I stopped at EMS on Saturday before I left for my overnight. I bought Dry bags, four of them. One for food. One for clothes. One for electronics. One for my sleeping bag. It may have been the best money I've spent so far on my adventure. The day was grey, gunmetal, lifeless. I made the climb from Schagticoke Road the way I usually do. It didn't start to rain until the false summit. I didn't get the rain cover out until mid downpour. Note to self: try gear at home, then in monsoon conditions. It took only minutes for the lightning strikes to start. Twelve hundred feet isn't high, but it's twelve hundred feet closer to the sky than I wanted to be at that point. The trail back to the car, one and a quarter miles of descent, was an ankle high stream of silt and sticks. High exposed ridge, aluminum trekking poles, four inches of water plus lightning? Not good.
After my lightning adventure I headed back to the car to pick up some junk food that I bought for thru hikers. Once I was loaded up I headed out to Ten Mile shelter where I met up with Rory the bricklayer. We hung out in the shelter trying to wait out the rain while I tortured the poor guy with some absolutely ridiculous hiking questions. By about 3 o'clock Rory decided he was going to stay in Kent for the night to dry out , so I gave him a lift and headed back into the woods. It was 6 o'clock before I started the climb up Ten Mile Hill, a hike that takes me a little less than an hour on a good day with no pack. It took MUCH longer than that. My plan was to set up at Amy's Overlook on the Herrick Trail, about a mile off of the AT, eat dinner and snooze. I had a little bit of a freak out as the sun started to go down but made it with enough daylight to eat some crap, set up my 4 star accommodations and try to sleep.
Sleep has always been a difficult thing for me. Some of that might be related to chemistry, some a result of the goofiness that has gone on in my life, but sleep and I have always had an adversarial relationship. Things are so much better than they used to be. At it's worst I was so distrustful of people that when I lived with my ex-wife I slept in a separate bedroom. I kept the door locked and a gun on the night stand next to my bed. If forced to sleep in the same room with someone I would remain awake all night. It's called hypervigilance. Over the years it's gotten much, much better. At first I was able to sleep with the door unlocked, then the door open and now, decades later, I'm able to sleep in the same bed with someone I trust. I still need to fall asleep with the TV on. It's the only thing that distracts my hummingbird mind long enough for me to fall asleep. It's odd that one of the things I'm most anxious about on this trip is how I'll be able to fall asleep at night. Luxury problems. I'm hoping that a combination of exhaustion and hunger. mixed in with some books and maybe books on cd will help me to overcome this craziness.
This past Saturday night I read FLOOD by Andrew Vachss. I'd do the novel a great disservice if I attempted to summarize it so I'l keep it to this: Vachss is not just an author, he's a fierce advocate for abused children in his work as an attorney, a man who has devoted his life to ferociously protecting kids. His only clients are children. One thing I love about Vachss is that he rejects the current wisdom that the only way for an abused kid to heal is to forgive his abuser . This places an unnecessary burden on someone that's already broken and creates greater damage if (when) the child is unable to forgive. There's no hell vicious enough for people who in any way abuse kids.
So overnight number one is in the books. My shit never dried out before I climbed into the green monster; either did I. Pack, dry bags, shoes, socks, all soaking wet. I had ants climbing all over me throughout the night. There were unfamiliar noises, widow maker tree limbs coming down around me and and one very valuable lesson to be learned: never EVER sleep with your tent angled downhill. Not even slightly downhill. You'll spend the entire night sliding toward the bottom of the tent, moving up, sliding to the bottom of the tent, moving up, sliding to the... you get the picture. It was like trying to go to sleep in a log flume.
It all sounds pretty crappy, doesn't it? It was AWESOME! I hiked my ass off, set the tent up in less than 5 minutes, ate a buttload of junk food, and slept without a TV on for the first time in years. It was also good practice for what I'm sure will be some very wet Fall days in New England.
44 days, 17 hours and counting...
"Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape." William S. Burroughs