It has been an eventful week. I started it off by doing a 26.7 mile day to make myself feel a little better for taking days off last week. All was well, and I was on schedule to finish before dark, when suddenly I saw dark rain clouds above me. Not a big deal. I walk in the rain all the time. I looked at my watch, saw it was 6:40, looked at the map, saw I had 3.6 miles left, and started cruising up a 1,100 foot climb. Just as I started up, a huge lightening bolt struck the tree right above me. I almost peed my pants. I tightened my load lifter straps and started running. As I closed in on the top of the mountain, the trees started thinning and I was exposed to open sky. Lucking I had gotten slightly ahead of the storm by this point, but there was still lightening and thunder crashing right behind me. The running continued. By 7:30 I had reached the shelter and took cover just before it started pouring. I think this is the first time I can say that I literally outran a storm.
To my surprise, I had reception at the shelter, so I quickly checked my fundraising page before hitting the hay. I just started incoherently screaming when I saw it. Not only had I crossed my halfway point, but I had gotten my two biggest donations to date. I hoped no one had been trying to sleep, because they definitely weren’t anymore. This means so much more to me than how many miles I’ve walked. All of the excitement led me to telling anyone within ears reach about the amazing things happening at Heart For Africa and the sweet babies who are going to get a fair chance at life and will be loved every single day because of the donations we’ve been able to raise. A Southbounder, whom I had just met, overheard my story and gave me the only $3.00 in his wallet to donate to the cause. People are beautiful! Thank you to everyone who is helping me to reach my goal of $1.00 for every mile walked. We are getting close!
A few days later, I was doing another fairly big day through some tough terrain. With no more than six miles left for the day, it started to downpour. I don’t mind hiking in the rain that much, but it was a bummer to know I’d have to hike in wet socks until I got a chance to wash them.
Right when I got to the town, I was hoping to find somewhere to set up my tent. I heard party music and assumed it was some high schoolers throwing a party. As I walked by the house, I saw about a dozen people playing ping pong in the garage and drinking something fun out of red solo cups. I said hi, followed by “you guys look like you’re having too much fun”, when they waved me over and told me to join the party. Who am I to object? Within minutes of arriving they gave me a cider, had me take a shot with them, and were offering me food. I picked the right party to crash! It turns out this was the annual back to school bash the principal of one of the local schools threw for the teachers. I want to go to this school! They know how to have a good time. We took many more shots, played some polish horseshoes (I’m no good), watched some intense ping pong and ate lots of yummy food. Then just about everyone had to go home to let their babysitters go. It was a little embarrassing that the elementary aged children were able to stay up later than me. The family let me take a shower, washed my dirty clothes, and set up the pull-out couch.
In the morning, they made me a big breakfast of bacon and eggs and I was able to hang out with their sweet children a little bit. I couldn’t help but see myself in their daughter. She’s got a big spirit and will go on to do great things. Who knows, maybe she’ll hike the trail one day. After breakfast I packed up, we took some pictures, then we went our separate ways. I hope to keep in contact with them. It was the best trail magic ever! (Yes, they told me to say that, but it’s true).
Later that day, I walked down what’s known as Trail Magic Street. A street just before the New Hampshire border where residents leave coolers full of sodas, cookies, and other treats for the hikers. I crossed into New Hampshire and immediately arrived on the Dartmouth campus. They know how to treat hikers right! The local pizza place gave me a free slice and the gelato store gave me a free latte’ just for being a thru-hiker. Also, the campus gym let me borrow a frisbee to practice my skills with some other hikers.
Unfortunately, I must have caught some sort of bug because later that night I started feeling sick and have yet to recover. I get so bummed when I have to take zero days, but I have to realize that my health comes first and that it’s better to deal with this now than in the middle of the Whites.
Speaking of the Whites. Almost immediately after leaving Hanover I will reach the White Mountains, which are pretty much universally known as the most difficult section of the trail. They have literally been built up by just about everyone I talked to since my first day on the trail. I’ve spent the last three months completely intimidated by them. However, in the past week I’ve tried to change my mindset. I know I’m going to get through them. After all, quitting is not an option, so why fear them? I am strong, capable, and can do anything I set my mind to. It reminds me of voice lessons in college. When I’d tense up and psyche myself out for a big note, it would come out strained and lead to pain and exhaustion in my throat, but when I’d relax, take a big breath, and approach it with ease, the note would come out sounding ten times better. I’d feel good and would only then actually be able to have fun with it. That’s my goal for this week.
See ya on the other side of the Whites!