AT Thru-Hike #72 – Sharpen the Saw

“I still need more healthy rest in order to work at my best. My health is the main capital I have and I want to administer it intelligently.” – Ernest Hemingway

“‘On with the dance, let the joy be unconfined!’ is my motto, whether there’s any dance to dance or any joy to unconfine.” – Mark Twain

Day 127

I woke up today and realized I needed a break. It had been 17 days since my last zero or near-0 and a recharge was overdue. I’ve previously blogged about Stephen Covey’s Habit 2, Begin with the End in Mind, and how that principle is useful on the AT. Day 127 was all about Habit 7, Sharpen the Saw. According to Covey, sharpening the saw is about preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have–you. It is critically important to renew yourself physically, socially/emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Doing so allows you to stay fresh, have energy, and take on the challenges that life deals you. If you fail to sharpen the saw, according to Covey, your body becomes weak, your mind mechanical, your emotions raw, your spirit insensitive, and your person selfish. That’s a bad position to be in, especially out on a long distance hike.

Cornwall Bridge Breakfast
Cornwall Bridge Breakfast

Here’s how I’ve gone about sharpening the saw on the AT:

– Physically – taking zeros and near-0s and staying off my feet. Getting a massage in Birmingham while in town for my son’s wedding. Soaking in a hot tub in Hot Springs. Enjoying various hot, Epsom salt, essential oil baths at friends’ homes and hotels. Especially during the first two months, taking breaks during the day and soaking my feet in a cold mountain stream. The AT pounds you physically, all day long, for five to seven months. You simply must create opportunities to rest and rejuvenate your body.

– Socially/Emotionally. I have been renewed socially many times simply by good conversation around a campfire, in a shelter, or on a lunch break. When you hear five different and funny stories about people falling in the mud, you start to view it as something funny, not a hiking disaster. I have been encouraged, strengthened and renewed by some amazing people out here. I have also been emotionally renewed from phone calls and texts with my family, and wonderful comments on my personal and Trail Journals blogs. Emotionally, I’ve tried to just let my emotions run wild. I’ve cried thinking about my mom. I’ve gotten angry at rocks (which does a lot of good!). I’ve laughed with people, at people, and about people. Letting these emotions run their course sort of resets me.

Toymakers Cafe
Toymakers Cafe

– Mentally. I try to keep my mind sharp by thinking about all sorts of things. Sometimes I’ll calculate my average miles per hour, or number of days until the end at different daily mileage averages, or the number of bugs I can kill per hour, or how long to a shelter going 1.75 or 2.25 miles per hour. Sometimes I write songs or blogs in my head or analyze the lyrics to songs. I’ve tried to remember the names of all my past teachers, all the tight ends the Dallas Cowboys have ever had, my Top 10 favorite songs and movies and places, and other useless information.

– Spiritually. For me, the AT has been a highly spiritual environment, even more so than I anticipated. God’s creative power and awesomeness is so overwhelmingly evident all day long. How anyone could hike the AT and end up an atheist is beyond me. For 127 straight days I have said at least one long prayer every day and usually several each day. Sadly, that’s not something I did nearly as well in my pre-AT life. I think my prayers have been more conversational and less formulaic. I’ve also been renewed by attending worship services whenever possible, participating in an online Bible study, and listening to inspirational iBooks. Although I will return to the real world a flawed, sinful man, I think this experience has made me a stronger Christian.

So it was time for some renewal. I made an easy 4.1 mile hike to CT 4 and then hiked .9 miles east to the town of Cornwall Bridge. It was a nice little town in which to sharpen the saw. I stayed and did laundry at the Hitching Post Motel. I ate three massive meals at the Cornwall Country Market while talking to the locals. I also visited Housatonic River Outfitters/Bookstore and bought a bottle of Permethrin to spray my clothes with.

My time in Cornwall Bridge was certainly rejuvenating for my body, mind, soul, and spirit. My saw was sharpened and I looked forward to a good night of sleep in a bed before hiking on.

Day 128

After a huge breakfast at the Cornwall Country Marker, I made my way back to the trail and spent the day on a roller coaster of small ups and downs. The weather was nice and I felt really good. That’s what hiking with a sharpened saw does for a person.

After 14 miles of hiking I arrived at the quaint town of Falls Village, founded in 1840. Falls Village, the second smallest town in Connecticut, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s the kind of place you’d go to get away from it all and write a book.


My guidebook said that tenting was possible behind the hiker-friendly Toymaker Cafe, so I headed that way. Greg and Ann Bidou run the cafe, which was unfortunately closed for the day when I arrived. However, Greg kindly offered to fill my water bottles and showed me where I could tent behind the cafe. Greg’s side business, T100 Toymakers, imports parts for vintage British motorcycles. A red barn behind the cafe is filled with frames and matching motors for old Triumphs just waiting to be rebuilt.

I tented in the backyard along with a few other hikers including Lou and Julie. Before dozing off, I looked in my guidebook and noticed tomorrow I would cross the 1500 mile milestone and enter a new state. A lot of miles remain on this journey…I’ll need to keep my saw sharp.


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