Bones, Sweat & Tears

Finally on a bus back to NY

Dear Reader,

Spoiler alert: in case you hadn’t guessed, I’m off trail.

This is the post I didn’t want to write.

The post I’ve been dreading, in fact, because who wants to read a hiking blog from someone who’s not hiking?

Anybody else feeling this one? From Dan & Whit’s General Store in Norwich VT

Here I have to give a shout-out to those stalwart few who’ve written to say, “Where are you? I miss your posts! Please keep writing.”

You are ramen-bomb fuel for my soul. Your kindness and readership and encouraging words are trail magic from afar. Thank you.

So here’s the headline-

Hiker finds herself starring in the show that no one wants to stream:

“ER-blazing on the AT: The Sequel”

Dr. Josh in the ER

It’s common parlance on trail to throw out terms for all the funny and varied ways people hike:

“Yellow blazing” = getting vehicular transportation to ride past parts of the trail

“Pink blazing” = following a girl you like

“Banana blazing” = following a boy you like (blue blazing is already taken, as that’s the color that leads you to water sources and spur trails)

“Aqua blazing” = kayaking or canoeing part of the Shenandoahs by way of the river that runs alongside the AT

“Bougie blazing” = staying in so many hostels and hotels that you barely ever sleep in the woods

And yes, even “deli blazing” = whereby you sub-sandwich your way through New Jersey and New York while carrying a nearly-empty food bag

Suffice it to say, I seem to be a pioneer in the practice of ER-blazing: the unfortunate habit of ending your trek in the emergency room.

Orthopedic follow-up with PA Nicole

Haven’t we been down this road before?

Slick rock falls, rescue vehicles, emergency rooms, and x-rays. Fractures and hospital bills, PT and ice packs. Couldn’t it be different this time? A more creative end?

But let’s go back to the beginning.

Or rather, the extra innings, a week after the ER.

“Are you homeless?”

The blond, curly-haired woman peers over her glasses at me, eyes narrowing. She looks to be in her late-50’s, working the evening shift at this medium-cheap motel. She glares at me like I have just brought five bags of garbage into her mildew-smelling lobby. The air inside feels sticky and damp, with no air-conditioning on this 90-degree day.

”Homeless?” I say.

“You know, a … displaced person.”

I get a mental picture right then of what I must look like: a small 40-something woman, slightly disheveled, arm in a sling, pack on her back, wheeling a suitcase in one hand and a dog leash in the other.

I have spent the last six hours on eight city buses (they’re free) all over Hanover (NH) and Norwich (VT)- trying to get luggage, dog food, dry clothes, and lodging.

Undoubtedly, I smell like sweat, dirt, exhaustion, and tears.

But it’s only then that I actually feel them coming out- saltwater pressed behind my eyes.

“What?” I stammer. “No. I mean, yes. Like, sort of? Not homeless. Just, I guess I’m kind of displaced because I was hiking the Appalachian Trail? And broke my arm and had to wait for hospital follow-up appointments and I’m trying to get home but there’s no trains out of Vermont because of flooding and they won’t let me rent a car one-way so I booked this room online and I just need a place to stay for a night before I get to the camper-trailer-van from Airbnb outside of town but no I’m not homeless, I just…”

“You can’t stay here.” She cuts me off.

“But….” My voice trails, my forehead aches, and my broken elbow throbs. She is not impressed with my tale of woe. We are not near the white blaze glory of trail culture. She is not familiar with the concept of thru-hiking.

I can see how, through her wire-rimmed lenses, she sees only a problem to be assessed, not a woman to be helped, let alone a fallen warrior to be welcomed. “This is reality,” I think. No more thru-hiker hero status.

To be fair, I do look more like a miniature crab carrying my life in every limb, or at best a wet hobbit, than I do an adventure athlete.

“You can’t stay here with your dog,” she maintains.

“But I booked my room and paid already,” I say. “Your website says ‘dog-friendly’ for certain rooms.”

