The road to Gatlinburg cut through Newfound Gap and that is where we stood with our thumbs out for an hour. We couldn’t understand why two raggedy assed, hiker ripe, unshaven vagabonds had to wait so long for a ride. When the shiny new conversion van pulled over and the soapy sweet, bible thumpin’, gift shop loving tourists beckoned us aboard, we stuffed ourselves inside gratefully and shut the door. Within a minute, the driver and his passenger wife rolled down their windows and politely gulped the fresh air outside. (Is that us that smells so bad?) Mark and I felt bad knowing this couple would never pick up backpackers again and would have to get their van’s interior sanitized. We got over it quickly as we were soon eating pizza and sucking down beers in Gatlinburg.
If White Trash has a capitol city it would be Gatlinburg! Wax Museums, rubber spears, bad clothes, fat tourists, gondola rides, funnel cakes, post cards, screaming children, colorful signs, gift shops and a thousand places to have breakfast. Of course, there was a hiking shop in town and Mark needed to address his boot issues, so we headed in that direction. We ran into “the Traveler” on the way and he convinced us both to try Hi-Tech lightweight hiking boots. Our current clod-hoppers were 5 pounds apiece and contributed to our nagging foot problems so we headed off to the hiking shop and laced up a pair.
The Traveler was a fast talking guy with a million stories and a southern accent. He always had a lump of Black Moriah chew in his cheek and was forever launching dark brown streams of spit as he spoke. He regaled us with automotive adventures on the Blue Ridge Parkway and conquests of beautiful women. He had a knack for knocking other hikers, especially Wingfoot, now known to the 1987 thru-hiker community as “Wingnut”. He was fun to hike with and we were always handing him the haebar and goofing on the results.
Two nights in Gatlinburg was enough. Many dollars later, Mark and I geared up and headed out. We didn’t have to wait as long for a ride back to the Trail. We had a clean, shaven, respectable look that reeked of civilization. Our bellies were busting full from a classic Southern Style pancake breakfast. Our packs were streamlined, muscles rested and we had new boots on our feet. We were eager to hit the trail.
…continue the expedition, read: Of Mice and Hiking Men [link]