March 26 2015
A very clean, useless trail guide!
It was a foggy bright morning when we climbed Blood Mountain. I remember being taken by the idea of space. The first few days I felt so small when I looked out in the open expanses and views. Rolling mountains and countless trees congregated into forests that stretched out of sight, but a fog closed that space. When we reached the summit of the first mountain it felt closed in and intimate. Our first joyous stop was at the privy. Never have I been so glad to see such a well placed toilet.
We took a snack inside the cold stone shelter and watched the fog whisp through the open windows. I climbed the rock outside in hopes of a view but the fog obscured everything. In my elation about climbing the first mountain, I took a picture of the foggy view.
I met Bearded Crab and Photo on top of Blood. As we started our descent as a girl came bounding out of the fog. She was all smiles and yelling to another hiker ecstatically about how amazing it was to be there, walking over the flat stone summit through a cloud. She was emanating happiness. The two hikers came through like a breeze of sunshine and frolicked down the mountain. This was my first encounter with Moonbow and Lightning Bug.
I pondered the experience of being enclosed outside:
Why do we hike?
To feel small, to feel big, to feel nothing at all. When the sky is open and wide the world swallows me up, takes me in and reduces me to a tiny fleck. And when the sky is white, light, shut in and close, I still feel small against the multiplication of the unknown, against the blank open space closing in all around.
We wandered down the rocky descent of the mountain, slipping on wet rocks and stumbling through mud. I could hear the road ahead and quickly began to see signs of the first hostel. I welcomed the thought of warm food and a hot shower. As we approached we could see a giant tree towering over the historic stone building. In the tree were hundreds of boots thrown there by hikers that had given up, finished and returned or people who just realized that leather hiking boots are shit for long distance hiking.
This night we ate pizza and basked in the glory of cleanliness. I propped up my swollen feet and iced my aching knees for a few hours while chatting with other hikers. This is where I met Chip, Hot Chocolate and Ropeburn. Baltimore Jack was sitting outside, like a stoic totem, watching and guarding the well being of new hikers. He advised me to keep swollen joints elevated and iced as much as possible. I sat drinking a beer, thinking about the enormity of the first few days. At this point my mom and I were mastering the common elements of camp set-up, but we were both sore and hurting. We left some stuff in a hiker box and gave away extra food from our resupply box. That night I experienced a deep, strange sleep.
Walasi-Yi Deep Sleep
We were down in a stone chamber with no windows, no sound and heat. Sleep was like falling through darkness. I woke precisely at sunrise and I had forgotten where I was and what I was doing. There was no self-sense in that darkness and it was peaceful. After a few moments, I felt my memory rush back to me and the overwhelming thought of walking 2,200 miles became very real. Where I was didn’t matter as much as what I was doing. Then, I wondered about the silence. The room seemed empty. Did everyone get up and go and I missed tomorrow? After a few more disoriented moments I pulled out my earplugs to hear the strange symphony of snoring. It was a comforting annoyance after thinking I was alone in that dark place.