Mile 714

north or south

Misfit sat in the shower basin, letting the hot water flow over her. She had a thousand-mile stare as she watched the dirt and grime from the last seven days wash down the drain. She was exhausted both mentally and physically. She felt like she had spent the previous five days walking on eggshells, hot coals, and glass. The grit of the path wore down her shoes to smooth, flat soles. However, all that didn’t matter anymore. She was done with “Rocksylvania.” Starting tomorrow, she will be in a new state with new terrain. “Goodbye and good riddance.” She thought. “Who in their right mind would hike that for leisure?”

On the last day in Pennsylvania, Misfit ran into FancyFeast, who, in her infinite wisdom, convinced Misfit that they should “zero” in Delaware Water Gap. It was the demarcation point between Never-again-will-I-hike-in-sylvania and New Jersey. New Jersey doesn’t even get a nickname. It’s just hiking in the woods. Nothing more, nothing less. A zero would do them both good. A zero repairs the body. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind.

Misfit stepped out of the shower feeling rejuvenated. It was as though layers of doubt and struggle had peeled away like paint flakes. She felt reborn. It occurred to her that she hadn’t glanced in a mirror for several weeks, maybe months. But, honestly, what was the point? She had no makeup and no hair styling product. Her pack had no room for these things, and her day had no purpose for them either.

She stepped in front of the mirror and was shocked by what she saw. The couch potato she once was, was nowhere in sight. Nothing jiggled. All sinew, muscle, and bone. Her cheekbones are pronounced, her hips visible, and her legs! “Look at those calves,” she thought! She was carved from wood.

Hair tangled and brows unkempt, she looked wild. Feral even. A master of rocks, roots, and dirt. Her reflection stared back as if to say, “you got this.” However, it wasn’t her voice. It was the voice of friends and relatives. Acquaintances and other hikers. It was the outpouring of kind words and encouragement she received daily from the people in her life. “You can do this!” They all roared in unison as she looked at what she had become. Misfit was starting to believe them for the first time in a while. The person staring back at her was dead set on reaching Katahdin. The person staring back at her was a warrior.

Leaving the mirror behind, she flopped onto the bed. Immediately, all the muscles relaxed. Nothing like a soft mattress to highlight how sore your body is. The room was quiet. The absence of the lullaby of the crickets that normally ushered her to sleep was tangible. Though she missed the woods, she was too tired to care. Surrounded by the silence of the hotel room, she closed her eyes. Her final thought was, “Katahdin, here I come,” after which she fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

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