photo by  Kristen Bryant

Hi.

Welcome to The Ones Who Walk project site. I am a 2018 AT thru-hiker gathering stories along the way. 

Bear Mountain, NY - Dalton, MA [Mile 1,411 - 1,570]

 July 21

Appalachian Trail Market to campsite next to stream [6.8 miles]


I had a wonderful visit from a dear friend. I was able to take two days off from hiking, enjoy good company, delicious food and a lot of poolside time.


Getting back on trail today was difficult. I’ve heard that it’s not the best idea to have visits from home this late in the trail. I’m grateful for the visit, but I can see why it’s harder now to connect with a familiar face from home. I fell into a comfortable groove of familiarity over the past few days. The week leading up to this visit I had to slow my hiking distance almost in half to make the rendezvous date. When I started hiking today I felt out of sync. My legs weren’t flowing comfortably, my pack felt a bit cumbersome, and my headspace was dangerous.


I had to recite mantras — I want to keep hiking. I am in NY on the AT. I am a good hiker. I will finish — just to keep my thoughts in line with my activity. They threatened to stray to the doubts I feel, the people I miss, my dog, how much farther I have to go. Even writing all this right now feels like I’m poking a bruise.


Part of this is due to my placement on the trail. Everyone I know, except for a few, are ahead of me. I saw only one hiker this afternoon. He and I hiked together a bit in the Smokey Mountains and again in Virginia. He’s not feeling well and his mental drive for this hike is deteriorating. He had nothing to share but stories of feeling ill, hiking very few miles per day, and thoughts of returning home and getting off trail.


That was not the energy or the type of conversation I was ready for today. I was glad, and also not surprised, when he decided to take a break at a road crossing after hiking 3.5 miles with me


The sky is overcast and I’m pretty sure there is rain in the future, perhaps for a few days. This only adds to my dampened mood. I know I’m back on the trail, but it doesn’t feel like the experience I left a few days ago. Tomorrow I’m hiking to a shelter. I hope that seeing other hikers and making a face to face connection will bring me back into the fold of what I’m committed to accomplishing.


July 22

Campsite - Morgan Stewart Shelter [21 miles]


I felt better this morning even though it was raining when my alarm went off. Still raining an hour later. I wanted until 8am to pack up my tent. I ate breakfast and read while I waited. I’m reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance at the moment.


The morning was overcast, windy and random spurts of rain. It’s hard to tell when it is raining and when the trees are shedding water. The foggy atmosphere gave the day an ominous and out-of-place feeling. I didn’t see another hiker until close to 1pm. The eerie, gray woods only added to the loneliness of today. I came upon Gnome before we both stopped at the RPM shelter. He for the day, and me for lunch,


By that time the sun had come out. The wind kept up and the clouds were tracking across the sky at impressive speeds. The sun played hide and seek while water continued to fall from above, whether it be from a bold cloud or dancing trees.

 

I ate a lunch of avocado and brie cheese with crackers, the spoils of my days in town. Best to eat the heavy things first.

Gnome pointed out the plants growing behind the shelter, I can’t remember the name. But the fluid inside their stems is an antidote for poison ivy or any dermatological inflammation.


After lunch I made my way to the Mountaintop Deli for coffee and to charge my phone. I did some more reading.


Only a few miles more brought me up to a ridge. The sun was out for a bit during the golden hour and then clouds rolled in once again. the evening was darker then, for 7:30. I picked up the pace to make it to the shelter before any rain truly started coming down.


No rain came. The wind is continuous and their are bouts of fog rolling in and out of the trees. There are two other hikers here, but they’ve already set up for the night and I haven’t seen them stir. Since I’m the only one in the shelter I’ve decided to sleep here  and set up my tent. It’s a definite backpacking faux pas, but it’s late, dark now, and I’m the only one here. The tent will keep away the bugs and soothe my mind. I always feel so vulnerable in shelters all alone.


A tent is so thin and hardly a protection against anything other than water, yet it’s role as a psychological shelter is the most valuable aspect.


July 23

Morgan Stewart Shelter - Ten Mile Shelter {20]


More rain today. All predictions and hiker talk point towards days and days of rain. These are hard mental days: when your stuff never dries out. Climbing into a wet tent, climbing out of a wet tent, putting on wet clothes. A rain jacket makes you sweat so much you’re not even sure if it’s actually keeping you dry.


None of the upcoming towns have affordable hotel options, and since I’m hiking mostly alone I don’t have anyone to split with. Bru and Walkman may be close enough that I catch them and maybe join them for a hotel room in Great Barrington, MA.


Crossed into Connecticut today! Four more states to go.


Camping next to the Ten Mile River with Pacemaker, Freight Train and Kudzu.


Kudzu went home for ten days recently. She’s from Charleston. When she came back she jumped ahead on the trail to meet back up with Pacemaker and freight Train because she was tired of hiking alone. Now they say, she is talking about quitting. Her feet are split and cracked after being soaked all day in the rain. Pacemaker says she’s looking for a reason to quit.


None of us judge her in any way To make it this far is an accomplishment.


I have been thinking about this trail and how much less enjoyable it is without people. I’ve only seen a handful of hikers in three days and it’s monotonous without the social aspect.


July 24
Ten Mile Shelter - Caesar Brook Campsite [22 miles] 

No entry 

 

July 25
 
Campsite - Salisbury, CT [18 miles]


Rain. Still raining. It’s been raining since Saturday. It drives you mad mostly because it doesn’t come down all at once. The rain falls so sporadically I am simultaneously prepared and unprepared. It’s too hot to wear a rain jacket. So I am content with covering my pack. A trash bag has turned out to be the best raincover. With this humidity my rain jacket feels like a trash bag.

