Rain, Rain, Go Away. Come Again Once I’m Through Maine.
I would have gone crazy if I was on Noah’s ark, because I was a wreck from five days of rain, let alone 40 days and 40 nights of rain. During this leg of my trip I experienced my first extended rainy weather and it was less than enjoyable.
On one particularly rainy day Milkeye, Handstand, and I ran into trail magic. A man gave us pizza, soda, and snacks. He also offered up a room in his apartment to my friends but unfortunately he didn’t have enough room for all three of us. So I ventured back into the rain for another six miles.
I arrived at the shelter as wet as a drowned rat and despite my typical preference I wanted to stay in the shelter, not my tent. Luckily, on the AT there is a group mentality that there is always room in the shelter for one more hiker in the rain, so the other hikers moved over and made room for me.
In the morning I slipped my wet and cold clothes back on and ventured out into the storm again. I made a rainy and viewless ascent of Roan Mountain and lamented over being at least nine miles behind my friends. But, by the time I got to the shelter (which was a really cool converted barn), the sun started to peek through the clouds and I recognized the one group of hikers: Aladdin, Lt. Dan, Mr. Clean, Zero, and Vermont. I hung out by the fire with them that night and I planned to hike with them for the next couple of days until I caught back up to my friends.
The next day the rain stopped and I had many breathtaking views through the Roan Highlands. Plus, my new hiking companions and I reached the 400-mile mark. It was a turning point for the weather and my mood as the week just kept getting better. I also had the opportunity to hike with a weekend hiker and had a rewarding conversation with him. We talked about hiking the AT, the job market, politics, our families, and the world. It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to get to know people out here. We lack the distraction of technology and are stripped down to the bare necessities of life, which seems to make us more open with each other. We are all in this together.
I caught up to my tramily (Handstand, Milkeye, Pro, and High Life) the next day and we camped down by the river near a side trail into Hampton, Tenn. We decided to walk the three miles into town for McDonald’s. Everyone who knows me knows that I am not really a fast food eater but I had no hesitation scarfing down a 20-piece McNugget, a large fry, a large drink, an Oreo McFlurry, and two apple pies. And then I went to Subway for a six-inch grilled chicken sub. We walked back to camp by the light of the full moon and hung out by a campfire.
Pro, Milkeye, our new friend Ditch, and I took the next day nice and easy. We slept in a little, went to a hostel to enjoy a good lunch, chilled out by a lake, and just hiked together joking around. We hiked 14.9 miles that day but I had so much fun. My tramily is of slightly faster than average speed but we are recognized as a fun, casual group. We are more focused on the experience than just the destination.
That day I got to talking to a hiker named Miles. He is attempting to hike the AT in 100 days. To put that into perspective it took me five weeks to reach the point we were at and it took him three. I have a large amount of respect for him and his way of hiking, but it just isn’t my way. Despite the fact that we hike very differently, he and I got to talking and before he hiked past me he said, “I wanted to say that I hope you get everything you wanted out of this hike but I think you already have.” My eyes welled with tears a bit because it is true. I know that I am right where I belong and I have met the people I was meant to meet. I am happier than I have been in years, possibly in my life. Even in the cold rain I never wanted to quit.
This trail was designed just for me.
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