After an unseasonably cold night for mid-May, the day broke blue and clear, and the sun soon thawed us out from our night’s discomfort. We left Wood’s Hole Shelter at 7:30 heading south. We appreciated the endless stretches of trillium that lined the trail with deep purple flower buds still tight, and full blossoms in lavender, pink, white, and yellow, and large expanses of ferns, turtle-head lilies, and multi-colored lichens spread upon the worn igneous boulders.
Over the years we had almost become indifferent to the possible dangers of the hike, though the trail log book back at the shelter had provided some engrossing narratives of previous hikers’ encounters with bears and snakes. Perhaps they were fictions invented for the impressionable. The worst that we had encountered were some very noisy and drunk motorcyclists tearing up a forest service road a year before, persuading brother David and me to stay hidden on the trail nearby.
We were close to Jarred’s Gap on the trail map, and whether it was that gap or not, it was a low, flat area, filled with head-high tall plants growing thickly in damp soil that we had come to expect when we reached the base of the mountain trail. We had seen large scat on the trail that made us wonder who or what had been there ahead of us. We were not prepared for the noise we heard that made us turn around and stare in the direction we had come. Such a ruckus of crashing brush, squeals, and fast rampage through the woods, coming toward us, crossing the trail about fifty feet from us, and just as quickly moving away. We counted at least a dozen wild razorbacks running full out in the craziest “follow the leader” race we had ever seen.
Had we stopped in the spot they chose to cross, we might as well have been standing in front of a semitrailer truck on an interstate highway. Splat! There was a danger no one had warned us about. We walked on in silence for a while, pondering how embarrassing it would be to leave a legacy for our family of being the only hikers on the AT to lose our lives in a stampede of wild hogs. On such a beautiful day, too.