After spending Mardi Gras 2019 in New Orleans, we checked a map and saw Jackson, Mississippi a few hours North. Why not?
Dyna spent a full two weeks in a space at Timberlake Campground just outside of Jackson. However, Jake, Lucy and I had plans to ditch her for about a week and follow Scott up to Franklin, NC where his AT adventure would approximately place him. Jackson seemed like a decent place to launch from. We’re conscious of Dyna’s slow driving pace – and her ability to burn $$ in diesel form. The drive to Franklin would be about 8 hours by car (which is about 10 hours by Dyna), and generally in the wrong direction of our next long term destination (we’re headed ‘home!’ to Sioux Falls, SD). So we decided it would be best just to AirBnB ourselves a place near a brewery, pack the cat, and head up that way via satellite orbiter (Jeep).
I mentioned it in our last blog post (NOLA II), but guys – Scott is hiking the entire Appalachian Trail (AT)! He’s going to walk his ass North bound from Springer Mountain in Georgia to the peak of Katahdin in Maine. He’s been planning for months – he’s saved money, quit his job, sold his car, researched ad nauseam, and prepped his life to hike for the next 6-8 months. How cool is that?
Before we left Jackson to follow Scott to the trail, we filled our time by working, relaxing and bopping around downtown Jackson. At first we were a little confused. Jackson, the capitol of the state of Mississippi, seemed lifeless. We walked up the steps of the State Capitol building and were greeted by silence. We walked along the streets and saw almost no other human life forms. We stumbled upon a boxcar that was apparently a gift from France after WW2, but there were no other people there. We walked around the expo center which is apparently sitting on top of an extinct volcano. We did see a cowgirl riding her horse there. But we didn’t see much else – and you can’t see the volcano so we didn’t see that either. After these walking escapades we decided to consult the all knowing sorceress, Google. She told us that Jackson is a ‘spread-out’ city – with most of its weekend life seemingly occurring in the outlying neighborhoods. So, we headed over to the Fondren neighborhood and soon found ourselves snuggled into a french bakery eating patisseries. We noted some people in the area. And they seemed happy to be eating patisseries and drinking coffee also. And we were happy. And felt like we saw something in Jackson.
Jackson feels like one of those cities that you have to scratch at a bit. But we only explored Jackson enough to figure out that their streets are shite. We stumbled around potholes that might have reached to China – something I could never quite accomplish while digging as a child.
Without scratching too much of Jackson’s surface (arguably, the roads are scratched up enough), we ditched Jackson to drive up to Franklin to see Scott!
The drive was about 8 hours – and by the end of it poor Lucy was all but vomiting on herself. But, we successfully found Scott waiting for us at Dick’s Creek Gap (hehehe). We plopped him into the Jeep and drove the rest of the way to our AirBnB in Franklin. Scott smelled terrible.
We made him bathe, then headed out to hangout with him as he did his laundry. We grabbed dinner at an okay place in downtown Franklin, then spent the evening bombarding him with two bazillion questions about his AT hike so far.
Scott slept the night at the AirBnB with us, then took a ‘zero’ the next day. A ‘zero’ is trail code for not hiking for a day. Jake had to work on Scott’s zero, so Scott got extra lucky and was forced to hang out with just me! An honor bestowed only on the most fortunate.
We walked into town to the outfitter shop were he was treated like a hero (he kind of is) and asked to sign a big banner to declare that he is part of the AT class of 2019. Then we just sauntered about the streets while Scott handled some personal stuff on the phone (was he trying to not have to hang out with me?!) until Jake was released from his work chains. Then all three of us hit up the grocery store so that Scott could restock his trail food supplies, which mostly consists of those ready rice, canned meats, and candy. We hit up a Thai place for dinner, then turned in for bed. It was a decently laid back day, which I think is what ‘zero’ days are for.
In the morning we grabbed breakfast at a truly delightful little brunch place called Yonder which I 100% recommend. Then I dropped ‘the boys’ (Scott & Jake) off at Dick’s Creek Gap so that he could continue his feet journey – this time with Jake accompanying him for a few days. I headed back to our AirBnB to hang out with Lucy. Scott & Jake hiked for 3 days through the mountains of Northern Georgia into Southern North Carolina. I don’t really know what they did other than walk and eat and sleep and probably tell each other really stupid jokes.
