Marble Spring [mile 772.6]
My mental health day ended a half-hour after my last post! I ate something, looked at the trail guide, felt a little more cheerful, and decided to motivate. Even if I only got 5 miles, that would be 5 miles closer to a cheeseburger. And lying there in the wet wasn’t getting me any closer to a cheeseburger.
I put on the wet, cold clothes. And I lived.
I hit the trail at 11. I only did get 5 miles, but I’m counting it as a victory, since moving at all was so difficult. I fell once—slipped in the mud on a steep downhill. But I landed on the softest part of me, in foliage that didn’t appear to be poison-ivious, so all’s well.
It didn’t rain. The sky stayed cloudy, with a come-and-go breeze that kept the bugs down when it was ‘go.’ I hiked in my windshirt with the hood up, and my long pants, and my head net—in other words, mummified!
On a steep uphill, a young hiker passed me; he was shirtless! Short shorts, no shirt, and very low ankle socks. That got me thinking.
The only time I found ticks on my skin, I was wearing long pants tucked into my socks. At least with shorts, I can feel them moving, maybe. I think I’m going back to shorts tomorrow. They’re about ten degrees cooler, and it may be the heat that’s contributing to my inertia. It won’t help with these other bugs that are eating chunks out of me, but day to day I’m choosing my battles. I might revisit the DEET decision. And of course, I can always put my pants on if the day turns too buggy to stand.
Gradually the sun eased out. It was shining brightly when I hit Marble Spring at around 2:00. Three hours for 5 miles. Not bad, actually, given that a mile was a very steep uphill without switchbacks.
I was sitting on a log when a group of hikers showed up: about ten or twelve of them. Young. They stuck together; they didn’t ask for my trail name or offer theirs. I did try to talk with one of them, but it was a non-starter. Then they spent a half hour talking among themselves about the merits and disadvantages of various strains of cannabis, and the finer points of cannabis cultivation. They got high, then played a game like hacky sack right next to my gear (which they casually stepped on without so much as an apology), then went on hiking. And I realized I’ve drifted down into the back end of the mullet.
Somebody once said that thru-hikers are like a mullet: short in front and long in the back. In the short front end are the people who really mean it. Then in the long back end are the ones who are pretty much there to party.
I’ve been mulletized.
Two points. First off, I’m thinking that I’m not eating enough. It would explain the utter lack of energy and the low mood. That’s been a consistent problem with me. And I noticed that as soon as I had something to eat this morning, I was able to hike a little. I’ve lost too much weight, and I’m out of reserves. At the very least, I’m going to increase the calories. I might keep the same menu, but add the powders back in, even though they’re heavy. Three Breakfast Essentials is 500 calories, with vitamins. Toss in a cocoa. Maybe I’ll start carrying some butter. Olive oil doesn’t work with the stoveless thing, but I could butter my crackers. I could mix butter with trail mix. I’ve met two people who carry butter. Of course, it sounds like a potential disaster in the heat. I might also start carrying some of those iced honey buns. 450 calories. Out here, people are always looking for the highest-calorie items they can find. It’s completely backward from the real world. You have no use for ‘low fat.’ You want mega-high-fat, mega-high-calorie items. Anything over 500 calories is a jackpot!
Maybe I’ll get another stove. Blah. I would hate that. I’m so much happier not cooking.
Second: This morning I was ready to pull the plug at 1100 miles. I still may. Probably will, in fact. But rather than decide that, I’m just going to try going day to day. Ten miles if I feel like it, 5 miles, 12 miles, whatever. No more guilt over it. And with a stop at any town within a couple of miles of the trail, at least for a meal. Plus a stay at places like good hostels, if they’re close and have room. I’m hereby relieving myself of all thru-hiker pressure. I’m just a day-hiker, man. A day-hiker who’s done 772 miles.
The chips can fall where they may, once I see how the eating goes. No pun intended.
Oh, and I think I’m going to send home my puffy pants, jacket, hat, and booties, even though I wore them last night for a while. Maybe my gloves and fleece hat, too. All those things are probably 27 ounces—an extra pound and a half of food. And if I’m mentally stopping at 1100 miles, well, I won’t need them, will I? It’ll be July! I’m keeping the raingear, though. At least for now. Because when I get wet, I get cold and miserable.
Ooh, the wind picked up. It’s blasting now! A little scary! And look, a little rain! But I’m in my tent and everything’s dry. It’s all good, just for today.
Later: Another group of hikers showed up, singing and farting at one another and laughing about it, and talking endlessly about smoking a bowl and “I’d rather be smoking weed right now.” And cigarette prices in all the rest of the states.
Whatever I do, I have to get out of this mullet!
Aaaand, they’re gone… moved up the trail. I’m alone here at Marble Spring. For now, at least.
I haven’t seen anybody over 40, maybe even over 30, in a long time. There were a couple at the Captain’s, but that’s it. The demographic now is almost entirely 20s, and mostly male. Where are you, my old people? Probably in New Jersey by now.