Mosquitoes!

June 30, 2018

With singing heart and a bounce in my step, I headed north from Hwy 140 through a fairly flat forest filled with evergreens. My pack, stuffed with ten meals and all my gear, felt light, mirroring my mood.

Streamers of usnea adorned the trees.

I grinned at Jay. “Blue sky, warm sun, cool breeze – what more could a person want?”

“Mosquito repellent?” Jay asked as he slapped his arm. “I can’t believe these things are biting through my jacket!”

I realized that the bloodthirsty insects were penetrating my shirt and pants also. Quickly I pulled out DEET, applying it liberally to my clothes, more sparingly to my bare skin. The repellent did make the tiny monsters back off a bit. Instead of biting, they just followed me, eagerly seeking a chink in my armor.

We continued hiking, and I went back to contemplating the natural wonders around me. Every now and then a mosquito would commit suicide by diving into my ear or nose or mouth. Jay could hear me behind him, choking and spitting. Aack!

After 11 miles, we reached the trail to Christi’s Spring, and were delighted to meet an old acquaintance, Phoenix from France, last seen on May 6, approaching Tehachapi. As we chatted, catching up with each other, another hiker, Hollywood, approached from the spring. Seeing empty water bottles, he asked Phoenix, “Are you prepared to meet Armageddon?”

“Mosquitoes are that bad down there?” Phoenix sounded surprised.

“You wouldn’t believe,” Hollywood shuddered.

I had read about Christi’s Spring in Guthook, the online PCT map. Chaucer, a PCT hiker, had written, ‘Get your water and RUN!’

Phoenix eyed my preparations, and decided to put on a bit more protection.

Hiker PapaDen refers to this type of outfit as a “hazmat suit”.

We camped early, just for the relief of crawling into a bug-free space. I love our tent! As we lay on our sleeping bags, listening to the whine of frustrated tiny vampires, Jay asked, “Hey, can you hear the nighthawks?”

I strained my ears, and suddenly heard “bbeerrnt“, a distinctive nasal vocalization, sounding much like a miniature airplane diving. I imagined the birds, plummeting through the air above me, intent upon filling their bellies with insects. Cheered by this sign of mosquito demise, I fell asleep.

July 1, 2018

Nighthawks provided air support as dawn peered between the tree trunks, but the mosquitoes were undaunted, tinnily demanding that we emerge from our tent haven.

These bloodsucking winged terrors provided escort service for our first eight miles, until we finally left them behind by climbing onto dry Shale Butte.

Jay pulled ahead of me, disappearing as he topped out on a long, breezy arm of the butte.

Suddenly, I heard a loud, rattling fall of rock. ‘An avalanche?‘ I wondered. The sounds of disturbed rocks continued. ‘I hope that’s not Jay falling off this ridge,’ I thought with sudden anxiety. ‘No,’ I reasoned. ‘I would have heard a yell. Maybe it’s a bear taking the short way down the mountain.’ (I never did see the cause of the sliding rocks, so I have only my bear theory.)

I continued walking, contouring around the ridge, and noticed musical notes emanating from beneath my feet. I looked down. The trail at this point had been hacked across a scree field. My footsteps clinked over loose pieces of flat shale, making a faint tune, as if someone were gently tapping each pitch in a set of wind chimes. Charmed, I slowed my steps, immersed in the unexpected enchantment of the moment.

Flowers began making a show as I caught up with Jay. Penstemon, western wallflowers, Indian paintbrush, and bleeding hearts splashed the rocks with pockets of color.

Suddenly I saw a new flower! Shaggy gray and white feathers swirled in coiffed mops, looking exactly like miniature versions of the truffula trees in the Dr Seuss book, The Lorax!

Jay looked it up, and we had a name, the white pasqueflower, it’s feathery top the flower gone to seed.

We came to a side trail for Devil’s Peak. The top looked so close, we couldn’t resist dropping our packs to climb. Another couple with the same goal took our picture before we started. The view was well worth the effort. Mt McLoughlin and far off Mt Shasta greeted us from behind, Klamath Lake lay on our right, a wilderness of jumbled green ridges stretched out on our left, and the rim of Crater Lake loomed before us.

Devil’s Peak is behind us.

A familiar whine greeted us as we descended the mountain, and once again I was thankful to dive inside our tent that night, leaving bloodthirsty insects mindlessly battering the mosquito netting.

Jay surveyed the day’s collection of mosquito bites in disgust. “To think, only the female half of the population was after me! Being a babe magnet is overrated.”

