Friday, July 26, 2013

Looking Up

7/21: 13.2 miles from just north of Salisbury to Glen Brook Shelter

7/22: 7.9 miles to US 7 crossing and hitch into Great Barrington, MA. Dumptruck and I got a ride in a refridgerated truck! We've also been hiking with a great guy named Catch 22! We've been leap-frogging him for months. He has fantastic energy.

7/23: A ZERO DAY. This was our first zero day since the 4th of July. Granted we haven't been doing huge mileage, but we've been constantly on the move in 90+ degree heat for 19 days straight. Yikes. So we spent the day eating donuts and playing indoor mini-golf with Catch and Grim's friend Ashley who was visiting us. Yes, please.

7/24: 17.6 miles to Shaker Campsite. We got a ride back to the trail from town from an excellent guy named Ron! The weather finally started to cool down in earnest, and we could hike more miles without melting into puddles of humans.

7/25: 18.7 miles to October Mountain Shelter

7/26: 11.8 miles into Dalton, MA

Current AT mileage: 1565.8 miles


There are two different types of joke-tellers. First, there is the type that will finish his joke with a flourish, looking straight into your eyes with an open-mouthed, expectant grin, waiting for your obligatory response of mirth. It doesn't matter to him if you chuckle or guffaw, all he cares about is that you show recognition and appreciation for the humor. Most people tell jokes this way; we want to amuse others. I certainly do. I tell jokes for the benefit of those around me.

But then, there is a much rarer, second type of joke-teller. This type tells jokes only for his own amusement, unconcerned with whether anyone else is following. He finds humor and delight in almost everything, and it's totally cool for him if you're not along for the ride. He will find a simple pun that sends him into transports of giggles, and it doesn't matter to him if you think puns are stupid. You can groan and roll your eyes all you want, but he's too busy shaking with laughter to notice.

My father is the second type. My father's constant refrain of barely stifled laughter was the hug of parenthesis outlining the parenthetical statement of my childhood. I have countless memories of watching my dad spit-take his coffee, wipe tears from the corner of his eyes, or cough from accidentally inhaling a bite of food in the grips of a giggle fit. My sister and I would stare at him in amusement and confusion, never quite grasping the puns, but happy to see our father so happy. 

For example, he convinced my sister and I that the air in the center of a donut was poisonous to children under the age of 12, and any part of the donut that touched the aforementioned air was infected. Nelle and I, ever trusting, would dutifully eat our donuts in a circle, leaving behind a ring of donut which we would then hand to our father for safe consumption. This ruse was up when Dunkin Donuts introduced Munchkins (donut holes) for the first time, and I started screaming in the shop that they must be trying to kill all of the children. He told me, through tears of laughter, that he had lied about the donut poison.

The night before last, as everyone sat in their tents chatting, I let loose a peal of terrible gas. Dumptruck coughed, and I decided this was the right time to exit the tent and brush my teeth. As I stood in a clump of bushes, Dumptruck's strangled voice drifted over to me,

"Oh god in heaven, I don't know how it's possible, but the smell has gotten even worse since you got out of the tent."

"Well you know what they say," I said, squeezing a dollop of toothpaste onto my brush.

"What's that?"

"Absence makes the fart grow stronger."

I couldn't even finish the sentence before I was doubled over, snorting with laughter. It wasn't even that funny, but for some reason I was totally tickled. Grim, Whistle and Dumptruck groaned and rolled their eyes so hard that I swear I felt a breeze. But it didn't matter. I've finally become my father. I couldn't stop chortling. Tears were streaming down my face, and I had to stop brushing my teeth several times to cough up foamy giggles. Even now, as I write this, it's significantly difficult for me not to burst into hysterics. Is this what it means to grow up? To finally accept that the best jokes are the ones we tell ourselves? No, it's not as deep as that. It just means that with every day we become more like our parents. Every day I endeavor to be more like my father, and if that means one day baffling my children with my self-contained chuckle fits, I couldn't be happier. 

The past few days have been a beautiful, perfect temperature. It was so hot for so long that my only choice is to believe that I have died of heat exhaustion and this is my fever dream. It's beautiful in the morning, afternoon and evening. It's beautiful while I sleep. I was sincerely chilly the other night. When I rolled over and my knees touched Dumptruck's, it didn't feel like I was accidentally rolling into a hearth ablaze with fire. 

Massachusetts has been gorgeous, with legitimate mountain climbs and pine forests. Moss clings to rocks and the ground is a carpet of soft pine needles. Gentle, cool breeze winds its way between tree trunks, ruffling my hair and bringing me sweet smells of the earth. Before I left for the trail, when I would fantasize about it, I often pictured a forest very similar to the one we're currently hiking through. I've been walking through the memory of a dream.

