I’m halfway into this beautiful journey! Taking things one step at a time, building friendships, having a supportive home base, believing that the trail will provide, and wanting it more than anything were critical factors to getting this far. It’s tough to encapsulate the adventure, but here are a few takeaways:
Highs: Tackling Katahdin and the HMW with a mix of fear and excitement was such an exhilarating way to kick off this grand adventure. This state was strenuous, but the views were stunning, the beaches were prime break spots, and the streams were flowing. I experienced my first trail magic from Birdman in the HMW and I’ve never been so relieved to see baked beans, hotdogs, and corn before. The Maine Roadhouse in Stratton still stands as my favorite hostel, the Jen’s are so personable.
Lows: There was one bad hail storm that every SOBO recalls. Waking up that morning to hike over White Cap was such a drag: putting on wet, cold clothes and barely being able to move my freezing cold hands. Sadly, no moose sightings, but I saw plenty of their droppings. Bugs are a pest, they fly directly into your eyes and nose.
Lessons: Appreciate the simple things; it holds more value.
Highs: Noticing my body getting stronger as I climb two to three 4,000 footers each day. The hike up Mt. Madison to Mt. Washington and down to Mizpah Spring Hut was absolutely majestic. The proclaimed hardest parts of the trail have been the most inspiring parts, increasing my enthusiasm for the rest of the trail. I scored the best trail magic from the Lawrence family. They were hiking for the weekend and offered me stay at Carter Notch Hut—which included a bunk, dinner, and breakfast. Their kindness lifted my spirits and gave me the boost I needed to keep moving through the Whites. The towns (specifically Conway and Hanover) were off-trail havens for my tramily and I to relax, decompress, and have a good time. We saw Top Gun in Hanover and continued movie night at our Airbnb.
Lows: My knee was in excruciating pain the day we rolled into Hanover. I couldn’t walk or move my leg without feeling like it was going to snap right off. I took a zero day the next day and after stretching, icing, and resting, it healed. The pain made my mind spiral out of control, thinking that this could be a detrimental injury, ending my thru-hike.
Lessons: Listen to my body. Although it’s resilient, it’s also fragile.
Highs: Gave me the recovery I so badly needed with gentle terrain. My partner, his brother, and his sister-in-law came to visit for a weekend, starting at Woodstock, we hiked about 27 miles and ended the visit with a delicious sandwich from the Yellow Deli. In Manchester, we had a fun night at the VFW and a bunch of SOBOs united in Bennington to celebrate the town becoming an officially designated Appalachian Trail Community at their first annual trailfest. We continued the celebration and filled the local bar for post-fest fun. A big success was leaving the state with my biggest day on trail, pushing 28.5 miles.
Lows: This section was very populated with hikers, which made it harder to get a spot in the shelter or campsite. Not only was it uncomfortable hiking in the heat and humidity, but it was the beginning of unreliable water sources. Bugs are still a pest.
Lesson: Make time to hangout with other thru-hikers. SOBOs have to put a little extra effort into the experience to make it social.
Highs: Entered the state with my biggest day on trail with a 28.5-mile day. I received more trail magic here than in any other state. We stayed at the Cookie Lady’s house to pick, and snack, on blueberries in exchange for dinner and a place to stay. We huddled on the porch to stay dry from an upcoming storm (which was successfully dodged) and wrapped the night up with a movie.
Lows: Music, podcasts, and audiobooks can’t keep the stressful thoughts from creeping in, forcing me to think things through. I grapple with past behaviors and future decisions: what my lifestyle has been and how I want to change it, how I’ve approached romantic companionship and if it serves me, and what independence and freedom means to me.
Lessons: To be happy takes a lot of hurt and effort.
Highs: There was a fun climb up St. John’s Ledges after a long stretch of flat, clear trail. The towns were sweet and quaint (Kent specifically). Syrup’s family visited, reserved a campground at Housatonic Meadows State Park to hangout, and spoiled us with trail magic galore: chili, drinks, breakfast burritos, and a ride to run errands.
Lows: I really started to feel like I was in the green tunnel. I typically hike alone and eventually see my tramily throughout the day, but because I visited home for a couple days, I was behind them. I didn’t know the people at a shelter I stayed at one night and we made friendly small talk, but I would’ve much rather ended the night with people I knew.
Lessons: There’s a chance that I, or someone else, could fall behind, hike ahead, or get off trail. Sticking with people you’ve built friendships with isn’t always possible.
Highs: Reunited with my tramily in NYC. We wandered around aimlessly, not knowing what to do, so we did what we do best—walk, eat, and drink. The Warwick drive-in theatre was an awesome campsite and right across the street there’s a brewery that had delicious food, alcohol, and live music.
Lows: I felt sick, queasy, bloated, and had the chills for about five days. Being sick on trail sucks because all I wanted to do was be home in bed, taken care of, and eat soup. It’s tough to be away from home while feeling crappy, so I definitely got homesick.
Lessons: Getting sick happens. Sleep it off, reassess each morning, keep the goal in mind, tough it out, and continue putting one foot in front of the other.
Highs: Slackpacked 15 miles into town to spend a second night at the drive-in and I felt invincible with a light pack and flat terrain. With a mile and a half left, I decided to run. My feet were flying down the trail and it was a rush of excitement going at a fast speed downhill, dodging and hopping off rocks.
Lows: During that run, a root snuck up and snatched my shoe, sending me straight to the ground. Adrenaline was rushing through my body, and so was blood down my leg, but I finished full speed. My knee was oozing blood, gravel lodged into the wound, and muscles throbbing. This was so reckless and could’ve ended so badly.
Lesson: Don’t do dumb things that could jeopardize the thru-hike.
Highs: Getting trail magic from Jason who hooked us up with $40, a kind note, and weed that we indulged in at a shelter we had to ourselves on a rainy day. Rolling into Boiling Springs on another rainy day and staying at Lisa’s house was also nice. She had a shed converted into a bunkhouse where we watched movies on VHS, ate grilled cheese, and drank Lucky Streak. Meeting Guide’s family and being treated to dinner, hotel, go-kart racing, and having an eventful night in Carlisle felt like a vacation on top of a vacation. We also hit the halfway point!
Lows: No views, still no water, and the rocks are relentless — it was hard to maintain a consistent stride. Planning our hike around the half gallon ice cream challenge just for it to be closed on weekdays after Labor Day was a bummer. Counting down the miles remaining, realizing that it’s almost over.
Lesson: Time flies. Try to find the balance between appreciating the present and planning for the future.
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