1007 miles in – Auburn, PA

The hardest part of this is not the sore feet. It’s not getting up early in the morning, or getting to camp at night. It’s not the rain, the heat, the bugs. The hardest part is knowing that you can do it. To be mentally tough enough to stop being scared of your potential and chase your dreams.

One of the things that I have heard most from people when I tell them that I’m thruhiking the Appalachian Trail is, “Oh, I wish I could do that, but I’ve never had the time.” Or, “I’ve always wanted to do that, but I would never be able to.” To all those who really, sincerely want to hike the trail but feel like it is not an achievable goal, it is. You have to work hard at it, make the time for it, but if it’s something you really want, you can do it.

It’s been a good while since my last post, and my apologies for that. I haven’t been able to find a library in a while! But here I am now.

Pineapple and I took the bus, then the train back to Pawling, NY, to get on trail right where I had started. Pineapple wasn’t quite ready to go home yet, so he decided to hike south with me for a little while. Because Pawling is one of the last stops on the train, the conductor gave specific instructions on which cars you had to be in to get off the train. When we reached our stop in Pawling, we went to get off and the door didn’t open! We ran to the next car but that one didn’t open either. The train started moving again and I freaked out.

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Pineapple and I at my grandmother’s house, just before embarking on our journey back to the trail.

We got off the train at the next stop and weighed our options. We could buy a train ticket back to Pawling, but we don’t want to spend that money, and the next tain doesn’t leave for an hour and a half. We could also try walking back to the trail, a 5 mile walk, and attempt to hitch hike while we walk. Our last option is to try to hitch from the train station, but stay there in case we need to take the train. We decide to hitch from the train station. Immediately, a van pulls over. A father and son are sitting inside, and we tell there where we need to go. We climb in the back with all the painter’s supplies, and before we know it, we are back at the trail.

The next couple nights, Pineapple and I barely run into any other Southbound thruhikers. We decide he will head home once we reach Fort Montgomery, just south of the Hudson River. The night before we arrive in Fort Montgomery, we meet a couple other southbounders, Peeps and Towelie. Towelie, a 22 year old from Durham, NC, and Peeps, a 31 year old from New York, have been hiking together for almost the entire trail. That night, the four of us stay together at the Greymoore Spiritual Life Center, a little park not too far from the trail owned by a church and open to thruhikers for overnight camping. We arrive and begin cooking and setting up our camp for the night, and a car pulls up. The door opens and cub scouts pour out. The driver, a middle-aged man wearing a uniform, comes over to us and lets us know that the cub scouts are going to be camping there that night. They are willing to share the space, but they need the area we were going to camp in, and they stay up late.

Peeps and Towelie leave, in order to avoid being kept up by screaming kids, but Pineapple and I stick around. I set up my tent in the baseball field. The parents of the cub scouts are friendly and give me some fruit and hot chocolate. One of the dads obviously considers himself an expert on camping, and starts quizzing me on my gear. It was strange. It seemed like the dads there who were really into camping were trying to catch me slipping up, so they could correct me and reassert themselves as “expert campers.”

The next morning, I hike down to Fort Montgomery. Pineapple decided the night before to leave straight from the Greymoore, so I am all alone. Early into the day, however, I run into Peeps and Towelie again. We make plans to potentially share a room in town. I hike into town ahead of them.

Right before reaching Fort Montgomery, the trail goes across a bridge over the Hudson River.

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The Bear Mountain bridge

As I was walking across the bridge, I had a sudden memory of my journey to the trail 3 months prior, and driving over that bridge. I saw someone walking with a pack and it was so exciting. I internalized the incredibly long distance I have already hiked, and the feeling was amazing. I passed a man with a camera, who was waiting there for hours to get the perfect shot of a train going by. He asked where I was headed and I replied, “Georgia!”

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The view over the Hudson from Bear Mountain Bridge

I stayed at the Stony Point Center with Peeps and Towelie. The room was affordable, and came with a great breakfast. The place was a retreat center, so all around were groups of people in colorful baggy clothing doing crafts with rocks, tai chi, and meditating.

We decided to zero in town, but we didn’t want to pay for another place to stay. I had broken my phone and just gotten a new one, so I needed to stick around and set up the new phone, and Peeps had to wait for a package. We decided to camp somewhere around the town. We walked toward the trail and as we got near it, we found a park that was historically the location of a battle. There were cannons facing the river and a perfect camp spot was just below.

We set up our tents, and as we were doing so, we heard a loud rumbling. The ground vibrated as the sound got louder and louder, and we realized we had set up our tents on top of a train tunnel! We decided to stay and try to sleep through the trains, which came by every three hours. I know that because I woke up every time.

My old phone was acting weird, but as it was still in good condition and fairly new, I considered sending it home or selling it. However, somehow, just 2 hours after getting my new phone, the screen was completely shattered. As the phone was now useless, I was going to throw it away. As Towelie and Peeps and I stood on top of the train tunnel and watched the box cars full of trash rush past, we had an idea. The next train that went by, we went to the edge of the tunnel and I tossed the old phone into the air. It landed perfectly atop a pile of trash on the train.

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Peeps and Towelie, ft. cows

We hiked over Bear Mountain the next day, and I was bummed out. The trail goes through a zoo at the base of the mountain, but both times I had tried to go through, the zoo had been closed, so I had to go around it.

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The Bear Mountain trail

The water sources along the trail have been getting worse and worse the father south we go. It also doesn’t help that it hasn’t rained in weeks. You often have to walk half a mile round trip off of the trail just to get water, as opposed to in Maine, when we crossed a water source every couple hours.

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There are also frogs in all the water sources. Froggy water, ick!

There’s a section of the trail called the “Lemon Squeezer” where the trail goes between two very tight boulders. However, everyone agrees that the hardest part is the climb down to the Lemon Squeezer. For me, though, the hardest part was just walking up to the whole mess. I tripped and gouged open my shin on a rock! Thankfully, I’m tough, and it looked worse than it was. Battle scars!

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The easy way is never the Appalachian Trail. Good thing I’m not out here for “easy”!

Peeps and Towelie and I hiked together into New Jersey. We went into town to resupply, and on our way out of town, a guy flagged us down on the street. He said he had seen us hitch hiking earlier that day into town and was sorry he couldn’t give us a ride, but he’d drive us out of town if we wanted.

We piled into his car, but something about it didn’t feel right to me. The way he was acting and the things he was saying seemed off, and had I been alone I wouldn’t have gotten into his car. I decided that I would just say as little as possible to him and leave quickly at the trail. It was only a mile and a half drive back to the trail, and I sat in the backseat with Peeps, practically hiding behind my pack and staring out the window. He was chatting away and I didn’t pay much attention until I heard, “Does your lady friend speak?” He was addressing Peeps and Towelie, but referring to me. I laughed it off and answered his question. I don’t know if he was trying to lighten the mood when he said this, but he then said, “Don’t worry, I’ll only murder two of you.” Peeps and I made eye contact and I could tell he understood my fear. We arrived at the trailhead and he wouldn’t stop talking. He leered at me and told me I looked like someone he knew. We didn’t want to be rude, but it was already dark and we still had to find a place to camp. He kept telling us all the camp spots around and asking where we were going. We eventually told him we were going north up the trail to find a spot and started hiking away. We went maybe .1 miles north, then waited for a couple minutes. When we felt good, we turned around and hiked half a mile south, and set up our tents there.

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Peeps under a tree

I had just been telling Peeps and Towelie about how I don’t camp near roads or towns, especially alone, because of creepy guys, and they hadn’t understood. As soon as that guy left, however, they told me they completely understood, and that night they camped near me.

We hiked into Unionville the next day, and they were getting picked up by Peeps’ friends to take the day off at his house. I was going to meet my grandparents for lunch in Unionville, and then stick around and do a couple of short days to try to stick with the two of them.

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Lunch with my grandparents!

I was having bad cramps, so I decided to only hike a mile out of Unionville and stay at the “Secret Shelter.” A privately owned shack, the secret shelter had a shower, outlets to charge phones, and a water pump. The best part, however, was probably the donkeys.

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The friendliest donkeys in the world

They came up to the porch as I was getting ready for bed and put their snouts right in my face and my pack. I set up my tent in the big field, and that night as I was falling asleep, I got to see some of the best stars I have ever seen.

Because I was taking a short day the next day, I decided to stick around the secret shelter until around noon and do some chores, such as washing out my pot and doing a little rinsing of dirty laundry. As I was there, a truck pulled up and I had the pleasure of meeting the owner of the property. He gave me a tour of the land, showing me all the roads he had built himself, wells he had dug, structures he had built. I would love to live somewhere like that one day.

