The North Country Trail
No catchy title, no thoughtful puns, no playing on words for this post. The title is simply us whispering lightly and tentatively the name of a mythical creature of incomprehensible length and ferocity, and yes when looked at close enough beauty. A beast that has no premeditation nor malevolence in its nature, but only indifference to the hiker that decides to take a peek into its open maw that swallows states like bit-sized Hershey Kisses. A beast that does not have to growl, nor screech, nor boisterously announce its presence, because it can be felt instead in every weighted breath that it is surrounding you completely. It not only eats your physical being, but also has the strength and size to eat the meta-physical, your mind and time itself. Months of thoughts and months of time. It does not chose to do this because it is evil, diabolical, or even thoughtless in its hunger. It just is indifferent. In our experience that is the scariest of all beasts, physically or spiritually. Indifference is the true loss of the essence and pureness of life. The loss of happiness, joy, pain, sorrow, anger, jealousy, inspiration, awe, disgust, grief, and every emotion that makes us feel, whether it is "good" or "bad", it still means we are feeling. Yet, indifference is the death of all things human. The only thing that remains when indifference is present, is true fear. So, as we whisper the North Country Trail's name, we do not fear the beast itself, because we know its source, know its shape, know its breath, know its heartbeat. No. What we fear, deeply fear, is the indifference in ourselves.
One more with feeling.
Wow, again not an opening paragraph that we had planned, but that is where our head and heart must be, so that is where we will explore. We had planned...again...to use this to purely state our intentions and our prep around the North Country Trail, but it seems we have stumbled onto a deep fear that trembles us to the very core. We will still get into the logistics as well as announcements but feel a little clarification is needed not only for you, but for ourselves.
Do we actually fear the North Country Trail? Well honestly, yes and no. We do not fear the trail itself. We do not fear the biting cold in fall along the plains of North Dakota, we do not fear the sweltering heat of the summer in the Upper Peninsula, we do not fear the mosquitoes nor black flies that are so thick they can pick you up, we do not fear the road walks as our shoes melt to the pavement. We do not fear the dehydration, we do not fear the deficiency as our bodies begin to waste away underneath the constant output that far exceeds the input, we do not fear the smell of ammonia as our muscles are repurposed for fuel for our burning bodies, we do not fear becoming a walking skeleton yet again. We do not fear the quiet, the deep reverberating quiet, of the woods, we do not fear the screech of brakes and the whistle of wind as trucks pass us at 70 MPH, we do not fear the quiet yet deafening loud place the mind finds deep in itself when walking for months on end. We do not fear the creature that disturbs our camp at 2 a.m. in the dark of the morning, animal nor human alike. We do not fear the pain that we will awaken to every morning, we do not fear the spasms and cramps that will cuddle us to sleep at night. We do not fear the million microscopic moments that go into a day of hiking all day for 30+ miles everyday for multiple months. We do not fear any of this, in fact we look forward to all of this, because this is what it means to thru-hike. Yet there is one singular thing we fear on this upcoming hike, and uniquely for this hike, for the North Country Trail. We have never tasted this inkling before. We fear it like a child fears the dark, like the prey fears the predator, like the heart can fear the mind. A primal fear, we fear ourselves, we fear the death of all things; indifference.