One foot on the trail, one foot back in the real world: Thoughts with 40 miles to go
Hey guys, I’m alive!
The last time that I was able to write on here was sometime in the middle of Virginia if I recall correctly – maybe mile 770 give or take? It was definitely before the Shenandoahs… and that was an eternity ago. At least that’s what it feels like. I’m writing this from the library in Hanover, NH, with 40 miles to go on this post-Katahdin-summiting coda that I’ve been doing for about 2 weeks now. I know, it’s confusing. I’ll explain.
Going way way way way way way back
I was able to hike all the way to the NY/CT Border before I had to get off trail for a memorial service for my grandmother, which was June 15th. When Mini-Sticks and I returned (my friend Emily who I had talked about much earlier) we decided to jump up a little south of Dalton so that we could meet up with my earlier trail family that I hadn’t seen in a while and was hoping to hike the rest of the way with. That group consisted of: Rolling Thunder, Brightside, Heat Pack, Buster, Sparkle, Mozart, P-Diddy, Dizzy, and later Lonely and a few others. From Dalton we hiked North until we got to Killington VT, where I had a bad slip on a root and sprained my ankle with two strained ligaments. After that Mini-Sticks kept going with everyone else while I stayed at my girlfriends place for six days. Lucky for me, she’s a medical student (and an awesome girlfriend) so she made sure that I was icing it, compressing it when needed, and everything else that I needed to do to make it heal faster.
I started hiking again after six days, which was the most painful, frustrating, and very likely stupid thing I’ve done in a long time. I had Amanda drop me off near Glencliff, NH, where I hung out at the Hikers Welcome Hostel until I met everyone and headed north with them from there. The next three weeks after that were awful. I could barely manage 1.5 miles an hour, and even though I was hiking with my air cast inside of a boot laced so tight that my foot and ankle was pretty much locked into place. Every ten minutes I would take a wrong step, catch a root, or hit a rock that would cause my ankle to explode in pain, necessitating a twenty minute break just to wait out the pain before I could keep going. In short – it sucked, a lot, but I always said I would come back from the trail with my shield or on it, and I intended to do just that.
Eventually I made it through the whites with everyone and got to Southern Maine. The push from the Maine border to Katahdin was pretty bad for all of us. After 4.5 months of hiking we were beat up, exhausted, and breaking down in various ways. I started getting knee pain for the first time, lost hearing in my left ear from an infection (don’t worry it’s back now), and had all sorts of foot issues again both from the ankle sprained and from our habit of doing 20’s almost every single day. So that’s my impression of Maine – it was beautiful, and it sucked. I hated the trail, I hated being out there, and I, everybody actually, wanted nothing more than to be done.
And then, before we knew it, we were.
I reached the summit of Mt. Katahdin at about 12:15 in the afternoon on July 26th. As the slowest of our crew, I got up there to see everyone cheering and celebrating and hugging each other, which prompted a whole wave of emotion that I’ll have to describe another time. There will be an entire post about this, I promise. Although I wasn’t officially done at that point, it still marked the end of the (false) feelings of permanence of this Thru-Hike. Our fellowship was splitting up and going home, our hike together was over, and for most of us there were no more mountains to climb.
I took about four days off after that, to see one of my best friends in Cape Cod who I don’t get to see that often, and to help my Mom with some prep for her wedding that was in a few weeks (it’s 5 days from the time that I’m writing this, wow!). I was home long enough to lose a little bit of my hiker stamina, but not long enough to have any real decline happen. After four days at home I headed out with my good friend Anthony and Mini-Sticks to make up the section from the CT/NY border to Dalton MA, which we did in six days. CT was a little rough and it was pretty hot but other than that we just blew through it. After that we said goodbye to Mini-Sticks and drove straight to Vermont, starting the next day without any breaks to get this last section done. We did a 20 from 103 to the Long Trail Inn, and 18 to a shelter and a 27 to Hanover, NH where I’m writing now. We actually decided to zero today because of the rough rain and storms we’re getting. The way I see it, I’ve hiked 2149 miles at this point… might as well have my last two days be in the sun. Our plan from here is to do two 20 mile days to get to Glenclif, and then… go home.
So that’s that. I realize a lot of this was confusing at first for some people – I was still celebrating at Katahdin (who wouldn’t I guess right?) and saying I had completed the main part of the journey but I made sure never to claim that I’ve hiked the entire thing yet. I haven’t registered as a completed hiker, and I haven’t told anyone I’ve finished, but in two days I will be able to do both of those things.
That’s all I’ve got for now – this was really just supposed to be an update on where I am and what not. I have a ton of things to write about: 4-5 blog posts covering the end of my trip, a couple posts on my overall thoughts on the trail and culture, some posts about my inevitable struggle to readjust to the real world and leave this life I’ve lived for five and a half months now (gotta start wearing pants again, apparently that’s important in law school). So you’ll hear plenty more from me, and hopefully I can produce some content that can inspire some of you future thru-hikers to keep moving towards that dream. I’ll spoil the ending now for you – it’s worth it. It’s so worth it in so many ways that you can’t even imagine, and that you really, truly will not understand until you get out here and do this thing. There is a part of me now that can really only relate to other thru-hikers, simply because nobody else really understands what all of us went through together. All of the joy we experienced, all of the pain we felt, etc. But more of that for later. 40 miles left to go.
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