June 3, 2017

533 miles
10 resupply towns
4 states
1 journey

When I look at a map of the entire trail I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. When I calculate the average mileage needed to finish before fall, a small panic creeps out of suppression. These thoughts can consume you if you let them. Over the past month and a half, I have learned to plan one week at a time, shoot for a reasonable average mileage, and appreciate the distance traveled instead of stressing what is yet to come. Success on trail is about maintaining balance. This means you can't always "hike your own hike" and "just listen to your body" and "do what makes your soul happy, man." At the same time, sticking to a ridged schedule is a sure-fire way to miss out on a lot of amazing aspects of this journey. It’s the impulse blue blazes, cannonballs, and two hour lunch breaks that create lasting memories. Therefore, my 500-mile blog is a celebration of acclimating to this lifestyle. I'm currently enjoying a zero at the community pool in Marion, Virginia. We've picked up our pace significantly due to the development of our trail legs and a wonderful discovery that more miles more quickly affords you more rest days in town! 

In my last blog, I mentioned two mottoes to live by on trail:
1.	It’s always up
2.	It’s always on the bottom

In the last 400 miles, both have held true.  I would like to add two more to the list.
3.	I’m always hungry

There is a well-known phrase on the trail referred to as "hiker hunger." Hiker hunger turns the most delicate, well-mannered outdoorsperson into a ravenous, veracious predator. This condition tends to appear after 200 miles of consecutive absence from an accessible kitchen. It causes one to crush a 500 calorie Honey Bun just moments after the wrapper is torn (their price: calorie: ounce ratio can't be beat). Personally, I reach for the Poptarts. For reference, here is the progression of my breakfast on trail:

	Week 1: coffee + 1 oatmeal
	Week 2: coffee + 2 oatmeal
	Week 3: coffee + 2 oatmeal + 2 Poptarts
	Week 4: coffee with 2 instant breakfast (thru-hiker’s mocha latte) + 2 oatmeal + 2 Poptarts + Special K Meal Bar

Resupplying is one of the most difficult chores to master. If you eat too much before, you won't buy enough food for the next section. If you are too hungry (or dare I say slightly intoxicated) you buy far too much. I typically carry too much of the "wrong food."  I like to pack out fresh veggies, assorted cheeses, and other foods that aren't "worth their weight” in price or calories. Ultimately, it's my weight to bear and I enjoy the comfort of variety. I am also a firm believer that not all calories are equal.  The Poptarts aren’t adding any nutritional value to my diet, and I’m likely burning them off within the half-hour, but I like the sugar rush in the morning!

4.	It’s always raining

One of the most cliche, well known, and unfortunately true mottoes on trail is "no pain, no rain, no Maine." Essentially, mental fortitude through the discomfort delivers you to the true treasures on trail.  The torment allows you to appreciate the bliss.  Before arriving in Damascus, it rained on us for 8 consecutive days. According to some previous thru hikers that's nothing noteworthy. All you can do is suck it up, make yourself a cup of coffee and force those wet socks over your blistered, wrinkled, water-logged toes. We have finally entered a spell of beautiful weather that makes packing up a wet tent well worth it. 

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