jupiterhikes

Life of the Wanderlust

Author: jupiterhikes (page 2 of 6)

Florida Trail FKT Summary

Beginning December 10th, 2016 at 10:23am I started my self-supported Florida Trail thru hike, and finished January 7th, 2017 at 8:22pm. A record pace of 28d 9h 59m, beating Tatu-Joe’s 2012 hike by more than a full day. It was an honor to hike Joe’s hike, as he is one of those folks I very much look up to in this backpacking world. Seeing through his eyes maybe a little while going after this record has only given me more respect for the man.

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I followed the rules set in place on the Fastest Known Time Proboards to the best of my ability. Stating my intentions in the Florida Trail thread, and contacting Joe Kisner the record holder before me, getting his blessing, as is customary. Posting photos daily from my trip, recording mass amounts of video, and in the beginning before I figured out I couldn’t keep it up due to a strapped for life phone battery, I blogged. Honestly trying to document the trip as best I could. I would expect the next guy to do the same.

Following the guidelines of a self-supported hike:

      means that you don’t carry everything you need from the start, but you don’t have dedicated, pre-arranged people helping you. This is commonly done a couple different ways: You might put out stashes of supplies for yourself prior to the trip, or you might just use what’s out there, such as stores, begging from other trail users, etc. Long distance backpackers are typically self-supported, since they resupply by mail drop or in stores.

I had all of my supplies sent through the mail ahead of time, and picked up boxes in various towns along the way. My logistical and mail drop schedule can be found at the bottom of this spread sheet. I had invited on my blog for folks to come out and bear witness to what I was doing, to better verify my claims. Many did!! And I took photos with a lot of them, which can be found in my Florida Trail bonus photo album. So many came out to find me, it actually began to slow me down, and become a chore! Opps. I asked that no one bring me anything, but some still wished to offer water or gatorade on the spot without my prior knowing of where I would see them, when, or if. I also helped no one find me, and instead was enigmatic. I figured me giving them directions to my location would be against the rules, and instead constantly told folks I didn’t know where I was, or when I was, which very often was true. Seemingly the entire Florida hiking community was following along, and often I would get 2 or 3 messages every day asking for my location, much to their dismay, I wouldn’t share. Along the way I also signed as many of the trail log books I found.

I walked into and out of all of my resupply points, not using a vehicle a single time. a Precedent set by Scott Williamson on the PCT, and a guideline for those in the future wishing to best this record should follow.

I followed the official Florida Trail route the entire way, and only detoured around the closed section of trail in St. Marks, on the official detour, a roadwalk that added miles going around, instead of through. As I was told it would be dangerous for me to try. As well as south of Moore Haven after being told to get off the levee by authorities, I had to turn around, go back, and follow a longer detoured route on hwy 720.

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I hiked southbound, starting at the northern terminus near Fort Pickens, and Pensacola. Following the Eastern Corridor around Orlando, and the western side of Lake Okeechobee, as per Joe’s standard. Finishing my hike at the official southern terminus of the Florida Trail at the Oasis Visitor center in Big Cypress National Preserve.

I took 540 photos over the course of this hike, but I’m only uploading the majority here. As well as all of those(I know of) that took photos of me somewhere along the way, that I was able to locate after the hike, or that they sent to me. Those can be found here!

I also have a good amount of screenshots I took of my Florida Trail app(gps) illustrating places I camped. Mostly I did this so that later I could figure out my daily splits. If asked, I will upload these too.

I have a ridiculous amount of videos(200!!!), mostly me talking to the camera, usually when dehydrated. I do plan on doing something with these, regarding my hike from Quebec to Key West, but again if asked I will gladly upload them separately for verification purposes. Some of these are rather embarrassing, thus my hesitation to simply throw them into the world publicly.

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My daily miles:

  • Day 1 – Start time 10:23am 34mi
  • Day 2 – 36mi
  • Day 3 – 35mi
  • Day 4 – 31mi
  • Day 5 – 35.5mi
  • Day 6 – 38mi
  • Day 7 – 32mi
  • Day 8 – 30mi
  • Day 9 – 46mi
  • Day 10 – 24mi (Trouble getting across ST. Marks River)
  • Day 11 – 31.5mi
  • Day 12 – 35mi
  • Day 13 – 37.5mi
  • Day 14 – 31mi
  • Day 15 – 31mi
  • Day 16 – 31mi (Halway, realized something was wrong.)
  • Day 17 – 48.5mi
  • Day 18 – 39.5mi
  • Day 19 – 42mi
  • Day 20 – 47mi
  • Day 21 – 41mi
  • Day 22 – 45.5mi
  • Day 23 – 45.5mi
  • Day 24 – 39.5mi
  • Day 25 – 47mi
  • Day 26 – 45.5mi
  • Day 27 – 33.5mi
  • Day 28 – 50.5
  • Day 29 – 41.3mi Finish at 8:22pm

On day 3 unbeknownst to me at first I got sick. The sickness lasted a few days, and made walking my goal of 35-45 miles a day very difficult. Also instilling some bad habits of taking too many breaks, which lasted until the halfway point of the Florida Trail in which I realized I was a couple days off schedule. From there, I began walking until 10pm every. Single. Day. It was extremely monotonous at time, and tiring. My legs could carry me but my mind would drift to nothingness, and minutes would go on forever. Unfortunately due to the sheer amount of night hiking I was doing in the second half, I visually missed a lot of the beauty the Florida Trail had to offer. The first half I was only walking at night 2-3 hours, and wasn’t so bad. Though deep inside I knew it wasn’t enough. By Lake Butler, I kicked it into high gear, I knew what I had to do, and this is when you could say I struck a groove. 50 miles a day wasn’t uncommon in the second half of this hike, and I was routinely walking more than 40 a day. Some nights were cold, and I would toss and turn all night. This was often followed by days so hot, I would walk shirtless, and find myself drinking from some terrible water sources just to keep myself hydrated. Despite these things. I loved it all. I complained here and there to my mom over the phone, but it was just to get it out of my system, and move on.

The day I crossed the St. Marks river was my lowest mileage day. I arrived in town later than I should, a result of me not paying enough attention to my guide. By my arrival a cold front had come in and no one was around to shuttle me across, nor could I swim with a cold and wet fate waiting for me on the other side. I hung out at the restaurant just next to the water, and stared lustfully out the windows, hoping someone would go by. I asked the bar patrons, the waitress, and eventually I found someone with a dingy that felt bad for me. Just 25 miles that day.

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My lack of attention to the guide almost screwed me again after River Ranch, entering the Kissimmee Preserve. My mail drop didn’t show up at the ranch on time, and I cursed the skies. Sat around pouting while charging my phone, deciding what type of candy I could get at the general store to hold me over for the next 3 days. Little did I know in 10 or so miles I would need to be at a lock on the river during a certain time, to be let through a gate. I was given the phone number of the employees by a nice man, called them up, and asked if I could be buzzed through around 9pm. They obliged, and I ran those 10 miles to get there on time.

The next night, walking in the dark past the small town of Basinger I was greeted by a massive wild boar. I yelled at him, in that second realized that he might run at me, and felt fortunate when he went the other direction. Later I wondered if he would visit me in the night. Although I didn’t see a single snake(I assume I’m too obnoxious) during my entire 1,100 mile thru hike of the Florida Trail, this pig wasn’t my only questionable encounter with wildlife. In Ocala National Forest I saw 2 bears. A mom and her cub, still choosing to sleep with my food. In the Kissimmee area, there were areas under water, and I would question if I was walking into gator territory. Could they be below the liquid, and I’m just not seeing them? My fears relieved when I saw a 5ft alligator leave the banks, and join the water with me. At least now I didn’t have to wonder. Up near Apalachicola one morning while convincing myself to get up and start moving, I heard something. Out of the blue 10 feet from me on the trail I was sleeping next to a panther ran by me. Stunned as ever, I wasn’t sure what to think. Fortunate to have spotted one, as there are less than 300 in the state. And I guess if you’re the squeamish type, I’m fortunate it wanted nothing to do with me. A photo would have been nice but I’ve never seen something run so fast. Ultimately on this hike I saw a ridiculous amount of birds of all different varieties, and it seemed whenever I would look up to the trees above, there was an owl looking over me.

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Frequently I dealt with dehydration, which is nothing new. A wiser man might carry more water. Me, I only ever filled up with 1 liter, sometimes only a half. Then finding myself 10-20 miles from another good source. I started the hike with a water filter, but man for whatever reason I just hate the chore. I just want to dip and sip. So for a while, my first 2 weeks, I would seek out quality sources, as to not force myself into getting a virus. The last 2 weeks however I drank anything and everything, including muddy water from roads, or water near cow fields. I’m not sure if I’m immune to the sickness, or just lucky, but I recall remarking to my mom over the phone, how wonderful it is to only have 2 weeks left. I could now drink everything! Disgusting? Naw, I don’t care. Giardia takes 2 weeks to hit you, and that was the only thing I was worried about. Some days were worse than others, and likely I should have just carried more. Sometimes I would find jugs of water others had stashed for hikers, and I was always very grateful for that. The best kind of trail magic. Fresh water. Its crazy what most take for granted in the world.

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In both Apalachicola, and Ocala I found ticks on me. Known for lyme disease. Something much worse than some water born illness. Lyme can lead to brain damage if not treated. Walking at night through Ocala National Forest, I stopped to find water quick. While I was preparing my dinner, a healthy serving of beans, the same thing I had eating every night for the last 6 months, I flashed my light towards my legs. Briefly I noticed lots of little spots. Thinking it was just dirt, or cuts from the thorns and things I had been scrapping myself against. Upon further inspection it was ticks, and a whole lot of them. Flashbacks ensuing to photos of a friend from a month prior. She had been through here, and got bit really bad, later testing positive on multiple tests for the disease. Knowing I couldn’t stop to find a clinic before this hike was over I weeped, and worried. Not mentioning it to my mom for a few days, I decided it didn’t matter. If the symptoms show, then I can be certain, but there’s no reason beating myself up over it.

Hunters all throughout the state were out in spades. The forests were littered with them. All of which with trucks that looked the same, hunting dogs, guns, and bright orange. Online I was constantly being attacked for not having any orange on me. I know, it was a problem. The hunters took note too, and often told me I needed some. I’d ask if they were going to shoot me, and they always replied with “no.” Then what for? Drunken hunters shooting anything that moves? Aren’t they supposed to spot something with a separate scope, confirm what it is, then get their rifle to fire? Rules don’t apply to them. Accidents among hunters are frequent, sometimes they’re not accidents, sometimes that guy is diddling that other guys…. anyway. I would hope a 6’2″ upright, mammal, wearing a green t-shirt and ball cap, looks nothing like anything they’re shooting. I took my chances. For no reason I guess.

