Maybe I should take a moment and explain my use of the phrase “Camino de Appalachia?”
The Camino de Santiago is a famous 500-mile pilgrimage across Spain to a cathedral which is said to hold relics from the apostle James.
The word “camino” in Spanish can be translated way, road, path, trail, etc. So “camino de Appalachia” might literally mean the Trail of Appalachia. But in my usage, I mean to imply the idea of pilgrimage and not just the literal path. For me, time on the trail has the simultaneous intention of integrating the physical act of hiking with a spiritual and prayerful journey towards deeper intimacy and connection with God.
Of course, the Appalachian Trail is simply a long hiking trail and not necessarily a destination for religious pilgrims, but I have found that many AT hikers do have para-physical motivations for spending time on this less ancient footpath.
Now, what I have found is that many of my days on trail begin in a very thoughtful, contemplative and prayerful manner but end with a focus on the physical challenge. So I love to enjoy solitude during the first few hours of each day’s hike until usually the lunch stop. At that point, I start longing for some good company and conversation to distract my mind from what can become a grueling effort to achieve my mileage goal. My 2nd day was one of those days that seemed a bit more difficult physically. My first good distraction that day was bumping into Tom at the Chestnut Knob Shelter (third photo) which is at an elevation of about 4400 feet and overlooks a valley called Burke’s Garden. Tom was an old codger of a hiker with some fun stories and a deep desire to tune into college football. He had an mp3 player with a radio tuner and was trying desperately to get the Tennessee (Go Vols!) game to tune in since he was from the Nashville area.
After having lunch and drying out a bit at Chestnut Knob, I hiked another 9 miles or so through a completely “dry” area (no water sources). Thankfully, I stumbled across a water cache that day where some trail angel had left a few dozen gallons jugs of water for hikers. If there’s a section of trail that is especially difficult for sourcing fresh water, occasionally, some magnanimous soul (often a former thru hiker) will stash a bunch of water like this near a road crossing. (fourth photo)
And just before dark, I made it to the Jenkins Shelter where I bumped into a fun couple from Greenville, SC who shared some great stories and general trail banter that got my mind off of the pain in my knees and feet! Before I knew it, we had been chatting for about an hour and I still needed to cook some dinner and put up a tent. ha! Floppy and Flower Power (second photo) were a real treat to hangout with at camp that evening.
Day two culminated in about 17 miles of hiking from the Lick Creek campsite to Jenkins Shelter which was near a creek that still had a bit of water flowing through. yay!