The terrain in Maine warrants attention and a certain level of concentration between stepping over roots as thick as tree trunks, climbing over boulders, and hopping from rock to rock to giant root to avoid going knee deep into the mud.
But more often than not, your mind finds itself with a lot of time on its hands when you spend 7-9 hours a day walking. People talk about connecting with the wilderness and searching your inner self. Really, you mostly find yourself suddenly remembering things like that one time in 4th grade when you accidentally lost the class pet rabbit and it ending up biting Michael Thompson on the ankle…
At any rate, you gotta keep busy either with your own thoughts, music, or thinking about the trail.
For example, here’s a little ditty I came up with on a particularly soggy day.
Oh, the bogs here are never ending
and hikers feel swampfoot descending.
It’s hard to catch your stride
with mosquitoes in your eyes
2 days of sun, 4 more of rain
but that’s how you know that you’re in Maine!
Admittedly, it’s rather convenient (or is it fate?) that ‘Maine’ rhymes with ‘rain’. The possibilities are really endless.
Swampfoot: (noun) a condition hikers develop after long periods of hiking in wet socks and boots. Seriously, Google image search that shit.
Zach and I have been pretty adamant about staying dry because swampfoot is the WORST. So many people just tromp right through the bogs and rivers without bothering to protect their feet and the results are simply disastrous. I think I will continue to take the extra effort to rock hop or take my boots off while fording rivers to save myself from a world of warped appendages. Ugh.
A Zero: (noun) a day when a hiker puts in 0 miles. A day of rest and recuperation, and often gear repair.
Imagine the one day off you have from work when you catch up on all the stuff you were too tired to do during the week. Today (June 28th) is actually our first one in a month so far. We have a to-do list for the day, but it’s still nice to not be walking uphill. My knees are thinking about forgiving me after all.
One Point Niner: (noun) an infinitely long and grueling part of the day when you’re just starting to get tired and you see that you have under 2 miles until you can camp. And then everything goes straight to hell.
You’re tired. You’ve put in a lot of miles today. You just want to cruise on to the shelter. But right at that moment, the AT decides to throw every piece of bullshit you’ve encountered so far back in your face. Unavoidable bogs, fallen trees (AKA blow downs), steep rises in elevation that weren’t on the map (there’s nothing worse than the sense of betrayal you feel when the map lies to you), swarms of blood suckers, it starts raining, etc.
This is one we came up with. It doesn’t happen often, but just enough to have earned its own term. If we get to the end of the day and the last section has just totally sucked, it’s a one point niner if I ever hiked one.
Sometimes it’s hard. But mostly it’s just part of the adventure. If I actually have learned anything vaguely philosophical so far, it’s that you have to let that bad shit go almost as soon as it happens. You can’t do anything about it so you can’t let it ruin your day, and you especially can’t let it ruin your hike. So many other south bounders have quit because they let it get to them.
That’s not to say it doesn’t get to me sometimes too.
But I say, get mad!
Pitch a fit! Cry and scream irrationally at your partner!
And let it go.