Day 185: Mile 1905.6 | Stealth Camp
Mom and Dad dropped Miles and me off at the trail head around 10am. For some reason I was really nervous and anxious. It was our first time in over a week to be back on trail full time. Somehow that was daunting, plus we had 300 miles left. It took me a while to get into a groove. Miles quickly sped ahead. Apart from a quick snack break during the second hour, I didn’t see him for the rest of the day. Around 1pm I ran into Poppins and Peanut, who had hiked together since both of their first weeks on trail. They were inseparable. They complimented me on how color coordinated my gear was.
Somehow, I’d managed to get all my gear in or with Teal, Gray, or Navy. We laughed about how ridiculous companies were about colors. Like the women’s color of the year is always some kind of light blue, variation on red or pink, or purple. There weren’t really any other offerings out there. For example, my La Sportiva Ultra Raptors that I wore on trail only came in blue for women. The same blue that my poles were offered in, the only color either were offered in. The same colors as the clothes I ordered from Patagonia that only came in that color for a good price. The same color as my Smartwool socks for women. Some people call it the “shrink and pink.” Manufacturers make women’s gear in this way: take the mens version, shrink it, make it pink, remove any and all pockets or make those smaller too, offer two colors (pink, blue, red, or purple). I’ve seen it time and again from most major outdoor brands. You’ll be hard pressed to find different unless you look to brands that actually design with their athletes or are run by women (like Outdoor Voices, Ultimate Direction, K2, Specialized, Liv, Eddie Bauer, Columbia, or some REI’s Co-Op Branded products).
This issue kind of got to me on trail, in case you couldn’t tell. The only time I paid less than a man for gear was when I bought my Black Diamond Women Specific Trekking Poles through Amazon. Every other piece of gear that was women’s specific that I bought was consistently more than the men’s version. I bought almost all of my gear on sale and the men’s sale prices were consistently lower than the women’s, even if the product started out at the same MSRP. Anyway…
I passed 1900 miles by myself after I had made dinner near the only non-beaverpond water source I found all day. I carried an extra 3-Liters from that source for the next five miles. When I didn’t find Miles at the next shelter, I kept walking and hoped to run into him. We’d agreed to do a shorter day since we left so late but we hadn’t agreed on a place to meet. It began to get dark and the next obstacle was the 3500’ Mount Success. I wasn’t about to attempt it in the dark with rain forecasted for the next day. It didn’t look like there was any camping until the next shelter. In the dark, I really needed to go to the bathroom but I was standing next to the only clear stream I’d seen since the one 5 miles back. I dropped my pack and headed uphill and away from the stream into the woods. I found a few bushes, did my business, and while I was up there found a flat tent site! Someone had obviously camped there before. Okay, it wasn’t totally flat but it was 9pm and I was freaking out.
I set up my tent and quickly made a meal. I drank as much water as I could stomach, unsure of the future of water sources. I’d only seen beaver bogs or streams leading to or from beaver bogs all day. I tried calling and texting Miles for a couple of hours but I never got a response. My heart pounded. We’d always agree that we could camp alone, but I kind of thought we’d talk about it first. I could’ve kept going, I kicked myself, but that couldn’t have been safe, not with the Mahoosucs coming up. I stayed put. I read the sample I’d downloaded of a book. Once I got through those 50 pages I listened to a podcast I’d downloaded.
Around midnight I finally dozed off. Still panicking and having eaten two Snickers bars. Rain came during the night and I stayed mostly dry. But I still spent the night worrying even though I was fine and Miles was, most likely, fine too.
Day 186: Mile 1914.0 | Full Goose Shelter
It was a HARD day. I got up in the morning and went to get water at the stream after I’d packed up. My water bag exploded on me. My clothes were soaked. It was raining anyway. After the water incident I immediately climbed Mt. Success, looking for Miles around every corner, spotting every possible campsite from there to the Maine state border. I never imagined I’d cross that border without him, well maybe before I’d met him, but not now. I snapped a photo in the rain and took an awful selfie with the sign. I cried a little bit. I was finally in Maine. I’d come all this way by foot. It didn’t seem real. It didn’t seem like my Maine, it felt like a different world. I started over the Maine border and was immediately greeted by a steep boulder field. I struggled over the big rocks. A southbounder passed me and I asked him if he’d seen Miles. I described his pack and his tent and his clean shaven face. The guy said he hadn’t seen him. I was worried.
