Day 174 (10/1/15)

Day 174 (10/1/15)

Start:  Mt. Katahdin Campground

Finish: Mt. Katahdin Summit

Miles Hiked: 5.2

To Go: 0

Overall: 2189.2

Jeopardy, RockBoat and I woke up early and were on the road for 6:00am. It was cold and windy but fortunately the rain had stopped. Between the hotel and Katahdin Stream Campground were some instances of street flooding and downed tree limbs but it would take much more than that to keep us from reaching Baxter State Park, the home of Mt. Katahdin. After an hour of carefully negotiating dark and wet roads we arrived at the campground. Hikers are expected to sign in at a check station on the trail just after leaving the campground – it looked like we were the first hikers of the morning. I was in high spirits and couldn’t wait to climb 4,000ft to touch the sign on the summit. I have waited nearly 11 years for today and now that it was here it was oddly business as usual. Hiking with Jeopardy and RockBoat today was just like it was before, we made jokes at each others expense, cursed the trail where it was deserved and appreciated the views when given. Due to yesterday’s heavy rainfall, portions of the trail were flowing like a stream and there where even a few small waterfalls created by the normally dry boulders we needed to climb up. Dry feet would be impossible to maintain so we walked freely ignoring the flowing water and puddles. After nearly 2,000ft of climbing, we finally made it above treeline. We took a short break and relished our view of the surrounding mountain peaks below enveloped in clouds. It was truly spectacular.

Halfway up

Halfway up

Although we had been climbing steadily, the real work was about to begin. Mt. Katahdin is one of the hardest climbs on the A.T. and hikers must use every muscle in their bodies to pull themselves up and over steep rocks and boulders. I likened it to Mahoosucs Notch but vertical. If today wasn’t my last day then the climb up Katahdin would have been excruciating. Instead, I was having a great time. The three of us inched our way up the mountain, oftentimes clinging to rebar secured directly to the rock. It was exhausting but we eventually made it to an area known as The Tablelands. The trail here is rocky but relatively flat. It was here that I sent my comrades ahead. I wanted to walk this last mile alone. This hike has been my dream for a long time and within the next hour it would be over.

First white blaze - Springer Mt. Georgia, 3/2/15

First white blaze – Springer Mt. Georgia, 3/2/15

I thought back to my first few days of hiking exactly 7 months ago. I was 40 pounds heavier and had never spent a night in a tent in the woods. I had no clue what I was in store for and I did not think I would make it more than a week or two. Georgia was cold and icy and it kicked my ass every day, it contained only 70 miles of trail but it took me 11 days to get out of it. Now, it would only take me three. It was in Georgia that I met my first hiking group of Billygoat, Hula, Blazer, Made-It and Carbomb. I would eventually hike over 500 miles with these amazing people and I will never forget the times we spent together on the trail – especially the karaoke night in Gatlinburg and hiker-trash open mic nights with the Bad Ass Bubble in Hot Springs, NC and Damascus, VA.

Blazer, Hula, Poboy, Made-It, Carbomb and Billygoat - Silers Bald, Smoky Mountains

Blazer, Hula, Poboy, Made-It, Carbomb and Billygoat – Silers Bald, Smoky Mountains

By Daleville, VA I was the last one left and had just completed a two week hiking session with my dad, Crawdad. Although the trail may have been a little harder than he anticipated, he hiked his ass off and I think he had a great time. The time I was able to spend with my dad on the A.T. is two weeks of my life I will never forget; I will also never forget how terrified Crawdad was of contracting Noro at 4 Pines Hostel in Catawba, VA!

Poboy and Crawdad

Poboy and Crawdad

It wasn’t long after Crawdad left that I hooked up with Team Vortex members Scooby, Murphy’s Law, Mile Marker, Cookie Monster, Skipper and Goosebumps and then a little later Blade and The Cuts members Click, Pie, Blade and Cheesebeard. I would hike on and off with these fabulous people for the next several hundred miles.

Team Vortex - Skipper, Scooby, Mile Marker, Murphy's Law, Poboy and Cookie Monster

Team Vortex – Skipper, Scooby, Mile Marker, Murphy’s Law, Poboy and Cookie Monster

After my weeklong trip to D.C. with my wife I became woefully homesick and contemplated quitting on an hourly basis. I hiked with tears in my eyes for most of my time through the Shenandoahs. Had it not been for my reunion with Click, Pie, Blade and Cheesebeard and D.G., I honestly don’t think I would have been able to keep going. You guys raised my spirits and kept me in the game – Thank You! After Blade and The Cuts left the trail for a weeklong trip to New York, I hiked on alone but with a new confidence.

Blade and the Cuts - Blade, Pie, Click and Cheesebeard

Blade and the Cuts – Blade, Pie, Click and Cheesebeard

Eventually, I reached Deleware Water Gap and met Miles, Roker, RockBoat and Jeopardy. By this time I had transformed from a novice, pudgy hiker that liked low mile days and being clean into a badass hiking robot capable of knocking out consistent 20 miles days, relishing the funk a week of hiking without a shower creates. I felt unstoppable and able to walk the remaining miles on my own but with such company as these guys along with Lightning and Porkchop who the hell would want to? In the same breath we cursed the trail and laughed at each other; the miles passed faster than ever.

Roker, RockBoat, Jeopardy, Poboy and Miles

Roker, RockBoat, Jeopardy, Poboy and Miles

By the time I finished the dreaded White Mountains of NH I felt like I might actually finish this hike. Fate would throw a curveball however and I had to leave my friends and the trail behind. I had come so far and tried, unsuccessfully, to reason with myself that the miles hiked was good enough. While I was home, I thought about the trail several times an hour and my absence made me sick. Luckily, I was able to get back after several weeks. I was now alone for good, everyone I knew had either dropped off or summited. I didn’t care though, I had only Maine left to hike and come hell or high water, I would touch that damned sign on the top of Mt. Katahdin.

Maine was not easy but I hiked hard for 19 days and now found myself just a few feet away from reaching my goal. I stood next to the sign and stared at it for several seconds before extending a shaking hand. The moment my palm made contact with the worn sign my thru-hike was over. RockBoat and Jeopardy congratulated me as we took some summit photos. Eventually we would have to hike back down but for now, we were more than content to sit on the summit, our thru-hikes complete, and laugh.

I write this last post from the safe and warm confines of my home in Louisiana. I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to follow my dream. Now that it’s over, I can’t wait to get back to the normal day to day of work, cutting my lawn and having a two-day weekend. My feet are a full size larger than when I started, my body is sore from head to toe and I can’t walk without pain in my knees. Over the last seven months I have not slept uninterrupted for more than 4 hours. I wake up several times a night, even since I’ve been home, for no reason. During a thru-hike, hikers commonly experience periods of near starvation only to be followed by absolute indulgence. A thru-hike cannot be healthy to the body but, to the soul, it is a healthy and beautiful thing.

Finally!

Finally!

Finally!

Finally!

Finally

Finally

A happy Poboy

A happy Poboy

Jeopardy, Poboy and RockBoat on the summit.

Jeopardy, Poboy and RockBoat on the summit.

Jeopardy, Poboy and RockBoat on the summit.

Jeopardy, Poboy and RockBoat on the summit.

I would like to send everyone reading this a small token of my appreciation for following this journal. If you would be kind enough to email me your mailing address at nfishr5@yahoo.com I would like to send you something in the mail. I promise not to sell your information to Apple or some crazy guy in Russia!

Although the hiking is over, my updates on this blog are not. Over the next few weeks I plan on uploading some video and more pictures. Feel free to remove yourself from the automatic email updates A very special thanks to everyone one of you for reading along and following this crazy adventure. Your comments were an inspiration and knowing I had such a big support team  kept me moving. I also want to thank all of the amazing people I met on the trail with an extra big shout out to RockBoat and Jeopardy – thanks guys, you are awesome. To my family and friends that sent me care packages – when I knew I had a care package waiting for me in a town, I hiked with a smile just knowing you cared enough to actually send me something. Just because I’m back home doesn’t mean you have to stop sending me food though! To my wife, Leigh – we did it. You were with me every step of the way and I know this wasn’t easy on you but you supported me every step of the way and believed in my dream. I love you so much it hurts sometimes but if you get sick of me being home please don’t make me hike again! I love you all, thanks again!

