And done.

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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 =)

 

 

How to survive a summer without your best friend

What do you do the summer after the Pacific Crest Trail when your partner headed east to hike the Appalachian Trail without you? This is a question I’ve gotten a lot in the last few weeks. After four months of updates on her progress the people in my daily life really understand that Lauren has been gone for 4 months and it has an impact. I thought I would try and explain some of what happens in this short post.

 

 

Steps for dealing with an important person missing in your (my) life:

First you cry yourself to sleep for a week in a seemingly empty bedroom without your best friend and most important person in your daily life.

Second, you write lots of love letters, more than you have in years. These letters go into resupply boxes along with tuna packets and nuts. The letters increase in meaning as you assess your relationship and your life without that person.

Third, you start to dabble and explore things that are really important to you as a person. Not necessarily things that are important in a relationship but the things that are really important to making you feel alive, enriched and your best self.

Fourth, you discover that due to the change in your love language and relationship schedule there is additional time for these explorations because your first priority, your relationship, has a different rhythm to it than before your partner’s disappearance.

 

Five, you binge on identified activities of personal  fulfillment. This is also a form of filling time with positive things to fill the void in your life. It is also a great way to fill time so you don’t feel so alone in an empty house on the weekends. In my case that meant skiing, mountaineering, rock climbing, and Alpine climbing every weekend possible for the past 4 months. I won’t bore you with trip reports but hero photos:

Sixth, I hope the photos above illustrate the depth of this situation. Not many people go on a binge like this without some emotional gap in their lives they are trying to obscure. I am so grateful to have such amazing friends to help me through this emotional journey this summer!

Seven, you eagerly anticipate the return of your partner and start to make plans for reunification.  This includes scrambling to finish summer projects. Cleaning the house. Reading the stack of newspapers your partner reminds you to finish. Etc.

Eight, After the reunification it is time to celebrate,  embrace, renegotiate relationship, love language, schedules, priorities and share new dreams with partner… That’s an update for another post.

Thank You to family and friends who were so incredibly supportive through this summer! Although Lauren and I have bonded through this experience it was hard to be apart for this long. I found support in community and mountains. I’m so excited to see Lauren on August 11!!!

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Birches – Mile 2184.6

What a journey and adventure.  Mile 2184.6 brings Dust Buster and AT AT Walker to the Birches Camp Ground, the final camp site before completing the last summit, Mt. Katahdin.  We are all here were we are suppose to be.

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SG and I shared a meal with Lauren and Kyle, a couple from Belgium, and 2 other hikers who Lauren and Kyle have been crossing paths with.  It’s wonderful to share food or break bread, listen to stories, and enjoy everyone’s company as they plan for the last big push.

SG and I will hike an much more moderate trail tomorrow.  We have to try out our new trekking poles.  Jeff has them sent to us at the hotel and SG is over the moon as she’s a “real hiker” now.  It’s very sweet to watch her strive to match her Aunt Lauren and hard to watch her struggle with our decision that the hike to Mt Katahdin via the AT was way beyond both of us.  I think I’m committing to some hiking as SG seems to really enjoy this.

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Tomorrow we’ll plan to meet them around 3-5pm.  Then it’s town food,  laundry, a hot tub, and real bed as we plan our trip back to Maryland.

I would be remiss to not mention that Lauren and Kyle checked in at the Birches.   They are now hikers 248 and 249.   This is really amazing.  Lauren logged into the AT as hiker 1378, logged in at Harper’s Ferry as 470, and now is Hiker 248.   Kyle’s numbers are similar as he logged into the AT as hiker 1381, Harper’s as 471, and is now 249.   They have passed all of these hikers before them over the course of 5 months to reach these amazing numbers.  The feat of completing a thru hike is challenging and an accomplishment.  To have done so at the pace they  have, is truly amazing.  They are an inspiration.   They say “Don’t just finish the hike.  Finish it well.”  They are both in good shape, uninjured, and set for tomorrow.

Until tomorrow,

~ Linda

 

 

Shrooms…..

I have to admit I’m very impressed with the number of different mushrooms that Lauren has found to take pictures of.  And in another time (without two jobs, 3 kids, 4 dogs…etc), I would look up all of these pretties!

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This is a short post to just share these pictures as they are so fascinating and beautiful.  Their different shapes and colors are amazing.   Some so simple.  Others so ornate (if a mushroom can be termed ornate.  Shares that vary.  Where and the way they grow, so different. So a different post.

Enjoy,

~ Linda =)