I know I know I'm falling behind in the blogging but this usually means 1 of 2 things. Either the service is nonexistent or Im doing this thing called hiking. Geez! Give me a break :)
Its been 11 days since I last checked in. I truly love the blog but with bigger miles daily and the responsibly of getting my home set up and broken down each day that thing called sleep calls quickly. That being said I will try to stay on top of weekly updates because I know you all are sitting on the edge of your seats waiting for them.
Before I answer some of the questions asked on Facebook allow me to recap what I've been up to since I left Trail Days. In a seven day span I hiked 108 miles and that's with a day off to rest a turned ankle but also a little enjoyment with fellow hikers celebrating Memorial Day with a BBQ.
Those 7 days brought me over mountains, through acres of farmland, past historical sites and into the town of Pearisburg. I conquered my first day of hiking over 30 miles and found the grove I've been looking for to arrive in Harpers Ferry by mid June.
Pearisburg was not only special because of a great hikers BBQ (of course I was on the grill!) but I came upon a hiker, blackout, that I met early on the hike, and his 3 hiking partners Tick, Pochahuntas and Dora. There was a bond instantaneously with us and I've been with them since.
I love the solitude of solo hiking but sometimes having a group to get you over the difficult days is just as vital. With these guys I feel that strong brother and sister hiking love. On the trail it comes fast because of the bond you share of such a grueling journey.
Grueling is an important adjective when it comes to the hike. There are all the wonderful and beautiful things that are obvious about my hike. I post photos and express my joy daily but even when you're doing something you love there are days that are hard to find the will to push on.
I hike everyday from 8ish am to 8ish pm (breaks for snacks, lunch and views). For the most part it's pretty routine now and I rarely let myself think myself out of the daily goal but man some days it does creep in. There is nothing easy about it. Your stiff and sore everyday and you still have to find a way to do 15 plus miles.
The hike reminds me a lot of cross country camp when I was in high school. Maguire gave you 5 straight days of difficult runs. Tough track/woods workouts, doubles, a hilly long run and the difficult dunes workout. There was no cheating camp and much the same there's no cheating the AT.
You hear a lot that Virginia is easy but that's really not the case. It's EASIER. It's easier because you are stronger and some days cut you some slack but don't allow yourself to get cocky. The AT will remind you what it's all about. The last 4 days have been exactly that....
Each day has included 2 difficult climbs with difficult terrain. On top of that throw in the heat, bugs and a storm. Yes a storm. I was about 1000 feet into a climb when the skies opened up with an insane downpour, thunder and lightening all around me. The trail turned into a river and the only option was to hike. Am I gonna hide under a tree?!!! I hiked for over an hour in this. Being soaking wet didn't bother me but the thunder and lightening so close was intense beyond words. I survived!!!!
The last 2 days have been a grind. Yesterday was a 20 miler with a 3.2 mile climb 11 miles in. It was hot and HARD. It took everything I had. Blackout and I decided to push hard to crest the top. I honestly invisioned myself racing a cross country race using the same focus and drive I once used in my younger days. From the base of the mountain to camp 9 miles later I truly exhausted myself. Saving grace was a river that I was able to lay in to cool off and sooth my aching body.
Today was only an 8 mile hike to Four Pines hostel but much like the last few days it was the AT telling me that she is the boss. Our hike was a climb to Dragons Tooth and down the other side. Rocks on top of rocks with actual climbing needing to be done to finish the hike. There were actual metal ladders in the side of rocks to assist your descent. It was dangerous. A bit discouraging. And well after yesterday I was on fumes all of today. There's the term Virigina Blues. Well because I have the Boston in me the crew says with me it's called the Virginia F*ck Yous. I threatened to fight a dragon fly today with fury because it buzzed around me for 5 min of my hike. I had that pissy edge like I was stuck in 95 traffic.
Yes it's hard and some times I have a hard time lacing the shoes up but something always seems to reward you for getting through it. Today after 4 days of the grind I was rewarded with an all you can eat fried chicken/BBQ dinner. It was by far the best meal I've had on the trail. I needed it. Hell I earned it.
Im 700 miles in. 1/3 of the way through. I plan on avg 110 plus miles a week the next few to get to that Harpers Ferry goal. In retrospect I have a ways to go but 700 miles is 700 miles. That's some damn strong hiking. Do that 2 more times and I will meet mount Mama K.
Now to answer some questions...
Miles: As mentioned Im at 700 miles which has been done in roughly 58 days of hiking. The miles a day have increased though and now I'm doing just over 16 a day. That will continue to increase.
Tricia: In the Smokies I had an encounter with a black bear which was intense. I've also come across several coyotes and snakes. All and all nothing that I felt at risk with but for a city guy it took some getting use to.
Meg: Day hikers smell like soap and carry small packs. Out of my way!!!
Hanging my bear bag is as simple as throwing a end weighted rope over a branch, attach my bag, pull up and tie to tree. I'll take some photos for you boy :)
Everything I cook I add a package of ramen. Insta pototes, rice, tuna with ramen and more. I also add Fritos to everything. I actually love frito, cheese, ranch dressing wrap for a lunch snack. It's awesome. Haha!
Keith: Like everything out here sleeping in the tent at night was an adjustment. Most of the time there are several other thru hikers or so with you so the fear factor isn't there but those few times I've tented solo I've had some interesting moments. Most of the time it's mice trying to get into your tent but recently I had a pack of coyotes come into camp. Because it was close to cow fields they howled away. They were no more than 50 feet away from me. It was so intense my friend. That's probably the least amount of sleep I've had in a night.
Lori: I have a back up charger that charges my phone 4 times over. Seeing that I come into a town every 4 days or so it gets the job done.
Don: Every hour of this hike is a lesson and I hope as you continue to read my blog you'll see what lessons present themselves. The biggest thing is I know I'm capable of so much more. I truly hope that by completing the AT I will be able to accomplish so many goals I have in life. I use to think it was too late to achieve some things I didn't earlier in life. I see it much differently now. Nothing is unobtainable. Especially because of my age. In my next blog I'll get into my thoughts as I hike. It's a god topic to use for some humor.
Kelly: Funny that you should mention women. 2 of the hikers in my new crew are female. Dora and Pochahuntas are badass thru hikers! There are definitely more man out here but women are out here dealing with the same grind and we are all AT brothers and sisters. One of the more impressive hikers is a female amputee. She's attempting to become the first person to hike the AT with a prosthetic leg. She goes by bionic woman and she's a true inspiration. It should also be noted that the record for the fastest AT thru hike is held by a women. 48 DAYS!!!! Nuts... And Kelly I eat everything. Everything I find in towns or more importantly sent to me. Like cookies Kelly.... Cookies.
Tomorrow I continue forward. One of the best views on the AT is 6 miles into my hike. Prepare yourself for a selfie attack!
Im hiking hard. Can't imagine what can stop me. I eat drink and sleep this hike. Literally.... I've seen the end of winter on the trail. Watched spring blossom. And now I'm starting to feel the hot summer. When I finish I'll watch the leaves turnover in Maine. Think about that until my next entry....
Love you all and hike the good hike
Jesse AKA The Boston Mule