Days 172 - 176
Day 172: Mile 1795.1 Jeffers Brook Shelter Tent Sites
This was one of my favorite days on trail. We caught up to Blackbird and Krafty on this day. Miles and I were getting picked up the next day to go home and they wouldn't be coming with us. I knew I needed to savor my time with friends this day. The terrain was pretty easy and we didn't go very far. This part of the trail was the gateway to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, my hometown mountain range. It was also where the notorious AT Omelet Man used to set up. He wasn't where he usually was when we got there, though. A restaurant owner nearby had called the Forest Service and complained that he had been stealing business, so he was forced to stop making trail magic omelets for hikers. I was disappointed but it was okay.
Krafty, Blackbird, Miles, and I ended up going to a restaurant just a quarter mile up the road from a trail crossing just before Moosilauke on NH 25C. To my happy surprise we were close enough to home that they had Tuckerman's beer there! I got one and a large glass of iced coffee with a huge salmon salad. We all laughed over drinks and food and we were joined by a few other hikers.
After lunch Miles and Krafty zoomed ahead on the easy terrain. Blackbird and I took our time: bonding, talking about our post-trail futures, our pasts, and what we think we want from our lives after this journey. It was so nice to bond with another girl my age. I felt like this trail, as much as there are more women than ever out there, was filled with men. Which was fine, I made a lot of friends that were men.
But I wanted to the company of a girl who understood what I was going through. It was nice to be able to relate on that level and be able to talk about how we could work on relationships with ourselves in a world where we felt like it was difficult to be ourselves. Miles often felt I focused to much on my peers, what they thought, what gender they were (or weren't), and how society perceived those sorts of things. To an extent, he was right, but it was still nice to feel comfortable. To know for certain that I wasn't being judged. That I could say what I wanted and how I really felt to my friend.
In all my life, I realized, I'd only had a handful of friends that I felt this way around. It was nice to have another. It was nice that, even though I hadn't seen Blackbird in a while on trail, we could pick up where we left off like we'd never been apart. We walked together until we caught the boys at a stream, just before the shelter Miles and I had planned to camp at that night.
The stream was wide and shallow with no visible way to get a dry crossing out of it. Miles and Krafty sat at the other side of the stream, dry feet. I was about to step into the stream and just slosh across when Miles yelled, "See!? I told you!"
"Told him what?!" I yelled back, knowing he was talking to Krafty. They laughed together.
"I told him you were totally just going to slosh across without even looking for a dry crossing! You always pick the grossest possible way to do things! That's why your shoes are always wet and your pack always smells!" We laughed together as he yelled this across the stream to me. He was right. I was the worst at drying out my gear. I was constantly too lazy to take off my shoes and let them dry. Mostly, I just didn't care. Of course, everything I owned smelled bad! I was a thru-hiker. He was right, though, my stuff always smelled way worse than his. We laughed about my silly trail habits and Blackbird and I found a fallen tree to walk across the river on.
On the other side of the stream we strategized. We all decided camping near the next shelter would be preferred. It was the last place with guaranteed water and camping before Mt. Moosilauke. We were about 8 miles from where my parents were picking Miles and I up. I had service at the stream and I texted my parents to ask them to bring a bunch of McDonald's Dollar Menu items to the trailhead when they came up through Lincoln for all of my hiker friends. My mom, of course, said she would be sure to bring them and then offered to bring Gatorade too. What a hero.
The four of us headed up the hill to the shelter Krafty first, me, Blackbird, then Miles. I couldn't stop smiling. I had had the best day. I was so happy to be with my friends. My positive, deep, and motivating friends. We found some tent sites just before the shelter right next to a raging river. We all set up our separate tents, got water, and made our dinners. We ate dinner together and talked until the sun began to go down. All of us respected the hiker midnight curfew, for once, and I was in bed, asleep by 10pm. I was finally HAPPY. Not elated, but content. In that way that you get that full feeling in your chest. When you feel complete, understood, like you BELONG. I've never slept better than that night.
Day 173: Mile 1801.5 | HOME!!!!!
Together, the four of us summitted Moosilauke and crossed Mile 1800 then descended the gnarly mountain. My parents met us at the trailhead after we summited. On our way down the mountain Blackbird and I talked about Trail Name Here and some exciting ideas for the future of the site.
When we arrived at the parking lot I went and changed into my pajamas so I wouldn't smell totally bad for my parents. They pulled up in their station wagon and brought us McDonalds, still warm in insulated lunch boxes. We shared with Willow, Magic Pants, and G-Weezy too. Tangerine arrived just after my parents and we gave her a ride into Lincoln, below Moosilauke. Once we dropped her off where she needed to be, we headed down toward home.
I was happy to see Bonnie when I got home:
But it was, honestly, really overwhelming to go home. Everything was overwhelming. The car ride home was filled with town gossip and catching up on what has been happening in the valley. Miles was tired and overwhelmed. I was happy to be with my parents again. I'd never been away from them for so long. The hour long car ride home was filled with chatter.
When we got to Fryeburg I picked up my van from Fryeburg Motors, my parents shop, and drove Miles and I home from their. The ten minute drive was filled with Miles telling me why he was upset with me. He felt like I'd become a totally different person in the car home with my parents, he said. What happened to our quiet car ride home because we're all tired? He went on to ask me. He told me he wanted to go back to the trail in the morning. He didn't want to stay with us he wanted to hike by himself.
