Saturday, 29 December 2012

From the Mississippi to the Appalachians

To get from the end of my Mississippi paddling trip to the start of the my winter hiking trip in the Appalachians with all my gear seemed to be a nightmare - but turned into a logistical masterpiece due to the help of all my American trail friends. It was complicated but worked out great.

First problem was how to get away from Morgan City which has no public transportation whatsoever. Luckily I had remembered an AT hiker and trail angel called Bayou who lives in New Orleans and I was lucky. Bayou was in town and willing to help us. He came all the way to Morgan City with his van and took us to New Orleans (N'awlens). We had not wanted to impose on him with all our gear and special transportation requirements and I had organised a CS host. But this host turned into the first negative or at least weird CS experience I have ever had. All my email conversations with this host were nice and normal but when I called him on the phone to confirm our arrival date things turned weird. No matter what I asked our host answered "yes", no matter if this answer made sense or not. I was alarmed and conferred with Brian. After checking his CS profile again and seeing only positive references we decided that this person must have had just a bad day or be bad on the phone. Bayou drove us there and I was wondering how this CS host would turn out to be in a face to face conversation. Both Brian and I were shocked. Again our host gave only monosyllabic and non coherent answers. Don't get me wrong: He tried to be very friendly and welcoming, but we all had the impression that he did not understand what we were asking him. Brian and I stood there not knowing what to do but with a very bad gut feeling. It seemed to me that our host was either ill or under heavy medication, so very diplomatically I asked him whether he was ok. He did not seem to understand why we asked and invited us inside for the 100th time. Brian and I had to make a decision now and as bad as we both felt about it we did not feel comfortable and decided to leave - something I have never done before on CS. Bayou rescued us by letting us stay in his place - thank God! We discussed the issue back and forth between us and could not come up with any logical explanation for our host's weird behaviour. Luckily this has been the only negative CS experience I have ever had - and maybe all this was only due to a misunderstanding or miscommunication.

But things turned out very well. Bayou was the perfect host. He is working as a professional tour guide in New Orleans and gave us a great city tour. Brian left the next day to get back to his family, but I spent another very relaxed day with the ever ressourceful Bayou. Whatever the problem was Bayou came up with a great solution. We managed to dry my kayak with the help of an electrical fan and put away the whole kid and kaboodle in my kayak bag and a nice duffle bag Bayou provided. Together we even managed to dissassemble the stuck cheap spare paddle although we had to use the lubricant, a screw driver and two strong people to get it unstuck. We had some nice food, went to the library for internet and chatted for hours about the great outdoors. I had not had such a nice relaxing day in a long time. Very early next morning Bayou drove me to the New Orleans Amtrak station and stage 2 of my odysee.

I took Amtrak to Birmingham, AL where another hiker friend, Mother Nature's Son picked me up. Again, everything worked out perfectly. MNS was there when the train pulled in and helped with all my 120 pounds of gear. At his home several packages with outdoor goodies were waiting for me already and I received lots of information for my hike from him. I'll come back to MNS at the end of my hike to pick up all my paddling gear so I will write more about him later.

Next day he brought me back to Birmingham, AL where I boarded Megabus and went to Atlanta, GA where another hiker friend was waiting for me. I had planned to use the Hiker Hostel shuttle to get to the Appalachian Trail, but in the very last minute it had dawned on me that I actually knew someone there: A fellow AT sobo hiker from 2008. I had contacted Franklin at very short notice but had been lucky. Franklin was in town and even had time to pick me up. We went to REI to get rid of my reluctant spare paddle and then had some good trail talk while eating some great Southern BBQ. The trail talk continued until past midnight (real midnight, not hiker midnight!) and Franklin dropped off a very tired GT at the AT!

I can't believe how well everything worked out. It was so nice to re-connect with old hiking friends and swap stories. I am very lucky to have such good trail friends.

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