Sunday, July 31, 2011

July 30

I slept okay last night despite the snorer in the bunkhouse...
It rained nearly all night but no tornadoes. We got blueberry pancakes in the morning again...such a treat! We set out around 8 for 17.6 miles to Kay Wood Shelter. We met up with Tomahawk while taking a break at October Mountain Shelter and when we went to leave we couldn't find the trail! Massachusetts has had some very poor and poorly marked trails; lots of rocks and roots and other debris, and lots of paths through the woods that look like the trail but aren't. We finally found our way, and made good time to the road crossing where the Cookie Lady is! She gave us cookies and we bought sodas and ice cream. The three of us lounged around in her yard for almost two hours, and debated camping there but decided to do 6.8 more miles to Kay Wood. They were flat and easy and we made good time. There is a group of section hikers here tonight, kids from a summer camp, but we are the only thru-hikers. There aren't many tent spots so we set our tents up in the shelter...tight quarters but we made it work! It's been a great day and I felt better today than I have for awhile. Looking forward to a shower and laundry tomorrow!
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July 29

The morning began with delicious blueberry apple pancakes made by the caretaker. A fellow hiker heard a weather report that called for strong thunderstorms this evening...hmmm...
Sooo, Bear Bag and I debated the issue and decided to zero here at the cabin. No, we don't really need a zero right now, but this place is so nice! We lounged around all morning on the rocking chairs on the porch, and sat down by the lake and skipped rocks all afternoon...what a great day! It did sprinkle but nothing severe, although we heard a report of a tornado warning tonight. We decided to pack up our tents and sleep in the bunkhouse tonight to avoid the rain. It's started to rain a bit but whatever happens, I'll be glad to have a roof over my head!
As we were finishing up with dinner, none other than Tomahawk arrived! So great to see him as it was about 500 miles ago that we last saw him. We've been catching up this evening and enjoying familiar company!
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July 28

I felt much better this morning (except for foot pain) and we were out of camp by 8. The trail was fairly easy and we made good time. We came to a spring where we stopped for lunch and set ourselves up for the big climb of the day. I did much better than expected, making it the whole way at a decent pace and without stopping. We did 15.8 miles today to Upper Goose Pond Cabin. The place is beautiful...a cabin, a lake, a bunkhouse on the top floor. The bunkhouse was crowded so Bear Bag and I are tenting out back along with a few other people. There are lots of thru hikers here...many of whom we don't know, but also Spitwalker! Haven't seen him for a loooong time. When we arrived the caretaker told us not to cook dinner because they were making spaghetti...and it was delicious! We ate our fill, chatted with fellow hikers, and took a canoe out on the lake for a bit...so relaxing! It felt good to use my upper body as well. Tomorrow we will do another good day and then nero into Dalton for showers and laundry. I was spoiled on the break and am having to get used to being dirty again!
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July 27

You know how I was struggling a bit physically before I took those 5 days off? I feel just as bad, if not worse, now as I did then...it's like the rest did me no good! I didn't want to get out of bed this morning and Bear Bag and I didn't leave camp until around 10!...pathetic I know. The morning was slow going and we stopped around noon for a break...I laid down a fell asleep for a few minutes! So tired. We kept moving but I was having a really rough time...felt completely exhausted and my feet were killing me. I felt like I had done twenty miles! We stopped at Mt Wilcox south shelter for lunch and I fell asleep again! I cannot believe how exhausted I feel. We decided to stay here tonight, get some rest, and hopefully I will feel much better tomorrow. These small days are going to make it nearly impossible to catch up to the group...I miss them!!
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July 26

Today was back to the trail! We ate breakfast at the hotel and my parents drove Bear Bag and I back to the trail around 8 this morning. We said our goodbyes and were on our way! My pack felt heavy and my feet hurt despite (or because of?) the fact that I'm wearing new shoes...when am I going to stop hurting? The left foot was every bit as achy as normal too...you'd think with 5 days off it would heal some!
Anyway, it rained yesterday and last night so everything was soaked this morning. The trail wasn't difficult but was not in very good shape and did a lot of winding. We decided to do a short day to ease ourselves back into things and ended up at Tom Leonard Shelter, 6.5 miles from Great Barrington...a super short day! We discussed moving on but then a thunderstorm moved in so we stayed put. We rode out the storm and heavy downpour for about an hour in the shelter and then set up camp and cooked dinner. We didn't see many people on the trail today. We met thru-hikers Coyote and Lady Sherpa (zeros mean new people!) who told us that Hooper and Tomahawk are not far behind! Maybe we'll get to see them again.
After dinner, Peru showed up! She took some time off as well and it was good to see her. We also saw a porcupine! My first one so it was pretty exciting. It waddled into camp a few times but has kept its distance. There are chew marks on the shelter and picnic table where he's been...glad I'm tenting tonight!
I didn't feel good while hiking today but it is nice to be back on the trail...minus the mosquitoes of course!
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July 25

Back on the road! Bear Bag, my parents, and I left Ohio at 6 this morning to head back to Massachusetts. The drive seemed quick although we didn't get here until 6. We had dinner at the Great Barrington Brewery and checked into the Days Inn. Tomorrow my parents will drop us off at the trail and drive back home.
I've been packing my bag this evening and it feels weird to think I'll be back on the trail tomorrow. I've had 5.5 days off! I'm still stiff and my left foot still hurts...so much for healing on this break, huh? Hopefully my new shoes will help. The weather has cooled down significantly and I'm looking forward to getting back into a trail routine!
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Monday, July 25, 2011

