The Great 8: Days 29 – 36

Day 29 – 0 miles

I took a zero day at Standing bear. Mostly I just fought with my phone and the wifi connection so that I could upload my blog. It wasn’t a very restful time and that place wasn’t very peaceful.

I’ve decided now that the schedule/plan/timing of the BMT is complete I can treat the next part of the Smokies as an acutal vacation. Im not going to worry about miles or timing. I’ll get there when I get there.

Day 30 – 10.4 miles

Slowly I meandered out of Standing Bear to make my way back to the AT. My destination was Cosby Knob shelter and that was 10 miles all up hill. Since I’m starting vacation mode I’m also not going to worry about how long it will take or how hard it will be.

I got back into the woods and it was amusing to note the immediate differences between the AT and the BMT. There were blazes on every surface, as if I was going to walk off the mountain. The well worn surface of the trail knew no overgrowth. Switchbacks and gentle grades! The trail itself was like a vacation. All ease and no stress.

I got to Davenport Gap Shelter and took a break. I saw a long black snake which I thought was a black water hose at first, except water hoses don’t move on their own. A trio of section hikers stopped by too and I ended up commiserating with them about how hard the BMT was.

Then it was a climb. Comparatively it was easy though. I kept passing day hikers and other backpackers. My legs felt great and ate up that incline. I was sweating buckets but I didn’t have to stop every five minutes. It felt amazing. I blazed past Mount Cammerer because I’d already seen it and there seemed to be bunch of people on trail.

Before I knew it, I was already at my destination. I don’t know if it was the manageable grade or what but it didn’t seem as energy suckingly hard as previous parts of my journey. The wonders of a well maintained trail.

Today I am grateful for feeling physically strong.

Day 31 – 13.4 miles

I both love and loathe staying in shelters. It’s easy to pack up and you stay dry. The drawback is that you have to deal with people.

I got going early because the forecast called for rain. A Saturday special. There was a bit of a view on the way up to the first ridgeline but after it started raining in earnest everything was socked in.

I ate lunch at Tricorner Shelter in order to get out of the rain. Three other NOBOs showed up dripping wet and we all lamented the chill and wetness. I was somewhat more dry than them because of my umbrella, but not by much.

After lunch it was a ridgline walk that most likely would have been beautiful if it wasn’t for the blasting winds and whited out views. There is a stretch of dead pine trees I remember from my 2018 AT thru hike that looked spooky in the mist. I took another picture of the same trees in the same mist. Apparently I’m not allowed to see that view. There was so much wind.

I made my way to Pecks Corner shelter where the temperature quickly dropped. I made moon eyes at the others in the shelter who had stoves and therefor hot food. My sad little cold soaked cous cous was filling but it wasn’t hot.

Today I am grateful that I didn’t get too wet.

Day 32 – 7.4 miles

The temperature dropped into the 30s overnight. It was a real struggle to leave my sleeping bag for the frigid morning. The half mile walk back up the trail from the shelter warmed me up good.

Most of the morning was a ridgeline walk where you could see both sides. The north side was cold and blustery while the sun warmed the south side. Cloud rivers moved against the trees and there was still frost on some of the pines.

At Bradley’s view I sat and watched the clouds make their way south. The wind kicked up leaves scattering them down the rocky descent. The chilly air made my eyes water. It is a dramatic feeling being up high like that and seeing landscape stretched out to the horizon as a meteorological event puts on a show. There is no one about and all of this (waves hand at view) could be just for you. It is for a short while and everything is possible. But there are miles to walk and more things to see so I must move on.

I got to Charlie’s Bunion where apparently everyone wanted to be today. I politely waited my turn for some picture taking and then moved onto Icewater Spring shelter where I met Tiger who came to meet me! He going to hike a few days in the Smokies with me. The sun was warming and we sat outside the shelter reminiscing and complaining. It was like the old times, a whole 3 years ago, when things were slightly less complicated for me. It was nice.

Today I am grateful for Bradley’s view.

Day 33 – 4.6 miles

In the frigid morning I woke to the promise of a hot breakfast in Gatlinburg. Tiger’s van was parked at Newfound Gap and we were going to town! Even early in the morning the trail was crowded with day hikers. This should’ve been our first hint.

For a random no-festival, non-holiday Monday, Gatlinburg was packed with tourists. All the pancake houses (its a thing) had lines out to the street. We ended up at Old Dad’s, a overpriced convenience store with a grill, where apparently “we’re out of that” is their favorite phrase. I was bummed I didn’t get my pancakes, but at least I got a hot meal.

After a resupply at Food City and a stop at McDonald’s, it was back up to the mountains. The drive was swift, right up until Clingmans Dome where traffic came to a standstill. Tiger took decisive action and turned us around to a trailhead that would take us to Mt Collins Shelter.

Despite all my warm clothing I’ve been cold AF the past few days. I got some warm socks and a bag liner at the G’burg NOC, so that maybe I could hang out at camp without putting on every article of clothing I own. I’ve also had some sinus issues, with an alternatively stuffed nose or running nose. It makes going uphill challenging, so I obtained some Alka Seltzer.

In the morning we’ll drive up to Clingmans Dome where Tiger can park and we’ll get on down the trail.

Today I am grateful that the Gatlinburg NOC had more bear socks.

Day 34 – 11.2 miles

I took a Benadryl to get through the night and had some weird dreams. I slept pretty well with all the warm things I bought in Gatlinburg. We got back up to Clingmans Dome and walked around the tower. It was nice to see the open mountain ranges without rain clouds blocking everything. There were even cloud lakes in some of the valleys.

The easy grade of the northern half of the Smokies was over. Today was a return to the wild ups and downs I was familiar with on the BMT. The difference, however, was that you got some straight aways and views occasionally. Its the little wins that keep you going. I also got to talk Tigers ear off, who I’m sure was regretting his decision to hike with me for awhile. After almost a month by myself, its quite the treat to walk and talk with a friend. It makes the miles seem to go faster.

We got to our destination shelter and found that it was quite crowded. This has been very odd for me, as I’ve been pretty much alone at camp for the past several weeks. There was much chit chattery and much socializing. It is a stark contrast to the first half of my trip. Im not sure how I feel about it.

Today I am grateful that my knee is feeling stronger.

Day 35 – 12.1 miles

Derrick Knob Shelter was jam packed with hikers so once one person started crinkling their stuff in morning everyone got moving. The bright moon was still setting through the trees when I went to get my food bag. Tiger and I got moving with the usual chattering. Tiger warned me about the upcoming trudge up Brier Knob and he wasn’t kidding. It was horrendous, but unlike the BMT it didn’t last all day.

