An Unexpected Guest

My first night on Appalachian Trail was unforgettable.   I was exhausted as I set up my tent on the slight slope under a canopy of tall pine trees.  The temperatures were falling quickly and the sky was becoming ominous as a storm approached.  I was quick to settle my tent; just in time before raindrops the size of my cracked thumb began to fall.  Exhaustedly, I collapsed on my sleeping bag. 

I must have fallen asleep, because the last thing I remember was the sound of the rain, the boom of thunder and lightning streaks that danced across the sky.  Now it was all quiet.  All I could hear were the drips of water as they fell from the tall branches above my safe haven. 

At least I thought I was safe.  The following noise sounded more ominous than the powerful storm from earlier.  It sounded like the heavy footsteps of a big animal.  Perhaps it was a bear or a wolf?  Branches and leaves crackled under the pressure of the animal’s feet with each step.  It sounded as if, whatever it was, was milling around just outside the flimsy walls of my tent.  My heart was racing as my mind was filled with thoughts that my first night on the Appalachian Trail was going to be my last. 

I never did figure out what kind of animal lingered around my tent that night.  I use the word “linger” because that is exactly what it seemed to do that evening, so long ago.  As I willed my body to stay perfectly still, the mystery guest must have sniffed, eaten, and strolled around my tent for about an hour.  In the middle of the night, in complete darkness, and in the woods where no one on earth knew where I was, an hour seemed like an eternity. 

That was how I began my first real adventure as a younger man.  It was this trip that sparked my love for adventures and was the precedent of many more to follow. 

The Appalachian Trail is a hiking trail that spans throughout 14 states in the eastern part of the United States.  It boasts more than 2100 miles

of gloriously maintained trails.  The trails meander through woods, forests, mountains, campgrounds, and towns. 

Before completing the seven months that it took me to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, I had never been so immersed with nature.  I doubt I will ever be that immersed with nature again.  Completing such a lengthy, monumental adventure was definitely something I will treasure forever.

Of course, I will hike parts of the Appalachian Trail throughout my life.  There are many, many places along the trail that provide wonderful day hikes to some gorgeous, remarkable scenery.  Those are the places I wish to take my family and children.  The adventure of the A.T. is one I will never forget.  Completing the trip provided me with confidence and knowledge that I can survive almost any kind of extreme weather, wild animals and dangerous insects, and barren living conditions.  The sense of accomplishment I found on this trip has led my path to many other adventures.

JP