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Dream on Wanderer. Dream on.
It would be a couple more days, and a few more rides, but we'd make it home to Brooklyn. A home I hadn't seen in 4 and a half months, and Navi had yet to know at all. Having met so many good people along the way; I was glad I decided to hitch, despite the challenges; or maybe it was because of the challenges, because in the end, I overcame them.
I'd gotten some rides, and made it back to Tennessee a week after leaving Austin. Unfortunately I managed to break my phone in a fit of rage, as it defied my desperation, and refused to work. It was this morning, that I felt another lowpoint: I was heading north into colder weather, and rainstorms, and it was still hard to catch rides, and now with my broken phone I couldn't look online for any rides, or direction, and I couldn't call my friends for a lift when I got close. And then Navi had run off, while I was packing camp. I felt lost. I felt despair; but just for a moment. That was when my phone rang; the screen was unusable, but I could still receive calls! The woman on the phone was holding Navi. I picked her up and got back to business.
Me and Kevin had just split, the day before, when his girlfriend had called on my phone, and I had to chase him down. But now after a day and a half, (a long time by hiker standards) we were parting ways. Navi was sad that morning.
Kevin didn't have a phone, he'd left it behind. So I let him borrow mine, so he could talk to his girlfriend; they had parted badly, but with my phone, and some blunt honesty from an outsider, they were talking again. I don't know how their story ends, but I hope it works out, I hope I helped.
Kevin and I, along with Navi, had been trying to catch a ride to a truck stop a few miles down, as the only path across the lake was either on the Interstate, or on the train tracks. We were hoping to jump in the back of a pick-up truck, doubting anyone else would stop for our odd ensemble. For all the tough Texans that passed us by, it would be a young college girl, that stopped to drive us, and she even gave us food. She was going to work but she took us halfway across the lake, and she told us that the tracks were not in use. So we crossed the tracks.
A few times I'd forgotten the stick, at a store, or someplace I'd stopped, but it would always be there waiting for me when I got back. It's the only thing I ever backtracked for.
After a bit of bad luck, (I was robbed by a pimp) followed by a bit of good (I got most of my stuff back!), I met another hitchhiker named Kevin. He was going home to Florida, after having trouble in Oklahoma. He was nervous about being on his own, so we walked along for a while; I gave him tips and shared my experiences. And I told him to buy a tent.
I had yet more walking to do, even as I hoped to catch rides. By the end of it I'd walked another hundred miles, or more, since reaching Austin, and leaving.
Haha, I said I was going home, but I never said I would do it the easy way. I decided I would hitchhike back to New York; (not like there were many other options with a dog anyway) I was optimistic, but it was my 1st time trying to really hitch a long distance. It wound up taking a full day, just to get out of Austin. It then took 5 days to get out of Dallas . . . But it was more complicated than that - After all, it always is.
TurboSnail, was one of the friends I made on the AT; met at a hiker feed in southern Virginia, in late May. He'd completed his Thru-Hike to Maine, and returned to Austin just a few weeks before I got there.
It was October 30th, & I had decided it was time to go back home. My Aunt would be getting married in December, and a lot of my gear was falling apart, but more than that, I wanted to take a break from this crazy trip; so I figured Austin would be a good checkpoint, to start from when I was ready to continue.
So many places to get a good meal in this city, and I went to as many as I could.
The tall dome landmark, can be seen all along Congress Ave.
I like this city; and the profile it cuts into the night.
Navi is an odd one, she is reckless, and energetic, she loves playing with other dogs and with children; but she's scared of loud noises, and running water. When I let her off leash here, she took off in the opposite direction, I chased after, and she jumped into some woman's car.
I was in Austin for a week and a half, and I always seemed to find my way back to Zilker Park. I even stealth camped there a few nights.
Pennybacker Bridge Overlook. I was lucky that I had met some cool people from Austin, while I was hiking the Appalachian Trail; they gave me a place to stay, and helped me get around.
A sunny day as we made our way through Austin.
