My good friend Sarah is battling cervical cancer. She’s one of the most vivacious young women I’ve had the honor to know in this life. If you have a spare bit of money to donate to help her and her family out during this time, it would mean the world to me. She’s smart, witty, a great cook with a hell of a poker face.
Hello! How time has slipped right by! I have to update from my phone, so I’m going to keep this entry brief for the sake of my sanity.
We got down to Bland, Va last week, thoroughly ready to call it. Our gear was no match for nights and mornings in the teens and twenties. No motherfucking bueno.
So, with 244 miles left, we postponed the rest of of our journey until March.
Not a textbook “thru-hike”, but that was never my point.
I want to thank Neville and Michael at Woods Hole Hostel for the awesome work-for-stay they hooked us up with. Shout outs to Supachef, Why Jay Brave, and Turnaround. Thanks so much for cheering us on! Thanks to our friends for their support, there are way too many to name names. We know who you are, and we love you!
With the exception of photo/ video uploads, I’m going to be scarce on this blog until we resume in March.
If this is going to create a gaping hole in your lunchtime/ smoke break/ work-avoidance routine, don’t fret! I keep a blog here semi-regularly, starting in January.
Again, thank you, thank you, thank you. See you in March.
Greetings from sunny Waynesboro! We have only 515 miles left- practically the home stretch… I remember when we had only COMPLETED 515 miles. It doesn’t seem so long ago. It doesn’t feel like we’ve been on the trail for six months, either! I’m sure it will all ‘sink in’ after I get home. We’re going to push hard, try to be home by Christmas. That’s, what, 35 days? Who knows. We’d have to do something like 14 1/2 miles a day on average. That’s do-able.
I think these last handful of miles are going to melt right by. The terrain (accd to our trail book) doesn’t look too harsh (knock on wood), if we can just manage to stay warm enough at night, we’ll do fine. I have been feeling nauseous and fatigued lately. Really hope it’s push-on-through-able.
The Shenendoah Mountains were gorgeous! Totally improved my mood at least three times over. Just the other morning, we saw seven young deer feeding not twenty feet away from us. They weren’t fazed by our proximity whatsoever. Amazing. J took a ton of photos*.
BTW Here’s one of us at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harper’s Ferry, WV
We have to give some shout-outs to the nice couple that picked us up outside of the supermarket in Luray and gave us a ride back to the trailhead. Also, a big hello to our new buddy Dave C. He picked us up, cooked us dinner, and let us crash/lounge at his house for the day. A super-unexpected solid.
I’ve been meaning to put a reading list up here. I’ve been able to put away a shit-ton of books out here, since there is little else to do besides walk and eat. Here goes, in semi-chronological order:
- Indian Killer- Sherman Alexie
- Into The Wild- Jon Krakeur (spelling?)
- The Road- Cormac McCarthy
- Good Omens- Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
- A People’s History of the United States- Howard Zinn
- The God Delusion- Richard Dawkins
- ‘Salem’s Lot- Stephen King
- The Color Purple- Alice Walker
- The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest- Steig Larson
- Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga- Stephen Davis
- Devil in a Blue Dress- Walter Mosley
- Ishmael- Daniel Quinn
- Stone Butch Blues- Leslie Feinberg
- Skin: Discussing Sex, Class & Literature- Dorothy Allison
I think I’ve forgotten a few titles in there.
Right now, I am reading Endgame by Derrick Jensen. YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK! I want everyone I love, and even some people that I could live without to READ THIS BOOK. Seriously.
*A Note On Photos/ Video- I’m going to wait to upload until after the trail is over. I figure it will be a nice project for the post-trail blues I hear so many thru-hikers have.
Greetings from sunny Virginia!!! Made it into our last state yesterday afternoon. I’m updating from The Bear’s Den Hostel in Bluemont, VA. Thanks to our hosts, Redwing and Hopeful!
Stayed here last night, and it looks like we’re setting up for another zero or late-starting near-o. Proximity to flush toilets, hot coffee, and the internet is way too intoxicating to resist, even if it is gorgeous outside. Our trip to Philly was much-needed, I think. We got a great resupply from a full supermarket, as opposed to our usual catch-as-catch-can re-ups from convenience stores. Made a trip to REI for sleeping bag liners. I’m quite happy with my REI fifty-five degree job, despite the added bulk and weight. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. If I can’t get a good night’s sleep, I might as well chalk the next morning, or even the whole day, up to a loss.
