Thursday, May 31, 2018

Bugged Out In Virginia: Part 1 - Misery, Inc.

Once there was a man that came home from a war and decided to walk the entire length of the Appalachian Trail in an effort to heal the pain of losing his close friend in battle. During his lifetime, he ended up hiking the whole trail three times. It is uncertain if he was ever healed.....

It was a normal hot, humid, Florida day in late May, and we were sitting in a MD 80 aircraft on the runway at the Sanford airport. This aircraft and airport were not to be confused with the Orlando International Airport, which is a large bustling place, filled with families eager to get to Disney World, not yet aware of the tropical conditions they will face while waiting in world famous long queues. No, this was the redneck workhorse airport, the one that flies people inexpensively to small towns on the eastern seaboard of the US. There was definitely a price to be paid for those cheap seats, one of which being, even a cup of water would cost you. The only thing free was a couple of ice cubes. But, for a couple of backpackers getting ready to live on freeze-dried food and water filtered from mountain creeks, the hardship of crowded seats on a small plane was a small discomfort.
It was hot on the plane just sitting there, but it had been raining in Florida for days, and the newscasters were speaking of the possibility of setting a new record for the number of continuous days of rain. Everything was getting moldy, and the bugs were starting to invade our houses at night. It seemed like the perfect time to escape to the mountains and feel the cool breeze flowing through our tents while we enjoyed the peace and quiet that is hard to find in the city. It had been a hard fought battle to make this trip happen. The plan was to cover 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail in 8 days. It was a reasonable plan and we knew what we were doing this time. Our pack weights were low, and our gear was top notch. REI had opened a store near my house and I had found a wonderful new place to spend my time and money. We had plane tickets, shuttle rides from the airport to the trail, a hotel room for when we came off the trail and were ready for almost all contingencies...except for what happened.
Paul, the master strategist, had business issues that would have preferred that he stayed home, not to mention a home remodeling project that had gone way over time and budget. In fact, the trip was up in the air until the day before we were to leave. Paul had finally said, "That's It! We're going no matter what!"
What Paul did not know at the time was that there was this little swirly thing down in the tropics that didn't have a name yet, a thing that might just guarantee an unforgettable journey.

Paul leaned back in his seat in the row behind me, chatting amiably with his seatmate while I gazed out the window at the group of airline mechanics on the tarmac below. Our pilot stepped into the cabin and announced that there would be  a slight delay while they checked the logbook for a discrepancy. While listening, I happened to notice that the mechanics on the ground were looking at a couple of screws in the palm of one guy's hand. I was sincerely hoping those were not leftovers from the most recent repair work.
As we sat in the plane, roasting in the Florida heat, it became apparent that the logbook issue was not the primary reason were not yet flying. After an hour, we finally got our clearance and the plane was on it's way to our mountainous adventure.
We had packed well. It was a month later in the year than the last time we had ventured up into the Virginia mountains, so we knew that it could not be as cold as before. We expected it to be cool, but warm enough to leave all of our cold weather gear at home. There was a fair chance of rain, but that would actually allow me a chance to test out my new raincoat and pants.
Once off the ground and heading towards those smoky peaks I fondly remembered, my mind turned away from computers and yardwork to the beauty of nature and the comradeship of the hikers on the trail.
Something I failed to discern at the time was that there is quite a difference between a gentle summer shower and a month of rain....

No comments:

Post a Comment