I got lucky this year. The trail was dry. I’ve seen photos of water up to peoples necks, and stories of sloshing that never ends. It wasn’t until I was near the Kissimmee River, at Three Lakes WMA did I get my feet wet. Then within maybe the next 40 or so miles had a few more spots, but aside from that, I was fortunate. Big Cypress National Preserve was the next area I had to do some slogging. The last area. My hike was ending that day, and my plans were to push through what I expected to be 30 miles of soul sucking mud, and water up to my knees. I worried about snakes, and gators. Determined to finish I pushed through. Early in the morning I ran into a northbound thru hiker saying I wouldnt be able to average more than 1mph through there. He was wrong! With enough grit, and stupidity, I smashed through at 3 miles per hour only falling once. Only 12 of the 30 miles were wet. The rest was just mud, with occasional slabs of limestone to trip on. As darkness fell I ran into more thru hikers, I paused, tired. I had only slept 3 hours the night before, in an attempt to go all night, instead while taking a break I fell asleep where I sat along side a road. These hikers were friendly, and encouraged me to go on. With 10 miles left in my record attempt I ran. I ran as fast as I could careful not to break an ankle. Hungry as ever I munched on some candy, briefly, just a mile away from the finish, choking. Stopping in the middle of the night, in the mud, about to finish the hardest and most fun month of my life, and there I was bent over, choking on a Sour Patch Kid. The finish was sweet, when I knew I was close I opened up and ran at what I assume was a 5 minute mile. I’ve never run so fast. I could hear a cow bell ringing, people were there waiting for me to arrive. Word travels fast apparently. I smacked the southern terminus with my hand at 8:22pm on January 7th. 28 and a half days after I started. Friends greeted me immediately. It felt good to stop moving. Shoes still filled with mud, winded, but happy. Someone special was there, a trail legend. Billy Goat, a man with over 48,000 miles under his feet waiting to greet me by sure chance.

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I had many favorites from this hike. From my photos you could guess which areas I liked the most. Or at least which areas I actually had battery power. The Gulf Islands national Seashore was amazing, and I would love to go back, and spend more time there, maybe do more than just walk right through, like camp! The beaches were fantastic, the sand impossibly white, and the sunset that night was my favorite from this entire year, aside from maybe one in Quebec. Eglin Airforce Base was also interesting, with rolling hills and large ravines, however it’s split in the center with a long roadwalk. No matter, the eastern portion was wonderful. Beautiful fresh water, and picturesque bridges. I watched fighter jets fly above me. Econifa Creek up next, although a short 18 or so miles it’s very much so quality over quantity here. I happen to know the section leader who maintains this area, and although I didn’t see him, I now understand why he continuously says this is the best section on the FT. Most of my favorite sections on this trail are due to the large rivers they follow, this was no exception. I was fortunate enough to go through St. Marks in a cloud of mist, wide open expanses might make for a sunny day to be a nightmare, yet the way I saw it was awe inspiring. Shore birds trotting around everywhere, fog engulfing the land, and even sightings of wild boar crossing small rivers. Shortly there after I was walking along the Aucilla River, it would dissapear beneath the limestone, and appear again in random places just to go back under. The flowing water cut deep into the land, creating these beautiful deep banks along the sides, with crazy rock formations. All around me was littered with sinkholes as well. I cut my day short, opposed to hiking all night, just so I could wake up and see the rest of this area before I began a long road walk. On that roadwalk, in the middle of nowhere lies a soad machine on the side of a dirt road. The machine of fable, I had heard of it, but didn’t know where it might be. Sadly, I had no money on me, and although I wanted to shake the thing I kept moving. The Suwannee River to follow might be my top pick of the FNST, although it’s clearly hard for me to choose. ~60 miles or so of following this ancient river. Shelters made for river rats a third of the way in have showers and electrical outlets. The river below was more dry than I thought possible, in some places not flowing at all. A testament to this year, and how few times I had to get my feet wet. I arrived in the town of White Springs on Christmas eve, unfortunate timing to pick up a box from the Post Office, but an employee had clued me in that he’d be there early in the morning for just 2 hours. Happy holidays indeed. I would have had to buy 4 days food from a gas station otherwise. The Madison shelter at the end of this section too is a fine place, built by the land owner Randy Madison, known as the love shack… was used to sleep in while his home was being constructed, now an oasis for hikers, thanks to Randy and his family. Osceola National Forest is a lot of pine trees, but I went through on Christmas, and managed to steal 5 sodas from some car campers at a campsite. I’ve never walked so fast. That was my gift for the holidays. Meeting one of my hiking heros, Stumpknocker, was followed a couple days later with meeting one of his friends. Neither knew the other was out there, but PAFarmboy was happy to hear Stump was once again hiking the FT. I dont remember the name, other than It came before Rice Creek. Both areas were exceptional. One of which had a trail register where everyone was reporting bigfoot sightings. The Florida Trail has but 8 wooden shelters made for hikers and this 20 or so mile stretch is home to 2 of them. Both fantastic, leaving me wishing I could stop and stay a while. After the second came a 150m boardwalk, and into the night I went. Ocala National Forest, touted as the most beautiful hiking destination in Florida. I may not 100% agree with that, but it was extremely nice! Rolling hills, reminded me of walking through Alabama, and sightings of bear, taking me back to the Appalachian Trail. Home to the famous 88 store where I picked up a package, tempted to get shitty at their bar, I moved on. The trail register their is particularly legendary, looking through it I saw many names I recognized going back 8 or more years. Friends near Lake Mary, on the outskirts of Orlando trying to hunt me down, I walked the Cross Seminole Greenway. Although asphalt for 20+ miles I actually really enjoyed this area. Lots of friendly people out running and biking, eventually leading me to the town of Oviedo, one of my favorite trail towns. I stuffed my face full of sides at some restaurant, the streets littered with roosters, later after dark leaving on a boardwalk running into some youngsters smoking pot. “Who are you?” they asked, and I replied, “Just some nobody hiker.” The night got cold, down into the thirties. Must have been a holiday, as I could hear parties in the distance. New years even came, and so did a 30 mile roadwalk. A friend, after spending 2 days searching for me greeted me alongside the road with his lovely daughter. I was happy to see them. Had he mentioned it was his birthday the next day I would have been even happier he had taken the time. Into the night I watched fire work displays over cow fields. There’s few places to camp along the Deseret Ranches, so I slept along side the road between a bush, up against barbed wire. Happy new year. Desperate heat, and eventually the shade of forest, the love of bridges in the woods, and more beautiful trail. Entering Forever Florida it was hot, and little water to be found. I became the attraction of a swamp buggy full of tourists, “and here we see a hiker!” I had my shirt off, scrambling to put it back on. Should have known, I’m not the only one out here, should have asked for water. Getting lost in the night, maybe the trail has changed. Three Lakes WMA before sleep. Mosquitoes for the first time, in a long time. The Kissimmee River is near. Lake Okeechobee is near. Missing a box at River Ranch, buying peanut butter, candy, peanuts, and chips for 3 days sucks. What sucks more is running into a northbound thru hiker who thought it was funny to give me a whole slough of misinformation, after I offered to tell the front desk ladies that he can have my mail the next day. Boo him. Running 10 miles, and finally reaching that big river after convincing the employees to let me across after dark. Blazing heat in the Kissimmee Preserve but water to cool my feet off, and a nice tan to boot, eventually reaching the shade of oak hammocks, and trail I’ve walked before. Night time run ins with boar, questioning if I should sleep on their territory, then an armadillo all night fooling me into thinking raccoons were coming for my food. The gateway to the big lake I know and love, coming across construction on the dike, running pass the workers before they could say anything. A restaurant I was looking forward to closed, and talk of a friend possibly coming out to see me in the night. I don’t blame him for not showing, although this is the closest to home, that my path takes me, it’s still not very close at all. Crossing more closed section of trail, but wanting to stay true to the official route, I went anyway. Eventually after Moore Haven I was kicked out, and forced to walk 720, the official detour around the construction. Then back to walking more closed sections, after stuffing my face in Clewiston on Chinese food. Never a good idea, but I can never help myself. My friend Wayne surprising me, as I branch off from the lake, and begin the canals towards the Seminole Reservation, and Big Cypress. We chit chat, and eventually I’m off on my way. Just two more days left. Long canals, and horrible agriculture that has ruined the everglades. Cops stop me, and luckily don’t really care, they were just getting a lot of phone calls from the locals about a guy walking through the reservation at night. Apparently impossible, at this point to pull an all nighter I accidentally sleep 3 hours. Later the next day, my last day I’m happy I did. After only seeing a few other thru hikes(many day, and section) on this final day I run into what seemed like 40. Seems like an awesome class! Almost do I want to turn around, and walk with some of them.

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I’m sorry that I missed so much while walking at night, but I guess that means I’ll just have to do this trail again. Whether it’s to try my hand at a faster pace, or in a much slower fashion. I certainly didn’t have a conventional experience of the Florida Trail, but it is mine, and I very much so enjoyed it.

I started this hike carrying multiple extra phone batteries, which lasted me a while of not having to waste time in towns, sadly I didn’t take advantage of this as much as I should have. By halfway when I needed to make more miles, it was a constant battle to both get a long day in, and somehow find an electrical outlet to charge my phone for 10-20 minutes. Podcast, music, and daily phone calls to my mom in a  lot of ways kept me sane. Not to mention all of the folks following this hike so closely, and commenting. I might not respond often, but I read all of them, and seriously appreciate all the encouragement.

A huge thank you goes to my friend Coy, who hosted me at his home in Pensacola before I began my record attempt, let me prepare my things, rest after walking across Alabama, and was all around an amazing dude. Seriously Coy, I can’t thank you enough, and I hope one day I can pay it back. He shuttled me to the trailhead after some seriously cold temps had rolled through the past few nights, and I began walking.

Links:

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28d 9h 59m

Familiar Faces, Familiar Places

​Day 3 / 35mi / passed Holt to Titi Creek in Eglin East
I experienced last night what’s known as a surprise downpour. A surprise, because it totally didn’t look like it was going to rain. I’ve gotten into this habit of not setting up my shelter. Ever. I should really start looking up the weather more. I often ask folks but not yesterday! This woulda been all cool if I pitched my tarp, but waking up when it’s already been raining with everything wet was bad news. Naturaly, tired, and lazy, I grabbed my tarp, and layer it over myself. It was too late.

Waking up the railroad, and hwy I slept near was shrouded in mist. So deep that cars would disappear in front of my eyes. I made my way down that road. A fairly substantial roadwalk to the next town so I zoned way out to some music, and dreamed of sunlight. Doesn’t help me to look at miles or my watch. I just wanna see what I see and make my way.

Walking that highway posting my last update, and checking messages a lady ahead is pulled off the road and starts to approach me. Naturally I look like some fool totally absorbed in my phone. I swear I don’t have the miliamp hours to be doing that! Her face was mad familiar, and sure enough a couple years ago we both were on a 6 day group hike lead by the FTA together! She had been looking for me as I passed through her area, and she sure found me! See I’m not that hard to find. Walking cross country and stuff but ya know, I’m out here. You’re out here, somewhere. Let’s meet up and chit chat briefly! Nancy was super cool to come find me, and it was really nice to see a familiar face.

Shortly there after I walked into my first town to resupply in. Down the road was some larger grocery stores, yet I chose a gas station. Sitting outside finishing off a soda before I head out, a one armed homeless man sees his kind, and approaches. We get talking, and he reveals that his tent is in the bushes just across the street. Really nice guy, says he spends his days reading his bible, and standing by the road with cardboard scribed with religious scriptures. He also mentioned that he goes to the town meetings. I thought that was really awesome. He speaks up for himself, and other homeless in the area.

I manage to break away, and realize I’ve been here before! Except last time via a car on a very short trip to Alabama with my mom. We had looked for the trail markers then, now I was following them, having come all the way from Canada to be here!

My gear was all wet still so down the road I found a park, just before the trail picks back up into the woods. Filled my water, layed all my junk out to dry, and relaxed for 30 minutes or so. Back in Connecticut I had to sleep in wet everything, and wasn’t exactly looking forward to that again.

Heading back into the woods I scare some day hikers. Bridges over beautiful creeks. One after another. Nothing but incredible trail here in East Eglin. Back on Airforce Base land, though this time it’s more obvious. Extremely loud engines overpower my music, and little headphones. Fighter jets fly over me. One so close it had to be 100 yards or less. Very interesting to watch as I walk!