Once we crested the ridgeline to Thunderhead the views opened up and you could see for miles. The changing leaves brightened the hills and painted the range in reds and yellows. Tiger refused to sing the Rocky Top song on top of Rocky Top even though he is supposedly a fan of Tennessee. The descent to Spence Field was grassy and mild.

Earlier Tiger had said that he was going to stay Spence Field Shelter and go back to his van in the morning. So after lunch at the shelter I said goodbye to my friend and headed off on my own again. The next few miles were a cruise so I put on a podcast and drifted in and out of awareness.

There was one last climb up Little Bald to Mollies Ridge and it was forgiving compared to earlier in the day. My sinuses have settled down (Thanks Alka Seltzer!) so I was able to breathe easier on the way up. I got to the shelter and it was all ladies for once. A guy did show up but he only ate his dinner and then moved on. So Ladies Night was back on!

Today I am grateful for sunshine on mountain tops and a friend to share it with.

Day 36 – 11.6 miles

The moon was so bright that during my usual 3am trip to the “Toilet Area” I didn’t even need my headlamp. Right around the time I was supposed to be waking up and getting ready to go it started raining heavily. So I just lay there and stared at the downpour from the nice dry shelter. However I wouldn’t be getting further along the trail just laying there, so I eventually rose to greet my last day in the Smokies.

The trail was rolling and not much to see until the Shuckstack near the end. The old fire tower was a little off trail but I wanted to see the landscape with all the moving clouds. The first time I had climbed those rickety steps, they were dry and it was sunny. Today the rain made the terrifying climb even more so. Once I made it to the top enclosure, of course it stopped raining, but it was still windy…and cold. I got a few videos and pictures, ate some snacks, and called my shuttle. Then it was back to the trail.

The business of the traffic on trail told me I was getting closer to the end. Day hikers were out to see the fall leaves and views from the tower. They gave my wet bedraggled self a wide berth. Then I was at the trailhead just like that. Back where I started the Lakeshore Trail, so that the northern loop is complete! I love the Smokies (even the BMT part) and am a little sad to be leaving them. Some hikers like to complain about the permit/shelter system but I think it is a small price to pay for such beautifully tended trails and views.

I was walking the road to Fontana Dam and Nancy from the Hike Inn (also my shuttle) stopped by to see if I wanted to be picked up there. I wanted to walk across the dam though, so she kindly waited for me on the other side. I did the walk, got some dam videos, and was almost to the other side when an uneven part of the sidewalk got me. I ate concrete, or rather my knee and palms did. It was embarrassing. I just kind of wallowed on the sidewalk for awhile like a landed fish. I limped up to the waiting Nancy and asked for some napkins to staunch the blood flow on my knee. Here I show up to her establishment twice with busted knees. She must think I’m a complete klutz.

Anyway I got back to the Hike Inn, showered, laundered, and then went to town on some Mexican food. Im going to take a zero to recover my dignity.

Today I am grateful for Neosporin and Aquaphor.

Day 37 – 0 miles

I woke to find that my hands and knee hurt even more. I’m fairly certain my left wrist is sprained. It’ll take longer than a day for this all to get hike worthy, so I’m calling it. My trip is done. I guess I should change the name to the Almost Great 8? The Okay-ish 8? The Not Quite An 8?

Of all the things in the mountains; the roots, rocks, bears, mosquitos, rain, blasting winds, steep inclines, spiders, turkeys, downed trees, deep water crossings, mud pits, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and frigid temperatures; it is an unassuming piece of concrete sidewalk that took me out.

I’m not all that upset that I’m won’t be completing the whole thing. My ego wants me to push through it all and finish at Neels Gap, but I know I’ve gotten what I wanted out of this trip. It funny, I started this trip hoping to gain some clarity on some big questions and feel like I just gained more questions. I do feel better though. It’s what happens when you force endorphin production through long bouts of physical movement. Maybe I’ve got one thing figured out, which is enough for now.

WARNING: Bloody content below.

The Great 8: Days 13 – 18

Day 13 – 13.4 miles

I slept so good on that flat dry hotel mattress, but I woke up feeling hung over. Very weird because I did not drink. I’m guessing it was all the pizza and Coke I consumed the night before?

I got to the trail and realized I was also feeling a sort of civilization hang over too. My nervous system has been a wreck for years now, always on constant alert, usually for things I can’t control or even name. When hypervigilance and high anxiety becomes your norm, understandably it is incredibly hard to relax. Impossible really. Physically, you literally can’t slow down and all the bumper sticker philosophy just relax and let go! won’t fix that.

Walking the trail for the past weeks has forced my body to recalibrate. Instead of worrying about the general insanity of the world, my immediate and very real concerns are simple. Are you hungry? Ok eat. Are you thirsty? Yes, drink some water. Is that a bear? No it is just a very loud squirrel. I am appropriately on alert for things that directly affect my immediate situation. I can meet my own needs in a concrete and tangible way. And oh, how relieving is that? My nervous system can take a break, chill out. I drank that water, ate that food, found that campsite, and made those miles. Good job hormones! You did it Epinephrine! Now go get metabolized and let me sleep.

After all this woodsy quietude and lack of consistent access to social media, it is bit discomfiting to go back to it all. Everything is so loud and in a way that is very jarring. I mean, I already knew this. I guess its finally seeing the juxtaposition of a quiet brain vs our loud society. Does this even make any sense?

The rest of the day didn’t shape up any better. The trail continued its neverending quest to somehow go up even when going down. The spiders OWN this part of the trail. Every five feet its another web to the face so that I had silk dangling from my hat. I am one with the spiders. In fact, I am a spider now and spiders are great!*

The weeds were overgrown and I had to climb over or around lots of blow downs (big dead trees in the way). My feet hurt. It may sound like I’m complaining but I’m just reporting the news. This trail is hard work.

And it was all very frustrating. But that’s okay. I let it out. Who was going to care that I cried? Or that I screamed curse words at spiders? Or that when I tripped for the third time I just lay in the pine needles and had a hissy fit? Certainly not the squirrels or those damn spiders. Real emotions let out in real time and truly being in the moment. Thats why I chose this hard work right?

Also I made 100 miles today on the BMT, which makes it about 133 total. It doesn’t feel like that many and it doesn’t feel like I’ve been on the trail almost two weeks. I guess it is hard to see progress when you are in the middle of it.

Today I am grateful for pit toilets.

*Paid for by the Spiders are Awesome Committee.

