Race Brook Falls (Day 107)

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I have a little fm radio that I sometimes listen to while I’m hiking. One of the nice things about the radio is that I get some updates about the news and weather, though I’m usually paying more attention to the woods and the trail than the background noise from the radio. Today, however, the news got my full attention, “A trip along the Appalachian Trail turned tragic on Wednesday when a Delaware man hiking with his brother died after plunging 35 feet.”

I stopped in my tracks. I’d hiked through that section of the trail (race brook falls) on Tuesday, less than 24 hours before the tragedy. I was overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions.

I know a couple of sets of brothers hiking the AT that are about a day behind me. I tried to remember if any of them were from Delaware… I wasn’t sure. I’ve heard rumor that the brothers were on a backpacking trip, but weren’t thru-hikers. Regardless, chances are pretty good that I met/saw them on Tuesday since I hiked 20 miles that day, pretty much centered around Race Brook Falls. I may have even met them while I was hiking with my brother.

Day hikers, section hikers, and other thru-hikers all have at least one thing in common: a love of the trail and of the woods. This binds us all together and makes us like a family, whether we just share a smile, a conversation, a meal, a view, or a day in one of the shelters watching the rain. The day hikers and section hikers fade into and out of my days, often anonymously, but their words and smiles stay with me and help me through the hardest miles.

I may never know if I met and talked to the brothers from Delaware, but tonight I mourn the loss of a fellow hiker.

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White Rectangles (Days 102-106)

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Hiking into New England has really felt like hiking home to me. The rocks, the woods, the streams, and the trails all feel familiar. This sense of coming home was heightened by my family coming out and meeting me on the trail. My parents met me as I crossed the border from New York into Connecticut and then my brother, his wife (my friend), and their two kids met me as I crossed from Connecticut into Massachusetts. It was great seeing everyone again.

Per usual, the two kids stole the show. It was their first camping trip and their first hike on the AT. Having a 1 year old and an almost 3 year old in my tent was a novel experience for me. I spent the next few days finding hidden Cheerios everywhere, but they were so cute that it was worth it!

One of my favorite parts of the visit was taking my niece for her first walk on the Appalachian Trail. I pointed out the white blazes on the trees and told her that that was how I knew where I was supposed to go and that I’d followed the white blazes all the way from Georgia to Massachusetts.

Finding the blazes soon became a game. My niece would see one of the blazes, then she’d smile and yell, “white rectangle”, as she ran down the trail to point it out to us. It was soooo cute! The game was especially fun because we were in an incredibly over blazed section of the trail, so there were blazes every ten feet.