Maine is beating us up.
The nearly-2,000 miles we’ve logged over the past five months leave us vulnerable, sure: our legs are strong, but severely overworked. A wonky fall or twisted ankle not only hurt for their inherent injury, but for all the latent injury they re-aggrevate. Between us, Spider and I have three bum knees, two weak and swollen ankles, two dead toenails, innumerable blisters and hotspots, and one possible broken foot. We also have regular aches in our shoulders and hips, backs and necks.
Our spirits were high as we crossed into our final state, even despite our beat-up bodies. We hiked a long day from Gorham and set up camp less than a mile from the border. The weather was beautiful (and has been the past few days) and we were optimistic.
But the next day was rough. For the first four miles, Spider was hiking at a 1mph pace. The trail was beautiful, winding over bald-faced mountains with blueberries and pines everywhere. It was also really tough, with many sheer rock faces to climb or descend, bogs to cross, and roots and rocks to navigate.
And after those morning miles, we hit the Mahoosic Notch. This is a unique 1.2 mile section of the trail with giant boulders randomly arranged, making it quite a scramble. It was pretty fun for us for the first half, but the second half made clear how depleted we’re feeling. Every step jolted my ankle and bent my knee painfully. I nearly fell into a hole and Spider ripped his pack in three places and lost his winter hat. We were done.
There’s a campsite by the north end of the Notch, and when we saw it, we pitched our tent. It was 3:30pm. We made dinner and crawled inside while it was fully lift outside. We slept for nearly 12 hours. This morning we both still felt weary, but the rest did us good.
It’s a funny thing to walk 2,000 miles. It’s funnier still that the last 350 miles are some of the best (for NOBOs). I think we’re at a disadvantage for enjoying Maine. The Whites stunned us with their majesty; Maine’s beauty is subtler, sweeter, and best enjoyed at a slow pace. It’s also a harsh environment, and at this point, it’s clear that we want to coddle our bodies, not punish then further. I groan at the steep rocky climb, thinking of the physical pain it will bring on rather than the awesome view it will open up to.
So, toward the end of our thru-hike, I feel these dueling inclinations: to hurry to the end and rest my body, and to fully take in all that Maine has to offer. There’s a timing issue at play, too, which isn’t a bad thing but does necessitate that we finish up this month. So I’ve got to compromise. Moderate days, full gratitude. Stop-gap measures to control the aches and pains. Stretching and eating as well as we can. We’ll get there.