The trail crosses over I-90, the Mass Turnpike, over a little footbridge. The bridge is labeled "Appalachian Trail" in large letters, presumably to alert the speeding motorists to the presence of filthy hikers just above them. We watched as the world went to work, driving at speeds so much faster than we feel hiking. We threaded our fingers in the chain link fence, remembering the world as it was before we started: a world of rushing. 

But now we live in a world of absorbing, of rushing only as fast as our legs can walk and no faster. We wanted to remind the drivers below us on the highway to stop and see the world around them for a moment. To remind them that looking up is worth it. That each day is worth it. That we need to stop to breathe, to gasp or cry or laugh. To feel something more than the simple sense of urgency. But how? How can you deliver such a message to someone going 75 mph when you're standing completely still?

By mooning them.

A cavalcade of horns blared instantly from the oncoming traffic. Whether they were honking in delight or horror, I have no idea. The thunder of truck horns trumpeted forth, alongside the merry toots of minivans, acknowledging the view of a bevy of white butts on the footbridge above them. 

I hope that as you go through your day, whatever it may bring, you can carry this with you. If you feel like you're getting too caught up in work, or you feel like you haven't looked up from your office computer for days, or you feel trapped in an endless list of to-dos, just imagine this:
Imagine looking up from whatever has absorbed you, and somewhere in the middle distance, wherever you are, someone is mooning you. 

And if this occurs to you, and if you happen to find that sort of thing funny, and if you start to laugh, remember that it's okay if no one around you understands your sudden mirth. Sometimes we tell jokes for other people, but sometimes we tell jokes only for ourselves.

And for us, they are perfect.

Clever Girl

We are being taken care of by an ASTONISHINGLY AMAZING trail angel named Tom in Dalton. He dropped us off at the mall, where we saw TWO movies, ate so much popcorn we were sick, and then picked us up afterward. He also did a huge number of other kind things for us, and let us stay in his home. Incredible.

Nelle- the temp tats you sent us were put to good use. (That's Dumptruck, and Catch in the upper left

Catch in the tail of a mini-golf dragon

Dumptruck with the correct size putter.

Hitchin a ride

All the hikers that stayed at Tom's!


  1. This entire blog should just be published into a book. Seriously. You have such amazing insights and UGH YOUR WRITING IS JUST SO GOOD.

    1. What she said! And the book should be required reading, too.

      The only downside is that now all the other Trail Journals I read aren't nearly as entertaining, so I get like a crack addict needing a fix when you go a few days without posting. I NEED MY CANDY!!!!!

    2. Thanks Lis and Mikey!! That's so sweet of you both to say, and so very, very encouraging. I will do my best to keep you in steady candy supply!

  2. I'm not renewing my subscription to the New Yorker until they hire you! Sisu

    1. I feel like my gratitude for this comment should be up to New Yorker standards, but all I can manage to do is blush and stammer like an idiot.
      What I mean to say is: thank you, sincerely.

  3. So glad you are still heading North and continuing to share your creative writing talents along with photos. You and Dumptruck are in my prayers every morning and evening. Apollo, too.

    1. Thank you so much Prayer Walker! We're glad to be heading north too, and we so much appreciate your thoughts for us! You keep us going :)

  4. hahahahahahahahahahahahahahasighhahahahahahahahahahahahah. No ass pics? Was hoping for a peek at Grims. Ant photo op you have for that should be sent to my personal mail box. Thanks.

    1. I showed Grim this comment. I promise we're working on it. I at least got him shirtless for the latest post!

  5. You forgot the 3rd type of joke teller...the one who tells them for his/her own amusement...AND causes those around them to convulse in fits of laughter. That's rarest of all, and you're it! We can't stop chuckling over the "absence" line. Too, too funny! Pics are looking great...what a fun mini golf course. Never saw one with a suspension bridge! Glad you gave the I-90 commuters a reminder to stop and smell the hikers. We love and miss you. Your post made our day! So happy you're gettting closer. Hugs and kisses to all, Mom and Dad

    1. Always stop and smell the hikers... but probably from a distance for your own good.

  6. I would like to clarify a rather important point AND THAT IS: my lovely wife posts her comments under MY name through google. This doesn't matter for squat EXCEPT for the above comment regarding Grim. Just sayin'......

    1. I am Clever Girl and I approve this message.

  7. Loved this one too!

    Cannot wait to share it with my daughter.

    You're my favorite.


    1. Thank you Robert!! I appreciate your support so much. Your comments make me so happy!