Day 67: mountain meadows zero edition 


I slept until 730 this morning bringing me to a grand total of 9.5 hours of sleep. Huzzah. And evidence of needing to take a break because I felt ready for a nap after breakfast. Instead, I went to work on fixing up blog posts and helping halfway with his technological issues. That brings us to lunchtime wherein we got a ride to the deli by Alex, the manager, who has been helpful and interesting. He’s into mycology and makes tinctures from mushrooms he’s foraged. He wants to build a model for using forests in ways that go beyond logging. Sort of a roots to treetop model where mushrooms and other medicinal plants become part of the economic model. Or something like that. Anyway, guess who I saw at the deli?? 


Disco! Moss caught me taking his picture again. They came by the lodge later, but didn’t want to pay for tenting so they kept going. I didn’t really need to buy a sandwich and probably should have just eaten the food in my room, but I have a weakness for sandwiches. Oh well. Halfway and I ate in the common room while talking to one of his trail friends who had arranged to be picked up by her sister there. 

After our late lunch, I went back to my room and felt too full to lay back down to continue editing. I wandered down to the pond and met these two goofy dogs. 


Sat with my feet in the water for a bit and then laid on the dock to let them dry out. I felt guilty for not taking care of other tasks, but Halfway informed me that soaking my feet and doing nothing were indeed “productive” actions. I also received further instructions on how to do nothing from my dad and stepmother. 

After a bit of nothing, I went back to my room and exploded the food boxes I received from all of my parents. Regular supplies and a snack attack box. I’m returning here on Sunday and the staff said I could leave my food box here. That means I get the privilege of carrying 1.5 days of food, which is good because I have way too much right now. Then I did little things like washing my pot, backflushing my water filter, and making a haircut appointment for when I’m passing through Brooklyn in a few weeks. Need to tame this mountain magic going on up top. 


I went downstairs to find halfway deep in blog writing mode. I sat on an adjacent couch and went down my own rabbit hole of supply planning and transportation planning. Brace yourself for minutiae. I have to somehow figure out roughly where I will be (ha) and how to get from there to Brooklyn in 3 weeks. The family friend in NH that I know lives too far away to reasonably drive me anywhere, so I started calling NH hostels that offered shuttle services. A few phone calls later (my favorite) and some internet work and I now have a halfway decent plan (bus out of Gorham to Boston and a train from Boston to NYC) with a few moving parts (e.g. where will I be in relation to gorham? who the F knows?? I do, sort of). I have the person at the farmhouse inn and the person at the white mountains hostel to thank for figuring out where to even start. When I told the white mountains hostel guy I was trying to get from grafton notch to NYC he said “oh well you take this bus line from gorham at 750am to Boston and go from there.” Done. He gave me a somewhat flimsy response on whether he could do a shuttle when I needed it. When I balked, he said don’t worry, if I can’t do it, this guy can, and if he can’t, there are these other options. We’ll get you to gorham. So I gave in to having planned as far as I could plan. And then I bought train tickets from Boston to NY because I’m not riding buses for 10 hours in one day. 

Now I should get to sleep so I can be ready for a day of hiking in the rain. Gee, when was the last time that happened?

Miles: 0 

Total miles: 701.6 

Creature feature: fish jumping in the pond and all those silly dogs

Day 16: creekside edition 


Another cold morning, although not quite as frigid as yesterday. I woke up almost exactly the same time as yesterday (558 to be exact). Sadly, the sunrise was mostly yellow and gray, so I debated between going back to sleep or getting up to make breakfast. My stomach decided for me, so I walked across the trail and down the hill to take my first cat hole. As Zach described it, pooping in the woods IS rather peaceful. I little hard on the knees, but not bad.
After that experience, I untied our food bags and brought them over to the little firing. No sign of stirring from Zack or the street, but I felt eager to get moving because of the temperatures, so I started packing up the gear in my tent. As I mixed peanut butter into my muesli, Zack crawled out of his tent. He made himself coffee and ate a granola bar with peanut butter and honey on top. The straight, whose trail name is Wall Street, which I should probably use instead of calling him the straight, came out of his tent shortly thereafter. He stood there with his perfectly groomed beard and remarked about how it was nice that the cold mornings were behind us. Meanwhile, Zach is holding his gloved hands up to his little pocket rocket flame for warmth and I’m wearing 85% of the clothing I brought with me. Zach and I both grunted in his direction and went about our routines. 
I left camp while zach packed his bag, his tent still fully in place. The first mile was a bit rocky, but it quickly turned into a leisurely set of rolling ups and downs. I got water at a little stream directly on the trail (as in, I sat down in the middle of the trail and filtered water) because our camp site last night didn’t have a water source. I need to fashion a scoop cup because the sawyer filter water bag is the bane of my existence. I think it’s actually made of water repellant material. A scoop will make it much easier to fill the squeeze bag. 

