Week 21 – Buena Vista to Daleville, VA
A lot has changed since last week. We have lost two key members of our trail family; Ratatouille and Flicker! Now, Legolas, Skooch, First Aid and Charlie Bear, and myself will continue our journey. But by Daleville, VA, they will all be gone as well. For now, I enjoy my remaining days with my last trail family as we make our way to Georgia!
Day 141 (10am – 3:36pm, 17.2 miles 30 degrees)
We made arrangements with Marcia, from the Three Springs Hostel, to drop us off and pick us up from the trail today. We get to slackpack again! Ratatouille and Flicker opted to stay behind, so Skooch, Legolas, First Aid and Charlie Bear, and I got our slackpacking gear together and were ready to roll.
We would be returning to the same motel later today, so we were able to leave our gear in our hotel rooms. Off we went! We arrived at the trailhead, a brisk but sunny morning, piled out of the car, placed our light packs on our backs and were one by one off down the trail. As we made our first small climb, I quickly realized this was one of the sections that had burnt earlier this year. The ground was still charred even though life emerged from the ashes.
Shortly after, we arrived at an enormous overlook. The views were stunning! I stopped to take a picture as the rest of the crew continued up the mountain. Guess I’ll be playing catch up for the rest of today!
The trail wound and then dropped down a steep mountain. As I made my way through the thickening forest, a loud clap and boom thundered overhead. Two F18 Fighter Jets had just boomed over head! A few minutes later, they buzzed the trees once more. Wow! They’re flying really close to the ground. How odd it was to be walking through the woods and hear the boom of a fighter jet overhead!
With my pack as light as could be, I pranced down the trail, quickly catching Legolas, then Skooch. Up and down we went, making our way through the woods, until a steep downhill was before us.
Skooch was accustomed to running down the hills, and I had been known to do that in the past as well. So one by one, with Skooch leading the way, we jogged, and then ran, down the hill. With each and every step, the Lord of the Rings theme song played in my head as I pictured Aragon, Legolas, and Gimli running across the planes and mountain tops, trying to catch Pippin and Merry with the Uruk-hai. All I could think of was, ‘Don’t trip and fall like Gimli! Don’t trip and fall like Gimli!’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eY9PLAdU_I)
Luckily, I didn’t! I survived the downhill run! No tucking and rolling necessary! As the mountains rose once more before us, we slowed our pace to a more appropriate climbing speed, and we made our way across the 800 mile mark! Only 800 miles of our journey left to go! I can’t believe it!
Up and up we climbed, nearing our destination. Marcia would be returning to pick us up once again, and we only had minutes to spare. Skooch, Legolas, and I decided we’d run one last time, enjoying the freedom our packs allowed us. As we jogged down the hill, we sped past First Aid and Charlie Bear. They quickly joined us in our little jog. One last hill and we’re there! I broke into a full sprint and made it first up the hill. The others quickly joined me as we all shared a few moments of huffing and puffing, mixed with extreme laughter. Shortly after, Marcia arrived at the Punch Bowl Overlook to take us back to our motel.
What a great day! I had a blast with the remainder of my trail family and got to log some more miles. Tomorrow, we sadly part ways with Ratatouille and Flicker and we’ll continue along our way, a little smaller, but still going strong. Tonight, we’ll have one last meal together and sleep comfortably in our nice warm beds.
Day 142 (9:53am – 5:26pm, 18.6 miles, 30 degrees)
Today, I say goodbye to my trailmate, and trail sister, Ratatouille. I will also be saying goodbye to a longtime trail family member, Flicker. Last night, Ratatouille’s friend, Jackie, arrived. She will be dropping us off at the trail head today, then driving Ratatouille and Flicker back to her area to hang out and catch some flights home.
As we all gathered our belongings, it felt surreal to be parting ways with Ratatouille. I went through my normal routine of getting my gear together, as I watched her pack her belongings. But it was different this time. She was not packing to join me on the trail. She was packing to go home.
