1 month post trip- I miss it.

Its been one month since I’ve finished hiking the Appalachian Trail, since I’ve stopped walking countless miles each day, since I’ve stopped grocery shopping in dollar store and since I’ve had to sleep in shelters. I now have running water, a car, healthy food and a bed to sleep in, sounds great doesn’t it? Well then why do I miss trail life so much!?

Admittedly, the last month on the trail wasn’t always so much fun. Hurricane Sandy hit the north-eastern United States with winds, and water and the south-eastern United States got hit with snow, snow, wind and more snow. I was hiking through thigh deep snow wearing nothing more on my legs than shredded rain pants and tiny running shorts. What was I thinking?

Each night in the chilly shelter I cooked my dinner while trying to shiver myself warmer with my lower body in my sleeping bag, went to sleep around 7:30 pm and woke up at approximately 3-4 am shivering my buns off waiting for the light to come. At 7ish I would eat breakfast in my sleeping bag, only this time I would still be lying down and fully zipped up. That is one advantage of eating pop tarts and hunny buns for breakfast, I don’t have to worry about spilling them in my sleeping bag.

Hiking in the cold wasn’t so bad. Once I got moving and my legs woke up it felt good. I always thought that hiking was just walking but on a trail, and that if you could walk then you could hike, and its true. If you can walk you can hike, but once you’ve been on the trail for so long you learn a different type of walking. Have you ever seen a ‘City Slicker’ try to walk on a rocky path? They stick their arms out for balance, stare at their feet and move really slowly so that they don’t trip. My balance improved x 100. I could step on any rock, root, stump, incline, decline, mud clod, leaf pile or log and not lose balance or speed. I could trust my feet to get me where I wanted to go. Ups and downs no longer slowed me down and tripping stopped being an issue because my legs, ankles and feet adjusted to whatever I put before them. It took me a while, but I became good at walking.

Needless to say, I think about trail life a lot. I’ve never been a city girl. I have always craved adventure. When I come back to the city I try to trick myself into thinking that city life can be adventurous too, but just in a different way. I’m not sure if its working.

Despite all the hard times on the trail, cold weather, sore muscles, and homesickness, I miss it. Maybe its not even the trail that I miss, but the lifestyle. Anyway, even if I live in a house now, sleep in a bed and have running water, I still have sore feet to remind me every morning that I did actually hike 2184 miles from Maine to Georgia.

My shredded rain pants, I had only used them 4 days at this point.

My shredded rain pants, I had only used them 4 days at this point.

My sore feet..

My sore feet..

Springer Mountain

Finishing up the trail was a bit of a whirlwind. The last few days the group of 5 I was hiking with decided to push hard to finish by November 20th. That meant that we had to hike three consecutive 20 mile days and then two 15 mile days to the end. As I walked the last 15 miles I was thinking a lot about the Northbound hikers who would soon be leaving on their trek to Maine. When I started out my hike the first few days felt so long and tough, but lately everything felt so easy. I could just imagine what the North bounders would be thinking about the first few mountains, the terrain and the water sources, as far as we were concerned, they have a really easy start to their hike compared not only to the 100 mile wilderness, but also compared to the rest of the trail.

I had decided early on that I would try to stay focused on today rather than tomorrow to help the time pass more quickly. It made my day feel longer and more difficult if I was constantly looking at how many miles I had left until the end, or what giant mountain was coming up tomorrow. North bounders would tell us that Springer Mountain was a let-down because it isn’t much of a climb, more of an ant hill. I ignored them because I didn’t want anything else to get my spirits down on this hike.

When we arrived at Springer Mountain a few of my friends parents were there to greet us. The last one mile on the trail felt pretty surreal. I could hardly believe that I was moments away from finishing the entire length of the Appalachian trail. At the top we celebrated with hugs, champagne and pictures. It was near dusk when we got to the summit and the sun was starting to set. The view was beautiful, the company was great, and we were all elated to have finally made it.

I’ve been home a week now, and it hasn’t quite sunk in yet that I have just hiked the entire Appalachian Trail. 2180 miles! I know it seems crazy to think about attempting it, but while I was on the trail it just felt like one step after another, slow, painful and thoughtful steps.

Top left to right: Voice of Reason, Testiment, Manboy
Bottom left to right: Foot, Lite Brite, Desert Lock

beside the plaque and the final white blaze

 

Home Stretch!

The last few weeks have been crazy. I’ve survived snow storms, the Smokey Mountains and the tourists in Gatlinburg. I have only a few miles left in my journey and it feels bitter sweet. I feel SO ready to be done this trail, yet I know I will miss it dearly.

I am about 3 day from springer mountain in georgia which is the southern terminus 2180 miles from where I started in Maine.

I like your pony tail…

I just walked through one of the most beautiful sections of the trail. The Grayson Highlands in Virginia where gorgeous! Hills upon hills of grassy splendor, no trees so the views are everywhere you look. The best part was the wild ponies! I saw a few of them and I got up real close, close enough to pet them! It was really neat.

I’m past the 500 Miles to go mark now! 🙂

Tomorrow I cross into Tennessee! Lots more adventures to come!

PONIES!!

 

Sun set at Thomas Knob Shelter

Beautiful Grayson Highlands

 

Thanksgiving

My thanks giving Sunday was spent in Pearisburg VA in a sleazy motel and at a Pizza Hut. It was a miserable day walking into town because it was pissing down rain and blowing chilly winds. I was pretty homesick for my Grandads place where I would probably be if I were at home.

