From the mountain ridges I could see farms far below in the valleys. It was the view a soaring bird would have.
I heard wild turkey’s, and once I saw two of them. That Fall I came across three deer hunters with cross-bows. I had startled a few deer by then and I was always amazed how fast they ran between the trees. I asked one of the hunters how a person ever got one around here. None of them answered. We conversed a short while. They had turkey callers around their necks which they said were for calling deer. I laughed and said yeh right. They didn’t see it as a laughing matter. One of them asked me where I was from, and when I said Cincinnati he scoffed. I was a foreigner in his woods. Their bows were not cocked, but when he put two fingers on the string I asked him if he was stringing his bow. We talked some more and after that they went further into the woods. He told me to have a good day.
Since the very first day I didn’t want to be surprised by, or surprise, a bear while going around the corner of a switchback. I developed a sharp bark to let them know I was coming. In the registers located in each shelter many hikers wrote about how they saw a bear or bears. I never saw a bear the whole time, and jokingly thought the bears and me were one.
I never wore a wristwatch at home, but hiked with one. I knew how much of the day had gone by and could calculate how much further I had to go. At one hostel in Tennessee a young man sitting quietly across from me started to talk about the wristwatch he once had. I stopped what I was doing to listen. He was going South past Georgia to a place in Arkansas where he and his girl were going to live. She was hiking with him. He said my wristwatch reminded him of the broken wristwatch he once had. He said at first he missed it, but as time went on his life experience improved. I said amazed and amused, “you threw it into the woods”? “No, no I just left it for someone else.”
I looked at my watch like I understood, and told him, “I’m not there yet.” He shook his head from side to side and smiled saying my wristwatch reminded him of his, and he wasn’t trying to say anything else. Then he went back to sitting there. I looked to see what time it was, and marveled at what he said. No other hiker had a wristwatch either. Much further North from there I saw a weathered, broken digital watch on a bridge abutment where the trail went across a road. I wondered if it was his.
There is plenty of water on the Appalachian Trail. That is certainly true of the Southern half of the trail. I got spoiled by the cold spring water in the mountains, and could always depend on it being there. The water in town has a terrible taste.
One southbound hiker said that Summer he had to leave the trail to get water, and I read that in drought years water is hard to find everywhere. In normal times there is plenty of water to be had. I met two women hikers from Colorado. The outspoken one of the two said the reason they came all that way to hike on the Appalachian Trail was the abundance of water. She said it was not the same on trails in the western part of the country.
“The woods is lovely dark and deep,” that is what a poet said. It looked that way at the very end of the day when the sun went down and at the beginning of the day when it first came up. Then there is a beauty along the tops of mountains far from everything down below in the valleys. One time beauty came down the trail going the other way.
There was rain that day. It was a more than mist, but not much more. I was taking a water break. My rain gear consisted of a lightweight poncho that went over my pack. At that moment my poncho and pack were on the ground and I was barking with a dog far below in the valley. It barked more intently when it heard me. Suddenly there was another hiker coming the other way. I was slightly embarrassed to be standing there with a water bottle in my hand barking like a dog. She stopped 25-feet from where I was and said in an amused way, “I was wondering what that was.”