I hiked to High Point shelter, just north of the New Jersey high point, and stayed there for the night. I went to bed and was almost asleep, where suddenly 4 other thruhikers showed up (Okee, Lemony Snicket, Rip Van Winkle, and MegaCat). This was the largest amount of thruhikers to be at one shelter since I had been in Maine. I got back up and we all chatted, telling each other our stories from the trail until after the sun went down.

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New Jersey sky

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The next day we all hiked to Branchville, NJ. We went to a local restaurant/bar, where we ordered food and played pool. When we arrived at the restaurant, there was a man there who we could tell was a hiker as well. Okee knew him, and told me that this was Tailwind. I had heard of him before, and I had never heard good things about him, so I was not excited to see him there. He seemed fine, and that night the 6 of us went off and found a campspot all together.

I hiked with Peeps and Towelie to Rattlesnake Spring campsite the next day, and even though we took our time, none of the others past us. I thought it was strange and figured they must have ended up staying somewhere north of us. However, the next morning, about a half hour into the day, I passed the others. Apparently they had tried to avoid the heat of midafternoon, and ended up hiking until midnight the night before.

We stopped that day at the Mohican Outdoor center, and restocked on water there.

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We hiked on to the Delaware Water Gap that day, crossing into Pennsylvania.

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The Pennsylvania/New Jersey state line

I met a guy named Stokes, who had been hiking with Tailwind and another guy named Shoe Wizard for a little while. He and I hiked into the church in town, Church of the Mountain, which had a free hiker hostel in the basement. Stokes, Shoe Wizard, MegaCat, Tailwind, and I all called a shuttle to be taken to Walmart to resupply, and the laundromat. The shuttle was advertised as free, and was provided by Kenny “Ole-Dawg”, an associate of the church. I sat in the front seat with Kenny, who was an elderly, nice-seeming man, and introduced myself with my trail name. “Shiver?” he said, when I told him my name. “I don’t want you to make me shiver! I want you to keep me warm.” I laughed off the uncomfortable comment (do you sense a theme?) and kept the conversation going. He then told me a confusing story about how he ad recently driven his neighbor to jail, then proceeded to tell me “Don’t worry, I won’t take you to jail. I might take you home though!” He continued to make comments to me that were uncomfortable, until we finally pulled into the laundromat.

We got out of the car and the guys immediately started teasing me, saying that Kenny had the hots for me, making jokes about how we would make a great couple. I told them that he was making me feel really uncomfortable, and Stokes and I agreed that he would replace me in the front seat so I didn’t have to keep dealing with this.

We all got back in the car to go to Walmart and I sat behind Kenny. He asked me specifically if I had my seat belt on and I said yes. He said that I should have it on, because even though he wanted me to “climb into his seat with him”, that would be dangerous.

When we got to Walmart, Kenny told us to take our time and that he would wait for us there. We did our shopping, then went back to the laundromat to finish the laundry. As we got back into the car, Kenny said to the guys, “You guys don’t mind if I keep harassing this young lady, do you?” They replied that they did mind. Tailwind said “We’re uncomfortable, and you’re not even harassing us. Imagine how she feels.” I thanked them at the laundromat, and they said they weren’t going to donate to him, because the way he acted was ridiculous.

When we arrived back at the church, Kenny asked us for donations. All the other guys avoided eye contact, and headed inside. I, stupidly, felt guilty that none of the had donated, and I gave him 5 dollars.

The next day, I was doing some chores around the church before hiking out, and Kenny showed back up. He asked me “Are you the girl I gave a ride yesterday?” I said yes, thinking he might apologize for all the things he had said to me. Instead, he got up in my face and said:

“I was very unsatisfied with how yesterday went. I drove you and your friends all over the place and you barely gave me anything for it! I can’t drive after dark so after I dropped you off I had to go to the market down the street and sleep in my car!…” He continued to yell in my face until the hostel owner came and intervened. I started to have a panic attack, feeling really terrible for how everything was happening. I went inside the hostel and hid in one of the back rooms. Stokes came and found me and I told him I wanted to be left alone for a minute and asked him to leave. He left, and I heard shouting outside. Stokes stormed back in and informed me that he had just been kicked out of the church. Apparently, he had gone outside and told Kenny that he needed to either apologize to me or leave. Kenny, furious, had actually reached out and wrapped his hands around Stokes’ neck. There were about 7 or 8 other friends of ours who saw this happen. Stokes didn’t retaliate but did start yelling. He swore a couple times and the church kicked them both out.

I was really upset by this. We had asked over and over if it was really okay for Kenny to wait for us and he told us again and again that he had nowhere else to be and to take our time. I was worried because he was just an old man with no family and maybe his shuttle driving was all he had to sustain himself. I hadn’t wanted him to lose that. I was angry at Stokes for stepping in when I had just been asked to be left alone. I felt guilty that for my sake he had been kicked out of the church.

The pastor saw this happen and told me that Kenny would no longer be allowed to drive shuttles for the church. When Stokes had cooled off, he was told that he would not be kicked out of the church after all.

I had a moment where I wanted to just quit. I wanted to get off trail and come home. I’m tired of men treating me like an object that they can say whatever they want to. I’m tired of men underestimating my independence and ability because I am a young woman.

I am a young woman. I have walked a 1000 miles and I have done it because I am strong. I am smart, I am tough, and I deserve to be treated as such. From now on, I will give respect to those I meet, and I will be respected. I will stand up for myself, not because I have to prove anything, but because I am able to.

The good outcome of that situation is that Kenny is no longer allowed to drive shuttles for hikers. I talked to some other people who said that when they stayed there he exploited them monetarily, or that he made other female hikers uncomfortable. I’m glad that my situation was able to end this.

So, back to the trail.

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A rock sculpture. I’m always amazed by the balance and skill that goes into these.

I hiked out of Delaware Water Gap with Stokes, Shoe Wizard, and Tailwind. We made it 17 miles and camped on top of a ridgeline, where there was a beautiful view. The four of us built a fire and enjoyed the night, but there was some tension between Stokes and Tailwind. Tailwind was starting to get on my nerves, constantly asking for people to pay for him, conveniently “losing” his debit card while we were in town, asking to play music he wanted to listen to aloud on other people’s phones. Stokes and Shoe Wizard had joked that his trail name should be “Can I?”. Stokes and I had talked about how we were getting sick of him, and possibly trying to hike away from him. Over the next couple of days, the tensions grew.

I’ve been getting into night-hiking recently. It’s not that I really want to do it, but I don’t mind it like I have before. A couple nights ago, I hiked into Lehigh Gap. an infamous spot on the trail, known for being steep and rocky. I had the pleasure of doing it in the dark.

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As the sun was starting to set, I encountered this big boulder pile and couldn’t figure out where the trail went.

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I found the trail, and it went along a ridge with an almost constant view of the towns below.

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I got the experience this incredible sunset, one of my favorite pictures I’ve taken on the trail so far.

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Halfway down the gap, I stopped to cook myself some dinner, with this as the view.

The next morning, I got a late start out of the shelter, as did they guys. There were a lot of day hikers around, and one of them was a woman who had thruhiked last year. She was very nice, and I was so happy to talk to another woman I invited her back to the shelter. She came and met the three guys, and Tailwind immediately started hitting on her. I felt a little guilty for putting her in that position but she didn’t seem to mind, so I let it go. I was all packed up and ready to go so I hung out for a few more minutes, then hiked on. As I was hiking, Stokes texted me to let me know that after I left, Tailwind had been bragging about how I had “stormed off because he was paying attention to someone else”. I was furious. How could he assume that I cared at all about his attention? Why did he just see me as some attention-hungry girl, when I was obviously out here working hard to reach a goal?

Stokes and Shoe Wizard told him that he was delusional. I kept hiking, fighting the urge to turn around and give him a piece of my mind. over the last couple days, I’ve been going faster than he can keep up with, so he’s lucky that I haven’t seen him again. Otherwise, I would give him a piece of my mind.

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Eating dinner at another beautiful view

Remember Bruiser, from way back in Vermont at the beginning of my blog? She lives in Pennsylvania, and invited me to stay with her and slack pack for a couple days! It’s been super great! I missed hanging out with her and Blue. I did 20 miles each day that I slack packed. Yesterday, I hit 1000 miles all together that I’ve hiked! Take that, haters!

