East Orlando: Mile 395

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I broke the #1 rule of thru-hiking: Don’t run.

We had our longest road-walk recently: 26 miles of endless pavement, cow pastures, and orange groves.

All of the hikers were dreading this section. To our surprise, we arrived to the road to find a trail-angel waiting for us. He had driven 2 hours from Tampa to help us on this stretch.

Trail magic always arrives when you least expect it.

He offered us Egg McMuffins, Poweraid, cookies, and the best gift of all, he offered to take our packs. He would meet us every 5 miles.

Perfect!

We would get to float through this road-walk. I left my pack in the backseat, grabbed a cookie, and then started to run. The breeze felt good on my face, I was weightless, and the pavement of the quiet country road was easy.

It was one of the biggest mistakes of my hike.

On flat and even surfaces, my feet hit the exact same way. I was used to walking long miles, but not on pavement. And my body wasn’t used to moving so fast.. I always had a 20 pound anchor strapped to my back!

It was too much.

The pain in my ankle started the next day. It didn’t help that the next section of trail included 2 days of bike paths around Orlando.

More pavement.

Smash. Smash. Smash.

The ankle got worse.

Since then, I have taken days off, soaked in epsom salts, taken Advil daily, used an Ace bandage, and rubbed icy hot on it. A week later, my ankle is still tight. It loosens up as I walk, but the first mile of each day is painfully stiff.

Hikers are very stubborn people.

When it comes down to it, the emotional pain of not finishing a thru-hike hurts worse than the physical pain of a stiff ankle.

Anyway, I’m not ready to go home, yet. It’s still snowing at home.

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(Update: I’m at 500 miles. The left ankle is healing, but the pain has flipped over to the right ankle. Who knew the flat Florida Trail would be so hard?)

Categories: Florida | 4 Comments

West Okeechobee & Kissimmee: Mile 248

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I was warned about the skunk problem at Liberty Point campsite.

Mistake #1: I didn’t listen.

Typical Acorn. The skunk-infested location was a good stopping point, so I camped there anyway. In my defense, I tried to outsmart the skunks by hanging my food in the trees at night.

Mistake #2: You can’t outsmart a skunk.

Feeling smart, I slid into my sleeping bag after a long day of hiking around Lake Okeechobee. I was seconds away from peaceful slumber when there was a strange sound outside my tent.

I wasn’t alone.

Not only that, but my companions were baby skunks, and they wanted to play. I tried to ignore them. My food was hanging outside and I was in a tent. That should protect me, right?

Mistake #3: Nothing will stop a skunk.

Seconds later, I felt something wiggling under my feet. I stared, in horror, at the bulge of black sil-nylon in the middle of my tent.

There was a skunk crawling under my tent!

What should I do?

Do I kick it? Should I yell? Or will that just make everything smelly? Can baby skunks still spray?

And importantly, why did I camp here?

The playful baby skunks came back at various points that night. At 1am, a skunk nudged my neck. At 2am, a skunk bounced off my bug netting, as if it were a trampoline.

I didn’t sleep well that night.

At dawn, I hastily packed my gear and hiked 21 miles to a hotel room. I’m wrong about a lot of things, but I’m pretty sure that skunks can’t operate doorknobs or windows.

Other than a horrific night, trail life is going quite well. It’s sunny and I’m enjoying the Florida Trail. It’s not the Appalachian trail, but it has it’s own unique traits. Yesterday, I hiked in the sunshine and enjoyed freshly picked oranges for lunch. Skunks or no skunks, you can’t beat that for January!

The trail has been an interesting mix of beautiful woods, vast ranches of cows, and occasionally, roadwalks.

I tried to complain to a friend about the roadwalks.

I didn’t get much sympathy:

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(Skunk photo credit: Applepie)

Categories: Florida | 8 Comments

Big Cypress & Seminole: Mile 92

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After 3 days of sunny Miami beaches, I made my way to the Oasis Visitor Center at Big Cypress National Preserve.

It was time to trade South Beach for the Florida swamps.

(Wait.)

I arrived at the Florida Trail Kickoff on Jan 8th with 12 other hikers. We quickly registered for backcountry camping, ate donuts, and posed for photos with the new southern terminus sign.

