The slump is over

I want to share a story I heard several times when I was a child. Mind you that I’ve never been good at remembering song lyrics, movie quotes, jokes, and – yes – stories, so I’ll do my best not to butcher it. No promises.

A man goes to his rabbi and says, “Rabbi, my wife, seven children and I live in a one room house, and everyone is always on top of one another. It’s so loud that I can’t get any peace. Please tell me what to do, wise rabbi.” After a moment of contemplation, his rabbi responds, “Go home and take your chickens and bring them into the house,” which the man hesitantly does.

After some time, the man returns to his rabbi and says, “Rabbi, I’m not really sure how that was supposed to solve my problem. It’s still very crowded with my seven children and wife, and it’s even worse because the chickens constantly peck at our feet.” And the rabbi responds, “In that case, I think you should go home and bring your goats into the house.”

Scratching his head, the man brings the goats into the house.

Once again, after some time, the man returns to his rabbi and complains, “Rabbi, this is absurd. My children are still loud, the chickens are pecking at our feet, the goats are eating our clothes, and my wife is viciously unhappy at the situation. What am I to do now?” And the rabbi responds, “Bring your cow into the house.”

The man returns several days later and says, “Rabbi, I’m at my wits’ end. The chickens are pecking, the goats are eating us out of house and home, and my seven children, wife and I can barely move for the space the cow is taking in our small house.” This time the rabbi responds, “Take the chickens, goats, and cow, and bring them back outside.”

Having done as he was told, the man returns to his rabbi some time later and exclaims, “It is so wonderful at home now. The chickens don’t peck, the goats don’t destroy our clothes, the cow doesn’t take up space. My children are happy. My wife is happy. We finally have peace in the house.”

I think that parable pretty much describes how the last several weeks have gone for me.

First, my right foot began to ache. No big deal. I can deal with aches and pains. Then the heat crept up on me. OK, I may not like it, but I can do heat. Then the humidity reared its ugly head. Alright, now things are starting to get real. Jor, just put your head down and muscle through.

But then the mosquitoes attacked with a vengeance. That’s when I completely lost it. Hiking was miserable, and I couldn’t get any sleep at night. I would be laying in my hot, sticky tent with my arms and legs splayed so that no skin was touching, and it was all I could do to not scratch my mosquito-bitten skin raw. My proverbial house was full.

I last wrote a couple weeks ago when Lentil and I were about to get back on trail after a week, and I want to tell you that everything went splendidly from the moment we stepped foot back on the trail. However, that’s not the case. My foot still hurt. It was still hot. We were still in New York. It was still hot. (Did I already say that? I already said that. It warrants repeating.)

But a few extremely noteworthy improvements accompanied our return to the trail.

1. The humidity had decreased during our absence. I was so excited to note a forecast of only 50% humidity in the 90+ degree weather. And, for the record, this is the first time in my entire life that I’ve even looked at the forecast for humidity. Never realized it was so important. Yes, I was still sweating through my shirt and wringing it out several times a day, but at least I was no longer drenched head to toe like I’d jumped into a pool.
2. the mosquitoes abated some. Yes, I was still covering myself in deet, but – unlike the week before – it was actually working.
3. We discovered libraries. How did it take us over four months to discover libraries? Libraries, with their glorious free A/C. Libraries, with their free magazines and internet and comfy couches. In the span of three days, we visited as many libraries in towns along the trail trying to beat the midday heat: first in Falls Village, then in Salisbury, and finally in Great Barrington.

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And in the meantime, we were slowly chugging along.

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And on July 17, Lentil and I hit what I would consider one of my most significant milestones to date. We had hiked to the top of a sizable rocky hill and were treated to both a beautiful view with the moon as a backdrop and a sturdy breeze (don’t underestimate the value of a breeze!). We had just crossed from Connecticut into Massachusetts (another state down!), but that’s not the milestone I’m talking about.

Instead, Lentil and I high fived over having finally hit the 1,500 mile mark. I looked in my journal and found that every other 100 mile mark took us +/- a week to hike, whereas this latest one took us 2.5 weeks. Obviously that included a break in Brooklyn and another in Syracuse, but considering how mentally (and physically) exhausting the stretch was, reaching it definitely warranted a celebration.

