|Rock at the Massachusetts border, atop which Big County sat in 2004 (2015)|
|And here he is, sitting on the rock in 2004|
This morning I stayed by myself at the shelter till eleven. The thru-hiker I camped with left at 5:30, so I had the whole chilly morning to myself for sleeping then reading then random camping tasks—sewing up my hiking shorts, trimming my toenails. It was the kind of Appalachian Trail morning—a vista of mountains, a running brook in front—that I’d dreamed of before starting. The wonder is that I hiked at all.
But I did, thinking of eight easy miles to the next shelter. They were not easy. In the register someone compared this Massachusetts ridge line to a mini-New Hampshire, and I thought they were exaggerating but they were not. Clambering up and down seemingly impossible rock massifs, sliding down on my butt, going backwards using all four limbs.
It’s days like today I realized why this particular trail is legendary, why it deserves its reputation, why it’s a test of endurance in its relentlessness. I love it and I hate it all at once. I love that I can never take it for granted, that eight miles is never easy. I hate how painful it is, the excruciating shin splints I am developing from ramming into hard granite.
I slid into camp right at dark, with rain beginning to fall, two people already asleep in their bags. I made Thai ramen in the rain, spilling some when my too-flimsy aluminum windbreak collapsed, retreating to the shelter to wait and eat in the dark. But even sliding into my bag, cold and sweaty and exhausted and in pain, I was so happy. This is really living; why I am here.
[Hiking the same section in 2004.]