Every backpacking trip I take brings gifts. Fresh air. Trees. I love trees. Streams. Waterfalls. Wildlife. Cool crawly things.
The thing is, the very best gift the Appalachian Trail has given me is friends. I am a recovering alcoholic. Next month I will have 25 years clean and sober. Any of you who know addiction understand loneliness. That is the worst part, next to the damage done to loved ones. Loneliness.
My loneliness is gone. I have a couple of cures. My world wide support group is one. My family is another. Then there are the wonderful people I meet on the Appalachian Trail.
Every once in a while you come across special ones. The unguarded ones. The kind ones. We met a pair in Georgia. Quentin and Makaela.
I was a little cranky because my daughter wanted to go farther that day and I wanted to stop. I stormed (that’s a little strong. Maybe squalled) up the trail the 2 plus miles more to the next camping area.
It was kind of deserted. A couple with two hammocks up and a bunch of empty campsites. I started checking out the campsites that were the farthest away from that couple. I wasn’t interested in people. Still a bit cranky.
Nothing looked that good to me.
Then for some reason, I walked over to the campers. As I approached I recognized the young woman. I remembered her kind greeting on the trail and her cool, shaved on one side hair.
We said hi again, I think she recognized me as well. There weren’t a ton of hikers out that week. She said her partner was down getting water and we began to chat. She was unassuming. Don’t you love unassuming folks? They don’t seem to have any judgement bones. Her partner, Quentin returned and he was just the same. Her name is Makaela.
Turns out they were thru hikers, a little stalled due to Quentins sore knees. He had two pairs of underwear, one in my favorite color turquoise, wrapped tightly around the spot where the Patellar Tendon is located. Below the kneecap. That made me like him more. Underwear around his knees!
Makaela and Quentin are such an interesting couple. They do seasonal work at places like Yellowstone, to save up for adventure. The current one being a thru hike of the AT. Quite a courageous lifestyle don’t you think? I sure do.
We talked about all sorts of things from African wildlife to rare Mountain Lion sightings. They were really fun and interesting.
I wonder what made me approach them? I’m really glad I did!
My daughter Jennie snd our friend Betty and Sadie her Coon Hound arrived. Introductions. More talk.
We decided to camp right next to them. It was the best spot. I was going to pass it up to be cranky and lonely. Dope that I can be.
Anyway, Jennie, my backpacking daughter who travels really prepared, had some of that cool stretchy tape athletes use for injuries. Me being a retired coach, knew how to strap Quentin’s tendons.
I think they were both quite worried that their thru hike was in jeopardy due to Quentin’s sore knees. I understand about what injury can do to your plans. It’s awful.
So a little hope was injected. Yay Jennie!
A good night’s sleep found us all down the trail into Neels Gap. There is an outfitter there. Mountain Crossings. Popular stop. The AT passes right through their building!
Anyway, I spotted Quentin. He was so pumped! He was feeling better. They both were back in good spirits. Quentin was shedding pack weight and buying trekking poles. Makaela was getting some supplies and packing her backpack.
I really like these two. We had exchanged contact details earlier, and I reinforced my invitation for some trail magic when the reach Wind Gap, a point on the trail only 20 minutes from our house.
We’ve been in touch a couple of times since that time Neels Gap. I intend to follow their progress. I really want to see them both again.
I almost forgot. Makaela is documenting their hike in a diary. She had at least two diaries that I saw her packing. One was made from hand made paper!!! She was handwriting in a diary made from hand made paper. How cool is that? I liked her even more!
So, I’m looking forward to seeing you both about 1300 miles up the trail! Good Luck you two!