The Things We Carry

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Gear

When I was young I used to collect sticks. At one point I had a very solid and thorough collection. I would carry them around in a case or put them in corners and behind doors. I believed them to be of importance. They were of course, in a sense, important to me. I did eventually part with them when I grew a little older and the collecting turned into Pokémon cards and figurines instead. Even older it turned into clothing, ticket stubs and books, most of which I never got to reading.

Finishing the AT with 6.5 pounds of things I carried from Maine.

We are natural gatherers and have powerful habits of gathering things we deem valuable. I for one am quite talented at sentimentalising objects. Sometimes rightfully so, but more often than not it’s just a way of trying to eternalise a moment that is somehow connected to the object. This is not bad in itself, but when said things become clutter in space and mind, it also becomes a problem.

Some things don’t serve a sentimental purpose. They are just there because they might come to use at some point in the future. These things often end up not being used at all.

One of the reasons I was a lot happier while thru hiking was the decreased amount of things I needed for comfort and survival. There was suddenly more space for a clearer mind and positive experiences where an abundance of clothing and knick knacks had previously been. It dawned on me, that not only did things not make me happy. They had a part in making me unhappy.

Lunchbreak spread

It wasn’t really until thru hiking the PCT in 2017 that I realised how many unnecessary things I had managed to acquire (and hold on to) in 22 years. It was impressive really. I mean, not enough to gain hoarder status, but definitely enough to make me uneasy. It was a way for me to pass time and fill holes where other things were missing. As soon as I returned home I started being more mindful about my belongings, and ultimately started minimising.

Now, I realise I am extremely privileged to even have a problem like this to begin with. So privileged that for much of my life I took my abundance of possessions for granted. It’s a privilege that’s gone so far that many of us have lost track of what a reasonable amount of things to own is.

All this said, I do like things. Gadgets, gear and tech, I find most of it exciting. My goal is not to minimise until I eventually have nothing. It’s about serving a purpose and/or sparking joy, as Marie Kondo would say. To figure out what those things are we often do need to start by having less. Because, as mostly anyone who has thru hiked, or done any form of extended, simple traveling would know; Having too many things usually just gets in the way of the experience.

I believe the things you carry should be the means to an end, not the end itself. Things themselves don’t seem to be intrinsically valuable. They have value because we give it to them. Partly in the memories they hold, and also in the way that we use them to simplify and enrich our lives. They do become valuable, even essential at times.

A home with interchangeable backyards.

On the AT in 2018 I carried the bare minimum. Between 6 and 7 pounds of base weight (not counting food and water). This was partly to see how little it’s possible to carry and be somewhat “comfortable”, partly just as a challenge. I did find that there were struggles (such as sleeping on an 1/8 inch foam pad) and advantages (such as walking faster and having less injuries). In retrospect I’ve come to realise that the best option for me is not to shave every single gram in order to achieve an attractive number on the scale, the best option is balance. A balance between weight and comfort. Between minimalism and purpose.

Small pack, the Dover Oak for scale.

That brings me to another gift of thru hiking: Purpose. When your most prominent goal in life is to get up in the morning and walk, and the only thing you have to do is make sure it’s in the right direction, it’s so clear what your purpose is. Everything you pack into your backpack every morning and carry throughout the day also serves a specific purpose. What I’m trying to get at is this: You don’t have to get rid of all your stuff. Be sure however, that the things you do carry serve a purpose.

On that note; I want to eulogise a piece of gear that has traveled close to 5000 miles with me. It’s still semi functional, but not enough for me to trust on long hikes again.

My orange Montbell Versalite Rain Jacket.

When the latex gloves come on you know it’s cold.

It didn’t always keep me entirely dry, but it had a rough job and did it well. It protected me from thunderstorms in the Sierra Nevada and from bugs in Oregon. It helped keep me warm in freezing temperatures and provided something to wear when all other clothing was being washed. It fought bravely against the rain in Pennsylvania and served as a caution sign on the top of my backpack in order to not be shot by hunters in Virginia.

Note orange jacket of cation.

Without my rain jacket I would’ve suffered hypothermia. Without my rain jacket I wouldn’t have been able to finish the AT or the PCT. It sounds dramatic, but without my rain jacket I would probably be dead.

Now, after 4840 miles (give or take), the seams on the Montbell are leaking and the waterproof coating is worn out. It’s no longer reliable enough to carry. It’s honestly a little sad, but more than that I think there’s beauty to be found here. I found an immeasurable amount of value in a thing because of the way that I used it. For the entire lifespan of the jacket, it was useful and did exactly the things I asked of it in order to keep me comfortable and safe.

