Tuesday, September 10, 2013

9/8: Dunn Notch and Falls, 1928.2

Hi everybody! Well it was a great day for several reasons! The first and most important reason is because the New Orleans Saints defeated the Atlanta Falcons in their season opener! Sean Payton improved to 11-2 against the Dirty Birds while Drew Brees improved to 12-3! It's a great day to a Who DAT! Hilariously enough, my quest to watch the season opener led me to quite an adventure and an overwhelming amount of trail magic!

On the 7th I hiked into Grafton Notch mid afternoon to find one of my thru hiking friend's dad doing trail magic in the parking lot while waiting on his daughter. A previous thru hiker, he had all the goodies and snacks we wanted! While we were in the parking lot chowing down of snacks and drinking cold soda, local day hikers were wrapping up their weekend excursion, and like normal, sane people, were headed back home after a hard days climb. Some of them began to notice what had turned into a massive thru hiker gathering (trail magic can really bunch us up sometimes) and began bringing over food of their own to share with us. Before you knew it the generosity virus had spread through the entire parking lot and everyone was joining in on the fun! We got apples, grapes, bagels, chips, and all kinds of stuff before it was all said and done! Times like these remind me of throwing scrapes of bread to ducks on a pond.

"Look honey! Watch what happens when I throw food in the circle! Oh my God did you see that one bite the other one?? The one with the red just grabbed food out of the other one's mouth! Look how many have come over! Quick, here's a quarter! Go get some more feed! Man they're hungry!"

I struck up a coversation with a married couple that had just come off the mountain, and eventually worked in that I was a huge Saints fan that was just dying to watch the season opener. Call it yogi-ing or whatever you'd like, I don't have any shame anymore. Well my efforts paid off because this sweet couple invited me back to their house for dinner, a shower, laundry, and vowed to aid me in my attempt to find the game! Score! Unfortunately, even with our combined effort, we couldn't find the game anywhere :(. I definitely realized I am far from home on this one; football is definitely not king of this land. Nevertheless, I had a great time with Nancy and William. Both are extreme outdoor enthusiasts that go hiking, kayaking, or skiing all the time! William is actually a hunting and fishing guide for southern Maine! He taught me how to do a Moose call, so we'll see if I can call one in and get a picture! I had a great time hanging out with them and learned a lot about Maine, moose, and bear. Oh and Nancy brought out a bunch of pictures from their trip up Katahdin a few years ago! It's so beautiful, I can't wait to get there myself!

I headed on up the trail after not being able to find the game. But don't worry! My wonderful, football savvy mother texted me updated during the whole game so I felt like I watched it! She really knows her stuff! I couldn't be prouder :).

I hope everyone is doing well back in the other world! I'll be joining you all very soon.

Breeze

9/10: Breaktime outside Andover, ME

What's up everyone, how's everyone doing? Good? Good! Glad to hear it! I'm doing pretty swell myself. Better than swell actually! I know, you're probably shocked about that one. Sorry, but I honestly can't remember the last time I was in a bad mood for over an hour. It's tough to complain too when good when you don't have a job, any stress, or any responsibilities. Am I rubbing it in? I kinda feel like I am :). We'll let me tell you why I am in such a cheerful disposition!

I spent last night in Andover, ME at Pine Ellis Hostel, which is run by a very sweet 75 year old lady named Irene and her Guatemalan son in law, David. I was hanging out on the front porch yesterday evening when two older ladies drove up (driving up to a thru hiker hostel is very unusual to say the least) and told everyone that they had thru hiked last year, and would like a place for the night. To my surprise and delight, one of the ladies in the party of two was none other than the 72 year old Mamaw B, the oldest lady to ever thru hike the Appalachian Trail! She was traveling with her hiking buddy, Rainbow. Rainbow is an accomplished thru hiker in her own right. At the age of 54, she began her thru hike not at the traditional beginning at Springer Mountain, but instead in the Everglades of southern Florida! She hiked all the way to Maine before cracking her pelvis on a fall just 45 miles short of Mt. Katahdin! Talk about a heart breaking injury. I can't imagine the emotional pain she must have gone through, so close to the holy grail of thru hikering and not being able to summit the last mountain. Rainbow had come to complete her quest this year, and Mamaw B had flown up from her home of Knoxville, TN to accompany her friend up her last climb.

I sat in the living room of the hostel for hours while the two of them reminisced and recanted all their favorite stories from the previous year. They were two of the silliest old ladies you could ever imagine! They told one hilarious story after another until tears were running down both their faces from laughter. While their inside jokes and stories may not have been as funny to me as it was to them, it was just amazing to sit back and watch them relive all of their favorite memories on trail, to watch the nostalgia wash over them, wave after wave. You could tell how much it meant to them to just be in a trail town again. To simply be in a hiker hostel, surrounded by other thru hikers. To sit around a table and swap stories from the trail. To slip back into this alternate reality that I have called home for nearly 6 months now. I may not have been there for their thru hike, but all their stories made me think about all the awesome memories I have racked up over my journey.

I want to say thank those two young ladies. For a little while now I have still enjoyed my time and my hike, but I have also begun to feel a little burned out, and ready to go home. Seeing two people that are done hiking and would do anything for just one more night, one more minute in my world that they would drive to the middle of nowhere Maine, population 500, just to taste trail life one more time made me realize that I need to savor every last drop of this trip. I need to approach the last 200 miles of this trip with the same zeal and enthusiasm as the first 200. So thank you ladies, thank you so much. You have rejuvenated my thru hike and renergized my outlook. I am going to miss this trail when I'm done. Before I left the hostel, I wrote a note to the two ladies and put it by their stuff while they slept. Call it premature nostalgia, call it the rose colored glasses effect. Call it whatever you want but it's still there all the same. Little over 200 miles to go. And you'd best believe I will climb every last mountain on this trail with a bright big smile plastered all across my face.

Breeze

Monday, September 9, 2013

9/6: Mohoosuc Notch Northern 1972.4

Greetings everyone! Man, the past few days have been so exciting! There have been three major milestones all at once: we are under 300 miles to go till Katahdin, we have walked over 1900 miles, and we are now in the 14th and final state of the Appalachian Trail! Can you believe all that, because I can't! Honestly these milestones aren't even making sense to be anymore. I can't compute the fact that I have really come this far. 1900 miles just seems like some made up number that you know exist but you can't quite wrap your head around, like the fact that the Earth is 92,960,000 miles away from the sun. I mean I hear what you're saying, and I know what you're saying is true, but that doesn't mean it makes sense. Y'all get me? Well, maybe not, but that's ok. The feeling of walking across the country is difficult to explain - probably because hardly anyone is stupid enough to do it! Well anyway, let me tell you about Maine and the Mohoosuc Notch.

Maine is a truly beautiful place. The views are huge, the mountains are massive, and the night sky is so clear that you can see damn near every star the universe has to offer. We seem to be in a very remote part of Maine too. I say that we "seem to" because I never really know where exactly I am. But I haven't seen hardly any houses, buildings, or towns from my mountain top vantage point. Unfortunately, a beautiful state does not equal a beautiful trail, and the AT in Maine so far has been, quite frankly, utter crap. If you aren't hiking through a mountain top bog, that's probably because you're currently traversing a huge rock face with no footholds, or perhaps slipping your way up a small creek bed, which to your surprise (and dismay) has a 2 inch by 6 inch white blaze posted along side it. Before this trip I didn't even know mountaintop swamps were a thing! That's probably not really what they're called, but if feels like an appropriate name. I never thought such a windblown section of earth at 4200 feet could be so wet! Maine has brought with it a new obstacle as well- bottomless mud pits of doom! There were a ton today! Some had boardwalks over them, some did not. And God help you if you happen to slip off the slick board that is partially buried in the mud itself, because there may not be any coming up for you! Well guess who slipped off on of the boards today! Yep, you got it, yours truly. I just slipped off the board, and before I knew it I was knee deep in black Maine mud. Once I felt myself slipping off the board, I tried to use my trekking pole to catch myself. I jammed it into the mud attempting to find something solid. Well I'll have you know that I pushed that hip high trekking pole into the ground until the cork handle met the muddy earth. It was unbelievable!

The other highlight of the day was the Mahoosuc Notch. I have been hearing the words "Mahoosuc Notch" literally since I was in Georgia. Some had terror in their voice, while others had glee. Well I had the time of my life in that boulder filled ravine! I never touched actual earth for the entire 1.1 mile section of trail. I jumped, dipped, crawled, and maneuvered my way through the labyrinth of boulders. It was like an adult sized rock jungle gym! The old folks I met that day didn't seem to have a good time with it though, that's for sure! One poor section hiker was thanking God almighty that she had made it through alive. Spider, Foolhardy, and I were really worried about Sriracha making it through the notch. She is really slow on the rocks! Well we decided to take her pack and split the burden 3 ways. She was very, very grateful, and we actually had a lot of fun working as a team getting her pack through the rock maze. It was a lot of, "OK, grab it. Alright, I'm coming around the back. OK, you got it? Pass it up". It was great.

