Trail Magic

These beans with bacon are delicious.

I found them abandoned, left for my own wanton snarfling by some hapless hiker. This honey barbeque tuna? Snatched from the scuttling paws of shelter mouses*. The only thing from dinner I didn’t find here was my quinoa, but let’s be real, I received that packet weeks ago in a care package from my mother, and stuck it in my box o’ science to mail to Hot Springs, back when I was in Atlanta. (Thanks, Claire!) Let’s not mention the cold beer again, or the extra fleece sleeping bag someone had left in the hiker box right when hiking through the Smokies was becoming a cold, hard reality…

Today, I got to watch the eclipse from an observation tower that I (and about 11 other people) had climbed, presumably illegally. I only say this because they had removed the bottom flight of stairs from the tower for our safety, but what is a few meters upwards among friends? Indeed. It was pleasing, because I had not brought any eclipse glasses, but everyone else had. We were at 98% totality. I am not sorry I have been loafing along the trail, because if I were 15 miles southwest, I’d have seen far less of the moon’s shadow and would presumably have spent the day crying in my tent. So it goes. I also got to see the crescent shadows cast by the trees, which I had read about but had never had hopes of seeing. So awesome.

In other news, it was very hard to leave Hot Springs. There were many people there. Humanity. I was in a stage where it was hard to go away from it. I am beginning to run into SOBOs (south-bound thru hikers) now- the very early ones- and I ran into one today who seemed very sad. He has been on the trail since April, and while we talked he told me that all he wants to do is go home and sleep on the couch. Nooooooooooo, says my brain, This cannot be me!! It is something I fear, though, truly. Trail burnout is a real thing, especially when you’re looking to be on the trail for years. Having a purpose and making good human connections on the trail are both essentials, for me (and learning trail histories, and stories behind different places along the hike! Oh man. The stories. Some of them are hilarious). Even the best-laid plans of mice and men go very, very wrong, and then you get to hear stories about it. Huzzah! Oo, but also I walked across the third oldest river in the world, flowing right through Hot Springs, NC. And then I did science to it. HUZZAH.

This river! The French Broad River, in North Carolina. The second oldest is the Nile, and the oldest river (I think) is the New River, in Virginia.

Speaking of trail plans, though- when I started in June, I was ok with not finishing in Maine until next spring cometh (for those who don’t live up there, the Whites are a range of mountains that the AT runs through in New Hampshire and Maine that involve cold and many blizzards. Hrrghhh). I still am ok with this not finishing… But in my brain, I have begun entertaining a small shred of an idea, which is the following: It might be fun to flip-flop, and hike south from Katadhin, from a not-yet-established location in Virginia, where I will be shortly. It would still involve winter camping; it would just be winter camping in Virginia, not in the Whites. Flip-flopping would also mean that I finish pretty much all of the US portion of the International Appalachian Trail, this year. So… If this sounds intriguing, or if anyone is interested in driving any portion of that with me… let me know? If I did do this, I’d need transportation from Virginia to CT, at least (my car is currently in New Haven), though transportation straight up to Maine would also be fun. (We are flexible, you and I) I will also let you know what is happening for sure, once I have further ruminated** upon this idea.

There are no NOBOs (North-bound) around anymore, and I have not yet hit the SOBO bubble, which I have been assured is definitely a thing this year. This means that the trail is peaceful, and I typically run into anywhere between 2-5 people a day, which is why it is so magical that I still have not had to buy dinners for camp in over three weeks, or something. I have lost count. But usually, I’ll run into an unusually well-furnished hiker box, or a few weekend hikers who are headed out and trying to get rid of their food, or receive a care package at just the right time, or (in today’s case) find an entire stash of dinners that someone had to dump because they got sick and needed to get off the trail without carrying all that weight. I did enjoy my free can of Dinty Moore beef stew… But I also swiped all that tuna. They had left a very nice note.

The timing also means that when you shell out moneys* for a tent site and an included shower (I know, I know, it’s only been a few days. Blast. Now mosquitoes will go after me again) people say to you things like, “Have you set up your tent yet? The hostel is empty… If you want to just go ahead and sleep in a bed tonight, you should.” Aww yiss. Beds. I will lie in here, and read Thomas Merton like a spiritual nerd, because it is all I need to truly find myself****. Hum hum…

On that note, it is late. I was going to tell you other things, but I have forgotten them all. I am offski, my peoples, to lay my weary head upon a pillow (!!!) and wake up in the morning and eat my cinnamon toast crunch BECAUSE EVERYONE LOVES CINNAMON TOAST CRUNCH ESPECIALLY ME whom nom sugar whom nom nom. Someday, after I give you writings on ants, I will give you writings on what you can devour on hiking trips. (Foliage! Everything.) So it goes, my people.

Good night!

*I apologize for my horrible grammar. Also calm down. Stop crying.

**This is very different from ruminant. I am not a cow. Or a deer. Even if the cow at Christian Hippie Commune*** was named Annie, and people would forget and call me Annie, and then the small children would start the giggling, and then the eyes of the offending person would get all wide as they realized what horrible thing they had just done. Truly, it is not a real experience until someone is laughing at me.

***They have a tall ship for sale, if you’re in the market. It’s called Peacemaker, I believe. It was built in Brazil out of tropical hardwoods, and is currently somewhere in the south, eating moneys for breakfast.

****That was ironic. Joseph. Don’t talk to me.

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