Despite the food and company, we couldn’t stay and linger for long. There was swamp hiking on today’s agenda, and the sun sets obnoxiously early in January.

It was time.

I grabbed another donut and began to follow the orange blazes…

…They lead me straight into the water.

For the next 3 days, the trail tortured us with mud and miles of knee-deep swamp.

I don’t know quite how to describe the swamp. It was a “unique” experience. It was beautiful, yet completely exhausting. I would scan the horizon for green palm trees- I knew that meant an island was close and that meant rest! Woo hoo!

Am I glad I did it? Yes!
Would I do it again? Hahaha!!

After the swamp came days of horrible hiking past sugar cane fields in the Seminole Indian Reservation. (Oh well, at least I had history podcasts!)

Gator count to date: 28
Skunk count: 1 (crawled under my tent!)

Here are a few photos:

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Categories: Florida | 17 Comments

Pre-Trail Jitters

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I fly to Florida today!  

 

My hostel is booked for a few nights of relaxing in Miami, and then I head into the Big Cypress swamp, with about 10 other thru-hikers.  At least there will be some other nuts on the trail with me.  🙂

This hike will end up being about 1,100 miles, and will hopefully finish in the beginning of March.  At the Northern Terminus, I’ll dance on the beach, and fling my hiking poles into the sea. It will mark the end of a year long 3,000+ mile adventure.

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Then what?

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There’s a wonderful life waiting for me: a fluffy cat that wants to be loved, a job in a hospital that needs me, and hopefully, AT trail maintenance weekends.

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See you on the other side of the swamp!  In the meantime, here are some photos from recent adventures in Lebanon, Greece, and Pennsylvania (sorry, lots of cat pictures!):

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Categories: Florida | 17 Comments

It begins.

I have a confession:

I started dreaming about my next adventure on the climb down from Katahdin.  

Yes…  I am hopelessly addicted.

I’m addicted to fresh air, falling asleep under the stars, and getting miles on my feet. More than anything, I am addicted to the constantly changing horizon.

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It’s a beautiful addiction.

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Less than a week after completing my thru-hike, I attended the ALDHA gathering in Pennsylvania.   All weekend, I was approached by people who wanted to congratulate me on my thru-hike and welcome me to the family.

And they almost always asked: “Now what?”

Ugh! … the dreaded question!  I cringed and gave some vague answers.  But, secretly, I was already planning my next hike.  I had a copy of the Florida Trail Guide hidden in my bag:

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It’s not a secret anymore.

 The Florida Trail –  January 2014 – My next adventure.

 

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The Florida Trail is the complete opposite of the Appalachian Trail.  About 5-10 hikers complete a thru-hike of the Florida Trail each year, compared to 600+ on the Appalachian Trail.  The Florida Trail has more road-walking, more alligators, fewer people, and no mountains.

But, for a girl who loves sunshine, adventure, and a pack on her shoulders, it will be paradise.

I don’t want to be sixty years old, driving down a highway in an RV, rushing to see the world before my time runs out.  Why not take life for everything it has to offer… now?  Tomorrow is never guaranteed.  Fill your life with photographs, memories, and experiences before it’s too late.  Push the boundaries.

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I was told that long-distance hiking was distracting me from the real world.

How do you explain……?  

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It is the real world.

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My New Katahdin:  Northern Terminus, Florida National Scenic Trail:

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Thank You for all your support!

Things will be a little quiet here.  I’m flying overseas to visit family and then spending some time on the east coast.

Categories: Florida | 16 Comments

Acorn’s AT Thru-Hike Gear Review

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Gear preferences are a very personal thing and everyone needs to find what fits them the best. When I did my preparation, I talked to former thru-hikers, and obsessively read posts on Whiteblaze and Facebook.

Then, I got overwhelmed and just flipped a coin.

Honestly, don’t worry too much about gear.  It’s really easy to change your mind mid-hike and get something different.  I ended up switching out of a hammock into a tent in Pennsylvania.  The following items are what worked for me.  Everyone has their own weight-to-comfort ratio.  For me, I wanted to go as light as possible, while still being happy

…. But, I still carry a kite.  Because you gotta carry what makes you happy.  .