Day 14 – 14.5 miles

It seemed like there were some long term residents at Lost Creek Campground. They apparently leave a dog in the tent unattended. They also wake up at 0530 in the morning to have loud arguments and then drive their loud vehicle up the mountain.

Since I was up, I had a nice breakfast drink by the creek. After a lovely pit toilet stop I made my way up the gravel road back to the trail, which immediately goes back down to Lost Creek.

The next 3 miles are the best I have seen on the trail so far. A beautiful dramatic creek walk looking at all the ways in which water carved its way through the mountains. The water was crystal clear and blue tinted in some places, like glacier water. The sun made its way into the valley and glittered off the busy water. The trail itself was relatively mild and best of all no spiderwebs! I floated beside this creek in awe and joy and didn’t even feel my sore feet. It was peaceful and I soaked it up.

But eventually good things must come to end and the creek walk did. I was dumped out into some mountain roads and shuffled my way into Reliance. The Hiawassee river flows through it and there was even a thoughtful pedestrian lane on the bridge to cross the river.

I made my way to Reliance Fly and Tackle where I heard there was a good burger to be had. It was like something out of a Hee Haw sketch. As I walk up to a stereotypical backwoods looking gas station there are four good ole boys sitting out front drinking. One even had the Boomhauer accent. Maybe it was more like King of the Hill. As I was obtaining my burger the owner and de facto leader shot at the stop sign with a shotgun. Everyone hooted and hollered and then had to each individually go inspect the sign. Many observations were made and the bullet in question was approved, I guess?

I mentioned that I had to walk back the way I came to get back on the trail (as this stop was a little off trail). It prompted a discussion of how I should get back, in terms of local mountain instructions. Boomhauer said something about a powerhouse and a “swanging bridge”. The others were talking about going up and down the hillside based on water levels of the river. Finally one fella broke it down and said go up that road (pointing to the road in front of the store) and it will meet the trail. Okay?

Sure enough the road went up and then down and the BMT met up with it by the river. And the trail promptly went into the overgrown bush. I stayed on the road.

There came a point when the trail turned away and up from the road so I had to return. The trail snaked its way up to a ridgeline only to immediately sink back to the river. But this wasn’t the fun wide open river. No it was a claustrophobic buggy nightmare. The skeeters were out in full force and hangry. I got my revenge though because I think I ate about 20 of them just breathing.

In order to move 10 feet forward you had to go up 200 feet in elevation and come back down. Its why I hate walking next to water. The geography of water side walking isn’t always a straight line, like a nice sandy beach. Sometimes the only way forward is up the rocky mountain and then down the rocky mountain.

The mosquitos chased me up the river to my campsite. So now I have dozens of bites on top the scratches on my arms and legs. I quickly and poorly set up my tent and threw everything in. Only two of the little bastards managed to make it in and were quickly dispatched. I am now sitting in my tent hoping that as the evening cools they’ll go to sleep and I can fix my tent.

Today I am grateful for the walk along Lost Creek.

Day 15 – 16.6 miles

I think I twinged something in my derby knee running away from the mosquitos. It is a chronic issue, something I’ve learned to baby. I woke to swarm of more mosquitos around my tent and tried to run away from them but my knee wasn’t having it.

I crossed the creek and trudged up through the maples and sassafras to higher elevation. I traded mosquitos for spiderwebs. As I was coming around a bend I scared a turkey who in equal measure scared me. It gobbled off into the brush leaving me to my thoughts.

The past week or so, the trail has really gotten to me. I itch all over, my feet hurt, and the trail itself has been the opposite of rejuvenating. As I thought I about it, I realize its my own fault. I’ve been ascribing to some arbitrary thru hiking “rules” that cause me to harshly judge myself in which I have to do high mileage days. And for what point? There is no trophy at the end of this.

On the other hand I do have a schedule to keep. The backcountry permit for the Smokies is set for specific days. And I have to get there. Maybe I should have given myself more time?

I reviewed the reasons I started this whole thing in the first place and no where does it say “to complete every step of the BMT”. One of the reasons was too push myself, and I have (I haven’t exercised in forever remember?), but not to the point of more burnout. There is also that whole getting my mind right thing.

The trail joined a motorcycle track that was pretty much five or so miles of cruising along a ridgeline. It allowed me my self absorbed ruminations. After Unicoi Gap though, the forever climb and the heat got me super critical of myself. Why can’t I just do this? Why is it always so hard? Why didn’t I go to the beach?

I stood huffing and puffing on that steep incline and realized the only way I was going to get through this was to stop wishing for the situation to be anything other than it was. A thought popped up hard things can be hard and you can still do them. If I could just accept what was in front of me, then I wouldn’t waste energy on thinking how it could be easier.

I also thought what would I say to one of my friends in this very situation? I wouldn’t berate or bully them, but tell them to take it easy and make sure to have some fun. I certainly wouldn’t talk to them the way I talk to myself. Why is it so much harder to be nice to yourself?

So I took a deep breath and a deeper swig of water, then accepted the fact that I would be continually climbing to camp and that I’d get there after sunset. There was nothing else to be done about it, except to do it.

A calm settled over me and I kept moving along. Up ahead I heard some rustling and saw a dark shadow. Thinking it another turkey, I crunched forward. Nope, it was a bear. A juvenile by the looks of it. As soon as it caught sight of me it sprinted off trail and rocketed down the mountain. I looked down and saw a perfect feather (turkey I’m guessing) and laughed at how the universe decides play.

And guess what, I did do it. I got up the forever mountain, I walked through the dark, and I made it to camp. I did the hard thing. I didn’t have to berate myself in the first place.

I decided to reschedule one of my planned stops in Tellico Plains a day early. So I’ll be getting off trail for a couple of days. I know how hard I’ve worked and how far I’ve pushed myself, but I also know I need rest. Especially this knee. It might sound whiney or even naive, but when you haven’t made time for yourself to rest in so long, you kind of forget how. Even your vacations turn into work. I guess that is one positive point to this whole sweaty ordeal.

Today I am grateful for Welsch’s Fruit Snacks.

Day 16 – 2.2 miles

I got to see the sunrise through the trees and I didn’t have to get up early to start walking. I slept in and enjoyed my morning drink. I only had 2.2 miles to go to Sandy Gap where my shuttle would pick me up to go to Tellico Plains.

It was a pretty ridgeline walk with an acutal view! The breeze was light and cool. The ascents and descents were manageable. Of course that was only for 2.2 miles. I’m sure right after the gap it got real again.

I got to the gap, surprisingly, a little early. So I sat and listened to a podcast that dealt with personal and societal pressures. The idea of performing your hardest and when to let go. It was an unplanned recap of my own thinking for the past two days.

