I woke up early and sat up in the hammock. I needed to urinate, which was a good sign. I grabbed my backpack and looked for my camp shoes. I never thought I’d have trouble finding orange Crocs, but I didn’t see them. Finally I noticed they were next to my boots; Ian had untied them from my backpack and put them there. One more thing to thank him for as I walked behind a tree….

Drained, I looked over the camp. Ian was still sleeping. Baxter watched me as he lay under the hammock. I felt very weak physically, and I climbed back into the hammock.

I took the time to get focused for the day. My car was only a few miles away. I would get out of this woods. I will backpack again. Because after all, I’m a backpacker now.

Ian woke up and called out a good morning from his hammock. “Good morning” I replied as he arose and began to set up his stove for breakfast. We talked as he worked.

“Ian, I need to apologize for yesterday. I behaved badly. And I made mistakes a person with my experience shouldn’t have made. You’ve been wonderful to hike with, and I’m sorry the trip didn’t turn out as you expected.”

“I’m having a good time. I was a little worried last night when you asked me to not let you die out here.”

“Sounds like something I say when I bonk. Hate to imagine what else I might have said.”

“Well, you did ask how much you could get for your backpack on Ebay. I think if you wanted to sell it you could get close to what you paid.”

“I don’t think I’ll sell it. I have another backpacking trip end of next week.”

Breakfast for me consisted of two packets of oatmeal, dried fruit, hot chocolate, tea, and a lot of water. I still felt fatigued from yesterday, but after a couple of hours enjoying the quiet of the woods, we packed up and set off. 

Cold Run Road leads directly to Canyon Vista. It would have been possible to take roads directly to the car. But I wanted to see more of the trail, and I knew Ian wanted to as well. So we left the campsite and the road and headed towards the Vista.

Despite its difficulty for me, the Loyalsock and the Link trails are among the most beautiful I’ve ever hiked. We passed over rocks, through stands of pines, fields, streams, mud… and all enshrouded with fog.

I took my time with the rocks, and maintained as slow a pace as yesterday, but I stopped to drink and eat more often. Finally, after passing though a series of rock formations….

… we reached Canyon Vista.

Canyon Vista has a bathroom, which I took the opportunity to use while Ian and Baxter explored. Soon after we were sitting on a bench at the vista, and I had my true initiation into the fellowship of backpackers – I went on a feeding frenzy.

I’d never ceased to be amazed at how much backpackers can consume, and how quickly they can consume it. I’ve seen two backpackers on the Appalachian Trail consume two whole pizzas in minutes and then split a quart of ice cream. But I’ve never BEEN one of those people, even when I was over 400 pounds. Yes, I gorged myself, but never that quickly. But in the few minutes sitting on the bench I went through half a stick of pepperoni, five tortillas, some cheese, trail mix, water, almond butter, and two Pop Tarts. Ian moved his dog out of arm’s reach for fear I’d eat Baxter.

Once I was satiated, we decided we had to move on. I’d earlier discussed with Ian the idea that if a lift presented itself, I’d take it, since I was still beat up from yesterday and had nothing to prove. Sightseers at the overlook were kind enough to give me a lift back to the car, and I took the time waiting for Ian to hike down to rearrange the contents so I could transport man and dog back to their truck. In an hour Ian and Baxter emerged from the woods and soon they were back at their vehicle.

After they left I walked along the creek again, retracing my steps of 29 hours before. Yes, some might argue this trip was a failure, in that I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do. I couldn’t see it that way. I pushed myself to my limits, and my limits are higher now. I spent two days and one night in the forest, I made a friend –  two if we count Baxter, I learned a lot about hammocks, camping, backpacking, the Loyalsock….. it all seemed win to me as the creek splashed alongside me.

I headed back to the tent campsite I’d occupied earlier that week, set up my portable home, and went to bed early.