Now, I obviously could have carried a number of other jackets and they would’ve done fine. But I didn’t. I carried this one and it served its purpose better than I could’ve ever expected.

Look at all that happy.

Virginia Is For Lovers (Part 1)

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AT

Virginia, oh Virginia. How will I ever get you all down in writing. 554 miles, almost a month of hiking, it is by far the longest state on the AT. That means that this will be a post of many words (yay!). So many that it’ll have to take it”s course through several entries.

I had heard the stories from weary northbounders; Speaking grimly of the 21 day non-stop rain and state that never ended. I will admit, I was nervous going into Virginia. Nonetheless, a new state is always exciting.

A Lover and a Dreamer feeling welcome.

As you may recall, prior to this, Spirit, Sun Chaser and I had been waiting out hurricane Florence. After over a week of not hiking it was finally time to get back out there. Angela had been nice enough to slackpack us to get us started, and BOY did we need it. As we got to the trailhead at which we were getting picked up, prior thru hikers Hopeful and Redwing, who we’d met through Angela, were there with cupcakes and lemonade! We also ran into Rabbit, whom we hadn’t seen for months!

Waiting for a ride.

You would think that after hiking for months, it’s just always easy. That’s a hard NO. Especially after not walking for that many days, getting back into the grove was a struggle. Spirit and I even stayed an extra day at Angela’s house because we got sick. Now I can only speak for myself, but I think it was mostly laziness and tiredness acting as placebo for me feeling sick.

Sun Chaser had gone ahead to meet up with his family who flew up from Texas! We would desperately try to catch up to him in the coming days.

Virginia started out really well. On a long and difficult day, Spirit and I ran into Rabbit again, this time with only a small sports bag. He was slackpacking with the help of a couple of hostel owners. He made a call to them and fixed us up with a spot there! It’s the best pick-me-up whenever you think you’ll spend the evening looking for a campsite that sometimes ends up being shitty, and instead you get food and beds and beer!

Happy knowing that the hostel is in reach.

We waited at the road to be picked up. One of the owners (I’m terrible and can’t remember his name for the life of me) of the hostel brought us back with him. It’s called the Wonderland Hiker Refuge and is a donation based hostel run by Lyric and her husband. They invite hikers into their home and make all vegetarian meals(!!) Hikers stay in a separate bunk room and it’s the perfect setup. Can’t recommend it enough.

In the morning we were fed breakfast and had planned to leave right after. But it was raining and was forecast to do so for another 4 days. A warm house seemed like a much better option. Finally we caved and Lyric took us back to the trailhead. We thanked her greatly and were on our way.

Towards the end of the day we entered Shenandoah National Park, a supposed highlight along the trail. Despite the weather, I was mighty excited!

Spirit and I stopped in at a shelter, but not before passing it by 1.5 miles. Always a fun little thing to do at the end of a rainy day. Even though it was cold and wet I managed to get dry and fall asleep somewhat comfortably (sleeping on a 1/8 foam pad is surprisingly not the best idea I’ve ever had).

The great calling of Shenandoah, other than the lovely nature of course, are the waysides. Essentially they are kiosks/gift shops spread along the National Park where one can acquire food and drinks in exchange for currency. A good deal if I’ve ever heard one.

During a cold and somewhat miserable morning we had the good fortune to come across one of these famed establishments. We bought breakfast and were disappointed at the lack of indoor seating. Instead we walked around inside, pretending to look at the souvenirs when we were actually just trying to hog some of the warmth. A lovely couple bought us some more food before we headed out into the cold, harsh world again.

Did I mention that it was cold? Cold and wet. My favorite state of meteorological condition. No pictures are taken when fingers are too numb to press the shutter and the constant downpour puts anything electrical at risk.

We stopped in at another shelter, as they are life savers in suboptimal weather. One slight issue is that everyone else has the same opinion and shelters often get crowded. As much fun as sharing bedrooms with strangers can be, alone time is also nice. At least we got a spot out of the rain.

In the morning it was still raining. We stayed in the shelter and were the lousy hikers that were last to leave. Oh well, as long as we get there in the end, it doesn’t really matter. Excerpt from my journal that day: “Putting on wet socks was the absolute worst. But we got going nonetheless”.

It FINALLY stopped raining for a bit and we got some good views and picture opportunities.

Spirit and Earth taking a break from the frigid rain.