“Well, I have to swab his cheek, then,” she says, and slowly pulls out what appears to be a Covid test. She explains she needs a DNA sample from my dog Ollie “in order to track down any damage he causes.”


“Any dog waste we find on the property, we take a sample of it and send it to the lab and if we trace it back to you, we charge you $250.”

I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry. They can’t get their booking system or AC working but they have an advanced DNA poop-tracking device?

Ollie affirms the absurdity of this and adamantly refuses the swab. He looks up at me like, “I came all the way from a shelter in Texas for this?”

I ask if maybe she has a treat we can bribe him with?

“Ma’am, you don’t have to stay here,” she glowers.

It was a long eighteen hours in that establishment. The next morning, I hustle Ollie far away for his bathroom needs, making a grand show of the waste bag in my hand.

My friend Mara picks me up for Mediterranean lunch, and I am slowly revived into a non-displaced person:

A woman on her way home.

How to avoid injuries on trail- a few pro-tips:

1. Train hardcore for a year.

2. Be 25 years old or younger.

3. Carry a pack that’s less than 10 pounds.

4. Avoid all wet rock.

1-4 not possible?

5. Stay home, watch “Ted Lasso,” and believe from afar.

(In other words, there’s no fool-proof way to avoid injuries. But I do have two practical tips I learned the hard way, shared later in this post).

“But Cari, what happened?”

Call it déjà vu.

Some of you know I injured myself on the AT back in 2019, with a broken ankle from slipping on an exposed rock ridge during a thunderstorm:

July 22, 2019- Newton Memorial Hospital, NJ

Now I start the trail on every section hike with a keen awareness that my body’s not made of steel. Injuries can threaten any hiker at any time.

But with 150 newly-logged miles of Vermont behind me, I wake up on July 5th, 2023, ready to go. It’s my birthday! I am hiking! The sun is shining! I only have two days of hiking till I get to Hikers Welcome Hostel, and from there it’s on to the Whites!

I start at Lyme-Dorchester trailhead and head for Smarts Mountain. I don’t know what not-so-smart moment awaits.

Trail Angel Bill drops me off at the trailhead

I ascend Lambert Ridge and am greeted with a gloriously bright horizon:

I mix a Gatorade packet the Florida boys left me when they finished Vermont. I call my friend Maria. I sit and eat a snack atop the ridge. I take photos of my sweet Ollie, now a bona fide trail dog:

We’re in New Hampshire. Next comes Maine. Anything’s possible!

Yes, under tree line the terrain is still wet. And yes, maybe I packed a few too many snacks. But what’s a birthday without a maple walnut cookie?

I pride myself on having “maple-blazed” my way through the state of Vermont- maple lip balm, maple seltzer, maple salad dressing, maple beer, maple ice cream.

I savor my last maple treat and stand up to hike. My fern-expert friend sends a text: “Send photos of the ferns there,” and I do.

Where the green fern grows

Quick fern story: when I was a kid, I loved making things. In particular I was obsessed with arts and crafts activity books at the library, including one nature-themed volume called Snips and Snails and Walnut Whales.

One of the projects in it I always wanted to make was a wax cube candle with a fern inside. It seemed simple enough- you just find a beautiful fern, dry it out, and pour melted clear wax in a square mold around it.

There was only one problem- I couldn’t find a fern. “I don’t think we have those here (in Kansas),” Mom said. “Maybe we can get a fake one at Michael’s.”

But I did not want a faux fern. Why would the craft call for an ingredient that couldn’t be found? The idea that botanical realities existed beyond the bounds of Overland Park, Kansas, did not occur to me.

Were there actual lands out in the great wide yonder, fantastical forests- where real ferns grew in abundance?

Now every time I see a blanket of ferns on the AT, I think, “My childhood self must’ve sensed something. Like she knew one day she’d do more than preserve a dried fern in wax; she’d walk through fields and fields of living ferns, waving her on for 2,000 miles to Maine.”