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ULA Ohm 2.0 Backpack
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Pros:  My baby.  Beautiful fit.  Amazing ride without hurting or chafing my back, hips, or shoulders. Many hikers had to replace packs, and this pack easily withstood the abuse of 6 months on the trail.  Lined it with a trash compactor bag and didn’t worry about a pack cover.  Side pockets and hip belt pockets worked great.  I could reach my water bottles, camera, and snacks without taking my pack off.
Cons: Pretty minimal support.  Only good for carrying <30 pounds.  I felt like the pack was starting to push the limit when I entered the 100 mile wilderness (I carried 5.5 days of food + winter gear + 2 liters of soda.)
Bottom Line:  Perfect for carrying my gear on the AT, where most resupplies were only 3-4 days and water was plentiful…  If I ever hiked in a place where I had to carry more water or food, I would switch into the ULA Circuit.   I would probably suggest the ULA Circuit for most AT hikers too. (Oh, and my Ohm is black because I dyed it myself with RIT dye.)
Price: $200
Weight:  23 oz (some items removed)
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LightHeart Gear Solo Standard Tent   (PA-ME)

Pros:  My palace!  I switched into a tent in Pennsylvania and never looked back.  Light and spacious. It kept me dry and safe from the elements.  It dried out quickly after rain or a night with high condensation. This tent was setup using my hiking poles and setup was quick and easy.  Just stake down 4 corners, crawl into tent and pop hiking poles into place.  Then add 4 tent stakes to tighten things up.  Simple.
Cons: Not free standing, so it needs to be staked securely.  Had to get creative a few times when I camped on wooden tent platforms.  It can use 4 stakes, but I recommend using 8 for the best setup (makes it nice and tight!).  I used MSR mini-groundhog tent stakes, and they were fine.
Price: $245  (purchased on sale for $184)
Weight:  27 oz .
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Hennesey Hammock Expedition Asym Zip (GA-PA)

Pros:   Comfort. There was no feeling more amazing than falling into my hammock after a long day.   Crawling into my tent just isn’t the same.
Cons:  So…. why did I switch??  I needed space.  After 1000 miles, my hammock stopped feeling like a palace and started to feel more like a coffin.  I wanted space to play with my gear, eat dinner, journal, etc.   Another reason for the switch…  I never felt like I had any privacy in my hammock.  Also, my hammock is much colder than my tent and more annoying in the rain.
Price: $170
Weight: 41 oz
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Western Mountaineering Megalite 30 Sleeping Bag (Short)

Pros:   Awesome bag!  Saved my life on multiple occasions.  Light, warm, soft. I struggled to get out of it each morning and would dream of getting back into the cushy bag all day.  I saved money, and carried the same bag the whole way.  But, I was a late March starter, so I knew that I would be warm enough (never even saw snow on the trail!).
Cons:  Sometimes too warm and it is pricey…but totally worth it!
Price: $299 (shopped around)
Weight: 23 oz
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Sea to Summit Reactor Thermolite Mummy Bag Liner

Pros:  Added that extra warmth on cold nights and used as a light blanket on warm nights. Extends the life of the sleeping bag by keeping skin oils away.  I got really muddy on the AT, and loved that I could just crawl into my liner bag at the end of a long day without having to worry about washing my legs.  Having a liner bag felt like a cozy set of bed sheets.  It was simple to wash it when I did laundry, so it always felt clean.
Cons:  Could be considered a luxury item, but I don’t think I would have slept well without it.
Price: $55
Weight: 8.1 oz
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Therm-a-Rest ProLite Short Sleeping Pad
Pros: I’m a stomach/side sleeper, so I loved this pad.  The harder pads (Z-Rest) seemed really uncomfortable, and the Neo-air is really loud and squeaky. This pad was comfy and simple.
Cons:  Heard of other hikers with inflatable pads who had leakage or pops… but I never had any problems. The short length covers me from head to knee.  I generally prop my feet on my pack at night.
Price: $79
Weight: 11 oz
 
