Day 87.5: Herein lies the official and verified memoirs of Tom Neiman on his first day (my Day 87)…
(From Happy): After assuring me the route and trail conditions were “a piece of cake”, my son proceeded to hike me across the Hudson River bridge, only to inform me that the mountain ahead of us (Anthony’s Nose, though I now call Snot’s Nose) was to be summitted, much to my dismay and future excruciating pain.
It’s not that I minded crawling several miles on my hands and knees while carrying my hiking poles, but the bodies strewn along the side of the trail began to catch my attention. This so-called piece of cake hike was actually a centuries old piece of hardtack. However … when we got to the top, much to my surprise, I was still breathing. After the shock wore off, we proceeded on a meandering set of ups and downs until we reached our camping destination. The Spiritual Life Center.
I have to admit, despite my pre-hike prepping … I was prepared to offer myself up as a sacrifice. Our accommodations were spartan, but acceptable, as anything short of sleeping on a 6-lane Highway would have been permissibly to me by this point.
What were our accommodations like? It was a shelter with a 4 foot high cement perimeter, and open above that to a roof 5 feet higher. Mike did his best to put a positive spin on the accommodations, however, I would have had to have been extremely dizzy to accept this as anything short of a KOA Campsite. But true to form, in his cheerful and supportive manor, Mike proceeded to sweep the floor with a broom that had no broomstick. As I said, it was a “spartan shelter”. I have plans to send them a donation of a broomstick in the not-to-distant future.
By the time I had almost given up the ghost of hope to rest a little, we began to meet with other AT hikers. One guy setup his hammock and gear in the dead center of the shelter, preventing anyone to setup anywhere near him. I had all but reconciled myself to accept the inevitable (not being able to sleep all night), when 2 individuals approached us in a not-so-spiritual way. They casually informed us that the Taj Mahal we were in had been reserved 6 months prior for an evening’s spiritual awakening, with 50 or more adherents to their cause … and that we had to move.
Now, some people would have found this situation daunting. I, however, accepted this fact as nothing short of devastating. Mike and I, and our fellow compatriots, wondered the field before us aimlessly, searching for any acceptable camping spot. The field itself was somewhat bereft of trees, and Mike’s only option to hang his hammock was on the edge of the field overlooking a cliff. We finally managed to put together a modest but equally unsatisfying freeze dried dinner, and awaited the impending spiritual awakening.
We knew it was going to be one of the more spectacular events on the At, because they piled enough firewood and logs to start a minor forest fire. And true to form, when the vanguard of the group came to light the massive bonfire, the flames shot 20 feet in the air (not joking). It was at this time, I began to concern myself with whether a spiritual awakening required burnt sacrifices. And then the fun began…
Marching down the road to the shelter, sporting drums, guitars, bongos, and other assorted instruments, the awakening began. We enjoyed the harmonious singing of these individuals for the better part of the next hour an a half. We finally knew it was coming to an end when the ground (and our tents upon them) stopped vibrating. I decided, against my better judgement, that sleeping on a cement floor would be more comfortable than the uneven field I set my tent on. So when all appeared safe again (midnight), I moved my headquarters to the shelter for what I thought would finally be a relaxing night of sleep.
Not to be outdone, a family of raccoons, inspired by the night’s activities, decided to carry on the party until 3am by banging on and tipping over the garbage cans in the vicinity of the shelter. Sticking earplugs in my ear, and tendering my soul to God, I went to bed for what I thought may be my last night on this planet earth.
p.s. I’m hoping to discover one part of my body that is not suffering pain and anguish. More on this later…
p.p.s. I fear I may now be permanently spiritually awakened.