very pleasing to the eye
Running more than 2,100 miles along America’s eastern seaboard, through the serene and beckoning Appalachian Mountains, the AT is the granddaddy of long hikes. From Georgia to Maine, it wanders across fourteen states, through plump,
comely hills whose very names—Blue Ridge, Smokies, Cumberlands, Green Mountains, White Mountains—seem an invitation to amble.
From Georgia to Maine, it wanders across fourteen states, through plump, comely hills whose very names—Blue Ridge, Smokies, Cumberlands, Green Mountains, White Mountains—seem an invitation to
move or cause to move in a sinuous or circular course
And here it was, quite unexpectedly,
meandering in a dangerously beguiling fashion through the pleasant New England community in which I had just settled.
highly attractive and able to arouse hope or desire
And here it was, quite unexpectedly, meandering in a dangerously
beguiling fashion through the pleasant New England community in which I had just settled.
the process of making something consistent with reason
I formed a number of
rationalizations. It would get me fit after years of waddlesome sloth. It would be an interesting and reflective way to reacquaint myself with the scale and beauty of my native land after nearly twenty years of living abroad.
innocent and free of deceit
Nearly everyone I talked to had some gruesome story involving a
guileless acquaintance who had gone off hiking the trail with high hopes and new boots and come stumbling back two days later with a bobcat attached to his head or dripping blood from an armless sleeve and whispering in a hoarse voice, “Bear!” before sinking into a troubled unconsciousness.
unfortunate and deserving pity
The woods were full of peril—rattlesnakes and water moccasins and nests of copperheads...sumac, poison oak, and poison salamanders; even a scattering of moose lethally deranged by a parasitic worm that burrows a nest in their brains and befuddles them into chasing
hapless hikers through remote, sunny meadows and into glacial lakes.
a very steep cliff
I heard four separate stories (always related with a chuckle) of campers and bears sharing tents for a few confused and lively moments; stories of people abruptly vaporized...of tents crushed beneath falling trees, or eased off
precipices on ballbearings of beaded rain and sent paragliding on to distant valley floors, or swept away by the watery wall of a flash flood...
impairment of normal physiological function
If undetected, it can lie dormant in the human body for years before erupting in a positive fiesta of
maladies. This is a disease for the person who wants to experience it all.
an external body part that projects from the body
The symptoms include, but are not limited to, headaches, fatigue, fever, chills, shortness of breath, dizziness, shooting pains in the
extremities, cardiac irregularities, facial paralysis, muscle spasms, severe mental impairment, loss of control of body functions, and—hardly surprising, really—chronic depression.
occupied with or fond of the pleasures of good company
It may seem obvious, but it came as a small shock to me to realize that this wasn’t going to be even remotely like an amble through the English Cotswolds or Lake District, where you head off for the day with a haversack containing a packed lunch and a hiking map and at day’s end retire from the hills to a
convivial inn for a hot bath, a hearty meal, and a soft bed.
showing courteous regard for people's feelings
A kindly and
deferential sort of fellow, Mengle could talk for perhaps four days solid, with interest, about any aspect of hiking equipment.
erosion by friction
He would say things to me like: “Now this has a 70-denier high-density
abrasion-resistant fly with a ripstop weave. On the other hand, and I’ll be frank with you here”—and he would lean to me and reduce his voice to a low, candid tone, as if disclosing that it had once been arrested in a public toilet with a sailor—“the seams are lap felled rather than bias taped and the vestibule is a little cramped.”
giving careful attention to detail
It seemed to me a trifle
overfastidious to choose one sleeping bag over another because it weighed three ounces less, but as equipment piled up around us I began to appreciate how ounces accumulate into pounds.
in a joyous, carefree, or unconcerned manner
No more now would I
blithely say, “Better give me half a dozen of those, Dave. Oh, and I’ll take eight of these—what the heck, make it a dozen. You only live once, eh?”
unnatural lack of color in the skin
It was really quite snug and, once you got used to the smell, which I naively presumed would dissipate with time, and the fact that the fabric gave everything inside a sickly greenish
pallor, like the glow off a radar screen, it was not so bad.
walk by dragging one's feet
Then silence, a very long silence, and—wait, shhhhh...yes!—the unutterable relief of realizing that the bear has withdrawn to the other side of the camp or
shambled back into the woods.
a sudden short attack
So imagine then what it must have been like for poor little David Anderson, aged twelve, when at 3:30 A.M., on the third
foray, his tent was abruptly rent with a swipe of claw and the bear, driven to distraction by the rich, unfixable, everywhere aroma of hamburger, bit hard into a flinching limb and dragged him shouting and flailing through the camp and into the woods.
