March 27, 2001 McAfee Knob Virginia Hike
Saturday morning I woke up early and got ready. Then it was off to Outdoor Adventures. Jason dropped me off and left. I got my pack that I’d packed up on Thursday and then helped load up. We talked briefly about our plans and ourselves before dividing up and getting into the rented vans. The two hour drive was pleasant as we got to know each other a bit.
About 11a.m.or so we reached the beginning of the trail. Well, the part of the trail we began on anyways. It started out easy enough. We went over a hill and down into a meadow. We climbed over fences on little ladders someone had built over them. Then we began our ascent up the mountain. At first I really pushed myself, as I think everybody did, but then I regretted it. I was, out of breath and getting a headache. I had to slow my pace down and take medicine for my allergy-induced headache before I felt better. We pushed on and on as we climbed up the mountain.
By late afternoon the sky had clouded up and it was looking a lot like rain. When we reached Tinker Cliffs the wind was howling around us, but that didn’t stop us from peering over the cliffs at the awesome view below. I paused to admire the view and stepped away before the wind swept me off the cliff.
That night we set up camp in a small valley between two steep hills. As night fell, the temperature dropped quite a bit. We pulled out our long underwear, fleece clothing, hats and gloves. Shivering, we set up the three tents and went to set up for dinner. We ate bean burritos that were cooked over portable gas burners. As we ate we shared stories and jokes. It was nice despite being cold, tired and sore.
I snuggled deep into my sleeping bag and drifted to sleep. Despite Margo and Mike’s snoring, I slept pretty well. I wasn’t exactly comfortable, but I was too exhausted to care.
Sunday morning we woke up and took down our tents. We cooked oatmeal and English Muffins before cleaning up the rest of the campsites. We slung our packs on our backs and headed up the steep hill ahead of us. We walked along a ridge most of the afternoon. It was gorgeous. There were drop offs on either side with awesome views of the other mountains all around us.
It was interesting to observe the group dynamic thing. Eve within our ten there were smaller groups. Some of the groups were in better shape and so they were moving quickly. Others weren’t in able to keep up, so they lagged behind. Me? I always ended up somewhere in the middle, going my own individual pace. For a little while I ended up being all by myself. I took the time to meditate and enjoy the solitude.
This 15 miles hike had me rethinking Peru. Could I hack it? It was challenging now and Peru was going to be twice as hard. I did find that if I really focused on the moment it wasn’t too overwhelming. I just kept placing one foot in front of the other. The journey of a thousand miles—or 15 miles—begins with a single step I told myself. I really want to go to Peru. If I backed out now I knew I’d really regret it. I know that. So I was going to have to step up to the challenge.
Mid-afternoon we got water from a spring. We were supposed to use our iodine tablets to sanitize it, but I don’t think mine worked. It never dissolved completely. Anyway, we continued on to MacAfee Knob. We trudged up the top part of the mountain, looking forward to both lunch and the wonderful view. After winding up through huge rocks and boulders and brush, we came to the top at long last.
And oh what a reward! We decided that the hard work was worth it. Standing there on the cliff, I wanted nothing more than to just leap off and drift gently down into the valley like a bird. I wanted to not just observe the beauty, but somehow be a part of it. We took lots of pictures and then settled to eat a late lunch. I thought about how being up there was not just about the view. It was about perspective and you couldn’t help but change your perspective a bit about things after a trip like this. Being so far up above and so distant from everything else, you see things clearer. Being without the basics makes you truly realize what is important. Water is liquid gold on the trail. Food and shelter are things you no longer take for granted. I guess you could say that we suffered for the sake of our clarity.
We finished lunch and headed down the mountain. We thought, mistakenly, that it was all down hill from there. It was actually down with a few ups in between. The path declined steadily down the rocky mountain side before curving up a few small ridges and then down to road below. We talked and got to know each other some more as we finished our journey.
The sun was setting as we finally came to the van. It was quite a relief when we were finally able to sit down for more than a few minutes at a time. We packed up and headed out and back to Greensboro.
The two hour drive home was as interesting as the drive up. I learned a great deal about my fellow travelers and about myself. I think the diversity of their personalities and experiences reflect my expanding view of life. I am drawing to me those people who are cultured, educated and full of positive energy. These are the people who aren’t limited by low self-esteem, small town attitudes or fear of the unknown. They seize opportunities and experience life. Rather than feeling confined, they feel challenged.
We got back to Outdoor Adventures about 8:30 pm or so. We unpacked and went our separate ways after checking everything in. Jason picked me up around 9pm.
I talked to Jason and Allison as we came home. I told them all about the weekend. Allison went home shortly after we got back to the apartments. I took a long, hot shower and crawled into bed. I lay in my soft, comfortable bed that was my own in my own apartment at long last. It felt so weird to be home. I felt charged up, but at the same time I was feeling down due to the sunburn and diarrhea I was suffering from. I found myself only able to doze briefly between visits to the bathroom. I speculated that I must have drank some tainted water or something. Still, I couldn’t regret my eye-opening weekend. It was tough, but I had enjoyed myself.