I am not foreseeing the ability to post for a while so I will leave you with a story that has been moving along the trail with me.
About a hundred miles ago I started to hear about a guy who was hiking with a big machete sticking out from the top of his pack. Having hiked with "Big Dumb Animal" and his machete I didn't think much of it. The further I went thought the more I heard. People were saying that he ripped open a couple guys' tents in the middle of the night and scared them half to death. Others told me that he was wanted by the authorities from Pennsylvania for some unknown heinous crime. It seemed from the tales I heard that he was four or five days ahead of me, so again, why worry?
Into North Carolina I go without hearing anything about him for a few days, but eventually the rumors start up again. Now, he is off his medications and constantly losing his backpack and getting lost. He gets off the trail unintentionally, bushwhacks through the brush for ten miles or so and somehow finds his way back looking more ragged than before.
I stopped at a shelter one day to eat lunch and shoot the breeze with other hikers. We talked about our favorite fantasy movies, books and lots of other nerdy topics. Then one of the fellows mentioned that he had the unfortunate experience of sharing a shelter with Machete Mitch for two nights. He confirmed that he did indeed carry a machete and that it is sharpened on both sides which is supposedly illegal. This hiker also noted that Machete Mich is also forgoing a tent or sleeping bag, but is strangely enough carrying an iPad. We joked that he didn't need his sleeping bag or tent, he could download a campfire app and warm his hand by that during the night.
The morning before descending into the N.O.C. I was eating breakfast at the shelter I stayed near the night before. All the shelters have registers, which are notebooks that hikers write their names or little blurbs about something nonsensical. I was perusing this shelters register when I came upon an entry by Machete Mitch himself. Up to this point I was beginning to doubt that this guy even existed, but now here is an entry from the loony himself. His chicken scratch writing rambled on about wanting to find a bear and make it carry his backpack and something about burying bodies. Okay, this guy is officially scary, but the entry was dated four days ago so I felt fine.
Limping into the N.O.C. Machete Mitch was the furthest thing from my mind. I got my bunk for the night and soaked my legs. Afterwards, I went into the common area of the bunkhouse complex that had a kitchen and large eating area. While strolling through, I stopped mid stride and my breath caught in my chest when I saw a small backpack with a large machete sticking out of the top sitting on a bench. I looked around, but no one else was in the eating area. I even looked under the benches and tables just to make sure he wasn't lurking there with his iPad waiting to devour my soul. Maybe he is in the refrigerator poised to pounce on some poor unsuspecting hiker. I quickly fled the common area and met up with some other hikers for dinner. I relayed to them what I witnessed earlier and we decided to go back there upon finishing our meals and after I drank two Sex Vikings.
Sitting in the eating area now with the confidence of two other people I waited for the owner of the backpack to show himself. A few hikers that I have seen before came and went, but no Machete Mitch. Then, a short mongoloid looking fellow with a large upper head and eyes spaced too far apart entered with his dog. I chatted him up a bit and learned his name was Shelter Stew. He started the trail in mid February and was just kinda floating along. He said that he had been there at the N.O.C. for four days and was hanging with his buddy Mitch. Right then, in he walked. Standing in front of me was the person I had heard so much about. The man who wanted to use a bear as a pack mule and was burying people along the way. The man being hunted by the authorities across state lines for his crimes. So scary was this guy that two days ago we saw horse manure on the trail and was told that it was from pack animals so the police had a way to drag this fiend out when they finally caught him. Looming in front of me was not the monster I imagined, but a shirtless, short, fat unimpressive kid with a greasy face and man boobs fiddling with his iPad. He reminded me of someone you would see on an episode of COPS who just got beat up by his baby-mamma.
Leaving the N.O.C the next morning I chuckled to myself about how big the story grew and how my mind built him up to be some slasher movie villain. Oh well, it was a good story.