Sometimes it is difficult, not only to figure out what to say, but many times, how to say it–this is one of those times. Just like the free online translators have several different versions of how to say ‘Let the Good Times Roll’ in French, it becomes necessary to decide on a blog version and run with it. Just so everyone will know, ‘hairnt’ is still ‘hairnt’ in French. I actually had designed a flashy, pretentious introduction, but there is a lot of stuff to talk about, so let’s get right to it.
So what’s been happening? Well, first I had a rather incredible black bear encounter while in North Carolina. There was a ‘momma bear’ with at least one cub. As it happens, I was paying attention to the trail ahead, and since two large, wild turkeys had just flown off a short while earlier before I could get to my camera out to get a photo of them, I was ready with my antique camera as I crested the rise and heard the rustling brush ahead. ‘Momma Bear’ was paying attention too, and heard my boots as they dragged through the grass. Curious, I suppose, she raised up and stood upon her back legs about 30 yards away, partially obscured by some tall sedge grass, to see what was going on. I estimate that she was about 6 1/2 feet tall, and weighed over 250 pounds, not that I have ever weighed and measured a bear before. I do, however, know ‘large’ when I see it. While not the largest bear I have ever encountered while hiking, she was still ‘quite big’…big enough, anyway.
I froze like a statue, forgetting all about squeezing the button on top of the camera, apparently, perhaps thinking that the clicking/winding noise could be seen as a sign of aggression. Perhaps I don’t have the killer instinct to take wildlife photography, but the reality is, with the camera available, there was no guarantee that the photo would turn out anyway. So it was that it only took a moment for ‘momma bear’ to recognize the human features in her comfort zone; she immediately pinned her ears back, dropped to her front paws behind the thick cluster of grass and disappeared. I could hear the sound of her running away as I lamented not getting the picture–it would have been awesome.
Meanwhile, her cub–perhaps there were two–‘freaked out’ and ran the wrong way, straight towards me, before jumping up in a tree about 15 yards away like it was invisible. I wasn’t panicking, but I did start to back away, thinking that this must be how some bear attacks are instigated, since the momma bears are very protective of their cubs. Bears, in general, could possibly be aggressive if they feel threatened.
It is amazing the crazy stuff one thinks about in intense situations like that; stuff like, “Dang! I should have taken a picture–it is too late now–but I’ll take one anyway…What’s up with that cub, by-the-way?” Then “better walk away saying ‘Oomba Ba-Goomba, Baby!’ before ‘momma bear’ gets back”…and finally, ‘Well Hey! Maybe I should take a picture of the dyslexic cub in the tree…” It is totally embarrassing, but apparently that is how my brain works. I feel quite certain that if Steve Irwin was still alive and had been there he would have somehow wrestled or charmed ‘momma bear’ into a passive submission, and would be scratching ‘baby bear’ behind the ears and feeding them both raw chickens. Yes, they are ‘Beee-outyfal and Goorgeous Creee-chas’; I have a lot of respect for the black bears.
To try and finish up this story, I could still hear the shrubbery rustling down the hill where ‘momma bear’ had disappeared as I attempted to take a photo of the cub, who had eventually realized ‘his’ mistake, jumping out of the tree, legs running in mid-air, just like in the cartoons, before disappearing into the canopy of trees and brush. The reason I believe that there were actually 2 bear cubs instead of just the one, is because I feel certain that if there had been only one cub, I would have seen ‘momma’ again. The 2 photos of the encounter are rather bizarre–I took an awesome picture of the tree that the bear cub had been in, and ‘accidentally’ got a blurry photo of a partially obscured bear cub running. What an adventure! Too bad Steve Irwin hadn’t been there with his camera crew…
I wasn’t able to be there on Friday, like I had hoped, but I did manage to get there on Saturday before the Parade. It was very impressive, and much larger than I remember it ever being before (that I had seen, anyway). There must have been over a thousand hikers in it alone, not to mention the obligatory fire trucks with the sirens blaring, the young beauty queens riding atop classic cars, and Color Guards on horseback. The Scottish Bagpiper leading the parade was a nice touch, I thought, but I was rather surprised not to have seen the Shriners in their clown outfits, driving around in their cool miniature race cars. The water-balloon battle between the town and the hikers is always entertaining. Unfortunately, there are too many memorable, indeed infamous, incidents from parades past to discuss them all here right now…perhaps another time.
