Appalachian Trail Mile ~ 958.0

Sunday, July 9, 2017 (Day 67)

When morning came, I acted as though nothing had happened.

The hiker I shared the room with had plans to do laundry. I planned on going to the Sprint store (though I’m not sure what I thought would come of that) and then the outfitter to buy fuel for my stove. The outfitter did not open until 1 pm. We walked together until saying goodbye when reaching the laundry mat.

I am at the corner of S Bank and W Main St. The Sprint store was closed. I sit on a curb and sip 7 Eleven coffee. I was going to hitch to Wal-Mart, where fuel was half the price, but it was not proving easy, and it was further from the trail. It is noon. The outfitter opens in an hour. There is a used book store across the street. Should I just spend an hour there and then go to the outfitters after? If I do that there is a good chance that I would run in to the hiker that I shared the room with last night. I did not want that.

I began walking towards the Wal-Mart. Every now and again I would stick out my thumb. Eventually I gave up hope. Then a sweet elderly man, Mr. Duke, pulled his truck up beside me and asked if I needed a ride. I grinned broadly, threw my pack in the bed of the truck, and hopped in. I told him that I was trying to make it to Wal-Mart for fuel, and ultimately back to Thornton Gap. He offered to take me both places. Oh, how lovely!

Back at the gap I met a lady with a dog. Her name was Marsha. She was curious about thru-hiking. We chatted, and when she discovered that I often hitched alone, she offered me her extra pepper spray. I usually don’t carry such things, but considering recent events, I accepted gratefully.

Happy to be alone once more, I continued along the trail.

Soon the sun set. The hazy blue-silver sheen of night gave the rocks and plant-life a subtle glow.

I began to think of what happened in the hotel room. That was the second unbidden and unwelcome sexual advance I have experienced on this trail. I should have responded more strongly in both cases. I should not have acted as if nothing happened, or that every thing was alright. As I am becoming more confident and independent as a traveller, my idea of self is defined less and less by gender and more and more by ability, motivation, and strength. Though I would like to believe otherwise, as a female it may not be wise to discount the relevance of one’s vagina. Part of me is angry. I try to free my mind of the incedent. I don’t want my thoughts to be occupied with such things.

Crossing foreign backcountry roads in the dark quiet of the night, staring off in to the distant winding pavement in either direction, life seems infinite.

It is 12:05 am. The moon is full. I am staring at a magnificent owl. How large it is for the small limb it perches. It then hops off and on to the ground in front of me. It is a speckled brown and white. It is so large and magestic. It moves forward along the trail. I follow. It then glides silently on to another branch. We stare at eachother. I am mesmirized by it. It seems unafraid of me. So regal. It soars off again.

I continued down a side trail to a spring by a shelter. It was flowing beautifully cold and strong. There was a clearing in the trees overhead; enough to display the glow of the moon. I turned off my headlamp and gathered water by the full moonlight. Taking pleasure in its silvery reflection on the water as it glides and ripples over stone after stone, I raised my nalgene to the moon and drank.

I returned to my things and took a short nap on the side of the trail. At 2:30 am there was a great chorus of owl-song. There must have been three or four of them. All of their songs, clearly different. One ended with a distinct purring. One swooped and landed in front of my place of rest. It gathered something in its mouth and took off.

I continued on until I followed a side trail to a rocky viewpoint. There was just enough space for me to lay down. I decided to get some rest. I closed my eyes on the rocky cliff beneath a clear sky with a moon, brilliant and full, surrounded by the dancing light of stars.

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