Connecticut was thick with tall pine trees. The scent of pine was so strong I hoped it would stick to my clothes and work as deodorant. The red pine needles on the forest floor gave me a bounce in my steps. In these woods, morning sun rays streak through the pine trees, and as the wind blows, the trees' shadows on the ground look like a kaleidoscope turning.
My incredible family came and hiked with me for a week through these forests. I savored every second with them, on and off the trail. But now that they're gone, I only miss them more. I miss Mom's ecstasy over a clean pair of socks. ("New socks?! I feel like a new person!!") I miss Will imitating Mom imitating a thru-hiker (head down, hunched over, bobbing up and down, big steps). I even miss Will and Ellen laughing about farts late into the night. Every night. (Their trail names are appropriately "Lard Butt" and Butt Face" respectively. They politely used each others' names at every opportunity). I miss Dad and his punny humor and and his steady, congenial presence. My dear family! Come back! Luckily, wonderfully, my brother Calvin is joining me for some time before he heads back to Germany this fall.
Anna C came out too! and "Shake Down"! "Shake Down" may insist she's not thru-hiker material, but she's joining me again in a few days, so we'll see...
Their company was like water on a hot day. I had missed the company of people who already know and love me. People who have to love me! People who know good food and make a scene about good food like I do. People who take smirking pictures like I do. (Anna, did you SEE that photo of us?) People who give me hugs and back massages. They say you need 10 hugs a day, so I had been short on hugs for nearly two months!
One of my favorite moments with the family was on the second day. We were short on water and the few stagnant streams we did pass, were not drinkable even if filtered. We decided to push on a few more miles to the next clean water source. Only minutes later, we encountered Trail Magic. A thru-hiker from 2007 left us clean water, cookies, and watermelon with a note saying "Trail Magic."
Trail Magic may sound campy or hokey, like the trail names, but before you judge, I challenge you to come out here and sweat and stink. Then you can decide how you feel about Trail Magic. Plus, once you hear a few burly, bearded men praising Trail Magic, it may sound cooler to you, as it is.
After our dose of Trail Magic, Mom, "Mama Bear", had the generous idea to give back to the trail. I'd grown used to being the needy recipient, so it hadn't crossed my mind that I could be, instead, a Trail Angel. A few days later, we brought plums, Oreos, and water to a road crossing on the trail. We felt positively Great about ourselves. I'd like to do that more often. Maybe I could live somewhere near the A.T., like the Cookie Lady I passed yesterday. The Cookie Lady makes about 1500 cookies during the summer months when hikers pass by and stop in to her house. I met the Cookie Man and told him he was a lucky guy. He agreed.
Since they've left, I've entered into MA. The first person I encountered in MA was a man on a motorcycle who drove past me at a road which crossed the trail. He was cranking "Cecilia, you're breaking my heart!" I got the feeling MA was going to be a good state.
Other than these darned mosquitoes, I've been right.
Earlier this week, I decided to take a day off from hiking, and work at Moon in the Pond Farm in exchange for quality organic food, a shower, and a place to pitch my tent. The farm reminded me of the movie "Babe" or E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web". Animals were everywhere. Geese, ducks, chickens and turkeys wandered around like they owned the place. The roosters tried attacking me and the farm intern, Matt, a bright eyed, high school sage. I also met Bri and Josh, two earthy and earnest farm apprentices, who are committed to their garden beyond reason. Josh dreams of the weeds growing in his sleep, and Bri will fight any fight to help her vegetables grow. I admired all three of them.
I could've gotten sucked into staying longer on their farm with their company, but I am committed to my hike. I've got to travel on. And with each day Northbound, the mountains get steeper, the trees get taller, and the views get more breath-taking.
On one mountain top view, the song "America the Beautiful" rose up in me. It's easy to become cynical, what with all the heart-breaking injuries to Earth, like oil spills and mountain top removal, but this hike is making me fall back in love with the United States. We have spectacular beauty here. I am overcome with gratitude for the people who have protected areas of the U.S. like the Appalachian Trail.
"O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain."
On the A.T., I've walked through the amber waves John Steinbeck describes. I've walked over purple and blue mountains. I've stared up at the spacious skies. At night, that sky has made me aware we are hurtling along at a crazy speed, in a lonely universe, and I've clung to the ground as though I'm on a roller coaster.
And actually, this journey has been very much like a roller coaster. The ups and downs come faster and harder than I could have imagined. And I'm hanging on as best I can.