There Are No Rules on the AT
I’ve recently noticed that I make rules for myself to make my hike “easier.” I would tell myself that I must get halfway through my hiking day before eating lunch and that I can only take a break for ten minutes at a time. A couple of days ago I started breaking these “rules” and it has made my hike so much more fun. I love writing about the day-to-day of my thru-hike, but in this blog I also wanted to highlight the joy of breaking my rules.
The sound of my alarm playing Ophelia by the Lumineers woke me while it was still dark out. The rain pounded my tent and I knew there wasn’t going to be a sunrise on Mcafee Knob. I was sad that I wouldn’t get the beautiful view I had seen in so many pictures but the idea of going back to sleep was welcoming. I reset my alarm for 6 am and the rain quickly put me back to sleep. A rule I normally follow is to follow through on my plans no matter the weather. But instead of being miserable in the wet and cold, I decided to keep sleeping. Such a good decision! I woke up to my alarm again and the rain had stopped. I packed up my wet tent and started the hike up to Mcafee Knob with Teacher and Firebow. Two miles later, we arrived at the second most photographed spot on the Appalachian Trail. We took the our obligatory photos and continued on.
I passed by Miles who was finishing up her section hike going SOBO. We said bye and I promised that I would text her a picture from Katahdin. I went over Tinker Cliffs and stopped at a shelter to eat lunch where Firebow caught back up to me. We hiked together for the rest of the day, distracting ourselves from the pain in our feet by singing loudly.
The super 8 motel was a welcome sight after 18 miles. Teacher had already booked a room so we dropped our smelly packs in the clean room and went to dinner. The day ended with a huge burger and a relaxing shower.
A coffee shop was my first stop in town the next morning. I got a coffee cake muffin and blueberry scone along with my hot coffee. I then visited Kroger’s where I resupplied and the local outfitter where I bought a new headlamp. Check out from the hotel was at 11am and I had to scramble in order to get my backpack packed up in time. The last stop in town was at a Mexican restaurant and then I was finally back on trail. It was already 2 pm but I was able to squeeze in 11 miles. I would normally tell myself that I had to get out of town by noon but I allowed myself to fully enjoy town instead of rushing back to the trail. We hiked by the 1/3 to Maine sign which was super exciting.
I arrived to a full shelter so I set up my tent, cooked my ramen bomb, and called it a night.
I felt something different when I woke up; warm! It was the first morning that I didn’t have trouble getting out of my sleeping bag due to the cold. I quickly packed up my pack, excited for the day. It was a relatively flat morning and I crisscrossed the Blue Ridge Parkway multiple times. Every time I crossed the road I was rewarded with great views of the valley below. As I hiked, I pondered how all the flowers around me knew when to bloom.
I stopped at a creek to refill my water bottles and eat a Clif bar. 14 miles into my day I arrived at a shelter where Dream and Teacher had also stopped to eat. We talked about how windy but flat the morning had been. I sat for an hour, proud of how many miles I had already crushed that day. Soon after leaving that shelter, my energy levels started to go down so I plugged in a podcast to distract myself. With one mile left, I stopped to put some moleskin on a blister. I arrived at the shelter for the night at 6:30 feeling proud of the 21 miles I had hiked. The shelter could fit around 30 people but with only four of us there, I was able to spread out all of my gear. It had cooled off a ton since the morning so I crawled into my sleeping bag, excited to be warm for the night.
When I woke up it was once again cold so it took me a while to climb out of my sleeping bag. I was finally hiking up a steep mountain at 8:30 am. Teacher and Dream followed behind me, and we forced a conversation because we were all miserable. The wind was howling and I could feel it through my clothes. We went under the “guillotine” which is a cool rock formation.
The shelter 10 miles into the day was an exciting sight. I climbed into the back corner and put my puffy jacket on. It was soon snowing but Dream and Teacher tried to convince me that it was just pollen falling from the trees. I rolled my eyes and told them that I know what snow looks like since I’m from Massachusetts. I soon started shivering so we decided to keep hiking.
The snow was melting as soon as it hit the ground but it was still really pretty to walk through. Dream and Teacher got ahead of me on the downhill and my spirits quickly plummeted. I started to consider getting picked up at the next road crossing and going into town. When I arrived at the road, Dream and Teacher were sitting on the ground having the same thoughts as me. We called the hostel and arranged a shuttle for 45 minutes later. I felt disappointed that I wasn’t going to hike the 23 miles I had planned on that morning. I am very determined and have trouble changing my daily goals once I decided on them. But as soon as the shuttle came and I got in the warm car, I felt content with the 16 miles we had done and I knew I made the right decision. I got in warm loaner clothes from the hostel and ate a huge dinner of ravioli and garlic bread.
When I walked into the kitchen the next morning I made a b-line to the coffee machine. I ended up having three cups of coffee, four pancakes, and a ton of eggs. It was a great start to my day and I felt energized when I stepped off of the shuttle. It was downhill for the whole morning and I arrived at a shelter 8 miles into the day. I used the privy and then saw a note from Dream and Teacher on the picnic table.
It told me to meet them at the bridge for lunch. I jogged the two miles to them, excited to eat food. I waved to them from across the water and then crossed the longest bridge on the Appalachian Trail. We sat and ate lunch and then got back to hiking. It was uphill for the rest of the day and I took it slow and steady.
The last mile was difficult and I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I wanted to be in my sleeping bag. I finally arrived and was happy to see that there was still space in the shelter. I lay out my pad and bag, made dinner and quickly fell asleep after a long 20 miles.
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