Well, that just about does it for me!

Breeze

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

9/2: Carter Notch Hut, 1872.7

Hey everyone! Sorry I haven't put up a post in a while. There isn't much service in the White Mountains, and I've been so tired at night that I don't have the energy to type a post up! Past thru hikers told me that by the time I get to the White Mountains, I will have done 80% of the trail but only have put in 20% of the effort. And honest to God, they were not kidding. These mountains are steep, rocky, and difficult. Fortunately when the weather is nice all that work is completely worth it, because the scenery up here is spectacular! Below are a few pictures from our day on Franconia Ridge, one of the most epic parts of the whole trail. Doesn't it look straight out of The Lord Of The Ring movies? Unfortunately, the weather has not been on our side lately. As a matter of fact, we have missed some awesome views because of extreme fog for the past week :(. We didn't see anything but straight white views and extreme wind the whole day that we climbed Mt. Washington. The wind was blowing so hard at the summit that you could actually lean against it and it would keep you from falling. I don't feel too bad about missing Washington though. The mountain is famous for literally having the worst weather in the world, and they are very proud of that fact. A statistic at their small mountain top museum (yeah...they have a museum up there! And a huge dining room and post office and all kinds of stuff! I got a chili bread bowl which was amazing after climbing all day in the disgusting weather) that the summit is fogged in over 60% of the year. Mt. Washington is also famous for the Earth's hifgest wind speed, a wooping 231 MPH! Insane! But anyway, let me tell you about my awesome day today! First I need to give you some background info though. Sorry guys, guess this will be a long post.

So the White Mountains are a little different than the rest of the trail. This is because the whole area is controlled by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). The Appalachian trail borrows trail from the AMC through this area, which isn't good for a poor thru hiker such as myself due to the fact that all the AMC campsites have a fee. Because of this I have renamed them the Appalachian Money Collectors. I mean seriously...you're going to give thru hikers free places to tent for 1850 miles and then all of a sudden expect us to be cool with a fee? I don't think so. So thru hikers stealth camp through the Whites. In addition to the camp sites the AMC also runs these things called huts. The word hut is really a bit misleading though. They're better described as giant backcountry Ritz Carltons that serve their paying customers (100 bucks a bunk for one night in these huts!) a really yummy dinner and breakfast the next morning. They honestly are just massive mountain hotels and are extremely nice and big inside. The AMC offers a peace offering to thru hikers by allowing us to do work in exchange for a place to stay in the dining room and also leftover dinner. There are 7 huts in the Whites and each has a different attitude on thru hikers, depending on which college kid is working the hut at the time. Some have been really nice and some have been straight awful. I'm going to tell you a story about my best hut experience yet which just happened tonight.

I walk in to the last hut of the Whites and immediately notice that it is much older and smaller than the other 6 huts. I also notice that there are no customers at the hut, which is extremely unusual this close to dinner. The crew, made up of all college kids, didn't seem too worried about anything; they were all in the crew room taking naps. I immediately knew that this was going to be a good Work for Stay. After a little while one of them gets up and informs us that they only have 2 reservations for the night, and that they doubted they were going to show up since the weather was so bad today. I doubted they would show up too - the weather really was awful. Around dinner time the Hut Master, Luke of all names, starts breaking out of ton of leftovers and bringing them over to our table! They really like feeding leftovers to thru hikers; if no one eats it, they have to pack it out back down the mountain. Luke brought out a giant loaf of bread, salad, chicken and potato soup, and stuffed shells! We got to eat with forks and knives and plates and got to sit at a table like real people and literally eat until we couldn't eat anymore. You have no idea how human it makes you feel to drink out of an actual cup instead of a Powerade bottle or Nalgene. At one point Luke looks at us with a smirk on his face and says, "If I keep bringing out food, will you guys eat it?" He's smirking because he is eyeing the damage we have done to the stuffed shells in a very short amount of time. We all nod our heads with guilty grins across our faces. Chatting with the hut crew was a lot of fun. All of the guys working at this particular hut are all seasoned vets that have been working in the White Mountains for years. You can tell it too because they know the area like he back of their hand. In their downtime they do a ton of exploring and adventuring. For instance, Luke and Anthony were telling us about this huge labyrinth of caves that they discovered about 200 yards from the hut! They've been doing down there for several weeks now exploring a little more everyday and mapping out the caves. Now what a cool freaking summer job for a college kid! Hang out in the Whites and go exploring and caving all the time? Sounds like a dream come true! They went on to say that they usually take thru hikers down caving with them, but the rain was too bad today for us to go :(. Going caving in the Whites would be so awesome! Maybe the rain will met up by morning.

The paying guests did eventually arrive about an hour late, but since there were only 2 of them, Luke let us pick out of our own bunk room with mattresses and pillows and blankets and everything! I am living the high life tonight sitting under a roof listening to the rain come down. Yep, today was a pretty awesome day. :)

Breeze

Monday, August 26, 2013

8/25: Stealth site, 1813.0

There's really no other way to say it: New Hampshire is my new favorite state of the whole trail, and I'm less than a 100 miles into it with all the best stuff left to go! That's just how amazing the past couple of days have been. The weather has been spectacular and the views simply brilliant. This is one absolutely gorgeous state. Anyways, let me tell y'all a story, ok? The problem is that I've got so much I want to share, it's hard sometimes to decide what to include and what to omit. And let me just say this: these mountains are tough. I mean real tough. I'm going straight up these things and straight back down too. This is definitely the hardest stuff any of us have seen yet, and word is it only gets harder from here. We're climbing a 1,000 feet a mile, sometimes steeper, for 3 or 4 thousand feet. It's tough work, no doubt about that, but man if it isn't worth it when you get to the top! It sounds so cliché to say that too because I've been hearing that phrase for weeks and weeks. Every time I would pass a southbound thru hiker I'd ask about New Hampshire and Maine, and every single one of them would almost verbatim say the same thing: "Dude," they would say, as they raised their eyebrows and gave me a smirk, "they're tough...but they're worth it." The key to climbing these monsters is to not look at the elevation profile and to climb the mountain with the mindset that the mountain will never end. That way, when you reach a false summit and round the corner just to see another 1,000 feet you have to [rock]climb, you aren't so disappointed (read heartbroken). And we're borderline rock climbing this stuff too. I put my trekking pole away for the climb today; it became more of a hindrance than anything on this type of terrain. Oh yeah I was suppose to be telling a story wasn't I? Let's get to that!

So the usual gang and I come off Mt. Moosilauke, which is our first official White Mountain, and head in to Lincoln, NH. We need to resupply at the grocery store, but we really want to go into Lincoln so that we can stay at a very famous thru-hiker hostel called Chet's Place. Chet is a really awesome guy with a really sad story. Back maybe 10 years ago, Chet was involved in a horrible campstove accident. An avid hiker, his single burner canister stove, much like the type of stove nearly every thru hiker uses on trail today, blew up while he was using it and burned 45% of his body. As if this weren't bad enough, during the explosion Chet inhaled some of the flame, completely burning his lungs. The injuries Chet suffered that day should have killed him, and he spent the majority of the next year in a drug induced coma. But Chet pulled through, and the local newspaper named him the "miracle man". His injured lungs now prevent him from walking very far so he gets around mostly by wheelchair. Chet always had a dream of thruhiking the Appalachian Trail. Sadly that dream can never be fulfilled. However, since Chet cannot hike the AT, he decided to bring the AT to him by opening up a donation based hiker hostel right out of his house in Lincoln. The hostel has become a hiker haven and is a must stop for any doing the trail. Thru-hikers only though. Sorry, Chet's rules, not mine :).

While we are at the hostel we caught wind of an awesome swimming hole called Franconia Falls that locals frequent a few miles away from the AT. After a little deliberating with the group, we spontaneously decide to take a zero day and go check this place out. You've probably picked up on this, but I love spontaneous plans! And what an amazing plan this one turned out to be! Nearly all the thru hikers at the hostel decide to enjoy the gorgeous weather by coming along too! We went to the grocery store and got a ton of picnic food including an entire rotisserie chicken and massive loaves of bread and set out on our adventure. Franconia Falls was picturesque and included wade pools, cliff jumps, and even natural rock slides! We had a ball sliding and jumping in the water, and then going to relax and picnic on the warm, sunbaked rocks. One of the rock slides had an awesome 6 foot drop off at the end, so it shot you straight into the air and down into a deep pool below. We took tons of pictures and videos of everyone sliding and cliff jumping too, and I'm proud to say that everyone in my group jumped off the cliff (even though Sriracha's cliff jump video is well over 5 minutes of her standing on the edge screaming lol...so funny!).

