Blog

The Van

img_8192

I have dreamed of having a van since I was in high school. My parents had a blue Ford mini van, with seats that would fold down to make a bed. I remember borrowing it to go on a skiing trip. It was spring or fall in West Virginia, in 1996 and I packed it with a sleeping bag, pillow, Ramen Noodles, peanut butter, a pair of ski boots a little too small for me that I had bought from a flyer I had seen posted at work. This was before Craig’s List, hell the internet wasn’t even a thing where I lived! Well actually it still sucks in rural WV, often times more of a pain in the ass then what it’s worth. Anyway back to packing the van. I also got my skis and bindings where I worked, as a lifeguard at a pool in a gated community, that happened to have a little ski hill. It actually snowed here back then so they operated it without snow guns. The skis that were Fisher brand, white with rainbows on the tips; they were really cheap okay; were the last things to go into the van. I started my journey by driving south to Snowshoe, where I produced one of the multiple letters I had from the ski hill for my first free pass. It now cost around $20 even being a member of Ski Patrol. Next I would ski Timberline, Canaan, then finally the Wisp. I was in love with this van!!! That was the last time I would use it, life happened. Fast forward 21 years later and I finally have a van!!!!!

img_8193

I purchased a 2016 ProMaster 1500 short low top for $20,000 with taxes, new tires, and all the extra charges. I would then build it out roughly to my needs. I used as much recycled or scrape material as possible for environmental reasons. I will provide a detailed list of the cost of  the build in future posts. I had to forgo some things I wanted because I built it out over 3 years. I was leaving shortly, headed out west to Oregon to work as a river ranger. I piece mealed it together over that time sacrificing some comforts, so I would not have to keep tearing it apart to add stuff. I would highly suggest building it all out at once, so you can get what you want! 

img_8194

Since I was leaving in about 3 weeks and hadn’t started packing; the only thing I did to the van before I left was throw down a rug, put in a new head unit with a USB input since the one in the van didn’t work, hang an organizer off the drivers side behind the seat, build a fold down table on the backdoor, and load the van with kayak, skis, camping stuff, well lets just say almost everything I owned. In lou of a bed platfrom because of lack of time and space I layered these commercial type MRE’s under a mattress and carefully pulled them out as I went so I wouldn’t have a sloping bed for too long as would happen when I almost finished a layer of the meals. After 7 months I finally added a bed platform after finishing off all the meals that were my bed. Once I made it home after a few more months of traveling I finally started the actual van build before for the next trip out west.

img_8195

Comparison Between Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail

I feel like most people I’ve talked to who hiked both the Appalachian Trail (AT) and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) agree that the answer to which trail is harder is, “they are different trails it’s really hard to compare the two.” That being said most hikers would probably say the AT is more physically demanding while being more comfortable and the PCT is less physically demanding while more mentally taxing. This is strange because the PCT is around 500 miles longer, hell even the abbreviation for the PCT is longer then the abbreviation for the AT! Also, the highest point on the PCT coming in at 13,153 ft is at Forester Pass, with a lot of hikers making the trek to the top of Mount Whitney at 14,505 ft as a side hike, since you pass so close and the AT’s highest peak is only 6,643 ft at Clingmans Dome. How can the AT be more physically demanding, you ask? Well first off it seems to me the AT’s goal is to go straight up every peak along the way from Georgia to Maine while the PCT is graded for pack animals, so even though the summits are higher on the PCT the trail doesn’t go straight up! Well not all the time anyway and it might feel like it does some days, but the fact that I knocked out more miles per day on average on the PCT makes me feel that this statement is true.