Once we were all ready to go, it was finally time to say goodbye. Everyone hugged goodbye to Flicker and Ratatouille. Ratatouille and I decided to take one last picture together with the mountains in the distance.
We embraced goodbye one last time, and with that, the trail family split up. Skooch, Legolas, First Aid and Charlie Bear, and I all clambered into Jackie’s car. Off we went to head to the trail head, as Ratatouille and Flicker waved goodbye in the distance. I can’t believe after all this distance and time, that I am alone. Yes, I have the others, for now. But even though trail families come and go, you forever remain family, staying in touch however you can. But sometime in the next few days, Skooch will complete her thru hike. Then Legolas will get off trail in Daleville, followed quickly by First Aid and Charlie Bear getting off in Catawba. I will be completely solo after that!
Since I have learned about this upcoming inevitability, I have reached out to the other SOBOs I know on the trail. The closest two were either 100 miles behind me, or 100 miles ahead of me. Both were also considering getting off trail. I was faced with the fact that I may be COMPLETELY alone for over 100 miles! This is not looking good! But I’ll worry about that later. The trail is calling. I must move on!
As we started our adventure up the mountains, I somehow managed to pull ahead. On and on I went, lost in my thoughts; sad to leave my trailmate, Ratatouille, behind, and concerned and excited to move on solo. As I made my way down the trail, the earth crunching below my feet, I stopped to take a moment to look at the frosted vegetation around me. It was very cold today and would only be getting colder tonight!
The weather to come is not looking any better, either! Soon we will be hiking through temperatures that drop below zero! Even today, the temperatures are low enough that trying to stay warm, without sweating, is a real challenge!
As I continued up the mountain, lost in my thoughts, I approached a small monument that I just and to stop and read. There were a few small trinkets that had clearly fallen off the monument. I picked up the trinkets and placed them carefully back on the monument as I read about the young life that was lost at this spot.
This was where little Ottis, roughly age 5, had perished and was found! What a sad little story! I took a moment of silence for little Ottis and paid my respects as the others crested the mountain. Their laughter and conversation pulled me back into reality as I joined them for a few quick pictures of the beautiful views.
“Guys,” I interjected. “You have to come see this.”
I felt compelled to share with them Ottie’s little monument. One by one the others silently paid their respects to little Ottie as well. Now humbled, and deep in thought, we each made our way down the trail, one by one. Down the winding switchback we went as our paces started to cause us to separate once more. First Aid and Charlie Bear and I took the lead. Skooch and Legolas fell behind. First Aid and I chatted the entire way down the mountain, sharing life stories, and things that interested us. He began to ask me questions about hockey, knowing I was an ice hockey player. I quickly answered his questions and started sharing some of my old hockey stories with him. One story after another, I remembered one play at a time; re-telling my sports history.
Suddenly, First Aid interrupted, “Dori. I can’t talk to you about hockey anymore.”
A little surprised by his comment, as he had seemed to be very interested, I asked him why.
“Because as soon as we started to talk about ice hockey, you took off up the mountain! I just can’t keep up with that pace!”
The two of us started laughing and we took a short break. I had never known that my pace increased significantly when I was talking about something I was passionate about. Now I know!
As the miles passed us by, we had not seen Skooch or Legolas in quite some time. Before we made our descent down the mountain, we stopped to take in yet another beautiful view. Virginia really has been gorgeous so far!
As we traversed the multitude of switchbacks, I galloped ahead of a First Aid and Charlie Bear. Round one turn then the next, I was making some great time. Suddenly, something caught my foot and, WHAM, down I went. I sprawled out right on my face, skidding to a stop like a runner sliding into home plate. I quickly popped up and dusted myself off. No one saw that, I hope! With a quick glance around me, it was clear that First Aid had missed the show. Oh well. I’m sure there’ll be more to come!
We made our way across the James River Foot Bridge before we made our final ascent up to where we planned on camping that night; the Marble Spring Campsite. The sun was getting close to setting and the temperatures were starting to plummet.