A Touch of Whimsy

June 14, 2018

One never knows who will come around a corner of the trail. Here I am, hiking along, utterly absorbed in my own rhythm, when suddenly the trail takes a little jog, I look up, and …

the trail is guarded by a charred dragon! Perhaps he became overly enthusiastic as he breathed fire upon some hapless hiker.

I manage to negotiate around this apparition and continue my merry way. But a half mile later, a forest dinosaur rears up to greet Jay and me!

Do you see it’s eye at the top?

With a respectful bow in his direction, we press on, entering deep forest, with towering evergreens cutting the light into attenuated glowing sunbeams. Needle-carpeted trail silences my footsteps. An atmosphere of reverence steals into my being as I proceed slowly through nature’s cathedral.

“RAUK-Kak-kak-cac!” The strident screech of a Stellar’s jay breaks the stillness. I laugh, and continue.

“Cheeeeseburger!” “Cheeeeseburger!”

A contrapuntal duo of chickadees taunt me with reminders of impossible lunch options.

But we haven’t even had breakfast yet! We come to a fantastic view on the edge of a rocky cliff.

“How about breakfast here?” I seat myself on the edge, legs dangling.

“Too rocky,” Jay is interested in more comfortable ‘furniture’. He snaps my picture, and we continue, my stomach grumbling at the delay.

We come to a sunny spot, with an appropriate slope for sitting. Hurray, breakfast! (Yes, sardines, raisins, cheese, nuts, chocolate. Over 700 miles hiked, and we haven’t tired of our trail meal yet!)

As we’re eating, two hikers appear! Boyscout Wheelchair and Sunrise Chardonnay, from France, are the first PCT hikers we’ve actually seen on the trail since we left Walker Pass.

“Please, tell me the stories behind your hiker names,” I beg.

Boyscout Wheelchair laughs. “Do you remember Casa de Luna? They give you a bandana, right? I tied mine on like a boy scout. Then they told me I had to dance. I don’t dance! ‘Just do the wheelchair motion real fast,’ they said. So I did, and there is my name!”

I turn to Sunrise Chardonnay. “And your name?”

She smiles. “Sunrise because we get up early, to try to get through the snow before it gets soft.”

“It doesn’t work,” Boyscout Wheelchair interjects.

“And Chardonnay because it sounds like my name, Charlotte. And I do like Chardonnay!”

I look at this young woman and think, ‘yes, with that beautiful pink top and engaging grin, Sunrise Chardonnay fits!’

The whimsical nature of the day continues after breakfast. We pass a huge stump which begs me to climb.

A butterfly flitters across the path, whizzing around Jay’s head, then heading away. Unexpectedly, she turns and comes wavering back towards us. I hold my breath, willing her to stop near enough for a good look. Jay snaps a picture as she rests on a green tendril.

(Wikipedia later tells me this butterfly’s name, California sister. ‘What an odd name,’ I think, so I read further, and discover that sister refers to the white markings on the wings which some long ago lepidopterist thought looked like a nun’s habit. Talk about imagination!)

Just as he crosses a small stream, Jay suddenly stops. I approach slowly, and see a mother grouse on the trail!

“Her babies ran ahead of her into the brush,” Jay whispers.

I fumble for my camera. By the time I’m ready, she has followed her babies off the trail. I hide behind a fat hemlock trunk, determined to get a picture. But, in keeping with the capricious nature of the day, my only photo has a sapling bisecting the mother grouse! Ah, well.

Jay looks it up and tells me that we’ve most likely seen a sooty grouse, which eats fir, hemlock, and pine needles in winter, while dining on fresh greens, berries, and insects in the summer. We all need occasional variety in our diet!

Sooty grouse mother ‘hiding’ behind a sapling.

In the afternoon, we come to the California/Oregon border. “Wow!” I exclaim. “We’ve actually reached the border! We should take a picture!”

“Why bother?” Jay asks. “This imaginary line has no meaning in our hike. It’s not like we’ve hiked the whole length of California yet.”

Nevertheless, I did want a picture, and Jay agrees to join me in my selfie attempt.

I open the lid of the metal box holding the trail journal, and laugh out loud at the first thing I see.

Yes, the playful nature of the PCT is in full force today!

Near the end of our day, a determined snowdrift encroaches upon the trail. Jay skirts the edge of it, but naturally, I gracelessly end up giving the icy blanket a quick hug as I lose my balance halfway across. Whimsy reigns once again!

