Ever been on a road trip, and found yourself lost? You turn off the music, stop the conversation you are in, and concentrate on figuring out where you are, and how to get back to where you were heading. We need the time and space to sort somethings out. Broadcasting our intent has added an unexpected layer of complexity to this process.
We want to be transparent, but we have no desire to look like vascilating fools. We want to share, and will in time.
This messy, up and down, here then there, is an important part of this process, maybe the most important. It’s here, in this space, where we are becoming who we are really meant to be. For a family, that has only bean able to control how they would react and respond to commands and orders from the military with no regard to our needs or desires, we are learning how to identify and communicate those needs and desires. PTS and is secondary effects are very real. We have to be careful that no matter what we are doing, we examine the motives behind our decisions. Are we running from something? Are we making decisions out of fear? Are we trying to put a bandaid on a festering wound? Where are we emotionally, mentally, and most important, spiritually? As we explore all of this, we need space.
When it’s time, we will share… Until then, Happy Trails!
It has been a month since Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia. A month since we have been consistently on the trail. Our attempts to get going again have not gone as we had planned. So much has happened over the past week and a half. Little did we know that the momentary interruption that seemed like goals left unfinished and broken dreams, would actually provide us the space to really think, not just about the hard stuff we’ve been working through, or where we were going to set up camp at the end of the day, but about the bigger and grander picture. The journey is only really beginning! Though we have thoughts and ideas rattling around in our heads, what we are certain of is that no matter where we are it will be different than we expected or planned, but we will be together.
We are all learning to dream, set goals, and take the steps to accomplish them, holding them all very lightly! We are learning the art of contentment and of letting go. We are living the saying, “when one door closes, another one opens.” Our “thru hike” of the AT has not gone one bit how we planned it. We never knew that we would meet such amazing people and have moments that simply took our breath away because of their kindness and generosity. We also could never have forecasted snow storms, injuries, or meetings. These highs, these lows, the process… it is all about learning to be content, and taking full advantage of the moment before us.
As a military wife, it sure would have been better if I had learned some of these lessons before. Often, my mind and my heart were very rigid. Even if my physical body looked as though it was going with the flow, my thoughts and feelings were often in a state of disappointment and anger over the never ending changes of life. My life is in an even greater state of change than ever before, but my heart is grounded. It is grounded in the fact that I know that God has a plan for each of us. This plan is far grander than I can imagine, and it isn’t all about me. He is using these trials as a part of the refining process in each of our lives.
Even today, we had to make changes to our schedule… we thought we were going to leave on Wednesday, but we realized that there was simply too much to do here before we could head out. We have decided to put our house on the market to sell. This has not been an easy decision, but it is one that we are all excited about. So, we have a little bit of work to do before that can happen. We are going to work hard as a family this week to get all of the little projects done, and we hope to head out on Saturday and climb Katahdin on Sunday.
Here is to completing one journey, and starting another!
We slept so well in the little field in which we had set up camp. We woke up to an incredibly beautiful morning. The skies were clear. The sun is rising really early in the morning now.
By 9 am, we had hiked two miles. It is kind of hard to mentally accept the fact that there is no way to hike at the same speed we had been hiking in the south. The trail is extremely rocky. The fact that these trails have not yet seen the traffic that the tasks in the south have seen, the dust, rather the moss has yet to be knocked off the rocks. We have to be far more careful here. Ryan, Taylor, and Riley all fell at least once. I slipped several times but was able to catch myself.
We made our way up to Moose Mountain Shelter, by 10:30. We chose to stop and eat lunch there, since there was space to spread out there. The black flies are out in full force now. Mosquitos as well. Bug spray and bug nets are no longer an option, rather a necessity.
The views in our home state of New Hampshire are so beautiful. It is interesting how much the trail’s landscape changes from state to state.
Here, in New Hampshire, steep cliffs and wide views are not uncommon.
We continued to hike throughout the afternoon. Throughout the afternoon, attitudes began to change. We had conversations with each of our kids, and though they couldn’t really explain the complexities of their emotions, it seemed as though we were teetering on a breakdown. Ryan made the decision to declare the end of our hike. No one objected.
We made our way to a small parking area that intersected with the road that led to Lyme, NH. We started down the road, beginning our three mile walk away from the trail. It was a very quiet walk, as we were all contemplating the meaning of what was unfolding. We were extremely grateful when the local Chief of Police picked us up and drove is to the Country Store in Lyme. When we arrived there, we called Ryan’s parents and asked them to come to pick us up. It seemed like we were doing the right thing, but the mood remained quite somber.
We had spent nearly a year planning this journey, and here we were faced with the fact that the journey had come to a close.
The emotional swing from morning to afternoon was inexplicable. The only consolation that could be found is that it seemed like we were not writing in a bad day.
Jeff and Carol finally arrived around 9:30pm. We are tired and hungry. No one really talked all that much. The conversations would begin the next morning.
If in fact, this was to be our last day in the trail… It would have at least been a beautiful day.
Before we started this journey, we asked our friends what they thought they would have the hardest time with if they were heading out on the trail. Most of the responses were in relationship to hygiene. Many people asked about using the bathroom. I thought it was particularly interesting when I found a 140 page book on the topic of how to poop in the woods. I thought, really? It can’t be that incredibly difficult. Well, let me tell you, it isn’t that easy either.
