Feet. We all have them – well most of us are fortunate to have them. They carry us around, help us stand a little taller, and most importantly, embarrass the hell out of us when we finally extract them from the shoes we hide them in and show them to the world. I never really thought about my feet until my hiking partner (referred to as T) said to me one night in our tent “um – could you like put some socks on or something?” I looked down at my poor feet and realized for the first time how grievously I mistreated them. Large calluses cover my big toes, a blister has formed on one heal, the bottoms are dry and a little cracked. We won’t even talk about my pinky toes (not really sure they have what would classify as a nail anymore…) They look like 90-yo lady feet. It was the first time I think I have ever understood the desire to have a pedicure.
And so, after 3 weeks on the trail, I am in constant pursuit of a nail salon where someone might willingly touch my feet for a few minutes and paint my fungus-infected nails in exchange for a few dollars. Anybody know of a place between Hot Springs, NC and Elk Park, TN?
Feet aside, this is my first post since starting the trail and I finally feel like I have some time to comment on the awesome-sauce that is happening all around me, on a daily basis.
First is the hiking. I love hiking. Everything about it. I love the physical exertion, the steep/sailor-cursing climbs, the knee-breaking downhills, the achilles tendonitis, joint swelling, complaining about all of the above, the stunning panoramas, the smell of a pine grove, the feeling of claustrophobia in a rhododendron tunnel, I could go on but I’ll stop there.
Camping – another amazing perk of trail life. I enjoy finding the best spot, pitching the tent, cooking my ramen, watching the sky change as the sun sinks beneath the nearby mountains. I like sleeping in my sleeping bag, the wind rustling the branches overhead. Hanging a bear bag has sort of become my thing. T, after much debate and relentless badgering, has finally convinced me to wake up early and eat breakfast before the sunrise. And now I love it too (for those who know me, this will be a shock since I am highly allergic to mornings).
Meeting fellow hikers. At first I didn’t like this part so much. I grow tired of repetitive conversations and when you meet people on the trail, you always go over the top 5 questions first thing: What’s your trail name? Where are you from? Where are you going? When did you start? What did you do before the trail? There seems to be lots of posturing and posing, even a bizarre sense of competition among the thru-hikers. I don’t like competition – I’m out here to HMOH godamnit so I don’t care when you started or that you’re doing 35miles/day on week 2. At least that’s how I used to feel. But finally I put my judgment aside and realized that most people on the trail are actually pretty cool with some intensely interesting stories and lives to share once you get past the top 5. And so now I love meeting fellow hikers too.
I’ve been warned repeatedly that my love-affair with the AT will end sometime in Virginia (we’ll be there next week). The honeymoon phase will be over and I’ll start to have thoughts of quitting. In all honesty, I have those thoughts already. Everyday I think – what would happen if I quit right now? Where would I go? What would I do? I have no response to my internal debate, because for right now, I’m exactly where I want to be, doing exactly what I want to do. Of course I miss my family and friends and my 157 huskies, but I’m still waking up happy every day.
Despite the random aches and pains that might make some book a bus ticket home, I start hiking with a smile, asking T every morning “What kind of day is it today?” “Well Em,” she responds, “it’s a great day for a hike.”
Why yes T, yes it is.
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