Contentment

May 2, 2017

This morning brought the delight of a hot shower, delicious breakfast, and Jay feeling much better after a sound night’s sleep. The Rock Inn had provided just the medicine needed!

It was with reluctance that we left this haven of warmth and friendliness to face the inhospitable wind once again as we walked two miles back to the PCT. Clouds still hugged the mountain tops, which was where the PCT quickly took us.

Near noon, the clouds lifted, revealing blue sky and sunshine! When we saw two hikers, Cheetoh and Ruby, eating lunch in the lee of a rock escarpment, we decided to join them. We enjoyed the conversation as much as the food, once again trading hiker stories. The end of lunch was marked by a western tanager, first sighted by Cheetoh. We all paused, captivated with its bright colors of yellow body, black wings, and red head. These birds have my all time approval, because not only are they beautiful, but during breeding season, they eat many insects, including wasps!

Lifting clouds reveal azure sky – at least for a few moments!

Soon after we began hiking again, the clouds returned, making our sunny lunch just a memory.

Water today came from a spring at Upper Shake Campground. Trail crews have put a great deal of work into this portion of the PCT, creating a lovely detour to fetch life-giving liquid! Live oaks and Coulter pines became more numerous, paving the trail with cushiony pine needles peppered with rolling acorns.

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Pollen (male) cones on a Coulter pine

Near the end of the day, we came across this hiker-made sign. Seeing miles marked in kilometers reinforced the knowledge that we shared the PCT with many people from other countries.

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800 kilometers = 497 miles

We pitched our tent a half mile south of Sawmill Campground, once again choosing solitude over the companionship of other hikers. Temperatures had dropped precipitously since our sunny lunch, and I crawled into my sleeping bag wearing all the clothes from my pack. I admit to harboring a few longing memories of last night’s comfort at The Rock Inn. However, as I reflected upon western tanagers, pollen cones from Coulter pines, and acorn signposts, serene tranquility filled my heart. (My nose, on the other hand, remained cold!) 🙂

May 3, 2018

Early in our hike today we came across another hiker-made signpost. Five hundred miles seemed like a lot until I did the math and realized that we still had 2,150 miles to go!

500 miles! Worth celebrating!

A man offered us water and mints from his car as we crossed a dirt road. He was running support for another hiker, but had come prepared to help anyone he met. We ate the mints with gratitude and thanks. I’m now embarrassed to admit, I have forgotten this trail angel’s name.

An unexpected trail angel!

Live oaks and pines continued to line the trail, bathing us in beauty. The sunshine brought rising temperatures. With a mostly downhill slant to our path, miles flew by!

Blue skies and sunshine filter through the canopy of oaks and pines, with green ground cover delighting the eyes!

“Enjoy the trees,” Jay warned. “We’ll be hitting Antelope Valley this evening, and it will be a while before we see such lush vegetation again.”

Our first good look at Antelope Valley, notorious for wind and high temperatures.

As the afternoon progressed, the ubiquitous wind began to strengthen. Chamise chaparral and dry grasses became the major life forms around us. Though we had not planned to reach Antelope Valley today, our light packs and the easy trail kept urging us forward.

Nearing the valley floor, our oak and pine cover was left behind.

Just on the other side of Highway 138, a sizeable piece of property has been turned into a hiker hostel. The owner, Richard, and the caretaker, Bob, are happy to have hikers take shelter here for a donation of $10 per person. They provide a shuttle to Neenach Cafe and Market, which is owned by Richard, but we arrived just as the last shuttle was returning.

Hikers are welcome to pitch their tent on the bare dirt anywhere on the property. There are many small buildings with beds available on a first come, first served basis. One bathroom serves all hikers (about 30 that night). The wind, which was rapidly approaching gale force on the sweeping valley floor, convinced Jay and me to take shelter in a room. Not too clean, but it was private, with walls sturdy enough to block the wind, which was all I asked.

A sprawl of small rooms house either none-to-clean beds, or a jumble of junk.

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Hikertown
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Another view of this hiker hostel.

Stairway to Heaven

October 7, 2017

This morning we crossed from New York into New Jersey!  We have now completed 12 of the 14 states which host the Appalachian Trail.  Only two more states to go!