Gear Update

I've been asked a few times to "review" some of my gear now that I've been using it for four months. I haven't really had much time on the trail but what else have I to do on a 10 hour car ride?
First up, my tent: Henry Shires Tarptent Moment. It's lightweight and incredibly quick and easy to assemble...that's what I love about it. It's also quite spacious compared to many of the other single-person tents I've seen. I'm not entirely sold on the single-wall front. The AT is very humid so I wake up with a damp tent sometimes. I haven't tested it in the rain since I re-sealed the seams so I'm not sure if it still leaks or not. In sum, the tent gets the job done (for the most part), but if I had to do it again, I may go with a double wall, like the MSR Hubba. It's a bit heavier but freestanding (bug net in shelters!) and dry, and I have yet to meet an unhappy Hubba owner.
My NeoAir sleeping pad? A. Comfortable, more durable than expected, lightweight, extremely packable. I admit that many nights the last thing I want to do is blow it up but really it's not THAT bad. It's not very versatile compared to a closed cell foam pad (use as a sit pad, lay directly on the ground, etc) but it's like sleeping on a mattress. Or as close as you can get in the woods.
My sleeping bags: I bought a cheap REI brand down bag for winter, and I've been satisfied with it...but only satisfied. I wasn't "cold" on those wintry nights but I wasn't toasty warm either. If I had an unlimited budget, I'd go for a nice Western Mountaineering bag. Again, never met an unhappy or cold owner. For summer I'm using a cheap Lafuma 45 degree synthetic. It's heavy and bulky for its type but I love it. It has a lining that feels like cotton so I don't get sticky on hot, humid nights. And it's been keeping me warm enough on the random cool nights we've had.
If you've been keeping up with the blog, you'll know I've gone through a few packs. I started with an REI Flash, got a new one when the framesheet ripped out, and had the same problem again. I'm using an Osprey Atmos 50 right now and I like it but wish it was a bit bigger. My tent is on the outside, which I don't like, and when I get my winter gear back it will be stuffed full. The pack itself is a great design though, but I would probably be better off with the Atmos 60. Lots of Ospreys and lots of Osprey lovers out here. I've been converted.
I love my stove (since I use it correctly now...)! Trail Designs Caldera Cone. Stable, efficient, lightweight. I wish all of my cooking gear would pack together but you can't have everything, right? One downfall is you can't snuff the stove out and preserve fuel once it's lit, but I've gotten pretty good at estimating how much fuel I need and it's not a big deal. I would recommend this stove without any hesitation and would definitely buy it again. I would, however, not get a nonstick pot...I feel like the one I have hinders versatility. The .9-liter size is perfect though, and a quality product for sure.
As for shoes, I've worn Keen the whole way thus far. I'm on my third pair and will be starting on my fourth when I get back to the trail from this break...a little disappointing that they haven't lasted very long but they're comfortable so I let it slide. I haven't seen a brand of shoes that's performed significantly better so there's not much to complain about anyway. I love that they have a rubber toe cap...I stub my toes so many times but it doesn't matter! I've also seen many other shoes falls apart at the toes and I'm spared that problem. I would definitely go with Keens again, but would maybe splurge on insoles for better support; my feet are aching almost constantly, especially after about 400-500 miles on a single pair of shoes.
Clothes-wise, I've been very happy with my choices (see the gear page if you care what I have). I really, really love the Carhartt socks; several people have worn through pairs of socks but mine are still going strong. Love the REI underwear as well but the elastic is starting to wear out already. And the Walmart shirts are great! Love the Patagonia Micro Puff too...very warm, packable, and a great pillow!
I'm very happy with my hydration system; a 1 liter Platypus hoser and I carry another liter in a platypus. I have a third bottle which I use in camp or if I need to carry more than 2 liters. If I were doing it again though I would get a larger container like the Platypus water purse or MSR dromedary for in-camp use. It's annoying to make two trips to a water source, especially if it's downhill for a quarter mile or more.
Basically, everything I have works and gets the job done and I don't have any serious complaints. As I mentioned earlier, with an unlimited budget I'd make some different choices, but I got to Massachusetts on what I have, so it can all make it to Maine, right?
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July 24

I slept in until 7:30 this morning and enjoyed a lazy morning. Abbie and Chris and his family came over late morning to open gifts, and we ate leftover wedding food...there is SO MUCH left over! I've eaten way more cake today than I should have...now I need to get back to the trail to walk it all off!
The afternoon was relaxing as well; I had a long list of things I wanted to do while I was home but didn't get many of them done. Bear Bag and I made an unexpected trip to give my sister a pair of shoes she left at the house, and by the time we got back, I didn't feel like doing anything! I lazily packed my stuff; I'm going to have to use it all tomorrow so I can repack it then right?
It's been good to be home but I'm ready to get back to the trail. I've had so many showers that my skin is drying out! Haha...it's going to be a lot different though; it will just be Bear Bag and I as opposed to the entire group. I miss them already and think often about where they are and what they are seeing. I hope we can catch up to them but if we do it will certainly take awhile. Until then, there are plenty of other hikers to meet!
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July 23

The big day! My sister Abbie, myself, and the other bridesmaid, the groom's sister Becky, relaxed a bit this morning before heading to a salon to get our makeup done...having not "prettied" myself up in over four months, it was quite an experience! Next was hair and I put my dress on as well...very strange to look in the mirror! And to wear something so constricting; I'm used to being comfortable! Thankfully it did fit although it was a bit snug...I ordered a size down anticipating I'd lose some weight on the trail but I've only lost four pounds and was a little worried about fitting into the dress! The ceremony went well; we took some pictures afterward outside and it was hot, hot, hot!..supposed to reach triple digits today. I was glad to not be hiking as MA was having record temps as well. The reception was a good time with delicious food, dancing, and lots of visiting. I got to see most of my family; even relatives from out of state that I haven't seen in years! An enjoyable evening but my feet hurt from my heels (also quite a different experience than what I'm used to) and I was worn out! We cleaned up, headed home, and went to bed! Tomorrow will be another day home and my parents are driving Bear Bag and I back to the trail on Monday.
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July 22

