Monday, October 26, 2009

That's a wrap...early.

Although my feelings were lightened by the hilarious songs that Band-Aid made up about our hiking party, the sense of foreboding remained when we left Dalton. Short days, cold weather, and word of storms led to many zeros. We zeroed in one AMC cabin with a fireplace and morning pancakes while looking after a young mouse Jeramiah found by the roadside, alone and disoriented--we named him Laverticus. Rain happened, and then day-long flurries followed by some sticking, and we zeroed again three days later at Tom Leonard shelter. Which, by the way, had a beautiful path-not-taken in a yellow wood. Torch, J, and I, along with two new friends, Robin and Brandon, easily convinced one another to take a total of three zeros, with usual daily trips back into Great Barrington by two miles of AT. We gathered much firewood from far and wide, kept the flames up all day, and generally bummed in the woods. I convinced Torch and J to do the half-gallon challenge with me, and Brandon came along; but alas, Brandon, the one of us not over the halfway-mileage-point, was the only one to complete the challenge! I could barely force myself to eat a quart. Well, at least we know now.

An extremely sad moment came after four days with Laverticus, when he passed away. We had loved him, kept him in our shirts so he wouldn't freeze, fed him, watered him, exercised him; he had crawled on our clothes and faces, and peed and pooped in our hands. He was smart, and crazy-brave. J and I mourned, and in the silence Robin played a sad song about change.

I was glad to take these zeros. I felt no desire to hike in the weather. And I started to realize I was done. When a Monday morning came, and the sky was beautiful, and it was not all that cold, and I still had no desire to hike, I went back to Great Barrington and said goodbye to the trail. J and Torch came and shared a hotel room with me. I forced myself to walk away the next day. I grounded myself at a wonderful place with wonderful friends, in New Jersey. It was hard, but it got better.

I'm still on the road at the moment, but I suppose that would be material for another blog, not this one. I would like to return and finish, but not right now. Torch made me a wooden AT-symbol necklace, and I'm wearing it now. I wish friends did not have to part.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Into MA

After having the best Equinox Thanksgiving potluck ever (and Sam's vegan cookies) at Becky's, J and I started hitching back to the trail. We made it far enough to stay in a hostel in Rutland run by a religious community, learned that our friends Band-Aid, Torch, and Lucky had been there the day before, and learned that our friend Chewbacca was there to stay. A big surprise! Not everyone's trail leads the same way.

We got back to the trail, hiked, got rained on, got hailed on, got flurried on, froze our butts off one night, celebrated entry into MA, resupplied, lazed about, blah blah the usual. I have a new sleeping bag now, that is as big as the rest of my pack, and almost wedged me in a spiral staircase on top of Mt. Greylock. I got sick one night, not sure why. I had my internal frame pack sent out, realized it didn't fit my sleeping bag any better, and am about to send it back.

I'm in Dalton, MA right now. I was here a few years ago with the Deerfield fellowship to see the Crane Paper Museum, and J and I went there again today. We're staying with Rob, a wonderful man who never advertises but merely opens his home to hikers as guests, friends, family. He made sure we were showered and laundered and fed and entertained and rested, and we decided to stay a second night to spend more time talking with him. He has a photo album of every guest from this year, and went through it with us talking about different people, what wonderful stories they told, how long they stayed. It was cool to see the faces to the names we've been reading in journals along the trail. One fellow, for instance, writes colorful and sticker-ful entries as Hannah Montanah's Hiking Tips, and he's really a burly guy with a big beard and turban. We saw people we've traveled with, or merely met.

All the northbounders have crossed us by now, so there are no more friendly faces from down south. We're at the back of the pack again, of course, almost to the 1,089 mi halfway point. ALMOST halfway, and we started in April! We could finish a through hike, and J still says he will, but the cold weather is not a friend to me, and the precipitation lately has me feeling crummy too. I'm entertaining ideas once again for alternatives to this hike, but I'll let the weather clear, and I'll get to New York, before making any decisions. Rob's stories certainly have rejuvenated me and my desire to keep going.

And J is now carrying an Elmo doll on his pack. Life is good.