[glossary at bottom]
Maine is over. Alleluia!
I read somewhere that 50% of sobos quit before the end of Maine. I am not surprised. I don’t usually quit adventures, but I am right now sitting on the option – the option to put an end to the misery. There were a few days after the “Maine. Pain. Rain” post when I discovered new levels of internal bitchiness I didnt even suspect I possessed. I called it “PMS – Painful Mountain Syndrome”. On the physical level, my calves were so tight that each up-hill step was crippled by cramps. I also cramped at night, keeping me from repair and salvation. On the mental level, I went a little insane in the trees. Claustrophobic, trapped under the canopy, with no access to the sky, the moon, the stars, the sun. I learned about myself that I need open spaces to function. Without the room to be, I get angry. “Fuck this, why don’t I just use my AT budget and fly to India instead, and practice yoga, which would be good instead of destructive to my body, and hike the Himalayas, far above tree line.” It wasn’t pretty. *I* wasn’t pretty. I didn’t see myself but was convinced I was ugly. Unhappiness feels very unattractive from the inside.
I’m sure I’ll eventually get some perspective on Maine. For now, I’d rather not feed an indulgent unproductive rant any further. So, I’ll tell you my top three favorite Maine moments.
1. Coming out of the 100-mile Wilderness, I was the last of my trail family to get to the road – a daily phenomena that always left me wondering if I was “late”. Thorny and Waking Bare were still by the side of the road when I reached it, unsuccessful in catching a hitch to Monson. As the token female of the group, I stepped up to the road. A few minutes later, an old rusty Jeep pulled over. “Please, don’t step on the fish.” The driver said to Thorny and Walking Bare. “I caught them yesterday and forgot to take them out.” I don’t know why, this still cracks me up every time I think about it. I loved Monson. It was quirky and rural like the fish man, and there were green smoothie at Pete’s. Favorite trail town so far.
2. A few miles short of Avery Mountain, in the Bigelows, I met Brightside. Brightside was one of those nobos I just wished would turn around so I’d get a chance to know them. We crammed a five hour conversation in five minutes, skipping most of the standard questions, like “Where are you from?”, “Is there water up ahead?”, etc. We dove straight down to the bottom lines, “How is this hike changing you?”, “What does it all mean?” He spoke of necessary life changes ahead and of his dream of a different, off-the-grid, unconventional life. I told him I was “waking my talk” – I wrote a book that advocates following your heart blindly in all cases, and here I was hiking a trail with, technically, not enough funds. Without a moment of hesitation, he pulled out $80 and said “Your budget won’t be tight today. You were a bright side in my day. This is just a thank you.” We hugged and hiked on, me to the windy top of Avery, him to Monson, his childhood town. The trail provides!
3. The AWOL AT guide describes Mahoosuc Notch as either the hardest or most fun mile of the AT. For me, it was a haven of redemption. After hating Maine on and off for days, here was a mile long jungle gym of pure play. A mile long of giant boulders strewn about, with cold little caves, technical moves, and the opportunity to use every muscle in the body. I loved it so much that I considered doing it again. Thorny was with me. He said he’d wait. But I hiked on, because that’s what we do, we go in one direction, and one direction only.
[Note: I wrote this post about a week ago and am fascinated by the potency of my hindsight rose-colored goggles. I don’t remember hating Maine at all. In fact, my mind is filled with nice memories of friendship, magic and beautiful little lakes. And I definitely have zero desire to get off trail. That mood is long gone. But, I wrote it, so I’ll post it. Even if that’s not how I remember it now. Sorry, Maine, if I didn’t appreciate you as you deserved]
Nobo – a thru-hiker walking from Georgia to Maine.
Sobo – a thru-hiker walking from Maine to Georgia.
Flip-flopper – a thru-hiker walking the trail in sections in one calendar year (ex. North from VA to Maine, then south from VA to Georgia)
Trail family – the people you end up hiking with day after day, then keep as lifelong friends when the trail is over.