Back to the introductory remarks.
I did a decent amount of day-hiking (outside PA), but i did not do another overnight trip for the rest of Guthrey’s life. Some of it was circumstance and some of it was (deep seated, hard to access) fear.
As time passed, Jake surpassed me in many areas of hiking. Through his passion for hiking on the AT, and doing distance hiking, he learned much more about modern gear and its benefits. By 2006, he had hundreds of hiking miles under his belt and had hiked all of the AT in PA twice.
We decided to finally knock out the pesky little bit of trail that had been haunting me. We opted to take two cars and slack pack it as a long day hike instead of an out-and-back with an overnight. It was mostly a pretty walk through the woods. Lucas had a ball. I could remember the general area where i lost the trail the first time. We found the spring and the area where i pitched my tent on that first trip. And we walked on.
I learned that the AT through hikers don’t call it Rocksylvania for nothin’. The majority of the trail was rocks. Boulders would have been OK – something big where you could leap from one to the other. But these are a different sort. They range from grapefruit to basketball to suitcase sized with highly irregular shapes and many many pointy edges and spines. I think some folks call this ‘technical hiking’. You have to look down the whole time and there is no opportunity to develop a stride or a rhythm.
But, we enjoyed it all the same. And Jake is definitely the kind of guy you want to have around in these types of circumstances. He keeps a positive attitude through almost anything and helps me look around obstacles to the sunny side of things. I tend to hike a little faster than Jake, so Lucas spent much of his day in the middle. He would sniff my heels and pass me, then run back to check on Jake and walk with him for a while, then run back up to me.
He did not understand switchbacks. He stood on the mountain side watching us go down in these zigzags and was confused. He ran up and down in a straight line. Check on Nick. Check on Jake. That was not his finest ‘Leave No Trace’ moment, but it was cute. (Spoiler alert – now, 5(ish) years later, Lucas has come to appreciate the switchback.)
Aside from having a good day of hiking, and spending time with two of my buddies in the woods, it was great to finally hike that trail. A part of me felt like i broke a magic spell. Not mystical like counteracting a curse or casting out a demon or anything so dramatic. Conquering a fear is probably better. It can be difficult to admit and talk about our fears, but i definitely carried some fear about hiking and about this trail for a long time. Mixed in with the fear was a hefty portion of guilt. Maybe i should have, but i did not know any better. I was not driving crazy, or as Jules would say, “the car didn’t hit no motherf$&*in’ bump!” But i did put my dog in the back of that truck and i was driving it when he almost died. That does not leave you – ever. I am still learning to make peace with that. I don’t think i will ever be “finished”.
Trying to take good care of Lucas, trying to be and stay more aware, and not letting fear keep me from things that i enjoy – these are steps i take to live with the fears and pain and guilt.
Next Up – that is hard to nail down, but the Preamble is ‘over’ and we are working on leaving depresso boy in the dust and jumping forward to ‘now’ to talk about the hikes from two weeks ago and last week, some new maps, and some online resources. You still need to hear about my fancy new hikin’ pants.
Now i am off on a quest for underpants…