Never had I ever walked on The Appalachian Trail for three days with my bed, kitchen, closet, and pantry on my back, so that’s exactly what I did to fulfill my birthday ritual.
This five-year-old ritual is simple; complete a physical first, feat, or challenge in my birth month. As I wrote last year, I love celebrating my life with what makes me feel that most alive; moving!
I grew up car camping and have slept in a tent for over a week at a time. About once a summer I go backpacking, carrying all my supplies (who am I kidding, Tate’s pack is always twice as big and three times as heavy as mine!) for a night on the trail. But I’d never done more than one night, moving along the trail by day and setting up a new camp by night.
We had planned to take advantage of the long weekend stay out for three nights, in which case we’d still be on the trail at this moment, but we made good time (and hiked our asses off) and were back at the car at 4pm yesterday (Sunday) with our beds, a shower, and home projects luring us back to town.
Friday night we started hiking at dusk and arrived at our site by twilight, just a mile or two later.
Oliver and Natasha joined us for the first night, which meant that we were able to leave our car at our destination.
We woke up on The Priest to the most magnificent views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
I could have sat there for days…
But there was hiking to do.
Saturday was a big day. We covered over 13 miles of mountainous terrain, stopping along the way to swim in a river, forage for service berries, pick nettle greens to add to our dinner, and take in the views.
Damn straight that bottle of wine was worth it’s weight. 🙂
Stinging nettle greens are more than edible, they are tasty and nutritious. They are high in iron, protein (compared to other greens), B vitamins, and vitamin A. And they will sting the shit out of you if your not careful. We picked them by wrapping a plastic bag around our hands and grabbing them. As soon as they are soaked or cooked the sting is gone.
We gently boiled them then separated out the leaves, stems, and ‘broth’. The leaves were eaten with mushroom couscous and canned salmon, the broth was drunk, and the leaves tossed aside (they’re edible but not as palatable). The leaves are similar to spinach or kale.
If I were to ever backpack for longer than a few days I would study edible plants along the way. Getting calories on the trail isn’t challenging but getting fresh food is, it’s often heavy and, of course, perishable. I was confident in my ability to identify sassafras leaves (which I munched along the trail), the nettles, and service berries but I’m sure that there were many edible goodies all around us.
(I don’t support foraging unless you are confident in your ability to correctly i.d. plants. Duh)
Sunday’s trail section was pleasantly shaded and quiet…until we arrived at Humpback Rocks, which as always was packed with hikers taking in the view.
We’d covered over 25 miles in less than 48 hours. We were a little sore, definitely sweaty, and not smelling so pretty, but I still managed a leap of Faith. 🙂
In case you are interested in backpacking in the area, here’s what we did.
The whole route is on The Appalachian Trail.
Friday-parked at Crabtree Meadows and hiked to The Priest summit (~1.5 miles gently uphill)
Saturday-hiked down The Priest (4.5 miles downhill), crossed the road and the Tye River (swimming!), hiked up Three Ridges and partway down to Maupin Field Shelter (8.8 miles uphill then gentle down) (~13.5 challenging miles for the day)
Sunday-hiked Maupin-Humpback Rocks Visitor Center (mile marker 6 on the Blue Ridge Parkway) this section of trail was great, it does cross the road a few times but there are also gorgeous views and it’s not busy at all (~12 miles of gentle up and down)