I'd walked 2200 miles, over the course of 6 months; up & down mountains, through thunder & hailstorms, along icy streets & dusty roads, in the cold and the heat; night hikes, and road walking along busy highways; I've gotten weird looks, ostracized, and kicked out of town; I've gotten random acts of kindness, aid from strangers, and made so many friends; I'd dealt with isolation, loneliness, constant aches, mental breakdowns, as well as equipment breaking; I'd been forced to return home due to an injury, and then again for a death in the family; I've had opportunities to quit, but I always came back to it. And Now I'd finally made it to Austin, TX.
This turned out to be my last day before Austin. And I was offered 2 more rides from 2 different women. I ended the day camped in a park in Elgin.
I had a rule, to not turn down a ride if it was offered, mostly because I want to meet the kind of people that offer help to people like me; it's a rare chance to talk to someone. So it was that I got a ride from Madisonville to Caldwell. Even more unexpected than being offered a ride, is when the offer comes from a woman by herself. She'd dropped us off at this park the night before, where I celebrated my relative proximity to Austin by buying a stuffed crust pizza from a PizzaHut down the street. Yes, I shared with Navi.
I was 150 miles from Austin at this point, my walk was winding down, but I was eager to reach what had been my original goal. Little did I know, I'd be there sooner than I could've guessed.
For about 900 miles this stroller carried my Gear, my food and water, and on a couple occasions, it even carried my dog. I wouldn't call it reliable, by any stretch; I had to repair more flats than I could've imagined, sometimes more than once a day; and that front wheel twisted under, and had broken off completely, making for a particularly grueling day. And for the last hundred miles, I had to carry my pack, just to lighten the load, and hope it would last until Austin. I put it through hell, and it returned the favor. But it served it's purpose: from Atlanta - Nashville - Austin. Then I ditched it at a Goodwill.
I kept walking past dark, until a man pulled over and offered me a ride. He drove me a few miles down the road, where I camped under a bridge.
Plenty of ranch land in central Texas; a surprise to no one.
The Hiker emerges from a ditch off Highway 21.
This highway was under construction, with half the road closed, we had plenty of room to walk.
From the 1st day, at the dollar store, I had gotten her that purple bandanna; I don't think she has a preference for the color herself, but it's assigned to her now. Whereas the red bandanna was a gift from a stranger, but it hung just low enough for her to tear it to shreds.
She's obsessed with horses. I think she may want to be one, when she grows up . . . Her tail is blurred from wagging so hard.
Clearly I only adopted the dog, for the photographic opportunities.
At Martin Creek Lake State Park; a cool little campground on a small island with hiking trails. We hung around for a while, before making heading down the road to the city of Henderson.
This Husky, much like Navi, just popped up behind me. And just like Navi, all she wanted to do was play; at one point they were both hopping after frogs, the same stupid way. She probably would've kept following me, but I finally turned back, and walked her home.
Diversifying the portfolio: It can't always be mountains and sunsets. . .
I made it to Magnolia AR, at the end of a very slow, very frustrating day: the heatwave had finally broken, and I was looking forward to finally putting in some decent miles; instead I had constant equipment breakdowns forcing me to stop. Just as I got to the center of town, by city hall, the front wheel broke off my cart. I spent the night in a gazebo, knowing I would have to figure something out the next day, if I was going to continue. Fortunately I got trail magic, in the morning, in the form of a kind stranger, with a van full of tools, & he repaired it right there.
I had upgraded to a 2 person tent in Atlanta; I was grateful I did when Navi came along, to hog all the space.
The pace had slowed to a crawl when a heatwave hit Arkansas. For 6 hours a day we were relegated to the shade & waiting out the scorching afternoons; for 3 weeks we were reduced to 9 miles a day . . .
I had camped here well after dark, not realizing I was right by train tracks. The 1st train came by just after I was setup in my tent; and another train came every 40 minutes . . . Needless to say: it was a good nights sleep . . .
She appreciates a good view too. So when I got to that "Humane" shelter, they told me it was a kill shelter, if no one claimed her. That settled it, then and there. They gave her vaccinations, meds and food, at no cost to me, and we been stuck with each other since. . .
