Last Saturday Ayla and I got up early and headed to the Blue Hills. I took her to my new favorite spots and we stopped for an early lunch on Rattlesnake Hill next to a tiny pond with a tiny beach where we sat on some rocks. I fired up my tiny stove and boiled some water in my new tiny cook pot (a major update from my old clunky big heavy camp pot) and I poured in the bag of dehydrated chili I made a couple of weeks ago and within minutes it came back to life like magic. It tasted as good as it did before I dehydrated it. I spooned it into a couple bowls and Ayla and I ate it with much delight. She then pulled out of her backpack a couple of cups and some instant coffee which was a lovely surprise. Turns out that starbucks instant hot coffee will dissolve just fine in cold water and tastes great. We lounged at this little beach and talked to fellow hikers who were enamored by our hot lunch on the trail. Then we hiked for a few more hours and meandered along the sky line all the way to the eastern terminus where we turned back following a network of other trails back towards the car. It wouldn’t be a hike in the Blue Hills without getting slightly lost so this lead us up this lovely little hill called Fox Hill which was so quiet and peaceful and Ayla greeted a giant toad up there.
On Sunday, Tracy and I headed to the Fells and looped in and around the reservoirs on the soft pine floor following these smallish paths along the water’s edge and weaving in and out with the skyline trail. The ducks were doing their spring dance mating thing and we saw a Downy Woodpecker hacking away at a tree less than 10 feet off the ground. It was truly peaceful with just the right amount of strenuousness. The water was so sparkly and the colors changed from different spots revealing deep dark greenish blues that reminded me of Down East Maine.
I’ve been listening to a few different podcasts lately about backpacking and this has given me a lot to think about in regards to food, gear, Leave No Trace ethics, emotional and physical health, and all the information I take in keeps reaffirming me that there is no real way to truly prepare a newby for a thru hike. Zippers break, Tents leak, Injuries happen, stuff gets lost, the post office doesn’t have that resupply box of food that was carefully packed and sent to that last town before the next long stretch, animals get into food, thunder and lightning gets in the way of crossing the next ridge line….all this stuff can’t be planned for. So as much as I am trying to “prepare” for my thru-hike by upgrading some of my gear, meal planning, reading blogs, and reading my map like a tarot card, I know that at the end of the day, I will just have to take those first few steps from Journey’s End and turn it all over the Mother Nature and the Trail and try to take what comes at me with grace and humility.
My favorite podcast right now is called Sounds of The Trail. It specifically follows a couple of women who are thru hiking the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest trail. These hikers make audio journal-style recordings from the trail and also interview other thru hikers that they meet along the way. They send their recordings to the producer and she edits together some really entertaining stories and updates. Its kind of like reality radio from the trail. I love the wide variety of experiences that it has to offer. It gives the perspectives from the younger and wilder crowds who are partying their way down the trail, as well as those who have more life experience and might be in a transition or finally fulfilling a long-time dream, and the soloists who are on a journey of self discovery.
This morning I listened to an episode about hygiene on the trail which talks about pooping, peeing, menstruating and trying to stay healthy while not showering for 7 days at a time without changing your clothes and at the same time, outputting some hardcore physical effort which means being sweaty all day, being rained on and getting muddy. I smile while I write this because it just all sounds so gross! I’m not the cleanest person ever and I quit deodorant in 1997 cause it seemed pointless. I don’t shower every day and I get pretty grungy at work sometimes but I know that nothing can prepare me for the filth of trail life.