Appalachian Trail Reflections

Well, the AT has stuck its claws into me, pure and simple. (Literally, in the case of overgrown paths and nettles, here on the TN-NC border…) But I always get my revenge. Here is a picture of garlic and butter rice with nettles* and buffalo tuna. Take that, stabby foliage. I saute and devour you.

Down the rabbit-hole I have fallen, and in the manner of the [world’s largest?] cave in Vietnam, which I learned about this morning, the camping is good, and the world contained herein is vast and rarified. On this mountain (Roan Mt), you can find stone that has been solid for over 600 million years, which is a substantial amount of the Earth’s estimated age. If you lived to be a thousand, there would need to be 600,000 you’s before you could begin to be as old as this rock. You are tiny, dear Watson.

Into this timeline, I place my own. I step on it, this ancient stone.

Indeed– do not be perturbed if this small walk takes longer to complete than either of us expect; unlike these mountains, I have young telomeres and an excellent metabolism, which means that my body still gleefully replaces the hapless cells that the wind and the rain erode away. It is raining now, on the tin roof of the shelter. I have removed my wooly socks and am in my down sleeping bag liner, which I purchased three days ago with the dwindling reserves of my bank account. It is cloth of the purple-deepening-into-black color I always wished my prom dress was, which is appropriate because it will be utilized considerably more than any prom dress I ever considered wearing.

I am also dry, but it is not my fault. A high-quality rain poncho someone left in a shelter has been shielding me from the airborne water missiles Harvey flung into this area, and I discarded my shredded shoes in disgust at the same place I bought my liner, a few days ago. Garrett and Araceli, I owe you both cookies. If it was not so wet, and burning rubber not so polluting, I would have lit those awful things on fire. Instead, I quietly went through a hiker box (a box-of-free-stuff many places along the trail have, where you leave things you don’t need, and hope to find things you do), found a pair of men’s Merrells in my size, replaced the laces, and wore the shoes around all day until it was determined they were adequately comfortable. These shoes may be waterproof? But this is why my socks are dry.

Anyways, I am a bit behind where I told you I’d be (but obviously, due to my excellent telomeres, this is not perturbing). The last day and a while were used up learning more uses for regional flora, conversating with excellent people, and reading Jack London, who was on a shelf away from the conveniently located books on flora. Insert also a free ride to a good (!!) Asian buffet, a free buffet (I have so much trail karma to balance out), a couple pints of ice cream, and a largely discounted stay in an old farmhouse because I was helping the owner enter months of old receipts into Excel for their tax records, and you have a pretty accurate picture of my last couple days. Also met someone who has hiked in the Whites (ye olde mountains all up in New Hampshire and all) in the winter; and we discussed it, and I have been heartened… So our NOBO hike may well continue continuously to be continuous, as per the original plan (and we’ll call it according to the weather, as always).

Keep being your excellent selves. I have only finished one more letter; but now I am going to take a nap, and then read a book or eat dinner, or something, because my legs hurt and I don’t feel like being wet today. (I am weak-minded!) Here is a picture of the shelter I’m at.

Happy September!

-Sail

*The stabby silicate hairs on a nettle will break down if you heat them, and nettles are quite nutritious and delicious. I gather them by pinching the tops of the leaves (young ones are the most tender) and pulling off as many leafy greens as I want before frying them with butter and garlic in my pot, but others will gather them wholesale and roast them over a fire, or just boil them for a few seconds, or exuberantly boil water and pour it over the entire plant to de-needle and cook it in one fell [pre-harvesting] swoop. The heat is the important part in the de-needling process. They are perhaps my favorite green to eat (not just on the trail), in a love that was born when I first tasted nettle pesto, in Utah, a couple years ago.

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