Stu Watson
April 22, 2015 | Stu Watson

Forward motion for hikers spurs reflections on suffering and gain

Soggy ground, soggy sky -- all in a day's walk for Barb Prescott and Gleb Velikanov.

As readers of The Naked Truth must know by now, Naked Winery and Outdoor Vino are helping fuel the efforts of Portland residents Gleb Velikanov and his partner Barb Prescott to hike the legendary Appalachian Trail. We got a great note from Barb the other day, and offer it for your enjoyment (slightly edited for style) below:

"I'm currently reading a great non-fiction  book written by Gregory David Roberts called "Shantaram," In it he spends a day visiting the Standing Babas -- a group of men who have taken a vow never to sit or lie down, ever again.

As you can imagine, all of that downward pressure causes terrible, unending pain and because of this, the Standing Babas never stand still -- they kind of sway from side to side from foot to foot. Roberts writes: "The first five to ten years of that constant standing, their legs begin to swell. The blood moves sluggishly in exhausted veins, and muscles thickened. Their legs became huge, bloated out of recognizable shape, and covered with purple varicose boils. Their toes squeezed out from thick, fleshy feet, like the toes of elephants. During the following years, their legs gradually become thinner, and thinner. Eventually, only bones remained, with a paint-thin veneer of skin and termite trails of withered veins..." 

Ouch. Why would anyone want to subject themselves to something so horribly painful? They do it to prepare themselves for the next level of incarnation or to reach some spiritual enlightenment, I suppose.

What I am getting at is that I am beginning to feel like one of these Standing Babas, or almost, maybe a little ;). My legs and feet are constantly aching, they are swollen, and I currently have a discolored toenail. But, as with the Standing Babas, my feet are also getting used to the torture of walking and stronger with each hill. All jokes and drama aside, Gleb and I are getting used to hiking and I can almost say that we may have earned our "trail legs."

We are currently taking a "zero" (non-hiking day) in Fontana Dam, North Carolina, where we are trying to load our bellies full of fresh fruit and veggies -- something that's been hard to find on the trail out here. I dream about beet and goat cheese salads, tomato and fresh mozzarella, fresh juicy carrots and, for some reason, Brussels sprouts. Mmmm.

Tomorrow (April 17) we will keep heading north into the the Great Smoky Mountains and hitting the 200-mile mark in the next day or two as well. 
The last week has brought us a lot of rain and more rain. It's a totally different kind of wet, though -- not only is everything soaked, but the air is incredibly humid. I never knew that my eyelids could sweat like this ;)! Luckily we have been able to avoid the rain most nights by making it to a shelter.

One morning we woke up to find that a German fellow (Engel) had camped next to us the night before. He grabbed my hand and nearly jumped into our tent with excitement when he realized I understood him. Apparently, he hadn't spoken to anyone in nearly two weeks because he doesn't speak a lick of English, hahaha. He chatted feverishly and was talking so fast that I was actually having a hard time understanding him.

We decided we liked Engel and hiked with him all day, and Gleb had a great time practicing his German. At the end of the day, Engel gave us his last German chocolate candy bar, which Gleb and I saved until we hit the 100 mile mark!

We have hiked with two ladies that are hiking with their dachshund and little Pomeranian, stayed in a shelter with a family of five, the youngest being nine. They are also through-hikers (going the entire distance, south to north) and (we) even (met) a woman that lives right down the street from us in PDX. What a small world!

Trail life is amazing and so cleansing -- our toughest decision at the end of a long day is figuring out which one of us gets the first foot rub (me) and who will get water from a nearby stream. Gleb is extremely patient and I can tell he is totally in his happy place out here.

Sometimes we hear an occasional gunshot and we are reminded we are still in the south!

Until next time!
Barb "Whisper" (her trail name)



A little German chocolate (helps you) go a long way.


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