Homesickness & Sleeping On a Hill

Appalachian Trail – October 6th, 2013

Today was a tough day, emotionally.  The dreary grey, rainy morning did not help to “lift moods” either as we hissed around the wet curves, headed back up to Salisbury, CT.  I had just taken 3 days off to head home, and they had FLOWN BY as I caught up on everything that had waited on me for the last couple of months I was away.  It was great to see everyone, but it was tough to leave both loved ones and the luxuries of non-trail life.  It was starting to get pretty chilly, and I missed the dry, warmth of home.
We drove through Salisbury, headed back out to the trail head, and I sat in silence watching the rain drops pool on the windshield between the intermittent wipers.  It was not raining hard, but it was raining just hard enough to make everything slippery and cold.  Once the car pulled over, I ran around to the back and lifted the hatch to grab my pack.  I walked back to the passenger side and peered in the rolled down window.  “I’ll see you in a couple of months.  Worst case, I”ll be home for Christmas.”  I did not pause.  I turned and started walking before the warm car drew me back to a place of comfort.

I headed up hill, hiking fast, pounding through the cold mist to generate some heat.  Wet, dead leaves swished and sloshed around my feet, as I watch the trail in front of me closely.  Fall leaves were hiding trail obstacles, and one misstep could end a hike.  It also helped to focus on the here and now, to keep my mind from wandering home.  A little homesickness was ok, but if you allowed yourself to wallow, your mind played tricks.  Loneliness is the single biggest reason that most long distance hikes end.  There are always a thousand reasons, but at the core, they are usually justifications wrapped in loneliness.

The weather was humid and misty, and chilly.  I started out with a short climb, and was drenched in sweat twenty minutes into the hike.  I had failed to remove layers because I was distracted, but it was not cold enough to cause issues with hypothermia.  I unzipped and allowed the breeze generated by my incredible speed (cough) to slowly wick away the moisture and begin drying out my shirt and jacket.

The terrain was nice, and I made good time.  I ran in to several people out walking on the trail around Falls Village.  It appears they had lost power on Main Street, so everyone was out and about. They all had dogs that barked and raised their hackles at me, so I always stopped about 10 feet away to chat.

As it began to grow dark, I came out of a climb and headed off into the woods to find a place to camp.  I looked down off the ridge and saw a large clear spot.  I was in luck.  I circled like a dog bedding down, looking for a flat place, turning this way and that, and as I turned I saw a large wooden number four on a tree.  It appeared I had stumbled across Belter’s camp site.  I spent ten minutes finding a flat spot. The entire area could have fit twenty tents and the one spot I found was angled down hill.  I did not realize this until I laid down under the tarp, and of course was too lazy to pull all my gear out and reset the shelter.

I settled in for the night, at an angled position, to prevent rolling down the hill.  I knew I would sleep poorly, but as I weighed getting up and moving everything vs light, intermittent restless sleep, I slowly drifted off to dream land.