Day 24: The Appalachian Trail

Long a lure for solo hikers, The Appalachian Trail (AT) runs 2192 miles from Georgia to Maine, where we set foot on it. Logging miles on the longest hiking-only footpath in the world had been on our Second Summer checklist since our earliest planning. We had incidentally traversed small sections in each of Vermont and New Hampshire, but this was our first proper hike on this National Scenic Trail.

We hiked more than two miles deep into the Bigelow Preserve, a beautiful piece of forested country that abuts Flagstaff Lake, where we explored on kayaks yesterday.

A Cared-For Trail

Volunteer curators maintain sections of the AT, sometime building stone or wooden stairs and laying plank bridges over especially boggy sections.

Yet they keep the trail natural whenever possible. A crew cut this section from a fallen tree to re-open trail access, but left the remainder nearby for nature’s local disposition.

For our entire day, the trail was clearly marked with painted blazes and permanent wooden signs. As we crossed streams and mounted hills and navigated the thick-rooted path, we never worried that we might be off course – despite the dense growth and limited sight lines.

More to See

Even on the length of our day hike, this section of the AT included more diversity than we can describe. We’ve included a gallery at the end so you can see for yourself.

For its rugged maintenance and variety and iconic nature, the AT will remain on our list of places to revisit, likely many times over many years as we log sections through the fourteen states it traverses. 

But … not all was perfect on the Trail this day.

There were mosquitoes.

Aww, No Dessert? 

What’s your favorite treat? Rachel’s is chocolate, often with caramel. From chocolate cake to brownies to chocolate bars, she can find no rival for that decadent flavor. Before taking that first bite, she always pauses to sample the fragrance of the cocoa, building the anticipation and savoring the indulgence.  

For mosquitoes, Rachel is their chewy chocolate brownie, ranking high on their list of sought-after indulgences. The moment they catch her scent, they vie with one another for the most tender bites. Glenn, it seems, is more like that yellow cake someone brought to the mosquito potluck. Yes, it will get nibbled, but it’s not the crowd’s first choice. 

Being the tastier of the two of us, Rachel has always been forced to maintain higher defenses against these persistent, hungry diners. Hiking the terrain while coated in chemicals is one solution, but not ideal, and not always effective. 

A physical barrier works best. 

Thus evolved the non-PC-dubbed Bug Burqa (which includes Ex Officio Bugs Away that she highly recommends). This particular ensemble’s effectiveness is as unrivaled as its lack of stylishness.

Today, her tactics clearly thwarted the swarm’s greedy sweet tooth as Glenn was forced to suffer their disappointed samples once they realized Rachel was off the dessert menu. 

Quiet

Despite the pests’ persistence, at one point even they were silent.

Deep in the forest it suddenly became quiet. Whisper quiet: no road noise, no wind rustling the leaves, no insects buzzing, no animals scurrying, no creaks or groans from the aged pine and paper birches keeping watch overhead.

No birdsong.

Nothing but our footfalls. And when we stopped, the forest’s heavy silence weighed on us. Pressing us to whisper as we strained in vain to hear anything but our own breathing.

Soft pine needles underfoot would have muffled any minor noises that arose. None did.

For a minute we stood, eyes wide and breathing shallow, reverent within nature’s deep cathedral. Appreciating each other and the solemnity.

In awe.

Then the wind blew, the forest awoke, and we continued home.

Please Register

Far into our Appalachian Trail adventure the weathered wooden sign said, “PLEASE REGISTER.”

Taking a form from the tidy stack within the box, Rachel scribed that on this day two hikers from Colorado passed here on their day trip, then she sealed the note and dropped it into the slot. 

Now we’re a part of its history as much as it’s a part of ours.

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