Your Love is Like 10,000 Mosquito Bites – By: FLAMEBO

20 07 2008

July 16, 2008;
Day 16, Mile 155.2 (2021 to Springer)
Pierce Pond Lean-to

During my sophomore year at Middlebury, one fateful night probably somewhere near 2 AM, my roommate Renee and I decided to spontaneously pray together before bed. At some point I must have dozed off – still speaking – and uttered the senseless praise, “Your love is like 10,000 mosquito bites.” I don’t remember who noticed first, but it was a good indication that our bed time was long overdue, and it has gone down in history as one of the dumbest things I’ve done.

If I may take the liberty, though – I think there may be an ounce or two of truth to be taken from my sleep-deprived babbling. True, perhaps God’s love deserves a better metaphor than mosquito bites, though I’m the first to admit that his is a tough love. But I think the phrase is even better suited to this thing – this idea – known as the Appalachian Trail.

As we were starting out, Default passed on some wisdom she’d heard from her brother Music Man, who hiked SOBO last year: “Hiking the AT is like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer – it feels so good when you stop!” Who knows how we will feel in 500 miles or so, but that has definitely been the case so far. Here are a few of the pains we have endured 150 miles in: sore knees, hips, calves, quads, feet, backs, shoulders and necks, blisters, ingrown toenails, strained achilles and ankles, poison ivy, headaches, period cramps, stomach aches, black fly bites, at least 10,000 mosquito bites, sunburn, broken shoes, lost packs, dirt-caked clothes, sopping clothes and gear, falling in rivers, stepping thigh-high in mud, getting caught on a mountain-top in a thunderstorm, extreme hunger, thirst, water flavored like iodine, bleach, or with floating dirt, sleeping on uneven boards, roots, rocks, or puddles, innumerable cuts, scrapes and bruises, slugs on our packs and in our shoes, missing shelters and hiking 4 miles after 4 mountains to the next one, sharing a shelter in the rain with lots of obnoxious boys, smelling your own B.O. day in and day out, waking up to mice scurrying all around you, having flies attack your bare bum in the privy, and stepping in your own crap.

It’s hard not to get bogged down in the bad stuff and remember why it is that we’re doing this. We’ve been reading a copy of Into the Wild together that we found in one of the shelters. Like the protagonist, Chris McCandless, we must each be endowed with a little bit of masochism to choose to undertake an expedition like this one. But also like Chris, I think we want to be reminded of the things that matter most in this world, and we know that Nature is a good place to go for that reminder. It puts you in a place of forced humility, where you have no choice but to relinquish control and accept that the world is a heck of a lot bigger than you and your needs and desires. I think this hit me first when I found myself praying – after a long, wet, gross night – that it wouldn’t rain again. NO, I realized, no, God isn’t going to stop the rain just because it makes me uncomfortable. It’s not too small a request – it’s just too selfish.

Unlike Chris McCandless in Into the Wild, though, this group of gals is not trying to escape human contact. We are not attempting to live off the land, and we’re not trying to prove something. I am just as convinced 150 miles in as I was 15 miles in that this is where I’m supposed to be and I made the right decision coming out here. We are fostering a love for the AT that only 10,000 mosquito bites can bring – one built on sacrifice – literal blood, sweat and tears. Here are just a few of the ways in which the AT has given back to us so far: summiting mountains, unloading your pack when you finally make it to camp, napping on rocks, swimming in lakes and streams, befriending fellow hikers, arising with the sun, learning to appreciate the finest contours of the ground on which we walk, taking note of animal and plant life, eating 1 lb cheeseburgers, taking a long shower after weeks of grime and having a new appreciation for what it means to be clean, stopping for a snickers, reading out loud together, a cool mountain breeze, a cold, delicious spring, a warm meal after a long day, a brilliant view, a silent ponder of the landscape, a well-timed yard sale, some generous Mainers, Bluegrass at the general store, all-you-can-eat breakfast, a short day of miles, a moment – like this one – looking out on a pond and knowing there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

So yes, there is a lot to be jealous of, but there’s also a lot that’s not worth your envy. It’s not always fun and games out here, but that’s precisely why we love it. If you don’t keep hitting yourself with that hammer, you’ll never know the true joy of letting up.

Ciao, and love to all,

Flamebo

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2 responses

21 07 2008
H&M Freeman

Flamebo Devo, Great writing. love the lists of bad and good things about the adventure. Hope to see you all when you hit our area.

H&M

2 08 2008
Amanda Rose

i miss ya, Devo.

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