This section of trail is awesome. More deer moss, creeks, bog logs, bridges, well marked, and maintained. A lake with tables even! My standards are in a weird place after walking roads through Alabama 🙂

Night rolls in, and I continue on. Crossing a major highway, running not to be seen by cars approaching in the distance. The night hiking today is quite enjoyable. The moon in full force, I didn’t need my light for quite a few miles even. Might as well enjoy walking in the dark! I’m going to be doing a lot of it in the next couple weeks.

Slowly But Surely

​Day 2 / 36 MI / Eglin to Holland Rd

I was woken up at 4am by the sounds of something very large russling in the bushes. Naturally, all my days food was sprawled out next to where I slept. A bear? No, I see a headlamp. It’s 3 night hikers. But I’m camped way off trail? Oh yeah, I’m sleeping on Airforce Base land. Actively used for drills, and training. Well they found me. I was definitely seen. I stayed as still as possible, and they left me alone, continuing on into the night. Very lucky! I’ve heard of folks being run off the Airforce base. You see, I was supposed to get a permit, and I didn’t. Don’t be me.

Waking up again at 7, packing up, and moving by 7:30. The west Eglin section is very beautiful. Lots of moss litters the ground, like mint colored sponge balls. A bridge over a perfectly clear creek fills my water for the next so many miles. Followed by a long string of bog logs protecting my shoes and socks from the swampy ground.

A boat, no where near water lays beside the trail. Plants now growing out of it. A lot of folks seem to ditch trash in the woods (pls dont) but who ditches their boat?

Moving forward I cross the very busy hwy 87, and make my way on the otherside. The trail parallels the road for quite a ways, many miles, eventually dumping me back on it. Somewhere in the middle I found a very recently used smoke bomb. Not your phantom fireworks smoke bomb, one of military grade. A memento? Naw I gotta stop picking up stupid shit. Sometimes I collect things I find, then I don’t know what to do with it.

Something cool, near a loop trail in Eglin are very deep ravines. I turned a corner, and it almost looked like I was in the mountains again! Walking along the small cliff, looking across to the other hills in the distance.

Leaving the woods for the road again, at the yellow river bridge there’s a ton of construction going on. A very fall fence, topped with barbed wire blocks my way. What are they keeping out? Me? The reroute is veery unclear, just a couple orange ribbons, that I thought might be from the road work. I skated passed some wetlands, and scaled rocks that took me up to the bridge and around the fence.

Highway walking, turned Into neighborhood walking. Every house looked thee exact same all the way down the line. Kind of disgusting. The roadwalk wasn’t as long as I thought it we would be, and I re entered the woods. By this time I must have not been paying attention to my nutrition because I was fresh out of brain power!! Still, only one thing to do. Keep moving forward.

The trail got a little swampy and wet here, I slowed down, and kept careful to save my feet figuring I wouldn’t run into anymore wetness the rest of the day. Soon I passed the blue blazed trail that leads to the blackwater section, and the Alabama border! Hey! That’s how I got here in the first place, and now I’ve yoyoed this last section. So from here on its all new trail to me! Not just that but I’m told it’s new trail to everybody! Recently the FTA managed to take a very large chunk of walking off the road, and put it in the woods here. This makes me rly happy. It’s progress! I got mad love for the Florida trail, so to see it getting better in time is very cool. What will 5 years from now change?

This new section is extremely beautiful! Crossing many creeks, most of which had logs to walk over on, although I did have to ford one. Overall I really like the chosen route for this new path, but as of now it’s still a bit overgrown! I made it through but not without cutting my legs up. I love my shorts…… but sometimes. I guess I just need to toughen up my legs? Every 2 out of 3 steps was right into some crazy thorny vine. Barbs grabbing my legs, and being ripped off the plant to join me in my journey south. I’d rub my thighs, and feel the little plant matter. Despite this! I still really enjoyed the new section. Far better than any roadwalk, and all in all just needs a wee bit of mowing 🙂

I walked the last 2 miles of that section in the dark. Then it was a dirt backroad. Immediately some guy in a truck fish tails around the corner, then the next, and I’ll assume the one after that too. Looked like fun, glad he didn’t hit me.

Dirt turned to asphalt, I crossed under a highway, and eventually made it to the small city of Holt. Wouldn’t ya know it, a truck whips ahead of me and pulls off the road. I approach and it’s a new friend!! Sean, I had met him just a few days ago on my way from Alabama to Pensacola on the Blackwater section. He was out backpacking that day with his lady friend, and we nerded out over hiking a bit. Super cool to run into him a second time!

I walked maybe another 3 or so miles, and stopped at 8:40pm. I was drained. I definitely needed to eat more today, and I think that, combined with the minor bushwhacking in that last section slowed me down.

I sleep alongside a railroad, just past Holt, near Holland rd. Slowly, but surely finding my groove. I’ve been relaxing too long!!! Blown away I only walked 36 today. Felt like more. Too many hiccups 🙂

Florida Trail FKT Attempt – Day 1!

​Day 1 / 34mi / Fort Pickens to Eglin

Woah woah wait I haven’t updated this blog since I was in virginia… well, I’m now 1,000 miles further down the east coast, and 3,400 total miles into my sobo Eastern Continental Trail thru hike. Frankly, I don’t have the words to describe finishing the Appalachian Trail (91 days w/ 14 zeros,) hiking the Benton Mackaye Trail to the Pinhoti, or my very long roadwalk thru Alabama(175miles) to the FT. I will come back to this. Don’t think I haven’t forgotten!! I just need some time to process, and reflect.

So how what am I up to? Attempting the self supported Florida Trail speed record! For those that know me, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, and even planned for it before I left for Canada 5 months ago.

Rules for a self supported record are as such. I cant, and won’t accept any outside help. No magic, and no vehicle support. Im sorry! I know folks who wanted to trail magic me, but how about this! Come see me if you can find me, and we can chit chat, and i can make my way. I wont accept any assistance, but i would really love to see you!! Youre helping just by witnissing that yep, bes out there doing it! Documentation is a big deal, so witnesses are a good thing. In that same vein i will also be back to doing daily reports on my happenings, on this blog. Yay!!

A huge shout out to Joe Kisner who came before me and did a speedy hike of this trail some years ago. Hes been a big inspiration to me, and it is now my honor to hike his hike, and go after hus record. 29 days is what he laid down. Im aiming for three weeks. Only time will tell.

Today I begin to realize the dream. After being hosted by the kindest of trail angels in Pensacola so I could recharge, and evidently wait out a cold front, I started my hike south from the northern terminus at Fort Pickens today at 10:23am EST.

First, Coy, my angel, deserves a medal. He was super awesome, and helped me in every way possible to prepare for this hike.

Second, the Florida Trail is frickin amazing. I’m so happy to be here! Back in my homestate, back with my peoples.

I was dropped off at the fort, took my obligitory photos with the last blaze, and the new termini monument, that was litterally just installed by the FTA. After noting my start time, I began walking.

The trail winded away from the termini on a hard packed sandy trail, through an RV park, and past some historical stone structures. Eventually crossing the main road, and dumping me onto the beach. I didnt see anymore blazes but there was only ome way to go. So I walked the coastlime east. Through the sand, right along the Gulf of Mexico. It couldnt have been a more perfect day. Not too hot, not too cold, just right so that I could wear my puffy jacket.

Making my way through the sand was strenuous but i havent seen the ocean since i started this hike in Quebec, and thus i was happy. Being a floridian, and living near the water all my life i had missed it. Somewhere here I saw what I thought was a beached whale… my eyesight is poor at a distance. I was sad. But then it revealed itself to be a capsized boat! All was good again.

The beach walking ended and the blazes showed up again to take me through a really hoppin’ section of the Pensacola beach. Very developed. A roadwalk of sorts, but with a twist! Porto-johns everywhere! What luck. Typically I gotta hide!

After so many miles of sidewalk the developments stopped, and i enterred the national seashore again. The trail took a hard left, and took me on a ride thru lands of beautiful sand dunes. Up, over, and around them. I loved it!!! The pure white sand with all the beach foliage casting long shadows is magical. If i were taking this slower i certainly would have stopped to camp! The terrain was less shifty here too. Easier walking than the last beach, i assume because of all the plants. I followed pvc pipes with orange blazes painted on them that stuck out of the ground for miles. Witnessing some kids having a sandfight even. Like a snowball fight, but floridian.

This too had to end, the trail once again crossed the main road (theres only one,) and left me on the beach looking for trail markers. Nothing, so i followed the coast towards Navarre. Buildings behind me slipping away, while new ones ahead pop up. Here i alternated between the beach and the road. When i got tired of one, id walk the other! And visa versa. Stopping once to jump in the ocean. It was cold, but i knew id regret not doing it, being i wont have this opprotunity again for another 1,100+ miles.

At sunset i finished the beachwalk and entered the city of Navarre. Trail turned to bike path, day turned to night. I figured id walk till 9pm at least. Hiking this time of year is difficult because the sun sets so early! I barely have 11hrs. So for this record attempt i suspect ill be walking in the dark a lot. Actually i know i will, i plan to! Sunrise is 7am, sunset is 6pm.

In the dark i follow the road, eventually taking me to a bridge that gets me back to the main land. While crossing the bay, a man in his vehicle whipped a u-turn, and stopped. He yelled out asking if i was hiking the FT. I am! How cool, hes a former Appalachian Trail thru hiker, among other things. We talked for a little while, het offered to take me to dinner, and i declined the kind offer. It was great to run into a fellow thru hiker! Most folks just stare like im homeless. Even if i was, chill out, were humans too. After the bridge, and a few more miles of road through the city, and im back in the woods. I sleep tonight at the Eglin Airforce Base permit kiosk. Rather, just passed it.

So today was 34 miles of walking. Im proud of that considering i started close to 10:30. A good warmup. I hope this will be my lowest milage day on the FT.

Having lots of fun so far! Love the FT, and loved the sand dunes!!! Most folks would split this day into two, and camp in those dunes. They’d be wiser than I!

Jup

Review: Pa’lante Packs Simple Backpack

This year I’ve had the great pleasure to carry a new pack!

For my thru hike of the 4,800mi Eastern Continental Trail, I took a chance on a new company, and purchased the Simple by Pa’lante Packs. They weren’t in production yet, but I had been seeing photos of it online. Similar to the pack I had been using for the last few years, but an improved design.

“Hey that thing looks awesome, take my money.” Is to my memory, the message I sent Andy Bentz. He mailed it out to me while I was on trail, and I received it the same day I picked up a very heavy resupply (6 days.) Immediately I was stoked on how comfortable it was, even while carrying 15lbs of food on top of my gear.

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Grabbing a snack from the secret bottom compartment

Andy Bentz and John Zahorian are the two founders of Pa’lante Packs. Some info on Andy’s making history can be seen in this cute video, showing packs he’s made in days past, leading up to what you see now in this final product!

Since receiving it I’ve now carried it for the last 2,800 miles, and this is what I think about it.

Basic Info

  • Volume: 35L or 40L
  • Price: $210 – $250
  • Weight: 13oz
  • Frameless and Hipbeltless
  • Material: X-Pac

Where can you find it? PalantePacks.com

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Size

They come in both a 35 liter, and 40 liter. Very low on internal volume, but in a world where ultralight backpacking is becoming more popular this is a perfect size. The bigger the backpack you buy, the more stuff you tend to fill it with, and then consequently have to haul up that mountain!

