Day 5 – March 12 2017 – 0 Miles Neel Gap
A “ Zero Day “ is a day where zero miles are hiked on the AT. While no miles are hiked on the AT, Errands such as laundry, food resupply and the all important restaurant or dinner often necessitate walking several miles. Originally we planned to zero every seven days So taking a zero so early gave us pause. However continuing to hike would only make Jons knee worse. We had to remind ourselves that this was not a race. Staying healthy was much more important than staying “ on pace”.
When we left the hostel in the morning we were greeted by a wintery mix wonderland. The snow and hail from the previous night left a icy glaze over everything. We immediately decided that we had made the right choice to zero.
We shuffled over to the outfitter to get some coffee. A group of hikers started to gather around the coffee pot. We talked about the weather but quickly drifted to other topics. The subject of trail names came up. Soon my brother admitted he had picked out a trail name before we started but he wasn’t sure if he should use it.
He had been watching a nature documentary that featured small weasel like creatures that distract their pray by acting strangely. The animals were called stoats.
I’m not sure if they approved the name because they thought he acted strangely or just simply liked the name. Either way, it was approved. My brother was now Stoat.
Not long after my brothers trail name coronation we noticed group people forming outside. We went out in the cold to investigate.
There was a church group grilling cheese burgers for all the thru hikers. They were great people. We told them trail stories and they told us of their missons trip deep into the Brazilian rain forest. They weren’t pushy. It was just a group of adventurers sharing stories over cheese burgers at nine in the morning in the cold. It was also our first experience with Trail Magic.
Trail Magic is a term generaly used to refer to free food left along the trail. It could be a bottle of soda, beer, snacks, or a cooked meal. The people who do these acts of kindness are called Trail Angels.
The Trail Angel term is not limited to food though. A Trail Angel could be someone who gives you a ride to town, gives you a place to stay in town, washes your filthy clothes, gives you food, or all of the above. Basically anyone who helps you out for no good reason, other than that they kind folks, are Trail Angels
Before we left then mentioned that we could sign a prayer register before we left. Not being a religious man I was a little leery about what I was asked to sign. All they wanted was a name and a prayer request option. I wrote my name down and filled out “good health” in the prayer request section. I’d figured we still had 2149.3 miles to go. I’d take any positivity I could get. Religious or otherwise.
We said our goodbyes and moseyed on over to Blood Mountain Cabins a few minute walk away. Besides having quite a few nice cabins, they also have a general store that is stocked with snacks, a kitchen that will make you fresh pizza and an area where hikers can lounge.
While we were waiting for our cabin to be ready, the owner stopped by to chat. He was ex law enforcement from a big city and looked to the mountains to restore his faith in humanity. He and his wife bought the place a few years ago and havent looked back. Neaplolitan was an ex 911 dispatcher and they traded a few stories.
We were assinged the “Bear” cabin. When we went inside it was obvious why it was named thus so. There were three bearskin rugs hung up on the wall. Neaplolitan commented that they looked like they were coming in for a landing and started calling them “ Bearplanes”.
We found out later that all the cabins contained taxidermied animals that matched the name of the cabin. One hiker realized this after the fact and exclaimed “ I was wondering why there were squirrels in my cabin!”
We spent the rest of the day watching TV, eating pizza, doing laundry, and having good conversation. I’m not sure if it was because we were all from New Jersey or all around the same age but we got along really well.
At one point my Stoat and I went to go check on our laundry. When we got back, Neapolitan let us know that while we were away he sat down and split his pants down the middle. He was wearing his rain paints because all of his other clothes were in the wash. His pants ripped open in the front…. I’m glad we weren’t there for that.