Sometimes we’re drawn to the smallest signpost of something- an arrow pointing in the direction of the truest most beautiful thing awaiting us. A little sighting that beckons us on toward our ultimate destination.

I think that’s what faith has always felt like for me. A leaf from another landscape.

Frederick Buechner (paraphrasing Paul Tillich) writes, “Here and there even in our world, and now and then even in ourselves, we catch glimpses of a New Creation, which- fleeting as those glimpses are apt to be- give us hope both for this life, and for whatever life may await us later on.”

A New Creation

Speaking of spirit and God and new creation, my day started with Reverend Jenny treating me to breakfast in Hanover.

Clergy women have an uncanny way of finding and supporting each other, like little magnet pieces pulled in for a hug, and Rev. Jenny was no exception. She had come highly recommended by trail friends of mine who stayed with her in 2019.

A modern-day mystic-activist, there is nothing Rev. Jenny can’t do to uplift the people of Norwich. She drives a school bus, hosts hundreds of hikers, and helps advocate for people experiencing homelessness. She studies art and farming and the UN 2020 goals and is changing the world one breakfast at a time. All while running a church. She also writes her sermons a full week in advance, which is basically unicorn-status for pastors.

With Jenny’s blessing in tow, I set out for the trail that morning optimistic and ready.

Taking a photo of ferns on Lambert Ridge is the last thing I remember before securing my phone in a pocket, looping the trekking pole straps around my wrists, and heading up Smarts Mountain.

Next thing I know, I moan a slow motion “Nooooooo…” as my foot slips on a sheet of wet rock about the length of a children’s slide, my legs give way, I fall back, my hand stubbornly sticky in the trekking pole strap, and all my body weight + pack weight comes crashing down on the rock, landing squarely on the inside of my right elbow. Ollie rushes right over to me, nuzzling my arm and looking up at me with great concern.

I let out a moan of pain but promptly get back up. “You’re okay, you’re okay,” I insist, trying to convince myself to keep going, willing the whole thing to be nothing more than a bad bruise.

But 15 minutes later, my attempt to keep hiking feels thwarted at best and foolish at worst. My arm swells, painful tingling sensation shoots down toward my wrist and hand, and I compare my right arm to my left: the right one protrudes out with swelling and possible deformity.


I call my sister-in-a-law, a doctor of nursing who’s my go-to consultant on injuries, but there’s not enough cell service to reach her.

This is it, I think.

I envision arm surgery, weeks in a cast, trying to find a place to stay. I hope this isn’t the end, but I know all too well it might be.

This is not the “New Creation” I imagined becoming on this Appalachian Trail summer. I wanted to emerge from these 600 miles a more peaceful, grounded version of myself- a woman with clarity and purpose about her future, and more vision for her community off trail. Someone more creative, kind, flexible, and strong than when I started-

Not another broken, injured, brittle-boned sojourner. This is not the thing, I thought. This cannot be happening again.

(Sigh). Sure.

Holding my arm against my chest, I hike up slowly to a higher elevation where I can get enough cell service to call Trail Angel Bill from Hanover- the same man who dropped me off just hours earlier at the trailhead.

It so happens he’s also a doctor, and I pray the call goes through and that he might be available. He answers quickly, and we make plans to meet down at the parking area in a little over an hour.

I will say that back-tracking those two-plus miles down the mountain were some of the longest miles of my life. As if I were pledging allegiance, I kept my elbow bent and hand over my heart- the only position that seemed to lessen the swelling.

I carried both trekking poles in my left hand, and carefully placed every step, focusing all my energies on not falling again. Ollie seemed to guide me down the trail, deftly avoiding wet rock and leading me toward the safest route.

Alone on the mountain I could concentrate, breathe, and compose a song in my head to distract from the pain:

“Get me down the mountain / so I can be rescued. / Get me down the mountain / and bring me back to you. / I must look oddly patriotic, but here’s the truest part / I’d take a broken bone most any day  / over a broken heart.”

