I don’t know what day it is. We’ve made our way to the Four Pines hostel in Catawba, and I have to say it’s pretty EPIC (not a word I use often…take it seriously!). I think there are 12 of us here, all varieties of hikers – SOBOs, NOBOs, thru-hikers, and LASHers (I’m the latter, stands for Long Ass Section Hiker). We all crowded together in the Dragon Wagon, a van hikers are allowed to drive around town so long as the driver has a license, and went to a family style all-you-can-eat restaurant called the Homeplace. If you’ve never seen long distance hikers eat, find one and take them to a buffet. It’s a site to behold! Our table without shame or hesitation devoured several rounds of super delish southern country food, complete with coffee and cobbler for desert. So. Much. Yum!
After that we went back to the hostel and had a great laid back hiker party. Everyone got along even though we were mostly strangers (Moxie, Worldly, Turtle, and myself had been together a couple days already). I’m still shocked by how smoothly everyone just lives, and is, when living this lifestyle. Lots of guys brought beer and shared it – that’s the thing – everyone share everything. Food, beer, fire, information, stories, MOONSHINE! It’s so communal, so beautifully and naturally human, that I never want to leave.
Now we’ve made our way to another shelter, after sleeping in warmth and sharing life at Four Pines. We hiked 8 miles today, and it was mostly trecherous. I’m shocked by this incredible amount of rain we’re having. We ascended Sinking Creek Mountain, and it’s all wet- most of the walk along the ridge was super slippery and steep rock faces with unpredictable (at best) places for feet and poles. Crossing the ridge took a while for the slowing down, but besides that we made excellent time.
This shelter is sweet. When we got here we had Earl Grey, Miso Soup, Cheddar broccoli pasta (double-dinner!) then chocolate and hot chocolate. The hiker hunger has kicked in FULL FORCE. We’re burning between 4 and 6 thousand calories a day, and so can pretty much eat anything. FYI when I say we I’m generally referring to all of us long distance hikers on the AT. Some folks eat 4 packets of oatmeal for breakfast. I just can not get that much down.
This year as the seasons change, I’m more aware of the daily transformation than ever. Being under the leaves is incredible, and multiple times every day I stop and stare up, around, and even down at the leaf covered trail.
It’s seriously psychadelic. Especially the Maples! They’re green but as they make their Autumnal change, starbursts of red, orange, and yellow appear on all the veins…they look like neurons or galaxies, and it is so crazy to stare at them and feel like you understand something new about the universe.
I think the Maple leaf must induce tripping…felt that way to me today. If there is daylight and you look up at the changing trees, you see something altogether different. The outlines of each leaf, the color of the capillaries against the yellow or red. Sometimes a whole tree just appears flourescent, like it’s under a blacklight. I’ve really never been more in awe of our Mother Nature.
I’ve got about 2 weeks left but I’m not going to think about it yet, as as to avoid spiraling into grief over something that hasn’t yet passed.
I am in love with life.