-Shiver

 

 

740 miles in – Mount Katahdin, ME

 

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Everything is changing.

3 days ago, I embarked on the highly emotional journey from the base to the peak of Katahdin with 4 amazing friends. It was our last hike together, and for 3 of my friends, it was their final destination. After 6 months of walking with Mt Katahdin as their goal, they had arrived.

After leaving Stratton, Pineapple, Peanut Pan, and I camped at the base of what was essentially our last mountain range before Katahdin, the Bigelows. I had been hearing from Southbounders fairly frequently that the Bigelows were difficult and that I should definitely expect to struggle with that section. In my last blog, I talked about how it’s impossible to really know what lies ahead, and this became especially clear to me going over the Bigelows. Expecting to have to climb hand-over-hand and move at not much more than a mile an hour, I was shocked when I reached the top of the first mountain much earlier than expected.

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The view from one of the Bigelow peaks. The whole peak had been socked in earlier that morning, so I was extra appreciative of the views.

It was one of the coldest days we had experienced so far, and I decided to wear a long-sleeve shirt up the climb to stay warm. We ran into a couple Southbounders who were all bundled up, telling tales of gusty winds and no visibility on the peaks, so I wanted to be prepared. However, the sun was out, and as we ascended the side of the mountain, I started to feel uncomfortably warm. I decided to take my shirt off, and continue hiking like that. All day we were running into hikers who were wearing fleece or down jackets, but I was happy with none of that. I’ve noticed that as soon as I start hiking and get my blood pumping, I end up regretting any extra layers I have on.

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Feeling tough on a chilly day

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View of Sugarloaf mountain, a popular skiing destination.

Hiking up the first peak that morning, I had hit my head fairly hard on a tree at just the wrong height. It hurt. A lot. Then, I hit it a second time. Which also hurt. When I hit my head a third time, maybe it was all the brain damage, but my mindset shifted from being annoyed at having hit my head 3 times to being grateful it wasn’t 10 times.

When a thruhiker registers their hike with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, they receive a yellow tag they can attach to their packs that identifies them as a thruhiker. I had a vague memory of Peanut telling me my tag was falling off, and me forgetting to fix it, so when I noticed one on someone else’s pack, I asked Peanut if mine was still on my pack. I glanced and saw it hanging there, but Peanut decided to use this as an opportunity. He unclipped my tag from my pack, and showed it to me again. I don’t know if it was the brain damage from hitting my head all day or what, but for some reason, despite having seen otherwise just seconds before, I believed that my tag was missing. I expressed my disappointment at the loss of this useless-but-sentimental piece of gear, and Peanut graciously offered me his tag (which was actually my own). The next day, I noticed he had a tag hanging on his pack, and I asked why he had two. He decided to continue the joke and told me he had taken his back from me. It wasn’t until that night that I realized he had been messing with me that whole time.

The day after hiking through the Bigelows, we started to pass ponds. They were crystal-clear, and we couldn’t resist the temptation. Instead of hiking 16 miles that day, we decided to only do 10, and to swim in the ponds. That night, we camped on a beach just 3 feet from the edge of the water. Peanut built a fire and we ate dinner and headed to bed. As I lay in my sleeping bag in the dark, I could hear loons calling to each other, and later, coyotes howling. One would howl and others would respond. The sound was breathtaking and I was overwhelmed by the feeling that life was perfect.

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The fire on the beach.

The next morning, I woke up early enough to watch the sun rise over the water, and when we packed up our tents, we found tiny salamanders nestled into the sand beneath the tents. We had to get moving quickly that day, however. We were trying to reach the town of Caratunk that night, and there was a big obstacle. The Kennebec River. The Kennebec River is the most dangerous river crossing along the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. Not only is it about 100 ft across and covered in slippery rocks at the bottom, but there was also a dam upstream of where we had to cross that would unexpectedly release water. The water level would then rise quickly enough that whatever poor soul crossing at that moment would not have time to get to safety before being swept away. mix that with a heavy pack on your back and its not good.

The ATC fixes this problem by providing a free ferry service across the river. There is a man with a canoe big enough for 3 and the job to get hikers safely from one side of the river to the other. However, the ferry only runs from 9 am to 2 pm. We had to make sure we arrived before the ferry closed, otherwise we would be stuck on the wrong side of the river until the next day.

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One section of the trail leading to the Kennebec river, a dammed pond to one side and the trail was a big pile of rocks and logs, many of which moved when stepped on.

Luckily, we arrived way earlier than expected, the terrain having been kind to us. We stayed at the Caratunk House Bed and Breakfast, an extremely cheap ($30 for a private room, shower and laundry), but adorable business, run by a man who had thruhiked the AT and the PCT many years ago. However, I was most impressed by his hike across Maine in the winter for gay rights. I thoroughly enjoyed their milkshakes and pulled-pork sandwiches.

The next day, we hiked out again, to a shelter by a pond. We were discussing the differences in the way we are treated based on our genders (hint: there’s a lot), and I was getting worked up about it. All of a sudden, we arrived at our spot for the night and I realized that I had been so heated over the conversational topic that I had been walking much faster than usual.

At shelters the women are usually outnumbered by men 5 to 1, so when I brought this up to my friends (who are all men), I realized that I was preparing to defend myself to them when they disagreed. I was pleasantly surprised when none of them argued that I was overreacting or taking things the wrong way. They all agreed that women are treated differently, and often worse, than men on the trail. This also made me realize how often in my life off-trail, when I want to discuss with male friends particular discrimination I’ve faced because of my gender, or just sexism in general, they say I’m overreacting, and how often I just drop the subject when this happens.

Pineapple, Peanut, and I did a long day the next day, and Peanut and I arrived at the campsite together. We figured that Pineapple had been ahead of us all day, so when we arrived and he wasn’t there, we assumed he had moved on. We set up camp and I placed my shoes right next to the trail, in case Pineapple was behind us, so he would know where we were. Sure enough, 2 hours later he finally arrived, and when we asked what had taken him so long, he replied that he had been slowed down by the barbecue. “What barbecue?” we asked. Apparently, just 15 minutes after I had passed a road, and just 30 after Peanut had, some Trail Angels had set up a huge barbecue for hikers.

Next, we were on to Monson. Monson was the last resupply option before the 100 mile wilderness, and the last town before Katahdin. The hostel there, Shaw’s, is famous along the AT, and we decided to tent in the yard. Shaw’s is run by a family of four. Their daughter Julia is around 5-years-old, and she and I quickly became fast friends. As I was getting ready to leave, she asked if I wanted to help her make oatmeal. I explained that I had to keep hiking and she asked if I was going to come back. I told her I probably wouldn’t, if everything went well. She asked if I would come back if a tree fell on me. I told her I probably would come back if a tree fell on me.

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The 100 mile wilderness felt less wilderness-y than I expected. I saw at least 7 cars.

Embarking into the 100 mile wilderness, the three of us had different tactics of approach. I brought 7 and a half days of food, Peanut brought 6 days of food, and Pineapple brought 5. Peanut and Pineapple were plotting how to acquire more food just 2 days into the wilderness.

On the first day, I was hiking along and suddenly noticed that the white blazes, which had been abundant throughout the 100 so far, had disappeared. I was still on a trail and didn’t notice any other-colored blazes, so I assumed I was still on trail. I kept going and didn’t see a blaze, but then I noticed boot-prints in the mud and assumed I was still on trail. Then, I still didn’t see blazes, but I arrived at an old, rotting bridge, so I assumed I was still on trail. What eventually gave away that I had gotten off-trail was when I noticed that the leaves on the ground were suspiciously un-crushed. after much deliberation of what to do, since I still wasn’t positive that I was off-trail, I decided to walk back. I had gone about a mile in the wrong direction.

We hiked past a lot of day-hikers in the 100, which never failed to confuse me. Where had they come from? Where were they going? How had they entered this alleged wilderness (read the sign above) without anything more than a water bottle and some snacks? My questions were answered when we crossed a road our second night just 200 meters from where we were camping. We heard a car drive by every half-hour until dark. So much for wilderness.

The next day, we hiked over Whitecap Mountain, which allows the first view of Katahdin. It was exhilarating. The hike was faster than expected, however, and we decided to go past our original destination about 2 miles and camp at a pond. As we walked to the pond, Peanut and I were behind Pineapple. I heard a crashing noise and looked up. A mother and baby moose were running straight at me. My life flashed before my eyes as the only thing I had time to think was that I was being charged. 2 seconds later, though, they darted off into the woods. I turned to Peanut to confirm it had actually happened. I was light-headed from shock. Pineapple’s only goal through New Hampshire and Maine was to see a moose, and he wasn’t happy to hear he had missed two by just a couple minutes.

