My Second Week
My second week on the trail really solidified my reasons for being out here. I woke up on two days on two separate mountain tops, I started to really get out of my shell with new friends, and I definitely found it easier each day to hike faster and farther. I had my first nearo, my first hostel stay, and my first double-digit mileage day. I spent more time hanging out in a few shelters, survived a bunch of rain, and I now have a trekking pole strap tan. In short, I really feel like I’m thru-hiking.
How The Trail Has Changed Me
I’m a sunrise girl now. To be fair, any time I have lived outside or in a vehicle I have been a sunrise person, but it is nice to be back at it. There is nothing in the world like letting our tiny planet’s daily rotations set my sleep schedule. There are also a few things that inspire me to embrace the day like a gorgeous sunrise drawing me out of my tent. My favorite thus far has been at Blue Mountain Shelter.
At the other end of the day, the sunsets cure all that ails me. Every evening, I cook dinner and then put some water in the mostly-empty pot and swirl it around to clean it. And every evening, I have to hype myself up to swallow that down. Who doesn’t love an extremely watered-down version of the meal they just ate? But I have found that while the sunset is there, reminding me to wrap up my day and head to bed, it makes it easier to just chug it. The beautiful sunsets I have caught out here have also erased the troubles of the day, letting me go to bed ready to face the challenges of the next day.
And finally, on the rare night where I’m still awake as the stars are coming out, I’m reminded that my trip is following the moon cycles. Unintentionally, I started very close to the new moon, and as each day goes past, I watch as the moon gets fuller and stronger, waiting for its chance to shine brightly, as I too am going through a similar journey.
Trail Highlights Thus Far
While the Appalachian Trail gives you a chance to embrace these daily cycles, you could probably do some of it from home as well, so I’m glad I have also been able to experience some wonderful trail-specific moments.
My First Hostel Stay
For instance, there is nothing like waking up on a Shower Day, and on those days, the only thing lighter than my heart is my pack, since, if I did everything correctly, there is hardly any food or water left in it. I feel as if I’m racing to the nearest road crossing, but it isn’t strained in the same way as racing the rain clouds or the setting sun.
My first hostel stay was at Hostel Around the Bend at about mile 69. It was the first time that I squished into a van with fifteen-ish other hikers to head to the grocery store. (But first, to get drinks and a hot meal.) It was the first time I had time to run through some less pressing backpacking questions I had like, “Why am I still so cold, even though I have a 30-degree quilt, a 15-degree sleeping bag, and a sleeping bag liner?” I brought that up after I had to dig my quilt out at 4 PM because I was already too cold to sit outside with everyone. Turns out, I need to sleep in a lot fewer clothes, which is actually great because my puffy jacket really takes my stuff sack pillow to the next level.
It was also the first time I laughed myself to sleep because there is nothing more ridiculous than listening to the cacophony of a room full of snoring men.
My First Bit of Bad Weather
This one won’t seem as exciting, but two of my favorite days so far have been because of annoying weather. Coming out of the hostel, there were thunderstorms expected in the afternoon. I really really didn’t want to be anywhere but in a shelter for that, so I had to make a choice between a short hike to the nearest shelter or my longest AT mileage day to the next shelter.
Shelter Hangouts to Pass the Time
I had already decided that it was time to start pushing myself more, so why not try to have my biggest day before the rain? It worked out perfectly, I rolled into Muskrat Creek Shelter with just enough time to set up my tent, collect enough things to keep me fed and entertained as the rain came through, and head to the shelter, with almost the entire campground, to watch the rainfall.
It was a wonderful afternoon. I really felt the community of the trail in a way I had yet to experience. I watched as people continued to hike in, set up their tents in the shelter, and then move them outside to keep the inside dry. (It really solidified my choice to get a freestanding tent.) I read the shelter log and chatted with new people. And when the rain stopped, a fellow camper had a roaring fire going almost immediately.
I haven’t seen a lot of fires on the trail. The general consensus is that we’re all too tired to deal with it, but that day we all stuck our heads out of the shelter, moved to the fire ring, and continued enjoying each other’s presence as we dried our damp clothes.
An Alternative Rain Day
The next day was more of the same, but also entirely different. There was going to be another afternoon rain, one that I hoped to have a roof over my head to ride out. This time though, the rain was expected to go through the night, and the next shelter was just a little too far for what I wanted to do that day. Especially since I woke up “late” at seven a.m.
So instead of having an afternoon in a shelter with new friends, I had an afternoon, evening, and night, entirely alone in my tent. Some friends had tents set up near mine, and I could hear them talking, but the constant patter of rain made it almost impossible to understand what they were saying.
So instead, I climbed into my three sleeping bags and read a book. And then watched some shows that I had downloaded. There also wasn’t served in the gap, so I was really grateful for past Ashley for anticipating my entertainment needs. The rain kept up through the night, and I woke up thinking I was on a water bed. Poking the floor of my tent sent water flowing all around me, but none seeped in, so I was as content as I could be.
The rain changed the trail too. Every morning after a rain, there are streams that weren’t there the day before, there seems to be so much more green, and you can be very relaxed about refilling your drink because there is water everywhere.
The First 100 Miles
I finished up the week by summiting Albert Mountain and strolling into Franklin. Albert Mountain was particularly great because it felt like the first climb that really truly rewarded me with a view.
It was the first fire tower on the trail, and it absolutely took my breath away. When I woke up that morning, it was pouring, and I wanted to stop early because of it. It was also really easy to make the excuse that with the clouds I wouldn’t be able to see anything from the peak. But as I continued onward, the skies cleared up, my spirits lifted, and I was certainly rewarded.
It felt like the perfect end to my second week, my first 100 miles, and it left my heart feeling light as I strolled into my first zero the next morning.
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