Victory is mine!
I began this journey as a solo hiker, but I didn’t do it alone. So many people helped me along the way and I am grateful for every one of them. My journey began when I read Appalachian Trials. If you haven’t read it, you should. I didn’t realize I would struggle until I read it. Zach prepared me for the trail. He prepared me for the time when the trail stops being fun. He prepared me for the times when I would get sick. He prepared me for the inevitable breakdown that I would have after the halfway point on the trail. I wouldn’t have finished my hike if I had not read Appalachian Trials. Thank you Zach. I also need to thank my mom, dad and sister. They listened to me jabber on endlessly before I left for the trail, and supported me every step of the way, including coming to visit me a couple times each. They told me not to come home when I called crying, fishing for them to say it was okay to quit and come back. I need to thank Mighty Blue who may have saved my thru-hike when he found me in tears on the side of the trail looking up plane tickets. He said “Put as much time and thought into quitting the trail as you did into hiking it, and then make your decision.” He too wanted to quit, but he was gritting his teeth until the end. If it was anyone else, I probably wouldn’t have listened, but to hear it from someone who understood where I was coming from made all the difference. I have to thank all of my hitches, who were brave enough to pick up a hitch hiker. You don’t know how many times my heart sunk as I watched cars drive by after a long day on the trail. You don’t know how excited I was when you pulled over, and took time out of your day. And you don’t know how much it meant to me that you got me to my destination safely. Thank you to my family in Pennsylvania who took me in for 9 days. That was an awesome part of my trip and it was so nice to spend so much time with you all. Thank you to all of my trail friends who made me smile and laugh every day. You kept me going. You were there when I was having a rough day. You camped with me each and every night, making me feel safe. You shared your snacks with me when I ran out, quite often I might add. Last but not least, I’d like to thank you. Yes, you. Thank you for reading my blog, offering your help, and writing encouraging comments. I received only positive words from you. I read every single one of the things you said and they were all appreciated. Thank you!
Days miles: 10.4
I woke up at the Lakeshore Hostel in Monson, Maine this morning. The plan was to try to get out early but… I’m entering the 100 mile wilderness today and this takes planning, people! I have never carried more than 5 days of food and I calculated the wilderness would take me about 6 days. The hostel has an option to spend $25 on a 5 gallon bucket that you fill with food you’ve bought and they drop it in the woods a few days in, so you don’t have to carry 6 days of food. You can split it with however many people you can fit in your bucket. I wasn’t going to do this but then I found out that the hostel gives you a set of directions to find your food, which makes it like a treasure hunt. How could I say no to a treasure hunt? That would just be silly. Trying to plan out 2 resupplies, that would last for 6 days, took up a lot of time and 2 trips to the store. Somehow I still only ended up with 1 dinner even after the second trip to the store but that’s neither here nor there. I’ll have to make do. I got back on the trail around 2:00pm. A nice couple who moved from Massachusetts to outside of Monson to live off the grid gave me a ride. They gave up their jobs and their old life for this one and they said it’s a lot of work but it’s satisfying. I made it about 6 miles before dark and sat down to eat a BLT, which was no good! The bacon was all fat and it wasn’t crispy. I just had my first BLT in the Shenny’s, but isn’t that a rule for BLT’s? I think crispy bacon is required. Simba came up behind me and was like “Hey! I don’t like hiking at night by myself. I’m trying to get to this next shelter 4 miles away.” And I was like “Hey! Me too.” Simba turned 20 recently on the trail. That means she came out here by herself when she was 19! She’s looking forward to seeing her family, since she hasn’t seen them since they dropped her off. That’s crazy. She’s awesome, and she’s also from Charlotte! She was home schooled, and I moved to a different town my sophomore year, so I stayed at my original high school…but if we had both gone to the school we were supposed to go to, we would have gone to the same high school. Didgeridude came along after Simba and had the same plan to hike to the next shelter. We all set out together. There have been a lot of streams we have had to “ford” recently but we haven’t actually had to ford them. They are easy rock hops or there are boards and logs in place that we can walk over. Well… around 9:00pm and about a half mile from the shelter we came to a stream we had to actually ford. Weird timing having to do it in the dark, but it was neat! Poor Simba wore her hiking shoes and fell in on her first step while Didgeridude and I changed into our camp shoes. The rocks were super slippery. Sometimes I feel like a kid on a playground out here. We crossed the river and on the way to the shelter we were saying “How cool would it be if there was nobody in the shelter and we could just set up our stuff and not have to worry about being quiet?” We got to the shelter and there was nobody there. That was unusual because with the end so close, this area is densely populated with hikers. There are a lot of Northbound hikers but also a lot of Flip Floppers.