That night it rained for the first time in 10 days, and it rained hard. The tent remained dry this time, and the next day was nice weather. I started hiking on what was flat terrain all day, save one small hill. As I ascended the hill, I felt something sting me through my sock. I looked down and a yellow jacket was hanging from my leg by it’s stinger. It hurt like hell. Turns out there was a nest in the ground right next to the trail, which I must have offended.

Peanut, Pineapple and I were planning to go 26 miles that day, in order to make it out of the 100 before Pineapple ran out of food. However, when I arrived at the next road, Peanut and I discovered trail magic! Chocolate milk, sodas, grapes, watermelon, and we split a sub sandwich. this gave peanut enough food to take his time a little more. We were to meet Pineapple at the campsite 5 miles south of the destination for that day, so we grabbed him a soda and kept hiking.

We passed a big pond when we heard a confusing noise. It went shoooooooooo-EEEE. Peanut, Pineapple and I used that noise to find each other in the woods, but Peanut and I were together and Pineapple was pretty far ahead. We shoo-ee-d back. It was coming from behind so we decided to wait and see who it was. Not to much after, a man walked up who I didn’t recognize, but when he and Peanut saw each other they hugged, excited. His name was Rocket Fuel, and they had hiked together months ago, when the Black Hole had first invented the call. They hadn’t seen each other since. We hiked together for the the rest of the day. When we got to the meeting spot, Pineapple wasn’t there and it had gotten late. We decided to pitch our tents for the night and stay there, and we would catch up with him after the 100 mile wilderness.

We camped next to Nahmakanta lake that night, and I got up early the next morning so I could hike farther.

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Poorly-captured sunrise through the trees.

The next night I camped on another beach, about 15 feet from the water. I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of splashing, and the first thing that went through my head was that it was a moose. I lay there awake for what felt like forever, picturing the moose splashing around in the lake so close to me. Then I pictured it getting startled and trampling me in the darkness. Then I REALLY couldn’t sleep. I slowly unzipped my tent, trying my hardest not to make any noise that might trigger the animal to charge me. I peeked out and… nothing. The noise was coming from the water splashing against the rocks more loudly because of high-tide.

The next morning, I woke up and could hear the slashing again. I figured it was nothing, but I peeked out anyway. It was a family of ducks! When they saw me, they did what I could only describe as sprinting across the water. I’ve never seen a duck do what they did.

I was hiking out of the 100 that day, and it poured the whole way. Peanut and I met Pineapple at the store/restaurant/campground at the end of the 100, and we decided to rent a “cabin,” with a friend of ours, Rooster. The cabins were shacks with 4 walls and a door, no electricity, and 6 bunks with eclectic mattresses. we were warm and dry, however, so it was much better than sleeping in a tent.

The next day, we ordered lunch (I ordered fried chicken with french fries, couldn’t finish it, so I put it in plastic bags and kept it for camp) and hiked out. We couldn’t have had better timing. the rain stopped just before we headed out. We were hiking to the base of Katahdin, where there was a campground where Rocket Fuel had reserved a campsite for us. My dad was to meet us there with his car, half a gallon of chocolate milk, a pineapple, and $24 cash. When we arrived, I was so excited. I hadn’t seen any of my family in months. We set up our campsite and my dad and I decided to take a trip into town to get s’mores and hot dogs for a great feast. When I came back, the boys had built a fire perfect for cooking hot dogs. We all talked about our favorite memories from the trail and ate good food and enjoyed our last night together on the trail.

We climbed Katahdin the next day, a trail which resembles a low-grade rock-climbing route in many spots.

I didn’t take any pictures of the trail, so here is one which I think represents it well. Photo creds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOo_VfSbL-o

It was an emotional hike to the top, and we finally reached the summit to someone playing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” on their phone, a popular trail song.

At the summit, the boys all wanted to do a photoshoot with the props they had brought. Pineapple with his pineapple:

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Peanut with his chocolate milk:Screenshot_20170911-142444

And me, pretty simple:

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Here are some other pictures from the top:

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At one point we watched a plane fly past us, below us!

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The peak of Katahdin from a mile away

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A distant rainstorm

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We were lucky to be blessed with beautiful weather. Congratulations to all my friends who have completed this amazing goal.

-Shiver

 

Stratton, ME – 553 miles in

One thing I would like to add to my last post: To reinforce my belief that the trail will give you what you need at the exact right moment, as I was hiking down from Madison, after being terrified for my life, I saw not one, but two pine martens! For those who don’t understand how awesome this is, I will insert a picture of a pine marten below.

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So cute!

You can never know what lies ahead. The people you meet who are going the other direction and have already done what is ahead do not have ability to put it into the perspective of what you have already done. Those who are going the same direction as you also have no idea what lies ahead.

Hiking out of Gorham with Peanut Pan, I felt myself begin to fall back in love with the trail. After over a week of scrambling over boulders just to go back down, of not being able to walk faster than a mile an hour, the return of packed dirt and reasonable steepness was a godsend. Going up that first incline out of Gorham, I met a southbounder who was headed into town. I cheerfully told him that he was almost to town and he growled back, “I wish I could say the same for you! You have a steep climb ahead of you.” I kept walking, waiting for the trail to take a sharp turn skyward at any moment, but before I knew it I was at the top of the mountain.

The next day, Peanut Pan and I were in for the infamous “Mahoosuc Notch”, the hardest mile on the AT, immediately followed by “the Arm”, a tough climb. I decided to camp right between the two and split them up into two days. As the day went on, Peanut and I ran into a friend of ours, Pineapple. He was headed to the same spot. However, as we were hiking, Pineapple slipped and feel about 5 feet down a boulder, landing on his hip, where he kept his phone. Although he was fine, his phone was shattered and no longer worked.

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The next town that we had to resupply in, Andover, was a difficult hitch in, and the guide book advises that hikers call a shuttle from the top of the mountain before it, due to bad service at the road. Because he had lost his phone, we decided that it was best for the three of us to stick together and all call in at the same time. We hiked on, and as the day went on, we realized the terrain was harder than we had all expected. If we stuck to the original plan, we wouldn’t get to the Notch until it had started to get dark. We decided to stop at a shelter 3 miles short of our original plan, and stayed the night there.

There was a woman at that shelter named Grace Note, and I was delighted to meet her, since I had been following her notes in the log books for weeks. Finally I could put a face to the handwriting. An older woman, she was small and very sweet. As we talked, she told us that she hadn’t been feeling well the last few days, and was thinking about getting off-trail for good. We advised she start with just a day or two off trail, and see how she felt afterward.

The next day, I decided to approach the Notch as an obstacle course, something fun. The AWOL guidebook describes the Notch as “a jumbled pit of boulders.” This was an understatement. We arrived at the Notch at 9:15 am, and proceeded to spend the next 2 hours bouldering up and down over huge rocks the size of cars. Often, we would pass over a gap between two boulders that was filled with ice. Pineapple and Peanut scrambled ahead of me, and I would round a corner to find them sitting and waiting for me about ever 20 minutes. When we finally reached the end, dirty and tired, Pineapple aptly described the Notch of having lasted about “15 minutes longer than it should have.” We ate lunch at the campsite we had meant to reach the night before, and hiked on. We climbed the arm, and at the top ran into a friend of ours, a woman called OMG.

We continued hiking, and as the day went on again realized that we weren’t going to arrive when we had hoped, and changed our plans. We decided that we were going to try to get an unlikely, but possible hitch from the road 2 miles short of our original destination. That road would take us into Andover, where Pineapple could figure out what to do about his phone, and the three of us could eat a hot meal. A restaurant in town allows hikers to pitch their tents in the back yard for free. When OMG heard our plan, she decided to join in!

The next 4 days were wonderful! We left our tents set up at the restaurant and hiked from road to road, carrying super light packs. Every night we got to eat a hot, well-cooked meal, and spend a little time relaxing before sleeping. The 4th day, we zeroed.

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…and goofing around at views!

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Hiking out of Andover with a full pack was disheartening, but we all knew it had to happen eventually. We were on to Rangeley! A quaint town situated exactly halfway between the North Pole and the Equator, an outfitter there called Ecopologicon fixed my trekking poles for free! We hitched out of town the same day we hitched in and camped at a shelter called Piazza Rock Lean-to (why are all the shelters in Maine called lean-tos??). The privy there had two seats and a cribbage board in-between, so that you and a friend can take care of business together while enjoying a game.

