Days 40-51: Scream It From The Top of Your Lungs, Lungs, Lungs

Writing this from my first time truly being alone on trail, without tramily, since night one.


It’s thunderstorming at Double Springs. We started today with the intention of marathoning.


Normally, I don’t do well with thunder. It gives me sensory overwhelm, and also makes me very anxious. Lightning isn’t something I wanna play around with in NYC, much less in the mountains. But a few days back, I pushed through a passing storm cell. Sobbing loudly, weeping hard, knowing the only way out was through. The only way out of the thunder and lightning was to get to the next shelter. And I did it — once it cleared up I felt relieved and strong. I’m a badass, I thought to myself. I wasn’t miserable getting to that rotting cabin at mile 420.2, I didn’t want to go to a hostel, I wanted to push on to Laurel shelter and tent through the storm.


Laurel falls


Today, it’s not the thunder that worries me.


We planned on doing the marathon, like I said. We planned on the rain and the thunder. We knew it was all day, and I felt confident in being able to continue overcoming my fear — the whole reason I’m out here, to show myself how strong I actually am on my own.


What we didn’t plan on was no place to stay or set up a tent that wouldn’t be soaking wet. We should have — I should have just booked us somewhere last night or shot out a text to everywhere I could.


By the time we got to Double Springs for lunch, we heard almost everywhere was booked up. And there was no service. I was still ready to push through, until I remembered my debuffs. See, sleeping wet and cold isn’t something I can do without getting sick. I’ve done it before, and my body cannot handle it. My RA flares up bad, and I get sick. And when I get sick, I get sick for a while. I flare up for a day or two, often fevering while I do so, and then have to wait to fully recover.


I’ve unfortunately thrown myself into enough flare ups without time to recover (generally through irresponsibility) to know there’s no way around this, and it’s not a risk I’m willing to take. I can be 18 miles behind, I thought to myself, but I can’t risk getting 4 days behind. I’ve already put my body through so much these past ~450 miles, so much that made me feel so strong and so powerful… but I know my limits. And I’ve ignored enough of them just to not get left behind. I knew this was coming.


on the descent into erwin


It sucks, being a person with limits.


Where my anxiety isn’t about getting to Katahdin on time, but making it there at all in a body that feels like a car that’s always in the shop. My friends don’t seem to have those problems anymore. They don’t have to worry about the stupid rain and cold making them sick for more than a day. They don’t have to worry about flaring up and getting injured while their bodies attack themselves. Sure, they have to worry about injuries — everyone does, some more than others. But not in the same way.


I wish I was a person with a stronger body to start. Sure, this distance wouldn’t feel like as huge of an accomplishment, I wouldn’t feel so badass. But I’d be able to say I did the cool thing I wanted to do.


The marathon.


I feel like an idiot. It was the first time I was the one who made the call to do the crazy, awesome, challenging thing. And I of course caved and crapped out too early. Because I’m afraid of getting sick. Because my body doesn’t work properly. Because I’m always sick, and I can’t risk getting moreso.


I keep trying to remind myself that this is the right move. That I’m being smart. That, had I caved to the anxiety and fear of being abandoned and alone, I might lose all my friends for the rest of the time we hike the trail.


I keep trying, but it’s not doing much.


Too much time to think about things. Too much time to myself, to let my brain wander. Too much time to build up walls where I’d been doing so well at being open and vulnerable. Too much time to think about what works for me.


It sucks, because the past two weeks have been the best of the whole trail for me.


We stayed at so many hostels. Uncle Johnny’s, Mountain Harbour, and Boots Off.


It was amazing. We’d been mainly staying at hotels, which had generally been cheaper. But coming into Erwin, Achilles and I decided to stay at Uncle Johnny’s with Moss. We set up my tent at this incredible spot they have next to the river. I was claimed in the dark by a hole on the path — my first injury and it was off trail! But it was still so cool. We slackpacked 20 miles SOBO the next day back to the hostel, then zeroed and did trivia with our friends in town. We came in third — I blame Achilles for not trusting himself for the final question, but we live and we learn.


