Thanks everyone for the birthday wishes and sorry if I was unable to get back to you.
6/19 blue blazed on the Virginia creeper and had ice cream with jeans a sobo flip flopper. Great day and happy I’m not a purist. Reflecting on this day a few days later I had a thought. A thru hike is not about the physical challenge, it is a learning experience. It’s about the people you meet, the situations you have to overcome and get to enjoy, and growing as a person. Of course the physical challenge is prevalent, but it’s just another thing you have to overcome. It is not the end all be all.
6/20 Happy birthday Sunshine! In such a great mood today, hiking with great people over beautiful places. The weather was nice and cool but many of the water sources were dry. Luckily, a few people at a trailhead were able to refill our bottles and even had some snacks. Got to see and get licked by the ponies. Grayson highlands state park has wild feral ponies that will come up and lick the salty sweat off of your legs. This was Sunshine’s goal, to have a pony lick his leg. No one believed that it was actually a thing until it happened. Glad he got his wish on his birthday. Nice camp spot with our now 9 person group.
6/21 Happy Birthday Me! Beautiful morning with blue skies and the sun shining. The weather again has been incredible. So glad to be out of the heatwave and have less humid days. Got to run a little downhill with Vintage and enjoy a nice walk through an open field by myself. Soaked my feet in a waterfall and had a little party with the tramily. Sunny and Littlefoot made a backcountry cake out of cosmic brownies and put 21 candles on it. Sunshine packed out a small bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate. It was very thoughtful of everyone and made my night. Still can’t believe Sunshine carried that bottle for 3 days, it must have weighed 3 pounds.
6/22 Another nice day for weather but a tough morning mentally. Didn’t feel like walking through the green tunnel again today. Still, I pushed forward hoping that I would get over it. After getting up over the first hill I felt better and took in my surroundings. I’m very lucky to be out here but I have to remind myself. Still, something new to break up the green tunnel every once in a while is nice. I can’t imagine how bored everyone else is because I love trees and I’m bored. Lunch helped but I still wasn’t in the greatest mood so I ran / fast walked the last 10 miles.
6/23 Last night was the worst night of sleep I’ve had yet. It was too hot to be under my quilt, but if I wasn’t fully cover I was being attacked by no-see-em bugs. We stayed at the Partnership shelter mere yards away from the Mt Rogers recreation visitor center. I spent an hour and a half walking around the parking lot, sitting on the steps, and drinking from the water fountain. I went back and moved my sleeping set-up to the picnic table, which had a little bit of a breeze that offered some relief from the heat and the bugs. It didn’t help much however and Littlefoot ended up pitching her tent around 2 am. Luckily she let me join her inside and I slept great, until about 4:30 AM when it started to rain. We had not put the rain fly on because of the heat so we scrambled. Luckily it was a light rain and nothing got too wet. The rest of the day was better. We went into Sugar Grove to pick up my new quilt, a 40°, and my birthday package from my parents. Then went to Marian to resupply and got a lunch to pack out. Got to do some yoga and meditate at the top of the last climb and had a relaxing stroll for the remaining 6.5 miles into town with Littlefoot. Tonight we are staying at the long neck alpaca farm hostel, an actual alpaca farm.
6/24 Left the alpaca hostel after a nice leisurely morning. No one seemed very eager to leave that morning. It may have been because it was our last day with Sunshine, our “token old guy” or because it was very hot and the hostel was so nice and inviting. We passed the 1/4 way marker from GA to ME just before lunch. After what seemed a short day we said our goodbyes to Sunshine, which got a little emotional. I swear it was just sweat coming out of my eyes. Hopefully it won’t be the last time we see him. Finally he admitted that he was actually having fun and might be a hiker. (Sunshine got his trail name because, in his words, his disposition is anything but. He would also constantly say that he was not a hiker, but he has now completed 1/4 of the trail.) Today was a very hot day, walking through pastures and open fields with many dry water sources. Decided that we were going to pull up a couple miles short and camp. However, the water source was dry and we had no water. Luckily, we walked a rocks throw down the road to the Bear Garden to fill our bottles. The people were very nice and the bunk house was cute so we decided to stay the night. We also worked out a plan to slack pack over 26 miles the next day, which comes with a homemade cake upon completion. Somehow the worst days turn into the best. Just asking a few questions and being open to new experiences can make all the difference.