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Hiking out of Piazza Rock, we were headed toward Saddleback Ridge, a beautiful stretch of trail with views that rival the Whites.

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We were lucky enough to be blessed with good weather going over Saddleback.

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The mountain was riddled with false summits, where it seemed like we had reached the top, and as we would hike up and over we would see a higher point in the distance.

We went up and ate lunch on the first peak, and descended toward the second. As we arrived at the second peak, I noticed the light was a little different. It was the eclipse! We were just in time, and sat on the second peak, called “The Horn”, for about 25 minutes to watch the eclipse happen.

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A failed picture of the eclipse!

I’m in Stratton now, with Peanut and Pineapple. We have just over 2 weeks before reaching Katahdin, the official endpoint for most Northbounders. It’s strange to be surrounded by people who are preparing for the end when I am just beginning.

Last night, a thunderstorm rolled in as I was going to sleep. I woke up around 11pm with my tent floating on a stream of water! I was confused and thought it was morning, so I deflated my sleeping pad. 10 minutes later I realized that it was the middle of the night, so I had to pump the pad back up as my tent floor turned into a waterbed. I am happy to be in town, dry and clean!

Congrats to my friends who have hiked 2000 miles, and who have less than 200 left! And congrats to me, for hiking over 500 miles now! Woo hoo!

-Shiver

Pictures From Gorham to Andover

Welcome to Maine!

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The view from Mt Moody today! Maine is glorious!

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I finally took a picture of the blue berries (not blueberries!) I’ve been seeing since New Hampshire! We’ve also discovered (and eaten) wild blueberries on the trail recently!

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Thruhiker “Thunderbuns” poses in his loaner clothes while he waits for laundry to be done. Loaner clothes are provided by different hostels so hikers have something to wear while they do laundry.

Pictures from Hanover to Gorham

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Borrowing this photo from Mumble, since I didn’t take one of my own. This is the sign we saw shortly after leaving the hut to climb Mt Washington.

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We made a bouquet out of trail materials!

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The view from Mousilake. The first time I really realized I was in the Whites.

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Family Size is enjoying the Omelette Man’s tent in this photo!

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Sometimes the trail sort of… disappears… and turns into a bouldering route. This was the climb up Crawford Notch, right before the thunderstorm.

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The guys who gave me a bunk!

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Crawford Notch from halfway up the north side. Everything you can see, I had already hiked. The lowest road is where I had started that climb.

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Peanut Pan, imported straight from Germany, on top of Mousilake with me!

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My trekking pole, post Madison.

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I saw moose right before the Wildcats! Amazing!

If the weather hadn’t been so terrifying, I would have taken more pictures, but I think these sum it up well!

-Shiver

443 miles in – Gorham, NH (part 2)

Giving myself a high-five because I have officially finished the Whites! Hell yeah!

The group I stayed with in Hanover was aptly named “The Black Hole”. They had earned this title due to their tendency to suck people in. A group of 6, 17 at their largest, I had heard both good and bad things about them. All fun, welcoming people, they had annoyed some by showing up at campsites and taking all the spots. Dr. Mantis Toboggan, an aspiring med student,  was the first I ran into. We chatted for a minute before he sped ahead of me. Next were Cash and Songbird, a young couple from Kansas, were next. We encountered each other at a raging river, the rocks far apart from each other. I saw it and didn’t even try to hop across on the rocks. I took my shoes off and waded through the river. Songbird was trying to cross on the rocks, so I helped across. As I was putting my shoes back on, I dropped my sock and it was immediately grabbed and taken by the current. Thankfully, it got caught on a rock right next to Cash, and he delivered it back to me.

I then met Family Size, a large 20 year old from Germany. When I arrived at the shelter I met his friend Peanut Pan. They had stayed together ever night on the trail, having travelled over together from Germany. Finally, Tea Leaves arrived at the shelter about a half an hour after me.

We hiked together out of Hanover, going 16 miles to the Trapper John shelter. The train for the next 2 days was not terribly difficult. The day I left Trapper John shelter I got a late start, not hitting the trail until 11am. However, I managed to do 19 miles that day.

I passed the Omelette Man about a half a mile before I camped that night. I had been hearing about him from hikers going South for about 2 weeks. The next morning I decided that, rather than pass up on such an amazing opportunity, I would walk back to his tent and enjoy breakfast there the next day, leaving my pack at the campsite.

I had heard stories about the man who spent his days in the woods making omelettes for hikers. When I arrived at his tent the next morning I bore witness to a sight that could only be found on the AT. There was his tent, housing jugs of water and juice, his radio was playing music and he had bananas hanging from the nearby trees. When I arrived he asked how many eggs I would like in my omelette, informing me almost as if he was challenging me that the current record holder had eaten 24 eggs. I decided that 6 was enough for me.

After having eaten my fill and spent my time, I walked back to my pack and started the hike for the day. Aside from being poorly marked, the first 7 miles were a breeze and I knocked out half the day before lunch. Then, it was on to Mt. Mousilake.

This mountain was a tough climb, 4 miles of steep incline to the top. The promise of a 2 miles stretch above treeline drove me to the top, however slow I was. I couldn’t have imagined what I saw. The 360 degree view was breathtaking. To the north was Mt Washington, to the south we could see what we had already hiked.

When I arrived at the shelter that night, I was one of the last ones to show up. Because Mousilake is one of the most frequently summited mountains in the US, not only was the shelter full, all the tentsites were taken. I decided this would be a good night to try my hand at cowboy camping. Cowboy camping is when you sleep on your sleeping pad on the ground, no tent or tarp above you. I was happy to have done that, because the stars were breathtaking and the sunrise was even better.

When we went into Lincoln the next day, we decided to enjoy ourselves at the McDonald’s. I ordered a meal and claimed a table next to an outlet so I could charge up my phone. As the others arrived, I was shocked. The average number of sandwiches was 8 per person, between the 6 of them they had ordered 50 sandwiches, not to mention the sides. I was witnessing hiker hunger at its worst.

Then the climbs began.

Before getting to The Whites, I was averaging 2-3 miles an hour, hiking. However, as soon as I hit The Whites, that number fell to about a mile and a half per hour. This was not only due to the tough climbs, but also the fact that the trail had gone from packed dirt to scrambling over boulders. The Whites were strange. Every 7 miles or so, there is a “hut”. Day hikers pay about 130 dollars per person to stay in these guys. This will get them one bunk in a bunk room with 7 others, a 3 course meal, and a toilet. No showers, no privacy. Thruhikers are allowed to do “work-for-stay” at the huts. For about an hour of sweeping, dishes, or whatever other chores the crew doesn’t want to do (I cleaned out a freezer), we get leftovers from the guests’ meal and are allowed to sleep on the floor of the dining room. These huts are almost like summer camp for adults. The crew is overly loud and comical, putting on skits in the morning to teach the guests how to fold their own blankets. The strangest thing was the weird classist vibe. The paying guests were served a huge, 3 course meal, while us dirty thruhikers looked on in hunger. Once the guests had eaten their fill, we were allowed to eat the leftovers. Throughout our stay in The Whites, I mostly went from Hut to Hut.

Climbing out of Crawford Notch, after resupplying, a thunderstorm began. It was slightly scary, being exposed on the top of a mountain with lightning above. The trail turned into an ankle-deep stream and I gave up on staying dry. Occasionally, the trail will become wooden planks. These often save your feet from mine, but cane hazardous in their own way, since they can be incredibly slippery. As I was coming up the notch, I slipped on one and slammed my knee into the corner. Thankfully, I was not badly hurt, only bruised.

I came across a group of 5 men, a father and son, uncle, and two cousins. We exchanged some words and then they informed me that a member of their group had twisted his ankle and wouldn’t be able to make it to the next hut. They had an extra bunk and if was mine if I wanted it. I accepted of course, and that night was treated like a human being!

I did work-for-stay at Lake Of The Clouds Hut. A mile and a half from the summit of Mt. Washington, the highest summit in the Northeast, it lived up to its name, shrouded in fog the entire time I was there. When we woke up there, we had Mt Washington to summit that day. It was 5am and the forecast predicted 100% chance of thunderstorms at 8am, so by 6 we left the Hut to try to make it over the summit before the storms began. Peanut Pan and I decided to hike together. As we set off, we passed a sign almost immediately warning us that Mt Washington had the worst weather in America, and that we should turn back. But we kept hiking. We reached the summit, but we didn’t stop to take any pictures. The weather station on top was eerie, looming out of the fog. We were the only ones out there that early, and it was almost surreal being alone up there. As we hiked down from the summit, we made a safety plan. I taught Peanut how to use the SOS button on my inReach GPS locator.

