Half Way, Half Gallon

Day 77:

I was TIRED this morning. One of the guys next to me in the bunk room was up til like 2 watching/listening to stuff on his ipad. So, not the best night of sleep. But anyway, let’s get after it. I finally got my butt out of bed and moving around 8, and had breakfast quickly, hitting the rod around 8:30. It was a relatively short day, so I wasn’t super worried, but I still wanted to move.

The day started poorly. I got back to the trail head, and since it had been 2 days since I had hiked, I totally forgot which way to go. Fortunately, there was an old man sitting at the trailhead who gave me directions. Unfortunately, he pointed me in the WRONG DIRECTION and I hiked the wrong way for a mile before I realized. So yknow. We’re 2-0 on great starts to the day. In the bright side, when I got back to where I started, there was a really nice view about 10 feet later, so that was nice.

After almost getting lost, you’d think it was all smooth sailing from there right? WRONG. I got lost AGAIN trying to cross a highway and find the trail on the other side. I got there eventually by following another hiker, just that killed another big chunk of my time. This is going GREAT. But after I found the trail I finally was well underway. About 19 minutes later I hit the West Virginia border sign! Now we’re not actually leaving Virginia til tomorrow (booooooo), but it’s nice to at least SEE another state. It’s been way too long. And the trail followed that border basically all day.

Bye Virginia!

The hiking today was relatively easy. Although it definitely got rocky at times, there were minimal ups and downs, so I was cruising pretty quickly. Only weird thing was I got crazy hungry after about 2 hours, so I sat for a mid morning snack. It was nice. The trail was crowded, and lots of people asked if I was ok, to which I said yeah, I was. It was funny how many people seemed to think I was hurt just sitting by the side of the trail, but it’s also pretty nice to know people have each others back out here.

After like 12 miles I hit a shelter, where I sat for a quick ole lunch. Again, I was HUNGRY today for whatever reason, so I scarfed down my food. More than I usually do, I mean. After lunch I kept pushing on, I had about an hour to the road where I was meeting Lindsey. And meet Lindsey I did! It was 2:30 when I got to the crossing, and found her just hanging out. I’m glad that I (apparently) didn’t keep her too long, which I was worried about after the whole morning debacle. But meet up we did.

We were staying at a campsite about 4 miles outside Harpers Ferry, but there was no water there, so we detoured to a store for water and snacks. It was a very nice detour. Afterwords we had a very short hike out to the campsite, where we set up and got to dinner. I’m feeling pretty tired, so I’m laying down early. It’s 6:30 right now and I’m already in my tent. Will I go to sleep by 7? Who the heck know. But guess there’s one way to find out.

I’m meeting John and Grace in Harpers Ferry tomorrow and oh boy am i excited! It’s been. a steady stream of friends these past couple weeks, and I’m very excited to keep that rolling. Also very excited to get the ef out of Virginia. All due respect, it’s a pretty state and I love it very much, but god we’ve been here a long time. I want something different, even if it’s not actually different.

I had an interesting thought today that all thru hikers are a race against the clock. Not even against some deadline, although that is sometimes the case, but against our bodies. This lifestyle is simply not sustainable. We’re in too much of a calorie deficit, without enough nutrients. Your body can’t sustain it for all that long. So it’s a race against yourself, basically. I wonder how I’ll hold up.

Quote of the day: “Yeah I’m fine I just pulled a muscle EEEEEEEEEEEEEE”

Today I am grateful for Joes Lemonade, pancakes, and trekking poles.

Day 78:

Harpers Ferry day! We’re only doing 11 miles today. Surely that means we’re leaving late, right? WRONG. We got up at 6:15! Left camp by 7! Time to get going!!!! That part sucked. But the temptation of good, hot breakfast made it a lot easier. It only took us like an hour and a half to get to town, and boy oh boy was the breakfast good. Hot eggs are always a win.

We crossed a river (I’m not sure which one?) to get to Hapers Ferry!

