AT Day 5 – The Sun!

I sleep marginally better. The hard ground on my hip and shoulder no longer bothers me like it did. The general dampness of everything is now routine. I am moderating my sleeping body temperature better than on day one. I am becoming humble.

Hiker trash

The word “humble” has the ancient roots. It shares etymology with the word “humus”, the rich earth. To be humble means to be “on the ground” or “soil-like”. To be humble is not to revoke your status; it is to act as if status is not an option. You are simply dirt, unpretentious, un-entitled. On good days I accept this. On bad days, I don’t, and anxiety and anger take the place of acceptance. Two things have helped: laughter and crying. Of course, I wouldn’t cry in front of anyone else if I could help it, but I have cried by myself. It’s kind of stupid really. But so is just bursting out in laughter for no reason except that this whole thing is so ridiculous. I must seem like a madman to the casual observer. But these two responses help with the two things that are the hardest about long solo hikes – loneliness and frustration. Anyway, how did I get off on this topic. In short, I feel better every day!

This really is fun


I awaken 10 minutes before my alarm goes, and the first thing that pops into my head is “I have time to do a Duolingo Spanish lesson.” This online game/course/obsession has been needling me for attention in all my online moments ever since I skipped a practice session on the day I started hiking. I actually was looking forward to breaking my practice streak of 200+ consecutive days. (You know, “I will not be ruled over by the demands of some silly program. Who’s in charge here?” etc.) But the pending break in my streak looms over me like a black bear over a food bag. Ugh, my resolve waivers. Would I really be unfaithful to the trail if I let my non-trail commitments occupy my attention? Why am I even using the word unfaithful? Quien me encanta mas?

It’s Mother’s Day. It dawns on me when, through my tent, I hear someone in the shelter say it. I pretend that I remembered it on my own. I send a brief Mother’s Day message to my wife. I will be hiking before she reads it. I hope the kids call her.

One of those “Moms” is sitting up sipping tea in her quilt under the shelter. Her cousin and her cousin’s husband are with her. They spent the night in the shelter and will head out on the trail soon, but not before she finishes her “breakfast in bed”. I suggest to the mom that a better Mother’s Day gift would be the canceling of all the “beer debts” she has accumulated on this hike. (People have sometimes carried her stuff.) Nobody else is going along with that idea.

We love you…but you owe us some beers!

The nature gets strange

People that follow my hiking blog know how I love trailside flowers. I love getting that perfect picture where the flower is the perfect specimen, the lighting is good and the background is not distracting. Today I just want to shoot what I see. Here are two that I like.

Not bound for the wedding bouquet
The best is yet to come

Then things start to get weird. This tree looks like the Merril Lynch bull. Has branding mania reached the AT now. Will companies start competing for shelter naming rights? And how long before Gold Medal start branding flowers (flour…dad joke…sorry).

Get along little doh-ggie

And then there is the rock that became a tree. Or is this some kind of forest doppelgänger caught between states. Keith is trying to get a closer look. We honestly can’t tell where the rock ends and the tree begins.

Don’t get too close, Keith. Sumpin’ aint right there

So all this weirdness has me looking around at everything. And then I see my first bear! It has climbed up this big tree and is just hanging on while we walk below.

Hang on, little bear!

OK, it’s not a bear. But for a few seconds I thought it was, and I think that you might have thought the same thing! Hiking sure is fun this morning.

The sun, the sun!

And then, just after lunch, we get our first real-deal AT view. The fog has cleared, the sun emerges and we see a mountain across a valley. We jump up and down. We cherish the moment. For the first time since our hike began, I have an actual shadow.

PCT hikers, avert your eyes. This is a view on the AT!
My usual companion is back

The dappled sun in the afternoon is wonderful. We hike at a good pace, enjoying our “work”. More trail beauties command my attention. The flower below looks sort of like an orchid or a silk bag. It is the only one like it I have seen. After that, my attention goes to some tiny leaves. The leaves are not unusual but their coloring sure is.

This actually might be a Lady Slipper
Getting a jump on autumn?

Blue Mountain shelter

There is one forlorn hiker in the Blue Mountain shelter when we arrive. His adjustment to the hiking life has been difficult and he is unsure what to do next. His wife is unhappy with him. She feels he is being selfish. She feels abandoned. But soon other hikers arrive, and the change in conversation puts everyone at ease. Friends we have made over the last few days fill the campsite. Everyone makes dinner and the hiss of propane stoves boiling water is our back-country white-noise generator smoothing out the spaces between conversations, linking our common destinies.

Not staying in the shelter is in vogue here

We joke about bears and food and gear. By 9pm, the twenty souls on this hill fall silent. The only sounds are occasional. An aluminum cook set rattles. A zipper closes. An air mattress groans. And this writer puts his blog away, adjusts his quilt and closes his eyes. Town tomorrow. Sweet dreams.

  • May 8
  • Miles hiked today: 12
  • Total AT miles: 50
  • Animals of note: “shadow” bear, scarlet tanager (no lie!)

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Comments 4

  • Smitty : Jun 10th

    Posting everyday, unique pics, very nice. You said shakedown hike why do I think your going for Harper’s ferry? Did I smoke too much again?

  • David Groce : Jun 10th

    Thank you, David, for your commitment to writing, and for posting your experiences and impressions on this site. I receive a small thrill each time I find a notice in my email inbox that you have created a new post. When you’re tired, distracted, and feeling uninspired to make the commitment, please remember those of us who are not on the trail and who are waiting to hear from you again.

    • David Somers : Jun 10th

      Thanks, David. Writing is important to me. I’m glad you are enjoying it.

  • Moss : Jun 14th

    Beautifully written!


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