Speaking of motivation, I think J and I are in need of some inspiration*. We’ve come so far, but we’re still staring down another 600+ miles. I’m really looking forward to the Shenandoah Mountains, however I am swiftly approaching ‘so over it’. I think that PA took a lot out of me. Hiking through PA was boring as shit. There. I said it.
What I’m trying to remember right now this journey is such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. How so many people I’ve met say they’d love the chance to do what I’m doing. I’m trying to remember how much I love the clarity of thought I can achieve out here. I’m trying to remember the amount of good I’m doing for my body. The resolutions I’m making. The negative agreements I break just by pushing on. I’m trying to remember that this trail is a finite distance.
What I’m failing to forget is how much I enjoy wearing cotton. How much hot water improves my day. How much I miss having poetry readings and karaoke a regular part of my week. I miss music and bookstores and cooking elaborate meals in my own kitchen.
So long as I complete the trail in 365 days, I can get my 2,000-miler certificate from the ATC. I’m reluctant to take a break and resume the trip after winter because I’m afraid I may not be able to come back to complete it. That doesn’t bother me as long as I plan something boldly different for myself than what I was up to pre-trail**. A much easier, less frightening route is just to knock out this path and roll with the tide after. I decided I wanted to hike the AT to challenge myself, gain a little more self-confidence by conquering my fears, and to come up with a life-plan. Now I find myself asking what I define as personal progress. Stay and complete (in one swoop) what I start for the sake of finishing? Pause the hike and attend to the new plans that are screaming for my action while the iron is hot?
* I think that the physical completion of the trail is more of a priority for J than myself. We are both pooped. I’m going to refrain from recapping conversation that led us to this point, you’ll have to trust me on this.
** I do have a plan, and it’s rad-ass. It’s not for sharing on this blog.
For the more geography-inclined among you, the title to this post may not make sense. But we had to go to WV to reach Philly for cheaper. I’m updating from the Mubuhay House in W. Philly. Having an awesome time.
If the last entry didn’t tip you off, both J and I needed a break from the trail. We had already planned a two or three day stop in Philly, but our mutual fatigue called for a week-long stay. Shout-outs to Chantelle, Lovella, Lilly, Toby and Jeff for making me feel superwelcome in their home. Shout-out to Amy and Izzy for being awesome new acquaintances. We all went to a Halloween block party in the neighborhood. It was so rad to see all the little kids in costume, so many homemade, labor-intensive ideas going around. I love to see people rock paper mache.
Yesterday, Chantelle, J and I went to Occupy Wall Street to help support IVAW in a solidarity march. So much good energy. I enjoyed meeting so many people I’ll get to work with after the trail. When we got back to Philly, I met up with my best-friend, Mariana. We met in Savannah. She still lives there, but is in town for a wedding. How is miss talking with an old friend! How I miss being able to relate with other women, period.
This is the first time in my adult life that I’ve been to Philly. I love it, what I’ve seen of it, anyway. What diversity! So much to do… and we just might have a room available to sublet out here. It’s not written in stone yet, so I’m going to stay cautiously optimistic.
We’ve intentionally left our after-trail plans loose; for such a long while, our time the AT seemed less of a finite span. We still have a good minute to travel after Harper’s Ferry, for sure, but much less daunting. We plan to stay in TN with our friends Maggie and Jared for a good bit of time immediately after the trail. The small town they live in seems to be the perfect place to wade back in to full-time “reality”. I am apprehensive about settling there because in this small town of 2000, .23% are African-American. That’s 4 1/2 people, I think. Then little old brown me. I also need a place where I can get around on my own via bike or public transportation. I’d also dig a little more culture than what I believe Decatur, TN has to offer me.I also want to go back to school.
Gear Update- It is cold outside. It’s only going to get colder. We’re getting sleeping bag inserts for additional warmth, winter bags being prohibitively expensive. Going to rock those as long as we can, hustle to finish the trail before the cold pushes us indoors.