We had planned on sleeping in the van, like I usually did when I was home, because my parents house was very small. He didn't want to sleep in the van with me. He set up his tent in the yard and brought all of his stuff out to it. I couldn't understand what he meant about me being a different person. He freaked out at me and I, in turn, freaked out at him, defensively. I didn't get it. I was happy to see my parents and I wanted to hear about valley happenings. Our family was really involved in our community. A new coffee shop was in town, my parents had owned the last one that was in town. Turmoil in town government and the outcome of the vote on a Poland Springs proposal that I hadn't heard about yet.
To Miles it all seemed like gossip, but to us it was our small town community. Sure, some of it might have been a bit gosippy, but I wasn't being negative and I wasn't saying anything that would harm anyone or wishing anyone ill. He told me I was being really negative and I wasn't being empathetic at all. From my perspective, he wasn't from a small town, his family wasn't integrated in the community as much as ours was, maybe he didn't understand. What felt to me like catching up with my parents and my hometown, felt to him like toxic negative gossip.
I also reminded him, once again, the he's been working for years on being positive and choosing the happy route. I'd only been working on my positivity and changing my attitude since February. It takes time. Sometimes people slip. Sometimes people give into negativity when they're put in an environment that they used to be negative in. Sometimes it's difficult to stay on top. He told me he wanted to be left alone. So I left him in his tent. I tried to sleep inside with Bonnie. I cuddled my cat for hours. I was so happy to see her, but I felt torn apart.
I felt bad that Miles didn't feel welcome in my life at home. I felt horrible that we had fought and he was sort of right, in a way, I wasn't totally being positive and I should've been a bit more positive. I also felt like he was wrong in a way, though. I wasn't that bad and I don't think he was taking into account his feeling overwhelmed. I couldn't sleep without resolving our argument. I wanted to stay home for another day. Take a zero before I go back to trail and maybe slackpack for another day.
I didn't want to lose Miles, though. Meeting him was one of the best things that ever happened to me. And sure, if it is meant to be it will be, but I also just felt like he misunderstood everything that had happened that day and I wanted him to just be open and talk to me about it. I couldn't sleep if we were fighting so I just stayed awake, even though my body was tired.
At 3am it began to pour outside. He was still in his tent. I heard yelling from outside the window and I went outside to check on him. I tried to get him to move into the van. I told him I'd sleep inside and he could have the van to himself. He moved into the van, his gear had gotten wet in the rain. "Now I can't go back to the trail tomorrow if my gear is wet!" He complained. He was upset still. I brought him blankets and pillows. and set him up in the van. I sat there and begged him to talk to me.
Finally, at 4am, we talked it out. We resolved everything. I promised to be more positive and work on gossiping less. He told me he would be more open minded tomorrow. "Fine I'll stay another day," He said with a huff. I told him I loved him and that I didn't want to lose him. I knew that splitting up on trail didn't necessarily mean that I would lose him. But after seeing me at home, it felt like he didn't like me anymore. He told me he loved me, too. And we went to bed at last.
Day 174: Mile 1801.5 | HOME
I slept in really late. When I woke up I went out and woke Miles up, too. We went to Starbucks, where I worked before trail and I said hi to my old friends. I sat there and blogged for a while and Miles played chess and uploaded his photos. We were finally on stable ground again. My mom offered, again, to slackpack us through the Whites. The more we looked at the guidebook the more impossible it felt but we decided, on this day that we would do it.
My mom helped me clean my pack when I got home and my sleeping pad and sleeping bag.
We went and got snacks at WalMart. Being home, in general, felt really overwhelming. The TV being on, driving around, maintaining the things I've learned on trail while simultaneously still being the person that people know me as was really hard. Doing chores around the house again felt surprisingly stressful. I didn't sleep well.
Day 175: Mile 1801.5 | HOME
We took one last zero this day, not realizing how many we would have during our slackpack saga (see my next post). We did chores, blogged, saw some friends, baked a pie, and slept in the van. I had a small tiff with my dad. Nothing major, I just wasn't maintaining the respect they deserved and I was pushing to change things at home for when I finished the trail. It sort of felt like they saw all the progress I'd made on trail but maybe they didn't understand it entirely. It was hard to adjust back to regular life, too.
I was worried that when I came home I'd be dumped right back into the environment I'd left. I didn't want to be around the TV all the time, I didn't want to be living in my parents living room, I wanted to be more independent and responsible. But I knew I wouldn't have enough money for an apartment. It would be winter so I couldn't really keep sleeping in the van and relying on getting my van into someone's garage every night with no guarantees like last year. I stressed about the future.
I felt overwhelmed still and it was making me slow and exhausted. I wanted to show my parents that I was grateful for everything they'd done for me to be able to hike the trail but I also felt so tired and weak and I just wanted to sleep. I didn't want to make an effort to be positive and helpful and nice. I just wanted to sleep forever. I didn't sleep well at all this night.
Day 176 Miles 1801.5 | HOME
We were supposed to start slackpacking today but my racing thoughts had finally gone away and the pain of the overwhelming return to reality had subsided some. I was drained mentally and physically. I wasn't ready to face hiking in the Whites just yet. I decided I wanted to take another day off and Miles agreed to stay home with me. He played chess online while I laid in bed reading, watching Netflix, or sleeping. Bonnie stayed by my side all day.