So now I sit in A/C once again, full of food, and freshly showered. I’m going to rest my knee and wallow in all the comforts. I’ll reevaluate my planning and then most likely let the mountains take me where they will.

Days 17 & 18 – 0 miles


My knee is feeling better. I’ve ate my weight in sandwiches. I’ve taken many showers. I feel ready to tackle the last part of the BMT.

Epilogue Part 2: Gear Review

Gossamer Gear Mariposa – 32.7 oz

The Grey Ghost’s school pic

Seeing as how I’ve never backpacked before, I didn’t have many preconceived notions about how they should look and feel. If I had, this pack would have met all those expectations. Coming in at just a little over 2 pounds, this lightweight pack meets the sweet spot of weight, price and load capacity. For me anyway.

I had to dial in how the pack works because the stays came out and ended up poking through the pack making everything crumble. Gossamer Gear’s customer service sent me a new smaller hip belt and the Air Flow Sitlight Camp seat that acts as a back pad in the pack. I’m not sure why they just don’t go ahead and make that the standard back pad because that foam piece it comes with, is useless and sweaty. With the new hip belt and airy back pad I was set. The weight is displaced on your hips and the shoulders keep the pack from shifting. The hip belt was cushy and never caused any skin breakdown. I usually carried a load of 25-30 lbs with food and water and noticed that the pack carried heavier loads beautifully. In fact it seemed like the pack carried better when it was loaded down.

I am a big fan of the the pocket set up. The large side pocket kept my hammock easily accessible for quick set up. The smaller side pockets kept the things I use everyday within reach. Unlike some certain bird-named packs, I could reach my water bottles with the pack still on. The large back mesh pocket allowed me to carry wet things to dry out while I walked. The top flap (not technically a pocket I know) was great for putting extra things on top to cinch down. The hip belt pockets were big enough to carry my phone (Galaxy S9) and wallet in one and a days worth of snacks in the other. I came to judge other packs on their pocket arrangement and only ULA came close.

The only thing I’d change about it other than the back pad is the width of the shoulder straps. They were definitely made for wide shoulders and no boobs. I made it work, but I think narrower straps would have been more comfortable.

The Gray Ghost, as it came to be known, held up through thunderstorms, rocks, and every other weather/terrain the Appalachian Trail offers. After five months it survived with only two little tears in the mesh pocket. Overall, I’d say this is a great pack for loads up to 30ish lbs and long distance hiking.

The Gray Ghost in action


Six Moons Lunar Solo – 26 oz

Lunar solo.jpg
TL;DR: It never looked like this

Initially I liked the ease of set up and the weight, but I never could get the damn vestibule taut. It was a choice of one side or the other. I set up this tent over 30 times, all in different ways, and could never get it to a) form a bathtub bottom and b) form a vestibule both low to the ground and taut. Also it does not block the rain very well. I got caught in a thunderstorm and despite putting leaves all around to divert the water, the rain soaked through all my stuff. I also felt very claustrophobic in the small space. I sent this home for my hammock in Damascus.


Hennessy Hammock Ultralite Backpacker – 31 oz

HH Ultralight.jpg
Henny class photo.

The Appalachian trail is all trees so you are never worried about finding enough of those to hang a hammock. This particular hammock is super lightweight and super comfortable. It takes a few set ups to figure out the hanging angles and what works for you. I added an under quilt to my set up and slept like a baby. The asymmetrical fly is designed to coordinate with the hammock to keep the rain off without adding too much weight. I used this in the pouring rain and stayed dry and warm all night. I like the bug net attached to hammock and the pocket hanging from the main line.

The only draw back (and this applies to all hammocks) is that you have nowhere to put your backpack. I usually left it hanging out underneath me and in wet conditions would wrap it my Tyvek sheet left over from my tent.

Henny in action

REI Joule 21 Sleeping bag – 35 oz & Enlightened Equipment Revelation – 16.55 oz

The beetle of sleeping bags

EE revelation.jpg
The ferrari of sleeping quilts

The Joule 21 is a perfectly serviceable cold weather sleeping bag rated to 21 degrees. I got this with my REI Co-op dividends and a sale, otherwise I would have gone for a more light weight option. My feet never got cold and in fact I often had to open the bag to cool down. It is also very water resistant. One time I went to sleep with damp clothes from rain and woke up totally dry and warm. This thing is like an oven. However it is just a hair north of being too heavy for thru hiking.

I ended up sending home for my Enlightened Equipment Revelation quilt rated to 30 degrees when it got warmer. The only reason I didn’t take it to begin with was that the temperature rating on the quilt was not accurate. I spent a very cold night at Death Valley NP in the EE quilt where it got down to the 30s and froze my butt off. I’d say EE’s temp rating system is optimistic at best, and if you go with them to add 10 degrees to what you think you might need. If you are a cold sleeper, go down 20 degrees. During warmer months though, this quilt is nice because it allows for better air flow acting like a normal blanket. If it gets cool, you can use the elastic bands to cinch it close to your body and to your sleeping pad, as well as using the zipper and cord to close up the foot box. This quilt packs down to the size of a Nalgene bottle and you can stuff it anywhere.


Sea to Summit Comfort Light Sleeping Pad Short – 20.1 oz

S2S Comfort light insulated

I went with this pad for it’s insulation rating (R-value) of 4.2 and it’s thickness of 2.5 inches. I’m a serious side sleeper and knew I’d need the cushion on my hips. This pad performed very well. I never felt my hips touch the ground, it never leaked and I was never cold. It took about 10 breaths to blow up and the clever dump valve let air out in one big poof. I didn’t have to squeeze any air out like the other pads. This brand is also the quietest. A lot of other pads are loud AF (I’m looking at you Therm-a-rest) when people shift in the night.

I switched over to the Sea to Summit Ultralight pad with the warmer weather. It weighs considerably less at 12.1 oz and packs down much smaller. I lost 1/2 inch in thickness, but it didn’t seem to matter. I put my sit pad under my hips anyway and still slept fine. The R-value is non-existent at 0.7 and I felt it the last night in Maine when it got down to the 30s, but it was only a mild chill underneath that didn’t keep me from sleeping.

Sea to Summit Aero Ultralight Pillow – 2 oz


A must have. I will never not use it. I kept it under inflated for a more comfortable sleep. The only thing is that the fabric can get sticky with sweat, so I would usually add my fleece pull over over it.

Snow Peak Litemax – 1.9 oz

lite max

This stove is a champ. I made a aluminum foil wind screen and it always lit and boiled my water. It’s super small, lightweight, and never failed me.

