Harpers Ferry, Maryland, Pennsylvania and stepping into Jersey. That's where I stand as I write this. Blogging is getting a bit harder because the focus is to move forward, stay healthy, stay upbeat (So difficult at times) and flick the switch when needed (I explain that in a bit).
Harpers Ferry was just over 1000 miles. Now I stand at 1300 miles. Was it an easy 1300 miles! No but how often is anything easy out here?
PA is historically known as the most disliked state on the AT. Honestly it has its good moments. The beautiful countrysides, farmlands, historical old towns and civil war sites throughout, it does its best to make up for the lack of views. What Gives it the bad rap is the northern part which is legitimately hiking on rocks in ways that make you nauseous. In my case it just beats my feet into submission.
Foot issues have been my handicap throughout the hike. The new (old) shoes have been a big help but over 100 straight miles of stepping on jagged sharp rocks with my feet going in every direction imaginable there's just nothing I can do to prevent these problems. Swollen, numb and nerve damage is the norm out here. Blisters are the cherries on top. In camp it's a competition of who's feet are worst. I'll leave photos out to spare you.
This is the AT. If you want to finish then it's mind over matter at all times. Things aren't going to change. With just under 900 miles to go I have to face the facts that this is the state of my body. Ice, epsom salt, Advil and all kinds of bandages will have to keep this old car together until Maine.
Towns have been plenty and being in the middle of the hike, myself and my hiker brothers and sisters have taking advantage. Beers, food and be lazy comes easy. I mean when you've come this far and still have a ways to go at times it can be really difficult to convince yourself to keep hiking long and daily. The lazy part is quite humourous actually. We hikers are lazy asses. We'll crank out 70 plus miles in a 4 day period but once we have to walk an extra inch off trail the complaining begins. You can't even imagine how irratited we get if we have to walk .5 down hill to retrieve water from a stream. Town 1 mile off trial! Oh the tragedy! 2189.4 miles is more than enough. Why the hell should I have to do more?!
This middle section of the hike lacks the views that were plentiful in the south. We always seem to be searching out a plus during our hike to keep the spirits high but at times it's just not there. Visualization is a must. I often think of reaching MA and seeing my family and close friends. I see myself during the last climb to Mount K and how I will react. I see myself looking at the same mountain as I prepare to leave for home wondering how it will effect me. I wonder nervously how things will play out in the aftermath of my hike. Sometimes the visualizations come in smaller doses. Food! God I think about food a lot. Cheeseburgers, wings, fries, shakes, steak, BBQ and so much more.
It's become evident that I will come out of this hike a very different person. How can I not? I spend 7 plus hours a day putting one foot in front of another constantly thinking. At 40 and quickly approaching 41 I have a lot to think about. There's nothing you can do about your past but you certainly can live out your future. That's what I think often about. I have a million ideas about what I want in life moving forward. Coming out of this journey I intend to follow through on some of these. I've had many goals in the past that I never saw through or these goals didn't play out the way I expected. I can be honest and say I've fallen short in my expectations of myself but by achieving this journey I feel this is one big step towards being better. The list is long of the many things I feel I can be better at but I truly believe the AT is teaching me how to better prepare myself to accomplish such things Im capable of achieving.
Let me talk to you about the switch. For a while now I've just been hiking. I've kept myself around that 100 to 110 miles a week pace but my mind hasn't really focused on anything but enjoying the experience and getting my hikes in. I take days off sometimes just because those Im hiking with have decided to do so and I want to stick with my people. I take days off because my body desperately needs it and I rest and recuperate. I haven't mapped this hike out in detail. I know when I started and know that I wanted to finish some time in September. Lately things have changed.
I've flipped my switch. I've detailed out from here to Vermont figuring out when I want to hit certain places. I keep each goal in a 1 to 2 day range and have figured out exactly how many days I can afford to take off to reach these goals realistically. Why has this happened? Well standing at 1300 miles I know MA is at the 1500 mile marker. How can that not get my engine roaring?! That's home even for a brief moment but home means I soon walk into Vermont and have just 3 states to go to complete this journey.
This all means I will be in MA in July if I continue to go at my average. This thought in itself has me realizing how quickly the home stretch is coming. I'm certainly in no rush but I also want to reach Maine. It's my driving force.
Recently I wrote on Facebook that I miss home. That statement stands tall and true. It was the 4th of July when I wrote that. I was hiking in rain and when I finally made camp for the night you could hear the sounds of fire works in the distance. Family, friends, BBQ's, Erik and Athinas famous 4th celebration on the beach of Duxbury and more spun through my head. So how could I not miss home. I'm not rushing to Maine but I'm certainly looking forward to drinking my first Moscow Mule in a very long time with friends surely missed. A driving force.
I posted a video of Scott Jureks finish of the AT which occurred on Sunday on Facebook as well. He broke the assisted speed record completing the 2189 mile thru hike in 46 days! Yes I said that correctly. Watching his reaction as he reached the famous Katahdin sign brought tears to my eyes and goosebumps to my body. Record or not I could feel how special that moment of a goal reached meant to him. I could read it from his pure emotion. Scott had his reasons for hiking his hike the way he did so just as I have mine. Regardless of that Im certain I will feel many of the same emotions he did when he reached the top. What's even wilder to me is that this goal is coming quickly. I knock on wood as I write this but I'm starting to see the actual finish of this hike. It's at arms length. I'm breathing down its neck. It's not quite the home stretch but it's certainly in a place where it's becoming a reality. How do I know this? My switched has been flicked.
I'm resting today. Feet just need it but mind is good. Great actually. I have a couple border photos to take in the next week and soon after I enter a familiar place called New England. To talk to ma and paw about details of a MA reunion is wild. How am I already at the point that that is even a discussion? How is it I've made it to 1300 miles? The AT was just a small thought in my head no too long ago but now I'm working towards the home stretch. Some times I just need to pinch myself.
The blog has stretched out some. More and more time between entries but I've done what I can to paint a picture on way that's the case. Now it seems most of you are starting to understand that there's so much time and energy put into the hike that finding the time to sit and write about it can be difficult. This grind takes so much out of me but I do promise to write and Facebook update as much as possible to keep you in the loop. I certainly owe you that.
When I started this hike everything was a count up. I've done 3 states! I've hit 500 miles! Now it's become a count down. 7 states and 889 miles to go. One step at a time but with the switch flicked they may just go by a little quicker than usual.
Keep following and keep breathing the fresh air but most importantly keep hiking the good hike.
Jesse AKA The Boston Mule