Saturday, August 27, 2016

Wedding Bells In The Air

Not MY wedding bells... don't worry. It is officially wedding season, and that means many weekends away from the trail visiting various venues to watch my friends tie the knot! As you can imagine, this comes with a whole mess of logistics... who is going to pick me up in New Hampshire or Maine? Who will drive me back to the trail? How many miles will I have to hike to catch back up with the trail family after I miss a day or two? But honestly the hardest part is reinserting myself into "normal" life and then going back to the trail after a small taste of things like showers, my own bed, and seeing friends and family. I am definitely in a stage of the trail where I really want to be done. I don't want to quit, but I am also ready for the next part of my life. However, I still have seven or eight weeks of hiking, so I'm definitely nowhere near the end. Last weekend I had a particularly hard time going back to the trail. Why go back to living semi-uncomfortably in the woods when I could just stay in the regular world?

Fortunately, I have received so many reminders as to why I am doing this, and why I need to finish. Whenever I am feeling down about the trail, I try to remind myself that there are so many people who would give everything to hike this trail, but feel they are unable for whatever reason. It is for these people that I need to keep hiking. Another reminder came in the form of the NBC Nightly News audio podcast this week which was telling the story of an eight year old boy who received a double hand transplant after losing his hands to an infection at an early age. He was quoted as saying: "Before you quit and say 'I give up,' try everything first." If this little boy knows the importance of not quitting, for any reason - even while facing such adversity, I can certainly hike this trail. So these are the things I am going to remember, when I leave the comforts of home life and familiar faces over the next few weekends.

In other news, I have completed all of Vermont, walked over 1,300 miles, and am currently in the White Mountains! Everyone has warned us about how tough the Whites are, and also to slow down our miles to enjoy them and to prevent injury. No one was wrong. The hiking in NH is TOUGH! Definitely the hardest part of the trail thus far. My right knee is giving me a little bit of trouble, but nothing in comparison to the pain in the Smokies. I just have to keep reminding myself to use proper technique, do my stretches/exercises, and take shorter days through this hard terrain. We were doing 20-24 mile days through Massachusetts and Vermont, and are now doing 10-15 mile days in New Hampshire. Mostly this is to prevent excruciatingly long days, but also so we can enjoy the beauty! The Whites are totally unlike anything we've hiked so far. So many of the peaks, and whole ridge lines, are above tree-line. This means we have constant 360 degree views for hours on end. It also means that with almost every step, the view changes a little bit and provides for a new perspective. It has been so wonderful to enjoy this section of the trail. The challenge of the hiking definitely adds to the beauty of the views! For every section of trail above tree-line, we usually climb two or three thousand feet of elevation to get there. Often with boulder scrambling, or hiking straight down a waterfall, it would seem. One of the best parts of the Whites so far was when I was able to see Camel's Hump and Mt. Mansfield clear as day. So many times I've stood on those mountains and looked east at the Whites. It was an interesting perspective to be doing the opposite this week.

Overall, things are still going well. I plan to slow down even further in the coming week, until we are out of the super difficult hiking, to protect my knees. I think we are estimating a mid to late September summiting of Katahdin! I'm trying my best to stay focused, enjoy these last few hundred miles of New England, and to remember why I came out here and why I need to finish. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


So many things have happened since I last updated! I finished Connecticut and Massachusetts, crossed 1,200 miles, and have entered Vermont!

One of our last nights in Connecticut was spent sleeping in the lawn behind a cafe, which provided for an amazing breakfast to power us through the day. The state line between Connecticut and Massachusetts was so lovely; mossy, bouldery, waterfalls, and a light fog. The dampness really gave it a New England feel. The hardest part of this day was saying goodbye to Caroline. She had decided, after many weeks of deliberation, to leave the trail to pursue new adventures. Her humor on this trail will seriously be missed by me. I wish her all the best, but will miss her more than I can say.

After living in the woods for a good four or five days, we decided a hotel was necessary so we could shower and do laundry. You know, the simple joys of life! It just so happened that our town night coincided with the opening ceremonies of the Olympics (which we are all so bummed to be missing,) so that worked out perfectly! We did, however, cram 8 people into a standard sized hotel room to watch. Thank the lord for the pool to sit next to, because the smell within the hotel room was quite raunchy. It really just smacked you in the face when you entered the room. So aside from the ceremonies and sleep, I was usually outside by the pool... and the fresh air. One of the coolest spots in Massachusetts is a shelter (more of a cabin really) owned by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. It had a massive bunk room upstairs, a fireplace downstairs, a huge deck, THREE privies outside, and was on a pond so came complete with canoes and kayaks you could take out on the water. It was such a relaxing afternoon sitting by the lake, floating on an inner tube, playing Monopoly with new friends, and laughing lots. The next morning we awoke to the smell of blueberry pancakes, with fresh blueberries picked by the southbound hikers who were staying with us. You can imagine how hard it was to leave in the morning.

Now that we are closer to Maine, we are starting to cross paths with the southbound (or SOBO) hikers who started at Katahdin. It's really fun and interesting to pick their brains on the trail ahead of us and behind them. Honestly, I admire them for starting their thru-hike with some of the hardest terrain on the trail. A pretty impressive feat with very little established trail legs!

