurants and their employees. I became a fixture at a small joint called “Southern Flavor.” They have some crazy good chicken wings, plus all you can eat catfish every day for 12 bucks. I’ve been in heaven, and made friends with the handful of waitresses who work there.
Front Page Surprise
On my second day a reporter from the “Rome Tribune” (a city to the north) came by at the behest of Billy Wayne. He wanted to do a short interview and take some pictures of Katana and I. The story printed on the newspaper’s front page the next day. A couple people even came by the Hearn to see if Katana and I were still there, so they could meet us.
Even before the news article printed, it seemed the whole town had heard about “the guy walking the trail with his blind dog.” Every time I would do a short outing with my umbrella (no matter where I went), somebody had something encouraging to say about what Katana and I were doing.
Debra, one of the older waitresses at Southern Flavor, was especially moved. She had lost her German shepherd a few weeks ago and very much liked to sit and talk to me about Katana and trail life. She worried about my safety out there and was full of advice on what to do if I found myself in trouble. On my last day, she was almost in tears when she handed me a gold piece coin and told me to “never forget her,” and to “always keep that coin with me, because it would keep me safe.”
It’s very special receiving tokens like this on my travels. I actually do keep and hike with the tokens people give me along the way… so long as it’s not a butternut squash or horseshoe – or something like that. I was nearly moved to tears, as well, by her kind gesture. It’s heartening to know that a little bit of encouragement or small acts of inspiration can have a positive impact on others. On the one hand, it feels incredibly good to know you’re having a positive impact on those that cross your path. On the other hand, you also come to realize how some people are hungry for even the smallest amount of encouragement or inspiration. These insights make my soul weep and heart soar at the same time.
Sometimes people treat me like I’m special for what I’m doing – but I don’t feel that way at all. I’m just a regular person who has simply adapted to the circumstances life has dealt Katana and me. When I see people moved by what we’re doing, and saying such unbelievably kind and heartfelt things, I’m not sure how to take it.
Kindness with No Limits
On one night I went to eat at the restaurant where David (the guy who bought me a beer my first evening) was the head cook. He grilled one of the best rib-eyes I’ve had in a long time. He also surprised me by buying my book, and then bringing it over for me to sign. On top of that, one of his friends owns a hammock company that builds and designs custom prints on hammocks. David commissioned him to build a hammock for me with a huge print of Katana and I on it. Once again, I was moved beyond proper words by the people in this town!
Billy Wayne came over and joined us at the booth for a bit. Before he left, he’d given me a small fired clay pendant necklace (off his own neck). It was the Pinhoti Trail emblem – a turkey track. Another incredible token to always carry with me.
So my time here during the past five nights and four days has been nothing short of amazing! With a 31 mile road walk and 95 miles to the next town ahead of us, waiting for the right weather has been absolutely the best move. What could have been a cabin fever induced holdover, has been punctuated by never-ending silver linings.
A Trail with Soul
When people ask me to compare the long trails to each other, especially the AT to the trails out west, I’ve always given a pretty similar answer. Nothing compares to the wild remoteness and indescribable beauty of the trails out west… However, I have yet to find a trail that has a soul like the Appalachian Trail. Although I’m not on the Appalachian Trail right now – I’m still in the Appalachian Mountains… and I see that soul permeates far more than one footpath.
The weather will finally break tomorrow and we’ll be on our way again. We have 160 miles left and I’m keen to crush them.
At the moment, the world and the country is in the grips of a Coronavirus scare. I’m not quite sure what to make of it from my current position, but I’m keeping my eye on it.
I’m writing this on a Thursday afternoon. Shortly after finishing, another thru-hiker wandered up to the Hearn Inn. Her name is Emily, and she’s 28. She is hiking the Eastern Continental Trail. It comprises all of the Florida Trail, Pinhoti, and Appalachian Trail, while utilizing sections of the Benton Mackay Trail, International AT, and a 170 mile road walk through Alabama. She did the Florida Trail and Alabama road walk back in 2018. Now she’s hiking the Pinhoti to Springer Mountain, and then the Appalachian Trail to Canada.
Emily and I had dinner at Southern Flavor and talked hiker stuff. She’s going to zero here tomorrow, but I’m zeroed out. I finally found my second fellow thru-hiker, and we don’t even get a chance to hike together. She’s not going very quickly; so unless I zero again, she probably won’t catch me.
We’ll see what tomorrow brings on the roads!