Aislinn gives an interesting perspective about backpacking solo.
Tag Archives: adventure
If I had kept my eyes lifted and looked straight ahead of me, I would never have become lost. But since the sweltering blaze of a blistering midsummer afternoon in August on the A.T. in Pennsylvania kept my head down — literally — I must have missed the turn.
Time has wilted with my motivation. A long roadwork through a dusty valley seemed at first an easy endeavor. An early start to beat the rising sun, to outrun its zenith, was the intention. Never made it. Lots of “cameling up” kept me alive, but pouring sweat and drenching humidity did their evil best to sap my energy. Despite many stops to rest in what shade I could find, I ended up in a late afternoon slog. The white blazes had directed me through some newly sown fields and alongside a two-lane asphalt road, now redolent with the smell of cooked tar clogging my nostrils.
Over an hour I had stashed my topographic map. Who needed in on flat roads which were well blazed and a route which was obvious?
Parched, I dipped my bandana in a trickle of dirty brown water and situated in on my neck to cool down. My breath was labored in the thick air. I wiped sweat from my brown, the bill of my ball cap soaked through. I noticed another clear turn and ended up on a shady unused railroad grade. I felt a bit more energetic and my pace quickened. Before I realized it I had covered another mile or two at least. But what tipped me off to trouble was the time; by now I should be leaving the valley to climb to a ridgeline where I would descend the other side to a cool, shaded campsite.
I stopped along the graded path and fetched my map. Nothing indicated rail line, used or not. I had decided a compass was unnecessary. My keen sense of direction said I was a fool headed East. I paid attention.
That’s when my newly recaptured attention noticed something else. I looked ahead and turned to look back. No white blazes on tree or stone. I walked ahead five minutes; no blaze. I headed back. No blazes.
I was lost.
Frustration settled in. I had never, ever become lost before. Not in the wilds of Vermont of upper Maine, not in the southern Appalachians. Nowhere. But here, where one would least expect it, it had happened. I had not been paying attention and had become mislocated.
Long story short; by the time I followed the railway grade to a road and hiked another few hours, I rediscovered the Appalachian Trail crossing.
A long, tough, hot climb — already exhausted — I fell into the campsite nearly at sunset and had just enough energy to pitch my tent before a late summer storm deluged me with thunder, lightning, and plenty of warm rain.
Later, after the storm blew itself out, I calculated my day. I should have ended up backpacking only nine miles. I had completed…twenty-two! It was the longest day of backpacking I had ever undertaken. Unintentionally, of course.
Simple lesson learned through misery: always keep your head up! Never assume you won’t require a compass check. And don’t assume that walking such a well-blazed trail as the A.T. means you can’t get lost!
Stubbs offers some fascinating and worthwhile advice on how to increase your chances of enjoying a successful Appalachian Trail backpacking adventure!
Hello readers! My apologies for my total lack of new content lately, especially on trail life. I’ve been tied up in the “real world” trying to get my life back on track after my injury, and I’ve also been in the process of getting back to work. It’s about that time of year when expectant thru hikers and section hikers are about to get the show on the road, and are wrapping up on that last minute planning and preparation. I aim to kick out some more hiking content in the coming weeks, but until then, I’ve put together a wrap up of some of my archived posts that I thought are worth a read if you’re still concerned or confused about things. All of these posts can also be found on “The Trek” blog, which I used to write for.
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In the fall of 1985, after a summer backpacking the Appalachian Trail, I spent extensive time at a donut shop north of Boston. I know, there’s no worse way to sabotage a svelte hiker waistline than keeping company with chocolate croissants and dark roast coffee. But I wasn’t there for an insatiable sugar binge. I was there to write (OK, I did have some coffee).
I was there to copy what I had journaled that summer from one notebook into another. I knew the fuzzing of memory over time would dim the the events of those rare days. The photos I’d taken could never express my feelings, and some entries were so sparse they barely described what happened. To prevent the potential fraying of my recall over time from robbing me of a record of that hiking season, it was vital I transcribe and clarify my brief journal.
First I reviewed the original material and jotted notes on entries which required expansion. I corrected misremembered points. I expounded on moments which had deep meaning. I used a fresh corps of words to conjure a picture which featured adventure and exhaustion, frustration and elation, sadness and loneliness. I penciled in what I felt and thought, all my regrets, misgivings, and moments when endorphins had me feeling I might take wing from the glorious summits I scaled.
I recorded it all: the pain and pleasure, the wrong turns and risks taken. I apprised the me I had then and since become, capturing in a net of ink and paper a person who, though different today, still lives. My journal became a lesson book that still reflects the vibrant risk taker I had become. Each time I read it, I feel I’ve come home. No video, photo, or electronic blog post can take me back to the intimacy, power and precious story of those days like my handwritten journal.
Thus I would admonish you, my friendly reader; though you blog and video and snap the shutter, nothing will make your hiking memory become a valued legacy like taking pen to paper to document the details. Do it soon. Because — over time — you’ll surely forget!
Turn undulating earth abounding green.
Waking land escapes the winter sleep
And the voice of earth unfolds
And calls souls who hear it.
Hands reach for boots, tie laces.
Inventories and gear and maps
Result in pack shouldered and courses set.
A unique comfort,
Welcoming the footfalls that are put there.
Moving into the green,
Folded into forest,
Sanctified by mountains.
I’m still setting out. Just like I did that mid-April afternoon from Springer Mountain in 1985. I still feel the earth beneath my boots, see the leaves fringe the trees, notice the delicate bluets at my feet. The air smells different, like adventure. Expectation hangs in the air. A thread of anxiety born from that excitement fills me with an alertness unlike anything I’ve known. So many hikers have already passed toward Katahdin, and rather than feeling like I’ve missed the herd, I feel like the trail is somehow left to me more than it might have otherwise been. The gloss of so many years has not diminished the memory; it’s just sharpened it. It has magnified it, not distorted it. I’m still there, filling out the trail register and moving ahead into the span of spring, summer and autum days which will draw me to Maine. I just have to close my eyes to get there. And, most of all, it feels like the trail has never ended, because so many blessing have come from that turn in the road of my life. What would have my life been had I not decided to hike to Maine? As I look back today, I can see the unrolled skein of memory and decision which flowed from that first step to what my life has become now. And all is well.