Days 74 through 78 on the Appalachian Trail
I woke up in the hotel room by myself and decided to shower in order to wake myself up. I turned on the hot water and stepped in, expecting to feel refreshed and rejuvenated. Instead, I felt more groggy and tired than ever. I had to force myself to wash my hair instead of getting out of the shower and climbing back into bed. After I had scrubbed all the dirt off of my legs, I called the front desk and asked to book another night. The four-state challenge had taken a larger toll on my body and mind than I had expected, and a zero day was definitely needed. I crawled back into bed with my hair wet, turned on Curious George, and spent the next five hours laying there.
At 2 pm, I finally decided to go eat food and do laundry, so I walked over to the gas station and got chocolate milk and cheesecake. I sat outside the laundromat, staring into the open fields. With clean clothes in hand, I walked back to the hotel room and turned the TV back on to PBS Kid,s which was now playing Cyber Chase. A few hours later, Firebow and Shaun arrived and we went to a burger place for dinner. After spending the whole day alone, I was glad to have some friends to hang out with. The zero day was just what I needed, and I was so grateful to have the ability to listen to my body and know when I needed a break.
The nearby gas station was the destination for my breakfast where I got a sandwich and some mini doughnuts. A shuttle came and picked me up and we stopped at Walmart on the way back to the trail so I could get more fuel. Once back on trail, I met up with Mogli, Firebow, Bug, and Esa. We cold soaked some chocolate pudding since it was Mogli’s birthday and spent the day laughing and enjoying our hike. We talked about everything from our futures after the trail to the foods we were craving the most.
When we arrived at the campsite, Morning Dove and Landfill were already there. We spent the evening talking around a fire and eating the chocolate pudding pie. Bug attempted to make Mogli’s face out of banana chips and I spent a while laughing at the uncanny resemblance. I was reminded of how fast you go from extreme lows to extreme highs on trail. A few days prior I was throwing up in darkness on the side of the trail and now I was sitting with some of the best people around a warm campfire. Gratitude bubbled up inside of me as I looked around, taking it all in.
I was up and hiking at 7:15 am, excited for the beautiful day. Five miles in, I caught up to Esa, where we enjoyed sitting on a porch swing at one of the most elaborate and fancy shelters I had seen so far on trail. I switched on my classic rock playlist for the rest of the morning which got me moving at 3mph. The terrain was amazing. I walked through fields of wildflowers and pine forests that protected me from the blazing sun. The flat terrain boosted my spirits and I was almost running as I arrived at a shelter for lunch 13 miles into my day.
At the picnic table sat a group of college students who were excited to ask me and Esa questions about our thru-hikes. They forced food on us, offering cheese and crackers, protein bars, candy, and dried fruit. They even asked if I wanted them to pack out my trash for me. We excitedly accepted all of their offers. These small acts of trail magic truly restore my faith in humanity. The kindness of strangers on trail is unmatched in the real world. I said bye to them, thanked them for everything, and continued on.
Bug had caught up to me and we had some lively conversations as we crossed the halfway points from years past. Since the length of the trail changes every year, each year has a new halfway point. We arrived at the shelter after 19 miles that I was staying at but I continued on with Bug for an extra couple of minutes so that we could take pictures together at this year’s halfway point. Tears filled my eyes as we arrived at the monument. I couldn’t believe I was halfway through this amazing journey. I felt proud to have walked this far, and sad that the hike was going by so fast. We signed our names in the logbook, and Bug continued on while I walked back to the shelter.
I set up my tent and cooked dinner. A couple of hours later, I heard a shout and looked up. Lindsey and Lady Bird were running towards me with smiles across their faces. I ran over and hugged them. They told me that they had just hiked 30 miles in order to catch up to me. I congratulated them on their big mile day as we sat down and enjoyed each other’s presence. Morning Dove, Landfill, and Firebow arrived soon after that and we agreed to all eat ice cream together the next day at the Pine Grove Furnace general store.
I met up with Firebow in the morning and we crossed the halfway point again. It was fun getting to celebrate for a second time. We screamed, “Living on a Prayer” as we hiked past the marker, making sure to yell “ohhhh we’re halfway there, ohhh livin’ on a prayer,” extra loudlt. We arrived at the general store where the half-gallon challenge takes place. The challenge is to eat a half-gallon of ice cream in one sitting. I decided I didn’t want to make myself throw up so I only ate two pints. We all watched in awe as Landfill finished his half-gallon in thirteen minutes, proving that he truly deserved his name. Esa finished in 43 minutes and Lady Bird finished in 59 minutes.
We all lay out in the sun, stomachs full and content for a couple of hours before deciding to continue hiking. Lady Bird, Lindsey, Bug, and I found an amazing campsite. It was right by a creek and the sound of running water was awesome as we sat by a fire. It was so fun hanging out with such strong and independent women. Lady Bird shared some of her favorite poems and the inspiring words bounced around my head as I fell asleep.
I woke up early because I wanted to get in as many miles as possible before my mom came and picked me up. Four miles into my morning, it was clear that I was only going to be able to hike around 11 miles since the terrain was extremely rocky. I texted my mom and asked her to pick me up in Boiling Springs, PA instead of the road we had originally planned on. I went through some beautiful farmland as I got closer to town and enjoyed looking out over the cornfields. Once in town, I sat with Lady Bird and Lindsey while I waited for my mom to arrive. It was the first time I had seen her since I started my thru-hike and I couldn’t wait.
She finally pulled up in the iconic van and we hugged as my heart swelled. I hadn’t realized how much I had missed the comfort of being around my mom until we embraced. She offered to get a hotel room for Lindsey, Lady Bird, and Bug. They happily agreed and we drove to a hotel in a nearby town. My mom and I went to a fancy restaurant for dinner at a golf course that had great views from their outdoor seating. It was so fun chatting and catching up with her. We went back to the hotel where I got to do laundry and shower. We filled out some of my college forms and I went to bed happy and relaxed.
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