Appalachian Trail: The Trail is a Magical Place (day 6)

We hiked down a long descent yesterday afternoon before arriving at our shelter for the night. It seemed to go on and on and I wondered if it would ever end.

I have concluded that I much more prefer ascends to descends. Gravity wants to pull me down the mountain and I need to work harder with my heavy pack to avoid tumbling down. Descends are a killer on my knees, even with trekking poles. With an ascend, I can dig in with my trekking poles and haul myself up with my upper body strength. Four-legged animal power!

A lone male hiker creeped my friend and I out by asking us a lot of personal questions and telling us at least three times that he was single. We met a lot of lone male hikers while on the AT and the vast majority of them did not have any creep factors about them, except for one other guy who told us he had been living on the campsite for two weeks. Plus, he didn’t hang his food which also bothered me.

We encouraged Mr. Creepy to hike on to the campsite that we were at the previous night, boasting the amazing view from the cliffs. He was hiking southbound whereas we were hiking northbound. He appeared to become more and more comfortable with staying at the shelter with each cigarette he smoked.

My friend sent me a text while sitting right beside me at the picnic table suggesting we pack and pretend we were not staying at the shelter. He too decided to leave but thankfully around that same time, a Scout group showed up and set up camp.

We decided to squish in around them, not wanting to stay directly at the shelter in case the guy became discouraged by the long ascend (descend for us leading to camp) and returned to the shelter. With all of the tent pads taken, I chose the flatest ground I could find but it still had a slant to it. I woke up a few times over night to find myself and my sleeping pad had slid down.

This morning while hiking we met a southbound hiker who advised us that water sources had dried up. The heat and humidity was intense and we were concerned about hydration. We decided to walk 1.7 miles into Smithsburg, Maryland to get water and some goodies.

While hanging outside Dollar General, we were humming and hawing how to get back to the trail. We saw a group of four guys from a landscaping company in uniforms and company vehicles. My friend nodded at me and I said, “hello gentleman!” Without missing a beat, Dave as we would learn his name said,”y’all need a Trail Angel?” Just like that, we were back on the trail.

I’m fascinated by the Trail Angel culture along the Appalachian Trail. Countless people want to help hikers with rides, food, and general good kindness. I wasn’t planning on utilizing trail magic but it appeared exactly when we needed it.

The campsite and shelter tonight is bustling with people. We built a fire with two other hikers and chatted until 9pm, which I learned is Hiker Midnight. Most of the other people kept to themselves near their tents or hammocks. Shelters are the hub of campsites where people go to socialize.

One of the hikers name was Notebook. She attempted a thru-hike in 2016 but broke her foot about 600 miles in. She quit her job as an analyst to hike and after her injury, she did not have a desire to return to the career she left. She now makes a living as a writer and a writing coach. She blogs for the Trek and is working on a memoir. **Notebook, if you are reading this, send me a message. I would love to remain in contact with you 😁

The trail can be a magical place if you’re open to receiving teachings. I will forever continue to grow with each footstep I take on a trail. Hiking and camping makes me a better person, inside and out. I return home from trails motivated to push myself further in my personal life and to live my own life that is true to me.

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