Week 2: Is there such a thing as fake thruhiking?
Last week, my first week, the Trail was bound and determined to make sure I did not have a glorified idea of thruhiking. Because while we would like to imagine sunny, breezy days with amazing views, there are also rainy, sticky days with tough climbs up and down.
This week, however, I have been living on the good side of thruhiking. I have been spoiled; there is simply no other way to describe it. In the midst of it all, I have been amazed and blessed by the generosity of old and new friends.
It began with my boss’s mom and daughter. On the Friday of my first week, Sarah picked me up and drove me to her grandma’s house, where I would spend the next two nights. Sarah had a huge juicy green apple waiting for me in the car. When we got to her grandma’s house, there was raspberry iced tea to drink, which was ice cold. It was the first time in a week that I had had something other than water to drink. I started my laundry and then headed for the shower.
So here is how thruhiker laundry works: most of us only have two sets of clothes, one for sleeping and one for hiking. So what happens when you have to wash both sets of clothes, say in a laundromat? Well, you wear your rain gear.
I donned my very attractive (not) rain gear and headed for the shower when Sarah stopped me and gave me clothes to wear.
Sarah and her grandma spoiled me with lots of veggies and fruit and ice cream. I had a soft bed to sleep in and I actually slept the whole night. I enjoyed spending time with both of them!
After spending Friday and Saturday with Sarah and her grandma, I met up with Allen and his wife Gay. My older sister is a student of Gay’s brother, who found out that I was going to be hiking the trail and suggested I stay with his sister, who lives close to the trail and whose husband hikes it frequently. I was thinking I would stay with them for one night.
Five days later.
Not only do Allen and Gay host me for multiple nights, but Allen hikes with me during the day, which means I get to slackpack (carry a daypack instead of my monster pack)! Or “smartpack”, as I have learned to call it. We hike 17 miles the first day through the Pine Grove Furnace area and stop in the AT Museum. We stop at the restaurant down the hill from the hostel in Pine Grove for lunch and meet Baskets and Nope. While Allen and I eat our burgers, these two NOBOs work on the half-gallon ice cream challenge (eating a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting).
We chat with Nope and Baskets and enjoy their company; they are cool guys and are encouraging. I do not attempt the half-gallon challenge.
I know. Lame.
Pick your jaw up off the floor and let me finish. My hiker hunger has not kicked in yet, I would fail miserably, and I will give it a go if I can stop on my drive back from Maine.
The next three days Allen and I smartpack 10.5 miles, 11 miles, and 16.5 miles, respectively. It is nice to have someone to talk to and share the Trail with. Allen is also very knowledgeable about the Trail in this area and helps me with some gear tips on the side.
Our Tuesday hike gives me a chance to practice some bouldering as we go through a brief rock maze. The weather was gorgeous that day, sunny and breezy, and the woods were beautiful.
On our Wednesday hike, Flat Elliott and I hit our 100-mile milestone! We hike through the Cumberland Valley, which showcases some beautiful Pennsylvania farmland.
It is a good day for birding, too! I see a few black vultures on our drive to the trail in the morning! Allen says it must be a good omen. I also see a ton of catbirds, a large raptor that I was two seconds too late to identify, and an American Redstart, which I’ve never seen before. In case you haven’t noticed, I get excited about birds.
Matter over mind
Wednesday I say goodbye to Allen and Gay and head to another friend’s house. I worked with Elise for a couple of summers at a family retreat center and we are good friends. We are able to catch up on each other’s lives. She also has cats! I take full advantage of being able to pet and hug furry critters.
Thursday I hike up, over, and down to Duncannon. I cover the nine miles in good time but my feet are in pain by the time I am done.
I had been having some pain in the arches of my feet earlier in the week, too. As much as I want to keep hiking and not take a zero, I decide to hike smart and take a day off. When I had left Gay and Allen’s house the first time, they had offered to host me for another night so I could ride out some of the rain that is supposed to come in Friday. I decide to zero for my feet, though; avoiding some of the rain is an added bonus.
Allen and Gay pick me up in Duncannon and take me to the Appalachian Running Company in Carlisle, PA, where the knowledgeable staff help me decide on a pair of insoles for my boots. Here’s hoping the insoles will help solve the issue.
So here I am again, in a real bed for the 7th night in a row, after a meal of real food, and more hospitality than I could ask for. I want to thank Sarah and her grandma, Elise, and Allen and Gay for being my own trail angels. I especially need to thank Allen and Gay, who have opened their home to me and have cared for me like I was one of their own children. I had never met them until Sunday, but I am so glad our paths crossed. I will never forget their generosity and how it has helped my thruhike.
I am itching to get back out on the Trail and catch up with my bubble, but I know I need to figure out my feet issues if I want to keep hiking. So here’s to hiking smart. I will get back to actual thruhiker life in a day or so. Until then, fake thruhiker life is pretty great, too!
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