Days 13 & 14: Two weeks and 162 miles later…

Hike Days

We did 18.8 miles on Day 13, and it nearly killed me. The terrain was mostly flat, but it was pretty rocky and had a huge climb at the end of the day. My body isn’t used to having big days back to back yet, so I was really tired at the end of the day. With about a mile left to go in the hike, it started raining so we all threw down our packs and put on our rain covers. Fortunately, it didn’t rain that hard so my shoes didn’t get soaked.

We did get to see the original Washington Monument during the first couple miles of the hike which was super cool!

We got to camp around 5:30 and found out that we would have to walk an additional .6 miles down a steep, rocky hill to get water and then .6 back up. I took off my boots and rested for about 15 minutes before heading down in my flip flops. There was just no way I was putting my boots back on. As I walked down the hill, the sky got darker and darker. The moment I put my bottle in the stream, it started raining. Hard. I hurried and filtered about a liter of water and then ran back up the hill in the rain. I was soaking wet by the time I got back to camp, but at least it was wearing my flip flops and my hiking boots were still dry!

The shelter we stayed in was recently built, so it was still very nice. It had two floors! I slept pretty well and then woke up this morning around 6, put on my wet clothes and DRY boots and headed out.

The terrain today was still pretty rocky, and my body was tired even at the beginning of the day. About four miles in, I twisted my knee that had already been giving me trouble and fell down between some rocks. Fortunately, I was only a mile from a park where I sat down and rested. After about 30 minutes of debating whether I should hike on, stay in a hostel or just come home, I decided to book a room at a B&B in a nearby town and take the rest of the day off. I got a hitch to the B&B by three college students, which was wonderful. And when I got to the B&B, Spencer had ordered a pizza and Mr. Pibb to be delivered to me! That dude knows me.

Now I’m trying to decide whether to hike out tomorrow or take another day of rest. If my body allows, I’d like to hike on, but I realize that this may cut my hike short. Say some prayers that my knee heals up!! I can only imagine what it would feel like to summit Mt. Katahdin in Maine!

  Original Washington Monument before DC had to one-up the Maryland-ers. 

  Rocks and trees, rocks and trees

Day 12: Pizza Party!

Hike Days

We did an easy 17.9 miles today on mostly flat terrain today. The zero day yesterday did wonders for my blisters, and I didn’t have any trouble with my knee today! Yahoo! 

As the trail leaves Harper’s Ferry, it goes by a lot of old Civil War sites. I got to see Jefferson Rock, where Thomas Jefferson sat and was inspired by the view of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers running together. I also got to see the armory that John Brown seized (even if just for three days). Very cool history in Harper’s Ferry! I think my parents would like it there.

When we got to the campground tonight, we found that Two Shoes and Mufasa and his wife were there. The campground is ran by the state, and it’s free! It has flush toilets, sinks and showers, which is pretty much unheard of…especially for free. Darwin had read that a pizza place would deliver to the campsite, so six of us ordered pizza. I needed to eat weight out of my wayyyyy too heavy food bag, so I ate “first dinner” from my food bag and had a second dinner of pizza. There are still a few slices left, which I plan to eat for breakfast.

Tomorrow, we will walk fewer miles, but there’s some cool historical monuments on the way, including the original Washington Monument and museum. 

That’s all for tonight. I’m feeling good, my stomach is full, and I’m dry and warm!

  Jefferson Rock 

 John Brown armory 

 Darwin and Snuggles walking across the old railroad bridge.    Darwin, Snuggles and Roub eating pizza!

Day 11: Zero Day

Zero Days

Today has been marvelous. First, I woke up to a make-your-own-pancake buffet and coffee at the hostel. After the coffee, I laid my rain gear and shoes out on the deck to dry because the sun finally came out! It will be nice not having wet shoes to walk in tomorrow.

Every Saturday, a shuttle takes guests wherever they need to go. Yesterday when I went to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) to get my picture taken, I also asked if a package had arrived for me. I had sent one to myself to pick up in Harper’s Ferry before I left Lawrence. Unfortunately, the package showed back up at my house in Lawrence a couple days later so Spencer had to take it back to the post office to send it again. I had put camp stove fuel in the package, and the post office wasn’t sure how to handle it. However, thanks to Spencer, it got send the correct way the second time! In addition to camp stove fuel, the package contained a lot of toiletry items and food resupply to get me through the next week of hiking. When I showed up to the ATC, though, there was no package for me. Because of the trouble we had already had the with package, I figured it was a lost cause. I was so disappointed and upset because my body hurt so much, everything I owned was wet, I smelled bad, I was hungry and I just wanted some food! All of it compounded to make this missing package feel like a punch in the gut. I even walked down to the post office yesterday to see if it was there, but no such luck. After I got some coffee and some cookies and washed my feet, though, I felt a lot better and decided that I would just go to Walmart to buy the food that I’d need.

