13 Days to go in the Ultimate Hike

I told you that I was having foot trouble. I tried re-lacing my boots (that I had already worn for hundreds of miles) to put pressure on different spots...decided my feet had changed and I needed new boots...so I went to the Backpacker. Because I am breaking in new boots, I have been doing shorter hikes...eight milers. I chose the Palmetto trail because it is close to my home. I told you earlier that there was a lot of trash along that trail so I took a large trash bag and an extended reach "grabber" to pick up the trash. Sticking close to the trail, I easily filled the 30 gallon bag with plastic wrappers and bags, cups, Styrofoam containers, etc. I also took clippers and did trail maintenance where Spring growth was encroaching...no, none of this "public service" was mandated by a judges order!

When we were walking at Harbison recently, there was a trail crew working...mostly young men and women with a couple of older guys supervising. Two guys were carrying boulders from the stream up a long hill to where the group was digging them into the trail. I assumed they were volunteers but joked, "what did you do to get this public service?" "Somethin' stupid," one answered...indicating penitence.

This Saturday, we did just under 24 miles at Harbison. Boots worked fine...I had to stop and tape a spot on one foot where a blister was developing, did not realize that I was also getting a blister on the other Anterior Talocrural Region (had to look it up!). Now that I know the boot tongue is rubbing there, I believe that I will be able to deal with it. I am not going to lie to you, when I hike over twenty miles, it is hard work...but I believe it is worth it to help fight children's cancer...I am glad that you agree.

In another up-date, I wrote, "Many of you have heard this story but this is the main reason I do the Ultimate Hike and have so much empathy for parents with a sick child. Hilary was born with a very rare eye condition. After a quick circuit of all the local eye doctors, we were sent to the Duke Eye Center the first time when she was thirteen days old. She had four operations on each eye before she was two years old. The one I remember most was her first; the doctors had me hold her tiny body in my lap and talk to her as they administered anesthesia. I was in the room when a man was shot dead and I have wrecked on a rain slick Interstate Highway but I have never felt the sheer terror I felt as I held that tiny helpless child that I loved dearly."

Some of you vigorously objected that I could not say "I was in the room when a man was shot dead." and just drop it. Apparently you have not seen the cowboy in me! OK, here is the story. In 1974, I was leaving the Army as a young lieutenant; the SC Chamber of Commerce needed a department head. There was a convergence of the Chamber not having much money and me being young and willing to work cheap. I was about 20 years junior to any of the others so they decided to send me to a regional "Chamber school" at the University of Georgia. At the end of the week, each state group held a state dinner at a restaurant. The South Carolina group ate at the nicest steakhouse in Athens (expense account!). After dinner we went to the bar and found the group from Georgia was there so we joined them...there were maybe twenty of us in a corner by the side door.

Late in the evening two locals came in and promptly got into an argument. Being a Southerner, I almost jumped to the defense of the young waitress who asked them to leave. It occurred to me that she had 100% more experience than I did in these situations so I kept my seat. One man left from the side door and the other was still inside cussing at the one on the outside. At the table next to us there were a couple of men and some young adults from a church group (the drinking age was eighteen back then). One of the adults objected to the language and the cusser said, "Are you going to make me shut up?"

At this point, our group got up and walked between the two men (cusser and churchman) who were still yelling at each other. Just as I passed between them, they started to fight. I grabbed a lady from Georgia and pulled her out of the way. Almost immediately, someone yelled, "he has got a gun." and shots followed...five or six small caliber shots. While the shots were going on, I pushed to Georgia lady under a booth table and I followed her. The shot man fell on the floor beside that table. He was writhing and calling "someone help me, help me, please help me." People offered first aid but he died. Friends asked if I stayed and testified but the shooter was known to the restaurant employees...and my testimony would have mostly been as to how much chewing gum was on the bottom of the table.

I made a promise to myself...if I was going to die violently, it would be rescuing babies from a burning building, not objecting to someone's language. Served me well!

About the Author

James A. Brannock

James A. Brannock

James Brannock is a Columbia personal property appraiser (furniture, silver, art, antiques, etc.). He began backpacking when his son was in Boy Scouts and spent 10 days backpacking at Philmont Scout Ranch...he continues to backpack once or twice a year with friends from those Scouting days. Brannock and his son, Calder, walked the Coast to Coast Trail across England in 2010 (see the photo from the Lake District). On the Ultimate Hike for CureSearch-Children's Cancer Research, Brannock walked over 30 miles in one day...some eight miles further than any previous single day personal record.

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