Being Alone and Having a Routine
Written on July 30, 2019
July 28, 2019 ~ 2 months on trail.
After a beautiful night’s sleep at Bascom Lodge atop Mount Greylock, I waited in the lobby until breakfast was served at 8 a.m. with plans to hike 13.3 miles that day. As I was waiting for my food, a girl named Bubbles arrived, and she was super nice and obviously a thru-hiker, so I invited her to sit with me. I quickly came to learn that Bubbles was part of a 12-person tramily, which is just crazy excessive to a solo hiker like me.
Everyone was polite to me, but not necessarily overly welcoming as Bubbles had been. I noticed right away that there were some social tensions within the group, some not agreeing on how many miles they would walk that day. They joked that I would have to fill out an application to become a part of their tramily. I participated good-naturedly in the conversation while silently knowing there was no way in hell I wanted to be part of a 12-person group. That is just madness.
I left before everyone, though as the day progressed, they all caught up and passed me, which is normal. When I walked through the town of North Adams, where there was some trail magic set up with a few people from the tramily hanging out as well as some other people I had never met. Again, everyone was polite to me, but reserved, and I quickly learned that this trail magic was specifically for that tramily, and I was essentially crashing the party.
Once again, I left before everyone and made my way to the shelter. Eventually members of the tramily also arrived at the shelter, and as we were eating dinner, some of them sat with me and chatted warmly. I hoped they were getting the point that I was cool, just doing my own thing, and had no intention of infiltrating their group.
In the morning, I was one of the last to set out for the day, always being slow to leave camp. I planned to stop at a shelter halfway through the day for lunch and the whole group was there when I arrived. This time I definitely was getting looks from them, suggesting, “Is this girl following us?” No, I’m just going north, same as you. I thought to myself. I situated myself away from them and didn’t engage in their conversation. On the surface, they ignored me, but I would catch people staring at me anytime I looked up. I felt confident in my solitude and was unbothered by them, but was also happy to hear they planned to push past the next shelter. They would finally be ahead of me, and I wouldn’t have to keep being an outsider lurking around with the exact same schedule.
At the next shelter that evening, one person, DM, ended up being there, and was was very nice and easy to talk to when we were one on one. We had lunch together the next day on top of a fire tower and talked about the dynamics of hiking with a group versus hiking solo, among many other subjects. He helped me see and deeply appreciate how very supported I am from home. It was great to connect with him, then he pushed on to meet his group, and I was back to being comfortably alone.
My body is adjusted to walking however far I need it to. I just walk and it all happens.
I have a routine. Wake up with an aching in my stomach, urging me to get to the privy as quickly as possible, pack up Snuggle Palace, by first putting my tarp in its stuff sack, then the bug net gets taken down and stuffed away, then the underquilt comes down and gets stuffed in its stuff sack, then my sleeping bag goes in its stuff sack, then my hammock comes down and gets stuffed away, along with my hammock straps. I then take my time with coffee and breakfast. This usually includes going to the closest water source and collecting two to three liters of water and filtering it, getting my bear bag out of either a tree or the bear box, unfolding my little stove and screwing it onto my little gas tank, and heating up two cups of water for coffee. That all gets packed up when I’m finished. Then I change out of my comfy camp clothes into my wet hiking clothes, pack my pack in this order: sleeping bag, clothes bag, journal, underquilt, hammock, bug net, electronics. Wrap all that up in the trash bag at the bottom of my pack, then on top of that stuff my food bag, cook pot, stove tarp, and garbage into the top-most part of the pack. Tarp stakes and groundsheet get put in the back pouch, and anything else gets shoved into the stretchy pocket in the front of the pack. I put on my toe socks, which involves turning each crusty toe right side out before sliding the stiff sock onto my calloused foot, then my shoes go on, my yoga mat is the last thing to get slid into my stretchy pocket, then I tighten every strap on the pack and l walk. Walk, walk, walk, walk, eat and walk and eat and walk and filter water and walk and drink water and walk and eat and get to camp. Set up Snuggle Palace in this order: hammock straps, hammock, underquilt, bug net, groundsheet, tarp. Tell my mom I’m safe at camp. Change out of my hiking clothes, take a baby wipe bath, then get into my camp clothes and hang my soaking wet hiking clothes along the ridgeline of my hammock as if by some illusion they might be dry in the morning. Neatly stow away everything I won’t need anymore into my pack, including empty stuff sacks, electronics, first aid items, and lay it on my groundsheet across from my stinking hiking shoes and toe socks that, by trial and error, I have learned must go at the foot end of my hammock or I will smell them all night. Eat dinner (more collecting and filtering of water, boiling water on my camp stove, and rehydrating something or another) and socialize with whomever may be there, pack up my bear bag and hang it in a tree or shove it into the bear box if there’s one available, then, completely spent, zip myself up in Snuggle Palace. Read/write/watch downloaded episodes on Netflix until falling asleep. Wake up with an aching in my stomach, urging me to get to the privy as quickly as possible. And so on and so forth every day.
I’m in Vermont and feeling very adjusted to this lifestyle.
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