I wouldn't be able to write this post if I wasn't sitting on the edge of PA and NJ. The rest of Pennsylvania went about how I expected it to--playing Tetris with my feet and cursing the state all the while. But, I made it to Delaware Water Gap a day early and feel rested enough to push on. If it was so hard, why do big days? To be honest, like my foot pad, my mental fortitude was wearing thin. The picture above is me at camp, going to town on a Reese's wrapper since it melted--after a tough day I have no shame.
Now, looking back, Pennsylvania was some hard medicine to swallow, but good came from it.
For one, it helped deflate my ego. A week in the real world being treated like a super hero by friends and family was surreal. Friends would brag to others about what I am doing, my parents kept saying how amazed they were. I felt invincible. The rocks of PA helped me remember that I am far from finished in this journey. At a little past halfway, I still have a lot of tough, but good miles ahead.
People from Pennsylvania seem to have a twisted sense of satisfaction from the rocky terrain. It's clear that they want you to make it all the way, but they also definitely enjoy hearing thru hikers struggle. Each person I passed would say, "You look great, but there's a big rocky section coming up..." It feels good now to know I made it through, but I am humbled.
After venting in that last post (thanks for letting me get that out) I tried to embrace a new style of hiking. I could never really get the hang of controlled falling, but I did begin to trust my feet a little more. Hiking these rocks has taught me a lot about momentum; it's essential to be successful on the trail and on life. I've been shocked at what I've been to balance on for just a second before hopping to the next do rock. Mental momentum has been essential too, as I get further from vacation off the trail, I am more able to keep up good spirits.
Finally, as much as I feel connected to the trail, I've learned that nature is indifferent to my struggles. For a while, I felt like the trail would push me to my limits, and just as I was about to break, it'd lessen up. I was able to struggle but never really toil. The endless rocks of Pennsylvania paired with the brutal heat led to a scary moment when I almost had a trip-ending fall. I was fine, but my foot was inches away from landing in a deep crevice between some boulders. As I recovered from the shock and fear, I looked into the abyss--the stone was unmoved by my terror and worries. Nature isn't here to teach me, I am fortunate enough to simply learn what I can from it. And while Nature might be indifferent, other hikers are not. Strangers have come together in a positive way to support each other through this state. Whether sharing a snack, offering to fetch water, or just saying positive words, the hiker community has only been strengthened by these stones.
These were hard lessons but good ones. I've heard the NJ isn't much better in terms of the rocks, but at least I've had a mental reset. And, there are supposed to be delis along the way! Yum!