Delis, Delis, and More Delis
Written on July 21, 2019
It was hard to pry myself out of my hotel room in Fort Montgomery, NY. I had spent three glorious nights there where I rearranged all the furniture, had pizza, salad, and Mexican food delivered, got an Uber to Walmart where I got a whole watermelon along with other delicious snacks, practiced yoga and meditation, soaked my feet in Epsom salts, handwashed all my laundry, aired out all my gear, and snuggled into a bed with lots of pillows and blankets.
I knew that the day I got back on trail would be the day I walked through the Trailside Museums & Zoo, so I tried to keep that in mind as I packed my bag somberly and ate my final continental breakfast with a heavy pit in my stomach. Finally, I summoned yet another Uber, and I was on my way back to trail life.
My body felt heavy as I walked through crowds in the hot sunshine. I was surrounded by people all the way through the zoo and across Bear Mountain Bridge; people who wanted to ask me questions about my hike, and people who smelled so much like soap and cleaning chemicals that it took my breath away. There was a crowd of people climbing up the beginning of Anthony’s Nose around me as well. The climb felt ultra steep and ultra brutal after a double zero in my sour mood, suffocating from the lack of solitude.
At last the AT veered off to the left while the popular day-hike trail continued up, and I was able to get a few moments of peace away from the influx of people. I tried to appreciate everything about the day once I was back on my own, but couldn’t shake the sad, heavy feeling I was carrying. Toying with thoughts of only hiking to Katahdin and going back home.
At some point in the day, I passed a man going south who really talked up the upcoming Appalachian Market, and said I really needed to stop there for some deli food. Once I arrived, I was happy to see three guys from the drive-in were sitting at the picnic table. I had an Italian sandwich, salty potato chips, a Powerade, and a seltzer water, and the four of us chatted and ate our fill under the shade of the table umbrellas in the sweltering heat. I was drowsy once I got moving again, but I turned on a podcast and hiked four extra miles past where I had planned to go for the evening. I camped alone at a stealth site alongside the trail.
The next day was full of hiking and chafing in the heat until I walked over 17 miles to get to the RPH Shelter, where Chinese delivery was an option. There were several other hikers there having Chinese, but I was feeling antisocial, and set up camp and got ready to make something out of my food bag in the solitude of my little area. Then the same three guys from the drive-in and the Appalachian Market showed up and asked me if I wanted to get in on their Chinese order. It took absolutely zero convincing for me to agree and order garlic chicken with white rice and an egg roll. We all sat at a picnic table in the dark and shared stories and laughs while we ate.
In the morning, the heat began early, and I walked five miles to a road that led to another deli. I ordered a turkey Italiano footlong and got sour cream and cheddar chips and a Powerade to go with it. Behind the deli, many hikers from RPH were hanging out, along with several other hikers, some of whom I had met all the way back in Palmerton, PA. I enjoyed the midday rest and general thru-hiker-hang-out-and-do-nothing-because-it’s-so-hot camaradie, then I pushed on the rest of the long, hard, 17-something-mile day, the chafing so bad it brought me to tears at times.
After three days of joylessly going through the motions of moving north, I said to another hiker at breakfast one morning that I probably would be having more fun if I weren’t pushing myself so hard. It was like a light bulb moment after I said it out loud and realized that I was in complete control of my experience, and enjoying it should be my priority, not trying to move forward as quickly as possible. I decided to shorten my miles for the day and hit up Tony’s Deli for lunch. The relentless heat beat down on me from the sun and the sun was reflected back at me from the blacktop as I walked half a mile along the road to the deli where I got an Italian sandwich, salty chips, a Powerade, and a yogurt.
Drenched in sweat, exhausted, and beginning to get badly chafed, yet again, I stopped at a shelter after only walking eight miles and strung up my hammock at 4 p.m. to read and take a nap.
The following day I hiked into Bull’s Bridge, CT, to, you guessed it, another deli (!!) where I got a sandwich, pudding, two kiwis, and a Vitaminwater. Again, I found myself hanging out at a picnic table with ever-changing groups of hikers and chatting about our struggles, our triumphs, life back home, the heat, and where we planned to camp that night. Before I left I got two more kiwis and a Stella Artois to pack out and continued on for the day, still with a heavy heart, missing home, and feeling like I was just going through the motions still, even after cutting down my mileage.