And somehow coming up with those country-twang lyrics helped focus my attention enough to accomplish one last mission for my Appalachian Trail hike: getting down safely.

Then I knew I could get to a hospital. In that moment, receiving medical attention meant way more to me than finishing my hike. That’s how you know you’re really hurt.

Evidence that demands a verdict

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Except… if it is.

In the Dartmouth-Hitchcock ER, Bill waits outside with my dog, and Dr. Josh delivers the verdict-

It’s broken.

Specifically, my olecranon (elbow). Syllable emphasis on the “ek.” It sounds electric and Greek and vaguely robotic.

I am feeling none of these things but the doctor says, “Hey, this is minor! You’ll probably be back on the trail in no time.”

I’ve been cancelled

I’m not sure Dr. Josh understands exactly what the AT is, though, because later in the online MyChart report, his voice-to-text dictation makes me chuckle:

“We know that you are hiking the Appalachian Trail,” misreads as “We know that you are taking the cancellation trail.”

Yep. Sounds about right. I’ve just been cancelled.

On a positive note, though:

I am alert! And oriented: to person, place, and time. This has a kind of Zen koan feel to me. Better yet, my behavior, thought content, and judgment are all deemed “normal.”

Ha! I think. “Little do they know…”

Let the reconfiguring begin

Dr. Bill and his wife Sarah have me over for dinner that night, complete with birthday cake and candles! At this point I’ve forgotten there’s anything to celebrate, but am genuinely blown away by their creativity and kindness:

I make a wish… to return to trail

From there it’s back to the Norwich Inn (ten out of ten recommend!)

Photo is actually the week before the broken arm; me with Innkeeper Josh

And from there, follows a string of generous rides, rooms, meals, company, and commiseration.

Trail angels and saints

Photo montage interlude

Carl, Cary, Audible, and Sonny. More fun in Moretown. (VT)


Lunch with Cary, Rev. David, and Nancy- friends in Barre VT


Montpelier VT- hours before the huge floods


This should’ve been a sign unto me…


“Easy Street” – off trail in Montpelier at the same time as me


Not just a sign, but how Cary & Carl live


My friend Amanda swears my broken-arm bookstore-therapy titles have a theme…


Get you a friend who drives out not once- but thrice- to come meet you in all your lost locations- and remind you that you’re more than your broken elbow. Thank you, Mara.

A few actual injury prevention tips


Someone asked me this week, “Looking back, is there anything you wish you’d have done differently? Anything you think might’ve prevented the fall or break?


I am convinced that two things would’ve made a big difference:

1. Not having my hands in the straps of the trekking poles, so that I could’ve quickly dropped them and braced my fall back with my hands.

2. Wearing my La Sportiva Ultra Raptor shoes, rather than Hoka Speedgoats. La Sportiva shoes are heavier and more structured, but their tread (they’re an Italian rock climbing shoe company, so they’re experts in slippery rock) is superior to the Vibram rubber found on most trail runners.

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor- recommended to me at the climbing store I used to work at

A few tips on caring for the injured

Keri, aka “Moss Queen,” has the gift of always knowing just what to say.

What I treasured the most
What meant the most was friends who didn’t even ask what I needed, but just did something. They showed up when I was still in the trenches.

When I didn’t yet know where I was going, but it wasn’t back to trail- they were willing to drive an hour or two and rearrange their plans, just to meet me for lunch, or host me, or invite me to music shows that got my mind off things.

I also have a friend Amanda who is PhD-level amazing at sending the perfectly-timed postcard, handmade card, or homemade tiny gift. The fact that she sends them all the way from Canada makes it mean even more. Her cards are like little messages in a bottle that say, “I see you. I know this mattered.”

I want to remember to do these things for others, too.

Big Emotions

Thank you, Erika DeVries in Kingston

There’s no way around it. Any injury or setback leaves you with all the feels. No shortcuts. Big emotions need big time to process. And sometimes writing down words. And talking to people who get it. People who say, “What’s the hardest part? What do you long for right now? What kind of pop tarts do you like?” (Frosted cherry).

