New York to Harper’s Ferry
Well, I’m over half way done with my thru-hike, which means my promise to write more often was obviously a let down. While I’m sure you’re all used to my infrequent posts at this point, I wanted to first acknowledge that I did have higher hopes for myself at one point. Perhaps that’s because I generally expect a lot of myself. I’m learning how to compete with the part of me that’s competitive with myself. Still with me? It’s been a reoccurring theme since leaving New York, so let’s get down to it.
The hike from Maine to New York was an unintentional walk home. The terrain went from beautiful to even more gorgeous, and then to familiar territory. Having said that, the walk out of New York quickly became the opposite. I figured migrating further from the place I called home and the job that I left would feel liberating. It’s not that I didn’t get that satisfaction, but it also came with some challenges. These challenges effected my mind and body, but also brought about self-awareness and awareness of my surroundings.
My body: I no longer smell like body odor!
No bueno. Instead, I smell of ammonia. Believe me, there was no ignoring it. I went from smelling like a homeless person (which technically, I guess I am) to a condensed version of a household cleaning product (which I obviously am not) in a matter of days. I reached out to the ol’ Google machine and read article after article about the various diseases I may have and the scientific breakdown of elements. I heard from a fellow hiker that my body is no longer eating at my fat, and is now eating away at my muscle. No, wait! It hasn’t eaten any of my fat yet, and I REALLY need my muscles right now. Body, what are you doing to me? It’s safe to assume that my body is also yelling back “No, what are YOU doing to ME?” and I guess that’s fair. My fitness guru friend and knower of all things sweaty Kym, as I addressed her in my advice seeking text message, told me to get some branch chain amino acid (BCAA) powder to add to my drinks. I read somewhere that I need more carbs, and somewhere else that I need more protein. So, in short, I’m doing all of those things! In fact, my high levels of protein and carbs have been generously provided to me by Kym’s parents, Carrie and Pat, who I will talk about later since I’m sure they don’t want to be clumped into the body odor section of my blog post.
My mind: Where is my mind?
With my feet in the air and my head on the ground. – Seriously, I just think in song these days and when I’m not doing that, I am just thinking in thoughts. When it comes to long distance running, I’ve heard it said (and I can agree) that you really just think of what you have ahead. Get over this hill. Don’t stop. Just X more miles. I can say this partially translates to long distance hiking, at least when the terrain is difficult yet rewarding. The mental exercise becomes more challenging in the flat, rocky areas, where the terrain didn’t cause me to be out of breath or muscles to burn. Instead, I started getting anxious about life off the trail. My body was slow and my mind was loud. I thought about my dad and about how proud of me he would be. I thought about how I am carrying his ashes, but no matter how beautiful the trail is, there is nowhere good enough for me to spread him. I thought about how him not being here is a new normal and I thought about how it’s not normal at all. I thought about all of the things that I don’t know. I thought about how frustrated I was for not being able to sleep for a few nights or for not hitting a certain mileage. I was bothered by how all of my fellow south-bounders either weren’t as bothered by Pennsylvania as the north-bounders were, or worse- were pretending to not be bothered. I didn’t find it enjoyable and didn’t feel like faking it, either. My mental exhaustion was causing physical exhaustion, which causese me to be hard on myself. An acute awareness of this, followed by writing about it, has really helped me to be mindful.
The feeling of mindfulness can also be attributed to the terrain change after reaching the actual half way point in Pine Grove Furnace PA, crossing the Mason Dixon Line, and taking a few days at the unofficial mid-way point: Harpers Ferry, WV. We stayed at Carrie and Pat’s place on the Potomac River, where we showered, did laundry and were well-fed. The essentials, for us hikers. But wait, there’s more. They let us borrow a kayak. We aquablazed 40 miles of the Shenandoah River over 3 days and returned to their place for one more night in paradise. I thought about applying for a permanent work-for-stay, where I could take care of their cat and dog and plan my next hiking trip to Peru or Alaska, but realized I did miss the AT.
That’s the thing, as much as my mind and body has been challenged by the trail recently, I never hated it, and certainly never seriously considered quitting. In fact, all I needed were fewer rocks and a little change of scenery.
So, there you have it. Now I guess I’ll just publish this blog that I’m not too happy with — because let’s stick with the theme of overthinking things and being hard on myself, right? I know there is so much more to say. So much else has happened. The aquablaze itself deserves it’s own post, but the day-by-day account of a hike would be a combination of boring and exhausting for any reader. I really am sorry for trying to cram my emotions and experience into a few paragraphs, but I’m simultaneously trying to cram calories into my body and lug myself and a backpack another 1,000 miles by foot. Also, WhiteGurl just left us and isn’t expecting me to post something so I had to prove him wrong. Let’s see how it goes…
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