After eating at the restaurant, I head over to the general store. Since my food never arrived, I'll have to default to the standard hiker diet. It's awful, but I have no other choice at the moment.
Lots of Knorrs rice packets, Idahoan potatoes. Nuts. Chocolate. And of course, a pound of cheese, tortillas, and jerky.
There's really no way to get enough calories while carrying a reasonable amount of weight using these items. In a small town such as this one, they're all expensive. I'm appreciative that they're even available, though. Were the owners not hiker-friendly, they wouldn't have anything useful at all.
They immediately recognize me as an AZT thru-hiker, and hand me some hot chocolate. Thanks!
They have a hiker box which is quite useful. Someone left some nicer toilet paper than what I have.
I'll take that. For sure.
One of the store employees inform me that you can sleep in the post office lobby after they close.
In fact, I've already checked out the area, and found a place I could stealth camp behind the visitor center in my bivy that no one would find. She informs me that people either sleep in the post office lobby or the visitor center bathrooms when it gets really cold.
I could walk several miles back and stay at one of the truck-accessible campsites, or I could risk going forward into unknown terrain.
It's already starting to get dark, so I'll opt for trying to stay in town. I checked out the bathroom earlier, and it's extremely warm. More than necessary, but wonderfully so if you're already chilled.
The weather report says it will get down to 20 tonight.
Maybe I will try the bathroom tonight.
After getting my necessary fill of ice cream and hot chocolate, I head over to the visitor center bathroom; it's already starting to significantly drop in temperature.
I lay out my sleeping pad and take a seat. It's going to be a long night.
Some people drop into the bathroom and are surprised to see me sitting there. I certainly look disheveled at this point, particularly with my uncut hair. Were it not for my colorful gear, I would be indistinguishable from a random homeless guy asking for money.
Please sir. Do you have any spare ice cream?
Maybe one day I'll hold out my hand and ask that question.
For now, however, I smile, and try to figure out which visitors know about thru-hiking, and which are just confused at my presence.
It turns out the smell of urine is not due to uncleanliness, but rather the urinals being no-flush urinals. Whenever someone uses them, water does not flush away the fluid, and the intense heat makes it worse.
If I truly didn't care, I would move to the women's bathroom. They don't have urinals, so there would be no stench.
I don't want to push, though. If someone with a badge comes in here and asks me to leave, I would have to. Or risk getting hauled to jail...which, might be a fun story, actually. But I'll stay here for now.
I use the time to try to make an alcohol stove out of a soda can. It's much lighter, and I believe I got all the tools and supplies I need from the general store. I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I’m working through it.
This is my second attempt to construct one on the trail with a limited tool set, and for the second time, I fail. I'm closer, though. I needed one more can, but the general store is closed by the time I realize it.
I understand more about what is necessary now, though. I'll succeed next time for sure.