PCTvsAThighestpoint.jpg

Forester Pass Vs Clingmans Dome

How’s the PCT more mentally tasking? It rained the whole time on the AT and I was almost completely drained by mosquito’s. While it hardly rained on the the PCT for 2,144 of the 2,700 miles and I was strolling along this nicely graded path. So what does being more comfortable mean? For example Clingmans Dome can be accessed by a fully-paved and only half a mile long road. This highest point on the AT has an alternative route to the white blazed trail that involves driving most of the way. After spending half an hour searching for the trail head to Forester pass I can only conclude you have to hike in on the JMT/PCT the two trails parallel each other for some distance or drive to Junction Pass and hike over it and then reach Forester pass. It’s all about the access and planning that makes the AT more comfortable and the PCT mentally taxing. The AT hike is basically running from town to town getting beer and resupplies every couple of days. While the PCT involves more planning and longer hitches into town. The ability to resupply is more limited and involves more mail drops and relying on other people to take you to and from the trail heads since towns are farther away. On the AT you’re hitching because you don’t want to walk the 2 miles while on the PCT you’re hitching because it would take another day to walk into town.

IMG_4005.JPG

It was easier to relax on the AT because you are basically following a beaten path that is hard to miss, while on the PCT snow totally covers the trail and there are more then one set of tracks to follow all taking slightly different paths hopefully to the same place. Its also hard to relax when you are sliding down a hill trying to stop yourself with an ice axe before you pitch into an alpine lake.

“Generally speaking, thru hikers on the PCT go to extreme lengths to cut down on their pack weight. While counting ounces is important on the AT, most typical AT pack weights are more than that of what you would see on the PCT. Even the most popular packs on the PCT are themselves from ultralight brands such as Gossamer Gear and ULA instead of Osprey or Gregory, as seen on the AT. Still, gear choices always vary heavily from one hiker to another.” – Carlie Gentry

The other major difference is the tree corridor you are in on the AT, the scenery is basically the same tree cover above. It’s not until you get to New Hampshire that you are really excited about the next view. Whereas most of the PCT is spent hiking from dramatic view to dramatic view. You also go from desert to rain forest while hiking the PCT with drastic changes in environment. With that being said for me I thought the desert was really challenging physically and mentally. If someone would have asked which was harder while I was still in the desert I would have said the PCT, but the desert is not the whole PCT just part of the experience. There was much more amazing sections to overall experience that is the PCT.

IMG_4045

I personally liked the PCT better and would hike all of it but the desert again if given the chance. While if given the chance to hike the AT again I would turn it down, with the exception of New Hampshire and Maine. I disliked the desert so much I am dreading hiking the CDT. I am only slightly nervous of the grizzly bear, but dread having to hike through the desert again!

Maine

I found this old Facebook post from shortly after I finished.

I finished hiking the AT on September 6! I walked over 2200 miles saw hoards of mosquitos, countless ticks, too many rattlesnakes, 4 bears, 3 moose, 1 porcupine, 1 unidentified feline and amazingly only 4 completely crazy people. The most amazing thing I saw was the views. I had became used to seeing the views, but when my father hiked Katahdin with me he stopped to look at the views (rest) more than I would have. I would have looked at the view made a mental note of it and rushed toward the top, my goal for many months. I am glad I slowed down the last day and really took in the scenery. Done!!!

Being so close to the end of this experience stirred a broad range of emotions. Excitement from almost completing this hefty goal to a feeling of loss and listlessness. On one hand I was about to complete this “once in a lifetime experience” as I have heard this referred to many times, but I didn’t want this to be a one and done. This is what I want my life to be. I had already started formulating plans for future adventures. There is no way I could see my self going back to a “normal life”. Next spring I was planning to cycle across the USA then work on completing the triple crown, with the PCT next and the CDT to finish it off. The infinite possibilities bouncing around in my head, the creative juices flowing from spending the last few months in the wilderness with not a care, but the singular goal of hiking to the top of Katahdin.  And here it was just a few hundred miles away.

I got a head of my self, I realized as I took my pack off and squeezed through a hole in the rock jumble that is Mahoosuc Notch (the hardest or most fun mile of the AT, according to AWOL’s Guide), reaching back through the opening and pulling my way to heavy pack through. I crammed about 10 days of food into my pack so I could take out a resupply to save time. Sweating profusely as I dragged the pack though the opening I doubted if I would actually save time.

