Thank you to those that supported me along the way; I really enjoyed this blog and keeping up with people at home...and now, I have a nice journal to remember what I went through when I think about my next section! Still have 1500 miles untraveled!
Fortunately, no ligament damage to the knee. Unfortunately, it's a bone issue. The near future looks murky as far as running is concerned, but I will get back, eventually. I'm a bit demoralized, but I will get there.
Reflection and Lessons Learned:
Well, I failed to do what I set out for, but it was an amazing journey. I started out in Maine with no camping experience minus going to the field in the army (which, except for basic training, usually amounted to sleeping in a vehicle or on a cot with ample food), my multi-day running adventures, and a single night camping in the woods at home.
Just as most hikers do, I started with entirely too much stuff, both food and gear! From my running experience, I know that I wanted to travel as light as possible, but I didn't know what to trim. My pack, with food and water, started well above 30 pounds (albeit with 10 days of food for the 100 mile wilderness and was still significantly lighter than most that started with me). At the end of my trip, I had a new pack with well less than 20 pounds including supplies (3-4 days), probably about a 15 pound difference! I'm still not a big fan of camping, but as expected, I enjoy covering miles. To that end, I prefer traveling with less amenities. Eventually, I was both stove and tent-less. If I travel lighter, I move faster which means I get to towns faster (along with showers, beds, and delicious, effortless meals)! I'm lazy at home. I'm just as lazy on the trail. Quick and convenient wins. As a caveat, I did have a tarp waiting for me if I continued further on my trip. I need to practice setting that up, but I think it'd be a practical tent replacement for me in the cases where I need some sort of weather protection and suffered without a tent. Maybe not in the heart of mosquito country, though?
As I've gotten home, I have already reduced a bit of clutter. I have too much crap; as a lot of minimalist materials attest to, I definitely think that our society, and especially myself, suffer from the problem of abundance. Next out the door, my kitchen table! Enjoy Shannon (my little sis!). Then I'll have to figure out the dilemma of what new place to throw all of my clutter when I come in the door! OH NO!
I'm grateful that I opted not to prepare supply boxes before leaving home as I adapted along the trail based on what I wanted to eat. For example, by the time I was leaving out of the 100 mile wilderness, 115 miles into the trip I could no longer eat Lara bars which were a big part of my snack package initially. I added in a lot of candy and would later add fruit snacks as an easy 80 calorie addition to each snack that were easily digested and NOT DRY! Cheese was another boon! I love cheese. I ate a ton of tuna; it was just a necessity to try and increase my protein intake with dinner. Leaving Bennington, I got creative and brought leftover pizza with me for my next meal on the trail. That was awesome and that moment made me realize that I didn't utilize "real food" on the trail often enough. That was really good for my spirits. All told, I did very well replacing the calories that I used and returned home only between eight and ten pounds lighter, which, again from my running experience, means that I was taking in an appropriate amount of calories to continue powering through. I probably could've done some healthier options, but my food selection achieved its function.
Following along with the appreciation for not packing my supply boxes is just the ability to live in the moment, without a worry about work or responsibilities. There's the mantra "the trail will provide" and it generated continued discussion on the trail. Whether it was the fortuitous ramen noodles in the 100 mile wilderness, the juicy apple waiting upon a sign post, or the random passerby eagerly willing to pick up desperate hikers, the world always seemed to come through in the greatest moments of need without prompting. The unspeakable kindness and generosity of the trail made us openly wonder whether we were realizing it because the generosity on the trail itself is so great or because we had simplified our lives to the point where we recognized the prevalence of such small, yet powerful actions that are occurring around us all the time that we're oblivious to in a "normal" lives. In a lot of ways, the journey was restorative towards my faith in humanity. There is still a lot of good in the world, despite the inundating negativity of the "real world."
Now, I was joking with everyone as I ate with total abandon prior to coming onto the trail that I was building my reserve for the trail. That was not an issue; however, I was probably more reckless in my training (or total lack thereof) going into the trail which led to a lot of humbling and, quite possibly, may have aided in my demise. My body handled the miles about as well as could be expected, my feet never hurt, but my knees and all the muscles that support them could have used some training. My quads, hamstrings, and glutes were not ready for the mountains that awaited them. I'm not sure that I could have been wholly prepared, but there are things I could've done to better prep them such as trying to find more hills and spending some time in the weight room. While on the trail, I probably could have spent more (or any time) stretching out and trying to enhance some of the recovery in my legs. Still, I will probably try to spend some more time in the future climbing hills and mountains just to add that level of conditioning to my body. Going through that terrain I was envious of the training that those northern runners could achieve while I spend my time easily shuffling along flat roads. I need to make some additions and modifications to my running if I want to take on more technical races or those with elevation, a lesson I've unfortunately been taught more than once at races like Ft. Clinch.
Lastly, the greatest part of the trail was definitely the people and experiences that I took the time to embrace along the way and the gratefulness that I have for all of it. For many people, the trail has the potential to be a life-changing experience. I learned a lot. I'm grateful for it. But, I don't feel as if I'm about to throw my life upside down. I also recognize that the trip was a luxury in both cost and being able to put the rest of my life aside for several months while focusing on myself. The trail is a selfish endeavor; you may be better for it, and selfishness is not always a bad thing, but it is selfish. I'm grateful for everyone that helped keep my house standing. my animals fed, and provided encouragement and support (in all forms) along the way. I hope that I can pay that forward in the future.
We shall see, but I truly hope and believe the trail has not seen the last of me.
Trail Miles: 706
Total Days on the Trail: 62
Total Zeros: 16 (8 of which occurred within last 200 miles due to left knee)
Daily Average with Zeros: 11.4 miles
Daily Average without Zeroes: 15.3 miles
Longest Day: 27 miles
States completed: 4 (20ish miles from 5)
Dropped @ 63/Resupply in 100 Mile Wilderness: Lotion, Chapstick, Camp Socks, Rain Pants