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LEKI Ultralite Titanium Trekking Poles
Pros:  These poles saved me from falling on a daily basis.  I kiss them everyday.  Back story:  I started from Georgia with a pair of $30 hiking poles.  By 500 miles, they were both starting to fall apart.  My friend saw my poles in Virginia and loaned me his LEKI poles to finish my hike.  I busted a tip in New Hampshire, and had that replaced at an outfitter 2 days later.  Other than that, the LEKI poles made it all the way to Maine, with zero issues.  Pretty impressive, especially considering the fact they already had ~2,800 miles before they even got to me!     TL;DR:  I love them.
Cons:  Expensive, if you don’t have amazing friends.
Price: Couldn’t find these specific ones online, but LEKI poles are generally $100-$150
Weight:  ~ 15 oz ?
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Zelph Venom Alcohol Super Stove 

Pros:  Alcohol stove with wicking. Light, efficient, simple, and sturdy.  What else do I need to say?  Tried some other alcohol stoves, and ended up loving this one.  It was really effective at boiling water without using a lot of fuel.  On the AT, finding fuel  (denatured alcohol or HEET) was simple.
Cons:  Took a bit of practice to use properly.  Slower than a Jet-Boil.  Oh well.
Weight:  1.6 oz
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GSI Minimalist Cookset

Pros: Wonderful! Small, light, gets the job done.  And includes a cozy, so I don’t burn my hands too!  Sippy lid was also nice for hot cider/tea.
Cons:  Only 0.6L, so kinda small… but big enough for me.  I usually only cook pasta sides or mac and cheese.  If I’m still hungry after dinner (and I have extra food), I’ll just cook dinner #2.
Price: $ 27
Weight: 5.5 oz
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SteriPen Adventurer Opti Water Purifier

Pros: Kills all bacteria/viruses/parasites in a liter of water in a minute with UV light.  Simple.  Quick.  No chemicals.  Boom.  Magic.
Cons:  Only fits wide-mouth bottles, like Nalgene or Gatorade bottles. Didn’t fail on me, but I still hate using things that rely on batteries in the wilderness.  Might switch to the Sawyer Mini-Squeeze in the future.  Batteries lasted about a month, and I ended up always carrying a spare set.
Price: $89
Weight:   3.6 ounces (with batteries)
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Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX30V 18.2 MP WIFI Camera

Pros: It was hard to switch from a big, bulky camera to this.  No, wait.  It wasn’t.  I love this little thing.  My favorite feature is the fact that it’s a WIFI camera!  Connected to my phone, so I could update my blog with photos.  Always kept it in my hip pocket. Sharp photos, epic zoom, shoots video, self-timer mode.  All that good stuff.
Cons: Heavier than just using my iPhone for photos.  Started making funny noises after 2000 miles.  Oh well.
Price:  $298
Weight:   9 oz
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Outdoor Products 3-Pack Dry Sacks

Pros: Come in various sizes and colors for organizing small things.  My pack is lined in a trash compactor bag, so I didn’t really need these to be water-proof.   I used the yellow sack for clothes, the red sack for misc items and the blue sack for toiletries.
Cons: Not waterproof…just water resistant.  But it was $10 for 3 bags.  Am I really complaining?  Nope!
Price: $10
Weight: ~ 2 oz?
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Sea to Summit eVent Compression Sack

Pros: Compressed my sleeping bag and kept it dry.  100% dry.  One day, my sleeping bag almost rolled into a stream.  I wasn’t even nervous.  I knew this dry bag would keep the water out.
Cons: For some hikers, it could be considered a luxury item that adds weight.  Some hikers just shoved their sleeping bag at the bottom of their pack.  I tried that a few times, but never really liked it, since my sleeping bag took up too much space.
Price: $24
Weight: 3.5 oz
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Z-Packs Cuben Fiber Food Bag + Rope
Pros:  Kept my food dry and safe.  Never had a mouse chew through my bag.  I am a bad person, and I probably only hung my bear bag 5 times.  I know.  Please yell at me in the comments section.
Cons:  Expensive.
Price: $45
Weight: 3 oz
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Petzl Tikka Plus 2 Headlamp

Pros: Did great! Had various light settings and guided me through a lot of dark hiking.  Loved the red light setting to use at night in shelters.  Also, loved the low battery indicator light.  Never had to worry about my headlamp dying in the middle of a night hike.  Sweet!
Cons: Probably not the lightest one out there.  Light got really dim when the batteries weren’t fresh.
Price: $40
Weight: 4 oz

