I managed to get myself off my rear end today enough to go to Ludington and do some critical errands. You know I absolutelly hate errands on a good day, and they are especially hateful on a day when I'd rather just sit and vegetate. The enticement to actually do them was that I would get to buy my favorite ice cream on the way home.
I did it all.
One of the really hard parts of coming off a hike is that your body thinks it wants enough food to walk 15 miles, but then it's not really walking 15 miles. I'm trying really hard to drop back to real-life calories, but I'm not there yet. I did manage to hold myself to one dish of the ice cream.
What kind? Moose Tracks, and the best one I've found is the Meijer Purple Cow brand. It's creamier than any others. I haven't had this particular ice cream for 13 months. So it's a big deal that I only ate one bowl, OK?
I started reading a book about an Appalachian Trail hike, and it has sparked some thoughts. The story is one of those where a person just decides, out of the blue, to hike the AT. She was a 51-year-old empty nester, and felt compelled, even called to do this.
Comparing her descriptions of the experience to my own hikes is interesting.
For starters, she was not comfortable alone in the outdoors. She tells how she had to get used to the nights, the mice, the snakes, etc. I can't even relate to feelings like that, let alone describe them.
But one of the results of her inexperience was that she probably found even more joy and beauty in the spectacular places along the trail than I do. Not that I don't feel that hitch of breath as I look out over the immense waters of Lake Superior or realize that George Washington really did walk that piece of trail before me. But, at this point, I'm so familiar with the North Country Trail that these encounters are more like re-establishing bonds with old friends than like falling in love at first sight with someone.
She didn't really know how to use her equipment when she started. I don't get that at all. I can understand needing to make adjustments to the details of using something day after day on the trail, but I'm much too persnickety to take off on any kind of trip without understanding what my gear does.
Perhaps what I've thought about most is that I'll never be able to go back and see the NCT through the eyes of a first-time hiker. Sure, there were pieces of new trail, but even where the treadway was new, I usually know the people who built it, maybe even who designed it, what kinds of permissions and political struggles it took to put the trail there, and maybe even conflicts and compromises required to get it on the ground. I often know specifically why maintenance is difficult or lacking in a particular area. Yeah, there are 4800 miles of this trail, but I've come to know them in a truly personal way.
In the early days of my hiking, I just saw the trail and whether it was well-marked and maintained or not. I had some of those knee-jerk reactions we still see from hikers. "Why don't they get this cleaned up?" "Why is this trail still on the road?" "What on earth were they thinking to cross this creek without a bridge?" Etc.
I don't really have any thoughts here with a conclusion. I do know that questions like these are why I chose to get involved with the North Country Trail so many years ago. It's a big trail that may never have enough volunteers to keep things perfect. I felt it was a trail organization where I could make a difference.
It was weird to not go hiking this morning. I'm starting to feel somewhat recovered, although not enough to put a serious dent in my work list. And I needed more books. I came home from the library with six more and 2 DVDs. There seems to be a big book black hole in my system that is sucking in words. Gotta go read some more!