For me, with a 6lb base weight the 35L is just right. I’ve carried 6 days food in it without issue, even thinking I had room for more. I would go for this size if you’re looking to seriously nerd out on gear, for most everyone though, I think the bigger size might be wiser. If you’re unsure, definitely go for the larger 40L. You’ll be happy you did when you want to pack out bonus foods from town!

As a frameless, hipbeltless pack it does well. The shoulder straps are large enough with enough thickness to take the heat of heavier carries. I find it’s comfortable up until around 25lbs.

All in all the small size is something I really like in a backpack. It gives me the ability to maneuver freely.
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Durability

Amazingly, after 5 months of use every single day. Sleeping on it. Rubbing it against, and sitting it on rocks. Brushing it against trees and branches accidentally…. there isn’t a single hole, not a single tear, or even any real sign of wear. Even the stitching is holding up, without fraying or coming loose. It’s almost the same as when I first got it.

When it comes to durability most consider ultralight gear flimsy or that it won’t last. In the case of this pack that is clearly not true! I could easily get a second multi thousand mile thru hike out of this pack.

I had remembered seeing pictures John posted online when he first came up with this design. I was skeptical about the bottom pocket, and it’s durability. After 2,800 miles of abusing it without a single hole forming I’m convinced. The east coast is very rocky, Maine and New Hampshire are no cake walk, so to come out unscathed was really impressive, and admittedly surprising.

I give it a big thumbs up for durability! Unlike cuben fiber packs this X-Pac material is gunna last. I expect I’ll get another few thousand miles outa this one, at least.

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Design

  • Waterproofness: The fabric used for the body of the pack is waterproof, but overall water will get in the seams. So I still use an internal liner like a trash compactor bag.
  • Single strap top closure: I love the single strap! It sinches down so nicely, creating an excellent seal. The last pack I had before this used a Y strap, and I greatly prefer the single.
  • Shoulder strap pockets: One of my favorite features of this pack. The stretchy integrated shoulder strap pockets! I like that I have everything I need right at my fingertips. These pockets are perfect for a camera or phone, snacks, guidebook pages or maps, trash. Really handy, and sleek. I highly recommend getting them added to your pack, as they are optional.
  • Secret bottom pocket: Annnd my favorite feature is the bottom pocket. Large enough to fit almost an entire days worth of food. But why do you care? Because every time you’re hungry, you can just reach under and grab a snack! No need to stop. Just keep moving! Alternatively, keep a rain jacket, or wind jacket under there for quick access.
  • Aesthetics: I mean, it’s super cute. Really small. Black. Beautiful. Clean.
  • Side pockets: Good height to grab my water bottles while walking. Stretchy enough to hold two bottles in one pocket. Or as I often do my umbrella, and a water bottle. Or my rehydration jar, and a water bottle. Tight enough so that they  don’t slip out when jostled.
  • Shoulder straps: Comfortable width, shape, and thickness.
  • Draw cord compression: Unsure of what to call it, but it needs to be mentioned. On one side of the pack there’s a small cord that can be pulled tight, to either compress down loose space inside, or firmly secure an item there. Personally I use it most when I have wet socks, or to dry out a wet groundcloth. Sinch the item down, and let it sit outside your pack all day. Or if you’re looking for a place to stow away trekking poles or a trekking umbrella while not in use, this is it!

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Extra Thoughts

John has used this pack for thousands of miles, and I’ve used this pack for almost 3,000 miles. He loves it, I love it. I hate to gush er whatever, but of all the gear I’ve been using this year, this pack is the only thing I wouldn’t swap out if given the chance. Since leaving Canada and receiving this pack, its been wonderful all the way down to Florida.

It’s made for efficiency. Most everything you need during the day is at hand, and I love that. So until these boys come up with something similar but smaller and lighter this will remain my main hiking pack.

The waterproof material, the clever pockets, a pack that won’t deteriorate after a single season…

So if you’re looking for that perfect backpack for your next thru hike, the Simple from Pa’lante has treated me right.

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Dungeon After Dungeon, Dragon After Dragon

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.

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Hiker nerd


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Cairns in vermont


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Looking down on Massachusetts from the cobbles


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A lonesome fire


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The Hudson River!


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Bear Mountain in New York


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NY / NJ border


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Fun rocks in PA


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My 9x5 poncho tarp. I only set it up when it's going to rain.


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Halfway point if the Appalachian Trail


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Hello Maryland! Back in the dirty south.


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The dream polaroid


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1 of a small handful of views in the Shenandoah's


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The Guillotine gracefully held above hikers heads as we pass under


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One of my many new best friends


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Virginia has been sweet


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No need for dreaming

Arriving in the city of Gorham was immediately sobering. No longer am I in tiny podunk Maine towns, here they have a Subway! Among 4 or 5 pizza restaurants, and other garbage, but that’s besides the point! Maine had been difficult. Some tall mountains, steep climbs, and weird footing, but looking up at the White Mountains surrounding this new space was new. These things are massive. Towering well beyond the clouds. Towering well beyond what I immediately felt like climbing.

So I didnt. I checked my guide and chose a hostel most central to all the food in town. As I’ve learned I could mostly care less about shower or laundry, it’s about the food and electricity for me. Can’t say I’m exactly out here to be clean beyond avoiding chafe, and illness associated with being dirty. Typically I wash myself in streams, and my clothing does indeed suffer for some time with the occasional swim to remove salts and things, or shave my face with river water.

This hostel was mostly a dump. Outlets falling out of the walls, sticky floor, not exactly ideal. I’m not too picky but it left me wishing I had flipped that coin a little differently. However there was one thing special about this particular hiker paradise…. one of my hiking hero’s had stayed here during his legendary hike of 1998. Nimblewill Nomad is his name, and that hike being what I’m doing now. 4,800 miles from Quebec to Key West. But north to south instead of the other way around. This is the second time I’ve had this has happened to me now. Day 0 of this trip I stayed in the last hostel Nimble had stayed at after he finished his long and lonesome journey. It’s like I’m following in his footsteps, as well as the very few others to ever do this hike. About 20 folks in 20 years if you’re wondering. This year, I’m the only one still at it.

After a nights rest and a lesson from a local in the methods in which tobacco is farmed I decided since I just finished walking close to 500 miles through Maine, I’ll treat myself to a night somewhere hopefully more enjoyable. My second stay was at a bed & breakfast, but not really. Next door the owner has a barn that’s been converted into a hiker hostel, and this place truly is a paradise. Clean, beautiful, wonderful, and full of awesome hikers to chit chat with! A good decision. Or a dangerous game to get caught up in these towns. Am I out here to hike? I am, but it’s often very refreshing to stop now or then. Even though I’ve been fooling around a lot more than I should, as it turns out I’m still going rather fast. I still feel I’m on track to meet my goal and that’s what counts!

Regardless of my mixed feelings towards staying in towns longer than it takes to charge my phone I’m happy I did this time. A beautiful girl by the name of Weebles was there who’s  heading in the same direction I am, is a vegetarian, and all around super cool person. We talked for a while, and although I was staying another night she was heading out that day. Late though. 6pm. Maybe she was considering staying longer. The company and conversation was much appreciated.

The next day I find myself in the same situation. About ready to declare residence, thunder and rain imminent that night. Another stay in doors would be nice, but no! See ya soon Weebles. 6pm I myself leave. Figuring I can walk the 3 miles out of town back to the trail, and hike in the dark until 10 or 11 at night. I make the trail and the thunder and lightning begins to crash. Blackness paused briefly by the entire forest filling with light, quickly fading again. On and on this went until the rain began to fall. Coming up on some other hikers who were huddled under a wooden shelter away from the weather. They look at me with my tiny umbrella like a dog might in confusion. Head cocked. Questioning where I’m camping in this rain. Wherever I please! Although I didn’t feel like climbing the next mountain in such conditions I have no issue setting up my shelter or sleeping on days like this. Back home this is weather I’d seek out to go backpacking in. All those trips of the past paying off, although I’m still learning so much more out here it’s of a different variety. Rain and thunder just doesn’t bother me. As I’ve always said. No one ever dies by getting struck by lightning….

Slippery rocks, beautiful swimming holes, and finally… the White Mountains. This first climb the next morning came easier than expected. On the way I passed a couple that recognized me (which was funny!) and I took the opprotunity to ask how far ahead my friend was. The girl had a large smile that echoed of withheld information, and what I heard was that if I hustled I might catch up! But also that she was leaving the trail for a week to go explore the east coast then return to these mountains again to continue on. I had hoped she would want to hike with me, but I can at least wish her a farewell.

The miles came quick, and for the first half of the day I was pressing over peaks covered in clouds, buffeted by wind. At the higher elevations here its truly hit or miss. I figure you could time the peaks well to get the view or you can enjoy the experience for what it is. I always choose the latter, and I always have a good time! Descending the mountain I’m greeted by my first hut of this area, a premier and unique feature to these mountains installed to gather revenue, and help more folks experience these places. My first hut of many, a system that stretches through the whites, and the whites only. Buildings filled with bunks, a kitchen, dinning area, and typically very far away from where the typical person could access without some serious effort. Ya know, walking here! They all offer food, coffee, and other things. I had a great experience with them, even though I heard many stories of other hikers having a bad time. I think in their case it’s because they’re maybe more so the party hiker. More so party, less so hiker. The hut employees most definitely do cater more towards those who put in hard days (whatever that means respective to the person.)

These huts and this mountain range was actually a large source of stress for me before I left for my trip. As you may know, I planned and more or less virtually hiked this whole thing before I even started. Months and years of planning and preperations. It’s a big trip man…. a project as some say. Anyhow. I hike my hike, and I like to do each day my way. The huts I heard somewhere that it was mandatory you stayed in them. Which will run you $160 a night, or you could show up at 5 pm and try to convince them to let you work off your impending debt persay. The later being extremely common, but you know me!! 5pm is just to darn early. So I worried. Could I camp anywhere secretly? The weather here is known to be the worst in the entire country. Seriously. Look up Mt Washington wind speeds. 100+ is common, and I think 280mph or so is the world record… set there, right on the trail I was walkin’. You can see why this area might have been a small question mark. As it turns out, not once in the Whites did I do a work for stay in the huts. I camped every night, and it worked out great!! Some might say I missed an experience, but I did actually stop one day and really got to know one of the employees who was planning his own thru hike for next year. I feel I missed nothing!

Looking back I think that first day, over the Wildcat range, looking for Weebles, that was the hardest day I remember. It was 21 miles or something but multiple really steep climbs, and even steeper descents. Hard both on my lungs and joints. In Gorham I remember hikers who had just done this section icing their knees. I can see why, but I’m happy to report that I have no soreness or pain after doing any of that.

But wait, did I ever catch Weebles? I did. I had this image in my head for some reason of her getting to the next road and instantly departing. So with that in mind I moved swiftly up and over rocks. Brushing my teeth on the go, and as I put my scrubber in my pocket there she was. “HI! :D” although hesitent of this weird guy I did get to hike with her. About 2 miles worth. Still much time left in the day I had the option to go on, but as it turned out she wasn’t leaving until the next day. Boston bound, then back to experience the rest of this awesome section of trail. My options weren’t really options at all. Hesitent again, I’m glad she let me camp with her. We talked again, and apparently she had thought I was ahead of her and actually asked that same couple about me as I did her.

The next morning I made my way up into the great unknown. My best day on trail so far. One big climb and I was above treeline walking an exposed ridge almost all day. I thought of her quite a bit that day. What a happy day. The kind of day you just smile from ear to ear about. Remember Mt Washignton? That was this day, the second highest peak on the trail. Wind and harsh weather? I got lucky and it was totally clear and calm. I made 26 easy, happy miles that day, and camped under a “no camping” sign at a waterfall.