Days 152 – 154 (7/30/15 – 8/1/15)

Day 152, 7/30/15

Start: Lakes of the Clouds Hut
Finish: Pinkham Notch
Miles Hiked: 14.8
Miles To Go: 319.4
Overall Miles Hiked: 1869.8

Since we were sleeping on the floor of the dining hall we needed to be out by 6:30a.m. so the guests could eat breakfast. Rock Boat, Jeopardy and I were more than happy to get an early start on our day, we had heard from several hikers the night before that today’s trail would be some of the hardest on the whole trail. Immediately after leaving Lakes of the Clouds is the ascent up Mt. Washington.

Mt. Washington reflection

Mt. Washington reflection

Looking back at Lakes of the Clouds

Looking back at Lakes of the Clouds

Sign just after leaving Lakes of the Clouds

Sign just after leaving Lakes of the Clouds

At 6,288ft, Mt. Washington is a huge tourist attraction drawing hundreds of visitors every day during the summer months. Tourists have a number of options on how to get to the peak. They can hike up to the summit from any number of trails, drive all the way up and park in a parking lot or even take the Cog Railway to the summit. Sometimes thru-hikers have to wait 30 minutes in line just to get a picture next to the summit sign. Since we left so early, Rock Boat, Jeopardy and I were the first three up to the summit. We had the top of New England’s highest peak all to ourselves!

Mt. Washington summit

Mt. Washington summit

The weather on Mt. Washington can be extremely dangerous at times, the peak has never been above 72 degrees, the highest wind speed ever recorded was here at 231 mph and it is enveloped in fog 300 days of the year.

We were lucky to hit it on a good weather day

We were lucky to hit it on a good weather day

Another unfortunate fact is that since 1849, 155 people have died here, most due to hypothermia or skiing accidents. If unprepared, a hiker can get hypothermia up here any day of the year. Mt. Washington and the surrounding peaks are above tree-line on the A.T. for 18 miles. A lot can change in 18 miles and there is no refuge from the wind or rain. Luckily for us, this morning was absolutely beautiful and we have now managed to go 4/4 with great weather on major summits in the Whites. I know several hikers who were clouded up on each and every one of their summits in the Whites, I feel quite fortunate. We spent some time on the summit and made special note of the poster in the visitor center that included the names, dates and circumstances involving the many deaths on these peaks. After leaving the peak the A.T. follows the rockiest ridge-line I have traveled thus far and takes hikers over Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Madison. A wrong step on any of these descents could easily result in tragedy; it happens every year.

The white poster under the banner lists all 155 people who have lost their lives on these peaks

The white poster under the banner lists all 155 people who have lost their lives on these peaks

The rest of the Presidential Range we have to hike over - all above tree-line

The rest of the Presidential Range we have to hike over – all above tree-line

We took it slow but still took a few minor falls and ended up with some small cuts and bruises. After several hours, we had finally descended low enough to where we were back in the trees. I immediately felt better since I didn’t have to battle the 40 mph  winds or sun any longer. I was the first to make it down the 3,000ft descent off Mt. Madison. It had rained heavily on me for the last two hours and I was wet and hungry. Right where the A.T. comes down into Pinkham Notch is the Joe Dodge Lodge. The Lodge offers bunk spaces to vacationing families as well as dinner and breakfast options. Bunks are pretty pricey so I was mainly interested in trying to snag a free meal. I was in luck, a hiker had called in and said he was going to miss dinner and, since he had already paid, wanted his meal to go to a thru-hiker. I gladly accepted the free meal and asked if there would be any way to get in Rock Boat and Jeopardy who should be coming in soon after me. The girl behind the counter asked if I was a thru-hiker and if I had come all the way from Lakes of the Clouds. She understood how hard the hike was and was happy to offer Rock Boat and Jeopardy free spots among the vacationers. Unfortunately, Jeopardy was too late but Rock Boat arrived just in time and we gorged ourselves on salad, carrots, fresh bread, potatoes and meatloaf. After dinner, we hiked across the street and made camp. Today was by far one of the most demanding. Physically I’m beat up pretty bad and my gear suffered some damage as well but nothing serious to prevent me from hiking up the dreaded Wildcats tomorrow.

Mt. Washington - Most dangerous weather on the planet

Mt. Washington – Most dangerous weather on the planet

Cog Railway

Cog Railway


Day 153, 7/31/15

Start: Pinkham Notch
Finish: Imp Campsite
Miles Hiked: 13.1
Miles To Go: 306.3
Overall Miles Hiked: 1882.9

We walked back to the Joe Dodge Lodge in the morning in hopes of pressing our luck on scoring a free breakfast. Once again, we were in luck and had our tabs picked up by some friendly day hikers we had met earlier on Mt. Washington. Thanks again guys! After we had finished up we made it back to our campsite and broke down our tents. We had slept on the shore of a lazy river and the first mile took us along it’s shore and around the pond it emptied into.

Filling up on water before climb up Wildcats

Filling up on water before climb up Wildcats

About to head up the Wildcats

About to head up the Wildcats

As soon as we cleared the pond we started climbing up Wildcat Mountain peaks E and D; my god was it steep. On the way up, I ran into 3 different groups of day hikers who had intend to clear the mountain but instead, after only 2 miles, turned around because of how difficult it was. There was one section that went straight up and even though it was only 20 feet, it literally took me 5 minutes before I was able to make it up. On top of peak D is an observation tower and gondola shuttling tourists from the bottom of the mountain to the peak.

The gondola on Wildcat D

The gondola on Wildcat D

Mt. Washington from Wildcat D - Today it's clouded over, it was clear yesterday for us

Mt. Washington from Wildcat D – Today it’s clouded over, it was clear yesterday for us

We heard there was food at the bottom of the mountain via the gondola but we decided to press on and distance ourselves from the crowded mountain top. Up next were peaks C and A and they were just as challenging as the rest of the Whites.

Jeopardy has some climbing to do

Jeopardy has some climbing to do

Rock Boat negotiating some seriously steep trail

Rock Boat negotiating some seriously steep trail

We regrouped at Carter Notch Hut, the last of the huts in the Whites, and ate lunch. Already at the hut was a southbound thru-hiker. He congratulated us on making it this far – we congratulated him and asked him how his hike has been thus far. He didn’t answer immediately and when he finally spoke it became very apparent he would be lucky to make it out of New Hampshire. We tried to give him a pep talk but he had all but given up and kept saying how horrible and demoralizing Maine had been. Oh well, only 20% make it for a reason. We moved on and made the steep climb up to Carter Dome. When Rock Boat and I reached the summit, we were greeted by a mother grouse and her chicks. I’ve heard grouse since Georgia but this was the first I’ve seen.

Grouse on Carter Dome

Grouse on Carter Dome

Five more miles of hiking brought us to Imp Campsite where I was forced to set up tent on a tent platform, not the best scenario for my style of tent but I made the best of it. We will be out of New Hampshire soon and I keep reminding myself to enjoy these days because there are not many left. Other than my physical pain, I feel great and have been hiking strong.

Seriously steep

Seriously steep


Day 154, 8/1/15

Start: Imp Campsite
Finish: Gorham, NH
Miles Hiked: 8.1
Miles To Go: 298.2
Overall Miles Hiked: 1891

Sleeping on a tent platform

Sleeping on a tent platform

We were out of food again and had intended on resupplying in Gorham just a few miles away. The trail into town was mostly downhill and easy. Rock Boat and I secured the last two rooms at the White Mountain Lodge and Resort. Right on the trail and at $30 a night and included breakfast, you can’t beat it. As I waited on the shower to open up, I called home. I won’t get into specifics but it became immediately apparent that I would not be hiking tomorrow and needed to come home as soon as possible. In the blink of an eye my attention turned from how many pizzas I planned on eating tonight to booking a flight home. When I got off the phone I broke the news to Rock Boat. He, Jeopardy and I have developed a strong friendship over the last few hundred miles – the news left everyone speechless. With only two and a half weeks and less than 300 miles to go, this was a hit to the guts. Within the next hour, I arranged a three-hour shuttle from the hostel to Portland, Maine for the morning, a hotel room for tomorrow night and a flight out the next morning.

