One Month Solo on the Appalachian Trail
Get up. Brush. Eat. Pack. The mornings have solidified into a routine.
"There's no water at Thunder Hill Shelter," one of the northbound hikers said the day before. "There's an unmarked spring 0.3 miles off trail. I drew a map of how to get there in the logbook."
Thunder Hill Shelter is my destination today.
My dad's words from weeks ago float incongruously to the surface of my mind. "You need mental stimulation."
Face your challenges and work through them, I think. Mental and physical challenge lead to growth; growth leads to the milestones of success. Besides, overcoming challenges and emerging in triumph is infinitely more satisfying than coasting along in life.
As Phlatlander and I hike up a hill, a familiar voice yells at us from a campsite off trail: Shweasle. He reclines against a rock, wearing a plaid gray kilt, looking like he had just awoken at noon.
"There were about twelve whippoorwills here last night," he shouts. "Didn't get any sleep! I don't know who it was who said 'the lonesome cry of the whippoorwill,' but 'lonesome,' doesn't even come close to describing it! 'Cheerful,' or 'overly enthusiastic,' maybe. I mean, had that guy even heard a whippoorwill before?!"
Phlatlander and Shweasle hike ahead. When I reach Thunder Hill Shelter, I spot Phlatlander hanging her clothes out to dry on Rhododendron branches.
"Hey!" she says. "There's a Mountain Dew waiting for you!"
"Someone left Mountain Dew in the shelter."
"Someone left figs, too, if you want some. We just opened a pack," Shweasle adds, without looking up from his phone.
"I found the spring," Phlatlander continues. "I got 5 liters of water, so that's 2.5 for each of us."
"Thanks! You're awesome!" I'm again struck by the level of interdependence along the trail.
After examining a rather large blister that looks as though it gave birth to a baby blister underneath, I head over to enjoy the Mountain Dew and figs. The three of us study our trail guides, aware of the need to resupply soon. Just a day's walk away is a campground; we plan to head there the next day.