You can be healing and hurting and hopeful all at the same time. You can be proud and grateful and embarrassed and annoyed- that you only got to do part of the thing you came to do. You can be confused and worried and disoriented, not knowing where you’ll live for the next two months.

And then there’s the big emotions at night-

Big emotions at night are deeper and darker than big emotions by day. The feeling of missing out, the wishing you were asleep in your tent, the sense of loneliness and isolation and dread. The wondering whether you’ll ever make it to where you thought you were going. Not just on the trail, but in life.

If there’s anything the trail teaches you- it’s to just keep walking. Even when your behavior, thought content, and judgment feel more like “wildly off the rails” than anything resembling normal.

Keep walking, trusting that weather shifts and blisters heal and the people behind you are just as worth meeting as the ones ahead of you.

Keep walking, collecting glimpses of a New Creation that are bound to- however faintly- appear.

It didn’t have to be this hard

Last week my friend Josh said, “Cari, why didn’t you call me? I tried to reach you. I would’ve come picked you up and brought you back here, and you could’ve skipped all the buses and motels and camper vans and unnecessary suffering. I could’ve done it easily in one day, and found a way for you to spend a day or two back at the church house, while you looked for a place to land till September.”

He couldn’t believe I went through all that, rather than call for help. And I couldn’t believe that asking someone to drive eight-plus hours in a day was a doable ask.

Ollie doesn’t apologize for asking for what he wants and needs. He lives in the expectation of being loved.

What I would’ve missed

But here’s the thing. If I’d skipped that last week in Vermont/New Hampshire, I never would’ve known what it feels like (even for a moment) to be seen as homeless and worthless, a societal cast-off.

I never would’ve learned how to catch the bus to Target with Jerry and Gladys and Frank and the woman who loved my dog. I would’ve missed their jokes and the way they helped each other on and off with the groceries.

I would’ve missed Lisa with the several missing teeth, sitting behind me, who invited me to her church on Sunday where she sings in the praise band.

I would’ve missed Stacy the cleaning lady, telling me how to make my transfer and where to go for a free meal at the soup kitchen. (Not because I asked, but because maybe I looked hungry?)

“They won’t ask you any questions,” she said. “They have good sandwiches, and they’ll feed your dog too.”

Airbnb, camper van style

I would’ve missed walking the hour in the rain from the camper van I was staying in, to the only restaurant in town open on a Sunday- where I shared a table and barbecue with FEMA workers who’d flown in from Las Vegas to help flood victims in Vermont. I would’ve missed their stories of rescues and insights into surviving a disaster.

I would’ve missed, in other words, these small but vital moments of humanity:

Of being not “Cari the thru-hiker,” or “Cari the pastor,” or “Cari the yoga teacher, bookseller, blogger, sister, daughter, friend” – but Cari in a compression sleeve and arm sling, Cari with the mess of pack and leash and dog and roller bag, trying to navigate an unfamiliar town.

Just a fellow rider on the bus, wounded and wandering and needing help pulling the yellow cord to tell the driver to stop.

What I got in that week of being lost and alone and injured was humbling and heartening.

An unexpected “trail family” of people who know what it is to be tired and hungry and without transportation, who know how to find trail magic and ask for help, who readily lend a hand and share a snack because it’s the only way we all survive.

By now you know, it was never just about the trail

Back in NY, outside a European Tea Haus that is magic

Here’s what I’ve been wondering, since the hike and fall and aftermath of it all-

What if our communities had networks of “trail angels,” not just to help hikers, but to assist anyone who needed a ride or a meal or a safe place to crash?

What if our churches and neighborhoods treated people less like the gatekeeper at the motel desk, and more like the welcome of “You’re one of us” like those on the bus?

What would it look like to create experiences of “trail family” out in the world?