Although I didn’t get so lucky with clouds and weather for the rest of my time during the Whites I still had the most amazing time. The walking was fun and enjoyable. Just kind of the stuff I dream about. Open ridge lines with wind in my face, above everything, pressing forward with glee. I actually get to do this every day. It really is a dream for me.

I did however do some questionable things. I climbed Mt Lafayette and walked Franconia Ridge at night for example. A 5,000+ peak and a ridgeline that follows. For those that know this area well that’s a big no no. It’s known to be exceptionally beautiful, and here I got to see it in the dark. It was still a whole lot of fun!! But certainly not something most would do on purpose. I actually had this grand idea of catching that section during sunset, and having this ultimate experience. Not everything goes as planned!! Up in a cloud, in the dark, with my handheld 70 lumen flashlight. All the more reason to come back sometime.

Mt Moosilauke is the final 4,000+ foot Mountain that I’ll have to climb for a very long time. It also marks the end of the White Mountains. I was actually dreading it as I approached. Feeling a bit under the weather the last thing I felt like doing was walking up some massive hill! But ya know I was so happy I did. Getting to the top was such an amazing experience. Up in the clouds as always, I ran as fast as I could across the rocks on the top to the sign marking the summit. Phone as dead as ever I had some other hiker take my photo and send it to me. Big thanks to him!! This peak also marks roughly my 1/4th way point! 1,200 miles down, just 3,600 to go. Sounds silly but to me it sounds so attainable. Just one step at a time, one mile, one day. All in time!! You really can do anything if you set your mind to it. Sometimes it just takes a bit of love.

My next town stop was unplanned but there was a hostel that was only 0.3 miles off trail and a friend VERY graciously offered to pay for my stay there. Due to my sickly condition, one night turned into three. This friend remained firm in that I would pay for none of which. I really can’t thank him enough. I really needed the days off. Snot flowing freely from my nose, a soar throat, and a fuzzy head makes for much less than fun hiking. The hostel turned out to be really great too, aside from just a place to rest. The owner and caretaker, as well as an employee all happen to be extremely experienced hikers. I love hikers!! It was so cool to talk to some people who really have been around and done that. Maybe you wonder what I think about while I spend my day walking. Often my mind wanders to the topic of other trails. So here was my opprotunity to geek out about trails, as well as recover. Thanks again to a good friend back home. I would have passed up that place of refuge had he not offered. Really glad to have stayed, really glad to be back on the trail again with a clear mind.

I actually got to meet a serious trail legend during my stay there as well. The famous Miss Janet! A lady who tirelessly helps hikers all year round on this particular 2,200 mile stretch of trail from Georgia to Maine. I had thought I might have been too late in the season to run into her but as it turns out she’s giving the north bound hikers that final little push before winter hits, then she’ll head back down south to meet up with my crowd. Really I have no idea how she does this year after year. I would certainly lose my mind!!! But I guess you gotta love it. For me the hiking is where my heart lies. For her, it’s helping folks like me achieve these goals.

After Mt Moosilauke the terrain changed drastically. Although I’m still in NH I consider this Vermont already. Like day and night, suddenly the trail is just SO much easier. It’s awesome. I can finally open my stride and walk like I wanna. Maine and New Hampshire were very beautiful and both a great challenge, but I’m ready for more!

If you’re keeping count I only have 14 more states to go, and they’re getting smaller as I go. Aside from Virginia, Alabama, and Florida that is.

As I write I’m planning my attack for Vermont. I begin tomorrow. It’s about 150 miles worth of trail and I’m thinking 5 days at most.

This is life!

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I get up, and I walk

If I’ve remembered correctly I’ve now been in maine for over 450 miles. Well, I’ve actually just finished Maine! What a state. What a big state. The AT itself only goes through 280 or so miles of it but as we know I started walking from lands very far north of there. Very far north of the Canadian border even. What a hell of a ride it’s been so far, and boy is it nice to cross a new border. New Hampshire! I’m here! I’ve made it! Looking at a map of my progress thus far is very surreal. To see that I’ve traveled over 1,200 miles south so far feels good. That line I’ve drawn on a map from Quebec to the Keys represents so much. All of those that have traveled it before me, everything in between, and an unimaginable amount of experiences to be had. I’m not even a fourth of the way into my walk and yet I’ve met so many wonderful people, and seen so many magical things. I’ve come this far, there’s no stopping now. There’s a story before me waiting. From the very start there was no stopping. A sprained ankle wasn’t an excuse to quit, it was an excuse to try harder. Reform my technique, and pay closer attention to myself. To be more consistent, and to not allow myself to let the fire dictate where I land. My body is king, and this journey is long. My pace is fast, but with every day I learn. Including all my planning and preperations, there never was quit in me. There is only a footpath before me, and a fire inside me. Today I walk, and with every step I get closer to that dream of key west. An almost laughable dream. To walk 100 or so miles of roads through the southern most point of Florida. The dream is engraved in my brain. I may not think of it daily, but the thought appears often. I cower almost to the point of crying. One step at a time. I’m on my way.

Since I finished the International Appalachian Trail and started the Appalachian Trail I’ve had people tell me how difficult the terrain in maine is. How this mountain would crush my will. I’ve been both shot down and lifted up when mentioning my goal. I almost question now if I should even bother, so I typically just respond with “I’m going all the way.” Now that I’ve finished this long and lonesome track through Maine I’ve concluded that none of those passes were nearly as hard as I was told. In the end their experience reflects more about them, than the actual trail. I’ve concluded that really only the final 10 or so miles of this state are of any real concern. Boulders that dwarf men, trail resembling something closer to a creek bed, and an endless supply of roots. The walking has been arduous. Like dancing in many more ways than walking. I step around, I step over, I step on top of, and a couple times I’ve even gone under rocks. Rocks of all sizes and shapes. Difficult? Maybe not so much, a slight annoyance? I’d say that’s more so the case. A man with long legs who likes to stretch them I’ve slowed my miles. From 30s and beyond down to 20s. Soon though, my big days will return.

Although still doing more than most per day it’s been very comfortable. It’s all a matter of time. 2 miles per hour? Less? Wake up earlier. Stop walking and set up camp later. My rule is, don’t stop until 7:30. The beginning of sunset. Beyond that and I find myself walking in the dark. As I often do. 7:30 is only the time in which I allow myself to start looking for camp. I have however broken that rule a couple times. Town stops when I’m hungry and tired, the Kennebec River where I needed a ferry man to cross it(two lovely ladies out birding picked me up and took me across!), or that time I met a cool New Zealander going by the trail name “Bad Decisions.” His bad decision that day was deciding to walk with me the next day. 20 miles, multiple passes, and the hardest terrain in Maine. Locals just out for the day told me that my plan before dark was out of question. I walked away, took my new friend with me, and we did it anyway. Live free or die. I’ll only ask for the weather from now on.

That section was the Mahoosuc Arm, and the Mahoosuc Notch. I’ve heard horror storries. Supposedly the Notch is the hardest, or most fun section of the AT. Most fun is indeed true. It was a jungle gym. Everyone I asked that day said it took them 2 hours. About 20 people that was. It only took us 50 minutes with a stop for water and photographs. Jumping from boulders, crawling under them into caves, climbing up and around them. It was awesome. The Arm however we went down. It was a 2,000ft decent purely on a sheer rock face, slick as can be. One slip and you’d be in trouble. Going down still is in my mind the way easier method of doing it. Going up would have been endless. Step up, slide down. I was happy to only be sliding down. Often on my ass.

There’s three seriously memorable moments I’ll have of the AT in Maine and that’s Saddleback mountain, the knife edge trail on Mt Katahdin, and the Mahoosuc Notch. We’ve already looked at the knife edge, a thin ridge of sharp rocks connecting peaks. Saddleback Mountain however is new! It was a recent climb, and I was fortunate enough to enjoy it with a good dude I met out here by the name of 2Taps. The weather was strange, forecast showed rain for the morning, and then clear skies all day. This was not the case. The rain was true but that was followed by extremely high winds. Most hikers hid in the lean-to shelters that litter the trail but 2Taps and I pressed forward. The climb was wet and slippery up rocks, eventually breaking out from treeline. The wind pressed against us as we entered the alpine territory. Beautiful sweeping views of the mountains around us and the lakes below us. I remember some saying about Maine and lakes. Whatever that is, it’s true. They really are everywhere here, and I frequently find myself navigating around them, or sitting on their beaches. This time though I’m fortunate enough to be looking down at them from an exposed ridge. For three miles this lasted. Walking across the rock face on top of the world, with the wind knocking me from side to side frequently pushing me into the grass. We were told it was 74mph and that was still walkable in my opiniom, but at a slant. Feet planted firmly and still being forced aside or simply to walk with a serious lean. It was cold, but wonderful. That mountain I would do over and over. We were the only two out there that day.

The theme is clear. I wake up, and I walk. Every morning I pack all of my things up and I move forward. I aim for 20 or 30 and see where I land. Sometimes in the rain, sometimes the sun, and sometimes up in the clouds, but it doesn’t matter. I’ll still be out there. Getting wet, sweating, breathing, sun beating, low visibility, high visibility. I’m out here day after day. And it’s wonderful.

Since I’m doing 20 or more miles a day I don’t often or ever see folks more than once and that may be a downside but I love the path I’m on and really wouldn’t change anything. I’d like to do more per day if I could but that will come in time, with more experience, and with easier terrain to walk upon. I’ve met a lot of awesome people, and one benefit is that I’m never in the same bubble of folks. I get to see everyone! Maybe by the end, someone will be foolish enough to hike my hike, but that’s not what this is about. Everyone is on their own path, and doing their own thing.

I camp alone almost every night so I only really get to know other hikers in towns. On trail most congregate around the wooden shelters, but I find the land surrounding them uncomfortable and overused, opposed to the soft bed of leaves or pine needles I usually wind up in. Staying inside the wooden huts would be nice in the rain but if I think the ground around them is bad then I would certainly find the wooden flooring worse. Not to mention the mice that have grown accustomed to the trash left behind or the tidbits of food that spill. My little havens alone in the woods off trail just seem more appealing most nights.

Two towns I’ve stayed in recently left a mark. Monson, and Rangely. In Monson I was pleasent surprised to find that Petes Place, a local restaurant caters to vegans with black bean burgers. More interesting the owners have ridden horses from maine to southern texas. They did it for charity and it took over 8 months. Certainly a very unique experience and it was nice to talk to them about it. I stayed the night in the local hostel, The Shaws. Forever will I hold other hostels to a bar the Shaws have set. The owners Poet and Hippy Chick where amazing and former thru hikers. The help was awesome, the beds comfortable, everything there was nice. In a town without more food than a grocery store they also have a full stock of things hikers like. Poet was or is an English teacher, I’d like to say high school AP, and he even recited to us a poem in old english. Basically another language is what he was speaking.
Rangely is the other town that stood out, but it wasn’t the town… I actually didn’t even go into town. I walked 0.3 miles down the road off trail to The Hiker Hut. A hostel that operates off the grid. No electricity, no cell service. It was a restful and relaxing place next to a stream. I showed up very late and felt quite bad about it but they fed me a vegan dinner, vegan breakfast, and I was the only one there. I sat and talked with the two owners for hours. Steve was a professional triathlete back in the mid 90s and might have even raced in the Tour De France once. Like me, he sees hiking as a sport, treating it the same way you would long distance running or anything else similar. Some go for just 5 or 10 miles a day and that’s cool but he could tell that’s not my game. I’m out here to walk, and he had some very good advice for me which I’ll take to heart. Maine and New Hampshire could be injury central for me, and I suppose the gist of what spoke to me was that I should take it easy until I reach Vermont when the trail eases up. Easy for me is 20 so that’s what I’ve been up to, and I’ve been feeling great! So I think it’s working. The Hiker Hut and The Shaws were both wonderful places to stay, and should I ever hike the Appalachian Trail again I will certainly make my rounds to see these great people again. They really give off the vibe like they want to help you achieve your goal, unlike some others that seem far more money hungry. That vibe meant a lot to me.