As you can tell, I'm having the time of my life out here. This truly is the adventure of a lifetime. Hope everyone is doing well back home!

Breeze

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

8/15-8/16: Killington, VT, 1701

What's up everyone! I've been so busy doing crazy things lately that I haven't had any time to document any of it! I suppose I will tell you all a story from one of the more fun and interesting nights on the trail.

On the 15th of August, Spider, Sriracha, Foolhardy, Ten Year, and I pull a 23 mile day in order to get to Killington on time for Ten Year to get back to work. Killington marked the end of his 9th and second to last planned section hike of the AT; he plans to summit Katahdin next summer! It was a lot of fun having Ten Year hike with us for a few weeks and I think he enjoyed himself as well, hanging out with our tight knit group in the mountains of Vermont. Once in Killington he treated all of us to a free night at the Mountain Meadows Inn. Mountain Meadows is a very nice wedding resort located right on the Appalachian Trail. In fact, the trail passes right through the backyard! Believe it or not, the Inn is also located on beautiful Kent Pond, and the wedding ceremony is held right on the water. It's a truly beautiful place. Lucky for us, the owner of the resort is extremely hiker friendly, and during the week when weddings aren't going on he allows us hiker trash to invade his lovely facilities and even feed us dinner! The Inn was complete with a HOT TUB, SAUNA, and even a theatre room with a whole library of old VHS movies. After we lounged around the hot tub and talked about how awesome are lives are, we grabbed a round of Long Trail Ales at the bar and settled down to watch Caddyshack! Man I forgot just how funny that movie was. It was the well deserved perfect ending to a very tough 23 mile day. Now the next day is where things get really interesting.....

On the 16th we decided to give ourselves a day of rest and take a zero day. We had heard rumors of an awesome (and extremely interesting) hostel/restaurant in the neighboring town of Rutland, VT. The restaurant/hostel is called the Yellow Deli, and the reason it is interesting is because it is run by a religious "community" called the Twelve Tribes of Vermont. While I haven't done the leg work to get an idea of their belief system, they were extremely nice, very accommodating folks that really went out of their way to ensure that our stay at the Yellow Deli was one of the most memorable experiences on trail. The Deli and hostel was decorated extremely uniquely. Huge murals could be found on every wall displaying long quotes surrounded by tons of tie-dye and color. The tables and chairs were very rustic and inviting and reminded me of an old hunting lodge. The contrast of the hippie themed art and the wood/leather furniture created an interesting contrast that one could not help but notice from the moment you walk through door. The members of the community were dressed very plain and modestly, with the women wearing skirts of dresses down to their ankles. To our delight, on Friday nights the community celebrates the Sabbath which occurs on Saturday, so there was no charge for anything! Around 6 pm the group invited all the thru hikers to join in on the festivities. As we walked in their was a community member at the door handing out glasses of Green Tea for everyone, that eerily reminded us of Kool-Aid....but we drank it anyway - and it was delicious. They then began playing old Israeli folk songs and taught us a few traditional Israeli folk dances that were pretty fun to do and hilarious to watch. After that night I became fully aware that hikers do not make good dancers! Poor Foolhardy....saying he has two left feet would be putting it mildy. At least he was able to make it off the dance floor without injuring himself or others. Once the dancing concluded, they put on a massive feast for us all, including locally grown squash and zucchini straight from their garden, and blue fish from Alaska, all over a bed of rice. And they kept bringing you food until you literally had to insist that you were full! However cultish these guys may be, they can certainly cook some food! All the food at the Yellow Deli was some of the best food I've had on trail. Just delicious! Once dinner they of course served us dessert, and once I went back to the bunkroom I found a gift basket awaiting me on my bed! These people were so incredibly nice to thru hikers it was insane and a bit overwhelming. Meeting the Yellow Deli people was a very interesting experience, and while I don't claim to fully understand their religious practices or way of life, they were extremely nice and accommodating to me and my fellow thru hikers. But don't worry everyone, no cults for m :) (although they have sucked a few thru hikers in over the years). I just not sure a commune is really my thing. Nor are Hebrew names. Or skirts that go down to the floor.

That just about does it for me! I got to get out of Hanover! Towns are such vortexs, they really will suck you in! Also, Hanover is right on the north side of the New Hampshire border! I start climbing the epically challenging and beautiful white mountains within the week! I'll be sure to take lots of pictures so you guys can join in on the adventure!

Breeze

p.s. I now have a Mohawk. A pink Mohawk. Spider and Foolhardy got one too. It's pretty awesome. :) lol


Saturday, August 17, 2013

8/12: Bromley Mountain, 1650.8

Greetings everyone! As I have hiked this trail, I have come to realize that the absolute best plans out here are the spontaneous ones. Spider, Sriracha, Fool Hardy, and Sriracha's dad, Ten Year, hiked into Manchester Center, VT, so that we could resupply and then knock out another 7 miles that afternoon. While in a local pizza place, a past thru hiker and native of Vermont, Johnny Thunder, informed us that there is an unmarked, unofficial shelter on top of Bromley Mountain 3 miles from town that the ski resort allows thru hikers to use. He went on to add that the view from Bromley is absolutely stunning and that we should definitely consider staying at the summit for the sunset and sunrise. Well my whole group jumped all over this idea! For one, that only meant we had to do 3 additional miles, not 7. For two, that night was also the peak of the month long meteor shower! We decide to make this special occasion into a big event and pack out a few special items that we don't typically pack out into the woods. Spider for instance packed out a huge container of yogurt, Oreo cookies, and strawberries so we could all have delicious parfaits. Sriracha and Ten Year packed out hotdogs, Fool Hardy packed out Blue Moon's seasonal beer, and I packed out the night's feature item: 5 liters of Franzia's finest White Zinfandel. As we are gathering our party supplies, more and more thru hikers began to take notice to our odd resupply items and start to ask questions. Once they find out what we have planned, they all begin to change their plans too until we have over 20 thru hikers coming up with us to the top of Bromley! Hiking 5 liters of wine up a 3 mile, 1000 foot climb was not a whole lot of fun. As a matter of fact, in down right sucked. But, once I made it to the top, I was welcomed as a hero and had several toasts in my name. I even got extra parfait and 2 hotdogs for dinner :)! The night turned out to be a smashing success. Once we reached the top everyone was giddy with excitement just thinking about our epic night to come. We played on both of the mountain's ski lifts and even got to go inside the cold weather ski lift's motor room that oddly resembled a space craft. We then all gathered around at the top of the mountain to watch a beautiful Vermont sunset. It was honest to God one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. Just gorgeous and truly special. Once the sun went down, we built a campfire right under the "No Fires" sign and cooked hotdogs, told trail stories, and sang songs along with Avacado's guitar.

Side Bar: That night I decided that thru hikers are illiterate. It's really the only explanation for our blatant and total disregard for signs displaying rules and regulations. If any of us can read, they sure don't tell anyone! Signs such as "No Fires", "No Camping", "No Loitering", "No Alcohol", and "Shoes and Shirts Required" are our absolute favorite to ignore, and quite frankly encourage whatever act they are attempting to deter. Besides, rules don't apply to thru hikers anyway. We pretty much do what we want. It's pretty great.

After our camp fire we all grabbed our sleeping bags and laid out on the summit for hours watching all the meteors shoot across the sky. Wow where there some amazing ones, with huge, long tails that glowed red and left huge streaks in the sky. The star gazing alone was worth it enough to lay out there for hours. And the wine made it all the more fun :). That day was one of the most amazing days I've had on trail to date. I'm so glad I got to share it all with my amazing friends. A sunset, meteor shower, impromptu hiker party, and a sunsrise?? All in one night? Talk about epic! Life is good out here my friends.

Breeze

8/10: Story Spring Shelter, 1626.7

Just so everyone knows, I am typing this blog while lying flat on my back atop a picnic table in Vermont at roughly 2700 feet staring into one of the most beautiful night skies I have ever seen. A perfect natural clearing in the forest has allowed me to enjoy this crystal clear night and the spectacular stars. I am out here because I was told there was a meteor shower tonight, but I haven't seen any shooting stars yet. Still, I'm glad I received the tip. If I hadn't I never would have faced the cold, thereby missing this wonderful sky. Cold in August...I truly had to see it to believe it. My Georgian brain wouldn't allow itself to be wrapped around such a foreign concept. Anyways, now that you're sufficiently jealous I guess I can continue on with my post.

