Total Miles: 2,814.9
Niefersfeld, Germany – November 15, 2016
“Maybe I’ll just walk forever,” I think as night falls around me.
Snow soaks the ground, a mushy, half-melted blanket over everything. I should have settled in somewhere while I could still see even if it would have been wet work, but I kept hoping for a better option that never came. Then darkness fell and left me staring at nothing but the gloomy white path leading forward.
I slosh along it. Shoes wet from muck, walking as more and more light fades away. The snowy path widens into a road and the mush gives way to pavement. I pass through a small village and down the quiet streets, feeling trapped, wishing for nothing more than a dry spot in someone’s garage, knowing that isn’t going to happen, wondering if I really could just walk until morning.
I’ve done it before, walked through the night. I even did it paddling once, just north of Miami when the million dollar homes along the intercostal left no quiet places to rest in the darkness. I remember my eyes drifting shut as I paddled and shooting open in fright as my balance fell to one side or the other.
It’s not a pretty way to spend a night. It’s lonely and tiring and the hours drag on and on. On the Divide, I started to see things that weren’t there when I turned to look at them. On the Appalachian Trail I ended up with a dozen blisters across my feet. The night would drag even longer now, with winter stretching the darkness. What would it be, thirteen, fourteen hours before I’d see the sun? And what then, sleep? It will just be more rain.
I pass the last straggling buildings of the village and find a forest with nothing more than a dusting of snow. I sneak away into the trees, not as hidden as I’d like, but hidden enough for the late hour.
I set up my tent and hide inside, diving into the warmth of my sleeping bag, feeling my blood carry heat back to my fingertips. No one will find me in the night. No one will bother me. At worst, someone might see me in the morning, but they’d have to wake early because I’ll be gone as soon as the sun arrives.