After breakfast, we sauntered over to the ATC headquarters to get our picture taken and sign the logbook. It was a pretty cool place all in all, they had a bunch of old yearbooks to look through. We got our pictures taken and signed them. We’re northbound hikers number 396 and 397, which is pretty crazy considering we started our hike as 1255 and 1256. 900 people we got ahead of. Crazy.

NOBO #396!

After about 30 minutes and there, John and Grace rolled in! It was really really great to see them. We chatted and caught up for a few minutes at the headquarters, and they were kind enough to give us a ride to the store to resupply. After that, we hopped on the trail, and walked over to downtown Harpers Ferry.

Harpers Ferry is a super pretty little town. In a lot of ways it reminds me of colonial Williamsburg, it’s an old style brick town like that. Except this one was plopped right in the middle of the mountains and next to the Shenandoah River, which adds a lot to the background scenery. But yeah, we just wandered around for a while, got some lunch, and chatted. At around 1:30, we headed out of town and back to the trail.

Harpers Ferry (feat. John)

I’m glad we had John and Grace with us, because the next 3 miles we’re horrendously boring. It was literally just a flat walk along a gravel bike lane, and it felt like it went on forever. After about 2.5 miles, they had to say goodbye and head home, which definitely sucked but it was really nice to have them come visit. It’s been really great to get to see all these people the past couple weeks.

The last 3 or so miles to the shelter was pretty easy. It was a light uphill to start, which was a little annoying, but then it was just a flat ridge walk. I think that’s what we can expect for basically the next 2 months. Hoorah. We got to the shelter around 4:30, and found a few of our friends here, so we’re sticking out the night at this one. The only problem is you have to go like a mile for water, but it’s ok.

It was a really nice day. Hanging out in harpers ferry was great. Seeing John and Grace was amazing. Plus we got real food, and get to hang out with a bunch of our friends at the shelter! Chefs kiss. Tomorrow should be pretty fun too. Word on the street is there’s trail magic for breakfast, so that’ll be great. Good start to the day.

Quote of the day: “You look wet.” “Like, in the sexy way?”

How many owls would you need to see before you got suspicious: “One. Owls are creepy.”

Today I’m grateful for Aldi, blackberries, and Almost Heaven

Day 79:

Bright side of sleeping in a shelter? No tent to pack up in the morning. Bad side? People will wake you up in the morning by talking loudly at 5:30. It did not help that I slept pretty terribly. But yknow what, i guess we’re getting up early today. Ready to go by like 6:30. Only problem? We were stopping for breakfast at trail magic, which didn’t start til 8. We were slated to get there a little before 8. But we figured w e could just hang out. So awaaaaaaaay we go.

To be honest, I don’t remember much of the morning. I was really tired. Lindsey tripped 3 times, but other than that not much interesting. We arrived at the trail magic spot like 5 minutes before 8. There were a few other people there, so we all hung out and chatted for a while until the trail magic people were ready to get set up and get cooking. Then we all hobbled on over for hot sandwiches and snacks. And they were in fact DELICIOUS. God I love a good breakfast sandwich. And I’ve missed them.

Did I have to do 16 more miles after the trail magic? Absolutely I did. Did I hang out at the trail magic for like 3 hours anyways? Absolutely I did. And I do not regret it. Great food, great friends, a great time. It was really really lovely. Potentially one of my favorite trail magics so far. But around 11:30, it was actually time to get going, so out I rolled.

Maryland is a bit of a confusing state so far. Somehow it’s both really pretty and really boring. The forest itself is pretty. It’s green, and the flowers are blooming, and all the summer smells are coming out. In that way, it’s great. But it’s just so… flat. And repetitive because of it. There’s no variation, not really. So, as pretty as it is, it’s not particularly interesting, and I don’t really have too too much more detail to describe it in.

Around 3:30 I hit the first big variation for the day! I crossed I70, on an admittedly pretty cool foot bridge. Crossing highways is always kinda weird to me. It always stands out as a stark reminder of the outside world. It’s like a slap in the face of reality. It’s also a funny reminder of how many of the miles we’ve covered could have been driven so easily. It’s kinda funny in a way.

The cool little foot bridge!

