Thanks to my amazing job last year at the end of summer we took a dozen or so students for a week of backpacking on the Appalachian trail around Roan Mountain in the Tennessee-North Carolina border. I played the role of logistician on this trip. That loosely translates to me being the back up guy ready to pull into predetermined exit points in case students feel ill and needed an evacuation to the hospital or hostel where we were to spend our last two nights together. At the hostel I had 2 days alone and my God, that was an enlightening experience. I think that was the first time I was in the woods truly by myself with no internet, a bad book and some kittens for company. It was awful. I was reminded how much of a social butterfly I am. Without people to learn from, examine or otherwise converse with, I kinda went a little crazy. I was pacing like a trapped animal in zoo. But I survived. Soon it came time for me to meet up with the rest of the crew on trail and boy did I jump out of bed THAT morning! I hiked for maybe 2-3 miles (2 miles more than I should have, I got lost and went the wrong direction, twice) to the shelter where we were suppose to meet up.When I finally reached the shelter, I found a man who had come from Boston and hiked all the way south to meet up with his brother to start a new life. He told me he was only 20 miles away and only stopped to have lunch. He was a truly nice guy and I hope he made it to his brother.
After the man left, not 15 minutes later my participants started to come into camp. What was great about the spot where I met the group is that it was the exact middle point where the two groups we had hiking towards each other met up. It was here that they would trade van keys and stories before continuing on their journey. It was a great night with everyone already brandishing their earned trail names and explaining to their peers how they earned them. Blow (Derek’s trail name, earned for his amazing fire-starting abilities) was off doing his thing getting the flames going for the big group. Some other memorable names were Hulk (someone had muscles and slight temper), Mushroom Sheriff and Undertaker. Now this trip wasn’t all roses and butterflies in the woods. First day in the trip we had one participant who called quits on us and we had to extract her from the trail. It was really disheartening for some members of the trip and myself in particular because you never want someone to stop mid trip simply because they didn’t feel like going backpacking anymore. I struggled with whole incident for a long time. My fellow trip leaders on trail and her fellow student backpackers couldn’t convince her to keep going and that just struck such a nasty cord in me. At first I was shocked, then disappointed but in the end, the whole group had a blast and I couldn’t be prouder of their accomplishments. To add icing to the cake, the last day was spent volunteering with the local Tennessee Eastman Appalachian Trail Conservancy club, repairing said trail for those who come after us.