So, today when the shuttle came, I told the driver that I needed to go to Walmart. Another hiker needed to go to the post office, so the driver took us there first because it closes early on Saturdays. On a whim, I decided to go in and ask about my package just to make sure it wasn’t there. I handed the post office worker my ID, and she went in the back to look for it. A moment later, I heard her yell, “Could it be under Ali instead of Alison?” and I said, “YES!!!!!!!” She came around the corner with my package, and I started jumping up and down and screaming. The hiker who had already gotten his package and walked out came back in and asked, “Is everything alright?” But when he saw my face and the package in my arms, he just started laughing. It is amazing how happy a box of ramen noodles and poptarts can make a person.

We got back to the hostel around 1, and I made some lunch and made a hiking plan for the next week. I think my resupply can get me by for about 6-7 days (it’s very heavy. stupid heavy). I’ll probably just take a nap and write in my journal this afternoon.

The hostel manager is making a Civil War feast tonight. She is even making a vegetarian option for me! The building that the hostel is in was built around the time of the Civil War and has a massive stone fireplace, so the manager likes to play up the Civil War-era theme. She is seriously an amazing woman…she made spaghetti and veggie pizza last night! Everyone needs to stay here. I wish I could stay here for another week, but I gotta hit the trail again tomorrow. Hope to make it about 18 miles. Keep praying for me! Your words of encouragement are really nice to hear; they keep me going!!

Day 10: Harper’s Ferry

Hike Days

I walked the 8 miles in to Harper’s Ferry with Snuggles, Darwin and Rube. They’ve been hiking together since nearly the beginning when they started hiking in Georgia, so it feels good to hike with some veterans of the trail. And it also hurts to hike with them, because they wake up at 5:30 a.m. (sometimes they get up at 4!) and because they walk fast. We got into Harper’s Ferry around 9:30 a.m. and went straight to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which is the headquarters for the AT. Every hiker who goes there gets their picture taken. They split the hikers up into a couple different categories, two of them being “thru-hikers,” those doing the whole trail either from Maine to Georgia or Georgia to Maine, and “section hikers,” those who intend to do the whole trail but are only doing it sections at a time. Snuggles, Darwin and Rube are all thru-hikers, and I’m a section hiker. I’m the 195th section hiker to cross through Harper’s Ferry this year.

They put all the photos in a big photo album, so I scanned through the last dozen or so photos to see if I could find anyone from Kansas. And to my surprise, there are two others! One from Erie and one from Olathe. And the one from Olathe seems to be just a day or two ahead of me.

We walked around Harper’s Ferry for a little bit and grabbed some warm food and ice cream. We also went to the hiking outfitter store where I got some new socks that are supposed to help prevent blisters.

The last six days of rain have wrecked my feet with blisters. Because my socks and shoes are constantly wet, there’s nothing I can do about my feet sliding around in my shoes. My knees are also hurting a lot from the steep descents. I’m taking lots of ibuprofen everyday, though, and that seems to help. I’ll probably also get a knee brace for some added support. Fortunately, I’m done hiking for the day, and I’m taking the whole day off of hiking tomorrow too. And then hopefully it stays dry for a while!

I’m staying at a really fantastic hostel tonight and tomorrow that has clean sheets, clean towels, shampoo and conditioner, a washer/dryer, and FREE FOOD!! They even have vegetarian options. All for about ~$20/night. Amazing!

I’m spending the evening trying to dry out my sleeping bag and shoes and then washing clothes. Pretty mundane life, but it’s a wonderfully simple thing to only have to worry about getting clean, keeping stuff dry, eating and hiking.

Days 8 & 9: Trail Magic!!

Hike Days

Wednesday was Day 8, and I did my biggest day so far of 18 miles. Part of my hike on Wednesday included half of The Roller Coaster, a 13.5 mile stretch of steep ascents and descents that kicked my butt. Just as I was pulling myself out of the third ascent, I saw a white tent set up next to the trail in a clearing. MY FIRST TRAIL MAGIC!!! A group of people were cooking hotdogs and handing out pops, snickers, chips, doughnuts, and fruit to hikers. I had a couple bags of chips, a Pepsi, a doughnut and a Snickers. It was seriously the best timing!! I got to the shelter and found Darwin, Snuggles, Rube, Hip Flask and Earth already there. Because we had walked in the rain for four days, the six of us decided to sleep in the shelter so our tents wouldn’t get wet.

