Days gone by...
We travel forth through torrential rain and gusting winds just as readily as through hot sun and clear skies. We are not alone on this trail, yet we are alone in our minds all the time. At any point in the day we may find ourselves hiking alone for a time, with only our thoughts to keep us company. Other days we never get separated. It is intriguing to think back to the past 74 days and fully realize the enormity of our actions. We have hiked nearly 1,000 miles with very few breaks and removed 470 pounds of litter from our nation’s incredible trail systems. We have affected our local hiking community by encouraging and inspiring other hikers to pack out more trash than they have in the past. While this is all true, it is just another way to hike a trail and enjoy the beauty of the wildernesses that our nation’s leaders have so thoughtfully set aside so that future generations may experience some level of the wildness that our country is born from.
We have had the opportunity to meet many individuals along our journey, some we would refer to as friends, others acquaintances, and yet others we just don’t know where to classify. To put it simply, we are learning some of what it means to be cultured through the various folks that we meet along our path. Some folks have travelled with us since the first few days on the trail, and yet others have joined our crew for a few days or weeks along the way before our intentions lead us to different schedules on the trail. Every person we meet has the potential to bestow new wisdom on us, and therefore in the hope that we may make lasting impressions as well as gain knowledge, we listen intently and respond with respect to those whom we meet. Most folks thank us for our service, to which we reply that it’s “the best job we’ve ever had.” Although we are doing something that many can appreciate, we realize that it doesn’t force change upon anyone, and therefore we make our best effort to not get down about the lack of respect some show by littering, but rather we accept the fact that we have all made poor decisions as well and consider this trip as some sort of repentance for our past misdeeds that we made out of ignorance.
The trail is ripe with social opportunities for those who seek them because the entire length of the trail has three-sided shelters meant to house hikers. While these spots tend to be some of the heavier hit trash areas, they are also a great opportunity to share our mission and our enjoyment of the trail with fellow hikers. The shelters have been built many different ways, utilizing cinder blocks, hand-hewn logs, milled lumber, and generally a tin roof. Due to the differing influence of building materials and builders, each shelter has its own unique appeal. Some are single story with room for five hikers, while others are two, even three levels tall with fireplaces and house as many as 20 - 32 hikers. While we enjoy the opportunities to converse with others and sleep with the assurance of staying dry that come with the shelters, we also thoroughly appreciate the shelter provided by the tarp we communally share. We have dubbed it the “Green Room.” This lightweight green tarp is the lightest shelter that we could possibly carry that houses all three of us. It is minimal, yet comfortable. The light that filters through the green tarp changes the color of everything beneath its coverage, including us. Upon entering the “Green Room”, we all slowly seem to lose our minds just a little bit, and we divulge in hearty sessions of laughter that hardly cease. It is refreshing to remember that while we are out here socializing along our journey, we also know that we are fully content with just the company that we travel with. The knowledge that we may never again see the people we meet along the trail arms us with an ability to stay in the present moment as we enjoy those interactions fully.
In the past 100 miles of the trail, we passed through Shenandoah National Park. While much of the trail has satiated our desires for wildness and wildlife encounters, none of the past 970 miles compare to what we experienced in the Shenandoah Park. Understand that I don’t mean the park was better, but rather that the experience was different. In the park we saw multiple groups of black bears along the trail. Each time the encounter was with a sow and her cub or cubs. One such sighting by Cap and myself was of a sow and her two cubs that were up in a tree. One of the daring cubs decided to leap from one tree into another tree five feet distant on his way down the trunk to run away. An acrobatic display not likely to be seen again on this journey. The trio encountered a rattlesnake very close to ourselves on the trail and determined that we had best encourage it off the trail, eliminating the possibility of a dangerous experience for the next hiker. The unhappy rattlesnake slowly followed our prompting off the trail with indignance. Yet again, the Shenandoah NP surprised us with another great encounter with a family of small stoats (commonly known as ermine in winter, and very similar to a weasel). They were roughly fifteen feet away from us, hiding under a log, but so full of energy and excitement that they could not remain hidden. They darted, all following one another from log to log, to find the best place from which to examine us. It was perhaps the most entertaining wildlife exhibit I have personally seen on this journey.
As always, we have many miles yet to cover and many sights yet to see. We are all feeling well, with only small aches affecting our usual fun-loving attitudes. Those aches are simply from the fact that we walk as many as 12 - 14 hours per day sometimes, and cover 20 - 29 miles on a given day. Anyone’s feet would feel that. But the reality of those aches is that they simply help us to feel alive and we accept them in stride by caring for our bodies as we go. We appreciate the support we receive with all of our hearts and we are doing our best to fulfill our self-given duties upon this journey in honor of that support.
“Take time by the forelock. Now or never. You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this, or the like of this.” - Henry David Thoreau
Mahalo and aloha, Spice.