accessory or supplementary item of equipment or clothing
In the few moments it took the boy’s fellow campers to unzip themselves from their
accoutrements—and imagine, if you will, trying to swim out of suddenly voluminous sleeping bags, take up flashlights and makeshift cudgels, undo tent zips with helplessly fumbling fingers, and give chase—in those few moments, poor little David Anderson was dead.
reluctant to draw attention to yourself
Of the two species, black bears are generally smaller (though this is a decidedly relative condition; a male black bear can still weigh up to 650 pounds) and unquestionably more
conspicuous, prominent, or important
All bears are agile, cunning, and immensely strong, and they are always hungry. If they want to kill you and eat you, they can, and pretty much whenever they want. That doesn’t happen often, but—and here is the absolutely
salient point—once would be enough.
righteousness as a consequence of being honorable and honest
For the past three years he had devoted himself to
rectitude and—I instantly saw now as he stooped out the door of the plane—growing a stomach.
arrestingly larger than when I had last seen him.
the environmental condition
I knew nothing about cooking, but Katz had been looking after himself for years and had a repertoire of dishes (principally involving peanut butter, tuna, and brown sugar stirred together in a pot) that he thought would transfer nicely to a camping
place between or among
We heard nothing more from him throughout the evening, but about midnight, as we lay in bed, noises began to float to us through the walls—clompings and mutterings, sounds like furniture being dragged across the floor, and brief enraged outbursts,
interspersed with long periods of silence.
sad beyond comforting; incapable of being soothed
“Oh, great,” Katz said and gave a ruptured,
At the time of MacKaye’s proposal there were already several hiking clubs in the eastern United States—the Green Mountain Club, the Dartmouth Outing Club, the
venerable Appalachian Mountain Club, among others—and these mostly patrician organizations owned and maintained hundreds of miles of mountain and woodland trails, mainly in New England.
characteristic of the nobility or aristocracy
At the time of MacKaye’s proposal there were already several hiking clubs in the eastern United States—the Green Mountain Club, the Dartmouth Outing Club, the venerable Appalachian Mountain Club, among others—and these mostly
patrician organizations owned and maintained hundreds of miles of mountain and woodland trails, mainly in New England.
a witty saying
He had no patience with MacKaye and his “quasi-mystical
epigrams,” and the two never got along.
marked by strong resentment or cynicism
In 1935, they had an
acrimonious falling-out over the development of the trail through Shenandoah National Park (Avery was willing to accommodate the building of a scenic highway through the mountains; MacKaye thought it a betrayal of founding principles) and they never spoke again.
influence or urge by gentle urging, caressing, or flattering
He mapped it out, bullied and
cajoled clubs into producing volunteer crews, and personally superintended the construction of hundreds of miles of path.
an alpine house or cottage with a steeply sloping roof
The work camps and
chalets, the schools and study centers, were never built.
any habitation at a high altitude
Amicalola Falls Lodge was an
aerie high on a mountainside, reached up a long, winding road through the woods.
a feeling of evil to come
I was ready to hike. I had waited months for this day, after all, even if it had been mostly with
worthy of high praise
I found Katz in the dining room and he was looking
laudably perky, too.
like a flirtatious woman
This was because he had made a friend—a waitress named Rayette, who was attending to his dining requirements in a distinctly
great coolness and composure under strain
I hoisted my pack and took a backward stagger under the weight (it would be days before I could do this with anything approaching
aplomb), jerked tight the belt, and trudged off.
of momentous or ominous significance
portentously on to the path, a fragment of the original Appalachian Trail from the days when it passed here en route from Mount Oglethorpe to Springer.
old and twisted and covered in lines
When, after ages and ages, you finally reach the telltale world of truly high ground, where the chilled air smells of pine sap and the vegetation is
gnarled and tough and wind bent, and push through to the mountain’s open pinnacle, you are, alas, past caring.
easily irritated or annoyed
“I don’t know how to put up my tent,” Katz said in a
be a mystery or bewildering to
I stood for a minute, speechless and
flummoxed, too tired to be indignant.
angered at something unjust or wrong
I stood for a minute, speechless and flummoxed, too tired to be
the act of yielding
“Oh, I ate that at Amicalola,” he said, as if it had been weeks ago, then added in a tone of sudden magnanimous
concession, “Hey, I’m happy with a cup of coffee and a couple of Little Debbies.”
steadiness of mind under stress
This really was grave—a serious challenge, apart from anything else, to his promised
It was startlingly
austere—some dried noodles, one bag of rice, raisins, coffee, salt, a good supply of candy bars, and toilet paper.