Before entering Vermont, we had to climb over Mt. Greylock, which is the highest point in Massachusetts. There's a really neat tower there, but sadly is was closed for renovations, so we weren't able to go up inside of it. We made up for that with bacon cheeseburgers at the lodge on top of the mountain. Finally that afternoon, I made it to the BEST part of the trail... VERMONT! Now, the Long Trail and the AT coincide for approximately 100 miles of Vermont. Having done the LT two summers ago, it was really fun to be reminded of so many different parts of the trail I had forgotten. I was so surprised how many little details of the southern Vermont section of trail that came back to me as I walked it for a second time. The first full day in Vermont was so "Vermont"... it rained. And rained. And rained. I don't think my feet have ever been so wet. That night when I took my shoes off the bottoms of my feet were SO pruny that the ridges in my skin were close to a centimeter deep, and so painful to step on! It took a good few hours for them to dry out and return to normal.

One of the best parts of hiking this section before was knowing which shelters had the best views, had ponds, were newer, etc. I was able to hand pick which shelters I wanted to stay at, and I picked all of my favorite ones. Hiking those 100 miles was just lovely, and I enjoyed every bit - even in this hot weather! Although I didn't hike in the rain again this week, the humidity made me feel just as soaking wet! It was amazing that what I hiked in one day this week, took me three whole days at the beginning of my Long Trail hike. Definitely made me realize how I am in much better shape after hiking 1,200 miles.

At the end of the 100 miles I've already hiked was the Inn at the Long Trail in Killington. While this is a great place to stay on trail, it was made even better by a party organized by one of the hikers we've known for a while known as "The Dude." The Dude created and organized DudeFest, which was a buffet and party for over sixty AT hikers that came from all directions and distances to come celebrate all of our accomplishments with our fellow hikers. It was a great way for us to see some of our hiking friends that we haven't seen in a while. As you could imagine, all of us hikers partied until late in the night, which made for a very hard and late start this morning. I had an absolute blast dancing and laughing with everyone last night. Hoping to get one more party in before we all start summiting Katahdin.

Overall, I loved Massachusetts, and have LOVED being in Vermont - it all just feels so right. I will be in New Hampshire by the weekend, which is crazy to believe and also sad that I'll be leaving Vermont again. Such is life if I ever want to finish this trail!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


The last week has really been a total blast! We got back on trail for ONE WHOLE NIGHT of camping in, get this, the woods! We hiked about seven miles and found a nice tenting site on a ridge. The next day we hiked in some torrential rain and thunder to get to a state park where Dad was picking us up. I had to hide out in a gulley to avoid being on a ridgeline during the storm. Dad met us with snacks and beer and took us to an AirBNB in CT so we could do more slackpacking! And thank god, because those two days with a pack were just too much. Well, not really... We were just spoiled. The AirBNB was really nice, and had access to a lake! It was so relaxing to come back from a day of hiking and go for a swim to cool off. 

We ended up slacking southbound instead of northbound that week for a few different reasons. One of the best parts of hiking south was that we were able to pass all of our friends for three days in a row, as they were doing similar mileages but going north. We took a little bit of heat from them (all in good fun) for slackpacking for so many days. So on the last day we carried a dozen Dunkin donuts to hand out to everyone. Definitely got us some points in the friends department. Dad not only slackpacked us, but he also catered lunch for us every day. We really were starting to get spoiled - but boy was it fun! For a few days we were able to share our extra lunch with some of the other hikers. 

On Thursday, Caroline's parents picked us up just shy of the CT border and had an amazing spread of beer, Gatorade, fruit salad, and other snacks. After devouring most of that, we went back to their house in CT to take showers, eat Thai, drink beer, eat ice cream, and Caroline and I got to watch our favorite movie.... TITANIC! It was a great and relaxing night! The next morning, Caroline drove the other four creepers up to Springfield where dad picked us up to take us to Vermont for Umbker Day! One of my fears while planning this trip was that I would miss the best party of the year. Dad wasn't going to let that happen and offered to schlep the Creepers to VT for the epic fun. 

It was so fun to be at Umbker Day, and also share the experience with the Shady Creepers. Especially after talking about this party for months! It was also so great to see so many friends and family in Bethel. I just wish I had more time to see others who didn't make the party. Overall, it was a great weekend. So many laughs and funny stories. Mom let us all stay at her house, even though she was in Maine, and left us a big spread to eat throughout the weekend. At the party, it was fun to share stories from the trail with people who were interested. Also, it was really refreshing to get a taste of home, see familiar faces and sights, get a creemee from Tozier's, and sleep in my own bed. However, at the same time it made it very difficult to be excited to return to the trail. It was yesterday morning, however, when I woke up in the woods for the first time in a week and I knew this is where I was supposed to be. 

In other news, we are officially done with NY and are into CT. We should be in Massachusetts by the end of the week. Maybe it's just in my head (although Alice and I both felt it), but it really feels a lot more like New England. It's been cooler, the woods damper after a few storms, and lots more rocks and roots. It's making me very excited to get further into New England and hike on similar terrain to what I'm used to normally. 

A HUGE thank you to Dad for all he has done for the trail family, this past week especially. To Mom for setting us up nicely this weekend. To Charlie and Cheryl Hafey for all of their generosity in CT. And finally to Beth and Willy for an amazing party, and for allowing the Shady Creepers to experience it.