Another Open Letter To You, My Dearest Mother

Hi, Mom. Now that I’m in Pennsylvania and it’s snowing on my face, I have a confession to make.

I’ve been sleeping in trash bags for almost 400 miles.

You thought I was just pretending to be a homeless vagrant. I got rid of my tent in Pearisburg, in the middle of Virginia. I didn’t tell you, because I didn’t want you to know. I thought you would freak out because you didn’t understand. Then I got one of those contractor trash bags (the huge ones, you know) and ripped it halfway down. Then I got another one and taped it on top of the first one, because all you really need in the winter is something to keep you dry. (No bugs, you see.)

It was supposed to be temporary, at first, but I liked it too much. I could sleep on mountainsides. I could sleep between rock crags. I could sleep with my head pillowed on beech tree roots. I could wake up at midnight and stare at the stars above me; and the only thing I needed to worry about was whether the nearby deer would freak out and trample me or not. I loved those trash bags, and their sweet plasticky freedom, all condensation-y and cheap.

Sometimes it would rain, and I would wake up and pull them out of my pack, and stick my feet into the bottom of the trash bag tarp, and hook one corner over the edge of my pack and the other over my hiking stick, stabbed into the dirt; then I would go back to sleep. It took all of three seconds, give or take about fifteen.

I’m only telling you about this because I got rid of them at Harper’s Ferry. Now I have a light tarp that my science people gave me. It is sitting in the bottom of my pack. I haven’t used it yet, because it is high-maintenance compared to my trash bags. It is green, like all the rest of the things that I acquire on this hike, even though my favorite colour is the blue of the sky above you at midday, though you can only see it properly in the fall, because that’s when you can look up through golden leaves on the trees, and the blue cuts across the gold and you can see the deep darkness of the universe behind the lighter blue of our sky.

If we were on Mars, the sky would be butterscotch, and the sunsets would be blue.

Anyways, John knew. Get mad at him.

P.S. Also sorry I don’t write you enough. It’s too cold to keep my hands outside of my sleeping bag at night. The only reason I’m writing you now is because I crashed a party and found some trail angels, and now I am warm in a bed with delicious corn-chicken soup in my stomach, instead of outside in the cold with delicious tortilla soup in my stomach?

Hum indeed. RIP, beloved trash bags.


See you soon for Christmas, Motherski!



  1. Edita Conover "MOM" says:

    My dear daughter Anna, thank you for the informative “open letter to your mother.” It is most welcome. Although some of my dear children like to shock and surprise me, I am not surprised nor shocked.
    Here’s a running joke your two siblings still living at home like to say. “Hi, I’m Anne, the EMT, the Physics Major, the Arabic Language Expert, the Ranger, Farmer, People Helper Shelter staff, World traveler, Science teacher, Hiker, Vagrant.”
    Take care child and be safe. You mother loves you.
    Also, better have an outline of what you’ve been up to. Your grandma in Lubbock couldn’t wait to hear your stories.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. garrett gundlach, SJ says:

    I love how your first picture of yourself on this whole journey is now, on the record, you holding a trashbag.


    1. Sail Away says:

      We keep it classy around this joint.


  3. Elise says:

    Anne, you made me laugh out loud with this. Instantly decided we might be kindred spirits 😂 Was lovely to meet you here at Caffé 101 in PA. Safe travels & Merry Christmas!!!
    -Elise, the over talkative barista


    1. Sail Away says:

      Haha, glad you liked it! It was so good to meet y’all (and your food is delicious). So good to hear from you, and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas ❤


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