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Magic on the Appalachian Trail

Written on June 8, 2019

Immediately is my 11th day on path.  I’ve already experienced so many moments of magic and wonder.

~Caledonia State Park~

After two sleeps on path, I shortly found I used to be means colder at night time in my hammock than I needed to be.  The temperatures have been hitting about 60, 61 by way of the nights, and my plan of sleeping beneath my underquilt as an alternative of getting it underneath me was obviously insufficient.  Wanting forward at the forecast, I saw that there have been a number of nights predicted to get down into the 50s and 40s.

My mom swooped in like a hero and ordered me a 40-degree sleeping bag so I might put my underquilt beneath me and snuggle in with a warm bag.  The difficulty was that I wasn’t going to get to a mail drop spot till several days after the 47-degree night time arising.  Wanting ahead in my guidebook, I noticed that I might be walking by means of Caledonia State Park, the place there was a shuttle service that may drive hikers from the park to Walmart.  I decided my best choice was to improvise by choosing up a fleece blanket at Walmart to get me by means of until I obtained to my sleeping bag mail drop.

Once I obtained into the park, it was round 10:30, and I referred to as the number of the shuttle service.  The person who answered seemed reluctant to assist, saying he was actually booked up for the morning.  I advised him I didn’t mind waiting around until the afternoon if he thought he would have time then.  He stated sure, he would name me back later.

I weighed my options and determined I might be most snug with the state of affairs if I paid for a campsite there at the state park and made myself as obtainable as potential for the shuttle service.  It felt extremely essential to me to get that blanket and clear up my cold sleeping state of affairs.  I paid $34 for my little primitive campsite that was surrounded by RVs.  I took my first pretty shower of the trail and went ahead and washed my climbing garments in the bathe whereas I used to be at it.  Afterward, I lay every part out in the solar to dry while I waited patiently for the shuttle to name me again.

By four p.m., all my clothes had dried, and I used to be starting to feel like I is perhaps getting stood up by the shuttle service.  I began to convince myself that the state of affairs was turning into important.  I actually needed that blanket.  I referred to as the shuttle service back to allow them to know I had a campsite and I used to be nonetheless out there if they have been capable of help me.  No reply.  Getting fearful.

As a last-ditch effort, I assumed I’d give Uber a attempt because at three days on path, I had zero confidence to hitchhike.  By a magic stroke of luck, there was one guy in the town operating Uber.  He was significantly so variety to me, and even turned off the Uber meter while I was inside purchasing so I didn’t rack up additional fees.  Then he delivered me right again to my campsite and every part was all taken care of, straightforward peasy.  I felt so good about my capability to be resilient and remedy an issue.

The individuals RV’d beside me saw me getting dropped off and came to visit to ask me about climbing the AT.  We had a fantastic conversation, and ultimately they invited me over to their campsite where they made me Italian sausage, and grilled onions and peppers together with a glass of wine.  Generosity abound.

~Strawberries and Good Connections~

The day after Caledonia State Park, I used to be booking it throughout nineish miles of Southern Pennsylvania terrain to get to the subsequent shelter earlier than a projected thunderstorm at 2 p.m.  At one point, in all probability about halfway via the walk, I came to just a little cabin by a stream that was obtainable for lease via the PATC.  There was a family staying there, and on a bench beside the path, that they had left a bag of apples and a container of recent strawberries for hikers to grab as they passed by.  These weren’t just any strawberries.  They have been plump, deep purple, farmers-market-lookin’ strawberries.  I chosen two of my favourite wanting ones, then hopped throughout the stream to proceed on.  The first chew of the first strawberry stopped me in my tracks.  The sweetness!!  Juice dripped down my hand and onto my arm.  I stood still proper in the center of the path and enjoyed my strawberries absolutely.  As soon as I used to be completed my fingertips have been stained purple and smelled so sweet and delicious.  As I walked the remainder of the day I stored smelling my fingertips merrily, and sending gratitude to these individuals for such a gift.

That evening at the shelter, increasingly individuals continued to point out up as the hours ticked by till there have been 14 of us there together, hootin’ and hollerin’ and laughing.  Everyone talked about the strawberries with lust of their eyes.  That night time marked the starting of me actually starting to make real connections with other hikers.  The type of connections the place you find yourself sitting at a picnic desk nonetheless, over an hour after everyone has completed eating, and you’re all simply having fun with being with one another.  Connections are the true magic out here, and it may be troublesome for a getting-in-shape-flip-flopper in a sea of highly effective and seasoned NOBOs to be round anybody lengthy sufficient to connect with them.  I’ve been very fortunate to already be making such heartwarming connections.

~Fowl Drugs~

Up to now the wildlife has been an absolute present.  I’ve had two especially profound moments with birds over the previous 11 days.

The first was with a vulture.  As a backstory, a few month before I left for my thru-hike, I had a vivid dream of sitting at a picnic desk with my good friend, having fun with life, and instantly a vulture flew down and began pecking my eyes out.  I used to be so intrigued that I ended up down a rabbit gap of web articles about the which means of vultures in goals.  I got here to this conclusion: a vulture in a dream can symbolize massive transformation as “dead” things are being “picked away” to make room for something else.  What’s not serving you gets removed so extra issues that may serve you’ll be able to come to you.  Little question my hike arising would facilitate just that!

