Thinkin’ Like a Thru

Before I get into this post, I want to state right up front that I have practically zero chance of thru-hiking a 2000 mile-plus trail like the AT. I could manage it physically (sans accidents), but the cost in terms of time and money eliminate the possibility for me. I would definitely consider chewing up a shorter trail in one shot, though. Colorado, Muir and Long all jump to mind. But I’ve read so many books and journals where intrepid trekkers triumphed over the three major long trails in the U.S. that I sometimes can’t help but think in terms of thru-hiking, especially in regards to the weather.

Case in point: This morning I was enjoying an early run on a flawless first day of fall. As I’m trotting through the woods, my mind wandered to the hikers vacating Monson sixty miles from my location to begin their race through the Hundred Mile Wilderness towards Katahdin before Baxter closes down for the season. And I’ve done this many mornings since I was bitten by the hiking/backpacking bug. On a sweltering (for Maine, anyway) summer morning when I was battling a swarm of flies and oozing gallons of Gatorade onto my technical apparel, I thought of hikers pushing through the same for days on end, using their next blessed zero day as motivation to slog onward while I toweled off and slid behind the wheel of my air conditioned car for the short ride home where a shower, clean clothes and all the food I could possibly eat awaited my arrival.

Tomorrow morning these motivated souls will face a steady rain, wind, and temps much lower than the mid-50s I’ll see here. At elevation it will be a miserable morning, and they’ll be on soggy, slippery root and rock infested terrain, never-say-quit grimaces facing north from beneath saturated rain gear. I’ll pray for their safety and success like always, and might even guilt myself into a short run in the soggy woods near home.

The typical thru-hiker sees every kind of weather in the spectrum on their journey, and must tolerate and master it day after day after seemingly endless day.

It’s amazing to me what these people, plucked from every conceivable walk of life, endure as they pursue their dream…

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