Halfway to somewhere, halfway to nowhere. I’m not sure. 2,400 miles into the Eastern Continental Trail. Halfway between Quebec, and Key West. Halfway between where I started, and where I’m going.
A very long walk as it turns out! Maybe not quite long enough because I can’t help but to fantasize almost constantly about where I’m going. The next minute, the next hour, day, and naturally… fantasize about next year. What is to come? I can plan, prepare, dream, and it’s all good fun.
Life is short. So it goes. I think I’ll do whatever I want with it. Enjoy it, and live it in ways I can be happy and proud with. My traveling, hiking, my journey this year started with a one way plane ticket to Quebec, in Canada. I’ve never been before. I hadn’t known that “their primary language is French.” Means, “their primary language is French.”
I slept in an airport. I walked 30 miles of roads day one, just to get to the trail so I could walk 30 miles day 2. I sprained my ankle while jumping on a rock, trying to get a self timer photo of myself. But you know all of these things if you’ve kept up with my piss poor journaling. What have we missed? Quite a bit apparently. I haven’t updated my website since I was in New Hampshire. Oops!
The hiking has continued. The ever so strange Appalachian Trail has been what I’ve chipped away at since you last heard from me. A 2,200 mile foot path from Maine to Georgia. That’s a long way, right? Well, it is, but in the case of the all encompassing Eastern Continental Trail it’s just a piece of the greater puzzle.
Leaving New Hampshire was a big deal for me. A major milestone in this long and lonesome journey. The trail north of there was rough, uninviting, and…. seriously beautiful. Continuing south things got easier, and for that I was happy. Leaving the White Mountains of NH and entering Vermont I was able to focus more on style. The tread no longer trying to kill me, as before every step was paused by rocks, or roots. Things that were slippery, and generally a jungle gym made for feet. Careful footing had to be exercised. Now, once I entered Vermont, smooth sailing was the new word. 30 mile days became the norm, and have remained so.
This new found freedom of movement left me with the ability to focus. Focus on every step, on every breath. On every movement. Maybe not hone my walking to a highly refined skill, but edge my way a little closer. Maybe I should have crawled before I walked. Starting in Canada meant all the hardest parts of this trail would be dealt with right off the bat. I survived! I made it! A lesson in perserverance is ever present in this adventure. To keep going. Even though not every day is a winner. Some are some arent. Regardless, I keep on moving, and I find joy in the progress. The forward motion. Happyness in the head space, the peace in being out here, and the freedom to do what I want. Apparently, travel. Travel via foot traffic, at a pace of 3 miles per hour. Living, being, and journeying in these landscapes is exactly where I want to be. Not specifically the east coast, as next year my eyes are laid more westernly. But more specifically journeying, pushing the limits of my physical self, and seeking the depths of my mental.
At this point in my walk I’ve seen 7 bear, 7 moose, 2 seals, whales, a porcupine, a skunk, a few groundhogs, and somehow I can still recall what I was doing or where each one was. I chased a groundhog through the woods for 30 minutes one day. Losing myself, and almost losing the trail. He’d turn around and look back to me periodically like, “What the hell man.” I’m sorry groundhog friend.
The bears, despite every tourist ever asking, have all been totally non threatening, and yes at this point I have gotten in between a mother and it’s children. They just totally want nothing to do with us humans. I don’t blame them. Hunters, as I’ve been told, bait them with Dunkin Donuts and trail mix. Wait for them to start eating, then shoot them. Clever. Fortunately the bears I’ve seen have all been healthy. Babies climbing trees, mama’s and papa’s out hiking the trail, scaring the uninitiated, you know… happy healthy bear things? I came across one that I mistook for a hiker. I followed this bear down the trail, and attempted to catch up and say hello. Until I coughed, and it turned around, revealing itself to not be the short hiker with a large black backpack as I had thought. Just a bear, and a man with poor eyesight chasing it down, trying to wish it a good morning.
I’ve met countless people, some awesome, some less interesting. The town folk have pretty much all been wonderful to me. In Vermont I stayed with a cult. Their kool-aid was indeed quite good, but I was sure to leave bright and early the next day. Some stayed for weeks, some never leave. They danced for me, and blessed my hike.
I’ve met plenty of trail maintenance crews as well. I am always certain to give them my thanks! Volunteering for the Florida Trail Association back home I feel has given me an insight to all the efforts it takes to keep these trails up and running. It’s some serious work, and dedicated time! I recommend everyone to get out and do some trail maintenance or to support the trail systems. Without these people, and organizations we as hikers would have nothing to hike!
