The verdict is in…
After scouring the town of Hot Springs for a scale, I finally found one and weighed myself. Since the start of the AT I have lost 8 pounds..sweet! Although, I feel I must take this time to warn you about the mean and ravenous creature that has been following me around for the last 80 miles. My trail appetite has sky-rocketed! If you thought my hunger was bad before… woah…. you should see how much food I eat now. Dinner has become my favorite part of the day and after hiking 17 miles I am ready for some massive calorie intake. We typically get into camp around 3:30, setup shelter, filter some water, and the it’s time to chow down. A typical dinner consists of 3 courses, dinners part 1, part 2, and part 3. This is to be followed by dessert and that usually holds me over until bed time when I have to eat a candy bar or something.
My favorite trail foods are Ramen, Potato Soup, Mashed Potatos, Butter (oh yeah!), Nutella, Jolly Ranchers… the list goes on and on. The other funny thing about food and the trail is the intense cravings you get for foods you wouldn’t normally eat. Sometimes I’ll be hiking along and get an intense hankering for a blueberry muffin or chocolate, things which I would never want to eat in normal life. It is a strange phenomenon, but the trail seems to dull down one’s persnickity-ness towards food. The other day I found myself scarfing down some pasta that had green peas in it- I would NEVER eat green peas in the real world, but for some reason, I just didn’t care. Food is something that is constantly on my mind whilst hiking. I think about what I am going to have for lunch right after I finish breakfast. I think about what I am going to have for dinner right after I finish breakfast. It’s bad, really bad!
This reminds me of a rescent visit to the Standing Bear Hostel in Hartford, TN. We stopped in to pickup a package and buy some fixins. We had just left the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and walked up onto this idyllic and utopian little setting. The hostel was run by a bunch of random hippies seeking peace in the woods. They led us to the pantry to purchase food. We ascended up ten steps to a vault-like room; once the door opened I knew I had seen a glimpse of heaven itself. Every wall was covered with candy, snacks, ice cream, and pizza. I was in such shock over the glorious vision of all that junk food that all I could do was stand in amazement. It was total sensory overload. After about five minutes of gawking at all the delicious food, I started picking out enough Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and PopTarts to feed the country of Haiti. The whole experience was pretty hippy- buying food was based on the honor system; they made us fill out a card with totals and put the money in a box. These people were very trusting to say the least.
Oh yes, I cannot forget the gloriousness that is Trail Magic/ Trail Angels. These two features have a way of getting you when you least expect it. Both of these groups send out volunteers who basically sit around at places where the trail crosses a road and wait for hikers. Typically, you’ll be hiking along in the wilderness and then you just randomly walk-up on some person with a cooler of soda and a table of junk food. There’s usually chairs to sit in and a hot fire to warm-up by. It’s quite amazing! I guess I could parallel it to walking around the desert for a week and then stumbling across an oasis. Believe it or not, there are people who cater to AT hikers and they love nothing more than to give us free food and drinks. They normally have an assortment of Little Debbie snacks, donuts, potato chips, you name it. There is only one requirement–everything they give us is over 500 calories a pop. Sounds crazy, I know, but this is the type of food we need to sustain ourselves out there. My favorite Trail Magic moment happened near Hiawassee, GA. Lilly and I had just spent a cold, rainy, and miserable night up on the mountain. When we came down to Dick’s Creek Gap, there was Trail Magic in all their shiny glory. I was greeted with a hot sausage and egg biscuit from Hardee’s… ohyeah! We also met a guy who grilled hot dogs for all the hikers. I mean, when you spend as much time in the woods as we do, it’s little things like free hot dogs and Little Debbies that make your day.
That’s about it for the Hunger edition of the blog. We are just about finished here in Hot Springs. Yesterday I drove an afternoon rafting trip and photographed them on the river. Let me tell you… driving a big ole bus up a sketchy mountain road after 8 months was a little crazy! We work one more trip on Monday and then we are headed for Erwin, TN and the glorious Nolichucky River. Hope you have enjoyed this inside look on trail hunger! Peace.