The next several hours were very strange. The thru-hikers around me busied themselves with tomorrow’s hiking plans oblivious to my situation, I just sat on a chair and chimed in when called upon trying to act normal. In truth, I suddenly felt like an imposter; a hiker no more. If I could have left that instant I would have, the thought of everyone else but me carrying on with their dream in the morning made me sick. I retreated to my room and listened to music while I stared at the ceiling tiles. I only got up once to say a final farewell to Rock Boat. In the morning, I leave for home. I do not know if/when I will ever be able to make it back to the trail. My dream was to be a thru-hiker, to complete the journey in one calendar year. There is nothing wrong with section hiking it over several years, my hat goes off to section hikers because it’s an amazing feat no matter how you get it done. All I can say for sure is that this has been an amazing experience and I will never forget the people I met or mountains I climbed. Thank you all for supporting me every step of the way – as soon as I have an update on my trail status I will let you know.

One last look at Mt. Washingotn

One last look at Mt. Washington

Took this picture just after arriving at White Mountain Lodge and Resort

Took this picture just after arriving at White Mountain Lodge and Resort

Days 146 – 148 (7/24/15 – 7/26/15)

Day 146, 7/24/15

Start: Beaver Brook Shelter
Finish: Eliza Brook Shelter
Miles Hiked: 9
Miles To Go: 381.9
Overall Miles Hiked: 1807.3

As expected, the temperature dropped into the low 40s last night. Now that I am in higher elevations and so far north the cold temperatures are here to stay. Several peaks in the Whites can get snow year round. Following a waterfall and near vertical, the descent off Mt. Moosilauke is known as the hardest descent on the entire A.T. The trail is made up of rebar and several hundred steep wooden steps secured directly to the mountain.

Rock Boat descending Moosilauke

Rock Boat descending Moosilauke

Cookie Monster descending Moosilauke

Cookie Monster descending Moosilauke

Poboy coming down Moosilauke

Poboy coming down Moosilauke

To be honest, it didn’t really give me much trouble but took a lot longer to get down because of my slow and deliberate steps. When I hit the bottom, I was happy to see Stitches set up in a nearby parking lot with trail magic. Rock Boat, Jeopardy and I ate some hotdogs and donuts before moving on. Maybe it was due to the full bellies or heavy rain but the next 8 miles kicked our ass. The muddy trail went steeply up and right back down very slick rocks; I fell twice. It was extremely slow going and very taxing on our bodies. We hit the shelter and decided to call it a day. It was nice to get to a shelter early for a change!

Wet hikers drying out at Eliza Brook Shelter

Wet hikers drying out at Eliza Brook Shelter


Day 147, 7/25/15

Start: Eliza Brook Shelter
Finish: Lincoln, NH
Miles Hiked: 8.8
Miles To Go: 373.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 1816.1

Immediately upon leaving the shelter was a steep 2,000 ft climb. Jeopardy had hiked ahead in order to make it to town early enough to accept a new pair of shoes from the post office before they closed at noon. Rock Boat and I slept in the shelter last night since heavy rains had been predicted so packing up in the morning went faster than usual. When you don’t have to take down and pack up a tent you can shave a few minutes off your morning. As soon as we left the shelter we started heading up Mt. Kinsman. The trail up wasn’t much of a hiking trail at all, it was more akin to rock scrambling than anything else. For the first time since Albert Mountain back in North Carolina, I didn’t hike with poles. I needed my hands free to climb up the near vertical rock faces that make up this difficult section. Rock Boat and I agreed that simply calling the A.T. a “trail” was not fair. For the last few days, we have done more mountain scrambling and climbing than hiking. When you have a 25lb pack strapped to you the task becomes even harder.

Steep climb up Mt. Kinsman

Steep climb up Mt. Kinsman

More Steps

More Steps

Something happened to me today that I didn’t expect, I actually enjoyed hiking. I’m not sure if it was the difficulty of the climb or the realization that things are drawing to an end but I had a smile on my face for most of the day. It was a hard climb up to Kinsman but once again, we had a clear view on the summit. Behind us was Mt. Moosilauke and stretched out ahead was Mt. Lafayette and the rest of the Whites. The air was calm and crisp, days like today were made for hiking. Unfortunately, it would be short lived. Thunderstorms were forecast to be moving in later today and tomorrow. We took some time to ourselves on the summit before heading back down.

View from Mt. Kinsman

View from Mt. Kinsman

Just before reaching the road into Lincoln, NH we came across Lonesome Lake and it was absolutely beautiful. Hidden high up in the mountains, the lake was currently home to a few ducks and even a hiker or two. As we hiked around it’s edge; not a sound could be heard other than the building breeze through the Balsom fir trees. I know that rhymes and it was unintentional, I’ll attempt poetry next thru-hike! We needed to head into Lincoln to resupply for the rest of our trip through the Whites so we booked a hotel room and knocked out our normal town to do list and reunited with Jeopardy.

Lonesome Lake

Lonesome Lake


Day 148, 7/26/15

Start: Lincoln, NH
Finish: Lincoln, NH
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 373.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 1816.1

We woke up and checked the weather. The previous days forecast held true and heavy storms would be rolling through all day. With a two mile hike above tree-line planned, we decide to play it safe and zero. When hiking above tree-line, wind, colder temperatures and lightning pose serious threats to hikers because they are the tallest things around and can find no relief from dangerous weather. Since we had already resupplied yesterday we had a the whole day to relax. Our hotel had a pool and there was a putt-putt course right across the street, what more could a hiker want. As promised, I swore to Rock Boat I would recount our trip to Hobo Golf Putt Putt. After 6 holes I was 1 stroke ahead. The pressure must have gotten to me because by the end of the round he won by 7 shots. The rest of the day passed without incident but I’d like to take a moment to update everyone on the whereabouts of some hikers I have met along the way. Billygoat is rehabbing his knee and is apparently dating his physical therapist – way to go Billygoat! Hula and Blazer had to leave the trail in VA due to a family emergency and plan on getting back on to hike NH and ME. Carbomb and Made It are also back home and back to work before attending school in the fall. As far as the big bubble I was with for the first 500 miles or so, it looks like a lot of the hikers have called it quits along the way. I haven’t’ met or heard about anyone from those days for quite some time. Click, Pie, Blade and Cheesbeard are still hiking and have just crossed into VT. Team Vortex has disbanded but everyone is still hiking. Murphy’s Law, Scooby and Mile Marker are in front while Cookie Monster, Skipper and Goosebumps are a few days behind me. In the last few weeks I have run into Maps and Moxie (last seen around mile 700), Happy Warrior (last seen around mile 200), PA Trail Runner (mile 700), and Wye Knot (mile 1,100). Running into these hikers out of the blue never gets old.


Days 133 – 136 (7/11/15 – 7/14/15)

Day 133, 7/11/15

Start: Mt. Greylock, Bascom Lodge
Finish: Congdon Shelter
Miles Hiked: 20.4
Miles To Go: 582.5
Overall Miles Hiked: 1606.7

With big miles on our minds, we left the lodge early and made the near 3,000 ft. descent into Williamstown, MA. In town we visited a Stop & Shop and loaded up on resupply items like Knorr’s Pasta Sides, tuna, ramen, candy bars, pop tarts and other items. We got enough to last 5 days which will be our longest stretch in between towns in a very long time. I’m going to miss our near daily visits into town for food!

Just next door to the market was a Papa Johns that gave a 50% discount to hikers, so I along with Rock Boat and Jeopardy, ordered a pizza.

Jeopardy eating pizza in Williamstown, MA

Jeopardy eating pizza in Williamstown, MA

It was almost noon and we still had 14 miles to go, the first of which went over 2,000 ft. up… Not fun with a large pizza in your belly! On the way up, we joined forces with Doc and Forward, two hikers we have been crossing paths with for several weeks. We were all delighted when a sign informed us we had just crossed into Vermont!

PoBoy, Jeopardy, Rock Boat, Forward and Doc at VT border

PoBoy, Jeopardy, Rock Boat, Forward and Doc at VT border

PoBoy made it to Vermont!

PoBoy made it to Vermont!

The A.T. follows the path of the Vermont Long Trail for 105 miles before going their separate ways – The A.T. to New Hampshire and the Long Trail to Canada. We took some photos then continued hiking through mud for the rest of the day. I fell twice, Rock Boat and Doc once – stupid mud!

At first, we tried to jump from rock to rock or upon sticks to avoid the mud, but by the end of the day, we were so filthy it didn’t matter, so we just walked right through it. I hiked with Doc for most of the day. He is am avid hunter and spear fishermen and at 49 years old, a strong hiker. Back home, he works as a veterinarian and it was nice passing the time with him. We all made it to camp tired and muddy, baths would have to wait, sleep would not!


