Friday, June 8, 2012

The Appalachian Trail - Not for Wimps!

Today, we rest.  Yay for rest day!
We actually arrived in Harper's Ferry yesterday, a day ahead of schedule.  With the longer days, we are doing more mileage that we originally thought we would, and are getting ahead of schedule.  This is a good thing, especially since you never know what Maine's winter weather might have in store.  Better to get there earlier, rather than later, you know.
There are many days that we are hiking, and I am composing really wonderful blog posts in my head, but by the time we quit hiking for the day, the only thing I want to do is lie down and close my eyes.  The last thing I feel like doing is journaling or attempting to type on the tiny iphone keyboard (don't you just love the autocorrects?).  But the thing I want to make sure I say is this - the Appalachian Trail is not for wimps.  I don't care what age you are.  Whenever we compare notes with the twenty-somethings on the trail, they are having the same issues that we are - they can't move well, once they sit for a while, their feet swell up at night, everyone seemed to be chewed up and spit out by the roller coasters. Then there's the blisters, and the tripping, and the foot problems.  Everyone's feet really hurt at the end of each day - no matter what your age.
When we were planning this, I remember thinking, "I'm in pretty good shape.  It'll be hard the first couple of weeks, and then it'll get better."  Hahahaha!  To be honest, I think it took a good solid 8 weeks to get conditioned to the daily grind, and still when we hit something like the roller coasters, you start questioning yourself on how you can make this easier, and usually the only solution is less miles or less weight in the pack.  We hate to cut down much on mileage, because we would like to finish by mid-September. 
The other things I haven't really mentioned is how incredible the trees are in the forest that we have the privilege to hike through each day.  We've passed some monsters!  Especially the yellow poplars in the Smokies, and even north up the trail to this point, are just the most impressive trees.  We've seen some 300 year old chestnuts, and some oaks that were just mammoths!  They always make me think of my dad.  When we would go hike through the woods, and we ran across a monster tree, we would all form a chain around it, touching fingertips and trying to measure its circumference.  I can still hear him say, "That tree must be 200 years old!  Can you imagine what it has seen?"  I miss my dad.
Another favorite thing of mine is the crystal clear streams.  I'm so glad that there are places you can still drink right out of the ground.  Yes, I know, we must sterilize it, and yes, we do, but some of this is literally bubbling right out of the ground, just icy, crystal clear, wonderful-tasting water, and I would have no qualms about drinking it right out of the ground.  These streams are all over the place!  We cross them numerous times per day.  My favorite parts of the trail have followed these streams and creeks for miles.  Camping next to them, in my opinion, is the perfect place to camp - falling asleep to the sound of babbling brooks or falling water.  Is there anything better than that?
Another thing that I notice each day - and that I had never thought about too much - is the birds!  They are amazing.  The variety of bird songs we hear everyday, from the woodpeckers in the morning, to the owls at night, are so beautiful.  That's definitely on my list of "must do's" when I get home - learn to identify which  birds are making which bird songs.  I've got them firmly imprinted in my memory now.l 
Another thing that's been really special about the AT is the camaraderie among the hikers.  You are immediately accepted.  Everyone is on the same playing field here.  No one puts on airs.  Everyone immediately has something in common, and so it's very comfortable to strike up conversations with complete strangers - something that is not so comfortable off of the trail. 
I think that's it for today, as far as blogging.  This last week has been so strenuous, I had some days where I wondered if I would continue this at all.  But I'm glad I have.  I really do want to have a record of this adventure that we are on.  And I really appreciate you out there who are enjoying the journey as well.  We are waiting right now for Elise and Daniel, who are driving from Chapel Hill.  They are staying two nights, and are going to see the sights of Harper's Ferry.  Can't wait to see them!  Once they are here, and we have access to a car, we will go back to the ATC and pick up our latest resupply box (Thanks again, Sean and Bart!), and hopefully see some of Harper's Ferry ourselves!

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