First, we would like to welcome the new followers of the blog, especially those folks from the bus tour trip to Newfound Gap near Gatlinburg. It was a pleasure to speak with you about our thru-hike! We sincerely hope you enjoy the posts about our adventure.
Chief and I will celebrate 35 years of wedded bliss this summer. He has been telling people that for this milestone anniversary he is providing me with a six-month “vacation” in fourteen different states, “eating out” every day and experiencing nature’s scenery up close and personal. Of course Chief gets a kick out of this hugely exaggerated anniversary description of our Appalachian Trail hike and gets a sarcastic eye-roll from me. Several folks have wondered how a couple can spend time together 24/7 without conflicts. Well you can’t. We thought we should honestly share some of what the first month of our A.T. hike has been like for our relationship.
If you know Chief then you aren’t surprised to learn that he is a planner. Everything about this hike is researched, scheduled, calculated, and tabulated. He keeps track of trail elevations, miles hiked per hour and how much down time is used. My style is a bit different — more along the line of whatever happens today just roll with it. That style difference has led to some consternation and a suggestion from me such as, “Can’t you just give it a break and let it go for one day?” Of course there is no right or wrong way–well, I think my way is better but for purposes of this article we will let it drop right there.
We had planned to shuttle fifteen miles from the A.T. into Gatlinburg, Tennessee on Day 23 to resupply and shower. When we arrived at our pickup destination at Newfound Gap, I called the shuttle service only to be told they cancelled us to take a better fare. I was incredibly angry and disappointed, but Chief took the lead to find a solution. Another hiker, Cricket, was dropped off by his Cousin Bill and Aunt Rose from Durham, North Carolina. Chief asked Bill if he would drive us into Gatlinburg and he agreed to shuttle us and our friend Sunshine, but Bill wouldn’t take any money for doing so.
The next day we had arranged a shuttle back to the trail with a man named Herbert. Herbert is a colorful local character with a thick Tennessee accent who made us “gis” how old he was. I “gissed” 60 and Chief added five years, but we both missed Herbert’s actual age of 71. Herbert could sure tell tales about people he’s driven and he talked the entire drive back to the trail. We heard that folks in those parts “just want 10-12 acres they can grow some ‘bacca and butcher couple hogs”. Herbert told us about his wife, Georgia, who “is kin to Dolly Parton — they was third cousins,” he shared. He and Georgia had been married nearly 50 years, but she had passed away a year ago. Herbert spoke of her as though she was waiting at home with his lunch lovingly prepared. It was evident how much he missed her, and it reminded me to be appreciative of the time we have together. So…
On Day 25, I stabbed Chief with my pocketknife. You should know that this incident was neither premeditated nor serious. Not having any other uses for my brand new Leatherman pocket knife, I was using it to cut an apple in half for lunch. At the same time I handed half the apple toward Chief, he was reaching a hand toward me. He stuck his finger right into the point of my pocketknife. Instinctively, Chief yelped, but the wound didn’t even bleed until he forcefully squeezed one tiny drop of blood from the microscopic hole. Technically this accident could be construed as being his fault but we let it drop right there.
Days 26 and 27 were exhausting as Chief led us to hike for 17.6 miles and 15 miles respectively. He believes we need to increase our daily miles by pushing our strength and endurance. I have a slightly different perspective on that type of reasoning and words were exchanged in exuberance. Nothing positive came from that exchange so we let it drop right there. Truth is, Chief may be right. Nevertheless we are hiking on dry trails that are less rocky than Georgia and seeing more green as trees leaf out and the mountain woods spring to vibrant life.
Mothers’ Day is Day 28 so Chief is giving us a day off tomorrow. We had to hike 12 miles to get to Hot Springs North Carolina, but we enjoyed a hot mineral spa bath and fresh peach apricot smoothie. Did I mention my husband is amazing?! I better let any remaining conflict drop right here.
That’s the way marriage works. Sometimes you just agree to disagree and let things drop. The details and opinions are not as important as the relationship. We know there will be disagreements on this journey, just like in everyday life and we make it work for better or worse. We have hiked 275 miles so far with 1,905 more to Maine. That’s a lot of togetherness, but Chief knows that I love him, and now he also knows that I have a very sharp pocketknife.
In Unison, Chief and Toad