This bed is too comfy?

Here I am laying in a plush, king size hotel bed and I can’t sleep. Figures. Hotels are great for showers and AC, but I’ve found I sleep much better in the woods. Yesterday Plug, Which Way and I pushed 25.7 miles into Manchester Center, VT. I miscalculated my food supply (or might just be eating more) and was a day short, so needed to get into town to resupply rather than waiting until the morning.

I am currently at mile marker 1653; yesterday we passed the 3/4 mark. Less than a quarter of the trail left as we enter into some of the most challenging miles. Even though it had only been about 4 days since my last shower (and longest I’ve gone without a shower is 9 days), coming into town yesterday was the grossest I’ve felt all trail. There has been a pretty tough heat wave, so the humidity and bugs have been a challenge.

We are starting to pass SOBOs (southbound thru-hikers who start in Maine), which makes the end of trail feel within reach. It’s hard to believe this adventure is nearing the end, but I know the last 3 states are some of the most challenging hiking. I try to not take a single day for granted or become complacent that Katahdin is any sort of guarantee. My boots I got back in Front Royal, VA are nearing their last straw, so I am hoping to get a new pair and a new (non-smelly) hiking outfit to last me to Katahdin before I hike out tomorrow.

Physically, the trail continues to wear on people. Even after this many miles, we are still pushing our bodies most every day. Blisters are reforming, we go to bed sore at the end of each day, the heat and humidity zap our energy, rocky terrain means risk of falling, mud makes for wet feet, and the constant flies trying to bury into your hair truly test your sanity. At this point though, the adrenaline and excitement to push through these final 3 states outweighs any physical pain.

Some highlights from CT, MA, and the beginning of VT:

Rabbit came out and hiked with me for 3 days!

Always thankful for the jugs of water trail angels leave along the way. Especially during this recent heat wave!

A picturesque sunset at Goose Island Pond. And the family running the cabin cooked us blueberry pancakes the next morning!

Plug and I invested in some Walmart dresses for town. (Pinoe the soccer ball is alive and well).

The climb up Stratton mountain was a Vermont highlight so far. The fire tower at the top had great views and the 3.4 mile climb was a steady challenge with beautiful terrain: fir trees, pine needles, moss, and sunlight glistening through the branches.

I’m craving some authentic maple syrup, so hopefully VT can provide 🙂

– Rocket

New York has been full of (non-hiking) adventures

My New York adventures started shortly after crossing the New Jersey, New York border! My dad generously offered his house for about twelve stinky hikers to stay at, so we could venture into the city for a couple days. Walking through the city with our packs was quite entertaining.

We got some amazing views from a Brooklyn apartment and we met up with another group of hikers in the city to watch the Women’s World Cup semi match.

Yesterday we headed into Cold Springs to watch the final match and ended up spending the whole day there. We visited the pizza place twice, hung out in a gazebo, and played soccer down by the water. I am now carrying a soccer ball (who thinks it will make it to Katahdin?)

We are now all rocking henna tattoos that we face each other two nights ago at a shelter. Mine is of Taco the dog.

Hiking wise, New York is surprisingly challenging. There are a lot of steep boulder sections and it has been very hot and humid.

Under 800 miles to go…the thought of the trail ending is very daunting.

– Rocket

Slowing down and being fully “here”

Two nights ago I stealth camped 1.5 miles out from Sunrise Mountain, with a plan to leave camp at 4am to catch this sunrise below. The animal (99.99% sure it was a bear) that visited my camp most of the night made waking up early easy. This wasn’t my first time camping alone, but it was my first time bushwhacking to a makeshift campsite, attempting to scare an animal away in the middle of the night, and then hiking out alone in the dark this morning. Boy was it rewarding!

I continue to get better at enjoying the trail as it comes and living in the moment, rather than methodically planning out my days. At the beginning of this journey, I probably would have hiked past this spot yesterday because I felt it was more important to get in miles while there is daylight. That is the exact opposite of my mindset now and I am so proud of myself for getting to this point. Though it still requires a conscious effort, I now consistently wake up, listen to my body, take the blue blazes (side trails to views off the AT), and am not afraid to set up camp after only 8 miles. The trail is about so much more than the miles.

That said, for these final 800ish miles I want to challenge myself with social media. Though I enjoy sharing my journey and appreciate the support, I’m curious how I can further grow from this experience when I completely live in the moment and don’t worry about posting so much on Instagram and Facebook. I will continue to take pictures for my own memory and share important milestones with you all, but don’t be concerned when my activity on these mediums slows down quite a bit😊 I do plan to continue this blog as it has been effective as a reflective tool for me, rather than the more “live” posts that Instagram and Facebook showcase.

Phases of a NJ sunrise with a perfect moon sliver🌙 at Stokes State Scenic Mountain Lookout

I’m looking forward to hopping off trail in a few days to visit friends in NYC. Even though that’s where I was living before the trail, I am expecting this to be quite the culture shock! I already know I will be eager to get back on trail, but am looking forward to seeing friends and letting my body rest a bit.

– Rocket

100 days on trail!

Even though I’m technically off trail today nursing a hurting foot, it’s crazy to think I’ve been on this once in a lifetime journey for 100 days! Time has FLOWN by and I am so very grateful for every second of this experience 🙂 I’m hoping this foot pain is just a minor set back (x-rays showed nothing to worry about!) and I can get back on trail tomorrow, but I’m not going to push it by any means. I want to reach Katahdin too badly to prematurely get back on trail before my foot is ready (even though all I want is to be in the woods hiking).