Maine flies by and I arrive at the 100 mile wilderness way to soon. Nine days latter I was eating Lobster and drinking beer at the restaurant near Abol Bridge, waiting on my parents to meet me. While waiting on them enjoying another beer, they were late as usual,  I saw a moose run across the road. I had been hoping to see a moose and was super stoked to that I got the chance. My parents arrived shortly after late , but dependable and supportive we proceeded to get a campsite in Baxter.

My parents wanted to hike as far as they could with me the end of the AT.  However, Katahdin is the longest climb on the entire AT, at five miles of climbing, starting from 1,089 feet at Katahdin Stream Campground to 5,268 feet at the summit. So I was surprised that they made it as far as they did. My mother turned around before we made it to the exposed sections. Dad and I stopped just shy of the treeline to eat and and rest before tackling the windy summit push. Climbing our way to the top using rebar drilled into the rock we slowly made our way to the top which was in sharp contrast to the start of the day where I was rushing to keep up with my father. Now stopping on many occasions “to take in the view of the numerous lake” as dad put it. Not far from the top he said, “I can’t go any further.” Commenting that the helicopter ride off the top cost just as much as from where we were I urged him to keep going. We took in a few more views, but made it to the top where a group of thru hikers were celebrating the completion of their journey, gorging on a watermelon heavyweight, another hiker, had hiked up to the summit.

Looking out over the summit, before for heading down, dad following me, I know definitely that I will cycle across the country the spring after next, spending this coming year working and saving money for the next adventure.

Bring on the White Mountains!

Before I left Vermont and crossed into New Hampshire, hell yeah only two states left, I was listening to some Nine Inch Nails though my head phones trying to pump out some early morning miles, when I suddenly saw a blur of motion behind and to the right of me. Jumping as I pivoted, possibly squealing but you will never know, I fixed my eyes on a large black cat. By large I am talking the size of a German Shepherd, as it bounds onto a tree about 5 feet off the ground then explodes off, like a champagne cork, flying through the air then disappearing into the woods. What just happened? What was that? I rip my head phones out, heart pounding, as I look around. Well I wont need these for a while, my adrenaline is high enough for me to hike quite a few more miles before lunch! Could that have been a catamount (mountain lion for those not from the Northeast)? I thought the eastern mountain lion was extinct? I continue on at a faster pace then before from the excitement, looking behind and to my side much more frequently then normal!

IMG_0461

It feels so good to only have New Hampshire and Maine left before for I finish my goal, even though they are supposed to be the hardest sections of the trail. With New Hampshire ranking #1 followed by Southern Maine at #2. Baxter State Park itself which is basically Mount Katahdin in Maine ranks #4. With only 2 states left I have 3 of the hardest sections of trail to hike since Maine takes up two slots on the list of hardest sections. New Hampshire comes in at #1 because of the White Mountains. The start of the Whites is generally considered Mt. Moosilauke (mile 1792), ending at the town of Gorham (mile 1891). I was as excited as a kid on Christmas Eve, so motivated was I by the pull of discovering what the view on the next peak offered, I had my personal longest mile day of the AT in what was rated the hardest section. The beauty of these mountains totally overshadowed the physical demand.

IMG_0498

The Whites are considered the hardest section because Mt. Washington is home to the “worst weather in the world” and many climbs gain over 1,000 feet per mile. All this is worth it because of the outstanding views to be seen since you are consistently above treeline. One can even spot Wildcat, one of my favorite NH ski areas, which days later I will arrive at on the trail. The White Mountains are also one of the most popular sections of the AT. It hosts the Franconia Ridge which is a 6-mile traverse and one of the most highly rated day hikes in the country. It’s also home to the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) or the (Appalachian Money Club as some refer to it) the prices to sat at these huts are ridiculous, but thru-hikers can stay for free depending on demand. The hiker staying helps for a meal and space on the floor. Which I ended up doing once. I was trying to make a huge push over Mount Washington, but it didn’t happen. I stopped way short of my goal and was forced to stay at Lake Of The Clouds Hut before pushing on for coffee at the top of Mount Washington the next day.

