The Long Road North for a Southern Trek

The journey of a thru-hike begins before ever stepping foot on the trail. Early on, it’s easy to romanticize it as a beautiful opportunity to grow and find purpose. This is true, but a bit jaded. Growth, I’m learning, happens on a continuum. As we flow through life, ever changing and evolving as we gain experience. For me, this journey has been a rewarding by allowing me to practice spending time alone.

Preparations – Mail Drops

As I’ve said before. I’m doing the majority of resupplies by mail-drop to maintain a low-carb diet. This first involved packaging protein powders into single-serving Mylar bags. I also made a few different freeze dried recipes and am hoping to not burn out on the investment of food. I am hoping this will help reduce the cost of my trip while not receiving income.

Freeze dried meal prep.

I then had to make a rough itinerary where I broke the trip down into three-, four-, and five-day boxes. This is a little unnerving because I have no idea what my body is going to say when I attempt to follow this itinerary, but I think I was relatively reasonable in miles per day having me finish around Christmas. I mailed the first month of food before I left town and am receiving help from my parents to mail future packages as needed.

Mail drops ready to go.

Travel Pains Getting to Maine

Sleep never comes easy for me before travel. Perhaps due to my perpetual procrastination and desire to push hard in the final hour. But at 4 a.m. on July 4, my Uber picked me up to take me to the airport.

I wanted to minimize costs in Cleveland so upon arrival I decided to utilize public transportation to get around. Equipped with a backpack and a suitcase, I hit the streets of Cleveland by train and bus to find my two-star dive of a hotel.  Check in wasn’t until 3 so back to the streets for more urban adventures.

After getting on the right bus going the wrong direction, I wasted enough time that my aunt was back at her house. Two buses later and a half-mile walk; backpack, suitcase, and Mike plopped down on the porch. I was greeted by my Aunt Kim with hugs and more food than I could have imagined!

After more family arrived, I hitched a ride from to my hotel so I could minimize my luggage before 4th of July barbecue and family reunion extravaganza.

The morning before the wedding, I got a much-needed run in while I was in Cleveland with my uncle. It was great to bond over a shared interest and have him introduce me to some metro park trails in Cleveland.

Trail run in Cleveland.

My family received my dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail with so much support and love I was overwhelmed. For once there was no feigning a false sense of fulfillment by soliciting glamorous value from an exaggerated job title. Instead, speaking about my passions my eyes lit up with an intoxicating buzz. For once, I was emanating a positive aura in regard to my future. Saying my goodbyes, I began moving forward to Maine.

Buses and Pavement

After the wedding I rented a car and drove to Boston. This was relatively simple as I was driving and could adhere to my own schedule for a short period of time. Once in Boston it was a rush to the bus stop to take the Concord Bus to Bangor. For anyone in the future, this bus stops at every terminal on the way out of Boston airport, so its very easy to catch it. On the bus I made friends with a German, a Spaniard, a Brazilian, and a Frenchman who were on their way to work as counselors at a camp. No, this isn’t a start to a racist joke; their company was a much appreciated pull out of the nervousness of the start.

Once in Bangor, I had a four-hour layover before the CYR Bus to Medway. I had a picnic in the grass and played the guitar for a bit while waiting for the bus. I was ready to be done with travel and looking forward to a much-earned zero day at the AT Lodge in Millinocket.

Hiker trash picnic in Bangor.

The AT Lodge was fantastic. I had space to finalize my gear and mail some remaining travel items home. I also was able to treat my clothes with Permethrin. There was nowhere to eat when I got there. Instead I ran to Hannaford’s grocery store just before they closed. This helped me save some money and cook for myself for my zero. Plus I love any excuse to take a run after sitting all day!

Permethrin treatment in Millinocket.

So now I’m ready to summit Katahdin tomorrow. It seems sureal. All this work and dedication to get to this point. I’m exhausted without even stepping on the trail. The pack is loaded, the 100-mile food drop is set, and there’s nothing more to plan. There’s a sense of peace and comfort knowing that starting tomorrow all I have to do is keep putting one foot forward. Through this journey north, I’ve had a lot of time with myself and look forward to the people who will be part of my story moving south.

AT Cafe breakfast before the hike.

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Comments 3

  • Lauren : Jul 10th

    Great posts so far. Keep them coming. I’m also a keto backpacker, and looking forward to seeing how your resupply strategy works. Already got some good snack ideas from your instagram posts.

    • Mike Joyce : Jul 17th

      Awesome Lauren. I’m going to try to outline my food a little more. Blogging from the trail is definitely a challenge. I wish I had more time before I left to focus on writing but there was so much to organize. A food post will be coming! I promise!


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