It’s 6:30 in the morning and I’m sitting in the laundry room in the Vermont town of Bennington.
My first thoughts upon waking are how many more weeks until I can go home. Most people would tell me I can go home any time. I miss my family, my family misses me. It’s almost as if now Mt. Kahatadin stands in my way. I try not to voice it on the trail because such thoughts can become a norovirus and spread like a disease on the trail. I can’t go home until I stand like hundreds of others at the hand made wooden sign to mark the completion of the journey.
Other hikers have begun to talk of jobs, where they will live, what is next in their lives. I don’t have much to say because I live in Northern Minnesota, in a house my husband Tom and I built. The next epic thing in my life is our son, Kevin’ wedding to his beautiful fiancee Leslie and her precious daughter Audrey. Our daughter Whatever Works, Andrea, who hiked 423 miles of the trail this spring is busy re-establishing her life. She had sold her car to hike the trail and where we live there isn’t mass transportation. As for my job part of this, I have a few ideas.
Now back to the trail. In a very short time from now, I will be heading into the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The weather can be unpredictable. Winter gear is a must.
The weight of the pack is a concern. It feels heavy now. I have begun to struggle with the uphill climbs. I can handle the flat and I have learned how to jog downhill even when there are rocks and or roots. I have 5-6 weeks to hike less than 600 miles. The elevation changes a few thousand feet a day. My feet have healed from the 12 blisters from my old worn-out boots. I have the hiker hobble after every rest and especially in the morning. The hiker hobble is trying to walk on stiff, sore feet. My hiking poles become canes. Yes, we have aged our feet to the age of 90 years old.
So, by now I’m sure you are asking yourselves, why do I continue? There is something magical about walking in the woods. The sound of leaves moving on a breeze, chirping frogs, singing birds. The smell of flowers and decay of leaves. Being able to see the sun dancing on the water or filtering through the leaves. Every day I encounter something I haven’t seen before. Whether it’s a rock, plant, or critter.
The trail isn’t very remote from civilization. I can hear the noise of cities or homes as the trail winds it’s way up the Appalachian mountains. So I will leave you with this vision.
You are in your tent after a 20 mile day. It feels so good to crawl into your tent for the 128th night. Anything soft in your backpack is stuffed into the sack for your sleeping bag to make a pillow. Your socks feel damp and even though they smell real bad, you put them underneath you, in your sleeping bag so that they will be dry by morning. You then remember that you forgot to go to the privy and so you crawl back out of your tent.
When you get to the privy you try hard not to shine your light down the hole. The stench in the privy is so bad you try to hold your nose. You also hope that no spiders of the wolf family are present. You rush back out into the night for a gasp of fresh air and head back to your tent. You crawl back in and with a deep sigh your whole body relaxes. That’s when 3 fighter jets zoom right over your tent and you think your about to become wreckage in an aerial crash. Around 4 am you wake up to the smell of cucumbers and know a copperhead snake has just entered your airspace. You hope it isn’t close and you roll on it and get bitten. In 1 hour you wake up and start packing up everything that once was in your pack. Your day has begun. Now wasn’t that a restful night’s sleep.