So I wanted to address my partnership with Guy on a Buffalo here. As I've mentioned, I have not done a thru-hike before, and have really never hiked much distance alone. My other trips were in groups. And so, my personal hiking preferences were unknown to me. With Guy, we hiked together, as in right in front of or behind each other, we waited for each other during bathroom breaks, we ate at the same times, had designated in-camp duties (mine was mostly cooking dinner), and coordinated many of our things. He is young, only 21, and he is a natural care-taker, always wanting to make sure I was well taken care of and didn't die. While this seemed like a good idea it became crippling. I was not learning how to set up my much anticipated tarp because he always set up the tarps, I was getting lazy about navigation, overly cautious about pushing myself, feeling a bit tied down really. And, as you can imagine, if you spend that much time with someone and don't even hike alone during the day, then you have NO private time to spend in your own head or on your own schedule.
All of this was made clear after we went separate ways. I did hike a fair amount with Grim in this group, but it was in the way people usually hike together who are not married or a couple, sometimes one is ahead or behind, usually by no more than a half mile. Nobody waited for anyone when someone had to go to the bathroom. No one set up anyone else's tarp. No one worried if someone didn't show up at the planned camp spot at the end of the day. Everyone expected you to know and respect your own limits. If you needed help, everyone expected you to ask. It felt really good. It may sound a bit harsh perhaps, but it was so liberating, and it taught me more about how well I can take care of myself than if I had not separated from Guy. It also really allowed me to excel by pushing myself and going further with less. I didn't want to go back.
Another factor was the social comfort for me. Being with this group allowed for a different kind of conversation to blossom. I am 27. Most of the others were 27-35. Guy is 21. I had realized that certain conversations could not be had in depth simply due to age and experience differences between Guy and me. It had been so nice to be surrounded by people I related to in a deeper way. I felt, and feared, that if I remained hiking partners with Guy, it would re-isolate me from these kinds of conversations and connections. Something completely in my power of course, but an anxiety I felt.
And so I had made my decision. I was both excited for Guy to catch up and dreading it. I didn't know how he felt about the whole thing, but saying "I don't want to be your hiking partner anymore," no matter how nicely you put it, can still suck to hear. The dynamic would be completely different, I knew, and it would not be a comfortable transition for him.
On the morning of the 9th, at the trail head we had all camped at, and while we were still packing up our shelter, we hear Guy yell out to us in greeting, shortly followed by him strutting toward us with the biggest, goofy-from-exhaustion, smile on his face. He had apparently camped not 50 feet away from us by the pit toilets at the trail head! He had done something like 40 miles overnight trying to catch us. and giving up when he reached the trail head. He had no idea how close he was! We all celebrated and laughed and walked the last bit together into Darby where we split up. Kramers, Beads, and Papi went to a hot spring and town nearby where they stayed the night. Grim, Mehap, Apache, Whistle, and I rented an amazing multi-bedroom cabin with a kitchen and proceeded to cook and get to know Whistle.
Whistle is Grim's friend from the Appalachian Trail, and she is awesome. Immediate liking to this woman. One of those strong independent quirky types. I felt like I was with a Warrenite. We actually knew a fair amount of similar Camp songs because she too had worked at a summer camp.
We had reached the halfway point (about) for trail and that meant it was time for the Half Gallon Challenge! Yup, you gotta eat a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting. Mehap was the ONLY ONE who succeeded. And really the only one who attempted! Well done Meeps!