1,100 Miles, and Why It Doesn’t Matter if I Finish

Hello! I’m Kreg (trail name Carrot Top),  a southbound thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail. I’m joining The Trek blogging community halfway through my trip, so this is my first post, but I’ll be sharing trail updates weekly moving forward. Thanks for following along!

For the first time since I stepped foot on trail, I am closer to Springer Mountain in Georgia than Mount Katahdin in Maine. I have hiked more than half of the Appalachian Trail: 78 days, 1095.45 miles, eight states

And I had every fear in the world when I started

I thought I would get way too bored, lonely, annoyed, or tired along the way, and I was sure that I’d break a limb before even getting off the bus in Millinocket.

I worried that every town would tempt me to stay, and that every celebratory milestone would entice me as a noble quitting point.

I dreaded falling into the mind-set of “at least now I can say ______” – i.e., doing it just to say that I did it, to check off a box, to list another accomplishment.

But after 1,100 miles, I want to keep going

And much to my surprise, finishing the trail is less important to me today than when I started.

Do I want to get to Springer? Sure, that would be incredible. Just the thought of finishing brings tears to the eyes of any thru-hiker. But I try hard each day to put these thoughts out of my mind. Staying present, even as the miles wear on, has been key.

So for now, I am not pinning my happiness on Georgia—one slippery rock could take that away from me as I hike out of town today. The real, number one reason that I want to continue?

I am still having a blast

The people, the mountains, the communities, the solitude, the freedom, the variety—there are so many opportunities to appreciate these things, and I still wake up excited to hit the trail in the morning.

Have there been challenges? Yes! But they have made me even more grateful to be sitting here, in Harpers Ferry, healthy enough to keep walking. You appreciate a cheeseburger so much more after having norovirus, and you only smile at the thought of dry feet once you have experienced what miles of wet feet feel like.

These are just a few things that have me feeling lucky to make it this far. Below is my more comprehensive, state-by-state reflection on the past three months: the highs, the lows, and the people who have kept me going. Thanks for following along with me on this journey.

My thru-hike so far, state by state

Maine

Highlight: Really tough to choose. This was my favorite state. Mount Katahdin and the peaks of Southern Maine were beautiful, but more than anything, I appreciated being in the raw wilderness so many miles from civilization.

Biggest challenge: Persistent back pains since the 100-Mile Wilderness that have had me doing daily yoga stretches ever since.

Best trail magic: Teddy and Snowman’s pop-up barbecue on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Soooooo good!

New Hampshire

Highlight: The Presidential Traverse – I have never seen anything so majestic.

Biggest challenge: A tweaked right knee coming down South Twin. I practically used my poles as crutches to get down to Franconia Notch and the south side of the Kinsmans.

Best trail magic: Family visits. I saw my parents and my sister and her family. Also, my aunt and uncle put me up for three nights in Lebanon, and my cousin, his wife, and their baby came out to hike with me for a morning.

Vermont

Highlight: Long Trail overlap and meeting a number of people wrapping up or just beginning the 275-mile trail.

Biggest challenge: Norovirus. Three days of sweats, chills, vomiting, and diarrhea in Rutland.

Best trail magic: Second visit from my parents, and the Yellow Deli (donation-based hostel) letting me stay four nights while I was sick.

Massachusetts

Highlight: Walking through the heart of quaint towns like Cheshire and Dalton.

Biggest challenge: Five days in a row of 90 degree heat, 90 percent humidity, and relentless mosquitoes.

Best trail magic: A man named Arch and his partner were crossing the Mass Pike, spotted me, and gave me the coldest can of soda I’ve ever had on the hottest day since I’ve been on trail. He also gave me his number and offered to pick me up in Great Barrington when I got there.

Connecticut

Highlight: Meeting a newly engaged couple seconds after their engagement and getting to share in the joy of the moment.

Biggest challenge: My first encounter with cold rain.

Best trail magic: Karen inviting three of us into her home and cooking us a complete breakfast after we stayed at her place.

New York

Highlight: Walking through Bear Mountain and Harriman State Park—retracing the steps of my June shakedown hike.

Biggest challenge: My first blisters after a couple days of rain.

Best trail magic: So many of my friends showing up to see me in NYC with zero advance notice, along with two other friends giving me their apartment for the weekend. I can’t explain how much this weekend meant to me.

New Jersey

Highlight: Night-hiking the ridge that crosses the border into New Jersey.

Biggest challenge: Honestly, for the first time in my life, the state of New Jersey brings to mind only fond memories. 🙂

Best trail magic: Scout, Black Diamond, and Pedro provided some great company in a shelter after a rainy day. Scout has kept in touch and has been emailing me bits of encouragement ever since.

Pennsylvania

Highlight: The variety! PA has had amazing ridge walks, hiker-friendly towns, and sprawling pastures.

Biggest challenge: Four straight days of wet feet.

Best trail magic: Friends (and fellow thru-hikers) Claire and Josh driving an hour and a half each way to take me off trail and spend the day with me while it poured alllll day long.

Maryland and West Virginia

Highlight: The history! The trail in MD weaves past the Washington Monument, across Civil War battlefields, and through Harpers Ferry.

Biggest challenge: This is a small, 40-mile section, but I somehow managed to smash my pinky toe on a jagged root along the way.

Best trail magic: In Waynesboro (technically PA), three different people offered to buy me food as I hung out in a coffee shop. Then, unprompted, a woman offered me a five-mile ride back to the trail.

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Comments 2

  • Nate : Oct 4th

    You are such a beast dude. No matter what, this is an amazing accomplishment. We should talk soon, as I think I’ll have a couple days I could take off to join you if you make it to North/South Carolina!

    Reply
  • Ruth Morley : Oct 5th

    I’m presently finishing up the second of my 3 sections, and am approaching Erwin, TN. I agree completely with your sentiments about enjoying every day and being excited to get out and hike again. I especially enjoyed reading your synopsis about each state and learned more about what I might encounter when I do my northern third next year. Thanks for the blog and I look forward to following you.

    Reply

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