Camping by standing water in Arkansas, is a bad idea, for the mosquitoes, but worth the risk.
Just outside of Clarendon, AR. Sometimes you find the perfect campsite, just when you need it.
I was worried being off-trail would mean less scenic views; but this was one of the best Sunrises I've ever seen.
I can't say she made things any easier, but definitely more interesting. And more enjoyable.
Still the 1st day with her. She'd given me a dozen heart attacks, as she'd wander into the street, but we made it to a town, where I was able to buy her a collar, leash and dogfood. She dozed off as I set up camp in this field by the animal shelter, waiting for them to open in the morning (I didn't know at that point whether or not I could keep her). I brought her into the tent, and away from the Arkansas mosquito swarm.
This dog just snuck up on me as I was walking, no collar or anything, and she scared me half to death. But she was friendly, and I couldn't get her to stop following me; she became my unexpected companion for the rest of my journey. I named her Navi.
After packing up, as I was leaving, a car drove up to me, I was right by the man's field. I was nervous, but didn't expect any trouble; he gave me some water and snacks for the road.
Crop Duster on a small airstrip, just off the road.
The 1st morning in Arkansas, and I was overcome by a swarm of mosquitoes.
Always getting strange looks as I Pass by.
Hills, mountains, valleys, fields, rivers, streams; And I just walk.
Some people just have a pond and a lighthouse in their front yard.
Bears ran away; Snakes wouldn't budge at all; Dogs would bark; but horses would just come over and stare at me.
Waited around here for a sale that never came. . .
Some of my family came down and met me in Nashville, so I got to scrub out that hiker stink, and explore the city.
Walking through downtown Nashville, lights and songs pour into the streets from every window and door.
Yell, and Rage! Against the cold march of time, and the dying of the Light.
It's been the ruin of many a poor boy . . .
Old Stone Fort park in Tennessee, provided a good diversion on my way to Nashville.
Every step gets you farther from who you were . . . . . . And closer to who you want to be.
Looking for a spot to pitch my tent, and lay my head.
Off-trail and back to road-walking, meant I didn't have to carry everything on my back.
My 1st campground off the AT. I turned up late, and stuck around late in the morning to shoot the falls.
On the Trail, I carried a pan 300 miles, and made a friend; the universe put that friend back in my path; and that friend put me on a boat: Good times.
From Stone Mountain, I watched the sun descend upon Atlanta.
For every rose is a galaxy . . .
It was a sobering realization, after we completed the Trail, and the "departure" trail, and were stuck at the visitor center for hours, trying for a ride to Atlanta.
July 25th 2017 Atop Springer mountain, would be the end of my chapter on the AT. The journey wasn't over, not by a long shot, but it's hard to imagine it could be better than it was on the Trail . . .
On our final day, we chose to linger here for a bit, before we began the way up Springer Mountain.
Beware the steep ascent, and heed my warning: "Blood Mountain Will Eat Your Eyeballs!"
The last big climb heading south, and we conquered it.
At various hostels, they've turned discarded hiker gear into decorations.
We got soaked in an earlier storm, and could see another on the way from the peak. We raced to find a camp site.
We stayed around late into the afternoon, making new friends.
It was my longest day, coming out of the Smokies, 30 miles, well into the night. In the morning I went back to the Fontana Dam visitor center for some Ice Cream.
From here I made my way to the tourist trap: Gatlinburg. And got a hiking partner, finally.
I walked the same mile 3 times; one of the few times I backtracked, and I did it for the view.
Taking a break at Bradley's View, I waited for a friend to catch up.
Amazing Views in the Smokies.
Wet stones, moss and logs, setting sun, and the light on the leaves
Into the Smokey Mountains.
After a bit of a late start, I pushed to make 20 miles, in time for the sunset off Max Patch.
Make sure you keep that Hand Sanitizer within reach
The French Broad River, by Hot Springs NC.
Sometimes getting from trail to town for resupply, is a hassle, sometimes it's a waiting game, sometimes it's costly, but there are a few times when the trail goes right through town; Hot Springs was one of those.
Returned to the Trail, grief stricken, and more isolated than ever. Also rain. Lots of rain.
