Travel Story

Out of Place on the Appalachian Trail by Aeris Walker

My backpack weighs 31 pounds and it’s barely fitting into the back of Jen Steve’s Honda. I’m not sure they understood what that I was struggling difficulties until I called them and asked to take a ride up the mountain. Jen gave me the look and that pathetic and tight-lipped smile. However, she also helped Steve and me load my stuff, and they bought me a meal before taking me to the trailhead. Jen wept and Steve handed me a bottle of pepper spray as well as An awkward hug on the side.

Here’s the thing: nothing. I’m currently in Springer Mountain, Georgia, with zero miles left and 2,190 miles left to travel.

You’ll see you from another side.

Mile 8

I feel my heart beating on my feet, but I got to the first camp site. Then I’m exhausted and aching, but in that great I’ve-done-a-hard-thing sort of manner. I had a hard time setting my tent up–broke an ax while getting it out of my bag. But there were other people at the camp site and a pleasant college student noticed me struggling, came over to assist and set everything put up in a matter of minutes. He was a bit amused and I’m sure that he was contemplating what I was up to throughout the entire trip instead of sitting on my couch drinking an ice cold glass of chardonnay or an Oprah’s book club book However, he did not ask.

Mile 19

Well, I peed in the woods yesterday. You’d have laughed at me while I searched for the ideal location, and then dumped and dumped my own garbage like a delicate purebred house cat.

I laughed too.

Mile 49

I’m already behind schedule. I spent hours repacking my backpack on Saturday to spread the weight. A hiker said it will be easier on my back when I move heavy items toward the center. Therefore, I took everything out and put it back in as tight as I could. It took a long time. The hiker was there throughout the whole time, talking about my possessions and, when he eventually went away, I got down to write and then realized that I’d put my journal in the garbage. Then, I opened my bag once more while rummaging through my stuff like a madwomanonly to discover that the journal was lying on a boulder next to me all the time.

Even in the frigid temperatures of spring, I felt in a state of red face and sweating.

Mile 65

The soles of my feet have been taking their toll on me However, I believe I’ve finally put on my new-to-me hiking boots.

I am asleep this evening while listening to the sound of crickets and thought about you.

Mile 87

I had a conversation with a hiker today , who said that it was his second thru-hike. He appeared to be about 10 years more experienced than I am and described himself as “Pinetree.” With his bones and skin, with a scraggly, long beard, he appeared like a stranded castaway in the forest, even though I sensed that he enjoyed the peace and quiet. He swung his chin to me and asked “Nobo?”

“What?” I huffed out.

“North bound?”

North bound? Oh. Yes. It’s true.” I was forced to stop and catch my breath between each sentence. “Just getting started.”

He took a look at me and he slurred his tongue. “You’re carrying too many pounds.”

I was initially offended, but then realizing that he was referring to my pack. “How?! I left so much behind. I’m in need of everything.”

He was silent and chewed his lips. “Give it another few miles. You’ll not feel like that after that.”

We continued to walk; his pace was twice as fast as mine, however the speed slowed down and matched my speed. We strolled together in peace until I stopped for lunch.

He continued walking. “When you’re willing to let some of it go, you’ll feel more relaxed. Don’t be afraid to trust me.” Then , with the final “take good care of yourself” He disappeared just around the next corner.

The reprimand from him irritated me, but his anger motivated me to run for four or five miles.

I was envious of him because he seemed So confident, and at ease.

He brought me back to you.

Mile 112

I removed eight ticks from my legs this morning. There could be more, but I could not see them and this idea kept me up the whole night, tossing and twitching in my tent until fatigue lulled me to a sleepy night of sleep. I woke up dreaming that my hiking shoes jumped off the cliff and I was forced to walk for the remainder of the hike wearing a pair of yellow plastic wrappers for ramen noodles.

Mile 148

I ran into a couple of thru-hikers of South Dakota (which I had completely forgot was an actual state) and both were aged in the 80’s! We talked all the way and it was a great way to help to make the miles go by quickly.

They told me that the key to longevity is never stopping moving.

Mile 162

I’ve been able to make better time and today was my best day for the year so far. 14 miles. A fairly uninteresting 14 miles, but I did spot an animal called a porcupine. It was fascinating. I’ve always thought that the animals would be…spikier …?

In at the refuge, I threw away three books, three shirts, and a lotion tube from my backpack . I then put them in a box for giveaways. It was a noticeable change.

Mile 169

Well the 14 miles around destroyed me. I fell asleep late this morning I took two ibuprofens before leaving my tent. My back hurt, and my feet hurt and even my earlobes hurt.

The one thing I didn’t want to accomplish was to put the boots back on my sore feet to take a walk.

Mile 202

Regret taste sour and as do the dry gums’ ridges.

What am I doing in this place?

