Wednesday, September 28, 2011

homeward bound!

this will be my last journal entry for quite a while... i decided yesterday, in the midst of a particularly crappy day, that i would end my hike for this year. when i decided last week that we would skip new hampshire and vermont this year, i figured that we would get down to mass and pull consecutive twenty-mile days and be done with our hike in less than two weeks. well... our first full day in mass, we did pull twenty miles. it wasn't too hard, but by the end of that night, i was absolutely exhausted. my feet hurt and i misread my map and i walked a few tenths of a mile in the wrong direction, but there was a completely awesome end to the day in that we stayed at tom levardi's house and he made me the best ice cream sundae ever, complete with fresh peach cubes.

the next day, we had planned on staying at upper goose pond cabin, a pretty nice shelter on the trail, famous for its view, fireplace, and the pancakes that are often served each morning if there is a caretaker on duty. ugp is another 20-mile day from dalton, and we didn't get out of town until at least ten that morning. we had only made it a little over halfway when i decided to stop for the day so i'd have a little bit of sunshine left to cook and wash dishes with. it was pretty disappointing to not be able to pull two twenties in a row, but that night, i looked at my guidebook and planned for a 22-mile day the next day, figuring that we'd balance the big and little days out. 

yesterday dawned and we were out of camp by 730 or so, and things just didn't go as i thought or hoped they would. by 10, we had only done six  r seven miles, which was pretty disappointing. we stopped at a really pretty stream to get more water, clean up, grab a snack, etc. when i grabbed my aqua-mira out of my pack, i noticed that the bottle that part b was in had cracked, and i had no second part to my water purification system. basically, it was useless. i hate aqua-mira and won't ever purchase another set. i will forever stand behind msr's sweetwater drops. <3 so from that point on, if i wanted any water that i didn't feel 100% safe in drinking (such as from a spring, right out of a rock), i was going to have to boil every drop of it. which would have gotten to be quite a pain, considering i drink upwards of 3L a day.

i also discovered during our little break by the stream that my mosquito repellent had run dry. i got one final application out of the bottle, and three hours later, i had sweated off the 100% deet that i had applied and was being eaten alive. the next town with any sort of store was at least two days away, and it was five miles off the trail, which would mean taking an entire day to go walk to get bug spray, or hitching a ride, which i still haven't done and don't feel comfortable doing. 

so yesterday, i stopped on a bridge in the middle of the trail where the moquitoes couldn't get me, and i sat down and had a good cry. i pulled out my guide book and figured that if i bailed out in mass, i could just rent a car and drive down to virginia to pick up the 80 miles that i have left to do there, and then continue south to home. too bad car rentals don't do one-ways out of state?! what the heck?! i called enterprise and they were no use. basically, i was stuck where i was. so i cried some more. then i remembered that some good friends of mine from bristol were visiting their family in maine, and that they were due to drive back south soon. i called them, and it turns out that they are driving back tomorrow. perfect! i bailed off the trail, and i'm getting a shuttle to eastern mass tomorrow morning, and then i'll be bristol bound for some pumpkin soup and awesome friends, and then mississippi bound for catfish and awesome friends! =D

it turns out that yesterday, i was just PMSing. that may be a little bit too much information for y'all, but everything seems 10, and even 100, times worse when you're PMSing. maybe i blew everything out of proportion, but i missed everybody, i was tired, i was hurting, and i was annoyed as hell at the thought of having to boil my water and be a mosquito buffet. i can hike if i have to boil my water. i can hike with bugs. i can even hike through pain (i've done enough of that), but put it all together, and it just gets to be too much sometimes. i didn't come into hiking the AT with the thought that everything would be puppies and kittens and sunshine, but if i'm not enjoying myself, if i'm hating the thing that i'm out here doing, then it's time for me to do something else. 

i saw something painted on a wall in a sandwich shop the other day. it read, "the worst experience is not defeat, but regret." i may not have finished all 2,181 miles of the appalachian trail this year, in one go-round, but i do not regret a single step that i have made on this journey. i don't feel defeated: i will just come back next year and finish what i have not completed. i don't regret stepping off that trail yesterday. it felt wonderful to be able to buy full bottles of actual shampoo and conditioner last night in the grocery store and know that i will be able to keep both bottles after i'd used them once, instead of having to throw them in the hiker box because they're too heavy to carry. i know i will have a hard time adjusting back to the "real world," but some of those things will be welcome.

all in all, i am super thankful for all of my time out here. God has been wonderful to me, y'all have been wonderful to me, and i wouldn't trade these last five months for the world, even if it meant finishing the entire thing in one attempt. sometimes, you have to learn that not completing things doesn't mean you've failed at them. i will take these +/- 1,700 miles proudly. i have met too many people out here that have told me, "you're hiking the whole thing?! alone?! i could never do that!" i also saw painted on a wall the other day, "those that say things are impossible deem them so." 

you can only do what you put your mind to, and next year, i'll put my mind to ~481 miles in the northeast. :)

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