Almost Heaven

“If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.” – Sylvia Plath

It all began with a 1,000′ climb to a mountain ridge on the Appalachian Trail, a 35 pound backpack strapped to my back. My buddy Ed and I descended five days later and 70 miles south in Duncannon, PA with lacerations, sore joints, and drank many cold beers. In between we encountered boulders, hills, valleys, rattlesnakes, rocks (PA as a reputation as Rocksylvania to AT thru-hikers) and a monsoon–pouring rain, high winds, thunder and lightning.


On the final evening as dusk settled in I realized that Ed and I had been separated. We were in a dead zone (no cell phone towers) so had no way of communicating. He could have been one mile or five miles behind me. I set up camp, hung my hammock, and chilled in the mountaintop breeze before sliding into my sleeping bag to saw some logs.

The most common question I’m asked when I tell people about my ventures is “Why?”

“Because,” I tell them, “when I lie in my hammock before the sun goes down and look out over the valley, I feel like I’m on top of the world.”

Susquehanna River from my hammock as I fell asleep

Hammock view of the Susquehanna River from the Appalachian Trail.

The expression on their faces tell me they’ve never done such a preposterous thing, and they don’t quite understand. So I try another tact. I describe to them what I saw when I stuck my head out of my tent the next morning.

“I do it to get a glimpse of heaven.”

Susquehanna River when I woke.

Same view of the Susquehanna River when I woke in the morning.

I know they will never get it, so I concede, “Well, it’s as close to heaven as I might ever get.”

Almost heaven
Almost heaven

Turns out Ed set up camp about 300 yards behind me.


About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
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30 Responses to Almost Heaven

  1. Mark Smidt says:

    Gorgeous views.


  2. LB says:

    Jim, the photos are lovely. I love your zest for life and the way you challenge yourself. I’ve not given up home that someday I’ll ride to a place near you and we’ll meet and have a beer!


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  4. Daisy Do says:

    This I get Jim…awesome photos. The running? Nope. That I will never get or do. 🙂 Glad your buddy was snoring distance away.


  5. runner500 says:

    Great photos, great memories; lovely piece Jim.


  6. Sophie33 says:

    Almost heaven, I think I would be in haven! Waw Such views!


  7. You were hiking near my turf. We were on the AT tonight, munching on mulberries along the way. Your photos are heavenly.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Mark Mangan says:

    “Knock, knock, knocking on Heaven’s door!”


  9. Patrick says:

    Wonderful Memories made!


  10. shawnasob says:

    I very much get it. Although I have never done anything like that it is something that I aspire to do. For now though I will keep to camping with my kids in the backyard 🙂


  11. Incredible Jim. I still believe that we may be related. My Dads name was Frank and I never did meet his side of the family. He grew up somewhere close to Philadelphia. Hmmm. I do wonder.


  12. drmikebda says:

    Great Pictures and thoughts


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