Long Trail Day 1: Journeys End to Laura Woodward
Over the last four days this has been my mantra. I’m not really one for manifesting things, in all honesty even the idea that “the trail provides” is one I struggle with. But I have found myself muttering, yelling, weeping the phrase “be brave” over and over again. Hiking up Haystack at 3:00 p.m. in high heat. Be brave. Thunderstorms on Butternut. Be brave. Having to make choices that I don’t love. Be brave.
Day 1: A Trail Name Sticks
I began my hike at the Northern Terminus on July 5 at around 3:00 p.m. I am not new to hiking. I should have known that stepping off a plane, into a car, onto a trail was a bad idea. Especially at 3:00 p.m. in high sun. But I only had nine miles! Easy! I raced past the 45th Parallel sign and got teary eyed thinking of home. On the North Country Trail, there is a cross over the 45th Parallel and every time I get goosebumps.
By the time I was about six miles in I was dizzy. Seven miles in I was shaking. And out of water. This is Vermont!? Where is all the flipping water?! By the time I reached my first 3,000+ mountain (ever I might add) Doll Peak, I was gagging. The sun was starting to go down, I had climbed over many blowdown (they are always pine trees) and felt like I had baby deer legs. I started my descent and immediately started throwing up. Oh god. This was severe dehydration and probably some elevation sickness. How did I get it all so wrong so fast!? A few miles back, I had run past Shooting Star, the first shelter, I didn’t think to check in front for a water source. I had been rushing and had proceeded to fall onto my back on the exposed rocks and slide into a mud puddle. So no, I didn’t go look for water. Unfortunately, this rushed decision was now resulting with me throwing up on Doll Peak.
I eventually hobbled into camp to discover it was packed with people finishing the trail tomorrow. They were so excited to see me, talk about what their experiences had been, and chat with someone new. They pointed me in the direction of the water source so I could soak my feet, peel the mud off of my legs, back, butt crack, and every other place and cry. I hobbled back up the wet, slippery rocks to the shelter, thinking that food would help. I tried to eat and couldn’t. Now I was stuck carrying a wet bag of Mac and Cheese. Trying to eat was as forced as me listening to the conversation of the hikers around me. They offered me a spot in the shelter, thank goodness, because I don’t think I could have set up my tent, and I attempted to sleep for the night.
Looking back, I am so thankful for Undertoe and Ryan for the conversation that I needed. Sitting in my misery while I questioned my experience as a backpacker would have only made matters worse. As we chatted, they had asked about my trail name. For those who aren’t familiar- Trail names are a tradition in the long-distance hiking community, basically a nickname that a hiker goes by while on the trail. I did not have one going into the Long Trail. Undertoe suggest Mud Skipper as I had basically skipped on my ass across the mud. I had said I didn’t love it, but would accept if no one had any other ideas. As we settled into our sleeping bags, Ryan suggested “Pukey.” I started to laugh and shared that in college we called throwing up “Ralphing.” Undertoe laughed in agreement and the trail name Ralph was born. So there it was. I became Ralph.
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