A late night turned into an early morning; up at 6 just like on the trail! Bear Bag and I went to town for resupply shopping and to get him something to wear to the wedding! We helped decorate for the festivities, went to the rehearsal and dinner, and dealt with the stress of the wedding...
It's been quite a shock being home amongst such bustle; everyone is always doing something and everyone does something different than everybody else. I'm not used to the frenzy. It was great to see some family though!
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July 21

An early morning began on the road. We left Great Barrington at 6 and I slept a bit early on. We stopped at McDonald's for breakfast and alternated drivers. Bear Bag felt comfortable driving but I haven't driven for more than 4 months so I was a little wary and opted to be a passenger. Everyone says it all comes back to you as soon as you get behind the wheel but it still makes me nervous! Besides, I want to go the entire trail without driving...
Lunch was what I've been craving on the trail: Taco Bell! I've been eating a lot these last two days so I should probably cut back since I'm not doing any hiking! It was strange on the drive to see familiar places, and even stranger to see my house and my family! It's been a long day and I have a feeling these zeros are not going to be very restful!
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Thursday, July 21, 2011

July 20 - 2

I didn't sleep very well last night but was up at 6 to find Muffin Man already ready to leave camp...he always leaves so early! We all got packed up and set out for 4.5 mostly flat miles to the road to Great Barrington. The mosquitoes were thick this morning and I ran out of bug spray...good thing I'm going to town! When we got close to the road, we saw Jennifer and her daughter Meg, the family friends who drove so far to bring us back to Ohio (thank you!), walking toward us! We hiked with them back to the road to find the guys enjoying the tons of trail magic they brought! We hung out for a bit, said final goodbyes, and headed into town. We checked into the Days Inn and first on the list was laundry...it's been 12 days! Everything I have is dirty so Jennifer gave me some clothes to wear while mine were washing...I haven't worn cotton in 4 months! When laundry was finished we headed back to the hotel for showers...8 days since my last! It felt wonderful and we lounged around all afternoon. Bear Bag and I walked around town a bit and ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant, then headed back to the hotel and the four of us went to Friendly's for ice cream. I'm still stuffed! It's been a great, relaxing day...tomorrow is the long car ride home! It feels very strange to think I'm going home. I wanted to do the entire trip without seeing home but obviously circumstances aren't conducive to that. It's like my trail life is going to be morphing with my "real" life, and I'm not sure how they're going to mesh together. At the least, I think this visit will give me a clearer understanding of my experiences on the trail (much more on that to come!)
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

July 20

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July 19

Thankfully the bugs weren't a bother last night but I had forgotten how poorly I sleep in shelters and woke several times during the night. The morning was sunny though and the first thing Tractor said was, "It's going to be a great day." I felt it too.
The first climb of the day was up Bear Mountain, the highest point in CT, a relatively easy one. The descent down the northern side however was steep and boulder-y and required lots of hands and slow, cautious steps. The rocks were still wet from the rain yesterday which added to the difficulty and at one point my feet slipped right out from under me and I fell backward...8 falls now I think? The trail below the mountain was gorgeous...pine forests and a rocky stream running right through the middle. We crossed the stream into Massachusetts!! Hard to believe I'm here already. We also passed the 1500 mile mark! Two huge milestones in one morning! A great day indeed.
The next climb, up to Mt Race, was gradual and we walked along the open ridgeline with great views for about a half mile. We still had Mt Everett to conquer, which wasn't as difficult as it looked on the guidebook profile but was still rocky and steep. We stopped for lunch at a picnic area at the bottom and a thru hiker from last year, Divo, was there with root beers for us! He was checking out the area for some trail magic this weekend...too bad we're going to miss it!
We planned for about 6 more miles but were stopped at a shelter getting water and Veto came up behind us! We've been doing low miles so they've caught back up to us. Fiber, Muffin Man, and Pappy trickled in behind him so we all took a break and visited for awhile...so good to see the crew again! They were only planning for about 3 more miles so Bear Bag and I decided to join them...so sad to think it could be our last night together! We did the downhill miles and came to a road where there was a spring listed in the guidebook. After some hunting we found the spring and set up camp right beside it. I had a typical Knorr side for dinner and have only breakfast left...I'll walk into town tomorrow with no food! First time for that and I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing. Another short day but I felt strong again and it was wonderful. Still looking forward to some rest though but it looks like tomorrow morning will be the final goodbyes...
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July 18

The morning was sunny despite the forecasted rain for this afternoon. We left camp at 7:30 for about 4 flat miles through a field, along roads, and by the Housatonic River. My feet got soaked in the field and stayed wet all day. The river was beautiful with a few waterfalls and once my morning ibuprofen kicked in my foot felt great! We stopped for an early lunch around 11 and the sky turned dark. It started to sprinkle as we were packing up and downpoured just as we started walking through an open field. I sprinted (hiker sprint of course) back into the woods to put on my rain gear. By the time I had everything adjusted the rain had stopped! We got sprinkled on a bit more early afternoon but the leaves protected us. We split up when we came to the road to Salisbury; Bear Bag needed to go to the outfitter. The last 4-ish miles included a steep climb that I totally rocked and then quite a bit of flat walking. I felt stronger today than I have in a long time and ended up going an extra mile to Brassie Brook Shelter. It started to rain as I was getting here but I made it before the brunt of it. I decided to shelter tonight because I thought it would continue raining but it's cleared off since then. Bear Bag and I are inside with Tractor, a section hiker, and a few more people are tented nearby. Tomorrow should be another short day, and then Great Barrington on Wednesday!
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July 17

