Tipu’s Chai

Just wanted to shout out a special thanks to Tipu’s Chai. It’s a small company based out of Missoula that has, not only been giving me all the delicious instant chai I can drink, but also oodles of verbal encouragement. If you are a chai drinker, I highly recommend them! It’s like having a cup of Indian chai, every bit as creamy and sweet as if you were sitting at your favorite authentic Indian restaurant! Hit’s the spot and gives me just the right amount of caffeine to feel energized, without feeling like my heart’s going to beat out of my chest, as instant coffee sometimes does.

Two thumbs up for Tipu’s! Check them out at http://www.tipuschai.com. Thanks Varada, Bipin, and Mark!

Sweet Support

After being a bit of a grumpy pants, I have to say that my attitude improved about 300% today. The last couple of days have been a little rough. My mom’s car started having some scary issues and there was a fun little event where I got stuck on a side road that she couldn’t get to because the bridges were out. Without cell phone reception, mom and I were both really worried about each other. I eventually got rescued by some nice locals and taken to a town near by, and my mom eventually got the message that I was in Berlin, NH, where she could come get me. Things really escalated that night with the car trouble, and then fearing that Tide was in severe trouble in the woods.

Tide sent a text to us saying she was almost to the road, then we went there to pick her up and she was no where to be seen. It was dark by then, and she’s night blind, so I was pretty worried about her. After waiting for half an hour, I started yelling for her, and to my surprise she yelled back! It took a while for us to understand what each other were shouting, but I got the message that she was cowboy camping due to loss of light.

What I couldn’t communicate to her, was that we probably weren’t going to be back in the morning, since the car was in desperate need of getting to the shop. After much debate the next morning, we decided to just go for it, and drive back to the trail. Tide was waiting for us, white-faced and delirious. She told us she couldn’t hike on, because she was out of food, and that she no longer had the means to filter water. It was scary to find her like that, but I was happy to be there for her never-the-less.

After all of that mess, it seemed like the trail was no longer a friendly place. And I told Tide, what I’ve been meaning to say to her for days. Which is that she should not try to keep up with me anymore. I don’t think it’s good for her. I have to admit, it’d sad to lose her company after coming all this way together, but I’m on a mission, one that I can do, and one that she has no reason to struggle to achieve. I hope it doesn’t seem inhumane that I’m not willing to slow down for her. I really don’t want to hurt her feelings or make her feel cast away. It just feels so much more right for both of us to hike our own hike.

 

Things really got a lot better today. Tide is here with me now in town, though I expect we’ll have to say some goodbyes soon. And my mom and I have been able to team up with some other supported thru-hikers, which has been really fun. It’s a group of 3 guys, Upstate, Loophole, and Face Jacket, who are being supported by Upstate’s wife, Caboose. The 5 of us are slack packing the next couple of days and sharing a really cozy cabin in Rangely, ME for a very reasonable rate. We get to hike back to this lovely spot again tomorrow, which will be incredible.

I have to say, though the day hiking and the sleeping in town and going out for dinner stuff is really nice, what I really love is getting to see my mom at the end of each day. I get so excited when I start to hear the road,and I know she’s going to be waiting for me at. I just love it! I appreciate being able to have this time with her. It’s hard to believe, but it’s down to just 11 or 12 days of this journey! Wow, I wonder when that’s going to hit me.

White Mountain Surprise!

I made it through the White Mountains! They were not easy. I still think that it might be some kind of sick joke, put on by the guys who designed this trail. They were very beautiful, but it was probably the most exhausting thing I’ve ever been through. I’m just hoping the mountains in Maine are a little friendlier, but I’m not counting on it.

Something amazing happened while I was in the midst of getting my butt kicked by those mountains. My mom showed up to help me get to the end! I was so surprised and touched by it. She met me atop Mt. Washington. I was overjoyed to see her. She slack packed me the next day, which felt so much easier on my aching joints, and we drove to Burlington, VT to visit my friend Allie.

It’s been nice hanging out in this really cute little city and, of course, seeing Allie. She has been a gracious hostess. I spent the majority of my day off eating as much as I could, and trying hard not to move so that my body can rest. I really like this town. Allie has a lot of friends and a really awesome room mate. Now is the sad part, where I have to go back to the trail.

I’m thinking that half the reason it’s been so hard for me lately is my lack of body fat. I’ve been losing weight still, which isn’t really a good thing, and I feel depleted and spent, like I’ve got nothing left. Plus, as a consequence, it’s gotten harder to carry that 30 pound pack. When I started, I weighed 141 lbs, so 30 lbs didn’t feel that bad, now I weigh 118, so it seems like too much. All the more reason that it’s so great that my mamma’s here! Some days I will be able to carry a day pack, others probably no more than 2-3 days worth of food!

