Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chapter 106: Sneakers Were a Mistake

Leaving home for the final third of the trail, I brought with me two new items of apparel. Well, not exactly "new," as in I got them a long time ago, but new for me on the trail. Got that? Anyway, the first was a pair of relatively unscathed New Balance 806 trail runners. The second were some seldom-used Adidas swim trunks. Both were huge mistakes.

Many people on the trail will tell you that taking one pound off your feet is like taking five pounds off your back, and I believe them. Usually because what they say is appended with the reassuring qualification, "...or you're gonna die," and I have a well-known, life-long aversion to death. That said, I hope it's understandable why I thought that these comparatively light trail runners were a great idea, especially in Connecticut and Massachusetts, where the terrain was still relatively mild.

However, my anticipated weight gains were somewhat mitigated by the fact that I had steadfastly refused to give up my beloved Asolo boots, and stowing them added a previously unaccounted for three pounds to my pack. In that context, bringing sneakers may have been little more than a stupid mistake. Or an especially stupid one, because I also failed to take into account the fact that my feet had swollen just slightly due to me pounding the everloving shit out of them for three straight months. So the sneakers didn't fit. And, while they weren't excruciatingly painful, they were essentially useless, and so just more dead weight in my pack. Wonderful. I seldom wore them, but usually regretted it when I did. The blisters were horrible.

As for the swim trunks? Well, they were brilliant. Lightweight. Breathable. Quick-drying. One teensy little problem, though: they featured a built-in mesh liner. Which would have been great if I were actually swimming, and wanted to enjoy the exhilarating feeling of water flowing around my genitals. But for hiking? Ruinous. The chafing was horrible.

I wrote the following in my journal that morning:
July 7,

Man, I'm hungry/thirsty/itchy/head-hurty. I think I slept better/for longer than I did last night, and I've got a shorter day in front of me. Maybe.

Thinking about tearing the netting out of my shorts to alleviate the ball chafing.

It's gonna be a hot one.

-Major Chafage
Later that morning, I hiked into Salisbury to resupply at their lovely, decadent, "heinously overpriced" grocery store. Whatever. Newman's Own Pomegranate Lemonade never tasted so sweet. I drank an entire half gallon in less than fifteen minutes.

And then began the long sojourn up Bear Mountain, the tallest mountain in Connecticut. I'd hiked up it before, but never with a forty pound backpack. I'd previously failed to appreciate just how... Well, no, it still wasn't that difficult.

It was actually kind of beautiful, though. Especially when the trees thinned out, and the trail became a series of rock slabs surrounded by low-lying blueberry bushes. With the brilliant blue sky above marked by only the occasional faint traces of some thin, wispy clouds. And then looking around at the lush, golden-hued valley below, tinged by the light of the afternoon sun? I could have stayed there forever.

And maybe I did linger too long. Because, once again, I failed to make it to my desired destination, in this case the Hemlocks Lean-to just north of the Massachusetts border. Speaking of which, I'd heard a rumor about some trail magic. Apparently someone was in the habit of leaving sodas in the Sawmill Brook, some two tenths of a mile from the state line. I eagerly scrambled down to the water's edge, only to find... Nothing. Later on, some chipper tourists gifted me some candy bars after finding out I was a thru-hiker. They were mostly melted. I took one and left the others propped against the trunk of a tree, hoping others would find and enjoy them. Or maybe I just didn't want to have to pack them out. Disappointed and ashamed, I gave up making it to the shelter, and turned off towards the Race Brook Falls tent platforms.

Where I was, once again, alone. Except for a young lesbian couple, who mostly kept to themselves. And the literally thousands of mosquitos. For some inexplicable reason, and despite the unbearable heat, I made a campfire, by myself, and wrote the following in my notebook:
July 7, cont'd

Am I allowed to quit? I don't know if I can do this alone. I'm having a nervous breakdown every day. Freaking bugs. Freaking heat. The pain in my feet is constant. I am always uncomfortable, despite my ability to do good time. Sneakers were a mistake.

I wonder if I had gotten soda at that creek back there instead of crappy, melted candy bars I would feel better. Is that sad? But isn't trail magic defined as help that comes in the most dire of circumstances? And aren't these dire circumstances?

What's keeping me going? Shame? And not being able to implement my "secret" plan. Lame. If I really wanted to I could just, regardless of the setting. Tired, bleak.

Don't know what to do.
A little later, I added a third entry for the day:
July 7, one more time

Major Chafage doesn't quit. He does, however, cry a lot, wastes way too much time eating blueberries, and camps illegally on the tops of mountains and in reforestation areas. Here's hoping no AMC Ridge Runner comes around to-- is that a wolf barking/howling? Major Chafage is unaffraid. Major Chafage builds campfires in 100° weather. Major Chafage is just dumb special like that...

And that's it! I've finally gone insane! Not to mention it took me 5 minutes to decide whether affraid has one "f" or two. Oh yeah, plus the whole writing-an-entire-paragraph-about-myself-in-the-third-person thing.

Looking forward to peeing out of the vent of my tent. Bug netting for the win!

Why am I hungry? It's bedtime!
And then I had a snack before going to sleep.

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