I may have never been drunk, but I have definitely been a fool a few times in my life. This proved true once again last Saturday, as my friend Dora and I took our day hike on the Appalachian Trail.
We met up at the appointed time and place (9:30 a.m. at Hog Pen Gap. Where do they come up with these names?) I then locked up my car and got into hers. We drove “around the corner” to Neel’s Gap, a favorite spot for hikers, cyclists, tourists, bikers and all manner of good people.
The trail runs right through the side of an outfitters called Mountain Crossings. Dozens of pairs of abandoned hiking boots hang from the trees.
About 30 minutes later, we took the first steps of our 7-mile journey. What a glorious day. Not too hot, not too cool. The temps warmed considerably as the sun burned away the morning fog, but for most of the day we enjoyed the lushness of a Georgia spring and catching up on each other’s lives.
Two hours in, we stopped for lunch. Dora had packed us sandwiches, carrot sticks and homemade cookies. The view for our picnic was amazing. We saw, and listened to, chirping birds and marveled at the flowers.
A mile or so later, I had a thought whose most clean translation is “oops.” After a frantic search through my pack, I realized a great oversight: I had locked my car keys in Dora’s trunk; and it was my car we were walking toward.
Kind Dora, bless her heart, was hardly moved. “We have two options,” she said. “We can either turn around and go back or we can go on and hope for a hitch.”
Feeling blisters, I wasn’t in the mood for what would have been about an 8-mile walk. I was hopeful that some kind soul would find pity and give us a ride back to Dora’s car. We got to the gap before Hog Pen, called Tesnatee. A few people were around, but none offering rides.
Dora suggested we walk the paved road up to Hog Pen, as it was a little shorter and easier than the trail. When we got there, I called Mountain Crossings at Neel’s Gap but, being a busy Saturday, they couldn’t spare anyone to come get us. The employee did give me a name of someone, Sam, who shuttles hikers.
What to do?
My imagination kicked in some, I admit. The guy who pulled up on the Harley looked kind enough, but kind people sometimes carry machetes and pistols, right?
Just then I remembered some long-time family friends who live nearby in Blairsville. The husband of the pair agreed to pick us up. “Be there in 20 minutes,” he said. “I drive a Beetle.”
What a godsend. He also refused my offer of payment.
When I relayed the news of our adventure to my parents, my mom asked if I had told Michael about forgetting my keys.
“Yes,” I said, “but he wasn’t surprised.”