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The official trail photo taken by the ATC in Harper's Ferry, WV. We have made it halfway, 1014 miles!
I promised another post in the near future, so here it is!  I write this post not from a trail town's internet cafe, but from the guest room of my parent's house in West Allis, WI.  Alas, my journey on the Appalachian Trail has ended for this summer.   Those of you who have been keeping up with John Wayne's blog know that for the past few weeks we have been tossing around the idea of my time on the trail coming to an end.  We bit the bullet sometime around the end of June, and began making plans for me to leave the trail in Harper's Ferry, WV (the trail halfway point).  It was a difficult decision for both of us; we knew if I left that would mean that JW would finish the last half of the trail without me, and I would spend the rest of the summer in Wisconsin, without JW.  Basically, the JW/2-Step trail team would be giving our support to each other not during the miles, but across the miles.  We made the decision for JW to finish the trail alone, so here I am in Wisconsin, with Molly and Tess, already reminiscing about the experiences I had on the trail!

I had an unforgettable time on the trail; sometimes unforgettably enjoyable and peaceful, and sometimes unforgettably painful and difficult.  I am so glad for the experiences and memories I have to take with me!  The new and exciting experiences JW and I were able to share on the AT were amazing (and I know this is just the beginning...as Will has already expressed to me his dreams of hiking many more long trails).  So here are the reasons I (with the help of JW) made the decision for my time on the AT to be done for this summer...

-Not enough time
We knew when we began the trail that we had until the first week of September to finish.  The pace we set together was anywhere between 18-24 miles a day, with about one day off a week.  As the summer went on, we found that the ideal pace we wanted to set didn't always happen.  Sometimes it was injuries (human and animal) that slowed us down, or the weather, or just pure exhaustion when we finally hit a trail town, forcing us to take more than one day off in a week. As we were nearing the halfway point, JW began calculating the miles we would need to complete everyday, to ensure we could be done by the first week in September.  JW calculated that we would need to complete about 22 miles per day, to be done on time for him to return to school in the fall.  JW loves to do big mile days; his longest day was 37 miles, this is how he likes to hike.  He also likes to push himself to see how fast he can go during the day.  I have seen very athletic hikers leave a couple hours before him, do the same distance as him, and JW would come cruising down a hill to the end of the hike, hours before anyone who left after he did; most of the time, he would run down the trail on the downhill sections.  My hiking style is quite different. I do enjoy the challenge and satisfaction that comes from passing people and putting in big mile days; but I also enjoy taking breaks.  I could do a series of 20-mile days, but then I felt that I needed a couple lower mile days to recover a bit.  I could go for over 20 miles, but I would complete these miles at a steady pace of 2 miles an hour.  JW and I realized that our hiking style, for long-distance hikes, was pretty different in this way.  So when JW calculated the amount of daily miles we would have to put in for the rest of the summer, it didn't sound too appealing to me. 

-Molly & Tess
Towards the middle of June, Molly began to limp pretty badly.  We weren't sure what was wrong with her, but she seemed to enjoy the days spent in a hotel's AC much more than hiking days.  She was having a noticeably hard time on the trail.  We ended up making arrangements for her to stay with JW's parents in Washington, DC for a while.  She was glad to be off of the trail, but she was in a very new environment without Tess, or JW or me.  We began thinking of what we could do with her.  At the same time we were considering what to do with Molly, the heat wave rolled through Virginia.  JW and I were hiking with Tess, an Alaskan malamute who was not made for 90 degree heat, with 70 percent humidity.  We found ourselves taking a lot of water breaks for Tess, who seemed to be more and more tired as we would leave the AC in a hotel and begin hiking again.  We knew that the summer was just going to get hotter into July and August, and began considering other options for her.  We just weren't sure of anyone who would want to take both dogs, and we weren't sure we would want to have them adjust to another new situation, especially without us around.  I began to think this would be another reason to get off of the trail.

-The dream of the AT
The AT is something that JW has wanted to complete for many years; it has been a dream of his.  While I was on the trail, JW was always very concerned with my comfort, my enjoyment, my physical well-being...basically, he wanted to take care of me and make sure I was having a good time on the trail.  I appreciated this immensely (and JW's selflessness is one of many great qualities), but I also wanted to make sure that he was living the dream that he had imagined.  I wanted him to be free to go as fast as HE wanted, stop when HE wanted, be able to spend time at camp at night like HE liked to do (when we would complete long miles, we would usually get into camp late; but hiking alone, he could speed through and get to camp earlier).  Although I loved the fact that he was so concerned with my time on the AT, I also wanted to give him his own experience.  Hiking the AT has never been my lifelong dream, but it has been his.  I was and am still excited about the experience I had, but long-distance trails excite JW in an unexplainable way.  I figured that it was an unforgettable time that we shared on the first half of the trail, and he could experience the second half completely on his own terms.  I know that his experience will be so amazing, and no doubt very different from hiking with an entourage.

So these are my biggest reasons for deciding to go halfway on the AT.  I completed 1014 miles, and am very proud to admit that!  JW is already making plans for us to finish the AT together in sections, so I can one day boast of completing the entire trail.  Of course there are many other bonuses of being back in civilization; everyday showers, cooking in a kitchen, AC and once again having feet that are clean and blister-free.

Even though my time on the AT is done for this summer, I still plan on being JW's support team, from a distance.  If you have anything that you want to pass on to him or put in a package to him, but don't want to try to pin down his current trail town, feel free to contact me, as I will be much more accessible.  You can contact me at melissa.morin@gmail.com.  

Now that my time on the trail is done, I will use this website to go back to revisit some of the most memorable times on the trail.  I plan to update this page at least once a week to tell the stories of the fun (and not so fun) times that I experienced on the trail.  Look for my next post shortly!
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My last posting in the official ATC log book, in Harper's Ferry, WV. Thank you to the trail!
7/25/2012 01:05:24 pm

Enjoyed your blog... very much..
Soon we shall meet, Missy.......Goodie!!!
A.G.



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