The original plan that morning had been to hike 15 miles into Gorham, climbing Washington in the morning, stopping for lunch at Madison Spring Hut, climbing Madison, and descending into Gorham for the night. The rest of the Black Hole passed us on the way to Madison hut, and when we arrived, they had already left for Gorham. As soon was we arrived, it started pouring rain. We decided that rather than go back out into the rain, we could would do work-for-stay at the hut and go into Gorham the next day.

The next morning, we woke up and began our hike. Peanut left before me, and I decided to hike with two women, Planner and Brown Sugar, hoping the company would keep up my pace. We set off with Sasquatch bringing up the rear.

Sasquatch is a 34 year old Alaskan park ranger, trained in wilderness first response. He and I had been running into each other every night for the last 10 days or so. As we set off for Madison, Brown Sugar was in the lead, then Planner, then me, then Sasquatch. We started to go up almost immediately, and as we did, the wind increased. I did my best to keep up with Planner and Brown Sugar, but they pulled ahead relatively quickly. I asked Sasquatch if he wanted to pass me, but he declined.

As the wind picked up, I could feel myself getting colder. Before that day, I had never hiked wearing more than my usual tank top and shorts that I can be seen in in almost every photo, save when my armpits were chaffing and I was wearing sleeves to prevent that. Hiking over Washington, I wore a rain jacket instead of a shirt. To go over Madison, I knew I would be colder, so I decided to keep my leggings on that I wear usually as pajamas, and wear my tank top under my jacket for extra warmth. Ugh, that was stupid.

The first thing I noticed was my fingers. They went numb. I told Sasquatch and he suggested I wear a pair of socks as gloves. I didn’t have any dry pairs, so I used a wet pair, and they were good enough.

My trekking poles got caught between two rocks, a common issue. As I went to pull it out, the wind picked up and blew me over. I tried to grab my pole to keep me upright, but the pole bent at a 90 degree angle.

I kept hiking, the poles much more difficult to hang on to without the use of my thumbs. The wind was blowing too hard to move quickly. Every few feet, I had to stop and crouch to anchor myself and prevent getting blown over. I feel multiple times, blown over. At one point, I fell and Sasquatch said, “there goes your pack cover.” It had blown away, I never saw it again, its probably somewhere in Vermont.

Having already lost 2 items to the mountain, I was not having a good time. I started to stumble frequently and catch myself rarely. I realized I wasn’t wearing enough clothing. I yelled my issue to Sasquatch and we went to a boulder pile, trying to use it as a windbreaker. I had packed my clothes on top, thinking I might need to access them quickly. I opened the bag but for some reason I wasn’t able to dress myself. I put on my flannel shirt, then my down jacket over that. Sasquatch zipped it for me. I then put on my rain jacket and hat. Sasquatch started to force feed me a Clif bar. I found out later that I had gotten mild hypothermia and he was using his responder training on me. A 30 year old German hiker named Sweetheart found us and we all started hiking together. It took 3 hours to get below treeline and I was crying for the majority of that time. I thought I was going to die.

As we hiked on, Peanut appeared out of the fog. When he had gotten to the treeline, he had stopped to rest. When planner and Brown Sugar passed him, they told him that I had fallen behind, and he waited for me to come by. When more time passed, he had gotten worried, dropped his pack, and come to find me. The four of us hiked off the mountain together.

When we got below treeline, we found a spot and stopped hiking. I was functioning strangely, I just didn’t know what to do next. As soon as we got below treeline, the weather changes drastically. The sun came out, the trees blocked the wind. I didn’t gain feeling back into my fingertips for a couple hours, and they were white as paper.

After that, I took two days off in Gorham. I later found out that the winds were 70-80mph, the temperature had been 20 degrees. I don’t know if Sasquatch really saved my life, but it feels like he did.

I hiked the Wildcats, the last 20 miles of the Whites, and now it’s off to Maine!

-Shiver

422 miles in – Gorham, NH (part 1)

100 different people will climb the same mountain 100 different ways. Going to the same summit, they will take different trails, go up opposite sides of the mountain, choose to put their feet in different places, and encourage themselves mentally in unique ways.

This post is going to be a little different from my previous posts. Because I don’t have access to a computer, I’m writing from my phone, and I won’t be able to add pictures. I’m going to upload a separate post as soon as possible with the pictures to accompany this post.

Starting from where I left off last time, in Rutland/Killington, Vermont, I will do my best to provide an in-depth but interesting recount of my time.

While staying at the Yellow Deli in Rutland, I observed something I didn’t become aware of until just a couple days ago, weeks after my stay. Leading up to my visit, I had been (mostly jokingly)  warned not to get sucked in. Buffalo, Mumble, and I told each other that no one would get left behind. This is because the Yellow Deli has been known in the past to have trapped a few hikers. They come to stay for the night or for a couple nights and end up never leaving! I met a man who proudly announced to me while we were being introduced that he was an ex-hiker.

The hostel consisted of a men’s and a women’s bunk room and a common area. One night, I was sitting in the common room and was half-listening to a conversation between a hiker called Hot Mess Express and a member of the Yellow Deli. They were having an argument over their differences in theological and political beliefs. I was surprised because throughout my stay, while I understood that the community was of particular beliefs, I had heard anything of the members discussing it. The conversation I was eavesdropping on evolved and I stopped paying attention. Just 3 days ago, I was talking to a hiker about the Yellow Deli and my stay there, and he mentioned that a hiker had been sucked into the community this year. I asked if he knew who, and he told me it was Hot Mess Express.

The day before I hiked out of the Rutland area, Buffalo, Mumble, Blue, and Bruiser hiked 4 miles, with plans to go 14 miles the day after that. I decided to instead, do 18 miles that day. I didn’t get an early start but I didn’t get a late start, and I arrived at the destination with plenty of time to spare. The destination that night was a Lookout cabin. Different from the normal shelters, the structure had 4 walls instead of 3, 2 levels of floor space, and a door. What luxury! The night there was well enjoyed, surrounded by good friends and fun. The cabin had a ladder up to a small balcony on the roof, and from that spot there were views for 360 degrees. The sunset was beautiful.

The good luck did not last long, however. When we awoke the next morning, the sky was gray and the air was cold. Rain was pouring down. Some  might describe the weather that day as miserable. The rest of the crew decided on a whim that they would stay warm and cozy at this lovely cabin, and hike on when the weather cleared up. I, however, enjoy hiking in the rain, abs decided that I would give 15 miles that day. I calculated that if I left the cabin at 10am I would still arrive at a reasonable time. At 10, I donned my pack and said goodbye to my friends, and hiked on.

Around noon, I arrived at a road. There was a sign advertising a farm just 0.2 miles west that sold food and welcomed hikers, so I decided that I would take a lunch break there. As I was eating, a woman came in and we struck up a conversation. Hearing I was a hiker, she offered to pay for my lunch! People’s kindness continues to amaze me. However, that was not the most amazing thing to happen that day.

I arrived at the campsite around 5:30, planning to sleep in the shelter. I did not want to set up my tent in the rain. It was almost full when I arrived. Everyone was just about ready for bed, even though it was early. We were tired of the rain and eager for our warm, dry sleeping bags. At 7:30, however, something awesome happened. Out of the woods popped a man with a pack. At first I thought he was an average hiker, but then I noticed his pack was full of dry firewood. It was a local Trail Angel who knew that hikers would appreciate a warm fire after the day! He built a fire, whipped out some root beer, cooked some sausages and hotdogs on the fire, and when the embers were low, he put his pack back on and hiked home. He lives about a mile from the shelter we were staying at, and had never done anything like that before, but had thought of it and decided it was a better alternative to going to the gym. I later found out that he was there again the next night.

I did the 15 miles from our little shelter to Hanover, NH the next day in less than 7 hours. The others at the shelter the night before we’re arriving around the same time as me. This was the first time that my speed was even slightly comparable to the speed NOBOs were hiking at. I credit it to the fact that when I left the shelter, I had accidentally put my music on repeat and was too lazy to fix it, so I had been listening to the same song over and over for about 5 hours. On my hike that day, I went through a town called West Hartford, where there was supposedly a bridge that was safe to jump off of into the river below. Unfortunately, I walked right past it that day, and didn’t realize until it was too late.

