I had the great privilege of hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail with my dad and my brother. I don't see them often since I moved away from Grand Rapids, MI 5 years ago.
Our tale is of a short journey, full of experience and beginning with misadventure. The following account is from my diary of the trip.
Night One. 'Most of what I'm writing is going to be bits and pieces of memory, non-linear thoughts and perceptions along the way.'
'We made it to the campsite late. We had two beautiful moments of watching the sun fade to night. Truly transcendent experiences, sitting atop the world and witnessing the movement of time.
By 8:30 in the evening all light had vanished and it had been some time since we had crossed a campsite. Twenty minutes later we entered woods again, finally stumbling across a campsite already attended by hikers with better sense than us, sleeping the night away.'
'Our job, our second major challenge since we began only 5 hours ago was to pitch three tents, gather all our food, dress, unwind, throw the food up a tree, all in the dark, black of a cloudy night. Hoping not to disturb the hikers around us.'
'What I most wanted to complain about is my wet sleeping bag. Not dripping, but damp, certainly slick with water inside and out.
Why? You may ask? Why is it wet? This takes us all the way back to the beginning of our hike. All the way back to giddy attitudes, hopes of beauty, city dreams in a natural world.
Just west of the North Carolina, Tennessee border we began our Appalachian Trail journey. My father, my brother and myself. A trio of journeymen. And what happened from the moment we stepped on the trail was expected, but not welcome. Rain began to fall.
Murderous clouds moved in over us, thunder howled after us and the constant flash of lightning lit the sky bright for moments then fleeted. Shortly after the rain the hail began falling.
From the moment we began we were soaked.'
'The night was terrible. I did sleep, if for no other reason than exhaustion. Yet, my tent was pitched on an incline, or decline if you prefer. Everything slid all of the time.'
I'm surprised to find that this is all I wrote on the matter. What I write in this next section is what I recall now from the experience.
'I had to strip off all of my clothing. Everything was wet. I needed it to dry by the morning. Even the sleeping bag needed drying. As I sat naked in my tent, almost shivering from the cold I wrote in my journal.
The top half of the sleeping bag was dried and I was able to lay it over my body for some warmth as the bottom half began to dry.
When I was sitting the incline of the hill wasn't noticable. It's when I lay down to sleep that the precipitousness of my situation became known. The tent was slick and my body could barely cling to it. Staying in one position long enough to rest proved difficult.
Curling into a fetal position seemed to help hold my body from slipping, but made sleeping more of a challenge. When the sleeping bag was finally dry enough to slip into I was relieved. Finally I could preserve some warmth through the night and perhaps sleep.
This presented the most difficult challenge yet. The surface of the sleeping was as slick as the surface of the tent. Gravity kept calling and I kept answering. All through the night I was waking and scooching up to the top as everything in the tent begged to fall to the bottom.'