It stormed through the night and was pouring when we woke up. The others got around quicker than I did, but I finally made myself get up and out in the rain by 7:30.

I did about 15 miles today (finished off the Roller Coaster), and got to camp about 2:30. I was debating doing the additional 8 miles to Harper’s Ferry to sleep in a bed, take a shower and get into dry clothes, but after I ate some ramen, I decided to stay with the crew. Oh, AND I crossed over to West Virginia and passed the 100-mile mark of my hike! Yes!

I’m laying in my sleeping bag now trying to stay warm! Water is a quarter mile away so I’m hoping I don’t need any more for the night!

I just have 8 miles to do tomorrow and then I’m taking a zero on Saturday. Then back to the trail on Sunday!

Here’s hoping the rain stops soon!!

  Finished Virginia!! Over 100 miles done. Lips are purple because it’s freezing.

  White blaze in the rain.

This is what a good chunk of the trail looked like on Day 8.

Day 7: Slackpacking is great. And controversial. But mostly great.

Hike Days, Uncategorized

I woke up in the Terrapin Station Hostel this morning to more rain. Papillon suggested we take a zero (a rest day), but I wanted to be in Harper’s Ferry by Friday to pick up a resupply package and to take a zero.

Side note: Harper’s Ferry saw a lot of action in the Civil War, but most interestingly to Kansans, it is where Kansan John Brown raided and captured the federal arsenal, which, as I understand, was only being by protected one guard. However, Robert E. Lee crushed the raid in 3 days and then hung Brown for treason. Wah-wah.

ANYWAY- despite the rain, I wanted to hike so I suggested that we slack pack 17 miles. Slack packing works like this:

1) You stay at a hostel and leave your pack there in the morning. Only take a day pack with water and food you’ll need for the day.

2) Hostel owner drives you 17 miles north up the trail and drops you off.

3) You walk south the 17 miles back to the hostel and stay the night there again.

4) The next morning, you take your whole pack and the hostel owner drives you 17 miles north up the trail again. This time, you walk north.

5) This mean that you’ve covered 17 miles of trail (even though you walked it backwards), but you didn’t have to wear your pack and you get to sleep in a dry bed that night.

Slack packing is controversial because to the more “purist” hikers, slacking is cheating. To me, it’s amazing.

So we slack packed! And it was incredible. My right knee was beginning to hurt at the end of yesterday’s hike, and without the pack today, it feels much better! And I actually enjoyed the climbs today instead of dreading them. I wish I could slack pack this whole dang thing. It’d make it a whole lot more fun!

Going to try for 17.5 miles tomorrow with my stupid 30-pound pack. Watching Planet Earth and eating ice cream tonight.

Peace!

 Walking in the rain and mist. 

Days 5 & 6: bigger miles

Hike Days

On Sunday, Day 5 of The Hike, I hiked my biggest day: 17.5 miles! I was feeling really tired the last 5, but it started down pouring during the last 3 miles, which was surprisingly refreshing. Made me feel clean! It stopped raining right before I got to camp around 5:15. During the downpour, I was praying that my gear wouldn’t get wet. And YES–my pack’s rain cover did its job and kept all my stuff dry. I was able to change into a dry set of clothes and snuggle into my dry sleeping bag. It rained through the night, and I was worried that my tent was going to flood, but it didn’t! YES, again! 

This morning, I woke up to screams coming from the shelter. A copperhead had come into the shelter during the night, and the boys were having fun teasing two Australian girls by prodding it closer to their boots. This is why I don’t stay in the shelter…even when it’s raining!! After the screams, I got up, picked a couple slugs out of my wet hiking boots and pulled them on.

Today, Papillon and I just did about 10.5 miles to a hostel just off the trail called Terrapin Station Hostel. The owner of the hostel is a big Grateful Dead fan. At this hostel, for $30, you can get a bunk, shower (shampoo included), laundry, two pizzas, two sodas and a pint of ice cream. While my hunger hasn’t reached the level of most hikers out here, I’m getting there slowly. It’s amazing what these people can eat and still lose tons of weight! One guy I’ve crossed paths with at 2-3 shelters has lost 58 pounds in the 2 1/2 months he’s been on the trail.

I’ve officially been trail named. I went four days without one, but was dubbed “Oz” by a guy named Darwin who’s hiking the AT with his wife, Snuggles. He was amazed that I love Kansas, so, naturally, he named me Oz (because nobody knows anything else about Kansas).