I’ve still yet to find someone to hike with, but I don’t mind too much. I do get lonely at times, and miss friends, and other hikers I’ve passed along the way. But I’m not sure I’d be comfortable putting someone else through what I enjoy! Id happily slow down or do things differently but im realizing that might be a future endevour. I may be too deep into this trip.
Camping alone, hiking alone. It’s peaceful. I have so much time to think. My future, what I wish to do when I get home. Skills I want to learn, books I want to read. How I can improve my life. I’m constantly making notes. Glad I have all of this time to ponder these things. The walking helps, it occupies part of my brain while the rest of me roams. And I’m glad that if I wish to walk hours into the night, or wake up before sunrise to spend my entire day walking without breaks, it’s all on me. The human body is an amazing thing, and here I am with the opprotunity to see what I can make it do. Alone I’m able to put myself through hell sometimes. But you know what, it’s only hard the first time. Then I learn, and improve!
Each night I camp away from others. I swear I’m not anti social! Really. I don’t know the deal, but mostly I don’t wish to bother others with my weird schedule. Rolling in after dark, russling around before daybreak. It’s something that evolved from backpacking back home, and has been solidified in the great north Canadian trails that were oh so devoid of people. Back home though, very few of my friends ever wanted to hike with me. I couldn’t imagine why….. so now out here I’m just most comfortable doing my own thing. When I want to charge forward, I charge forward. When I want to relax, I relax. My mistakes are my own. However, I have found someone recently who’s on my page. Really, he’s quite a few steps beyond me, and next year we’ve got something special planned. When it’s right, it’s right, ya know? Hiking is such a strange thing. There’s a million ways you can do it. None are right, none are wrong. But to find someone else who is into that same style you are is rare, maybe not, but to a strange hiker like me… so for now I continue solo! Fast, light, and free. I press forward.
At this point I’m really comfortable with my trip. In the beginning I almost didn’t want to mention to folks what I was up to. 800 miles in with 4,000 to go? I think the response is obvious. Day one, litterally standing at the northern terminus in Quebec, about to take my first steps, some guy immediately told me I would never make it. Actually many have told me that. Well before I left, and even well into my hike I would still get that reaction. Some guy I met on the Appalachian Trail was saying that walking further than 2,000 miles and not feeling like shit was impossible. I think it was a reflection of himself where his diet, a heavy pack, and likely an unwillingness to imagine anything larger than that is severely holding hime back! He was 2,000 miles into his Appalachian Trail thru hike, and about to finish. Aching, feeling like shit, and unhappy. I am in the exact opposite position! Feeling stronger than ever. More ready than ever to take on what’s ahead, and you’ll have to trust me, the best has yet to come.
I still have another 2,400 miles to go! I’m only half way done with *this* hike! The last 400 miles of the AT, the Benton Mackaye Trail, Pinhoti Trail, and of course the much anticipated Florida Trail! What an exciting lineup! My mind and body stronger than ever, and continuing to learn and grow as I head forth into these new worlds. It’s exciting. I’m probably most looking forward to Florida. What a dream this hike has been, and I still have 3 more months to go.
So what else? Lots else, but most will have to remain for my memories only. Dancing in the moonlight. Running for miles when my pack is void of food weight. Being given free apples from some orchard people when I took a wrong turn on a road… and a half gallon of fresh cider! Chasing down more New Zealanders, because people from NZ are awesome. Meeting a friend in Massachusetts who took me in for a night, let me play with his dog, and fed me delicious, and very spicy vegan food. Being constantly inspired by those around me, by those doing things differently than me, by those going bigger than me. Falling in love, finding peace. Losing my flashlight, my tent stakes, getting soaked to the bone in a storm, and having to sleep through it, only to be picked up by a beautiful stanger the next day, and taken to a walmart to replace what I had lost. I also completely stopped filtering my water months ago. I’ve eaten the same exact bean dinner every single night of this trip.
I’ve had good days, and I’ve had bad days.
I’ve run into actual homeless people, and felt real weird about my life choices(only briefly.) I’ve hiked 40 miles a day for 3 days straight. Walked 30 miles day after day as though it’s just a normal thing. Ive been rained on for a week straight. No matter what, I keep it rolling!
One step at a time, I’ll get there when I get there.
State to state until I crash into my fate.
Massachusetts was beautiful, and gradual. I loved walking there, surrounded by the history of this country. I paid a bus driver to give me a tour of the local towns. I crossed some highways, and showed the drivers my ass until I got a sufficient amount of honks.
