…”Whatever doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.”
Although Dad has been gone for over twenty years, that advice keeps coming to my mind as Chief and I hike the Appalachian Trail. The challenges we have faced are more difficult than we ever imagined. We are at Day 133 on this arduous journey and by the grace of God have completed 1,494 miles in eight states (Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Maine). As we enter New Hampshire and hike SOBO (southbound) back to PA, there are 695 miles yet to complete.
We are passing more NOBOs who are close to finishing their hike. On Day 127, we passed Briar and Nettle, two sisters who needed to finish by the end of August due to work schedules. We first met the girls in Virginia, noticing that one hiked barefoot, and then they arrived at the halfway point in Harpers Ferry the same day we were there (June 30). Both girls are now wearing shoes. Then on Day 131, we passed Old School and Blue Pants and had a short reunion with photos. Old School provided some advice about the upcoming New Hampshire trail before each of us continued in our own direction.
The A.T. in Maine was the most difficult section we have encountered so far. One hiker we passed gave to us this helpful advice about hiking Maine. He said, “Wake up each morning and tell yourself, ‘the trail will kick my butt today’, and that way you’ll know what to expect.”
In one day we completed two particularly dangerous sections – Mahoosuc Notch and Mahoosuc Arm. The Notch is a one-mile section of scrambling over, under, around and between large boulders. Another hiker shared her advice about the Mahoosuc Notch, “Just think of it like a rock playground.” They say hikers either love the rock scramble or hate it. We would fit into the latter category after three hours of exhausting, frustrating navigation.
The Arm for a SOBO was a steep, slippery mile descent from the mountain. Chief offered his own advice about going down a steep descent, “Let your momentum carry you down the hill. If there are large rocks at the bottom, momentum may not be a good idea.” That section took us nearly two hours to complete.
Interestingly, a group of incoming freshman from Harvard University were hiking behind us as part of an orientation program. I overheard an upperclassmen tell one of the freshman that college is the last opportunity to try new things. I thought that was terrible advice but what can you expect from his 20-year old worldview. I would advise that we can try new things at any point in life– but maybe something a little less crazy than hiking 2,189 miles.
Another hiker shared that when we returned to civilization to remember that we just can’t pee wherever we want. Good advice to keep in mind!
Maybe the best advice we failed to take came on Day 1 as we began our hike. A former thru-hiker who operated a hostel at the start of the Appalachian Trail simply said, “Don’t do it.” Well, it hasn’t killed us (yet…). I guess if we had heeded that advice we wouldn’t have obtained our newfound strength.
If you have some advice to share, feel free to share in a comment. We’d love to hear from you!
Getting Stronger Every Day, Chief and Toad