Where people connect and walk together in life and depend on each other, across generations and politics, age and religion, race and sexuality?

Where people swap food and stories and bandaids and make sure everybody gets to a shelter site at night?

A parting word

At Hikers Welcome Hostel, in Warren NH. I stayed there a night, several weeks after the injury, so I could go collect my packages of food and gear at the post offices I never got to hike to.

Here is what I want to say

Maybe, even with 400 miles remaining, I did complete the hike I was meant to hike.

For now, anyway.

Remaining sabbatical time to trek the Hudson Valley with friends who bring homemade protein balls? Yes please! Thank you, Katie.

Maybe, in finishing the great states of Massachusetts and Vermont, and dipping a toe into New Hampshire, I got to release what I needed to let go of-

Not least of all my illusions of preparedness, competence, and self-improvement. Of loves lost and loves not found and loves deepened (I’m looking at you, Ollie).

Catskills summit this week- relearning my own region

Maybe I didn’t complete the AT, and maybe I am months or years from finishing New Hampshire and Maine (I’m still coming for you, Katahdin!), but I have to wonder if these faces and voices and bus rides along the way aren’t somehow leaves from another landscape –

dancing like a chorus of ferns,

singing of a New Creation.


Signing off from spaghetti night at the cabin,

Sprout 🌱

and Ollie, who is not mad about this whole back-to-civilization thing:



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Comments 33

  • Jeff : Aug 9th

    No way, Cari, you partially ruined my morning!!!! I stumbled (pun intended) upon your posts last week. Funny thing is I got a little bit of church and a little bit of humanity in each and everyone. I always believe that it is about the path we walk and live and a stepping stones God puts in front of us especially when bad things happen. Right, God is living and caring, he just wants you to figure things out sometimes, but you don’t need no figuring out. Your story reminded me of a statue that was presented to me at the beginning of a retreat, it is called homeless Jesus. I won’t say more on that. I would love to hear one of your sermoms in person. Our vicarious walk is over for now, I guess. Please write a book. Please heal without any problems. Give Ollie a hug, you’ve given him a home! Walk gently, peacefully and spiritually. Thank you for walking into my life and yes, finished maybe not, Trail Magic? Yes, you are exactly that. Peace my sister and see you somewhere!!!!!!!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 5th

      Oh Jeff, thank you for this kind and heartfelt message- it truly cheers my soul. I’m grateful you found my blogs worth reading, and for your virtual travel companionship. Yes, any time you are in Woodstock, NY- do come visit the Dutch Reformed Church in the center of town, and I will be preaching every Sunday morning at 10! And sorry for partially ruining your morning :-D, haha!

  • Sue Ulrich : Aug 9th

    Thank you so much for sharing the ups and downs and inbetweens of this whole adventure. I look forward so much to seeing you again next month. I just love your honesty. I have so much to learn from you!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 5th

      What a kind message, Sue! Thank you for it, and for following along with my journey on trail. Looking forward to seeing you soon, and enjoying that women’s ministry idea together!! Enjoy your final weeks of summer 😀

  • Theresa Gorski : Aug 9th


    Lady I am so proud to know you. You have woven together each thread of your experience into the kind of tapestry that becomes a blanket to comfort the soul, far more meaningful day to day than the perfection of one that hangs.

    I salute you for your vulnerability and your strength. Your brokenness and resilience. Your insights and your ability to write it in a way that I’m there with you, invisible hand on the shoulder in support.

    Brava and hell ya to you Friend! 👏🏻🙌🏻


    • Cari Pattison : Sep 5th

      Oh Theresa, thank you for this!!! I so cherished meeting you at one of Maia’s incomparable writing retreats, and wonder if you’ve been back to Omega at all, or plan to? It means so much to me, to hear from a fellow writer I admire, that my work spoke to you too. And I love that metaphor of the tapestry that’s a blanket, not just one that hangs. I hope you are continuing your exquisite memoir writing, and would love to connect again someday- on zoom or in person! Peace, friend.