We met our first southbounder today! Jason showed up at our campsite early this morning brown blazing (going out of your way to use a privy). He started about a month ago and told us some info about the trail ahead. Very neat to talk to someone who's been where we're going!
The morning was slow going and we did 6.6 sawtooth miles at only 2 miles per hour. We lunched at Pine Swamp Branch Shelter feeling completely exhausted and I finally admitted to myself that I didn't think I could push for Lee, MA. Well, not that I couldn't, but that I didn't want to kill myself trying. So, we decided we'll get to Great Barrington and get picked up there to go home for the wedding...we have a few short days ahead! 14, 14, and 4, after today's 12 and yesterday's 10. I feel a bit lazy and weak but I have had very little energy lately and don't want to push too hard. The only downfall is that it will be very hard to catch the others. We'll see...
We did 5.8 miles from the shelter to Belters campsite tonight, a beautiful area in a pine forest with a spring nearby and a privy with no walls. Where in the Blazes and HeBGB are here as well. Tomorrow there is a chance of rain and storms...something we've been lucky to avoid lately! We'll see what happens...worst case scenario, we dry out in Ohio, right? :)
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July 16

Four months on the trail!!
Bear Bag and I got a late start this morning and headed up the mountain to the ridgeline. The morning was hot and muggy and sweaty, sweaty, sweaty. We met a ridgerunner along the way who told us about trail magic down at the road in a few miles...trail magic!! She also told us about Silver Hill campsite and how there were nice tent spots and a porch swing, along with a water pump. Hmm...
On our way down the very steep and rocky St. Johns Ledges, we ran into the couple who was giving trail magic...friendly people! We made it to the road and they had left Gatorade, soda, and lots of snacks, so we indulged before heading up the flat trail along the beautiful Housatonic River. Not feeling very ambitious today we decided to stop at Silver Hill for the night. We washed up and did some laundry, enjoyed the swing, and are planning for an early night tonight as we have to make up the miles we didn't do today...
Today was the first day without the group; it feels a bit strange but I think it will really set in after a few days without them.
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July 15

You know how I used my freestanding pole last night? I woke up about 3 feet downhill from where I had originally set my tent! Ha! I woke sometime during the night to the sound of something on my tyvek groundsheet...mouse maybe? Luckily I couldn't find any damage. Before anyone left this morning we all got a group picture in case I don't see them again...very sad! We all got on the trail to head toward Connecticut. The trail crossed into CT and back to NY before crossing the border for good. I was pretty excited since I've never been to CT! Hello New England! We had a few climbs today, including one around 800 feet!...not very significant but larger than what we're used to. We crossed the beautiful Ten Mile River, running into Towns along the way, who I haven't seen since the Smokies!
Bear Bag and I got to the road to Kent around 4. The town is only .8 from the trail but we were going to try to hitch a ride anyway. There was a man walking toward us on the road carrying a fishing pole and as soon as he approached us he said, "You need a ride into town?" Yes we do!! Carl drove us to the outfitter but before we stopped he asked, "Do you like ice cream? My treat..." Seriously?! We told him that wasn't necessary but he insisted and took us to this fancy chocolate place and bought us each a large iced Belgian chocolate drink...SO delicious! He told us a bit about the area and drove us back to the outfitter. Talk about trail magic! Totally unexpected and very appreciated! Bear Bag's poles needed new tips but the outfitter was sold out so he'll have to wait, but he got some new socks and fuel for his stove. Our next stop was the grocery store for resupply. We were sitting outside packing our food and the whole gang showed up!..They had come from the laundromat. Mishka and Meehow, Towns, and Ramblin' Man were in town as well. We said goodbye to everyone as they are planning to take a zero tomorrow...time for us to get ahead! We got some dinner at an Italian place and headed back to the trail at 8. We walked about a half mile out and decided to call it a day. It's going to be strange to not see the group for awhile but hopefully we can catch them easily when we get back. Until then, it's a push for MA!
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July 14

Unfortunately, no quick hitch. (Read: no hitch at all...)
It was a chilly morning but the cooler weather was certainly welcome and felt wonderful! Bear Bag and I made quick time of the 3.5 miles to the road and started walking, thumbs out, toward Poughquag, NY. A busy road but no luck. There was supposed to be a grocery store 1.5 miles from the trail but the plaza we found only included a gas station for resupply. We stocked up on gas station junk and headed to a deli for a mid-morning lunch. We started the walk back to the trail and again had no luck hitching...friendly people who wave and honk but don't pull over! The rest of the trail was pretty flat and we made great time, arriving at the shelter before 6. A few of Pappy's friends brought us trail magic right to the shelter! Homemade pepperoni rolls, cinnamon rolls, and pudding, and watermelon and other goodies. Delicious! There aren't many good tent spots so I'm on a nice little hill and used my freestanding pole as there are lots of rocks around. We're heading into Connecticut and stopping in Kent to resupply tomorrow.
My sister is getting married next Saturday so I will be leaving the trail for 4-5 days. Bear Bag is coming with me and we are going to try to hike ahead of the group for a few days to make it easier to catch up later. So sad to think tomorrow may be the last time I see everyone!
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July 13

I left my vestibule unzipped all night and was comfortable; I only woke up once during the night! Bear Bag and I left camp second to last (to Rambling Man) and started the road walk back to the trail. We stopped at the park office to get water...much better than that from the bathroom sink! I stuck my thumb out but to no avail and we ended up walking the mile back. We had 15.8 trail miles to go today and stopped for lunch at RPH Shelter--such a nice place complete with bunks and some trail magic we missed out on! We did eat some dry Frosted Flakes with our lunch and we used some ice from the cooler for cold water...the thing I miss most out here! After lunch we had about 9 miles left which included a few steep but short climbs and a cross over I-84. My foot again bothered me all day with some sharp pain but mainly just a constant ache. I'm getting new shoes when I go home for my sister's wedding so I'm hoping that will help. In the meantime, I'm hiking on my "club foot" again.
It sprinkled lightly on us for about the last mile and we made it to Morgan Stewart Shelter to find everyone else plus Tippy Toes and Peru here. They all stopped at a small store today so Bear Bag and I are going to have to go into Poughquag in the morning for a short resupply. Hoping for a quick hitch!
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July 12

