Tuesday, August 10, 1999
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”Marcel Proust.
Cold! Cold! Cold! The temperature dropped to the high 40’s at night and Llama and I are snuggling desperately looking for heat to stop from shivering. I’m still wearing my summer hiking clothes and I didn’t expect in August for the temperature to be dropping. So I’m wearing every stitch of clothing I have in my backpack and then twist and turn in my thin fleece summer sleeping bag seeking any heat or warmth I can find. I keep waking Llama up and I feel awful about it but she’s warm and I’m not. It was a long night of unrest. I had to take my water proof pack cover and wrapped it around my feet to try and keep them warm. Cold, cold, cold!
When the sun started to rise I couldn’t take it anymore, I got up, boiled some water for a hot breakfast and then I woke Llama up and we decided emergency conditions warranted emergency solutions, we walked to a nearby town and found the first cup of hot coffee we could find. It was so soothing and satisfyily warm that I didn’t even notice the taste or care how it tasted. (probably for the best.)
As we walk through Connecticut we decided that it’s a very beautiful state. Connecticut is the Constitution State and the Nutmeg State boasting a population of 3,2887,116. “Connecticut” is an Indian term meaning “upon a long river.” The state tree is the white oak, the state flower is the “mountain laurel,” the bird the robin, the state animal is the sperm whale, and the state motto is, “Oui Transtulit sustinet” – (He who transplanted still sustains).
I am pretty excited because not only is this my 10thstate to walk through but it is also the first state I have never been in before. I decided to challenge myself a few years ago to visit all 50 states before I hit the age of 50. I’m in my high 30’s so far and this gets me one step closer to my challenge. I have never been to the Northeast before and I’ve always wanted to see the beauty that it holds and to compare it to the wonder of my home in the Pacific Northwest.
About a mile from our nights shelter, the Ten Mile River Lean-to, we hiked to a country market to buy milk and eat Chef Boyardee lasagna right out of the can (and cold). It’s a luxury item that I use to reward myself for a good day of hiking. We will sit outside the store doors, backs to the building, open the can up and each of us dig in with our spoons. It’s a piece of heaven.
We had crossed the Bulls Bridge over the Housatonic River. The Housatonic rushing waters are like nothing else in the area. The trail meanders along the shore and makes this such a pleasurable hike. It is one of just a few covered bridges still in use in this state and has stood here since the mid 1700’s when during the revolutionary war George Washington and his army crossed on several occasions.
My new shoes I bought in N.Y. are so great! I have happy feet like I’ve not had since I began. When my blisters heal I will literally dance down this trail.
Wednesday, August 11, 1999
“It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.” Dinane Ackerman
On the hike to town we passed through an Indian reservation owned by the Schaghticoke Tribe. They are not a federally recognized tribe but the state has and gave them the 400-acre reservation they live on. There are only about 250 members and only 5 or 6 families that actually live there. During the revolutionary war they played one of the more unique rolls, they were communications experts, they transmitting signals along the ridges between Long Island sound in New York and Stockbridge, Massachusetts (almost 100 miles in distance) in about two hours. That is an amazing game of telephone. We passed through their cemetery and viewed a tombstone of Eunice Mauwee, an Indian princess from the 1700’s. The inscription on the tombstone read: A Christian Indian Princess. As we walked around and read other headstones, many others had Indian symbols and pictures cut into them. But almost everyone had a Christian cross marking them as followers of Jesus. Interesting.
We pressed on and made our way into Kent on a warm but overcast afternoon. Kent is a fun artsy historic village of about 3,000 residents where you will see each local at least twice. The town has the feeling of history and yet the shops are interesting and attractive, cozy and embracing. It didn’t feel tiny and forgotten or run down and dirty. This is a place I would return to.
Thursday, August 12, 1999
“…Travel is more than the seeing of sights, it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ides of living.” Miriam Beard.
The mountains are beginning to challenge me again as they rise higher and steeper again. These are the foothills to White Mountains. And if the talk on the trail is to be believed, this is going to be the most difficult and challenging hiking on the trail. And we are in the best shape to press into it.
There is a hiker named Abner Surd who walked all the way from Arizona to Georgia to hike the Appalachian Trail. He doesn’t believe life should be faster than walking so he leaned into and lived by his convictions. But he wanted to hike the trail for so he took the time to make it happen. Once he makes it to Maine I’ve been told he will look for a job through the winter months but then in the spring he wants to go home. I wish I knew how long it took him to walk from Arizona and how long it would take him to get back there. Is that almost 2 years of his life? That is a crazy adventure. How many pairs of boots did he go through? That’s an absurd amount of walking.
One of the things I’ve been thinking about is what I am going to do when I am finished with this adventure. I start to wonder what is next in life. What I don’t want to see happen is to have my head so stuck in taking the next step that I forget to enjoy the one I’m taking at the moment. And that is a real possibility, that’s what I do all the time. I easily get caught dreaming and visioning and planning because that is more interesting than what I am doing in the moment. I find my mind wandering and getting full of hopes, dreams, and possibilities for what my future could look like and then I find I walked 5 miles and don’t remember a step I took. I’ve done that with driving also, I used to think my brain was broken. But when the current situation is not that stimulating, my mind wanders off to greener pastures to more interesting things. If you see something you’ve seen dozens of times before, unless something unusual happens you are unlikely to remember it. My brain is doing that, I will find I have no memory of the beauty around me and the beauty at my feet. So I am pushing myself to look down at the individual moments. So for now, I’m trying to purposefully push the future out of my head and strive to find joy and to listen to God in my daily steps, steps that will end far too soon.
Friday, August 13, 1999
“I think that maybe we do not climb a mountain because it is there. We climb it because we are here.”Jon Carroll
I do not remember going to bed last night I was so tired. The trail turned from the rolling rhythm to an EKG readout. It beat me down. I remember just staring at my dinner and Llama asking what I was thinking about. Thinking? There was no thinking going on. My body was shutting down and I was already gone. And then the ten most beautiful hours on a red pine needle bed gave me wonderful rest and dreams.
After my restful morning we made our way to Falls Village to pick up mail, food and to get a cup of rich coffee. The Great Falls Book and Coffee House was so good to me, telling me that I could have whatever book I wanted and let me run up a coffee and food tab. They said I could leave my backpack or take it with me if Llama and I wanted to walk around town. They told us it’s a great community and“have no worries about anything, just enjoy yourselves.” This is the craziest place, they just smiled at me and trusted me. This kindness was powerful, it has seemed distant to hikers. I appreciate trust for more than any good will or gift because it gives me some dignity. Many times along the trail when I have entered a town, I have been looked down upon and treated with disdain. The attitude of “get a job!”or “get a life!”drips thickly from their voice and actions to me. And the problem is that I really am dirty. I do smell (especially my right armpit). I do look worn and weathered. I don’t think I’m wanting recognition for what it is I’m trying to accomplish or to impress others, it’s not honor or respect I want for what I am doing, but a simple respect for life period. It hurts to see prejudice and arrogance because it is a weakness that screams in my face and it hurts no matter if it is directed at me or not.
Jules Bourglay (ca. 1839–1889) migrated from France to the United States seeking solitude and to run from the pain of a failed business and a broken romance. He began to wander the Connecticut highlands, becoming one of the Appalachians’ most famous hermits and became known as the Leatherman (he would wear odd leather suits that he would create and stitch for himself). He loved the many caves of the area, making his homes in them and becoming the creature of stories for the town’s people to scare their children with. He eventually got cancer of the mouth from all the tobacco use and in 1889 he was found dead on a New York farm. Stories of his life grew from year to year and he has become a legend to be forever remembered.