  • Papjack : Aug 9th

    Thanks, Cari. Truly inspirational. Hope you continue sharing your experiences along the LT (Life Trail), of which the AT was only a section. God bless. Safe journey.

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 5th

      Thank you Papjack- I love that term: “LT” = Life Trail. May it be so!!

  • Dottie Rust : Aug 9th

    Cari, honest & humble…glad you’re alive & willing to share your trek. That little dog’s eyes says it all: you are the most important human in his world.

    Heal well & carry on…you will finish!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 5th

      Thank you so much, Dottie! You must be a fellow dog-lover 😀

  • Jim (Shivers’ Dad) Baker : Aug 9th

    Just a quick comment… really sorry about your injuries. Please do not recommend, however, that to successfully hike the AT, a person needs to be 25 or younger and carry a pack of 10 pounds or less – even if that was meant in jest. I hiked the AT at age 63/64 and my pack weighed 40 pounds. Almost half the thru hikers I met were in their 20s or younger, almost half in their 50s or older.
    – Jim

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 5th

      Thanks for the note, Jim. And you are quite right! Sorry my attempt at humor didn’t land. Happy hiking!

  • Jude : Aug 9th

    ……here’s to all you didn’t miss…
    while missing you here….

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 5th

      Thank you, Jude- amen and amen! I feel I got to experience the things I most needed to… And I look forward to reconnecting with you very soon! XO

  • Alex Barnett : Aug 9th


    Remember it is the journey not the destination. You have had a remarkable journey. I love your congregation gave you a sabbatical to continue on your journey. I am sure that your experiences will help with your pastoring your flock.

    If you are ever the Chapel Hill area of NC you would love to meet you.

    Peace be with you.

    Alex and Joy Barnett

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 5th

      Thank you, Alex and Joy, for reading my blogs! And yes, I do feel indeed blessed to have received this time of sabbatical. Duly noted- if I’m ever near Chapel Hill, I’ll look you up! Sincerely, Cari

  • Thomas J : Aug 9th

    Your killing it! I’ve been going through a hard time myself lately and have found you to be a true inspiration. I’ve been considering leaving everything behind to go in search of my true self. If and when you decide to get back on trail I’d really enjoy hiking with you and Ollie if at all possible!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 5th

      Thomas J, don’t give up! Thank you for your honesty, and I’m sorry for the hard time you’ve been navigating. May things clear up sooner rather than later, and may your journey outdoors- toward simplicity and walking and camping- be a part of that! Perhaps one day we’ll meet between the white blazes!

  • Bill Vickery : Aug 9th

    Loved your posts in 2019 – we hiked the same year but we didn’t catch you before your injury. Been following your posts this year and told my daughter, who finished the trail in July, to keep an eye out for a Sprout and Ollie. Especially after your long non-posting – had many of us readers worried. Your my favorite hiker writer, can always make me laugh or cry. Which brings me to the next point.
    PLEASE WRITE A BOOK! You have a real gift.
    God Bless,

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 5th

      Thank you, Waterhog! Great to meet a fellow Class-of-2019-er! Congrats on finishing the AT! And to your daughter for completing Class of ’23! I really appreciate your encouragement about writing, and am enjoying putting all these blog posts together in some kind of book format. Peace to you, Cari

  • TaffyUK : Aug 9th

    First time I used trekking poles, I used the straps, but after a day or two never used them around the wrists.

    I would get them stuck between a rock or root and then as I move forward I would get pulled back on one arm.

    I kept the straps on, just for ease of picking up, when this happened, no need to bend down, just hook them up with other pole.

    Also thought of the problem you had, so no wrist straps for me.

    Hopefully carry-on next year, not far to go now.

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 5th

      Thank you, Taffy UK- yes, good notes re: those pesky wrist straps for trekking poles. Good in theory, but not always helpful in practice. Happy hiking!

