Our Summer Vacation – Night 1
First night on the road I rarely sleep well. Our first night in Damascus, Va. was no exception. Though the accommodations were clean & modern, my wife and I shared a three-quarter size (think “over-sized twin”) bed. I was hemmed in against two walls and my wife. My only avenue of escape during the night was over the metal railing at the end of the bed (risky) or over my sleeping wife (more risky).
We were gonna snuggle whether we liked it or not.
Day 1 ended pleasantly with us meeting our fellow hostel mates, thru-hikers all on the Appalachian Trail. We met Free Bird from Denver (formerly from Albuquerque), Orlando, from Orlando, and Stickum who was pretty quiet and I never found out where he was from. To qualify as a “thru-hiker” one must be in the process of hiking the entire A.T. within 12 months.
Almost all hikers on the A.T. go by “trail names” instead of their real name. While most trail names are assigned by fellow hikers, my brother picked his own. He is Jed Morgensen. That is the name he gave the imaginary cowboy friend he played with when he was a little kid. On the trail, he is typically referred to as “Jed”.
In case you are not familiar with the Appalachian Trail, it extends 2,192 mountainous miles through 14 states. Though Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains boasts the highest elevation on the trail at 6,643 ft, successfully hiking the entire trail is the equivalent of climbing (and descending) Mount Everest 16 times. On average, it takes 165 days to complete the trail. Since towns are infrequent, hikers carry everything they need to survive on their backs. Water is filtered from streams. The world is your toilet because actual toilets, even primitive ones, are spaced about a day’s hike apart. If you are lucky.
One trail guide I read advised hikers to leave all toiletries except toothbrush and toothpaste at home. Their rationale? You’re gonna stink no matter what you do so there is no sense carrying the extra weight.
I hope I am not making this sound so exciting & adventurous that the A.T. is suddenly flooded with an influx of new hikers irresistibly drawn by my romantic description of life on the trail. If past statistics hold up, about 1 in 4 of the 3,024 thru-hikers registered as of June 19, 2018 will complete the trail within 12 months.
There are plenty of highlights along the trail. The views are breathtaking! So, if you go, don’t forget to glance up once in a while from swatting mosquitos, scratching tick bites, and keeping a watchful eye out for bears and rattlesnakes to enjoy the view. If it’s not too foggy. Or raining.
Another bright spot? You can consume approximately 5,500 calories a day and still lose weight!
Incredibly, my brother took a guitar along. No, he doesn’t carry it. He mails it ahead to himself from town-to-town along the trail. It cost’s about $40 each time but we all have things we like to splurge on that make us happy.
And the Post Office can use the money.
As hiker midnight (9 pm) came and went on our first night, the soft sounds of a guitar and my brother’s melodious voice filled the comfortable confines of the Appalachian Train Town Inn.
My brother is having the time of his life. And so is Jed.
It was good to see him again.
I mean “them”.