field notes // boiling springs, PA to vermont

What a spread, huh? Pennsylvania to Vermont. Hiking has taken up a lot more of each day lately, and as a consequence blogging has taken up a lot less. Well, here we go!

We left Boiling Springs without Animal, who stayed for a second zero. We had one glorious day of walking through flat farmland, then the rocks began. We’d heard so many horror stories that for awhile we talked about how it wasn’t as bad as expected. Animal caught back up quickly. We had some really hot days, but we also got extremely lucky with the weather. I’d prepared for the worst of summer, but we got quite a few “cooler” days, in the 80s. The rocks got a little bit worse each day, culminating in about 40 miles of hell to end the state. When I look at videos and pictures of that section now, I can’t believe we actually went through that.

I was happier to get out of PA than I was to reach the halfway point or Harper’s Ferry. New Jersey was impressive from the start, with lovely Sunfish Pond and views from the ridge line. We took an excellent zero at Maureen’s house on the lake. The rocks didn’t magically disappear, but they got a lot better. Our last night in Jersey we got hammered by mosquitos terribly for the first time.

New York was rough. That trail was relentless in its ups and downs. We climbed a lot of rocks. But we also drank a lot of soda and ate a lot of ice cream. We got the most magical trail magic from John and Susan. We felt the nearness of NY City (lots of people). And then went into Connecticut! I was very happy to put the mid-Atlantic lowlands behind us and enter New England.

We started to notice a difference in the forest right away. More water, more roots, more mud. The trail was pretty gentle for awhile, then started taking us higher in elevation. On Mount Race we walked along the sheer edge of a cliff overlooking the huge valley below. We hit 1,500 miles, and ran into Walter White, whom we hadn’t seen since Damascus. We hiked with Rottman for a couple of days.

Massachusetts brought more big rock slabs, more roots, and tons of mosquitos. Our organic essential oils bug spray was helpless against them. We stayed in quaint little Great Barrington, and I finally got to eat Thai AND Indian food. In the same town. Yay New England.

Then, we climbed over Greylock and entered Vermont. We’re sharing space now with a lot of Ivy League pre-orientation groups. It’s exciting to be starting the final big three: Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. I’ve entered the mystical far north, a place I’ve wondered if I could make it to.

where we’ve been // days 126-130

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Day 126: Poughquag, NY to Ten Mile River Shelter // 17.3 miles. We had a really hard time getting out of town. We tried hitching for awhile to no avail. Then Eric asked the motel owner for a ride the three miles back to the trail but he refused (big surprise). We walked up the road to see if there was a better spot to hitch. Nope. We kept walking and hitching, slowly, found a deli, stopped for breakfast. A guy in the parking lot wanted to chat with us, and we indulged him by telling our signature stories (caught in freezing rain, charged by a bear, etc), hoping that in exchange he would give us a ride. Instead he said we were “dumb as rocks” for wasting our college educations. He also refused to take us. Eventually we gave up and walked all the way back. Once we got hiking again we passed the train stop for NY City and, awhile later, crossed into Connecticut. It was a “super moon” that night, and we talked a little bit about doing some night hiking in the moonlight to get away from the large herd of weekenders at the shelter. But there were lots of rangers out and the camping was very restricted and we’d walked 20 miles so we settled for just looking at the moon. Actually it’s unusual that I’m still awake when it’s dark, so you can’t say I didn’t make an effort!

Day 127: Ten Mile River to Stony Brook campsite // 16.3 miles. We did some ups and downs in the morning, then went into Kent, CT to resupply. It was so quaint and perfect it seemed kind of fake, like a Disney-town. They were having some kind of sidewalk festival thing and was really crowded. The resupply came with some major sticker shock–Connecticut is expensive! Even cereal like Cheerios cost way too much. The crowds started to get to me and it was getting very hot, so after some lunch we rolled out of town. Animal had just given up on hitching and started walking back when a guy picked Eric and me up. We waved at Animal as we passed, which was maybe kind of mean, but then we convinced the guy to go back and pick him up, so hopefully we made up for it. We climbed out and hiked on. We camped along the Housatonic River, so it was nice to splash off in a large quantity of fast moving water. It sounds so sterile that way, but usually our nightly water comes from little streams and creeks maybe three inches deep. I do the best I can with those, but a good rinse in a foot or more of flowing water is a treat. It’s like the difference between a sponge bath and a jacuzzi.

