We are taking more careful note of the people we encounter along the way. This time of year at summer’s end, there doesn’t seem to be many thru hikers. Although we do meet one young man southbound. He had the lean rugged look and a sense of determination.
We came across a group of about 8 men and boys and a dog carrying a saddle pack. They were resting at the edge of a wide meadow when we met. They appeared to be weekend campers. After a quick greeting, we passed and continued on our way. A half hour later we stopped for lunch on a rock about 100 yards uphill from the trail. As we rested, the group began to trickle past. I’m not sure if they saw us or not.
First came the dog, a dark brown German Shepherd with deep black side markings and black face. It had a gentle gait, stopping occasionally to look back on the humans. Then came the main group keeping a steady pace in this very pleasant wooded section of the trail. Much later, just as we were preparing to leave, came the vanguard, two men bearing huge backpacks and gear. Their manner was ponderous and the look of exhaustion hung over them like a malevolent fog.
It took little time for Jane and me to catch up to the forlorn guys. They seemed happy to pause and step aside for us to pass. It turns out that this was their first experience camping. One man said his pack weighed 35 lbs. while the other coyly admitted to carrying a 65 lb. load. A lot of the weight he said was water. Because of their fatigue they were planning to cut their trip short by a day.
We continued on our way and came across the rest of the group sitting where the AT turned sharply to the left. They asked if we had seen their companions. They were worried about their friends and were studying maps to plot a quicker route to the road and salvation. Their experience underscores the need to plan ahead and understand what you’re getting in to. I’m sure that wisdom will be helpful when we tackle some of the more rugged sections of the trail.
Random word pictures, perhaps the makings of a future poem:
Dappled sunlight shimmers through the woods
Stony fragments of a weathered mountain liter the trail
A spectrum of green
Neon bright green caterpillar
Feel the surface though your feet
After miles of hiking know it like a lovers face
Pine needles a fragrant caress on your feet
Sunlight bathes pine branches