Waking Up On the Appalachian Trail: Chapter 16

Day 98: Waynesboro, Virginia

Wind whipped the flaps of the tent, sending sonic booms ringing into the night. I flinched every time the sound fired. Police flashlights and circling red and blue lights lit up the surrounding trees like an eerie disco. Two officers escorted a vagrant out of his squatter’s camp in the woods. Ben and I watched from a park bench. The only difference between us and the squatter was the name brand hiking clothes.

“Just apple juice in these pouches, officer,” Ben joked under his breath. He lifted the collapsible pouch to his lips, lapping at the beer as if from a shepherd’s goatskin bota.

“Nothing to see here,” I whispered back. Hiccup.

With full bellies, clean skin and beer, we surveyed the park and sleepy town like two grinning Buddhas. No words. Nowhere to be. We just sat and basked in the ease of our transience.

“What’s the plan for tomorrow?” I asked, beginning to consider the joys of sleep.

“Twenty-one miles to Maupin Field shelter.”

“Our hundredth day on the trail will be coming up in two days,” I said, waxing nostalgic. I couldn’t help but think of how the mountain passes and alpine views had become a part of me. My hips and swollen feet held onto those memories.

N. B. Hankes

N. B. Hankes

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