Six months, one case of a “tick borne illness,” plenty of scars and bruises & I’m still truckin’ along!

Shortly after I posted last, I was in Vermont in a bubble of hikers that really started to put a damper on my own hike. It seemed like everyone I talked to just couldn’t wait to get to the finish line. They were sick of walking. Sick of the rain & the mud. They all seemed ready to go back to their normal every day lives.

Their negativity about the trail seeped into my own thoughts. I started wondering what life would be like if I just threw in the towel and quit.

I had a couple of rough days there. I can remember one in particular where the climbs weren’t even that bad but I was in such a pissy mood that I was only hiking about a mile an hour. I came to a spot where the trail went straight down a rock face so trail maintainers had put in a ladder. I remember cursing up a storm as I threw my trekking poles to the ground and started making my way down the steps.

That was the last of about three days where I seriously considered quitting. And the reason for my change of heart? I stayed at The Lookout that night. I setup my hammock outside on the front porch despite the freezing temperatures and constant wind. I made sure to face east so that I could watch the sunrise. And boy was it worth it.

Waking up and being able to do two things I love the most  (photographing and being immersed in nature) reminded me why I’m out here.

I’m not here to hike someone else’s hike or to crush miles.

I’m out here to enjoy myself. To feel all of the emotions of life that I’ve always seemed to suppress because of my anxiety. To grieve the sudden loss of the most important man in my life, my father. I came out here to prove to no one else but myself that I am strong and I can walk from Georgia to Maine. And that after that I can do anything I put my heart into.

I stopped listening to the hikers I met in camp who seemed to brag about how they were doing 20 mile days back to back and I started enjoying myself much much more. I’m lucky enough to have met my wonderful friend Chips on this trail. He feels the exact same way as me about the trail. We’ve both had some tough days but we’ve been there for each other through the good and bad.

Neither of us had planned to be out here hiking the trail this long but we wouldn’t change a thing about our hikes.

The rest of Ver-mud was absolutely beautiful. We entered New Hampshire on a rainy cold day but even the weather couldn’t stop me from smiling.

Chips and I celebrated my twenty fourth birthday in the town of Lyme. I ate so much food and then we wound up staying the night at the sweetest womans house. She’d driven us into town and didn’t like the thought of me spending my birthday outside in the rain so she took us home with her. We got to relax, do laundry, and play with four of her 23 sled dogs.

The next few days were tough terrain wise but the views made the climbs worth it. I had a feeling that Smarts and Mt. Cube were a preview of the Whites and I was right.

Although I was extremely nervous about entering the Whites, they oddly didn’t scare me enough to make me want to quit.

I was lucky enough to meet The Omlet Guy before he stopped doing trail magic for the season. And I was even more lucky to meet Too Clean, Tall Peak, & Applekins. I didn’t know it then but we would hike through the Whites together and it’d be my favorite week and a half on trail.

I’ve heard from numerous townies that the weather we’ve been having is completely out of character for New Hampshire this time of year. Out of all the days I hiked through the Whites there was only one mountain I didn’t get a view from (Mt. Moosilake) and only one day that it rained. But it only rained as we started setting up camp so I wouldn’t even count that as a day of rain.

The Whites were everything I could’ve asked for and more.

They were the toughest mountains I’ve ever climbed but I went through each section with the mindset that I would only go as far as I could that day while still enjoying myself. Once I started to feel fatigued enough to put me in a bad mood, it was time to find a place to camp. Sometimes that meant cowboy camping because my legs were too tired to make it to the next campsite but those were my favorite nights. There’s nothing like cowboy camping under a clear sky where you get to watch shooting stars and wake up to the most beautiful sunrises.

The Whites took a lot out of me.

They drew blood. Gave me bumps and bruises. Put scars on my body. Made my muscles more sore than they’ve ever been on trail. But they also gave me so much. I now have beastly calf muscles which will come in handy in southern Maine. They gave me a new tramily even if it was only for a brief time. They gave me beautiful weather and views for days. They also gave me a new attitude. Even on the rough days I don’t want to quit. I know now that sometimes it’s going to take a while to get through the tough parts but you just have to put one foot in front of the other and eventually you’ll make it through.

I know I’m at the tail end of the NOBOS this season and that I still have a lot of trail to make up after Katahdin that I skipped when I had a “tick borne illness” but I’m not going to rush it. I’ll skip up to mama K if I have to and then make up the rest. What’s the point of hiking the AT if you’re doing it at a pace that’s no longer fun?

If there’s one piece of advice I could give future thru-hikers it’s to take your time. Stop to enjoy the views and go your own pace. If the trail stops being fun you’re either doing it wrong or maybe thru-hiking just isn’t for you. Hike your own hike and try your best to enjoy every minute of it. Keep on keepin’ on.

– Shutterbug

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Comments 11

  • Ruth morley : Sep 25th

    Wow, you are most definitely a talented photographer! Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos and videos.

    And your advice is excellent. I had to leave the AT this year much earlier than planned due to plantar fasciitis. But I have 500 miles under my belt and plan on getting back out there next spring. I will keep your words in mind, about calling it a day when you’re no longer enjoying it. I got too caught up in the numbers game.

    Good luck with the rest of your hike home. Please post again.

    • Kirsten Fraude : Nov 7th

      Thank you so much!!
      Glad you’re getting back out there next spring! Happy hiking!!

  • Joe Sokul : Sep 26th

    I had a chance too meet Shutterbug as she came through Great Barrington, MA in early August. She’ a very special and talented young lady . I’ve enjoyed following her journey and wish her safe travels as she continues on.

    • Kirsten Fraude : Nov 7th

      Thank you so much!! 🙂

  • Tim Messerich : Sep 26th

    Hells bells,
    The hammock stands are getting a work out! They have been painted and the area clean up by Red Beard and Jerry. We will miss you in VA on Columbus week end.See you when you finish.Saw a sobo three weeks ago in Fahnestock that hiked with your brother last year. He was in the military and had lots of tattoos. Great guy!

    • Kirsten Fraude : Nov 7th

      Yayyyy! I’m glad people are liking them!

  • Tim Messerich : Sep 26th

    Good luck with the rest of it.Dads looking

  • Marty Rowe : Sep 26th

    Hey Shutterbug!

    Great Pics and wonderful heartfelt story.

    Truckin’ got my Chips cashed in. Keep truckin’, like the do-dah man
    Together, more or less in line, just keep truckin’ on…

    • Kirsten Fraude : Nov 7th

      Thank you! <3

  • Rhinestone : Sep 29th

    A very inspiring blog. The photography was wonderful. Getting a gig as a guide would sure beat “confined to a cubicle.” Best of luck at living your aspirations.

    • Kirsten Fraude : Nov 7th

      Thank you!!!


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