  • thetentman : Aug 9th

    Great post


    • Cari Pattison : Sep 5th

      Thank you, Tent Man!

  • Joe Cleveland : Aug 10th

    Thanks again for another great post. As with your previous post —-Inspirational, informative, and even though it is about your misfortune you made it an enjoyable read that found good and the entertaining in difficult times. From your writing it sounds like you have rebounded from the sabbatical change of course and with a trek into the Catskills hopefully your right arm has recovered. Best of luck with post Sabbatical re-entry. If you continue your post off trail let me know where. P.s., great dog! From his first pictures to the present ones. It appears the trail has been good for him.

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 5th

      Oh yes, little Ollie loved that long-distance trek!! We’re both sad it’s over for now, but have been enjoying regular day hikes nearby. And the elbow is almost completely healed- just some more PT to go, to regain full range of motion. Thank you for expressing interest in more of my writing. My weekly sermons (video and manuscript) are typically available here:

  • Denae Carr : Aug 10th

    Thank you for sharing your stories & experiences. I feel for you as you face all the emotions & logistics after being injured & leaving the trail & I appreciate your vulnerability in sharing; it’s so relatable. Thank you again. Warm regards

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 5th

      Thank you, Denae! I really appreciate that.

  • Shocktop : Aug 11th

    Sprout. Little late, but its been a week in ‘people world’, as I call off trail. I am so sorry to hear about your injury. I screenshotted the ‘ broken ankle terminus’ sign from before because it had that bravado I try to bring as well. But I also remember the unsympathetic ER doctor.
    Anyway, I thank you for being you and sharing with us. Peace and happy trails.

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 5th

      Thanks for following along, Shocktop! Glad there have been pieces of my blogs and photos along the way, that have resonated with you. Happy hiking!!

  • Tony "Papaw Booch" Boccelli : Aug 15th

    I feel your pain. Never give up on your dream of finishing the AT. So it’ll take you a little longer, don’t fret. I too have been injured multiple times, and currently off trail from my 50 yr dream of completing the AT (and I was a LASH’r for the 12 mo. plan) Not to be. Aug 2021 – Left Ankle injury on 3rd shakedown – surgery. July 01, 22 Sart F/F Harpers to Palmerton -foot blistered off trail 3 wks. Restart at NY/Ct line to Bennington fell 300 ft from p-lot to Bennington on those wet, slimy, green boulders. Was going home anyway, well, went home w/ right ankle injury lol. 3 weeks off. Benn to VT/NH line I made it lol. Snow in Whites so off to finish PA, NJ, NY. 40 miles & almost to NJ, rocks got my left ankle and my year was finished (I did push to finish PA). April 2023 I start in mid VA and do 2, 1-week trips around the snow/ice & make it to the Shennies. 3rd trip down, taken out by sciatica, knees, and after 2 months phys therapy, voila, left ankle surgery again for torn tendons/ligaments My year done again. lol. Heading back out again next spring to finish my plan, hopefully I will cross paths with you in NH/Me when you return to finish………………….You Got This!

    • Cari Pattison : Sep 5th

      Pawpaw Booch, your trail tale takes the cake!! Oh my, I am so sorry for all your injuries, but truly amazed and impressed at your resilience and the fact that you still keep showing up for the AT, believing in the trail and believing in yourself. After two broken bones, I sometimes joke that I’m in a “dangerous relationship with the AT,” like borderline abusive. But that’s nothing really to joke about. The truth is, people like us just love this trail, no matter what, and we keep coming back, because we’re convinced there’s something special for us to experience out here, and we don’t want to miss a single mile! Keep on keeping on, and happy healthy healing to you!!

  • Robin Lynne Frye : Jan 27th

    Cari, your smiling face popped up on Facebook as someone I might know, and I’m happy that I do! The last time I was following your blog was after your first accident, and then life intervened, and I’m so sorry now to read about the second. But as always, you have the vision and the clarity to see meaning and purpose in everything that happens, which is very moving. Thank you!


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