Friday, November 2, 2018

Maryland Rocks: Part 4- Friend Andre

The trail is a very different place than ordinary life and as I have mentioned before, you quite unexpectedly become friends with people you would never know otherwise. After our last trip, we stayed in touch with Popeye, following his exploits online, as he tried to flip-flop the whole AT in one year. His daughter eventually joined him on the trail and they hiked for a month together. Just imagine a whole month spending all day and night backpacking with one of your kids. You'd know a lot more than you know now for sure.
We contacted Popeye to let him know that we were back out in the woods and were thinking of him. Unfortunately, he had slipped on a log and hurt his back enough to land in a hospital for a long time. I asked him about recovery and he said that they still had him in a walker...and that was something I never thought of, getting incapacitated while hiking. That is something very easy to do, and I was extra careful after getting that news.

Our very first day on the trail, we met a new friend and he hiked with Paul and I for half of the trip. Andre is a young guy, that decided to leave his job that wasn't going where he wanted and headed out on the trail. His goal was to hike from the halfway mark in Pennsylvania to the end in North Georgia and then do the rest next year. He was eager, but green. He had some good and some not-so-good gear. I think he threw away his Walmart tent within the first few days of his hike. We didn't laugh because Paul had once done the same thing. It's difficult to choke down a $300 price tag for a little bitty pup tent, when you can go to Walmart and get a nice comfy 4 person tent for $50....but that is 1 pound versus 12 pounds...that may not matter so much carrying it to the trunk of your car, but carrying it up a mountain is something else entirely.

Andre's presence worked to my advantage. Paul had all day every day to tell Andre about the in's and out's of backpacking and Paul's common call "Right?" would elicit Andre's response  "Right!", while my frog-croak voice was trying to heal. I probably spent more silent time on that hike than in the last 3 years of my life. I started hanging farther back, and pretty soon I could only hear a soft buzzing of Paul's animated conversation ahead and then started seeing animals in the woods. A deer occasionally, giving me that "What, you've never seen a deer in the woods before?" look, and a few squirrels and birds coming back out of hiding. I realized that they were probably sick of hearing about backpacking gear and politics. I did look behind me once in a while, because that is what the stupid person in the back of a single file line never does in horror movies. Yeah, if there was a bear or monster behind me, I was going to at least have enough time to scream as loud a croak as I could manage.

Andre had great stories from his life as well and I started thinking about how brave this guy was to go off alone and try to make this trek. His parents were behind him, although, like me, they probably worried about him. The good news is that these days, you could stay in touch most of the time. He had a website, and was streaming his adventure while his friends back home were cheering him on. He had a little bit of extra weight and was hoping to come to the end of the journey as a fit athlete...probably more like a skinny guy with a big beard is what I was thinking. I did notice that Andre had a knack for making friends, so I figured he would find a trail family that was heading to the same spot and they'd watch out for him.

Paul gave him really good advice about pack weight and nutrition, and Paul is a good person to learn this from. He is the guy that starting filling his pack with stuff from his vending machines and now agonizes over the content of protein bars, making absolutely sure that there are no ingredients that should not be there...from the guy that used to eat Poptarts for breakfast! The thing to know is that Paul had no lofty, organic better intentions. He just found that something in the preservatives was making him sick, and when he starting being very careful what he ate, he felt much better.

That sounds awesome until you go somewhere to eat with Paul and he wants the examine the menu for a while.....for example, "Let's go to McDonald's, I can eat the biscuit there, as long as there is no grease, and they changed gloves before they made it.."
Me? I'd just stay away from McDonald's and not worry about what somebody might do to my food if they started thinking I was too persnickety.

However, Andre appreciated all of this and quickly was learning from Paul about how to be a foodie...

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