IMG_0913

Vermont

IMG_0431

I am excited about the cooler weather accompanying the approaching fall as I leave the Long Trail Inn. Dressed in my bright orange Patagonia Micro Puff jacket and green beanie, I relish the crisp air biting my lungs knowing that soon the sun and physical activity of hiking will warm me. Upon reaching my resupply box I have stripped off my jacket. My internal engine producing more and more heat as my body consumes what little calories I have left from only pausing briefly in the morning to stuff a few bagels down my throat as I hurried to start my day. Hurriedly grabbing my resupply box from the postmasters hands, I begin ripping into the white flat rate cardboard box as a walk outside. I am agog at the sound of the tearing cardboard until it stops suddenly when I reach a heavily taped section. I stop just as suddenly, shocked, tugging at it excitedly for a few seconds, trying to get to the snacks I know are just beneath this tape, protected like bullion in Fort Knox. I set the box down after realizing this, groping in my waist belt for the key, my tiny Juice Leatherman. With it I slice through the previously impossible as easily as a hot knife through butter. While stuffing my face, I decide that this would be an easy spot to catch a ride back to the trail. Armed with this knowledge I decide to find a restaurant. You can never eat enough food hiking! After what would be a filling breakfast, if I wasn’t thru hiking, I stick out my thumb as I walk along the side off the road until I hitch a ride to the trial.

IMG_0593

One of the most important items I brought along for the hike was my Iphone. I know I can hear all you haters now. You shouldn’t have technology, unplug, you should connect with nature. Well you should mind your own business and hike your own hike. I was in a hostel looking for an outlet to charge my phone when a woman accosted me and gave me her opinion on what was right and wrong and what I should be doing regarding technology. All the while she was ridiculing me for my use of modern conveniences, she was using an electric toaster oven to toast her bread in a hostel with running water and lights. I pointed out how she was using just as much technology as me. I politely asked, “do you use a smart phone at home?” She replied, “yes.” Then I relayed that this is my vacation and on a normal daily basis I live fairly rustically. This was actually my first smart phone. “How long have you had yours lady?” “What do you heat your house with?” I cut and split wood for about 8 weeks straight. “Where do you get your food?” I, for the most part, harvest and can mine from a garden or wild game. “I wonder which one of us actually relies more on technology?” She stomped away in the middle of me telling her about my lack of technology on a daily basis.

IMG_0768
The reason my phone was one of the most important items I brought is because it allowed me to zone out and keep going when I got tired. I just put on some motivational music and charged on or an audio book and got lost in it. This was extremely helpful in keeping me motivated though the pain and the rain. It also served as a navigation tool. I downloaded maps on it, which permitted effortless scrolling though multiple map sets and easy access to the information rather then digging the paper maps out. It also served as a means to watch movies on at night occasionally, when I was by myself, to keep me occupied for the 15 minutes before I would pass out from physical exhaustion.

The Long Trail

IMG_0870

I wake feeling better, putting the last of the anti sting on my butt, I pack and start hiking again. Even though I feel better physically and mentally, I am exhausted overall but keep going. Motivated by the knowledge that I am close to what in my opinion is the most scenic, but physically challenging part of the trail. Having previously been to New Hampshire and Maine I am excited for the expansive vistas!

I knock another high point off when I summit Mount Greylock in Massachusetts. Greylock boasts the only subalpine environment in Massachusetts. The peak stands at 3,491 feet, a dwarf in comparison to the summits out west and just over half of the height of Mount Mitchell the highest point east of the Mississippi River located in North Carolina.

