It’s cold. Not freezing, but the kind of chill that seeps into your joints and makes it difficult to get moving.
It’s bright. Not quite sunny, but a mostly clear sky and the sun is steadily rising.
By all reports the beginnings of a wonderful day for hiking.
I can’t stop crying.
Crying isn’t even the right word. Sobbing so vehemently that I am causing my famed coughing fits to occur. Nose streaming, pressure headache pounding, eyes blood shot and puffy, I am sobbing unlike I have probably sobbed since the days of deep-rebellious-teenage-mother-daughter-strife some ten years ago.
How the hell did we find ourselves here on this log?
Two days ago we hitched into town, a road gap and about 18 miles early, because I was having a garbage day. I don’t know that I’m any more the “leader” of our little fam bam than Dylan is, but my misery was enough to affect the speed and mood of our progress on that dreary morning.
A nearo, then, into arguably one of the most trail friendly towns – Hanover, New Hampshire. We began working down the list of Trail Angels given to us at a prior hostel, while eating a free cruller from Lou’s. The sun is fully up now and it is actually quite warm out of the shade. My mood improves, Dylan’s improves, and we find a place to sleep for the night. We (jk, me while Dylan is showering) ordered WAY too much Domino’s, wore Greg’s fluffy bathrobes, did laundry and watched Alaskan Bush People.
Next, a double zero. Schlepped back to the Dartmouth green where we awaited a friend we made at the Lakes of the Clouds Hut. An aside to those who fancy the idea of trail magic – if you tell us to call…we will call. Sarah and her parents were insanely amazing. They cooked us dinner, took us for ice cream, and just generally welcomed us into the fold. We spent our last evening with them watching The Voice while I packed our food bags; set to leave out with Sarah’s mom, first thing in the morning.
We awake to a mild weathered morning. Chilly, but not freezing. Bright, but not truly sunny. We’re well fed. We’ve slept well. We have a game plan – get to The Yellow Deli in Rutland, Vermont, see how the weather is, take it week by week.
So how did I end up sitting on a log, sobbing hysterically and begging to just go home?
I wish I knew.
We got to the trail head, we said our goodbyes to Steph, and then realized we left our poles in Sarah’s trunk. No problem, elevation isn’t too bad and we can grab them when we pass through the town again in a day and a half. But that must have triggered something because, maybe a quarter mile later, there I sat, completely and totally losing my shit.
The emotional strain of this venture is so far beyond anything I have ever undertaken, and I have never been one to shy away from adventure or difficulty. I thought I had this. I thought the physical was the part to worry about, and so I massively underestimated the toll that this trail would take on my psyche.
Don’t misunderstand. I have felt so at home out in the woods. Accepted. Appreciated. Loved. Isolated. At peace. But I also felt like an outsider, isolated from friends and family and familiarity. Dylan and I are not ultralight, we are not in a hurry, and we have two dogs. That largely means that we are rarely with people for more than a day or two. We weren’t able to foster the same kinds of Tramily (trail family) relationships that so many of the hikers we met were. This is not to say we did not build one – Pup Pack, you know who you are – but it did mean that we were kind of on our own.
I don’t regret any of our decisions, especially when I see photos of snow on the ground, but I also can’t help but wonder, did we make the right choice.
I guess we will never know, and my thoughts on what followed is best saved for another post, I think. The important thing, what I try to remember, is not the dismal end to our 856 mile hike: Me sobbing on a log that I don’t want to let Dylan down by forcing us off, Dylan sobbing on a rock that I feel like I have to keep suffering. No, though I am all but certain that will end up the subject of one of my insomnia driven ramblings. What I try to remeber is that we hiked our own hike. We made our choices, enjoyed our hike, and we got off when we needed to – like birds flying South for the winter.