As we neared our campsite, the sun barely hung in the sky. Quickly, First Aid and I started to set up our tents. I was shivering as I attempted to hammer my stakes into the ground. I was fine while I was hiking, or when I was nestled in my sleeping bag, but this was just unbearable! My temperature gage in my pack read 18 degrees and I shivered and shook my way through my nightly routine. This was crazy! Finally, I was able to dive into my sleeping bag. I sat in my bag with my phone in my hand.
Through my day today, I had hatched a small plan. Now I needed to see if it would work! I crunched the numbers and sent out a text. Now all I had to do was wait. After a few minutes, they replied to my text. An enormous weight lifted from my shoulders; I had a way out!
As I hiked today, a thought hit me. I wonder if I would be able to return to my per diem PT job for a few months, save up some money, and return in the spring to complete my thru-hike? After crunching the numbers, I would only need to work for 3 days a week to make that work! I sent a quick text to my boss and her quick reply was that, yes, that should be doable! I could get off trail for a few months, make some money, and return in the spring! I’d still be a thru-hiker, I’d no longer be the sole living human being on the trail, I wouldn’t have to miss the 70-90 miles that were shut down due to wild fires, the temperatures would be better (and safer I might add) and I would get to see the trail awakening once more! Sold!
I quickly contacted my dad and made the plans for him to pick me up in Daleville, VA. He was relieved to hear I had come up with a plan. He, two, had been very worried about me being alone in the winter on the trail. With that huge weight lifted from my shoulders, I was able to drift off to sleep. Tomorrow, I’ll share the good news with everyone. Legolas and Skooch were stealth camping somewhere north of us, so the news will have to wait until the am.
Day 143 (9:50am – 5:50pm, 17.1 miles, 20 degrees)
First Aid and I managed to survive the bitter cold night as we started to emerge from our tents. The air was crisp this morning, so I shot Skooch a quick text to see where her and Legolas were. First Aid and I would wait here for them as long as we could.
Today is Skooch’s last day on the trail! She will completing her thru-hike at the intersection of the AT and the Apple Orchard Falls Trail. So, First Aid and I took our time creeping out of our sleeping bags and tents and going through our morning routine. After a while, however, we could delay no longer. It was still too darn cold.
I was the first to make my way out of camp this morning, followed shortly by a First Aid and Charlie Bear. It was not long before those two caught me and we continued along our way together. We stopped at the Thunder Ridge Overlook to enjoy the beautiful view and talk to a local day hiker.
Shortly after our small break, First Aid and I decided to stop for lunch at another sunny overlook. I quickly bundled up and started to eat my lunch. Within a few minutes, Skooch and Legolas joined us. We all chatted for a while and I broke the news to them. Due to the cold, and being alone on the trail, I had decided to temporarily get off trail and resume my thru-hike in March. Skooch was so elated at the news she jumped up, with tears in her eyes, and gave me a huge hug!
“I was so worried you were going to try to push on solo,” she explained. “I’m so happy you found a way to make it work!”
It was an incredibly tough decision for me to make, but we all agreed it was for the best. The trail would still be there when I got back in March.
After I had finished eating my lunch, I started to shiver as the cold slowly made its way through my several layers. I could delay no longer and I readied to hit the trail once more. I told the others they would catch me soon as I threw on my pack and took off down the trail, trying to get my core temperature up.
As I made my way down the trail, I arrived at another iconic point on the AT; the Guillotine!
What an awesome little spot! But I must say it is daunting to walk under that precariously placed rocked! Lucky for me the guillotine did not fall this day!
I decided to take a quick stop at the Thunder Hill Shelter and was quickly joined by the others. We gathered some water and did our best to stay warm. Skooch decided to take a group shot, since this was the last shelter before her completion of the AT. After a quick photo, I took off down the trail once more (it was just way too cold today!).
Shortly after, First Aid and Charlie Bear caught and passed me. Skooch was quick to follow. As she danced past me on the trail, I told her I’d catch her soon and confirmed where her finish was. It was coming up quick! Only a few miles to go!