Ever since I returned to the trail from Boston I have been working my butt off trying to catch my friends Sriracha, Fool Hardy, and Spider. After hiking a few 20+ mile days in a row, I found out this morning that I had somehow overtaken them while they were in town! A northbound thru hiker I know informed me this morning that I had passed them and that they had camped at the last shelter 8 miles back! Once I found that out, I decided to hang out at my campsite until they arrived. My day was looking awesome. It had finally stopped raining, I was going to do a much deserved short day, and I could lay around camp till lunchtime! But wait, it gets better! As I was waiting for them to arrive, a lady that had camped beside the shelter last night came up and we started chatting. She introduced herself as Sky and explained that she was an AT section hiker that had just finished her last section by summiting Katadhin! She then went on to explain that she had met some awesome southbound thru hikers in New Hampshire, and that she had promised to give them trail magic once she was done with her section. Well today was that day, and she was surprising them with backcountry cooked breakfast burritos! This lady brought the works with her for this feast! She had with her bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, 18 eggs, sausage, and more hash browns than you can imagine! Naturally, she also had beer and candy bars, like any good trail angel would! When the south bounders showed up they were floored. Hardly anyone does personal trail magic anymore, and you never, ever get it in the middle of the woods! The south bounders and I feasted all morning while Sky served up breakfast burritos for not one, not two, but three rounds! I literally had a hot, delicious breakfast hiked up, cooked, and served to me in the middle of Vermont! I didn't even have to hike for it :).

Once all the food was good and gone all of my friends showed up and we had our big reunion! We swapped our craziest stories from our time a part and caught each other up on what we've been up to. Man have they had some adventures themselves, and retelling all my stories reminded me of how much I've seen and done the last few weeks. It amazing how many stories one can accumulate in such a short amount of time. I'm out here living folks. Are you? :)

Breeze

P.s. My awesome parents bought me a brand new waterproof camera as a super duper early Christmas present because they knew I really needed one. As a consequence, I am no longer using my phone as my main camera, so unfortunately I don't have any pictures to share :/ I'll try and snap a few with my phone so that the blog doesn't look so empty. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

8/5: On a bus headed back from Boston!

I think I have finally found my true calling in life: professional tourist. I don't know how to say this without coming off egotistical so I'm going to just say it. It seems I am really good at walking into a city having little to no prior knowledge of the area, and somehow leaving that city feeling like I nailed the visit. I've pulled it off in Washington, New York City, and now Boston. Like always, let's start from the beginning, shall we?

First I need to thank Ms. Darby Jane Herrington for treating me to one of the greatest weekends of my life. I still can't believe she was willing to fly up here and take me out on the town of Boston for 3 days and pay for everything! I don't know how I got so lucky finding such a wonderful friend like her. We had a great time exploring the streets of Boston together. We did all sorts of things, such as stumble upon an Italian street festival in North Boston, gaze out at sailboats at Boston's beautiful old harbor, and watched street performers dance, backflip over tourist, stand perfectly still, or juggle knives atop 6 foot tall unicycles at Franeuil Hall Marketplace. We ate delicious food at some of America's oldest restaurants (Darby was pretty shocked at my new found food capacity! But we worked out a good system. I ate all my food and then ate her leftovers too lol), drank local craft beer by the pint, toured Samuel Adam's Brewery, got extremely lost (sorry about that, Darbs...wow were we in the wrong neighborhood!), and even went to a stand up comedy show in the shadows of Harvard! Darby and I aren't used to having people around that graduated from a better school then ours lol. By far the coolest thing we did however was follow the Freedom Trail.

Now I know exactly what you're thinking. In fact I am thinking the same thing. I mean seriously Breeze, another stinking trail? Well, yes, actually :). The Freedom Trail is truly the best way to see Boston by foot and should be the first thing you do upon arrival. First, it gives you a great look at the entire city and all the things it has to offer, such as bars, restaurants, parks, and museums. Second, it takes you by some of the oldest and most historical landmarks in the United States. Being able to say I saw the church where the lanterns where hung to alert the Bostonians of the arrival of the Red Coats by sea is really cool. Seeing the graves of Samuel Adams, or the site of the Boston Massacre, or the bar where the idea for the Sons of Liberty was conceived made patriotism course through my very veins. Oh here is some fun trivia for you! Here are three misconceptions that are present in "The midnight Ride of Paul Revere" poem by Henry Longfellow. 

1) Paul Revere did not ride alone. Two other riders were also delivering the message at the start, and many others joined throughout the night.

2) Paul Revere definitely did not yell "The British are coming!" Revere, along with the rest of the New Englanders, were still British citizens. In fact, many of the people living in Boston were English loyalist. He more likely said, "The regulars are coming" very quietly to known patriot houses. Secrecy was critical to their plan.

3) Paul Revere was captured and interrogated by British troops before completing his ride to Concord.

There are actually plenty more, but I don't want to blow anyone's mind any more than necessary. I hope everyone had a great weekend like me!

Cheers!

Breeze

Saturday, August 3, 2013

8/3: On a bus headed for Boston! 1546.8

That's right folks! I have pulled off the impossible! I have successfully pulled off a plan that has been in the works for weeks! I'm on a bus headed for Boston, MA!! But first, let me catch you guys up on what I've been up to the past couple of days. Buckle up, it's been a wild ride.

First, let me go ahead and take the main issue at hand head on and get it out of the way: Yes, I have pink hair. Allow me to start from the beginning.

Wednesday I hiked a solid 19 miles to reach Great Barrington, MA to resupply and grab a Powerade. The plan was to do a quick in-and-out, grab my food, and spend the night at a campsite near the road. I was feeling really good about my plan at first when I thumbed down a ride on my very first car! That's a really random fact and has absolutely nothing to do with the story, but I was very excited because I've never been able to pull that mythical "one thumb hitch before". That honor is usually reserved for my female thru hiking counterparts. Anyway, I'm doing my shopping in this very swanky high end MA grocery store, receiving my normal "what are you doing in here" looks when a lady comes by and asks if I am thru hiking.

"Yes ma'am," I respond as if by reflex. I always say ma'am...I mean duh. She smiles and asks if I'm from the South.

"Yes ma'am, I'm from Georgia," I respond and we strike up a conversation about why ma'am isn't used in the North and about thru hiking. After a few minutes she asked if I need a place to stay for the night and if I'd like to come to her house for some dinner and laundry. To my mom's horror I immediately take her up on her offer. She was a very peculiar lady but didn't seem dangerous. Plus a free meal and laundry is always worth the risk :). In a few minutes I was in her car headed to her house.

Now I've ridden with so many different people from all over the east coast, but there is one common thread that nearly all of them share: they love telling you their problems. I guess they view me as a free pair of ears that they'll never see again, a kind of free therapy vent session that is my price to pay for a ride into town. I've heard it all, from boneheaded kids to our current administration to their battle against cancer. It can get awkward at times but thankfully the rides are typically short. I really like hitching with other people so when we get out of the car we can look at each other and say, "What in the hell just happened in there??" This ladies problem was that her car was in the shop, and they wanted 1300 dollars to fix some part of the engine she couldn't recall...I just hope they weren't changing her headlight fluid or something....

At the moment she told me the cost of her repair bill it hit her like a ton of bricks. You see, she was in a borrowed car. A car that she was returning to the owner later that night. She wasn't going to be able to get me back to the AT the next day.

Seriously space cadet?? Come back down from the moon Buzz Aldrin, welcome to Earth! But I tell her that's fine, and that she can just take me back to the trail. In a panic she says she doesn't have time. She's really frazzled now, and immediately pulls off in the middle of Great Barrington and wishes me luck as she kicks me out and drives away! I'm left standing in God only knows where MA with my groceries in one hand and my pack in the other wondering what on Earth just transpired in a matter of 30 seconds! I look around for a second and start pulling myself together when I hear a familiar voice call, "Hey Breeeezzeee! Over here!"

All the friend I've been trying to catch the past few days are all sitting out on a patio of a bar just a few yards from where I got dropped off! I've said it so many times on this blog already, but I'm going to say it again: the trail provides! I end up going and hanging out with everyone the rest of the night, drink a few drinks, and listen to all the awesome musicians and performers at open mic night! We all had a great time and I even yogi-ed a few free drinks off some easily fascinated townies. A few hours later...well, you guessed it! I had pink hair. I wasn't alone though, and believe it or not, mine doesn't look that bad compared to some. Poor Home Brew tried to dye his beard. Talk about a disaster. I've been planning to buzz my hair anyway; I found a tick in there the other day. But it'll be a lot of fun walking around Boston with my pink streak!