Franklin has a nice walking/running/biking trail along the river downtown, so while they hiked, I used that. Franklin has a nice brewery within walking distance from our AirBnB, so I took a book over there and used that. Franklin is a quick drive from the Winding Stair Gap AT trailhead, so I used that parking lot to stash the Jeep and hiked up to Siler Bald one morning. I saw some really great trail magic up on the bald. Trail magic is when people leave things that are ‘magical’ for hikers to find – such as bottle of liquor or soda. Franklin has a yoga studio, so I used that too. Their yoga wasn’t the greatest yoga, but it was yoga and yoga is rarely ‘bad’. I used Franklin’s coffee shop, and their book store, and I used their sidewalks and their sunshine.
Franklin is frequented by many an AT thru-hiker. They come into town for their ‘zero’ days or for a food re-supply. These thru-hikers often need rides from the nearest trail head – which is at Winding Stair Gap, about 13 miles outside of town. I had a Jeep with 4 empty seats, so I found myself giving lots of smelly thru-hikers rides while in Franklin. It was fun! And smelly. Very smelly. Thru-hikers are very smelly.
Thru-hikers also have trail names, which are names that they give each other on their thru-hike – like a code name in a club. I met ‘Close Call’ and ‘Happy Dance’ and ‘Strike Out’ and two guys and their dog who did not have trail names (and I can’t remember their real names) and also a guy named Brad. They all smelled horrible, except the dog – he just smelled like a dog.
After three days of Jake & Scott whispering sweet fart jokes in each other’s ears at night in their tents (PROVE YOU DIDN’T GUYS!), they made it to Winding Stair Gap, where I picked their smelly asses up. They smelled horrible.
I took them straight back to the AirBnB and insisted they bathe. Lucy spent some time testing out different articles of Jake’s filthy hiking clothes to nap on. Then we headed back to the laundromat to help ease the smelliness of these two people.
Scott needed new feet covers (shoes) because his weren’t treating his achilles right, so we spent some time working through that. Which mostly involved Scott and Jake trying to buy matching shoes because they are freaking weirdos. Then we walked over to Lazy Hiker Brewery, drank a beer, and then headed back to the AirBnB and ate some corned beef and cabbage that I had been boiling all day (they were hiking all day on St. Patty’s day). I have something to say about corned beef and cabbage – which used to be one of my favorite meals before I went vegetarian: it should never be eaten without maple syrup. I never realized that other families didn’t douse their corned beef and cabbage in maple syrup before eating it. What kind of families are these no maple syrup families? Boring families? Plain meat loving families? Families without a medical history of developing diabetes?
While we would have loved to hang out with Scott forever, he needed to get back on the AT. Because he’s got a goal – which involves a lot of walking before Katahdin shuts down in November. We were hoping to eat at Yonder again before dropping him back off at Winding Stair Gap, but sadly Yonder is not open on Tuesdays. So we settled for surprisingly delicious donuts from a donut shop in town, and then followed that up with some pretty nasty breakfast ‘food’ at a restaurant across the street from the donut place.
And then we left him. We drove up to Winding Stair Gap, slowed the vehicle slightly, and pushed Scott and all 35ish pounds of his gear out of our Jeep. Ok, that is my fantasy. We actually parked, chatted for a few minutes, then sent him on his way. I might have teared up a little bit. I am just so freaking excited for Scott!
Jake and I packed an AT hiker named Brad into the Jeep where Scott once sat, and headed back to Franklin. Later that evening we went over to Lazy Hiker for another beer – and Brad was there! He bought us a beer, which was really swell of him because he is the one doing the hiking. We ended up staying much longer than ‘one beer’ and chatted with several thru-hikers. They are all just so cool. And it’s pretty clear at this point that I’m Stanning (stalker-fanning) them.
On Tuesday night we got a phone call from my brother in NY letting us know that our nephew Dexter’s appendix had rebelled against him and he would need to have it forcefully removed from his tiny body. Andy realized what was going on before it burst – so things went pretty smoothly. As an obsessive aunt, I had a pretty sleepless night – which was compounded in the morning by very loud construction going on in the apartment beneath our AirBnB. We decided to hop in the Jeep and wave Franklin adieu a day sooner than planned.
So, we ended up with an unexpected day in the Jackson area before we were forced to move Dyna due to the campground’s 14 day limit.
That extra evening gave us a chance to partake in the feast of mudbugs which apparently overtakes the entire South in the Spring. People down here are nuts for eating crawdaddies guys! I mean, they are pretty tasty. But also, eating them involves quite a bit dexterity (skill), labor (work), and a lot of napkins (so messy). We got down and dirty eating a few pounds of those bottom feeding grubbers – and washed them down with a bottom feeder beer to boot. Not by choice – we ordered two Abitas, but during Mudbug season ‘Abita’ is apparently code word for ‘Budweiser’. We didn’t argue – it felt about right.