Day 128: Stony Brook to Falls Village, CT // 17.5 miles. We hiked hard over a roller coaster (lots of little ups and downs) most of the day. The forest was beautiful. We came down to a hydroelectric plant that had a shower on the outside of one of their buildings. No privacy or anything, so it was a quick one hoping no cars came along the road. We met Rottman there, a cool German guy we’d seen a few times before–his name means “Red Man”, because apparently every redhead’s trail name is required to reference their redheadedness. We cleaned up, then we all walked into Falls Village…or was it Canaan? We were in “The Town of Canaan, Falls Village, CT”. Can’t get the hang of Connecticut’s plan here. Got some beers, ordered a pizza, and set up camp in the backyard of a cafe. Usually sleeping in town isn’t that nice because of light and noise, but this town was so quiet.

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Rottman, Animal, Morning Joe. Where are they???

Day 128: Falls Village to Race Brook Falls campsite // 19 miles. More big climbs today but with very rewarding views. In the morning we stopped to see a big waterfall, but it was really trashed and we didn’t stay long. We walked through fancy picturesque Connecticut neighborhoods with fancy houses. That was different. We also caught up to Walter White, whom we hadn’t seen since Damascus. Rottman hiked with us too and we spent the morning chatting. Walter White is a big talker. At one point we were discussing the epic downfalls of the education system, and who knows how we got on that topic or where we went from there. It was entertaining and different for me, and the miles melted away. Walter White and Rottman left to go into Salisbury and we hiked on, following Animal, who had pulled ahead while we chatted (he is not a big talker). We summited Bear Mountain, highest point in CT. Coming down from there we passed into MA and the most beautiful valley called Sage’s Ravine. We followed a brook, full of perfect little swimming holes and natural rock slides. It was really hard to walk past. I have to come back there someday and spend  a couple of days just meandering down the ravine and soaking in every pool. Some gnarly rain was projected to blow in that evening and it was starting to drizzle. We stopped to debate whether to set up camp or press on to our planned spot. We decided to press on so that we’d have a shorter day into town tomorrow. The next mountain we climbed took us along a cliffside with awesome views. The drizzle made the rocks slippery so it was sort of slow going. But Eric and Animal, who are faster than me, were ahead and out of sight and I was hiking alone, which is nice sometimes. I felt like an epic warrior princess or something, emerging above tree line and surveying my kingdom in the rain. It just felt good, being up high, looking down, the chill, the wind. Especially after slogging through heat and humidity for so long. I heard the boys whooping when they got to the summit, and the coyotes below me answered them. We got down and were able to set up camp and cook outside without the torrential rain we kept expecting. It cooled off magnificently for an excellent and cozy night of sleeping, though our campsite was rather low and we were concerned the creek nearby might swell if it rained and turn the area into a marsh. The rain didn’t come though, so we had no flood worries.

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The moment when Eric was the tallest person in Connecticut. 

Day 129: Race Brooke Falls camp to Great Barrington, MA // 9.8 miles. It wasn’t raining still in the morning. Our plan was to hike to the road to town and get a ride in from 44, a guy Animal had hiked with at the beginning of the trail who lived nearby. We planned to resupply and sleep inside since we expected to be soaked. We had a really steep climb (hand over hand up walls type) first thing and wanted to get that over with before the heavy rain. Wet rocks are really rough. It started drizzling on our way up and picked up at the summit. I didn’t put up the umbrella because it made climbing down the rocks hard, so I got pretty wet. At the bottom I put it up and felt better to have the rain off me, but I was soaked. I’d been counting on just getting into town so I hadn’t tried very hard to stay dry, but I hadn’t really thought about how long it takes to hike eight miles. It was cold and miserable. I listened to Game of Thrones and tried to console myself that the characters were usually much colder than I was. At one point we were hiking through some low lying swampy areas, and the boys were ahead of me. I was getting attacked by mosquitos, and wishing I was with them so I could use some of Animal’s bug spray. Suddenly I saw it lying in the trail! I thought he had dropped it accidentally, but turns out he’d done it on purpose. Now there’s a hiking partner! It was such a relief to get to the road and have a car waiting for us. He dropped us at our surprisingly reasonably priced motel, and we got showers and Thai food. Then 44 came back and brought us to his house for dinner along with a southbounder named Moonshine he’d seen walking on the road earlier. We ate until stuffed and slept well back at the motel. After a some traditional HGTV, of course.

