Cycle day 15- Cycle day 21
Miles this season: 138
San Quentin, New Brunswick to Amqui, Quebec
Total ECT miles: 385 of 4400ish
With a Canadian take of the iconic Bridge of the Gods from the Pacific Crest Trail, we feel triumphant as we cross over the Restigouche River closing our chapter on New Brunswick and starting a blank page in Quebec. New Brunswick was mostly flat Atv roads, and prepared my feet for this journey in a rip off the band-aid quick kind of way. Turns out, flat elevation is tough on the feet, turning Owen’s feet into stumps more than any other section on the AT, and properly wrecking mine into thru-hiker hooves. We listened to a lot of Kygo to cure our afternoon logey, laughed a ton, and left with more curiosities about Canada than when we arrived. Our last night in this province we stayed the night in Campbellon, and made friends with a few men from the Sundays Bois group who hang out at the local Tim Hortons. They warned us that things would get a bit less friendly to strangers once we crossed the river and then bid us Bon Journée. My feet feel strong as we cross over the river and I’m filled with hope that I’m mostly done with blisters and will now work on finding my trail legs in the mountains of Quebec. Spirits and heart rates are high as we climb into the hills.
Hormonally, things are aligning awesomely. Inner Summer is here. After a restful day in San Quentin, my body trusts that it’s not all pain and tears and begins showing signs of ovulation. Yip! I up my observations during this season, as confirming ovulation allows me to predict when menstruation will come and this is tremendously helpful on a thru-hike, if only for peace of mind, but also for logistical planning of potential rest days or lighter mileage days. My current chosen method of Fertility Awareness utilizes cervical fluid observations (cm), as well as basal body temp (bbt) and luteinizing hormone (lh) testing to confirm ovulation. I have yet to attempt to utilize bbt or lh while on a long trail and I haven’t found any account of others doing this while on a long trail. Is it possible with swinging external temperatures and swiftly changing hydration levels? I am excited to explore. And for the purposes of birth control, I am comfortable based on past experience on previous thru-hikes relying on cm observations, holding space for a much more conservative fertile window, and utilizing barrier methods during that fertile period. Bbt and lh will help solidify the closure of my fertile window, but if for some reason I don’t capture them perfectly, I feel comfortable enough with cm observations alone. Hormonally, Inner Summer is the peak point of a bunch of different hormones in a menstruating person’s cycle. A crescendo of sorts with some hormones changing up to 50% in one single day. Big movement happening here. The rise of estrogen *can bring a rise in energy. I am stoked about this possibility, as I’ve been feeling like I have been riding the struggle train in New Brunswick and I’m excited for my new set of feet and the potential for some bonus energy this week. This excitement and anticipation winds up getting me in trouble, as assumptions often do. Menstrual cycle awareness is a practice of curiosity, asking yourself what you’re feeling each day, and holding space for what you need. Falling into the trap of using it as a weather forecast of sorts is the shadow side of this practice and boy do I fall into that shadow side in a deep way this week.
It dawns on me at 3am after a sleepless night after two days of mountains that repeatedly kicked my butt that my grip is tight on how I envisioned this Inner Summer going, and I’m going to continue to be disappointed in myself until I let it go. I see a whole new cycle I’m riding that I hadn’t considered, the thru-hike cycle. I’m at the very beginning, in the growth/pain phase. So much stronger than a few weeks ago when starting up Mt Katahdin, and not nearly as strong as I know I’ll be when I’m halfway along the Appalachian Trail in a few months. Just because I’m estrogened up this week doesn’t mean that’s a cure all. My legs still have lots of settling in to do out here, they have been walking on flat dirt roads for hundreds of miles. “I like to tell myself that it can’t get much harder than this,” Owen says when I give him a look at the top of a climb. I respond that I agree, but I’m not currently strong enough to do 400 more miles of this level of steep, so I hope I can grow into someone who is, both physically and mentally. It’s exciting and so frustrating to be so close to the edge of my current limits. My body hurts in a way it hasn’t at the end of the night after our first two days in Quebec and I wonder how a flat dirt road ever could have been considered hard. Quebec isn’t kidding around.
This Inner Summer, remember the peace from knowing:
-Hormones are on your side for increased physical activity, potential for ease while hiking hard.
-Energy reserves will be at their highest of this cycle, and you’ll have more to pour back into caring for Owen.
-Confirming ovulation means you’re not running your body too hard and it still has some reserves to commit to the reproductive cycle.
-You’re in company where you can show up exactly as you are and be seen and heard.
What Inner Summer looked like on trail for me this week:
-A challenge of managing unrealistic self-expectations. Big time.
-Increased body awareness looking for ovulation biomarkers.
-Less sleep, more evening estrogen anxiety.
-Front seat role during hitches. Extra capacity for socializing with strangers.
-Increased mental reserves for holding space for friends and family during town stops.
-Aching pain in my heart, womb, chest, and head over impossible news about reproductive rights no longer being protected in America. Rage over the fact that anyone has the power to take away someones reproductive rights.
-Taking an early evening off one day to be naked in a river and just enjoy the evening glow and bliss of simply not walking for a bit.
-Heavy rain days syncing up with my cycle and figuratively calming the fire of Inner Summer for a relatively gentle transition into Inner Autumn.
I’ve heard that curiosity and anger can’t both exist at the same time. This thought came to mind during this phase this week. Shame for the “shoulds” can’t exist in the same space as curiosity. Keeping a curious heart is the forefront of a healthy mca practice, a lesson I’ll take with me, learned the hard way. A lesson I’ll probably learn again and again.
Much Love xx,
*Big asterisk here as Inner Summer can be a not so awesome time for many people. Rising estrogen doesn’t always mean rising energy for all. Estrogen is often associated with anxiety and this season can also feel extremely vulnerable and leave people feeling burnt out. A lack of energy doesn’t mean one is feeling Inner Summer incorrectly by any means.
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