So when you’re out on the Appalachian Trail, you know you’re on the right path when you see that the trail is marked by 2X6″ white blazes. Known as “white-blazers”, there are some hikers that follow every single white blaze, even if it means going back south on a side trail out of a shelter or tenting area in order not to miss a step of the 2181 mile trail, when they could instead just take the northbound side trail back to the AT. I feel like you’re still doing all the mileage, so that’s a-ok. A blue blazed trail is a trail that intersects the AT and often provides an alternate loop around a particularly tough part of the AT. Taking these trails instead of the AT is known as “blue-blazing” and is generally looked down upon, unless of course the weather prevents you from doing a rock scramble or the hiker is injured or is really old. A “yellow-blazer” skips entire sections of the trail, usually to catch up with their fellow hiker friends after spending too much time partying in a town. It’s called yellow blazing due to the fact that they have to get a ride via the yellow lines of a highway. Yellow-blazing is not kosher among true thru-hikers. Brooklyn-blazing is something I just made up.
I hit a wall last Friday and decided that I needed to come home to Brooklyn for a few more days. I was walking along, focusing on all the negative stuff – being tired, being rained on, carrying a heavy load, feeling like I didn’t get a chance to relax or see many friends while I was home for the 4th, frustrated that I hadn’t uploaded any new photos in a month, bummed about the mileage that we had to do that day and stewing about a comment Long Time so callously had made, telling me to just buck up and go faster. (Really though, he didn’t use those words and was only trying to help by saying that if I didn’t take as long of breaks, I’d be sure to be to camp before dark.) But I was done, I’d had enough, I was spent. What can I say, I gave up. I called my fiance crying, asking him to come pick me up.
I have no intentions of not finishing this thing. I left trail for the weekend from Kent, Connecticut, 1458.5 miles along or 66.9% finished. Why, on Friday I couldn’t focus on the positives, like being two-thirds done, crossing the border into yet another state, having had beautiful weather the previous two days and getting to swim in lakes both days, is beyond me. I chose instead to focus on the negative and let things get to me. And it sucked. Maybe I could have worked through it out on the trail, but I really felt like a weekend away would be my chance to get it together.
So here I am, in my office in my apartment, sweltering in the already 90-degree heat. About to head back out there. Over the last three days I’ve gotten to hang out with my man and my cats, my friends on their rooftop on a hot summer night in Brooklyn (cue P.J. Harvey & Thom Yorke), I walked to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, got fresh veggies and baked goods from the farmer’s market in Prospect Park and enjoyed lots of delicious local beer. And I bought a ton of new gear. When I get out to the AT this time, I’ll be with a new and lighter backpack, a new and lighter stove and cookset, a new and lighter sleeping pad…do you see a pattern here?…And hopefully a new and lighter attitude.
Long Time hiked ahead on Friday. He’ll be to Great Barrington, MA today. My amazing friend Diana is going to come out on the trail with me for a few days. Since she’s a newbie, we’ll be doing a few less miles a day than usual. So we’re skipping ahead a bit more north than LT to Lee, MA. She’ll be on with me for around 60 miles so by the time we get to Bennington, VT, my pops will have caught up. But don’t you go thinkin’ I’m yellow-blazing! No sir-ee, I’m coming back after Katahdin to finish up the 83.8 miles of CT and southern MA that I’ve temporarily by-passed. As long as you get all the miles of the Appalachian Trail in one calendar year, it’s still considered a thru-hike. It doesn’t matter if you go north or go south, flip-flop it or do it in sections — it still counts and I’ll still have trail cred.
Going back with this positive attitude, I’ll be looking even more for the silver lining in things. My first thought is that it’s lucky for me to have hit my wall close enough to home that it won’t be too much trouble to get back out to the trail to make it up. I’ll have to do those miles in mid-September though, since I have a wedding dress fitting on the third. My second thought is that hey, what better way than hiking to remain fit enough to fit in that dress come October!
Thanks to all as always for the support and comments. I was able finally to comment back on a ton of comments from the previous month. Looking forward to New England!!