Terra Nova isn’t fond of this photo, but so be it.
I drove into New Jersey on Saturday to meet my friend and possibly hike part of the AT with him. However, the extreme heat and the fact I had to work late into the night on Friday ruled that out. On arriving we decided to reserve a motel room at a nearby and extremely cheap establishment so my friend could get out of the heat. And since he had to go off trail in the middle of the week to have his monthly bloodwork and other tests run, we decided I was going to take him home on Sunday. The forecast of temperatures in the 90s next week influenced the decision as well.
I was shocked at how thin Terra Nova looked. While he is an extremely fit man, his face was visibly thinner. Perhaps it was dehydration. Perhaps he wasn’t eating enough – this is a running argument between us. But for whatever reason, the trail was having its say on him.
His mileage on the Appalachian Trail was impressive considering he’d taken a day off and his first day consisted of two miles – he traveled on the trail from Wind Gap, PA, over the Delaware River and 30 miles into New Jersey. 46 rocky miles passed under his boots between my dropping him off and picking him up. His complete mileage is 270, including the entirety of the PA section of the trail. Those are good numbers. Oh, and by the way, this is a man with MS.
Terra Nova passed a psychological barrier too. When he first set out hiking last fall, his goal was to complete the Pennsylvania section of the AT. As he approached the end of that section, he had a crisis of confidence. As he reported, he called his wife and asked to be picked up the next day, saying he couldn’t go any further. The following morning he called his wife again and said ‘I’m going for the rest of the trail.’ The two most difficult things to deal with are not getting what you want and getting what you want. In my opinion, Terra Nova knew he’d finished Pennsylvania, and thought “now what?” And the enormity of the Appalachian Trail’s 1900 remaining miles hit him.
Overnight he resolved his problem by not thinking of the enormity of the task, or his physical condition, or his disease. As he told me and other people following his hike, he’s only thinking of one day at a time. He doesn’t need to think about how likely he is to reach Maine, or when he can head south to hike to Georgia. Its just the day ahead of him. As long as he is physically able to hike, he will hike.
On Sunday we stopped at a “hiker feed” event called the Feast in the Forest. This is an annual but unofficial picnic and I’ll not reveal the exact location. But it was big enough to hold tables of food, grills, and coolers filled with ice and water for friends and the stream of backpackers using the AT. Terra Nova, rested and bathed, did nearly as much justice to the food as I did. He also enjoyed meeting other hikers and friends of hikers.
In particular he seemed to hit it off with Chrisco, a hiker staying in Delaware Water Gap. The two men spent a couple of hours talking gear, their approach to hiking, and things they’ve seen on the trail. When Terra Nova returns to the trail on July 4, I expect that if Chrisco is around the two men will hike together. Friendship is the best gear.