What are intimate ridges? If you think it’s a recent innovation in condoms, you have a dirty mind, and should probably thru-hike in the near future. For me, a very special type of terrain comes to mind, and that is the best summary I can give.
An intimate ridge is a special place where you’re winding up a narrow mountain pass, switchback after switchback, on a narrow tree-lined path. You know there are steep drop offs ten to fifteen feet away, but the trees hide the peril from you and hug close as you ascend.
The air is often still, and beautifully quiet. Thousands of brown needles from various conifers cushion your every step, and the scent of pine, spruce, and fir permeate the air. You know you’re on a mountain top, but instead of a wide sweeping expanse of a vista before you, there is a small but cozy place to greet you.
Today I hit the first of these in a very long time. My nose recognized it and drew images from mind of Tennessee and North Carolina. My skin remembered the cool air with equally sharp acuity, as did the quiet settle my ears with memory.
Sometimes I forget how many experiences I’ve had out here. Sometimes I forget how much I’ve grown with each northward step.
In New Jersey I was dropped on the side of the road by newly met bar friends at 1:30am. I’ll get to the full story of how that came to pass one day, as it is quite worth telling.
The point is, it was the middle of the night, I was less than sober, out of water, and only vaguely aware of my location, or that of the AT. I remember thinking how much this scenario would have unnerved me just three months previous. As the headlights disappeared into the darkness, I was overcome by excitement at new challenge before me.
I thought about skills that potential thru-hikers should practice, like changing headlamp batteries in the dark, or pitching a tent at night. In reality, a Nobo should be prepared for the very real possibility of having to not only pitch at night, but also ten beers under.
I found the AT easily enough, it crossed near a parking lot a half mile road walk away. Blazes in sight, I verified northbound path with my phone’s GPS. I’d worry about water in the morning. It was cool out, and not a priority.
I walked till 4am, not realizing a shelter was only three quarters of a mile away. The trail became one large twenty by twenty foot rock face, which was very flat.
Physically spent, I set my pack down as a pillow, and laid back on it. I haphazardly spread out my sleeping bag and crawled in, putting my small foam seat pad underneath me. The wind batted away all intruding insects. I began to fall asleep beneath the expanse of stars, the skyward image framed by the silhouettes of surrounding pines.
The crickets chirped and I found myself quite at home in this wilderness. I thought on who might discover me in the morning, as I was literally sleeping on the trail. To my surprise no one did, and I slept till eight the next morning.
Tonight in Vermont, over 1650 miles in, I’m sleeping haphazardly again. This time I’m 3400ft up and the wind is gusting to fifteen miles per hour. I’m in a 55-degree sleeping bag and I have no water. Again, things which would have worried me months ago.
I’m so very happy to be back in the mountains though. It’s going to be a cold night, but I’ll live. The cold means I can enjoy coffee and tea again. Best of all, I can pack out cheese!
There’s a recipe I’ve been waiting to try, and I feel that I’m at the correct point in my hike to give it a go. It’s a simple sandwich made from two pieces of chocolate with a piece of cheese in the middle. Dreamt up by a friend of mine, I think it should be known among hikers as a “Kincaid.”
I could eat an entire 8oz block of cheese right now without a second thought. I could probably get a quart of chocolate milk down with it. Recently, I walked into McDonalds and ordered the entire value menu for dinner. McChickens are my crack…
Well, off to have recipe dreams of my own. Thanks for reading my blabbing as always.