Well, important lessons were learned today.
1. Always put things back where they belong. Trust me, you do NOT want to be searching for your toilet paper while you’re sitting on the privy in 20*F weather.
2. 20 mile days are rough on the knees and feet. I have a billion new blisters.
3. Don’t leave trash in your rain jacket pocket. Thanks for the new ventilation in my rain jacket, mouse! I’ll be accessorizing with gorilla tape, I guess.
4. Sometimes 11 miles feels easy. Sometimes 5 miles feels insurmountable.
Here’s what I wrote on the trail today:
I only have 4 miles to the hostel but it just seems so impossible. My legs are tired. I’m supposed to love this, right? So why can’t I just get up and enjoy the journey instead of being so focused on the destination?
Because sometimes the journey is just hard.
Yesterday I was averaging just under 4mph. Today I’ll be lucky to do 2mph I think.
Of course, when I’m down I try to get signal and see if I’ve gotten a message from anyone or see what’s going on in the world (your likes and comments mean a lot to me!) and I got this reply to a text I sent my backpacking buddy Stewart:
Me: Now I have to walk into the woods to pee and it is so cold.
Me: Why do we do this again?
Stewart: Because we are strong and thrive on walking in the clouds and sleeping on mountains. We, for some reason, relish in looking daily upon our own insignificance in the face of nature.
It’s true. When I’m walking, I’m tiny and all I have are the problems of my body. Am I cold or hot or in pain or tired? Well, I either stop or go, or eat, or pee. There are simple solutions. And even sleeping on mountains and walking in clouds, as insignificant as I am, I am still part of it all. God’s eye is on the sparrow, and me, with my red backpack and my cold hands and tired feet.
But I made it, as you all know. And I went from this:
I’ve already eaten most of a digornio pizza. I’m about to head into town for more food and a resupply. I think I only need to carry 3 days worth of food, since Neel Gap is right on the trail.
This day at the hostel has been…incredible really. It feels like one of those days from study abroad, or teaching in France. A day where you make quick friends and meet interesting people, where you tell funny stories and do normal things that feel totally different. I went into town with Luke (Skywalker, a guy from Americus, GA, who’s just bumming around the trail but wasn’t prepared for the cold weather), Gonza (Gonzo?), the same thru-hiker from Carter Gap, and …someone else, who did not join us for dinner. The three of us went to an all-you-can eat buffet that was pretty good. I enjoyed that. Then we went for groceries where I had to call Dr Anna Foust for medical advice on how much Aleve I could take without doing kidney damage. Thanks for always being on call, Anna!!
We passed the night playing cards and telling stories. Hearing about the trail from the southbound thru-hikers, hearing from Mike, a northbounder who’s only getting started; it all made me want to do it, even as my feet are blistered and my calves are cramping. Maybe one day.
I won the card game (BS, which of course I’m really good at).
Tomorrow I’ll hike on to Tray Gap shelter. Then Low Gap, then Stewart (Wolverine), my hiking buddy, will meet up with me at Blood Mountain the next night. I’m so excited to see him. Stewart is the one that got me in to all of this. It’s appropriate that he joins me for at least one night of my grand adventure, don’t you think?
The list of shelters seems so short now. I’ll be sad for this to end. It’s easy to say that, warm in bed, surrounded by snoring men, knowing Buttercup will cook me a huge hot breakfast in the morning…but even if I were cold and alone, the promise of one more encounter with a friendly bearded stranger named Pajamas (I met a friendly bearded guy named Pajamas) or hearing non-rhotic New Hampshire and Massachusetts accents from guys like Carpenter and Gonzo while they talk about their dogs, well, that might be enough. It’s fun. It’s something new every day. Even if it’s not people, it’s a view or a challenge or a stupid funny thing I do, like texting Stewart to ask what animal makes a gurgle (he didn’t know).
But everything has a season, and this one is short. I’ll just appreciate it while it’s here, and enjoy every minute of it that I can.
And now sleep, with no worry of mice or getting murdered or gurgling noises or frostbite or bears or anything else. Ptl!