Saturday, June 7, 2008

The End of This Journey

We will be leaving Virginia in about 8 days. In the meantime, we have friends visiting from Tennessee for a couple days and there are a few other things we want to do and see in the area besides hiking. So, I guess I’m going to have to leave the rest of the Appalachian Trail for another time.

I always like to look at the numbers at the end of a long distance hike. For this trip I spent 7 continuous days backpacking with D-tour, 3 additional backpacking days, and 11 days of day hikes to cover 144 miles of new trail (some of the day hikes were out and back so I did not count those miles twice). I ate 1 small jar of peanut butter, 2 tubes of saltine crackers, 7 noodle dinners, 3 lbs of GORP, almost a pint of ice cream, two chocolate shakes and a whole bag of snack size snickers bars, and lost 7 pounds. I don’t want to know how many miles I drove back and forth to the trail. I saw 2 black snakes and a copperhead. That’s not much in the way of wildlife (unless you count thru-hikers as wildlife). The best day for flowers was the day of 29 pink lady slippers. I really can’t complain about the weather. For the 21 hiking days, there were only 3 times it rained. Of course, the last storm gets more points than the others.

I was not completely satisfied with my gear. When Gene and I go together, we split some of the gear—he carries a bigger tent and I carry a larger cook set. Since I knew that first week would be tough, I tried to lighten up as much as possible. Although adequate, I would have been more comfortable in a larger tent. Also to save weight, I left out my afternoon cup of coffee. It is purely a luxury item, but it adds so much enjoyment for me. I took our smallest cook pot rather than the larger, nonstick pot. That little difference in clean up was remarkable.

There were only two things that I can think of that I actually forgot. On the week backpack, I forgot the windscreen for the cook set. I had plenty of fuel so it didn’t cause a problem in that way, but it took longer to cook and I had to be really careful of flames blowing in every direction. The last backpacking trip I forgot to take my reading glasses. I usually don’t take my $200 progressive lens glasses on the trail. I can see fine for distance, I just need a little assistance up close. My $20 reading glasses from Wal-Mart are perfect. My arm is long enough for me to read the guidebook or tell what time it is without glasses at all during the day. But the closer the sun gets to the horizon, the less I can see. Not having my reading glasses was a real problem the night at Lewis Mountain. Not being able to see my Sudoku puzzle was a minor inconvenience. Not being able to see what time it was during the storm was a real annoyance. During the height of the storm, I decided I would call Gene at first light. I hardly ever call him, so I don’t know his number. Isn’t speed dial great? All I knew was his area code was 865. This really wouldn’t have been a problem except there was no cell signal at Lewis Mountain. There was only a pay phone which doesn’t have my directory programmed into its memory bank. Not being able to see his phone number was truly and earnestly a problem. I tried for quite some time to see the numbers in that tiny screen on my phone. When I finally thought I had them figured out, I wrote them down in giant size to be easily read at the pay phone. Since it was after 6 AM and I thought Gene might be up, I just gave the old cell phone a try. To my surprise (and relief) it rang. All those hours worrying over that one little thing.

This trip was a “first” for me to backpack with someone other than Gene. Diane was a great hiking partner and we enjoyed the week together. The two times I went out solo were also “firsts” and, although I was not afraid, I was unhappy. However, going alone proved to me that I am capable of living in the wilderness with only what I can carry on my back.

All things considered, I am very satisfied with this journey. Much more of the trail awaits and I shall be back out there some day.

For now, we’re headed to New York.

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