I hope everyone is behaving themselves back home :). I'll have a blog post for you when I get back from Boston.

Hike on!

Breeze

Oh and I also went up on a roof. But that's a whole different story. Can't hear em all!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

NYC Pictures

Just a few pics from Mantattan. Wish I could post more!

Breeze

7/30: Brassie Brook Shelter, 1500.9

That's right folks! I have officially hiked 1500+ miles (the plus sign obviously symbolizing that extra 9/10th of a mile I tacked on for good measure :P). Also, tomorrow morning I will say so long to the state of Connecticut! That means just 4 states and 685 miles is all that separates me from Mt. Katadhin! Wow. Unfortunately the 4 states I have left are the most difficult of the entire trip, but by all accounts also the most beautiful, so I have a lot left to do and a lot more to look forward to!

The past few days I have been hiking and camping primarily alone. I had to temporarily leave my friends Spider and Sriracha behind so that I could meet Darby in Boston this weekend. But don't worry, I'm just getting a head start on them so that we can continue to hike together after the Boston trip :). I am SO excited to see Darby!! I don't even want to think about how long it's been since we last saw each other :(. I'm glad she is able to come out and meet me while I'm on this trip too! Just another awesome chapter in an already incredible book of adventure. And I get to check yet another east coast city of my list of never-before-seen-places!

Hiking alone the past few days has been really enjoyable; I haven't done hardly any solo hiking the entire time I've been out here. I am able to take a break whenever I'd like, read my book, hike fast, or journal whenever I see fit. It's so peaceful out here in the forest of Connecticut. It really is a beautiful state, even if it does have some steep ups and downs! While in my solitude I've had a few random thoughts. Would you like to hear? I thought you might!

I would like to first start off my mindless tangent by thanking the makers of DEET for creating such a wonderfully horrifying chemical. While I'm fairly certain DEET was created by the NAZIS during WWII as a means of chemical warfare, and that it is probably more healthy for me to stick my head in a microwave than to spray this stuff on my skin, I must say it does a remarkable job at keeping both mosquitoes and ticks at bay. Getting skin cancer at 70 sounds better than getting Lyme's disease tomorrow. I'll just discontinue usage post thru hike :). Today I got DEET over spray in my mouth.... Yuck! I tried to wash it out with Mio flavored water. The result was as you would expect: Mio flavored DEET water. Why is DEET always seen in all caps anyway? Does it stand for something?

Anyways! Today I also thought of 3 of the biggest letdowns of my trip 1500 miles in. Are you ready?

1) I have not developed the calve muscles of a Greek God.
          - What's a guy got to do to get sexy calves around here? Clearly it isn't walk up mountains for going on 5 months with 35 lbs on your back! I mean don't get me wrong, they're way stronger. But they don't look way stronger! I'm looking for definition! You know why the definition of my calves are? Shapeless muscle masses.

2) I have not made eye contact with a single bear.
          - Now this may sound like a victory to some, but I have only seen two bears this entire trip, and both were ALREADY in the act of running from me by the time I noticed them! I mean don't get me wrong here, I don't want to actually feel in any way endangered. But good grief people, the back end of a bear crashing down the hillside isn't even enough to get adrenaline flowing! I mean I just saw a bear, and it might as well have been a deer or a chipmunk!

3) I have developed 0 zombie apocalyptic survival skills.
          - Pardon me, but I thought that living in the woods this long would make some sort of survivalist out of me. I didn't expect to walk off the trail wielding a crossbow or even be Rick-esque...but I at least thought I would have a leg up on all you normal every day folk. Nope. I'm just as doomed as the rest of you. Unless walking for 10-12 hours a day at around 2 mph will benefit me at all? No? I thought not.

Well that just about does it for me!

Breeze

Saturday, July 27, 2013

New York City

Alright everyone, buckle up, because this is going to be a crazy one! I've got a TON to catch you up on since I last blogged on the 19th. Thankfully I am sitting in the Pawling, NY city library so I have an actual keyboard at my disposal! And here we go!

As you probably noticed, last week was one of the most challenging weeks I've had on the trail. And by challenging, I mean it was hell. However, as I have learned time and TIME again, the AT giveth and the AT taketh away. And man did the AT giveth this time! On the 19th, I had all but given up on my goal of going to NYC.  However, I woke up the next day, pulled on my "Big boys don't cry" pants, laced up my "I hate walking sometimes" boots, and hiked 23 miles - heat rash, toe and all. That Saturday actually turned out to be a really good day, and I was feeling great until I got a call from my Dad late Saturday night. My whole world once again came crashing down when he informed me that my free place to stay in the city was no longer available. I hung up the phone and immediately sent texts to every thru hiker I knew looking for a place to stay, or at minimum some new ideas. Sunday morning I woke up to a text from my good friend Sriracha, whom was just a few days behind me. She said she had a family friend in the area that was going to pick her up that day and take her close to the city, and that I was welcomed to join them! At the time I had no idea what the plan was, but I immediately jumped on the opportunity anyway. If I was going to make anything work, it was going to be now or never! Sriracha and her trail angel, Harriet, come and pick me up at at the predetermined road crossing. I literally ran the last three miles so that I wouldn't be late! Harriet turned out to be one of the sweetest trail angels I have met on this entire trip. In fact, I am going to take this opportunity to thank her for all her help and hospitality. She gave me a ride to and from the city, picked me up at 2 a.m., did my laundry (3 times! - they were pretty bad...), and gave me a place to stay Tuesday night. Sometimes people's kindness is literally overwhelming out here. She took me and Sriracha to a great little diner on the outskirts of the city and we ate as we discussed our options. Sriracha was only going to stay one night at Harriet's and then go hike the next day, but as fate would have it, Wendy and his family were vacationing in Manhattan through Tuesday morning! Seriously guys, what are the odds?! I get a random, last second ride to the city just in time to catch the Dents in New York? I don't know how the stars could have possibly aligned this well. My only explanation is that the Appalachian Trail truly is a magical place, even if it likes to torture you sometimes. I quickly asked permission to stay with the Dents through Tuesday, and Harriet agreed to drive me to the Subway station. I was actually going to the city!! 

The next two days were absolutely picturesque. I had so much fun with Wendy and his family on Monday. We went to an amazing pizza place near Times Square called John's Pizzeria. Seriously the best pizza I have ever had, and my first slice of truly authentic New York pie. We then went down to south side of the island to see the new World Trade Center Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty, all by water taxi! We wrapped up the day by checking out the USS Intrepid and heading back to Times Square for dinner. At this time I would like to extend a huge, warm thank you to Wendy's parents. Thank you so very much for allowing me to stay with you in the city, and more importantly, treating me as if I were your own son for the day. I had the best time hanging out with you. Your generosity cannot be overstated and was much appreciated. 

I ended the day by going to Citi Field to watch the Braves take on the Mets, which I am not ashamed to say is the the whole reason I even wanted to go to NYC in the first place. The game was absolutely incredible come from behind win for the Braves that ended with a spectacular game saving catch by Jason Heyward! Surprisingly however, that is not the reason this was such an unbelievable night. I previously mentioned that the AT is a special place, and you are about to read why I came to that conclusion. So I am standing under the over hang in left center field watching the final few outs in the game when I notice a Braves fan next to me. We begin chatting about the season when he inquires about my Saints hat. I quickly mention that I grew up in Greenwood, MS and was raised a Saints fan. When I mention that I was from Greenwood, the man hesitates, then tells me that he is with someone about my age from Greenwood. He goes to get his friend and introduces him as Tyler Floyd - which just so happens to be my childhood best friend from grade school!! Oh my good lord in heaven, are you kidding me?! I haven't seen Tyler since my going away party when I was 10 years old! I never in a million billion years would have imagined I would have run into him at a Mets game in New York City! Seriously, what are the odds of that???

Tuesday was nearly as awesome as Monday. I start the day by going up the Empire State Building to the 86th floor! I then go and meet Sriracha in China Town, and we go and eat Dim Sum at the Golden Unicorn before heading over to Little Italy for gelato and cappuccinos. Talk about an amazing lunch! Dim Sum is a crazy experience. For those that do not know (I didn't before Tuesday), Dim Sum is basically a Chinese style buffet where they bring carts of food around to your table. I had no idea what most of the food was, but it was all delicious! Shortly after our incredible lunch, we meet up with two of our other thru hiking buddeis, Tumbleweed and Fool Hardy! Tumbleweed is the comic book artist, Jessi Sheron, that I have mentioned in previous posts. As fate would once again have it, she has just recently gotten her first ever comic book published! We all went to a comic book store on Times Square to see her very own comic book on the shelf! What an incredible experience that must have been for her! I am proud just to know her at all and be there for that experience. Just amazing. 