My last couple days back home; ready and eager to get back to the trail.
Down at Coney Island, the crowd gathers for the explosive light show.
A stroll along the East River, under the Brooklyn Bridge
Early in June, I got bad news from home, and had to head back.
Out of my 10 weeks on trail, I got about 4 weeks of rain . . .
I think these markers are typically used to indicate areas of the trail requiring maintenance.
It rains too much, everything always breaks & there are a million things to do.
The Roan Highlands were one of the most impressive sections of the Trail, of the sections I did anyway.
Standing above the mountains, feeling completely minuscule.
Actually, I had just entered North Carolina, but NoBo's get the good signs . . .
That feeling of "awe," is a good one to stumble across.
Still Lingering around Laurel
I spent hours going through this section, purely for the joy of it.
On my way out of Hampton, along Laurel Branch.
Next up: Pond Mountain and Hampton Tennessee
Lighting up that little flower.
This section may be closed for bear activity, but it is a dam fine view.
Simple composition with a wild Truck and a barbed wire fence.
The Trail passes through fields, meadows, and even across private land.
Take your load off, you're walking too far.
Definitely a highlight on the Trail: wild ponies everywhere!
This one came right up to the shelter, along with her foal.
Little Blue Guy, very chill.
I miss the water from those mountain springs, especially when I had to fill my bottle at a bathroom sink . . .
The Trail community is incredible.
I'd intended to sleep longer this morning, but the sunrise was too gorgeous to miss. Stupid Sunrise . . . Ruining my sleep . . .
Sometimes it's the grand things, sometimes it's the small things, that catch your eye.
Sun's still up, so I doubt I stopped at this one. Maybe for Lunch? I don't remember . . .
There were other campers around, but none came out for the view; none but these two.
Stop for the sunset view; then push on into the night.
The world is bigger than you think. Get out of your own head.
A moment to enjoy the solitude and silence.
A window in the stone.
Colors bloom on the Trail
I'd lost my tent, and the shelter was full, so my 1st time cowboy camping, was on these cliffs.
We all need reminders to slow down, and appreciate the view.
Making friends in the woods.
There are days you never could have predicted; making incredibly stupid mistakes you can't help but laugh at. This was 1 of those days.
Camped under the stars at Thunder Ridge Overlook.
I made it to the Appalachian Trail in Mid-April; starting from Harpers Ferry heading SouthBound.
Long Exposure in DC
Just good luck with the timer on this one.
The Reflection Pool and the Lincoln Memorial.
Below the power lines.
Back in April, this was my 1st day back on my adventure, after my foot healed. Camped nice and comfy under that bridge.
No shame in failure. Persevere. Life will always get in the way of living. Live Life Anyway.
The return trip is always faster. Because I'm not walking back. Just No.
Slow Shutter Speed; Even Slower Bus.
These Halls We Walk . . . We Walk Together.
Thinking about: Pain. Walking. Quitting. Thinking about: Goals. Life. The Road Ahead and behind. & Thinking about PhillyCheeseStakes.
Chase what matters. We never have as long as we think.
Blue on Top. Blue on Bottom. Orange in the Middle. It's a sight gag Oreo.
Push ahead through the dark . . . Visible to traffic.
Talk to yourself; sing out loud; twirl your stick. Go ahead. There's no one around. Let loose your crazy.
Don't think too much. Thinking causes stress. Just go with your gut.
When you're walking all day, benches are the best thing. A good view is just a bonus.
A closer look.
It makes you a Morning person. Because Night is the Deadline.
Wanderer. Wayfarer. Traveler. Walker. Hiker. Nomad. Vagabond. Drifter Hobo. Vagrant. Stray. Lost. FREE.
All roads lead somewhere . . . This one goes back the way I came.
Just one of those nameless places, you'd pass right over, on the way to somewhere else . . .
Through smoke and fog and haze of day; Familiar places fade away. Sentimental and so cliche.
Just a guy with a hat & a stick . . .
Bird soaring through golden skies, over darkened clouds.
A walk along the outskirts . . .