This past week was a week of “firsts.” I completed my first marathon day, hiking over 26 miles. It was pretty tiring, but the trail grade has been easier in Virginia so it was a more reasonable day than expected.
I also had my first solo-shelter night on the trail. Usually I welcome the solitude and have tented alone a couple nights by choice, but I think because I was expecting to see other hikers at the shelter I was kind of lonely. I was also a little freaked out because the one night I happen to be alone at a shelter it was at the infamous Wapiti shelter. Wapiti shelter is known as ‘murder shelter’ because two seperate murders have occured there throughout the trail’s history. Turns out both murders were by the same man who is now locked up in jail…I think. Afterthought: maybe this is why no one else showed up to sleep here for the night.
Another “first” was night hiking. I guess thru-hikers get tired of the same routine everyday so we think of new activities to spice up our life on the trail. “Hey – Let’s try hiking at night!” It makes perfectly logical sense – why would you hike the Appalachian Trail in the dark to not see any scenery? I thought I would try it anyways. So after dinner was finished, I packed up my gear, strapped on my head lamp, and started hiking.
I decided I actually love night hiking. First of all it’s much cooler tempature and at dusk, the forest really comes to life. I must have seen 10 deer, an owl, and a turkey that nearly gave me a heart attack. I didn’t realize the turkey was even there until it loudly flapped it’s wings and flew right in front of me on the trail. I actually screamed out loud.
As dusk turned to night, the setting became more eerie. I started walking through a really dark and creepy pine forest that was unatturally quiet. Eventually the remaining dusk light was gone so I turned on the headlamp and could no longer see anything except the stars above and whatever my headlamp was shining towards. Now I know you readers are not ready to jump out of your seat from suspense right now but trust me, walking alone in remote woods during the night is really thrilling. Something about it really got my blood moving and it was kind of scary. I kept thinking about the Blair Witch Project movie, minus the witch (hopefully).
So after 26 miles of hiking, 8 of which were in the dark, I arrived to the infamous Wapiti murder shelter around 10 PM, all alone. Yes all these “firsts” happened on the same day. After sleeping with one eye open all night, I awoke to a beautiful day and I’m now alive and well in Pearisburg, VA. I think next time I’ll try and recruit a fellow hiker to do it with me.
p.s. My caption for the photo is ‘NORTH!’ for the general direction of the trail and the direction I’m pointing.