Certain hikers become legends on the trail, for one reason or another. For example, Knots was legendary for breaking the Fastest Known Time record this year (unsupported). One Gallon, known for eating a gallon of ice cream in one sitting, has also thruhiked the AT, PCT, and CDT three times each, making him a triple-triple crowned (a triple-crowner is someone who has thruhiked all 3 of those trails). Legend has it he hiked the entire state of New York in one day (that’s 90 miles).

On my hike into Hanover, I met one such celebrity, along with her support system. A family decided to do a thruhike with their 1 year old daughter. Roo, her mom Kanga, and her dad Sherpa, were hiking out of Hanover the day I was hiking in. Roo was the happiest baby I have ever seen, having taken her first steps on the trail.

The group I had met at the shelter the night before has a friend who is a student at Dartmouth College in Hanover. When we got into town, he let us stay in a room at his frat house. We went to karaoke in town and then watched Mean Girls before squeezing all 9 of us into a room and going to sleep. The next day, we walked down to the community center, where they allow hikers to take showers and do laundry. We spent the day there, resting, grocery shopping, and doing what ever else needed to be done.

Hanover has a network of Trail Angels that will host hikers overnight, shuttle them to and from town, etc. They are not advertised publicly so in order to stay with them you have to get the list of phone numbers. I was the only one in that group with the list, so I shared it with them and we found a house to stay together. The group was Mantis, Cash, Songbird, Tea Leaves, Peanut Pan, and Family Size. Pineapple also joined us.

Ill be doing a second post today, updating from Hanover to Gorham. Over halfway to Katahdin!

-Shiver

300 miles in – Hanover, NH

You have to hike your own hike.

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Rock found somewhere in VT

Since my last post, over 150 miles ago, a lot has happened (a whole state in fact)! Unfortunately, that means that I have had fewer opportunities to update y’all back home.

The day after I stayed with Naps and Blaze in Williamstown, I met two women hiking for a month together, Blue and Bruiser. Somehow, BOTH of them reminded me of one of my favorite people in the world. Even though I had just spent the night in town, when they offered for me to crash on the floor of their hotel room for free, I jumped at the chance.

The next day, we hiked into Bennington, VT, about 15 miles past the VT border, which is also where the Appalachian Trail and the Long Trail (VT to Canada) begin to share about 100 miles. At that point, VT had really been living up to it’s reputation. Vermud. By the time we reached Bennington, we were all covered from the knees down.

Our time in Bennington was well spent. In fact, I had enough free time to join the Bennington Ukulele Club for one of their rehearsals. I am now the youngest member by about 50 years.

Hiking out of Bennington, I had planned to do 15 miles, but, as happens often, only made it 10. It was cold and all 10 miles had been uphill in the fog. I am very glad that I ended up there, however, because that was where I met people who would become good friends. There were four boys there do a section together, and as the night progressed, more people showed up. To my delight, Blue and Bruiser were not far behind me! Then appeared Sherpa and Schoolbus, the only hikers I’ve met so far who brought a cat! I had no problems with mice that night! Following them were Buffalo and Mumble, a couple in their mid 20s from Tampa, Florida. Then, Pineapple, who, true to form, was carrying a pineapple, and The Chick-fil-a Rooster (who we all call Chair). Since that night almost 2 weeks ago, I have been hiking with Pineapple, Buffalo and Mumble, Chair, and Blue and Bruiser. That night was legendary, everyone got along so well and was having such a good time that even hikers who weren’t there had heard about that night. IMG_1038

The following night, I dared to stealth camp at the base of Stratton mountain, and slept soundly because Pineapple, Buffalo, and Mumble were all very close by. When I got into my tent that night, I heard Pineapple walking around for about 30 minutes. The next morning, when I asked him about it, he said he thought I had been walking around! To this day, the mystery is unsolved.

The next day, we all climbed Stratton mountain, which reached elevation 3950 ft. We all climbed the fire tower at the top though, so we counted it as a 4000 footer, and then hiked into Manchester the next day. In Manchester, after my resupply, I was sitting outside the Price Chopper when around the corner came Cheese and Einstein, friends I hadn’t seen since Sheffield, MA. I had planned to hike out of Manchester that day, but after eating lunch with them and knowing all my friends were spending the night there, I ended up spending the night too. Manchester is where I met Feeder.

Feeder, a 33 year old chef from Boston, is hiking the Long Trail. After meeting, he and I ended up hiking together for 3 days straight.

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Feeder’s panorama from the top of Bromley

In the afternoon on the second day, we arrived at the beach of Little Rock Pond, a gorgeous spot with a campsite, and lo and behold, there were Blue, Bruiser, Chair, Buffalo, and Mumble, all staying for the night. We decided to stay there too. Across the pond from the beach, there were 2 rocks, which Buffalo informed me were safe to jump from. Buffalo, Feeder and I swam across the pond, and even though I  had boasted about jumping off the big rock, we all only jumped off the little rock. What had looked like no more that 10 ft from across the pond was more like 20. The big rock must have been at least 40 ft. The pond was wider across than it looked, so even though I swam back, Feeder and Buffalo opted to walk around the edge of the pond.

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Me, on the beach of Little Rock pond after swimming, eating Doritos with a spoon, with Chair in the foreground and Feeder’s head just barely visible.

The beach was where I learned of the wonders that lay ahead. Less than 13 miles from the pond was a road that went into Rutland, VT. Rutland is home of the Yellow Deli. Aside from being a hiker hostel and a restaurant, the Yellow Deli is essentially a cult. A sect of Christianity, the members host hikers for either a donation or a work-for-stay, give hikers 15% off at the restaurant, and will slack-pack you over Mt Killington. Slack-packing is hiking, just with fewer items in your pack. At the end of the day, they bring you back to the hostel, where most of your stuff is, and you stay a second night.

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I was wary of the Yellow Deli, after hearing stories of hikers staying there and deciding that they would like to stay forever, however the members were nothing but friendly, accommodating, and I even was able to experience the Friday-night celebration there! I did meet a former hiker convert, but he seemed happy!

I’ll have to finish updating later, but I made it to NH this morning! Here come the White Mountains!

– Shiver

146 miles in – Williamstown, MA

Green River in Williamstown, MA. Even on my days off beauty manages to find me.

Magic is real and it is abundant.

On the Appalachian trail, magic refers to the random acts of kindness from strangers, ranging from a pile of sodas lying at the base of a tree to a full-blow van full of goodies for hikers passing through. In the last couple days, I have come across magic at least 5 times. It’s awesome.

When I last posted, I had gone about half as far as I have now. Sheffield was an incredible town. Tasty, Olive, and I hiked 8 miles to the road that led into town, but they were going to Great Barrington, a town 3 miles west of the trail, and Sheffield was 3 miles east. They got picked up immediately and I didn’t expect to see them again. I walked for about 5 minutes before a woman driving a sedan with car seats in it offered to take me into town. I arrived at the post office and while I was collecting my package (containing my sleeping bag – a blessing!), another woman asked if I was hiking the trail. A few minutes later, she chased me down on the sidewalk and handed me 20 bucks for lunch!

That night, I tented in the yard of a woman named Jess Treat. Two other hikers were also tenting in the yard, Braid and Chopsticks, and two hikers, Einstein and Cheese, paid to stay in a room in the house. Braid and Chopsticks are brother and sister, and Einstein and Cheese are brothers. We decided to share a couple pizzas between us, and ordered them to be delivered. They didn’t arrive for 2 hours and we were starving, so when they did, we ate the food in about 10 minutes.

The hiker hunger has finally started to set in. I’m burning so many calories during the day that I can eat tons more than I’m used to. The other night, I arrived at a shelter and ate 2 packages of oatmeal, 3 tortillas rolled up with pepperoni inside, ramen noodles, a lot of skittles, and a granola bar. I think I just about ate for 3 hours straight before I finally felt full. I’ve also decided that tortillas and peanut butter are the best trail foods and I think I need to start buying twice as much as I have been of those foods.

The morning after tenting in Jess’ yard, Braid and Chopsticks told me about Upper Goose Pond Cabin. It’s a cabin about a half mile off the trail, 30 miles from any trail towns. The word on the trail was that the cabin had bunks with mattresses, free canoes, and blueberry pancakes in the morning. They were planning to spend the night there and had decided to stutter their hike and slow down for it. That meant that I would be able to keep up with them. They offered for me to hike with them for the next couple days until we reached the cabin, which would be 14 miles each day for the next two days. I had never done more than 10 miles a day 2 days in a row, but I decided to see if I would be able to do it.

