Andy and I met eight years ago in February, on the frigid Appalachian Trail. Neither of us really knew that the south got as cold as it did that year, even in the mountains, and that it would be as dead of a trail even just a month before thru-hiker season.
Nearly 5,000 miles later, and we're still at it.
Today, we had flashbacks of those first weeks on the AT.
We woke up to a wet and frosted tent. The moisture from our breath once again condensates at an alarming rate, and the entire inside of the tent was soaked. Including the top of our sleeping bags.
Outside the tent was frosted over, and there was quite the chill in the air. As we were definitely not going to spend another hour and a half trying to build a fire in the cold, we did a no-cook breakfast (i.e. anything edible in our packs not requiring boiling water, yuck).
Needless to say, it wasn't particularly enjoyable in the cold, and not the most calorically dense of meals.
We knew the sleepy town of Roosevelt closed early, and the post office at 4:30, so we assumed the Marina (where our resupply boxes were sent) would close around then as well. So we decided to wake up extra early and rocket out of camp.
Andy thought ahead, and cannot live without coffee, so threw our remaining grounds and some water into the pot last night, to make a jet fuel, delicious (truly!), cold brew. Even though it was cold out, it was still wonderful.
As we didn't have much to do after we woke up, we were packed up and out of camp at 7am; by far the earliest of the trail.
Flashback 1: we had all our layers on, and a quickened pace as we trekked out of our camp, for the sole purpose of trying to get warm. It was freezing, and so were our bodies. As we walked through fields of tall frosty white grass, we were reminiscent of those frigid days all those years ago.
We hopped across streams, and pushed through our day. Once we got to the first decent uphill, we delayered as we were warm again.
We knew the day had 3550 feet of incline, and 6400 feet of decline, but man, were those pushes up hard. 900 feet in a mile, 500 in half. That's what kinda day it was. The slow pace up the hills furthered the frustration that we may not hit the miles we need for the day (nearly a marathon!) in order to make our deadline for Andy’s baby. There will come a point when Andy needs to leave, regardless of where we stand.
Flashback 2: the AT is notorious for picking the highest peak, going straight up it, directly down, and repeat. As we went up and down steep rock faces, our bodies and mind started to revolt.
No matter, it's the AZT, we've grown to understand that as soon as you feel you know what’s going on, WHAM, curveball to keep you on your toes. The silver lining was the beautiful rock face of the Superstitions we hiked passed.
As the day went on, the temperature increased. The last week or so has been pretty chilly, and our bodies have grown used to it, and left the dessert shells behind, so the heat hit us a bit harder than before, mentally speaking. Especially with all the uphill we had to do.
Another 22 mile day, and the first 10 were super muddy.
Flashback 3: Vermont is know as Ver-mud, as it's not at all muddy when you hike through it (kidding). Today we felt we were once again in Ver-mud, slipping and sliding up and down the mountains as we would go inches into fresh, slick mud.
As the altitude decreased, so too did the frequency of mud. Yay!
Unfortunately, mud was replaced with rocks.
Flashback 4: PA is known for the high amount of rocks on the trail, twisting your foot and ankle at every step. Green tunnels and trees lining the trail, creating a tunnel like effect (even more apparent in VA). The latter part of the day was nearly identical to that. Add the steep descent, and our knees were sore, to say the least.
We came to our final break spot, just over seven miles out from the marina, which was beautiful and just on the northern border of the Superstition Wilderness. We rested for a bit, and were on our way.
While fatigued, we weren't feeling terrible. However, a few more miles into our last push, and we were drained. Our bodies were fine, and even my ankle b-okay (not bothering me, but obviously still tight). However, we were just wiped. For no apparent reason, it would seem.
At 22 miles in the day, it wasn't our longest days hike, but it felt like it.
Eventually, we made it to the marina, after if had closed (Andy had a bit of service on our last break and found out they close at 3, but we could collect our packages after hours regardless).
We decided to try and hitch-hike about 9 miles out to a restaurant to grab some real food for dinner.
As we sat on the side of the road, thumbs extended, I pulled out the drone to get some shots of the lake.
A couple came out, that had driven in shortly before to investigate who we are and what we were doing.
Inquisitive about the trail, drone, and our travels, the gentleman graciously offered us a ride to the restaurant. Gary was a true hero for us, as we were wiped and a bit delirious. He dropped us off, gave us each a big ol' Gatorade, and even his number to call should we have issues getting back. Which we did.
After our double dinners at Boston's Lake Side Grill (awesome pulled-pork and Philly cheesesteaks -- as said by a true Philadelphian) it was dark, and only one car passed us in the 20 minutes we attempted a hitch.
Gary returned to our rescue, and brought us back to the marina (him and his wife have a house directly across from it).
We set up camp, and off to bed we go. A tough day, indeed, made all the better by Gary's kindness and willingness to help two (smelly) strangers. Just a reminder of why we embark on these journeys; kindness.