It is difficult to mark the passage of time on the Appalachian Trail.
I mark miles, plan my life in fourish day segments between resupply points, and set my perfect little tent up in a different spot every night. It’s hard to even check the weather, because by the time it matters I’m already in another place.
It has been 87 days since I started my hike, and I have successfully walked over half of the Appalachian Trail.
It sometimes feels like it has been forever. It also feels like it is still June to me. It makes no sense, but I suppose it doesn’t have to. Time does not matter too much when you have so much of it to spare. As the states start to fly by, the mileage is increasing. What used to seem impossible has been done. I hiked a “marathon day,” which is 26+ miles. I thought that was pretty cool. Then, less than a week later, my crew and I did 41.5 miles. We hiked across the Mason Dixon Line, then all the way through the state of Maryland, in one day. It took us from 2 a.m. to 8 p.m., hiking through the night, sunrise, an almost 90-degree day, then sunset. It was one hell of an experience, and hands down the single most intense athletic feat of my life.
The trail in Maryland was gentle for the most part. I also surprisingly loved southern PA. Alternating between vast golden farms, silent woodlands, and a few really cool ridgelines. The people in PA were great. In Delaware Water Gap, a lady fixed the broken zipper on my tent for free when I was stressed out. In fact, all of the locals seemed to be ready and willing to be helpful. Eager, even. The rocks, combined with overgrown underbrush and grass that prevents you from even SEEING the rocks, made the northern half of PA not so great. Meeting people like Mountain Mama kept us going, though. There is always something else to keep us going, thankfully. When we grow bored, we challenge ourselves with big-mileage days. When we are down, some trail angel, or another hiker, or one of our own little crew find a way to cheer us up. It’s a beautiful, reciprocal, and truly unexpected community out here.
The honeymoon phase of my hike is long-since over now.
It’s more like I have settled down for the extended marriage. It’s not so much about the mind-blowing vistas as much as it is taking in the everyday moments that mean so much. As awe-inspiring as the views from Franconia Ridge were, I would not trade those views back for the state of mind the AT puts me in today. I have learned gratitude at a whole new level. I’m grateful for soft spots on the ground. I’m grateful for warm nights that allow me to cowboy camp. I’m grateful for cold nights and the feeling of getting all cozied up in my tent. I’m grateful for turtles, and how inclusive mosquitoes are. I’m grateful for my friends. I am beyond grateful for my body, and my health, and the circumstances that led me to the trail. I am happier than I have been in a long time. In fact, I think the last time I was consistently this happy, I was running around outside every day carrying some sort of broomstick or tree branch pretending I’m a wizard. Now, I run around outside carrying a legitimately much cooler looking staff that no one yells at me for, with a girl named Wizard, and all of our friends. Not much has changed, I suppose. I just let 20 years slip by.
The next state coming up is Virginia, after a quick trip into Washington, DC, (because why not?) and a full-blown zero. As I type this, I’m sitting on the rim of a hotel bathtub in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, with Pale Ale and Toes, soaking my feet in an Epsom salt bath. It’s truly glorious. We need it, too, because Virginia has the most trail of any state and this crew is ready to see what it has to offer. The Shenandoahs, Grayson Highlands, McAfee Knob, and more trail favorites are coming up! Personally, I’m most excited about seeing the fall colors. I’ve always loved seeing the leaves change, but this year I get to walk straight though the change and be able to notice the daily difference. It’s already begun, and it’s all around me. But to beat it all, I’m officially back down South now. I had to drag my Yankee friend across the Mason Dixon Line, but we made it! The tea will be sweet, people won’t think I’m sarcastic for calling them ma’am, and I can almost taste my next Dr. Enuf. My nana did a really cool trail puzzle, and it should have a picture of a Dr. Enuf on it somewhere.
I also want to take some time to thank my family.
There is a lot going on on the home front, because life is still passing by while I frolic down the Appalachians. My amazing nana has become a trail legend in her own right. Her boxes have made this trip so much easier, and my friends all benefit from them, too. It’s so heartwarming to call her and she knows exactly what I’m talking about thanks to all of the books on the trail she has read. I feel like she is on this trail with me. My little brother Hunter has really stepped up to the plate helping with my car, and my aunt as well. My mom and Ron. Miss Sheila Smith who helps nana with my boxes. Lewis and Aly for truly being on the home team! Sarah for always answering the phone and letting me ramble about the trail. Plus everyone else sending me encouraging messages along the way. Mama King, Megan, Alyson, Missy, Caleb, Zach and Stephanie, Hunter, Turtle, and so many more. A lot of you have asked for ways you can help, and I can’t thank you enough. (Pro tip: Google “slackpacking” and have a day off to do some driving around of smelly hikers.)
As always, here is a link to the photos I’ve taken. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Until next time!
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