A sad day – Poor old Italian Jim, the downside of taking an advance against your salary and the devastating news about Notre Dame – Ria

Italian Jim (who became quite fond of us having shuttled us around Franklin on Sunday) arrived promptly at 7 to take us (as well as Helicopter Pilot and Square Peg) back to the trail.

Helicopter Pilot and Square Peg had to be dropped off first as they joined the trail closer to Franklin than we did. Jim was having an animated conversation when he got to the Winding Stairs parking lot, and managed to shift into Reverse while the (already sick sounding) car was still moving. The transmission made a terrible noise, and died. Poor poor poor old Italian Jim. I wanted to cry for him. This old Italian guy who is making a living by shuttling hikers around knew that he now has a big problem. A huge cost getting the vehicle repaired, and no income from shuttling during the repair period, which will be coinciding with the last 2 weeks of his busy season. The whole day while i was walking I was thinking about poor old Italian Jim. He has been conscripted twice, once by the Italians and after he moved to the States by the Americans. He lost his wife after a long illness. His only family is in Italy. Now this. Why did it have to be him? Why not one of the successful smooth operators? You can read between the lines: after being mad at him on Saturday I ended up having quite a soft spot for the old man. Sometimes life is just not fair.

Of course this left us with a problem too. It was freezingly cold (and yes Janet the 2 South Africans were in their shorts 😀) and we were standing many miles from where we had to hit the trail. We eventually manage to organise a lift and made our way to Rocky Gap. On Saturday we left the trail at Glass Mine Gap to get a lift with Jacob. From there we had to walk 4km to his car. Our options were to be dropped off where his car was parked and found the 4km route to take us back to Glass Mine, or to join the trail at Rocky Gap, walked BACK to Glass Mine, turn around and walk North again. The latter was the easiest option from a transport point of view. But it meant that we now had to walk the same 5km stretch twice, wasting effort. Back at Rocky Gap we had to walk another 6km to get to Winding Staircase, where we would have left the trail for Franklin if the threatening weather didnt force us to leave the trail earlier. So here we were, having walked 16km already, only to get to payday and receive only a payslip. The advance was the early visit to Franklin and now it was payback time.

Then we checked the news and saw the Notre Dame was busy burning. I have already been sad about Italian Jim, bek-af about no salary at Winding Stairs and now the Notre Dame is burning. Today was not my favourite day on the trail! And tonight we have no reception so I cannot even see whether the fire is being contained.

Yet so much to be thankful for.


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