Bugs Bunny Isn’t The Only One Who Needs A Carrot
Let’s get two things straight from the start. First, I’m old(er) and realize this analogy might be completely lost on a large number of readers. Second, I’m not a fan of carrots. Or pears, or watermelon, but I digress. I feel carrots are best when eaten straight from the garden, slightly dirty, definitely crispy and at peak flavor. Cooked carrots are an anathema, only useful to those lacking teeth. Or tastebuds. In my opinion.
So it’s slightly ironic that I have found carrots to be exactly the incentive I need at times to keep putting one foot in front of the other—at least for certain moments or sections in this Loony Tunes adventure of a trail self-dubbed, “America’s Footpath.”
Like the proverbial horse or donkey or mule, the use of a carrot dangling by a string a few inches in front of the beast, entice the animal forward. Having people to visit, meals to be shared, places to stay, even a wedding to attend, became my metaphorical dangling carrot(s). Except unlike the horse/donkey/mule who never actually gets to eat the carrot, I have been constantly being rewarded by systematically reaching it.
So. What’s up, Doc?
I firmly believe that my success in actually finishing 1300 miles last year was due in part to several strategically placed carrots—friends of mine who live in the Northeast and a husband who planned to visit.
Former Appalachian Trail thru-hiker and paddling friend, Mark, resides in New Jersey and not only did he lend me all the AT books and maps for planning, in early June, he, his wife Pat and friend Jane, picked me up along the trail and whisked me away to Saranac Lake, New York in order to participate in a Northern Forest Canoe Trail reunion weekend. Having most recently descended Agony Grind, a name that reflects the experience, in the Palisades, where the trail dropped over 600 feet in elevation in .4-miles, being back on the water, in a canoe, in the rain, even for a few hours, was quite the respite.
Next I set my sights on North Adams, Massachusetts, where college friends, since graduation, have resided for the past thirty years. I spent four glorious days slack-packing, visiting the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and wearing my friend Becky’s clothes.
Vermont yielded two carrots, well, three as far as events go: My husband arranged a surprise visit where we stayed as guests of Dan and Michelle at their awesome B &B off-trail in Middlebury (and Dan picked me up a week later for another zero day at their fabulous Swifthouse Inn, and got to see more friends at a July 4th party.
And in Maine I was lured on by the prospect of hiking with former thru-hikers and friends Justine and T.K. who turned a weekend visit in Monson, into a wedding held at Shaw’s. They made their love legal in front of twenty thru-hikers and I was the maid of honor. Then we hiked out for a few miles into the Hundred Mile Wilderness.
With each carrot, more miles accumulated.
Finally, there was Katahdin—the penultimate carrot and the reward for most hikers. Dates had been set and plans had been made for my husband to join me on summit day. I made it that far before running out of time and dealing with pain which prematurely ended my flipflop thru-hike.
And now I’m back, although this year the southern half of the Appalachian Trail lacks the benefits of beta-carotene.
What these last 100 miles has yielded, however, was a visit from another college friend—my freshman roommate and Boundary Waters Canoe Area paddling partner, Kay.
Work obligations prevented the original plan of a road trip together bringing me to Springer Mountain, but her visit over 300 miles in provided another incentive. She met me outside of Hot Springs, North Carolina at Garenflo Gap and slacked me over the next week for almost one hundred miles. Without carrying a fully loaded pack, I was able to walk faster and farther. With a camper to come “home” to each night, I missed out on a few rainstorms. And had dinner waiting. With access to electricity and a shower, I was fully recharged each day.
There are two potential carrots still pulling me toward the final finish—another friend from Maine, Laurie, is again visiting the Shenandoah area. Last year we got to do a little day hike together during my first week, then she met up to hike with me for three days in New Hampshire. By coincidence she’ll be back in Virginia around the time I plan to finish. And there is another wedding in early July that I might be able to make…
1700 miles with the help of a whole bunch of carrots that is keeping this rascally wabbit moving.
For now, that’s all folks!
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Glad to see you’re back on the trail, Arachne! I’m following in your footsteps of last year and currently enjoying a carrot visit with my brother who lives in Philly! Those carrots definitely work for this old gal too! I love your writing style!! Happy hiking! Nemophilist 🙂
Me, I love carrots and especially being a carrot. I’ve been trying to resist the urge to extrapolate your progress all the way to Shenandoah, but it looks like you’re doing great. By the way, loved the post about the shelters, too. Walk well!