Approaching the top of the mountain through the fog, a dim outline of a structure emerges in the distance. I feel the dampness in my clothes, a combination of the sweat from the climb and the dampness in the fog. As the structure takes form resembling a pawn piece on a chessboard, I take a moment to get a few photos and try to imagine what it would look like without the fog before continuing on my way.

Its been around 4 months since I started the Appalachian Trail (AT)  and a few months prior to that my life freed up to enjoy this hike. Its strange because my ex wife is coming to meet me in Massachusetts for a few days after visiting a friend in New York. Her leaving is what gave me the freedom to knock this trail off my bucket list. The encounter was kind of anticlimactic nothing was really said; no apologies, yelling, screaming, or discussions were engaged in. I did, however, get two amazing OR beers from the Rouge Brewery and some gear for colder weather that she brought. We spent a couple days just hanging out, eating and chilling at the pool. It was as if nothing really had happened before, then she went back and I kept walking a separate path.

img_6749-1

I crossed into Vermont shortly after and the Appalachian Trail started piggy backing off the Long Trail. The Long Trail goes from the Massachusetts-Vermont boarder and continues to Canada. It is the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States, built by the Green Mountain Club between 1910 and 1930 and was the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail.

I hike on these two merged trails for about a 100 miles before they split somewhere near Killington and the Long Trail Inn going their separate ways to different amazing destinations. I stopped at the Long Trail Inn because I was too late to get my package. I spent the evening drinking with an Aussie father and son discussing the differences in our healthcare systems. Our system really sucks! They were hiking the AT via yellow blazing. Yellow blazing is a term used for when you take transportation like a cab to points on the trail instead of hiking. They would catch a ride from town to town along the trail basically day hiking and spending their evenings drinking, then catching a ride to the next stop. I awoke the next morning to rock climbers leading a pitch outside the window of my room. I started the day in a great mood seeing others enjoying the outdoors also!

Connecticut Land of the Super Pretentious

Arriving in Kent, Connecticut everything seemed great, there were even outlets in public areas where a hiker could charge their electronics. A cyclist with a smile on his face, riding a pastel yellow cruiser with a brown basket on the handlebars, pedaled across the bridge to welcome me to Kent. There was even a place offering a free first slice of pizza to AT Thru Hikers. I passed up the pizza as I was on a mission to do laundry, thinking I would stop back for a slice later on that day.

img_0706

Well that’s where the friendliness ended. Even the local users of the laundromat seemed pompous. Yes the frequent users of the laundromat were above me, their importance lingering in the air mixed with the aroma of detergent. Should I be so presumptuous as to use the front loading washer like I belong to this aristocracy of local users or take my place with the proletariat of the top load users? I make my mind up as I notice people scrunching up their noses at me and scooting away as I go to redeem my bills for coins and yes to purchase soap from the dispenser at the laundromat. Fuck’em I am using the front loader! Waiting for my laundry, sweating, because I am wearing my rain jacket and pants since all my other laundry is in the FRONT LOADING machine becoming clean, I am approached by a gentleman wondering, “What are all you people doing here?” Is he referring to the hierarchical system I perceive to be in the laundry mat? Doesn’t he not know I declared myself one of his own by my choice of washing machine? “You people?”, I ask in reply. “Yes the dirty ones with the packs on.” Oh those people. Ha, he hasn’t discovered I am of the top load class. How does he not know who we are? The trail goes right through town. “I am assuming the other ones you are referring to are Appalachian Thru Hikers, also.” At that moment I blew my cover by saying Appalachian with a West Virginian sociolect! He knew immediately I did not belong in the front load group. After correcting my pronunciation, he immediately turned on his heels and walked away. I was not in the mood to hangout in town longer, not even for the free pizza!

