The sound of a rooster erupted 6 feet away from my head. I jumped in my hammock, shaking my support trees. The leaves rustled and released that smell that only apple trees are capable of releasing.
I unzipped my hammock fly to the sun glaring right into my little-suspended shelter. Being used to waking up under the constant cover of trees, it was quite shocking to have a giant ball of light in my face as soon as I sat up. Slipping my boots on and slipping out of the hammock, I carefully sidestepped my puddle of piss from the night before (an absolute perk of sleeping in a hammock).
Our “privy” was located in the old house where the respective family used to live. I was eating my breakfast, waiting for the morning drop to happen, when Shaggy comes out of the “privy” looking like he’d just been molested.
“Dude. You gotta go in there” was all he said.
“I’ll go… when I’m ready.”
“Also, you’re going to want to refill the flush bucket” he said, handing me the red pail.
I walked up to the decaying structure. From the outside it was in quite a bit of disrepair, but nothing could prepare me for inside. The previous day’s peeking had revealed nearly an identical inside. I weaved my way through the old house towards the bathroom.
When I opened the door, it was actually quite clean. But the oddest part was the collection of chainsaws in there with me. A piece of plywood had been placed over the bathtub to make a makeshift table. I wasn’t sure if the plywood was there to provide a space for the chainsaw to chill or if the chainsaws were being used to weigh down the board, but either way it was a little bit odd.
I finished my business, taking one last look at the odd collection. They all pointed towards the window, looking like curious puppies begging for food with their long snouts.
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Leaving the property, the trail continued on a dirt road for a while that skirted along the edge of the Cookie Lady’s house. I whipped past potholes and divots the size of children in the hard packed path.
A familiar looking vehicle was parked at the trailhead, idle exhaust putting out of the tailpipe. I walked up the driver side, knocking and beating on the windows like a drum. Voltron popped out of the driver’s seat.
“Hey pokemon what’s up!”
“Oh not much, I’m just waiting on Whistles. You seen her today?”
“Nah man, I stayed just up at the Cookie Lady’s last night. She wasn’t there with us.”
He put his hand on his chin. “Well shit, I was planning to meet her here today. I thought she would be around the area, I was going to slackpack her.”
“Did you text her?”
“A few days ago”
“Well… have you confirmed with her to see if she would be here?”
“Nah man, I just kinda guesstimated where she would be.”
“Let me text her real quick.”
I sent out the message and put my phone back.
“If she’s hiking she probably isn’t going to get it.” I said.
“Oh well, it’s not a big deal either way. Do you want me to slack pack you? I’ll drop your stuff off at Tom Levardi’s house.”
And the deal was on.
Why the hell didn’t I do this sooner?
Paranoid to leave too much stuff with him, I dropped my shelter system, sleeping bag, and other random items in the car. I kept my ridiculous 5-pound food bag because I never separate from it.
I hit the trai like a bolt of lightning. With all of the weight off my back, I moved like a wild animal running through the woods. It was the easiest hiking I had ever done up tho point.
From the time I left the trailhead, my stuff with Voltron, to the time I made it to the other side of town, was a little over 2 hours. Clocking just around 9 miles, I was hauling ass for the day. Now I know why everyone is so on board with having the chance to slack pack. I use to think it was a cop-out or being weak or whatever, but I totally get it now. No shame in letting someone else drop your stuff off up the trail for you to come back to later. I mean as long as you are still walking on the actual trail, it still counts right?
Before getting to Levardi’s place, I made a pit stop by the hardware store to grab some fuel to refill my cooking fuel, unfortunately, when I had arrived, the store had closed for the day, and days to come being gone n holiday or something.
“The owner left out a can of denatured round the side of the building if that’s what yelookingin for” an old man sitting on a bench pointed out to me.
And sure enough, that was exactly what I was looking for. I felt guilty taking it for free, but there was nowhere to be able to deposit a donation or money of any kind.
Pulling up to Levardi’s, my first order of business was to get this god damn filter cleaned or something.
Supposedly able to last for 1 million gallons, I have my doubts after only using it for a few months. I backflush it as regularly as people floss their teeth back in the real world, which I’m guessing is like once a week or something? Anyway, the stupid thing says to back flush it every time you use it, but that’s just too much of a damn pain in the ass. Who wants to do that?
So anyway, this thing takes FOREVER to filter water now, it’s getting to be quite a pain in the ass. I read somewhere that it can be cleaned by running pure bleach through (none of that scented shit) as well as following up with vinegar (supposedly bleach helps dissolve and mold buildups or other organic junk while the vinegar is able to dissolve any mineral buildups). So there you have it, I soaked in 2 stages, bleach then vinegar and what do you know, in cohesion with my patented Croc-Knock-It method, I was able to get the thing running like brand new again.
“Now you know that abandoned looking factory up the street? Don’t even think about going anywhere near that” Tom said. “That’s an abandoned money printing factory. Well, supposedly abandoned anyway. From the outside, it appears that way but there are always people coming in and out of that place.”
For the first time since North Carolina, I borrowed a bicycle and started making some serious progress scouting out the town. A tattoo shop proclaiming the ban of “thru hikers”, a milkshake shop with similar signage, and half a dozen other close businesses were directly in the neighborhood close to Tom’s.
Up at the main road, there wasn’t too much going on. Just busy commuters rushing around in their cars.
Going back to the house, I fessed up to Tom that I didn’t have a tent.
“Is there somewhere I could pitch a hammock in your yard though?” I asked.
“Sorry, I don’t have any trees close enough together in my yard.” He leans over, checking both shoulders real quickly to see if anyone is listening. “Tell you what, I’ll let you stay in my house if you would like. Just please make sure you take a shower and don’t advertise it too much.”
So in to his house, I went. First walking in we passed a couple setting up in a double bed in the front part of the house. I followed him to a stairway, which he led me up. In the upper part of the house, he showed me to a small carpeted room with a bed on the floor.
“Here ya are. Fan and electric plug is over there in the corner if you need it.”
I thanked him greatly and profusely, considering how well I had lucked out in this situation, you know not having a real tent and all. I started arranging my things in the usual semicircle on the floor whenever I come into town, making it easier to find the already few things that I own.
Later that night, we had been informed of a situation with the neighbor that prevented us from making, pretty much, any noise. They had just moved in recently had a young baby, so they were intensely harsh and picky about us hikers, and that same harshness reverberated through old Tom. Though he had been taking in hikers for over 30 years, rumors were spreading this would be his last due to several factors.
We sat around his porch, chatting at a whisper level in an attempt of appeasing the neighbors. I can say one thing, whether by luck or Tom’s impeccable social skills, right around the time me and the other people staying inside started to feel tired, he immediately broke off the party and invited us back inside to get ready for bed. I couldn’t complain, as it was perfect timing. I brushed my teeth, and immediately fell into a deep slumber, filled with dreams of Taco Bell nachos.