Written by: Katherine 'Ringleader' Imp
Last week, the Traveling Circus took their one and only break from the Appalachian Trail. Lightning went to Trail Days, and Monkey and I went to my law school graduation. People asked Monkey and I a whole variety of questions, but my favorite question to answer is always this: What is your favorite memory up to this point?
For those of you that have seen me in the last week, some of this will be repetitious, but if you haven't . . . enjoy!
1. The Bus --- Somewhere in Southern Virginia I saw a yellow school bus in the woods. I didn't know how it got there. I didn't know why it was there. All I knew is that my favorite movie, "Into the Wild," had just become a reality. I dropped my pack, weaved in and out of weeds and piles of cow shit, and jumped in. It was clear that someone had lived there. The bus had a bed, a stove, a table -- it was a home. Emily and Brandon soon joined me and after a look around we decided there was only one thing left to do: play. I pretended to host a dinner party, with Emily and Brandon as my guests. We laughed, and danced, and practiced our Southern accents. Who knew a run-down bus could be so entertaining.
2. The 13-mile sprint into Pearisburg --- We planned to spend a weekend with an old friend of mine in Pearisburg. Unfortunately it took 3 marathon days and a half-marathon sprint to get there by Saturday morning before the post office closed. We'd spent the night before the 13-mile sprint at a hostel called Wood's hole, and somewhere around mile 4 of 'the sprint' I realized I forgot my snack bag at the hostel. With Emily and Brandon nowhere in sight, I had no choice but to just keep going and hope that the Cliff bar at breakfast would get me through the hike. I zoomed through the trees, peering to my right or left every so often to catch a view. Finally I was nearing the end, only a few more miles of downhill to go, when I saw a thru-hiker standing by a road intersecting the trail. It was TP! A female thru-hiker we had hiked with for awhile in the Smokies! I barely had the energy to say hello, but we both gave the "What are you doing here??" look, chatted for a minute, and said farewell. I then ran down the rest of the mountain, stumbled over to the Rendezvous Motel, and collapsed on the grass -- in awe of what my body had just accomplished.
3. The Pearisburg Post Office Parking Lot --- After collecting our care packages from the Pearisburg post office, Emily, Brandon, and I sat down in the parking lot to organize ourselves. Out of nowhere a man comes over on his motorcycle and says, "Would you mind giving me a minute to pray for you?" Of course my first thought was that he was either a Jehovah's Witness or wanted to convert me to whatever religion he was faithful to. Nevertheless I figured a prayer couldn't hurt anyone so I said, "Sure." He then proceeds to pray for our health, our safety on the trail, and our happiness throughout the journey. After he finished, he got back on his motorcycle and drove away . . .
4. Clingman's Dome --- Clingman's Dome is one of the highest peaks on the AT, and the day we planned to hike over it was the day it snowed in the Smokies. We woke up to snow on the ground and in the trees. It was cold and wet . . . and beautiful. The hike was treacherous. Because there was so much snow on the ground, the tree branches were at the same level as our heads. I tried to duck and twist, but no matter where you turned you were bound to get snow in the face. When I got to a fork in the road, I couldn't tell which way Brandon and Emily had gone so I took a left. I couldn't see the white blazes or footprints because of all the snow. I just kept going up until the trees opened up and I saw the Smokies. I was freezing and lost and alone but I've never see anything so beautiful.
5. Dutch Haus B&B --- According to our Thru-Hiker travel companions, there is a B&B in Montebello, VA that gives free lunch to hikers. For all we knew the lunch served was peanut butter & jelly, but it didn't matter . . . it was free. We hiked 13 miles to the top of a mountain and it was here that we were to find a steep downhill path that would bring us to a parking lot at the bottom. From there the owners of the B&B would pick us up. When we got to this intersection it was 12:30, lunch ended at 1pm, and we had no cell reception to call and ask for a pick up. Feeling defeat, we began to pull out our tuna packets. Then, out of nowhere, a truck pulls around the corner of this mountain. Without thinking I jump in front of the truck and ask for a ride to the B&B. Apparently there is an old Appalachian family that lives on the other side of the mountain and twice a month he goes to check on them --- this day being one of those times. We jump in the back of the truck, and when we get to the parking lot we see the owner of the B&B. "We heard you were comin' from some of your fellow thru-hikers," he said. We get out of the first truck, hop into the second truck, and before we could even say thank you we were being hustled into this beautiful wooden home to a table with fresh lemonade, hamburgers, macaroni & cheese, veggies, and vanilla pudding topped with fresh strawberries.