I felt like a new person at the end of yesterday, strong and invincible. This morning I felt as I have most mornings, creaky and sore like an old man. Hiking more than 1,900 miles will do that to you.
Truthfully, though, I didn’t feel any worse this morning than most mornings of my hike. Each day has begun slowly and stiffly. It usually takes five to ten minutes of walking around to make my muscles understand they’re in for another day of hiking.
|Date||Sunday, September 17, 2017|
|Weather||Partly cloudy with a high temperature in the upper 70s|
|Trail Conditions||Many rocks and roots, with occasional mud|
I’d like to think the muscle pain I feel each morning hasn't gotten worse. I also want to tell myself yesterday afternoon's fatigue was just a momentary difficulty.
While I can tell myself these things, I know better. There is a cumulative effect of hiking day after day after day.
I’m starting to feel weary of that. Maybe I'm not ready to end this hike today, but I look forward to finishing soon.
I’ve been setting my alarm lately for 5 a.m. This helps me get up and begin packing before daylight so that I’m exiting my tent at sunup. I was a little early in that schedule this morning.
That gave me an extra special moment, a chance to view a beautiful sunrise on the pond. The water was glass-like still, reflecting an orange-then-yellow glow of the sky before the sun burst into view above the trees at the other side.
There was no sign this morning of the moose we saw last night.
We didn’t have to hurry or push hard today because we had less than five miles to hike today. We were planning to take a nero in Rangely.
The hike should have been uneventful, and for the most part it was. The one difficulty I had came when I stepped badly on a root. My ankle gave way, but I didn't injure it as painfully as I had some other times.
The trail made a couple modest ups and downs as it passed bogs and ponds.
When we were about a mile away from Maine Highway 4, we reached a spot that provided a view of Saddleback Mountain. We will climb that tomorrow.
While we were looking at the mountain, Stick called The Farmhouse, which is a B&B, hostel and wedding venue, and arranged for a pickup.
By the time we reached the highway, our driver was there waiting for us.
When Stick called for the ride, he tried to warn we were slow hikers. We didn't ask if the driver got that message or if he underestimated our slowness.
It was a short trip to the hostel and we arrived there at 11 a.m.
We were given a tour of the accommodations, which included a bunkhouse for hikers and rooms in the B&B. A night in the bunkhouse was $30. For an extra $13 each we could share a room with three beds, a private bath and a small kitchen.
The choice between staying with other smelly hikers or in a much more plush room we could have to ourselves was an easy one to make.
Thanks to our early arrival, we had plenty of time to get cleaned up, do laundry, get something to eat and resupply.
After getting cleaned up we were taken into Rangely. Our first stop was a diner called Sarges. There were a lot of locals there, watching football and drinking beer, but we were able to find a table with other hikers.
After lunch, we walked down the street to an outfitter store. Stick was able to get his broken trekking pole repaired.
We then walked a few blocks to a local grocery store, where we were able to purchase our supplies for the next section of the trail. We would only need to buy for three days because Stratton will be another good place to stop to resupply.
Once we were done shopping, we called and were picked up for a ride back to the hostel.
That evening I texted my wife Kim to check in with her. We talked about how near I was getting to Mt. Katahdin and we started thinking about meeting at Baxter State Park when I reached it.
During our conversation she asked me about finishing the 21.2 miles I skipped in the White Mountains. I confessed to her I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that. My answer surprised her.
I told Kim I was feeling worn down and missing her. I was ready to finish this hike.
Besides, I said, I wasn’t sure it was necessary to hike those miles to make my hike a complete thru-hike. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy doesn’t set rules for hiking past every single white blaze.
These words were intended to convince myself as much as to convince her. I should have known she would see through them.
Kim told me she recognized I was doing all of the hard work and she knew I was tired. But, she reminded me, this was her hike too. We had both invested years of dreaming and planning to make this hike possible. Now was not the time to end it. We both needed to see it though to the end.
She was right, of course. This was tough love I needed to hear.
She knew I would regret not making up those miles after summiting Mt. Katahdin. Maybe I wouldn’t regret my decision right away, but every time I looked back on it I would never be able to think of it as a complete thru-hike.
More to her point, though, I would be leaving a dream we shared unfulfilled.
Kim then added that she and our two sons would support me in any way I needed to make up the miles I missed.
I began my conversation with her feeling ready to end my hike as soon as possible. By the end, I was ready to climb any mountain standing in my way.
After 38 years of marriage, I should have known that would happen.
It's such a clever innocence with which you show myself to me
From “I Thought I was a Child” by Jackson Browne
As if you know how it feels to never be who you wanted to be
I thought I was a child, until you turned and smiled
I thought that I was free, but I'm just one more prisoner of time
Alone within the boundaries of my mind
I thought I was a child