Thanks for the Trail
On Thanksgiving day, Lenny and I walked our A.T. trail for the last time this year. We have a five-mile section from Rice Gap to Devils Fork Gap on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. It's not a particularly outstanding section, more like a typical A.T. section in the South.
The day started out cold and we had overdressed. By midmorning, with clipping and sawing, we had shed most of our top layers. We got a new hand saw, a Silky, which worked so much better than our old bow saw. Still we found at least two blowdowns that we couldn't handle. We needed to report it to the CMC trailcrew. They have the big guns, or at least, the power saws. We also break up fire rings that are on the trail; those are illegal. Yes, we did hear hunters because our trail is in the Pisgah Forest. We wore orange and hoped they got a deer.
We met a southbounder, Mountain Goat, a young woman who had graduated college and started on the trail in Maine in July. She seemed in good spirits and eager to get into the Smokies. I offered to take out her trash, which is the best thing to offer a long-distance hiker.
I did give thanks that I live so close to the A.T., and that we are entrusted with taking care of it. That's the way most trails in the U.S. are maintained, by volunteers. This is the hardest physical work I do. Hiking 19 miles in the Smokies is not as hard on my back as the bending, twisting, reaching I do when I maintain the trail. That evening, I slept on the floor, still thankful.