Friday, July 30, 1999

We were brought back to the trail but the temperature slammed me to the ground and held me there. I have no motivation to hike in this soupy wave of heat. We entered New Jersey and this state seems as hot as the last. There is a severe draught going on here. I don’t want to hike. I don’t want to go home. This weather steals so much life from my body and spirit.

Llama and I found a beautiful grassy area to camp under tree shade and were eating dinner when Shiver and Dawntreader came walking down the trail. Awesome. I was pretty excited to catch up with them and to see how they are doing, what adventures they were having, but after standing looking at us for a few minutes of talking about the weather, they turned and just moved on without explanation. That made me sad. It feels like that friendship is dying. And of course I wonder if it’s my fault. I start to wonder, “What did I do wrong? How did I blow it?”What doesn’t enter my mind usually is, “Have a great time, see you down the trail.”I take things personally that I don’t need to. I think I carry way to much weight on my shoulders that isn’t supposed to be there.

Saturday, July 31, 1999

I’ve tried to ignore it, deny it, lie to myself about it but the truth is that my right armpit stinks. Hiker smell is foul, we all stink, but there is something seriously wrong with my right armpit. There is a strong ammonia smell that stings the nose is growing and only this one pit.  I don’t know what to do! I wash it, I scrub it, and yet it persists. I know that not all pits are created equal. I know that the arm that is used more will sweat more, generating an atmosphere for bacteria to party in and then die in. That creates more stink.

I guess I’m just wondering if its more than just decomposing bacteria that’s creating the smell. It just has a sting to it. If I get a whiff of it while asleep at night, it can wake me up. I wonder if there is something wrong with me. I need help. This is what I should have talked about with Dr. Randy.

Llama and I saw our first bobcat cross the trail ahead of us, the Lynx Rufus.  The bobcat can hunt down a deer and slash it so they bleed to death within 30 yards. The tongue of the bobcat is covered with hook-like projections which can lick bones clean of meat. It will eat first the top of the hindquarters. The rest is buried for later, tainted meat does not seem to bother them. I saw a half of a deer on the side of the trail a few days ago, the front half. I didn’t even see any cuts or bites on it, it was just a creepy front half of a deer laying down with no blood on the ground. It freaked me out because the bobcat had to be close by, either too full to eat me or waiting for me to leave so it could burry his leftovers for the next day. Porcupines are a large part of their diet. They can eat quills and all. Somehow, they are unharmed unless they get lodged in the paw or mouth causing infection to affect them.

Then we saw another wild turkey. Benjamin Franklin wanted to make it our national bird.

I have changed my mind about my motivation. I am very motivated to hike today, I want to press on to get away from this sweltering oppression. 

Sunday, August 1, 1999

The streams are all dry and empty. So Llama and I loaded up more water than a camel so we could push a hard day north. We loaded up with as much as we can bear and hope we don’t run out before we can get more. And while the days are hot the nights are starting to get cold. I’ve been using a fleece sleeping bag but it’s not keeping me warm anymore, I wake up at night shivering and putting on ever stitch of clothing I can find and even using my backpack to stick my feet into. Step by step this trip throws curve balls at us.

As we hiked today the woods had an eerie feel to them. The trail seems empty.  No one is around. In the entire day we saw only a couple of other people. Where is everyone? Did people quit? Did they all leave the trail until the heat subsides? Are they all ahead of us, are we bringing up the rear? It’s a little freaky. 

Monday, August 2, 1999

“…people don’t take trips – trips take people.”  John Steinbeck

As I was walking down the dusty trail in the morning I was listening to the news report that draught conditions in New Jersey have warranted emergency relief by the government. They reported that this is the worst draught this century has seen, topping the years list of most significant weather events. Part of me is very proud at having survived all that has been thrown at me and not been taken out (so far). I never knew I could do something like this. I never knew I had the ability to problem solve. I never knew I could walk in pain and not quit. I have spent my life running from pain in all areas of my life, and I’m embarrassed that I’m wired that way. But I haven’t quit. And I’ve seen my body, mind, and spirit get lean and strong. I’m proud of who I am becoming. 

One of my favorite animals to watch as I hike is the eastern chipmunk. When I see them it always looks like they are always filled with joy and energy. And I think that they are just as interested in me as I am of them. They always stop to watch me as I move past. Deer have done the same. I’ve walked within 10 feet of deer and they lift their heads to watch me but then seem unconcerned and will just continue to eat their leaves. Fawns watch me with interest, still covered in spots from their infancy.  The chipmunk, “tamias striatus,”is different from the deer because they are very inquisitive, they are nature’s  natural explorer. “Tamias”means “the steward”or “one who lays up stores.”  To win the affections of a female the male will sing to her.  They are very friendly woodland animals, I like them. Maybe its just that I see a little of myself in them.

I made it to another mail supply which was a great morale booster and then I was able to go to the general store and purchase several gallons of Gatorade and Sprite. Nothing in the world like them on a hot sweaty day. Within minutes of rehydrating and sitting with some letters from friends, my attitude turned, I was getting very cynical and critical. I felt a weight lift from my shoulders even as I wore my backpack. My optimism began to return and my perspective on problems in my life shrunk. The small ankle biting rock fields is over causing my feet to begin speaking to me again. The world just turned into carmel candy and air conditioned hiking as far as I’m concerned. This is the version of Wadi that I like the best.