Tough even for an Optimist

Optimist atop Mt. Moosilauke

Optimist atop Mt. Moosilauke, where the fog and cold seem to be permanent residents

Man the trail is full of ups and downs. Julie tends to be the one with the big emotional swings but of late, even the Optimist (I only referred to myself in the third person because of my trail name implying that I’m a positive person with a positive outlook) has been feeling the challenges of trail life in NH and ME.

The rain and muck of Maine had me down yesterday, my body ached and wasn’t recovered from the past week’s worth of hiking, and I simply felt so dirty and uncomfortable that I wasn’t very excited to be on the trail. Thankfully, we found a quick cure. We were 12.8 miles into our day and reached our first shelter. It had been raining steadily for a few hours and we were soaked. On top of that, we hadn’t slept much the previous night because while we went to bed by 9pm, some weekend hikers showed up late and didn’t come into the shelter until 11:30pm, waking everyone up in the process. The mosquitoes greeted us before 5am the next morning meaning we were out hiking early without much sleep. So when we reached the shelter the next day around 1pm, we decided to get into our bags and try to nap (a first for us on the AT). It was wonderful; we ate as much food as we could, hung our wet clothes, and got into our dry clothes and sleeping bags. We didn’t end up leaving that shelter yesterday and rested our minds and bodies.

Today was a good day, more ups than downs. We finally had some trails we could actually walk on unimpeded. Since the middle of NH, it’s been an obstacle course of a trail without any sort of rhythm or pace. We normally walk around 3 miles per hour, we’ve been anywhere from .5 mph to 2 mph lately and it’s been difficult, especially for Stopwatch (Julie). Today we cruised and had 18 miles in by 2pm. We got a hitch into town right away, bought groceries, washed our clothes, and ate pizza and ice cream. We then got a hitch back out easily and are now in a nice shelter with just the two of us and our recent hiking companion Rumblestrip.

One of the best parts of the trail is the people. It’s the town people that help us out and want nothing in return. It’s the other hikers we meet on a daily basis, and it’s the people back home that are living this adventure along with us. Rumblestrip is a great example. He’s an 18 year old guy from Southern Ohio. He recently finished his Mennonite education and is out hiking the trail. His attitude, his humility, and his virtuousness show through immediately and we have been very fortunate to spend time with him. He even entertains all my questioning about his upbringing. (I’m fascinated by the lifestyle of not having electricity or cars, living on a farm and working together as a family.) I’ve even warned him we may show up at some point and ask to live on the farm for awhile to learn about how they live.

The point of this post is to say that the trail is hard. It tries me in new ways every day and every ensuing hike. It also rewards us tremendously. I’ll have much more to say about the people of the trail as we finish up over the next couple weeks because the people really make this experience for me and make it that we experience many more highs than lows on the AT.

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