We’re down to our final 500 miles. It feels like we’ve transitioned into the final stage of our hike. We are far enough north and high enough in elevation to feel cold weather again. The mosquitoes aren’t thriving, and the mud is not as wet–a stark contrast to the section we just finished.
In the worst heat and bugs, back in Connecticut and southern Massachusetts, I lost touch with my gratitude. I wasn’t having fun. We spent a lot of days seeking refuge in the closest town. We found we were not alone and met dozens of fellow thru hikers at this time. I remember telling them that, contrary to Miss Janet’s silly trail motto, it was about the miles and not the smiles, or else why would we subject ourselves to hiking in these conditions. Big Red was quick to disagree with me, saying that being in the shade with his friends was making him smile, that there were still parts of the day that made hiking worth it to him. That it was still about the smiles. I realized that commiserating with other hikers about our common miseries had been, in some way, enjoyable. The hiking community carried me through the hardest parts of this hike.
The grind isn’t over, but hiking doesn’t feel as mentally straining anymore. The finish line is in sight, and the trail between is arguably the best hiking of it all. I’ve stopped focusing on Kathadin and been able to enjoy each day’s hike by itself. This is fun. It’s good to be hiking.