We stopped in at Skyland resort for coffee and ended up spending an hour or so there. Spirit got two sandwiches despite her pledge to buy less food in order to save money. I don’t blame her though; Food is often the only thing I can think of while hiking.

Shenandoah is actually very pleasant when the weather is good. Even and well maintained trail, up on a ridge with solid views and a good bit of wildlife. Mostly deer, but they count too.

We kept walking, just as we normally do. The day came to an end at Big Meadows Lodge. We went up to the actual lodge around sunset hoping for some kind people with a little extra food and kindness to trail magic us. When no one did, we ended up walking over to a wooded area searching for a place to camp. We found some acceptable, albeit slightly bumpy and uneven sites and set our tents up. Probably not entirely legally. But hey, a hiker has to sleep.

We got up really early the next day, afraid that someone would call us out on camping in a questionable spot. We passed a strange little graveyard and got to a road right as the sun was rising. It was eerie in an otherworldly and beautiful kind of way.

That day was a short one, because Spirit’s mom was visiting from Canada and we were meeting her in Harrisonburg. We got to whatever road (seriously, the trail crosses so many roads, it’s hard to keep track) we needed to be at and started hitching. After trying for about 15 minutes a car pulled over, asked us where we were going and told us we were hitching in the wrong direction. I can’t remember why, but I blame that one on Spirit.

Hitching in the right direction was a much better idea. A guy in a Land Rover picked us up and drove us to a coop in town.

We bought food and sat down to eat when a guy came up to us and introduced himself as “Little Joe”. He hiked the AT in 2015! We chatted with him for a while and he bought us beers and pastries.

Pastries, Beer and Little Joe in the background.

Just as we left to catch the bus, the sky dumped as much rain as it possibly could on us. We took the bus to get more food before Spirit’s mom would meet us for dinner. We ended up at Wendy’s. For those who don’t know what Wendy’s is, good. You don’t need it in your life.

We waited for Spirit’s mom (if you’re reading this, I’m sorry, but I really can’t remember your name!) outside Olive Garden. Although a chain, it’s still a little too fancy for a hiker who has yet to shower.

We had dinner with Spirit’s mom and her friend. All the bread and cheese and pasta was a dream come true for a hungry hiker. She was even nice enough to pay for a room for us to stay in. Yay for showers and clean beds! Thanks Spirit’s mom!

After some phenomenal sleep we headed back to the trail. Our things had decided to finally dry. The AT provides no rest however; it was of course raining.

We stopped in at a shelter to escape the rain and warm numb fingers. An older gentleman by the name of Red Pepper was bunkered down in there. It’s a strange phenomenon on the AT, a lot of shelters have older men in them. Hikers that is, not just strange old men. They are nearly always kind, but have a tendency to either talk A LOT or snore in a frequency that perfectly penetrates your ears no matter what earplugs you have. There were still several hours of daylight left, so that meant more miles left.

At the end of the day we made it to the Loft Mountain Camp Store. They have a laundromat and it’s heated! It’s a big deal! We obviously stayed in there as long as we could. Field Trip, Dandelion, Turtle Man and Hummingbird were also there. They made for great company as we went back and forth to the camp store, buying beer and snacks.

It got late and the last thing any of us wanted to do was go out in the miserable cold. So we asked Susan, who was working, if we could stay the night. She answered with a cryptic “well, I won’t kick you out”. Good enough for me!

We set our pads and bags out on the floor, happy to camp in the warmth of a fluorescently lit laundromat.

The following morning, someone had called the rangers on us. We had to get going.

West Virginia and Hurricane Florence

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AT

4 miles, 9 Days (it will make sense in a little bit)

As you might recall, Spirit, Sun Chaser and I had arrived at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia very late. Or early, depending on what kind of person you are. We woke up the following day on not enough sleep. We had breakfast at a cafe close by before the ATC (Appalachian Trail Conservancy) opened. When they did, we walked over there to have our pictures taken. They take “Polaroid” style photos of all hikers coming through to keep records. It’s also become a fun thing for hikers, seeing that Harpers Ferry is more or less considered the halfway point. I know, I know, the halfway point is actually two states north in Pennsylvania. But Harpers Ferry is the “mental” halfway point.

As we were hanging out at the ATC, one of the employees informed us that the entire trail was closed south of Harpers Ferry. No hiking to be done. Lucky for us we had already found a place to stay and Angela came to pick us up.

