Refresh, Renew, Hike On – And Repeat
Rest when you are weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work – Ralph Marston
Oh, where to begin? It’s been a busy couple of weeks on and off the trail. The featured image on this post was actually taken at the beach in Rhode Island. I’m writing this post from a hotel in Pine Grove, PA. How did I end up here? Let’s take this back to Harpers Ferry, where we last posted a blog entry.
Unseasonably warm and oppressively humid
This phrase was heard in weather forecasts nationwide over the past weeks. I myself tried to duck from my air-conditioned home to my air-conditioned car to my air-conditioned office as quickly as possible. Not an option for OneFoot and the thousands of hikers out on the trail. It was brutal. To help manage the situation as best he could, OneFoot altered his hiking schedule. He was up and out early, between 5 and 6 a.m., and got some miles in before the hottest part of the day. Some days he set up his tent in the shade for a midafternoon nap and then continued hiking later in the day. Lots of water, Hammer electrolyte tablets, and adjusting miles as needed helped to get through the hottest days. For sure, there are more of those warm days on tap for the summer.
Heat rash, pink eye, and poison ivy
In addition to the environmental conditions, OneFoot had some physical challenges to battle. Heat rash is pretty common on the trail. A&D ointment helps, but let’s face it, with those temps and humidity, it was just miserable. Then came the poison ivy. Ugh. Ivy Be Gone, Calamine lotion, and other over the counter remedies didn’t soothe the pain and itch and can’t stop the spread. Some folks have stronger reactions to poison ivy. OneFoot is among them. Now let’s throw in a little pink eye in, just for some added fun. Up to this point, OneFoot was feeling great and making good time. He covered 220 miles like nothing, even managing fairly well in the heat. Then, bam, the trail makes note of who is actually in control.
Time for a break!
For the 4th of July week, I had planned for some time in our motorhome at the beach. Early on, we had talked about OneFoot coming to join me but logistics were just too complicated and he didn’t want to be off the trail for that long. I had resolved to enjoy it as a solo vacation. Then my mother-in-law asked if I’d like some company. Hmmm, well, yes! We found an Airbnb not far away and she booked three nights. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled to have her company. Here comes the but… but I have been Bea’s daughter-in-law for close to 30 years and I think I know her pretty well. The idea of her sitting on a beach with me, in the sun and the heat, for three days started me thinking that there was more to this story. Indeed, there was. Before coming to the each she drove to Pennsylvania to pick up her boy and drive him to Rhode Island. A ten-hour, round trip endeavor that OneFoot and I so deeply appreciated.
He fought the trail and the trail won, almost
I found out about my beach surprise with enough time to throw some clothes and lots of extra food in the RV for my hungry hiker. I pictured this magically happy reunion where we would frolic in the waves, sip gin and tonics with fresh lime, and eat our weight in seafood. Then I saw him. What the hell? His right eye swollen shut, poison ivy on his arms, legs and face, and a thick gray beard had left him looking like the trail had won. It was clear he needed rest and a trip to the doctor. Gotta give a shout-out to our local doctor and his staff, who are amazing. They are aware of Ray’s AT adventure and were very accommodating in scheduling time to see him. Could he have gotten the same medication at a walk-in clinic along the trail? Well sure, but conveniently we had another (and better) option. Now it was time for some rest for his body, mind, and soul. I took him home from the beach and he postponed his return to the trail for a few days. At one point he asked me, “Do you think I’m considering not going back?” No, I replied. Honestly, not for one moment did either of us think that this would end the adventure. We just need to learn how to handle this poison ivy stuff going forward because we know it will be back. OneFoot still says that he’s never had a moment where he’s thought about going home. With the end of Pennsylvania in sight, the best is yet to come. We are getting closer to our own stomping grounds now. After one day on meds, he was remarkably improved. By day two at home, he was growing antsy.