About lunch time, we arrived at the top of Wawayanda Mountain.  We had encountered no hikers all morning, hiking through quiet forest.  At the top of the mountain, a family was eating lunch.  Jay and I decided to take our noon meal a little further, to a viewpoint.  When we arrived at the turn-off to the view, through the trees we could hear a sizeable group of people laughing and talking.  We decided not to crowd in on the party, and went on.  Suddenly, the trail narrowed and dived over a rock ledge.  We looked over the edge to see a whole stream of people coming up the mountainside!  Unbeknownst to us, we had arrived at the Stairway to Heaven, an extremely popular day hike for New Jersey locals.  A quiet lunch was definitely out of the question.  We cheerfully opened our food bags on the rocky ledge, and prepared to enjoy the living torrent of humanity ascending the mountain.

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We talked to many people as we ate lunch, then continued to talk as we descended the trail.  Most of the hikers we met did not notice our packs, and assumed that we were day hikers like themselves.  “How much further?” was a common question.  But since we had ascended the opposite side of the mountain, we had no idea of the length of this stone staircase!

“You’ve got a bit of a ways to go,” I told one questing hiker.  She laughed, and continued.  But I thought of my answer, and realized it was a typical southernism.  In the south, distance often is described in rather general terms.  “A right far piece” is much longer than “a good ways”, which in turn is farther than “a bit”, with “spitting distance” being quite close.

The trail was so narrow, we often had to take turns as we descended, stepping off the trail to let ascending hikers pass.  By the time we reached the bottom, we had probably seen over 200 people!

About halfway down, Jay mused, “If we’re descending the Stairway to Heaven, where do you think we will end up?”

Where did we end?  In Pochuck Swamp, with Pochuck Suspension Bridge crossing Pochuck River.    The bridge is an amazing bit of engineering, a huge suspension bridge set down in the middle of the swamp, just for crossing the river by foot!  A large trail crew had torn up much of the boardwalk before the bridge.  But it has been so dry lately, it was easy to walk beside that section of the boards.  It was a truly lovely three miles, with long walkways winding past fall flowers, cattails gone to seed, rushes above our heads.  I kind of hated for it to end!  It was a beautiful section of New Jersey, like nothing else on the whole Appalachian Trail.

 

Day Hikers – by Jay

September 27, 2017

Since Labor Day, we have only seen other hikers when the AT coincides with popular day hikes.  Interactions with day hikers can be confusing.  Many of these people, especially near big cities like New York, have never heard of the AT.  They assume we are doing the same hike that they are.  Misunderstandings result….

As we approached Fort Montgomery, New York, we stashed our packs behind a tree and took a short side trip (0.6 miles) up to Anthony’s Nose.  After a day of solitude, we were surprised to find several day hikers enjoying the spectacular view of the Hudson River Valley.

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The view from Anthony’s Nose, a local landmark.

On our way back down to the AT, we caught up with two ladies who were stopped in the trail.  Their clean appearance and small packs indicated that they were day hikers.

One of them asked Sarah “Are you sure this is the way you came?”

Sarah, certain we were returning on the correct path, began enthusiastically pointing out trees and other features that she remembered from our ascent.

The day hikers were not convinced.  “I don’t remember any of this!” one exclaimed.

We all continued walking.  Sarah, warming to her new game, identified progressively more obscure land marks: “Oh look!  There’s that purple flower….and I remember that fallen branch!” but the day hikers were no longer listening.

Their steps became increasingly tentative.  I reminded Sarah that the way we had come might not be the way they had come.  Upon over-hearing this, the ladies stopped, turned around, and took their first good look at us.  Their expressions clouded as they took in our dirty socks, odd-looking bug pants, sweat stained shirts, and disheveled hair.  We had no back packs.  We were not credible looking.

One hiker asked “We came from our car, at the trail head. Where did you come from?”

I couldn’t resist.  “Maine” I quipped.

As I tried to explain that we were hiking the AT, one threw up her arms in exasperation.  “I think we’ll try the other way.”

I could only imagine what they were thinking as they made a wide arc around us and hurried back towards the view point.

Southbound Moments

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The trail snakes around like a game of Chutes and Ladders, so that sometimes I wonder if we’re going backwards or forwards!

September 1, 2017

Whimsical rock sculptures along the trail near White Rocks viewpoint causes us to pause in appreciation.  Someone had a lot of time on their hands!  It makes me think of building with blocks when our son was very young.  What fun!

September 4, 2017

Yesterday Jay and I hiked to the town of Manchester Center, and enjoyed sitting out a day of pouring rain in the comfort of an old-fashioned guest house called Sutton’s Place.  Today we had planned to take a day of rest, but the weather forecast called for sun today and more rain tomorrow.  So we decided to slack pack 17 miles, from the other side of Stratton Mountain back to Manchester Center.

