Sometimes, when a song pops into your head, you should listen to it. Sometimes, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Like today. I had to fold, I had to bail on the trail. “What, so soon?” some of you may be asking. Yep, with a forecast calling for 6-12 inches of snow tonight, I’m no dummy.
No matter how much I want to get these lost miles of the trail done, it’s not worth it at this point. Forget for a moment about the impending storm and the thought of having to break trail through the snow — I didn’t have cell service last night where I camped. Any long time blog follower knows that lack of connectability is par for the course along the AT, but knowing that my family was worried about me and I couldn’t get in touch to let them know I was okay — that made me feel really bad and really selfish.
Until this point I had been hiking in warmer weather and hiking during thru-hiker season, when it was guaranteed I’d see others along the way. With a hiker community around me, I would have never truly been alone in the woods if I had decided to hike by myself. The majority of thru-hikers my dad and I met were on solo expeditions and hiked along with great success. But I didn’t see another sole out on my trek this time.
And though it felt good strapping that pack back on, getting my heart and legs pumping, setting up camp, crawling in that sleeping bag and not being afraid to be alone — it didn’t feel right knowing that my husband was concerned for my safety and couldn’t get in touch. At least when my dad and I were hiking together and had no cell service, our at-home partners could breathe easier knowing we had each other to rely on in case something went awry.
The threat of injury or bad weather is always a valid concern whether you’re hiking alone or in a group. But when you hike alone, you can’t be callous about it. I’m proud of myself for giving it a go and making it through a brutally cold night in the woods and not being scared, but I respect my family enough to know when to call it quits.
Lucky for me, I had some guardian trail angels named Michelle and Ber who happened to be at their weekend house in the Berkshires today. When I did get cell service today, I was able to give them a ring. They were kind enough to pick me up from the trail and bring me back to Lee, MA where I could catch the bus back to NYC.
So I’m on the bus, Gus. I’ll make a new plan, Stan. And I’ll make the rest of these 75 miles of the Appalachian Trail up at some point. But it doesn’t have to be in the snow and it doesn’t have to be alone.