This was not the same carefree beer drinking Laundry Mat as down south!

img_0707

Later after hiking up a steep incline weighed down with my recent resupply and feeling miserable in general, I approach the top greeted by people. I survey the area seeing a bench with an amazing view of the valley below. Spinning back 180 degrees I say hi back to the greeters and head for a picnic table to unshoulder my load feeling better already. As I sit, my pack sliding from my shoulders, I am aware of a sharp pain in my right butt cheek. I stand up thinking I sat on a nail and bam another sharp pain. I had in actuality sat on a yellow jacket. That brief instant of feeling better vanished. I felt defeated and if I wasn’t already 2/3 the way done I probably would have quit right then and there I felt so miserable. A couple, who were doing an overnight hike on the trail came to my aid with sting relief and Benadryl. As I fell asleep in my hammock overlooking the valley below I am reminded of the kindness of strangers and the earlier advice I received to give it a couple days before you quit.

IMG_0408

New York

If you don’t hike in the rain you won’t make it to Maine became the mantra for the trip. Sloshing through impromptu streams running down the trail from the storms that raged almost every evening was the norm, repeating the mantra as I no longer tried to avoid the water by hoping from rock to slippery pieces of downed wood, with my already saturated shoes and socks. I don’t know if this was normal, but I do believe it made for an impressive cloud of mosquitoes trying to drain me on a regular basis.

IMG_0377

The only things that sticks out in my mind from NY was crossing a four lane highway with a divider, the trail was more difficult to follow because of the rocks which did a great job of hiding the impact of the thousands of people that walked before me, and a handicapable guy fully padded with a hockey helmet charging up the trail.

This road crossing was not as intense or reminiscent of the Frogger arcade game like the time I tried to cross a much busier highway to get to the halo like beacon of the Golden Arches.

https://adventuresoftheaveragejoe.com/2017/08/25/flat-tires-day-24-and-25/
The divider allowed for a single quick burst of speed to take you to sanctuary while you built up the energy for the remaining explosion of speed to get back to the safety of the trail.

New York was a preview of what the trail was going to look like soon. I was still not above tree line or in the alpine zone, but rocks were becoming more prominent and there were some laders attachded to the rock. This was nowhere as intense as the exposure at higher altitude with re-bar drilled into the rock to make the trail navigable.

The coolest thing I saw was the handicapable guy plowing down the trail, smile on his face, making sounds of enjoyment with his family in tow. He looked like some futuristic combatant with his hiking poles swinging and body fully padded. I loved the fact that he was getting so much enjoyment of the simple act of hiking!

IMG_0376

I am a sold 80 percenter in life. Yvon Chouinard sums this concept up in his statement,

“I’ve always thought of myself as an 80 percenter. I like to throw myself passionately into a sport or activity until I reach 80 percent proficiency level. To go beyond that requires an obsession and degree of specialization that doesn’t appeal to me.”

 

IMG_0397

I also believe you should do things you have an aptitude for, not waste your time learning how to and struggling to do something you can’t. There is a theory based on the research of Anderson Ericsson that if you spend 10,000 hours practicing a skill, you can master it. So one would have to spend about 90 minutes a day for 20 years to accomplish this! In my opinion that’s a lot of time to get close to being a 100% at one activity.

That’s why I decided to give this long distance hiking thing a try. I figured that at age 34, even if I started walking late in life and avoided it on occasion, being an 80 percenter and all I would still have accumulated the hours to be a pro at walking by now.

The big take away I have from being an 80 percenter is that I do spend 100% effort on deciding if the reward is worth even the 80% effort. Sometimes good enough is good enough!