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NewTrent 5200 Battery Backup

Pros:  This is how I kept my phone and camera charged in the woods.  The NewTrent battery provided 3 extra charges for my iPhone.
Cons:   A little heavy.  Took ~8 hours to fully charge.
Price: $30
Weight: 8 oz

iPhone 4s

Pros:  Amazing! It was my own personal computer, phone, camera, alarm clock, journal.  And yes, I basically always had a good internet connection in the woods.  For the record, I was using Sprint.
Cons: Battery died quickly.
Weight: 4 oz 

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SPOT-Personal GPS Device 

Pros: Reassure your family that you are okay on a regular basis.  Also, has an emergency button for summoning a helicopter.
Cons: This was a very expensive paperweight.  I had difficulty with my SPOT device. My first one randomly broke after 600mi, and I had to order a new one (I had purchased it used though)…  Luckily, the company sent me a new one for $30.  After that, my SPOT lived in a ziplock bag.  There were a few times when I later found out from my family that they never got my nightly signal.  Kinda frustrating…
Price:  $100 + $100 yearly service  (Wanna be safe?  Take that $200 and just buy yourself a warm sleeping bag.  Seriously.)
Weight: 5 oz
Bottom Line:  Don’t tell your mom that this item exists. 
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Leatherman Micra Knife
Pros: Small, light, has multiple tools (including scissors and tweezers!)
Cons:  Didn’t really use this very often.  Could probably get by with a razor blade instead of a multi-tool knife.
Price: $26
Weight: 1.75 oz
 
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The AT Guide
Pros:  The one book to rule them all.  Elevation profiles, town maps, buffet hours, where to find water next, post-office phone numbers.  C’mon.  Just buy this.
Cons:  This book is quite wonderful.  I heard some hikers complain sometimes…. but look– things change.. Water sources may dry up.  A store may close.  Be flexible.  And for the record, “AWOL” is wonderful, and even sends out an “update” email during the year  (sign up on his website).
Price: $16
Weight: 8.4 oz (However, book was cut into smaller pieces.  You don’t need the Maine information when you’re still in Georgia.)
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Marmot PreCip Rain Jacket

Pros: Kept me mostly dry and warm.  But, after 3 days of rain in Maine, I’m not sure anything will keep you 100% dry.
Cons: A little sweaty.  Even with pit-zips.  Not the lightest rain jacket.
Price: $70 (sale)
Weight: 12 oz
 
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GoLite Demaree 800 Fill Down Jacket

Pros: Cozy, light, warm.  Maine surprised me by being warm and beautiful.  I didn’t really wear this jacket that much, since it wasn’t really that cold.  Doubles as a pillow, though.
Cons: It’s a down jacket – Don’t get it wet.
Price: $110
Weight: 12 oz
 

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Merrell Moab Ventilator Hiking Shoes

Pros:  I started the AT in a pair of waterproof KEENS.  Mistake #1:  Don’t hike in waterproof shoes on the AT.  I arrived at a hiker box in Damascus wishing for a pair of low hiking shoes.  I found these shoes– in my size —  free — and wore them from Virginia until Vermont.  In Vermont, I bought a new pair and wore them until Maine.  Love the mesh.  I didn’t even take my shoes off during river fords.  I just plow right though.  Man, I love these shoes.
Cons: I got a few blisters the first week I wore these shoes.  But after that rough week, it’s been a pretty swell relationship.
Price: $90

 

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SuperFeet Insoles
Pros: My feet are always happy.  I hiked every mile of the AT in SuperFeet insoles.  I want to try hiking without them, but why mess with a good thing?
Cons: Expensive, but only replaced them once in Connecticut.
Price: $40
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Other Random Things That Acorn Likes:
Acorn is getting lazy.  I just wanted to give a shout-out to a few random things that I loved:  Snow Peak Titanium Spork, Cat Hat, Outdoor Research Mittens, ExOfficio Lace Undies, Darn Tough Wool Socks (amazing socks with a lifetime guarantee!!!), Royal Robbins Shorts, Nike Sports Bra, Nike Running Shirt, Old Navy Running Shorts, GAP Running Jacket, Mountain Hardware Button-Up Shirt, Old Navy Flip Flops.
 
