Thursday, July 28, 2011

movin' on up...

i exited the great state of pennsylvania today. on the appalachian trail, pretty much every state is known for something. georgia has its big ass mountains and climbs that make the weak ones quit, virginia is a mileage hog and claims the most blazes, west virginia has the atc, the traditional halfway point where you get your picture taken and put in the record books, new hampshire has the white mountains, maine has katahdin... and pennsylvania has rocks. and lots of them, from smooth as a baby's bum to sharp as a knife. some you'll never notice because they're so small, and others you have to put away your trekking poles because you'll be using both hands on the ascent or descent. but they weren't as bad as i thought they were going to be. pennsylvania is known as the state "where boots go to die" and granted, my shoes fell apart in pa, but come on... they had 1,000 miles on them. it was kind of expected. but people make it sound like you'll bloody your feet and that 2-mile hours are good ones... not so. i'd say 75-80% of pa wasn't any worse than virginia.

i ran into a lot of awesome trail magic in pa, specifically jillian and her dad taking me to get new shoes and to the stock car races, and renee and john feeding, clothing, annd shelterig us for a four-day, three-night mini-vacay. let me clarify that less than a week ago, i didn't know these people existed and the only reason i know now is because renee has a weakness for dogs. :) last week was a record-breaking week for pa: when the high hit 106 with a heat index of 114, that was the hottest it'd beenn here. ever. so when i walked into the pet store in a town that wasn't too far off the trail so that swayze could make use of the air conndition, renee approached us and asked iif we were hiking the trail and where we'd come from. my friend francois was with me, and when we told her we'd both come from georgia, she invited us back to her house where she and her husband, john, pampered the heck out of us for the next few days. she did our laundry and cooked so much food for us and made coffee every morning and they took us to jim thorpe, pa and we toured the entire historical town and they let us slackpack lehigh gap, one of the most challenging rock scrambles south of the whites in new hampshire... the list of their favors seriously goes onn and on. we exchanged phone numbers and addresses before we left, and she packed us a sack lunch and cried when they dropped us off at the trailhead. i love how God puts people like that in my path. :)

so basically we're doing a-okay. my pack broke annd osprey won't ship me a new one without charging a credit card a $250 deposit until they get my old one back (boooooo), so i'm gonna have to go into a town sixteen miles off the trail to get a retailer to exchange it. we'll see how that goes, since that'll have to be in new york and it's illegal to hitchhike in nnew york. also, my friend taylor that i met who's hiking as a fundraiser for young life invited me to one of the yl camps there in new york for a day or two to see what it's like, just in case that's something i'd be interested in post-hike.

i'm loving life and missing my friends annd family but loving the new people i meet each day as well. out of 2,181 miles, i have less than 900 left to hike. i was smilin' from ear to ear today when i hiked into new jersey. that grin'll only get bigger the closer i get to maine.

oh! and to add to the awesomeness of pa, i saw my first two rattlesnakes. the first onne i saw on a "cold" (70*) day when it was raining and he never even moved, even though i was 3.5' from him and the other one actually rattled at me and tried to get away. i think it's cool that i finally got to see a rattler, but i'll be completely okay with never seeing one again. :)

also, big, big thanks to jennifer, wendy (evenn though the PO sucks), amannda, kelly, and gray for the awesome mail drops. :) each one of them made me oh-so-happy and made swayze wag her butt.

Monday, July 18, 2011

so the lady didn't really call animal control on me. i walked outside the library after my last update, and swayze was laying outside in the shade chillin' like a villian. not even panting. the lady was crazy... the librarian even walked outside and told me so. she apologized and was really nice. a few miles north of there, i met up with danielle from v.i. she lives in harpers ferry, and she picked us up and took us to the post office and the ATC and i got a hot shower at her house and an awesome bed and amazing cookies. mmm... haha i think i ate half of a batch of cookies that first night. harpers ferry was an awesome milestone for us; it's the traditional halfway point where the appalachian trail conservancy is. i met back up with a few hiking friends that i hadn't seen in a while and met some new faces. i got to hike with birch and magic mix for a few days... i was so excited to finally meet stk lady killa, magic's kitty! :) we did a 30 mile day to get to pine grove furnace state park, the home of the half gallon challenge. i am the proud owner of a little wooden spoon that says "member of the half gal club." :D i ate a half gallon of cookies 'n' cream in less than an hour... 2,700 calories, 160g of fat, and 128% of my daily calcium needs in pure, cold goodness. i even got freezer-burn tongue. :) i hiked with magic and birch until boiling springs, where i wound up taking my first zero in FIFTEEN days! i was so proud of myself... haha. i took a zero for a good cause, too. jillian sent me a facebook message saying she lives half an hour from boiling springs, so if i needed anything to just let her know. when i asked her where an outfitter was, she gave me her dad's number and her dad came and picked us up and took us to dick's to get a new pair of shoes... my shoes were dead. the soles were coming off and my feet got wet every time it rained. after i bought my new kicks, we headed to the stock car races! =) hahaha... we went to the track in mechanicsville, pa. it was kids' night, and i got to jump in a moon jump! and we got free snow cones! and there were FIREWORKS! :) it was basically an awesome time with awesome people. after the races, jill's dad took us back to boiling springs and we pitched our tent in the yard of a really nice local. we just now hit the rocks that pennsylvania's famous for this morning... we'll see how bad it gets here in the next few days. i met a southbounder today who said the rattlers are really bad from here north to jersey... he showed us the rattle of the snake that he killed yesterday and ate for dinner. he's pretty hardcore, haha. 