I hit PA state game lands after a road crossing and also stumbled upon a wild eyed hiker pulling their pants up after some sort of function about 30 yards from a water source, which is a no no. I got a stiff, weird vibe, so I didn’t pause while I muttered hello and hiked on by. 


The woods over the next mile or so were filtered with morning light and birdsong. There were probably a dozen little stream crossings making for a nice walk. Also saw this little guy between two rocks. 


Then came a rocky hill that wasn’t steep, but it kept going after teasing little flat sections. I had a partial view of dehart reservoir for some of the hill. Around 9, I texted Chrissy to say that I was interested in catching up with them and she let me know that they hadn’t even eaten breakfast yet!

Zach caught me on the never ending hill and we had a laugh at the slowness of the other half of our group. When we got to the campsite, they were STILL packing up. As I laughed with Jimmy about their delayed start, Chrissy yelled from her tent, is that checklist?! Is she here already?? And then she gave a congratulatory whoop, because she’s a whooper. 

Apparently they had quite a night with a few porcupine visitors that scared everyone except halfway because he was snoring his face off all night. Zach and I left the nerds to their packing because we got cold just standing around, and I had water to filter at the stream a mile away. 


The little stream had a hearty patch of rhododendron alongside it and I felt like I was in the jungle while I sat on a rock and squeezed that infernal water bag over and over again. 

Much of the second half of today’s trail had rhododendron. I’m sad they aren’t blooming yet, and I hope I haven’t somehow timed my hike to be too early for all of my favorite forest flowers. I lost my phone signal right as I hit the stream and didn’t get it back until Chrissy and I stopped for lunch at the campground that used to be an old coal miner settlement. Or it has a trail that leads to the settlement? I’m not sure, but it has this mailbox with the trail register in it. 

After a lunch of tuna wrap with crushed Fritos and a dash of honey, my phone caught a signal. At that point, I should have had the wherewithal to warn people that I might not have a signal the rest of the day (sorry mom). Who knew a seemingly not remote section of the trail would be a complete dead zone? (turns out we were adjacent to a Fort Indiantown Gap military base, so that’s my guess) 

After lunch, I felt tired and my feet were getting sore. At that point, I’d covered about 10 miles. I also felt dejected by my inability to keep up with anyone in the group. I don’t necessarily want to talk and walk. In fact, I prefer to walk in silence, but something about getting passed all the time drives me nuts and makes me feel weak. That feeling opened the gateway for other sad feelings, and I spent a few minutes trying not to fall on my face while crying. I decided to listen to comfort music (my trusty running playlist and a sad playlist my steady made), which helped a little bit. I also saw a few new birds, which helped remind me about part of why I’m putting myself through this: to observe the natural world around me. 

About a mile from our intended stopping point, I ran into Chrissy plopped in the middle of the trail rewrapping the sad spots on her feet. That gave me a chance to be in front her for awhile. The trail eventually switched from rhododendron to mostly evergreens with a black shale like rock that flints when the light catches the surface just right. I heard a loud rushing sound off to my left, which eventually materialized into this fast moving creek. 


Rausch creek to be exact. It’s set well below the ground level with high eroded sides and trees perched with exposed root systems. We are camped at the tent site about a half mile from the shelter spur trail. The creek nearly drowns out the gunfire from military field exercises nearby. 

Anyway, we all decided we would rather camp at a tent site than near the shelter because of the inviting creek. We had another great fire around which we ate our respective starchy weird meals and laughed about nonsense. There were tiny white iris looking flowers by the creek bank where I filtered water. They were the size of my pink fingernail and had delicate purple stripes. 


 I soaked my feet in the frigid creek water for as long as I could stand to help soothe the throbbing after a longish day of rock dodging. 

I’m not sure what’s happening with the group after Thursday. Chrissy and halfway are contemplating a zero day. Zach is more in the mood to keep moving. Jimmy has a friend coming to meet him Thursday and will likely do short days until Chrissy and halfway catch up with him. I’m not sure what to do. It feels too soon for another zero, and I’m not sure that I want to be a third wheel with Jimmy and his friend. Zach is ready for higher miles than me. I’m torn between the recuperation of a zero and guaranteed company and the desire to stay a little bit ahead of my schedule. If I keep moving, I could end up alone for who knows how long. Or I could meet another fun group and settle in with other people for awhile. At some point, all of our schedules will shake things up anyway. I’m not doing this to be alone, and I’m not doing it to meet my next best friend. Okay, enough deliberating. 

