Appalachian Trail Mile 2003.4

Saturday, September 30, 2017 (Day 151)

I awoke to a dance of little sprinkles in the night. It was not a terribly threatening display, but I did not wish to press my luck. I pitched my tent and crawled inside.

When I awoke again, I rolled about groggily as I listened to two day hikers passing by my tent. I checked the time. 11 o’clock! Oh my! How did this happen! I certainly must have been tired.

I packed up my things in a hurry and made my way to the road. I stood, thumb out, grinning widely in anticipation of a ride. Cars zoomed past. I felt a twinge of discouragement. Soon, however, a nice gentleman called Tom pulled over and bid me aboard. “Oh, thank you!” I exclaimed. I threw my pack in the trunk and hopped in.

He offered me a Gatorade and gave me a brief overview of what I might find in town. He dropped me off at Fotter’s Market, the local grocery store. Before departing, he collected a slip of paper–an old grocery list–and transcribed on its back side his name and telephone number. “If you need a ride back to the trail later today, just give me a call.” He said, handing me the note.

“Thank you!” I beamed.

The store was on the smaller side, but it’s narrow aisles were well stocked. I resupplied for the next few days, and purchased some bread, coffee, and fruit for immediate consumption. I sat, legs extended (it was painful to cross them for too long), on the cement at the store-front and repackaged my things.

There was a hostel across the street. I was curious as to how friendly they were to “drop-ins”. I had no intention of staying, but I certainly wouldn’t mind raiding a hiker box, gathering electricity for later use, and satisfying my social nature as a human (for just a bit).

They were certainly friendly. I was told I could even hang out inside on the couches and watch tv. Instead, I plugged in my external power banks and returned outside to the benches that stood along the side of the property. I chatted for a bit with the other hikers, then moved on to the laundry mat. At the laundry mat I wore my woolen undergarments and washed and dried everything. I even threw my sleeping bag and tent in the dryer. Satisfied, and with a significantly lighter load, I strolled back to the hostel where I had left my things charging.

I began to consider the cold. Developing a growing concern at the prospect of shivering through the night, I stopped back in at Fotter’s to see if they had anything that may quell (emergency blanket) or numb (whisky) my fears. All they had by way of heat retention were hand warmers. I purchased three packs.

By that point it was early evening. I needed to get back to the trail. I phoned Tom.

“You haven’t made it back to the trail yet!?” he jested.

He said that he would certainly give me a ride, and to meet him at the Fotter’s parking lot in 10 minutes.

Back at the trailhead, as I pulled on my pack, Tom checked the forecast.

“There’s a freeze warning tonight!” Tom warned.

“I’ll be alright.” I say.

I thanked him once more and made my way back to the trail.

I had held ambitious hopes of making it to the Bigelow Mountain Range. But freezing? I recalled how cold it was atop Lone Mountain.  Lone Mountain was wooded, and at a lower elevation than the Bigelows. There was a campsite just two miles from the road. It was already dark. It was tempting.

I passed a hiker setting up their hammock beside the trail. They said that it had begun snowing at one of the high elevation shelters they had slept at, just a couple nights before. Snow.

I came to Cranberry Stream Campsite. If it is cold and I can’t sleep, not only will I be tired but I won’t want to rise until warmed by the sun. If I stay here, I can get an early start…or so I told myself.

I set up my tent at the campsite, shook a handwarmer to release its heating magic, threw it in the toe-box of my sleeping bag, and shut my eyes.

I was ready to withstand the cold.

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