hmm. i should go find somewhere to take a shower. i'm pretty stinky. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

sooo... this past week has been pretty decent to me. :) i FINALLY got out of the shenandoahs and i'm so glad for it. if i ever thru-hike again, i'm either going to aqua-blaze the shennies or find some good side trails and do them instead of the AT. i felt like all i saw in the shenandoahs was the road. we had to come out of the woods to even get good views for the most part. i'm hiking the trail to be out in the woods; i don't feel like it's wilderness if every half mile i hear a motorcycle start up and drive by. 

regardless, i had a really good time and met some awesome people in the shennies. i met a guy named will. he was a local that was just sectioning the shennies. he showed me a really cool blue-blazed rock scramble that went over the top of a mountain. and we had an awesome adventure that included trying to out-run a lightning storm and trying to find a campsite at the same time. right when we thought we'd found a nice clearing to pitch our tents in, we began to see headstones and realized we'd come across a cemetery. no thanks!!!! but it was getting dark, so we had to decide what we were going to do, so we hiked to the road and did another two-ish miles into a sure campground. fun times.

thennnn, the fourth of july takes the cake. :) that was the morning after we outran the storm, so we woke up at the campground and went to the restaurant for breakfast... i had a big cinnamon roll, a bacon, egg & cheese biscuit, and an awesome glass of water. we started hiking, but will had to leave the trail halfway through the day because he'd forgotten his wallet or something at the campground. so swayze and i hiked on by ourselves and met some other really cool people throughout the remainder of the day. 

we stopped at the skyland lodge to wait out a rainstorm. meanwhile, i called my daddy and my mama to wish them both a happy 4th of july  and i bought a bag of trail mix and a king size hershey bar. while we were sitting there, i met a retired marine whose name i can't recall right now, but i wrote it down in my book so i wouldn't completely forget. he referred to himself at a techie and let me charge my cell phone with one of his gadgets while he went inside and drank some coffee. he was really nice, and gave me two pieces of advice: i) get a marine hat. it'll make people question you. and ii) once dark sets, move your tent. it'll make people question your whereabouts. hahaha... i don't think i'll go through the trouble of moving my tent after dark, even if it IS free-standing, but bless his heart giving me the advice. :)

once the rain quit, we hiked on. right before we got to the pinnacle picnic grounds, i saw two men gathering firewood. even though the rain had quit by then, a really huge cloud of fog had blown in and the visibility had been reduced to crap. i couldn't see thirty feet in front of me; when we got into the area of the pavilion where they'd built a fire, i couldn't even see it. one of the men sent his wife over to ask if we were hungry, and when i told her that hikers are always hungry, she invited us for leftovers. :D everybody was SO awesome!! they fixed me a plate with steak and scalloped potatoes (side note: when i was little, i thought they were called 'scalped potatoes' and it always made me think of indians) and fried chicken and fresh tomatoes!! :) we sat there and talked by the fire for at least an hour while the rain started back up, and one guy told a really funny bat story that still makes me laugh when i think about it. right before they were ready to leave, the men were so amazing that they went into the woods and basically brought me back two whole trees  to use as firewood. we were so lucky that the rain AND the fog cleared right before 9:30ish, and we were able to walk over to the trees and see some of the fireworks in the city below!! :) 

once they left, we illegally camped out on the picnic table there at the grounds. there were three or four mice that i saw, so i had to rig up my backpack with a line that the mice couldn't get to. i was actually quite proud of myself for remembering that i had all the things that i needed to make the mouse line: my paracord, a coke can, and a tent stake. so i hung my pack from the line, and i laid out my tent footprint on the picnic table, inflated my sleeping pad, and then swayze and i climbed up and tried to go to sleep. that entire night's sleep was completely restless, though. the previous day, TWO people had reminded me that fifteen years ago, two women hikers were murdered less than three miles from where we were camping. so the entire night, every sound that i heard made me turn my head or open my eyes. plus, i was worried that a park ranger would come and write me a ticket for camping there. you're not supposed to camp anywhere within a quarter mile of park facilities. i was semi-concerned about bears coming for leftover food, but the main concern was creepers. which is funny, because i know that i'm statistically safer on the trail than i am in jackson, ms or north charleston, sc or even driving on any given road for that matter. 

but anyways. :) my time in the shennies was well-lived, and now i must go because someone has threatened to call animal control because swayze is out by herself in front of the library and it is "too hot" for a dog to be outside. some people need to keep their nose on their face and out of my business. some people make me laugh. guess i should go cool my dog off. ciao, friends! =)