I left Mass and entered Connecticut. Everyone was mean and seemed to want to rob me of my monies. Sorry, maybe my experience was strange? The trail was beautiful, rocky, and short. Only 52 miles and I was gone.
New York, I crossed the Hudson River on a large bridge. Never having been to the state before this was a wonderful experience, and place to walk. The trail took me directly through a zoo, and over a mountain which had litterally thousands of man made steps. I enjoyed New York greatly. I met a hiker who took a liking to me, he tried to give me a book which I detested. As we know my pack weighs less than 6lbs and I don’t ever wish to add anything to it! I still try and get rid of things constantly. A book? Please no. I took it anyway, after he assured me it was in his top 5 books that he’s ever read. The next day I found some other hiker who would take it. Sorry. I just want to walk, eat, and sleep!
New Jersey was quite boring, and quite easy! Just 73 miles or so, and I was in and out quick. On my last day there I ran into a group of birders who were watching hawks, and collecting data about the migration happening. I was aiming for a big day so stopping to talk wasn’t exactly on my list of things to do but they were so darn friendly! My mom loves birds so I felt a kinship with these people. They took a moment, and showed me a very large residential rattle snake, and gave me some apples. Followed by a short lesson on the birds they had been watching so I could report back to my mom! On their website, they mentioned me as something interesting they saw that day.
Pennsylvania has a lot of hype around it. Known as one of the least enjoyed states in the Appalachian Trail. 230 miles of the trail pass through there, and I met many who cowered in fear just at the thought of the rocky terrain. I didn’t think it was so bad! I did all of my biggest days in PA, and although it was very rocky, it was also extremely flat! There were some really awesome rock scrambles thrown in there too. Nonetheless I’m always happy to cross a new border.
A 45 mile day into Maryland, walking until well after dark. I made my miles, and I found a soft spot to sleep near the trail. The guide read, “residential area.” What that meant I wasn’t sure until the next morning, waking up, and realizing I was sleeping in someone’s yard no more than 30 feet from their house.
A dream come true. Maryland was short. West Virginia is even shorter, with only 4 miles passing through it. Those 4 miles are home to the Appalachian Trails main office. The dream is in the form of a photo. Every hiker that passes through gets a Polaroid taken of them there, you’re cataloged, and added to a book from whatever year you were there. I flipped through books, and photos from previous years. Searching for friends. This may seem insignificant, but I’ve wanted that photo for years. Taken right out front of the office. They gave me soda, veggies, and I walked on. I crossed the Shenandoah River, John Denver ringing in my ears, bring on Virginia!
Virginia holds 550 miles of the trail, and it takes most more than a month to finish. I think it took me less than 3 weeks. The terrain is made for comfortable walking. The mountains are gradual, and although after being at low elevation for a long time, now head back up into the 4 and 5 thousand feet ranges. Pointless ups and downs when you could just remain on a ridge during a section of trail known as the roller coaster. Pointless indeed. The Shenandoah mountains, where I crossed back and forth across skyline drive, a road, seemingly hundreds of times. Wilderness! Holiday weekend, and I ran into thousands of people. Weekends are no long as enjoyable as they once were! I prefer the solitude. The Shenandoah’s didn’t have many views. I actually walked the road for a few miles, and the road had more overlooks than the trail! Bummer. Regardless! Virginia has been awesome, and home to some of the best views I’ve seen since New Hampshire and Maine.
I passed a few iconic spots, and took a few cliche and iconic photos. The trail has been welcoming, and a joy to walk. I’ve met a bunch of wild ponies, made friends with them, took selfies with them, and generally have been having a wonderful time! The people here are great too.
I’m now on the edge of Tennessee and Virginia, with only two weeks left on the Appalachian Trail. Soon to begin a much more interesting part of this hike! The AT is somewhat easy due to it being around for so long, and having so much support. All I have is a guide, no maps, nothing. I just kinda walk and it winds me around. Up and down. The Benton Mackaye, and Pinhoti Trail won’t be so straight forward!
Somewhere in there fall started to happen, and the leaves began to change. Seemingly forever I was given hints of oranges and yellows, followed by a sea of green waving in the wind. When did fall actually hit? I’m not sure. I’m walking south so quick that it’s almost like I’m escaping it. Sometimes I come across wonderful sections of trail, where it’s like the trees are on fire. Some areas, the leaves have turned, and fallen, leaving the tree in a state of gangly death. And the trail I walk on covered over with crunchy brown leaves, making it hard to see the rocks beneath. It’s beautiful out here. Photos don’t do it justice.
2,400 miles behind me, 2,400 miles in front of me. Dungeon after dungeon, dragon after dragon. I press on.