Anyway, that’s all for today. Hoping to get a lot of rest so my legs feel better tomorrow.

   

Will hike for food.

  

Trekking poles of all variaties.

  

The scene this morning after a night of storms.

 

I like when I get to the top.

Days 3 & 4: Much better

Hike Days, Uncategorized

I’m writing this at lunch time of day 4 from a place called Skyland. We climbed way up to get here, but there is awesome 3G! Hey-o! 

Yesterday went much better than Day 1. I did 9 miles yesterday and met two other thru-hikers about 2 miles from the place I was going to camp. Their names are Piston and Papillon (French for butterfly). We are lunch at a little Wayside and then went down to the campground to do laundry and shower. We then set up our tents and went to the Lodge for a beer and dinner. There, we met Yellowbird, Snuggles, Darwin and Roob. They have all been hiking since Georgia, so I’m doing much fewer miles per day than them. 

Papillon and I decided to split the cost of a campsite and hike together today because he is doing fewer miles than the others. He’s a middle-aged guy (At least, that’s what I assume from the gray in his beard). We are doing 14 miles today–we’ve already done 8 this morning. Hopefully I can keep up. It’s hard hiking with people who already have their “hiking legs”!

Speaking of legs, I’ve gotten lucky so far with blisters. I only have one, and it’s not too painful. I’ve been treating it consistently, so hopefully it goes away soon.

 Only 1265 miles to go!  
 Some a-okay views today. 

This deer ain’t scared. *
*Not pictured: the first bear I saw today! He was really scared. Took off as soon as he saw us.

Day 1: Not awesome

Hike Days

I was picked up at the Charlottesville airport by Tracy, an immensely kind and generous woman (even more kind and more generous than I had initially judged, as you’ll find out), and her two pups Scanner and Maggie. The Charlottesville airport is teensy and adorable. There were 26 people on my flight from Chicago to Charlottesville, and I’m pretty sure only about two commercial flights come in per day. 

We got to the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park around 1 p.m. after speaking to a woman at the gate of the park. She said that the AT drop off was “just around the corner.” So we went “just around the corner” and found the Hightop Mountain AT drop off. I said goodbye to Tracy, organized my pack and started my trek. I went up, up, up a mountain, thought I was going to die, and just went I was sure I was going to die, I started going down again. Hooray! The only poignant wisdom I’ve picked up by this point is that down is better than up, but flat is best of all.

Two miles (and two hours) later, I sat down to have a rest and look at my guidebook when I noticed that the place I was at was listed above the place I started. This was concerning because my book lists landmarks from South to North. Soon, I realized I had been walking in the wrong direction– I had been walking south. So I turned around and walked back. Not a good start.

I was hoping to make it to Bearfence Hut to sleep for the night, but after climbing another mountain with 37 pounds on my back, I was beat. I found a flat spot about 40 yards from the trail and pitched my tent. And then vomited. And then aired up my sleeping pad. And then vomited again. 

I decided to forego dinner and just hang my food bag so the bears wouldn’t eat it. I walked around trying to find a suitable branch to hang my bag from but couldn’t find any good ones. Finally I just walked far away from my tent to the other side of the. trail, haphazardly tossed my bag over a branch about six feet above the ground (prime bear snatching height, probably) and said, “Whatever.” 

I fell asleep but awoke several times thinking a bear was near me. But there never were. And my bag was untouched in the morning. This was sort of disappointing as I had sort of hoped the bears would take a small amount of food to make my pack lighter. No such luck. And then I vomited again.

By this point I was worried about being alone and being sick and needed to ship some gear back home, so I called Tracy and asked if she could pick me up so I could rest a day before trying again. She amazingly complied and she and her husband Steve picked me up, bought me lunch and let me stay at their place. AMAZING!!

So, today, I’m taking stuff out of my pack and resting. Hopefully day two of hiking goes better…

 

Taken when I was blissfully unaware that I was walking South.  

   
Water spring

Dr. Wham-  the cure for what ails ya

Doing it.

Before the Hike

I didn’t think I was going to do it, but I’m doing it. Writing a blog, that is. And hiking the Appalachian Trail too.

More than anything, this is a way for me to catalog my days walking through the forest so I can remember them later. And I guess it’s also for friends and family to check to assure themselves that I’m not dead.

So, here it is. Follow along (and if you’re so inspired, join me for a few days on the trail. I’m serious.).

Trying to tame the beast that is resupply boxes. Trying to tame the beast that is resupply boxes.
My first attempt at fitting everything in my pack, and it all fits! This is truly a miracle. My first attempt at fitting everything in my pack, and it all fits! This is truly a miracle.