Alone once again, I made a quick pit stop to take a picture with my critters once more. This very well be my last opportunity to do so before I take a small vacation from the trail!
I did not fall too far behind Skooch, so I picked up the pace, hoping to be there when she finished. Around a few bends I went, jogging down the trail, doing my best to catch up. Within a few minutes, I caught her. We hiked the rest of the way together until she started to fall behind. She was now within 1 mile of the end of her adventure! I can only imagine the various thoughts and emotions she must have been going through at that time.
Suddenly, she flew past me as she made her final sprint. Down the trail she flew, across the road and down to the trail head.
“I have completed my AT thru-hike!” she shouted at the top of her lungs.
A family nearby glanced up at where Skooch stood with her arms in the air staring up at the sky. They clearly did not understand the importance of the event they just witnessed! An AT thru-hiker completing their journey! What a moment! Tears welled in my eyes with excitement and joy for Skooch’s epic accomplishment. I finally atrived at her end point, quickly dropped my pack, and gave her a huge hug! Skooch, I am SO proud of you completing your epic journey! I feel blessed to be able to be there when you finished and am honored to be considered a friend! Congratulations on your hug accomplishment!
A few minutes later, Legolas came down the trail and took a moment to celebrate with Skooch. Skooch had someone at the road, with pizza, waiting for her, so she offered Legolas and I a bite. I thanked her for her generosity, but declined. I still had 7 more miles to get to the shelter, and night was beginning to draw near. I congratulated Skooch one more time, made sure she would keep in touch, then continued on my way.
The remainder of my journey that day was gorgeous! I had a lot to think about as I made my way through the moss covered rocks, frozen water falls, and open pines. What would my finish be like? It’s so far away! Am I going to make it there? Am I making the right choice getting off the trail temporarily?
All of these thoughts raced through my head as I raced towards the shelter. Once I was within a few miles, the sun dropped below the horizon. I was too late. I had to get out my headlamp to make the rest of my trip. I put on my headlamp and slowly made my way along the trail. But I wasn’t seeing much better with my headlamp on! What was the problem?
I slowly but surely made my way to the Bryant Ridge Shelter as finally, it emerged before me. I crossed the small stream but saw no signs of First Aid or Charlie Bear. Where could they be? I placed my pack down on the beautiful shelter and suddenly heard movement above me. First Aid and Charlie Bear had made it up the ladder and were in his tent in the loft!
“How on earth did you get Charlie Bear up there?” I asked First Aid.
“I carried him,” he answered simply with a smile on his face.
I laughed and began to unpack my gear. I, too, decided to sleep in the loft, so I dragged the gear I needed with me up the ladder, leaving my food and scented products behind on the first layer.
I got myself set up and started to cook dinner. Still no sign of Legolas. I hope she makes her way here ok. It was a little tricky to find this shelter in the dark! Eventually, as I was cooking my dinner, I saw a headlamp bobbing down the trail. Legolas had arrived! She, too decided to stay in the loft and quickly set up her tent for extra warmth.
Once we all went through our nightly routines, we snuggled into our sleeping bags and slept warm for the night. In just a few more days, I, too, will be temporarily parting from the trail. Plans were made. My Dad would be meeting me in Daleville, soon, to take me home. For now, I will enjoy my time left on the trail. Tomorrow, I hike again!
Day 144 (11:04am – 5:26pm, 13.7 miles, 45 degrees)
It was a little warmer this morning. We did not have as many miles to cover today, so we all decided to take a slow start this morning. We chatted and laughed as we slowly went through our morning routines. But eventually, Legolas made her way to the trail first, and I followed shortly after her. I was still trying to avoid night hiking if I could.
The previous night, First Aid had helped me figure out why my headlamp was so weak.
“Did you put new batteries in I?,” he asked me.
“I thought so,” I answered a bit bewildered. “I use the rechargeable batteries.”