Well guys, the above is truly a reader's digest version of my time in NYC. Unfortunately I haven't even talked about my time on the trail since the city, but rest assured, I am having a blast! I am actually going to get to see my good friend Darby in Boston next weekend!  Laissez les bon temps rouler! 

Breeze

p.s. I'll post some pictures in a little bit. I'm on a computer and my pictures are on my phone and quite frankly I'm too lazy to do the transfer. Cheers! 

Friday, July 19, 2013

7/19: Wawayanda Shelter, 1357.6

On a day that had so much potential, I had one of the worst trail days I've had in a while. I woke up this morning thinking I was going to knock out a solid 16+ miles today, get into New York, and be a little bit closer to my goal of catching a Braves game in NYC. I hate to say it, but I think that dream died today.

The day started out like any other day lately. I woke up sweating and began breaking down camp as I fought off the mosquitoes and gnats. I ate breakfast, purified some water, and set off in the blistering heat around 8:30. It was hot, no doubt, but it wasn't any hotter than it has been the last week or so, with the high being in the mid 90s. But for some reason the heat and humidity really got to me today, and I didn't feel the energy I've come to expect from myself. I was dying going up every mountain and through every clearing. I just couldn't get it together. I took a long break at an amazing farm market called Heaven Hill Farms. I bought a few plums and peaches and sat underneath a shade tree drinking tons of water. A lot of other thru hikers were there too so we all hung out together and had a lot of fun beating the heat. Also, the owner of the farm market was super hiker friendly! Eventually I felt a little better so I pressed on up the trail. A few hours later I began itching everywhere! I'm pretty used to being itchy because the mosquitoes are so bad, but this was different. I took my shirt off too discover that my entire torso had broken out in a rash. A heat rash. I stopped and took another long break trying to cool off and figure out how this could have happened. I mean I was hot, but I've been this hot for days, and I've never gotten a heat rash in my life. Good lord do heat rashes itch! I'm finally starting to feel better again, when boom, I feel a piercing pain in my right shoulder! Some unknown insect had just planted it's stinger right into my skin. It immediately began swelling up. I have no idea what stung me but man did it hurt! It still kind of hurts actually - the swelling and the mark has gone down but my arm still feels a little achy. Well, I pull out my guide book and see that I am only a few miles from a state park, so I begin walking to get there. I show up at the state park to discover that the office is closed, but my good friend Jackalope is hanging out by the office. He says his parents are coming to get him for his 30th birthday, and that I am more than welcome to go by their condo to eat, shower, and hang out in the AC for a while. Finally something is going right today! While I'm waiting, another friend of mine, Predator, gives me some Benadryl, which knocks me out but makes me feel a million times better.

I take Jackalope up on his offer. I hadn't done the miles I was supposed to for the day, but I needed some trail magic in the worst kind of way. Olive Oil, Wet Bag, and I accompany Jackalope and his parents to their condo where we hang out, cool off, and eat delicious food! Jackalope's parents have their own garden, and nearly everything I ate came from it. The spaghetti sauce was homemade from their tomatoes, and the salad was made up of nothing but fresh vegetables. Jackalope's mom even made homemade bread and apple pie! Talk about awesome trail magic! So my day was finally turning around....or so I thought.

Jackalope's parents took me, Olive Oil, and Wet Bag back to the trail later that night. We only planned to go a hundred yards or so to the campsite, so I didn't bother putting on my boots. Maybe 50 yards in, I kick a rock in my sandals and slice my big toe wide open. So there I am, a mere 50 yards from camp, attempting to stop the bleeding sitting in the dark with flies and mosquitoes attacking my headlamp from all directions. And there my friends is where my epic NYC push will probably die. I don't see any way how I am going to be able to do the necessary miles to NYC with my big toe in this condition, or this heat rash which has only slightly improved.

Yep, today was pretty miserable, with a few good things sprinkled in for flair. And I wonder why only 17% of thru hikers made it to Katadhin last year. I wonder why I see my friends dropping like flies every day around me. All I can say is that the sun will rise. I will be in a new state tomorrow. This to shall pass.

Breeze :/

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

7/16: Brink Road Shelter, 1314.1

Every thru hiker develops certain skills while out here in the woods. Perhaps the most important skill - more important than cooking, knot tying, or pitching ones tent - is yogi-ing. Yogi-ing is the ability of a thru hiker to ascertain certain goods, services, or favors from muggles. This includes but is not limited to the following: nabbing snacks from day hikers, getting a free meal at a diner, securing a ride across town, or even receiving a free place to stay. I've seen some impressive yogi-ing on this trip. I once saw one of my favorite hikers, Violet, get an entire table of thru hikers' bill footed at a BBQ joint. The bill was easily over 150. Poor guy. He just got too sucked in to Violet's personable nature and never saw it coming. I yogi-ed my way into some bananas just today on the trail. Boy Scouts sure do love meeting an Eagle Scout thru-hiker :).

Now there are all different kinds of techniques a yogi-er may use on his or most likely, her (girls are particularly effective yogi-ers) victim. Some yogi-ers play the pitiful card. Others dig deep and turn on their charm and charisma. Others still may tell a funny story, be super polite, flirt, or down right beg. However, there is one yogi-er that is the master of them all. And that master is Red Specs.

Red Specs only has one strategy - he only needs one strategy. He Germans his victims to death. It's bold, it's gutsy...it's down right beautiful to watch. One time Red Specs yogi-ed his way into a closed library. The poor librarian unlocked the door, let him in, and turned on a computer for him before she ever knew what hit her. And you should see him ask for rides outside Walmart....good lord. The best bit of yogi-ing I've seen was just a few days ago at the Travel Inn in Wind Gap, PA. We are sitting outside the hotel when Red Specs turn to me and says, "Breeze, watch as I use my teerrrribblle English to get a good price on our room." He then gives me a wink and walks into the office.

Please read the following in your best German accent:

(Punctuation intended)

"Hello hi good morning my name is Red Specs, I AT thru-hiker, I come from Germany! Yes I would like to stay in room, is possible?!"

The poor Indian lady looked like she had been hit by a bus. Without allowing her to respond, Red Specs continues.

"My English not so good. Please speak as if I were four. I do not often stay in hostel (he knows they are called hotels by the way). I often construct my tent in the woods, sleep in the rain and the bugs and the heat. I walk all day, I walk from Georgia, and I am verrrrrryyyy weary and would much like bed tonight, is possible? How much for room, yes?"

The hotel lady finally responds in her Indian accent. "The weekend rate is 85 for a double." Red Specs takes back over.

"Yes, yes, 85, ok you see we are AT thru hikers, we don't have much, ummmm.... (looks at me for fake help)..." "Money," I spit out, trying to hold it together. "Ah, yes, muuney, and we have 3 in our party. A place to sleep and shower would be very, very wonderful. Are there towels in the rooms?"

"Yes, there are towels in the room," the poor lady manages to get out before Red Specs starts talking again.

"Ahh yes, wonderful, very good, towels are very nice. We don't have towels with us because of the weight of our packs. Already very heavy you see. How much for the room again. There are 3 in our party, yes."

"Well, the rate is 85 on the weekends," she stammers, beginning to show weakness. Red Specs strikes.

"65, you say? 65 is very reasonable I think! I walk here from trail, no ride you see. Feet very sore. I only wish to sleep in nice bed, is possible?

"Ok, ok 65 for room with 3 beds for you," the hotel worker sighs.

"Ahh, wonderful! Thank you very much!"

Red Specs had just yogi-ed his way from a double bed room for 85 to a triple bed room for 65. He smiled and nudged me with his elbow as we walked to our room. "Special German rate for my terrrriiiibbbllleeee English," he says as he beams at me with pride.

The people you meet on this trial are amazing. Also, please note that this blog post is meant to be satire. We don't view you normal folks as victims. Rather, most people are delighted to chat with a thru hiker and look for ways to help whenever or however they can. But that doesn't mean I don't smile extra big at town people as I pass them on the sidewalk or on trail :). In other news, today is my 4 month anniversary on the Appalachian Trail! 4 whole months and still going strong!

