Sunday, August 22, 2010

Breakin' The Rules - AT Section 5 Part 1

It was August again and I was knocking off another eleven miles on the AT in Massachusetts. I had just enough time to get to the shelter before dark, I hoped. I'd intended to get on the trail by two that afternoon. I was four hours late and it didn’t matter. I wasn’t meeting anyone. No family, no friends, just narcissistic me.

The signboard at the trailhead had two pieces of particularly pertinent information.

First it said, "hike with a friend." That gave me little chills. I was disregarding a safety guideline and breaking my own rule. Chills are important. They let us know we're alive. Sometimes we need a modest dose of adrenaline.

Second, the sign said camping was prohibited except at official campsites. Drat. The fallback plan had been rolling out my bag and sleeping next to a log if I didn’t make it by dark. That was still the fallback plan.

Alone, foolish and free, I was throwing caution to the wind, doing it my way, no compromise, no negotiation.

The sun was at forty five degrees in the west as I left the parking lot and information board behind.

A few steps into the trees I realized the shadows were deeper than I thought they'd be. Focus on forward propulsion, I told myself, only three miles to go. Sunset wouldn’t be until eight.

The trail started steep. Naturally I huffed and puffed and questioned my sanity. In time, the path flattened out.

One hour on the trail and I knocked out two miles. The light open sky above Benedict Pond reassured me that sunset was still an hour away. The water was beautiful and still. The urge to strip down and slink in was powerful. I couldn’t expose myself to such temptation, I trudged on.

Just one more mile. The trail climbed again up. Pushing on, just another half mile. I must be almost there. Cue ominous music and scary sounds. It is men. Men with beer and fire.

What else do I hear? Low quality speakers, screeching frightfully cheerful 1970s pop. These men morph instantly from ominous to annoying. Conveniently their campsite was a good deal off from the old, dingy lean-to where I would rest my head. Eiuw, it was icky. Sometimes being free is a dirty thankless job.

But further down the trail near the outhouse, another structure came into view. A brand spankin’ new lean-to, yippee! Clean, pristine and empty but for a lovely ridge runner. Just enought time to eat before dark. Score one for fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants-girl.

[I took that picture above, sky reflected on the waters of Benedict Pond August 7, 2010.]


  1. So... so what happened next? Don't leave us here, looking out of the lean-to down the cliff!

    What a gorgeous picture!

  2. No worries Saloma. The saga will continue.

  3. This is an excellent post... I never done hiking alone. I always hike with friends or family, I feel more comfortable that way.

  4. I love hiking with a friend but I'm also a big fan of variety. Some time alone, some time with others - always makes you appreciate the other.