It was Day 2, and it was hot. We broke camp earlier than expected and made our way north on the Appalachian Trail for what promised to be a long day of hiking. Our destination was a campsite 11 miles away, and for many of us, it would be the longest hike we had ever made.
The nervous excitement of the first day had extended into the night. Finding out that tarps offered little protection from bugs along with the sneaking realization that this was all for real made for a restless night of sleep for many in G-Unit.
Today, we would learn to hike. We had to move like a snake, not an inchworm. We learned about points and sweeps and the importance of looking out for the group. There was four days’ worth of food to carry, and we were headed to a campsite without water, which meant we had to carry a 15-pound dromedary. We had to find a way to distribute weight, to time our hikes and breaks, and to navigate our way through the woods. There was a lot to think about, but how hard could it be, really?
We flew across the trail and through the morning. We played trail games (Celebrity! 21!) designed by our instructors to take our minds off the hard task of hiking and to bring us together as a group. We were off, and it was fun.
We stopped for lunch at a pavilion. Some old ladies with a poodle walked by us, intrigued, but clearly trying not to get too close. By now, we were halfway through our second day without a shower, and our morning hike had soaked our clothes with sweat. We were ripe. These ladies and their dog were the first sign of civilization we had seen in 24 hours, and if there were old ladies walking a poodle, then there had to be…
“Bathrooms! There are bathrooms!” I’m not sure who spotted them first, but the call was electric, shocking us all out of our lethargic post-hike daze. For those who had been nervous about going to the bathroom in the woods, this discovery was a welcomed opportunity to delay the inevitable for just a bit longer. It was as if the ice cream truck had just pulled up outside our house.
Overall, it had been a splendid morning. We had blown through four and half miles without much effort. We had pita pizzas for lunch, and we had stumbled across flushing toilets. Though the group was still not talking much, there was a burgeoning sense of camaraderie, and trail games were keeping us connected as we slowly progressed from inchworm to snake. We still had another six miles ahead of us, but at this moment, we felt like we could conquer the entire Appalachian Trail in an afternoon.
It was one o’clock. We put on our packs, formed our point and sweep formation, and rolled out. It wasn’t perfect, but we were getting a handle on things. The events of the next 24 hours would prove to be the defining moments of our expedition together.
Read – Day Three: That Magic Moment