our spot


seducing the sasquach


Mountain Harbour was incredible. If you saw my instagram post, you know how much I loved it. Very glad we stayed two nights so that I could make up for getting way too much breakfast the first morning! It’s not only the best breakfast on trail, but one of the top three breakfasts I’ve had in my entire life! The second night, we went to Station 19 for karaoke — just missing our friends singing “500 Miles (I’m Gonna Be)”, but in time to get two songs in for me (“Valerie” and “Don’t Rain On My Parade”) before a lovely woman named Joanie drove us the mile or so back to Mountain Harbour, where Achilles and I stayed up way too late talking.


too much food


Moss, being a babe


Then we stayed at Boots Off — which is my favorite stay so far. The domes, dude. Get a dome, if they’re available. Upgrade to the power pack. Thank me later. It was the coolest place I’ve ever slept in my entire life. I wish it had been raining, that we could have watched the water slide down the dome with all the color changing lights.




Besides the super duper cool domes, the place is absolutely incredible. First off, if you walk in on a hot day they have misters!!! I sat in front of those bad boys for a Hot minute. They have a solid general store with good prices, and they have an aquablaze.




in sync


Since Achilles worked at Above The Clouds for the last year and knows Jim (who owns Boots Off), we got hooked up really nicely — something I’ll be eternally grateful for. We got a nice deal on the aquablaze, an experience I’ll never forget. Another experience that started off with me overcoming my fear of thunder, this one being on a lake. The storm passed pretty quickly, though, and the rest of the day was amazing. It was the most beautiful view of the mountains. The most beautiful day on the water. The water was warm, the sun was shining, the sky was a brilliant blue. It was only us on the lake, save for a motorboat here or a jet ski there. We got followed by some ducks, which was an incredible experience for me as someone who absolutely loves ducks. I played music and sang until my phone died. I felt distracted by nothing when it was dead, a new feeling for me. I just felt happy in my element: water and sunshine.


So you can imagine how excited I was to keep going, keep being a badass.


Keep showing myself how strong I am. But I guess sometimes strength is having enough understanding of my limits to know this is one I don’t want to push.


There will be other marathons, I guess. Not the same, not the one my friends are doing. And it’s fine that they left, they aren’t beholden to me. My problems aren’t theirs. None of them are my partner, and she’s doing a great job of supporting me from a thousand miles away — when we have enough service to talk, at least.


I miss her a lot. She’s the most badass person I know. Takes no prisoners, takes no excuses, has overcome a lot. A lot. Sometimes, when it’s hard for me to do things, I consider what she would do. How she would handle it. She would power through, but she wouldn’t risk her illnesses overpowering her. I think she’d be proud of me, if I had any service to tell her I chose my wellbeing over my anxiety. I wish she was here. I wish I was there. I wish we were together. Things are less complicated when she’s around.


Eighteen miles tomorrow.


Not a big deal. Not daunting. I’ve done more, and I have way less weight now than I did then. I finally got my pack weight down to 25lbs, and she’ll be getting lighter once I send a bunch of clothes back in Damascus. My friend sent me a much lighter sleeping bag, and having so much more volume in my pack really emphasized how many clothes I have now.


To be fair, I picked up a large sweatshirt in Erwin — definitely not ultralight — but it’s sensory heaven and I love wearing it at camp and falling asleep in it. I’m holding onto it as long as I possibly can. It makes me feel cozy and happy after a long hard day, and that’s honestly worth everything out here.


Especially when cold and alone.


It’s fine. Just another thing to overcome.


Like everything else. Nothing new.


It’s been too good for too long, I guess.


the rest stop on the way up to Boots Off


I’ve been listening to In The Heights a lot recently. It reminds me of home. “Blackout” always hits hard, especially since the blackout being referenced in the musical is (I believe) the one that hit NYC right before my folks and I moved to the city.


But I guess today, it would be “Pacencia Y Fe”.


I survived, I did it


Now, do I leave or stay?


Alright, mamá. Okay.


Pacencia y fe…

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Comments 1

  • Nature Boy : May 14th

    Spark – thanks very much for catching us up, been missing your posts. 400+ miles of trail – fantastic! But, yeah, don’t get hurt – you’ve got too much wonderful trail ahead! HYOH, ya know…and up to my part of the Ered Luin (aka, the Blue Ridge of Virginia)…


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