For now, I’m going to go to sleep with the sound of creek to my right, the moon shining off to my left (I placed my doors so that I can get the eastern light in the morning), and a helicopter circling very close by. 

Mile 1163.2 to mile 1176.7 (13.5) 

Total miles: 173.5 

Creature feature: a little black and white zebra striped bird that hopped along a tree trunk and was really fun to watch, a bird with a greenish yellow cap and chest and a darker body color, and what I think was a navy colored bird with a bit of white flashing on the wing and in the tail feathers. No clue what any of them are. Oh and a chipmunk skittering along a log somewhere in the rhododendron tunnel after lunch. A frog (toad?) tucked between two giant rocks that I happened to notice as I was stepping over it. And a black and white beetle (lady bug size) with crazy painted shell. 

recalculating

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Maybe I should just play “Let Go” by Frou Frou on repeat because that is clearly the primary lesson at hand the last few weeks (and likely to be the main lesson moving forward). For example: many months ago, when I was in full on obsessive mode, I had visions of cooking and dehydrating all of my own dinners for my thru-hike. I went down the intertubes, found backpackingchef.com, bought a dehydrator and dehydrated exactly 1 pear before going in to full-on relationship tailspin, thus abandoning all forms of preparation in favor of painful discussions, crying, dating, and general escapism.

Turns out you can’t really dehydrate over a hundred meals in about 3 weeks while also moving out of your apartment, finalizing gear, socializing, and wrapping up clients and mountains of paperwork. Who knew. The other day I had a conversation with a friend about how I love doing things in extreme ways, and I originally wanted to make all of my own food because it felt like the hardest thing to do (I also happen to LIKE my cooking and try to avoid a lot of the fillers in packaged foods, but if I’m honest, those are secondary reasons). I told my friend I felt like a failure because I was considering giving up on the dehydration projection. She looked at me and said, “I’m pretty sure hiking the Appalachian Trail is already an extreme thing to do, and you’re not failing if you don’t make all of your own food.” So simple, but I couldn’t get there on my own. I needed permission to let the dehydrating go. This, by the way is very different than saying I am “giving it up,” which feels rooted in a failure framework. Then I paid my friend for her clinical services with chips (she’s a fellow therapist and we were eating lunch).

What am I doing instead of listening to the drone of my dehydrator 24/7 while swimming in vats of black beans? Well, I can’t bring myself to throw ALL caution to the wind and just buy food as I go (madness), so I ordered a small supply of prepackaged dehydrated food from Mary Janes Farm and dehydrated spinach, sweet potato, butternut squash and cabbage from Harmony House. I’m going to divide the veggies into smaller batches and include them along with the prepackaged meals in whatever mail drops I end up doing (still TBD). This way I can add a bit of nutrition into whatever gourmet grocery store concoction I happen to be eating when I’m between mail drops. I forced myself to only order a small amount of supplies so that I can adjust strategies on trail if need be. If things are working well, I can ask my parents to order more of everything to keep this system going. Of course, this requires learning the next lesson I keep butting up against: asking for help. Ah yes, the dreaded H word…

Picture: Red pleading with our friend to share her chips during a lunch break at the Riga Shelter in CT, Canon Tlb (film), November 2015. Note the blurry wagging tail, which is his primary strategy for overloading you with cuteness so you won’t realize your hand is slowly moving towards his mouth with the bite you were about to put in your own mouth.

let’s try this again

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aaaand I’m back… Apparently, I’m going to have to pretend that you’re all close friends who give me the nose tingles in order to document this experience in a public manner because anxiety and scrutiny (mine, not yours) have gotten the best of me since my last post. I also took a nose dive into a suffocating, exhausting, and exciting puddle of life circumstances that shall remain mostly nameless. Long story short, the last several months have not been pretty (inside or out, because winter). I don’t really recommend imploding your life while concurrently planning to hike 2,190 miles. In terms of the hike, the primary change is that my mail drop support system has shifted from my partner (now former partner, heretofore known as “FP” because I hate using the phrase “ex”) to my parents. FP will continue to take care of the farmily, for which I am extremely grateful. She’s also patiently fielding a steady stream of tedious logistical questions that started about a month ago when I realized I had better put one foot back on the planning wagon or risk injury/failure due to operator error.

To my real-life friends who wandered here from my recent social media announcement: welcome to my attempt to not bore you to tears on those platforms! If you’re interested in my planning process (logistical and emotional), stick around and check out this post. If you just want pretty pictures with varying degrees of coherent commentary, come back sometime after April 24th, which is the day I’m starting my northbound flip-flop hike from Bear’s Den Hostel (VA).

Picture: Red, the chipmunk chasing maniac, overlooking the Hudson River in Harriman State Park, NY, Canon Tlb (film), 2015