Waking Up On the Appalachian Trail: Chapter 15

Day 92: Trail Mile 1,203

The trail cut through hardwood stands, ranging in size from struggling saplings to stately matriarchs. The maples and Virginia creepers honored the first days of October in brilliant red hues.

“According to the guidebook, most of the trail through Northern Virginia will be like this—the ‘Virginia Rollercoaster,’ the authors call it. No big climbs, but lots of up and down, which,” Ben said, panting for breath, “continues into the central and southern part of the state. But I guess the mountains will get much bigger. Then we’re into the Smoky Mountains.”

I hung my head and watched my knees and legs work over the dirt path. At some point, willpower had become the primary fuel moving me forward.

“Let’s stop at this next shelter,” I said, before working my tongue into the roof of my mouth trying to generate saliva. This wasn’t a forced ruck march in army training. There were options.

“We’ve only got five more miles ’til we get to camp for the night. You can’t make it five more miles?”

“I could use some water. Let’s take a break.” My head felt as if it were floating away.

He scoffed but turned off on the side trail.

I didn’t care about my pride. The words came from someplace much deeper than mere ego, something primal.

N. B. Hankes

N. B. Hankes

Founder and best selling author of "Waking Up On the Appalachian Trail."
Humboldt County, California