Rule #32: Enjoy the Little Things.

The movie Zombieland provides a very useful list of rules to help one survive a zombie apocalypse. These rules also seem to apply to surviving the Appalachian Trail. After getting second-degree burns in sub-freezing weather, I can attest that “a little sunscreen never hurt anybody.”  After seeing another hiker’s photo of a snake inside a privy, I’d say that “beware of bathrooms” is applicable as well. My 30-function “Swiss Army Knife” is the best thing I brought with me, but ultimately the most important zombie/AT rule is


Of course, there are many big things to enjoy on the AT: Spectacular views…


I take a lot of panoramas. This one is from Sinking Creek Ridge.

Close encounters with wildlife…


Like this white-tailed deer! (I still haven’t seen a black bear)

The mindblowing realization of how far I have already walked…

distance 01

I would walk 1,000 miles and I would walk 1,000 more…

distance 02

The ATC headquarters in Harper’s Ferry is the ceremonial halfway point, although a bit short of the actual midpoint.


But I set out on the AT, in part, so that I would live simply and better appreciate things I once took for granted.  Each day, there is some little thing that I am grateful for:

A delicious, stove-less meal…


Tortilla, cheese, pepperoni, bell pepper, and habanero salsa.

The first signs of spring on the top of a ridgeline…

flowers ridge

Despite my 30-pound pack and angry knees, I jumped for joy.

Claritin and Advil that double as poker chips…


It isn’t what it looks like; I promise.

Trail Magic on Easter…

Didn't even have to hunt around in the grass for these little guys.

Pure, clear, mountain spring water…


(I didn’t actually drink this water, but it was more picturesque than the springs I usually drink from).

The list goes on and on.

A week ago, I found myself taking a break at a lower elevation, amidst an abundance of vegetation and a medley of birdsongs.  I suddenly recalled Aaron Copeland’s orchestral suite Appalachian Spring, so I pulled out my phone and listened to it.  I felt as if that song, composed seventy years ago, was written just for that moment.

In the seventh movement, Copeland borrows a melody from the Shaker folk song “Simple Gifts.”  I don’t know the original meaning of that phrase, but to me, “simple gifts” are “the little things.”  They are the things I appreciate now that I never noticed before, along with the things I am experiencing for the first time.  Somewhere in between the life of an Appalachian pioneer and that of a zombie apocalypse survivor, I can relate to the folk song and to the list of rules as I increasingly appreciate the little things: the simple gifts.


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