I’m Sweaty: Days 50–55 on the AT

Hi friends! I’m back on trail down south and it’s hot now! Like, really hot and sunny and muggy. I’ve been tired when I get to camp in the evenings and on top of that, I haven’t had great cell reception to post updates. I’m doing my best to stay present even when — especially when — the going gets tough, but I’ve been taking notes and am excited to finally have a zero to write some updates here.

I’ll be splitting my journey over the past couple of weeks into multiple blog posts. To start, some short days:

Days 50–52: Zeros in NYC and Virginia

After hiking the Appalachian Trail in New Jersey, I found myself back in a Brooklyn whirlwind of vinyl listening sessions, art gallery concerts, homemade pizzas, and — thankfully — laundry. I went to a sold-out Jacob Collier show at Radio City Music Hall and teared up a bit during his live rendition of “Moon River.”

On Saturday, I said goodbye to Bryce and the city once again and took an Amtrak to Richmond. Shannon helped me resupply and we relaxed before driving to Bland, Virginia on Sunday.

After a lot of back-and-forth, I decided to meet back up with the crew I’d been hiking with before leaving trail for my friend’s wedding. The community has been the magic of the trail for me so far, and I figure I can go back to clean up those miles between Roan Mountain, TN and Bland, VA after reaching Katahdin — maybe a 30th birthday trip for myself?

Anyway, Shannon and her husband Sam drove me down to Bland on the way to a vacation for their second wedding anniversary (thanks, guys!). We ate at Olive Garden, then they helped me settle in at my tent site under some power lines at NOBO mile 591.8.

Best road trip stop

My friends held up lanterns as I put together my tent, then we squeezed each other one last time. It was kind of scary setting up at nighttime — plus, this is my first time camping alone.

No ear plugs tonight, and I may or may not be sleeping with my knife in hand. Not sure how useful it’ll be if I actually find myself with a reason to use it besides slicing cheese, but whatever helps?

I called a friend for about an hour to calm my nerves, then drifted off to sleep.

Day 53: Tent Site at 591.8 to Jenny Knob Shelter; 12.2 miles

I managed to get some rest, but was definitely happy when the birds started singing just before dawn.

The scene that appeared before me when I unzipped my tent took my breath away. I couldn’t believe that my mildly menacing surroundings last night were actually so peaceful in the morning. The world greeted me with warm sunlight, dewy green grass, and leafy trees swaying in the breeze.

I packed up in a hurry because I was a little nervous about finding ticks in the grass, then walked down the gravel road to Brushy Mountain Outpost for gravy biscuits. It was where I’d planned to meet up with Banjo.

I ran into Badger and Data outside the Outpost (Data was the one who told me to get the biscuits!) and another group of hikers inside. After experiencing the quiet of the AT in New Jersey this time of year, I felt something warm and bubbly stir in my chest as I sat amongst fellow hikers down south yet again.

After about an hour, Banjo rounded the corner. He’s a few miles ahead of Sparks and Ramen Bomb Tom (RBT) because he’s trying to make it to Roanoke by the weekend to see a friend’s show. I don’t think I’ll keep pace with him all week, but decided to hike with him most of the day then wait for the others at Jenny Knob Shelter.

Hi, Banjo!

While I was up north, the weather got really hot down here. My body isn’t used to the heat yet. Banjo, being from Virginia, reminded me to rest in the shade, wear sunscreen, keep my sun hat on, etc. Still, I’m sweaty.


I was thankful for my new shorts, though.

Yesterday morning, I made a spur-of-the-moment trip to an REI in Richmond. It was interesting shopping for new clothes because I’ve dropped a few sizes since starting the AT in early March.

Growing up, I struggled with an eating disorder. I don’t know if I’ve actually lost weight or if my body composition is just changing out here, but these days I stress about eating enough and not wanting to lose weight so fast. While I feel so incredibly thankful for my burgeoning hiker legs, it’s an odd experience whenever I have the chance to look at myself naked in the mirror.

Sometimes, when I’m in front of a mirror, my own body feels like it’s not mine. It’s probably stronger than it’s ever been, but it’s also a little gross if I look closely enough. I have pimples on my legs from wearing long pants on hot days because I didn’t have shorts that fit. I stopped shaving a while ago, but I’m still a little ashamed of the hair. There’s chafing on my ribs and boobs that I didn’t even know existed because, well, apparently I haven’t checked out my under-boob in a while. My knees look a bit swollen, and I think there are chigger bites along my hips. I’m proud of this weird little body, but I’m still getting used to the rapid change.

Anyway, I tried on a ton of shorts at REI and cracked the code for my body — 3” inseam, a wide waistband, and a super lightweight fabric. I also picked up a NEMO Switchback foam sleeping pad and a smaller lightweight sun shirt.