Oh it turns out I can’t escape hiking even when I’m not supposed to be hiking! As I was ubering back from getting an X-ray to the place I will spend the night, we came across a fallen tree about a mile out. Couldn’t move it. No way around it. No other road. Must hike there. Official rest will start now!

I thank you all back home for your continued support, and it goes without saying that I have had incredible support from the trail community as well! Here are some of the beautiful people I have met along the way. I might remember the views through the 14 states, but I will NEVER forget these faces (plus so many more )!

Onwards to Katahdin!

– Rocket

Accept my apology, Pennsylvania

I stand by my previous statement that Pennsylvania is rocky, buggy, rocky, humid, rainy, and very rocky BUT yesterday PA redeemed itself. I had one of my favorite days, from both a hiking and social standpoint, and it goes to show what a little sunshine and good weather can do. Yesterday morning we were hiding in our tents waiting for the storm to lighten and by last night we were sitting at an outdoor bar and grill that we bushwhacked to from our campsite, eating a hot meal and enjoying the views and good smelling people.

Hiking with Siren and Jstroke, I did just under 15 miles; a short mile day, but still long because of the challenging rocks and scramble sections. Lehigh Gap was one of my favorite climbs of the whole trail so far and the views did not disappoint! Once at the top, we walked along the ridge with clear views of PA for a few miles. I’m so glad I’ve slowed down my pace because doing this climb in the rain we have had the past few days would be no fun and we would have missed out on views. The majority of the trail yesterday was beautiful, with pine needles covering the ground and rows and rows of bright green ferns.

Lehigh Gap scramble
Blue skies at the top of the ridge line
We climbed loooots of rocks!
Smiles for the sunshine!

We camped at a tent site which we heard was about half a mile from a local resort with real food, so of course we made it our mission to hike even more after we set up camp to find this place. More important than the food, was the opportunity to fill up on water as we are in a 20 mile stretch of the trail with no safe water to drink. We had a little trouble finding our way, but once we got there it was so worth it! The restaurant had unlimited fry refills and live music 🙂 Turns out we even got a ride at the tail end of walking there by the performer who was about to start his show in two minutes!

We went to bed with full bellies and happy hearts. At the end of a long few days, bushwhacking for warm food and music is a perfect reset. After spending about 3 hours there, we reluctantly started the walk back to our campsite. After about 5 minutes of walking, we noticed the fireflies and stars lighting up the sky. Though initially difficult to leave the warmth and creature comforts of the lodge, we all agreed we would much rather be in our tents in the woods. We questioned this paradox: when we are in the woods we want civilization, when we are in civilization we want the woods. I’m pretty sure if I had to choose one or the other I would choose the woods.

This raised the question: If I had been raised in the wilderness with this simplistic lifestyle I am currently living, would I feel the urge to venture off into civilization for 6 months?

When the sun is shining, my belly is full, and my body isn’t hurting (at least not too much) the answer is simple. Keep me in the woods. On the harder days, the temptations of civilization hold a stronger pull. All I know is NEVER EVER quit on a bad day. And this applies to anything you set out to achieve in life. A guy I was hiking with quit two days ago; the rocks and rain became too much. Yesterday I kept thinking, if only he powered through one more day he would have dry gear, blue skies, and much higher spirits to conquer the trail.

– Rocket

Pennsylvania is TOUGH!

The rumors are true…Pennsylvania is rocky, buggy, rocky, lacking views, rocky, and an overall grind. We’ve traded out challenging elevation changes for constant small, pointy rocks that hurt your feet. The northern section of the state is apparently constant boulder walking, so I hope I don’t kick myself later when I say I’m actually looking forward to that over the small ankle breaker rocks. That said, I continue to make progress and just passed 1,200 miles yesterday! I have been very conscious of listening to my body and hiking at my own pace the past couple of weeks, which means I have been floating between different groups of hikers and meeting lots of new people! Here are a few updates from the past couple of days:

I reunited with my tramily in Duncannon and hiked with them a bit for the start of Pennsylvania!

I’ve trudged through the constant rocks PA is known for.

I sent home three pounds of weight in clothes, so bought an actual book! I’ve been enjoying slower mornings reading rather than packing up right away and leaving.

I passed a trail runner who stopped and gave me this rock he painted! He said it was for good luck as I continue my journey toward Katahdin 🙂

I passed 1,200 miles!

I’ve enjoyed hiking with a few new people: Spoons, Airbud, Gummy Bear, Peanut, and Chickadee.

I’ve savored the PA views that feel few and far between.

Now I’m at mile 1220 and never thought I would say this, but I’m excited to get to New Jersey!

If my trail name wasn’t already “Rocket” I think it would be “Fruit Salad” or something like that because what I crave most on trail is FRUIT FRUIT FRUIT! I’ve started packing out at least 2 pounds of apples, bananas, mangos, oranges, etc. and it’s always worth it!

My favorite lunch recipe thus far is a wrap with: Hickory smoked tuna, sharp cheddar cheese, parmesan garlic Snyders pretzel pieces and avocado 🙂 Avocados keep surprisingly well in the heat!

I appreciate all of the continued support and words of encouragement! Though PA has been my least favorite state so far, I anticipated the challenge and am still as determined as ever as I continue toward Katahdin!

– Rocket