The Typical Day of Jupiter

3:15-3:30am Before the bird’s daily opening announcement, when even the skeeters are sleeping, the unnatural sound of the alarm goes off in some forest. I get up from my sleeping pad on a ground cloth where I have slept out in the open without a blanket on a warm summer night (a folded 6×8′ blue tarp lays close by in case of precipitation when I go into the ‘blue burrito’ mode feeling the rain drops hitting my protected skin – a natural nightnoise ‘machine’).
I go over to Pegasus (support van) to lightly tap on its window to wake the slumbering Mercury within to prepare for another 17-18 hour day at the office hoping she will get 50 miles closer to the sacred mountain. When called upon, I doctor her feet when needed and make sure her two light sources are functioning with fresh batteries to pierce at least two hours of mountain morning darkness. I’ve given up trying to be funny in the 3:30-4am time range.
After she starts groggily with a ‘hikers wobble but they don’t fall down’ gait fueled by some Starbucks product, I clean and organize the house before driving off to meet her at the first road crossing. I have seen many deer, a family of elk, bear, turkeys and many bunnies scurrying across the road. I always breath a sigh of relief when a bunny goes right underneath my car and I don’t feel my tire go over a ‘bump’.
I meet Mercury as often as I can. In the first 14 days, I have met her 104 times. You do the math. I haven’t been late once. Our meetings are short – from 1 to ten minutes max. We know what has to be done. Food/water replenishment. What lies ahead in the next section. Repeat this an average of eight times a day. Some days when Mercury flows 48-56 miles, Pegasus may be driven triple that figure. Two people and a machine committed to the simple, focused intensity of  relentless forward motion regardless of the weather.
10pm-midnight At night at the end of another long day, Jupiter watches the mountainside intently for Mercury’s two lights coming home, exhausted but safe, to the spartan confines of Pegasus.
I help take off her shoes/socks, then close the hatchback leaving Mercury to do her ‘baby wipe shower’ before she goes to her all-too-brief sleep.
I find a place on the forest floor by headlight, put my groundcloth down  and then my pad and pillow. I lie down ready to do everything over for at least 32 more days in 32 more different places.
Jupiter is grateful to be part of Mercury’s transit of Olympian proportions!


Who is Mercury?

Liz Derstine, trail name “Mercury”, is a distance runner, endurance hiker, writer, and musician residing in Boston, MA. She holds fastest known times for women on the Appalachian Trail (supported, northbound), Long Trail (self-supported), and Pinhoti Trail (self-supported).

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