The adventures of Coin Flip and XL

I started my trip north after over a year of planning, preparation, and agonizing. The journey started out auspiciously with a ten hour drive to Harper’s Ferry from my home in Maine that ended up taking over 14 hours. We got stuck in a horrific traffic jam in NYC (found out later that he Tappan Zee Bridge had been shut down by an accident). I probably should have postponed a day so I wasn’t leaving on Friday the 13th. Live and learn.

The next morning I started out solo (my hiking partner Jeff joined me a few hours later) through Harper’s Ferry which is an incredibly beautiful place. Seeing those white blazes on lantern posts in this historical location was a great way to begin my journey.


My elation faded a few hours later when the skies opened up and it rained. Hard. Jeff had joined me by that point and we worked hard to get through the rain and mud to the first shelter. We made it, there was still room. We met a whole bunch of people, both thru and section hikers and I was immediately impressed with camaraderie and willingness to share info, food, whatever they have.

A relatively sleepless night (sleeping in a shelter is a skill that you have to acquire I think) led to a hike to the next shelter in line, which was a bit tricky to find. We lost the blue blaze for a few and I managed to find a rock hidden under the leaves and twisted my ankle. Damn. That cut short our day. We set up for the remainder of the day and I rested my ankle.

I’m not going to cover all the days between then and now (we’re on day 6 and off trail in Waynesboro, PA. It was slow going for a few days. Lots of rocky terrain which is not kind to a sore ankle, but I survived. I had to swap out my pack, my original one was killing my shoulders. Luckily, I had family that was willing to be a trail angel and meet me with a new one from REI (thanks again, Aunt Sandi!)

Today was a good day. We did over 10 miles for the first time. I got my trail name (I’ll cover that below). We’re spending our first night off trail, so a shower was awesome. Now let me tell you what my impressions are so far.

This is hard. Harder than I expected. It’s not easy to leave everything you know behind and “go for a walk” as some of my friends refer to it. It’s not easy on my 40 year old body. My legs hurt all the time. I have grown to hate rocks already and we just crossed into PA. I have also come to love my trekking poles. They are the best thing I have as far as gear. I would probably be severely injured by now if not for them.

I have seen beautiful sites and I have met amazing people that are some of the warmest and most welcoming as anyone as I’ve ever met. We were lucky enough to spend the night at a shelter last night with 3 other hikers that had just started a flip flop. BBC, Ranger, and Tumbleweed were all great people that were just starting their journeys as well, so we had a lot of the same experiences.

Okay so about the trail names- as you probably saw the title of my post, we have them. Jeff is Coin Flip, cause he says it’s a coin flip whether we finish or not. He gave me my name today- XL. Works on multiple levels, since I’m not exactly a slim guy, heck, even calling me husky would be generous! But that’s quickly changing, my pants are already looser.

Okay, second reason it works is that I’m hiking in support of my local children’s hospital through a charity called Extra Life. Every mile I walk gives money to The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital. If you’d like to support my quest you can click here.


I’ll be updating as often as I can manage, so stay tuned!

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 2

  • HEIDI : May 19th

    Everytime I read your posted I cry!!! I just cant believe you are doing this for these children. When Logan is older I hope there is a log of all of this so we can share it with him. I want to show him what a wonderful selfless person you are to do this for children like him. I will share this with him this weekend! Please be safe and BE STRONG FOR YOURSELF!!! There is no coin flip you BOTH WILL FINISH!!!

  • George Turner (Old Growth) : May 24th

    Jamison or should I say XL, I lost 22 pounds before tearing my rotator cuff on a trip home. In a few week, you will get used to the trail and your life there will seem like the most natural thing in the world. I’m a gamer too, but it seems you can’t play holy paladin with only one hand.


What Do You Think?