Just at the end of the day, I finally hit some cool views. I didn’t know that Maryland has them, but it does! Some nice cliff overlooks onto the flat plains below. It was cool to sit there and hang out for a little while. Unfortunately, when I was there I found out that I had accidentally passed the place where Lindsey had stopped for the day. Oh well. I headed to a campsite about 0.5 miles up from the cliffs. We’ll meet up again tomorrow.

Who says Maryland doesn’t have good views?

I crossed a stream right before camp. First of all, I could feel the air change as I decended down to the water, so that was pretty cool. I guess that’s something I’ve learned to do out here. But anyway, I was a little low on water, but I told myself I’d cook dinner and come back when it was rehydrating. A great plan, in theory. But after I had boiled my water I accidentally spilled it all over the place. Lovely. So I had to walk back to the stream and fill up before I could eat. Let this be a lesson kids. Always fill up before camp.

Today was a pretty great day. The trail magic was really really a boost. And I did hang out there for way longer than I meant too, but honestly it was worth it. I still got to camp with plenty of time for everything I needed to do, and then some. Also I’m pretty impressed with myself that I managed 19 miles in a day where I also took a 3 hours break. Crazy.

I finished one of my audiobook series today. As usual when I finish a long book series, I felt kind of this pang of some emotion. It’s like, melancholy? Sadness? Loneliness? A mix of the three? Im not really sure. But it’s always weird. I have no idea where that comes from. I also am not sure if that’s something that happens to everyone? Who the heck knows. A weird feeling either way. But not a bad one.

Quote of the day: “I’ve been burned on the tongue one too many times”

Today I am grateful for trail magic, flexible ankles, and fresh water.

Day 80:

I woke up at 5:30 today. Why? Not a clue in the world. I hadn’t planned on getting up early. I had planned on getting up late, in fact. But my body said nope, 5:30. I couldn’t get back to sleep, but I surely wasn’t gonna get up, so I lay there until like 6:45, when I decided I should probably get moving. It was a cool morning, which made it pretty easy to get out of bed. Last night was hot, so that was refreshing. I finally hit the road at 7:45.

This morning was rocky, which was a bit of a surprise. I was always told it was Pennsylvania which was super rocky, but no one talk about Maryland. It was a dance to get across, which was kinda fun. After about 45 minutes, I caught up to Lindsey and Guinness, who had started about an hour before me but a mile and a half behind. Together we wound our way across these rock fields for another 45 minutes or so.

This was the trail this morning. WTF is this

Lindsey and Guinness took a break at the first shelter, but I hadn’t been going very long, so I decided to keep on pushing. There was a park I was hoping to get to for lunch, which was about 15 miles from where I started, so I had to make up some time. Unfortunately, the rockiness of the early morning was NOTHING compared to the rockiness of the late morning. It was like walking through boulder field after boulder field. And all downhill, which is the worst way to traverse rocks. To make matters worse, the trail was really poorly blazed, so half the time I couldn’t tell where I was going. It was a slog.

And then, out of nowhere, it stopped. Seriously there was like a line where the trail went from boulder field to perfectly flat and wide and flat. It was absolutely surreal. To be honest, at the moment I was too hungry to pay much attention, but it was kinda crazy. I knew I had to be close to the park, so I kicked it into high gear.

And close to the park I was! Martian Mcfly and PBG were already hanging out there, and I missed hopping in on their pizza order by about 10 seconds. it’s ok though, I need to save money, and actually eat some of my own food. So I resigned myself to peanut butter tortillas. After I ate and they ordered, we did what any reasonable adults do at a public park. We played on the playground! It was pretty fun.

Our view for lunch

We meandered around for a long time at the park. A bunch of our other friends showed up, along with the pizza. And lucky us there were some leftovers to go around. I sat there happily until around 3, when I decided to get moving. I still had 9 miles to do, and I wanted to get there before sunset.

Hello Pennsylvania!

About 5 minutes after I left the park, I crossed into Pennsylvania (gross). It’s crazy, we were in one state for like a month, and now we’ve crossed 2 in 3 days! Wild stuff. But yeah, another one bites the dust. And the landscape was typical PA. Lush pine forests were a staple for the rest of the evening. I got to camp around 6, tired, dehydrated, and sweaty (did I mention it was really hot today?). The rest of the evening went without major event.