And I’m not going to go into details, but I really liked the Diva Cup (for the rare moments when I actually got my period on the trail), and the P-Style (pee funnel.  Yes.  I carried a pee funnel until I lost it in Maine.  It’s on the trail somewhere.  Oops.)
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And…. one last thing…
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Pocket Kite !
Pros:   Yea.  You’re gonna need a kite.
Cons:  You’ll get distracted and probably hike slower.  Especially when you find a windy mountain summit.  Oh, baby.
Price:  $5
Weight:  ~ 1 oz
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I hope this helped some of you with your gear research.  Good luck, wherever your feet may take you.
And remember,  less is more.
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goodbye
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Categories: Gear | 25 Comments

Monson, ME to Mount Katahdin, ME [2185.9 miles]

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ETOKATAH

I’m in the 100 mile wilderness. I have been hiking for 6 months and I’m a mere 4 days away from Katahdin. I feel the magnetic pull of the end. I must admit, my body is ready to finish.

But, there’s also a part of me that still likes to linger. I pause at the top of White Cap mountain to fly my kite on a windy day. Windy mountain tops are apparently my biggest weakness.

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I fly my kite for a long time. It finally gets tangled in the trees, and it’s time to go.

I pack up my kite, and head back to the trail. 5 minutes later, I catch my first view of Katahdin. I text him with the exciting news:

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Forever.
I’ll have this moment forever.

I look back at Katahdin, the mountain I’ve been walking to for 6 months. She is the reason I walk in the rain, the reason I’ve put everything else on hold, the reason I quit my job, the reason I’ve hiked with blisters and in the dark.

She lays in front of me, with a flat 70 miles between us.

Forever.

I feel tears sliding down my cheeks.

She’s beautiful.

As I walk north, I think of his words. Nothing seems to last forever. Power, love, money. They are all such fleeting things. But, I will always have this experience. I will always have these memories.

Four days later, I wasn’t just catching a glimpse of Katahdin. I was at the base of the mountain, ready to close this chapter of my life.

I submitted Katahdin on Sunday, October 6th.

 

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I am now an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker.

And I will be one, forever.

Thank you.

For believing in me before I ever dared to believe in myself.

It’s been a wonderful journey.

 

 

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Categories: Maine | 41 Comments

Stratton, ME to Monson, ME [2071 miles]

tomon

ESTRATTOMON

The forecast for the Bigelows called for sunshine and warm weather. I left Stratton with a tiny kite, and a pair of sunglasses.

Nice try, Acorn.

It wasn’t sunny.

Instead, the Bigelows looked like this:

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And why, after 2000 miles, do I still trust the weather forecast?

I admit, sometimes, I feel powerful. And sometimes, I feel so fragile. Sometimes, I’m just a girl on a mountain trying to make it to the other side.

News on the trail travels surprisingly quickly. A hiker left camp at 4am and texted back a photo of the wintery scene. We passed the phone around at the shelter.

Then, it started to sleet.

We stayed in our sleeping bags until noon.

For the first time of my hike, I looked up at a mountain, saw clouds, and considered “skipping ahead.” But ultimately, I want to finish my hike at Katahdin. More that anything, I want to look back at a line of continuous footsteps that lead all the way to Georgia.

I finally got out of my sleeping bag at noon. The sleet had stopped, and it was either spend all day in a freezing shelter or cross the mountains now and camp at a lower elevation that night.

Another hiker said: “Well, this is a lose-lose situation.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Luckily, these were my last 4000 foot mountains until the end. I am now in much lower elevation and enjoying the “flat” part of Maine.

I am about to enter the 100-mile wilderness. The next time I update, I’ll be an Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker (fingers crossed!). And I’ll probably be writing my next blog entry from a bubble bath.

In a week, I will be at Katahdin.

And when I get there, I’m waiting for the sun.

I have a kite to fly.

I no longer count the states or miles left. Now, I’m just counting down the days.

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Categories: Maine | 10 Comments

Gorham, NH to Stratton, ME [1997 miles]

tostrat

EGORHAMTODSTRAT

I confess.

I didn’t fall in love with Maine until Day 6.