“That’s your problem! They tend to not work as well. At least in my experience.”
First Aid tossed a couple fresh batteries my way as I quickly swapped them out. Tada!!!! Let there be light! My headlamp shown so bright it almost blinded all of us in the dark. So, now, having a headlamp that worked, I was not as concerned with night hiking. But I still preferred not to if I could help it.
As I made my way, alone once again, down the trail, I danced across a stream and up a small climb. At the top of the climb, I decided a small break was in order. I found a nice log to sit on as I pulled out a few snacks. The log was covered in small mushrooms that created a very interesting pattern. I just had to take a picture!
After my short break, I raced down the mountain, quickly catching up with Legolas. We spent the remainder of our day hiking together. Up one mountain, then the next. The weather was beautiful and the views stunning today! As we made it way up one peak after the next, we could see the shadows from the mountains covering the valleys below. The various hues of greens and browns created gorgeous scenery for our hike!
On we went, chatting along the way. As we neared the Bobblet Shelter, our resting place for the night, the sun started to drop below the horizon once more. We took some quick pictures of the beautiful sunset before we placed our headlamps on and slowly made our way down the trail in the dark.
Even the sun setting through the trees was stunning as the sky shown a bright red/orange. Not too long after night fell, we arrived at the Bobblet Shelter. We quickly set up camp, using the last little bit of remaining light to throw a bear hang, and got to our nightly routines. After we ate our dinner, First Aid and Charlie Bear arrived. He set up his tent and we chatted the remainder of our evening. This was our last night on the trail. Tomorrow, we all head into Daleville, VA. We’ll spend a night together in the hotel before Legolas has to catch her flight home. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to trail life for now, but I’ll be back soon! I enjoyed snuggling into my sleeping bag one last time as I pulled out my phone and started to read my book on my phone.
As I rolled over in my bag, my hand slipped and BAMB, I dropped my phone on my eye socket! Ouch! That was stupid! I continued to read before my eyes grew heavy and sleep took me for the evening. I would do something like that on my last night on the trail. Oh well.
Day 145 (8:14am – 3:30pm, 18.7 miles, 35 degrees)
I woke this morning to an odd screeching sound. Legolas was stirring awake as well, as I tried to identify the sound.
“Do you hear that Dori?” She asked.
“Yea. What is that.”
Legolas was an expert when it came to identifying birds. “That’s a screech owl.”
I had heard great horned owls on the trail, but never a screech owl. How cool! Not such a bad way to start my last day on the trail!
As I started to emerge from my sleeping bag, my eye felt a little puffy. Oh no! I didn’t! I quickly took out my phone, using the camera as a mirror. Yup! I did! A slight tinge of blue/purple hung just below the corner of my right eye. On my last night on the trail, I had given myself a black eye! Fantastic! I would do that!
Legolas was the first out of camp today, and I followed behind her shortly. Before I hit the trail, I chatted with First Aid a little.
“What happened to your eye!” He exclaimed.
“Oh, I dropped my phone on my eye last night and gave myself a black eye.”
“Ouch! You ok?”
“Yea. It’s typical. All the fights I’ve been in ice hockey and I’ve never had a black eye. My last night on the trail, and I give myself a black eye with my phone! 1400 miles of trail completed and it’s my phone that takes me out!”
We shared a heavy laugh for a minute. “You’re dads coming to pick you up in a few days correct?” He asked me.
“If your dad is anything like you, I’m running!” We laughed even harder as I said farewell to First Aid and Charlie Bear and made my way down the trail.
First Aid and Charlie Bear were quick to follow behind me and shortly caught up with me. We spent the majority of the day hiking together, chatting along the way. We crissed and crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway all day, catching the beautiful views as we went.
Up and down the tiny peaks we went. We wound around one peak and walked the side of the ridge to the next peak. The trail was smooth but undulated beneath our feet. With all life around us hibernating for the winter, the trail was easy to spot through the forest.
