Aaah yes. Here we are, 5 months of hiking the Appalachian Trail. Over 1600 miles hiked, and only three states left to go. We still have the occasional comments on how most hikers have already been through a particular town, or question whether or not we will finish. The answer is yes, we will finish. We are in Vermont during this update, and although we may be slower than some, there are still many behind us. We are in the home stretch now. We are walking home at our own pace.
We can proudly look at how far we have come, not just how far we have to go. We have walked from Georgia to Vermont, and are still going, with less than 600 miles to go!
Pennsylvania was tough. Every state has had its challenges but at the time, Pennsylvania seemed to take the prize for being the least favorite state.
We entered New Jersey and immediately felt a difference. Although it may have still had the annoying bugs and a good amount of rocks, we started reaching elevation that offered spectacular views.
Although water sources are much slimmer than they were at the beginning of our trek, the water sources have been more frequent than Pennsylvania.
Skye got her pack back in New Jersey and she’s still going strong. She spends about 80% of her day chasing Squirrels and chipmunks, but never catching them. That 80% Snorlax and I spend telling her to leave them alone and then fixing her pack after it has flipped sideways due to her running so fast. One of her other favorite things to do is go into the water to swim, with her pack on (the pack is not waterproof!).
New Jersey on the Appalachian Trail has been known for its delis. Because you go right through some towns in Jersey, which happen to have many delis, you can pack little food in your pack and just buy food along the way.
We received some awesome off trail-trail magic from Game Warden’s cousin, Tracy who lives in New Jersey. He picked us up from a trail head, brought us to his home and fed us pizza, and some of his homemade beer, and had breakfast sandwiches and coffee in the morning . We also had a chance to shower and do laundry which is always a plus. It was great to spend time with trail family’s family. And If anyone has a chance to try Tracy’s beer, I highly recommend it.
New York came soon after New Jersey and was just as awesome. However, one bad thing to say about New York was the trash on the trail. There seemed to be a lot of broken glass and trash throughout the trail which is probably because most parts are so close to the road.
We did find an old Rolling Rock beer bottle which we thought was pretty cool. I guess it’s true that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
We got a chance to hang out with some Donkeys that happened to reside near one of the shelters we visited. Skye tried to play with them but they weren’t too keen on the idea…
We continue to get awesome trail magic (including New York Bagels and New York Pizza!). A section hiker, by the name of Mac Daddy, out with his family provided us with great company and bagels, oranges and watermelon. His son Elias was hanging out and educating us on the Pokémon character, Snorlax. He seemed pretty excited to get his picture taken with our trail Snorlax and his Pokémon stuff . We also got some beer and pizza trail magic from a newlywed couple, and got to share our backpacking tips for their new adventures.
After doing so many miles, gear starts to lose its luster. My camp shoes from Astral that I got at trail days broke. Our darn tough socks started to rip. The tips on my leiki trekking poles had gone. Our oboz shoes were about toast, and Snorlax’s Osprey backpack load lifters straps broke. Luckily enough all of the above companies are supportive of thru hikers and replaced all of those things.
Like New Jersey, the trail in New York goes by some delis. The trail also went through the Bear Mountain zoo, which was actually one of the lowest points on the Appalachian Trail physically and mentally. While wildlife is cool, seeing them not in the wild and behind a cage is not as cool.
It wasn’t that long before we were in Connecticut, the gateway to New England and welcomed by my Aunt Kelly, her significant other Roger, and my cousins – Alisha, Kacey, and Alexa, and their kids-Sofie and Logan. They all live in Connecticut, not even very close to the trail but still drove almost two hours to pick us up. They spoiled us with all sorts of good food and beer, showers and laundry. We even got to go to the gun range with Roger and shoot a few rounds. We relaxed by the pool, and watched some television. Best of all? I got to see family. It was awesome of them to drive all that way, and also welcome our trail family into their home as well.
It was great to be surrounded by such strong women, such as my aunt. About a year ago she was diagnosed with Guillain Barre syndrome, where she was paralyzed and unable to speak. Now, she is walking on her own, doing occasional hikes and talking again. She told me while she was in the hospital and couldn’t speak, she over heard the doctors tell family she wouldn’t make it. Aunt Kelly told me that she said in her head, “Eat shit” and she knew she was going to make it. I’m so proud to call her my aunt and how far she has made it. It just reminds us more and more that when people imply we won’t make it, to tell them to eat shit…in a nice way.
While waiting for our new shoes to come in the mail, we spent some time in Cornwall, CT. The local package store provided us with a complimentary beer. We enjoyed the beer at the top of the mountain, watching the cars race at the Limestone Speedway.
Once we got our shoes, we picked up the miles once again and made it into Massachusetts.
We were welcomed into Massachusetts with a thunderstorm on some open ledges. It’s those moments where most people would be thinking they were through with hiking. However, that adventurous side of us was thinking – we are thru hiking now. Those views, in the storm even, and the feeling of the warm rain on our skin-reminds us we are alive. When we left 5 months ago after getting rid of most of our things, and put what we need in a backpack – we did it to live simply , but also simply live.
There has been an increase with south bound hikers and it’s nice to hear more of what’s ahead. We recently camped at a cabin on a pond where the caretaker made pancakes in the morning. The south bounders brought fresh picked blueberries and those were added to the pancakes – now that’s team work.
As we got close to the end of Massachusetts and near the Vermont border, we were walking down the street from the trail and heard someone yelling to us. Some locals invited us over to join their BBQ . It was a great time with lots of laughs and they even gave us a ride to do some errands. The generosity of strangers, and even family and friends who you barely see is amazing. Hiking the trail has given us so much faith in humanity and helps keep us going.
Being out in the woods for months at a time can be difficult to keep up with everything. I recently found out the musician Prince died, and we have no clue what’s popular for music and are isolated from current events. Sometimes we are grateful for the disconnection, sometimes it makes it difficult to hold conversations with non hikers while in town. I feel like by the time we are done we will need a cliff notes for the year 2016.
We have been out here for five months, and are coming close to the end of our journey. While knowing what’s going on is important, I think we will just continue to live in the now, focus on our goals and keep trekking. Thank you for the continous support and as always. ..Happy trails!