I’m writing this on our last day of our big Delaware break. As with everything else on this trip, it was a long, long time ago that we first thought, “Oh, and when we get to Harper’s Ferry, we’ll go and take two days off in Delaware!” And, as with everything else, it’s strange to actually be here.
We ended up taking the break four days prior to Harper’s Ferry. I had the idea originally because on the day I had cramps I just wanted to bail out badly. But it also helped Eric’s parents avoid some Fourth of July traffic and helped us avoid having to hitch nine miles into Luray, which was a cute little town but didn’t seem very hiker friendly. So, we came to Delaware without having crossed the 1,000 mile mark or walked into Harper’s Ferry. All that is just a few days away though, and I still feel like this is some kind of significant threshold. It feels like, when we walk back onto the trail tomorrow morning, we’ll have changed somehow.
We were in little league for the first part of our hike, and we’re going back as professionals. At first, everything was new and exciting and fun just because we were doing it as thru-hikers. It was exciting to get to Neel’s Gap! and The NOC! and Damascus! Now, we go into random towns I’ve never heard of before (Glascow? Elkton?) All the aspects of a thru-hike are routine now. Despite swearing to myself I would never become this way, I have to remind myself now to sometimes go ahead and walk the fifty yards to appreciate an overlook or view. Hiking day after day is just how it goes.
I know that sounds kind of lame, like now hiking is my job and that I feel the same way about it as most “real” people do about their “real” jobs. Hiking is like my job now, but I don’t hate it. It’s just ceased to be fun of its own accord. Fun things happen, cool moments happen, but hiking isn’t really fun. It’s a lot of work. It’s hot right now and the mosquitoes and black flies are bad. I’ve been eating terribly and hiking over mountains every day for three months now, and I feel that in my body. I feel an urgency to get to Maine before something wears out.
The first half felt like a warmup. I was walking through familiar territory, scenery I’d driven through and camped in as a child. The South is home. But soon we’re crossing the Mason-Dixon. I’ll be hiking in Pennsylvania, New York, then New England. I’m excited to see this part of the country, both the towns and the forests. It’s like before, Katahdin was on the other side of a big hill, and now I can see it. Now I can feel that we’re heading there. Before, it was uncertain. Were we up to it? Now, I feel like (barring an accident or injury), we’re going to make it. We’re determined. And, maybe unwisely, I feel a little like I can stand up to the trail now. I’ve already come through freezing rain, three rounds of incapacitating cramps, awful heat and humidity. I’ve already climbed steep mountains, walked miles on rocks, been eaten alive by bugs and woken up from deep sleep by inconsiderate people. I know what this is about now, and I know I can take it for three more months. I want to.
So we’re heading back tomorrow determined. To catch up to Animal, to make some big progress through the lowlands. We’ve refined and honed and pared down just about as much as we can. We’re serious. We’re going to make it.
I also wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone. All of you. All of your likes and comments really, really do help keep me going. Just knowing that there are people following us, rooting for us, helps. Some people make a big distinction between a “regular” thru-hike and a “supported” one, but to me every hike is supported. We’ve been helped by too many people, from the fundamental support of our parents and each other to the day hiker who gave us a banana the other day. It all helps so much. So thank you all, just for being there.
Here’s to the next 1,247 miles!