Backpacking Trip

Andrew, Charles, and Lawrence

Charles, Lawrence, Joe and I spent a couple days on the Appalachian Trail this past weekend. It was quite a trip. Joe had to drive in from Florida (around 14 hours) and we couldn’t leave until after my Thursday Statistics I class. We ended up meeting in a little town called Buena Vista about 15 miles from the trail at around 8:15 P.M. It took us until around 10:20 P.M. to get both cars in the right places (one at either end of our planned walk), on account of having to drive on two of the curviest roads ever (one of those being the Blue Ridge Parkway). Now, your average group of guys would have slept in the car, maybe set up the tents outside and waited until morning to begin hiking. Not us. Nope, having sat in cars all day, we were ready to do something, anything really. So, knowing full well that we had a 4 mile, +3200 foot climb in front of us; armed with headlamps and our new trekking poles, we happily began our ascent up The Priest at 10:49 P.M.

I’ve taken around 10 individual trips on the Appalachian Trail. Some more difficult than others. Charles, Lawrence and I have done some wild things; climbed waterfalls, 25 mile days, sprinted 2 miles to a shelter to avoid lightning. The trek up The Priest now ranks number one on that list. One of the longest climbs that we’ve every made, in the dark, in the fog no less. The A.T. is (at times) no more than a foot or so wide and can be hard to follow in the daylight. Our headlamps generally make it possible to hike at night. But, the dense fog put us in a similar situation to a driver driving in the fog at night; the fog simply reflected much of the light and the visibility was actually diminished.

A little more than three hours later and we had reached the summit (not much to see at 1:45 A.M.). After celebratory high-fives, we remembered that we now actually had to find a place to sleep. We pushed onwards, toward a shelter eight-tenths of a mile further (talking politics as we walked). Unfortunately for us, the shelter was full. We ended up tenting near the shelter. Joe got a fire going (really quite something in that weather) and Charles, Lawrence and I set up the tents. We fell asleep around 3.

Our hopes were that the rain would move out and we would be treated to two sunny days on Friday and Saturday. It was not to be. We woke up at around 11 in the morning to find more rain and fog surrounding our tent. Left with no other choice, we took down the (very wet) tents, packed up, and moved on. After such a big night our energy levels were pretty low. We only managed 8 miles on Friday. We stopped at the next shelter, filtered some water, made and ate dinner and were asleep by 7:30 P.M.

We awoke at 5:30 A.M. Saturday morning to the same type of weather we saw as we dozed off on Thursday night. More rain and fog. We got an early start (6:15) and had completed around 4 miles by 8. We took a break on Wolf Rocks and then moved on. Around noon, the sun was able to peek through. We found a cool place to eat lunch (Joe built another fire as we were still trying to dry out) complete with two swings and climbing tree. We made some calls home and stayed for a couple of hours (having 7 miles under our belts). At around 2 o’clock we packed up and began our walk out of the woods. The climb down into the gap (3000 feet) was a killer. My big toes felt as though they were about to fall off. I always dread the big uphill climbs. But, after we get off the trail I find myself convinced that the down-hills are even worse.

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