Days miles: 6
One of those days! I got an excellent sleep but didn’t wake up until 8:07am, which is way out of the ordinary. I usually wake up at 6:00am or shortly after. I left at 11:00am. The terrain in my guide book looked flat but it was hilly all day. I got to a point where there was a half mile uphill where I was going to fill up on water. There was no water for the next 9 miles. The water source I went uphill to get to was dry, so I had to walk back downhill, almost a mile and then back up adding over a mile onto my already slow and difficult day. The first place I tried to get water was too steep and slippery and I had to go to another one further down. By the time I got water, I was tired and irritated and was going to call it a day after doing 4.7 miles. I decided to go another mile and a half and call it a night. I’m stealth camping alone for the second night ever. There is a jumping spider trapped in my tent with me that I’m not thrilled about and the squirrels outside are up to something. I think I hear them in my food bag. 9/26/14
Days miles: 17
I can’t believe how many people are out here in this little area. I stopped on the side of the trail to eat a snack and my trekking pole fell in the middle of the trail. I didn’t bother moving it because nobody was going to walk by. In a 20 minute period 9 people walked by. That’s a lot of people! And that’s just within a mile. Imagine how many people are in a 20 mile span. We forded our second river today. At night, again. It was cool. I night hiked 3 more miles after that and camped with Day Tripper, Blue, 10:46, Happy Hiker, Hatrick, and Didgeridude.
Days miles: 13.5
We went over our last real mountains until Katahdin for the next few days. And on those mountains I got a view of Katahdin, which looked huge. It was a really nice warm day, and I saw two moose! 10:46, Blu, Day Tripper, and Hatrick were like “Oh man, you just missed a moose. It was down at the water source.” I was so sad but I needed to get water anyway, so I started down the trail. I was hearing all of these weird noises and I assumed it was Happy Hiker trying to summon the moose. That was an inaccurate assumption. Happy Hiker wasn’t even down there. It was a baby moose! A moosling. I thought it was just a regular size moose until I saw it run to a mommy moose who I hadn’t even noticed. I was so excited. One of my goals was to see a moose but I didn’t think it was going to happen. I tried to get close to take pics, but mommy moose looked unhappy with my presence, so I looked for a tree to hide behind in case she charged but there was nothing, so I backed off. Unfortunately I fell short for my mileage goal AGAIN, and I’m going to have to pull some big miles over the next few days to make up for it. I’m camped at a shelter tonight with Hatrick, 10:46, Happy Hiker, Blu, Chip, Day Tripper, Toots, Navigater, J-Rex, No Rush, Mailman, and Mailman’s son.
Days miles: 19.5
Today was good. I woke up around 6:15 to the Maine Sisters and J-Rex packing up their stuff. It was a much needed wake up call. I’ve been leaving way too late. I got out of the shelter and left at 6:40am. 12 miles into the day I came to a road crossing where Turtle, a former hiker, had set up trail magic. I had a hot dog and a soda AND THEN I went on a treasure hunt for my resupply bucket. I still haven’t mastered resupply yet. I was craving something salty like chips, but all I had was sweet stuff like chocolate and granola bars. I had thrown in my 1 pasta side which I was looking forward to all day and then I ran out of fuel while I was cooking it that night. You’d think we have it all figured out by this stage in the game but…this is just not the case. I should have put in some potato chips, tortilla chips and salsa, and a soda. Shoulda woulda coulda.
Days miles: 22
Another good day. I just night hiked in again. I’ve had to night hike 4 out of 6 nights in the wilderness. It’s hard to do big days before the sun goes down at 7:00pm. While I was walking in the dark, through the rain, I saw another light coming toward me. Another night hiker! How cool is that? I’m assuming the guy was a flip flopper. They’re everywhere. I’m camped tonight with Mailman, Mailman’s son, and No Rush. They’re so nice. I met them back in Massachusetts when the mosquitoes were out of control. Viking and I had hiked into a shelter called something “swamp” shelter. The mosquitoes were awful, and No Rush and Mailman had set their tents up in the shelter. Since Viking and I night hiked in, I never saw their faces. I just recently met them again. They’re really cool guys. Earlier Mailman gave me a Mountain House meal, some fuel, and snacks since I’m out. I’m camped a little ways down from them by myself right now. I was feeling lonely and they came down and told me to holler if I need anything. That just made my day. 9/30/14
Days miles: 21.1
