I’m sitting in the morning sun, enjoying a breakfast of fresh fruit (a rarity out here) and coffee on the balcony of the (in)famous Doyle Hotel in Duncannon. PA. It’s mile 1138.5, we’re 52.2% complete and I’m feelin’ fine. And why wouldn’t I? There were no drippy walls or mysterious smells, no mushrooms growing in the shower or old resident drunks who had died in bed but nobody noticed for a few days – all rumors I had heard about this joint along the way. The accommodations at the Doyle are bare bones and worn, but the place is full of fellow hikers, the staff is super supportive, it’s right on the trail and the price can’t be beat. Oh yeah, and the bar downstairs has Tröegs on tap – not too shabby.
I think what I’ve learned most over the last 1000+ miles, and continue to be reminded of, is to be grateful for the little things, to just take it as it comes and be happy with what is provided. I can’t change the trail. I can’t change the weather. I can’t smooth out the rocky parts. So why get frustrated?
It sounds like a simple way to be and I usually can attain that kind of nirvana, but this week I faced some realizations about speed and mileage that were/are tough to deal with.
One fact that is coming to light, is that hikers who started the trail in Georgia a full month after we did are catching up and blowing by us. We’ll likely never see them again as they are pulling 25-30 mile days consistently. Generally these guys are 8-10 years younger than me, but some are older. I don’t know how I feel about this. At first I was just telling myself that all these dudes are passing me because I stop and take so many photos or that they just hike longer hours in the day and that’s how they’re burning up the trail….really, it makes me realize that my 32 year old body has limitations.
But Long Time is 55 and now he’s going faster than me too! We’re still doing the same miles per day, still meeting up at the same place every night and sharing equipment, but bitter pill number 2 for the week is that my old man is now most definitely faster than me! No offense, dad, but what gives?!
The thing I’ve really been reminded of this week is kind of a mantra for all hikers on the trail and that is HYOH, “hike your own hike.” After 3 months of living outdoors I still don’t rise with the sun. I’m just too sleepy to pop up at 5:30 like Long Time and some other hikers can. I could try to go to bed earlier or set my watch to get up early, but I just don’t think it’s in my nature. Or I’m just lazy. Either way, it doesn’t matter. I’m generally satisfied with my daily mileage and I’m having a good time. I take breaks, I take time to talk to curious weekend hikers and I am getting some lovely photos. And I don’t mind walking alone for much of the day. It feels better to go about it at my pace than to try to go at Long Time’s, or to have him hike with me and feel like I’m holding him back.
The biggest lesson as of late is that though we’ve embarked on this adventure together and are sharing in so many awesome experiences, this hike is an individual journey. Just as life itself…
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