Day 130: Zero in Great Barrington. It was not the plan to stay here, but the town is so awesome and the motel room so nice that this morning we all looked at each other and knew we weren’t going anywhere. I’m also dealing with knee pain and my left knee was really swollen last night. I’m excited to walk around the town a little bit–there are so many options for food and lots of cute little shops. It’s the first trail town I could see myself living in. We’ve got the HGTV going, a quality latte is in hand…nothing better! (Edit to add: Eric realized his continually disappointed dream of very spicy Indian food. The chef overhead him ordering his vindaloo, asking them to make it so hot he cried, and he said, “You want to cry? I make you cry.” It is the only time I’ve ever seen Eric satisfied with the spiciness of a vindaloo.)

where we’ve been // days 117-125

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Day 117: Maureen’s house to Mashipacong Shelter // 14.4 miles. We left the magnificent comfort of the lake house very reluctantly. I could have used another day (or three or four) to rest, but so it goes. After four miles of hiking we crossed a deli and stopped for sandwiches. We sat there awhile, debating calling Maureen and just going back there for another rest day. It was really tempting, but we rallied and pressed on. Our planned camping site was nonexistent and the listed water was muddy and smelly, so we hiked extra miles to the shelter. I was deeply irritated by this, especially since the water there was .6 off trail (1.2 extra miles to get water??) and also, of course, because I didn’t want to hike anymore. BUT when we got there we found former hikers Cookie and Marshmallow set up at the picnic table with trail magic! They had sodas and snacks and cooked us a pasta dinner. The local rangers had even stashed a water jug in the bear box, so we didn’t have to fetch water!

Day 118: Mashipacong to Unionville, NY // 15.4 miles. Cookie and Marshmallow camped out with us and cooked breakfast in the morning: pancakes and eggs, cereal and coffee. We ate until we felt sick and got another late start. We met our first couple of south bounders in High Point State Park and it was fun to chat with them a bit. In the afternoon we made it in to Unionville. There was a mail fiasco where my shoes had been delivered somewhere 30 miles away. Eric was on the phone for awhile trying to sort that out while I did the resupply shopping in a sparse convenience store. Finally a UPS worker overheard the conversation and said he would deliver the shoes to us at a road crossing tomorrow, on his day off. Oh thank god. When you need new shoes, you really need new shoes. We ate wings at the local bar and met a sketchy character who said he was a hiker that we’d been warned about by several people, but he left us alone. The town let us camp in their park. After we set up the tents we played basketball a little bit, even though we were tired. It was fun to do something other than hike.

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A beautiful sight. I rarely see this much flat ground.

Day 119: Unionville to Wawayanda Shelter // 15.7 miles. We didn’t sleep well due to all the loud trucks inexplicably roaring around all night and the bright security lights in the park. I was feeling really sick with a cold as we left in the morning. Some nice Jehovah’s Witnesses gave us a ride back to the trail, the three of us squeezed in their trunk. The driver asked Eric where we were headed, meaning, where did we want him to drop us off, and Eric replied, “To Maine!” The women gave us some of the pamphlets they were going to hand out door to door, but the driver took them back from us when they weren’t looking, thankfully. We walked along a beautiful nature preserve, Walkill, and through a swamp on a long boardwalk. We stopped at a deli for drinks and ice cream at lunch, then climbed Wawayanda mountain serenaded by a band playing an outdoor show below. The shelter was full of mosquitos, so we got in our tents really early.