Six hundred and forty miles to go!!!
I can’t believe it. No, I can believe it.
Our past few nights out on the trail have been bitter cold. The days have been bearable, warm even with all our activity. Very happy to be out of PA. The state seems to go on forever (there’s 229 miles of AT in PA) and there were few exciting vistas to break it up. Very rocky. Hunting is permitted in many areas the AT runs through, and the sound of gunfire in the not-so-distant vicinity made this lady very nervous. Bring on the blaze orange!
Between the temperature and the doldrums, I definitely had my doubts about going on. As I lay in the tent at night, I could think of eight million things I could be doing besides freezing my ass off in the woods. I genuinely started to miss Savannah, my buddies, the food, the weather…
J and I got into town yesterday afternoon, in the middle of an unseasonably early snowstorm. Six to ten inches in some areas. We were lucky enough to have friends in town, Ron and Linda. Yay, home-cooked food! We ate like monarchs. Went to the only open bar in the area, The Town Inn, where we befriended a lively group of weekend vacationers, thru-hikers, and even a couple of full-time residents. Got our pictures taken at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, where we looked at pictures of our trail buddies who are now miles ahead of us.
The stop before this was at Boiling Springs, PA. We stopped for a quick resupply, and befriended a whole family of Trail Angels who opened up thier fabulous home to us for a great home-cooked meal, shower, and to spend the night in thier awesome, decked-out basement. Many, Many thanks to Greg, Janet, Scott, and Chris S. They totally made our weekend.
Before Boiling Springs, we stopped in Duncannon, PA, to wet our whistles at the world-famous Doyle Hotel. The owners, Pat and Vickie, are super sweet people who tell a really good story. The fried catfish basket and hushpuppies were off the chain!! There is not much else in Duncannon, but if you’re ever to pass through, don’t miss this eccenteric hotel.
There’s more, I promise to update soon. Right now, there are others waiting on the computer.
A little over 900 miles to go! Feeling good, in the not entirely hiker-unfriendly town of Palmerton, PA.
Came into town a little after seven last night, no vacancy at the for-pay Hotel in town, so we stayed at the free Jail House Hostel. The man who checked us in gave us the most rough treatment we’ve had on the trail yet. Very, very gruff from the start. No greeting, no response to our greetings, our ‘please’ or ‘thank you’s. During the reluctantly-given ‘tour’, he neglected to answer my question about the ladies’ shower or bathroom, so I had to figure it out myself. Jason was understandably ruffled. I’m not going to study it no farther than the town line. Maybe dude was just having a bad night, but he might also just have a problem with hikers. During my ladies’ bathroom-hunt, I overheard him bitching about how hikers ‘have free run of the place’ (mind you, Thursday night was not “bumping”- we were the only two there) and there should be a larger hotel nearby to send them all to.
This morning, we went to Bert’s Steakhouse, where they served a lackluster, fat and gristle heavy steak and eggs. Our waitress was about as enthusiastic about our visit as our host last night. We were stared at, full-on, by over half the restaurant. I’m so sick of the stares. We totally were showered and clean by this point. Two young people with backpacks less than two miles away from the most heavily traveled foot path in the States? Not an event, certainly. Yes, I know I’m sexy, and my boyfriend devilishly handsome, but this is 2011. An interracial couple should not draw so many looks, no matter how knockout hot they may be.
The first genuine smiles we got all day have been at the library. Like a breath of fresh air! Happy women, kids psyched for story time, Quilt auction fundraiser. Heck yes.
Gear Update- Our shoes by Innov8 totally fell apart on us after two, three weeks. Less than the 600 miles the salesman assured us. Swiss design meets Chinese manufacturing, maybe? Not cool. The store is sending us a new pair w/in the week, but rather than lose time waiting for the exchange, we caught a sweet sale (bogo 50%off) and now I’m rocking a pair of Saucony Exodus runners. J has a pair of Nike (yes, we know) Pegasus.
J just tried to upload photos, but our battery died! Booo!
Shout-outs to Keeps, Brother, Deuce, 3hats, Bones, Sanka, Sherpa, Eli W.
