Just a few pics from Mantattan. Wish I could post more!
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!
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.
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:
"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!
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 :)
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!!
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.
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?