On Sunday I left when the temperatures were already in the upper 50's. I packed a light jacket but knew that I wouldn't really need it.
Last time it had been lush with vegetation but now it was carpeted with crunchy brown leaves and persistent brambles fighting to cross the path. I nearly missed the tiny wooden 'view' sign on a tree, but spotting it, took the small path to the outlook. A tree had fallen across the path yet determined folks had forged a way through the undergrowth and I finally found a good use for my new hiking poles as I pushed aside the thorny branches.
But I didn't stop for long. After a few minutes I set off again, up the hill.
The first couple of miles are mainly an incline with a few short level stretches. The rocky trail was harder to walk along than last time due to the thick layer of leaves,so I never knew where I was putting my feet. The shiny dry leaves were also very slippery and a few times I tripped on hidden rocks or slid on the back of my heel. I was grateful again for my hiking poles that saved me from taking a few tumbles.
But it was wonderful to be out hiking in the middle of November in a t-shirt and sunshine. Poor old England, I knew, was getting hit with rain and here I was enjoying summer-like weather in late autumn.
I carried along the trail and then turned back when I'd been hiking for 2 hours. And then amazingly another hiker came up behind me, the first person I'd seen that day. We exchanged hello's and I stepped to one side to let him continue marching past. And then about 10 minutes later a strapping young lad in his 20's came bouncing jauntily along the trail behind me. "Where've you hiked from today?' I asked him. " I've come from Maine, I'm walking the whole trail." he responded. "Bloody hell!" I spluttered, not expecting that response from someone who looked like he'd only left his car 5 minutes ago. He passed, grinning, and over his shoulder asked me how many miles I'd done today. "An in and out hike of about 6 miles" I responded, feeling a little inadequate, but he called back, "That's about what I've done today too!" and then he was gone from sight. I wondered if he just said that to make me feel better, but regardless, I was very impressed with him and his energy and wondered if he'd be at the parking lot when I got back to the car so I could chat with him some more. But he'd long gone when I got back to Stuart, and was likely striding along another 6 miles before he called it a night. I wish I'd got his name so I could track his progress on line, as many of these AT hikers keep a record. What a wonderful journey he was taking and I wished him safe passage and more beautiful weather on the remainder of his trek.