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Appalachian Trail 2003 - Chelsea's Journals

Entry #152 - September 29, 2003

7:00 PM - Oh my God, what a day. Well, first of all it was an interesting night. The mice were having a field day. Didn't notice until Loser jumped in the middle of the night. I was right next to him, so I jumped, made Andy jump, & Morph and Moonshadow were wondering what was going on. It was like a replay of the night in the Smokies with the nightmare kid. I was like, "what is it?!?!?" & searched frantically for my light. Thought we had some kind of visitor like a porcupine or something. Apparently a mouse had bit Loser's ear. Eventually we got back to sleep, but in the morning found holes chewed in various places. A plastic bag in my pack was chewed up, and there was a hole in my TP Ziploc which had been right by me all night. Moonshadow's TP was also attacked, along with her food bag & M&M's.

Aside from all that, it looked like a great morning - no rain! We were out around 7 AM to ford the East Branch of the Pleasant River. Me & Andy got there after the other 3 & they had already decided it was impassable. It was raging with all the rain we'd had! Morph stuck his pole in right at the edge & it would've been up to his upper thigh. From there we figured maybe we could cross back by the shelter where there was a beaver dam, but found that too full, too. Our options were to wait for the river to go down - who knows how long - or to backtrack 2 miles on the Trail, hit a logging road, & follow our map to bypass about 5 miles of the AT. Moonshadow, Morph, Andy, & I chose to go back to the road. Loser had another idea - to bushwhack up around the beaver pond & get to the other side of the river. We didn't think it was a good idea, but he insisted he'd be OK. So we parted ways there.

What can I say about the next 5 hours. We followed the road & never came to the turn we saw on our map. We saw one truck go by in the morning, asked him for directions & he seemed pretty certain we were on the right track. So all day we followed the gravel roads. We'd come to intersections & would always follow where we thought would take us closer to where we were trying to go - to the Trail - but mile after mile we found nothing certain. It came to a point that we just started following the most traveled route. There were fresh tire tracks, but we saw no one else all day. By about 2:00 we were still in the middle of God knows where, except we started seeing signs of a campground. All the sites were about a mile apart, so we had no idea where the main place was. It came to the point that we were really thinking ourselves lost. We sat down by the side of the road to try & figure out what to do. It would start getting dark by 6, looked like it might rain, and for all we knew we could be 50 miles from a main road.

Then Morph said it - "a truck!" There was something coming down the road! We jumped out & started waving our arms so they'd stop. It almost seemed like they weren't going to, but I was in the middle of the road practically. They stopped & we asked directions, all babbling excitedly at once. Thank God, help at last! In no time they offered to give us a ride back to the Trail.

So, we ended up getting back on at the Jo Mary Road. Unfortunately that means we skipped about 12 miles of Trail, but figure we walked at least 15 off the Trail. What a day, what a day.

Now we are worried about Loser. We're 3 miles shy of our original destination - the Potaywadjo shelter. We're at a great campsite (Antlers Campsite) on a lake. Hopefully he's up at the shelter & we'll see he signed in when we go by tomorrow. Otherwise I'm not sure what we'll do.

4 more days.

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Lost on the Appalachian Trail?

It seems to be a common question - something like, did you worry about getting lost in the woods/wilderness/mountain during your thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail? The answer? When we were preparing for our hike, the thought crossed our minds. (Think "Into the Wild . ")

Fortunately, the Trail is quite easy to follow. The entire length of the A.T. is marked with 2"x6" white blazes. The blazes are on trees, rocks, or other structures. We only found the blazes hard to follow a few times - usually in rocky areas when they were worn down and blended in with the color of the rocks, or when snow and ice camoflauged the white marks. On bare, rocky mountaintops, there are often rock cairns to help mark the way, too. Really, I'd say the biggest chance you have of getting lost is if you decide to leave the A.T., such as we did in the 100 Mile Wilderness. The ATC maps are pretty useful and easy to use on the Trail, but when you get out on the roads in the "real world," it's easy to lose your bearings and judgement of distance.

So, it doesn't seem like there is much use for extreme wilderness survival skills on the Appalachian Trail, but anyone heading out into the woods for an extended hike should have a basic knowledge of backcountry skills and good practices. Go ahead and carry the extra ounce or two in the form of a keychain compass/whistle combo. You just never know...

Related Links:

Leave No Trace
Wilderness Survival
Backcountry Ethics & Practices

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