A hot day led into a hot and humid night...I left my vestibule open for ventilation but still got a lot of condensation. The morning was hot and we had heard that the high was 95...another hot, sticky day! The terrain today wasn't bad and we had originally planned for 19 miles but there was a state park about 12 miles away and we ended up stopping there instead...showers! Bear Bag and I got a hitch for the mile to the park and met up with everyone else: Colorado, Peru, Radar, Pappy, Fiber, Veto, Muffin Man, Tippy Toes, and Rambling Man. We're all camped in the thru-hiker section and we shared a bar of soap for showers. I did some laundry in the shower with me since I don't know when I will get to do real laundry next, and my clothes were getting pretty nasty! The water here tastes disgusting but we're all so thirsty we've been drinking it anyway. We have 16 miles to go tomorrow but it's supposed to be a little cooler, only 85!
My foot is more swollen today and was pretty painful again. It's so frustrating and I hope it heals itself soon. I'll just walk it off. :)
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July 11

Bear Bag and I were up by 4:15 and out of camp at 5:20...I've left camp in the dark before but last night was the first time I'd set up camp in the dark on this trip. We had about a mile and a half to the shelter and saw Pappy and Muffin Man, the only ones awake, as we passed through. The trail today was again lots of ups and downs--very exhausting! The others caught us with about 5 miles to go, and we all took a break on Bear Mountain where I shamefully splurged and bought a $2 Powerade. We headed down to the Bear Mountain rec center to wait for one of Veto's friends who was supposed to bring us trail magic! He brought sandwiches, crackers, hummus, fruits, cheese, soda...so many good things! It was wonderful and we ended up taking a nearly 3-hour break. We finally got back on the trail and passed through the trailside zoo and museum, seeing reptiles and a few mammals, including 2 bears. The lowest point of the trail is actually right in front of the bear cage...120 feet! Next we crossed the Hudson River on the Bear Mountain Bridge and followed the trail through several more ups and downs. Bear Bag and I made a pit stop for food at a gas station right off the trail and we all ended up at Graymoor Spiritual Life Center, a pavilion off the trail with a privy and a cold but refreshing and appreciated shower. Fiber's friend Taylor came to visit and she brought us all kinds of goodies...vegetables, strawberries, cookies, brownies...all delicious! My foot is a bit swollen and certainly sore. Whatever had healed itself from the original injury has definitely been unhealed and I'm really hoping it doesn't get as bad as it was before. It's been a long but wonderful day and tomorrow may be a short one--we're thinking of staying at a state park only about 12 miles away!
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Thursday, July 14, 2011

July 10

Bear Bag, Tippy Toes, and I left camp a little late this morning, around 7:30. We planned for 19.6 miles and the terrain was a bit more challenging than it has been...lots of short, steep, rocky climbs and descents that required some hand usage versus poles. Tippy Toes's mom was meeting her at a road crossing and we made the 10-ish miles by noon. She left and Bear Bag and I continued on. We stopped for lunch at a stream and headed on to the Lemon Squeezer, a very narrow section of the trail between two rock faces. I had to unbuckle my tent from the back of my pack in order to fit through! Immediately after was another rocky climb with one section that was literally rock climbing. There was an "easy route" around the mountain but being the purist that I am I had to follow the actual trail. The rock face was every bit of 7 feet tall and we hesitated a bit trying to find the best route up. I went first, throwing my poles up above, and climbed and crawled my way up...success--exhilarating! I've come to enjoy the rocky, boulder-y climbs that require more than just walking! We continued on through beautiful trail...grassy meadows on mountaintops and a forest of dense evergreens. New York really is beautiful! On one of the climbs I took a step,felt my left foot pop, and felt the all-too-familiar pain that I limped on for about 400 miles...just when it was starting to feel normal again! I was pretty upset and the pain was disheartening. I'm hoping it doesn't last and that my foot doesn't swell like it did the first time around...as of tonight it hasn't but it's so painful!..difficult to bend my foot so the limp is back...sigh.
We came to a road crossing and knew that .3 east was Lake Tiorati; the guidebook listed restrooms there so we decided to brown blaze to check them out. We ended up cooking dinner at the lake as well since the shelter has an unreliable water source. On our way back to the trail we saw what I think may have been a peregrine falcon fly by and light on a tree branch...beautiful! We didn't get back on the trail until almost 8 and still had 4.3 miles to go. We ended up stopped about 1.5 miles from the shelter but are planning to get up early and catch the others tomorrow!
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July 10

Bear Bag, Tippy Toes, and I left camp a little late this morning, around 7:30. We planned for 19.6 miles and the terrain was a bit more challenging than it has been...lots of short, steep, rocky climbs and descents that required some hand usage versus poles. Tippy Toes's mom was meeting her at a road crossing and we made the 10-ish miles by noon. She left and Bear Bag and I continued on. We stopped for lunch at a stream and headed on to the Lemon Squeezer, a very narrow section of the trail between two rock faces. I had to unbuckle my tent from the back of my pack in order to fit through! Immediately after was another rocky climb with one section that was literally rock climbing. There was an "easy route" around the mountain but being the purist that I am I had to follow the actual trail. The rock face was every bit of 7 feet tall and we hesitated a bit trying to find the best route up. I went first, throwing my poles up above, and climbed and crawled my way up...success--exhilarating! I've come to enjoy the rocky, boulder-y climbs that require more than just walking! We continued on through beautiful trail...grassy meadows on mountaintops and a forest of dense evergreens. New York really is beautiful! On one of the climbs I took a step,felt my left foot pop, and felt the all-too-familiar pain that I limped on for about 400 miles...just when it was starting to feel normal again! I was pretty upset and the pain was disheartening. I'm hoping it doesn't last and that my foot doesn't swell like it did the first time around...as of tonight it hasn't but it's so painful!..difficult to bend my foot so the limp is back...sigh.
We came to a road crossing and knew that .3 east was Lake Tiorati; the guidebook listed restrooms there so we decided to brown blaze to check them out. We ended up cooking dinner at the lake as well since the shelter has an unreliable water source. On our way back to the trail we saw what I think may have been a peregrine falcon fly by and light on a tree branch...beautiful! We didn't get back on the trail until almost 8 and still had 4.3 miles to go. We ended up stopped about 1.5 miles from the shelter but are planning to get up early and catch the others tomorrow!
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July 9