Day 134, 7/12/15

Start: Congdon Shelter
Finish: Story Spring Shelter
Miles Hiked: 23.3
Miles To Go: 559.2
Overall Miles Hiked: 1630

It’s getting harder and harder to get going in the morning. I am usually the last out of camp. Part of the reason is that my body needs more sleep to recover, but I think it also has to do with my lack of motivation to start yet another assbusting day. Long gone are the “easy” days of 1,000 ft. summits and the occasional almost flat hiking. On the bright side, the change in terrain signifies just how close I am to being done with this. It may seem like I don’t enjoy hiking very much and only want it to be over so I can return home; this is precisely the case. But at least I’m not alone with these thoughts. I can honestly say I do not know one other hiker who still wants to be out here. We all curse the trail daily and openly wish the A.T. was only 1700 miles long.

Why are we still out here then? Because we have to. We are all prisoners of the trail and we cannot go home until we climb Katahdin. For most of the day, Doc, Forward, Jeopardy, Rock Boat, and I discussed how badly we want to be done with all this. When asked if anyone has plans to make another long distance hike, we all said, “No!!” Doc said he is giving away all his gear when he’s done and Rock Boat said he is just going to burn it atop Katadhin. I would love to make some smaller hikes in the future, maybe a few days at most, but this long distance thing is over for PoBoy! Rant over, back to today’s hike…

Rock Boat takes a fall

Rock Boat takes a fall

The first 15 miles were predominately uphill as we summited Little Pond Mountain and Glastenbury Mountain. I enjoy hiking in the mountains more than the valleys that we saw from Northern Virginia through Massachusetts. The mountains have higher and longer ascents and descents, while the valleys bring you up and down over and over until your muscles are just shredded. It’s easier to get into a groove who you are going up and down for longer periods of time.

PoBoy & Rock Boat at Glastenbury Mountain lookout tower

PoBoy & Rock Boat at Glastenbury Mountain lookout tower

Glastenbury Mountain lookout tower

Glastenbury Mountain lookout tower

Vermont has some tough trail and it is very muddy, but the woods are some of the most beautiful I have seen along the trail so far. The forest is covered with spruce and fir trees and is more open; I don’t feel as claustrophobic as I did with the states before. It’s still the green tunnel, but at least now it’s a bigger tunnel!

Vermont beaver dam

Vermont beaver dam


Day 135, 7/13/15

Start: Story Spring Shelter
Finish: Bromley Shelter
Miles Hiked: 23.1
Miles To Go: 536.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 1653.1

We had some uninvited guests last night in our campsite. Around 11:00PM, a section hiker tented just a few yards away from us started making a lot of noise and turned on his flashlight. Apparently some “critters” were after his food bag. He hung it up higher, but that didn’t stop whatever animals were after a free meal from investigating our camp. I heard something scurrying outside my tent, but since it wasn’t a bear, I was able to get right back to sleep. Rock Boat said the noises continued for another few hours.

I remember a few times early on when I would hear strange noises at night and have a hard time trying to sleep. Now, I still hear stuff, but am able to sleep just fine. If it’s a bear that wants to eat me then it’s going to eat me whether I’m sleeping or not. If it’s a bear that doesn’t want to eat me, or any other animal, then I’m good to go. Either way, I’m sleeping!

I got out of camp pretty early and immediately made the climb up Stratton Mountain. It was on this mountain that Benton MacKaye developed his idea regarding the creation of the Appalachian Trail in 1921.

Stratton Mtn

Stratton Mtn

It was a hot climb up and I was drenched in sweat. Thankfully, there was a fire tower on top of the mountain, so I dried my shirt out in the sun while I hung out with Rock Boat and enjoyed the view.

PoBoy and Rock Boat at Stratton Mountain lookout tower

PoBoy and Rock Boat at Stratton Mountain lookout tower

At the base of the mountain is Stratton Pond and it was an absolutely beautiful spot for lunch. I could have stayed there all day, but I have to make some miles over the next few days so I can meet my wife and parents between Rutland, VT and Hanover, NH in just 4 days. 

Stratton Pond

Stratton Pond


Just before the shelter, Rock Boat and I met a southbounder who started in Maine and is hiking the A.T. South to Georgia. We swapped info on what to expect and wished each other well. We are starting to see southbounders with increasing frequency although there are not nearly as many of them as us northbounders.

Trail sign - Open to hiking/skiing/cross country skiing

Trail sign – Open to hiking/skiing/cross country skiing


Day 136, 7/14/15

Start: Bromley Shelter
Finish: Greenwall Shelter
Miles Hiked: 22.6
Miles To Go: 513.5
Overall Miles Hiked: 1675.7

Rock Boat, Jeopardy and I have developed a pattern over the last week or so. Rock Boat leaves camp first, then Jeopardy and I head out around the same time. I hike faster than Jeopardy and catch Rock Boat before lunch. Rock Boat and I hike together until 4-5 miles before camp, then I hike faster and get to camp first. Rock Boat comes in not long after and Jeopardy strolls in just before dark. Now, this isn’t always the case, but it happens more times than not! 

7/14 Bridge

7/14 Bridge

After leaving the shelter, I made it to the top of Bromley Mountain where a ski lift sits waiting for winter. For the next several miles, I was walking through spruce and balsam fir forests and it was beautiful. As promised, I caught up to Rock Boat just before lunch and hiked with him the rest of the day.

Little Rock Pond view

Little Rock Pond view

We met 2 section hikers on top of Baker Peak and sat and chatted with them for about an hour before making it downhill to Little Rock Pond Shelter.

PoBoy & Rock Boat at Baker Peak

PoBoy & Rock Boat at Baker Peak

From here, we had 5 miles left to go and plenty of time to do it, so I took advantage of the lake stretched out before me and went for a swim. It was cold at first, but it felt great to get several days of sweat off me. The dip in the lake gave me the boost I needed to hike the remaining miles. I’m sure I smelled a lot better as well!

Little Rock Pond

Little Rock Pond

PoBoy taking a dip in Little Rock Pond

PoBoy taking a dip in Little Rock Pond

Days 129 – 132 (7/7/15 – 7/10/15)

Day 129, 7/7/15

Start: US 7
Finish: Tom Leonard Shelter
Miles Hiked: 6.4
Miles To Go: 661.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 1527.4

By the time we checked in, did laundry and ate it was after 1:00AM. We requested a late checkout and used every bit of our extra time, finally leaving the hotel around noon. We drove back to the small town of Sheffield, MA where we rented the car. We ate and resupplied before returning the car which officially brought our off-trail adventure to a close.

Just as we were about to get going back on the trail, we heard thunder in the distance. According to the radar, it looked like we were about to get nailed, so we waited out the storm in a nearby garden center. Well, the storm skirted just north of us and waiting for it to pass cost us 2 hours. We finally started hiking around 5:00PM!

The first mile of today’s hike was one of the hardest on the trail so far. It wasn’t due to the rocks or a steep incline, it was because of the biggest swarm of mosquitoes I’ve ever had the displeasure of encountering. At one point, I slapped and killed four on my right forearm alone. It was misery. We were getting bit left and right. We were practically running to avoid them! Once we started going uphill, the mosquitoes lessened, but we weren’t completely free from them until we were in our tents. I even had to eat dinner in my tent, which was a first. Misery!


Day 130, 7/8/15

Start: Tom Leonard Shelter
Finish: US 20
Miles Hiked: 22.7
Miles To Go: 639.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 1550.1

The mosquitoes were still really bad in the morning, so I broke camp pretty quickly and got moving. It had rained overnight, so the trail was pretty sloppy. In fact, I slipped twice right off the bat, but thankfully landed on my butt both times. Trying to avoid the worst of the mud pits that now dominate the trail takes a lot more time and energy to successfully navigate, but it keeps my feet dry which is very important. I try to walk along the edges of the trail or on top of roots and rocks to keep my feet out of the thick mud, but sometimes there isn’t any option other than to trudge on through.  By the end of the day, my legs are caked in mud and my boots weigh a ton. Vermont is supposed to be much worse. It’s nickname among hikers is “Vermud” and June 2015 was the wettest month on record in the last 150 years. Lovely! Maybe the mosquitoes will be so thick they will just carry me over the mud!

