Wednesday, May 15th, 2019
My legs are feeling it now. Over the past couple months I’ve been off hiking the flatness of the Florida Trail, or the distractingly scenic and moderately challenging Arizona Trail. I’ve forgotten how brutal the Appalachians are!
I rolled out early in the morning before Frisbee and Spacejam. Nature was calling me. So to those that don’t know, the dilemma of pooping to the side of the trail when said trail is switchback is, you think you’re far off trail but you’re not. I returned to where I came from only to realize that the trail did a nice little U-Turn around where I had done my business. I hoped that I didn’t burn out anyone’s retinas by the sight of my pale, white booty. Before knowing him, I had already scarred Spacejam for life on the Appalachian Trail (AT) back in 2017 when he stumbled by the exposed privy at Wesser Bald Shelter.
What’s done is done, so I hiked on until I got to the bridge the crossed over I-20 where I was meeting Frisbee. We hiked through a section of trail that had been carved by a tornado that struck the area on May 11th, 2008, over 11 years ago. That same section was one of the ones trail maintainer John Calhoun is in charge of.
We were lucky enough to meet John, who was just showing up to mow the stretch of trail that we were walking from. He has an impressive list of accomplishments in the outdoors. He’s a Triple Crowner, hiked the Colorado Trail, Arizona Trail, and the Pacific Northwest Trail, just to name a few. He’s even completed the International Appalachian Trail (IAT), and paddled the Yukon River. You can check out his many stories about how badass he is on his blog.
We would stop hiking for the day at mile 111.3, and walk to the main road to hitch into the town of Heflin, Alabama.
After about 10 minutes by the side of the road, we got picked up by a guy named Era (maybe it was Eric, but that’s what it sounded like he said both times I asked him). He was going to let us squeeze inside his tiny pickup truck, but we smelled bad and wanted to spare him. So we hopped in the bed and he drove us to McDonald’s. When he stopped in the parking lot, he mentioned that some of the locals, himself included, located an Indian burial ground in the area recently, and shared his interest in Native American culture with us. Then he said something I never thought I’d ever hear a redneck wearing overalls say.
“Well, I’m going to go get myself an Americano, so good luck to you two!”
After stuffing our faces, we returned to the road to hitch to the downtown area which was on the other side of town. A woman named Donna driving a Geo Tracker picked us up. She was familiar with the trail, and told us if we made it to her work at Shoals Creek, she’d make sure to feed us. It was a kind offer, but we had plans set for the evening.
On the Pinhoti Trail Facebook page, we were told by a very enthusiastic guy named Shane to make sure we stopped by Heflin’s City Hall, so we made sure to get there. We walked in and told the lady at the front desk that we were Pinhoti Trail hikers and she welcomed us to Heflin and had us sign the guestbook. Shane wasn’t there that day, but we’d meet Tanya Maloney, the Director of Economic Development, and she went out of her way to give us a tour of town.
The town of Heflin is tiny, but everyone we passed by was beyond welcoming and asked about our hike. Heflin is making a huge effort to revitalize the town, repairing the vacant or crumbling historic buildings, then getting mom and pop businesses to occupy them. They’re doing an awesome job too! Tanya took us inside “Flora’s Table” restaurant that retained parts of the old building that it currently resides in while also fixing it up, and making it more modern. The food looked amazing too!
While we were there, Tanya told us that they’re also striving to have the official Appalachian Trail extended all the way to Flag Mountain, Alabama, but told us, “Georgia doesn’t want to let that go”. We told her that having the AT start there would be a double-edged sword. The local economy would grow as more and more hikers migrated through their town. However, they would also be attracting the riff raff that comes with it. Not referring to the AT hiker alum group by the same name, but the partygoers and freeloaders who aren’t there to hike, but to take advantage and stir up trouble.
Tanya was awesome, but she had to return to her duties, so we got coffee and sweet tea to-go, and headed back to City Hall to wait for Frisbee’s Aunt Cheryl to pick us up. She lived a hop, skip, and a jump away in Anniston, so of course, we couldn’t get this close without paying her a visit. We haven’t seen her since our wedding nearly five years ago.
Aunt Cheryl showed up and took us back to her place to get cleaned up, before heading out to Betty’s Bar-B-Q for a delicious Southern-style dinner. It was great catching up!
6.8 miles (10.9 km)