Friends Along the Trail (pt. I)
For me, one of the beautiful things about hiking the Appalachian Trail while being from California is that I get to be geographically closer to all the friends and family I have on the East Coast.
One of the hard parts is, that the Appalachian Trail does not often take me close to the cities where said friends and family live.
That being said, since I do not know when I will be back, I have done all I can to visit some of these people, and this is a post about those visits 🙂
First, my friend Ife:
Ife is currently in grad school at Yale, located in New Haven, CT. She was someone I knew I had to visit (not only because she is one of my best friends, but because she has visited me multiple times in San Diego, whereas I have never visited her in CT. Now before you go calling me a bad friend, in my defense… if you had to choose between being in San Diego, CA or New Haven, CT in THE WINTER, you too would choose sunny, warm San Diego).
That being said, being from San Diego, and with my last-minute choice to hike the Appalachian Trail, I have a minimal understanding of geography of the trail and where it is in relation to the big cities of the East Coast.
So before I began doing my research, I thought getting to New Haven, CT off the trail would be eaaasssyyyy peeaasssyyyy.
I was wrong.
Getting to New Haven
Using public transportation would have at least taken me 4+ hours if everything went smoothly. And if I tried to hire a shuttle, that would easily have cost me $100 or more. Since I am on a bit of a budget out here, and taking 4+ hours one way didn’t sound like a necessarily appealing idea to me, I turned to option no. 3: calling upon the help of strangers. Specifically, reaching out to folks in various Appalachian Trail Facebook groups to see if anyone happened to be going by the trail and onto New Haven. It was a long shot. But I put out my calls for help a week in advance and whenever the trail was kind enough to bless me with internet service on my phone, I obsessively checked for responses and messages.
Low and behold, a man who had section hiked a portion of the trail down south, and who was now off the trail, was driving in *relatively* that direction with his wife and was willing to give me a ride. These two people, Douglas and Jingxia, turned out to be the definition of Trail Angels. They came, what turned out to be decently out of their way, to pick me up from Peekskill, NY, then drove me 1.5 hours to the doorstep of my friend’s place. Along the way I learned they had previously lived in San Diego themselves, and Jingxia had actually worked for the SD Padres at one point!
As we got closer and closer to my friend’s address, I kept her constantly updated:
I am 30 minutes out. 20 minutes out. 15. 10. I am 5 minutes out! Ife are you getting this?! I am 3 minutes out!
When we pulled up, I texted to let her know and she responded that she would be there in a bit. I will not lie. I was a bit sad. I (and Douglas and Jingxia) had gone through so much to get me there and she was not even around when I arrived? Crestfallen, I sat back in the car and accepted that my friend, who is getting a PhD, has a busy life. I went to say something to Douglas and Jingxia when BOOM! Ife was there! Outside the car! Turns out she had been waiting there all along hoping to surprise me! Only I had not gotten out of the car, so she was unable to surprise me.
I jumped out of my seat, stopped mid-sentence to open up the car door, and sprinted to her, giving her a big hug. Can you envision it? It was like a movie scene. Ife and I can be very dramatic and we love it. It is a great marker of our friendship.
Here I am with Douglas and Jingxia, and then with Ife (unfortunately my camera lens on my phone was not clean so the photos are a tad blurry):
In New Haven
I will not go into too much detail. But in summary, first thing I did was strip myself of my two-week-old, smelly, sweaty, disgusting clothes and throw them in a laundry basket (literally I had not washed my clothes or showered in almost two weeks). I then proceeded to scrub an upper layer of dirt from my entire body. This photo of my feet does not do great justice but still, just know I was n.a.s.t.y.
While I visited Ife, she showed me around New Haven, brought me into her lab, and took me out with her friends, who adopted me as one of their own.
Getting Back to the Trail
After all the fun was done, I was faced with the question of how I would return to the trail. While I had done all the upfront work to get myself to New Haven, my plan for returning to the trail was via the 4+ hour long trip using public transportation. Luckily (and kindly), a friend of a friend of Ife, who we met while I was there, had a car, enjoys the outdoors, and was free the following morning. In conclusion: she offered to drive me back to the trail and in return, I encouraged them to go on a short hike around the top of Bear Mountain with me since I thought it was so pretty.
Seriously, the way life works out sometimes is amazing. I went from having to take over eight hours of public transportation to be gifted not once, but twice with the kindness of strangers willing to drive me to and from the trail. Thank you, Leah.
At Bear Mountain, the three of us had a grand time hiking around and enjoying the views (I think these photos show the beauty of Bear Mountain a bit better). I also got to do my age of trick of almost throwing Ife off a ledge and thereby freaking her out. Always leads to a great photo 🙂
Then it was time for me to leave, clean, happy, and excited to continue along the trail.
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