One thing I’ve been wanting to write about is the feeling of utter fatigue at the end of a day on the trail. Day 2 of our last hike was a good example of a day in which we stretched ourselves beyond what we thought possible. It was the day Marian battled a migraine. It was also the day where the trail offered limited road access, meaning our choices were a pickup after 10.8k (which was not in the cards), or hiking right to our B&B for a distance of 23.3k. “We’ll do 23.3,” said Marian. That’s a lot of kilometers for the Bruce on a good day and in good health, and it represents a personal best distance for the two of us.
We paced ourselves, took breaks, made sure to drink lots of water. By the last part of the day, though, I felt completely spent, and I could see that Marian was really struggling. We tried mind games. The hordes of white trilliums with their uplifted pretty faces turned into friendly crowds cheering us on. We made as if we were starting out fresh, it was the beginning of the day, each step the beginning of the rest of the journey. We tried dropping into wordlessness in salute to Martha Beck’s latest book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World. Mostly though, we just plodded on, one foot after the other, step by step by step. There was momentary encouragement when we were able to spot our B&B in the distance, soon to be followed by discouragement as the trail dipped deep into the valley and then climbed steeply upward again. Still we carried on, bone-weary, leaning ever more heavily onto our walking sticks. And then finally, when we thought we could do no more, we heard the unmistakeable sounds of traffic on hwy 26. At last, a concrete sign that our destination was around the corner. Three hundred more meters and we were able to collapse in the comfort of the B&B.
As interesting as the physical exhaustion is, I find it equally fascinating how the body rejuvenates itself. After a cleansing shower and a good night’s sleep, each morning found us restored and energized and ready to do it all over again. Yes, we did ask Makhudu’s famous question, “Why are you punishing yourselves?” But we also discovered the special satisfaction that comes from channelling the warrior goddess within and conquering what feels like an impossible challenge.
Speaking of warriors, though, part of the trail on Sunday passed along land owned by the Department of National Defence. As you can see from the sign below, we were informed that we were not to touch anything or it might explode and kill us. Seriously. And sure enough, as we hiked the sounds of birds were interspersed with sounds of gunfire – both single shots and automatic fire from machine guns. It was a bizarre experience. Why, one has to ask, would our DND locate an area of target practice adjacent to a nature trail?