Long-distance hiking and internet blogging do not mix. For me at least. Having a blast off-grid. I’ve already filled up and sent home my first physical trail journal, about a quarter way through my second. Having a hard time deciding how to begin updating such a huge gap. We’ve had some serious adventures on our journey!
Many thanks to Scot @ High 5 Hostel in Andover, ME. Great conversation, and I got to drive (badly) an ATV for the first time!!! There are pictures!! We ate bear sausage, too! Shout out to Supachef, Cat & Toast! Love, love, love to the White Mountain Hostel in Gorham, NH. Much respect and love to Chet, who put us up for a whole week in Lincon, NH. Big, Big, Hugs to Karen and Ralph at Tigger’s Tree House in Etna, NH.
In Gorham, we had to take Jason to the hospital for some stomach problems, he’s fine now, but had to stay overnight to have fluids replenished. I insisted he rest another two days in town before we set out again, so we spent a full zero week. In Lincon, Jason’s ATM card was eaten by the machine. Between waiting for a replacement and Hurricane Irene, we lost another week.
The White Mountains completely shook me. I was rocked by how difficult it was. I was floored by so much natural beauty in the face of such physical pain. I took pictures like mad- partially because I got so few in Maine, partially because I had a feeling that any description I have for my time out there would fall short of the images I could collect. Even photos (which I promise to upload asap) seem too small.
It’s looking like we won’t finish the trail until late November. I’m not so terribly ruffled by this, but six months was way longer than what J was expecting to spend out here. Fortunately, with the White Mountains, The Great Smoky Mountains, and the Difficult-ass Mountains of GA under our belts, we have the hardest terrain over and done with. It won’t be out of the question to do thirty mile days soon. I’m really looking forward to moving at a quicker pace on (supposedly) easier terrain, from what I can tell from our altitude profiles.
Hurricane Irene has wiped out the trail in VT, but there was no way I was going to Completely skip one of the most awesome states on the trail. There was also no way I was going to miss an opportunity to visit Sam D., one of my best friends from Savannah! We’re staying with her until tomorrow, and then I’m going to Burlington to see my old high-school buddy, Tim L. Super stoked, obviously. We’ve got a ride to Dalton, MA on Thursday, when we’ll be resuming our journey south.
Gear update- My left trekking pole broke, going to replace my Black Diamonds with Leki poles like J has. They’re heavier, but more durable and comfortable. We both replaced our Merrill Chamelion Gore-tex boots with Innov-8 Roclite 312 GTX trail runners. They’ve got Gore-tex as well, but are much lighter, more in line with a minimalist shoe. I personally might get some insoles with more arch support, but I want to do a few miles to try the shoes out as-is before I make the change.
Physically, I’m feeling pretty good. My left knee has been giving me some trouble, but I’m working through it with ibuprofen, elevating it when I can, and stretching regularly. I’ve lost thirty-two pounds so far, I don’t think I should lose too much more weight since I’ve stayed where I am for the past coupla weeks. I haven’t been this small since high school. My upper body has more muscle than I’ve ever remembered. Eating like a madwoman whenever possible.
J has been doing more research on minimalist backpacking, and from some of the websites he’s shown me, it seems like a very doable option. I’d love to do the Pacific Crest Trail next year with only a 25 lbs pack weight. Right now, I hover between 30-35 lbs. Jason’s is even lighter because his pack is smaller to begin with and he is less fond of journaling and moisturizing than I am. While we are traveling a lot lighter than a lot of other packs out here, it still feels like a tumor on those rough patches. With my knee acting up more often, I want to shed all the weight I can.
From Day Seven-ish to day Sixty-whatever, I’m spending a sunny afternoon uploading all this video…
We’re in Monson, Maine right now, at the Lakeshore House and Pub.
My family is picking us up tomorrow, whisking us away to BBQ in Worcester for the Fourth. Be back on the trail around the 10th or so.
I want to update more here, but I don’t want to give away anything that’s going to be in the MASSIVE VIDEO UPLOAD once I reach my aunt’s computer. There’s some bad-assadry coming soon.
Shout outs to Meg and Quinn, Spartacus, Vesuvio, TimeTraveler, Scooter, Lucky, and the rest of our new SOBO friends.