It didn’t hit me until I was bundled in my sleeping bag at the Sabbath Day Pond Lean-To. As the sun set, I could hear wild singing on the nearby lake.

Loons.

And in that moment, cozy in my sleeping bag, I fell completely and helplessly in love with Maine.

My first days in this state were, to be honest, brutal.

I didn’t realize that anything could be harder than the Whites. Then I met the Mahoosuc Notch, the hardest mile of the AT.

I always knew it would be challenging. I heard tales of how hikers had to push their packs over refrigerator-sized boulders and through rocky tunnels.

I was ready for it.

Then it rained.

1 mile took me 3 hours to complete.

It rained for the next 4 days. It was the kind of rain that soaks everything you own. It was the kind of rain that makes your bones ache.

Welcome to Maine. You will not be granted a simple waltz to the finish line. This will be a stinky, bloody fight to the end.

After 4 days of difficult trail and rain, I snuck into town to rest, dry my gear, and spoil myself with a pizza buffet. When I hit the trail for round 2 of Maine, the clouds had finally cleared and the sun was shining.

I started to fall in love.

And since then, the terrain has been easier and the days sunny. The temperatures at night are flirting with the 30s, but I’m fine with cold, as long as I’m dry. The colors are just beginning to change, and I’m so lucky to be a thru-hiker in Maine watching the leaves change.

I think back to April in Georgia, and watching the flowers and trees spring to life. I still remember the first trillium flower emerge in Georgia… I have watched it come full circle.

When I first dreamed of hiking the AT, I felt such guilt at taking 6 months out of life to go hiking. But now? I realize I took 6 months out of life to be alive.

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Categories: Maine, New Hampshire | 9 Comments

Hanover, NH to Gorham, NH [1887 miles]

togorham

EHANOVERTOGO

Everyone warned me.

The Whites will kick your butt.

I always knew the Whites would be difficult. I thought that after 1800 miles and 5 months, I would be ready.

I was so wrong.

My first day in the Whites, I found myself spread out on the rocks like a spider. I tightened every muscle in my body and couldn’t move an inch up the mountain.

I looked up at the rocky trail and cried. This wasn’t hiking- this was rock-climbing. I don’t remember signing up for this. I thought the Whites would require 100% of my energy. But, it’s more like they would require 110%.

I soon learned that 1 mile in the Whites = 2 miles everywhere else.

I talked to a friend, and decided to walk slower. In this terrain, 10 mile days would be okay. Nobody would say to me “Oh, you walked to Maine? How long did it take you? 6 months? Wow, you’re slow.”

(If anyone says that, they’ll get smacked with a hiking pole.)

The Whites were brutal and serene.

One day I held a Gray Jay in my hand. It ate granola out of my palm as I gazed upon the mountains. It was a beautiful sunny day.

48 hours later, I hiked over Mt Madison in 60 mph wind. It was like the ship-sinking scene in Titanic, but with less water. I fell 5 times, and luckily, was not injured.

Shelters disappear in the Whites, and are replaced by 8 huts (and several tent sites). Thru-hikers are allowed to sleep on the floor and eat leftovers in exchange for helping with chores. There’s so much that I want to say about the AMC and the hut system.. But I feel like I’m looking at an iceberg, and there’s so much that I don’t understand yet. Perhaps I can only see the tip of the iceberg.

I was lucky to get work-for-stays at several huts.. I was treated well, but watched hikers get rejected in bad weather. There’s nothing more heart-breaking than watching your friends tent outside in the cold rain, when there is a perfectly good floor inside. I don’t understand the logic. For that reason, the Whites felt like a playground for the rich. I felt like I was playing a game of musical chairs.

A Croo member on the rules: “Be nice first. Follow the rules second.”

(Thank You!!)

But mostly, I was blessed with good weather, and good people. The Whites were a very special place.

I’m already blocking out all the bad memories. 60 mph wind? Bring it. It will only make me stronger.

I am a thru-hiker. We are tough.
When the world ends, it’ll just be cockroaches and thru-hikers sitting in a shelter talking about the bad weather.

Ok, I need to rest.

…Maine in 2 days!!

(Sorry, my pictures always upload in a funny order. Enjoy!!)

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Categories: New Hampshire | 10 Comments

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