You from around here?
I was only a mile into my first day of section hiking/running the 54 miles of the International Appalachian Trail between Houlton and Fort Fairfield, Maine, when an older man driving a pickup truck pulled up along side me on the recreation trail.
I chuckled to myself and told him where I was from. This was not Deliverance (I wasn’t scared), but it was a not exactly friendly rural curiosity that I did not expect to encounter…I mean, I am a local.
What are you doing here?
Well, you can’t get there from here…unless you are running along the border.
I just smiled. It wasn’t a question with an answer. Running from point A to point B clearly had labeled me as somewhat cRA-zY; nevermind that he was doing something illegal (driving a pickup on a recreation trail!).
After our interaction (he drove off soon after, shaking his head), I felt sort of happy. This ridiculous conversation made it an adventure and I felt that I was actually doing something. If you never do anything unusual, no one will ever ask you what you’re up to. Therefore, I must be doing something right!
Deer flies aside, it was a lovely first day of section hiking/running. I was pleasantly awed by my surroundings. I live right here, but I had never been on this trail before. I had driven the road nearby plenty of times and I was not expecting much, honestly. But it was beautiful and quiet and forested. Taking this trail through the area I live gives me a very different perspective of it.
Although it was a running distance that was not unusual for me (this stretch was 7.5 miles), going from point A to point B feels much different than something I would do in loops from my house. All those point to points will add up until I can say that I ran/hiked from ___ to ___, a decidedly different accomplishment.
I was excited to cover the trail when the idea first occurred to me, simply because it was there. I didn’t know anyone who had done it and it’s not something that people living here even know much about. But I am a thru hiker by nature, and if there is a trail, of course I should do it. It would be wrong for me not to! However, having started, I am even more excited about it than I was in theory. I can’t wait to cover new sections!
When I was first considering this, I knew it would have to be a section hike, because I do have four young kids. I thought I’d take them with me, but the logistics were so complicated. I needed John’s help in shuttling and then I’d be dragging children for longer than they wanted to be out, and it would eat up many, many days, and possibly not be all that pleasant if they were complaining.
So, I needed to go it alone. Then, I wanted to do the sections in order in a southbound manner, so I would always pick up where I left off. I have thru hiked two trails (the Appalachian Trail and the Long Trail in Vermont), and I did both of them southbound. Southbound forever was sort of a motto in my mind (against the current). Most people hike trails northbound, because the logistics are in some ways easier (the northern parts are less accessible) and it’s the more common route. But we have always gone south and we’ve loved that.
Instead, logistically, this made sense to run/hike randomly, and every section I’ve done so far (3 out of 6) I have done headed north, because it’s been easier to set up. So, I am breaking all my rules!
Back in cross country days in high school, we had shirts that said, “pain is temporary; pride lasts forever.” I would also say that annoyances are temporary; satisfaction lasts forever. When deer flies are making me nutty while I run, I know that the moment I reach my car at the end of the section, the deer flies will be forgotten, but I will have completed part of my goal. When I couldn’t find the trail when I was almost to the end on my second day and I had to cover an additional 5 hot miles to get to my car by another route, that also was part of the adventure and another day behind me. The annoyances just don’t matter past the moment (remind me of that on a super-whiny day with the kids!).
So, this might not rank super high on the adventure-o-meter, but it does at least register. I feel alive when I’m covering the miles; I am doing something out of the ordinary. It gives me a goal and a reason to be excited to get out of bed. And even Mommy needs that!
What is something you’ve found creative ways to accomplish, or maybe not your preferred way? Exercise? Crafts? A silly trail goal?