The summit was foggy and windy. I couldn’t imagine doing this in the dark last night. I would have gotten lost. I could barely see the cairns and blazes in the ‘daylight.’
I finally made it to the Carlo Col a few miles later and when I arrived to the end of the half mile blue blaze, my heart POUNDING with every step, he was there waiting for me. He even made me breakfast. I had been too panicked that morning to even think about breakfast. But now, everything was fine. I ate the breakfast hash quickly and eagerly. Of course everything was fine. He just didn’t have service and he found a not-so-great but definitely safe campsite. Everything is okay. So why did you spend the whole night freaking out? Are you just pretending you’re worrying about him instead of admitting you were afraid to be alone? Why can’t you be alone?! I screamed at myself in my head while I tried to pretend that I was calm. I wasn’t calm.
We hiked on after breakfast, together. We only made it 9 miles but that night at camp we saw Poppins, Peanut, and Butter! It turned out to be an okay day but I was flustered and finding it hard to focus on setting up camp. I set up my tent sloppily and took the long trek to get water. Water troubles seemed to be a theme for me since Pennsylvania…
Day 187: Mile 1916.7 | Mahoosuc Notch Campsite
If I thought yesterday was hard, I was in for a rude awakening. I woke up with a rare migraine and stomach ache. I probably hadn’t had enough water. I had been too picky about my water sources and I was paying for it. We made it over Fulling Mill Mountain and down to the dreaded (or wildly anticipated?) Mahoosuc Notch. The HARDEST (or most fun?) Mile on the trail. Before we began the notch we sat on the first boulder and drank energy drinks. I ate an XL Bar and a Larabar and then, we were on our way. We helped each other around and over the boulders, through caves, and navigated sections where there were three different blazes. Halfway through we got the most amazing spring water.
I had a hard time. Mentally, this section drained me. Physically it would’ve been fine if it weren’t for the raging migraine I had. By the time we got out of the notch, 3 hours later, I felt dizzy. I laid down at the first campsite I saw. I didn’t even set up, just laid with my head on my pack on Miles’ sleeping pad. He comforted me. I felt awful. He wanted to keep going. I hemmed and hawed. I was too afraid to tell him I wanted to stop here. Afraid that he would leave me again, I made excuses and tried to justify staying here even though we were on a deadline.
I had to be in a wedding on September 19. I had hoped to summit Katahdin and be done with the trail by then. This break, and all the other breaks I’d taken up to this point, would probably put me behind schedule.
I didn’t want to keep going that day. It had been a mental struggle from the start. My head was pounding. Part of it, I think, was really actually stress. I didn’t want to admit it but the trail would be over in less than 300 miles. Less than two months. It was July and we weren’t even at the 100 Mile Wilderness yet. I was over a month behind goal. “Goal” didn’t really matter. I tried to remind myself. I’ve never pressured myself to stick to a schedule, so why was I now? This is the one time, probably in my entire life, where I make the decisions, I make the rules, I choose happiness, I have complete freedom. So why was I so afraid to just say, “I want to stay here tonight.”
I could’ve caught Miles the next day or two days later. I could’ve called my parents and asked if they’d pick me up for the wedding instead. I could’ve stuck up for what I wanted but I didn’t. I convinced Miles to feel bad for me and stay with me. For that manipulation tactic, which I’m sure he knew the motive of and completely saw coming, I am sorry. I realized immediately after I did it what I had done: manipulated him into camping with me. I realized in that moment that I’d done it multiple times before. I felt ashamed. I set up my tent and didn’t talk to him. I got us both water at the flowing river that was actually clear nearby.
I vowed to myself to work on this. To see it when it’s coming and not do it. Or to just SAY WHAT I WANT IN THE FIRST PLACE AND STOP JUSTIFYING MY ACTIONS.
I went to sleep in my tent at 3pm. Some hikers set up and made dinner nearby and respectfully stayed away from me while I slept. My face felt hot. I worried I might have a fever. I talked myself down and told myself I was being ridiculous. I went to sleep for the night and felt awful both physically and mentally. Tomorrow is a new day, I told myself. A day to get on track and be a better person. A day to get back on track.