On Sunday, I saw a Facebook post from a hiker visiting Damascus, Va., for Trail Days, the annual event celebrating the first wave of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers traipsing through town. It reminded me of what a delight it is to hike among thru-hikers and hear about their experiences. Back in April of 2010, I happened upon a wave of thru-hikers, along with a bit of paternal trail magic, in the Standing Indian area of western North Carolina. So I headed into the Wayback Machine to revisit this magical encounter.
When I started writing about trails in the early’90s, my motto quickly became, “Getting lost, so you don’t have to.” It’s a philosophy I’ve stuck with as my scope has widened to encompass trying all kinds of things so you don’t have to.
A year ago, I had a backpacking class that included three vets, a rarity because most ex-military I encounter have zero interest in voluntarily spending another night in a tent. In our session on backpacking food, the topic of MREs — Meal, Ready-to-Eat — came up. Rather than the universal pan I was expecting from these three critics, the results were mixed. “Some aren’t bad,” they agreed. “But some are.” The next session, one of the vets pulled a brown cardboard box about the size of an iPad out of his pack and handed it to me. In dot-matrix type, it said “Egg Omelette with Vegetables and Cheese.”
Backpacking is life distilled to the essentials. With everything you need to survive packed securely on your back, life is focused on five necessities: food, water, shelter, sleep, and, most of all, adventure. Adventure, after all, is the very reason you decided to place your essentials on your back.
The theme to The Jeffersons buzzed through my head as I laid back and took in the nylon ceiling. I may not have been moving on up to the East Side, but I was now laying in the tent of my dreams: the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2. One dee-lux tent, if ever I’d had one.