NCT Mile 901 to 911

It’s been a few days and I’m still not sure how to write the final day of our 10-day hike through the Manistee Forests.  I’ve written and deleted more paragraphs than this last post will end up being, I’m sure. Our trip was amazing and awful, ugly and beautiful.  I’m left sitting here wondering if I wrote the way I wanted to or if we learned all of the things we needed to learn.

The world we planned the hike in is not the world we hiked in.  COVID makes the future murky to think about, the fear it brings, the damage it does, the reactions we have to it.  Truthfully, COVID played a huge part in how our hike played out.  I have no idea how busy the trail would have been in a ‘normal’ world.  What I do know is that we stayed many nights in established campgrounds with no neighbors around us; the nights were quiet and wild.  Most people daydream about camping as an intimate experience in the forest and we actually experienced it.  Most nights had no generators, no dogs, it was only us and the cranes, loons, deer, bear, and snakes.  The trail owned us, and we owned it, for a time.

With the first 100+ mile trail under our belts, it seems more possible than ever that our long-distance hiking plans will actually happen.  Not that this trip was necessary, it just provided a lot of things we needed without knowing that we needed them.  That is what hiking is, you encounter a lot of fucked up situations and only have what you have to deal with them.  I’m not going to pretend like we were happy the entire time, we weren’t. 

Hardship and the lack of enjoyment makes the good times better.  Our bodies are capable of so much.  I’ve spent so much time doing nothing with my body and wondering why it stops working the way I expect.  How surprised was I to find that the more I pushed my body, the better it responded.  The more work we did, the more pain we felt.  The more pain we felt, the more the body healed.  It has taken a few days for the body to zero out since we’ve been back home; feet swelling to go down, appetite to normalize.

So what did we learn?

  • Writing on the hard days is just as important as writing on the good days.
  • Do not trust maps.
  • Do not pass by an actual water source in lieu of an unknown.
  • Do carry less water if the weather, terrain, and likely water sources allow for it.  A liter of water is 2.2lbs.  If you are carrying a 30lb bag, 2.2lbs is a 7% increase.
  • Battery management is challenging, even with an extra battery pack.
  • Bringing a fishing pole on a hiking trip only works if you have energy at the end of the day and don’t mind smelling like fish for the rest of the trip.  I sent my gear home with Shauna on day 3.
  • Sharing your hiking experience with family and friends as it’s happening is half the fun, more than half on the bad days.
  • We love to hike.  We love to hike together.

I guess that’s it for this trip?  Time to plan the next one!

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