In September, I’ll be on a LASH (long ass section hike) on the Appalachian Trail for 6 weeks of backpacking. Check back here often for updates!!!
Day 2…Ten Mile River Campsite to Mt. Algo Shelter. 9.1 miles (.6 mile to Bulls Bridge and .1 to shelter)
The knee was bothering me from the get-go today even though I did all the stretches and really worked out the knots in my leg last night. Freaking IT band. This is beyond frustrating. My pain level has been manageable, but it still sucks to be going so slowly. I’m really happy to be out here and am trying to take it for what it is at this point and not stress about miles because I physically cannot do the distances I am typically capable of right now. I want this to heal, but I don’t know how that will happen walking over these mountains. If I was in normal shape this wouldn’t be a problem, but these are the cards I’ve been dealt at the moment.
My first stop of the day would be the Bulls Bridge Country Store. They are super accommodating to hikers and I had a good coffee and picked up some peanut m&ms while charging my phone.
Today was seriously challenging. There were steep climbs and descents, like sit on your ass and slide down so you don’t kill yourself hills. The trail had red efts (newts) all over it. I counted 77!!! They were the perfect diversion to keep me going. Count, struggle, newt, struggle, 64, 65, 66…little breadcrumbs that pointed the way.
A couple of views were really pretty, but my concentration was on my footing, so much so that I missed a CT/NY sign. The trail crosses the state line 3 times.
My aim was the Mt. Algo shelter, but I also wanted to go into Kent. The road crossing is .3 miles from the shelter and then a mile into town. I ditched that idea due to threats of thunderstorms and my sole goal was making to the shelter before the rain, which thankfully, I did. As I’m writing this, there is an absolutely thunderous downpour happening outside and I could not be more thankful to be dry. The frogs will be so happy. They are everywhere! I see them hopping across the trail and hopping right into the streams before I scoop water.
I met a thru hiker named Hippie who has an awesome dog. He’s also staying here tonight and it’s been great to have conversation this afternoon since I got here around 2. As we were sitting here talking, a huge rat snake came gliding toward the shelter. It was probably about 4 1/2 feet long and most likely frequents here because of the mice. I said I’d rather not have him in the shelter so I tried to move him with my trekking pole. No matter how much I tried to get under him and make him change direction, he just kept trying to get in on every side. Hippie came out and tried to and we both finally succeeded in getting him to head toward a big log instead. The snake was docile, thank goodness, but hopefully he won’t come back tonight. The dog will be sure to alert us if he does.
I love being out here so much. I desperately want to continue. If I’m feeling horrible tomorrow I might take a zero in Cornwall and rest even though that’s the last thing I want to do right now. I have 11.4 miles planned tomorrow, which seems like a lot considering that I did 9 today and feel like my leg got hit by a tractor.
Day 1 On Trail… Pawling, NY to Ten Mile River Campsite 10 miles
It was so awesome of my parents to drive up here to drop me off. We had lunch in Pawling, an absolutely adorable town, before I headed off into the pastures that began this section of trail. The sun was shining and the clouds were puffy. What a day!
The hike today was slightly more challenging than what I do on the weekends, but not nearly as bad as Georgia was. I saw several groups on trail and whenever I got to a shelter there were a lot of people hanging around.
Crossing into CT was pretty awesome. A state line on the first day felt good. There were a lot of trail boards above the boggy areas and they were pretty slippery so I had to be really careful. It’s a miracle my ass didn’t end up in the mud. The woods were pretty with ferns, red efts, frogs, and birds. Lots of really cool fungi to see right now too. I’m going slow enough that I can see every mushroom, haha!
I decided to go further than I’d originally intended because of the amount of people at the shelter. By this time of day my leg was done. It was hurting pretty badly, but I knew I was close. The Ten Mile River shelter was packed with a big group, so I headed onto the camping area .1 miles down the trail. Best decision ever. I was the only one there and the camp had a bear box and a privy, plus it was right next to the Housatonic River. I ate my dinner sitting on a bridge above the water, watching the birds swoop down for insects. Got a good night’s sleep to the sound of the river.
Pre Trail Jitters & All The Thoughts Keeping Me Up At Night
I’ve realized that I have anticipatory anxiety when it comes to traveling, and I reached a point where I was unhealthily stressed out about the logistics of making this whole trip happen. This was exacerbated by a sudden onset of IT band syndrome 4 weeks before I was scheduled to leave, which threw me into a tailspin, causing me to question my ability to accomplish this, and making me feel like a huge failure in spite of that fact that I’ve already hiked 650+ miles this year. I immediately started physical therapy and have been disappointed at how slow the progress feels. As of now, I have one week before I leave, and when I walk around town, I’m still aware of my knee even though it’s not causing any tear-inducing pain at the moment. Part of me is resigned that whatever will be, will be. This is out of my control. The other part of me wants to throw things and scream because I don’t want my body to mess this up for me. So I’ve been warning people that there is a very real possibility that I will return to work early if I’m a few days in and my knee starts screaming at me, making it impossible to go on. Part of me dies every time I do this, but I want them to know this going in because maybe it’ll make me feel like less of a failure if I have to come off trail. True story.
