The world was grey, muddy and dripping. I had lost my hiking companion in the fog long before this picture. We were doing okay but it was a day of going up hill continually and just being wet.
Step. Breathe. Repeat. got me through a lot of struggles but I could feel myself just getting sad, tired and focusing on what I didn't have (dry socks for one). I wasn't going to wake up in the morning and necessarily be dry and able to not hike the next day. I was missing family & friends. And, in truth, after I gave my head a shake, I realized I was missing the beauty in which I was immersed (to underline the wetness of the day).
So the new directive of STOP. LOOK. APPRECIATE ((three things) so I wouldn't be stuck all day) was developed.
Not a directive that made me any faster but made me more appreciative for the discoveries around me.
You can walk the Trail and focus on what you learn about yourself...the fact that you can put one foot ahead the other even on days when you don't want to, you can learn about the natural world and the variations in that you are incredibly privileged to have the time to notice... or you can learn and wonder at the history of the people who once in habited this land.
My grandparents had fruit trees on their farm so in the spring when I would walk past an flowering apple tree in the woods I would wonder where the farm house foundations were, what community had once been here. This lily was photographed at the site of the Tyringham Shaker Village. It is now a tent site along the AT but at one time it was a bustling farming village that focused on maple sugar & seed production.
On this day it was a bright and peaceful spot where Bedgie and I took a break for lunch and to dry out socks & tents before continuing on our trek through Massachusetts.
Part of Connecticut was hiked. Actually I was kinda happy with the pace I was developing, and the growing sense of 'I might be able to do this.'
There was a guy that I couldn't seem to shake. Eventhough he should have been able to out pace me, every night he would be at the shelter I was planning on sleeping in. (And yes, I know now it likely had nothing to do with me but at the time it seemed connected.)
So when a friend called and asked if I would hike with her from Massachusetts to Maine which would mean skipping about 54 miles of Connecticut I said yes. (34 miles of this were hiked this fall and the last 20 will be an overnight spring hike in 2016).
This bridge is in southern Massachusetts, the state of mud ( not to be mistaken with Vermont, Vermud or the state of very much mud). I liked bridges. They were rarely covered in mud unlike everything else.
Back when I first thought about fundraising for next year's hike, I was actually hiking. I spent days designing calendars in my mind as my eyes looked out for rocks and roots. I would even jot down pictures and think to myself how will I ever include all the amazing things.
And then I realized that part of this is about leaving a trace. A bit like the notes left by others in the shelter logs. Shelters along the Appalachian Trail have logs where people leave notes. Sometimes it is merely their trail name, sometimes it is a shout out to someone behind them ( like Molly Pack saying 'hi' to me in this image), sometimes it is notes about the state of the Trail conditions or thanks to the maintainers or occasionally it is a long philosophical treatise about whatever they have spent the last 8 hours of hiking thinking about. When you are alone in the shelter it is lovely to read the other voices.
Finally trying to get it together to get the calendar out the door, I realized that I didn't have to capture all of the Trail in 12 months. I could give everyone a trace of the beauty and leave a few markers for you to find your own way.