My original goal was to hike from New York to Georgia. 2 days before my departure I broke my toe, then pinched a nerve in my neck the morning of. Everything was telling me to hold back; to stay in the comfort of the known. I had a package to deliver to my friend OnTrak and figured I could do a couple of days and come back.
I'm glad I forced myself to go out and hike, and I'm glad I kept at it. The past 3 months have been pure bliss. I hiked 1287 miles (more then half of the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Maine - Georgia) in 78 days at an average pace of 17 miles a day with two zero days. Considering the weight of my pack during most of the trip (hovering right around 45 lbs), my broken toe, major foot pain and the colder weather I am very satisfied with my average.
My days divided up as follows: 11 hours for sleep, 11 hours for hiking, and an hour in the morning and evening to cook and get ready to hike or sleep. Compared to my 10,000 mile bike tour this was 5 times harder, both physically and mentally. Here are some highlights:
- Falling into a pool of freezing stream water.
- Slack packing 42 miles and then starving for 3 days as I ran out of food.
- Mentally loosing all my shit on Thunder Hill in Virginia.
- Getting out of the pool at the Red Roof Inn, realizing there were no towels, and running past the front desk with OnTrak in underwear yelling "You're out of towels in pool room! Fackkk!"
- Ordering Pizza & Subs at every pizza place & never being able to finish everything, feeling like a bloated whale afterwards and then hungry again after an hour of hiking.
- Receiving numerous Trail Magic from all the angels out there!
- Hanging out with ponies at Greyson Highlands.
- Taking down Body Shops like pros and being lazy yellow blazers.
- Freezing half to death, toes & fingers numb from climbing under rhododendron bushes all day in heavy snow and hearing at the end of the day Flower say: "On the bright side, at least it's not raining!"
- Trying to put on frozen shoes with frozen laces after fighting to put on frozen sock.
- Waking up at 5:30 and hiking by 7 AM.
- Night-hiking alone, in the middle of no where, & feeling more at peace then one could ever describe.
- Gathering wood for all the fires that never failed to warm my spirit.
- Feeling like a complete bum, sitting outside gas stations and stores, smiling at people as they went by.
- Getting to see Washington DC and adding Tennessee & Delaware to the list of states I've been to.
- Every shower I took, probably a dozen in total.
- Every real- hot meal I had. Except for the pizza in Daleville, that shit was nasty.
- Free- climbing a 40 foot cliff on the Blue Ridge Parkway, getting stuck 5 feet from the top and hyperventilating, wondering if I would die or end up paralyzed if I fell.
- Trying to scare a bear away at the Priest Shelter that would not go away.
- Swimming across the Shenandoah River and getting sucked under by the current.
- Chasing cows and trying to touch one while hiking through the many pastures.
- Hiking and camping in the snow, trying to pitch our tents outside a shelter and failing miserably due to the wind.
- Running down a mountain and completing 6 miles in an hour.
- The shooting stars, sunsets, sunrises and incredible views.
- Hiking, meeting & talking to all the people out on the trail- OnTrak, U-Turn, Aqua, Johhny Walker, Shake, Late Lunch, Wanderlust, Dunn, Halfway, Flower, Chucky da Fish, Heavy Panther, Crocket, Kansas Express, Acorn, Orange Crush, the many day hikers, northbounders & others whose names I can't remember.
I made it back to New York City on Thanksgiving Eve after a 15-hour Amtrak ride from hell, devoured a satisfying meal & unrolled my pad on the front porch. My mom asked me if I was "so excited to take a shower!", dumbfounded I looked at her and replied with; "why? I took one a few days ago & I didnt't even hike yesterday, I should be good for another couple of days." On that note I peed in the bushes, crawled into my sleeping bag slept soundly for 12 hours(except for my midnight lunch snack of course).
Currently I'm having some trouble re-adjusting, something I didn't experience after my much longer bike trip. I definitely changed quite a bit which wasn't evident to me while I was out hiking.
I am no longer able to sit and mindlessly watch Television and commercials like I did before, nor ignore all the ad's around me. With the "Holiday Season" upon us I feel more detached from the "real" world and just want to live simply in an environment that suits me. I hear people complaining and it bothers me. It seems as though people complain about complaining and then complain some more about problems that they created for themselves in the first place. It goes beyond consumption and complaining though, I feel as though I'm much more in tune with my surroundings and people when I talk to them. I sense their unhappiness and anger, and it makes me wonder why I keep coming back to this place.
The goal for now is to save up some money and get some lighter gear. I learned on this previous hike how little I truly need to be content and how great it feels to hike with a lighter pack. I'd like to get my base weight (everything minus food & water) down to around 10 pounds. To save weight I'll cut my toothbrush in half, eliminate any extra straps and mesh, and shave every ounce that I can off of my gear. I plan on carrying no more then 25 items (including each sock counted as a separate item), and head out to California around February to hike from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. It stretches some 2600+ miles through deserts, snow fields, and the highest peaks in the US with less towns, more risk and even greater rewards.
U-Turn & myself recieved the same fortune
Grayson Highlands ponies terrorizing OnTrak (Ending is epic)
The most beautifullll view on the entire trail! (or so we're told)
Sitting by the campfire
Crossing the Shenandoah River
Halfway, Flower & myself.
Summit of one of the bald mountains
More Photos Here!