So now I’m in New Hampshire. It’s been a long time coming, and although I loved Maine I’m really excited for what this new place will bring. Crossing the border the change was very apparent. The trail is marked slightly different. The way it’s routed is different, and the mountains ahead are promised to be some of the most beautiful this path has to offer. We shall see! Im really looking forward to the White Mountains. For now I can only hope I hit them during nice weather. Or else I’ll cry… or not, I’ll probably just keep on walking.

Oh and I’ve decided to keep clean shaven, because every guy out here looks the exact same as every other guy out here.

“If it ain’t fun, make it fun.”

– Jupiter

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Weebles wobble….

Just 4,000 miles to go!

When I left you last I was preparing to finally leave the province of Quebec. Limping. Although the last 200k had been through the valley and physically very easy with mostly rolling hills, beautiful views of the French Canadian country, I was forced to take it slow. Which I guess isn’t the worst of fates? I found myself searching for a cheap hotel to rest my tired bones and soul. Staying in the quiet town of Matapédia was my best option before entering the next frontier of New Brunswick. So I did. 3 days of ice, elevation, lots of food, and soaking my ankle and feet in the river. A bit dissapointed in the results I was seeing but the stagnation, my wallet, and pull of southern lands meant it was time to move on. I got a long way to go till Florida!!

My last night in town I was graced by the company of a young couple who just finished touring the gaspesie via bicycle. A trip of 1,600km along an extremely scenic highway that circumnavigates the peninsula. A classic Quebec vacation I have been told, that when you visit this is what you do. Most by car but you may remember I’ve now met close to 10 folks who were walking that highway. Seems like a lot of pavement…. then again when I say walking they more than likely hitch rides frequently. Anyhow, this french Canadian bike touring couple and I met in the local B&B (the BEST meal in town,) and they invited me over for drinks! I had greeted the young fellow with bonjour and later he told me he had actually thought i was french! I guess i was getting better. Another couple was there as well, and after not long rain began to pour. Spirits not dampened, and alcohol flowing, they sung french pub songs to me for hours. Through the rain and thunder their voices towered over. The campground was silent, and then there we were. I’m sure the entire town was listening.

An early start the next morning, happy to be on the move again, even if it’s not going to be very far! Still travel slow, burdened by the end of my injury. Crossing the border of the two provinces was awesome still. Over 400 miles in Quebec and now it was on to new things. The sign was in both in french and english, as I am now entering a new world where I can hopefully speak freely again. Met some folks I surely won’t forget in the north, and saw places so far removed, places most will never see. And really, I hiked with some seals man. Thru hiking a long trail and walking along side seals. Not to mention the snow, the rocky mountain tops above treeline, everything. Quebec was good. Looking back it’s without a doubt the gem of the International Appalachian Trail, and will be remembered as one of the best parts of this hike I’m sure.

Crossing the Restigouche river at the border, a little taste of what’s to come. No more trail signage, and really no sign of trail. So the highway I walked. 7 miles into the town of Tide Head, and I’m greeted by a friendly old man sweeping dust from his driveway. We get to talking and he clues me in to a multi use trail just down the road that’ll take me a very long way to the next town. Sounds like what I’m lookin’ for! A side note, dude is in his 70s and still manages to ride his bicycle 2,000k a year. Even more impressive considering how far north I am, and how little time you really have that isn’t blistering cold for activities such as this. So cold that this giant river I’ve been walking along completely freezes over and locals go out and do donuts around the ice on their snow mobiles in the winter.

About to leave town and head down that lonesome track once again i soak my feet one last time. Although this time is different. Lifting them out and moving again i feel way better. Like all my rest and healing finally caught up. I truly believe soaking or icing is the secret to injuries of similar nature. Still with aches in my ankle but no longer full of pain. To add to my joy the trail I’ve now started on directly follows a pretty river with many campsites abound. I dream of stopping and making a fire, but for those that know me, i truly hate stopping before sunset at least. This pleasent land unfortunatly didn’t last, although nearing pain free walking again my path which was exceptional is now an old railroad bed, and has no where to set up my tarp. A soggy bog to both sides of me, and directly off the trail where my guide tells me to camp is nothing but gravel. Because you know, old railroad. So sleeping on gravel it is, unable to pitch my shelter in the rocks I cowboy camp, and pray it doesn’t rain. Wishing I just stopped at the river earlier instead of walking into the night, but that’s my game. Stopping before darkness feels wrong.

I woke up to rain. Naturally. And made my way down the path less followed. Again the river pops up and i follow it for the entire day, over bridge after bridge, past swimming hole after swimming hole. What a ride this would have been back when this was a rail road. A path cut through the mountains, often it’s just me inbetween giant walls of rock peaking out to walk along the waters further. All day is like this and my pain is now almost completely gone. I truly attribute it to the daily soaking. My roll starting to pick up again after going so slow for so long. The forward motion and the feeling of progress is extremely enjoyable. Today I actually get in some good miles. Back into the land of twenties with higher numbers on the horizon.

After being alongside a flowing stream for so long to my surprise it ends abruptly. The guide for New Brunswick is nothing like what’s available for northern Maine, or what I was using in Quebec. Just a sheet of paper that gives next to no info, and an extremely crude map I printed so I had a better idea of where towns were. Despite this I’ve fallen into the routine of carrying next to no water for any given stretch. Easier on my body considering how heavy water is. Although now not having any to drink for miles and miles it’s not so easy anymore. My best options become beaver ponds with the very occasional river flowing outwards from a beaver pond. Stagnant with taste of giant rodents. I purify it but question all the times in the past I havent. In Quebec I only filtered my water twice the entire time I was there. That was fresh, clean, beautiful, and tasted wonderfully consistently. Then again it takes about two weeks for a stomach bug to kick in so who’s to say I just haven’t felt it yet?

Rolling into the town of Saint – Quentin my plans are to grab food for the next 6 days at the grocery and roll out to camp. Already having traveled 18 miles to get here I notice something different. My once quiet trail is now full of ATVs passing me. Too many to count. Easily 30 or more pass, I wave, and smile. No one stops, but I doubt they see walkers often, if ever. Getting into the outskirts of town a man is riding the streets on his dirt bike doing wheelies, and the power lines are embellished with little colorful flags. I don’t know where the store is, and being this is the biggest little city I’ve been to in a long while I make a quick phone call to my mom for some extra directions. The grocery stores parking lot looks empty, maybe everyone’s too busy riding around on their all terrain vehicles. Nope. It’s closed. At 4 o’clock? Nope its 5, New Brunswick is on some new time zone and I’m behind on figuring this out. Way behind, almost halfway through the entire province. But 5 seems a little early for a large store? It is. However… today is New Brunswick day. They closed 10 minutes ago. 6 days of food from a gas station it is. Happily they happen to fig bars and other things I like. Leaving town I follow the NB trail, what I’ve been on this entire time. Its a multi use trails system that goes through the entire province. After an hours walking something irks me, I haven’t once seen a sticker for the IAT, which isn’t so out of the ordinary for NB but still strange, and really gives me the feeling I’m going the opposite direction from where I should be traveling. All hopes dashed of getting some real milage in today, the sun has set, and now I’m an hour outside of town on the wrong trail, confirmed again by the MVP that is my mom. My guide didn’t mention that I would no longer be on the same path. Apparently I was supposed to take to the highway. Whoops. Laying down in the bushes of someone’s property just deep enough in there so at first glance I may not be noticed I curse the night and set up to retrace my steps in the morning. A lame deer plagues my camp to the point i consider just getting up and walking all night. I move a mile away as a compromise. Now in someone else’s bushes.

Maybe judging from my map I could have guessed but this next section was mostly a roadwalk. 80 miles of roadwalk. Funny thing is I go right through Mont Carlton Provincial Park. On the road. Not some back road, but a highway. 80 miles in a little over two days. Sleeping in places I definitely shouldn’t be. However leaving the park to continue my pavement pounding I’m stopped by a game warden. If he was American what he said to me would have sounded more like “What the hell you doin’ out here boy?” But he’s not, he’s French! Thus far more polite. Very nice guy! The days are so hot now that it’s August he offers me his ice tea from lunch and I very happily accept. This drink was pretty crucial, because again I found myself in a spot without water for close to 10 miles. Middle of the day, walking a highway, in direct sunlight. His name is Richard and it was very nice to meet him and speak for a little while. Certainly a highlight of my time in New Brunswick, aside from all the beautiful rivers that are here and there.

At this time I was approaching a man’s home who’s a big supporter of the trail and as it happens is a legendary canoe builder. From picking the tree he’s going to carve to the finished product, everything about his boats are hand made. Miller Canoes if you want to check it out. I was dreaming of stopping at his house, as he is known to let hikers sleep on his lawn, charge my phone, learn about his craft, and get some water. Approaching his home I was bummed to find he wasn’t home. The rest of the day I curse my timing, hoping he would see me walking the road and stop to say hello. No dice. I slept in someone’s yard hidden between two trees, feet propped up on one, head against another. Not the best fit, but again I walked my 30 so I didn’t care. Not many options if you don’t want to pay to camp at an RV park. Which I refuse to do.

Finally the roads are over, word is after the town of Plaster Rock I pick the ATV path up again, and follow the Tobique river all the way to the US-CA border. The town is small and beautiful. Cute in everyway and full of everything a hiker could want. I don’t stay but stop for more groceries and fresh fruit to eat down by the water. A big storm brewing in the direction I’m going. Lightning crashing in the distance, I hustle to gather my things and hit the trail instead. Despite the storms ominous direction of travel, somehow I don’t get hit by a single drop of water. Feet in the river I eat my pineapple, blueberries, and raspberries… sit back and relax. Back on the trail and off the roads tonight, I can make some bonus miles. I walk until 10, again sleeping in someone’s yard. This time though, an old man sees me laying in the bushes the next morning. Damn this other timezone. Waking up at 5 am in my mind was actually 6. The guy said nothing, walked on, and life is good.

Today I will cross back into the US. It’s been a long time coming but finally I’ve made it home. In Canada I was only able to truly wash my clothes outside of a stream once due to no laundromats, rarely could I keep my phone charged as there just were never any electrical outlets to be found, Internet could only be had if I could find wifi, my phone calls back home costed money, and most everyone spoke french! For the vagrant that I am these little things meant something, as we know all i pretty much got is walking and what the weather is doing. Creature comforts become a big deal at times. As does speaking the same language as the locals… The US is gunna be great! No longer will it matter if I smell, this is America, we all smell! Walmart here I come, you have the cheap foods I want, the electricity I need, and the demegraphic of people I fit in with. Canada has been awesome, but I haven’t been on a real single track trail since Quebec and it’s time I get off the old railroad beds. The last 4 days have been 30s, I’m no longer in pain, and I’m ready to hit some mountains again. I’m ready to show this body crafted on the IAT, to the hikers of the AT.