The really good news, is that I have less than 300 miles to go! And by this time tomorrow, I will have passed the border into Maine! Just two weeks left and I can sit on my bum for days and days, and work on getting back some of that body fat:)

Lost and Found

This is the tale of my amazing weekend with Allie.

Tide caught up to me that night that Stephen left. Which means she had to do nearly 30  miles, two days in a row, and I was overwhelmed with admiration for her drive. She has not been feeling well and it was not easy terrain. I was thrilled to see her. I thought I would be alone for a while.

She didn’t take the news about Stephen well. A lot because she didn’t get to say goodbye, but a lot just because she likes him, and me, and really loved the trio thing we had going on. It’s impossible not to get close to the people you walk 2000 miles with! So the next morning, we started out a little burdened.

Things improved drastically when Allie’s smiling face met me on the trail that afternoon. She looked so pretty, with her fancy earings and bright eyes. I was so happy to hug her. Though it must have been terrible for her, since I had been 9 days, count em, 9! without a shower. She had delicious snacks for us, including beer, which we enjoyed in the parking lot. Then she took us to a great hostel in Rutland, where I had one of the best showers of my life. The people and place were really nice, and we had a great dinner. It felt awesome.

The next day, we were able to slackpack 19 miles, thanks to the sweetest trail angel ever, Plans Too Much. That brought us to the Inn at Long Trail, which had the cutest Irish Pub and a great, homey feel to it. And just when I thought life couldn’t get any better, I looked over and saw a very familiar face. Cynthia, a 71-year-old woman who I had helped reunite with her husband a couple of days before, as she was lost, for hours, in the woods. Really all I did was walk with her a bit and call her husband, but she was so grateful. She and her husband, Ron, insisted on taking all of us, Tide, Allie, and I, out for a fancy dinner. Not only was it exquisite, but they were an amazing couple to spend time with. So full of life, and loaded with great experiences. It was incredible. Another great hiker, we knew since Virginia, came along. His name is Uli. He’s from Germany. And when asked why he chose the A.T., he gave the best reason I have ever heard. “I have skin cancer, but love the outdoors. So when I found out there was a green tunnel I could walk in, I was immediately drawn to it.” That’s just really amazing to me. And he’s a tough cookie. He’s overcome shin splints, Lyme Disease, and Bell’s Palsy since he started this hike. He’s a very inspiring character.

We camped across the street from the inn that night. It was cozy, and that meant flushing toilets and hot breakfast the next morning. We ended up having a great breakfast with Ron, Cynthia, Uli, and Plans Too Much. It was such a lovely morning. We talked and joked like old friends, and ate well. Again, we were treated by Ron and Cynthia. And we slackpacked 21 miles that day with Allie.

Having Allie’s company would have been plenty of great events for one weekend, but the fact that we got to spend so much time with such awesome people, just upgraded it to the best weekend I’ve had on the trail. I will always remember what it felt like to have such great and unexpected fortune. I have no excuse not to believe in karma. When your heart is open, and you’re doing something brave, great things just come flooding in.

And what did I tell you about Allie being hardcore? She hiked 40 miles in two days with us, like it was nothin’!

Bon Voyage Stephen

July 5th was Stephen’s birthday. It’s also Mitch and Heidi’s, Happy Birthday Mitch and Heidi! We woke up after a fantastic day on the 4th in Williamstown, MA. Just 4 miles from the Vermont border. We had some birthday brunch with Stephen, and Tide gave us both some really awesome, customized bandanas. It was a fun morning, but we got a really late start out of town. Tide decided not to push as far as us, since she was feeling a little sick. So, for the next few days, it was just Stephen and I.

I could tell something was on his mind for a while, but didn’t press it. Then, one afternoon, he caught up to me and said there was something he needed to talk to me about. He admitted he’d decided to quit the trail. I could tell it was a really tough decision for him, and that it was what he really needed. I was taken aback, but in no way disappointed. I told him I was proud that he wasn’t doing it just to do it (if that makes sense), and that if spending the rest of his summer with his family was what he wanted, then that’s what he should do. The next morning we hugged goodbye, and he took off to the next road, to find his way to his grandparents house, near Norwich, VT, his happy place.

We’re with him now at that place. He’s really happy, and looks handsome with his beardless face. Watching him drop out taught me that my heart must really be in this. Because, even though I sort of envied the relief in his eyes, knowing it was his last night in the same sweaty clothes, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted. I want Katahdin’s magnificent view. Then, I’m burning my nasty hiking shorts! 🙂

Bon Voyage Stephen! Thanks for the memories, and stay classy.

