The epic journey of a sibling pair as they trek 2,181 miles from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachia Trail.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Day from Hell

Hansel and Gretel are learning that there are days when the Trail Magic is flowing and then there are days when it definitely is not.  Directly following the scrumptious visit with Hercules and Fal, Hansel and Gretel set out on a day that was supposed to be 60 degrees and sunny.  WRONG!  By the time they arrived at camp it was 30 degrees and they had spent the entire day hiking through sleet, freezing rain, hail... pretty much everything except snow.  (I had to consult Wikipedia to distinguish the difference between these forms of precipitation.  Feel free to follow the links if you also need a refresher corse.)

On this day, they had planned to hike 21 miles.  There was one shelter about 10 miles in where they could meet up and break for lunch.  Lately, Hansel and Gretel spend most of their day hiking independent of one another.  Gretel is an early bird and usually hits the trail first while Hansel takes his time before leaving camp.  Gretel is faster on the downhills, while Hansel is speedy on the ups.  When they stop for breaks, Gretel often is the first to return to the trail and it usually takes Hansel about 30 minutes before he catches up with her again.

10 miles into their hike, the siblings met at the shelter as planned.  They had a snack and Gretel took off while Hansel finished up.  30 minutes into his hike, Hansel had not yet caught up with Gretel.  Then an hour passed.  Then two hours.  No Gretel.  When he finally arrived at the shelter late in the day, it was freezing cold and no one had seen or heard from Gretel.  Frantic to find his sister, Hansel was on the verge of sending out a search party when Gretel emerged from the woods, exhausted and very cold.  As it turned out, when Gretel left the first shelter, she accidentally started her hike back south-ward instead of north.  Luckily she recognized her mistake before hiking too far in the wrong direction, turned around and continued behind Hansel.

Relieved that Gretel was safe, it was now time to set up camp.  Unfortunately, this mishap meant that the siblings had a very late start at staking their spot, and by the time they were ready to settle in, the shelter was completely packed.  On this freezing night, the best they could do was to lay a tarp below the floor of the shelter where they might be safe and dry.  The three feet of head room made for a very uncomfortable night's sleep, which was interrupted several times by dreams that resulted in jolting up and slamming their heads into the shelter floor.  To make this sleeping experience even more appealing (note the sarcasm), the shelter was built on the slanted forest floor so all night long, Hansel was rolling down the hill into Gretel.

When they awoke the next morning, it was clear that the last 24 hours had been an extreme test of will power.  Miserable from start to finish.  This was undoubtably the sort of day where one either decides to quit the trail outright, throw in the towel and head back to civilization.  OR.  One concludes that one can make it through anything.  After a restless, freezing, most uncomfortable night, Hansel and Gretel set out for another full day, their wills of iron driving them onward!

Happy trails... please let there be happy trails!

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