When Meat left Waynesboro for his sister's graduation I hiked on ahead for a few days. The plan was to get back together when he returned to the trail and when he did we exchanged a few messages and both decided that it was a good time to split up and hike our own hikes. Not that we didn't enjoy hiking together, but hiking by yourself offers freedoms to do what you want, when you want as well as a feeling of ownership of your own thru-hike. Personally, I am ready to hike fast and hard, and for long hours. I am currently enjoying the trail and pushing myself a little further and testing my body's limits each day. The trail is different for everyone. If you ask everyone "What makes you get up everyday and get back on the trail?" you will get lots of different answers, none of them right or wrong, but all personal. For me the answer to that question is to push myself to see what I can do that day, how far I much I can physically and mentally handle. It is like when I run marathons or other distance races, I am not always comfortable, but I really enjoy pushing my body and seeing what I can physically and mentally do.
A quote I have been thinking about recently on my big mileage days or when the trail is really getting to me is from Steve Prefontaine: "A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more." I am not treating the AT like a race, but I do like the idea of pushing myself harder than I thought I could and expanding my limits. I am enjoying the towns, local restaurants, the people, and the hostels, and I would not pass those up just to go fast. But the long miles between those fun times is when I like to push hard to get to the next town, pub, viewpoint, or hostel. I am also looking forward to putting down some good miles and making it home sooner rather than later to get back to my wife, my dog, and my life. I really do enjoy being on the trail but being out here for almost 3 months has served well to remind me that I have a great life back home, and a fantastic wife, and I really miss her! But the only way for me to get home is through Maine, so I'm pretty deadset on getting there sooner rather than later!
Meat and I had a ton of fun times on the trail and I look forward to hanging out with him either later on down the trail or once we get back home to California. For now we are taking the advice of many thru-hikers and people associated with the trail, "Hike your own hike".