Day 9 – IAT Mile 128.6 to 143.7

Today’s plan was centered around weather and walking.  Severe thunderstorms were scheduled to roll into our area around 1pm and we wanted to get as many miles in as possible.  On the trail by 0630, 15.0 miles completed; we kicked ass.  Our plan called for a 22 mile day, that’s 7 missed miles that we will make up, or not.  7 miles may not seem like much, but it throws every other day off.  We can’t just camp or get water anywhere we want, it has to be planned.

We started our day in the Southern Blue Hills and finished with a road walk.  Going East, as we are, Southern Blue hills were still very hilly, mostly downhill.  About 3/4 of the way through Blue Hills, we came across a really interesting piece of art, or cursed land, or ? There were large metal wheels with cow bones and skulls fastened at various points.  As I recall, that part of the trail was through private land. Whether this centerpiece served some functional purpose or was out there to mess with hikers, I have no idea.  Picture included below.

The road walking was, well, walking on the road.  Shauna scooped us up right before the storms started and we drove an hour south to Chippewa Falls, home of Leinenkugel beer!  We stopped in the brewery and drank a couple of beer flights before retiring to our small cabin, safe from the rain.  Tomorrow is our last day with Shauna.  Things are about to get real.

I have been thinking about whether or not long distance hiking gives a person more time to think.  At face value, it might seem like existence of the question answers itself, and I’d agree to a point. There are so many things going on in my head at any given moment in time.  

Do we have enough water?  How much distance to the next break? My feet hurt. I’m hungry. Are we on schedule? My knees hurt.  Still no cell service? My legs itch. I miss Athena.  Can we make it to camp before dark?  What was that noise?  Oh, look, a bear.

All of those thoughts are happening while I’m checking the trail ahead for bears and the ground below for roots and rocks.  Sounds difficult when I write it like that, but probably equivalent to watching a movie while working and drinking coffee.

People talk about finding deeply meaningful thoughts on the trail and that just has not been my experience.  I’m not hiking in search of answers, but I do like comparing what people say to my personal reality.  I am changing.  Probably more like the movie Inception, the forest is planting seeds into my dreams and slowly changing who I am.  Long distance hiking is more about being a back woods project manager than it is about being a philosopher, as of today anyway.