Our Appalachian Adventure

Our Appalachian Adventure

Have you ever had one of those types of trips where everything goes wrong? I don’t mean just one or two things that make the trip less enjoyable, I’m talking about everything! Well, we have a bit of a story to tell about our first time hiking an extended time on the Appalachian Trail.

When Danielle and I were in our late teens, we decided to plan this big 5-day Appalachian Trail hike with some of our friends. We spent months researching gear, getting advice, planning schedules, inviting people, and prepping food for the trip. I even put together a several page manual about the trail, filled with safety tips, recommended gear, and just a lot of information. Let’s just say I used to be extremely detail-oriented when it comes to planning. I’ve lightened up a bit 🙂

It was less than a month until our hike and one by one, every single person we invited had to back out due to one reason or another. Talk about a big disappointment! We were really bummed that it looked like the trip wasn’t going to happen, but we were stubborn teens and very determined to go and have a good time anyways. Fortunately, our chaperone and friend was one of the few people who, like us, was determined to go no matter what.

About two weeks before the official date of our trip, the three of us decided to do a short overnight trip to test out our equipment. Better to test it now than on the full trip! So, we picked a nearby section of the trail and headed out. On the hottest day of the year. Ever. I’m talking 107 degree heat index, which for Pennsylvania is insanely hot and humid!

It wasn’t long before we started to run dangerously low on water, even though we had two water bladders for each of us (about 2 liters each bladder). We were a little over halfway through our trip and had quite a ways to go, but we had hiked this section of the trail before and knew there was a water source not far away. Or, at least there was. Turns out that this water source was bone dry and completely empty. Not good. It doesn’t help that it was an unusually dry year.

So, we pushed on. Our planned camping spot was next to a fairly large creek that we knew was a reliable source of water. Thinking back on this trip, we probably should have turned around. We had a late start, we didn’t have much daylight left, and we were already dehydrated and probably not thinking the clearest. But, we were determined to make it. Talk about a stubborn bunch… So stubborn, we nearly walked smack-dab into a rattlesnake!

We were booking it pretty quickly along the trail because the light was starting to fade and we had a fair distance to travel yet. We were very fortunate that the rattlesnake in the middle of the path announced its presence to us before we stepped right on it! Fortune really has nothing to do with it, God was definitely watching out for us on this trip (thank goodness!).

If you think this is the end of our series of unfortunate events, you would be very wrong. This is just the beginning! When I was younger, I had some issues with my legs/feet cramping under strain. Well, guess what happened… Yep, cramp. And a bad one too! It was bad enough that I wasn’t able to put any weight on my leg, which given our current water situation (which is probably what caused the issue to begin with), wasn’t really doing us any favors.

So, with me unable to do any more traveling and our water extremely low, we decided to set up camp where we were. The weather was supposed to be fairly clear, so we set up our hammocks and put all of the excess equipment away. Once camp was set up, Danielle and our friend continued hiking to the water source (about two or three miles away).

By this point, it’s dark and I’m completely alone. I’ll tell you what, if you want to feel like you’re the smallest thing on planet Earth and completely vulnerable, try staying outside in the pitch black in the middle of the woods with an overactive imagination. I’m so glad I had a good book to read to distract me. So, I’m reading my book, listening to the wind in the trees, when I notice a few flashes of light. No thunder, just light. It was very strange because it wasn’t supposed to rain that day, but I pitched my tent anyways as a just-in-case.

If I had been thinking clearly, I might have had the intuition to move all of our gear into that tent, but exhaustion had the better of me at this point. I’m listening to the wind in the trees, when all of the sudden the wind changes tune. Instead of whoosh, whoosh, it turned into a constant, droning patter. Which turned into a torrential downpour. I had about five second to grab my gear, toss it into the tent, and dive in after it (still limping at this point as well!).

The downpour only lasted a few minutes, but by then the damage had already been done. Everyone’s equipment was completely soaked and there wasn’t much we could do until morning. In fact, it wasn’t until about 3 in the morning that they returned from getting water at the creek. Talk about a long night! By that point, we’re all so exhausted that we just crashed for the night.

The next morning, our friend started setting up his propane stove in an effort to dry out some of the equipment. That’s when things got really dangerous. It turns out, the part of the trail we were camping on had an underground hornets nest right beneath the area our friend was setting up. As you can guess, they were not very happy about us trampling all over their nest and decided to take their vengeance on the one guy who is deadly allergic to bees…

Under normal circumstance, we would have an EpiPen along to deal with situations like this. However, like everything else on this trip, that wasn’t the case. When our friend went to the place he normally purchases the EpiPens, they were unable to provide him with any. Of course, we’re thinking it’s only one night, what could go wrong? A lot, apparently.

Thinking back, we could have handled this situation very differently, but hindsight is 2020 and none of us were thinking straight. As quickly as possible, our friend grabs his gear and sets out on the trail for the nearest road by himself. If we had thought about it, we would have sent two people along and left someone behind to mind the equipment, but as I said, we weren’t all thinking straight.

Now, before you get too concerned, he made it out alright. He was blue in the face and breaking out in hives by the time he got help, but everything worked out in the end. God was definitely watching out for us that day. We eventually got picked up along the main road and received word that our friend made it out in one piece.

Talk about a stressful and scary trip! Every time I think back on it, I thank God that it all turned out in the end. He was really keeping an eye on us. Things could have gone very, very differently. The interesting thing is, our five day Appalachian Trail hike went by with basically no issues and was one of the best adventures we’ve ever had. I’m honestly shocked that our friend’s wife let us even take the trip after that escapade…

P.S. We didn’t have any pictures of this trip (bummer! Cameras are too heavy…), but we found an awesome resource of free-to-use, amazing photos. You can check them out at www.pexels.com.

- Written By David D.

2 Replies to “Our Appalachian Adventure”

  1. Great writeup, David! Yeah, if only things had stopped going wrong *then* – but God saw us all survive to camp another day.

    1. Thank goodness for that! God was definitely watching out for us that day, that’s for sure. I’m glad you liked the post 🙂 It’s been fun thinking back on our adventures.

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