Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ten Mile River Lean-to to Webatuck Shelter (Wiley)

4.1 miles
View from the shelter in the morning

Crossing the Connecticut-New York border (in 2004)
My idea for today was again, knowing thunderstorms were forecast for the afternoon, to do a short-mileage day and camp at the first shelter.  Really, I am hiking shelter-to-shelter, trying to stay at each one.  For no reason other than my own sense of completion, originally thinking I’d sleep at each shelter I missed in my thru-hiker.  But I missed so many.

But I think I can take the afternoon off—read, write, chill out.  Spend some time with the birds.  As I write one flies across in front of me, angry that I am sitting too close to its nest.  I hope I am not keeping the last avian of its kind from warming its young.  When I go and visit at the picnic table with another thru-hiker hiking through, the bird poops on my open notebook.  I swear it is intentional.

The barrage of hikers is relentless.  Again, no solo afternoon in the woods. I hole up by the shelter with my notebook and my pen and let the hikers talk among themselves.  But they are so close, I can hear every minute of their conversation.  And conversations among hikers can be asinine and repetitive, the same stories told again and again.  Here’s a sample, between two section hikers and a Nobo.  The section hikers are still shocked at regular trail exigencies, like their friend, who:

Section-hikers: …dropped us off.  He’d hiked hundred miles before and I had to get him in my car to take him back to his.  It was just randomly parked somewhere!


SH:  When did you start?

Thru-hiker:  March 28.

SH:  Man you’re *through* hiking.


SH:  Have you seen anything outrageous?

TH:  There’s this guy Hawkeye that’s always drunk.  No filter.  Whenever anyone sees him, he’s sitting in the trail, doing shots, not actually doing anything ever.  He’s like, never hiking.  When I first met him I was so scared.  I thought, this is the guy that’s going to kill me.

SH:  Do you carry a tent with you?

TH:  Yeah.  I feel like shelters are for those people who need it more.  Even if it’s crappy out, I use my tent.

SH:  Cool.

TH:  I figure my stuff’s wet already.


TH:  You guys work in the city?

SH1:  I live and work in the city, but my brother here—he—

SH2:  I’m just out for this.

SH1:  Where are you from?

TH:  Ohio, mostly.

SH1:  I’ve heard good things about Columbus.

[TH goes to get water.]

SH1:  Look at this.

SH2:  Oh wow.  [evaluating their packs]

SH1:  I mean, they’re shoved in as much as I can get ‘em.

SH1:  [trying to convince his brother to go to the next shelter] It’s just at the top of a mountain so we have to climb a little bit…


So that gives you an idea of the kind of mind-numbing dialog that happens again and again around shelters and their picnic tables.  I get sick of it.  I try to distance myself but am still distracted.  Later, I go and speak to the thru-hiker, Superglue.  We speak closer to the same language, but not that much.  There’s a noticeable relaxation from the thru-hikers when I tell them I hiked in 04.  They don’t have to explain themselves or their gear, I know what they’re going through.  Or I try to remember.

He is tired, in the zone, on his way towards *miles.*  He ran cross-country ever since middle school, eighty miles a week for probably the last ten years he tells me.  I can think of worse ways to train for the Appalachian Trail.

I say:  you mean every step is not pain for you?

He looks at me quizzically.  I think if my feet didn’t get tired, I could go all night, he says.  He is doing consistent 20+ days.  Maybe this is why I do four.

And then that night another of my now three-in-a-row conversations about climate change.  Tonight is with Macklemore, a Louisiana audio engineer, who bought all his gear at a thrift shop.  As a solution he proposed an all-agrarian society, with a barter economy.  But his mindset is nihilistic.  Nothing we do matters.  Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow all the trees die.

[Hiking the same section in 2004.]

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