“We should go down and check it out,” I urged Lisa, who consulting the trail map she carried in a waterproof pouch around her neck (because she’s prepared and cool like that), announced that there was a shelter in the general direction of the campfire smells wafting toward us on the trail.
“What?” Lisa seemed aghast at my suggestion.
“Oh you know what it’s like in those trail shelters,” I enthused. “People gather, swap trail stories, cook up s’mores. There’s whole communities out here,” I continued, drawing heavily and extrapolating freely from readings of Kerouac novels and certain sections of Into the Wild.
“We,” Lisa said firmly, “are not ready for that. I look like I just walked out of a Dick’s showroom. We’re green. They’d kick us out. And besides, we have no stories. What would we say? Oh, by the way, someone lost a pee funnel at mile marker 40?”
“Well,” I countered, “it was pretty funny in the parking lot when I got my shirt stuck in my pack and laid there in the back of your car like an over-turned turtle.”
“Let’s keep walking,” Lisa said.
So we trudged along for awhile, our dogs angling for alpha position while we skirted bear poop, dodged misty raindrops, and conquered steep terrain, all while lugging an extra 30 some pounds on our backs.
Things continued on in this way for some time, particularly the uphill grade. And did I mention the
As the miles racked up, I wondered when the worthy trail stories would begin to surface. Would we see an actual bear? Evidence indicated that the place was crawling with them. Would we get lost? Have trouble with the dogs? Or would the trudging simply become the tale, the story of our strength and perseverance against the elements? And while we’re on the subject of miles, I would be remiss not to mention that trail miles are not the same as suburban miles, or even miles on woodsy walking paths. We openly scoffed at the 5 miles Lisa’s trail map indicated for our Day 1 travels. “Why, I can knock that out in an hour and a half,” I thought, maybe two, considering the backpacks and dogs. The reality? At least on our section of trail, a mile an hour is pretty much standard.
So it was well nigh dinner time when Lisa and I crested the final summit into a camp Lisa’s map called “rustic,” but immediately gave the impression of delivering more than promised when a friendly ranger saw us and fell into step with our weary party, giving us “the lay of the land,” as we ambled in through the mist. Dinner itself was a damp affair, although buoyed by a break in the drizzle and my ability to heat soup with my amazingly efficient backpacking stove.
I then took the opportunity to set up my tent for the first time. Yes, I understand this was a big faux pas, but I originally did things correctly and it went bad. By correctly I mean procuring a tent and doing a practice set up in the yard a week ahead of the trip. By bad I mean, the tent arrived in an enormous disk that not only failed to fit in my backpack, it took the combined efforts of my husband, son, and 20 minutes to get it to conform back to the too-large disk after assembly. A definite no-go.
The new tent arrived in the heat of pre-trip backing and was taken along on good faith by virtue of it fitting in the pack. Assembled on-site it looked, as my former roommate suggested via facebook, like it could have been half a tent. But the artist in me was quick to see the resemblance to the global icon that is the Sydney Opera House. So I christened it a miniature version of the architectural wonder and just went with it.
As the form of my accommodations was therefore fixed in my mind, I simply threw the rain fly over the whole thing and called it good; later, when mishap dictated a closer review of my instructions, I discovered that the rain fly was intended to fill out the form through organized staking, thus creating the illusion of a full tent. But what fun is that when you can claim to have slept in a mini-Sydney Opera House on the AT?
We turned in early, and by early I mean before you likely had dinner that evening, which would prove to have been our only option anyway when the skies opened and rained upon us all night long. This detail further bolsters my version of tent assembly as Audrey and I remained dry all night long.
As wonderful as all this really was, it still felt a bit as though nothing adventurous had truly happened, as though we just took a long walk, got tired, and called it a day. Not a nail biter as far as trail stories go.
We woke to a misty morning and planned our approach to the trail, eliminating a loop that would require a night in the back country, and would take us straight to the end point camp ground and parking lot where I had left my car, thanks to Lisa’s genius of taking two cars and leaving one at the trail head and one at the endpoint. Mine was unanimously voted as the end point car due to an unfortunate incident on the way to the trail when Audrey refused to use the rest area facilities and relieved herself all over the front seat of my van. As no one wanted to travel back to the trail head in my car, it remained at the end of the line.
Even in its defiled state, I was buoyed by the prospect of having my car back to serve as a “home base.” There were, however, nine treacherous miles and a threat of severe rain between us and the vehicle we would need as a getaway car a mere 36 hours in our future, when events would require us to go on the lam.
(follow Lisa's version of events on her blog)