Beginning Anew

1 09 2008

I am thrilled to inform you all that since our last post it seems like everything has changed.

Flamebo, Default and I left Franconia Notch for five days off trail on August 13th.  When we got off the trail we were soaking wet and exhausted in body and spirit.  In addition to the monsoon-like weather, an intestinal parasite was wreaking ever increasing havoc on my stomach, turning me into a tums-popper and actually stopped eating during the day to keep down the discomfort and nausea while hiking.  One sad day I threw up $10 worth of town food on the side of the trail!  On a particularly dreary day on a steep, wet descent down Twin peaks in the Whites I fell landing with my pack pushing my face into a rock on which I chipped two teeth, split open my lip and mangled my glasses.  I never considered my commitment to the trail, but I did question my sanity for holding onto it even as it proved itself often painfully difficult and un-fun.  While the high-intensity bonding born of shared suffering is certainly real and in a way beautiful, it seemed at times that I was paying a very high price for my memories. There were bright moments during these days which stand out in my memory like stars in a very dark sky; the kindness of family, our two half days of clear skies and the warmth and hot food provided by the huts.

Stepping off the trail and into the arms of our Middlebury community was like stepping into the embrace of a dear friend.  The sun returned.  We spent our time healing, scrubbing at mildew and remembering the joys of civilization; from hot showers to the incredible friendships that have supported us for the last six years.  We were picked up, driven around, fed, clothed and listened to.  Some highlights were a family-style dinner on the porch of Laurie Jordan, Middlebury chaplain and friend, and visiting our home church of four years, Memorial Baptist.  Maria arrived and challenged my then somewhat indifferent attitudes about returning to the trail with her unbridled enthusiasm.  She didn’t seem fazed by our tales of rain, mud, gastrointestinal revolutions and tough terrain.  Her excitement was contagious and started to eat away at the frustration I had been feeling.

We experienced what you could call a fresh start, a second wind or the turning over of a new leaf on August 17th.  As we headed south out of Franconia Notch the climb was gradual, the mud had almost completely dried up and the sun was shining.  At gorgeous Lonesome Lake, the hut gave us an entire pan of freshly cooked stuffed shells, fresh bread and peach cobbler for dinner.  I even felt a bit wary at first at the abrupt change in our fortunes.  I felt like I was tiptoeing around in my dry socks and shoes, hardly daring to hope that it was actually not going to rain.  Could this be the same trail we had left just a few days earlier?

I cannot say that the following week was without challenges.  We did walk in a cold rain much of the third day before climbing the very steep Mt. Moosilauke and slept all four of us huddled together in one tent to keep warm.  The wind at the summit must have been about thirty miles an hour and had me ducking to keep from being blown over in the cold mist.  But despite these flashbacks to the darker days, we began to sense that the rain’s grasp was finally loosening, the cold ceased to penetrate and the aches seemed to recede as we hit a streak of sunny days and our path lead to gentler trails.  As we walked out of the Whites it was hard to suppress the sense of accomplishment and absolute euphoria.  The Vermont Mafia began to sing.  We had sung before to keep warm, to ward off fear and buoy flagging spirits.  But as we sauntered down the south side of Moosilauke, we were singing with light hearts for the sheer joy of being together and moving with purpose towards our common goal.  We sang during most of our twenty-two mile approach into Hanover, NH.

– Beef




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