Day 120: Wawayanda Shelter to John and Susan’s house (West Mombasha road at mile 1375) // 17.1 miles. We crossed into New York in the morning and began a section with a warning in the guidebook: “Despite the un imposing profile, rocks, abrupt ups and downs make this section challenging”. AWOL wasn’t kidding. We climbed a ladder bolted into a rock face at one point, and of course it was hot. The trend in NY seems to be to put the AT over the top of giant rock piles and directly over the summit of every little bump, but to always have a little blue-blazed “cheater trail” that skirts the obstacle right below you, taunting you. It’s pretty annoying. Right before camp we came across a cooler full of water jugs and a card offering food, showers, and beds, for free, nearby. Animal called. Suddenly, instead of crawling into my sleeping bag, sticky with sweat and swatting bugs, we were at John and Susan’s house feasting on chicken tikka masala with a couple of southbounders and wearing borrowed clothes while they did our laundry.

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We thought Eric and John’s dog had similar beards going on.
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The AT isn’t going that way, obviously.

Day 121: John and Susan’s to Palisades Parkway visitor center // 16.7 miles. In the morning John made us French toast and offered to pick us up at the end of the day and let us stay at his house again. He also dosed me with cough syrup (the cold I’d gotten a few days back was still hanging around in my chest). We were so glad we took him up on that, because it was a rough day. The forest was beautiful and we saw lovely lakes and views, but NY trail goes up and down every rock it can find. We did the “lemon squeezer”, a narrow slot between two big boulders. At the end of the day, it was back “home” for showers and burgers and John even indulged us in a little HGTV.

Day 122: Palisades Pkwy to Graymoor Spiritual Life Center // 14.4 miles. Lots of steep climbing today. We could also feel how close we were to NY City. We came down Bear Mountain and suddenly found crowds of people at the lake. The trail wound through many picnic areas with grills as it followed the lake, and it was like a multicultural world festival of amazing food that wasn’t for me. Rrrreally hard to walk past. The trail went through a little zoo and we passed the low point of the trail at the bear pen. It was the lowest elevation, but also low in that is was kind of lame to put the bears that are supposed to be living here into a cage in a zoo about the animals that live there. We crossed the massive Bear Mountain Bridge. In the heat of the day we climbed away from the valley and made it to the trail side gas station where we planned to get more food. We hadn’t seen many thru-hikers for days, but while we sat there no less than eleven different hikers came out of the woods. We were amazed. It had felt very empty and peaceful, and unfortunately these hikers were mostly of the partying variety. Sure enough they started stocking up on beer. We suspected they were heading to the same place as we were, so we ate our sandwiches quickly and took off. We went just a little further to a Franciscan monastery that lets hikers camp on their ball field. It started to rain so we took to our tents as the partiers rolled in. They stayed up being loud until midnight but I was so tired it didn’t keep me up.

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Headphones are often code for: it was a little hard to smile for this picture. So are umbrellas.

Day 123: Graymoor to Shenandoah Tenting Area // 17.5 miles. More up and down. I listened to my audiobook most of the day because mentally I was totally burnt out and every time I tried to hike in silence I just didn’t want to be present. So I escaped into the Game of Thrones world. I’d been sick for several days, hiking in the heat over hard trail, and I just felt done. We stopped at a lakeside concessions stand in the afternoon for Gatorade. On our way from there it rained. The trail was a river, my feet soaked. I was pretty mad, and when we got to camp I just got in the tent and lay there. Eric did all the chores and cooked dinner, which I couldn’t eat. Went to sleep as soon as possible. Definitely the worst I’ve felt about the trip.

Day 124: Shenandoah to Poughquag, NY // 13.6 miles. I felt better in the morning. We got an early start and hiked hard with no breaks. It was town day. The scenery continued to be beautiful and the trail was a bit gentler, thankfully. We hiked with a really fast guy for a little bit who had done the trail before, and told us about all that lay ahead. It was good to get my interest up again since I was feeling so burnt out. We passed a cool beaver pond, then came out on the road to town. It’s a little town, not necessarily trail-aware, and we were having a hard time getting a hitch. Finally a local bus came along with a pickup truck behind it. We meant to hitch the pickup, but started joking around about hitching the bus. Suddenly it pulled over and opened the doors! We couldn’t believe it. The bus was off duty and the driver was on her way back to the station, but she took us down the road. She still made us pay the fare, which was kind of weird, and she didn’t seem to want to talk to us, but no complaints! Best hitch yet. Once showered, we ordered mountains of Chinese food and bought all our food for the zero day so that we wouldn’t have to leave bed of we didn’t want to the next day.