As I was nearing the end of my day, I came to a small bridge. As I was crossing it, I was stung by 2 yellow jackets – one on each leg. They burned pretty intensely for a minute or two and then the pain subsided. I had already been bitten by 20-30 mosquitoes over the last 2 days and now the yellow jackets want a PoBoy too!

A mile before my intended shelter, I fell a third time, only this time I didn’t fall on my butt. I was navigating over a small stream when I lost my footing and started going down. Trying to avoid falling in the middle of the stream, I pushed hard with my right leg to try to at least hit dryer land. The only thing I succeeded in doing was covering the left half of my body in nasty, rancid mud and straining my right quad. I cursed myself and the A.T. as I tried to wash myself off. Another mile past my intended shelter was a road crossing and motel. I really needed a shower and booked a room with Rock Boat and Jeopardy. As I write this, I am not a happy hiker.


Day 131, 7/9/15

Start: US 20
Finish: Dalton, MA
Miles Hiked: 19
Miles To Go: 620.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 1569.1

I’ve been hiking with Rock Boat and Jeopardy for several days now. Most of the time we go at our own pace and meet up around lunch and again at camp each night. Sometimes we hike together and crack jokes at each other’s expense! Today, I hiked with Jeopardy in the morning and Rock Boat in the afternoon. After yesterday’s events, I needed the company!

7/9 Trail

7/9 Trail


Right around lunch, I came to a road crossing and was surprised to see some awesome trail magic. Pooh Bear thruhiked the A.T. last year and was spending a week doing trail magic. He handed me a cheeseburger and soda and told me and the four other hikers gathered there a brief recount of his A.T. experience. He was such a nice guy! We bid him farewell and moved on.

Pooh Bear's Trail Magic

Pooh Bear’s Trail Magic

Rock Boat and I arrived in Dalton, MA just before the rain and set up our tents in the backyard of Thomas Levardi, a local trail angel. He’s allowed hikers to camp behind his home for 36 years. It rained heavily all night, so I was stuck in my tent for about 13 hours. My tent is a single wall tent as opposed to a double wall. It is much lighter than a double wall, but is prone to condensation buildup on the inside walls, especially while it’s raining. I had to use my camp towel every few hours to dry the walls down so I wouldn’t get soaked. At least it doesn’t rain often – yeah right!


Day 132, 7/10/15

Start: US 20
Finish: Mt. Greylock, Bascom Lodge
Miles Hiked: 17.2
Miles To Go: 602.9
Overall Miles Hiked: 1586.3

The rain finally let up around 3:00AM. I packed up a wet tent and headed out of camp around 8:00AM. The trail is progressively getting worse. It’s extremely muddy, which makes it easy to slip and fall and hikers must exert more energy to try and stay on the trail. There have been sections over the last few days where I am walking through mud for several miles – I have forgotten what color my boots are! 

Jeopardy

Jeopardy

Today was my first day hiking back in some real mountains since Virginia and it felt good to know that I would be rewarded with great views after making the climb up. For too long I’ve made hard hikes uphill hoping for a view, only to descend without much of a glimpse of anything other than trees…The green tunnel indeed. The mountain today was Mt. Greylock, which is the highest peak in MA at 3,491 ft. and was the first mountain over 3,000 ft. in a very long time.

Mt. Greylock Cabin

Mt. Greylock Cabin

Frog at Mt. Greylock

Frog at Mt. Greylock

The climb up wasn’t too bad. Actually, after 4 hours of steady climbing, I finally reached the summit. The view from the top was beautiful and Rock Boat, Jeopardy and I sat for a while and enjoyed it.

Mt. Greylock View

Mt. Greylock view, Highest peak in MA

At the top of Mt. Greylock is the Bascom Lodge built in the 1930s. Hikers can stay in a bunk room there and that sounded just fine after our 2,500 ft. climb up! At this altitude, it was actually a little cold. Just ahead lay the White Mountains of New Hampshire where snow can fall on several of its peaks year round. I’ll be needing my winter gear back soon.


Days 125 – 128 (7/3/15 – 7/6/15)

Day 125, 7/3/15

Start: Kent, CT
Finish: Kent, CT
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 722.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 1467.1

We woke up with every intention to hike, but…we didn’t. The weather was beautiful and Kent is an awesome town. We went to the grocery store and purchased our resupply items and then spent the rest of the day throwing frisbees and footballs. Oh, and we ate. A lot.

I wanted to take some videos on things that a few people have had questions about, but I am having issues with them. I will try to get these uploaded at a later time.

Taking advantage of power

Taking advantage of power

Charging up!

Charging up!


Day 126, 7/4/15

Start: Kent, CT
Finish: US 7
Miles Hiked: 22.6
Miles To Go: 699.5
Overall Miles Hiked: 1489.7

I awoke at 5:00AM to the sound of a car alarm going off. I peered out of my tent to see if anyone was stirring in camp. It was all quiet, so I went back to sleep. When I woke up and checked again an hour later, I was one of the last hikers remaining! Hikers move quick! I powered down a pop-tart and a protein bar my brother had sent me and moved on.

The trail followed the Housatonic River for several miles and it made for a very enjoyable hike. Apparently, the Housatonic has some good white water rafting and some hikers choose to aquablaze this section of the trail. Aquablazing is when you skip hiking certain sections of the trail that are close to rivers in favor of floating down them in a raft or canoe. While I don’t consider this hiking, who am I to judge?

Since it was July 4th, Miles, Rock Boat, Jeopardy, Roker and I had our eyes on Belters Campsite. The trail book said it had a view and we just hoped it faced Falls Village, CT in the valley below. We were told the town puts on an amazing fireworks show and we wanted to watch it from the mountain.

We arrived at the campsite only to find the view facing the wrong way. We now had a decision to make. We were exhausted from a long day of hiking, but fireworks usually means food and we really like food…and fireworks! We moved on in hopes of finding out where the show would be.

When we got to a road at the bottom of the mountain, we saw a sign promising trail magic to hikers. It was about a mile ahead and we went for it without hesitation. When we arrived at the house, we were excited to see about a dozen hikers we knew already there! Burgers were on the grill and there was snack food everywhere!

July 4th Trail Magic Feast

July 4th Trail Magic Feast

The homeowner, Lisa, had won a grant from the Awesome Foundation and was using the funds to put on this party plus several others in the weeks ahead. We joined Peacedog, Turbo, Kaptain K, Lightning, Pork Chop, Don Vito, Pig Pen, Feed Bag, Wye Knot, Black Bear, Bud, Bud Light and a few others and celebrated the 4th hiker style!

The icing on the cake was that the fireworks show was right down the street. The whole group of us tried to get in around dark, but we were told it was $5 per person. That’s about 10 Snickers bars each, so no one wanted to pay the fee! We went across the street in hopes of scoring a free view, but about 10 minutes later, the guys at the gate waved us over and said we could go for free! We thanked them as we ran to find good seats on a hill with about 2,000 others and anxiously awaited the show. It lasted 30 minutes and we said many Oohhss and Ahhhs, not long after we made many Zzzzs!

Fireworks

Fireworks

July 4th Fireworks

July 4th Fireworks


Day 127, 7/5/15

Start: US 7
Finish: Race Brook Falls Campsite
Miles Hiked: 21.5
Miles To Go: 678
Overall Miles Hiked: 1511.2

We left Lisa’s house early and walked the mile back to the trail. The A.T. went through a neighborhood for a few miles before finally returning to the woods, just after a massive waterfall.

Overcast waterfall

Overcast waterfall

We had stayed up late, about 11:00PM and were pretty tired. In a unanimous decision, Roker, Miles, Rock Boat, Jeopardy, Lightning, Pork Chop and I agreed we should walk about a half mile off trail to a deli and treat ourselves! I ate a 12 inch meatball sub and some fresh fruit and took a power nap in some shade. The pit stop did the trick as the next several miles melted away.

Swimming in a cold river

Swimming in a cold river

The trail gained elevation all afternoon and atop Bear Mountain, we finally got a view. We haven’t had many decent views since Virginia, but now that we are back in the mountains we can expect great views regularly. We took a long break and chatted with several day hikers before moving on.

Hanging out with Pork Chop, Lightning, Rock Boat

Hanging out with Pork Chop, Lightning, Rock Boat

Just before the campsite sits Mt Rare. The last half mile of our climb up was on an exposed cliff. It was very similar to Tinker Cliffs and gave us 180° view. When you are climbing uphill for hours, views like this make it all worth it. We sat for several hours and took it all in before pressing on to our campsite for the night.