Yeah, it was h-o-t WARM today. Probably the hottest feeling day we’ve had so far. I find it tough to remember to drink water even at the best of times, but out here it is just impossible for me to drink enough. But I’m trying my best I swear. The heat also lead to a good amount of chaffing in some uhhhh… uncomfortable places, which put me in a bit of a bad mood towards the end of the day. Hard to be in a good one when every step hurts. But I managed.

Quote of the day: “They probably though ‘who’s this creepy old homeless guy playing with my kids?’”

Today I am grateful for leftovers, spigots, and baby powder

Day 81:

Was I up at 5 again? heck yeah I was. Did I wait til 7:30 to leave again? Heck yeah I did. I don’t know what’s going on to be honest. I would LOVE to be able to sleep longer. And hopefully this is just a momentary fluke, although I guess if I’m going to sleep at 8:30 every day it doesn’t really make a difference. But still, i’d rather not wake up before the sun every day when I don’t want to leave for like 3 hours. Anyways, I had to get moving eventually, so I did!

The day started off ROUGH. It was warm and humid, and straight uphill. It was a long uphill thankfully, we’re done with those for a while, but it was quite the way to start the day. But once I got up it, it was pretty easy going. It was still rocky, but much much flatter than it has been, which is a nice relief. And I was moving pretty good. By 10 I had ticked off about 6.5 miles, which is pretty good pacing for the day.

Around 11:15 I caught up to Lindsey hanging out at another park. I hung around for a little while, but she took off relatively soon after I got there. There’s potentially some rain rolling in later tonight and I think she wants to make sure she beats it to the shelter. I did to, to be fair, but I also wanted a bit of a break. And then Imom showed up, so of course my short break turned into lunch and hanging out. But around 12:30 I got underway again. Only 10 more miles to go.

After lunch was a longer, but way less steep uphill. And it was very pretty. The first half of it was through more pine forests, which is probably my favorite thing to walk through so far. I freaking LOVE pine forests. They’re just so pretty, and quiet, and the ground is so soft. After the pine forest I walked through a bit of rhododendron tunnel, which was also really cool. The mountain laurel is in bloom, but for some reason the rhododendron still isn’t, which is a little sad. But it was cool nonetheless.

Rhododendron tunnel

Around 2 I almost stepped directly on my 3rd venomous snake of the week. This time it was a Timber Rattlesnake, which is a new one for me, but still pretty freaky. And this thing did NOT want to move. In fact I thought it was dead until I stuck my trekking pole towards it and it flicked its tongue. I was stuck.

The snake in question

So I waited. I decided if it hadn’t moved in 10 minutes I’d prod it off the trail. But just then Imom showed up, and he has less patience than me. So he started by tossing a pebble at it, which bounced off to literally zero effect. But eventually he poked it enough to get it to move away, unhappily rattling the whole time. So that was fun.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful after that. We had another walk through a much bigger pine forest, which again, pretty darn sweet. We were moving at a solid pace, but it had started to drizzle on and off so I think we were both hoping to get to camp before it got worse. That didn’t stop us from pausing to take pictures though.

Our pine forest walk (feat. Imom mid trip)

The last 20 minutes of the day were freaking WHIMSICAL. We came out of the pine forest into an area where all the upper tree canopy had died away, and left only shrubs and mountain laurel. The mountain laurel shot up patches of flowers through the field, and this went on for like a mile. It was like we had stepped into Narnia. But alas, eventually we walked out of it, and into the shelter.


As we were setting up, there was a distant rumbling of thunder. Oh boy. That’s always motivation to get set up quickly. But fortunately, the weather held out for a good while. We (Imom, Lindsey and I) managed to cook, eat, and do a little stretching before the rain started in earnest. But it is now strongly raining, and we’ve all been relegated to our tents. So it’ll probably be an early sleep tonight.

