…the young couple whose exploits I was following, they who vanished from their online AT thru-hike journal for over five weeks, materialized from the internet mist three days after my post here last week, delivering multi-day chunks of news in an effort to catch up those of us following them. It was a relief to see that they were still in good health and spirits! The pair had, since their last writing, hammered through New Hampshire (those Whites!) and had made their way up and down the bulk of Maine and into the Hundred Mile Wilderness before their journaling ended. Their last entry was dated September 21st, so I’m assuming they finished their quest and took their photos atop the “Northern Terminus” sign on Katahdin.
I’ll be checking back to make sure, of course. Just like I did during their five weeks of silence. In the meantime, fall hiking season, my absolute favorite, is upon me. I need to start planning some disappearing acts of my own…
(Update, September 29: They did indeed finish, and posted a photo of themselves smiling on top of the sign yesterday. Well done!)
At the beginning of thru-hiker season, I picked out two hiker journals to follow, the same as I did the previous year. As I detailed in an earlier post in March, these two souls barely hit fifty miles before abandoning their respective quests. So, given how early it was in the Springer-to-Katahdin season, I chose two more journals to follow.
The first, a solo guy in my age group, wrote detailed daily journal entries filled with poetry, photos and personal observations that went beyond the typical “The weather sucked today. I ate Pop Tarts for breakfast and saw a rat snake.” type of journal post. He stayed positive through his hardships and finished his hike.
The second, the young couple I chose to follow, didn’t maintain the high level of journaling that the solo guy did. And that’s okay. “Journal your own journal” feels just as right as “Hike your own hike” does. They gave the basics and a good sense of how they were doing on their journey. Perfectly satisfactory.
Until they dropped off the journaling planet.
It’s been five weeks since they’ve posted, leading one person following their trek to write a concerned note in their guest book. I too have wondered if they’re okay. But I’m more inclined to believe that they just let their journal wither. An analytical reader could almost see it coming. They went from posting almost daily, to posting groups of entries at the same time in an effort to catch up, to lumping multiple days into one post.
They last wrote about leaving Vermont. If everything went well over the last five weeks or so, they’ve probably finished or nearly finished by now (Baxter State Park closes soon; if they haven’t completed the trip, they need to hustle!). I hope they were successful, and are getting all of their notes put together so those of us who followed them can hear the final details of their journey…
In the span of less than a week, I discovered two thru-hiker news stories online. The first told the tale of 75 year-old Tom Young from North Myrtle Beach, SC who conquered the stretch from Springer to Katahdin in a week shy of six months. A few days later I came across the story of 26 year-old Joe McConaughy, who did the same deed, but in the course of his trip shattered both the supported and unsupported (he carried a 25-pound pack the entire way) speed record by landing at the “Northern Terminus” sign in 45 days, 12 hours and 15 minutes.
Most people fall heavily on one side of the following argument or the other: Is it more fulfilling to hike for enjoyment, like Tom “Grey Eagle” Young, or hike with a mission, like Joe “Stringbean” McConaughy?
I land somewhere in the middle. Back in my halcyon days of 26.2 milers, I was totally mission minded. A marathon was something to be conquered, not enjoyed. The enjoyment came after the race. And when I tackle my first week-long section hike on the AT, there will definitely be a mission mindset at play. Given X number of days to complete X number of miles, one can’t help but assign goals to the thing. However, I’m hoping to schedule myself enough hiking days so that, while staying focused on time/distance markers, I’m not hammering my body to achieve them and allowing myself some rose-sniffing opportunities along the way.
Of course, age and ability play a part for me, too. I was never an elite marathoner; my PR was 3:28, so I never expected to run with the human tornadoes when the gun went off. Likewise, even if I was in my twenties I couldn’t maintain the pace of a world-class ultra athlete like Stringbean. I’m thinking shooting for 100 days would have been an aggressive enough goal for me.
Today, being north of fifty and all? Let’s just say that this blog isn’t called “Slowing Down to Enjoy the View” for nothing…