Day 9, Calf Mountain Shelter 

Miles hiked: 13

What we saw:  deer, a red salamander, a HUGE beetle

The map and topography suggested the hike today was supposed to be easy. Supposed is the operative word. If you talked to my ankles, today was a hard day. 

We are seven miles from our pick up site. 

In 24 hours, I will be home.  

In some respects, the intrusion of reality is already making itself apparent. Somewhere in the valley below us is a motor speedway and the sound of revving engines stands in sharp contrast to the quiet wind, to the shrill cry of the red-tailed hawk somewhere over the tree line. 

I struggle with the reality that I have not been home in just over a week. I struggle with the fact that I have been separated from my family and I almost feel selfish. 

And then, I look out the mesh of my tent and stare at the massive oak tree just beyond my camping pad and know I made the right decision. 

Today was a day hiking through mist, a day of hiking through memories from two years ago when I first hiked this part of the Appalachian Trail with my Beloved and the Boy Scouts. That was my first hiking trip with Owl Singer. 

Tonight, I wrestle with the interior countdown to when I will be in the car going home and the desire never to stop living as fully as I have in the last nine days. Thoreau’s words about going to Walden so that he “might live deliberately [and] suck all the marrow out of life” makes so much more sense. 

I miss flushing toilets. 

I miss sinks and consistently running water. 

I miss my sofa and my bed. 

I will miss the wind sieving through the trees. 

I will miss the purrs at the end of the barred owls’ calls. 

I will miss giggling with Owl Singer.  

Or crying on the top of a mountain. 

Seeing the stars without light pollution. 

The soft darkness that lingers in the eyes of a doe standing twenty feet from me, her ears kipped forward as I softly reassure her that I will walk away from her after admiring her grace. 

Standing victorious on a mountain top and surveying the next to be summited. 

I have walked my many miles. Tomorrow I will walk seven more. But for now, I think I will curl up in my sleeping bag and go to sleep.  

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