We got a late start the first day, so I didn’t get to the shelter until around 7:30 pm, but I decided I would be able to make it to the cabin the next day. I’m glad I did! I  got there around 4pm, and arrived to see Braid and Chopsticks, along with some other hikers I had met, Swagger, Hawaii, Pumba, First Aid, and Bunyan, all playing scrabble. The caretaker of the cabin introduced herself and told us there would be pancakes at 6 the next morning

Moon rise over Upper Goose Pond.

By the time we went to bed, there were about 20 hikers staying the bunk room. It just so happened that although it is rare to find a hiker carrying an instrument, we had 3 of them staying with us, so they played the same 5 songs for a couple of hours before we went to bed.

I got a late start the next morning, because I only wanted to hike 9 miles that day. It rained pretty hard and I was glad I hadn’t decided to go much farther. I arrived at the shelter around 3:30pm, and there were 2 groups of section hikers there, 2 men together, and 4 women. Later that day some more thru hikers came in, Man-eater, Jaws, and Shaggy, and following them, Tasty and Olive! I was surprised at how excited I was to see them again. Before going to bed, Olive checked in with me about the last few days to see how I had been holding up. She and Tasty have been hiking with Jaws for a few weeks now.

The next morning, we all set off together. I was surprising myself, easily keeping up with the group. They planned to eat lunch in Dalton and keep hiking, and I planned to stay overnight in Dalton. We went the 12 miles into Dalton, arriving at 1:30. Along the way we came across Casper. Casper is “the A.T. friendly van,” run by Rob and his adopted nephew Dom. Casper was filled with fruit, bagels and cream cheese, and other goodies. Rob hinted that we should talk to Shaggy when we saw him in Dalton.

Jaws talked to Shaggy in Dalton, and found out that Rob had a cabin with mattresses, pizza, wifi, showers, and power in Cheshire (8 miles from Dalton) with 6 places. Shaggy and Man-eater had 2 of the spaces, and Shaggy had told Rob that he had 4 friends to fill the other spots. I was included in that group. To get to that cabin, I would have to do a 21 mile day, 5 miles longer than my biggest day at that point, 16 miles. There was a campsite in between Dalton and Cheshire, so I decided to do the 4 miles to the campsite and see how I felt then. When I met Jaws, Tasty, and Olive at the campsite, the idea of a shower overwhelmed me and I decided to hike on to the cabin.

The plan was to meet at the trail head in Cheshire, and walk to Casper, which would take us to the cabin. Over the last 4 miles, I walked so slowly. I went the wrong way twice, and it turns out going downhill is slower than going uphill. The last 4 miles were all downhill. When I got to the road, the group was gone. Apparently, Rob was a little peeved that we had taken so long to get to the road and had left without me. So long, shower.

Fortunately, there’s a church in Cheshire that allows hikers to stay there for free. I slept there, and met a couple long section hikers, Ranger and Burps. When I arrived at the church, I started crying from frustration and exhaustion. They were nice and didn’t give me a hard time, and within a few minutes I felt better.

The next day, the three of us went to Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast before setting out on the trail. That day’s agenda was to climb Mt Greylock, the highest mountain in Massachusetts. A mile into the 13 mile day, I slipped crossing a stream, and hit my face on a rock. And Burps and Ranger got to see me cry for a second time in the last 24 hours.

Here I can be seen pretending not to cry, and filling up my water in the offending stream.

Climbing Greylock was not as difficult as I expected. I think I’ve developed a technique for going uphill. If I walk super slow, I never get out of breath and I never have to stop. Slow and steady wins the race! At the top of Greylock, there was a restaurant where the three of us ate lunch together.

Random pond and shed .5 miles from the summit of Greylock

Summit of Greylock!

Going down Greylock, I fell again and scraped up my knee.

Then, I went past the shelter I was going to stay at and had to backtrack.

Last night, the guy next to me in the shelter provided a nice variety of different snores all night.

Also, a porcupine started eating the shelter in the middle of the night, which was quite noisy.

So, I decided to only hike 4 miles today! I’m splitting a motel room with Blaze and Naps, who were also at the shelter last night. Hopefully this day off will break the bad mojo!

Beautiful building on the campus of Williams College.

Here’s to better luck next time!

72 miles in – Sheffield, MA

You live and you learn… I’ve been doing a hell of a lot of learning the last couple days.

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1500 miles done! … Just kidding, that’s only if you started at Springer Mountain, which I did not!

I’ve been back on the trail for just about 2 days now, and have hiked a little over 20 miles.

Full disclaimer, to my parents and everyone else this story might concern, I am in no danger, and if I was I would be well equipped to handle it. However, my first night back on the trail, I realized that I didn’t have time to get to a shelter or designated campsite before the sun went down. I decided I would try stealth camping. Stealth camping is when you pretty much just pick a spot of the trail a little bit and set your tent up there. I was pretty close to town and went down a side trail a little ways and set up my tent. At around 8pm, a guy walked past. In his 50s or 60s, he was obviously local, not carrying anything with him other than his cell phone. He seemed surprised to see me there, and stopped for a few seconds. Being a friendly person, we chatted for about 30 seconds and then I went back to setting up my tent site and getting ready for bed. I got into my tent, curled up in my sleeping bag liner, popped in my earbuds to block out the sounds of animals nearby, and went to sleep.

About 2 and a half hours later, I wake up to my name being whispered (incorrectly) from the darkness. I opened my eyes and yelped at the sight of the same man standing above my tent, shining the light of his cell phone on me. Instantly on guard, I said “What are you doing here?” He answered that he was walking home. Then he said to me, “Do you want to come to my house?” I said no thank you. He offered again a couple more times and I insisted more heavily each time that I was perfectly fine sleeping outside. I also lied and told him my boyfriend would be showing up shortly, and that I was waiting for him. I said “Have a good night,” and turned away from him. I heard him walk off.

That night I got maybe one hour all together of sleep after that. I was physically shaking for at least an hour after the encounter. I’m really glad that I sleep with my pepper spray and knife right by my hand. I considered getting up and moving to another place, but it was so dark I fully doubted being able to find another spot to sent up the tent, no to mention it was really cold. Had I been without the pepper spray, I definitely would’ve left. I didn’t see him again after that.

I don’t know what the intentions of this man were. He could’ve been dangerous, but he also could’ve just thought he was being helpful. I assumed the worst, which I’m glad I did. Also, what grown man thinks it is acceptable to approach a young, sleeping girl, wake her up, and ask her to come to his house? The fact that he thought this was a good idea baffles and angers me. I lost valuable sleep because of him.

I know that this story is going to scare the people who read this and care about me, and to those people, I’m sorry. I definitely and not going to be stealth camping alone for a very long time, if ever. I just am comforted, and I hope you are too, by the fact that, had anything gone wrong, I would have been able to defend myself.

Since that night, things have been going really well! Yesterday, I had climbed 2 mountains by 10am. It’s a funny feeling when you’ve hiked miles and miles and realize that it is still before noon.

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Smiling at the summit of the first mountain of the day, still in a long sleeve shirt to keep out the cold. The lookout was a nice balance to the night before. 

By noon, it was really warm and I was sweating hard, so I went for a swim in the river nearby. The water was incredibly clear!

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Frog, spotted along the bank of the swimming hole.

About halfway into my miles for the day, I came across a pair of thruhikers, the first ones I’ve met since getting back on the trail. Olive, and 49 year old woman from Canada, and Tasty a 42 year old hiker from Vegas, met on the trail about a month ago and have been hiking together since. I told them about my experience the night before, and we hiked together the rest of the day. I really enjoyed hiking and talking with them, and although they were faster than me, they took frequent breaks and always waited for me to catch up and gave me time to rest before taking off again.

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The view from Race Brook Falls. The steep ascent was worth it.

I noticed that after joining them, the miles seemed to go by twice as fast. Last night, we all camped out together at a shelter, and they were really understanding in the fact that I was nervous after the previous night. We hiked the 8 miles into town this morning together. I’m really grateful to have met them.

I had my sleeping bag waiting for me in Sheffield (thanks Mom and Dad!!!!!!!!), and they had made reservations for a hotel in Great Barrington, two towns both 3 miles off the trail in opposite directions, so we went our separate ways when we reached the road.

Everyone in Sheffield is incredibly friendly, all eager to offer rides, directions, one woman even gave me $20 for lunch! Life is good. With every uphill, there is a downhill right after!

-Shiver