Sick in Salisbury

I know this is a late update, but I fell quite ill back in Connecticut. For reasons unknown, I got sick in the middle of the night on our last night in CT. I was up all night running to the out-door bathroom and even had the pleasure of tossing my cookies at 5 am. But the view was amazing from the open mountain top and the stars were really putting on a show. So it wasn’t a total loss.

The next morning, though I had thrown up only an hour before, I thought I could walk 20 miles. That was dumb! It took me about 30 minutes to realize that I was being a crazy person and that I should spend the day in bed. An 81-year-old sweetheart, Maria, came to my rescue. She was listed in the book for taking hikers into her home at a rate of $35 per night. For CT, that’s a steal. She came and got me from the nearest road right after I called her. It was just what I needed. I spent the whole day in bed, and even got to watch Free Willy:) It’s amazing to me how lucky I’ve been on this trail. Anytime I really need something, it’s been there. I have no excuse not to believe that the universe takes care of me.

The next morning, I woke up feeling better than ever! I hit the trail feeling strong and made it 23 miles into Great Barrington. I crossed the Massachusetts border and spent my lunch break with 3 sweet and brilliant little girls, who made me feel like I was queen of the world for doing what I was doing. Then I got a hitch from a really sweet woman who said I reminded her of herself backpacking through Europe in her 20’s. She dropped me off at the co-op. Thinking they would be the most community oriented place to look for a camp spot somewhere in this charming, New England city. The manager of the place not only offered to take me to a campsite after his shift, but also let me grab a plate of free food off the hot bar. And I walked around downtown feeling really satisfied and happy to be there.

Across the street, I saw a group of teenagers with a video camera, interviewing random people on the streets. Or just seeing if they could get them to play along in their skits. A young woman agreed to fake a fight on camera, in which she brutally “beat up” one of the young guys in the group. Another stranger was asked to recite the entire Fresh Prince of Bel Aire theme song, which I wish they would have called on me for, because I would have rocked at that! It reminded me of Mackenzie and my mom, I know how they love to do those kind of things. Such as our scavenger hunt this Christmas.

Anyway, that night, I actually ended up just sleeping outside the co-op, since the manager got out so late. But I didn’t mind, and in fact, I felt oddly proud as I unrolled my sleeping bag beside the vegetable crates. I just felt like I was good at surviving, and I trusted the town. I really can’t explain why that felt so good.

So, I’m glad for my sick day. It brought me so much joy in the long run. And it’s always good for me to be forced to slow down. It’s nature’s way of telling me that I can’t control everything. Since then, I don’t seem to stress too much about when I’m going to finish this trail. I just trust that each day is going to be good!

Turkeys, and Moose, and Bears, oh my!

There have been some really excited animal encounters in my recent travels. In Connecticut, I was attacked!…by a turkey. So I live to tell the tale. I walked in on a mother turkey, with her baby, and she chased me like a bat out of hell down the trail. All the while squawking and nipping at me. I started running pretty full on for a minute or so, and figured I would have lost her. Then turned around to see her still coming after me. I must have really offended her. Really, it was quite comical.

Then there was my coolest bear encounter ever! In Massachusetts, near the lovely town of Dalton, I was walking through some sticky mud. While watching the ground for good footing, I splashed my foot into the shallow part of a puddle. My splash was immediately followed by another just up the trail. So I looked up, the bear just feet in front of me looked up, and we both stared like deer in the headlights into each others eyes. Then we both jumped back, made an interesting sort of yell, and ran away from each other. It was really neat. I guess even bears forget to look up sometimes in difficult terrain. I told the bear that I was sorry, and “It’s ok, I’m scared of you too.” I think it was an adolescent, judging by its size and confusion around people.

Right after crossing into Vermont, Stephen and I woke up to a very large bull moose near our camp. Moose actually scare me the most of all the creatures I encounter. But he didn’t give us any trouble. Still, it always shocks me how tremendous those animals are!

Last, but not least, I saw a porcupine today. Stephen and Tide see them all the time, and until today I hadn’t seen one and was really wishing to. There so slow and stumbly. I could watch them waddle around all day. Cute!

So now my wildlife diary feels complete!

NY Sucks!

I say this, because it makes me feel better.  I always thought of making t-shirts that had this lovely phrase in big bold letters and thought maybe a lot of people would buy them. But then, I also thought that I’d get punched in the face a lot if I walked around NY City wearing that slogan.