Snow Peak Mini Solo Cookset – 5.5 oz

mini solo.jpg


Shown here is the smaller cup in the set. I ended up not using it as much and could have sent it home. The larger “pot” holds the fuel canister and stove when packed up. I used the pot the most. The handles do get hot but cool down very quickly once the heat is turned off. I would like the handles to be coated with some sort of heat reducer for better use when cooking. I used a camp towel to insulate my hand. Otherwise, very useful and compact.

Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spork Long – 0.4 oz

It’s a spork. It did its job.

Marmot Precip Rain Jacket – 11.4 oz

Did not like. It’s very heavy to carry and did not repel water at all. I was more soaked on the inside than out. The only thing it did well was keep the heat in. If I’m going to be wet anyway, I’m going to find a lighter weight jacket.

Bedrock Sandals – 9 oz

LOVED! They pack down really flat and if you pair them with toe socks become the best camp shoes! They are pretty comfortable to walk in around town too. Mine are still going strong, unlike some of those bulky Crocs I saw on the trail.

Petzl Tikka Headlamp – 3 oz

Probably could have gone for no-weight LED pen light or something, but I already had this and it worked great. It’s better suited for night hiking, which I did none of, so I didn’t use it much. I paired it with the USB rechargeable battery and didn’t have any issues. The most I used this was the red light for going to pee in the middle of the night. FYI: use the damn red light when getting up in the dark, especially if you are in the shelter. I was surprised at how many people would nonchalantly blast the white high beam with everyone sleeping.

Black Diamond Hiking poles

The Z-poles kept breaking on me. Dirt and grit gets up in the pole and makes it impossible to disassemble. Next time I’m going to go with adjustable.

Darn Tough Socks

The only problem with these is not having enough.

Ex-Officio Underwear

Best underwear ever! Thru hikers, do yourself a favor and get black undies. I wore one pair pretty much the whole way. They are still intact, kept the smell down, and dried out in 5 minutes. For some reason the outfitters think women want flowers and pastels so I ended up with a lavender pair, but only wore them in town. Like I said, get black.

Patagonia R2 Fleece

Easily my favorite piece of clothing. It was light enough to hike in and not get too sweaty, but still warm. I’d put the hood up on cold nights to cover my head while sleeping. When it was warm, I’d use it over my pillow. I ended up using it for warmth more than I thought I would. It gets chilly up at night up in them mountains.

Guthook’s App

Very useful. It tells you where you are on a map, how far away you are from waypoints, and has elevation profiles. You can change it from Northbound to Southbound. The comments on waypoints are helpful for finding out if water sources are dry or services in town.


Any questions about gear, just let me know!

Epilogue Part 1: Stats and Advice

Wrapping up this whole Appalachian Trail experience I’ve calculated up some info and thought about things I wish I’d known before I started. So let’s get into it.


Actual miles hiked: 1245, but probably closer to 1300 with all the side trails to shelters and water

States: 10

National Parks: 2

Zero Days: 32

Weight lost: 22 lbs, 2 inches, and 6 dress sizes

Favorite Sections:

  1. 100 Mile wilderness
  2. The Smokies
  3. Grayson Highlands
  4. Franconia Ridge
  5. Georgia

Least Favorite Sections:

  1. North Carolina – especially Jacobs Ladder
  2. Maryland
  3. The Whites

Favorite Spots:

  1. Tinker Cliffs, VA
  2. Unaka Mt, TN
  3. Hot Springs, NC
  4. The Shuckstack, TN
  5. McAffes Knob, VA
  6. Mt Moosilauke, NH
  7. Jo Mary Lake, ME
  8. Plum Orchard Shelter, GA
  9. Dismal Falls, VA
  10. That Alpaca Farm, VA

Best Hostels: (I think the lesson here is Virginia has a lot of awesome hostels)

  1. Stanimals in Waynesboro, VA
  2. The Lakeshore House in Monson, ME
  3. Bear’s Den in Bluemont, VA
  4. Angel’s Rest in Pearisburg, VA
  5. Station @ 19E in Roan Mountain, TN

Favorite Podcasts on the trail:

  1. And That’s Why We Drink (true crime/paranormal) – I listened to the whole 70ish episodes while walking, don’t listen at night
  2. How Did This Get Made? (comedy) – kinda of like MST3K but in podcast form, don’t listen while going uphill because you laugh too much
  3. Harmontown (Dan Harmon) – by the guy who did Community and Rick and Morty, it’s like being part of a conversation you can occasionally tune out, also very funny
  4. Dude, That’s Fucked Up (random topics that are effed up) – these gals are hilarious and often sounds like conversations I would have with my own friends
  5. My Dad Wrote A Porno (um, his Dad wrote a porno) – British accents, hilarious erotica written, as advertised, by a Dad, a nice palate cleanser

Things I missed about civilization while on trail:

  1. Showers – I’ve already been pretty vocal on this one
  2. Easy access to clean running water
  3. my kitties
  4. wearing cotton
  5. flat dry beds

Things I didn’t miss about civilization

  1. traffic
  2. social media
  3. having a schedule

Favorite Pictures:






General Advice

As far as advice goes, for most of the general stuff, the internet has a host of websites that are far better than mine. This website is a good example:

You can pick and choose what you want to follow, but know this: everyone is both right and wrong. You’ll figure out your trail life as you go and you’ll find what works for you. Everyone’s experience is different, so don’t take someone else’s advice as the absolute truth. Even me.

But if I may…and this is your first thru hike:

  1. Figure out your ultimate goal first. Do you want to touch every blaze? Are you set on GA to ME Northbound? Are you open to side trails and sites? Whatever your set goal is informs how fast and far you’ll travel, as well as mentally prepping yourself for the adventure to come.
  2. Find a pair of shoes that are still comfortable after 15 miles carrying a 30lb pack. Seriously, if your feet hurt you aren’t gonna want to walk.
  3. Get in shape as much as you can beforehand. A lot of thru hikers will tell you “the trail gets you in shape”, which is true. But if you want to get the most out of your hike, you’ll want to be in the best shape when you start. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t even start if you aren’t, but it sure does help.
  4. Figure out if you want to go Ultralightweight or Comfort. Neither is better than the other because it is a personal choice (but be prepared for every hiker to discuss and judge your choices). UL is better for your body during the day when you are hiking, but Comfort keeps you going when you are tired and sore. You just have to decide what you are willing to compromise on. For me, I emphatically decided I needed three pairs of socks, which is overkill to some UL purists. Go as lightweight as you can afford, while keeping in mind comfort (and the fact that you’ll want an extra pair of socks when it’s raining for a week straight)!
  5. Do some shake down hikes. Figuring out what gear you like or don’t is more helpful when you are home and able to return things easier (hello REI!)
  6. Go and do it. You think you’ll know what it’s like, but you won’t actually know until you do it.
  7. Regarding chaffing: To prevent it: use Body Glide or Deodorant. When you start to feel the burn, stop right then and there and take care of it. To treat it: Cleanse the affected area first. Apply Zinc Oxide (Desitin). Dry out offending clothing. Apply Neosporin if it doesn’t clear up.

