Monday, August 21, 2017 (Day 110)
Oh, my! I have camped far too close to the shelter. There is a very large group of kids, maybe a school group of sorts, that stayed in the shelter last night. I will not be reveling in the sweet silence of the morning, today.
They passed by me as I drank my coffee, all single-filed, heavy packs slung between their shoulders. Some waved or smiled or mumbled “hello”.
As the day progressed, I felt the pangs of an empty food sack. This is not the first time I have travelled without food. Something felt different, however. My body was gnawing for nourishment. Was it the lack of nutrients provided by the soaked noodles of yesterday? I was not sure. What I was sure of, was my hunger.
I tried to busy my mind with other things: relationships, sex, dance, family, puppy dogs. Puppy dogs worked for a moment. That moment quickly passed.
Character building, that is what this is. This is an inevitable part of a thru-hike, I told myself. I felt I was growing weak.
There was a lone huckleberry bush here or there. I squished the dark colored berry between my tongue and the roof of my mouth, savoring its sweetness. Then, crabapples! I excitedly knocked a plethora of apples from the tree limbs, swinging my outstretched trekking poles overhead in desperation. I bit into one small, green, tart apple as I knocked down another, and another. I could feel the sugar surging through my body. I filled my pockets with handfuls of apples, as a squirrel fills its cheeks, with frantic excitement, and continued on.
I moved slowly, all the time surveying the forest for edibles.
Finally, I spotted the illusive Chicken of the Woods. I pulled it from the fallen tree trunk and found a spot near the trail to break, and cook the fungus. I shredded its flesh between my fingers and boiled it in water. I added salt and pepper and nutritional yeast, and ate, pleased with my discovery.
Next, blackberries! The forest was providing. I was so very thankful.
It took me well in to the afternoon to cover the 13 miles in to Dalton.
I dropped my pack in front of the Cumberland food Mart and entered. Finally, I thought.
I selected juice and black beans and pretzels and clif bars and sat out front, bare feet and legs shamelessly outstretched along the walkway, back against the building, and enjoyed my meal.
A kind lady engaged me in conversation. This conversation led to a ride to Wal-Mart where I procured some more reasonably priced protein, and batteries. She dropped me off store front, bought me an iced-coffee from Starbucks (her treat), and waited for me to complete my shopping so that she may return me to Cumberland. It was positively amazing!
Back at Cumberland I repackaged my food, and cleared my pack of trash. I stepped inside to use the restroom and, upon my return, discovered a note on my pack. It read: “Yay! You made it to Dalton! I’m proud of you! Keep being amazing!” I smiled broadly. In that moment, I needed that.
I continued the road walk through Dalton and back to the trail. The sky was dappled with clouds and the romantic scheme of dusk.
Perfectly frilled curtains parted elegantly over the windows of large and beautiful homes that lined the street; homes of brick, and richly painted wood, and unfinished log. Sunflowers were vast and brilliant, hills rolling and green. Kids played ball in the park with their parents, running and laughing and catching.
I began the climb out of town. Part way through the ascent I stopped for a break, nearly directly on trail. I would just recline for a moment, I thought.