September 21st, 2018
I tossed and turned all night as I listened to trees throwing acorns all over the roof of the shelter and the busy highway traffic echoing through the woods from the town of Port Clinton, a 6 mile hike away. We had thought about hiking into town yesterday late in the evening, but figured if we waited, the Chinese lunch buffet would just be opening up by the time we got there. Food is just one of those things that is highly anticipated when hikers get to town.
It was a fairly short distance to travel, but the terrain included some steep climbs and ascents with a brief ridge walk in between.
We’d eventually make our way under the graffiti-covered highway overpass before walking right through the middle of the small town of Port Clinton.
We both had food on our mind, so after standing on the side of the road for about 5 minutes, we were able to get a hitch into the nearby town of Hamburg which had a variety of options to choose from. After getting a coffee to go from McDonald’s we waited patiently out front of the Chinese buffet for it to open so we could promptly stuff our faces with copious amounts of food.
I won’t bore you with all the details of the day. In short, we bounced around between the ginormous Cabela’s outdoor store (a 250,000 square foot retail showroom), and Walmart before grabbing dinner at “Five Guys”. The Cabela’s was pretty damn impressive, with several insanely detailed taxidermy displays and a freshwater aquarium. I also think Frisbee was relieved to have a brand new sleep pad after his old one deflated day one of the trip.
While in Walmart shopping for our resupply, we’d run into a group of SOBOs whom originally suspected us of yellow-blazing* until we told them that Frisbee had completed the whole trail last year, and that I would be finally completing it within several days after attempting a thru hike in 2016 and 2017. They were getting a free shuttle ride back to Port Clinton from Cabela’s and were planning on staying at the hiker pavilion in town. We told them we’d meet them there. We preferred hitchhiking.
It took us maybe 5 minutes before a local let us jump in the bed of his truck while he took us to the Port Clinton pavilion. It was nice to have full bellies and to get all of our damp clothes on a line to dry before relaxing.
Two more SOBOs arrived to ditch their packs before hitching out. They were a bit less pleasant to be around than the others we had met in Hamburg. We tried making friendly conversation and all of their responses were full of bitterness and negativity. We lost interest and set up our sleep systems.
Sometimes, you’ll run into drifters along the trail. A crew of three of them showed up and ended up being far better company. It consisted of a young couple in their late teens or early twenties who went by Real Estate and Magnolia, and an older, grungier (but charming) gentleman who went by the name 2High2Hike who had been working his way up and down the Mid-Atlantic section of the AT. He kept us laughing as he teased his younger companions as they cooked celery root in their stove.
“Man, I’m glad to be back in town! While I’m here, I think I’m gonna get me some celery root! Gee! I’ve really been craving some celery root lately!”
He also took a stab at one of the SOBOs from the group we met in Walmart for saying that they held off from hiking during the hurricane since they though the trail might be closed.
“The trail is closed? Oh my God! They’ve closed the trail! What are we going to do?!”
We had to laugh. One, they were hiking through New York or New Jersey during the hurricane that touched down in the Carolina’s, so I questioned the guy’s knowledge of basic geography. And two, you can’t really ever “close” the trail. Even when reaching the dreaded deadline to get to Katahdin in Maine, the trail nor the mountain, is ever actually “closed”. The only thing that closes is Baxter State Park, and so it takes more of an effort to get back to town since there aren’t any people to hitch a ride from.
In short, we made some short-term friends and a few foes during our stay at the pavilion. A few others invited us to join them by the fire pit to eat smores. I felt a little bad for declining their invite, but it was well passed hiker midnight, I was tired and so I curled up in my sleeping bag and fell asleep instead.
Distance Hiked: 5.7 miles (9.2 km)
*”Yellow-blazing” is a term used by hikers which refers to those who hike some of the time, but also travel by road in a vehicle (referring to the yellow markings on the center of most roadways). “Yellow blazers” are generally frowned upon by most hikers for the reason that they often avoid hiking harder sections of the trail during their “thru hike”. They can skip them altogether by getting a ride around them.
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