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It still took a few days for my spirits to improve after that. Spending an afternoon swimming in Upper Goose Pond helped. And I got a new pair of boots, which lessened some foot pain. And of course seeing a 10 day forecast with highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s didn’t hurt either.

Oh, another thing that’s helped that I forgot to mention. Our time off the trail brought us into a new bubble of people, some of whom we haven’t seen in months (like Handstand), who bring news of others with whom we’ve lost touch, and other new faces, who bring fresh energy to our trek. And all of these hikers share commiserating stories of whoa over the challenges that the AT has wrought (Lyme disease, the heat, mosquitoes, injuries, etc.), which really makes me feel like I’m part of a community (of crazy people who would endure these conditions, mind you, but a community nonetheless).

Truth be told, I managed to strain my left ankle (think swollen like a goose egg), and I still haven’t caught up on sleep from the recent nights’ heat and humidity. But life on the trail is definitely looking up as I head onto Mount Greylock today (get it? Looking up…Mount Greylock. OK, not my best one ever).

I’m feeling positive and taking one day at a time. And despite my best efforts, the miles to Katahdin are beginning to dwindle, and soon enough, I’ll be looking back wondering how my time on the trail passed so quickly.

Meandering on,

Jordana

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18 thoughts on “The slump is over

  1. Glad you got through that slump and decided to keep moving forward. It is an amazing thing you are doing. More cool dry weather on the way, so you should be good for the next 500 miles.

  2. I’m glad to hear things are improving.

    Something I’m curious about. Do you have a plan for what you’ll be doing after the AT? Do you think about it as you walk, or are you mainly thinking about the present?

  3. NEWS FLASH WEATHER ADVISORY
    This weeks forcast will be marked with buoyant optimism scattered throughout the land (especially over the AT) with intermittent bursts of hope,faith,and euphoria that are expected to create numerous high pressure cells ideal for dreams coming true. So get out there Jordana and soak up those manifesting rays; It’s going to be gorgeous. Carpe Diem

  4. Everything you described goes alone with the hiking experience — it’s the “hiker condition.” Keep the faith and keep on hiking.

  5. Now you are no longer a AT hiker, but an AT Thruhiker. Getting over the hump is monumental and separates you from a section hiker. I knew you had it in you. You will make it. The best is yet to come and will make all the misery worth it. You’ll see, I haven’t steered you wrong yet. Don’t fear the Whites because after what you have been through you will find them a breeze (hey I made a funny). I hope you have the chance to stay at the Green Mountain Hostel in Manchester. Jeff is holding a spot for you. Oh, hope you have your jacket, you will be needing it soon, the nights will start to become cool.

  6. I’ve been checking for a new post, one way or another, just about every day since your last one & wondering how you were doing. I’m very happy to know you’re back on the trail! What perseverance! I don’t really have an opinion either way, I’m just glad you resumed posting so we know what you decided! Happy trails & best of luck.

  7. Keep on! I’ve been following 2013 thru-hikers blogs this year and just found your’s today. I’ve read every post and want you to make the right decision for you. Keep on! You give inspiration for others that want to do this hike.
    /new reader
    //want to hike the AT
    ///living vicariously

  8. Jordana………cudos to you. i can’t imagine;i am rethinking my trip in 2016 at 70!!!!
    i am trecking the el camino de santiago april,2014 and see how i handle only 500m.
    u r an amazing young woman…me thinks i should have done this in my 20/30’s but i was busy having babies……….take care…….morningstar,the old lady

    • Marda, you can do it. Read Mamaw B’s blog on trail journals.com, she was 72 last year when she completed her thruhike,

  9. I’m so glad you are back on the trail and are enjoying it again! I was checking your blog frequently after your last post–like many others on here–to see your latest update. I’m planning my own thru-hike for 2016. I can’t wait.

    Random question–what kind of shorts are you wearing in that picture? They look comfy and something I might like!

    Happy Trails!

    • Hiya, Nina. Thanks for the encouragement. The shorts are Nike DriFits. Once it heated up and got super humid, the zip off hiking pants (which are a bit too big) were bunching and chafing on my hips, back, thighs. The DriFits have improved the situation for sure.

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