Bailout

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I write this from Cohutta, Georgia.

What?

Yep, we bailed out. Temporarily. In three weeks, we hiked 317.4 miles, a satisfying three inches on the map of the entire trail. We enjoyed it thoroughly, even though it was not all easy. We are more than ready to continue, but after much deliberation during Winter Storm Virgil, we decided to wait for spring–or at least, for some semblance of a season that is no longer winter–before returning to the trail. We’d have been getting off the trail in a week anyway so I can attend a family wedding, so paying for a room and town food for three or four days while we waited for the drifts to settle wouldn’t have made much sense either, since we’d only get several days of (extra slow) hiking after, before having to decamp again.

Yet it’s maddening how there can be huge drifts of snow up on the mountains, drifts that slow you down, make you ravenous, freeze you out, exacerbate your little aches and pains, make you weep… but within thirty minutes of heading for home, it’s sunny and warm in the valley, and you wonder why the hell you aren’t up there hiking, even as you can still see the snow-covered peaks in your rear-view mirror. It’s bittersweet. Zippy and I remind each other of an AT slogan: Hike your own hike. Forget notions of failure and success, of good and bad ways to make this journey. We are doing this, not the way we expected, but we are doing this. We trust in our higher power to guide us. And meanwhile, there’s time to enjoy beautiful weather, loving family, Easter week, J.’s birthday (today!), and my cousin’s wedding, Oh yeah… and if we’re lucky, several fascinating skin irritations might heal in the coming days. I’ll spare you the details.

Instead, I’m going to take the dog for a walk amid the blossoming trees. Fill Flo’s birdfeeders with sunflower seeds. Wash some dishes. J.’s going to patch gear, play the guitar, and dream of more hiking. We’ll be in touch…

Ten day forecast

Crossing the falls

Our departure is now within the ten-day forecast, the far end of which we have been watching fluctuate like a lively stock market.

We took our last “shakedown” overnighter before the Trail a few nights ago. We went deep into the Cohutta Wilderness, which is part of the Chattahoochee National Forest in north Georgia and southeastern Tennessee. We were blessed with perfect weather, a decently well-marked loop, and the discovery that our new, 13″ Rocky Gore-Tex socks can keep feet dry and warm through several dozen water crossings in a row. A beautiful campsite appeared just at dusk. The full moon rose between the longleaf pines while we pitched the tent. It was like a friendly “Bon Voyage” card from the hiking gods, although I should know better than to take any of it personally.

Since then, I’ve been eating whatever I want, and not worrying much about exercise. A little padding might not be a bad idea. Also, no more shaving, or putting together cute, matching outfits. Basically I am letting myself go to seed. It’s enjoyable, as well as alarming how quickly I can revert to Hippie after having dipped my toes in the brisk waters of Yuppie.

We’ve been packing food boxes to send ourselves later, divvying up my last Good Food Store haul of Pro Bars and delicious dried foods. It’s unusual, here in the USA, to scan nutrition labels in search of maximum fat, calories and protein. Let’s just say that there are baggies containing hunks of pure coconut oil in those boxes, among other things.

One morning soon, J.’s wonderful, generous parents will be driving us as close as we can get to Springer Mountain, and dropping us off on the trail. Next time you hear from me, this will probably be the journal of a bona fide Appalachian Trail thru-hiker. Bon voyage!