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For those of you trail savvy folks out there, you may know Warren Doyle as the man who has hiked the AT more than any other living soul (he’s working on number fifteen right now). For those Ashevillians reading this, you may know Warren Doyle as a Contra dance regular at the Grey Eagle and Warren Wilson. For Brew and me, we know Warren as a friend and as our wedding dance waltz instructor. He took the two of us from four left feet to wowing our wedding crowd in three short sessions. However, what I didn’t know at the time was that while showing me how to waltz, Warren was also teaching me about the trail.
What I am starting to learn out here is that the AT is as much a dance as a hike. With the trail as the leader, the past few days I have learned how to spin, twirl, step forward and backward- all in proper timing. The rocks and roots in Maine make me sometimes feel more like an acrobat or gymnast than a hiker. However, another lesson the first two hundred miles have taught me is that I will make more progress if I let the trail determine my steps, If I try to lead the dance, I tend to end up kicking my partner and constantly tripping.
Leaving the Maine Wilderness, I was six miles behind my ideal schedule. I was able to tag on six miles to my day into Caratunk, but along the journey I was forced to ford several very strong rivers. This made me anxious because the AT out of Caratunk passes over the Kennebec, one of the largest rivers in Maine. Most hikers take a canoe-ferry across the river, but when I arrived I discovered that because of high waters, the boat hadn’t run in over a week. I had no clue what I would do if the boat didn’t run the next morning, but I could do nothing about it except wait and hope for the best. As luck would have it, the next morning I rode over on the first ferry in eight days.
The day after I crossed the Kinnebec, I climbed up the Bigelow Mountains of Maine. This range is where Maine starts to show her teeth, and trust me when I say Southern Maine is mighty ferocious. I knew I couldn’t make it to the road after the Bigelows, but lucky for me I have a super handsome and athletic husband who was able to hike in five miles with our equipment so we could set up camp.
After the Bigelows, the Mountains came in greater size and frequency. I really started to struggle with the climbs and much to my dismay, on day five Brew and I had our first “road-side meeting” fiasco. We miscommunicated the night before so we spent the entire day playing hide and seek in the Maine woods. We didn’t locate each other until late that evening. Thankfully, my food had been replenished in the meantime by a hiker who shared a package of ChipsAhoy with me. (On a side note, Chips Ahoy says they have 1000 chips per bag but that’s way too many for one person in a day.) I was emotionally and physically drained that evening after hiking 38 grueling miles, but I was blessed with some gorgeous views and near perfect weather.
After six days of 30+ miles, I finally cut the mileage down to marathon length (26 miles) for my last two days in Maine. I needed the lower mileage and lower intensity not only to recover but also to store up for what lay ahead, the White Mountains of New Hampshire. If there is anything I learned in the first week on the trail, it is that adhering strictly to my schedule is not necessarily as important as listening to my body and dancing with the trail, which may include taking steps backwards and twirling when I least expect it.