Winding Down and Moose Sighting (August 16-17)
For the first time, I notice a few fall leaves on the ground today. The air is starting to cool down too. Fall comes so early up here compared to Pennsylvania!
In spite of nature’s beauty, today feels lonely at times, just one of those days when you can’t seem to raise your spirits! I trudge along most of the morning. There are many times I’ve appreciated hiking alone, but I’m finding that as time goes on, the alone time can be wearing. It’s been a long trip, a long time to spend a lot of time alone.
Someone is looking out for me this morning though. I met a section hiker couple earlier this week, and we kept bumping into one another the next few days. Wildflower expected they would pass me today, and she specifically brought me an apple to snack on! When she sees me, she calls up the trail, “Old Soul! I was hoping we’d see you! Here, I brought you an apple!” Her excitement for me and my trip are a good part of the day. We stand around chatting for a while. It’s a nice surprise and pick-me-up.
I continue on my way, eventually losing steam again and practically trudging in to the next shelter. While I eat my snack I chat with a young thru hiking couple. They’re feeling worn out too, one stretching out on the shelter floor to try to stretch out back pain. Sharing with them does so much to make me feel better, it’s kind of amazing. They ask me if I’m ready for the trip to end, and I laugh and say with force, “Yeah”. They say they feel the same way. They say they’ve gotten pretty much everything out of the trip that they can. I can see what they mean- we’ve all been out here a long time. I’ve been thinking about how most of my favorite moments on the trail were experiences I’ve shared with someone else- I guess shared moments are often the best moments. This is something that might seem obvious, but often it strikes me as a new idea when I find its truth again. I tell the couple that I’m hoping to catch up to friends ahead, but that sometimes it feels like I never will. Kangaroo says, “Now’s not the time to be trying to catch up to anyone”, which actually makes me feel good. They’ve been feeling worn down by the trail lately too.
I leave the shelter in a completely different mood, with a completely different outlook. It can be easy to get stuck in your own head sometimes out here, and everything starts to feel so heavy. Meeting other people and having a good conversation is such a good way to pull out of it and gain perspective.
My spirits are higher the rest of the day. I hike into the evening, until I find a small spot beneath the hemlocks to camp.
The next morning, I hike through more dense forest to the first boggy, clear area, out from under the dense shade of the conifers. Something makes me stop a moment and look around. I can sense movement nearby. Sure enough, I find myself standing 20 feet away from a huge moose and calf, and they stand watching me a moment. I can’t help breathing, “Oh, wow!” and right away, they both barrel off down the trail, beating a loud retreat. As I follow slowly behind, I keep finding their hoof prints in the muddy path and smelling a distinct wild, hairy odor in the air. I wonder if I will meet them again further down the trail, but eventually their prints veer off trail. I feel so lucky to have seen wild moose this morning!
Just as in life off-trail, trail life is full of ups and downs.
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