The stay at the hostel was great; we even got donuts this morning and a ride back to the trail! The morning was beautiful with the sun shining through the trees and the day started with a steep and rocky climb. After that the trail was pretty level but had a few steep sections where we had to climb with our hands to pull ourselves up. Bear Bag and I crossed into NY at about noon...state #9! So far I really like New York; something about the trail feels different and looks different. I felt great today as well! Mentally I felt better today than I have for a few weeks. There were lots of rocks today, mainly big boulders as opposed to small rocks, and I stood on the top of a mountain, felt the wind in my face, looked at the beautiful view, and felt so free and CAREfree...it was wonderful! We came to a road crossing and knew there was a creamery close to the trail so we headed down the road. We both enjoyed waffle cones filled with delicious ice cream. There were lots of people there and several asked us about our hike and how far we'd come, etc...the usual! We did 2 more miles to Wildcat Shelter and it's crowded tonight! Section hikers as well as thru-hikers, including people we haven't seen for awhile: Tippy Toes and Mishka and Meehow. It's a little reunion! Today was a great day and we have a big one planned for tomorrow: 19.6!
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July 8

Bear Bag and I got up at 5 this morning and were out of camp at 6:15. We had 6.6 miles to the road and another 2.4 into town. The mosquitoes were the worst they've been; we plastered ourselves with bug spray but were still getting swarmed and bitten. The trail was nice though; we even had a section of boardwalk to hike on for nearly a mile! We got to the road and began the walk into town. We'd heard that hitchhiking is illegal in NJ but stuck our thumbs out cautiously and got a ride in about 15 minutes...a pickup truck--the best hitch! Honestly, the feeling you get when someone pulls over to offer you a ride is easily one of the greatest feelings on the trail! We hopped into the back and were dropped off at the St. Thomas Hiker Hostel. Muffin Man was there (everyone else had gone to breakfast) along with Rambling Man, who we haven't seen for awhile. We showered, did laundry, got lunch at Burger King, resupplied, and made it back to the hostel in time to avoid the rain that had moved in. It's always so nice to be in town when it's raining! The afternoon was lazy; Veto and Bear Bag ran to the gas station and picked up some candy and they, Fiber, Muffin Man, and I played poker for a few hours. The rain continued all through the evening but should be gone for our hike out tomorrow!
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July 7

The morning began late and Bear Bag and I didn't leave camp until after 8! The morning was muggy already so we knew today was going to be a hot one. We took a side trail to the highest point in NJ (1803 feet), climbed the 200 steps to the top of the tower, and took a snack break. New Jersey has been beautiful; instead of Pennsylvania farmland we're seeing views of mountains and woods! We then stopped at High Top Shelter to fill up on water and were on our way again. We walked through a variety of settings today: rolling hills of farmland (looked like home!), a swamp with a boardwalk for a trail, green and rocky forest, and a swampy (read: mosquito infested) nature reserve. The water for Pochuck Mountain Shelter is a spigot on an abandoned house .4 before the shelter, so we stopped there to fill up and decided to cook dinner there as well. We washed up in the cool water (I actually feel kind of clean...) and had our dinner before climbing the mountain to the shelter. The rest of the group ended up going all the way into Vernon today since they couldn't find a good place to camp; they're unsure whether they will stay in town tomorrow or hike out, so our plans aren't set in stone. Either way, tomorrow should be a shower and laundry day!
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Friday, July 8, 2011

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July 6

My feet felt a little better this morning and I left camp with Fiber, Bear Bag, and Veto for about 3 miles to NJ 206. We made good time despite the rocks and made it to a coffee shop about an hour later. We fueled up on bagels and and Bear Bag and I made a stop at an outdoor shop for a bathroom break before heading back to the trail. The day was hot but the terrain flat and rocky. We stopped at a fire tower to enjoy the view and headed to Sunrise Mountain where we took a long lunch...such a pretty spot! We talked to a local who had lots of questions about our thru-hike and saw a lot of people out for section hikes. Our next stop was Mashipacong Shelter and we were in need of water...when we came upon the shelter we saw a few jugs there and got our hopes up, but unfortunately they were empty. The water was supposedly .6 miles down a trail so we resigned ourselves to the fact that we were going to have to walk it. We stashed our packs and started down the only path other than the AT, feeling pretty discouraged about the whole situation (the next water was at a shelter .4 off the trail and 3 miles away). We followed for a few minutes and then saw that the trail ended at a road...no water to be found. Even more discouraged and a little upset, we headed back to the shelter and planned to hike the 3 miles on about a quarter of a liter. Bear Bag looked at the shelter log and saw on the cover a note to check the bear box (metal box for your food at shelters in NJ) for water. Lo and behold, there was a huge jug inside about half full of potable water! Words cannot explain how much our spirits were lifted! We filled up, had a quick snack, and got on our way. The water fiasco had wasted quite a bit of time and it was almost 5 when we reached Rutherford Shelter. Not feeling like hiking 4.3 more miles to catch the group, we decided to stay here. Several other people have shown up and there are nice grassy campsites and a good water source close by. The mosquitoes are still a bother though! So nice to be sealed away in my tent. We are planning to catch up to the others on Friday in Vernon; time for bed now!
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July 5

