Had my ass kicked on a 15-mile section hike on the Appalachian Trail (AT) today. This section began at Lyme-Dorchester Road summitting Smarts Mountain and Mt. Cube and ended at NH Rte 25A. Ouzo and I started on the trail at 1005 hours this morning and got off at the Mt. Cube trail head at 1635 hours. Susan and the kids picked me up at 1700 hours and ferried me back to my truck at the Smarts Mountain trail head.
Why did this hike kick my ass? Afterall, I’ve done plenty of hikes with much steeper grades and higher summits than this one. I think it came down to humidity and trail conditions. At lower elevations, the air was so humid that water kept condensing on my eye glasses. This very annoying psychrometric reality once again reminded me just how badly it sucks to have to wear glasses. But, with 20/400 vision (legally blind in some states), hiking without glasses is a great way to bust ass big time. Also, all the rain we’ve had lately has made the rocks extremely slippery with new-growth algae. This was especially annoying ascending Smarts Mountain where every third or fourth step was a jolting slip. After four miles of that, I was one soggy, pissed-off cracker. By the time I approached the summit of Smarts, my vocabulary had degenerated into a near-constant stream of choice X-rated words.
And I sweated more on this hike than on any of the other hikes I’ve done so far this season. At one point, I realized that I had salt deficiency, evidenced by an inexplicable energy crash. I popped a couple of salt pills and electrolytic harmony was restored. That’s a tricky one to catch because it can fool you into thinking that you need to eat more when what you really need is plain ol’ salt.
Met several AT-thru and long-section hikers. All had been on the trail for at least six weeks. ACK! I can’t imagine living on the trail that long. It goes on for five months for the folks that thru-hike the entire AT. I admire these people immensely. They’re almost always young people, 20-somethings, and they make me optimistic about the future of this country when everyone else makes you think the whole country’s going to shit. Anticipating encounters with them, I try to bring along stuff to give them that they don’t normally get in trail life: chocolate, tobacco, alcohol, and toilet paper, all of which are highly prized by thru-hikers. Oh, I know, you’re thinking, “But these are back-to-earth, starry-eyed, granola-crunchers, why would they want such things?” You go spend several weeks in the woods–you’d be surprised at what you start craving. So I’m giving out bars of Ghirardelli chocolate, packs of Camels, cans of Skoal, pints of Jack Daniels, and rolls of Charmin to eager, grateful thru-hikers. It’s called Trail Magic in the AT culture. It’s a good thing.