Anyway, it’s just been quite rainy and rocky and rather full of mosquitoes. However, the people are quite nice, we just had an amazing zero, and my good friend Tammie stopped by for a short visit! It was so great having her company. She reminded me what I was doing out here. How I love and appreciate nature and have been so lucky to meet such wonderful people everyday. She reminded me that things always work out, when I just believe each morning that it’s going to be a good day. And that’s what I’m going to do! Thank you Tammie! I love you so much! I also had great phone time with Brea and Mom and Allie. So I feel really recharged and ready for some action. Plus, it doesn’t look like too much solid rain for the next week, and that’s a big improvement.

Onward and upward!

Me and Tammie, by the beautiful lake where we did our morning yoga.

Stephen, Me, Tammie, and Tide enjoying some Bailey’s and coffee. Courtesy of Aunt Karen and Uncle Ron. Mmmmmm.

Always rely on the kindness of strangers

So things have been tough lately. Pennsylvania was rocktastic, just as the rumors warned. My feet begin to throb about halfway through each day. For some reason, I was under the impression that it got really easy after you left PA, not so. The D.A. and I set the dial to 25 miles a day, thinking it would be cake, but now, 4 days later, we’ve done 25, 25, 22, 16, and who knows what tomorrow will bring. We feel like we’ve been brutally beaten with an ugly stick. We’ve had to face more technical stuff then ever, involving trying to keep 3 points holding on to rock at all times, so as not to slip and break yourself. And to top it off, it’s been rainy, and we’ve been somehow managing not to get into camp until dark. I have not been a happy camper these last few days. One huge mistake I have made is that of not switching shoes before it was too late, I’ve put 1370 miles on one pair of Keens, and they certainly aren’t what they use to be in the field of foot support.

To top things off, it’s been rather stormy today. We were on a frightening slippery ridge, completely exposed today, when we heard the severe storm sirens going off in the nearest town. Not anywhere I wanted to be!

But our luck changed instantly. We came to a cooler full of drinks and snacks, with a business card on top that read, “Need a warm bed? Shower? Hungry for some home cooking? Call this number…!” Needless to say, we called the number. And an hour later, we were picked up by a nice fellow named John, and taken to his beautiful home, with hickory flooring and two spare rooms that the three of us our enjoying thoroughly! We showered, did laundry, and were fed and amazing home cooked meal. I cannot express my gratitude for this wonderful couple, Susan is the woman. They even let me drink a delicious Belgian beer. And hanging out with them somehow felt like hanging out with people we’ve known for years. Honestly, I hope Jesse and I can be the same kind of deal for hikers someday. We could even start now, since our home in Montana is right on the final stretch of the Continental Divide Trail in Glacier. In fact, I’m sure I will try to do at least a little trail magic when I return, for all 15 of the CDT thru-hikers.

So anyway, things are great! Just 810 miles to go. I’ve got a phone now, but I’ve lost all of my contacts, so if it’s convenient, I’d love to get text messages from people, just saying who they are so I can program them in. My number is 218-330-0404. And a big thank you goes out to Anthony, Sue, Dad, Karen, Ron, Carla, and Darren for the recent care packages. They are awesome! Thank you so much!

That’s all for now. I’m excited for a great visit from Tammie coming soon, and a zero with Tide’s parents the next day! New England is so near, I can almost smell the clam chowder! TTFN!

Half Way, Half Gallon, Half Crazy

After I met back up with the D.A. we had many fantastic days together. We passed by a lot of really neat history sites in Maryland, including some civil war battle sites and the original Washington Monument. We crossed the Mason Dixon line, which means I’m finally in the North! Yay! Then we pulled a 30 mile day on Tuesday to get us in to the half way marker, and the ever-appealing, Half Gallon Challenge!

I chose mint chocolate chip as my challenger, in honor of my friend Allie, who is rather kickass. I think it may have been easier with a different flavor though, as it just seems to feel more and more potent as I scarfed it down. There were 5 of us in a circle, Stephen, Switchback, Arrow, Tide and I. Stephen knocked it out like it was nothing! That guy truly impressed me. While the rest of us were just getting to the moaning and groaning part, he started scraping the bottom of his carton and threw it down, like it was nothing. Then, for good measure, he walked into the store and got two hot dogs to eat while he watched us all struggle. It was about then that it occurred to me that, if I was going to throw up, it would be green, and that somehow made me very uncomfortable with continuing. However, continue I did, and I painfully, but fully finished my half gallon after 59 minutes. I really can’t believe it took me that long!

But the important thing is, I still love ice cream, even mint chip.

That night I stayed in a really cool mansion hostel, which was an old safe house for the underground railroad. I really enjoyed my stay there, and slept much easier knowing there were toilets really near by if that ice cream should try to get back at me. It didn’t though, and I felt surprisingly fine all night.

Now I have the comfort of knowing that one big challenge is behind me. I actually think that eating that ice cream was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do on this trail. So then it was off to Maine, just another 1090 miles to go:)