If all goes well our final Zero done while meeting old friends – 29 Aug

Shaw’s has been a hikers hostel (owned by different people, the current owners bought it in 2015) for 42 years. We are in a private room and I think our bed has been in the hostel for all of these years.

It rained last night. We lay in bed chatting between 1am and 3am, happy to be dry inside in spite of the rickety bed and sparing a thought for many of our friends who set out into the wilderness yesterday: Firefly, Tortoise, Martha Stewart – they would have very wet tents this morning. The rain has the downside of slippery rocks and mud on the trail but the important upside of boosting flow of water sources.

We booked for the Shaw’s breakfast as we heard it was a shouldn’t-be-missed. It was quite special. They set tables everywhere – in the kitchen, in a little dining room, in the chill area – so it’s a proper sit down breakfast, and a lovely social event. Poet (he and his wife Hippy Chick own the hostel) cooks the breakfast himself, for probably 30 people. He prepares hash browns and bacon beforehand, then do the eggs per your order (fried easy over, or sunny side up, or scrambled – 3 per person!). While this is being eaten he makes blueberry “pancakes” (crumpets!) which is served with butter and syrup. At our table we had TinCan (who is soon going to Guinea with Peace Corps, one of my favorite people on the trail), Pitstop (who lives close to where my brother, sister in law and nephew will settle and who works for a hedge fund Allan Gray invests in), Simon (an Austrian who is already a triple crowner and now going SOBO, having done NOBO 2 years ago) a guy who has lost 60 pounds on the hike (now looks great) and 2 others. The one guy working here (Napster – we last saw him on trail about a month ago) is a French programmer, he summited 2 weeks ago and is now doing Work For Stay waiting for the date his plane ticket is for. Developer cum waiter/cleaner – this experience teaches us a lot. It is an equalizer. Rich/poor, brilliant/average, young/old, male/female, fast/slow: we all need to find the motivation to will our bodies over those final miles, carry our own pack (as we all have to carry our own emotional burden), wash our own dishes (and sometimes other people’s), and do things we wouldn’t consider doing in normal life- nobody on this trail is too larny for anything. Experiencing the thru-hikers’ community is one of the most special parts of this hike. You befriend people you would think you have nothing in common with in your normal life. Because on the trail you have everything in common.

The Shaw’s dog:

We already had the pleasure of meeting up with Napster and TinCan again, both guys we didnt expect to see again. Today we had 2 more surprises.

Lost Larry is an old guy who has already completed the PCT and the CDT, he walks for 14 hours a day and takes no Zeroes. We last saw him in Pennsylvania and have seen his names in registers indicating he was about 2 weeks ahead of us. He arrived at Shaw’s today, saying he just got slower and slower and he has no energy. He plans to take a shuttle to a nearby town to get to a medical centre, he thinks he may have Lyme disease.

This afternoon I saw a guy who reminded me of Platypus. He was the fast young guy who named us “you again” as he would say goodbuy thinking he wouldnt see us again, only for us to crawl into the same campsite as him 3 hours after he had arrived. He eventually pulled away from us and at Harper’s Ferry we saw he was already 2 weeks ahead of us. When I saw this guy I thought he reminded me of Platypus, but his eyes weren’t as blue, his hair and beard bigger than his face and darker than blonde Platypus. At some point I said to Trevor he reminded me of Platypus, Trevor said he saw me doing a double take when I saw him. 5 mins later we saw him again and the way he looked at me with recognition made me say his name – and it was him. He went off trail for 3 weeks with an injury.

There was another guy who happily greeted us, calling us by our other name, “the south africans” – he said he last saw us in Virginia. Unfortunately we cant remember him.

Monson, tiny as it is, is very supportive of the arts, and there are as many art shops/galleries as places to buy food from!

Tomorrow we will set off into the 100 miles wilderness, and from then untill the end at Mt Katahdin we will most likely have no cell phone signal. If all goes according to plan we hope that will be a total of 8 days (though it can take a day or two longer) and in this time I will not be able to post blogs. The rough plan is 6 days in the wilderniss, 1 day in Baxter State Park to get to base of Mt Katahdin and 1 day for the climb to the summit.

We visited the AT visitor centre to hear the options for camping the night before summiting – there is no space available at the best option bookable camp site so now need to try get to the park entrance early early early on to be first of 12 hikers as that is how many non-bookable spaces are made available daily.

We headed out for an early dinner and caught live music – the band (real oldies) plays every Thursday night and the patrons (mostly locals and a few hikers) were very generous and appreciative. They adapted the lyrics to use some of the locals’ names and even sang about “hikers in t-shirts and girls in short skirts” (very much a trail town even though trail doesnt go through the town, its the last town for NOBOs to visit before the end).

What a rich life if you can at 70 still do something you love to do. Who cares if you cant do it the way you did when you were 30 – merely doing it can still bring you joy.

I cannot run or hike or code or derive algorithms the way my 30 year old body and brain could. But I CAN still do these things, and even if slower than in my young years what a wonderful life I have – I can still do it!

Will do the final posts when back on line in 8-10 days time.

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