Back to Bland: There weren’t any water sources between Brushy Mountain Outpost and Jenny Knob Shelter. Brutal. But, the shorts — thank goodness for the shorts.

Today’s miles felt like a slow blur. While I was grateful to be hiking behind Banjo again and listening to his wild stories from the past couple weeks, I didn’t feel very present. I wouldn’t say I was enjoying myself.

The trail isn’t novel anymore, I realized. It doesn’t feel like “work,” but it’s not play either. I love the Appalachian Trail; I’m grateful for it. But today is one long, hot green tunnel. Still, I plod forward: left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right. My backpack sways back and forth ever so slightly against my lower back and my feet feel heavy. My knees are taking the brunt of this weight, especially when I wind down long, rocky staircases. I think about how maybe this is where the real challenge begins.

I made it to the shelter and walked down the blue blaze to get water as Banjo pushed on. I ate snacks and drank electrolytes while resting in a spot of shade on my foam pad.

A few hours later, Sparks arrived. I loved catching up on our adventures and getting to know her better after having hiked within a few days of her since the Smokies.

Just before the sun set, RBT meandered into camp and I felt truly safe and comfortable again. Together, the three of us made dinner and chatted lazily into the evening.

Day 54: Jenny Knob Shelter to Tent Site at 616.3; 12.3 miles

I woke up to the sound of birds and… leaf blowers? Lawn mowers? It’s a reminder that, even though we’re hiking some tough terrain, we’re not very far from civilization right now.

A curious, hungry little mouse took some nibbles out of my socks last night. Oh well. Maybe I’ll start bringing my socks into my tent at night.


The heat broke overnight, and it’ll only be a high of 72 today with clouds. It was supposed to rain last night, but it didn’t, so we all get to pack up dry tents this morning. It’s the little things. Right now it looks like there’s just a small chance of rain between 3–4 pm. “A small chance,” but I’d bet on it simply because it’s the Appalachian Trail.

I slept well on my foam pad last night, but woke up with a tight back. It’s a challenge I’m choosing to bear. My inflatable pad took a few weeks for me to get used to; maybe I’ll get used to this one too. It’s definitely more convenient and I love being able to sit on it during snack breaks throughout the day.

RBT, Sparks, and I decided to sleep in today and start hiking around 9am. It’s 7:20am now and I’m feeling restless. Maybe I’ll start a little early.

After lots of rest and a few days hiking through flat New Jersey, I have to remember how big climbs feel again. Thankfully, my legs feel like tractors, powering up hills even though the rest of me is resisting.

Hiking today… doesn’t feel great. My face is salty, my muscles and bones are sore, I worry about not eating enough, I worry about getting norovirus, I feel itchy because I shaved my armpits and calves for my friend’s wedding and it’s all growing back. And I’m constantly sweaty again. Bah humbug.

I stop feeling sorry for myself long enough to make conversation with a hiker passing SOBO. Weather is no longer small talk, though I’d argue it never was. All our plans revolve around the whims of Mother Nature now. I made a comment about the cooler weather to the hiker and together we discussed the possibility of rain in the forecast. On one hand, we embrace the rain: it makes the flowers grow and the leaves come in for shade. On the other, I’d love to be inside my tent for the night by the time it comes pouring down so all my things don’t become soaked and mildewy.

Contemplating a Trent’s run with Sparks

RBT, Sparks, and I made a quick side trip to Trent’s Grocery around noon, where we had a hot lunch, ice cream treats, and packed out some beer for later. Onward.

I realized part of the reason I was so grumpy today: my period started with a vengeance. I bled through my brand new shorts, but I wasn’t too stressed because we planned to make a stop at Dismal Falls for a soak.

The Falls were another half-mile side quest, but featured little pools that we could sort of swim in. My legs felt brand new in the cold water and I got to clean my shorts. Little minnows nibbled at my toes and I felt glad to be here again. Once again, it’s the little things.

A few miles later, we made it to camp for the night and found Lynx! He played his ukelele by the fire Sparks made for us while we all drank beers chilled by the creek.

No rain yet. I think tomorrow will be better.

Day 55: Dismal Creek Tent Site at 616.3 to Woods Hole Hostel; 9.5 miles

I think I’m starting to acclimate to the heat and humidity. I don’t have much to say about today besides: green tunnel, easy hike, period pain, amazing food and community at the hostel.

The most delicious meal I’ve had in months!

I chatted with Lynx for a while and camped out on the hillside at Woods Hole. Tomorrow we’ll resupply in Pearisburg before grinding out some bigger miles and taking on the Virginia Triple Crown!!

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