beauty

Rainbow Lightning

Earlier this week, while sitting in the waiting room at the neurology department, waiting for a lumbar puncture that still hasn’t happened, I was thinking about the woods. Specifically, I was thinking about one of my favorite memories from the AT, which, surprisingly, I’ve never written about here.

One afternoon in late June, I arrived at the much-anticipated Jim and Molly Denton Shelter in Northern Virginia. Not only did I find a gorgeous shelter, picnic table, and pavilion, but I found a whole slew of familiar faces. It felt like a trail reunion – and at a great location, even if the shelter’s solar shower wasn’t working. Who needs showers, anyway?

As some hikers I’d known for the last several hundred miles built a campfire and cooked hotdogs, I made my dinner and listened to trail updates. On the shelter’s large deck, I then began working on my GRE flashcards, which soon became a group activity. We were all guessing definitions and laughing and sharing stories and teasing one another and gawking at a Vogue magazine by headlamp-light, utterly puzzled about a world we clearly weren’t part of. It was a perfect evening.

At least until the storm hit.

As Quiver, his family, and I were laying out our sleeping gear in the shelter and others were setting up tents in the clearing, distant thunder began rumbling in the air. In the next few minutes, as I got out my journal and began recording the day, the distant rumbles became not-so-distant. Soon, flashes of lightning lit up the sky. And, this wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill lightning – it wasn’t even that sort of spectacular long white lightning that you see in nature documentaries. I’m not sure what in the atmosphere made the streaks of lightning appear this way, but they looked green and purple and just colorful, like rainbow lightning. Everyone stood on the deck, looking up at the sky in awe.

Until the rain came.

The warm, stiff summer breeze became an impressive, mighty wind, and the clouds opened up, letting loose a deluge of fat, hot raindrops. I scurried back into the shelter, and the tent campers took shelter in their sil-nylon.

Until the trees began falling.

As the winds continued to gust, the sound of crashing trees began filling the air. At first, the cracks and thumps were distant, but then a few sounded from nearer the clearing. In the next half hour, tent campers began fleeing their homes, either for safety or because their wind-collapsed tents left them no choice. The shelter and pavilion were soon crowded, as we huddled around waiting for the storm to end.

In time, it did, and then we slept.

To be continued…

Wordless Wednesday: Massachusetts

The dock of Upper Goose Pond

The dock of Upper Goose Pond

A quiet spot on a busy mountain

A quiet spot on a busy mountain

The lighthouse atop Mount Greylock

The lighthouse atop Mount Greylock

A chipmunk atop Mount Greylock

A chipmunk atop Mount Greylock

The view from one of my favorite spots on trail

The view from one of my favorite spots on trail

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that this post was scheduled rather than created tonight.  I’m currently on the Pacific Crest Trail, hiking for the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society.  You can read more about my PCT thru-hike here.

On the PCT: Kennedy Meadows, Part Two

I haven’t looked in a mirror since Mojave.  That was roughly eight days and 150 miles ago.  In the time since then, I’ve sweated while going up, down, and around beautiful mountains, walked through sandy desert, gotten some sunburn, and been rained on twice.  I’m sure that, by general United States standards, I look a mess.

But, when I arrived at the Kennedy Meadows General Store with Pine Nut, it simply didn’t matter.  Hikers crowding the store’s deck and overflowing onto its lawn cheered and hollered and clapped as we made our way to the deck.  I threw my hands in the air in gratitude, and they cheered louder.  We had done it:  We two tired, hungry, filthy hikers had made it to the Sierras.

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Arriving at Kennedy Meadows

Kennedy Meadows has been an anticipated milestone for a long while now, since before I’d set out on the hike.  It marks the end of Southern California and the start of the Sierras, home of giant trees, water crossings, and Mount Whitney.  It means sun shirts get replaced with T-shirts and food bags get traded for bear canisters.  It means that we’ve gotten our trail legs and that the rush to Canada before the snow moves in is on.

Before the dash begins, it’s customary for hikers to spend at least a “nero,” a near-zero-mile day, at Kennedy Meadows, and that’s just what Pine Nut and I are doing.  Ant, who’s been really struggling with plantar fasciitis, will be arriving by bus in a few hours, at which point logistics will need to be worked out, as there’s virtually no cell service for a few hundred more miles.

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The South Fork of the Kern River

Until Ant arrives, it’s all about catching up on blogging and letters and food.  Catching up on the last involves a fair bit of people watching, as the General Store’s deck, where the food lives, seems to be the favorite destination of hikers.

Watching lots of tanned and muscled hikers interact, I thought about how the last 700 miles have done much more than give us our trail legs.  Over these miles, backpackers new to the long trails have gotten their trail identities.  Most everyone has a trail name by now, lots of hikers are sporting unruly hair grown over the last weeks and months, and the group’s adaptation to this lifestyle seems to have occurred.  No longer are showers and laundry the priority after getting to town; they’re important, for sure, but hikers don’t become what Ant calls “fluffy” until they’ve filled their bellies with at least one burger or hot dog, chips, and a cold Gatorade.

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The deck of the Kennedy Meadows General Store

Talking with other hikers, I didn’t think about the dirt smudges or streaks of zinc sunscreen on my face that a Wet One later demonstrated I’d had.  I didn’t care that my clothes smelled as though I’d walked from Mexico in them or that my hair was a wild mess under my ball cap.  I just smiled and laughed and shared stories with new friends and old.

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Hikers napping behind the store

Wordless Wednesday: Connecticut

Morning in the mountains

Morning in the mountains

Some creative trail marking

Some creative trail marking

The rolling hills and blue sky of southern New England

The rolling hills and blue sky of southern New England

Sage's Ravine, at the Massachusetts border

Sage’s Ravine, at the Massachusetts border

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that this post was scheduled rather than created tonight.  I’m currently on the Pacific Crest Trail, hiking for the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society.  You can read more about my PCT thru-hike here.