The story of the section: Sloowwww and chasing sunsets.
Returning to life on the go after two nearly stationary weeks was difficult. So difficult, I needed two zeroes before I was ready to resume the walk! Firecracker sure loved taking four zeroes in town….
We hitchhiked out of town, after resupplying and a long stay at the library, to Rockfish Gap and the beginning of Shenandoah National Park. We registered for our stay and we began hiking. As difficult as it was to leave town, once my feet started walkin’, my face started smilin’. Nothing compares to the freedom of the open trail.
Rain drops onto the tin roof as we sleep adding ambient noise that drowns out the twisting, turning, snoring people packed into an Appalachian Trail shelter on a rain day. I wake feeling rested but not ready to face the day.
“Want to zero and watch a movie?!!”
We lay around the shelter watching the diehards don their wetsuits. They voice their anger at mother nature and curse their ill fortune. The stoic slip silently away into the dreary day.
By evening, the rain has passed and the sky has cleared. Our heads are now fuzzy from a break in routine. It is hard to stay in one place when you are used to moving somewhere new everyday.
Two of our group move on down the trail. The rest of us backtrack to watch the sun set from the top of the bald. I take my pack planning to sleep up there.
The top turns out too cold and windy for a proper nights sleep. I watch the sun sink below the horizon in a dazzling display of stunning colors with my friends. Then, I retreat a bit towards the shelter and a covered rock with a built in fireplace.
Dinner cooks in the coals of a crevice through the rock. The full moon floats above the overhanging boulder. I play with long exposures. Resting the camera on a rock, I set the shutter speed to 30seconds. The two-second self-timer ticks away tripping the shutter. I paint the boulder with my headlamp for ten seconds then I sit beside the fire and flash my face with the camera on my phone freezing my digital, almost ghostly, image.
I’m standing on the rickety platform of the the Wesser Bald observation tower 4,627 feet above the sea. The western sky is ablaze in the light of the sun slowly slipping below a mountain range of purple, blue, and green. The full moon fills the eastern sky rising through a rainbow haze of reflected light. Mr. Kool-Aid stands in front of me tears streaming from his eyes. I extend a hand for a shake. He pulls me in for a hug.
People always ask us why. Why would we do something so seemingly crazy? For moments like these. Moments of ecstasy and euphoria that break through all barriers. The climbing and physical challenges strip us bare leaving raw our emotions for moments like these.
After the sun is sufficiently set to satisfy our senses, we descend the tower and walk the mile to camp in the light of the moon. We arrive, tired and hungry, to the shelter where our friends await. We sleep inside, my second time on the trail. It seemed clean and little used. Not like some of the shelters our here.