The Good, the Bad, and the Muddy
The fates are conspiring against us. Or maybe I should say they’re conspiring for us, because oddly enough, every time we decide we’re fed up with this hike and decide to head straight home something happens that keeps us on the trail. It’s as if this journey — with all its bizarre ups and downs — isn’t about us anymore. We’re just caught up in some weird kind of hiking vortex that refuses to let us get out.
So let’s start with the bad part of the last five days, just to get that done. First off, getting back on the trail after a couple of weeks off was harder than I expected. My pack weighed too much. I missed our family and friends, along with the people we’d met previously on the trail. And frankly, after 600 miles the newness had worn off, highlighting the sheer difficulty of hiking and putting me in a real funk. I began to understand why so much of this trek is mental — and began to suspect that I’d flake out.
The trail conditions didn’t help. Forget the bad climb out of Massachusetts. Forget the knee-killing descent to Vermont Route 9 where it took us three hours to go four miles — although the incredible trail magic in the parking lot at the bottom was certainly a huge relief. (First Chaos and Master Chef fed us and gave us a pep talk that boosted our morale. Then Katrina came along with some great chocolate. She also told her parents about us, and they have now invited us to their house in Maine.)
Because despite that wonderful trail magic, the reality is Vermont is wet — which means the trails are filled with mud. Huge, deep stretches of it. Mile after mile after mile of it — thick, black, boot-sucking mud. Meaning there was no possible way to avoid it. Meaning our feet got filthy and soaked — and stayed that way for days. And it rained constantly on top of that, the showers turning into a steady downpour that got everything (even inside our bags) all wet.
We got muddy and bruised from all our falls. We were cold and miserably wet. The clincher came when after a 17 and a half mile slog to Manchester Center — where we’d reserved a room — our promised ride backed out, leaving us with no other option except an additional three-mile walk to the motel in the blowing rain.
But here’s where fate came in. I had never hitchhiked before. And I knew we looked pathetic — soaking wet, smeared with mud, laden with equally wet bags. Surely no sane person would invite us into their dry car. But in desperation I stuck out my thumb, and the very first car stopped. One second after I put out my thumb, Jonathan picked us up and drove us to our motel.
And it only got better from there. The motel owner dropped us off at a restaurant. A nice patron drove us back. I’d posted my desire to quit on Facebook, and dozens of people chimed in, saying how much our hike inspired them and urging us not to give up.
So we decided to take the next day off to re-evaluate our plans. And sure enough, in the morning the sun came out. We found a laundromat and dried our clothes. We even saw some of the gorgeous Vermont scenery we’d missed in the rainy woods.
We decided we couldn’t quit. So many good things were happening at exactly the right moments that it couldn’t be happenstance. There’s a reason that we’re out here (although what it is I have no clue).
We are going to do things a little differently, though. This past week illustrated that we need to have more fun (if that’s even possible in the rain). So we’ve arranged to take more days off. We are cutting our daily mileage, even though it extends our hike. We’re plodding on, since fate seems determined to keep us here.
I just wish this grand plan — whatever on earth it is — didn’t involve so much blasted mud!
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