Advice for Females (Guys tread here at your own risk)

So the question I got the most: Where do you use the bathroom? First off: where ever I wanted and it was glorious.

Secondly, there is a Leave No Trace “policy” that most hikers try to follow that states you should carry out all your trash (ALL OF IT) and bury your TP and poop. Women have to carry out any sanitary trash like pads and tampons.

For most women who are used to using TP after peeing, this can present a challenge. Are you going to carry around a whole roll of TP and bury it every time you pee? Are you going to haul out pee soaked TP? Probably not. Well not for 2000 miles anyway.

While the privies are useful for these purposes, sadly they are few and far between. You are gonna have to squat in the woods at some point. What is funny is that no one really talks about it either.

Here’s the real talk: there are two camps women fall into. The first group pees and then air dries. The pro of this is no TP worry, the con: you are squatting around for a minute and you end smelling like pee. *Wash yo pants!

The second group: use a bandana. The pro is no TP worry and a drier downstairs, the cons: you are carrying around a pee rag and you still smell like pee. *Wash yo rag!

You are gonna smell like pee at some point anyway, but what is important here is hygiene. Washing your hands and downstairs bits prevents any issues like UTIs. Essentially it is easier to wash a bandana at camp than pants, but that is your choice. Also you can hang the bandana to dry in between uses so it doesn’t smell so much.

For the menstrual issues, it’s a little more complicated and very dependent your own routine. Be prepared for your cycle to get screwed up because of the strenuous exercise and change in nutrition. You’ll want to bring just a little more supplies than you think you need. You don’t want to be on the trail and run out during such a perilous time. Check hiker boxes to see if some helpful menstruator put some tampons in there, that way you don’t have to buy a whole box.

Pads only? Be prepared to carry around a lot of trash.

Tampons? Be prepared to squat in the woods to apply and carry out the trash.

Cups? Wow! Go you! I could never figure them out, but if you are going to use one, do so before you are in the middle of the woods.

Regarding the trash: put your trash in a small ziplock bag and keep in an opaque shopping bag. Those black bags you get at the gas station are especially good for this, but grocery store bags work too. When you are ready to dispose: throw away the whole thing. No one sees the bloody mess.

And that’s all I’ve got. The rest you’ll figure out as you go.

Next up: Gear Review!

100 Mile Wilderness and the Last Boss Level: Katahdin

Day 145

Mile 2190

Thanks for the pep talk Teddy

Starting after Monson, Maine is the great 100 mile wilderness. It leads right up to Baxter state park which, of course is end of the AT and Katahdin. Before you even start the trail is this funny sign that warns you of the many dangers of the wilderness.

Not to downplay what could be some serious danger, but there were logging roads and you heard planes, trains, and automobiles all through the place. We got Shaw’s in Monson to drop off a supply of food about halfway through which took some weight off the back. The first half the trail is pretty rugged and had some serious ups and downs. I liked that there were ponds and lakes everywhere. Even if you weren’t on top of a mountain there was still some scenery. I have to hand it to the Maine Appalachian Trail Club for maintaining this part through. They had a lot of stone steps that were helpful.

On the third day Tiger decided it was time for him to head out and go home. He wasn’t feeling it anymore I suppose and on that day I wasn’t either. It was oddly hot and humid, but I decided I was going to get to Katahdin come hell or high water…or chaffing. After a rather anticlimactic goodbye, I slogged my way to the next stop. Luckily the weather turned cooler the next day and I tackled White Cap mountain range where I spied my first view of Katahdin.

After White Cap and my food delivery the trail got substantially easier. I managed 17 miles without much pain which is a first. This section of the trail made is easy to camp next to lakes. So for the next three nights I stealth camped next to gently lapping water and caught amazing sunsets and sunrises. I met quite a few NOBOs who were flying through this part in a hurry to get to Big K. Im not sure why they didn’t slow down and enjoy the last few miles as they were the prettiest I’ve seen so far.

The last night before Baxter I stayed at Rainbow Lake with two other hikers, Daniel and Larry. They started up a fire by the lake. It got pretty chilly overnight and in the morning it had to be in the 40s. I started early so I could secure a spot at the Birches in Baxter which only lets in 12 hikers for the night.

Throughout the final half of the 100 miles you keep getting glimpses of Katahdin looming in the distance. It gets closer and closer. After all this time and effort to get there I felt my self slowing down to enjoy what little time I had left of the “easy stuff”. But I knew I’d have to confront the last boss level soon and as I crossed Abol bridge there it was up close and very real.

I made my way into Baxter State park and signed up to camp at the Birches. At 10:40am I was already 9th on the list. Everyone who signed up before me was there at 7:50. The 8 miles to the ranger station at Katahdin Stream Campround were bittersweet. They managed throw in some more pointless ups and downs while mixing in some of the prettiest riverside walking. And then finally I was there, ready to camp for the last time. Two guys bought some fire wood and we all sat around the blessedly hot fire telling tales and complaining about the trail.

I took my time going up Katahdin partly to be in the moment and also because it is really freaking hard. About halfway up you start to get into seriously technical rock climbing. It’s an amazing feeling to be at the top looking down from something that looked impossible and think “I did that”.

Once you get onto the Tablelands the last mile or so is pretty easy. I crested the last hill and saw the famous sign. I got a little teary eyed and then noticed there about 50 people around it. I waited my turn to take a picture and then I was done. It was both overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time.

I didn’t know how I felt, and still don’t. That scene from Forrest Gump kept running through my head. Where he stops running and says “I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll go home now”.

So I went back down the mountain on the ridiculously hard Abol trail and set my sights on getting to Millinocket, where I showered, laundered, drank one beer and then fell promptly fell asleep.

I thought I might have some life altering revelation, but it’s not as big as that. Just little moments that you can hold onto like weightless gold coins in your hand. Snippets of memories like laughing with Tiger at camp, sunsets, amazing mountain views, the sunlight turning the forest into a cathedral, the pain in my knees and the breath in my lungs. All those things add up to something I suppose. I’m not sure what yet though.