The day began as normal. I left the outdoor center with Bear Bag for a 15-ish mile day. We passed the ridge where we saw the fireworks last night and walked along the ridgeline for most of they day. There are lots of big groups on the trail; we saw at least 3 today! Since we took 3 days off we're also seeing thru-hikers we haven't met before...sometimes I forget that there are a bunch of people still behind us. This afternoon we passed a man and a woman going southbound with no packs and they were hiking very quickly...later we talked to Stroller who said the woman was the one trying to set the record for the fastest AT hike. Pretty cool that we saw her doing it, especially if she does beat the record (currently 47 days I think?). We were planning to stop at Brink Road Shelter but when we got there the mosquitoes were TERRIBLE! They started swarming as soon as I set my pack down. We filled up on water and continued north to find a place to stop and camp along the trail. We came upon the others camped about a half mile away and stopped there as well. We cooked away from our camping area as the bears in NJ are known to be bothersome...I actually cooked dinner right in the middle of the trail! Later someone passed by and informed us that Muffin Man was back at the shelter! I texted him to come and find us but he had already set up camp and said he would catch us tomorrow. Later he showed up in our camp! Apparently a bear was getting pretty close to his tent so he packed up and moved on...so good to see him again; it's been since just after Waynesboro, VA!
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July 4

Another day of sleeping in!...I didn't get up until 8:30 again. The five of us spent most of the morning cleaning up the house and getting our bags packed up. Pappy and his wife came over mid-morning and we left at about 11 to head back to the trail. The Kittatinny visitors center where we left off was crowded with people for the holiday, and the trail near the parking lot was crowded as well. We planned for about 10 miles today to the Mohican Outdoor Center where thru-hikers can camp for free. The trail was every bit as rocky as Pennsylvania and the day was hot and muggy. We hiked passed Sunfish Pond and over rocky Kittatinny Mountain. There are several people camped here tonight, including thru-hikers Frodo and Hamburglar and a few section hikers. The center gave us free hamburgers, potato salad, and ice cream for dinner...great trail magic! One of the guys told us we could take a side trail up to the ridge to see fireworks tonight so Bear Bag, Fiber, Veto, Hamburglar, Frodo, and I did just that. Hiking without a pack was wonderful; we flew up the mountain! It took us about 20 minutes to reach the ridgeline and we could see fireworks all across the horizon. Very small, of course, but a neat setting to be sitting there watching them. We headed back at about 10 and again flew down the mountain without the weight of our packs. Today was a perfect day for coming out of 3 zeros...short and easy!
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Sunday, July 3, 2011

July 3

When is the last time I slept in until 8:30? Everyone was awake by 9:30 and Bear Bag cooked breakfast: pancakes, eggs, and bacon. It was raining this morning so we decided to take another day off...first triple zero! We feasted, relaxed, watched a movie, and I even took a nap!..very out of character for me. Basically we sat around all day and ate...I had four bowls of cereal for lunch! Cereal is one thing I miss on the trail; pop tarts for breakfast just don't quite do the trick. We watched a couple Seinfeld episodes and I started packing my pack up for tomorrow. I intended to wash my pot, spoon, and water bottles while I was here but I never got around to it. As gross as it sounds, I can't remember the last time I washed them...maybe Pearisburg, almost 700 miles ago? Haha! I tell myself that I've gone this long without washing them so what's another week, right? Standards are so low out here...
It's scary to think I'm in New Jersey already...where has the time gone? It seems like since Virginia the states have been flying by and instead of counting up the miles we've done we're counting down the miles we have left. It's a sad thing for me; inevitably the journey will end so I want to enjoy the time I have while it's still here. I'm leaving the trail in three weeks for my sister's wedding and I'm bummed about getting separated from the group I've hiked with for almost 1300 miles. Hopefully I will be able to catch them when I come back, although at this point that seems pretty daunting.
My body feels good from all the rest I've gotten; my left ("club") foot hasn't bothered me at all today but still looks a bit puffy. Whatever was wrong with it is obviously healing but I think I'm going to have a permanent bump on the top at the base of my toes. The top of my right foot has been bothering me again...or maybe I'm only noticing it since my left feels better. Some of the mobility has returned to my feet; on the trail I can sometimes barely bend my toes and my ankles are stiff, but everything feels much better today and is much more flexible.
The rest has been wonderful but I've done so much sitting for the past two days that I'm anxious to get back on the trail tomorrow. We're planning for a short day so we can take our time getting back into the swing of things!
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July 2

The zero day began exactly the way it was supposed to: I slept in until almost 7:30! Breakfast was 3 bowls of cereal and a donut. Veto and Fiber headed to the laundromat to wash their sleeping bags and Billy took Bear Bag to the post office to pick up a package. The morning was lazy but I finally got the motivation to set my tent up to dry out. Billy, Bear Bag, and I passed a frisbee around for awhile; we also found a partly flat basketball in the shed so I dribbled around with that for awhile in the road. It's been so fun to do some active physical activity! I seam sealed my tent once it was dry; maybe now it won't leak anymore? The afternoon was pretty lazy as well--I organized my food bag and took another shower. Veto's friends Jess, Kate, and Dan came over so we've been hanging out on the back porch and grilled some hot dogs and chicken for dinner. One of Veto's friend's parents came over with fireworks and sparklers so we had a little Fourth of July celebration. Such a great zero! We've been debating another zero tomorrow; we'll see how we feel in the morning!
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July 1

One of Veto's friend's parents gave us a ride to the Dover train station this morning and we caught the train into New York. The ride was about 75 minutes and we arrived at Penn Station to an unsurprisingly huge crowd...very overwhelming! We stepped outside of the station, which is underneath Madison Square Garden, and I was COMPLETELY overwhelmed! I'd never been to NYC; we went to DC a few weeks ago but weren't in the downtown area...I haven't seen a city in awhile! Lots of people and bustle. Our first stop was the Empire State Building...86 floors and a long elevator ride later we were at the top. The city was unbelievably huge! Buildings and streets extended to the horizon in each direction; we could see the Statue of Liberty as well. Veto needed to go to the bank and Fiber to the bookstore so we all planned to meet up at Times Square. Bear Bag and I stopped at the New York Public Library and saw some interesting things: a Beethoven manuscript, Gutenberg bible, one of only 5 copies of the Declaration of Independence, and lots more! We then walked to Times Square to look around and met up with Fiber and Veto there. Our next stop was the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We walked there from Times Square, passing Central Park and stopping for hot dogs along the way. We could have spent all day in the Met! Artifacts, weapons and armor, and lots of paintings and sculptures. We didn't even see it all! We took the subway back through town and met up with two of Fiber's friends at Heartland Brewery. We caught the 6:18 train back to Dover and Billy gave us a ride back to Veto's house. New York was fun but I don't think I could handle much more than a day! Tomorrow is another zero and hopefully a more restful one!
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Friday, July 1, 2011

