Week 14: Crossing state lines
Our feet took us 105.9 miles this week
Video of the Week
This was one of our most eventful weeks on the trail! We crushed through New Jersey, New York, and most of Connecticut . It felt amazing to cross state lines after Pennsylvania dragged on for what felt like a month.
New Jersey was an amazing break from the rocks of Pennsylvania. The hike through New Jersey was beautiful! There were boardwalks and even dirt on the trails! You have no idea what a luxury it is to hike on the soft cushion of dirt and pine needles until you've hiked through Pennsylvania. New Jersey also has the kindest people ever (see Trail Angels below).
When we reached Peekskill, NY, Danielle and I decided to take quick detour into the city. We felt like fish out of water. The trail is a very social place, but we were both overwhelmed by the crowd in the big apple. Navigating the subways with our packs was awkward and maybe even dangerous. My trekking poles would jab someone if I turned in either direction, so I tried keeping still as much as possible. Inevitably, people constantly bumped into my pack causing me to toss and turn in the crowd. I kept saying "sorry, wide load here!" No one thought it was funny. I think they thought I was homeless. Classic mix-up! We were back on the trail less than 24 hours after arriving in the city.
Another highlight this week was reaching New England! Crossing into Connecticut meant we were finally driving distance from home. Since the remainder of the Appalachian Trail is within three or four hours from the North Shore of MA, we had been eagerly anticipating being more accessible to our friends and family.
My younger brother, Nathaniel, visited us on the trail! He is an avid hiker (he's only a few peaks away from hiking all of NH's 4000 footers), so we trusted that he could keep up with us. The first day he visited, my mom slack packed us 20 miles and he kicked ass. The next day was a different story- he was ready to hike another 20 miles, but Danielle and I wanted OUT (see bummers below). I can't wait for him to join us again on the trail and prove that we are [generally] not such whiners.
New York was really tough for me- more so than Pennsylvania. It was extremely hot, water sources were non-existent, and there was an insane amount of elevation change. You'd hike up 400 ft, down 400 ft, up 500, down 350, up 300, down again...etc. It some intense interval training with no views to reward you! Also, the trail had been relatively flat since Virginia , so it was difficult for me to adjust to the different terrain. After a tough 10 mile section, we reached a road crossing to find gallons of water to refill our bottles and a large bucket of fresh fruit. Danielle and I were tired and thirsty, but as soon as we took a bite into fresh mango, our day instantly became better. It was the juiciest, sweetest, best mango I've ever had.
My mom couldn't resist doing trail magic when she dropped of Nathaniel to hike with us, so she made a day of it! She met me, Danielle and three other thru hikers (Black bear, Odie, and Chuckles) in the morning at a road crossing. We dumped our packs in her car so we could hike with only the snacks and water we needed instead of our full, 30 pound packs. She met us at every road crossing with beer, watermelon, candy bars, and other snacks. With all the elevation change, I don't think we could have hiked as far as we did if we had our full packs with us. The beer and snacks were an added bonus. It was such a fun day- some of the boys even said it was one of the best days on the trail yet! Thanks, Mama!
It was an insanely hot day in New Jersey and Danielle discovered a strange rash. We found a slice of shade, sat on our packs, and felt bad for ourselves. Just then, two section hikers came around the corner and started chatting with us. Danielle's rash came up in conversation and they were very concerned for her. Since they were day hiking, Sandy, one of the lovely ladies, called her pharmacist pal and promised to get Danielle treatment. Sandy told us not to worry, just to keep hiking and that she would meet us when we finished our miles. Sure enough, at the end of our hike, Sandy was waiting for us in a state park! She brought us to a grocery store for our re-supply, then welcomed us into her house for the night. Sandy's mother was celebrating her 90th birthday that weekend, so there was family flying in from all over the country for the party the next day. The house was busy with cousins and second cousins of all ages, so I felt badly filling up an already full house but Sandy insisted that we stayed. Sandy's daughter even gave up her bed so Danielle and I could sleep under a roof for the night. It was so much fun! Their family has so much love to give and they were so incredibly welcoming to me and Danielle. We were spoiled with an amazing dinner and delicious breakfast. It was hard to leave the next morning- spending the night at Sandy's house with her family has been one of my favorite nights on the trail. We are so grateful to have met our trail-mom, Sandy!
Paul saved us from the trail! We needed a trailcation more than ever. Home was 3.5 hours from the trail and no one could/wanted to drive seven hours to get us on a Wednesday afternoon. I called Paul, a friend from high school who lives 1.5 hours from the trail, and nearly cried when he agreed to pick us up. He and his brother made the drive in separate cars so Danielle, Nathaniel and I could drive one car home for the weekend. It was exactly what we needed and we were SO thankful he went above and beyond to help us!
Knowing we were so close to home, Danielle and I were desperate to get off the trail. Nathaniel was looking forward to hiking three days with us, but after one day, Danielle and I literally couldn't do it. We had been pushing 20+ miles for almost two weeks and were exhausted. Mentally, we were drained and needed OUT. We had never wanted to get off the trail so badly and I'm sorry Nathaniel had to witness our negativity. After hiking less than 10 miles, I suggested we just go home a day early. Danielle was on board before I put it on the table. Disappointed, Nathaniel was like "we've barely hiked today. Come on, let's just keep going". I was having none of it, "Nathaniel, we have hiked 1500 FRICKEN miles. I don't want to walk one more right now". Mic dropped. End of discussion.