Soil-less Gardens

I often create a Soil-less Garden for trips. This particular one was for a five-day hike along the Appalachian Trail with my husband as part of a group from our church. For various reasons, this trip was a big deal for us. We arrived late at night at the B & B close to the trailhead when I discovered that my husband had picked up the wrong piece of luggage at the airport and we didn't have most of our equipment. The airport was three hours away; moreover, when we called the airport the baggage claim department couldn't find our luggage. If they could find it, they said, it wouldn't be until late the next morning and we'd still have to wait for it to be delivered in the afternoon. Since our backpacking group was scheduled to leave for the trail at 6 a.m., we knew we would be missing a whole day of hiking with them and would need to figure out how to meet up with them later. I was fit to be tied and in tears. Finally I got over the worst of my snit and decided that instead of thinking the S-G team and I had failed, it was important for me to give up my ideas about the trip and how it was supposed to go. The upshot was that the late start the next day gave my husband and me an opportunity we hadn't realized we needed to purchase much lighter equipment. The lighter weight changed the whole backpacking experience for us. (I had asked that we find the equipment light and easy to carry.) It also resulted in our spending all but one day by ourselves on the trail. Despite everyone's best efforts, we kept missing our group, or they just kept missing us. These days together we will never forget for their loveliness and the sweetness of the time together. (Of course, that was another item in the DDP; if we had gone with the group, we would have had a very different experience.)

In summary, everything I had asked for from the trip in my DDP had materialized, in ways I could not have predicted and wouldn't have chosen — thank goodness, because it was so much better having Nature handle those details.

There is another reason I am writing, however, besides recounting another successful Soil-less Garden project. When my husband and I finally got dropped off near the trailhead that was supposed to take us to where our group was planning to camp the second night, there was a problem. Our transportation had left, we had no cell phones or money, and what we were looking at around us didn't match the map we borrowed. Later we discovered we had been dropped off at the wrong place. We tried to memorize the borrowed map and took off in hopes of figuring out where we were. It was late in the day and the sun was beginning to set. We walked and walked and found no trailhead. When we arrived at an old logging road, we decided to drop our packs. I would trot in one direction and my husband would trot in the other for 30 minutes, looking for clues to our location or the trailhead. We would return to the backpacks and confer in an hour. It would be dark by then, but we would be on a road and able to find our way back to each other and our packs. I took off. Then, I asked Pan for help.

As I got close to the 30-minute turnaround time, I noticed bright lights in the distance in the middle of the forest. For reasons I still don't understand, I assumed they were Italian party lights (though I have no idea what Italian party lights look like). I could see the bulbs strung in the trees and wondered how they got electricity to the lights since I didn't see any poles or hear a generator. I stopped my jogging and looked at the lights from a variety of angles and heights to see what they were, and if they were really what they seemed. Yep, light bulbs. I also felt a real party atmosphere from the area and noticed I was suddenly feeling light-hearted. I figured it wouldn't hurt to check out what was going on; I wouldn't be so late back to our checkpoint that Jon would worry. I followed the lights to their source and came to a clearing. No lights all of a sudden. I looked for them but couldn't see any. But there, in the dusk, was the path to the Appalachian Trail we'd been looking for. I jogged back to our meeting point, met a discouraged Jon and told him I could take him to the trailhead. I also told him how I came to find it. He didn't blink, just gave me a hug and said he loved having a wife who talked to fairies. We pitched our tent near the trailhead that night, with no sign of our group anywhere, and entered the Appalachian Trail the next morning.

— M.B.G., Miami, FL