Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dumptru(c)k Aging Gracefully

Day 30: Zero Day for Dumptruck's birthday

Day 31: 7.5 miles. Garenflo Gap to French Broad River

Day 32: 10.1 miles. French Broad River to Spring Mountain

Day 33: 5.3 miles. Spring Mountain to Log Cabin Drive

This weekend Dumptruck turned 29, and we thought the most appopriate way to celebrate this event was to accidentally almost burn down the hostel we were staying in. The Laughing Heart Hostel in Hot Springs immediately felt like home, and we settled in like the filthiest bugs in the coziest rugs. Hot Dog didn't stay with us, as her (hilarious, kind and thankfully non-judgmental) sister had come to town for the weekend and got a hotel room for her and Hot Dog. She is the older sister, so we gave her the honorary trail name of Kielbasa (big hot dog). On Friday night I lulled Apollo, Dumptruck and Whistle to sleep by reading to them the first chapter of the third Harry Potter book, with voices and a terrible English accent.

On Saturday we spent some time in downtown Hot Springs, a small town with big heart. We resupplied, and Whistle and I bought supplies to make a surprise cake from scratch for Dumptruck's birthday. It was then my job to distract Dumptruck while Whistle snuck back up to the hostel to start making the cake. Dumptruck and I spent a lot of time hanging out at the little Hiker Lodge in town, while a magical woman named Queen Diva gave us free cookies and took the two of us out for ice cream and coffee. How do these things happen? I believe in the goodness of humanity, but sometimes it's just more blaring and "whoa!"-worthy than other times. Like looking directly at the sun... or getting goosed*.

Afterward, we headed to our new home and Dumptruck hung outside or in the hostel's common room, while I cut and iced Whistle's cake into the shape of a dumptruck. We also got a birthday card that was not at all a birthday card, and signed it with a series of condolences. After gathering folks into the common room, we sang happy birthday and brought the cake in to Dumptruck. With every passing stanza of the song, I became more and more overcome with a terrible clawing feeling of wrongness. I couldn't place it until the final crescendo of "tooooo yooooouuuuu!!" when Dumptruck grinned and looked around, a little confused as to what to do next.

"WE FORGOT CANDLES!" I cried out, flailing my arms around and then snatching the cake back from Dumptruck and running back into the kitchen with Hot Dog and Whistle. After this first step of rectification, we realized that there were no candles. Our buddy Coolie McJetpack ran over to his bunk room and brought back two candles. We rejoiced, but then realized that due to the fact that he had been carrying them in his backpack (where nothing is safe), the candles were more like two floppy segmented insect legs, barely held together by the string of wick. We tried putting the candles in, but they sagged over into the frosting like drunks on the lawn of a fraternity house.

Our other buddy Donnie produced a set of Morning Glory Sparklers.

We jammed two sparklers into the cake and lit them. They immediately, rudely, began to behave exactly the way that sparklers are meant to behave. They exploded upward and outward, raining magnesium down all over the cake and sending sparks flying for feet in every direction. I picked up the cake and held it away from me at arm's length as a squeamish teenage boy might hold a screaming infant with a full diaper. We ran into the common room, singing happy birthday at 3x normal speed, trying to get to the part of the song where the room wasn't filling with smoke and I wasn't having burning hot sparkles falling all over me like angry fairy dust.

Dumptruck rushed over, took the cake from me and ran it outside, where he began to attempt to blow the sparkler out. This, as it turns out, is impossible. So we had to wait until it petered itself out, and then brought the scorched cake inside to the group of 10 or so collected hikers, who ate it with their hands, because this is our life now. We then had a marvelous time singing, playing guitar and telling stories.

You may remember that I mentioned in the previous post about us getting off the trail 7 miles early because Whistle was full of sickness. On Sunday, we five left our packs at the hostel in Hot Springs and had our first slackpacking experience. Kielbasa kindly drove us back to Garenflo gap, from where we were able to hike the last 7 miles into Hot Springs carrying nothing but our own bodies and good spirits. We felt like we were floating down the mountain. We arrived back in town, collected our packs (and Donnie), spent some time at an actual hot spring, and then hiked another mile to a campsite on the other side of the river.

For the first time on the trail we were able to sleep with our rain fly off the tent. It was perfectly, beautifully warm and dry, and I fell asleep with my hiker family around me and the sound of a river following it's own trail.

Today we are staying at the Hemlock Hollow Hostel, where we did work-for-stay on this gorgeous little farm. This included moving and stacking firewood, gardening, helping with shopping for the hostel's resupply, and feeling perfectly, marvelously at home. We are the only ones here tonight, other than one other thru-hiker and two boisterous, sweethearted section-hiking gentlemen with whom we had dinner. Hi Memphis!

We meant to go farther today, but when we stopped at the hostel for lunch were offered work-for-stay and couldn't resist. This hike is about experience, and I'm breathing every moment. I am currently sitting on a porch with a happy dog sitting at my heels, with a perfect spring night breeze ruffling my hair. The groundskeeper is making a giant bonfire with Dumptruck, including old broken furniture. All of this is perfect. I am glad that I am alive right now, and not billions of years from now when the sun expands and swallows the earth.

Clever Girl

*"Goose" is a term that means to be suddenly and unexpectedly pinched on the bum. To use it in a sentence:
"Whistle gooses me and Hot Dog all the time."

Photos by Dumptruck
Also, I would like you to know that the low-res quality of the photos on the blog are due to the fact that I have to upload them on borrowed wifi. Dumptruck's photos are, in reality, very high quality and absolutely stunning. If you'd like us to send you a full version of any photo, feel free to ask!


  1. Wowsers! What a great few days. So far, Dumptruck has saved you from freezing and burning alive. Nothing half-way on the AT (except Harpers Ferry).
    Hugs and kisses!
    Mom and Dad
    PS Thunderstorms predicted Thurs eve/night vicinity of Erwin.

  2. I love reading your and Hotdog's blogs, and Dumptruck's pictures are amazing. You five need to figure out a name for your group. Traveling circus has already been used, but I can tell that you all are clever and will think up something that is descriptive, funny and fitting. Keep on hiking crazy people.


    1. Hello EarthTone!

      Thank you so much! And thanks for following. It's definitely been crazy (and so fun).

      I think we may have decided on "Shanty Town" though that may shift over time. I rather like it :)

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks!! Also- glad to hear that Prayer Walker is back on! All is well in the hiker-verse :)

  4. I love the photo of walking with your poles on your feet. I remember trying to do that! It was hard. Glad you were successful...

    [Now I feel like this comment is super lame. Some day you, too, will be a washed up former thru hiker that reads hiking blogs at work.]

    1. Thanks Mackenzie! And it's not lame at all :) thank you for following!