IMG_0374

NJ to NY

It was the 4th of July weekend when I first crossed in N.J. The state was a dichotomy urban pavement and nature. I saw the greatest density of wildlife in this small section of the Appalachian Trail. I believe this was do to the urban wildlife interface, the animals were using the same narrow corridor of nature I was.

img_0019

Setting up my camp one evening I look up over my hammock to see two bear cubs playing behind me, awe how cute I think, seconds before I wonder where their mother is. Scanning around in a full circle I spot movement coming up the hill across the field just out of the treeline. There she is I think as I start to panic, where did I put that bear spay, it would be super useful if it was on the outside of my pack where I could get to it in an emergency! Shit I need to pack up this hammock, throwing the rest of the contents of my pack that were spread out on the ground not so neatly back into my bag, backpack swing off my left shoulder as I start walking away from the cubs, I rummage though my pack looking for the bear spray, a half packed hammock pinched under my right arm pit while my right hand finally feels the bear spray canister in my bag. I look to my right scanning the field again for the mother bear, I see her, closer now, walking purposefully and powerfully in the direction of the cubs which also happens to be in my general direction. I am also walking purposefully, but nowhere near as powerfully away from the cubs! Not wanting to make eye contact I continually break my gaze from her as I  routinely check her progress. Soon her and the cubs are out of site. I continue at my pace, with my gear still haphazardly hanging off me for a little while longer. I finally stop and repack my bag before continuing farther down the trail and trying to set up camp again.

IMG_0356

I participated in some of the Holiday festivities while I was near the urban interfaces. I spent half a day laying around a lake soaking in the sun, eating ice cream treats periodically,  after I had an impromptu bath in the lake. After relaxing for the day I stopped by a fellow hikers parents house for some more relaxation and food. We camped in the yard and spent most of the day eating and drinking in the pool. This is probably the cleanest I have been since I started the hike, lots of time spent in the water!

This is also the only time my hammock got soaking wet from the rain. It poured so hard the slings holding the hammock to the trees soaked up and started wicking the moisture down the length of the strap where enough moisture accumulated that it then wicked the length of the hammock. Luckily this has been the only time its rained hard enough for a sufficient time period to accomplish this.

I hiked through the state of Jersey rather quickly and in to New York. At this point I didn’t really know anyone else along the trail, so I knocked out the rest of the states with nowhere as many brakes as I had before. My ex wife came to visit for a few days in the New England states, but that was my longest break until I made it to Baxter and finished the hike.

IMG_0373

 

Slackpacking the Gap.

If I recall correctly it was at Lehigh Gap, I stayed in the basement of a jail that allowed AT thru hikers to sleep in bunks. Here I met some hikers that had an extra copy of AWOL’s Hiking Guide which is supposedly the hikers guide of choice for any section of the AT. Up to this point, over halfway through the trail, I had been winging it and it was working out just fine. I did, however, use the book for the rest of the hike, since I had it. It was weird because from that point on I was kind of doing everything that the rest of the thru hikers were doing. We all had the same guide suggesting the same stuff. I was officially now part of the guide tribe, doing what was suggested by those who hiked before me.

IMG_0161

The hikers I met in the basement said they had met a couple who were going to section hike and were willing to shuttle their backpacks so they could slackpack. Slackpacking as you probably figured out from the statement above is when one hikes a section of trail without their backpack. My guide tribe offered to let me in on this amazing phenomenon! So, of course, I handed everything over that I needed at the time to survive and complete this thru hike, except a bottle of water, iodine tablets, a rain jacket and the clothing on my back to people I just became acquainted with to pass on to people who they in turn had just met to leave at some unknown location for me the next day.

IMG_0205

img_0018

The next morning relieved of the burden of my pack and the unknown thanks to my new friends, but now saddled with the burden of having to rely on strangers, I head north with my new group. Slackpacking was amazing! I found it relaxing and rejuvenating after spending months carrying my backpack. We knocked out a lot of miles and ended the day still feeling refreshed. After picking up our packs from the side of the trail we moved on to the next shelter!

IMG_0361

Soon we were through the state of Pennsylvania and into New Jersey where the trail came too close to another state high point. I took a quick side hike to bag this peak. Maybe I will get to the top of all the state high points at some point, I think to myself. This hasn’t been an active goal, but I have managed to get to the top of a quarter of the 50 state high points. Damn, I am probably going to get sidetracked again before I hike the CDT.