Thursday, June 01, 2006

Appalachian Trail

This past Memorial Day weekend I spent Sunday and Monday on the Appalachian Trail up in the area of Pawling, New York. It's that time of the year again. The weather was perfect for camping and hiking. Quite a few people agreed with me; the metro-north train was packed with hikers.

This is the first time I've gone hiking with 60lbs. of gear strapped to my back and slept overnight by myself. I was extremely excited and a bit nervous, and anxious. Anyway, I got tired quick. It was noon when I was let off the train. The sun beat hard on my back as I walked across rolling farmland with this load on my back. It was tough. I knew that getting inside the woods would give shade but I also knew it meant hills, steep ravines and steady ascents up even higher hills and mountains. Needless to say I became doubtful of my physical capabilities. Half way up an ascent I stopped for water and a PB&J sandwich, sweating my ass off, heart racing like it was going to jump out. I sat there wondering if I had enough water to last me this trip and if I was going to be able to make it to the shelter before dark. I wasn't even into 1.5miles yet and I already had these doubts. Well, I pushed my doubts aside and picked up my pack and set out.

Funny thing, the pack became lighter the longer I carried it. The longer I walked the more I thought less and less. Only paying attention to my walking and the trail on which I walked the doubts disappeared. Well, that only worked for so long. I tried to remember how I got to that state of mind and all I could remember was just walking. At this point where my doubts rushed back in I had reached close to 6miles and there stood yet another steep hill which I wasn't ready for...during this time I also developed a slight diarrhea. I dug my hole in front of a small tree, dropped my pants and hung on to that small tree...and answered my CALL OF THE WILD. I approached the hill again and some hikers were on their way up. At the bottom of the hill a man I’d say in his mid-late 50’s was sitting on a lawn chair next to other lawn chairs along with three coolers. I proceeded along the trail and he looked at me and said, “How are you?” The only thing I could say at that point was, “Tired!” He continued, “There’s food here.” I thought this exchange was odd. I was surprised to see this sort of set up so I walked closer to him and he repeated himself. I sat down next to him dropping my pack with a sigh. I said, “Is this your stuff?” He said no and that some friendly people must’ve left it for hikers. I looked in the coolers. There was ice and Gatorade and water. In another cooler there was food. We both agreed that it was a nice gesture and looked at each other pleased as punch that at least the whole entire world hasn’t gone to shit yet. He told me his name was Lights Out and I told him mine. Lights Out said that the shelter was only another 15min from where we were. That put a smile on my face. I made it to the shelter.

After taking a look around the shelter I set my tent up and answered yet another CALL OF THE WILD and passed out. I had one hell of a headache and on top of that my legs were giving out. When I woke up there were a number of people at the shelter setting up camp. I bummed some tea bags from a couple and talked to Lights Out some more. He told me the story of how he got his name and a few other trail stories that were pretty entertaining. At twilight people were cooking their supper and quieting down. I stayed up watching the fireflies. Tossed and turned while a group of coyotes started howling and sleep must’ve taken me during the owl’s wooing.

The mornings are what I really like the most about camping. The birds are at their peak between 4:30-5:30am. It's like a mandatory rehearsal that all birds must attend daily. Their symphony takes over every other sound. Lights Out and I were the only morning people at the shelter that day. We talked and ate breakfast together. He ate dry cereal from a worn zip-lock and drank water out of a Nalgene and I enjoyed my earl grey tea. We shared some more stories and said our goodbyes. He left the shelter before I did. Lights Out continued north, onward to Maine. He’ll make it too.

Well, I set out soon after Lights Out did after leaving a power bar to the couple I bummed the tea from. I went south, same way I came. My load was a tad lighter and the pep in my foot was a little happier too, even a bit stronger. Mostly due to the sleep, but I won’t discount my encounters with Lights Out or waking up to a chorus of birds. The smell of the woods is so sweet that early in the morning. I heard turkeys deep in the woods off the trail, couldn't see them to save my life. I scared a deer. Deer are so beautiful to see while they are doing their everyday thing. The deer was just standing there off the trail a good 100feet away, saw me then ran off as quick as you can say 'boo'.

My trip back to the train station didn’t take half as long as it did getting to the shelter. I had 4hours wait time on the next train back to the city. I sat and read. Bought a Pepsi at the rest stop near by…then set out in the other direction (south) to kill some time. I met another fella up on Corbin Hill who had two dogs with him. We chatted about hiking and camping long distances. He told me a few things like completing the Appalachian Trail when he was younger, what you should and should not carry; you know, things he thought I should know, while his two dogs ran all over the place jumping into the swamp and chasing each other.

I turned back and there was someone else to meet. She came all the way up here from Brooklyn on the metro-north line to buy some Native plants from the Native plant store. I thought that was great. Anyway, we talked about everything under the sun. She was a really open and sincere lady, perfect company for waiting for a train. I had a great trip!


Anonymous Catfish said...

Glad you had some fun. The next time you go camping, write Acidman, he use to hike all the time.

5:22 PM  
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