The last week, at least I think it’s been about a week, since I last wrote has been one of great highs and terrible lows. It’s been a big reminder of the vicissitudes of life on the trail. In one day I was bummed out in the morning, elated by mid-morning, depressed by lunch, and happy again by the time I hit camp. It’s been a challenge to keep my head on straight, but it’s been absolutely necessary that I do so. With 400 miles to go its a problem of so close yet so far. Its close enough to seem like an insignificant amount, especially compared to what I’ve done so far. Its close enough to get pleasure about thinking about finishing, but far enough that it can also be a torture to do so. I still have a month left to go, and it’s going to be a tough month at that, so I’m by no means done, but it sometimes feels like I already am.
In terms of landmarks, I’ve finished Vermont and am now in New Hampshire. It’s been some really tough hiking. I’m definitely back in the mountains now, which is great, but it means every day is a really tough workout. It’s not constant climbing or descending, but more often than not the climbs are very steep.
That being said, I’m actually really enjoying it. The workout of the climbs is a great change of pace from the mindless slogging of the flat states. It was great being able to hike really fast and get the day done quickly back in Virginia, but it could be monotonous too. The climbs provide a welcome challenge, a chance to push myself, and more often than not, an awesome view at the top. Since leaving home I had been hiking pretty slowly during the day, not really having a goal to chase, but since hitting the mountains I’ve found my drive again.
In terms of daily pace, I had decided to slow down a bit, both because I wanted to take it easier and to enjoy the end. But as the trail has to keep reminding me, I really don’t enjoy myself unless I have a goal to shoot for, so I might start pressing a little harder again. Also, I was slowing down in the hopes that Chris could catch up (he was a day behind me when I left Dalton), but a delayed mail drop held him up and now he’s days and days behind. It doesn’t look like we’ll be able to meet up before Kahtahdin now, which I’m pretty bummed about.
So, with no reason to slow down anymore I’m going to push on a little harder. Coming up is the White Mountains, or “the whites.” They’re well known as being one of the hardest sections on the trail, and are second probably only to southern Maine which comes right after. From the very start of the trail any thruhiker hears about the whites and how tough, yet amazingly beautiful they are, amongst other things. Understandably a certain mythology comes to be built up around them. Two weeks ago I had the idea in my head that I wouldn’t be able to do more than 12 miles a day, that it would be bizarrely cold, and that it would accordingly be dangerous. Since getting closer and having more time to get a realistic picture of them, I’m not quite so worried. I’m going to buy enough food for a 15 mile a day pace, but I’ll shoot for 17ish. I’m getting some of my cold weather gear back, but I’m not going overboard with it. All in all, I’m looking forward to the challenge of it.