|Mountain laurel, 2015|
It also seems an entirely different thing than a single-season "through" hike, hiking through, end to end, from Georgia to Maine. I feel like I can spot the Georgia-to-Mainers, or Gamers [GA->ME], as I've started calling them. Their packs are dirtier, their gear lighter, the glint in their eyes crazier. I don't judge the flip-floppers—hike your own hike—but they're still in their first quarter, shaking down gear, finding their legs.
Passing me on the trail, I can tell the Gamers because they're relieved when I don't ask them where they started, or what their trail name is. I nod and say, have a good hike. They move past at their three-mile-an-hour pace, covering in one day what took me three. If someone stops to talk, it's undoubtedly a section hiker, or flipper, or someone finishing off a thru-hike from a couple of years back.
I like camping with flippers, though. Pack, an older gentleman hiking with an external farm pack, put it best: it makes me feel resentment, he said. Speaking of the mega-milers who blow past, as the rest of us (me) suffer through ten-mile days, footsore and weary. I keep trying to remember, again, as cliched as it is: hike your own hike. Even them—maybe it's as hard for them to go slow as it'd be for me to go fast.