On the way into Hamilton and Colgate University, the belt buckle broke on my backpack, forcing the entire weight of the 60-80 pound pack onto my shoulders. Things slowed down quite a bit. As I arrived in Hamilton, I stopped by Tractor Supply to see what I could rig with the $10 I had left. I settled on a ratchet that would double for a tarp tie out. This ratchet I threaded through the beltloops on my jeans making a second supporting loop for the pack. One side of the buckle still worked: it just couldn’t support more than about 20 pounds without snapping and throwing the whole pack onto my shoulders. The downside of my solution was that I could not put the pack down, or lift it up easily. The length of the strap meant stepping in and out of a belt each time the pack changed vertical positions. The upside was twofold – it doubled as a belt helping me to keep my pants up since my weight had plummeted, and, secondly, in a bind, I could use the loose end of the strap as a backup leash for Petey. This aspect came in handy later in the trip, allowing me to use both hands for tasks.
That night, I pitched a tent high up on a ridge with no protection from the wind in a church field. It dropped below freezing, but it didn’t snow. The Girl Scouts were holding a Brownie meeting in the church. As tired and tempted as I was to stay in the tent, I felt that I kind of owed it to the scouts to be there as an example – a woman doing this kind of trip alone (or with dogs) walking across the state of New York with a backpack and a tent. There are a few other examples, although I certainly don’t consider myself to be in their league. Helen Thayer of Snohomish became the first woman to journey alone to the magnetic North Pole with her dog Charlie. Dr. Mireya Mayor is a primatologist from SUNY who studies wildlife in urban environments. Jane Goodall studied chimpanzees in Tanzinia. Dian Fosse studied guerillas in Rwanda. Birute Galdikas studied orangatans in Borneo. Among the men, there is Ed Stafford who recently completed a hike of the entire Amazon river in 2 years highlighting many of the environmental aspects of that area. There is Slavomir Rawicz who completed a 4000 mile hike from imprisonment in the Soviet Gulag over the Himalayas to India, and I’ve heard reports of a Native American who had hiked across the United States with two children in tow, stopping to let them go to school during the school year.
I summoned up the last little bit of strength that I had, to go into the church to talk to the Scouts, and immediately a mother started telling her daughter that “It’s time to go home and take a bath”. This poor mother was trying to establish a foundation in her child in these few teachable years. She wanted her daughter to associate seeing someone as stinky and tired as I was next to her, with running home for comfort. We left it at that.