Crossing the border was interesting, and I was somewhat unclear of how that would go, other than follow my guide step by step, leading me nowhere, and calling my mom again for real direction. You may have thought it would be some obscure trail I’d have to be escorted across into the new land but no, I did it the same way the cars do. In fact I got off trail and stood in line with all those cars. I waited for the light to turn green, and I walked up to customs with passport in hand. “Ya’ll dont get folks on foot often now do ya?” They dont. A few questions to determine what I was doing, and I was on my way. Surprisingly no drug dogs, no pat downs, no making me unpack all my things. Here I am, a guy with a backpack walking across the border. I guess Canada was just as ready to get rid of me as I was to leave. 25 miles into my day I had been so excited for this moment it was still early. I called border patrol to let them know until 8pm I would be walking the line. They understood what I was doing and wished me luck with the mosquitoes. Little do they know I’m from florida. Mosquitoes know better than to fuck with me.

Between Canada and the US there’s a 20 yard swath of land where they’ve cut down all the trees and erected little stone monuments every kilometer. As we know, the US celebrates itself quite well. Even in this remote and untraveled area. It was truly an experience to have the opprotunity to walk that line between nations. Rolling hills and beautiful views of farm land. Canadians on my left wondering what the hell I’m doing, Americans on my right… also wondering what the hell I’m doing. Streams I forded that crossed the imaginary line between the countries, and some swamp land as well. For the most part easy walkin’. Even after already going so far earlier in the day I was fresh. 40 miles in total I walked, and now back on home soil. I think it was the happyness that propelled me so far. Dained but smiling, physically feeling on the top of my game.

In Quebec, frogs and toads were everywhere. At a time I counted them every day but I would always lose track. I hear that’s a sign of a healthy environment. In New Brunswick it was slugs. Every morning slugs would congregate and pray to this new deity that had been resting on their land. They would slime up all my gear and generally were annoying enough to actually drive me insane while plucking them off my things each morning. Now in maine, both were gone. It’s now mice, squirrels, and chipmunks. Or generally just small varmints scurrying around making noise in my direction as i approach. I liked the frogs of Quebec best. They don’t try to steal my food like the mice do.

Now in Maine I’m greeted by towns almost daily, and being I’m walking more than a marathon during daylight hours sometimes multiple restaurants between waking up and falling asleep. Aiming for 30s I try not to stop at everyone of them, but looking back I missed one or two that really might have been worthwhile.

Everyone has been super cool in Maine. I don’t think most know what I’m doing, but a few figured out I’m not exactly homeless. Only mostly homeless. Walking an ATV path along rivers again a couple passes, I smile and wave. The same couple later passes again, slows down, and stops. I suppose I don’t look dangerous because before i know it theyve invited me over for snacks and drinks at their home! Which just so happens to be a mere 200 yards off the path I’m following. From their house I get the greatest gift of all aside from their hospitality. My first view ever of where I’m going. Mt Katahdin. Days away and there it is. The end of the International Appalachian Trail, and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Magnificent, and lit like a candle she sat on the horizon. Almost far enough to be out of sight. This older couple was so very kind, and the gentleman even told me stories back from the 80s of climbing those mountains. Likely way beyond the difficulty of today. Trail? More like taking a baring off of rocks and seeing how it goes. Things are so well traveled and documented these days all you have to do is commit sometimes. Takes the risk out of it in ways.

After that couples home I went to the nearest lean-to to sleep in. My first of Maine, and my first in a while as there were none in New Brunswick. To my surprise, anger, and bewilderment it was beyond trashed. The firepit was overflowing with garbage, plastic all over the geound, cans around the corners and backside, and the every wall vandalized with names of those I imagine were too lazy to pack out their own garbage. I could go on for days about how much this bothers me but I’ll only say a little. These are our public spaces, our wilderness, and trails to explore. If we don’t use them, they will be taken away. If we decide to trash them, they deserve to be taken away. Please for the love of the outdoors. Don’t leave your trash, leave nothing. Pretend as though you were never even there. I fell asleep hoping the animals local weren’t so accustomed to the food strewn across the ground that I would get a visitor in the night.

After this section I was once again greeted by roads. About another 80 miles of them. Making swift work, as I do, but still less pleasent than walking through the forest. Graffiti under a bridge mostly what you imagine is going through a 13 year old child’s head, this time actually said something of interest. “What will you be remembered for?” A thought that echoed.

After miles, actually days, of pavement I pass a few small vacation camps and enter the woods again. Away from cell service now, phone dying, and dangerously close to Baxter State Park. In the last town I picked up new shoes as my others had developed a massive hole so I’m ready. Ready to finish the IAT, and start the next leg of this journey. The Appalachian Trail. Where hikers flow more freely than the rivers, and I will no longer have to walk roads again for the next 2,200 miles. At least. The trail is now on a cross country ski track and it’s pretty sweet. Rivers to cross, and soft ground to plod along. I come across a sign advertising a shelter just off trail, decide to stop by and at least sign the trail register for other future IAT hikers to see. I was once here. No one saw me, but I was here.

Surprisingly this was not your typical hiker lean to. It’s already kind enough of the locals, or the trail organizations to build these homes away from the rain for us, but this was not normal. This was truly a cabin. On a lake. A door, windows, bunks, food coffee and tea inside. Magazines, and more amenities than I as someone who hasn’t showed in a week deserves. Sadly though, I’ve only walked 5 miles today, from my bed in the leaves. Guess I should have gone the extra distance yesterday. Isn’t that always the case. I move on.

A sign directing me off trail for hot meals only 1/4th mile away catches my attention. Across a beautiful bridge and onto a property along the river with beautiful wooden cabins littering the grounds. A man looks at me, as I yell a greeting with a smile. Sure enough he is the manager here! Apparently, although this is what I consider prime season to be in maine, when it’s not under snow, this is his off season. The place is empty and he is just here taking care of things. Apparently in the last 4 years I’m only the 5th hiker to ever come off that trail to visit. My friend Sycamore being the one prior to me!! Sometimes I feel like I’m walking in his foot steps……. This time, last year. The guy is mega friendly, and unlocks the dining room so I can come in, talk, and relax. The place is furnished to the max, and simply beautiful. It’s really a wonder why no one would be here. Trails behind the place, a river just feet away… seems like the perfect summer spot. He says people prefer lakes? And naturally so far away no cell service is a small downside. However those other places I’ve passed have no where near the class of this location. He sends me off with some peanut butter crackers, and as many sodas as I could carry. 4 was the magic number. Definitely happy I stopped by, even if they aren’t exactly doing anything special in the off season. During winter however the place is supposedly bumping! Currently he’s baiting bear with… trail mix (no wonder bears like hikers!) And dunkin donuts. Who knew that’s what the bears crave. In the winter thousands upon thousands of miles worth of snow mobile trails bring people from all over looking to spend big bucks. Broke hikers aren’t exactly a concern, however he was extremely nice to me, and from the sounds of it he’s been very good to every one else who’s stumbled across that bridge!

Wasting far to much time at the cabin, and the snowmobile camp, looking at the prospect of night hiking a few extra miles to meet my mark. I’ve been walking 30 miles or more ever day since Saint – Quentin, about a weeks worth of that if not more, not exactly feeling like breaking that chain. Tomorrow however is a very big day, and likely extra important i walk the bonus. Tomorrow I officially finish the International extention to the Appalachian Trail, and continue my way south along the mountain chain, and begin a new trail! Climbing my last mountain of this area, Deasy, there’s a side trail to a fire tower I pass in my haste as the sun sets, and lower down the way a creepy decrepit home crushed by time, that once was the fire wardens shelter. Making good time, almost at a slow jog, unfortunately a large river to be forded in the valley slows me down, and forces me to call it early. Meaning I’ll be losing sleep to begin my long walk to the top the next day. The hardest climb of this entire 4,800 mile route across the country. Mt Katahdin, at 5,200 feet or something it’s size is deceptive. It’s truly a rediculous climb. Boulders that dwarf men, and hours upon hours of arduous upwards (hardly forwards) motion.

4am. It’s time. 15.7 miles away I get up and go. Mouse ate my snack that I accidentally left out but it’s ok. Maybe he was hungry. 5 miles in I’m pressing forward with everything in hopes I can pull off a not so typical 30. Why? Because I have no reservation to stay in Baxter, I have no permit, I’m coming in on some unknown and very random trail, and plan to pass through the entire park in one fell swoop. My last IAT trail marker is a wooden sign, and it brings a massive smile to my face. This is the official end to the International Appalachian Trail. I did it. Quebec, a sprained ankle, New Brunswick, and northern Maine. What a ride it’s been thus far. Still yet, just the beginning. I’m only getting started. This may be the official end to the trail, but you’d be a fool to stand 10 miles from this magnificent mountaim, and not climb it, so I think everyone besides the state park agrees the top of that is truly the end. Entering the park on a trail that’s massively over grown, short shorts doing me no justice, legs getting torn up. Powering on I see a moose! My first moose in QC scared the hell outa me. She was with a child and wasn’t budging. This is now the 7th, and I barely slow down. The moose sees the steam rising from my feet, the fire in my eyes, and it runs away from me as though I’m holding a rifle. Today there are no breaks. Today is a big day. I connect the Katahdin Lake Trail, to some parking lot, walk a short road to another parking lot, and begin my real ascent up the Helon Taylor Trail… which leads to the Knife Edge of the mountain. The rain has already started to fall, and I see my first hiker, he just finished the Appalachian Trail, what I’m about to begin. I ask how it is up there. A blank stare. “Windy.” I have no back up. It’s up and over.

A family I pass slowly making their way up, in another two hours I’ll see why they’re not going to make it to the top. Rock climbing, boulder scrambling, and crazy weather is no hike for a child and two parents. Me? Up and over. After hours of climbing I’m now in the clouds, the wind is blowing strong, and I’ve reached the knife edge. Aptly named due to the sharpness of the ridge that you scramble across. I sit down at the top, question what I’m doing for a few minutes. The clouds clear for a mere second and I see someone else on one of the multiple ridges ahead, quickly again shrouded by nothingness. Looks safe enough. I slide down a clif into a little pocket of rocks, carefully, and slowly making my way to the base of the first miniature peak. Climbing up the next, and the next. The knife edge is just a mile but what an experience. Wind doing you no favors, visibility at an all time low, and hand over hand physical action. You’re litterally on the edge, looking down 5,000 feet. Walking, crawling, edging, and sliding across rocks jutting in all angles. This is the coolest thing I’ve done since I was in Gaspesie National Park in Quebec. Truly reminding me a lot like those trails. It’s maddening in the best way. The scrambling, and rock hopping truly awesome. If only more of the trail was like this. I pass a girl, who maybe I should have asked if she’d like to hike the last bit with me. She was almost there but in the clouds it’s near impossible to tell beyond pure feel. This wasn’t quite the place to pass someone, but I wasn’t exactly planning on stopping for a breather. Reaching the end, I never did see her up there. I think she must have turned around. That was cool. That was the most fun I’ve had this entire trip. One mile of pure adrenaline. The top of a mountain, walking some ridge way beyond trees. Just you, careful footing, and rocks. Pick your own poison, how best do you wish to get across these rocks. That’s what I loved. Not so much a trail, but more a route of your own choosing. What looks safest to you? What’s most doable. I hear the white mountains in New Hampshire are pretty cool. I can only hope they’re half as cool as that.