Mt. Race - Jeopardy, Rock Boat, Pork Chop, PoBoy Lightning

Mt. Race – Jeopardy, Rock Boat, Pork Chop, PoBoy Lightning

Oh yeah, we made it into Massachusetts today, so another state down! Only 4 more to go! From what we have heard, they get progressively harder.

CT- MA border

CT- MA border


Day 128, 7/6/15

Start: Race Brook Falls Campsite
Finish: US 7
Miles Hiked: 9.8
Miles To Go: 668.2
Overall Miles Hiked: 1521

I was the last one out of camp this morning after having slept in to the late hour of 7:00AM. We had camped at the base of Mt. Everett and it was not going to be a fun climb. It only went up 650 ft., but it was one of the steepest and rockiest hikes I have made. When I reached the top I was huffing and puffing, but the view made it all worth it. I was on the peak of the highest mountain around; clouds blanketed the valley below. Views like this make tough hikes worth it.

Mt Everett view

Mt Everett view

I took off my pack and sat down and was just finishing an orange when Rock Boat walked up. We hiked the next several miles together and passed the time swapping stories. We have similar interests and I really enjoy hiking with him. The A.T. crosses many roads and as we were walking across MA 41, a car pulled up and asked us if we knew Jeopardy. We said we did and asked her if he was okay. He was more than okay and was currently waiting for us at a diner up the road. Penny said she would be more than happy to drive us as she had with Jeopardy to the diner. We instantly accepted and within minutes the three of us were stuffing our faces with omelets. We won’t have as many opportunities to take these side trips to calorie-up in the future, so we have been taking advantage of them as often as possible. We got a quick hitch back to the trail and sluggishly started walking. It was hot and nobody was looking forward to hiking the next 12 miles we had scheduled today. We crossed US 7 and entered the woods.That’s when our day took an unexpected turn…

Rock Boat thought he saw a Hertz Car Rental at the road crossing and jokingly suggested we do something fun for a change. I instantly turned around and said, “Let’s do it!” We checked our phones and unfortunately there were no Hertz locations around. There was, however, an AA Car Sales and Rentals just 1 mile down the highway. We looked at each other and it was painfully obvious there would be no more hiking today. Jeopardy asked, “Are we really doing this?” as we were walking down the highway. “HELL YES!” was our reply! Now that we were all onboard, we had to decide what to do. Rock Boat said he thought there was a Six Flags in Massachusetts and as luck would have it, there indeed was and it was only an hour drive away! We crammed all of our gear in the back of a blue Dodge Neon and started navigating our way to Six Flags New England.
Driving to six flags

Driving to six flags

We arrived an hour later and we all high fived our spontaneity. Side trips like this is a big part of what the trail is all about. Jeopardy, Rock Boat, and I spent the next 5 hours riding roller coasters and frolicking in the water park. It was awesome to feel human again! For once, we weren’t looked upon as homeless, smelly hikers. We were just 3 friends having and great time and fit in with everyone else. We closed down the park at 9:00PM and checked into a Holiday Inn – sleep came upon us instantly!
Bizzaro roller coaster

Bizzaro roller coaster

Recap: My fourth month on the A.T.

Well, it’s been an interesting month. It started pretty crappy, but thankfully I was able to fight through it because now I’m in a much better mental state. From here out, it is all about my physical condition and luck. I am about to be in the hardest section of the trail, a section which takes several hikers out of contention every year. I’m excited that I’ve made it this far, but I still have 1/3 of the trail left to go.

This has been the hardest 4 months of my life; I am missing my wife more than I ever thought possible and I can’t wait to get back to a “normal” life – Whatever that is!

It has also been an incredibly rewarding 4 months as I have pushed myself more than I ever have before and haven’t quit. I’ve met some amazing people and witnessed some of the most beautiful sights this country has to offer.

My motto of the month has been “embrace the suck” and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

-PoBoy

Day 11:
I made it to the GA/NC border!

I made it to the GA/NC border!

Day 124:

CT border

CT border

Days 118 – 120 (6/26/15 – 6/28/15)

Day 118, 6/26/15

Start: High Point Shelter
Finish: Wawayanda Shelter
Miles Hiked: 23.9
Miles To Go: 827.5
Overall Miles Hiked: 1361.7

Not long after leaving the shelter, we spotted a giant tower on top of a hill. It was 220 ft tall and sits atop the highest point in New Jersey. Since it was a little ways off trail, we decided to skip it – We had bigger plans in mind.

High Point, NJ - Highest point in the state

High Point, NJ – Highest point in the state

For the second morning in a row, we made a quick pit stop into town to grub up. This time, pizza was on the menu and after 7 quick miles, it was amazing! Big shout out to the staff of Annabelle’s in Unionville, NY. Thanks for taking care of us! While the pizza we gorged on was in NY, the trail was about 1 mile away in NJ and we were back on it in no time.

After about a mile we hit the Wallkill Game Reserve where the trail meandered through for 2 miles. The reserve was mostly shallow flooded fields and was currently home to ducks, cranes and two swans that were close enough to get a few pictures of. It was a really fun hiking along the reserve and reminded me of the flat, boardwalk style trails back home in NOLA.

Wallkill Reserve

Wallkill Reserve

Wallkill Reserve

Wallkill Reserve

Even after we were out of the reserve, the boardwalk style trail continued until we hit Vernon, NJ. We only had 5 miles left and plenty of time on the clock, so we made a quick pit stop at Heaven Hill Farm for some fresh fruit and some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had! Seriously, even if I hadn’t just hiked 20 miles, the ice cream here has got to be in the top 3 of all the ice creams I have ever had, including my Uncle Mike’s homemade blueberry, apricot and whatever concoction he would try to get me to eat as a kid! Sorry Mike! I really wished I could just camp here. Part of it was the good food, but mostly it was due to the fact that we were about to go up the “Stairway to Heaven” leading up to the top of Wawayanda Mountain.

Resting before "stairway to heaven" and Wawayanda Mtn

Resting before “stairway to heaven” and Wawayanda Mtn

It was a steep ascent with many stone steps, but the view from the top was well worth it. I sat with Miles, Samaritan and Roker and soaked it all in.

View from Wawayanda Mtn

View from Wawayanda Mtn

Far off on the horizon we could make out the tower we saw this morning. It was rewarding to see just how much ground we covered after a long day.

Back in the distance is high point monument where we walked from in the morning

Back in the distance is high point monument where we walked from in the morning

A few more miles brought us to the shelter where we were greeted by about 15 other hikers we know pretty well. This is the most people I have seen at a shelter since Georgia!


Day 119, 6/27/15

Start: Wawayanda Shelter
Finish: Greenwood Lake, NY
Miles Hiked: 10
Miles To Go: 817.5
Overall Miles Hiked: 1371.7

New Jersey view

New Jersey view

The weather was supposed to get bad this afternoon, so I left camp early with intentions of making it into town just 10 miles away. After a few miles, I made it to the NJ-NY border. After only 3 and a half days, I was out of New Jersey. For the most part, New Jersey was great. There were a few rocks here and there, but the woods were beautiful and fun to walk through. It was also nice being so close to many small towns and their food! I hope this trend continues into New York.

NJ/NY state line

NJ/NY state line

Roker and I made it to town and started looking for a place to stay. Everything was booked with weekenders, so we gave up hope of staying dry and turned our attention to food. Roker, Jeopardy, Forward, Doc and I sat outside Murphy’s Tavern and waited for them to open. It was just beginning to rain when the two owners opened up and invited us inside. After ordering a round of drinks, we told them our trouble with finding a room. Then, the most amazing thing happened. They invited us to stay at the bar! It turns out that the second story of the building used to be a hotel, but they haven’t had anyone stay since they bought the place 8 years ago. We gladly accepted their offer and didn’t move from our seats until bedtime!


Day 120, 6/28/15

Start: Greenwood Lake, NY
Finish: William Brien Memorial Shelter
Miles Hiked: 21.7
Miles To Go: 795.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 1393.4

Even though the bar below us was rockin’ until 2 AM, we turned in early and were asleep by 10:00PM. It rained all night and was still raining when we woke up. Hiking in the rain isn’t fun, but we didn’t have a choice. By 7:30AM, we were back on the trail. One positive thing about the rain was that Fitzgerald Falls was just gushing with water when I reached it. It is one of the bigger waterfalls on the A.T., so I took a few moments to check it out.

