Judging from the weekend forecast, a blanket of wet and cool will cover much of North Carolina this weekend. Not what you hope for on the first full weekend of spring.
But lots of great weather is ahead, which should help soften the damp blow. And what better way to spend a rainy weekend day than planning for your next sun-drenched outing — and indulging in a vicarious escape in the process.read more
Envious of Alan’s 13-hour nights in the tent? Envious of the 10-degree nights? Envious of having to crawl out of a warm bag at 4 a.m. for the inevitable commune with nature that goes with calling it a night at 6 p.m.?
Alan had just gotten back from six days on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. Six days that saw the first cold of the season descend, bringing with it those 10-degree nights and daytime highs in the 20s. Six days with snow, a foot on the trail in places, drifts of up to two-and-a-half feet. Six rare days of bona fide winter backpacking, Southern style. His trip had the added cache of accompanying a thru-hiker down the homestretch. His buddy Rich — a k a Orson Deep Waters — was concluding his conquest of the AT (a conquest interrupted once to cut Christmas trees in Avery County in November, once to go to Belgium for the world punkin‘ chunkin‘ championship). Meanwhile, I spent the week here in Cary, sick, going three-on-one with the kids. An adventure in its own right.read more
The backpacker looked up from his reverie, saw me and jumped. “Whoa! Didn’t see you there,” he said.
Our paths converged a little after 9 Tuesday morning, on Section 9 of the Appalachian Trail midway between Rock Gap and Albert Mountain in western North Carolina. “Country,” as he soon identified himself, was why I was on this particular trail at this particular time headed this direction, south. The reason Country (pictured) didn’t notice me was he had other things on his mind. Like Maine.
Country was an AT thru-hiker, one of perhaps three dozen I ran into during two days on the trail. The AT thru-hiking season – for northbounders headed from Springer Mountain, Ga., 2,178 miles north to Katahdin, Maine – officially launched March 15 and the bulk of the class of 2010 was now hiking into southern North Carolina.
Country, for instance, had started March 19 and had so far covered about 110 miles. Not all of those miles had been fun.
“The 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th days, it was bad,” the Alabaman said as he leaned on an impromptu hiking staff. “Rain, cold and a little snow. Since then it’s been great.”
Country admitted he had come into this six-month journey ill prepared, a fact I’d gathered by the tennis shoes he was wearing. “Had a guy quit and give me his tent, a Wenzel. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on the tent. I say, ‘Thanks!’” He shrugs, then adds, “I don’t have to tell ’em the whole story.”
I asked Country how he got his trail name. “There were two of us with ‘Country’ early on. The other guy wound up being ‘Country Gold.’”read more