Misery Begets a Beautiful Day
Sometimes the trail is hard. It’s too steep, it’s too cold (or too hot), there are too many miles left to go. Although every hiker experiences these thoughts, usually one can push them aside, keep hiking, and enjoy the day. Every day I try to find something positive. It could be something I saw, someone I met, or something I did. Although there have been a few times this was impossible.
The Worst Day
We woke up and it wasn’t cold. It wasn’t cold, but it was wet – the rain had started during the night and now the tents were wet. It’s annoying because that’s just extra weight to carry during the day. We finished our morning routines and packed up camp. The hike began OK. But then it became an aggressive uphill. An uphill that brought us into a new region of weather. It was now cold, drizzling, and windy. The higher we got, the more snow we saw on the ground, and the colder it got. When we came upon a shelter we decided to stop for lunch, make some hot chocolate, and try to warm up.
At the shelter we met a man who was miserable. He was pretty set on going home. Going home and not coming back. He wanted to quit. The weather was too relentlessly awful. We all commiserated with him and his misery – because we all felt it too! But we told him the sun would come out tomorrow, it would get better, and we encouraged him to push through and keep hiking on. He was the first guy I met who seriously wanted to quit and it made me sad. Thru-hikers are all in this together – we eat together, we laugh together, we hike together, and we suffer together. I didn’t want to see one of us quit and leave.
The Day Never Ended
After lunch, we descended far enough to leave the snow behind. It was chilly, but not as bad as above. But that wouldn’t last for long. What goes down must come up. We once more ascended into the snowy, colder climate. But this time it was worse. For miles, the trail was thick, sticky deep mud. Every step was followed by a backward slide. It was exhausting to fight for every bit of forward motion. The mud slowed us down and the thick fog obstructed our view of the trail even 15 feet ahead. For over six miles, we slid and trudged through the mud, fighting to make it to the shelter. Finally we made it. Finally.
My Daily Positive
As I began to make my dinner, I tried to think of my daily positive. I couldn’t think of one. Nothing came to mind. Nothing about the day made me happy. Nothing made me happy. It was an awful, terrible, and miserable day. But now, five days later, I can reflect and I’ve found the positive. The misery of that day brought me 16 miles closer to my goal of reaching Maine. The awfulness of the day brought me 16 miles closer to the beautiful hike I experienced today. If I hadn’t suffered through those 16 cold, muddy miles, I wouldn’t have soaked up the sunshine today, enjoyed the magical pine forest, or relaxed by the campfire. The 16 miles of misery just made today that much better and that is a daily positive. Daily positives are so important and so is knowing tomorrow will be better – if not tomorrow, the next day. And the man I met on my day of misery knew that (or someone enlightened him). He’s still out here, killing miles and moving toward Maine.
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