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.

Day 51

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.

Me and Firebow on Mcafee Knob

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.

Hiking behind Firebow.

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.

Day 52

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.

1/3 of the way to Katahdin!

I arrived to a full shelter so I set up my tent, cooked my ramen bomb, and called it a night.

Day 53

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.

Views from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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.

Day 54

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.

Going under the Guillotine.

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.

Me and Teacher walking over a freezing cold and windy mountain.

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.

Day 55

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.

Note from Dream and Teacher.

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.

Views from the top of the climb.

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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Comments 23

  • Ralph B. Mahon : Apr 29th

    Always wonder why more people don’t find rock formation interesting.
    Many don’t even seem to notice them.
    That “guillotine” one could also be called a widow maker, like a tree limb ready to drop😉

    Reply
  • pearwood : Apr 29th

    Spring has been sprung. This is good.

    Reply
  • Brian : Apr 29th

    Hey Hannah I’ve been enjoying your posts.
    Do you journal as it happens, at the end of each day, or every so often when you have the opportunity? Wonder also if you use a notepad or your phone.
    Keep up the great posts and keep breaking rules!

    Reply
    • Hannah : Apr 29th

      Thanks for following along! I journal in a notepad every night before bed. I think a notebook and pen are worth the weight! And it helps me remember the details of every day when I go back to write a blog post.

      Reply
      • Ralph B. Mahon : Apr 29th

        Most shelters I’ve come across have a notebook with comments from other hikers.
        It’s fun to read what they write.

        Reply
  • Camelback Santa : Apr 29th

    Don’t quit unless the doctor tells you too! That was the mentality I used when I through hiked it in 2019. Please try to mention the names of the hostels so I can recall if I was there or not. Best wishes! Camelback Santa, class of 2019

    Reply
    • Hannah : Apr 29th

      Thanks for the comment! I tend not to mention the names of towns and hostels due to safety. I don’t want people to know where on the trail I am. Thanks for understanding!

      Reply
      • Ralph B. Mahon : Apr 29th

        It’s a shame when things are that way. I’ve never come across a dangerous person, hiking, but I can understand your concerns.
        Wish things were not that way. Wishing you a safe and fun filled adventure. 👍

        Reply
      • Chance : Apr 29th

        Hi Spring!!

        Real life has way too many rules so enjoy your time without them. I think too many people over think and over plan life. Enjoy it as it happens. I’ll put my Dad hat on and second not letting folks know where you are. Delaying your postings is also a good idea. Have fun, find something to enjoy everyday and good luck!!

        Reply
        • Hannah : Apr 30th

          Thanks so much for your comment! I am definitely learning how to take each day as it comes and do less planning.

          Reply
          • Chance : May 1st

            I try to follow just one or two folks hiking the AT each year as I prep for doing it next year myself. I’m going to go back and read all of your posts from the beginning. You have a great way of relaying your thoughts and you’re doing a great job with your hike!!

            Reply
  • Blake Weisgerber : Apr 29th

    Safe travels

    Reply
  • ren grove : Apr 29th

    The trail is home for me and I miss it but when you come back south check out the linville gorge. Most beautiful place I have ever been. The upper parts are like utah with a makeover. Like the grand canyon of the east coast.

    Reply
  • bob h : Apr 29th

    awesome journey & notes, can’t wait to do myself

    Reply
  • Slim Pickins : Apr 29th

    Exercise caution at the shelters in Pennsylvania. I was out the other week and the shelters are disgusting. Beer cans, broken glass everywhere, trash etc. it’s very sad how defiled these serene places have become with more people heading to the outdoors. Try and stay with someone. I’ve ran across some folks who I wouldn’t trust sleeping next to if I had an automatic weapon.
    I’m also a dad of 2 young daughters. Hahaha, so I’m totally being a dad on this one!
    *rausch gap shelter is probably the nicest shelter in PA. It basically has running water!

    Reply
    • Hannah : Apr 30th

      Thanks so much for the info. I’m sure my dad would agree with you!!

      Reply
  • Rebekah LaCoste : May 3rd

    My SAS-teacher heart is bursting with pride! Way to be true to yourself and honor what you need. Keep being awesome!

    Reply
  • Jen : May 3rd

    Hi Spring!

    Oh it’s so good to see another post! I circle back often to see if and what you’ve written. I’m so inspired by your introspective thoughts every time you write. From a stiff and boring old teacher desk under awful florescent lights, I love envisioning your current views on the AT. Thank you for allowing us to live vicariously through you.

    Reply
  • Jabez : May 5th

    I’m enjoying your posts! Enjoy each day and moment-tomorrow will take care of itself. Jabez-class of 2019

    Reply
  • Jim BILLINGS : May 7th

    Hey Hanna,, I’m really enjoying your blog. It is so exciting having seen you grow up to become the young tough/strong woman you are.

    Safe travels!

    Reply
  • Anne : May 13th

    I so enjoy your posts! You describe everything so beautifully! I wish I were younger and could do an amazing hike like you are doing! You should be so proud of yourself! What an amazing journey.

    Reply
  • Jessi : May 19th

    Hi Spring! I’ve really enjoyed your posts, I read them regularly! The AT is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m curious, do you see any families with young kids thru hiking? My husband and I have two young girls. Also I’d love to mail some trail magic to you as you continue your journey! Let me know how I can send swedish fish your way! Thanks for the great posts, keep it up!

    Reply
  • Jessi O : May 19th

    Hi Spring! I’ve really enjoyed your posts, I read them regularly! The AT is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m curious, do you see any families with young kids thru hiking? My husband and I have two young girls. Also I’d love to mail some trail magic to you as you continue your journey! Let me know how I can send swedish fish your way! Thanks for the great posts, keep it up!

    Reply

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