The kids have now made good on their declared desire to hike a thirty mile day, which has been kicking around since their formative hiking days with Twelve Percent. He was the one to first inspire them to do a twenty-plus mile day out of the Smokies to the Standing Bear hostel. We didn’t quite make it to Standing Bear because we waited for an hour at a road crossing to meet the woman kenneling Orion for that stretch (dogs are not allowed on the trail the a Smokies or in by Baxter State Park in Maine), but we did break twenty miles.
When we rolled into the hostel early the next morning for breakfast, the kids were bubbling with excitement to tell Twelve Percent of their feat. With the characteristic mischievous twinkle in his eye, he exclaimed, “that’s great! And no one can say that your only twenty mile day was all down hill.” The kids paused and blinked at him. After a beat, RobinHood asked slowly, “well, then why did you just say that?” That’s when Twelve Percent decided to teach them Texas Hold’em with skittles (they subsequently cleaned him out of his stash of the sugary candy).
Walking with Wired back in the Shenandoahs, the kids made a twenty-seven mile day. Here in Maine, the timing and the terrain would give them one last shot, and they were determined to try. They woke up early and packed up all their stuff and after breakfast we hit the trail by 6:15 (we were later informed the Cartwheel woke up every hour to ask the time of RobinHood, the keeper of the watch). Breaking only to swim (several times) and to eat (several more times), the kids cruised consistently, and by 6:45 that night we were setting up camp 30.3 miles from where we had started the day.
The kids were ecstatic and exhausted. Cartwheel declared that the last twenty minutes of the day had been the best of the hike because she never thought she’d actually be able to do it, but by then she realized she was going to make it. RobinHood shared that early in the day he had thought it would be harder mentally than physically, but by the end of the day he thought his limitation was mostly physical. At the same time, He admitted that once he’d crossed the invisible 30.0 mark (we reached thirty miles on the day with no place to set up the tent and had to continue a little farther) he no longer had a goal to strive toward and lost all of his energy, making those last 0.3 miles the hardest he’d walked.
The kids were deservedly proud of themselves and went to bed beaming. This was something they had wanted to do that the parents had never thought a possibility. We told them that we wouldn’t push to finish the day and if they wanted to stop at any point we could. We certainly didn’t need those miles to meet any schedule. Because it was their own goal we heard no complaints the entire day.