This past weekend, AJ and I hiked a section of the Appalachian Trail with some friends. Spanning about 2,200 miles, the A.T. crosses 14 states from Georgia to Maine. For this particular hike, we chose a 6.2-mile section in New York, since we live nearby in Connecticut. Check out the video here.
AJ, having grown up with Glacier National Park practically in his backyard, is an avid backpacker and camper. I’ve always wanted to do more hiking, but I lived in New York City for the longest time, and I didn’t have anyone with whom to venture out. I’m very excited that we finally have the time this year to do some backpacking. AJ got me a fancy new backpack for Christmas. It’s waterproof, lightweight, and has more pockets than I’ll ever know what to do with.
AJ and these friends of ours started systematically hiking the nearby sections of the A.T. in New Jersey and New York before AJ and I met. This was my first opportunity to join them. Even though the weather forecast didn’t look great, we didn’t want to delay. It’s crazy how quickly spring and summer weekends get booked up! It was my only opportunity to train with a backpack on an A.T. trail before our first overnight trip a few weeks from now.
Admittedly, I have a lot to learn about outdoor pursuits. I’ve done a few hikes here and there, including training once with a backpack on a very flat trail close to home. Things like what and how to pack, how to set up a tent, and trail etiquette are still very new to me. Luckily, I have a pretty good teacher. I’ll be sharing my experiences here, so stay tuned!
We set out a little after 9:00am on Saturday morning in two cars. After quick stops at Starbucks and the gas station, we made the hour-long journey to the end point of our hike. Leaving one car there, all five of us piled into the other car and drove to the starting point.
Everything was great at first. It was raining steadily, but with my raincoat and waterproof hiking boots, I was actually enjoying it. The backpack seemed to fit comfortably. No problems there. The trees were wonderfully green, and the forest was quiet and deserted as we followed the white blazes marking the trail.
The main problem was the trail itself. It was quite rocky, muddy, and packed with dead leaves in spots. I tripped or slid a bit in a few places, as did the others in the group. I quickly found out that catching my balance with the 20-lb. backpack on my back was a bit more difficult than it would be without it.
About a third of the way into the hike, I stepped on a large, downward-slanting rock. I guess I was expecting the tread of my hiking boots to assist me. Big mistake. I fell, of course, and landed hard on my left knee.
AJ always carries a first aid kit when hiking, which is very fortunate, as it turns out. While I disinfected the large scrape on my knee and tried to assess how injured I really was, he pointed out that we could very easily go back to his car and wait for the others at the end point or just go home.
I’m quite stubborn. After coming to the conclusion that my knee was probably just badly scraped and bruised, I decided that I would rather push forward and finish the hike, albeit a little on the slow side. AJ and one of our friends both offered to take my pack at various points, but I declined. Like I said, stubborn. It was rough going at times. My knee wasn’t too happy about the 1600 feet of elevation gain, but it held up pretty well as long as I kept moving. The last mile was mercifully easy, and, in the end, I was glad I pushed through.
As AJ likes to point out, it’s often the bad weather and mishaps in life that make for lasting memories.