THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. EFT AND THE THRU-HIKERS OF 2012
The decision to take a really long hike was made in a moment of anger. I was riding in the passenger seat of a Jeep that dependably eked away over 60% of my friend, the driver's earnings. We both had really “sh*tty jobs.” I was working on my fourth one that I'd gotten since moving back to Maryland but was shirking it in order to PT with young marines at the local recruiting station. Adam, my friend, had just lost the job he'd had since we'd graduated high school. I hated myself, all nine people I lived with, and I definitely hated being the on-call health/beauty stocker for the Harris Teeter chain.
There was also a lack of space in which to move. Whether I was walking to work, running, racing around parking lots with a generation of vipers, or staggering home drunk, it was always the same two or three streets. To a very inspired, prospective thru-hiker of the Appalachian Trail (I section hiked in 2010), it was the only real decision I'd made in two years.
I spent half my budget for the hike in two days just trying to get to the southern terminus near Atlanta. The buses I rode were cheap but I wasn't allowed to bust out my sleeping bag and ThermaRest at the station between commuting days 1 and 2. The Holiday Inn was the best I could do.
“It'll be OK,” I told myself before passing out. “At least I'll be on the trail tomorrow.”
And I did find it (after another, nine hour bus ride...and a $260 cab ride...so much for my fronted tax return...)
March 23, 11.6 mi
Despite the pack of Newports I'd found in Atlanta I was so grateful to be on the trail that I had an alright first day. The only other hiker I met at the start was named Running Water.
“Let us pray,” his mother intoned in an awkward prayer circle I was included in. Indeed. “Follow the signs!” Whatever, lady. I'm following the white blazes.
“I wonder how much weight I'll lose by the time I'm a 2,000 miler,” said Running Water. But I knew that wasn't the point.
The plaque marking my start at Amicalola Falls was kind of strange:
THESE HUNDREDS OF STEEL STEPS WERE CONSTRUCTED BY INMATES AS PART OF A COMMUNITY PROJECT. WE HOPE YOU APPRECIATE THE RESULT OF THEIR EFFORTS.
You Can't Win. The one day I missed my Prison Lit seminar I was probably in my apartment reading that book. According to my best friend that year, Aubrey Panopticon, our disheveled professor was throwing mini snickers at our peers.
“He even chucked one towards your usual seat – and he didn't look happy.” Thanks for telling me, man.
I made it up all those stairs with 37 lbs on my back and continued to follow this Georgia trail which was mostly uphill. There were a few cameo convos in the rain but the guy that really burned me up I couldn't keep pace with.
Jay from Kentucky was only 20 but he looked like a finished work of art. Blonde hair smooth and straitly tied up at the back, sweet sweat smell with a rapid fire heartbeat underneath...his chest.
He let me drink from his mouthpiece and I kept stopping in order to get more water. He told me all about his plans for the venture.
“I'm gonna get up really early everyday and do pushups to keep my arms in shape.” Neither of us had invested in hiking poles. “And then I'll trail run for a bit, before I put the pack on.”
“Some people do crazy mileage on this trail,” I threw in my 2 c's. “Up to 30 miles a day. Even 50!”
“Well by the time I get to Rocksylvania I'll definitely be doing 50 miles a day!” Oh really?
After eight miles earlier that morning and running with Jay for three, I was wasted.
“Meet me at Hawk Mountain Shelter tonight if you can,” he called back to me through what was now a downpour. I sat on a large stone and tried to breathe right.
March 24, 13.0 mi
Hiking through Georgia was easy at my own pace. My body just went, somehow effortlessly up thousand foot climbs. But as the sun would start to set and all the nature around me glowed gold I'd get very pensive. Sometimes I'd cry. I marked my trend of straight up abandoning something when I didn't like it. In that moment. I'm not sorry about the jobs but I do think about all the beautiful losers I've ever lost.
“I'd rather wash ur mom's hair. She can't do it herself, she's just had plastic surgery! I can see the seams in her face and she lets me drive her Cadillac.” or:
Why'd you trade me at Union Jack's only to “nurture” me in, private? That makes no sense.
Oh, we're human and we live on earth?
Watch me fly. Ciao, Paolo.
(insert suicide here)