The Peace of Wild Things

“When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” 
 Wendell BerrySex, Economy, Freedom, and Community

Christian spent this past weekend at the Southeast Spring Rendezvous near Erwin, TN.  I received a Facebook note from his friend Bryan asking me to alert my husband about the festival,  since he should have been near it.  I texted Christian with the information and hoped for the best.  He loves activism and I knew that being around like-minded people for the weekend would be life-giving for him.  The hikers have been stellar human beings, but being with people he has marched with and lobbied Congress with, I knew would give him renewed energy.

He was without phone service for a week due to lack of signal but, when he turned his phone on, the first thing he noticed was a text from me and a text from Bryan talking all about the event.  He contacted Bryan who had decided to go to the event, himself and offered to pick Christian up.  They worked out logistics with a map and soon they had plans to meet.  Bryan would pick Christian up along a highway and drive him several miles to the event.  After the weekend was over, he would return him to the place he found him.

I received the next phone call and what I heard after “I love you and I miss you” was a very giddy husband excited to go and experience his fellow activists.  And, the best part?  He was asked to speak about the real costs associated with Mountain Top Removal and his experiences along the trail with pollution.  He was so honored to have been asked, and completely humbled.

I would like to use this space to again personally thank Bryan (trail name Boo Boo) for taking such brotherly care of my husband along the way.  Early readers may recall Bryan as the same man who has already hiked the AT in the past and met Christian at an activist training some time ago.  You will recall that he instructed an outfitter to “look out for” Christian.  When he arrived,  the outfitter fed him and gave him the royal treatment just for being Boo Boo’s friend.   When my husband pulled out his credit card to pay for supplies, he was told that his money was no good in the establishment.  He was a friend of Boo Boo’s and it was covered.   Christian has also been using Boo Boo’s set of maps on the AT.  It would have cost us money we did not have,  to purchase them.  Boo Boo mailed them free of charge with a note telling Christian that this would be his first taste of “Trail Magic”. I am indebted to someone who selflessly gives of his resources and himself so that Christian can have the time of his life!  Thank you, Bryan AKA Boo Boo!

Siler Bald Mountain, NC 3/29/2012  12:02 AM

Well, I’m here.  The hike wasn’t that bad, the biggest problem was my headlamp. Last year, before an activist weekend I was riding with mine and my wife’s friend,  Erika Skaggs.  Erica is like a lot of our activist friends.  She is very intelligent and thoughtful and is consistently complimentary of my wife and I as a couple. She endeavors to be well informed on both sides of the issues so that she can discuss the facts with authority and clarity.  As advocates and voices for the causes we believe in, we cannot afford to merely be emotional.  The very lives of people are at stake.  We must have the facts and be better informed than our opponents.  It is much like being in a courtroom on my client’s behalf.   If we need resources for fact-checking articles or if we are in need of deep conversations, Erika is one of the people we are blessed to know.  She asked if I would mind going to an outfitter with her before we really hit the road so that she could purchase a new headlamp.  I said no, I could use one too as the only one I ever had was an old-school incandescent Petzl with the battery packs on the back of the head.  That thing had eaten batteries like a ravenous animal, thereby rendering it impractical and worthless.  

I did not know what I was looking for and I did not want to spend too much cash, so I settled on the same inexpensive Princeton Tec model Erika picked up.  It was fine for that weekend but, the more I use it here on the AT, the less impressed I become.  Though it uses four LED’s and is great on batteries, it is cheaply made.  The plastic clasp that held the battery door shut broke not long after I got it, and is now expertly held shut with a zip tie (take THAT MacGyver).  It also does not have a red light function, which I have learned is so important on this trip to keep one’s night vision and avoid distracting your neighbors in the dark.  Red lights are much less intrusive and sleeping campers are rarely disturbed by them.  The light spectrum is terrible on this Princeton Tec, except up close.  You can’t really see color and white blazes look like blue ones.  Think about how dangerous night hiking could be when one takes the wrong trail.

Despite all of this, I made it to the shelter trail in much less time than I anticipated.  I set up my gear, trying not to disturb any of the other campers.  A red light would have been so nice.  I would not have had to tip toe around and take even longer to set up.  I am in a hurry because the lightening is flashing more frequently and the woods are making the sounds it makes when a heavy rain is coming. I put my fly on the tent and settle into bed.

3/29  Wayah Bald  11:26 AM

Image

This morning I took the blue blazed side trail to the pinnacle of Siler Bald, a stunning 360 degree unobstructed mountain panorama. Unfortunately, there is no way a photograph could do it justice.  I take it in, and travel on.

Image

Later that evening I come upon a beautiful Civilian Conservation Corp or Works Progress Administration (not sure which) era stone tower that graces the summit of Wayah Bald, 5,342 feet up, and gives way to a majestic view  of the mountains without a reflection or distortion from glass.  Inside, charts naming the mountains before my eyes, allow me to glimpse into the next state.  Unfortunately,  even though the mountains are only 8 miles away, they are hazy and obscured by the smog.

9:41 PM Cold Spring Shelter

Learning recently that evening is a beautiful time to hike, I continued on for several miles. During this late hour, the weather is cooler, the hues are soft and warm, there are fewer backpackers out, and yet,  the evening is where it’s at!  I remarked on this to another hiker who explained that the same reasons I enjoy night hiking, they enjoy hiking before dawn.  I countered “But, you don’t need to wake up early to hike in the evening”.  I didn’t press the issue, but there was no way they were winning that contest.  Not waking up early trumps just about anything.

I left the Wayah shelter at 5:50 PM figuring that I would make the Cold Spring Shelter by 8:00 PM, or camp in the best site I found if it was approaching 8:00 PM.  Suddenly, I saw the biggest wildlife of the trip so far and it made me want to continue on.  A beautiful white-tailed deer sat staring at me.  What a nice surprise.  Soon after, I made it to the shelter before 8:00 PM!  A nice hiker threw my bear bag line up for me as I cooked my dinner.  We talked for a while but exhaustion soon took over and before long we headed off to bed.

I’ve been meaning to pick up my pace for a while so that I can make it to Mt. Katahdin in Maine before they close Baxter State Park in October (or before if the weather is poor).  But, now I have a good reason to kick it into gear. I’m meeting my lovely wife next weekend at Newfound Gap, TN near Gatlinburg.  That is 81.2 miles from here and as much as I miss her, you better believe I will make it.  I hear the Smokies are rough, but I’ve got some good motivation.

Well, good people.  It’s after 10 PM now, and I need to get going to bed as I’m hoping to start waking up earlier and putting more miles in each day.  Thanks for your interest and support of my Appalachian Voyage.

Christian Torp

Today’s donation total rose to $2,585. We still need $2,415. Thank you to those who have supported us. Please mail donations to: Christian Torp, P.O. Box 861, Lexington, Ky. 40588.

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