Some New Old Entries
These last few days off the trail have given me some time to peruse my two trail journals and reflect on my whole journey. Looking back and rereading my journals has made way for some pretty funny and interesting entries. I thought I would collect a random sampling of personal entries of various experiences throughout the trip. I will be adding more and more excerpts to this particular entry throughout the next few days, so check back. Enjoy!
As I sit listening to the mellow and relaxing sounds of the creek, I fight the urge to fall asleep. It was only an 18 mile day, an easy 18, but I am still afflicted by exhaustion. We are camped just before the shelter at a beautiful campsite. The ground is covered with glinting slate and specks of coal. The mountains rise up around this space unobtrusively, as to cradle the very gap we are situated in.
Still, I find Pennsylvania to be an intriguing place. The mountains do not stand in a foreboding heir the way the mountains do in northern Georgia. The scenery is comforting and inviting. Today the landscape revealed its innards to us. Massive veins of coal and anthracite made way through the rock walls. Giant piles of coal popped up randomly throughout the setting; they sparkled like glitter in the sunlight. All-in-all, this section of the trail has shown the beauty of the Appalachian Trail.
Tonight is such a nice night that we are camping without our rain flies on our tents. Hopefully it doesn’t rain! Although, I must say that it will be rather difficult navigating to my tent in a moment…my headlamp turned up missing. I will just have to turn on the old cell phone and use it to illuminate my way! If I were a true pioneer, I would use the light of a candle or lantern. It makes me wonder how those crossing the Oregon Trail felt. They braved such danger and without the use of modern technology and ultra-light gear. Those guys were so hardcore! My thru-hike seems rather wimpy in comparison : )
Yesterday was one hell of a day. It marked a week of rain and downpour. Our gear has been wet each morning which is a major inconvenience to say the least; nonetheless, we started off damp and set out in the rain. About five minutes after we left, lightening and thunder came crashing down. Then my shoes filled up with water. Imagine walking around with 4 cups of water sloshing around in your boots. When we thought the rain had reached its worst point, it got worse. The water poured down with such severity and the wind blew with such force that we began to freeze whilst hiking. It was absolutely miserable! The trail was flowing with water–they should have called it the Appalachian River.
We continued hiking in the misery. The dilemma of the day was the spacing of the shelters. There was on at 12 miles and one at 23 miles; well there was no way that I was going 23 miles in the freezing rain, tired and hungry! It was time to book a hotel room. It was such a relief to have a warm night ahead of us and hot shower to bathe in. We cranked up all the heaters and dried out all of our gear in what looked like a makeshift refugee camp.
After an amazing shower, I started to unload my pack. When I unloaded my sleeping bag I discovered that it was completely soaked through with water. Oh the sigh of relief I had when I saw that my bag was wet and I was staying in a warm bed. I would have been in huge trouble is we had got to the shelter, wet and cold, and only had a wet sleeping bag; I would have gone hypothermic for sure! At that point, I was so thankful to be in a dry place for the night.
Today I am spending time in Northboro, Mass. with Tiger Lilly’s family. Yesterday her parents picked us up early in the morning and whisked us away from the AT. The night before last we stayed with two teachers in Falls Village, CT. This man saw us walking down the street and randomly invited us to stay with him. He drove us to his home, which was the oldest home in the county. It was constructed in 1784 and it still held the charm of a beautifully handcrafted home. I will admit that I have a love for America’s colonial period and this home was the embodiment of such. To make the moment even more wonderful, the two teachers were English instructors. When he found out that I have an English degree, he directed me to a special room in his home. When I walked in I was blown away by the floor to ceiling shelves that lined the walls of the room. Upon the shelves lay countless first editions of Proust, Verne, Pope, Johnson, Faulkner, and so on. I was in literary wonderland! It was a pretty amazing night.
When we left Falls Village, we found the hike to be extremely easy. Again we trudged through thick clouds and soggy conditions. This however, was the first day we encountered nice trail in CT. The trail started by taking us along the water falls, giving us a beautiful sight. Then it meandered up into the woods. I must admit that this was one of the most breathtaking scenes I have encountered on the trail. It took some restraint to not stop and write about it right there on the trail.
The trees were tall with little-to-no undergrowth. The trunks were black like charcoal and the pine needles a brilliant hunter green. The foliage made such an intense contrast to the almost burnt-looking pines. The trail was paved with rusty red pine needles. Off in the distance the fog rolled in and created a scene that was equally foreboding and majestic. It felt like a scene out of a book from one of the great transcendentalists.
I am often amazed how some of the most beautiful places on the trail occur in the middle of no where. One would think that the overlooks and historical home sites would command your attention the most, but sometimes it is the simplicity and solace of the forest that strikes you the most. I can remember vacationing in North Carolina as a child. One of my favorite scenes was to watch the clouds creep down over the mountains like the fingers of a gnarled, old hand. This always happened after a good rainstorm. I suppose I have carried that memory with me and so appreciate the simple, unassuming portrayals of the forest.