Fitzgerald Falls

Fitzgerald Falls

Over the course of the next few hours, the rain came down harder than anything I have had to hike through yet. What was worse though was that I had to go up and over slippery boulders for most of the day. In good conditions, this terrain must be passed over slowly, today it was going to be a crawl.

Rock climb

Rock climb

Even though I was going slow, I slipped and fell several times. Each time I cursed the A.T. for making me hike over rocks in the rain. Yep, the A.T. and I were not on speaking terms for most of the morning, but things improved once I reached Island Pond. The rain had dissipated to a light mist and visibility improved enough for me to see a few miles ahead. As I descended the mountain, I could see a small pond stretched out before me. The trail brought me right to its edge and for the second time today I sat down to enjoy a great view.  I wish I could have tented right on the shore, but I had more miles to go and was running out of daylight.

Island pond

Island pond

Not far after the lake was a rock formation called the “Lemon Squeezer.” It started off with a cave entrance that got narrower and narrower until I could just hardly fit through. After 20 ft. or so, it opened up but got even harder. The trail went up an 8 ft. vertical ledge. Well, it may shock you to hear this, but I don’t have the strength to pull myself up and over a fence, much less what was before me! I studied my foe for several minutes and decided on a plan of attack. The left side was lower but made of smooth rock. The right side was higher, but much more jagged and even had a tree root or two sticking out from the ground.

Lemon squeezer

Lemon squeezer

I took off my pack and threw it, along with my poles, up and over the left side. Then, I slowly found some good holes I could use to position my hands and feet on the right side and inched my way up. A small cut on my finger and a scraped knee later, I was up! You would have thought I just summited Everest! It was the first time I have actually had a great time while hiking in a while and the last few miles passed without incident. Oh, you may be thinking, “How do they expect everyone to get up that ledge?” Well, just off to the left was a blue blazed trail that you can take to avoid the climb. So far, I haven’t taken any of the blue blazed trails. Yes, they are easier and would save me some time and energy, but they aren’t the official A.T. – Hike your own hike!

I made it to the shelter and setup my tent just in time, as the heavy rains moved back in. It’s going to be a long, wet night!


Days 110 – 113 (6/18/15 – 6/21/15)

Day 110, 6/18/15

Start: Port Clinton, PA
Finish: Eckville Shelter
Miles Hiked: 14.8
Miles To Go: 956.9
Overall Miles Hiked: 1232.3

I checked out of the hotel and hitched a quick ride over to Wal-Mart to resupply. Usually for lunch I will eat Ramen or candy bars, but I’ve been wanting to mix it up lately, so I bought tortillas, pepperjack cheese, pepperoni and Doritos. I crush up the Doritos and put them in my wrap to add a little flavor and texture. The cheese lasts about 4-5 days and then starts to get kinda nasty, so I try to eat it fast.

I was back on the trail for 10:00AM and started hiking. It rained all night and now a thick mist filled the woods.

6/18 Mist

6/18 Mist

In conditions like this, I put my rain cover over my pack, but I don’t hike with my rain gear on because of the heat it traps in. It’s been raining almost everyday for the last week and now the trail has turned to mush; it doesn’t make for fast hiking.

Wet Trail 6/18

Wet Trail 6/18

Today I hiked mostly with Miles and Oliver. We passed the time swapping trail stories and before we knew it, we had arrived at the road we thought led to the shelter. We didn’t see a shelter sign, so we kept walking. After going a mile the wrong way, we checked the book again and realized we passed it up! We turned around, hiked one more mile back and finally found the shelter.

Salamander

Salamander


Day 111, 6/19/15

Start: Eckville Shelter
Finish: George W. Outerbridge Shelter
Miles Hiked: 24.2
Miles To Go: 937.7
Overall Miles Hiked: 1256.5

Miles, Oliver and I left the shelter just after 7:00AM and just had the most wonderful time hiking the same mile of trail for the third time! So nice, we hiked it thrice! Oh well, we made sure to check our trail books more thoroughly today!

Rocky terrain 6/19

Rocky terrain 6/19

Water is starting to get harder to find. Even with all the rain, many springs are dry and you have to walk several tenths of a mile down steep side trails in hopes of finding it. When you have to walk miles and miles everyday, any extra walking that doesn’t count towards A.T. miles just sucks!

Just missed a bad storm

Just missed a bad storm

The trail is getting worse every mile. If you aren’t sinking inches into the mud, then you are balancing yourself on pointy rocks. The rocks are taking their toll on both my feet and my gear. One of my hiking poles broke today. The bottom half of it got stuck between two rocks and it broke at its joint. I’ll try to superglue it tonight. Hopefully, it works because I definitely need it on these rocks.

Knife Edge Rock Formation

Knife Edge Rock Formation

My feet are also in rough shape. I’ve had wet feet for a few days and blisters are beginning to form. With weather like this, you can’t get anything to dry. My boots, socks and other gear have been wet for a solid week…and it’s only going to get worse. I usually strap my wet socks to the outside of my pack. It’s smelly, but it usually works when I am trying to dry them out. Unfortunately, with the consistently wet weather like we have had recently, everything stays damp no matter what we do.

Wet feet

Wet feet

It was a long day battling rocks and wet weather and I arrived at the shelter completely exhausted. I was so tired I almost skipped dinner…keyword: Almost! After shoveling a chicken flavored pasta side down my throat, I passed out.


Day 112, 6/20/15

Start: George W. Outerbridge Shelter
Finish: Leroy A. Smith Shelter
Miles Hiked: 16.7
Miles To Go: 916
Overall Miles Hiked: 1273.2

It rained most of the night, but cleared up just before we started hiking. A mile after the shelter lies the town of Palmerton, PA and home to the Palmerton Zinc Superfund site. That’s right, the A.T. takes hikers right through one of the most polluted areas in the state! The hike through the Superfund starts with the slope of Blue Mountain and boy is it steep! I had to put my hiking poles away and climb up nearly vertical rock face for several hundred yards.

What I have left to climb, straight up

What I have left to climb, straight up

Several times I looked down behind me and thought how crazy it was to be scaling this mountain. One wrong step and a thruhike could easily end in a very tragic way.

Ascent up from Palmerton

Ascent up from Palmerton

After slowly negotiating the rock face, I sat down and drank from the 5 liters of water I was carrying. Over the course of my hike today, water would only be crossed once and it was .6 miles off trail and I had no intention of adding over a mile to my day. This has been the most water I’ve carried thus far as I usually only have about a liter on hand. The extra water added around 10 lbs. of weight to my pack, but there weren’t many alternatives.

After the steep ascent, the trail flattened out a bit and I was surprised to see several blueberry bushes loaded with ripe fruit. I haven’t seen any ripe fruit bushes other than the mulberries and now, on one of the most polluted landscapes in the country, they were all over. Needless to say, I didn’t pick any!

Superfund selfie!

Superfund selfie!

After a few miles the hike through the Superfund ended, but the rocks did not. By the time I reached the shelter I was pretty wrecked. My back is the most sore it had been this entire hike, most likely due to carrying extra weight and I have two nasty blisters on my feet. What’s worse is that in just a few hours the remnants of Tropical Storm Bill will be rolling right over us. I’m hunkered down in a shelter with Miles and 5 others while we await the storm. At least my hiking pole survived the day!


Day 113, 6/21/15

Start: Leroy A. Smith Shelter
Finish: Wind Gap, PA
Miles Hiked: 4.6
Miles To Go: 911.4
Overall Miles Hiked: 1277.8

The rain came down all night, but at least we avoided the wind and lightning that was forecasted. Miles, Oliver, Samaritan and I made the easy decision to head into town. We were all sore and running low on food and dry clothes. Plus, Wind Gap, PA has a movie theater and we all wanted to see Jurassic World!

We made the four and a half mile trek into town in record time and checked into the Travel Inn. Rooms were $80, but thankfully we split it between the 4 of us. We cleaned up, washed clothes and resupplied. After that, our attention turned to food! Right across the street is the Gap Diner. We took a seat and ordered a late breakfast. After several plates of omelets and french toast were cleared, we headed back to the room and relaxed in the A/C.

