1,000 Miles Later
Well, it’s been awhile guys. It’s been almost 1,000 miles since I’ve updated. Out here on the trail, time does not exist. Time is a measure of miles for some, smiles for others, but to me, it’s everything in between both of those. I haven’t updated since Damascus for one reason or another, but at this point, I can’t imagine having it another way. I’ve been tired. I’ve been ecstatic on life. I’ve been dreaming of anything but the heat. Ive still been enjoying life out here just as much, if not more than I was at the start, but sometimes, writing isn’t on my to do list. It looks like I have a bit to fill you in on then, huh?
Today is day 139 of living, breathing, and everything in between on the Appalachian Trail. Since I’ve last updated, I’ve crossed off several more states, formed entirely new friendships, experienced true generosity and genuineness from complete strangers, traveled off trail to visit cities along the way, and most importantly, continued my journey north. I am now just outside of Kent, CT.
Taking a look back through everything since Virginia, I can’t help but reminisce on each state. After finally getting out of Virginia and hitting the unofficial halfway point at Harper’s Ferry, I took six days off to go to Firefly Music Festival with one of my best friends from back home. Coming into Harper’s, I had pushed my body to the limit, crushing 163 miles in 7 days. After the festival, my friend Robo and I cruised through WV, MD (probably the most underrated state), and the first half of PA.
Having a familiar face come to the trail and experience life at its finest with me was one of the best experiences to date. For me, the stretch from Harper’s to Duncannon couldn’t have been better. Before the rocks became prominent, the terrain was gorgeous. The trail was flat, well packed with hydrated soil, free of rocks trying to break your ankles at every turn, and filled with stunning vistas and ridges. The scenery through MD is extremely similar to the terrain that makes up a lot of North East Ohio. I live near Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and all I could think about were the similarities. Everything after Duncannon was complete and utter chaos up until Delaware Water Gap. The rocks through the latter half of PA tore up not only my shoes, my ankles, my mental state, and my spirits. It wore me down, it shattered every dream I had of the trail, and it almost broke me. Almost.
Luckily, I was able to regroup and begin my recovery stage after hiking solo for nearly three weeks. By the way, hiking solo is probably one of the most conflicting experiences of the trail. Part of me embraced every bit of it. Working at my own pace, taking in the solitude of each passing day, learning more and more about myself every minute, but don’t be fooled, it can also wreak havoc on your mental state. After a few weeks, all I could think about was having a conversation while hiking to pass the time. After making new friendships and forming another trail family, we decided to push through PA to get as far away from the rocks as possible. We put our miles in, made the effort, and arrived at the Delaware Water Gap.
When arriving in DWG, we immediately took advantage of the diner at the corner of town and indulged in an amazing breakfast. Quickly, we caught word of the church hostel and mosied on over to enjoy a rest day. Peter Pan, Monarch, Beehive, Calves and I headed out the following day to make our way into NJ. Finally. Finally, the rocks would stop, or so we thought. Just as the rumor that Virginia is flat spreads on trail, the rumor isthat NJ is where the rocks cease. Also false. Don’t believe a word anyone says about the trail, one will only be disappointed. Experience it first hand.
New Jersey, although not rock free, was a breath of fresh air. The land seemed full, almost as if every gap between rock was suddenly filled with soil. Where boulder fields would normally sit, a pond would be awaiting in a low hanging cloud of fog. Don’t get me wrong, the trail itself was still just as threatening as before, but the idea that I was finally out of PA conquered reality that week. We cruised through NJ, only hiking for three days to get out of the state.
Confidently, we strolled into New York. Dehydrated due to lack of consistent water on the trail, exhausted from the long days, and worn down from constant exposure to the 90 degree heat, we continued to push through.
New York is absolutely beautiful. Although beautiful, it is dreadfully dry. We have been in a dry spell for some time now, but when all you can think about is water, it’s hard to focus on the beauty. As the dehydration set in on the way to Bear Mountain, I began to wonder if water even existed any longer. My good friend Monarch and I were hiking together at the time, and at every rock wall, he muttered my thoughts, “We need to get there. We need water.” Water is not easily attainable from the stretch leading up to the mountain top. Every creek was dry, every stream littered with rocks once submerged under water, and every road crossing free of a water cache. I’ve never experienced the moment where the human body ceases to sweat, up until that day. I began to experience a sharp pain in my temple, my vision was blurred, my muscles began to tense due to the lack of water, and I felt delirious. I didn’t think I could go any further until suddenly, the mirage of what looked like a vending machine appeared right before the summit. We both began to sprint, eyes wide at the thought of water or any liquid we could find. Disregarding or wallets, we both indulged in a Powerade or two. “I could probably drink at least three more of these.”, Monarch hastily said after downing every last drop. At that point, we both looked at each other as if it was the closest we’ve ever been to experiencing a near death situation. In all reality, we were extremely dehydrated, close to needing fluids main lined into us, but not in any pertinent danger. After that, a trip into the big apple was just what we needed. Calves called up his grandma, and we headed in from the Manitou train station.
The last half of NY was riveting. Tough climbs paved the way for gorgeous views and swimming holes that filled our hearts with happiness. We beat the heat by napping throughout the day, and hiking into the evening. The miles came swift and easy, completely contradicting the first half of NY.
As mentioned, I am now in Kent, CT, the first town in the state. I plan on cruising through this state and MA to get to Vermont where the mountainous regions lie that I miss so dearly. Don’t get me wrong, the last few states have been gorgeous, but I miss being above tree line.
Now that I’ve caught you up to where I’m at, I’ll let you in on a not so much secret. It keeps getting better. The weather is getting cooler now, the climbs are getting harder, the mountains more prominent, the water (eh, let’s not talk about the water), and the people. The people are continuously surprising me at every corner. The amount of people willing to help thru hikers astonishes me. Non obligatory acts of kindness fill my heart on a day to day basis, and truly restores my faith in the human race. As time progresses out here, I see friends summiting Katahdin already, and I cannot imagine what they are feeling, but I’m not sure I’m ready for that just yet. I will say, I’ve mastered the very fine art of completing a sub 6 month thru hike while taking a zero at every chance. It’s hard to deny a chance at an opportunity that wouldn’t normally present itself elsewhere. Take the time to enjoy your surroundings. What’s the sense of rushing through one of the best experiences of your life? I’ve found my place out here, and I hope that everyone reading this has found theirs wherever that may be.
Nine states down, five to go. Maine, I’m coming for you, at a moderate pace though. Not too fast, not too slow. See you soon.
For more regular updates and photos, you can follow me on IG at: @nathanabauman
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