Hiker Stink, and My Almost Trail Name

I rang in one month of hiking with a day at the beach. Specifically, Coney Island. It’s just 56 miles from the trail, as the crow flies, according to my Guthook app.

On Sunday, I hiked 18 miles into Pawling, NY, and took the train into the city with my trail friend, Kylo (named for his resemblance to Kylo Ren). I’d sleep at my sister, Brenna’s, apartment and take two zero days to relax and spend time with her and her husband, Geoff.

In the beginning of the hike, when it was still the first 100 miles and my dad was still hiking with me, we met a hiker named Brick – a 25-year-old lobster fisherman from Maine, named for the four-pound tracking device he carried for 400 miles at the request of his parents. The device never successfully tracked him.

I ended up hiking with Brick and some others after my dad and I split ways, but two things he said the night we met stuck in my head: When it’s raining, hiker smell transforms from something like “dog” to “wet dog.” And, if you do anything stupid, don’t tell anybody. If you do, that will become your trail name.

The first bit of advice I realized to be true on the train ride to New York City from Pawling. Thunderstorms and heavy rain hit in the last few miles of the walk on Sunday, so Kylo and I spent the ride into the city dripping wet and carrying sodden hiking shoes. We chose seats slightly separated from other commuters, but our smell managed to move three parties of people attempting to sit across the aisle.

It’d go down the same way each time: A group sits down, then one scrunches up their nose and glances our way. The others notice, scrunch up their noses, look at us, and then stand to move across the train car.

Once, a man sat down next to us and immediately started to laugh.

“Whew!” he said. “You guys had to have been hiking.”

I showered twice at my sister’s and wore only her clothes during the visit. My pack was exiled to its resting place by an open window in her apartment. When I got clean, I realized I had been smelling like a strange combination of dirty laundry, sweat, bug spray, and some weird, unidentifiable sour thing.

Brick’s second bit of advice did not turn out to be true. But that’s for the best.

I attempted my first 19-mile day in my first two weeks of hiking while walking from Pine Grove Furnace State Park to Boiling Springs, PA, with another northbound lobster fisherman from Maine, named NorEasta. The night before, our friend Gizmo had named me Pulitzer, after the prize, because of my being a journalist both on and off the trail.

In the beginning of the hike my pinky toes caused trouble by rubbing against my other toes to create massive blisters. I remedied this with little gel toe spacers, Moleskin and dry socks. So, when my feet got wet from puddles and mud toward the end of the day hiking with NorEasta, I sat down to change my socks while he got water and snacked on Life Saver gummies, which he shared with me.

It went like this: I sat, socks and shoes off one foot, with a toe spacer in one hand and a few gummies in the other. It was a long day. I was tired.

I put the spacer in my mouth without realizing and started to chew.

NorEasta looked at me and realized what I had done before I had. I opened my mouth and let the spacer fall into my hand. He burst out laughing while I spit out the saliva from my mouth.

“Just don’t tell Brick,” I said.

Brick, and so many others, know that story now. But I’ve still got my trail name.

In a few days I’ll head into Massachusetts. Then Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. It’s going very quickly, but it’s going well, too.

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