So, about that hurricane. There had been warnings for a while about a very severe hurricane named Florence, approaching the east coast. So Sun Chaser’s relative Angela had offered to take us in while Florence passed. We ended up spending about a week there. This post will be about that and not so much about trail, seeing that West Virginia is about 4 miles.

Home for the coming days.

We arrived at the house in Purcellville, VA. It was really homey and we all got a room to ourselves! With clean beds! I repeat: BEDS! We met most of the family the first day and had a delicious, home cooked meal. It seemed too good to be true. Spending a few days here did not seem like it’d be hard at all.

Sun Chaser found the Tree House.

We did a lot of “normal” things. Like go to Chipotle, Best Buy, Costco, hang out in the backyard, drink really good coffee from a machine in the morning, play with their dog, play with Luke, the youngest of the kids. It was a really good time and Angela w/ family was so welcoming and generous.

Spirit & Luke
FOOD IS AMAZING
Deceiving food truck.

We spent a day in Washington D.C., of course falling into the trap of the overpriced food trucks. They were so shiny and inviting though. We rented bikes and took pictures with the things you’re supposed to take pictures of.

Not quite my right element.

We rode around, saw The White House, Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument among other things. It was a fun day. Very different from the normally quiet and peaceful days on trail. Whenever it’s just for a day like that it’s great, but any more and the big city life becomes overwhelming.

Several days had passed, passing the time mostly through writing, eating and watching movies. The hurricane was scheduled to hit but we saw nearly nothing of it, only some slight wind. Granted; Northern Virginia was in the outskirts of the affected area. Nonetheless, we were getting restless. As nice as a few days off had been, we were out to hike and every day spent not hiking started to feel like frustrating.

Finally we couldn’t wait anymore. So Angela was nice enough to slack pack us (when you leave some of your gear to have a lighter pack, and someone comes and picks you up wherever you end for the day. Common on the AT, not so much on the PCT, due to the lack of roads.) so that we could at least get a few miles in. She took us to Harpers Ferry, where we had gotten off.

Leaving Harpers Ferry.

All of us were exhausted and out of shape from not walking for several days. It was rough getting back into it. We hiked the 4 miles through West Virginia and entered Virginia, finally.

Because we were slack packing, we actually went back to Angela’s house. But that was technically from Virginia, so it doesn’t belong in this post. Next time: Virginia and why it came to be my favourite state on the AT.

Lastly I want to thank Angela and Family for their incredible act of kindness. It was truly a pleasure!

The Maryland Challenge

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AT

12/09-13/09 Day 76-77

The Maryland Challenge. 44 miles.

Sun Chaser and I had just gotten to the Mason/Dixon line (Pennsylvania/Maryland border) when we got a message from Spirit. “The bridge is open”. The Potomic River footbridge had been closed because of flooding. It was now open. Having wanted to do the Maryland Challenge for a while, Sun Chaser convinced me to go for it. Hurricane Florence was approaching and we had gotten in touch with a relative to Sun Chaser who lives in Virginia, that had offered to house us until the storm passed. So instead of doing 11 miles to where we were being picked up, we were now looking at a 40+ mile day. We waited until Spirit got there 10 minutes later and updated her on the plans. Not entirely willingly she was in on it.

I honestly wasn’t very keen on the idea either. I had more or less planned to not go through with it when Spirit announced on social media that we were attempting the challenge. I had no choice anymore, I had to complete it.

We started walking at 12:15pm. Yes, 12:15pm. We didn’t expect to be walking more than 11 miles that day, so therefore it was just past noon. Maryland began with a climb, in true AT-fashion. After that a lot of the day blended together, as it does when the terrain doesn’t change much and a decent amount of distance is covered. It was a foggy and wet walk with plenty of rocks. Almost Pennsylvania-esque.

At 7pm or so we had managed to get halfway, walking most of the time with each other. Something we usually don’t do. This time it was because of the fact that we would have to night hike. A lot. For reference, 7pm is a common time to be done with hiking for the day, not be halfway. We took a break at a Washington monument as the sun was setting. I taped my feet. Oh I forgot to mention, I just got new shoes the day before. What better way than to break them in on my longest day of hiking so far?

After snacking, breaking and taping feet for about 25 minutes we started walking again, this time with headlamps on. Both Spirit and Sun Chaser’s headlamps were however insufficient, so we more or less relied on mine. Other than that, we all felt pretty good at 8pm with less than 20 miles to go. With nightfall the walking got significantly slower though.

Last daylight.