June 30

The night was chilly and we woke to a heavy dew--lots of condensation! We only had about 7 miles down to the Delaware Water Gap and NJ border. We weren't expecting our ride until noon so we had plenty of time. I did well on my resupply this time out--the only food I had left going into town was a pack of ramen, a knorr side, and a bit of peanut butter. Since my pack was so light I decided to try the dangerous and difficult pack flip this morning--putting my pack on by flipping it over my head. I've seen it done and told myself I wanted to be able to do it before the trip was over...why not try it today? Bear Bag filmed the ordeal for me...an entertaining video for sure! The flip was somewhat successful after a few attempts but certainly wasn't pretty; I need more practice! Hopefully I can perfect it before Maine!
We finished the mainly downhill miles into town, crossed the Delaware River, and waited at the Kittatinny Visitors Center for our ride to come. Doc showed up (he had stayed at a hostel in town) and talked with us for awhile. A forest service employee came out of the visitors center to talk to us about our hikes as well...she even gave us homemade cookies and fresh strawberries and peas! Veto's friend Chris came to pick us up; Pappy's wife came as well and Fiber rode with her to Veto's house about 25 minutes away. First on the to-do list was eat so we ordered pizza...a stuffed meat pizza and a Sicilian with sausage and green pepper. Both amazing! We sat around catching up on Youtube videos we've missed out on for the last 3.5 months (haha) and then Chris took us to the grocery store for resupply. When we got back, Veto's friend Billy came over as well; he, Bear Bag, Fiber, Chris, and I passed a football around in the yard for awhile and enjoyed the nice evening. Later we watched a few episodes of Top Gear (Veto and Bear Bag have been raving about this show) and decided to call it a day around 11. We're taking the train into NYC tomorrow...I've never been there so I'm expecting a major culture shock going from the trail to the city!
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June 29

It stormed during the night but morning broke sunny. The short day started slow as the rocks were abundant; it took me two hours to complete the first 4.4 miles. After a short break with everyone else, we headed up the only climb for the day...a short but steep one! Pennsylvania has been pretty flat but what climbs and descents we've had have been very steep with no switchbacks. The rest of the miles were flat but annoyingly rocky. On Wolf Rocks, a series of boulders we climbed over, I stepped down and heard a rattle...snake! I'd stepped right in front of it and moved quickly away as soon as I realized what it was. The snake was underneath a rock and I could see the rattle shaking in the shadows. Scary! Tonight we're camping .3 miles past Kirkridge Shelter at a beautiful overlook. Tomorrow is a nero into the Delaware Water Gap, then double zero at Veto's parent's house in NJ!
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June 28

The stay at the hostel was enjoyable and we left to head back to the trail around 7. Fiber, Veto, and Pappy got a hitch first, and Bear Bag and I got one shortly after. The guy dropped us off a little ahead of the trail and we couldn't figure out where the trail went. We saw blazes at the intersection of three roads but they seemed to lead us in a circle. We wandered around for awhile, crossing the street several times, when a trucker stopped at the light told us the trail was just up the road. Okay, we'll try that way again....but no luck. Eventually we figured it out, after at least a half hour, and began the steep climb out of town...about a thousand feet over a little more than half a mile. Very rocky with big boulders that required some hand over hand climbing, but an enjoyable climb. Climbing on the rocks is a nice change of pace once in awhile! At the top we were treated to lots of blueberries and raspberries a bit farther on. The rest of the day was ridge walking so was fairly flat but had a few rocky sections. About a half mile before the shelter, we heard a rustling and looked to the left to see a bear running away from us! It stopped about 25 yards from the trail; the closest I've been to one so far! I could see the brown on its nose and could see the facial features clearly. We walked hesitantly past as the bear wasn't moving any farther. That makes nine bears! We're at Leroy A. Smith Shelter tonight; I'm tenting and hoping it doesn't storm as forecasted. Tomorrow is a short 13.8-mile day!
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June 27

The night was cool enough that the bugs didn't bother us sleeping in the shelter. The five of us left together for 8 miles to Palmerton, PA. We were planning to take a side trail 1.5 miles into town, but we met a ridgerunner along the way who told us the side trail was closed. Hmm...he said the road to town wasn't a very good place to hitch and was dangerous to walk, but that some people were hitching from a traffic light a bit farther up the trail and others were walking the train tracks into town. We opted to hitch, split up into two groups, and got quick rides into town...always exciting when someone pulls over to pick you up! We're staying at the Jail House Hostel, which is in the basement of a city building. There are bunks set up and a shower in the locker room of a gymnasium in the back of the building. Bear Bag and I found a flat basketball and shot around for awhile; it felt so good to jog around! We all ate lunch at Tony's, resupplied at the local grocery store (who gives hikers a free apple!), and visited the laundromat. I washed a towel I've been using to wipe off my tent and it completely fell apart in the washer and got all over everything else! The drying helped some but I still have fuzz all over my clothes! We ate dinner at Bert's and got cookies from the store for dessert. I've eaten so much today, but it's been everything I crave: pizza, ice cream, a cheeseburger, fries, and cookies. Tomorrow we're leaving town for 15-ish miles without water. The forecast is calling for strong storms and hail tomorrow...should be an interesting day!
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