New Hampshire

Day 134

Mile 1845.5

New Hampshire starts out right away letting you know it’s not fooling around. The mud is deep, the climbs are steep, and the city prices are expensive. You start out in Hanover which is the home of Dartmouth. Even though the trail literally walks through that town, the townsfolk look at you like you are a dirty vagrant. Which is technically true. But still, I didn’t appreciate the implication. Oh and a cashier at the co-op told me that my driver’s license picture didn’t do me any favors…um, thanks?

Nothing about the town is cheap, so a few of the locals got together and formed a group of trail angels who let you stay at their house. One such angel, Greg, invited us to stay in his home. He makes a book each year of all the thru hikers he hosts.

The southern part of NH ramps up the difficulty level incrementally. Each mountain I went over seemed bigger and harder than the last. All the way up Moose mountain it threatened to rain so there wasn’t a view, but someone marked up the sign to the shelter. That gave me a chuckle.

Smarts mountain had a fire tower on top of it that was my end point for the day. I kept seeing it at various points and everytime it seemed so far away. At one opening in the trees which was supposedly 1.8 miles away I saw the tower again and about cried. It still looked like a twig on top of this huge mountain. Going up Smarts was steep enough that there was rebar steps to get up the slick rock face. Once I got to the top I of course had to climb the fire tower and enjoy the sunset.

The Dartmouth Outdoor Club (DOC) seems to have a sense of humor when it comes to their shelters and privies.

I got into Glencliff where the hardware store was also a gas station and my resupply.

The next big climb was Moosilauke, in which I took a wrong turn and briefly ended up in a forgotten cemetary. Going up wasn’t actually that bad, it was going down that was treacherous. On top was windy (at least 40 mph) and cold. I tried to take a panorama but everytime I turned west, the wind knocked me over. So I didn’t stick around too long. But like I said going down was rock hopping from one precarious situation to the next. The was a nice brook waterfall next to the trail that changed characteristics as you went down.

After a lovely stay in the town of Lincoln, we started on the deceptively begnin sounding White Mountains. Serendipitously, Hollow Leg (who I met in GA and actually lives in NH) texted me and gave us a ride to the trailhead. I’m kicking myself because I forgot to get a picture!

So the thing about the Whites is that they are known as the seriously hardest part of the trail. Dante could have based The Divine Comedy off these moutains. I knew this and thought I was prepared, but oh how wrong I was. Mt Wolf wasn’t so bad, but going up the Kinsmans demonstrated my clear lack of athletic ability and preparedness. Imagine two miles of just straight up rock climbing on slippery surfaces carrying a 30 pound pack. My knees quickly stated that they did not sign up for this. Where before my pace was 2-2.5 mph, it slowed down to a crawl. So it’s taking longer than I thought it would, I’m not as tough as I though I was, and my knees are pretty much kaput now. The views are spectacular though.

Franconia Ridge was quite the hike. Its above the treeline and very cinematic. Also very windy. There were several cloud rivers going over the peaks. I stood and watched as they flowed from one side to dissipate on the other. By the time I got up to Mt Lafayette everything was cloud covered and gray with hurricane-esque winds. I hunkered down behind a rock wall to eat my lunch. Then it was the bone crunching descent that seriously worried me. It might have been fun if it was a slip and slide situation with pillows at the bottom…but it wasn’t.

I’ve been feeling like quitting every day since I started the Whites. Not because I don’t want the challenge, but my body has clearly stated is no uncertain terms that it isn’t ready for this. You’d think after all this time I would’ve been, but I know I started at a serious deficit in the fitness department. And while I have gained some muscle it’s still not enough to safely enjoy this hardest part. I’ve decided to skip, again, and go up to Monson where the 100 mile wilderness begins and finish this journey. My knees just let out a sigh of relief.

I don’t think of it as a failure, but of as a lesson learned of my own physical limitations and the necessary preparation required for future difficult adventures. I’ve already got vaporous plans of a SOBO thru hike one day, where you get the hard stuff out of the way first. Kinda like eating all your vegetables before enjoying the steak.

Tiger’s action shots:

Vermont (or Vermud)

Day 121

Mile 1748.7

The rain kept me and Tiger in Bennington, VT longer than planned. The downpour flooded the roads and there were flash flood warnings for our exact location. It would seem that Vermont does not divert its water well.

We waited out the worst of the rain. Even so, it was raining when we got back on the trail. The first thing I heard was a loud rumbling of an overfull creek. Luckily there was a bridge. The actual rain died down as the day went on. The mud situation was out of control though. It was giving me flashbacks of that traumatizing childhood movie The Neverending Story.

Nooooo Artax!

There was no going around the mud. You try to bushwack to get around it but there is so much, it eventually becomes a pointless endeavor to stay dry. You get mud in shoes, on your legs, in your hair, and in your soul. You become one with the mud. This is my home now.

The water up here is tinted brown. I hear that’s because of tannins caused by peat and other decaying organic matter. It makes the creeks look like flowing beer. Or maybe that’s just me.

The water at one creek was so high I had to wade through it. It was a little nerve racking. I put on my sandals and got to stepping through the beer river.

The first night out of Bennington we stayed at a shelter where two nitwits woke up 6am and started yakking at each other loudly about their water bottles and other related hiking issues. I was, of course, still asleep but that didn’t deter our intrepid explorers from yelling their very important business for everyone to hear. Tiger got a hilarious picture of me rising from my slumber.

Seriously dude? STFU!

There was a lovely fire tower after that on top of Glastenbury mountain to assauge my nerves though. 360° views of somewhat not rainy Vermont. The breeze was cool and the sun was bright…for awhile.

The next night we were at an unofficial AT cabin with an actual wood burning stove. The water source was a refreshing brook with cold clear water. It made my feet go numb after two minutes which was a blessing.

Another group of nitwits came up dithering about whether or not to sleep in the cabin. Are there mice or not? I don’t know, I don’t want to sleep in here if there are mice. Where is that other person going to sleep? Who’s sleeping where? Are there mice? What are we eating for dinner? Did you put your stuff down? Are there mice in here?

This went on for 20 minutes, which is 19 minutes too long. I was already laying down and rolled my eyes so hard I might have pulled a muscle.

Yes they stayed in the cabin.

No there were no mice.

There was a pub in Manchester Center that boasted the portrait below as their original founder. The cheeseburger was good.

The best sleep in a shelter I’ve had so far was in Peru Peak. There was a rushing creek right in front and it masked all the normal nighttime noises one gets in a shelter. All the snoring, farting, and squeaky sleep pads disappeared as I listened to real time nature sounds.