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You just never know who will pick you up.

Day 125: Zero in Poughquag. So far I’ve only left bed to fetch food from ten steps away. It’s Animal’s birthday, and a hiker he knew from the start of the trail, Jay, came over with a fruit tart to celebrate. Our motel room is pretty bad. It reeks of cigarettes, and when we asked for a non-smoking room the owner told us hikers can’t stay in the clean rooms because we are dirty. So that’s nice. It is true we smell, but it is a smell that goes away and doesn’t have any cancer stuff associated with it. Anyway, we’re really excited to cross into Connecticut tomorrow and start the last section of this journey: New England. I’ve never been there. Right now I’m hoping it’s all lakes and blueberries and cool weather!

where we’ve been // days 91-102

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Day 91: Thornton Gap to Hogwallow Flat // 17.8 miles. By some miracle we got back on the trail on an excellent, cool day and cruised through some easy hiking. I really couldn’t believe the weather. It was so nice, we did more miles than we planned and got a really nice stealth spot (for Shenandoah). Day one of Operation Catch Animal complete! It’s actually really difficult to catch up to someone when they get such a head start on you. I’m not actually doing the math because if I did I’d probably give up.

Day 92: Hogwallow Flats to Manassas Gap shelter // 20.4 miles. More usual Virginia hiking. The Green Tunnel for sure. We got a pint of ice cream each at the Cabbin hostel instead of eating lunch. Late in the afternoon we got to a shelter with an outdoor solar shower. There was nothing solar about it, but it felt good to stand under a deluge of cold water. Feeling refreshed, we left there and went up a big hill to camp.

Day 93: Manassas Gap to Sam Moore Shelter // 19.8 miles. Easy hiking all morning, but the looming Roller Coaster section was bothering me. It’s 13.5 miles of constant, steep up and down, I think they packed twelve peaks in there. I just really, really didn’t want to go through it, but there was nothing else to do. I’m not sure why I was getting so worked up about it; when we saw the sign signaling the start I even felt a pit in my stomach, but I managed to smile to take a picture! We did the first half of it, and then got to camp exhausted. My brother, who had been hiking south towards us from Harper’s Ferry, met us in camp that night. It’s awesome but so weird to have my brother here! Scout and Yogi came in too, and we hadn’t seen them in a long, long time! We found my brother wasn’t packed very well. He didn’t have a sleeping bag, but he did have four bug sprays.

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Day 94: Sam Moore to campsite at 1015.5 // 19.4 miles. Intense hiking right off the bat as we finished the roller coaster. My brother was repeating what he’d done the day before, and the ankle he sprained last week was starting to bother him. Grabbed another solar shower, warmer this time, at the Blackburn AT Center, then hiked to a highway intersection with a pizza restaurant visible. We decided to go there. When we walked in, the TV was turned to the Weather Channel and the weatherman was talking excitedly about a big thunderstorm about to happen. The locals sitting at the bar shouted to us, “Are ya’ll out on the trail? You better keep your head down!” We were confused. But then while we were eating our pizza the sky suddenly went black and a crazy thunderstorm came in. Peep Show was supposed to meet us at the pizza place, and he hadn’t turned up yet. We worried about him and anyone else out on the trail, because trees were coming down and lightning was hitting hard. We texted Animal to see where he was and he said he was hunkering down in a concrete bathroom at a hiker camp on the other side of Harper’s Ferry. The electricity went out so they shut the restaurant down. Once it blew through we hiked two more miles (with beers) through the post-storm destruction to camp. There was debris and trees down everywhere. We were so, so lucky we just happened to get to the pizza place when we did!

