The high temperature of the day was around 65°F, a drastically warmer temperature from the near freezing morning from the first day of the trail. It was going to be a good day. Today, I would exceed the halfway point, 48 miles. Everything was going according to plan. By noon I had already killed ten miles and was stoked at the progress I was making. Then, thanks to Murphy’s Law, I managed to get off trail. Somewhere after mile 49 I lost track of the white, metal markers on the trees and began following red tape (in some areas the red tape was used in addition to the markers to help draw your attention to the correct route). I knew something was wrong after the markers completely disappeared and my guidebook kept describing things I never saw. I was following some sort of logging trail through the woods and it seemed to be taking me in the right direction so I kept following it. It popped me out at a pipeline clearing which was good and bad. I knew the trail also popped out at the pipeline but I had no idea where. I walked a little ways in both directions and nothing. I went to plan B. The pipeline eventually intersected a road I would at some point have to walk on and there I could pick up the trail again. I just wasn’t sure what this detour would cost me in regards to time and resources. After about a half mile of walking I found where the trail intersected the pipeline. I was relieved but frustrated. My following thoughts took me to the word “lost.” I did not once consider myself lost but rather off trail. I think it is important to think in a calm manner in these situations. In my experience, the word “lost” incites a panic that can drive a negative spiral. Therefore, my thought is that you’re not lost until you give up.
The increasing temperatures mixed with blatant sunshine caused a few points of discomfort I either hadn’t thought about or figured I would be able to avoid because of the colder temperatures I started out with. One such discomfort were the effects of humidity. “Life thrives in hot and humid,” my dad always said to me. One of those forms of life being spiders. Spiders that build webs across the trail I was walking on. Spiders that sat in the middle of that web and are, at minimum, the size of a quarter. It started out with a single strand of stray webbing across my face. It was annoying but not debilitating. As the temperature continued to get warmer, I began to get more and more face fulls of spider webs or a mini heart attack when I dodged the spider a split second before I ran into it. It was unsettling. I tried to solve my problems by swinging my trekking poles in the air ahead of me, providing me with a nice triceps workout, but I’d let my guard down for a second and immediately get another spider web to the face. The other humidity discomforts were chafing and rash related. WARNING: if you are uncomfortable with the conversations surrounding female hygiene and bodily functions then please skip to the next paragraph. My period came earlier than I’d expected and I only had pads on me. Pads, if you didn’t already know, are a relative of the diaper family and therefore can cause diaper rash. This becomes a problem when you factor in a hot, humid environment and long, black, non-breathable pants. It began to burn when I peed and as I walked. I knew I had to find a way to effectively keep that sensitive area of my body dry. The problem, I didn’t have toilet paper. My solution, I would need to sacrifice an absorbent article of clothing. The best I had available was a wool glove that I no longer needed. Also, on a side note, your belly button chafes too.
About a mile before I reached camp for the night I would need to refill my water at a pond. The pond looked questionable to say the least. It was covered in green algae and impossible to extract any water without floaties of some sort. The sun was setting so I had to move quickly. I plunged two of my nalgene bottles into the water, hoping to get the least amount of debris. I then poured three capfuls of iodine treated water into the bottles. The water was murky so I had added extra. I then took off into the woods to find my primitive camp site. Once I arrived, I was nervous. It was an open clearing off of a forest service road. I felt exposed. I heard gunfire go off in the distance and I worried that hunters were going to drive by on their four wheelers and see that I was a lone female. As I quickly ate dinner, I was able to answer the question I had posed to myself the night before, “Was I more afraid of people or wild animals?” My answer: people. I understood I held this unnecessary prejudice against hunters based off of a false stereotype. My wild mind created hunters that were big, burly dudes wanting to shoot things and cause mischief. Logically, I knew this wasn’t the case. I have family and friends that go hunting. The man from the day before was hunting and it was a lovely interaction. Hunters are people that enjoy the outdoors, same as me, and just want to go about their business. That is what I knew logically however, emotionally I was concerned.