Category Archives: Hiker Stories

Talker and Slap Bets

I had a story about a hiker named Talker awhile ago. When we were in Lincoln, NH and Spoon and Chuckles’s family put a feed on for us (all organic, all local spaghetti dinner!) which was delicious. In the process, we heard lots of stories. One of them, was about slap bets Talker had lost.

People who haven’t hiked a long distance trail like the Appalachian Trail always talk about mileage, pack weight or weather. Those who have finished a long distance trail, they all talk about the people and the experiences they had with them. People make the journey.

These are trail people. They understand you, and you understand them. They get it – all of it. Sometimes it feels like they can read your mind. You live with them everyday and share everything.

Even on the bad days, a day with your trail family is magical.

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Talker, Trail Days and Pop-Tarts

Talker always holds a special place in my heart.

Talker and Anime Hair

You never would guess that this is the face of someone who is incredibly intelligent and wise. It looks more like he stuck his finger into a light socket… You too can have this hair, after only 4 days of not showering!

I met him in passing just north of Erwin, TN while I was hanging out with Rob Bird, but I never actually talked to him until Kincora Hostel. He had been hiking with Johnny Thunder, Burgundee, Saga, Delorean, Skittles and Rambo. They are all pretty awesome people, but Talker is special.

Talker is a wonder person: intelligent, witty, mature and incredibly funny. But he does have a tendency to get involved with silly silly bets. Bets that no one has a chance of winning.

One of those took place in Damascus, at Trail Days.

Our medium of exchange was slap bets and ice cream novelty bets. You could bet on anything and we routinely did. Everything from how many nutri-grain bars one could eat (Saga got to 12 out of her 25 she thought she could do) to where you would end up that day.

At Trail Days, Talker tried the impossible.

A handful of Pop-Tarts

Somewhere near pop-tart 6. Photo Credit to Chuckles

Talker took a slap bet, thinking he could eat a 100 pop-tarts.

To be fair, he probably wasn’t in a sober state of mind when this bet was proposed, but he took it without a second thought. The bet was as follows: 100 poptarts before 10pm. He could get up at anytime and start eating, there would be a mix of flavors and they didn’t have to stay in his body for longer than it took to swallow them. He could purge himself anytime.

All this for the opportunity to slap Johnny Thunder.

Talker got up around 8am and decided to make an honest effort to start. He started with fruit flavored toaster pastries around 9am. He didn’t have any water to start, which was the beginning of his downfall.

“These feel like rocks in my stomach. Like a giant brick of awful”

After only 5 pop-tarts, I think Talker started to realize that this might be a bad idea. At 7 he decided it was time to pound some water.

“I need to drink like a gallon of water. Something. Because this is terrible”

At pop-tart 11 he decided he need to puke. He tried. He really did. But he just couldn’t.
“It feels like they are all glued together in there.”

He had consumed strawberry, blueberry, confetti cake and found that he couldn’t get rid of them. This didn’t bring any hope for finishing. He shrugged his shoulders however and decided to press on. Right on into a new box. Of Cinamon.

3 more pop-tarts, more water and another attempt to remove pop-tarts from his system yielded no results.  Pop-tart 14 seemed like a terrible idea to have tried to eat.

“If I stand on my head, maybe that’ll help with the puking right? Gravity will help…”

It’s worth a shot right? He got up against a tree, had two people hold his legs and tried to shove his fingers in so he could puke. No joy. No option but to keep going.

He opened a box of fudge pop-tarts.This was a mistake.

Talker somehow managed to eat 17 pop-tarts. We later figured out that if he had eaten all 100, he would have consumed something in the neighborhood of 22,000 calories, enough sugar to put himself into diabetic shock and acquire type 3 diabetes and probably would have been the most miserable human being on the face of the earth.

All this to slap Johnny Thunder

Talker with the Waterfall

Talker is eating pop-tarts again! At least it’s while looking at a waterfall, and not someone drunk passed out in a folding chair at Trail Days!

“I’ll never eat pop-tarts again”

5 months later, Talker was again eating pop-tarts in the Hundred Mile Wilderness. He had found the strength to eat those deliciously terrible toaster pastries again. I don’t envy him them.

Johnny Thunder redeemed his slap in a most wonderful way, but that’s a story for another day.

The Stars and Smiley

I met Smiley at Chet’s Place, in Lincoln, NH July of 2012. He was from Ireland and was hiking with his friend Party Animal and a lady named Day Hiker and they were pretty inseparable.

When Smiley opened his mouth, you got this blinding white flash from his teeth, and his face was always agrin. He had been in the US working as a carpenter, doing hand-worked furniture when (as the story goes) he was told by INS he could go play tourist for a few months, called his buddy from home and said “Hey, how do you feel about hiking this?”. So they did.

Dana Hill

Dana Hill. Left to right – Myself, Party Animal and Smiley

Today’s moment comes from Dana Hill, mile 464.3 (southbound), where we stopped early in the third week of August of 2012 to watch the stars.

The actual reason we stopped wasn’t to watch stars – it was to be the first people at the pie shop just down the road. On The Edge Farm sits about 200 feet from the trail and has fresh pies every morning when they open, but they go so quickly that we were told by nobos to get there as early as possible.  So we decided to camp just a few miles short of the farm, get up and be there first thing in the morning. Little did we know that because of this plan, we’d get the best stargazing we’d ever seen.

We hiked up extra water to this hill and decided to have a campfire (there was already a ring, someone else had the same idea) and stay up a little later – since we only had to go a mile and a half the next morning. The sun started setting, but it wasn’t a sunset that was particularly amazing – amusing to say now that I’m back in suburbia, where I ache for EVERY sunset.

Then the stars appeared.

We were sitting with an unopposed horizon, and you could see the inky blackness creep across the sky. No clouds, no light pollution, no distant glow from a city or any other lights. Just a tiny sliver of moon that came up later.

All we had above were shattered diamonds flung into the heavens to reassure us that we weren’t alone.

There are moments you remember forever. This is one of those for me. Looking up and seeing the arms of the Milky Way, reaching out to envelope my body as I stood against the sky – feeling as if I was the most insignificant thing in the world, but also as if I could touch the lights that were shining onto me.

The air went from the oppressive humid heat to the chill crispness of the north, reminding us that very soon there would be cold, bringing us the smells of the far north, the mountains we had just left. You could taste the pines on the wind, feel the shivers of the trees as the wind coursed through them, bending them to it’s will.

We stood upon a hill in the night, in the blackness and stared at the sky. Smiley spoke in the darkness, something I will never forget.

“You can see to eternity here, it looks like a thing of beauty.”

There are moments you associate people with, memories you’ll never forget. For Smiley, anytime I see his picture or talk to him from a thousand miles away, I’ll have that moment of his voice in the dark – reminding me that there are beautiful things far greater than myself. All I have to do is look up.