At the shelter, a hiker named Crusher camped beside me after he saw I was drinking a beer, and decided I could be trusted. We talked most of the evening until it started to rain and we settled into our own spaces. The familiar smell of rained-on gear was there to greet me in the morning and I immediately pulled out my guidebook to see if I could bail out of the woods three days earlier than the $35 place I had reserved in Salisbury, CT. There was nothing cheaper than $120 anywhere near me. I called my mom and talked to her about it. She said, “I don’t know how bad it is, but I know you are strong. You know what you need.”
“It’s not thaaaaaat bad,” I admitted. I told her I would continue to think about it and keep her updated. Tears were welling up as I began to pack up camp and Crusher crawled out of his tent. I told him about my urge to blow money over be strong. He kindly encouraged, “I just remember there’s going to be some suck. I figure I might as well embrace it.”
Once he walked away, with tears in my eyes, I texted my mom, “I’m going to tough it out.” I sat on my ground sheet and made myself a coffee and some oatmeal, and sat with my emotions while the sun began to shine through the trees and warm the skin on my face. I closed my eyes, breathed deeply, and appreciated the warmth spreading through my body. I reminded myself, again, that I should be enjoying this experience. I chose to be here. I’m free and completely in charge of my life for this time. Appreciate it, make the most of it, enjoy it, stop comparing my journey to that of the others around me, and others on the internet.
I sighed out a cleansing breath and blinked my eyes open to take in the sun beams through the trees again and to take notice of the birds singing for the first time all morning.
Feeling considerably better, I took off for the day and listened to nonstop Fleetwood Mac albums and audiobooks. I planned to go farther than I actually went because, once again, the chafing held me back, and I wound up at the Silver Hill Campsite at 4:30. There were no mosquitoes, and the privy didn’t smell, so I took my time and took a very thorough baby wipe bath that went a long way in improving my mood even further. I had dinner and chatted with a woman named Bear and enjoyed the peaceful campsite, which happened to include a big swing. Crusher showed up, which was fun, and many others arrived as well. It was a great evening of peace and comfort.
I was the last to leave the campsite the next morning, as per usual because I took my time with my coffee and oatmeal and sunrise meditation, which took place on the big swing that morning. Feeling fatigued, I worked my way up and over the climbs of Northern Connecticut while listening to the Rumors album by Fleetwood Mac on repeat.
I wound up at some trail magic that day and met a girl named Cedar who was working on her Triple Crown. I camped beside her that night and we had a great time enjoying girl talk and lady companionship for the evening. At long last the day to hike into Salisbury arrived and I was up at 5 a.m., skipping breakfast, and booking it ten miles into town to take advantage of the day.
I got a shuttle to Maria’s Place and put on loaner clothes before walking into town to meet Cedar at Sweet William’s Bakery. I had an iced black tea with local heavy cream and a cream cheese danish while chatting honestly with Cedar about motivation, inspiration, and why we continued to choose to put ourselves through such drudgery. She told me to listen to Thirst by Heather “Anish” Anderson to get re-inspired. We then went to the grocery store together and took our time meandering the aisles and dancing along to the music playing in the space.
We sat together while she situated her loot into ziplock bags and we both whined about how unfortunate it was that we found a girl we enjoyed, but we were on different schedules. We hugged before she hiked away, both of us hoping for a future crossing of our paths. After that I fully soaked in the R&R at Maria’s Place and the adorable town of Salisbury. I got clean and full and strengthened my resolve, telling my mom I’m in this thing for the long haul. I may never get the chance to experience this kind of freedom again, and it’s time to enjoy it.
The next day I crossed into Massachusetts while listening to the Thirst audiobook all day and relishing in the fact that body glide really, really does work, and I was no longer chafing. Cedar was totally right; Thirst did the trick and I remembered why I’m out here doing this.
This life of adventure is a complete blessing.
Thank you to everyone holding me as I experience it.
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