So we did it! We made it through Maine and New Hampshire to the Vermont border. It feels so great to be done with a fifth of the trail, and the hardest fifth at that! It has been a wild ride so far with a lot of literal and metaphoric up and downs. We have a long, LONG, way to go… but here’s a few lessons learned from the first two states.
a) Maybe not the best transition to go straight from Honeymoon to thru-hiking?! Somehow a one-man bug filled tent shared with your husband is different than a 4-star B&B and Mountain House dehydrated dinners are not quite as alluring as chocolate covered strawberries and champagne. Not that any of the forementioned are completely unpleasant, but perhaps the transitions would have been a bit easier with a night or two in a Days Inn before the beginning of the hike.
b) My husband hates bugs, hates them! At first his distaste was for mosquitoes, but now he has decided that he loathes black flies the most. We spend a good ten minutes every night before bed scouring the tent for any insects that might have flown in and then smooshing them against the ceiling should we discover their presence. In the middle of the night when I am forced to pee then I either have a time-limit of getting in and out of the tent to prevent more buggies from coming inside, or better yet I am encouraged to go in a wide-mouth jar inside the tent. Brew was convinced that I could incorporate a girl-pee bottle into my nighttime hiking routine as he has enjoyed the ability into soda bottles for quite a while now.
c) Maine is harder than New Hampshire. Everyone talks about the Whites and how hard they are and how New Hampshire is the most trying part of the Appalachian Trail, but I strongly disagree. Maine has kicked my booty twice now, once coming North and this time headed South. New Hampshire was tough, no doubt, but I swear my body feels better and the days become easier the further away from Maine I travel.
d) Mothers are far more supportive of Appalachian Trail hiking when a husband is in tow. The past few summers thru-hiking has been the bain of my mother’s existence. This summer she hardly rolls her eyes at the mention of my endeavors. She is excited to receive my phone calls and is even more endeared to her favorite son-in-law when he calls her with updates. So far detached is she from this hike, that she has thrown herself entirely into the care of a newly acquired golden retriever puppy. I can’t wait to hike back down South to meet a happy Momma and a new puppy.
e) I have decided that if New Englanders are stereotypically “cold” then it is in direct correlation to their frigid temps. Even in the midst of summer I have started several mornings with four layers up top, it is hard to be happy – let alone hike – when you are cold.
f) I am forever impressed with the older ladies and gents on the trail. This path really takes it out of you and some of the climbs and descents are treacherous on the best of days. It really encourages me to see so many folks in the second “prime of their lives” tackling these challenges.
g) Huts. In the White Mountains there are these huts where people pay $90 a night to stay on a hard bunk bed with other strangers. I love the thought of being out in nature, but paying $90 for next to nothing? You can tent for free and probably sleep better without strangers snoring nearby. I’m just saying, if I am dishing out close to a Benjamin then I want some amenities, ya know?
h) Finally, it is good to have closer. Brew and I have found closure by eating food in effigy of the states we leave behind. Upon departing Maine, we together took out an entire blueberry pie. Now that we are saying goodbye to New Hampshire we are also finishing our friend Miles’ famous White Chocolate Chunk Cookies (for the White Mountains, of Course). It will be very hard to find closure in Vermont seeing as how we have Ben and Jerry’s, Maple Syrup, Long Trail Ale, and Cabot Cheese all on the list. I sure am glad that Brew and I are hiking so much everyday!
Alright, on to the next 1,732.