6/25 Woke up early to get our day started at 5:00 AM. Had breakfast, packed our bags with the little amount of things we needed (ah slack packing is the best), and hoped in a shuttle north. Hitting the trail at 6:30 the temperature was cool and the sun was just peaking over the horizon. One of the best things about jumping up north and hiking sobo is getting to see all our friends that we’re a day ahead. Chatted with Vintage, Chloe, and Radar for a good while trying to figure out a plan for our two groups to reconvene. Also got to see Weather Man, Agent Orange and Anomaly. They all plan to stay at the Woods Hole Hostel and take a zero, which will give us plenty of time to catch up. The hostel is 40 miles north of where we will pick up the trail tomorrow morning. Maybe two 20s back to back? Sunny, Littlefoot, and myself will need to figure out a plan when we get back to the hostel. Again we deviated from our original plan, which has happened every time so far I believe. As I always say, the plan isn’t really the plan until it happens. Later that day we had to “ford” Lick Creek, where the bridge across washed out in 2020. The water is typically knee deep unless there is heavy rain. The water level when we crossed was at best ankle deep. That pretty much sums up our water experiences in Virginia so far. Nearly every creek and stream we walked by today was bone dry. Luckily nearby hostels and trail angles have been stocking water caches. It doesn’t help that all of the rain that was predicted to hit us dissipated. I’m not complaining about not having to hike in the rain but the forest could desperately use it. I think it is fair to say that with the heat and drought, Virginia is going to be rough. We completed the Bear Garden challenge, the 26.4 mile slack pack, and got a freshly baked cake. We also broke the record for the fastest consumption of said cake.
6/26 Shuttled back to the spot we got dropped off in the morning and continued north. The rain started down on us right away, soft at first and then progressively harder. I didn’t mind the rain, it helped keep the temperatures down. Got to the Brushy Mountain outpost and took shelter under their pavilion. We got a ride into town and then spent half the day at a trail angles house watching movies to wait out the rain. Got back on trail and hiked a few more miles
6/27 Littlefoot and I woke up late and waited out the rain in the tent. Sunny took off earlier in the morning and we planned to meet up at night. We planned a long day and ended up needing to night hike for a few hours to get to the shelter Sunny was at. Littlefoot and I rolled into the shelter at 11:30 PM. It was a great day with super nice weather and a breeze. Not feeling rushed and being able to mess around and talk reignited my love for hiking. Although I won’t be night hiking again, when the sun goes down my body wants to go to bed.
6/28 Last night was the coldest in a whole. We woke up to seeing our breath. It was refreshing to not wake up sweating in humidity. Today is a short day into Woods Hole, voted the overall best hostel on the AT by the authors of Platinum Blazing. I was very much looking forward to the Nero day.
While hiking I was re-listening to a podcast with Michael Easter, author of “The Comfort Crisis”, one of my favorite books. In his book he talks about how everyday life has become too comfortable and some of the issues that arise with living so. One of the main narratives of the book is about doing hard things and spending time in nature. I always really enjoyed the ideas and thought I could relate with my passion for hiking, climbing, and being outdoors. But now I feel connected to the idea as if it were a part of my body. Here are some of the things he mentions that I have been thinking about:
The hero’s journey - the hero’s journey mentioned by Joseph Campbell talks about the main character going through adversity and coming out the other side an improved person and better understanding yourself. I feel as though that is exactly the journey I am taking. Doing something hard, overcoming problems, and being able to come out of it more experienced and confident. And finding out more about myself along the way. How I deal with certain situations and people, and things that I find important.
Doing hard things makes the everyday life seem easier and less stressful. The challenges you face in a hard situation make most other challenges in everyday life seem trivial. Whether it be being stuck on an exposed ridge line in a thunderstorm, or being hypothermic in soaking wet clothes, or not sleeping because you are either burning up inside your sleeping back or getting eaten alive by bugs. All of these make being stuck in traffic or having slow service at a restaurant seem like nothing. One thing Michael talks about in the podcast is going to a restaurant and being irritated for how poorly it is run. When he comes back from his 33 day trip in the Arctic he is greatful to have such slow service because he didn’t have to carry the food for days on his back and it didn’t taste like cardboard. It is funny to me to see how excited myself and other hikers get at just being able to throw away their trash or get a Gatorade from a gas station. We take many things for granted in our material world.
You won’t know unless you try: Michael talks about the owner of P3 a sports science business that helps professionals athletes improve their game and reduce their risk of injury. The owner, (I forget his name) , has an MD from Harvard and has introduced the idea of Misogy. Misogy is an ancient Japanese tradition of doing something difficult to test yourself and push your comfort zone. Michael talks about coming back from his trip and trying to introduce the idea of Misogy into his life. There are only 2 rules, make it really hard and don’t die. He says that he has run 16 miles before, his farthest distance at that point. He asks himself could he run double that? And he thinks he could, but what about triple? So he sets out to run 48 miles around Red Rocks NV. Doing something like Misogy pushes where you know your potential is. It allows you to be more confident and push farther.
I know I’ve said many things similar to the above ideas before but it is a point I feel strongly on and think a lot about while out here. Anyway, hope you enjoyed my mediocre writing. ☮️