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Thursday, September 23, 2021

It Doesn't Have to be Epic

  One of the programs of the NCTA conference this summer was given by a woman named Jo Swanson who made it her goal to stay at all 94 campsites along the Superior Hiking Trail and write about each one. She started out "big," and tried to make each experience special. Somewhere along the way, she realized that not every experience had to be epic... she just needed to finish.

I think I first realized this on one of the early sections of my North Country Trail hike.

I wrote in North Country Cache, "Here I sit in my pajamas, at the Jonesville laundromat, experiencing genuine American culture along the North Country Trail. Today, I have changed my mind about what constitues a Hike. I've always been one of those diehard minimalists (secretly cursed by their friends), a pioneer wannabe, who scoffed at those who want to carry less weight, sleep in a warm dry place, or take a shorter route. If there was a hard way to do something, I would find it and exult in the discovery.

"Today I have realized that despite eating my dinner in the car with the heater running full blast, despite that fact that I have wimped out and chosen to dry my wardrobe with the aid of coin-activated technology, this hike counts."

However, I did not say it as succinctly as Jo. "It doesn't have to be epic." This is such a great thought that I was not the only person who wrote this down. My hiker friend Ruth also made a note of it.

Now, I just have to remember that it's true. I'm seriously excited and terrified about the project I'll be undertaking in only 9 weeks. My list of big things to do before then has 53 entries and only 2 of them are crossed off so far. That just made my stomach flip. I need to finish these items at the rate of about one a day, without fail, to be ready to leave on December 1.

But... this does not have to be epic. This does not have to be Lord of the Rings. I don't have to meet a deadline at Mount Doom. I just want to do it. I don't have to feel guilty that I'm not backpacking the whole trail- that I'm giving in to the comfort of having help and sleeping in the trailer most nights. I don't even HAVE to do the 15 miles a day. If I can't then the hike will take me longer and I will probably get in snow trouble in the UP in October. But that just needs a different solution.

Here are Marie and me. It's a given that this picture was taken 27 years ago. For me it was 15 pounds ago. I was at my lowest adult weight ever of 104 pounds. I'm sure Marie will confess to being thinner too although she might not share numbers. I was entering grad school and at the height of fitness and perhaps hubris. Chips was eager and it seemed like the good life would never end. We were embarking on our first long hike on the NCT- 96 miles through the Allegheny National Forest of Pennsylvania. I hadn't even yet thought about hiking the entire North Country Trail.

Grad school ended. Chips died. I finished my first hike of the NCT in 2010. But Marie and I are forever friends.

The trail just won't stop calling to me. For whatever reasons, I'll be non-epically heading east on December 1. Stay tuned. hikers Allegheny National Forest

In other news: I can cross one item off my list today. I did the final edit of Dead Mule Swamp Singer. That took all day, but it was raining, so it was a good day for the project.

See Letting the Secret Out of the Bag


Ann said...

"It doesn't have to be epic" is a good line to keep in mind. That can apply to anything we do in life.

Sharkbytes said...

Ann- it sure is! I particularly like epic, so I need to be told this often.