Have you ever gone to the gym and worked out so hard that you had a hard time sitting down on the toilet? Ok, then. Now imagine that after hiking 14 miles up and down the mountain, the time arrives where your body is telling you it is time… to poop!
There are two main obstacles that I face when it comes to using the bathroom… in the woods.
Pain. Not only do I have to find a place at least 200 feet off of the trail, away from a water source, and from other campsites. Sometimes, this requires scaling down a hill, or climbing up another hill. If the urge comes while I am on the side of a mountain… finding that place can be even harder, requiring my tired legs to work more. Then I have to dig a hole, and squat! Ugh, pain in my knees, pain in my feet, pain in my quads… pain!
Privacy. At the beginning of our hike, the trees were leafless. Nature was not my friend in creating a curtain to hide my bare bum. Now that there are plenty of leaves, I have to be concerned with leaf identification… imagine getting poison ivy, oak or sumac because you squatted right over them! The days of lazily sitting on a toilet reading a magazine are just not a reality out here.
My solution has been to use the privy every time we are near one.
What is a privy you might ask? Well, simply put it is an outhouse like building usually near the shelters along the trail. Some of them are fully enclosed structures, some of them are three sided, with the fourth side (the opening) facing the woods. The best part of the privy is that you don’t have to squat all the way down, bury anything, or worry about being seen by any of your fellow hikers. That is unless you find yourself at Moose Mountain Shelter in NH… then well, maybe the birds above can’t see you below, but that is about the only privacy you will have.
One day, after we had been on the trail for several weeks, I told Ryan that I had to make a confession. Nervously, he asked what I had to confess. I told him that I hadn’t pooped in the woods yet. Not quite understanding what I was meaning, with great concern for my health, he let me know that this was not good for my health. He thought that I meant I hadn’t had a bowel movement for weeks. I let him know that I was scared that I would be seen squatting, so I had simply relied on using the privies.
SO, here’s the deal. One day, we decided to camp at a tent site that had no privy. When nature calls you answer, so I grabbed the little trowel and some toilet paper, and went on the hunt for a place to go. I walked down an old trail, then walked several yards into the woods. Dug a little hole in the ground called a “cat hole”, and I went to squatting. The sun had gone down, there was barely any light left. I had my headlamp, but had turned it off, as to not draw attention to myself (not sure who I thought would see me). Then out of no where, two people came down this trail… that went to NOWHERE… and as I am mid-business, had two peoples headlamps pointed straight at me! The exact fear that had kept me from pooping in the woods was now being fully realized!!! Nope, I didn’t get over it. I still rely on the privies. I just might not live through another experience like that one!
At about 8:30 am, Grammie Owen came to pick us up from our little house. We loaded all of the gear into the back of her Odyssey van, and one by one loaded into her van and set off for Hanover, NH, the southern point of the trail in our home state of New Hampshire. We made it to Hanover around 10:30, where we were met by Caitlin, a reported from the Concord Monitor newspaper.
Caitlin interviewed each of us about the journey so far, about our goals moving forward, and why we are on the trail. Then she took a few pictures of our family getting back on the trail. The funny thing about this part of the trail is that it doesn’t really look anything like the wooded footpath we have been traveling. The state line is engraved on marble on the bridge that crosses the Connecticut River between Vermont and New Hampshire.
With cars buzzing past us, we made our way into the little town of Hanover. We ran into a few hikers that had really been moving quickly along the trail. Their journey will end in only a few short weeks. They had heard about our family, asked a few questions, and let us know that there were a few places we needed to visit before leaving town.
Lous Restaurant & Bakery on Main Street offers a free donut to thru hikers. They were absolutely awesome donuts!
After the sweet treat, we made our way over to Romundo’s Brick and Brew Pizza. This place offers hikers a free slice of pizza, but only if you’ll sign their log book!
The above picture of our packs lined up is a common sight in hiker towns.
After we had consumed enough calories to count as lunch, we prepared to hike out of town.
The trail followed the main road through town until it turned, ran along the backside of Dartmouth College, and then became reunited with its wooden home.
This part of the trail requires its travelers to pay a little more attention to those little white blazes. I needed to strip some layers, and told Ryan that he could just go on ahead, and I would meet up with everyone at the shelter ahead. But once I was done packing everything into my pack and started hiking what I thought was the trail, I quickly found myself wandering through the forest. Thankfully we had signal on our phones. I called Ryan and he came back for me. I was quite a ways away from the trail. We didn’t start hiking until about 2pm.
About 6:30 we found a beautiful little spot along the river to collect water and make dinner. Once we had finished cleaning or dishes, we set out to hike on. As we were stepping out we ran into a hiker we had met a couple of months ago at Hog Pen Gap. He was about to finish his winter south bound hike. He was now hiking with a friend who is finishing their north bound hike! He’s getting ready to head out on another adventure.
We thought we’d try to get to the next shelter, but when we stumbled upon this little gem, we couldn’t resist the urge to drop packs and set up camp!
It was the perfect place to end such a great day back on the trail!
We built a fire, hung the bear bags, and enjoyed the beauty that surrounded us!
A few more pictures from the day…
Happy Trails ~ The Thru Crew