Monday, April 16, 2012

Swamprat Returns!

We were awakened this morning by woodpeckers calling to each other.  This went on for a very long time.  It wasn't so cold this morning, and I had slept well last night.  By the time I got up, someone already had the fire going again.  Secrets and Shenanigans came into camp, and I was happy to see she was wearing her boots today.  Thank goodness.  She always hikes with mardigras beads around her neck, and an Ernie (as in Bert and Ernie) hanging from her pack. 
We all headed out with Little Bald as our lunch target, but knew that first we had to make it over Big Bald, which was supposed to have an amazing view.  Luckily, we had another beautiful, blue sky morning.  When we got to the top of Big Bald, Keith had one of those classic north meets south kind of conversations with a local Tennessee man who was hiking up there.   He was an older gentleman, who told Keith that he had come up to "see the flyers."  Keith said, "Flyers?  What flyers"?  We had been seeing signs all through the national forests proclaiming that hanggliding was now allowed, so he assumed this man was referring to hanggliders.  The man replied, 'Well, usually, this time of year, there's all of these beautiful little white flyers blooming all over the mountaintop, but I guess this year they froze."  Keith said, "Oh, flowers!"  We had a pretty good laugh over that. 
We hiked on, and eventually I let Keith and Ray hike ahead of me, and I stopped and soaked my feet in the most wonderful stream.  Some things, I can not resist.  Soon, Wild Turkey and Feathers caught up to me, and let me know that she was struggling with chafing.  This is not an uncommon problem on the trail, and a lot of hikers carry tubes of Desitin with them.  She was convinced it was the pants she was hiking in, and was hoping to hitch into town at the next road, and they sat down in the meadow to rest a while.  I hiked another 400 yards and came upon Keith, Stingray, Secrets and Shenanigans sitting in lawn chairs on the side of the road, drinking Cokes, and munching on oranges and PB&J's!  2010 thru-hikers, Bam Bam and Peach had shown up to offer trail magic, and everyone was enjoying their generosity.  They had Cokes, Gatorades, bottled water, jugs of water, Snickers, Moon Pies, fruit pies, and sandwiches.  Before I reached them, however, there had been a cooler hidden in the woods that another Trail Angel had left for hikers, and there was also a box full of tea bags, first aid supplies, Ramen, and gum.  After visiting both spots, I ended up gaining 3 oranges, a banana, a Gatorade, a Coke, Blister Care, tea bags, and a Snickers!!!  Wow!  Before they left, they asked if anyone else was behind us that we knew of.  I looked around, and was about to say no one that I knew of, but then Blue Fox spoke up and said that Swamprat was coming.
We both thought he must be mistaken, because although we were expecting Swamprat's return, neither of us knew when he was coming back.  Right then, we looked back at the woods, and there came Swamprat hiking up the trail, all clean-shaven, and looking fresh from town!  We were so happy to see him.  He grinned really big, and joined in the Trail Magic.  His joy did not last long however, when he learned that we were all planning on hiking another 5 miles before night fall.  He had just hiked 13 to catch up to us.  If he stuck with us, that would make 18 for his first day back on the trail in a week.  Ouch!  I guess he's a tough swamprat, though, because he hung in there, and hiked that whole 18 miles his first day back.  He was one exhausted swamprat when we finally reached No Business Knob Shelter (who names these things?) to camp for the night.  We finally found a level tent spot (harder than it sounds), and had a wonderful fire to end the day (yes, I only used one match again!). 

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