Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sending Messages - AT Sec 3 Part 2

We were a hiking party of seven. No surprise I soon fell to the back of the line and then a little further back. Lest anyone worry, I sent a message ahead with other hikers. In general fine and friendly folk hike the AT, happy to deliver messages and such.

“If you see a bearded man with a slew of red heads please let them know I’m thoroughly enjoying my dawdling. Tell them I’m fine and will be along eventually.”

The delivered message did not deter my sweet husband from worry. After depositing his pack and our daughter at the shelter with our friends he hiked back a half a mile to find me. He offered to carry my pack and deserves a standing ovation. Note, however, I was doing fine on my own.

I felt good and wanted to keep it that way. His worry was unnecessary. I was just pacing myself trying to learn from my mistakes. I needed to find a balance somewhere between puppy pacing and my delusions of... what? Invicibility? Grandeur? Sportsmanliness? Getting close... overconfidence based on a single small success? Whatever we call it, I'd since been humbled.

In retrospect it was smart to pace myself. Unfortunately it wasn't enough. Perhaps my backpack was too heavy. Perhaps my joints had been underutilized too long. Whatever the reasons, the next day my knees hurt. Again, I found myself taking up the rear. This time unwilling and none too pleased.

As I sat, hikers passed with a smile and a few kind words. I tried to fit in. I admit it, the peer pressure was getting to me. I tried not to let on about my shame, frustration and discomfort (pain) to those friendly hikersby. So I devised a subtle message to send down the trail.

“Tell them I’m taking my time, resting my knee. It’s giving me some trouble but I’m drawing and observing nature while I rest.”

Nothing alarmist or whiney but a statement of my predicament. Surely they’d pick up on the difference? Or not.

Bedraggled and in pain I arrived to indifferent disinterest. “Did you receive my messages?” I asked my husband all innocence.

“Yes, they said your knee was bothering but that you were doing fine.”

Ah, foolish husband. Insert snarling Wildcat Wife here and feel very sorry for the husband.

Next time I won't let the opinions of others sway me. I'll whine, I'll let that stiff upper lip melt into a petulant pout. Or maybe I'll send a ridiculous message for amusement’s sake. I could test what it takes to get looks of incredulity on the trail. Any suggestions?

[These events unfolded over the second and third days of our trip from Danby Rd to Clarendon Gorge VT. It was a 3 night trip and my third excursion onto the Appalachian Trail, an installment so to speak on my 30 year plan to slow-hike the whole thang.]


  1. Annie,

    I am at a loss for incoded messages. Maybe, "Provalone" my brother says that to tollbooth personal to be cryptic.

    Do you where a knee brace when you hike? I got some when I was taking dance classes @ Smith and it helped alot. Well, only when I remembered to pack it.

  2. And don't forget the trekking poles. Very good for knees I'm told. Oh, and your message was too subtle. We really did think you wanted to be alone...
    Hope to see you soon.

  3. Annie,
    I second the trekking poles they take a load of the knees, but sounds more like you just had a bad day. It happens to everybody sometimes, especially if you havent carried a backpack recently.

    As Colin Fletcher (COMPLETE WALKER) says, the best exercise to get ready for carring a 30lb pack up and down mountains is to carry a 30lb pack up and down mountains. In other words, hike more often with a pack and you body will behave better (or at least you will get used to the pain).


  4. Robin,
    A hair off the dog that bit me, eh? I agree. More hiking is surely the cure.

  5. Shhhh... Rowan/Tara,
    You're not to take anything I say seriously. Or at least not with a truckload of salt!

  6. Erica,
    Provolone is the perfect message. Discrete, poetic and perhaps even enigmatic? Maybe I could turn it into some sort of code word that means, "help I'm floundering." Though that could raise problems with some vegans. Maybe I'll have to go with "tofu pork rinds" instead. Thanks for the suggestion!