Tag Archives: Unionville

Brink Road Shelter 11/11, 870.0

“It’s 11:11 on 11/11, make a wish,” Olive oil says.

While I maybe would have wished for a shelter with more space than my home bathroom, I know I have no need to make any wishes.

I was told to take control of my life by one man, and by another to take responsibility.

I knew what both of them meant and I knew that when 11:11 rolled around each night I should not have been making wishes. Yeah sure I could put the responsibility all my trouble on some higher power.

” I wish I get a higher GPA this semester” or ” I wish I don’t screw up” or “I wish everything works out”

I needed to be saying that I am going to take care of things. I am going to work to fix my life rather than letting it flow down the drain like an unplugged wishing well.

So I stepped back. I left the rush of reality that was overwhelming me. I needed to respond to no one at home. I turned my life completely stress free so that I could start from the beginning. Now I have no obligations, no worries, and most importantly, no fear. Some things at home are not as I would like them to be but rather than wishing them to change, I’ll take care of them or leave.

My environment drowned me last year. I was unhappy with my brother in Richmond and unhappy with the party lifestyle of college. I was trapped running between the two at 97 miles an hour, having no idea of a sanctuary. Neither place I could go and feel comfortable and safe and neither place I could change.

So now I am out here surrounded by bears, poisonous snakes, many hunters with a high B.A.C. and ticks carrying lyme disease. But I am more comfortable away from the rush and the confusion and the forced decisions. I am not mature enough to tango with drugs and doubt I’ll ever be. And I’m not strong enough to watch others confusion take hold of them. And I’m not strong enough to ward off violent acts upon me in Richmond.

So thanksgiving will be uneventful but stress free. I feel Christmas may be the same. I like it out here and while I wish I could go home and feel content and safe, I know the truth is only being masked by my mom’s comfort words preached to me. The woods are calm and peaceful and out here I am free.

From here on 11:11 will be the time I remind myself “no thanks, I’ve got everything under control.”


In the car ride to the trailhead, Dick drove me and Jeramiah while Butch drove Koi, Olive Oil, and Torch. I asked Jeramiah which shelter he wanted to go to, the one three miles away or sixteen miles away.

Having picked up the Giardia bug, he responded, “To be honest, that three is sounding really nice.”

“Man I feel completely the same. Olive oil was talking about a twenty eight though. She won’t do it but I can’t imagine her changing her mind from thirty to three.”

When we got out of the cars, I said to the other three “So, what are you guys thinking about as far as mileage today?”

They all looked at each other before Koi said “We were thinking about three miles.”

It was not even ten a.m. by the time we arrived at the shelter. What better way to enjoy the morning than napping?

So we all pulled out our sleeping bags and pads and slept into the afternoon. I was the first to rise and went to gather more wood for a potential fire despite the clear “NO FIRES” sign.

Soon after rousing and cooking dinner, Torch had a fire blazing. As the boredom kicked in batteries began to be thrown into the fire. After a disappointing blue flame and no explosions, Olive Oil pulled out a canister of Butane. I ran to behind the shelter when Torch put it in. I sat on a stump back there, looking up at Torch standing next to me, utter enthusiasm displayed on his face. Before long I hear the bang, accompanied by a bright flash, lighting up the trees and Torch’s grinning face. I stood up to see a plume of flame and embers rocketing into the sky above the shelter.

I step out from behind the wall and see the devastation. The fire was completely out, coals scattered in a thirty foot circle all around where the fire once was.

Torch sweeping the scattered coals

“That. Was. Awesome.”

The Outhouse, Unionville, NY 11/9-11/10, 843.3

“You a vegan?” asked Bill.

“A vegetarian, yes”

“Ooo, you owe me a quarter. Why are you a vegan?”

At the former mayor’s house in Unionville, New York hikers are housed and fed by abiding to three rules. 1: Do not call any of the three guys running the place, Dick (the mayor), Butch, or Bill, ‘sir’. 2: Stay out of the damn kitchen. 3: Do not say any words over three syllables.

“I saw a chicken truck driving down the road and I thought it was messed up.”

“What, you want them to walk? You sicko. ‘Here ya go chickens, walk to the butchery.’ I mean those people are at least nice enough  to give em a lift for cryin out loud,” said Bill.

Bill is your stereotypical 80 year old New York/ New Jersey grump, except hilarious. I never saw him crack the slightest bit of a smile however despite the comedy routine he surrounded himself in.

“He ya go, you schmuck,” he said to me as he dropped a veggie burger on my plate. Honestly, I don’t even know how to spell “schmuck” and I definitely have never actually had someone call me that.

Butch is just as much of a character.

“Here’s the shower. Towels are there. Soap and shampoo are in the shower. The door does not lock but you don’t have anything down their anyways”

Rule four is that every hiker must watch a twenty minute inspirational video. No one really minds because well, dinner smells good and the bunks in the basement are warm and comfortable.

He leads into the video with a monologue saying why we must all watch it but the lead in could not have summarized slightly the clip from “Britain’s Got Talent.”

Paul Potts, employee at Cell phone warehouse hides a great talent, the ability to sing opera. He did a great job, he conquered all odds (including him not fitting in with the group in middle school, being ‘a little bit different from the other boys’) and finally came out on top. How fancy and cliche. What does this have to do with hiking? Well, the last three words of the song Potts sings, “we will win” repeated.

Anyone who goes out on a 2178 miles trek through the woods needs to assure and reassure and assure again to themselves that we will win. And the wonderful thing about this adventure is that the ‘I’ only lasts mere days and tops weeks. Hikers come together to win together. We help each other, feed one another, and provide company and friendship to people that were once strangers trying to do something seemingly impossible. The odds against us are obvious. To vacate that much of our lives to anything would be nearly impossible. Going into the hike knowing that around 1700 people do not finish out of less than 2000 who attempt the hike, it is impossible to underestimate the ridiculousness of finishing.

Dick and Butch

Hikers rely on places like the outhouse. We rely on successes like the Paul Potts story to know despite the low plausibility of finishing, it is possible. And we rely on people with humor and good hearts like Dick, Butch, and Bill to help refresh us for the next few weeks of rain and struggle.

However, I don’t think I’ll meet many people like those guys again. As Twisted Hair said “they should make a t.v. Show featuring these guys.”