Reaching Baxter Peak I could hear people well beyond the point in which I could see them. And there it was. That wooden sign so many know so well. The northern terminus to the Appalachian Trail. What folks walk 2,200 miles to get to. Me? 755 miles on trail, but 800 in the books since I started due to my added road walking into and out of towns. If you remember, this trip is about a lot of things. One thing being human powered travel. No hitch hiking. A constant stream of footsteps from Quebec to Key West. This sign is surrounded by people, some on day hikes to the top, some who just finished the long walk from Georgia, and me. Some strange guy with a Canadian flag who came outa nowhere. Wide eyes, and bothered by the crowed. I just want a quick photo. I still have 15 miles to go today, and it took 4 hours just to get up here. It’ll take another 4 to get down the other side. “Hey kid, my battery is dead, and you got one shot. This better be good.”

Down I go. Briefly cell service enough to call my mom, let her know I’m good to go, and then my phone dies. The next 115 miles I have not a single photo. You’ll just have to trust me but the lava fields and dragons flying above truly made for an interesting few days.

31 miles and Mt Katahdin in one day. Finishing after dark camping just outside of park boundaries. I planned just 3 days for Maines 100 mile wilderness. In total between the next town I would be in, Monson, and my last town, Patten, it’s about 185 miles of food I had to carry. Or in my delusional mind 6 days. Well I’m in monson now, and it took 7. In the 100m wilderness I was greeted by rain for 3 days, and although in my opinion, besides the infinite number of rocks, roots, and general trickery I thought it was pretty darn easy. My last day I met a guy who just hiked the trail from Georgia to here, and he was just starting what I just finished. Destination Katahdin. He made some remark congratulating me on completing this section, and I mentioned back. I thought it was really easy. The look on his face said, I’m going to come over there and hit you. Although what he actually said was, “There hasn’t been a single part of this trail that I thought was easy.”

So now on to the fun stuff. Southern Maine, and New Hampshire should be the hardest parts of the AT. Excited to begin, excited to slow down. Although this is more of a… I think I have to slow down, rather than… I’m just chillaxin. I don’t think I’ll be doing much of that. Likely really difficult days ahead.

I went from not seeing a single hiker in 400 miles, to passing close to 50 a day. It’s really strange, and actually slows me down considerably. Although it’s nice, they’re all up to date on the weather ahead, water sources coming up, and general trail info otherwise I would be surprised by. Sometimes surprised in a good way… sometimes bad. Still, the amount of hikers out here is amazing.

The International Appalachian Trail is now thru, and I’m onto new things in this long and lonesome walk. One thing I must mention. The AT has been around for maybe 80… 100 years. The International AT, has only been aground for 20 at most. They need our help, as a trail community. As hikers, as locals. Our support really goes a long way. A membership to the International Appalachian Trail is fairly cheap, I’d say 15 dollars and it would mean a lot to me, and to the trail organization I’m sure, if more folks signed up. The trail has SO much potential, and SO much beautiful land it passes through. But they need help. The trail is still new. If you’re local to northern Maine, New Brunswick, or Quebec, I really encourage you to reach out to them.

In other news, I’m still moving fast, I’m moving strong, and I’m going to keep on trucking. It blows my mind that I’ll be in New Hampshire soon, and shortly I’ll be reaching 1,000 miles into this trip. It’s been wonderful.

Jupiter
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Day 14thru26 – The USA Calls

When I left you last, dear reader, I had just finished walking through Gaspesie National Park and entered the Matane Wildlife Reserve. After being warned three times about this new section of trails extreme difficulty I was very skeptical. You’d think by the third time I’d believe it. Well I probably should have.

I keep a small personal journal somedays, just quick notes to later recall greater detail later. Well my first day in Matane, day 14 of this trip goes like this:

Aiming for 48k, it was clear within the first mile, that was going to be difficult. Boarder line rockclimbing. 13 waterfalls. Stupid steep, welcome to Matane. Was warned, didn’t believe. Demoralizing to see the giant mountains ahead I’m about to climb. Of course it’s not the small gradual ones. Straight up, straight down. Mud, feet soaked, prune/raisins all day. Thunder storm climbing mountain tops, and 6 miles of misery. Start of my day 4am, end of my day 9pm. Few breaks. Darkness. Stretch, protein, food. Do it all over tomorrow. Get me out of Matane.

Bleak? Maybe, but that’s backpacking  sometimes. I was mentally crushed while writing that after such a long day. Rolling into camp just before 9pm, hoping no one was already there, because they certainly would already be sleeping. Stepping up a mountain, sliding back down the slippery rocky sloap. Very arduous movement. Going down was no different. Constant without relief, often overgrown with plants, unable to see my own footing. Wet, and muddy. Seemingly better off to sit on my ass and slide down.

I could, as I do, stay positive and mention how remote and beautiful this section was, as that’s very true. Looking forward at the peaks I was about to scale might have been a harsh reality but looking back seeing everything I had just come across was very rewarding. Right in a line, I could see the ripples in the skin of the earth, all of which I just passed in the same day. During this area I also found a very large moose rack. Easily weighing 10lbs. Very surprising the weight of those things. The lakes as well we’re very special, one specifically comes to mind, Lake Matane of course. One hellish descent followed by an equally as hellish climb, but in the middle of the valley a beautiful cabin in which I stayed the night, and an incredible very massive body of water. The sunrise here was surreal, and of course my phone was dead.

A side note… Andrew Skurka is a very well known long distance hiker (and national geographic dirtbag of the year,) if you don’t know him you really should look up “sea to sea route” or “great western loop.” Both trips well over 5,000 miles long taken by foot, and done extremely fast. This excerpt is taken from his website about the Matane Wildlife Preserve….
“The next contact from Andrew came in the form of a message on the answering machine, “I made it through the Matane Reserve and I am still alive.” As parents, this was an alarming message. He called later in the evening and reported that the Cap-Chats and the Matane Reserve was the most challenging terrain he had ever hiked. The trails go straight up and straight down. He slogged through swamps at 1000-meter high peaks. The rivers were swollen from all the rain and he had to ford where bridges had been washed out. His hands and feet are a mess from all the moisture and the shoes are shot. He did question why the trail had to climb every peak in the Cap-Chats.”

Andrews experience although years before mine is clearly very similar. Fortunately Matane is only a 70 mile section. Very beautiful, but when the walking itself ain’t fun, then I just can’t get down. So how to make the walking fun again? Just one more long day. For me, the forward motion is one of the most enjoyable aspects of long distance hiking. The constant feeling of progress, knowing that youre actually doing something. So naturally when my motion is impeded, I want to break free. So I did. 70 miles in 2 and a half days.

Despite the pain and all that, while up on one of those mountains I was looking down at a small lake. Then in that lake I see something. A large object, and then a smaller object. From way above I’m looking down on two moose walking across. A sight I won’t soon forget. Minutes pass and they dissapear into the nearby forest. Questioning, is that where my trail is taking me?

I later ran into another french hiker, who although didn’t know much english, I understood well and clear that she was saying, “Matane is the devil for me.”

I left that area with a gift, the gift of pain in my ankle. Now during this trip I’ve experienced knee pain, ankle pain, all sorts of issues. They all went away eventually. I hoped this would too. 200km later it hasnt, and yes that 200 hurt, and yeah I cried once. But huzzah! I’ve taken a couple days off before I officially enter NB and continue on, letting my body heal, the smart choice to check myself…. although admittedly late. This next stretch is mostly dirt ATV paths (roads) so I would kind of like to not further agrivate, or re injure myself on the hard packed ground, and instead be on my game, ready to enter Maine moving strong.

So what else have we missed? Matane screwed me up mentally, so I kinda fell off the bandwagon with daily blogging. If you have nothing good to say…. so they say….

* I’ve seen a porcupine(first time ever for me!) climbing a tree. I told that fat little guy that I was going to sit there and wait until he came down so I could get a photo. He called my bluff, and after an hour of eating way to many snacks while watching him, and the tree he clung to sway in the breeze… I left. Stubborn they are.

* I’ve been kicked out of a restaurant. I think it’s because I’m American, and probably mostly because I don’t speak french. I had just showered so there’s no other reason I can imagine. They gave me one look and shooed me off. For those that know me, you know I’m pretty friendly, I smile, and all that. It was surprising. However at the next restaurant over the waitress got an extra large tip. I was sure to thank her profusely for dealing with me even though I don’t know the lingo.

* I made friends with a homeless man, as you do. The trail left town and came to a fork, a 5 way fork, with no markings as to which way to go. I see a dirty man with a long beard… my people. We chat a little, and I make my way. An hour later somehow winding right back where I was standing before. The man was still there and we get to talking. As it turns out he lives in these woods. Apparently when he first wandered into the area and found this park he was blown away, and knew instantly that this would be his home. He’s lived there ever since, just outside of the town of Amqui. He actually gave me some directions that led me to where I had missed the trail before, and again I was on my way, but this time on the right path. Homeless people are great, he even offered me a beer which I declined, but it was very nice of him.

* I met three more thru hikers! One of which was a french man with a pack twice the size of his own body. I remarked as a joke after thinking this was the gear of multiple hikers
.. not one, that it’s never to late to start ditching things! As he surveyed all of his stuff that was taking up the entire refuge, he told me everything he has is just too useful. His favorite piece of gear was a pair of mechanics gloves, because “sometimes I’m on my hands and knees hiking this trail!” The other two folks I met I was actually contacted by before I left for my hike, and here they were! Two artists from Montréal who are hiking the 650km of Quebec and doing a photography project as they go. They’re carrying lots of cool camera equipment, and from the sounds and looks of it are getting a lot of really amazing shots. When they’re done I’ll be sure to share any more info I can get about this. The area up here is really incredible so to have a professional such as Sara and her partner Drew come thru and document it will really be something special. Especially considering so few do this trail, they’re work will be totally unique.

* I’ve finished walking through Quebec! The first, and most difficult part of this trip is over. I’m now 650km into the trail, or 700 if you count the 50k I walked from the airport… to the trail. I always said, if I can survive this section, I can do this whole thing, and peoples, there is no quit in my mind. I did survive, but as you now know, I’m recovering in town before starting again for what is supposed to be an easy 250 miles to Maine. After a couple days here I’m feeling a lot better, and I say tomorrow I’m ready to move on.

* Here in the town of Matapédia on my last day I meet some folks, they share beer with me, friendship. They are going out on the river with a guide for burgers and ask me to join them but I decline. I just wish to relax! And… get some sort of big veggie dinner across the street. I was hanging out down by the river soaking my legs in the cold water when they started talking to me. This town is known for its salmon and the Matapédia river which is very large, for my florida folk think the Suwannee River but faster flowing. Then that feeds into the Restigouche! A much larger stream, and it’s kind of this towns name to fame. I figure they get a whole lot of money from tourism because everywhere is plastered about kayaking, canoeing, guided tours, fishing trips, camping, and as it happens less folks know but this is also the trailhead to the beginning of the IAT/SIA which I’ve been hiking. Some colorful folk in this town. Seemingly half speak perfect english, and the other half no english at all. I kind of like it here. Quiet mostly, yet with a train that runs right directly through the center of everything. I love trains, so that actually adds to the fun! So here I am, my guide says free camping, but it’s not, it’s 20 dollars. Not the first time the guide has old information. Sandra! My master guide book friend from home…. again I am reminded of the amazing work you and John do every year to get people information about trails and services.

Anyway, none of the pain I could go through during this trip compares to how much I miss my cat. Seriously Canada has some issues. I’ve only seen two whole cats so far. The USA better have their shit straight, cus I’m going to be there soon, and I need some kitties in my life.

Signing out. Likely I won’t have Internet for a little while. My next 250 or so miles are through New Brunswick and northern Maine. I’ll be getting a new pair of shoes via mail, my 100 mile wilderness food, and rumor has it…. a different backpack. Stay tuned. The Appalachian Trail is quickly approaching.

Oh and…. there is no quitting in thru hiking.

Jupiter
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