It started raining off and on. We made it by Lost Pond in a freak break from the never ending precipitation. It would have been a nice spot to camp if the hordes of boy scouts hadn’t already claimed it.

There are these stone walls all over the place. I’m sure they marked boundaries of old farms and whatnot, but I still don’t like them. The Blair Witch Project, while hilariously not scary, left me with a distrust of old stone walls in the middle of nowhere. Especially when they have rusty implements sitting around them.

Going up over White Rocks was spooky. There were two rock gardens where people started a stacking trend. The light was a humid gray that sharpened the edges. The tall pines creaked and moaned like an old house. As pretty as it was, I didn’t dally too long.

There is apparently a porcupine problem up in this area. I guess they’re like possums down south.

And then it was off to Killington peak. Which I didn’t go all the way up. It was a 0.2 steep climb up some rocks and it was a cloudy day. On the way down I saw this puppy in a basket. I lost my shit.

At the end of a blue blaze you come upon this vision.

Dry beds! Showers! Best of all an Irish pub! The Inn at Long Trail! Tiger and I zeroed here and went to the next town over to resupply.

Incidentally Rutland also boasts the Yellow Deli and Hiker hostel run by the 12 Tribes. It’s known on the trail as “that cult deli”. They serve good food and Tiger remarked that whoever is running their marketing knows their stuff. I didn’t drink the kool-aid, but their Chai latte was delicious.

A random selfie picture Inception moment:

The stretch after Killington was super hilly and seemed to go up and down for no reason. I learned a new term: PUDS, or pointless ups and downs. At some point we had to climb down a ladder.

We stayed at a privately owned cabin that had a deck on top. Unfortunately the clouds obscured the views, but they made for some interesting pictures.

Tiger wanted to go into Woodstock which wasn’t anywhere near the trail. I said alright “but only because I don’t want a pouty and sulky Tiger, and if this shit goes sideways you’re gonna hear about it!” We managed to get a hitch from a nice lady named Victoria and ate at the Mountain Creamery. I had the best Brownie a la mode! So I guess it didn’t go sideways.

A Tiger and his pack

In West Hartford a trail angel named Linda gave us cold sodas and let us sleep in her barn.

West Hartford also had the most interesting signs.

Then it was a nice walk into Hanover, New Hampshire! Vermont is done!


Day 106

Mile 1611.7

The forest is has a different feel in New England. We entered into what is called a Temperate Broad Leaf and Mixed Forest or Boreal, as a sign on one Mt. Greylock helpfully informed me. There are Birches, Maple, and Beeches mixed in with Balsam Firs and lots of moss. In the higher elevation the pines create a different color scheme so as to make everything seem that it is coated in this deep burgundy sepia. Combined with the sun shining down through the trees it feels like a sacred place; like a cathedral in the woods. That along with all the positive comments on Facebook has revived my commitment to see this journey through to the end. So thank you guys!

The first place we stopped at Goose Lake Cabin which boasted a large bunk house but after getting there we found out it was full of STINKY hikers. Seriously, I went in and checked for any open spots and was nearly suffocated by the stench. Closer quarters are not kind to the hiker. The pond itself was nice though.

The mosquitoes up here are no joke either, bout got ate up alive. I finally retreated to my hammock with its new under quilt, which was cozy and blissfully bug free.

The awesome thing about Massachusetts are the little towns you walk through within a day of each other. In Dalton we stopped for an awesome brunch full of real food that powered my way up a mountain.

Mt. Greylock had a CCC built lodge on top that offered a cheap bunk room and well received showers. However their $38 prix fixe dinner was not so well received. I ate the usual trail food from my bag, but with a nice view.

Afterwards we passed through a little town called North Adams that had a weird playground next to an elementary school. I’m sure most of the “figures” were bugs or animals it I’m not certain what the last one was supposed to be.

Finally after one last insane rocky climb there was the Vermont border and the start of the Long Trail. And the mud got even worse. It about grabbed my shoe off at one point!

Finally we got to Bennington, VT in much rain to a quaint little hotel with squirrels of a different sort.

After a much needed break we’ll be heading out into what the forecast says is more rain. Yaaaay. But at least I have many clean dry socks (as of right now.)

My way and the highway

Day forever

Mile it doesn’t matter

After Hapers Ferry, Tiger had to go home to care of his sick wife and I was suddenly on my own for Maryland. The first day out I could barely make it 6 miles. The combination of multiple days off, mental fatigue, homesickness, and intestinal distress really took a toll. Also I was missing my friend who made the trail seem like less of a trial.

A few days into what should have been one of the easiest parts became a burden. I was cry-walking and stumbling over my feet. I wasn’t enjoying any part of it, which sounds whiney I know. But it made me think again of why I’m doing this and after a pep talk from my Dad (and some food) I decided to at least get to Waynesboro, PA. Then it started to downpour, like flooding.

I got to a hotel and holed up. The rain caused a leak in the bathroom ceiling. I watched videos of the trail turned into a river. And then Tiger texted with plans of coming back! So we decided to skip up to Massachusetts.

Now some thru hiking purists would scoff at such a plan. But I really dont care. I was super close to quitting anyway and this isn’t a job I have to complete. I guess I can’t really call myself a thru hiker anymore, maybe an adventure hiker?

So we skipped up to Great Barrington, MA and will be getting back onto trail tomorrow.

Harpers Ferry: Halfway to the Danger Zone

Day 88

Mile 1024.8

It has been a lot of stops and starts from Front Royal. The heat and humidity have done what previous perils could not: made me just want to up and stop. Mentally anyway. Other than sweating forever times, it hasn’t any ill effects. It takes a real toll on the old brain meats though. I didn’t want to quit, but a nice vacation from my vacation is what we needed.

Coming out of Front Royal was a Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute that had in parts some serious Jurassic Park and Stranger Things vibes going on.

Went through Sky Meadows which was quite nice.

And then the Rollercoaster started. It’s 14 miles of brutal climbs and knee crunching descents. Not a switch back in sight. The maintainers of this trail think it is funny and put up a sign. I was not as amused. It is during this sadistic hike that I passed the 1000 mile mark.

Got into Harpers Ferry which is the “mental halfway point” with the actual mile halfway point being a little over 100 miles past the town. Is a cute little historic town that sits on the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. It also played a starring role in the Civil War with John Brown.

I stopped by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to get my photo taken. I’m NOBO hiker #1509 to register at the center.

Tiger’s wife Lyda picked us up for a quick break in Berkeley Springs WV. I sat in AC, met some kittens, and ate a bunch of good food. The star of the show was the pupper Zinger though. See below.

And now it’s back onto the trail.