After a while, First Aid had to attend to nature. “Go ahead. I’ll catch up,” he shouted to me as I continued down the trail. “Charlie Bear may follow you, at least until he realizes I’m not there with him. That’s fine.”
“Ok,” I hollered back. “See you soon!”
Charlie Bear took the lead as the two of us made our way winding around the mountain tops. What a good little leader he was. He never got too far ahead and he kept a great pace.
Turning to check to make sure he wasn’t too far ahead, Charlie Bear stopped and his facial expression changed from complete contention to a look of worry. I could read his mind.
‘Wait! You’re not First Aid,’ I imagined him thinking. ‘Where is he? I better not go any farther or I’m going to be in trouble! I hope he’s ok!’ With that, Charlie Bear laid down facing north on the trail, watching and waiting for First Aid to round the corner.
Recognizing that Charlie Bear would not take another step down the trail until First Aid appeared, I sat next to him and comforted him, petting and scratching him while we patiently waited.
“It’s ok Charlie Bear,” I consoled. “First Aid is fine. He’ll be here soon. It’s ok sweetheart. You’re such a good dog!”
Charlie Bear looked up at me and wagged his tail, a smile spread across his face, then he quickly whipped his head back to the trail, ears up and pointed forward. Waiting.
And waiting. And waiting. Suddenly, his tail started to wag as First Aid came around the corner. Charlie Bear almost couldn’t contain himself. He wagged and wagged and jumped up, running toward First Aid, groaning and chattering, talking to him as First Aid approached.
‘I’m so happy to see you,’ I translated Charlie Bear’s words in my head. ‘You had me worried. Where were you? I was a good dog. I waited for you. I’m so happy you’re back! Don’t leave like that again!’
Reunited once more, off we went, heading for Daleville. As we neared the small city, we could see Pizza Hut through the trees. We were almost there. Finally, we arrived at the Howard Johnson Express. We were more than ready to be out of he cold! Legolas had already arrived and gotten a hotel room for us. We got ourselves settled and showered, then ordered individual pizzas for the evening.
I had been debating what I wanted to do the following day. My father would be arriving sometime tomorrow and had offered to take Legolas to the airport. I was considering continuing on to Catawba with First Aid, but was not sure I could complete the hike before my Dad got there. The weather report was looking bleak for tomorrow as well.
After a long, hard, thought, I decided I would make today my last day on the trail. In March, I would start back up from this exact location. After I told First Aid, he, too, decided to take a zero tomorrow.
So, for the remainder of our evening, we drank, ate, chatted and stayed warm. Once night fell, Legolas and I crawled into one bed while First Aid and Charlie Bear took the other bed. Sometime in the middle of the night, Charlie Bear decided he wanted to sleep with the ladies, so he made his way between the two of us and snuggled in for the night. We snuggled with him the remainder of the night, warm and cozy. What a sweetheart!
Day 146 (time – is up, 0 miles, temperature adjustable)
We woke whenever we felt like this morning and made our way down to the buffet breakfast. It was somewhat nice to not have to worry about what we ate. None of us were going anywhere. We took our time and chatted over coffee and warm food.
After breakfast, I gathered my resupply boxes and organized them for the traverse home. One of the packages was a gift box sent from our old trail family; Gray and Emily! I opened the box and sent a picture to Ratatouille and Gray and Emily. How sweet! There were lots of goodies in the box, none of which would go to waste. I planed on shipping half to Ratatouille for her use and keep half for myself when I returned to the trail in March.
After my bags were all sorted, we spent the afternoon watching movies and hanging out. It was wonderful to spend time with my last trail family. I will really miss these guys!
Early in the afternoon, my Dad arrived. First Aid had decided to get his own room to allow my father and I to have our own beds. So he got the room next to ours. The four of us chatted as my phone went off.
It was Skooch! She was in the area and wanted to see Legolas off at the airport! So we made dinner plans with all five of us and waited for Skooch to arrive. Once she pulled in, it was a great reunion, like we hadn’t sent each other in years! I gave her a big hug and she hugged me back even bigger. She was elated to meet my father, knowing that meant I was getting off the trail as well.