It was rather hot, but I stayed around town for awhile to view the hiker’s talent show. There were a couple of quality acts, and at least one other (a young woman, who had never performed on a stage before) that you could tell was good, but had a bit of trouble using the microphone, perhaps due to ‘stage fright’. Everyone who entered won a valuable prize–I have never seen so many high-caliber hiker-show prizes! In the early years of the festival, it seems to me, second or third prize had been a couple pairs of cotton socks…but now, backpacks, camp stoves, all kinds of hiker paraphernalia were donated to the ‘talented’ hikers by one of the local outfitters. It is amazing to realize the evolution of the ‘Trail Days’ festival from the rather small affair that it had been in the early 1990’s to the massive, behemoth it is now.
After that, I went back to Hoppy and Birdie’s place, where I had set up my tent behind the barn. It was a regular ‘Hairnt-fest‘! There were so many of my good friends that I have met over the years, either on the trail, or because of the trail, all in one place, it was ‘unbe-hairnt-able’! ‘Utter speechlessness’ would be the only way to describe it (heh).
I would mention all of their names, but as I have said, there were so many of them at ‘Hairnt-fest’ it would take a while, and I might accidentally forget to mention one or two, but they know who they are, and that’s the important part. Even so, I would be neglectful if I didn’t mention one or two notables…it is always good to see ‘Paw-Paw‘–not only the oldest thru-hiker to walk the Appalachian Trail, but just an incredible human being in his own right. I think he should be proclaimed the ‘King of Hairnt-fest’. The Paw-Paw clan was well represented as always, which pretty much includes everybody, at this point.
Paw Paw’s beverage of choice was available, as well as some special hairnt-fest concoctions. There was much feasting, hairnting, and guitar playing…in fact, ‘Hoppy’ and ‘Strider‘ were deep frying a turkey when I was leaving Sunday afternoon. ‘Rat Patrol‘ (the guitar wizard) was, at one point, playing two guitars at the same time. ‘Gorp Inspector‘ had his drum, which sounded awesome, and ‘Okeepa‘ brought some of the most excellent guacamole. My buddy ‘Legs‘ was there…and along with ‘Jeb‘ and the ‘Carpet Apes‘, ‘Rat‘, ‘Matt-man-doo‘, ‘Goody‘, ‘Fish and Kim‘, ‘J-Reb,’ ‘Ney Ney‘, ‘Lowrider‘ ‘Buddy/Hell-raiser‘, ‘Ashley’ and several more, we laughed and ‘hairnted on’ most of the night. At one point, ‘Turbo Joe‘ performed his stunning fire art. ‘Dr. Roll-off’ even made an appearance, along with the (something)-‘Musketeers.’
There was some other noteworthy ‘hairntnings’: I never realized how similar a pose ‘Johnny Rebel’ and ‘Jebidiah’ make while napping in camp chairs; it is so strikingly similar, down to the way their hat sets on their head, hiding their face in the dark, that there was some general discussion, skepticism, and even some betting on just who exactly WAS sleeping in the camp-chair. My money was on ‘Jeb’. Also, there was a high-spirited ‘pink blaze‘ theme this year, which seems appropriate as well as inspiring. I felt quite humbled when ‘Monkey Dick’ handed me a size large T-shirt. Perhaps that may not read well, but it is a cool shirt, thanks. Also, thanks very much to Hoppy and Birdie for all their wonderful hospitality, and making ‘Hairnt-fest 2009’ the latest addition in the Hairnt Hall-of-Fame!