Rutland, Vermont. Calvin "Big Bunny" and I find each other in the one room airport. We make a scene laughing and hugging. We regress back to our teenage selves. He starts making fun of me. I pretend to beat him up. People start staring at us. We leave.
First night out: Young math teacher at shelter wonders at our loud happiness as we make dinner. He asks if we are dehydrated. We ask if he ever gets crazy. He fumbles with words for awhile, then says, yes, absolutely.
That night, "Big Bunny" and I stealth camp in a very unstealthy location, right next to the trail.
Second evening out: We get ice cream at Gifford Woods State Park. A ranger teases us that we are crazy, and asks if we are dehydrated. We rebuttle, and yes, she also gets crazy sometimes. Then, we stealth camp again, in an equally unstealthy site a few miles from the campground.
Third day out: "Big Bunny" and I reach top of mountain, as the sky opens up and lightning shoots down. I flop onto the ground, as if to avoid the bolt. "Big Bunny" laughs at me, drops pack, rips off sweaty shirt, beats chest, and hollers out to the sky. We are literally on top of the world. We can see miles in all directions, and we can see the hefty, grey clouds racing towards us. My lips are tingly. Lightning strikes closer, I scream and break into a run down the other side of the mountain. My brother laughs more. I ask him, I beg him, to please come down this 4@*j!z mountain right now, because we're going to die. Resistantly, he follows me down into the pine forests.
Rain, like you can't imagine, starts pouring down. It's not individual droplets of rain. It's like a lake is emptying onto our heads. I start laughing hysterically. The weather is comically bad. "Big Bunny" gets sullen. He reminds himself he'll be on the beaches of Southern France in three days. I apologize on behalf of the rain. Many miles later, we drag ourselves into the next shelter. We have to cram seven of us into the six person shelter.
"Big Bunny" sleeps next to "Croft" (Lara). "Croft" snores raucously and sleep talks when she isn't snoring. We listen to many sensible conversations that night, ranging from cell phone reception and bills to logistical planning and issues that are "not [her] responsibility". "Big Bunny" eventually hunts around in the dark for Benedryl to knock himself out.
The next morning is understandably difficult, but as the day warms up and dries out, our spirits brighten. We walk through foggy woods, mist rising from the night's rain. We see thousands of spider webs glistening from the moisture in the air. We see bright red lizards, and big fat toads, and an unbelievable variety of mushrooms. "Big Bunny" says this forest is magical. He takes off his shoes and hikes the last six miles barefoot.
We cross the river into Hanover. I cheer, waving my trekking poles like a lunatic, thrilled to be in New Hampshire. The big, bad White Mountains are on my horizon, and Maine waits just beyond.
I am ending in Maine this year for several reasons. Primarily, I am tired. This is hard. I have exhausted all my reserves, physically and emotionally. I still have 441.8 miles left to Mt. Katahdin. That is a lot. I have mixed feelings about it all, but I do intend to complete, to feel, and to be further transformed by these next 441.8 miles.
I wanted to do something difficult for the sake of difficulty (thank you, Rilke), and I am doing it. Life willing, I will be walking, with a 30 lbs. pack up and down mountains nearly 1200 miles. And some day, I may hike the other 1000 miles. But no promises.
My well wishes to all of you, and to the challenges and paths you all are walking.