Mile 327

I walked 18 miles yesterday but decided to take today off. I was in need of replenishing my nutrition, as I’m sure there’ll be plenty of miles to cover before I get to the next city (I’m still learning to navigate maps and think ahead). I went shopping and bought new clothes as my pants are beginning to fall off me Then I was able to check into a hotel and enjoyed my initial genuineshower I’ve experienced in a while since I left Georgia. I sat there until the water boiled cold, and then lay on the sheets and went out until my stomach’s rumbling got me up. I ordered a huge pepperoni pizza, and devoured all of it myself.

After that, I called my pizza shop to order another pizza.

Mile 463

It’s finally made it to Virginia. It’s been raining for the last three days. The trails are slushy, my shoes are filthy and I’m an adolescent.

I’d like to return home.

Mile 567

I have made a small group of acquaintances who have sort of dragged me into their group and let me follow for the last 50 miles or more. Melons is an veterinarian tech from Florida and her cleavage is the reason she makes introductions before she makes. Huckleberry is a tall, 22-year-old, who wears his pants with a roll at the ankles and walks in Crocs. It seems a bit unpractical to me, but he claims that it’s comfy. My Aunt Jemima is a huge mid-aged Norwegian man who is a lover of breakfast and is a heavy hitter with an open-top campfire griddle. He’s cooked us pancakes nearly every day, and it’s been one of my most favorite aspects of my day. The largest man I’ve ever known Aunt Jemima often bangs her head against low-hanging branches when we walk through the woods, creating a series of games-like sounds from Huckleberry such as “doink” as well as “boing.”

Their business has revolutionized everything and I’ve laughed more these past few days than I’ve done in a long time.

Mile 653

Today was a slog. The terrain was rough and uneven. I devised a game keeping track of how long ago I was able to travel without falling.

I’ve never made it through the whole hour.

Mile 713

Melons, Huckleberry, and Aunt Jemima decided to make an escape; Huckleberry’s family lives close by and invited guests to come over for a couple of days, however, I was determined to go on.

We exchanged contact numbers and then we parted ways.

Mile 806

It’s hard to feel the blisters when you cease.

Mile 878

I’m exhausted of my own breath I’m tired of trees and freeze-dried soup and tired of having nothing other than time to think about what I could have changed in my life.

I’m not sure who believed I was or how I thought I could achieve this.

Mile 900

I was about to quit yesterday, but then I ran into an angel.

I was seven miles from the end of the road and felt as if there was no way for me to make it towards the shelter that was next but all up to the end of Maine I ran straight into a web of spiders, fell over a boulder and was then face-planted into the ferns. I was so upset that I threw my backpack at the tree, pulling muscles in my back as a result. After that, I sat down and cried.

It was a lot of pain I was sunburned, hungry and ready to give up and tell all the world I could not accomplish it.

The next thing I realized, I was lying on my back, looking at the wet, floppy tongue of a massive Great Dane. I struggled to get up and when I did, it sunk its head right into my shoulder. Without thinking I threw my arms around the neck of the dog. I realized I was hugging the most close I’d experienced to an hug since Steve’s rigid-armed goodbye hug.

After a while I heard someone crying out for “Karen,” then saw a gray-haired woman walking along the trail. She took one glance at me–at my bag thrown in the ferns, my knees that had been scraped and her pet (which was actually called Karen) with its head resting on my shoulder. Then, she I looked her right in the eyes and asked me if I enjoyed lasagna.

She identified herself by the name of “Zippy” while we took a side path leading to her house. I could smell the smell of oregano before I discovered the cabin. The lady had cooked two pans of the most delicious lasagna I’ve ever had. She never asked me if I wanted second helpings of anything. She she continued to pour meals onto my plate after I’d finished it.

Following dinner, the group sat down on her couch and discussed the hike, the solitude, the friendships you form as well as the boredom. I’d gone for a couple of days without communicating to anyone, and when she inquired what the reason I did it the feeling was that I was sucked into a pond and I wept–stupid crying, shaking sobs that rattled our teacups against the table. She let me cry, let me talk.

I explained to her that climbing the AT was not my idea, and I’ve never wanted to put my life in a bind to hike across mountains, and live with the backpack for a half year.

Then I spoke to my daughter the story of you–how it has always been your desire, your goal that you pleaded with me to join you…bought myself my personal equipment and everything…because I told you that I was going to.

Then I explained to her that each time you mentioned the excursion and I had to stopped you from talking about it, and then scolded you by saying “maybe next spring” or “things are just too hectic working right now,” or “how about when we take a break.”

What a fool I was believe that time would be waiting for us. Sometimes hearts cease to beat and never get up.

I’m not blaming myself for this but I’m responsible for giving you false impression that I would join with you even though I had any intention of weaving my arms around the purple backpack that you put up in the garage with yours. I was waiting for you, and now it’s time for you. We could have done this together, but you’ll never get the chance.

This hike was difficult–the most difficult thing I’ve done in my entire life, however, you’d have loved every moment of it. And I would’ve enjoyed doing this with you.

I felt more relaxed the following day than I did all week. Even after a full stomach of lasagna.

Mile 989

What is the best way to stay in Virginia?

