It seems like I never can get past Holly Shelter Game Land, but I finally cleared it today, with one last warning from the State Wildlife folks to get a license before I started chasing down wild animals.

Since I don’t really care to chase down deer and bear, I decided to finally chase down the bustling metropolis of Watha, NC (population 160).

The first four or five miles of the day were fairly uneventful, walking along back roads, passing lots of farms that looked be waiting for their fields to dry before they planted corn and cotton. It was pretty early in the day before the sun was high, but it started to get monotonous after a while. The excitement was yet to come.

It seemed as soon as I crossed the bridge over the Eno River, the residents started getting less and less friendly. There were more “Keep Out” and “No Trespassing” signs in that 6-8 mile section than I have seen on the entire 300+ miles I have covered so far.

Even livestock gave me the stink eye.

Shortly after crossing over the river, I shuffled past a woman riding on a big lawn mower in front of her single-wide trailer next to the river and a rebel flag snapping with the wind. I tossed her my biggest grin and a wave. In return, I received a blank stare and not even a head bob. Seeing that this relationship was going nowhere, I turned my gaze West to move on with my life and find love again.

Apparently I didn’t give the entire family a chance to express their desire that I not hang out too long, because seconds later a big black dog the size of a wooly mammoth and with temperament of an over-caffeinated viking berserker ran towards me with slathering jaws and a bark that registered on the Richter Scale. As it charged, I glanced sideways at Cerberus‘ Mama, I received nothing but an even blanker stare (if that’s possible).

I said, “Hey hey, puppy” as my sphincter climbed up under my hat and yelled “shit shit shit” at me. I’d like to think that I said it calmly, but since all I can remember at that moment was white noise, I’m going to assume that I said with confidence, authority and without a trace of panic. There was no camera and you can’t say otherwise.

I kept my hands to my side, and tried to act as if I barely noticed there was a dog there. I don’t know if that’s what saved me, or perhaps sweaty, tall guys didn’t suit his discerning palate, or perhaps he was still full from the last hiker, but miraculously, he flipped around and headed back. I was safe. Although I did flinch when he brayed after I scuttled nearly 1/2 a mile down the road. I think I unclenched about 2 hours later.

I didn’t take a picture to share, but he really wasn’t that photogenic. You aren’t missing much. No, I’m not going back.

After nearly 12 miles of the day, I crossed into Watha, and decided that I’ve totally been hyping this town too much. If I had blinked, I would have missed it. And I’m on foot!

I wonder how many people who start through hiking/running the Mountains to Sea Trail finished their journey as vegetarians. After seeing the pig farms, chicken farms and slaughterhouses all day today, I think I’ve had enough of that sort of thing for a while. Have you ever had tractor-trailer full of chickens pass you, or get stuck in front of you when you were driving? Imagine walking on a back highway and have one or two of those suckers nearly blow you off your feet with a stench so foul you would like to swallow your scent glands. Urp. I had to clean my mouth several times after that. Then I realized that the smell wasn’t just from the trucks. It was from the farms all around. It was less than pleasant. I am definitely giving Butterball a negative rating on TripAdvisor.

After nearly 19 miles, we ended the day in Burgaw. The ankles and shins are pretty beat up after all that asphalt, but we’re still going. Not Jennifer Pharr Davis pace, but I’ll take it. Slow and steady may not always win the race, but hopefully it means I get to do it again tomorrow.

3 years ago, I didn’t think I could do this stuff anymore. Sometimes it’s good to be wrong.

Find your pace. Keep your step light and shorten your gait. Keep moving forward.


4 Responses

  1. Sweet! As you know, I spend many, many hours on the road, traveling through that area. Have come to love the beauty and try to spread peace and love vibes through rebel flag country. (My) God knows they need it! While it’s hard to find a “real” spinach salad in those parts, I do love me some eastern NC! Love you, too, Kenny! Hope to connect soon (while you’re still walking some, so I can keep up! )

  2. Just saw your story today on one of the MM pages on facebook (can’t remember which one). My husband has MM (dx’d Dec. 2011 at 46 years old) and used to be a marathon runner. He has not been able to really run since then (between the compressed vertebra, SCT and ongoing chemo) but has hopes that he will one day run again. Thank you for showing him and others that it is possible.

    1. I’m so sorry that he has to go through that, Kim. I’m tempted to say, “I’ve been there”, but I can’s say that with complete honest, as we all traverse different roads. Sometimes they intersect, but it’s usually only briefly, and completely by accident.

      But I can say with confidence, that I get it. This is tough. It seems doubly so, when your main coping mechanism (running, for me – and I’m assuming your husband) gets taken away. How does one cope? I started swimming. To be truthful, even though I swam in high school, it took me two years to start to really enjoy swimming.

      Before, it was a stopgap, only because I wasn’t allowed by my doctors to run for fear for of breaking more bones. I have a fairly large lesion in my hip, a couple of compression fractures in my spine, and holes throughout my upper skeleton and skull.

      But this isn’t the end. No need to give up. There are activities than can take running’s place – if even for a time. I’m happy to talk to you and/or him about it when you can. Feel free to reach out. Let me know how I can help.

      Keep moving forward.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.