…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…
…and you still perish on the trail. Case in point: another hiker has died on the Maine stretch of the Appalachian Trail. He was, according to the linked article, an experienced, avid hiker who was more than capable of handling the strenuous effort required of him by the terrain. He suffered a medical event, and spent the last moments of his life in the woods of Franklin County…
Remember my post a couple of weeks back about hiking alone? Well, it’s this sort of thing that sends my family and friends into a tizzy when I mention solo hiking. But here’s the thing I always tell them about an incident like this one: A medical event happens whether you’re traveling in a herd or enjoying your solitude. Thus, on an average hiking day I’ll take the solitude, as I previously discussed.
But this sort of end-of-life occurrence does lead me to a dilemma: On one hand, I would appreciate the chance to bounce off this giant rock while doing something I love instead of withering away from a horrible illness or getting t-boned in my car by some texting…ah, individual. On the other hand, spending my last moments alone staring at the sky might not be my preferred method of leaving those I know and love behind.
I guess it doesn’t really matter as, when my time comes, I’ll go in whatever way and whenever I’m supposed to. Until then, my most sincere thoughts and prayers to this intrepid hiker’s family as they cope with their loss…