Caught between two worlds
It was an odd feeling to have him home after three-and-a-half months on the trail. We didn’t expect that he would walk through our door again until the end of the hike. This unexpected visit allowed us the opportunity to see family and binge watch season three of “Billions.” I didn’t want to watch season three without him so I had recorded each episode. Great season! For those who had lost faith with season two, keep watching. OneFoot also took some time to reassess his gear. He visited the Galli Basement Outfitters, where gear hangs from the ceiling, sits in bins, and covers many shelves. If he tries to deny this, I’ll post pictures as proof. He made a few updates to his gear. He is switching out the Hubba Hubba tent for his 20-year-old Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight tent. Not that he didn’t like the Hubba, but why not try out some other gear if you already have it? He also grabbed his L.L. Bean high gaiters with the hope that these will help protect his skin from contact with poison ivy. I tried to provide a link but it appears that L.L. Bean doesn’t make their own gaiters anymore. This is yet another piece of gear that he’s had for many, many years. Finally, OneFoot played with the idea of switching up packs. He’s got a few of those to choose from but he’s grown attached to this particular Aarn pack, so he’s sticking with it. With gear decisions made, I could see he was ready to go. I suggested maybe he wanted to head back to the trail a day earlier than we had planned and he agreed. He seemed caught between two worlds. Neither of us wanted him to get too comfortable at home because, for now, he belongs on the trail. The AT is his home these days and he still has some walking to do. We were up early the next morning for the drive from Connecticut to Pennsylvania. He was hiking by noon.
Oh, there are some (probably many), who don’t believe in slackpacking. Hike your own hike, we say. From day one, OneFoot has made this adventure his own. From miles, to gear, to schedule, to time on and off the trail, he’s embracing the journey. For OneFoot, slackpacking for a couple of days serves many purposes. One, he gets to ease back into hiking after a week off; two, who wouldn’t prefer to take on the rocks of Pennsylvania without a 30-pound pack on his or her back; and three, I’m not ready to say goodbye quite yet. This is why I now find myself in a hotel room in Pine Grove, PA. OneFoot got some miles in yesterday and more today. Tomorrow when I leave him at the trailhead, I’ll head home. But that’s tomorrow.
Leaving the trail
OneFoot and I have followed and/or known many hikers who have made the decision to leave the trail this season. Illness, injury, mentally ready to leave and/or missing home seem to be the most common reasons. Let’s talk about that last one. A friend from home recently noted that as much as we share about the AT adventure and trail angels and other hikers, it makes it easy to forget about the solitude, loneliness, and homesickness the hikers must feel. Very true. We mentioned in a blog post early on that Ray has always been prone to missing home on his section hike adventures. We knew that this could play a role in this epic and lengthy adventure. We can both honestly say that it hasn’t been bad but we have made some preemptive strikes against homesickness. I have visited him as much as I could in these early months. He’s been out for nearly four months now and I’ve seen him, on average, every couple of weeks. This has resulted in a few more zeros than we initially planned. Our future visits won’t involve him getting off the trail so much as we’ll be closer to home and I’ll have the motorhome as a base. Having cell service nearly the whole trip has been huge. There have only been a few nights (and I mean maybe four or five) when he hasn’t had service. Otherwise, we’ve been able to talk and text daily. Sometimes he’ll even FaceTime me when he’s at a particularly beautiful summit or spot so that he can share the experience. This is always done quietly so as to be respectful of other hikers enjoying the view. The roughest day so far was probably Easter. That was the first holiday we were apart and we were both feeling it. OneFoot was pretty low that day. You may recall that he came upon some great trail magic later in the day. Those trail angels made more of a difference than they will ever know. I believe another big difference for us is the planning and this point in our lives. Our children are grown and are a great emotional support for me. We’ve prepared for this mentally, logistically, and financially for a long time. Even on days when we’re missing each other, we know it’s for the greater good. Of course, I cry every time I leave him after a visit. So much for strength. That’s when the loneliness is greatest, for each of us. I told Ray before he arrived at the beach that I hope I never stop getting butterflies at the thought of seeing him. I guess the same goes for the tears when we part. Tomorrow is gonna sting, for sure.
We talked about the rocks, rocks, and more rocks of Pennsylvania, but what’s good about the state? OneFoot reports that the spring water is awesome. Water sources have been abundant and excellent (though finding the water may involve an additional walk). The trail magic in Pennsylvania has been amazing. Great people, great food, and deliciously cold beverages. He also notes that the shelters in (southern) Pennsylvania were some of the nicest he has seen. From his trail journal, “The first farmer’s field you walk through is awesome. The second is beautiful. The third is really cool. Then it’s another freakin’ field in the blazing sun.” Too much of a good thing?
Section hiker Ray meets thru-hiker OneFoot
In just a couple of days, OneFoot will reach Delaware Water Gap, PA. This is a significant milestone as this is the place where section hiker Ray Galli will meet thru-hiker OneFoot. He has done all of the AT from Hanover, NH, to Delaware Water Gap as a section hiker. He’s covered some of that area many times over. How will this section of trail differ through the eyes of OneFoot, the AT thru-hiker? Stay tuned.
Until the Next White Blaze,
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