March 30 – August 5. 4 months 5 days. Roughly 12-16 Zero Days. Maybe 20-24 if you add in “Nearos”. Nothing but you and the trail. Convincing your mind to wander or be distracted for 10-12 hours a day. No definitive plan. Time and days meld into the next. Pain. Hiker Hunger. Green Tunnels. Rain. Mud. Working your way through various aches and pains and sometimes injuries, that come along the away. No soft beds, warm showers, cell, TV, or computers. Trail stench. Truly unplugging from the business of the world. Knowing yourself better. Considering other trails to hike. New friends. Trail names. Experiences to share and stories to tell. Embracing the journey and growing as a person. Joining the Class of 2017. And done.
The last summit was a difficult one as there there is over 4000 feet incline over a 5 hour hike. Most of the incline is up because it appears the AT does not use switchbacks. The rocks were wet and slippery. The summit was encased in clouds so no vista to be seen. This was our view from the bottom of the mountain.
While Lauren was doing her last day, SG and I attempted to do a hike around one of the ponds where the trail promised lots of nature to be sighted. SG had read all the hikes and picked this one because of this. She really wanted to see a moose, in person. I should have known we’d be in trouble when we pulled up to the trail head and the car was swarmed by mosquitoes. Before opening the doors, we put our first line of defense on for them (more natural bug sprays/oils). Opening the doors resulted in an invasion. Pulled out the Cutters with DEET, This seemed to back them off so we headed out. About 100 years into the hike, we were covered with biting mosquitoes. SG had been bitten several times on her face and was done. I have at least 20 bites on the back of each leg. Poor girl was swelling so much I gave her Benedryl to calm the reaction down. It took driving with windows down for a bit to get the mosquitoes out of the car. We have met Maine Mosquitoes and they have won!
We opted for hiking and playing around Toque Pond where the mosquitoes were more reasonable and the water warm to wade in. We spend a great time discussing the various patterns on rocks we saw and wondering what Aunt Lauren might be doing at the moment. We saw a hawk of sorts with a beautiful call. We picked them up at Roaring Stream and then drove back around to pick up gear left on the other side before heading back into town for showers and food.
On Sunday, we made a stop at the Appalachian Cafe, only open until 4pm, for breakfast the next day. Lauren added herself to the “Class of 2017”, the ceiling panels that the Cafe has hikers who have completed the trail sign. Their ceiling is covered in panels of “classes”. The food was great. There was a brief contemplation of attempting the 14 scoop sundae (one scoop for every state you hiked through) before deciding that was too much on top of the hiker breakfast.
The return to the “real world” is an interesting transition. Food, laundry, black bags for the backpacks due to the trail stink. Food. Ours involves driving down seeing other parks and sites as we do, thus limited the cell coverage. The plan is to be back to civilization by August 11 where we’ll put her on a plane to meet Travis. And more food. I am listening to the sound of constant munching as we drive around. It’s pretty impressive. We did have an amazing meal in Bel Harbor Maine, where I got a lobster roll after being assured it was not coated in mayo and Lauren got Surf and Turf. The brussel sprouts and dessert were amazing.
Part of return, involved bringing Kyle back down to the New York area where his Uncle will pick him up. Kyle has been a constant in the fabric of this hike. He’s been there and been able to keep up with Lauren. There is a comfort in knowing Lauren had a trail family. It’s nice to know someone can call if something bad were to happen. He’s been a blessing and we hope the connect remains.
While our (the Caler’s) participation has been vicarious, our lives have been so enriched over the past two summers. The PCT and AT have brought us closer to Lauren and Travis as we support them in any way that we can. The AT has been awesome as it provided us the chance to meet Lauren in different places, to spend quality time together, and to get to know each other in different ways then we has before. We are so thankful to have them both in our lives. I have spent more time hiking in the last summer than I have in 25 years because I had sworn off it. I’ve gotten out of my comfort box and as a family, found another activity to do together. SG loves it so we’ll definitely be doing it more along with camping. I need to get one of those fancy blowup mattresses and a better sleeping bag that are both more portable (you can check out a blogs from back in May/June to see how crazy our gear is). Lauren continues to be SG’s hero and we are blessed that SG has such strong woman to be one of her role models.
Lauren embraced the journey (and suck) and finished well.
As with last time, this is my final post. Lauren and Travis will take over from here. It’s been a wonderful journey to live vicariously. Thanks for taking it with me.
~ Linda =)