By Ed Carmien

The Spark to My A.T. Love

Nine years ago I re-ignited a passion for the Appalachian Trail that first burned in me as a teenager in the late 1970s, when I fell far short of the resources required to undertake a thru-hike. Since 2013 I’ve walked our great national treasure, section hiking 700 miles from the Shenandoah National Park to Dalton, Massachusetts, and been full of wonder and joy the whole way.

Last summer, I hauled my not old, but certainly worn and creaky bones to Riga Shelter, Connecticut. What a sight! And a site! Perched with views east, one can appreciate the work and genius of the crew that picked this spot for a shelter. Though crowded by new-ish tree growth, the view remains spectacular. I set up my hammock near the shelter and decided to take a photo the following morning.

Although initially alone at Riga Shelter, two new hikers out for a quick overnight introduction to the A.T. joined me before sunset, and I shared veteran hiker wisdom and conversation, until with chagrin I realized I’d left my toilet paper at the convenient privy located at the trailhead some miles to the south. But the kindness of hikers reigns nearly universal, and I soon had enough of the necessary resource to go about my business in comfort.

A clear night led to a glorious sunrise. This, this exact moment, existed in the future of my 1970s, teenaged self, who knew the moment lived and breathed, real as real gets, but could not imagine four decades would go by before it happened, looking out at a morning sky next to Riga Shelter. With a nod to Sarah Jones Decker and her excellent book The Appalachian Trail Backcountry Shelters, Lean-Tos, and Huts, and thanks to the Appalachian Mountain Club, Connecticut Chapter, and all those who support the AT, for making this moment possible.