By Fady Gouda ’21
I was off on my way at 7 p.m. Friday night with a plan to spend my first weekend backpacking alone. We drove until we reached the Punchbowl shelter at 8:30 p.m. One of my friends dropped me off, helped me set up a hammock and went back to Lexington. An hour later, as I was getting ready to rest, with a plan of waking up early and hiking up Bluff Mountain for the sunrise, I realized that I forgot my sleeping bag on campus. I thought it was okay, and it wasn’t that cold anyways.
The people staying at the shelter and the full moon made it very hard to sleep. I stayed up for some time and, as it got later into the night, I realized it was too cold for me to be able to sleep. At 5 a.m., it was still dark, but I knew I had to leave to reach the sunrise at 7 a.m. I started my hike with two flashlights and some music to keep me calm and hopefully keeps the bears away. I reached the summit at about 6:30 a.m. and waited for the sunrise there.
The sunrise was one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen. I sat there until 8 a.m. and then started my hike down. I realized that I couldn’t sleep in the wilderness again without my sleeping bag, so I had contacted my friend the night before and asked him to pick me up early. But, because of this, I turned my two-day into a one-day hike. I had to hike 8 miles from the top of the mountain down to reach the road where my friend was picking me up. I started hiking down, passing Salt Log Gap, Saddle Gap and the junction with the Little Rocky Row Trail. After the junction, the hike was very rocky and got much steeper downhill. I had 3 miles left when my phone died, and one hour left until the planned meeting time with my friend.
I started running downhill. I took a water break when I noticed how sleepy I was. I knew I couldn’t stop again or I would fall asleep and not make it back on time. When I reached the road, I sat down waiting for my friend. I didn’t know what time it was or if he had come and left. All I knew was that I had multiple blisters, and I couldn’t hike any more.
From a small Egyption city called Fayoum, Fady Gouda is a sophomore at Washington and Lee. His first backpacking experience was his Appalachian Trail pre-orientation trip his freshman year, and he has backpacked five times since then. This hike was Fady's first solo backpacking experience.