“I am so glad you were able to come and get Dori!” She told my Dad.
“Yea,” my Dad replied. “I just hope she returns to finish the trail.”
Before I could interject, Skooch exclaimed, “Are you kidding me! If anyone is going to finish, it’s going to be this girl right here! We were all worried she was going to push on! We’re thrilled she made the right choice to delay her finish!”
My Dad laughed at Skooch’s retort, proud in his eyes of the determination, and to be honest, bullheadedness, of his daughter.
We decided to take two cars to the airport; my Dad would drive his truck, and Skooch would drive her car. Skooch would be leaving from the airport so First Aid rode with us. Charlie Bear had to stay behind, unfortunately.
Once we arrived at the airport, and Legolas was all checked in and ready for her flight, we shared one last meal together; the last meal of our trail family.
Jokes and stories flew through the air, my Dad getting a taste of what trail life has been for all of us. The bartender laughed along with us as we shared our stories. Eventually, it was time to part ways, but not before we got a few last minute trail family pictures.
We all gave Legolas a big hug goodbye, tears in our eyes, our hearts weighted to the floor. It’s always so hard to say goodbye. But we’ll stay in touch! We are family after all!
We watched Legolas make her way down the ramp, past security. Goodbye for now Legolas. Your Gimli will miss you terribly! But we will meet again!
We waited and watched the plane leave for the runway. Then we hugged Skooch goodbye, with more tears and heavy hearts.
Finally, it was just First Aid, me, and my Dad. We made our way back to our car and drove back to the hotel. We said goodnight, making sure the following morning, no one would leave without saying goodbye. Charlie Bear was in the window, eager to see us when we returned!
With that, we retired for the evening. Wow! This is really happening! I’m getting off trail! I will return to normal life! Can I make it? Can I survive back in the real world? Tears formed in my eyes as I snuggled into my bed. Refusing to cry, I reminded myself, I will return! I will finish the trail! This is only an intermission to my adventure. Act two, the final act, is yet to begin!
Day 147 (time – on hold, 0 miles, temperature no longer matters)
I woke this morning with a strange mix of emotions. I was relieved to not have to hike out in the freezing and miserable weather, but filled with sorrow for not being able to return to the trail for several months. Happy that I could actually spend Christmas and New Years with my loved ones. Thrilled to get to see my cats again and snuggle with them. Elated to finally get to see my life line, my significant other, the man of my dreams, and wake next to him every morning once more. But the dread I felt for leaving the trail, my home, behind me was so great. But I will return! I will complete my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail! This is not over!
I had a somber breakfast at the same buffet, joined by First Aid and my Dad. We chatted lightly over breakfast, but the air was thick with sorrow and delay. First Aid had decided to hike one more day to Catawba before getting off trail. I was packed to hit the road with my Dad after breakfast. We all did our best to keep the tears at bay.
After breakfast, it was time. The road was calling us, and MacAfee Knob was calling First Aid. We said a long and sorrowful farewell to each other and took a quick picture before the last of the trail family had to part ways. But we’ll keep in touch! We are family!
I got in the car and my Dad started the long drive back to New Jersey. From there, I would spend the weekend until my love came to get me and bring me back to Rochester. I would then work for a few months and return again in the end of March, or early April.
We pulled out of the parking lot and turned toward the highway. Off we went, heading North. I stared silently out the window, watching the mountains I had been walking all those months passing us by in the matter of mear hours, fighting back the tears, doing my best to remind myself that I would be back! This was not over. This just closed one chapter of my AT journey. The next chapter I had yet to write. And I looked forward to that chapter! I cannot wait to see what it has in store for me when I return!
I guarantee there will be more adventures! More trials and tribulations of Dori on her thru-hike of the AT. This is not over! Act two has yet to begin! When the lights flicker, please return to your seats for the continuation of my thru-hike! I will return! I will complete my journey on the AT!
To be continued . . .
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