One Month Solo on the Appalachian Trail
I hike out from Daleville after hitting the local outfitter to switch out my bear canister and 2-person tent for a bear bag and 1-person tent. Each shelter and campsite I pass overflows with hikers. Two of them stop me.
"Are you Phoenix?"
"Your friends are going to camp somewhere near Tinker Cliffs."
I thank them for the news and hurry on. Finally, at the next shelter, I run into Phlatlander and Shweasle about to leave.
"Why Tinker Cliffs?" I ask.
"Because watching the sun set is going to be AWESOME!" Shweasle replies.
We make camp some distance from Tinker Cliffs. I walk to an overlook, soaking in the vast expanse of land, the undulating valleys and ridges forever extending into the distance, before my eyes. The sun edges ever closer to the horizon, its fading light caressing the distant ridgelines.
Presently, Phlatlander and Shweasle join me. I pull out apples and cinnamon from my food bag. Shweasle produces a few packs of caramel, and Phlatlander places a couple bags of strawberry daiquiris on a nearby slab of rock. As Phlatlander boils water, I begin to cut the apples with my pocketknife. We place the apples into her pot, coat each slice with caramel, and sprinkle in some cinnamon. The smell of cinnamon fills the air.
As dusk falls, we pass around the pot of caramel apples. So delicious.
After dinner, we stretch out on our backs and watch as one by one, the stars emerge. Shweasle points out various constellations: the Big Dipper, Orion, Orion's Belt.
"The one that looks like a W - that's Cassiopeia," he says. "She was so vain that the gods put her upside-down for the world to see..."
One shooting star streaks across the sky, then another. I close my eyes, cherishing this moment - this fleeting island of perfection in an imperfect world - and make a wish.