Over the past month and a half I have been hiking with three different visitors from home. First, my friend from high school came out for 5 days. Then, my cousin hiked with me for a month. Right after that, my sister joined me for 4 days. All of them were in great shape and had camped before. But none of them had done anything like a thru-hike before. Having them out with me meant changing a lot about my hike.
First, I had to cut my mileage. A lot. My injury meant that cutting mileage was actually a really good thing for my hike, but it was still really hard to watch almost every other Southbounder fly past me. Since I knew my guests would leave eventually, I started to stress that I would have no one to hike with once they were gone. It was also hard on my spirit. When I looked at my pace and at how many more miles I had to go, the end of my hike seemed like it was an eternity away. I started to get tired just thinking about it.
With the prospect of eons of lonely miles ahead if me, I started to get sick of things. Brushing my teeth was too much of a chore, and all of my food was looking unappetizing. I started wanting to stop earlier than my guests did because I wanted to just sit and read.
I had to change my style of hiking and camping too. When I hike alone I sleep in a hammock. When I have visitors I carry a two-man tent instead. That meant I had to stop at actual campsites, and I needed to be near a water source so we could have enough water to cook dinner and breakfast.
I found myself stressing about mileage and speed and plans. I always made sure we ended the day at a good campsite. I stopped wanting to journal and write blog entries.
But even though it was a lot of hard work I can say beyond a doubt that it was worth it. I already miss everyone terribly. I miss swimming and giggling about poop with my friend, I miss coffee and belting out showtunes with my cousin, and I miss the heart-to-heart talks with my sister while jogging downhill. The thing most that makes all the effort of having visitors worth it is the support network I’ll have at home. I now have a group of people that understand a lot about my hike and what it means to me. Since I made sure everyone enjoyed themselves, I may even be able to convince them to accompany me on future section hikes. But most of all, when I get home and I’m still carrying around ziplocks and licking my bowls clean, I’ll have loved ones around that understand what I’m going through. As my cousin put it, “I’m spending my vacation month wearing the same pair of underwear everyday. Who else would do that for you?”