Finally! Let the Trial Begin!!
Appalachian Trail hike…negative one days.
After years of preparation and not so great patience I find myself sitting in the passenger seat of my Uncle Timothy’s truck on our way to get my first AT hike under my boots. It is about 6:30pm…we should have already arrived at our destination but the traffic of Charlotte, North Carolina disagrees. At 8:30pm we arrived at Timothy’s dads in Troutdale, Virginia. Bob made us a delicious pot roast with corn bread (it was very dry) and Tim’s favorite, berries and milk for desert. After stuffing our faces it was time to get down to business. With my somewhat unbelievable 17LB pack weight (I’m not bragging…okay maybe a little) Timothy was worried I had forgotten something so we emptied out our packs to evaluate. After checking off main essentials, which was food for five days, a sleeping bag, my oven and gas, my hammock, clothes and bathroom junk we felt confident that I had everything. Timothy suggested I should add some candy bars to munch on along the way and that I should bring a watch next time I hike. Thankfully he has one we are bringing. After a few good chats and laughs we headed to bed.
Morning came and instead of waking up at our 8am planned time we were both ready and out the door by 7:30am. We headed for our last good meal of the week at a small convenience store/restaurant. We were served toast, eggs and bacon by the very…very energetic Sarah. She certainly knew how to keep a conversation going. As sweet as she was I was barely keeping up. Sarah spoke tales of her speedy 47min five mile run straight into her dog attacking her chickens and then managing to get flogged by her rooster. I quietly munched on my food and enjoyed the entertainment. After breakfast we headed to the store to pick up candy bars and my much needed ear plugs. My main reason for this is that I know how paranoid I get sleeping in the woods and silence is better than waking to every possible twig breaking in the deep, dark forest. We made it to the trail head in Pearisburg, Virginia in no time. A nice two hour drive and we were there by 11. There is a small but free parking lot on the right side of Narrows’s road where the trail head is. Timothy took my first and very eager photos of me before we headed off on the trail. I was stoked.
We hiked maybe a few hundred yards on the cemetery trail and took a few photos. It is a very small and slightly creepy cemetery, I am almost positive that one of the cement coffins was sticking out of the ground and open.
We set off northbound on the trail, this leads to a road and a short walk through civilization. At this point in time my pack felt feather light although I was adjusting my straps for the first few miles until I finally got the positioning just right. Our destination for the day was Ricefeild shelter, and “easy” 7.2 miles. This part of the trail is new, once you leave the road and head into the woods. It seems they cleared the trail out with a small bulldozer. It was easy to walk through but it did take away a bit of the natural feel. Not very long into our hike and we had already seen our share of rain, wildlife, some deer, birds, an orange salamander and a nice religious boy. After a short debate on religion and science Ben told us the shelter was “alright, it will at least keep you dry” and also that it was “right around the corner.” That day I learned a valuable lesson, don’t trust ANYTHING hikers tell you!!!! Alright not everything but be wary.
As a matter of fact the shelter was not right around the corner…it was still a few miles away (time wise we already knew we still had a ways to go before the shelter came up but still…being told right around the corner really messes with you mentally.) So my advice to everyone, if you are passing fellow hikers don’t tell them how far the shelter is unless its within 500 yards or they ask.
The shelter was also not nearly as crummy as our friend Ben made it sound, it was amazing! A nice, clean shelter with an amazing view. It sat right on top of the mountain and it opened up into a field where you could watch the sunset. So don’t take everything hikers say to heart. The water source though we never did find. Rumors of it being behind the privy a few hundred yards but we never found it.
(Amazing view and shelter…unless you ask Ben.)
With the lack of dry firewood around the shelter I resorted to tying a rock to some extra rope I had and tugged down dead limbs. It worked great, just make sure you steer clear when the rock swings around the branch back towards you. We were happy that we had the shelter to ourselves, I don’t mind socializing or silence on the trail but Tim is all into the silence and getting away from people. I pigged out on some trail mix I made and napped for a bit, sleep and I have a very healthy relationship.
We hung out and I set up my hammock inside the shelter since no one else was arriving, Timothy decided he would stay on the ground for the night. Eventually dinner time came around and this is where lesson number two came for me. ALWAYS test your gear before you leave…makes complete sense. I figured that since my stove and gas were brand new there wouldn’t be any issues so I never did test them out. I know, a rookie mistake. As I screwed my oven onto the gas container I realized that the oven wouldn’t screw down far enough to let the gas out. I removed the O ring and tried again, hoping this would be enough space but it still didn’t work. After a few failed attempts I resorted to violently shaking my gas container and oven, strangely enough it worked. After a breath of relief we ate our Ramen noodles and hung out by the fire roasting our socks dry from the quick downpour earlier. Around 8pm or so Tim’s silent trail experience was gone when the interesting “Freeholays” literally skipped up to the shelter. He then proceeded to frolic around and hop over the fence to get a look at the shelter view. He seemed a little, just a little odd at first but after socializing for a bit I decided he was alright. He decided to pitch his tent out on the field so we still managed to have a silent shelter.
After a while we headed to hell…I mean bed. I can assure you that I got about 30minutes of sleep total for that entire night. I was freezing, let this be a lesson to hikers, always plan for 15 degrees cooler than you think it will be. I may be from Florida but I have camped out many nights in the mountains. I had pants, a three quarter sleeved shirt and very cozy socks for sleeping and none of it helped. There was an unusual cold front that night. The wind was blowing mercilessly right into the shelter.
This is going to be one fantastic ordeal.
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