We were picked up by a shuttle at 6:00 a.m., driven on small back roads for 45 minutes around Stratton Mountain, and let off at the AT trailhead.  The sun rose while we were in the car, a huge orange ball of golden fire, glowing through the trees!

 

The top of Stratton Mountain was still in the clouds when we reached it, three miles later.  Wind gusted above the tree tops, blowing foggy shreds past the lookout tower.  The view from that tower is famous for inspiring the creation of both the Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail.  But today, no inspiration was to be had from the view!  

There is also a caretaker’s cabin on top of Stratton Mountain.  Jay and I met the caretakers, Jeanne and Hugh, in 2011 when Jay first thru-hiked the AT.  We were delighted to meet them again.  Jay told Jeanne how she had educated him about the Bicknell Thrush.  I think she was charmed that he remembered so vividly, for she invited us into their tiny cabin, “just to see what it is like.”  It was a cozy space, an original “tiny house”.  I felt honored to get to see it!  Jeanne and Hugh have been caretakers on top of the mountain since the 1960s.  They feel that their job is to protect the mountain and educate hikers.  They do a great job!

September 6, 2017

After taking a zero day in the town of Manchester Center, VT, and watching the rain pour down, we begin hiking today in a ‘hard mist’, the kind of rain that soaks in sooner than one would think!  It is now that I truly appreciate the shelters along the Appalachian Trail.  We take an early lunch at Story Spring Shelter, then an early dinner at Kid Gore Shelter.  After feeling the rain hitting our hoods all day, it is a relief to sit inside a dry shelter, and watch the rain soak the ground outside!  Also, it’s nice to be able to eat without fat water drops splashing upon ones raisins or chocolate bar!

September 7, 2017

Tonight we chose a very scenic campsite, overlooking the town of Bennington, VT.  Evening-tinged blue sky arched directly over us, while out in the valley, we could see a thunderstorm raging over the town.  About the time we were settled inside our tent, the edge of the storm caught our airy perch.  Lightning flashed just a few miles away.  Wind battered our tent in a frenzy, tearing out one tent stake!  Tent fabric whipped around my head as the tent pole fell across my body.

I cowered beneath the pelting raindrops until Jay shouted in my ear, “I’ll hold the tent pole while you go outside and pound the stake back in.” 

I wasn’t sure how I got elected to plunge into the rain, except that the stake was on my side of the tent.  Too shell-shocked to argue, I obediently unzipped the tent, submitted the upper half of my body to a bombardment of dagger-like precipitation, and grabbed the tent stake as the wind tried to whip it into the bushes.  I used the panicked force of adrenaline to shove that stake deep into the grass and dirt, then wriggled backwards into the dry ‘safety’ of our abode.  Whew!

We lay and listened as the rain and wind slowly moved down the valley, and I finally fell asleep to the gentle patter of water drops as the storm subsided.

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September 8, 2017

We’ve been hiking in mixed rain and sun for three days now.  Lots and lots of mud!

Great salamander and toad weather!

Three days of wet feet are beginning to cause problems.  Though our feet have many calluses, soggy socks rub the tops of our toes, causing oozing sores and blisters.  I think of the soldiers in the jungles of Vietnam, and wonder how they coped.  Perhaps wet feet were not a priority on their list of problems.  The sores on our feet, however, are getting to be too extensive to ignore.  Tonight we use antiseptic wipes to clean our feet, and tomorrow we’ll wrap our toes in duct tape and band-aids!  The true solution, however, will be some days of sunshine!

 

 September 9-10, 2017

The weather begins to dry out today, hooray! 

We climb to the top of Greylock Mtn, tallest mountain in Massachusetts.  The sky is dramatic, clouds playing hide and seek with the sun.  A war memorial, a beautiful tower with a spiral staircase, graces the top of Greylock.  I must admit, more than half the fun of the memorial is climbing the stairs, around and around and around!

We stay on top of Greylock, at the Bascom Lodge, for the night, enjoying a hot shower, fresh clean sheets, and a chance to dry the mud off our shoes!

Breakfast is fun, discussing hiking and diet with two other hikers, Mary and Jane.  When it is time to leave, Jay discovers that he is missing his hat.  We look everywhere, but with no result.  This is serious, as the wind is cold outside, and a hat is essential.  Thankfully, Mary and her son, Kevin, come to our rescue, giving Jay an extra hat they had packed.  Once again, trail angels work their magic on the AT!  (Please see our Trail Angels page in the menu for a little more on this part of the story.)