Breeze

Thursday, July 11, 2013

7/11: Oven Bake Knob Shelter, 1245.6

Greetings muggles! I hope everyone had a great Thursday because I sure did! And I had a great day despite this miserable state that I am in. I hate talking poorly of any state that the AT runs through too. Each state brings a uniqueness to the trail that makes it fun and enjoyable, whether it be the views, the state parks, the towns, the food, the people, or the wildlife. But damn it if Pennsylvania doesn't just suck. Ok that sounded a bit harsh, especially to those of you that may live in PA, so allow me to rephrase if you would. The Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania is horrible. Water sources are miles and miles a part, it is SUPER humid and hot, the gnats here are the worst I have ever experienced in my entire life (please keep in mind that I lived for many years in the self proclaimed capital of the gnat world - Statesboro, GA), and please, whatever you do, please don't even get me started on the rocks. Good Lord, do I hate rocks. I could write an entire blog post about just the gnats or the rocks. The gnats are a constant in your life from the moment you unzip your tent in the morning till the moment you zip your tent up at night. They just hover around your head and torso like a persistent, annoying storm cloud. And I'm scared I'm complaining about the rocks too soon too because apparently they get worse from here. I don't know how that is possible based on what I saw today, I honestly don't. But anyway, enough with the bad stuff. I can tolerate all the stuff I just named because of all the great things I am about to name!
Last night at the shelter was so much fun! One of the reasons it was so great is because of the shelter itself. A man named Mick owns a house right on the trail and runs a shelter in his backyard! He has a bunkhouse built as well as a little bathroom and shower. The shower is pretty cool. He has a water tank built that he fills up every day...and that's about it. Turn the valve, water comes out. Cold but refreshing! Mick is an extremely odd fellow and kind of comes off as a jerk when you talk to him, but he is super nice for allowing thru hikers onto his property at all. The bad comes with the good I suppose. Well a shelter like that will attract a crowd, and we had a big one last night! I'd say over 20 thru hikers stayed the night and I was fortunate enough to know all of them! Last night also marked the reunion of me with my really good friends, Spider and Sriracha!! You guys don't know this, but Wendy and I have been trying to catch this group for literally months! I lost them when my brother, Luke, came to hike and we backtracked 50 miles. Ever since then we have been just a few days behind, and every time we got close something would happen and we would lose them all over again! So frustrating! We spent all day today hiking together, swapping our most ridiculous stories, and of course complaining about the bugs and rocks. It was so much fun, I hardly noticed the bad stuff :)

Breeze

P.s. I spent a good portion of the day hiking with my German friend, Red Specs! He is the one in the photo dying from the rocks! He is a professional photographer, and once he found out I had an interest in photography, he spent the rest of the day giving me pointers. Hopefully my pictures will improve! He also extended me an invitation to come stay with him in Germany any time I'd like! Now that is definitely something I will take advantage of!!

7/9: Windsor Furnace Shelter, 1219.1

Hello everyone! How is everybody doing on this fine day? Sadly, I don't have to tell you who it is anymore :( Well, let's begin, shall we?

So I pull into Eagles Nest Shelter late on the 8th to find my new friend Beer Goddess already set up. Yeah...her name is Beer Goddess. Super modest, right? She got her name because early on apparently she had a knack for sniffing out all the beer trail magic and breweries near by. One of her goals on the trail is to try and hit every brewery the AT comes near. This is all pertinent information because we were only 9 miles away from the city of Hamburg, PA. There isn't much interesting about Hamburg except the fact that it is adjacent to Pottsville, PA, the home of The Yuengling Brewery! Beer Goddess runs up to me all excited and asks if I want to go with her to the brewery for a tour. Well how am I supposed to say no to that?! When a girl named Beer Goddess asks you to go to a brewery...well you go to the brewery! We make plans that night to leave camp in time to resupply at Walmart before the tour at 1:30.

Ok, I'm taking a break for a moment. Sorry, but I'm writing stream of conscious, and if Billy Faulkner can do it then so can I! I would just like to mention just how tired of trail food I am at this point in the trip, and honestly, eating so much in general. Don't get me wrong, it used to be really cool to walk into a Chinese Buffet and eat 7 plates of food, or order an All-star with a side pork chop at Waffle House. But man, I just want to eat normal portions like a normal person! Also, if I see another protein bar, honey bun, or tortilla shell, I'm going to throw myself off a mountain. Lol I know I'll feel better in a few days, but this time when I walked into Walmart I vowed to change things up! So I got bagels and cream cheese for breakfast, hotdogs (with buns) and cheese for lunch, and containers of chili for dinner. I can't say I'm super light...but at least it's different!

Anyway, back to the main plotline. We get our shopping done and start looking for a hitch around 12:30. That's a little later than we had hoped, but I didn't panic. I just knew everything was going to work out. I was with the Beer Goddess after all! Fate wanted me to visit America's oldest brewery!!

...............

We didn't make it. We asked everyone we could for an hour straight. Rejection after rejection after rejection. The most painful part is when someone would say, "No, I'm not headed that way, but definitely check it out if you get the chance! It's amazing!" Well golly gee wilkers, mister, thanks for the advice!!! Ugh... We went to a local pub to drink a Yuengling. It helped sooth the pain.

The good news is that thanks to my inability to get a ride, I was able to catch up with a really good friend of mine on the trail, Aquaman! The AT giveth and the AT taketh away.

Breeze

Monday, July 8, 2013

7/8: William Penn Shelter, 1185.2

Well hello there everyone!! As you probably could have guessed, I had all but punted on this whole blogging thing. I think trying to blog every day was a bit ambitious on our part, so this time around I'm going to blog every few days or when something really interesting happens. That way I don't burn myself out on typing, and you guys don't get bored of my daily routine (Which has turned into a daily grind at this point on the trail). Sound good? Great! Now, let's see if I remember how to do this...

Hm. Good Lord you guys! We last left off at Punchbowl Shelter?! That was 400 miles ago!! It really is a shame I didn't get on here a few times just to say hello. Wendy and I did some pretty amazing stuff in that time. When we last left off we were just about to Aqua-Blaze the Shenandoah River. For those that do not know, Aqua-Blazing is when you canoe a portion of the AT versus walk it. The plan was to do 160 miles from Waynesboro, VA to Harpers Ferry, WV. At the time Cheese (Holden) was still with us. Aqua-blazing turned out to be a mixed bag, and the trip got off to a terrible start. After capsizing our vessels a few times, losing a ton of our gear and food, and coming a little too close to drowning (these stories need their own blog post-You'll have to ask me later) we finally made it to calmer water and had a great time. We saw a dozen bald eagles, deer, otters, turtles, and all sorts of other wildlife. And did I mention the Shenandoah River valley is gorgeous?! Wow, what a beautiful place.

From our canoeing trip we headed straight for Washington, DC to visit our new/old friends Rachel, Ashley, and their new roommate Monica! Man, did we do DC right this time. It was honestly the perfect weekend. Saturday, Wendy, Cheese, and I beat the heat by museum hopping during the day. Wendy and I went to the American History Museum and the Natural History Museam while Cheese explored the Holocaust Museum. I love the Smithsonians so so much! I learned so much that day it is ridiculous! Around dusk we all met up and watched the sunset at the Jefferson Memorial. Everyone may have a favorite memorial, but after that sunset, mine is definitely Jefferson. Absolutely stunning. If you recall, that was the same weekend as the super moon! Wendy, Cheese, and I then toured the FDR Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials, and the WWII memorial all under the light of the super moon on a cool, clear DC night. I would highly recommend seeing the monuments at night. There are little to no crowds, and for some reason the night pulls a little more emotion out of you. If you can believe it, Sunday was just as fun as Saturday. I got to go to my first ballpark other than Turner Field and watch the nasty Nationals get beat by the Rockies to a sold out crowd! We then went back to Rachel's to grill burgers and have a few drinks on her back porch. The perfect end to a perfect weekend...except we missed our train the next day and had to wait till Tuesday. But I don't want to talk about that.

From there, Wendy and I cruised through West Virginia, Maryland, and half of Pennsylvania! I had a great visit with my Aunt Teresa and celebrated the 4th of July with some of my best hiker pals in Duncannon, PA.

Unfortunately, disaster struck the day Wendy and I were trying to leave Duncannon when someone stole Wendy's iPhone from the campsite bathroom. It seems our renewed faith in humanity may have been a bit high and Wendy had to pay the price. I wonder if the person who stole his phone knows this, but that was the proverbial straw that broke poor Wendy's back, and he threw in the towel :(. Wendy, we may not have always seen eye to eye, but you are without a doubt the best hiking companion and friend I could have brought out on this trip. We spent every day together for 3 1/2 months, slept no more than 20 yards a part (most times it was around 6 inches...) and talked about things we've never talked about with anyone else. We rain through thunderstorms together, stood on McAfee's knob together, got drunk at the Blue Blaze together, did the Pizza and Beer Run Challenge together. We did 20s together and 0s together and walked 1150 miles together. I'm going to miss you man. They may not have all been good times, but they will be times neither of us will ever forget.

Well, that's the readers digest version of my the last month in the woods. Onwards to Maine! Any questions?

Breeze

Friday, June 7, 2013

6/6: Punchbowl Shelter, 790.8

No Rain, No Pain, No Maine.

