February 9, 2015

trail thoughts

on saturday, swerner and i drove out to elon to go to the friends of the mountains-to-sea trail conference.  it was really cool to be there and see all the support the MST receives (over two hundred people were there!) and the way it's built and the ways it's used.  at one point, they asked everyone who was planning to thru-hike the trail in the next year to stand, and i was one of maybe 10 or so people (!!) to stand and then the people at my table got very interested in me and one guy, the parks director in clayton, offered to let me and bix stay at his house and said he wanted to get an mst thru-hiker in his local paper and that maybe it could be me and he gave me all his contact information so i can call him when i'm nearby and take a hot shower and sleep in a bed and all that stuff.  my first trail angel!  they touched a few times on how people say the trail isn't finished, but it's not that it's not finished, it'll never be finished because trails are constantly changing, even the AT reroutes, it's just that some parts of it are road.  so that was good to hear.  and because it's still a baby trail with a small reputation, not many people hike it each year (only nine did in 2014, and three in 2013, and ten in 2012, and so on).  right now they're at 47 total hikers, meaning i could - i could i could - be number 50.  which would be hella cool: the fiftieth person to hike the mountains to sea trail!  wow!

they had a panel at the end of all those hikers that had completed the MST in 2014, and we could ask them questions, and it was really interesting.  there was a couple who are now sophomores at app, a veteran and someone who had hiked it with her, one section-hiker, a woman probably a couple years older than me who'd hiked it to find all the edible plants, and one guy who went to sort of explore himself and sort out questions he had.  they talked about how beautiful the mountains and the outer banks were, and how kind the people were they met, and the dogs that followed them through tiny eastern towns, and how much their packs weighed, and how many miles they usually walked in a day, and what their favorite parts were, and it was all this exhilarating information, and next year that's going to be me.  except maybe not, if i'm not home for the conference and i'm in, like, argentina or wherever instead.

speaking of the trail, i've decided to go ahead and transition to no-poo in preparation for the weeks i'll go without showering.  i already don't wash my hair too often - probably 2-4 times a week, sometimes more, rarely less - but it's thick and course enough that i can generally get away with it, so i'm hopeful that this will make the transition to going completely shampoo-less easier.  on saturday i washed my hair with baking soda and then conditioned it with diluted apple cider vinegar (that shit stings).  it felt really thick, in a bad way, after the baking soda but better with the apple cider vinegar, which isn't what i would expect.  it's funny to wash your hair with food, it kind of feels like when i was a kid and we would slather mud on our legs at the lake and call it sunscreen.  i did put some heat protectant stuff on it before i straightened my hair, but now it's monday and my hair still feels soft, and if i weren't going to ballet tonight i probably wouldn't wash it.  i figure if i can get to the point where i'm only rinsing it/occasionally using baking soda and apple cider vinegar, my trail hair will be wayyy less gross than if i abruptly stopped using shampoo for weeks on end.

meanwhile, i continue to stress about which water filter and stove i should buy, and how much my pack is going to weigh, and if bixby is going to be manageable, and whether i should bring a long-sleeved shirt, and where i'm going to sleep each night, and how to use a compass, and etc.  i don't really worry about if i'm going to finish it or how hard it's going to be, because i know it's going to be hard and i'm going to be miserable and sore and grumpy and hungry and wet and itchy and sunburned and probably lots of other adjectives i haven't even thought of yet, but i don't have the option of not finishing.  my things are going into storage and i will not be paying rent of any kind, so i don't have a place i can give up to.  the trail is going to be my home for three months, no two ways about it.

yesterday was GORGEOUS GORGEOUS GORGEOUS and stencer and i took advantage of the weather and hiked around the eno all along the river and then up a giant hill and back down the other side of the hill and then more river time.  we climbed trees (ish) and basked in the sun and took pictures of our shadows and saw a million dogs and sang i don't fuck witchuuuuuu a lot and then we chugged gas station lemonades in the car on the way home.  it was the perfect day.  all in all, between the eno and a couple good long walks with bix, i walked about 10 miles yesterday, and even though i was bone tired, it affirmed that yes, i love this, and yes, i can do this.  i need to spend the next few months training, but i am still so excited, more excited than ever even, about my big adventure.