Trail Magic 2016

One of my friends hiked the full Appalachian Trail in 2013 and has been doing trail magic (kindness with no expectation of anything in return on the trail) for a weekend ever since. He’s tried to get me to come along in the past, but I always had plans that weekend and couldn’t go. That changed this year, so I packed my stuff and we set up camp and magic at Dicks Creek Gap, in northeast Georgia near Hiawassee.

Dicks Creek Gap sign

Dicks Creek Gap is about a week into the northbound trail experience, so we were meeting some of the hikers who had left on the early side of the traditional departure date. For many hikers, this is also their first break from hiking. Quite a few of them were planning to take zeros the next day to resupply in town and avoid the predicted rain for Sunday.

We arrived on Saturday morning and had plenty of food on hand for the hikers: grab-and-go items like bananas, oranges, honey buns, Blast’s chocolate bar stuff that is somewhat healthy yet tastes very unhealthy and delicious, assorted candies, and a few other things I’m not thinking of. Plenty of sodas, beers, and bottled water stocked the coolers. Make-your-own chicken and veggie kabobs and salad made up the lunch and dinner food. Breakfast burritos and pancakes happened in the morning (with beercakes on Monday), all on MacGyver’s barrel grill. Both nights concluded with a hobo campfire and roasting marshmallows on the grill, along with lots of talk about materials that went over my head since my chemistry knowledge ends at high school chemistry. We made smores out of Thin Mints on Sunday night, which you should do immediately if you like Thin Mints and marshmallows.

MacGyver brought a bluetooth boom box, and since the area had no mobile connection, we were limited to music on our phone. And since I was the only person with more than a few songs on their phone, I got to subject everyone to a selection of my musical tastes. This also meant listening to the occasional Hamilton track. I may or may not have skipped “It’s Quiet Uptown” to save myself from crying in front of everyone. This also meant I couldn’t take too many pictures because the music stopped whenever my phone was more than a few feet away from the boom box.

Blast brought a big charger so hikers could recharge their devices, along with a projector and sheet for movies after the sun set. No one else stayed with us on Saturday night, so we watched 180ยบ South, a documentary about climbing a mountain in Patagonia and probably some stuff about surfing too. (Not kidding there–there were so many random shots of this old guy surfing.) And on Saturday night, Soup and Daniel stayed with us and we watched Easy A.

We also brought a lot of games and played several of them with various groups of hikers. Two rounds of Cards Against Humanity happened, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. We also played some Spyfall, and I was never the spy. Most of the entertainment was simply sitting around and talking about everything and anything.

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We woke up to rain on Sunday morning and were tempted to pack up and leave, even if that meant packing everything up in the rain. But we stuck it out, and I’m glad we did; the weather cleared up for the rest of the trip, and Blast, MacGyver, and I wound up staying an extra day, both to get rid of all the food and to stay in the mountains a little longer. It involved a ten-minute trip down the road for me to change a Monday appointment with Comcast, but staying the extra day was worth that to me. (Even if they’re now not coming over until Friday and the intermittent Internet problems have gotten worse. But that’s another story.)

On Sunday evening Blast, MacGyver, and I corrected the fact that we were on the trail and hadn’t hiked any of it, so we hiked a mile or two up the mountain, taking in the view before getting to a campground. One of the hikers we met was camped there, so we stopped and chatted with him for awhile before heading back down.

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Another idea that came out of the weekend: a hiker version of Cards Against Humanity. Black cards like “How am I upholding my trail reputation?” and white cards like “Pink blazing” and “23 hikers in a U-Haul”. There would also be a PCT conversion kit, like the Canadian conversion kit for the regular game. This is going to happen.

But now I’m home, showered, and enjoying flush toilets and running water again. (Not enjoying my intermittent Internet connection, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Sarah, Jetta the black lab, Astro, Soup, Daniel, Hans, B Hiker, and everyone else we met this weekend (sorry, I’m bad at learning lots of names at once), meeting you was a lot fo fun and I hope your thru-hike is everything you wanted to get out of the experience. And who knows, maybe I’ll be able to join your ranks in a few years.

Go ahead and refresh while looking for plane tickets.

Have you ever tried to book tickets online, only to discover that the prices went way up in the short time between choosing your flight and entering your credit card number? That happens more often that you may think. In fact, plane tickets between Atlanta and Las Vegas changed prices 2,472,916 times between January first and May thirteenth. Yes, you read that correctly. Travel writer Chris Elliot made a list of the top ten price changes, and number ten (Boston to Chicago, if you’re wondering) comes in at a mere 1,490,271 price changes. That’s enough to make you take a train instead…assuming one exists.

At that point you may as well resign yourself to accepting the price changes, or at least moving to Missoula, MT, where the price on flights to Kona, HI was stable. Just one price change. That’s a small price to pay for living in a state whose name has been tainted by a teen superstar, right?

Headlines and silly travel policies

The current climate often affects what makes the headlines. Just when I thought today was a slow news day, someone walks through the wrong door at the Newark airport, causing the lockdown of a terminal. This kind of stuff shows up all the time after things like the attempted crotchbomber, but it also shows up disproportionately thanks to the media’s love of harping on the story. Sure, the door guy could have been sinister, but he also could have been an idiot who didn’t know which door to go through. Airports are hard, okay?

Shutting down the terminal was a decent headline, though. I’ll give them that.

Also, reading Continental’s website, I have to wonder what Argentina has against Americans. I know most Americans don’t know more Spanish than hola, adios, gracias, and amigo, but look at this.

Travel to Argentina
Effective December 28, citizens of the U.S., Canada and Australia are required to pay an entry fee when arriving at Buenos Aires International Airport (EZE). U.S. citizens will be charged $131 USD that will be valid for multiple entries over 10 years. Canadian citizens will be charged $70 USD per entry and Australian citizens will be charged $100 USD per entry. For complete details on the new entry fee, please visit argentina.usembassy.gov.

I know Canada and Australia are cooler, but charging them less and still in USD? The exchange rate definitely isn’t an excuse as it’s nearly 1:1 for both. Distance, maybe? Continental’s not making this up for the giggles, though. Apparently if a US citizen goes for business or tourism, they have to pay up. Argentine readers, anyone want to pretend to be my long-lost Internet cousin if I show up in Buenos Aires one day?