Hello loyal followers, it's Breeze. As you may have noticed, I typically have a pretty positive attitude out here on the trail. On really bad days, I try and find the silver lining, or at least a life lesson or something. I've been sitting in my hammock for a while now, listening to the downpour, watching the campsite slowly flood, trying to figure out what that silver lining might be. I've come to the conclusion that for whatever reason, the AT didn't provide me with any silver lining today. Allow me to explain.

It has been a torrential downpour the entire day and most of last night. Packing up in the rain is never fun, but it  was particularly awful for my poor brother. He had a serious tarp malfunction last night, and most of his stuff is completely soaked, including his tent and sleeping bag. Earlier this morning I literally poured water out of his hammock - not good!  With nothing else to do, he packed up his wet gear and put it in his bag. A really bad start to a really bad day. Once we began hiking, I think the rain got worse. About a mile into the day, everyone was drenched from head to toe, and no one was talking. For the time being, we are operating under the assumption that Luke is shelterless. Because of this, we had to stop at Punchbowl Shelter for the night. With the shelter mostly full, I elected to tent to save room for Luke. I went out in the still pouring rain to setup and attempt to get dry. I've been in my hammock prison since 3, and have only seen the others a few times. The rain likes to keep you in solitary confinement - it's how it maintains it's power. Well, I guess I'm going to go back to sleep...it's all I really have to do. The AT giveth, and the AT taketh away. Let's hope for clear skies tomorrow. 

Breeze

Ok this may seem weird, but I think I'm going to blog twice today. You see, I wrote the first piece much earlier in the day when things were really bad. Although the weather hasn't gotten any better, my mood sure has. That's because just a few minutes ago, Luke was bored so he decided to come get me. Me, Luke, and Cheese then spent the next 30 minutes out in the rain trying our best to build a little fort out of the leftover tarps we have. Oh my Lord, what an abject disaster!  Honestly guys, the whole debacle was a complete and total failure. But we had so much fun! I posted pictures of our attempt down below for your viewing pleasure. From there we went to hang out in the shelter like normal people and talk to other thru hikers. Life's a mess, but it's good.

P.s Things could always be worse. Our friend Occupy came in to the shelter earlier, and everything he owns is soaked! That's his stuff on the picnic table in the picture. Oh and Luke's sleeping bag got dry so he is good to go :) 

6/5: John's Hollow Shelter

Hello friendly followers,

It's Wendy again with another update from the trail! Today was another great day on the trail with our new hiking partners. We have had very little easy terrain for them thus far so today was a nice break for them! Before we get to talk about how great the day was, however, let me tell you how the night went. 

Apparently there are these birds. It appears that the males and females have distinctly different calls. These calls, when put together, form quite a screechy bird tune. This tune began around 1AM. Apparently we were in mating habitat for these things because until around 6AM this morning all we heard was the constant chirp of their respective calls. It was my nightmare!

After that, however, things looked up. We had a great morning, a fairly easy hitch to Glasgow, and also did a great job of making it out of town! We all 4 got picked up both times which was a relief! It always feels good to have a productive day in town. 

My only complaint about these last few days would have to be my unwillingness to integrate with others. I miss the group we left a tremendous amount and I really want to skip back ahead so we can hike with them again. Realistically I know that we will see them again, but I wish I could share all of this trail with them!

Until next time,
Wendy

6/4: Marble Spring Campsite, 772.6

What's up everyone! Breeze here at the end of an awesome day. Our new four person group has been so much fun. Wendy and I have loved the additional company. But first let me tell you about what has been on every thru hikers mind lately: bugs.

Over the last few days, the insects have completely taken over the woods. And I mean completely taken over. The worst of them all are the tiny black bugs that you can barely see. They will bite you incessantly. I have so many bug bites on my body, I feel like I should volunteer myself for some sort of entomology study. Surely science could learning something from me. I need to do something differently, because I wake up in the night scratching my legs. I am currently hiding in my tent from the bugs. I dare not venture out for fear that those flying, biting devils will tout me off for good.

Other than the constant onslaught of biting insects, everything has gone well. After a certain incident today on trail, Holden, formally known as Zip, has been renamed Cheese Pants AKA The Wild Cheese. This a wild, hilarious story that I'm not sure is suited for the internet. Let's just say ole Cheese Pants had a large quantity of cheese in his pockets at lunch today, and we had a lot of fun with it.

Wendy and I have been really impressed with Cheese and Luke's hiking. I don't think it will be too long until they're the ones dragging us up the mountain. They have fallen in so well with us, you would have thought they started at Springer. These past two days haven't been easy either! We have been doing a lot of climbing. I really wish they could hike the rest of the summer with us :(. Luke and I make a pretty good team.

Hope everyone is doing well back home.

Breeze

6/1: Daleville 0 day

Hey everyone, Breeze here again. Not bad for Luke's first time, huh? We're thinking of making him a regular here on the blog while he's around. And I'm sure everyone enjoyed a fresh perspective on trail life.

Luke and I have had a very lazy day in Daleville. Daleville is were we are supposed to meet back up with Wendy and his friend Holden, so we are just hanging out waiting for them to get here. I've spent so many nights at the Howard Johnson here, I feel like I should be getting some sort of loyalty discount. Tonight will be my fourth night in total. Luke and I split the hotel with a couple of new friends we met during out backtracking section, including Vitamin C, Honey Badger, and Double D. Come to find out, Double D is from my home town, and still has family in the area. Small world, right?! We had a good time catching each other up on all the latest town gossip and LaGrange happenings. Double D got his name because he hikes with two dogs, Dixie and Dakota. Why, what do you think his name meant? Come on guys, children read this. Get your mind out of the gutter.

The highlight of the day was going down to the outfitter with Luke to pick out a new pack. The pack he brought out is a great pack, but was way too big for his tiny frame. He went from an 82 liter pack to a 46! Now that he has a much lighter, smaller pack, he is definitely looking more like a thru hiker.

Wendy comes tomorrow so we can finally get back on track!  Redoing this beautiful section with Luke has been a blast, but I'm ready to start heading north once more!

Until next time,

Breeze

5/31: Daleville, VA

Hello readers! We've got some new trail legs and a new blogger on our hands. It seems as though people these days are calling me Buckles, so I suppose you can too.

Breeze and I woke up at the Four Pines Hostel after a shower and a full face stuffing at the Home Place, feeling fresh and ready to go. Joe (the hostel owner) drove all of our gear to the Howard Johnsοn, which was 20 miles away. I was a little bit apprehensive about this trek on the fourth day, but I figured that if I wasn't carrying anything, I could manage.

We set out with a breezy pace (the man ''walks'' like he has something chasing him!), and got to McAfee Knob in no time at all. The views from that rock are some of the best I've seen! Setting back out at what could be a described as a trot, we roved over top of a half mile that was the Tinker Cliffs. It was view after view of beautiful Virginia as the cliffs wound around the side of the mountain.

While I can't say that my feet appreciated what I did to them that day, I won't forget the experiences of summitting two amazing views, eventually making our way to a mexican restaurant and a bed to sleep in. I made it, and made it smiling. That's what counts right?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

5/30: Four Pines Hostel, 698.0

What's up everybody. Breeze here once again with a trail update. Today we found ourselves at 4 pines hostel, right outside Catawba, VA. I wanted to stop and check out the hostel because Wendy and I skipped it the first time. Everyone that stayed there seemed to love it, so I had to pop in and check it out for myself. What an excellent decision that panned out to be! But first, let me tell you about 4 pines hostel, and more importantly, about Joe.

Joe is the owner of 4 pines hostel. The hostel itself is simply a 3 car garage that is built behind Joe's house. Inside the garage are a few old couches, some fold down pool chairs, 2 cots, and a recliner. To the right of the front door was the bathroom and the shower. There was one hostel towel that apparently was meant to be shared. Overall, it was a pretty shabby place. But it wasn't the physical hostel that made 4 pines worth stopping at. It was Joe. Joe is a super awesome guy that runs the hostel through donations. Not only does he provide a roof, he will also take you just about where ever you needed to go. He was providing shuttles to thru hikers to the grocery store, to the HomePlace restaurant in Catawba, to Daleville, or even to the airport in Roanoke! For those who don't know, access to a car like that is the absolute best luxury! And I also should mention that Joe was a lot of fun to hang out with and his hostel had a great vibe. Luke and I had a lot of fun with our new group of friends. Well, off to HomePlace! I have to take Luke there. It's a thru hiking must! This is America after all. I have to eat myself sick every once in a while!

Joe is going to slackpack a bunch of us 20 miles to Daleville. This is a long day, even without a pack. I hope Luke can handle it!
Breeze