Five Days Gone

I’m sitting at a desk in the Hostel of Neel Gap, at the end of another long day of hiking along The Appalachian Trail. It’s a cozy and crowded little cabin, filled with bunk beds, a shower, a washing machine and dryer, board games, and even a TV with a plethora of VHS options to choose from. These are luxuries you don’t take for granted after struggling to fall asleep at night in your tent. It’s day five, and I’m still coming to terms with leaving everything I love at home to be out here, backpacking through the wilderness.

The hiking is tough. I’m carrying a 55 pound pack, and I cherish every moment I get to take it off to fill up on water or food. For reference, the average pack is about 30 to 35 pounds, and I even met a guy who is carrying a 19 pound pack. How the hell is mine so heavy? I thought upon weighing it for the first time. I’m carrying some accessories, like a tablet for blogging and some stimulating reading material, but many other items feel essential; food, clothes, a med kit, toothbrush. I’m considering doing a “shakedown” here at Neel gap, where the employees at the resupply shop next door will search every corner of my pack for items I could do without.

I procured the trail name “Romeo” given to me by my hiking partner Rich, who goes by “Muffin Man” along the trail. He found it fitting for me, noticing how much time I spend trying to contact my girlfriend from the mountains, an effort that is usually taken in vain due to the spotty reception T Mobile provides. I can’t help but hopelessly miss her, constantly wondering how she’s doing and how well she’ll get along without me for the next 6 months. With every mountain top view I witness in solace, I wish she were here to experience it with me. And when I’m tossing and turning in my sleeping bag at night, I think of how much nicer I’d feel cuddled up next to her in a comfy bed with pillows and stuffed animals.

Even though hiking from mountain top to mountain top with a 55 pound pack is laboriously difficult, especially with one blister for every toe and heel I call mine, it doesn’t compare to the restless nights in my tent. I find myself shivering as I hear gusts of wind blowing against me. I’m constantly changing positions in feeble attempts to get comfortable, missing her arms around me as I cling to my sleeping bag for warmth. I go through several cycles of nightmares, waking up at least several times a night, sometimes even to the sound of my own farts. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. In retrospect, I’m laughing.

The mornings are difficult as well, knowing they’re marked with a list of chores like taking apart my tent and packing up everything I unpacked the night before. It wouldn’t be as bad if it wasn’t so damn cold. Experiencing the elements are a part of living out here, and Mother Nature doesn’t care if your teeth are chattering when you wake up.

I had many romantic notions about walking the trail, like waking up to watch the sun rise and getting lost in a spiritually fulfilling landscape view. But many of those romantic notions started disappearing once I found myself digging a dirt hole just to take a shit in it. Though my back hurts and my feet are ripe with blisters, but I will press on. No matter what physical or mental turmoil this cold wilderness throws my way, I will conquer it and continue walking north. This long and arduous journey has just begun.

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Comments 9

  • Aron : Mar 23rd

    Oh, how cool! Five days later yet were not in vain! This then can be remembered for a long time

  • mark bavaria : Mar 23rd

    Hi Dylan,

    We’re thinking of you and your experiences that you’re enduring.

    Love you,

    Uncle Mark & Aunt Kelly

  • David Maltby : Mar 23rd

    Hope you got the Mountain Crossings shakedown. Cutting your weight will help you a lot. Lose the expresso machine;-)

    Nothing can help with missing your girlfriend, hey but at least you have a girlfriend. Think of the lonely shlub in the next tent that is cold and sore and has no girlfriend that cares about him.

    Thru-hiking is hard work, really hard work. Cut your miles for a little while and sleep in the shelters (cutting your miles will get you to a shelter earlier in the day so you’ll get a spot) so start-up chores are less. Don’t forget that you cannot hike faster than the coming of summer, so it will get warmer. Being cold is not fun, I was just section hiking this week around Hot Springs and there was nothing hot about it. We had 3-inches of snow on Max Patch.

    Hang in there. Share your misery, but more important, help the more miserable around you. You’ll feel better when you have lifted someone up.

  • Sherry Dorsey : Mar 24th

    Hey Dylan, Heard you on 98. You sounded great. Keep up the travels. I love reading your blog. Can’t wait to read the next installment. Love ya. Sherry

  • Michele : Mar 24th

    Great writing! So proud of you! Really cool thing you are doing! Can’t wait to read more!more! More!

  • Susie Forkner : Mar 27th

    Say hello to a texas hippie off you see him. Should be about the same place you are. It’s hard to be apart from the one you love. But what yall are doing is amazing. Happy hiking.

  • malcom johnson : Mar 27th

    man dylan you are a great writer im very surprised i stopped my usual facebook scrolling to read this but im glad i did.

  • Lion Heart : Mar 27th

    Romeo, thanks for sharing your heart! Keep it coming! Sending power your way! Hugz, Lion Heart

  • Scout Troop : Jun 10th

    Our Girl Scout troop met Muffin Man , Tarzan, & Argyle Writer in Shenandoah National Park at Bearfence Mt. Trying to find contact info for them. Please say hi if you see them! Good luck! Safe travels!


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