I spent a lot of the day trying to wrap my head around the fact that tomorrow we cross the HALF WAY POINT of this trip. Safe to say, I could not. I still cannot. I’m not sure I will. It’s just a really really big thing to try to conceptualize, walking that far. I feel it to a lesser degree every time we cross a hundred mile marker, but this is totally different.

Half way. More behind us than in front. It seems impossible, but I guess that’s what happens when you just put one foot in front of the other. And it somehow seems more possible than eating a half gallon of ice cream, which I am also (allegedly) doing tomorrow. Wish me luck on THAT one.

Quote of the day: “I thought Bonk (that’s me) was the biggest hater, but it looks like you’ve just been deflecting”

Today I’m thankful for ling trekking poles, fish patches, and Pre-Occupied

Day 82:

Did I wake up at 5 again? You’re absolutely goddamn right I did. I am UNHAPPY about it. But honestly today it may have been a good thing. Today we cross to half way on the trail, and both me and Lindsey are meeting our parents in Pine Grove. So we wanted to get there early ish.

We left camp around 6:45. It was a pretty sleepy morning, but a good one nonetheless. We started off walking through a whole bunch of openish fields, with lots of tall grass. It rained a whole bunch last night, but fortunately it was enough rain that the mud fully washed off the trail and left us with just rocks to walk on. That made it a good chunk easier, and also speed my socks from getting too soaked.

Around 8, we passed the OFFICIAL halfway mark of the AT! what and absolutely insane milestone. It’s hard to believe how far we’ve walked. Genuinely I do not have word for it. I just cannot wrap my head around it in the slightest. But I guess we’re closer to Katahdin than Springer now? So woohoo for that?


The late morning was a slow decent into some really lush pine forests. It was probably the greenest forest we’ve been in so far. And the path was nice and wide, it was great. After about an hour in there we popped out onto a road, and made our way over to the Pine Grove Furnace general store.

Look how lush!

Lindsey’s parents were already there and waiting, which is weird cause we said we wouldn’t be there til 11 and it wasn’t even 10:30. But it was nice to see them again. We sat around and chatted until my parents pulled up about 10 minutes later. I was super super excited for that. They of course had watermelon with them, which definitely added to the excitement, but we couldn’t dig into that yet. We had work to do.

Imom showed up around 11:30, and the three of us set out to our biggest challenge of the day, and maybe our biggest challenge so far. The half pint challenge. When you cross the half way point of the appalachian trail, it’s tradition for you to eat a half gallon of ice cream. And who are we to shirk tradition? We went into the store, chose our flavors, and set to work.

It was tough going, I’m not gonna lie. After about 5 minutes, the overwhelming sweetness and lack of texture really started to get to me. I also chose chocolate marshmallow, which I think was a poor decision. But I kept chugging along. It took about 45 minutes, but we all got through the first big container.

Here’s the problem: That wasn’t a full half gallon. We had to go back and eat another pint. We all took a bit of a break to settle down, then Imom and I went back for the pint. Lindsey took a little longer, but she got it eventually too. This time we grabbed fruit flavors, less sweet and way better texture wise, so the pint went down real smooth. And just like that, it was done. A whole half gallon. Might be crazier than walking half the trail.

Half gallon down!

The rest of the day was thoroughly uneventful. We decided not to hike any more, so we went and checked in to a hostel up the road, and got our stuff situated. My parents had to take off around 3, so I said bye to them and wandered around the area for a bit. And yeah, that’s basically the whole rest of the day! It was definitely a good idea to not hike, my stomachs feeling it.

Quote of the day: “I hate myself, but only a little”

Today I am thankful for pita chips, hiker hunger, and peach flavoring.

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Comments 2

  • thetentman : Jun 8th

    A great post. From one Jersey boy to another, thank you.

    You are almost home (Jersey).

    Good luck.

    PS Rattlesnakes never move unless you move them. They are stubborn and unafraid.


  • Flash : Jun 8th

    Your posts are absolutely GREAT! In my mind I am a wannabe thru hiker, but in reality I am a 62 year old distance runner who loves half-marathons. So thanks to you I get my thru hiker fix without killing my feet by carrying a big pack. Best of luck on the second half of your trek ,and thanks for writing ✍️.


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