A Day in the Life

11 08 2008

I had the great privilege and opportunity to spend the day with the Vermont Mafia on Sunday August 10th.

I am Elizabeth’s Aunt, and have witnessed her life adventures with awe and enthusiasm. I was concerned when she said that she wanted to bring an umbrella rather than a raincoat on the AT, and when she was fabricating and lighting a stove made out of the bottom of a soda can and denatured alcohol in my cousin’s driveway the weekend before she left to hike. Fortunately, she has a raincoat now, and uses her friend’s very efficient backpacking stove on the trail.

The delightful thing about this particular adventure of hers is that it began in my own backyard, and not in the remote reaches of the earth (ie. Siberia or Patagonia). I have hiked all the 4000 footers in the White Mountains, and have often walked on the path of the AT in New Hampshire. And so, I was delighted when “The Mafia” had a couple of “zero days” at my cousin Russ’s house last weekend at his home in Tamworth, and I got to spend time with them then, and hear about their adventures and plans. Then Russ masterminded a plan with them so we could join them for a hike one day this weekend.

I don’t know how broadly the topic of the weather has been covered in other parts of this blog, but I want to say for the record that this is the rainiest summer I can remember in my 54 years on this earth. Someone told me that last they heard there were 29 rainy days out of 35, but my memory says it’s is more like 29 rainy days out of 30. And when I say rain, I’m not talking about showers, but at least ½” a day of steady rain, often heavy. The fortitude of these young women to keep going in these conditions shows their true mettle.

I imagine their dreams and planning for this trip for the past year. I know that my niece has dreamed of hiking the AT since she was a child. The reality of constantly wet shoes, slipping and falling, unfordable rivers, trails that look like brooks, sucking mud holes, slippery roots, and no views, is not what was envisioned I’m sure. And yet, these women keep pursuing their dream, despite hardships. And how do they do it? I can only speculate, but I did observe some remarkable things about them. The most striking thing is that they always hike within a few feet of each other. They passed the 350 mile mark today, and every step has been one footstep in each other’s tracks every step of the way. I can’t imagine the bond and commitment to each other that started them out in this way, and keeps them so close. It seems that this rhythm and harmony of movement gives them unspoken support and motivation.

Another thing is that they often hike in silence, which gives them the concentration they need to negotiate the hazards of the trail… and therefore they have their own individual experience of the moment. Because, what is the AT if it’s not challenging yourself to the utmost, and getting to know who you are in adversity and bliss? This hiking of the AT has many challenges, but as my wise cousin Russ said…if it wasn’t the rain, it would be the bugs, or the heat, or something else. Ultimately, it is your relationship to yourself and others that is tested to the bare bones on the AT, and these are the lessons of the trail, no matter what the conditions.

I must admit that I broke the silence on our hike together often, questioning these young women about their lives, and singing with my niece, which is one of my favorite things to do. We sang a repertoire of spirituals, songs from the “Sound of Music”, and Valder-ree, Valder-rah using nursery rhymes as the verses (annoying but fun). Russ met us about 4-5 miles in at the other end of the trail, and we all got to step in harmony together with the Vermont Mafia on their incredible journey.

Aunt Jude




One response

15 08 2008

Thanks, Aunt Jude! You brought so much light to our hike that day!

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