Disaster Recovery

AT train station

Julie at the AT train station where a train takes you all the way to NYC. Tempting, very tempting…

Just a few days ago, this post was going to be titled, “Trail Obituary.” I had had enough and had called it quits after 1361 miles just after the border of NJ and NY. That morning, after a terrible night’s sleep, we crossed the border on a hot, muggy morning full of mosquitoes and gnats. The trail took us on the ridgeline where we boulder hopped for a few miles. It was a recipe for disaster for my motivation, and I sat down on a rock, cried, looked at the guide book, and found the next town. Since we’re so close to civilization as we pass through these middle states of NJ, NY, CT and MA, a town was just 3 miles up the trail in Greenwood Lake, NY. Optimist didn’t seem like he fully believed that I was quitting, but in my mind, I was done. If I could have somehow ridden a zipline to town rather than walk the 3 miles, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.

Since I’m writing this and this post is not in fact called “trail obituary,” I’m still on the trail, but not without a roller coaster of emotions these last few days. We spent the night in Lake Greenwood to think it over, with Optimist trying to think of solutions on making the trail easier for me, and me thinking of not only how to get home, but how to tell family and friends that I quit the trail. In short, the trail is just really hard. It’s 90% discomfort and 10% comfort, at least at this point. I’m tired, dirty and hungry almost all the time. The mosquitoes have been attacking at an alarming rate, my calves are covered in poison ivy, and I’m a complete wimp when it comes to difficult climbs or terrain. These were my reasons for quitting, which all add up to the simple fact that I just don’t enjoy working this hard day after day.

Our efforts to “Save the Hike”, as we called it, in Greenwood Lake, involved two things. One, we dropped our pack weights, and two, we bought 100% Deet for the bugs. We got rid of the tent, the stove, the cookpot, clothing and lots of other random things. All together it was about 12 pounds of weight we dropped, and my pack now weighs 7 pounds, no food or water, and Optimist’s is 10. We could nearly run some of the trail if we wanted, our packs are so light. The consequences of this decision are that we are now tied to sleep in shelters, so our mileage is fairly planned out, and we no longer have cooked meals. Tonight my dinner was potato chips, combos, peanut butter and chocolate. Every woman’s dream. We plan on improving our food choices in the next town, but these were the snacks we had already bought before deciding to get rid of the stove. The Deet is fabulous, as it only weighs 1 ounce and keeps me bug free. So far, the lower pack weight has greatly outweighed any cons of not having a tent or stove. It’s also so warm out here that I’m in a t-shirt and shorts all day and night, and I’m still too hot at any given moment.

So here I am, still hiking. Just yesterday, a few days out of Greenwood Lake, I wanted to quit again and we shortened our day to stop at the next shelter after just 18 miles. This last week has been our lowest mileage yet because of all my grappling back and forth of staying on or getting off. By chance and perhaps by reason, we met another thru-hiker, Marathon Mouse, who talked some sense into me. When we heard I was wavering, he flat out said, “Don’t quit. You may think it’s a good idea now, but 3 months down the road, you’ll regret it.” He also said he thinks about quitting every day, but doesn’t because he knows he couldn’t go back to his family and friends having quit. It was good for me to hear. He didn’t sugar coat anything, he agreed that most of the lifestyle is not fun, and he made me realize I need to finish what I started. I’m glad we crossed paths with him, because otherwise, I was getting on the train to NY today. Instead, here I am at a shelter in Connecticut, 80 miles up from where I thought I’d be quitting, sleeping next to my Optimist. I’m still uncomfortable and there is so much of both the AT and thru-hiking in general that I dislike, but this is the life I chose and it’s up to me to keep on walking.

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