Day 95: campsite to Dahlgren Campground // 21.3 miles. Got up and got into Harper’s Ferry early. We registered and took our photo at the ATC headquarters. While we were waiting outside for my brother to pick us up a man approached wanting to interview us for his radio show. So we did it, and my brother even got in too when he showed up. Then we went in my brother’s car for breakfast and a resupply run. We looked at the book and saw if we did 17 miles this afternoon we could camp tonight at the place Animal had been last night, and close the gap to only one day behind him. It was an insane idea, but we left my brother at 2:00pm to start the 17 miles. His ankle hurt too much, but there was a parking lot near the campsite so he went to see some Civil War sights and then drive to the camp with sandwiches for us. Got to camp at 9:45, totally exhausted, and found my brother chilling and drinking beer with the other hikers. And he had Subway! I could get used to this supported thru-hike thing.

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My brother on the bridge into Harper’s Ferry

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Day 96: Dahlgren to Wolfsville Road // 14.2 miles. My legs felt like two blocks of cement in the morning. We walked to my brother’s car so he could get some stuff before hiking on a little bit with us. While we were sitting there he played some music, and it was surprisingly awesome to hear music from external speakers instead of my earbuds. I wanted to sit there and listen for hours! But on we went. I was really feeling it, all the miles we’ve been doing lately. This is the most we’ve pushed ourselves so far. The trail was rocky and my feet and legs were killing me. They were getting swollen stretching my skin so much that I also had a crazy rash from my knees down to my feet. Late in the afternoon they were so swollen I couldn’t hike anymore. Luckily we were able to call my brother who was nearby, and he met us at the next road crossing. As we were coming down the trail to his car it was about to start raining at any second. I wanted to get in the car s badly before it rained, and I could see the car through the trees, but I just couldn’t get myself to walk faster. Eric got down there, then ran back up and got my bag. We slipped in the car just before rain started to fall! We drove to a nearby motel in Hagerstown. When we asked if they had a thru-hiker rate the front desk lady looked at us like we were crazy and said, “I’ll just give you the AAA rate” just to get rid of us. We took it easy that night. I just sat in bed icing my legs while Chris and Eric went out and got burgers and more KT tape for me.

Day 97: Wolfsville Road to Deer Lick Shelter // 15.7 miles. I went to bed not sure how I would be in the morning, but when I woke up my legs were normal size again and felt surprisingly ok. Message received, body. We parted with my brother again, and hiked to Pen Mar park excited for sodas. Instead, we found a different company had taken over the lease and hadn’t installed new machines yet. Once again luckily, Chris was in the area and brought us sodas at a road crossing before hiking on with us to camp.

Day 98: Deer Lick to Quarry Gap Shelter // 15.8 miles. My brother hiked with us up to a view in the morning, then turned back. We got word Animal was spending the day at a state park just a few miles ahead. He waited until I’d proven I was willing to sacrifice my legs to catch up to him, then spent a day hanging out at a pool to let us close the gap 🙂 The hike was pretty boring, but then we emerged into the state park and there were tons of people. Kat, whom we first met back before McAfee’s Knob, was there too. We all hiked to a very crowded but fancy shelter. It even had hanging potted plants and actual landscaping around it. We camped further into the woods to be away from the people, but we were camped next to a guy who had a dog that couldn’t get used to us. Every time we walked back up to the tent it would bark and go crazy, then sniff us and remember it knew us and everything was good. But if we walked away ten minutes later, whole drill all over again.

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Day 99: Quarry Gap to campsite at 1101.8 // 20.8 miles. Did a fast morning push with Animal and Kat. It’s different to hike their hike–very few breaks. I usually take at least one before lunch so it’s certainly something new to just keep on going. We saw a rattlesnake, then the halfway point. The “halfway point” feeling is strung out because first we reached the 2014 halfway point, then the halfway point memorial that doesn’t move year to year, then the halfway point of the original AT. We made it to Pine Grove Furnace State Park but had missed Kat doing the half gallon ice cream challenge. We ate a lot of ice cream (though not a half gallon) and filled up on cheeseburgers so we wouldn’t have to cook dinner that night. There was a little lake with a swimming beach that I was very tempted by, but it was super crowded (the only time I know it’s a weekend) and I didn’t feel like trying to go through a changing and drying off routine in front of a crowd. Arrived to camp exhausted and utterly soaked in sweat. Animal calls it “slimed”, which is really apt. The grossest I’ve ever been, I think.

