All posts tagged: Appalachian Trail

An Eerie Encounter in the Mangroves

What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever bedded down in the outdoors? (Don’t answer if you’d be incriminating yourself.) I’ve laid down my bedroll in some pretty cool spots, not even counting the multitude of stealth-camps on or along the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails. Here’s a few that come to mind: Under bridges, foot-, local and highway, in Japan and Korea Numerous beaches and river banks Atop a rickety New Hampshire fire-tower Two Korean roadside bus shelters In the bushes in a Tokyo park A complete stranger’s front driveway (oops) in southern California A roadside shrine in Shikoku, Japan Second-highest summit in mainland Korea A hammock hung over a gushing stream near a Queensland mountain top A derelict bikers’ guesthouse in central Hokkaido, Japan A WWII bunker on Moreton Island A closed-for-Winter tourist park next to a frozen Hokkaido lake, underneath a giant fibreglass tyrannosaurus A building site on the steep side of a gorge in central Shikoku So when the chance came to add another interesting locale to the list, I was pretty excited. If …

A Phantom in the Forest

PEAKS & PILGRIMAGE TOKYO, AUGUST 2013 Somewhere back home I’ve got two paper journals, handsome volumes in which I used to write my Japanese hike reports. There are an even 50 — this was when my mountain mania was raging, with no cure in sight short of an unplanned plummet over a precipice. On the first page of one there’s a pencil rubbing (I believe that’s the word, unsavory as it sounds) of a kanji (Chinese character) from a well-weathered summit sign. The character is…

In the Weird, Wild Woods with Forensic Man

Then the rain stopped falling and the trees dripped and I helped to spawn a school of secret dangers. Oh, we can populate the dark with horrors, even we who think ourselves informed and sure, believing nothing we cannot measure or weigh. I knew beyond all doubt that the dark things crowding in on me either did not exist or were not dangerous to me, and still I was afraid. ~ John Steinbeck, ‘Travels with Charley’

Escape from Springer Mountain

Because there’s no lovelier place name than Appalachia, and because that long and winding, kneecap-grinding pathway is one of my favourite pieces of real estate on the planet, and because I’ve finally started the gruelling task of scanning my way through a boxful of dusty pictures, here are some extracts from my paper journals of seven years ago, and a few of those dusty pictures, from my first, frazzled evening on the incredible Appalachian Trail.

Cookie-Cutter Wisdom on the Long Trail

Vermont. Les Verts Monts. The Green Mountain State. I can’t sum up hiking there any better than the mysterious Mr Hammonds, whose book I found referenced in a Vermont shelter, as described in a previous post: There is room enough for civilization in regions better fitted for it. It has no business among these mountains, these rivers and lakes, these gigantic boulders, these tangled valleys and dark mountain gorges. ~ S.H. Hammonds, ‘The Vagabond Spirit’

An Alleged Purist in Harper’s Ferry

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has a new feature on their website* that allows former thru-hikers to revisit one of the highlights of their journey. For many years, hikers stopping at at ATC headquarters at the “psychological halfway point” in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia**, have been made welcome by the volunteers inside. Dumping their packs on the porch, they pose before the ATC sign for a polaroid that is labelled with trail name, dates and details and stored in a bulging album:

The Vagabond Spirit: Mud-Slicked Memories of Vermont

JUNE 2006 Day 46, Little Rock Pond Shelter, VT, 18.2 miles ‘Cedar Moe’ and I are being mauled by very aggressive mosquitoes. We’re the only ones here — the others must have pulled in at one of the previous shelters. Today was another good day and my love affair with Vermont continues. People complain about the mud but I’ve been to Tasmania.

On Becoming a Goat, and Why We Walkers Walk

I had no further depths to plummet in the summer of 1999/2000, or so I thought. Unemployed, depressed, I’d fled Melbourne – where I’d thrown in my job, my sessions with a kindly Tim Robbins-lookalike shrink, and the two scripts of experimental antidepressants he’d prescribed, unsuccessfully, to set me right – and flown up to the hippy heartland of northern New South Wales to try to mend things. There was a woman there, you see, and a young child… It didn’t work out the way the prescription-fantasies had promised, and I lay low for a while in a rented caravan on a 600-acre backwoods block used by a certain sect of Hindu cultists. My landlord was a little Indian in orange robes who answered to Dada. I carved a vegetable garden into the hillside, and spent my spare time breaking as many of Dada’s commandments as I could manage. Things deteriorated even further with the woman; I bailed to my parents’ place in Brisbane. Bleak times. Then I saw an ad for English teachers in …