Today was a wonderful last full day of school. Tomorrow we have a half day and graduation. The first 11 miles of the day went smoothly. I was super excited to get to the Abol Bridge Campground because you’re finally out of the wilderness when you get there. They have a store, restaurant, bathrooms, and showers. I get there and I’m all smiles and then I go inside and they had next to nothing for food. Tomorrow they will probably have nothing left. I got the last package of cheese crackers, the last package of Cheez-Its, a soda, and some candy and this is what I have to live on for the rest of today into tomorrow afternoon. The restaurant closed for the season on Sunday. I also picked up some Quality Inn shampoo and conditioner (you know, the free kind) and they were charging a dollar a piece. I went to shower and it was a $5 entry and cleaning fee + 50 cents for every 6 minutes. Okay, no big deal. But then I went to shower and it was dirty! Again, no big deal. I’ll shower anywhere and be overjoyed, but don’t charge each person a cleaning fee and then not clean the showers. I think the Abol Bridge Campground can do better. As I was sitting outside I saw Ms. Janet, which was exciting and unexpected. Mailman’s son came out of the store and said “We were just in there joking with Ms. Janet about slack packing the next 10 miles.” I didn’t understand the joke. Miss Janet so kindly took our packs to the campground we are staying at tonight. I arrived shortly after dark (always. 5 out of the last 7 nights now), to find some friends checking in. They skipped the last 10 miles and got a ride in, but I like them and I’m happy to summit with them tomorrow, so I’ll let it slide. They may or may not have taken the last cupcakes that someone left as trail magic though, which I will not let slide. I was northbound hiker #938 at the halfway point in the trail and tonight I was northbound hiker #735 to check in at the Katahdin Stream Campground ranger station at the base of Mt. Katahdin. I’m camped here tonight with Pop, Spaghetti Monster, Blu, Day Tripper, Hey Y’all, Bluebird, Rocksloth, Simba, Mailman, No Rush, Mailman’s son, 10:46, Puzzle, Chip, Happy Hiker and some mystery fellow who has been in bed since before I got here. Tomorrow is a big day!
Days miles: 5.2 trail miles, 10.4 all together 🙂
I woke up around 4:30am. It was like Christmas and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I stayed in my sleeping bag until 5:30am when Pop and Spaghetti Monster got up. 10:46 was not far behind. Blu and Day Tripper who slept by the fire were already up making breakfast with Hey Y’all. It was still dark. We had never all been awake together that early. Mist was coming from the sky. It was cloudy, cold, and misty. It was a pretty crappy day as far as weather goes. We headed to the ranger station to drop our full packs off and pick up day packs and then set out at different times. I left at 7:30. The first mile was easy. We hiked along a stream and waterfalls that had the clearest water I’ve ever seen. The second mile was harder, but still pretty easy. The third mile was when it got really tough. There were large rocks to climb up, and you needed to use your hands. There were metal bars sticking out of the rocks that you used for assistance but they weren’t ladder style like we’ve seen before. These were just one thing to hold onto on a bare rock face. The rocks were slippery from the mist and we were still in the fog. I could see the sun ahead of me shining through the clouds and then all of a sudden we broke through the clouds. There were clouds under us and behind us, but it was all clear ahead. I brought my rain jacket, my fleece, and my down jacket expecting temperatures as low as 30 degrees at the top of the mountain with the wind chill. It was closer to 70 degrees at the top of the mountain. There was no wind, just a light breeze. I made it up to the sign behind Chip. I thought I would cry when I saw the sign, but I didn’t. I was just excited! It was beautiful. The sun was shining down around us and we were completely surrounded by the clouds below. Everyone was taking pictures, smiling and congratulating each other. On the way down the mountain there was a rainbow. I can’t imagine a better way to finish the journey.
Summiting Katahdin stands out as my favorite moment on the trail. The only thing that could have made it more majestic is unicorns. I enjoyed a lot of different parts of the trail for different reasons, and there were a lot of things I didn’t enjoy about the trail at all. There was a time in Rutland, Vermont where I wanted to quit. I looked up plane tickets and was on the verge of going home. I cried every day for 2 weeks and plenty more scattered days after that. Zach nailed it in Appalachian Trials with the “It’s the homesickness, redundancy, and loneliness” line in reference to what makes thru-hikers quit. My greatest trials were home sickness and not feeling safe after what happened in Palmerton. I missed my family. I missed being warm. I didn’t want to walk anymore. I didn’t care about the picture at the end of the trail. I was scared of being alone, but I kept going. Never quit on a bad day. I’m so glad I finished the trail. All of the sweat, tears, blood, bruises, bugs, blisters, and everything was worth it. I truly have no regrets as far as this trip goes. I wouldn’t change a thing. The trail taught me that everything will be okay. Even if you’re not happy about the situation, it will be okay. There are things that are out of our control, and we have to live with them. We can get angry and frustrated about it, or we can exercise patience and do our best to overcome these obstacles. My favorite thing about the trail wasn’t the beautiful views, or the freedom. It was the beautiful people I met along the way. Hiking the trail restored my faith in humanity. Out of the hundreds of people I met, there were only a few that I didn’t care for. The rest were good people who would give you the shirt off their backs. The trail magic from strangers is enough to make you want to become a better person.
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