This Really Is Real Life
Officially Two-Thirds of the Way Completed!
I was telling my Nana that I was struggling trying to write another blog. She, being the trail-wise lady that she is now, threw out several good examples of stuff I could blog about that I have mentioned to her. Stuff like how mornings are so cold now. How water has been really scarce to come by and it’s only getting worse. How I’m two-thirds of the way through. It kind of clicked for me then. This is not difficult because I have run out of stories to tell. It is difficult because at this point in my trek, these obstacles have just become a way of life for me. After three months and almost 1,500 miles of hiking, things are just different for me now. The nighttime sounds of the forest are soothing and comfortable, even all alone. The challenges are simply that. My body is ready. Literally.
No Matter Which Way You Look at it, a Liter of Water Is 2.2 Pounds
When hiking 20+ miles, I tend to go through a lot of water. For the majority of my hike water has been plentiful. I have filled my bottle from rivers, lakes, mountain springs better than Fiji water, bogs that are stagnant and green, waterfalls, rain puddles, and every spigot I passed. Rarely did I ever have to carry more than two liters at a time, and even then I could have gotten away with less. Water was readily available every eight to ten miles. These days, I am grateful when I see water on the trail every 15 miles. Logistically and physically this has been an ongoing challenge.
We have crisscrossed the Blue Ridge Parkway several times in the last few days, and already seeing license plates from all over to see the leaves. Now there are some red patches at higher elevation. I see it develop every single day. The colors are coming to life. The terrain has reawakened leg muscles that have been on the back burner since New Hampshire, but the trail is mostly a pine needle highway with well-maintained switchbacks. It leads to good views. Some of my favorite moments are the moments of stillness when the sun peeks in sideways before setting and turns the whole forest golden around the shadows. Leaves are constantly falling, and I make a game of seeing how many I can collect on my staff. It also leads to good miles under my belt.
While I do not want this adventure to end, the changing of the seasons brings cold, cold, cold mornings already that convince me I do not want to be out here in December. Through the day, (short) shorts and a (formerly white) T-shirt are still sufficient but the time for pants is near. My mom actually just sent me a new pair, and a six-pack of Dr. Enuf, which was so delicious. My friend Toes, master fire builder, has gotten in the habit of starting a fire first thing in the morning. It is honestly the only thing that convinces me to leave my warm nest and get ready for the day on the coldest mornings, and they are only going to get colder. Before long, I will be sleeping with my water bottles and filter and electronics down in my sleeping bag with me so they do not freeze at night.
I am in the largest bubble so far, I believe. My new friend WhyNot called it the “Thanksgiving Bubble,” which makes sense. We are all trying to get home just in time for Thanksgiving. Hope the families are ready for hiker hunger! Maybe buy two turkeys. In addition, there are more people hiking south now that flipped to Harpers Ferry. It has been cool to run into people again that we passed going the opposite direction in the northern half.
I have been hiking an average of 18 miles a day for the last while. The bottoms of my feet are always bruised, and I do not really know when it happened but I can no longer feel my toes for the most part. Other thru-hikers say this is normal. I’ve lost a toenail twice. The same toe, actually; I was surprised it came back so fast! I am grateful and proud of my body and what I am able to do every day. Reading that sounds incredibly fake, but it is very true. If I do not honor and trust my body out here, this trail would chew me up and spit me out. Letting go and learning to just go with the flow of the trail has been a gift I plan to take with me in life.
All in all, the trail is, like always, throwing new challenges at me with every step. I am confident that I will be able to succeed though as long as I continue to do my part to prepare, endure, and maintain a good mind-set. I am so excited to come through Tennessee and see my family and friends. How wild is it that there is a trail that takes me continuously from the peak of Mount Katahdin in Maine to my house in Tennessee (and past it). Crazy! To all my peeps back home, fair warning; I really do stink. Like, really bad. Keep that in mind before we visit. 🙂
Until next time,
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I work with your mom and she shared your blog, which was so fun to read. Cheering you on from Tennessee! Your hike is inspiring! My husband and I camped and hiked on a bit of the AT in Carter Co. last weekend- beautiful but mornings are cold! Stay strong, you’ll be home soon!!