We walked through a state park with massive ruins were we stopped again a few hours later. Again snacking and resting. When we got going this time however, we did not feel as good. I think we had about 10 miles to go from there. Everyone’s feet were hurting and the fact that it was 11pm or so had started catching up. Seeing that we normally don’t go to sleep any later than 9pm, let alone walk 30 miles after noon, sleep deprivation was unavoidable.

Packing up in the dark.

Somewhere around midnight it all got really difficult. I mean close-to-giving-up-difficult. Every step felt like lifting boulders and the rocks had made my feet mushy, tender and sore. My head was throb-aching and I could barely keep my eyes open. Walking as a zombie, on sheer willpower, after what felt like going downhill forever, we made it to the bike path into Harpers Ferry and the end of Maryland. Little did we know that although the bike path is flat, it is actually eternal and has no end. No living person knows for sure where it ends, or if it even ever does. 

At one point during this infinite walk of eternal struggle, Sun Chaser wanted tried talking to Spirit and I, but we were both so out of it that none of us responded or even remember it.

Despite pebbles feeling like nails in my feet, legs acting like spaghetti and my cranium merely containing soup that used to be my brain, we made it to the bridge over the Potomic River and into Harpers Ferry. We crossed the bridge, delusional with tiredness while scream-singing “Country Roads” by Neil Young. We had been waiting for that moment for a long time.

Not having any place to stay, we went for the ATC Headquarters. It was nearly a mile uphill and also nearly the end of me. I have taken very few steps that felt so heavy and hurt so bad. But low and behold, we made it up that mountain of a hill. At about 3am. As soon as we did, we threw our things onto the concrete in front of the ATC and fell asleep, cowboy camping right in front of the emotional halfway point of the Appalachian Trail.

Waking up after 4 hours of sleep outside the ATC Headquarters.
The Dinky Half Nuggets made it halfway.

Petition to Reroute the AT Around Pennsylvania

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AT

I want to begin this post with a comment to anyone who happens to live in the state of Pennsylvania: I’m sorry. I speak only of what I experienced on the trail in the state, but based on what I’ve seen, I’m sorry.

Also, if you didn’t get it, this is not a real petition. I feel like I need to mention that to avoid some sort of lawsuit.

Okay, so let’s get into it. Prepare for this majorly negative post. I promise that I’m not a severely pessimistic person, I’m just depicting it as I see it. To prove this, I’m going to start out with some really positive things I have to say about Pennsylvania. They all happened on the very first day.

So Spirit and I crossed into Pennsylvania from New Jersey sometime in the morning. The trail goes through the town of Delaware Water Gap right by the border. It’s a neat little town with a gear store, bakery, pizza place and a church that runs a donation based hostel.

We went to the hostel first and were met by several other southbounders. Crispy and Tank, Hazmat and Redwood, Field Trip and his beautiful dog Penny. I saw Field Trip walking up the hill to the hostel and sort of recognised him. What gave it away however was his shirt. A Hostel California, Bishop shirt. It’s my favorite hostel in my favorite town on the PCT. It turns out Field Trip and I were even there around the same time! It’s crazy how small the world is sometimes.

It was Spirit’s birthday and fittingly enough the church was throwing a potluck dinner, a thing they do for hikers every Thursday evening. We got very lucky and were there for the last one of the season. People from the community brought all kinds of food. Salads, pizza, roasted vegetables, pies, cookies, lemonade and homemade ice cream! A hiker’s dream to put it lightly. The only thing they ask is that hikers share stories with them, which seems like a good deal to me.

So we ate to our hearts contents, or rather our stomachs. Oh and Sun Chaser had caught up to us, so that was another positive thing. Thursday night also meant free admission to the Deer Head Inn, the oldest continuously running jazz club in the country. So naturally we went there. Thursdays are apparently where it’s at in DWG. Listening to improv jazz, drinking wine, pretending like we belong, it was a fitting end to a great day. That is however where the good things end (not actually, I’ll do my best to sprinkle some resemblance of positivity in there).

Leaving DWG the next day, it was raining. Here starts the 1000 reasons why Pennsylvania is the objectively worst state on the Appalachian Trail. Number 1: Rain. Now, I know it rains in other states too, but stay with me. It will all come together and make sense in the end.

Yeah, it was raining. The trail right out of DWG is up a steep mountain. Because of the rain and the rocks being insanely slick (reason number 2: Rocks. Pennsylvania has more jagged rocks than the rest of the world combined. Now that’s just an assumption, but I’m quite sure it’s accurate) I decided to stop for the night at a shelter about 4 miles in, as the rain did not motivate me to keep walking. Sun Chaser and Field Trip were there as well.