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Day 100: campsite to Boiling Springs, PA // 15.7 miles. Hiked quickly all morning again, then slowed down for the last big hills before town. Animal entertained us by singing sugar songs (“Pour Some Sugar on Me” on the way up and “Sugar We’re Going Down” on the way, uh, down) and occasionally dancing a little. We emerged into a corn field and valley-walked into town. Kat and Animal came to our room to shower. Best shower of my life, but when I walked back into the room the stink of everyone else and their gear hit me like a truck. I feel so sorry for all the clean people who have endured car rides with us! Animal went to stay at a friend’s house and Kat hiked on. The TV doesn’t get HGTV, which is our new favorite channel (homeless people obsessed with watching shows about houses, of course). It only got old black and white movies. Bummer.

Day 101: zero in Boiling Springs. We were staying at this weird resort/theater combination called Allenberry. Unfortunately it was Tuesday, which is the only day when they don’t put on any plays and all the restaurants are closed. It was a doable but slightly long walk down a really busy road into town, and then another mile from there to the grocery store. Luckily Eric’s mom had a friend nearby who had offered us help, so we took her up on it and got a stress free ride to resupply and then back to the motel. We spent the rest of the day relaxing, watching old movies on our room TV, then migrating to the basement where we found another TV that could get HGTV. Nothing beats an easy resupply and hours of Fixer Upper.

Day 102: Boiling Springs to Darlington Shelter // 14.3 miles. A big cool front came in and took out a lot of the humidity, so today was really pleasant. We walked through the Cumberland Valley all day, along endless corn and soybean fields and crossing tons of roads. It is incredible to look around and see nothing but land being cultivated by people to grow massive quantities of just two things. It was easy hiking, completely flat, something that never ever happens. We’re camped tonight with Fivel and Little Foot, whom we haven’t seen in ages. Animal stayed behind for another zero today, but we’re sure he’ll catch up to us quickly–he’s fast.

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field notes // waynesboro, VA to boiling springs, PA

This last leg felt like a major section for us–we covered a lot of ground, hit some milestones, pushed ourselves and saw how strong we’ve gotten. It was hard, but I feel satisfied with it. It was good.

We left Waynesboro and excitedly entered the fabled Shenandoah. Everyone had been talking it up for weeks–oh, it’s so flat, it’s such easy hiking, no rocks, etc. I expected fairies to come and hand me a milkshake and carry my bag for me. But the trail let us know what was up immediately with some rocks and climbs. It was certainly nice to have the chance for a soda basically once a day, and the frequent road crossings made for some variety. But while Shenandoah wasn’t terribly hard hiking, it wasn’t terribly easy either. The AT seems to skip all the cool stuff too and just plunge through the park. All around us were side trails to summits and waterfalls, but we didn’t see many views ourselves.

But Eric’s mom came out to hike with us and arrived with sub sandwiches and a buffet of toppings, plus sodas. She also took us and Animal for a night in a lodge. And not long after she left, we took off for a two day break in Delaware–lots of food and sleeping, just what we needed (and always need).

We came roaring back from Delaware intent on catching up to Animal. We did five days of 19-20 miles in a row. That took us out of the park, through the remainder of Virginia, and into the deadly “Roller coaster”, where we met up with my brother. He hiked a rough 19 mile day with us and then into Harper’s Ferry the next day.

For a few days out of Harper’s my brother would join us in the evening, usually with Subway sandwiches, and hike a few miles in to camp with us. We took it slightly easier but still did big miles those days. We passed into Maryland, then crossed the Mason-Dixon Line into Pennsylvania. We caught up with Animal and Kat just before the halfway point and the Pine Grove Furnace half gallon challenge, which only Kat was brave enough to try (the challenge is to eat a half gallon if ice cream by yourself).

The next day we hiked into Boiling Springs, through both a rock maze and our first stretch of Pennsylvania farmland. A friend of Eric’s mom, Kristen, gave us a ride to the grocery store, so our town chores were easy this time and we’ve spent a great day relaxing.

And now we tackle the lowland Pennsylvania rocks in the blazing July heat! It’ll be a challenge, but if we can power through some cooler weather will be ours up north.