The climb down Greylock is beautiful, with blue sky and sunshine!  I can see the mud drying as we walk upon it!

We cross a corn field, then find wild apple trees littering the trail with ripe apples.  We can’t resist, and collect about a dozen.  Massachusetts wild apples taste much more delicious than Nevada wild apples!  With fresh fruit in the back of my pack, we climb Cheshire Cobbles, a lovely, gently graded, loop trail which shares the AT.  We stop and sit on the granite boulders, eating apples and enjoying a beautiful view!

September 11, 2016

The incredibly gorgeous weather continues with a beautiful sunrise through the trees.

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It’s too cold to eat breakfast when we first get up.  We decide to walk for a while.  After about two miles, we are rewarded with the most beautiful breakfast spot, a quiet view on Gore Pond, still waters reflecting azure sky and fall trees.

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September 12, 2017

Once again it is too cold to eat breakfast when we wake.  We hike about an hour, and come to a trail angel’s house, The Cookie Lady.  She sells boiled eggs from her farm, as well as sodas and candy bars to passing hikers.  She also gives away fresh-made cookies.  We eat boiled eggs and oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies for breakfast this morning.  But the best part of the meal is the beautiful setting – food for our soul!

September 14, 2017

Salamanders and frogs begin to be seen on the trail again.  We know this heralds a change from sunshine to wet weather ahead.  Fortunately, we’re a day away from the town of Great Barrington, MA.  Perhaps we’ll get lucky, and have our resupply and rest day as it rains!

SOBO Meets NOBO

August 27, 2017

Jay and I have felt uniquely blessed to see hiker beginnings at both ends of the Appalachian Trail.  In February, we were NOBOs (North Bound), with approximately 80 other eager hikers.  (3,112 NOBOs participated in the voluntary registration with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.  About 80 of them began hiking during the week that we started.)  Then in July, we became Flipflop SOBOs (South Bound), climbing Katahdin and heading south with roughly 55 hikers that week.  (A total of 387 registered with the ATC.)

Hiking south, the difficult terrain of Maine and New Hampshire presents south bound hikers with unique challenges, beginning with the arduous climb of Katahdin, then immediately slogging through bogs and rocks in the 100 Mile Wilderness, followed by vertical trails through mountains of granite!  It has been a pleasure to share these challenges with some engaging personalities and exceptional hikers.

We have also enjoyed re-meeting north bound hikers that we had last seen in southern Appalachia.  What a treat, to suddenly see a familiar face approaching through the woods!  Henry, a fast-hiking engineer, was the first NOBO re-acquaintance.  After almost 2,000 miles, he still reveled in every day of his hike.  In mid-July, we met two hikers who recognized us, though the last 1,000 miles had changed them beyond recognition.  Dakota had lost weight, slimming down to a trim hiker shape, while Cruise Control had gained muscle, bulking up from a slender weed to a sleek physique!  After that, it seemed we recognized hikers nearly every day until mid-August before the stream of familiar faces slowed to a trickle.

Today, at a trail angel’s house, we met Mowgli, last seen in Shenandoah National Park.  His companion back then, Dante, was no longer with him.  “Dante had things happen,” Mowgli informed us.  “Like, one time I told him the plant was poison nettles. He said it was just poison ivy, and he wasn’t allergic.  Then he grabbed a bunch and rubbed it all over his hands. … It was nettles all right.  Anyway, he finally had to get off trail when he got drunk one night and ate a rock.  That sent him to the hospital.”

(For more about this trail angel house, see our page of Trail Angels on our menu.)

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Mowgli eats left over macaroni with meatballs on the porch of a trail angel’s house. The resident cat relaxes beside him.

Yesterday, entering the trees after resupplying in Norwich, VT, we were delighted to see Specs, a young man with whom we spent a zero day at Doe River Hostel, near Roan Mountain, TN.  We stopped to talk for a good while, catching up on each other’s lives.  Specs has lost 65 pounds while hiking, and is looking great!  We shared jokes and stories, including Specs telling us about getting bluff charged by a bear in Shenandoah National Park.  He has enjoyed support from his parents and sister while on the trail, feeling that his adventure has been part of a family affair.  What fun!

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Specs and Jay trade jokes and stories.

Meeting all these NOBOs, while still hiking south with SOBOs, has reminded me that a large part of the AT experience revolves around each person’s unique hike.  One never knows what or who is around the next bend in the trail!