Day 30, Trail Mile 300 - “I can’t believe Ryan said my beard looked good.” The shallow implications swirled inside my mind like the all-encompassing power of some tropical maelstrom. Becoming a real thru-hiker required me to look a certain way. A beard was important. Looks were an important part of the military identity, too.
“I can’t believe we caught up to those two,” Ben said. “The Golden Boys? Us?” He studied me for some rational explanation. I didn’t have one. Without realizing it, Ben’s improving knee and clever planning had us on a similar pace to real thru-hikers, guys like Ryan and Tyler whose merit had been vetted by seasoned trail veterans.
Puddles from the previous night’s rain dotted the ground. I listened to the previous night’s downpour from my bunk inside the White Birches Camping Park, enjoying the comfort of a plywood bunk and a dry sleeping bag. Each drip and pattering drop made me nervous for the miles ahead, for the White Mountains and their exposed peaks.