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In my last blog, I described how I had to navigate some remote logging roads in Maine because Jen and I weren’t clear enough on where we intended to meet. Fortunately for me, that was an unusual day. Most days are more simple and relaxing. So I thought in this blog I’d list some of the things I do to “relax” while Jen’s eating up miles.
One thing I do is sleep. Jen usually wakes up between 4:30 and 5:30 in the morning. Being the good sherpa that I am, I almost always roll over and go back to sleep for another 3 hours. On average, Jen’s probably hiked 10-12 miles before I’ve even gotten out of bed.
Another thing I do is drive. On an average day, I’d say I drive anywhere from two to three hours. Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont didn’t have many roads and our buddy Warren lent us his atlases so those states were a piece of cake. MA, CT, NY, and NJ are a bit tougher because we don’t have atlases for those and I’m too cheap to buy them. I usually end up guessing where I am then asking locals for directions when I think I’m close. I should have bought the atlases early on but now we’re almost through New Jersey so there’s not point.
Another thing I do is grocery shop for whatever I think Jen will like. She eats traditional trail food like Clif bars and Mountain House- which Diamond Brand Outfitters provided us- but she also eats junk food because it has a lot of calories. The other day, she ate an entire bag of frosted animal crackers in fifteen minutes- about 1200 calories. Other favorites of hers are peanut butter crackers, flavored kettle chips, string cheese, Snickers, ice cream, my friend Miles’ cookies, and brownies.
Sometimes when I’m in town shopping for food, I’ll pick up packages at the post offices or wash clothes (mostly socks) at laundromats. When we’re staying at a motel on a particular night, I’ll call around to see who has wi-fi and a bathtub (the two essentials). And sometimes I just kill time. The other day I had an extra hour, and I passed this little sports card shop in Florida, New York. I used to collect baseball cards, so I went in there and talked to the owner for a while. It was really nice.
If we’re near someplace cool, Jen will hike fifteen miles or so without meeting me so I can go sightseeing. On Independence Day, I visited the Long Trail Brewery in Bridgewater Crossing, VT. When we crossed the Hudson River, I toured West Point. And when we pass through southern PA, I’ll see Gettysburg. Jen’s ability to hike up to twenty miles without needing me creates a lot of flexibility.
When I’m waiting for her at the trailheads, I usually pass time by reading, editing Jen’s blogs, or writing my own. When I get motivated, I break out the guitar. And at night, I’ll boil water for a freeze-dried dinner. We usually eat by the car so we don’t have to pack the stove, fuel, and food, and so we don’t have to worry about hanging a bear bag.
I also spend a fair amount of time hiking. If Jen wants to get a head start on the next day, we’ll hike in three or four miles and find a campsite. That’s the only time I fulfill the traditional sherpa role, and even then I only carry a light pack (maybe 15 pounds) while Jen just carries her snacks and water for the next morning. I’ve counted my miles and I’m closing in now on 100. And that’s just counting the miles I’ve hiked with Jen. The actual number of miles is double that because whenever I hike with Jen, I have to turn around and hike the same distance back to the car.
And then sometimes I find a spot on the trail where I can sit in silence to think and pray. Yesterday I walked through this beautiful marsh near Glenwood, New Jersey, and had a seat by the reeds. I sat for about 45 minutes and thought about things and caught my breath, which is something I haven’t really done since moving to Asheville last August. A girl passed me and I’m sure she saw my beard and clothes and thought, “Shouldn’t you be hiking or something?” I kind of turn inward at times like those, and get nervous, but when she passed, I returned to my stillness and thought about God and creation and how good my life is. That was the best hour I’ve had on the trail. Yeah, being an AT sherpa is all…right.