The Metamorphosis: From Jenn to Sgt. Moth Balls

Jenn weighed 134lbs the day she started the trail. Sgt Moth Balls weighs 126lbs.
Jenn’s average daily mileage in the beginning was 13 to 18 miles. Sgt Moth Balls averages 20 to 25 a day.
Jenn was afraid of the dark when she started the trail. Sgt Moth Balls will hike in the dark.
Jenn hated to hike in the rain. Sgt Moth Balls embraces it.
Jenn would have never cowboy camped. Sgt Moth Balls loves to sleep under the stars.


Jenn wore a lot of black. Sgt Moth Balls colors things up.

As much as things stay the same, things are constantly changing out here. When I look back to my earlier days, I realize I had coward tendencies.  In many ways, I was weak. I would have never gone home in the early days for fear that I wouldn’t return. It’s different now. Before it was if I finish. Now it is when I finish. I suddenly have no problem getting into a rental car, dropping Durpadur off in Indiana, driving down to the Smokies for my family, driving back to Indiana to fetch Durpadur, meeting up with our 2 section hiker friends that we met during week 1, and getting right back on trail all in a week.


I was also able to go to NYC to meet up with my best friend who is finally back on trail. Although we will not be hiking together, we will be able to support each other and lend an ear when needed… and when we have reception.


Did I mention I got to see the beaches of Montauk?


I am allowing myself one more side trip just because I’ve never been to this part of the country. I have to choose wisely when the time is right.

Have I turned into an emotionless robot? Somewhat. I am a creature of habit and some things are just very routine to me. My pack is always packed the same way. I always wake up, have coffee, and collect my thoughts. At night, I set up camp and eat until I fall asleep. These are things I’ve done since day 1. It’s what happens during the day that is no longer routine. The trail is changing with me. I have experienced winter, spring, and summer in such a short time. Once upon a time, I knew I would have a gradual incline that seemed to last forever at some point. I knew I would have a gradual decline. I knew it would be an endless cycle…. but, that has all ended. Now my climbs are shorter and steeper. They cause my quads to burn. Now there are actually pretty tame areas on the trail, which feels like walking through my neighborhood. I’m constantly crossing roads now and really only have to carry 2 days worth of food instead of the 5 day supply I became used to.

Water is scary at times. I never knew what it was like to truly thirst until I got to New York. Connecticut was even worse in some spots. Almost every stream in Connecticut was dry. I felt like an ass one day because I was so thirsty and came across a tiny trickling spring that was surround by muck on a hill side. I was just so excited about water, that I informed other hikers that this had to be the water source listed in the guide. I was wrong. As we hiked on, there was a crystal clear stream flowing like crazy just about a tenth of a mile down. Better safe than sorry, right? But even with a drought in the water sources, Connecticut was amazing!


With lower elevation, brings more bugs! Damn, the bugs! I went from putting deet only on my arms and legs for the first time in New Jersey, to covering my entire body, including my clothes and hair, in Connecticut! I even switched to 100% deet and those little suckers still attack! I’m told they will get better?

People along the trail are even more excited about thru-hikers these days. People want to talk for hours when they meet you. I am assuming it’s due to the dropout rate from Georgia to Virginia. In the south, people are used to thru-hikers everywhere. Not so much in this area. Maybe that will change again since I passed my first southbounder back in New York and have seen a decent amount since. Trail magic has been very generous.


The terrain in northern New York and Connecticut was like a breath of fresh air…. except for one spot outside of Kent. I never actually felt like I was going to “get dead” (a term us hikers use) on the trail until this particular day.20150726_17505820150726_174835

I was told by one of my trail crew leaders about a tasty little treat I would come across once I hit the northern states. Talk about a new addiction….


I switched from my trusty choice of Solomon low cut boots to New Balance trail runners in West Virginia. Since New York, I have gladly retrieved my low top boot and will never part ways with them again.

Now that I’m in Massachusetts, I have noticed a touch of premature post trail anxiety. I have gone through 10 of the 14 states that house my temporary home. At one point in my life, this was all just an obsession. I never thought I would really be here and I’m not sure if I will ever get to experience it again. This is one of those once in a life time experiences I just want to keep in my pocket and tell anyone who will listen. For now, I just have to finish.

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