0940. Maupin Field shelter. A still, overcast contemplative day, early autumn crickets singing, an unidentified bird — or conceivably a frog — chirping monotonously in the muffled foliage. Green and moist. Dim in the forest. Made good time through the Three Ridges from our camp by the waterfall at Campbell Creek. Yesterday a heavenly dip in the cold pool below the the trickling waterfall — one of those golden moments that shines in memory. After two hard days of sweat and grime and hard climbing and rationing the last few ounces of water, we were cleansed in the natural spring.
A strong consciousness on this trip of the end of an era — my venerable old backpack, the Jansport “hatchback” that I coveted for months before buying it with money from my paper route (delivering the Washington Post from 8th through 12 grade, right through the Watergate years, which betrays my vintage), the pack that has seen so much mileage over the decades, my mobile home on the watershed 17-day hike one summer in high school through Georgia and NC from the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail — the tales this pack could tell. My trusted old friend will ride no more. Most zippers broken, the waterproofing flaking off, dry rot setting in, belt dysfunctional and killing my hips, shoulder strap tied on with a knot, the other one wrapped in duct tape. After more than three decades I’ve sweated through the mountains beneath this rig for the last time.
Farewell old friend.