The AT Breeds Greatness
“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” from A League of Their Own, Tom Hanks
This resonates with me every day.
I cannot adequately describe the challenge of different terrain to provide a mental image to compliment the photos of my trek so far but will try: steep up then back down; yippee for switchbacks to ease the leg pain; open hillsides; pastures; vistas- anytime can see a horizon; historical monuments; paved roads; dirt roads; behind houses; through towns; cross big highway bridges and suspended swaying footbridges; desolate gravel roads; busy highways; train tracks; boardwalks and just planks over stones; streams; bogs; climb over/under/around downed trees; rocks – small tripping, pointed foot stabbing, big climbing boulders; and the glorious soft dirt flat path. Now imagine carrying a 25-30 lb pack. Wait there’s more…imagine all that in the weather of the day or hour: snow, rain, windy gusts, hot, humid, thunderstorms, and then a perfect sunny but cool breezy day. Add trying to navigate one foot in front of the other without stepping on the precious life (tiny red efts, toads, frogs, turtles, spiders, and snakes). Lastly, don’t forget to look up and find the next white blaze before you accidentally end up off the trail. Secretly love all of it because you logged another day in your I am a badass thru-hiker journal.
Traimilys and Trail Mates
My traimily is amazing. I said we looked like the older version of The Wizard of Oz as I stood next to my three tall trail brothers. The reference sticks with me. Each has their own fitting character of Lion, Scarecrow and Tinman personality trait as well. Lion keeps us safe, always sharing a cautionary tale on the dangers of the trail and the one to encounter the rattlesnake, raiding racoon, huge porcupine at night, and the big black bear. Scarecrow is the planner and wildcard all in one. He keeps us laughing and hiking more miles than we thought we could. Tinman was our steady man that threw out one-liners that had me laugh out loud and giggle for miles afterwards. I write in past tense because he had to get off trail for a bit with plans to rejoin but now it looks like will be a flip flop and we hope to see him crossing paths. We stay in touch and still consider him part of the traimily. Me? I think I am the communicator, the middle man between miles and milkshakes.
Beyond our tram, we have many, many trail mates. Some are solo hikers but most also have a Tramily. We see each other on the trail, at campsites and shelters, and of course in town. It ends up every traimily has similar group dynamics and character roles. There is the Mile Pusher, the one who sets a goal for anything over 20 miles often changing the target at lunchtime. They point out all the great things about camping just a little further or being that much closer to town for your nero zero. Great motivators and inspire you to do more than you thought you could but sometimes I find that I gotta just let them go ahead, knowing we’ll catch up in a day or two. Then there is the Pizza Pusher also known as the cheeseburger blaze. This person will encourage hiking extra miles to hit the food caches. Hitting you in your weakest spot – your stomach. They described the cheeseburger or point out that it’s an iconic AT experience to stop for the famous blackberry pie. For me it all depends how many miles we have to hike after the indulgence, as I find I go into a food coma and my hiking legs shut down. There are many other roles and trail stereotypes, like the Town Boys in one group that push for …ya you get it…town stops. You can probably guess the rest: the YouTuber, Brew blazer, on the budget blaze, on the platinum card blaze, the Yellow blaze (car ride any section of trail), slackpackers and trail magic magnets (they always hit the perfectly timed trail magic). The young, the middle aged, the seniors, the gap year at any stage of your career or the early retired military (my guess is 50% of hikers I meet), the thru, section, NOBO or SOBO …we are all out here having the time of our lives.
819 miles to go. I am going to do my best to treasure all of it and all the people along the way.
See you down the trail! Spitfire
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