So on the path, I was climbing up this incline that was clearly taking me to a ridge. Just as I acquired to the very prime, I noticed something massive transfer just up forward.  I noticed that it was a vulture that I had startled into shifting from the ground to a low-hanging department about eye degree to me.  I used to be moved by how large and sleek this creature was up close.  I stood in awe, watching it’s perched while scanning the valley under for several minutes.  I used to be up so excessive that I had entered its territory, and I might witness its existence firsthand.  Remembering the dream, and placing my hand on my heart, I bathed in gratitude for the moment, then continued north.

Vulture territory.

The second hen was a heron.  My mother’s dad, my Grandpa, was an ornery man who I didn’t have numerous opportunity to get to know nicely.  One thing I did find out about him was the proven fact that he had been an avid fisherman.  I was at a stealth campsite on my sixth night time on trail when my mother referred to as me and informed me he had been placed in the care of hospice.  He passed the next day.

In processing the demise of certainly one of my family’s elders, I felt deep unhappiness for my family, and an actual sense of loneliness that no one I encountered on trail would ever have the ability to assist.  I was somberly strolling alongside beside a creek once I noticed a tall, sleek heron taking sluggish, lovely steps via the water, on the lookout for fish.  A fisherman of types.  I stood and watched it transfer peacefully, and was utterly moved to tears, feeling that this was undoubtedly, affirmation from Grandpa that I was on the right path.  I stood and watched and cried until there was nothing left to cry, then with a deep breath I was capable of continue on, strolling slightly lighter on the Earth.

Sleek fisherman.

~Boiling Springs~

As a flip-flopper beginning at the Mason-Dixon Line, Boiling Springs was the first trail city I walked into.  What a present that town was!  I paid $2 to take a shower at the pool, and the woman I paid agreed to charge my telephone for me whereas I was showering.

I picked up a number of resupply gadgets at the fuel station, and after I had finished the transaction, I observed a basket of bananas sitting on the counter.  “Dang! I wish I would have seen those,” I assumed to myself.  The person working the cash register should have learn the thought on my face because he grabbed a banana and handed it to me with a sort smile.  “Go ahead,” he provided.  “Thank you!” I gushed.  Slowing life right down to this pace really opens up area for the smallest acts of kindness to utterly fill you up with magic.

I walked out of Boiling Springs earlier than 7 a.m.  The morning was misty and calm.  As the AT passes by way of Boiling Springs, it follows the fringe of an enormous pond that sits proper in the middle of city.  Sitting at the edge of the pond that morning in good lotus position was a person holding a strand of mala beads and singing mantras.  We made eye contact as I passed and he held his arms in prayer and bowed to me.  I returned the gesture proudly, my entire body buzzing with love.

~The Cumberland Valley~

The Cumberland Valley is a 14-mile stretch where no tenting is permitted, which made me nervous because I wasn’t positive if my body was ready to put in massive miles like that so early on in the journey (day ten). The walk turned out to be absolutely scrumptious as it was solely flat, and I was inhaling the candy odor of honeysuckle actually the entire day.  This entire stretch of the path was alive with colorful flowers and plump berries.

Around mile 11, my ft have been undoubtedly beginning to feel the lengthy day.  I crossed a bridge and was blasted with cleansing river air, and was smiling to myself as I stepped off the bridge and saw a gaggle of hikers chilling out at the ATC work station.  They waved me over, and as I received nearer, I excitedly realized why.  On the picnic table, someone had left an enormous Subway platter for hikers.  It was such a welcome blessing that gave me sufficient steam to push on the previous couple of miles to the shelter.

The shelter that evening was alive with feminine power.  Most of the time I’m the solely lady in a sea of men out here, which is a state of affairs I’m acquainted and cozy with.  But that night at the shelter, together with me, there were six ladies and just one man.  And we had a fireplace going.  After everybody had snuggled into their sleeping luggage, I stood outdoors my hammock and stared up at the moon.

I ended my longest day feeling warm and held and protected.

~Duncannon, PA~

Oh how my physique was aching as I trudged along the previous couple of miles into city.  My only thoughts have been of cheeseburgers and my first bed in 11 days.  I acquired to the Doyle Lodge and went into the bar where I sat at a desk with four other hikers whom I recognized from previous run-ins they usually acknowledged me too.  QB, at the Doyle, was an absolute breath of recent air, and I couldn’t have enjoyed her realness or her rawness extra.  I put away a burger, fries, and two beers prefer it was nothing, then dragged my aching physique as much as the third flooring where my room was quirky and all mine.  The building was historic and strong, and QB gave me a room with three home windows, winking at me and telling me to inform my mother she raised a well mannered child.

Earlier than I showered, I figured I ought to hit the fuel station and get some night snacks and a few resupply gadgets.  On the means there I bumped into Tips, an older guy who didn’t hike anymore, however who went up and down the trail serving to hikers when he might.  After speaking for a while, he asked me if I needed a journey to an actual grocery retailer so I might have more options at a greater worth.  He was so beneficiant, insisting I take my time and ensuring I had the whole lot I needed.

It’s clear to me that my coronary heart is cracked vast open for receiving, and I’m shifting along at the good pace to understand every single blessing at full capability.  Bless this valuable group and all the angels alongside this path who do what they will to assist us smelly, unruly adventurers have a magical expertise.