Wednesday, October 8, 2014

63. Hot Chocolate

On the second day of hiking the Appalachian Trail, my lungs were still coated in an even, thick coating of New York City grime. I wasn't out of shape, but I wasn't in shape either. I was simply occupying space in a roughly human shape. After five years of smoggy oxygen, I had grown accustomed to the lack of space in my lungs. I biked and ran on an irregular basis, and generally ate healthy. The one thing in my favor was how I walked everywhere. I didn't understand how much I walked until people would come to visit me, and I would drag them all over the city until they dropped to the pavement, begging for me to just take them to the nearest bagel shop and leave them there to nap. For days.

The first day wasn't so hard in terms of the physical demand on my body- partly because I was floating a few inches off the ground with excitement, and all Dumptruck had to do was give me a good push every once in a while and I would just drift down the trail, like a helium balloon almost out of air, bobbing along, dragging its yellow string on the ground behind it. The second day though- phew! The second day was HARD. We went over 12 miles, and I wasn't physically prepared for that at all.

By nine miles in, I had to stop and wheeze every few minutes, coughing like I'd been smoking for years. My backpack felt emormous and heavy, more and more like a small child trying desperately to wrestle me to the ground. I was having a great time (sincerely, no sarcasm), but it was a hard great time. I was chipper and determined, but also very aware of the long months I'd spent leading up to the trail not training. I knew that my body had a lot of metaphorical (and maybe literal) crap to work its way out of its system. The second day made me keenly aware of this.

We made it to a road crossing called Woody's Gap, and there a previous section hiker named Fresh Ground had set up a small banquet of hiker food for passing thru-hikers. There was boiling water, little cups, and many different packets of differently textured things to pour into boiling water (oatmeal, grits, coffee) but hopefully not all at once.

One of those packets was Hot Chocolate. Specifically, it was the type of hot chocolate that has those tiny marshmallows. Those tiny marshmallows are really more of just a general reference to marshmallows, rather than actual, functional marshmallows. They're rock hard and the size of jujubees, and immediately melt away into a sad, tasteless, white film on the surface of your hot chocolate that serves no other purpose than to just remind you how nice it could be, if there were actual marshmallows.

That's my favorite kind! Seriously! It's like a game to see if you can wait juuuust long enough for the water not to be scalding, but juuuust before everything melts away. And if you don't win the game, your consolation prize is still hot chocolate. THAT'S A WIN IN MY BOOK. 

I remember standing in the southern winter chill, a cup of hot chocolate nestled in the cradle of my two hands, holding it close to my nose so I could be breathing in the beautiful chocolatey smell even when I wasn't actively drinking. I remember the crisp, clean wind blowing through the gap between mountains, grounding me while also trying to wisk me off my feet. I remember the warmth in my hands, and in my heart, and knowing with all of me, that I was ready walk on.

Clever Girl


  1. Another poetical post on something most of us would see as quite prosaic. We're going to the store to get some Swiss Miss hot chocolate TODAY! :-) Love, Mom and Dad

  2. I enjoy your writing, the way you describe your journey and your memories of each event that you lived. I look forward to each post.