Day 95. Today was my birthday, and I celebrated doing the same thing I have done the past 3 months … hike. Ok fine, I did a bit more, but I also hiked. Happy, Queen Angel and I hit the trail at Kent in the morning, and hiked 5 miles together along a very steep and treacherous path. After they departed, I continued on for another 5 miles to Cornwall Bridge. This terrain was flat and beautiful, as it followed the Housatonic River. I had to laugh, as this now marked the 2nd time Happy missed the easiest terrain of our trip. I learned a few new swear words when I told him this later that day. Then we had a nice dinner, toured Kent, and went to a really cool old fashioned drive-in theater to see the Star Wars Solo movie (it was just ok).
But … it is after 9 great days of hiking together, that I am sad to say Happy is headed home. It has been a great adventure, as we navigated the twists and turns of this trail together in NY and CT, but his planned time on the trail with me is now over. My pace was slower than usual, but my company was better, and we’ve got jokes and stories for years to come from this journey.
I couldn’t think of a better way to end the time with him than my week 13 video, capturing all our favorite moments together (above). It’s been an amazing week and a half, quite the adventure to say the least, and I wish it wasn’t coming to an end so soon. In fact, I asked Happy if he wanted to continue on for another week of rocks, snakes, and mosquitoes. He replied, “Go to hell.”
I still have 700+ miles to hike before this journey is done though, and there’s no time to waste. The section together was fantastic, but I am technically 2 days behind schedule. Unless I want to skip more miles (I don’t), it’s time to hit the trail again in earnest tomorrow. Lastly, Happy was a great addition to my story, and would like to share his opinion one final time…
Herein lies the official and verified memoirs of Tom Neiman on his Day 9 (my Day 95)…
A unique and forever memorable experience. I know many of you reading this are wondering why I agreed to come out here and backpack with my son. It was for the extraordinary opportunity to adventure together … which, in retrospect, I would have rather done in my backyard.
Ok, maybe I really didn’t anticipate the degree of challenge that this trail might present to me. I did, to the extent I could, prep for this trip. I made a fool out of myself, walking around the neighborhood with my backpack and boots for two weeks. I put up with the cat calls and “where are you going, mountain man?” from various neighbors and unknown hecklers in passing cars. But I endured all this, thinking that being physically prepared would make all the difference on the trail.
However. I might have possibly overlooked the mental preparation needed. In retrospect, to truly prepare for what I was to undertake, I should have enlisted in the marines and gone off to boot camp for at least two and a half years. It’s not that Mike didn’t forewarn me of the challenges and to be a minimalist with my gear … but how could I exclude all my believed-to-be essential items to surmount the obstacles I would encounter? I can’t tell you how glad I am to have carried my 1 lb Teva sandals for the zero river crossings we faced.
Optimism was my greatest enemy. Mike told me that the Appalachian Trail consists of a variety of terrains. I have since learned,
somemany almost all are extremely rocky, offering death-defying hiking … while others are occasionally trails one could almost, maybe enjoy. You might think I’m just exaggerating, but for my final hike today, we literally scaled rock walls that required the finesse and dexterity of Spider-Man to safely reach the bottom. I’m not kidding you, this trail was a survival of the fittest that few likely live to tell about.
I learned about trail protocol and etiquette … like don’t crack jokes in passing to surly thruhikers. There are a variety of hikers you’ll encounter … some are gracious and friendly, others I wouldn’t want to meet under any circumstances anywhere at any time. You see, it seems that many thruhikers lost their peace of mind somewhere between Pennsylvania and meeting me. However, fortunately I learned the secret AT handshake (bumping fists), which roughly translates to, “This sucks, I hate you, I hate me, and I hate everything in the world.”
This has been a unique adventure, but although I am a veteran backpacker, I never could have anticipated some of the experiences that I encountered. I will never forget our first day, crawling up Anthony’s Snot Nose from the Hudson River, nor my “spiritual awakening” at the Graymoor Center. But if there ever was a moment of doubt in my sanity to take on the challenge of the AT again, it was climbing over, under, around and through hundreds of blown down trees at Canopus Lake.
I can’t say I am now an accomplished, seasoned AT hiker, but I had a taste of the experience … and don’t ever want to see it again. All jokes aside though, I had a great time with my son and understand the passion he holds for this journey. Mike promised an adventure, and an adventure I had. I enjoyed the best companionship and camaraderie that I’ll never forget while with him.
p.s. My counselor in the group tells me it’s now time to take my medications, so I’ll have to end this here. They say I might be released in 4 or 5 years…
Hello Neimans (Sharkbait and Happy)
- Start Mile: 1468.4
- Start Time: 10:45
- End Mile: 1479.5
- End Time: 16:45
- Miles Hiked: 11.1
- Miles to Go: 711.4
- Lodging: Fife ‘n Drum Restaurant & Inn