[at-l] Sigh...

Claudia jaynclaud at comcast.net
Tue Dec 27 07:29:55 CST 2011

I love reading these accounts. Thanks. 
Claudia Maiorana 

-----Original Message-----
From: Felix J <AThiker at smithville.net>
Sender: at-l-bounces at backcountry.net
Date: Tue, 27 Dec 2011 07:27:52 
To: at-l<AT-L at backcountry.net>
Subject: [at-l] Sigh...

12/26/98  Mt. Collins Shelter  Smoky Mt. NP

My sheltermates were sleeping in their tents inside the Shelter when
I left between 8 and 9. It  was a crisp 18º. The sky was clear and the
trees roared with high winds dancing with the branches. I made good
time (too cold to stop!) to Clingman's Dome. Climbing the tower was
a very satisfying thing. The highest point on the Trail, one of my favorite
places on Earth, another landmark 'accomplished' and what I thought
an auspicious (felicitous?) song in my headphones; John Mellencamp's "Your Life is Now".
It was the first time I'd ever heard the song, and thought it odd that John
was telling me that, perhaps, this moment was what it had all been about.
Wasn't it? The wind chill on that cement top had to be below zero. I didn't
spend much time hanging around. I headed back to the Trail with a nice
little adrenaline rush. I kissed the sign. I always kiss that sign.

Once I got  to lower elevations, the winds died down and the day was
beautiful; Mid to upper 20's with plenty of sunshine. My favorite hiking
conditions. I stopped at Derrick Knob Shelter for a snack and found a note
from my  friend Albatross. I had missed him by minutes somewhere along the way.
I hiked on. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day. I was cruising along and having
the best time of my life.

The sun was starting to set and the air turning chilly as I started to
climb Thunderhead. I picked up the pace a bit to see if I could get to the summit in time
to see any of it. See it I did. As I hiked through the Rhododendron maze that makes up the
summit of Thunderhead, I noticed the powder-blue sky above was clear and beautiful. I had
no idea what else there was. I got to the little pile of rocks at summit-proper.
I put my right foot on top of the pile and balanced myself with my ski poles. As I
lifted myself up, raising my head above the Rhododendrons, I was. That, I believe, was the
defining moment of my life. That was, I believe, the most, and possibly the only, religious
moment of my life. It was, without doubt, the most incredible single moment of my life. I said
"Yes!" I said it again.

I enjoyed things from the pile of rocks for but a few minutes. The sun had settled behind the
mountains for the night when I stepped off that pile of rocks. I was invincible. I hiked away
from that pile of rocks feeling like my feet were inches off the ground. What an emotional high.
I got to Spence Field S. with the plan of stopping if someone else was there. It was still light
enough to see the new bear-bag cables as approached the shelter. No people, no firewood,
no Felix. As I got back to the AT, as I was making my first steps south, toward Russell Field,
"Got You Where I Want You" (the song of the hike) began. "Yes", I said again with a new push
of adrenaline.

I got to Russell Field well past dark and I was feeling good. I took my pack off and ate some
M&M's while getting things ready for the night. "Yo! Felix!" I said to my ownself.
"What are you doing? You don't want to stop. Hike on. " And, I did. Hiking after dark in the
Smokys, running on adrenaline and emotion, is an incredible thing. Incredible, indeed.

When I laid down at Mollies Ridge Shelter, at 9:30, I was still wound up. I'd love to read my register
entry for that day. The best day of my life. A day I saw no other human.

Felix J. McGillicuddy
ME-->GA '98
"Your Move"
ALT '03 KT '03

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