I hiked alone today. The rest of the trail family is about twenty miles ahead, not sure when I’ll catch them.


Connecticut is picturesque. I walked along a back country road next to a river. Colonial white houses sit back, regally, on clipped green lawns. I passed private schools with crest-laden signs and manicured gardens. Greenhouses and garden sheds take the back line of properties, in the overcast shadows of green, dripping, rain-heavy branches.


I’m staying in Salisbury tonight. New England is turning out to be quite expensive — I wasn’t sure when I would be able to stay in town. I miss having a trail family of six to split hotel rooms. Vanessa lives in Sallisbury and has been helping hikers for decades. She opens her home for $40 a night. It’s the cheapest place I’ve found, and preferable too. I enjoy staying in homes. People who open their doors to hikers have stories, and the most helpful, generous spirits.


Vanessa is a private chef in town — another indication of the wealth here — and lives in a 300 year old house half a block back from the Main Street. She has two dogs from the same litter and two cats, also related. They run around the house and you’re not sure which one you’re seeing. The house is stuffy and hot, no AC, like most houses in New England. I am sleeping on one of the bunk beds in the back room.


The shower I took today, felt incredible. I’ve got poison ivy on my leg and bug bites all over. Having a clean, and dry body is rejuvenating.


I’d like to stick to my 20 mile/day goal, but it’s going to be hard to leave town tomorrow. It’s going to rain, all day. Again. There is a coffee shop just around the corner. Going to go sit there and get some work done before leaving...not sure how I will motivate myself to leave.


Though I have noticed, that much of my motivation comes from my desire to be home. Still committed, more determined than anything, but my dreams of home are pushing me onward.


July 26
Salisbury, CT - Stealth site at Home Road [24 miles] 

 I’ve committed to catching up with my old group: Bru, Prime, and Walkman. It meant two 24 mile days, but now I’ve got one down, so tomorrow will be easy with the motivation of walking into camp and giving them a surprise. 

The rain finally cleared up this afternoon. Seeing the sun come through the trees was some of the best motivation. 

I’m not sure where the energy came from, but I felt light and fast this morning. These 24 miles didn’t feel as difficult as I expected. 

I got out of Salisbury (after a latte at the local coffee shop) around 8am and arrived at the 24 mile mark around 7pm. It’s been a long day of hiking, but some magic at the end has helped.  

I decided to cook food at a road crossing rather than in the woods. The mosquitoes are so bad. Part of the reason I moved so quickly today was because if I stopped for even a moment, they descended and covered my arms with bites. 

While I cooked dinner someone drove up and parked their car at the pull off. I asked him for water since the last two streams were dry and I knew I would be camping without a water source. The next shelter is five miles away and I won’t make it tonight. 

His name was Kyle and he lived a few doors down. He drove back home to fill my water bottle and brought back a granola bar and avocado! Such kindness.  

Excited to see trail friends tomorrow.  

July 27
Stealth Site - Upper Goose Pond Cabin [24 miles] 

 Today’s 24 miles was not as easy as yesterday, even though the terrain was less intense. Mental outlook has so much to do with how miles feel to the body. 

The mosquitoes were awful this morning. I didn’t have breakfast or tea at my campsite. I made it to the next shelter before I could escape the bugs for breakfast.  

Focused a lot and walked hard today. Made it to Upper Goose Pond Cabin. Reuniting with Bru, Prime and Walkman was great! 

The cabin is a shelter for the trail but unique in a lot of ways.  

The cabin is truly that, enclosed, with a fire place, couches, a table and kitchen downstairs and bunks upstairs. The cabin sits above the pond and hikers can take out canoes for a bit of paddling.  

There is always a caretaker on duty. In the morning there will be free pancakes and coffee! 

For obvious reasons this is a popular shelter. When I arrived the cabin was full and already the tenting area was filling up. 

I set up my tent and then took a dip in the lake. The cool, clear water felt good on my mosquito-filled skin. I also have a bit of poison ivy, which I’ve never had before.  

Tomorrow we’ll make it to town.  

July 28
Upper Goose Pond Cabin - Dalton, MA / Tom Levardi’s

 

It felt so great to hike with a group today. The momentum created by a group is helpful at this point in the trail. 

Breakfast was delicious but stressful this morning. The caretaker could barely keep up with making enough pancakes for so many hungry hikers.  

We got to hiking around 8am. People talked of rain but the day turned out to be sunny, cool and beautiful.  

So much trail magic! There were coolers of Gatorade at a road crossing. Then a few miles later I walked up on a group of hikers standing around — which always means magic. Coolers of soda, Gatorade, snacks, cookies, and oranges were next to the trail angel’s car.  

For lunch we stopped at the cookie lady’s house. She’s known for the cookies she brings out to hikers. We sat at the picnic table on her lawn and made lunch.  

Then, a few miles later at a road crossing we met Ron and his Casper van. The white van has a large Casper the ghost decal and “AT friendly van” on the side.  

He was slackpacking some other hikers. His van had coolers of water, soda, and bins of snacks.  

The final 6 miles to town was pretty easy after all the food and sugar gathered throughout the day.  

We decided to camp at Tom Levardi’s. He’s a well-known AT angel and has been letting hikers camp in his backyard for over 30 years. 

After setting up we walked down the street for dinner and beers at a pub. Then Bru, Cruz and I got snacks at the gas station AND ice cream at a shop on the way back.  

So full and tired after 68 miles in three days.  

Motivations for the Final Push

Motivations for the Final Push

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