“I don’t want to.”
“I don’t want to put that on my back. At all,” I said, pointing at my pack sitting innocently in the corner of our cozy room. I hated it.
“Well, you’re going to Maine,” Emily stated bluntly, as she hoisted her pack effortlessly onto her back. Ugh. I hated her, too.
The thought of quitting actually never crossed my mind. I was 100% definitely going to Maine, no doubt. Every part of me was entirely dedicated to this adventure. I still wanted to hike. I just didn’t want to hike anywhere today.
I didn’t want to put on my backpack. I didn’t want to put on my now clean, yet somehow always dirty, slightly damp hiking clothes I’d been sweating through for 23 days. I didn’t want to pick up my trekking poles. I didn’t want to take one single step outside that door.
I must have accidentally washed all motivation down the drain with my late night shower. Or maybe the day before was a little too fresh in my mind: Sipping (borderline guzzling? It was hot.) white wine in the gazebo of some resort of which we didn’t belong, playing cribbage and listening to the river rush by, watching the storm roll in. Running through the rain and hail when gusts of wind made our gazebo games impossible, loving every minute of it, because we knew we had a warm, dry bed and a place to hang our clothes. Soaking in the rejuvenating mineral waters of the Hot Springs Resort, relaxing with the best kind of trail magic with our new friend Shaggy, topped off with a much-needed massage of overworked muscles. I know, Zero days are hard.
But seriously, they sort of are. They bump you out of your wake up, eat, hike, eat, hike, eat, sleep, repeat rhythm. They remind you of the best parts of the Real World happening all around you. You’re reminded of how people eat things other than ramen with a spork, walk around without carrying their entire home on their back, sleep without building a bed, poop without digging a hole. You sort of need a Zero day from your Zero day to get back to your hiker alter ego.
On the very first day of our hike, minutes after a downpour, we passed a couple of hikers taking what looked like a much needed break. Instead of the usual generic greetings, when they asked how we were, I channeled my inner Badger Bob Johnson and responded, “Well, it’s a great day for a hike,” and that’s kind of worked its way into our daily routine, become sort of our motto. If I don’t say it by mid-morning, Emily will ask, “Oh hey, what kind of day is it?” And I respond accordingly. But not that day. Because that day sucked.
Knowing there was a below zero chance I would say anything about the greatness of hiking that day, Emily wasted no time. “Soo, what kind of day is it?” If she was trying to motivate me, she was failing.
“It’s a shit day. A shitty day for a hike.”
“No seriously. What kind of day is it?”
“A great day to do anything BUT hike.”
“I’m gonna try this one more time. What kind of day is it?”
Ugh, fine. “A great day for a hike,” I mumbled. But I didn’t mean it.
See, as adults, when we don’t want to do something, we have the luxury of just not doing it. It’s one of those super powers adults have but don’t tell you about when you’re a kid. Don’t want to go to work? Call in sick. Don’t want to shovel the driveway? Wait for it to melt. Don’t want to go for a run? Don’t. Sure, there might be consequences, but you’ll deal with those later.
When your job is simply getting up and walking north, when your only task is to get from point A to point B, it’s kind of hard to come up with reasons not to do it. But on the other hand, no one really cares if you make it to point B, so why not just sit on your ass if that’s what you feel like doing? I actually have a dozen answers to this question, most of them come from within, but at least one comes from an external source, and mine was staring me in the face, in full-fledged Energizer Bunny mode, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, busting with enthusiasm. Gross.
I rolled my eyes like any mature third grader would do, sighed and lifted my pack onto my back, feeling every single ounce of every single pound. I grabbed my trekking poles, once part of my body, now unwelcome extensions. I could think of 1,000 other things I would rather be doing and I verbalized all of them as we painfully climbed 1,000 feet out of Hot Springs: Redo my bathroom, weed my garden, drink wine with my sister, play with Grace and Lisa at the park, watch a baseball game, paint my front door, etc. Then I plugged in my ear buds and went silent.
After the longest day of my life was finally over, that night in my trail journal, I wrote: Day 23 NOT FEELING IT. And that might be the best way to describe it. I wasn’t in pain, I wasn’t exhausted, I just simply did not want to walk.
I knew I would eventually face this hurdle during my five month trek. I wish I could say I gracefully bounded over it like an Olympic track star, but I didn’t. I ran right into that hurdle, flung it down, cursed at it for ricochetting off my shins, then glared at it for merely existing as I gingerly stepped over it. If looks could kill and hurdles were alive, that hurdle would be dead. But the point is, I made it over. I’m on the other side. The next day I woke up as my cheery, hiking, optimistic self. My pack was weightless again, my body felt ready, my trekking poles were coordinated extensions of my arms, my spirits high. It was indeed, a great day for a hike.
I know there will be more of these Bad Days. But I’m not afraid of them anymore. Yes, I hated every single step of all 19.6 miles that day. But I still took them.
Because I’m going to Maine. And that’s the only way to get there.