Reason number 3: My sleeping pad started deflating on me. To the point where I would wake three times a night to inflate it. Ok, I guess I can’t blame Pennsylvania for this one. Especially since I cut it in half and ironed it shut myself. If that seems silly, it’s because it is. It might not have been a fault of the state, it just happened to to occur at the worst time.

Sun Chaser and I did our first 30 mile day sorta unintentionally. Spirit had already gotten that achievement and we were eager to not let her beat us. So around sunset, we decided to hike another 4 miles to get that big mile day under the belt. At 9:45pm (very late when thru hiking) we made it to a campsite and set up in the dark.

The next morning we were capital T Tired. Sun Chaser and I had our minds set on a McDonald’s and Walmart in the town Hamburg. It was food more than anything that kept us going. When we got to the road into town, no one would pick us up, so we ended up walking 1.2 miles into town.

We did town things like eat, resupply and charge various devices. We heard from Spirit, who was mentioning a BBQ that a trail angel was throwing in the evening. With new motivation found, we made our way back to the trail, where the TA said he would pick us up. Long story short, he never did. Thereof reason number 4: People who get your hopes up only to let you down. Again, not a fault of Pennsylvania as much as of a single person. But all of these things piled up sure doesn’t do the state any favours.

One thing I really enjoyed about PA was the early morning fog. At that time a day when the air is still cool and sweat doesn’t drench me as soon as I get moving. Another one is the very mild grade. Except for a few notable climbs, it’s fairly flat.

Pennsylvania happens to have 2 significant milestones. The first one being the 1000 mile mark for southbounders. Reaching that point was very exciting, especially considering how surprisingly long it took to get there. Just shy of 70 days to be precise. The second one is the halfway point.

Spirit, Sun Chaser and I got to Duncannon. A small, run down town where we as hikers felt welcomed. There’s a church that lets hikers sleep in the basement for free. There’s also the Doyle, an old hotel that, although long past its prime, still has a bit of charm. Other services include a laundromat, a couple of restaurants and a grocery store. Everything necessary for a town stop. Which was fortunate since we ended up taking a zero the following day.

The forecast was telling us heavy rain was due. So we bunkered up in the basement and waited it out. Except it didn’t come down nearly as bad as expected. We spent the day doing essentially nothing except eating.

When we left the next day it was cold (reason number 5) and rainy, which is mainly how I remember Pennsylvania. The cold and rainy days are rarely eventful. It’s too miserable to stop and enjoy anything, so it’s mainly frustrated walking and a lack of pictures (which is why I have so few pictures of PA).

The following day we made it to Pine Grove Furnace Park. Home of the halfway point (sort of) and the half gallon challenge, which, as the name suggests, entails eating a half gallon of ice cream. It was bone-chillingly cold when we arrived though, so neither of us attempted it. We did however spend some time in the warm AT museum. Sun Chaser and I also had dinner at the little restaurant. There was only outdoor seating so we stood inside, hogging the warmth of the restaurant grill.

We stopped in at a shelter a little further along the trail and bunkered down. Finally getting a little dry and warm. It was so comfortable that Sun Chaser and I stayed until noon the following day. Getting out of a dry shelter when it’s cold and raining is just not on the list of things I enjoy doing. Also a mouse chewed a hole in the mesh of my backpack because I left some M&Ms there. Can’t really blame them, they’re so good.

We passed the actual halfway point. Here’s an outtake from my journal: “Soon we passed the halfway point. It felt surprisingly unremarkable. But then again, so had all of Pennsylvania.” I was clearly not too happy after a week of rain.

Spirit was a little behind or ahead, I forget which. Sun Chaser and I made it to Waynesboro, PA (not the well known Virginian one, we’ll get there eventually). My shoes had started giving up (reason number 6, although, again not a fault of the state), with a hole at front where my toes poked out and a huge lump under my feet. I couldn’t really blame them since I had gotten almost 900 miles out of them at that point. Anyway I had a new pair of shoes sent to me in town.

We had just started hearing about an approaching hurricane and didn’t know what to do, so Sun Chaser and I got a motel room and ordered pizza. Spirit had not yet made it into town.

The following day was our last in Pennsylvania. THANK HEAVEN. I was so ready to leave that state. We had heard of a flooded bridge on the Maryland/ West Virginia border, so we couldn’t do the Maryland challenge (all of 40 miles of Maryland in one go) like we had intended. Or so we thought.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk on why we should reroute the AT around Pennsylvania.