Before sunrise

Some mornings were spectacular. I watched the sunrise from the tops of mountains many times out in the wilderness. But this morning,light permeated the forest. When I close my eyes I can go back there any time I like and walk through the mist.

April 27 2015

I was up before sunrise and running through beams sunlight piercing the fog. It was a beautiful, cold morning, and I was headed for the warmth of the Greasy Creek Hostel. I was running, trying to do my 11 miles before noon and this young guy comes running up behind me. I was nervous because I had just taken a pee break. “Did he see?” That always happened: stop to pee and along walks someone. I stopped to let him by and was slightly taken aback. No one passed me in those days, especially in the morning.  He was a grungy looking hiker wearing a camo knit hat. He reminded me of old friends, but we just said a passing “Hi” and I didn’t see him again, as far as I knew. I watched him disappear into the barren forest.That stranger turned out to be Flask, another member of a group that formed in Virginia. We are moving to California together tomorrow.

I set off down a poorly marked side trail to Greasy Creek. I got about a quarter of a mile down the hill when I began to doubt my decision to take a detour. As I stood there wondering if this was the right way,  Wild Turkey came wandering up the trail. He warned me that the owner of Greasy Creek was…eccentric. I kept walking as the path turned into a dirt road and began to pass by disintegrating buildings and large walled yards covered with blue tarp.

Unfriendly signs were everywhere, and I was getting sketched out when I finally saw the “Welcome to Greasy Creek sign.” It was a cute Cabin with a bare bones bunkhouse. I wandered around to the front, wondering if anyone was home. I peered into the empty cabin and noticed piles of papers, deer skulls, a half melted candle and other odd decorations. I liked it immediately. There was landline phone on the porch for general use and a bed to crash on until the owner returned. But after few minutes she came wandering up the drive just to let me know she was going off for a few hours and to make myself at home.  So I hung my fly, my wet tent, clothing and pack on a line and decorated her lawn with my gear. I got out a meal and feasted on all the extra food I was carrying.

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When the owner arrived I was dry, rested and fed. She let me in on the condition that I wash my hands and shoes before touching anything. She gave me a pair of oversized  crocs to stomp about in. She gave me some terribly 80’s loaner clothing for me to wear, and I hopped in the shower. I hopped out of the shower wearing a fuzzy pink sweater, feeling fresh and silly. I arranged a work for stay cleaning the cabin and sorting papers. I cleaned the bunk house and helped out around the house.  She was even kind enough to make me a veggie burger and tea for dinner.  All day my host had been freaking out her guests by singing to them about various rules and morals of the hostel. I took a decent amount of entertainment watching her act perfectly normal, then, like a switch that flipped she’d be completely silly. I got the feeling she was selective about which guests would stay the night.

Jeopardy and Miles stayed with me in the bunkhouse that night. It got below freezing outside, and I was glad not to be on top of Roan Mountain with my cold.

Just before sunrise I emerged from the warm bunk and made my way up to the next shelter where I had told myself I would find Sam, Chewy and Fiddle.

 

 

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