Returning to trail after Gatlinburg our party met Ox, another young man of thought. Ox had recently graduated with a master’s degree in theology from Notre Dame, and is perhaps the most philosophically religious person I’ve spoken at length with. We didn’t get near enough time with him then, as we split up at Hot Springs NC, but we enjoyed a couple of evenings discussing life, death, and Quentin Tarentino. Around when we met Ox, Nemo came across a dirty wool pullover hoodie and adopted it as his own, despite or perhaps because of Rescue’s protests and concerns of disease. In Hot Springs we got some business done, picked up our bounce box that Janeane had mailed for us back at Neel’s gap. I bought myself a new lighter and more appropriately sized pack, and started a bitter rivalry between myself and Rescue as to who can eat more burgers. This is still unresolved, but I am very confident in my guteral capacity. (It helps that I am still living hiker hungry on trail, and Rescue is back in school.)
A few days out of Hot Springs Nemo and I misplaced Rescue ahead of us, he left us a very sweet registry entry. His loss, the next day Nemo yogi’d us some glazed dounuts from a day hiker while I practiced cutting drills atop a shelter, we even caught up with him that night. We also got some bad news that night, Nemo’s great uncle had died. Nemo made plans to jump off trail for a while from Erwin TN. Nemo’s uncle played an important role in his family’s getting together, as it was told to me an amazing story of intrigue, eastern European politics, and Soviet Era espionage, but it’s his story to tell, so In brief and as I have left elsewhere, RIP Nemo Fam. Our next night, Rescue, Nemo, and I cut our day short to cowboy camp on an rocky outcropping, with a clear view of the sky, sunset, and sunrise. This night on the AT has stuck with me as we talked into the night about life and death, with fresh context and surrounded by earthly beauty.
In Erwin we celebrated St. Patrick’s day with Eddy Spoudazo, saw Nemo off, met Orange Crush, who would be the first finisher of the year, (it was obvious even then,) and spent a couple nights with Uncle Johnny while I got my systems swapped out to accommodate 1 person. There we met the first person on the AT that we didn’t like, but I’ll save that for next week.