All night at the motel I could hear the other motel dwellers slamming doors and arguing, along with their yappy dogs barking. Not the place you would take your family on vacation. The rooms smelled funny, kind of minty and in the morning an ear wig crawled out of the bathtub… Needless to say, I was glad to hike out in the morning, even if it was still raining and windy. That place gave me the creeps.

Luckily that night we only had to hike 10 miles to get to a hostel out in the woods that was described as “a slice of heaven not to be missed”, and it turned out to be just that. We walked up to the old cabin from the 1800’s and went right inside. It was wonderful! So warm and cozy with 3 dogs and 2 cats who greeted me and wanted to cuddle. I sat on the couch and a cat came over and fell asleep on my lap, and then I fell asleep on the couch.

The couple who run the Woods Hole Hostel made us all a great dinner and we slept inside on a comfy bed that smelled good. I slept like a baby and a dog even came to cuddle up with me. Woods Hole saved the day. 🙂

Fall is here and the temperature is dropping. Sadly my warm jacket is somewhere in the mail, so it’ll be a few more days until I’m cozy in the evenings. At least my sleeping bag is warm!

As I get closer and closer to the end of the trail (515 miles left) I can’t help but get more and more homesick and excited to be done. I am trying to stay in the moment and enjoy my time here. I know there is still a lot to see, this week we are walking through a park that has wild ponies in it that come up to you! I’m so excited!

Hope all is well at home!

Goodbye Summer!

A quick up-date on my hike:

I am in Virginia now, passed through the Shenandoah National Park last week. I stayed a night in Waynesboro at a fellow hikers place for a night.

The weather is getting colder here. For the past 2 weeks I have been freezing my buns off at night wishing that I had my winter sleeping bag. My dad sent it to me, and now the weather warmed up..

The leaves are all changing colors now, so it is really beautiful hiking these days. The mountains are getting bigger again and the views are fantastic.

I have only Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and then GEORGIA left to hike through, less than 800 miles. 🙂

I will try to keep this updated, but it is getting harder and harder because the towns are so small and internet access is very limited.

Thanks for the support!

Happy Trails! 🙂

Getting tired.

A few weeks ago I hit a wall of fatigue. I was so tired I didn’t want to hike any more, talking about the trail or even be around any of my trail buddies. I wasn’t thinking about quitting, but I just needed a break from the trail. I could hardly face another day of waking up at the crack of dawn or carrying my 35lbs pack for another 15 miles.

I took a few days off and my wonderful best friend came for another visit. We took off to the Jersey Shore and went to Sandy Hook State Park, where we relaxed on the beach for a few days and ate lots of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. After a few days of that we drove back to the trail and did 3 easy days of hiking and had lots of good talks and best friend time.

When she left I was still feeling a bit blah, but after my fist day of hiking I was back and ready to go! I started to pick up my speed and was going 2.5-3 miles per hour (Which doesn’t sound fast, but trust me, it is. Try carrying your groceries home in a back pack.) which is some of my fastest time. I was able to hike 5 miles in around 2 hours which meant that I could hike 10 miles before lunch.

I met an older guy, Dr. Pepper, who was section hiking New Jersey and Pennsylvania down to Boiling Springs to meet his daughter at university, and we ended up hiking together for the next few weeks. Surprisingly we made a great team and became fast friends. I knew that when I got back on the trail after my Jersey Shore vacation I would be behind all my friends, so I was thrilled to have a new hiking buddy, especially one who hiked at the same speed as me.

We took turns hiking in front because the spider webs would get in your face as you hiked. Lucky for me, Dr. Pepper is 6’5 so he cleared all the webs and then some for me! We had lots of funny adventures both on and off the trail. One of my favorites was on a big day of hiking 22 miles. When we got to mile 21.5 there was a river and we went swimming, which felt great! As we got out of the water a man offered us a ride to Walmart. A long story short, Dr. Pepper got a credit card at the outdoorsy store to save me $25 on a sleeping bag liner I needed because its getting cold out, even though he didn’t want or need it. Then we ended up pushing our packs across a massive parking lot in a shopping cart and we looked like hobos. We had dinner at Subway, and then did our resupply in Walmart. We camped in the small town of Port Clinton beside a gazebo. I guess you had to be there… It was really fun.

I feel better now, and am fairly confident that I will keep on hiking. I’m still unsure if I will make it to Springer Mountain, GA, but I am enjoying the journey and loving the friends I am making along the way. I am now hiking with another girl named Foot, and we will pass the “Half Way There” mark tomorrow! I can hardly believe it!

I hope the weather stays warm! The nights have been getting chilly!

Out of control…

This hike is beginning to become all about food. My day goes like this:

Wake up starving. Eat pop-tarts with peanut butter, and granola bar. Pack up. Walk for 30 minutes, eat another bar. Walk a few more miles, eat crackers and cheese. A few more miles and a chocolate bar.

Lunch time. Bread with a thick layer of peanut butter. Beef jerky, gummie bears, teddy grams, dried fruit, trail mix.

Hike a few more miles and eat another protein bar. A few more miles another protein bar.

Arrive at the shelter starving. Eat anything else I haven’t eaten during the day before I make dinner. Dinner is a Pasta side kick thing, or cous-cous, or mashed potatoes. Then I finish off with more gummie bears or candy, beef jerky, possibly another piece of bread with peanut butter. Spoonfuls of peanut butter, and more gummies. Sometimes I justify eating more trail mix and beef jerky if I have the option of buying more the next day. Then I force myself to brush my teeth to end the eating.

Rest and repeat.

Oh and sometimes I steal M+M’s from friendly section hikers…