Resupply time! With Miles (left) and Oliver (right)

Resupply time! With Miles (left) and Oliver (right)

The movie started at 7:00PM and only cost us $5 a ticket, gotta love small town USA! Jurassic World was much better than the second and third installments, but failed to surpass the patriarch of the franchise. Overall I give it a B+! We walked back to the room and surrendered to the end of a long, wet and rocky week.


Days 106 – 109 (6/14/15 – 6/17/15)

Day 106, 6/14/15

Start: Duncannon, PA
Finish: Clarks Ferry Shelter
Miles Hiked: 4.3
Miles To Go: 1038
Overall Miles Hiked: 1151.2

Blade and The Cuts, DG, 50+ and I left the hotel and got a ride back to the Doyle where we waited for Trail Angel Mary to bring the guys to the bus station. I’ve enjoyed hiking with these guys. When we first met way back at the NOC in North Carolina, I had no idea that we would become such great friends. Even though Pie now lives in Finland, he visits the U.S. regularly. The next time he visits he said he will take a few days to “come down to the bayou” for a crawfish boil – I’m looking forward to it! I haven’t told my wife yet, but I plan to reunite with Click and Cheese Beard next year at Trail Days. Click hopes to have his book completed by then and may rent a vendor tent to release it. I don’t know if Blade has any intentions of coming back to the U.S., but if he does, I hope we can find a time to meet up – I’ve really enjoyed hiking with him and beating him in Mau Mau! Mary showed up and we said our goodbyes. They said they will try to catch back up with me, but I honestly don’t see that happening. That’s just the way the A.T. is, but I’m glad I’ve made some great friends out here.

I had some phone calls to make and some things to take care of, so I was not in any rush to get back to the trail. I posted up at a Subway for several hours and took care of my to-do list. I finally made it back to the trail around 3:00 and made my way up a very steep and rocky path until I reached the shelter. There were already about a dozen hikers camping, so I was forced to take a spot in the shelter next to DG. We played some cards and talked about the trail until hiker midnight, 9:00. There were 5 people in the shelter sound asleep until 10:42PM, when a hiker walked up with his bright headlamp on. He kept his light shining on the shelter until a few of us started stirring and then he asked me and DG to move over. Hiker rule of thumb: There is always room for one more in a shelter, so we moved, albeit begrudgingly. He then took about 40 minutes to get settled in, still with his headlamp on!  Now we were getting pissed! Finally, the light went off – 10 minutes later he was snoring louder than I ever thought possible. I only got a few hours of sleep – Got to love shelters!

PA Rocks

PA Rocks

I thought the trail was supposed to be rocky?

I thought the trail was supposed to be rocky?


Day 107, 6/15/15

Start: Clarks Ferry Shelter
Finish: Rausch Gap Shelter
Miles Hiked: 24.7
Miles To Go: 1013.3
Overall Miles Hiked: 1175.9

After not getting much sleep, thanks to our late night visitor, I was a little groggy this morning and started gathering my things around 6:30. Everyone else was up except for the   headlamp guy. When every one else in the shelter saw that I was awake, they started making as much noise as possible, no doubt having hatched a plan of revenge! I laughed and joined in. After a few minutes the guy woke up. He offered an apology, but hardly anyone so much as glanced at him. I don’t have a problem with him coming in late or asking for a spot, but when you wake up an entire shelter and then take nearly an hour to settle in, you get what you deserve!

I was the second out of camp – No spiderwebs! The trail is becoming a little rockier with each passing day, but for now it is not too bad. The A.T. in PA is known for their rocks, so it will only get worse.

After 8 miles, I made it to the next shelter and ate lunch with the section hiker who left camp before me. We chatted a bit and then I moved on. He would be the last person I would see until 8 hours later when I arrived at the Raush Gap Shelter.

Trail view 6/15

Trail view 6/15

Two weeks ago, I would have struggled being alone on the trail, but now I’m fine with it. I am happy again to be out here and look forward to reaching Maine. To everyone reading the blog and to those that took the time to write me – Thank you, thank you, thank you! I use your words as motivation and cannot describe how grateful I am. Now when I walk alone, I use the time to think constructively as to how I can become a better husband, friend, brother, son and employee. If I would have left the trail, it would have been devastating because I realized that in my first three months I didn’t actively try to better myself. I’m out here for several reasons, but this is one of the biggest ones. Now, for several hours a day, I pick a topic and think about it. I will continue this past Katahdin and I see changes within myself already. The A.T. can be pretty damn tough at times, but knowing what you are hiking for makes all the difference!

6/15 Rattler

6/15 Snake


Day 108, 6/16/15

Start: Rausch Gap Shelter
Finish: 501 Shelter
Miles Hiked: 17.5
Miles To Go: 995.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 1193.4

It has been raining just about every day for the last week and last night was no exception. Around 11:00PM, a storm rolled in and woke up the entire camp. We even heard a tree or large branch come down somewhere near the shelter. Dead trees or dead branches are known as widow makers and they are a real threat out here. Earlier this year, a hiker was killed on the A.T. in Maryland when a tree fell on him. Whenever we look for a campsite, the first thing we do is look up, but I guess you just never know.

Trail View 6/16

Trail View 6/16

I ate my breakfast of Snickers with the others and headed out. Just off the trail was an old graveyard dating back to the 1850’s, so I stopped to take a quick picture. The woods were dead still and an eerie haze filled the canopy – It was a spooky setting and I left in a hurry!

1850's Graveyard

1850’s Graveyard

The heat and humidity have been pretty bad lately and I’ve been drenched in sweat within minutes of leaving the shelters in the morning. About once a day, I’ll rinse off in a stream and feel somewhat clean until I start hiking again. About halfway into my hike, I came across an interesting stream crossing. A big tree had at one point or another come down across the stream and is now used as a cross over. The trunk was wide enough, but I suspect one or two people have a close call each year.

Fallen tree over stream

Fallen tree over stream

Since Georgia, I have been determined to photograph the most elusive creature in the woods. Everyday, I see about a dozen of them cross the trail or sit just off the trail in the woods, but as soon as I reach for my camera they disappear. But today I succeeded, behold the mighty chipmunk!

Chipmunk

Chipmunk

Cute little animals, but they must be the most scared things in the woods because they bolt off as soon as they hear or see you.

For the last few miles I hiked with 50+. He has been sectioning the A.T. for the last few years and only has 600 miles left to go. In another year or so he will have it done. I have enjoyed hiking with him and love listening to his hiking stories of everything he has experienced over the years.

6/16 Trail View

6/16 Trail View

We arrived at the 501 Shelter which sits just off PA Hwy 501, making it possible for pizza deliveries! I ate a large sausage and bell pepper pizza and called it a night!


Day 109, 6/17/15

Start: 501 Shelter
Finish: Port Clinton, PA
Miles Hiked: 24.1
Miles To Go: 971.7
Overall Miles Hiked: 1217.5

For the first time in a long time I awoke to clear skies and cool temperatures. Days like today were made for hiking and I was actually excited to hit the woods. I was the first one out of camp, which meant spiderwebs and boy were they thick! Not sure why I haven’t thought of this before, but I started hiking with one pole raised before me in the air and only relied on one pole for support. The raised pole did a great job of breaking the webs and it was smooth sailing!

I had headphones in today, which is not something I usually do, but it made for fast hiking…So fast in fact that I averaged 3 mph over the course of the day, which is flying by my standards! I keep the volume low in case someone comes up behind me, so I can let them pass or in case there is another bear in a tree. Well today I can add another reason to keep the volume on low. I was listening to Hook by Blues Traveler and was puzzled when I heard the faint sound of maracas that seemed to be emanating from my headphones. The problem was that I know there are no maracas in that song – Yep, it was a rattlesnake. He was just off the trail to my left. His back half stuck out on the trail like a small branch. I wasn’t planning on stopping and was just going to walk on, but it wouldn’t move. I got out my phone and used my hiking poles to get him going. He wasn’t happy, but moved nonetheless. Two days ago I had another close encounter when a rattler went off about 2 ft. to my right as I was cruising along. By the time I registered what it was, I was already 6 ft. ahead. Pennsylvania’s rocks definitely bring out the snakes.

A few hours later I ran into this colorful guy:

Box Turtle

Box Turtle

I haven’t seen a box turtle this color before – Pretty cool!

After a rather uneventful day, I reached Port Clinton, PA and checked into the Port Clinton Hotel. I did laundry, showered and ate wings and a burger at the restaurant on the first floor of the hotel. I followed up with Leigh and some others and called it a night.