Sunday, July 10, 2011

Flying Solo...Well, Perhaps Hobbling Solo

I have been slow. Sooooo slow. Since Grace left I've done 15-16 mile days, but I've done exactly two of them, back to back out of Harper's Ferry, and then zeroed at a hostel. The next day I did 5 miles. The day after that, 7.3. But I'm in Duncannon! Because I yellow blazed here for a hiker feed. 75 miles of yellow blazing; that's hitchhiking, for you non-hiker folk. You dear, gentle, clean, sane people.

I've been adjusting since Grace left. I had, and still have, mixed feelings about being on my own now. Grace was, in many ways, a fantastic hiking partner. We're great friends, and have the same level of maturity when it comes to humor and conversation: read, none. It was an endless stream of "that's what she/he said jokes," with conversations about men, life, and free will thrown in to mix things up. She did a lot of planning, both before the trip and day to day to figure out where we were going at any given time; but, I have a tendency to feel cooped up after spending so long with a person or with people. I need alone time, and to be able to make my own decisions without thinking about others. I felt, by the end of that two and a half months together, that it was a bit like being in a relationship, but without some of the good parts that keep you together. So, I was both sad and glad to see Grace leave.

Every time I either say or write that I feel like a total douche. This was, after all, Grace's trip when it came down to it. I'm here because she wanted to be here, and now I'm the one still here. I knew that telling her how I felt might push her to decide to leave. I think that if I hadn't thought that she was ready to be done, or at least very close to being ready to be done, I wouldn't have said anything. Everything that she was saying in our discussions about getting back on the trail after DC, however, led me to believe that this really wasn't where she wanted to be, and that the only thing keeping her going was guilt. So, I did the selfish thing, the thing that I wanted to do, which was to tell her how I felt, and see if that would push her over the line. I almost never feel guilty, but I still feel guilty about that; what's done is done, though, and here I am.

I have definitely been blazing a different path since our parting. As I said earlier, I haven't actually hiked all that much in the last week. I've hiked about 45 miles total in the last week, and then skipped 70-something miles, reeled in by another hiker friend to a hiker feed here in Duncannon. That was quite a day of hitching, too. It was relatively easy to get a ride from where the trail crossed Rte. 16 over to Rte. 15. After that, however, was not so easy. I stood on the first on-ramp for about an hour and a half, building up a nice, crisp sunburn, before a man and his wife picked me up. I hopped in the back of their truck, cuddling up to the lawnmower and the old typewriter so that I could keep my head down and not get pulled over by cops.

Did I mention the words "first on-ramp" already? Yes, yes I did. Because they only took me about 15 miles before getting off at their exit. Apparently...oh, who am I kidding? Obviously I look homeless; when they dropped me off the man asked me why I was going to Duncannon, and if I had a place to stay when I got there, and if I needed any money. It's nice to know I'm giving off the "this man needs serious help" vibe. After explaining to them that I was a thru-hiker and that I had plenty of money but thank you so much anyway, they turned right and drove off home. I looked both ways before crossing the road...and then looked left again as I crossed over to the on-ramp where a state trooper car was sitting, waiting for soon-to-be-surprised speeders. I waved at him, he waved back, and I set my pack down. As soon as I put my thumb out for the first car to pass me without stopping the Trooper pulled up to me and rolled down the window for a little chat (no, not the "blow me or I'll arrest you" chat). The first thing he told me was that it was technically not legal to be hitching there, but then asked me where I was going. After explaining to him where I was going and why, and being disappointed because he couldn't take me much more than a couple miles, he mentioned again that it was technically not legal for me to be hitching there, but that he wasn't going to bother me; I was delighted to see him drive away without me in handcuffs in the back.

Sadly, I then had to take stock of where I was, which was not a good place for a hitchhiker to take stock of. This was an exit to a tiny little town, meaning that I wasn't going to be in much luck of a quick ride. So, I made sure I was in as good a spot as possible, and returned to crisping my now sunburned face (I did, finally, think to put on the sunblock that I had sitting in my pack; I'm not always quick on the uptake). Hour one passed with maybe 15 cars passing me by. Maybe 15. A bazillion motorcycles, however, for all the good those did me. After another half hour I was getting desperate, and started searching furiously for any piece of paper or cardboard large enough to write a sign on. No such luck. So, I used the only thing I could find: 

A piece of bark that had fallen off a log. Okay, yes, I officially crossed over into looking utterly homeless at that point. But, after another half an hour, it got me a ride!

So, here I am. Not much hiking done in the last week, but still about 125 miles farther than I would be. Hopefully I should settle back into a hiking rhythm of my own making soon; surely, I will. On to Maine!

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