|A single white blaze, preserved and framed, in Kent|
My idea for today was to do a mile out of town, camp at the first shelter, to spend the afternoon chilling out and reading, eating a sandwich I bought in town, but when I got there someone was already there. A 20-year-old blonde girl who’d already been camped at the shelter for a week, waiting for a visit and a new backpack. She was thru-hiking too, from Delaware Water Gap to Katahdin, theoretically, in white jeans and with a Cabela’s pack and a pink Walmart tent. Hiking really does take all kinds, and it’s interesting to see how far different kinds of people can get with various kinds of gear.
So my plan for a lovely solo afternoon was foiled. As much as I enjoy meeting all of these people, I had envisioned more alone time. I’m beginning to think that for alone time I’d need the Continental Divide Trail, or Baxter State Park in winter. Solitude is always more challenging than I think it is—both to find and to keep.
At dusk, three more hikers pulled in, another group of three twenty-year-old girls, these ones bedecked in ultralight gear, with tiny backpacks and going at a bruising pace, a long section but not a thru-hike. Again, they’re racing to Katahdin—21 miles today and seventeen, including a town stop, planned for tomorrow. It was cool that, for the night, it was an all-female shelter, and cooler still that the fact was not particularly remarkable. But still, I find myself craving those golden sunlit afternoons, alone in nature, that I was looking for.