When I got back home the doctor got an “ultrasound” inside view of my leg, and he gave me a velcro cast to wear constantly so I wouldn’t use the mussel. It got better. On October 10 of that same year I started where I left off in Erwin, Tennessee. This time I hiked about 140 miles to Damascus, Virginia. The Autumn is a good time to hike. There are no bugs and the leaves on trees in the mountains are many different colors.
Occasionally I tented, but usually I stayed in one of the shelters which were located every six to 10 miles along the trail. Deciding how far to go, and then getting there was an achievement repeated day after day. It was a balance between a goal and a way of traveling that was both difficult and beautiful. It was life reduced to its simplest terms.
Fifty miles from Erwin was Applehouse Shelter. There was someone there who hiked over the years but at that time he was staying there while his mother in law was visiting. Highway U.S. 19 E and a place to park a car was less than ten minutes away. We talked, and I stayed there another day. He drove me to a store where I could resupply. I bought him lunch for his trouble. Also, he talked me into buying a case of beer which was a mistake. I thought the beer was for him to wait out his mother-in-law’s visit. That evening I had two or three beers. He got sloppy drunk. I heard him get up in the middle of the nite and throw-up. He stashed the beer in the woods. He knew how to stay there like a thru-hiker. He said people were not supposed to stay in the shelters for an extended time. That day when I was there several thru-hikers going south from Maine stopped, talked awhile, and moved on to camp in the woods further south. In all their walking they had developed a sixth sense that told them something was not right. They looked the same. They had long beards and long hair, and were thin.
It was late afternoon when I got to the Mountaineer Shelter. I was looking at maps to see how far I would go the next day. The shelter was visible from the trail. A short, steep path led down to the shelter, and up top I could hear a voice. It was a female voice. I didn’t pay much attention or look up the path which was behind the shelter. After a while the voice was coming down the path. She came around the corner with a cell phone pressed against her ear. I acknowledged her with a wave of my hand and went back to the map. The call ended, she came in and took off her pack. She didn’t have hiking poles. She didn’t have a trail name either, just her first name. She was a mail carrier from Salt Lake City, Utah where she lived with her mother. She was on vacation, south bound, on the Appalachian Trail hiking 160 miles. She figured it would take her 17 more years to hike the whole trail. She didn’t seem to talk much, but she told me more about her situation than most hikers. I stopped what I was doing and asked questions. It was interesting to me, a girl hiking by herself. She told me at her job interview she happened to tell the post office people she liked to walk and that’s how she got the job as a mail carrier. She was tall, with a boyish face, and short hair that hung over her ears straight-cut like bangs. She told me one irate postal patron on her route asked her if she was a man or a woman. The previous night she stayed in a hostel north of where we were. She told me she didn’t see the hostel door located behind the house. She knocked on the front door of the house. She said a man who answered the door got very cross. She said his attitude toward her didn’t change when he drove all the hikers to the store that evening. She said she didn’t think he liked her.
While it was still daylight she went to get water and left her pack in the shelter with me. That was trusting I thought. When she got back I did the same. The water source was out of sight of the shelter. My ceramic water filter clogged at the spring. I had to take it apart and clean the filter. That took extra time. By then it was getting dark. When I got back I said all I had with me was two water bottles and a filter, and the thought of getting lost in the dark was frightening. Then she said without looking up from her camp stove she would have got me. I prepared my beef stew food and got in my sleeping bag. She was reading a book. The next morning she packed up and left before I did. I told her to have a good life.
I was on a learning curve about hiking. I’d been through Roan Mountain and the shelter up there. According to the trail guide book it was the highest, coldest, and windiest place on the southern half of the trail. I didn’t have any problem up there although it was cold. When I left the Mountaineer Shelter it was a beautiful warm day. At the next shelter I got hypothermia and was on a survival trip by myself. At lunch my pack was opened up on a log when suddenly without much warning it started to rain hard. I quickly covered my pack and stood there defiantly in the rain eating lunch. I thought it would last a few minutes. When I finished I closed up my pack, and put it on without getting anything inside wet. It was warm and still raining. I hiked all day in the rain wearing a tee-shirt. At the end of the day it was still raining hard, and it was getting colder. I didn’t want to stop, take off my pack, open it up, and put on the poncho rain cover. I felt warm enough when I was walking. When I got to Moreland Gap
Shelter the sun had set. A shelter in the rain is a welcome site. No one else was there. It was dusk. I thought I had the whole place to myself. I took off my wet clothes and put on dry ones. Right away my teeth started chattering. I couldn’t stop shivering. My fingers wouldn’t do the simplest things like open a foil food pouch, or light a camp stove to make diner. Those little routine tasks were extremely difficult. After much effort diner was heating up, I blew up the air mattress, and rolled out my dry, warm (-20 degree) sleeping bag. All I could think of was how I had to get in there as soon as possible. A tiny thermometer I carried said it was in the 40s. I gulped down a chile diner for two, crawled into my sleeping bag, and with great difficulty zipped it up. I kept shivering for a long time. While I was still shivering I heard voices coming up the trail. It was five people hiking together. I didn’t think anyone else would be there that nite so my wet clothes were hanging on every hook around the inside of the shelter to dry as much as possible. It was dark when they came into the shelter. Each of them could see only where their head lamps shown. I said I was dealing with hypothermia and would they mind moving all my stuff over to where I was. Later on I heard one of them say he was going to set up his tent outside the shelter. He probably snored loudly and it was an understanding they all had. Still, as I lay there shivering I had to admire that anyone would or could set up a tent in the cold pouring rain. Eventually, I warmed up, and rolled over on my side. They were still talking, and I heard the one in the sleeping bag next to mine exclaim, “It’s alive.”
When I got to Damascus, Virginia it was getting cold at nite. It was a good place to stop for the year.