And then there is the gear. Since I’ll be hiking in New England September-mid October, the temps can vary wildly. Anywhere from 30s at night to 70s during the day. So this means I have to prepare for winter even though I’ll probably be sweating it up those mountains during the day. My 10 degree sleeping bag weighs a pound more than my summer bag. Clothing is heavier too. So even though I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money buying lightweight or ultralight gear, I’ve not figured out how to reduce my base weight below 15 lbs. for winter because I want to be warm. For those of you not familiar with backpacking, base weight refers to everything you’re carrying minus consumables like food and water. My hope is to never have more than 23 lbs. on my back, keeping in mind that one liter of water weighs 2 lbs. While 23 lbs. might seem like a paltry weight to some guy who weighs 180 and could lift a cinder block with his pinky finger, it feels like a ton of bricks on my small, scoliosis-ridden frame. Ideally, I’d love to carry no more than 20 lbs. including food and water, but I would have to make some serious sacrifices to my comfort and the last thing I want is to be freezing at the end of an arduous day. I will agonize over every ounce until the day I leave. This is inevitable.
My plan is to hike the AT from NY all the way up through VT and continue straight at the Maine Junction to complete the 272 mile Long Trail, a major bucket list item for me. The fear factor involved with this is that most folks will have finished hiking the LT at this point and I might very well have a lot of alone time on the northern portion of the trail, which is significantly more remote and difficult than the first 100 miles. I’ve been watching videos to see what I’m getting myself into and I’m not gonna lie, I’m nervous. The LT ends at the Canadian border, and in October, the possibility of snow is real. My hope is to complete the entire LT in 3 weeks, maybe less if I’m able to do some big mile days. I really hope I meet some late hikers out there.
Another thing that has been really tough for me during the planning stages of all this is the realization of how few people in my life truly get why I want to do this. My parents think I’m insane. I can tell even though they are trying to be supportive. They are going to pick me up at the airport and drop me off on the trail, but I’m trying to imagine them being ok with watching their daughter just walk into the woods off some sketchy road. I have lost count, and patience, with the number of people who repeatedly ask why Rob isn’t coming with me. And even though Rob has always been 100% behind all of my adventures, it’s not something he has a desire to do, so even though I talk about hiking all the time, he’s still thinking “You have fun, just please don’t ask me to go along.”
I will say though, that I have a few girlfriends who totally get why I want to do this because they are adventurous badasses who I admire so much. I met one of them on the AT and we talk about gear all the time and encourage each other in all our hiking dreams, which is amazing. Another one called me when she found out about my leg and told me some of her own trail experiences, and how she pushed through, then reassured me to go anyway and see what happens. And a coworker who, once we get work “out of the way,” is always willing to talk about trails and trips she’s taking. Ladies, we need to support each other, to keep lifting one another up, and empowering each other to chase our dreams. Women truly need other women speaking positive messages into their lives, like fire lifting a hot air balloon off the ground, enabling it to fly.
When I come home from this, whether it’s in a week or the full 6 weeks, I’ll be able to tell people what it was like, but as to what they will actually understand? It’s indescribable on paper. Unless you’ve hiked on the AT, it just won’t be real. And that’s ok. I’ll try to convey what this is like in the best way I possibly can because I’ll never forget how something in my soul was sparked the first time I read a book called “Alone But Not Lonely” by Annie Gibavic about her solo hike on the Long Trail. I’ll never forget how I laughed when Bill Bryson comically recalled his hike on the AT in “A Walk In The Woods.” I’ll never forget how I cried my way through “Wild” as Cheryl Strayed ripped her heart open so we could all walk along during her soul searching trek on the PCT. I’ll never forget how Jennifer Pharr Davis and Heather Anderson made me feel pain, thirst, exhaustion, and triumph (!!) as they wrote about their record setting hikes on the AT and the PCT. I’ll never forget how these books shaped me, inspired me, and made me a little braver to think I could do this too.
Until I leave, I’ll have to keep knocking myself out with Benadryl every night because my brain won’t shut off. I’ve woken up at 3 am making lists, purchasing tiny dropper bottles online, ordering a last minute sale item from Patagonia “just to try” to see if it’s better than the thing I’m already bringing…I can’t stop. I want this to happen so badly. I’m worried about the stupid leg, being lonely, falling off some sketchy boulder, having a tree fall on my tent, getting Lyme disease, hitchhiking (I can’t let myself even think about this yet), and the fear of feeling so utterly free that my transition back to civilization sends me into a depressive spiral. These are the things that go bump in the night inside of my head.