The multitool I took with me in my bag, a pair of over-sized hiking shorts, as well as an extra flashlight in my shelter box.

Mile 1057

The summer sun’s muggy air makes my skin itch…

I threw the gasket off of my water purifier in the stream today. I was staring at the brown water for a few minutes, trying to locate the item before I realized that I stood about a foot away from a copperhead that was coiled up. My blood turned to ice, a temporary respite from the suffocating heat. I then spun away from the problem with the speed of a woman who is 20 years younger.

So I wasn’t bit by a snake, however, I didn’t discover that gasket.

Mile 1132

You’d be amazed at who I met this morning: Melons, Huckleberry, and Aunt Jemima.

I am the slow of an hiker.

Melons gave me a huge hug, and squished me between her huge bosom. Huckleberry had on real boots and said that he’d lost his crocs in a river and needed to walk for a mile and half with socks on before being able to get new shoes. Someone designed the Aunt Jemima an apron that had the image of a gigantic backpacker who was flipping pancakes. He told me that he wears it everyday.

Mile 1281

It’s almost across Pennsylvania.

I’m sure I’ve complained often, but this is one day when all the sweat, blood and tears felt as if they were worth something. I woke up just before the sun rose, made hot coffee, then walked to an overlook from where the valley was a mile beneath, still cloaked in darkness. I was able to watch the sun rise, and shed its light on every turn and dip of the terrain. Birds sang all around me, and the leaves swayed through the air, and I could feel that you were in my presence.

First time I could not just wait to get started.

Mile 1359

Did I tell you that I’ve been given an unofficial trail name?


Mile 1422

We’ve reached New York! Melons and I hopped on a cab to town this morning and had manicures, mostly to watch the expressions on the faces of the beauticians when they noticed our feet (that and I was longing to get an ointment massage). I chose a vibrant red nail polish, and then sank into a massage seat however, when I took my socks my left pinky toenail fell clean and ended up directly in the water.

I didn’t feel anything.

The poor woman painted the nailless toe’s stub but now it’s hard to tell what is missing.

Mile 1614

The landscape has been difficult the last few days but the views are stunning. We’ve made it to Vermont and the group and I stayed for a well-deserved night in the motel. The motel offered scrambled eggs for the continental breakfast that morning and, between the 4 of us could have consumed about around two dozen eggs. Aunt Jemima was not thrilled with the pancakes they served, but he ate enough to feed the football team.

Mile 1736

I’m in New Hampshire. From Georgia. With my OWN TWO feet. It’s hard to believe that I’m doing this. There have been many times when I’ve wanted only to quit and go home and now that I’m close to the finish line, I’m scared to death. What happens after it’s done?

Mile 1901

I broke my own record and walked for 24 miles today. My body’s muscles are screaming and I’m struggling to find the strength to hold my pen. But I wanted to say I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that you didn’t get to experience what I’ve experienced or experience the same journey I’ve taken however I hope that you are aware that I’ve taken you along with me throughout the entire journey. I’m sure it won’t change anything, but no matter where you are you are aware the fact that you have been the one who has helped push me to the top of these mountains.

Mile 2032

We’re now in Maine! We celebrated the crossing into the state of Maine by drinking a ton of beer and Huckleberry who was in a drunken state, didn’t take his food items with him. You know that at 1 am at dawn, I began hearing a huffing sound and a rustling and thought it was Huckleberry being sick and I rushed outside my campsite to check him out and found myself face to face with the most ugly animal I’ve encountered. The bear was missing an eye and had a rough cut over his eye.

I panicked, froze. What was I suppose to do? Run? Play dead? Scream? I had a feeling that I was going to be killed at the moment that Aunt Jemima took a step out of the shelter, and walked up to the bear, with his chest in a puff and began yodling. Yes. Yodeling. Deep, reverberating, melodic howls. I’ve never heard anything quite similar to it before and the bear must have absolutely hated the sound, since it was able to take it off.

I fell asleep like a rock at night knowing that the ugly bear was telling all his pals about the yodeling monster that I refer to as Aunt Jemima.

Mile 2178

Tomorrow, we will hike Mount Katahdin, the last part of the Appalachian trail! !

Mile 2191

It was an difficult hike up 4,400 feet of rocky altitude, however I managed it.

I DID it! !

There’s a photo of me, Melons, Huckleberry, and my Aunt Jemima with our arms stretched out towards the massive timber “Mount Katahdin” sign. I’ve never seen an enormous smile on my face.

I appeared confident and at ease.

The four of us stayed in the top spot for some time and rejoicing over our win and then the other four went off to their own:

You and I can spend a few minutes to take a break.

This is when I released you.

The cap was lifted off the tiny cylindrical urn I’d carried around in both rain and sunshine over more than 2000 miles and then I sprinkled your ashes on the breeze. Your wings swung open and you took off over the mountains, before landing on the rocks, valleys of the beautiful wild Maine.

We’re all thru hikers now You and I.

And I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you.

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