Tuesday, June 28, 2011

From the lake to the Pond

We left Anton's on the Lake this morning with a quick pit stop at Bellvale Creamery en route to the trail. In their register we saw our friends Ringleader's and Monkey's entries from last summer. Hiking today was a bit rough, fun climbing like in the Whites, but tiring after all of the flatter sections of recent. We saw a pond in our book and thought we would check it out as a potential camp site since we wouldn't make it to our original destination at our pace. What a nice surprise! I went for a dip and we cooked dinner on the rocks. Can't wait to see the sun rise over the pond in the morning! Tomorrow is day 100, we cross the Hudson River, hit 1,400 miles, hike through the Bear Mt Zoo, will have views of NYC, and will hike the lowest point on the AT...stay tuned!

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Let's Back Up A Bit

Hello Again Faithful Followers!

We are currently off of the Trail in Greenwood Lake, NY at mile 1363.6 after having crossed the state line from NJ yesterday afternoon. We are at a fantastic cafe, The Village Buzz, that has a computer right next to our table which actually has high-speed internet....definitely not in the South anymore! So now that we have a computer, we can back up a bit and review some of our off-trail excitements that the state of Pennsylvania brought to us!

It all started back when we arrived in Boiling Springs, PA. I was out at a tavern for dinner with our friend Blue Eyes when I met Roccko and Maggie, an engaged couple, alumni of Dickenson College, who were in town for the weekend for Alumni Weekend as well as to look at local farms for wedding ideas. Maggie's brother had hiked half of the AT a couple of years back before starting medical school, so she knew trail trash when she saw it and asked us if we were hiking. We hit it off with them and got talking about the trail, their barn wedding since I got to go to an AWESOME one (Nikki and Louis!), etc. They sneakily picked up our bar tab as trail magic, THANK YOU AGAIN!!!, and invited us back to Dickenson where the alumni had rented on-campus apartments for the alumni weekend. We hopped in the car and spend our Saturday night at Dickenson College partying it up with their alumni...way too much fun!

The next day we made it back to Boiling Springs, myself a little later, and hung outside of the gas station with some other hikers eating chips, rehydrating, etc. Jetpack had gone ahead on the trail with a friend while I hung back with Tippy Toes, Vinca and Poncho Verde. I hiked out with those 3 and Poncho and I fell behind stuffing our faces with mulberries. When we cought up to the two girls, Vinca was holding a tiny kitten. The girls had come upon 3 kittens on the side of the road that had clearly been abandoned and were emaciated. Thunder clounds were rolling in so we picked up the kittens, put them in our rain coats, and brought them about 10 miles to the next shelter through downpours, thunder, and lightning. Jatpack, along with everyone else at the shelter, was quite surprised when we rolled in with our kittens! The next day we split them up and I carried my favorite, Bob, into town.
Now let me tell you about Bob. He was clearly the runt, or at least weaker than the other 2, and was the sweetest little kitten - he didn't bite or meow incessantly like the other 2, and the best part, he rode on the back of my neck while I hiked.
From WV, MD, and PA
Bob and I had become good friends. I decided to take him to the vet for a check up since he was clearly in rough shape. They said he was 3oz and about 3 weeks old, clearly emaciated and dehydrated. We took him back to the town of Duncannon where everyone else was staying. Our fellow hikers had found a home for the other 2 kittens, but I had decided to keep Bob and carrying him another couple of days until we met up with my Mom. That night in our tent at about 1:15am, I woke up and went to move Bob over so I could adjust myself...he was very limp. I panicked and started to lose my cool, fearing the worst. Trying not to wake Jetpack, I took him outside and tried to give him water and feed him with my syringe that they gave me at the vet...he wouldn't eat and just kept meowing. He got worse quickly and could barely hold his head up. I knew what was going to happen so I brought him into the tent, wrapped him in one of my bandanas, laid back down and stayed with him until he was at rest...one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. The next day we burried Bob in a beautiful little patch next to the trail. Now I apologize for possibly ruining your day with such a sad story, but remember the story of Bob and spay and neuter your pets because this poor kitten was the result of neglect.

Feeling pretty miserable we carried on and went to bed early at a shelter so that we could get up early, restart, and hike 31 miles...until we heard our names called from outside of our tent. It was our dear friend Swift inviting us to a party at a 'modern house with showers, laundry, etc' that was at the bottom of the ridge. Apparently the directions that Swift had received to the party were to 'take a right at the privy and follow the deer-path down to the road, and take a right until we get to number whatever.' It was about 8:45, we were half-asleep, but we decided that we couldn't pass up that offer...we packed up and headed down with Swift in the dark with our headlamps on. We arrived and everything there was as promised...a shower, laundry, internet, great music, a bed to sleep in, and even home-cooked curried veggies with quinoa! This guy Rick, a contractor and member of a bluegrass band hosted a hiker party for all of us at the shelter!

We hiked out the next day, carried on the day after and then finally met my mom and brothers for my birthday weekend!!!!

We spent the weekend in a gorgeous MARRIOT HOTEL in Quakertown, PA as well as at my uncle and aunt's house in Coopersburg. They are avid followers of our adventure and we arrived to a chalkboard sign outside welcoming us (thanks Uncle Dave!). We had an amazing weekend with my 2 younger brothers, mom, and the Pauls (Auntie Jen, Uncle Dave, Jon, Steph, and boys, and Steven). For my birthday, my mom got us tickets to Dorney Park, an amusement park in Allentown where we spent the day with Andy and Chris screaming our heads off on roller coasters!! We hopped back on the trail late the next day.

4 days later we arrived in Delaware Water Gap, PA, just a mile or so from the PA/NJ state line. Auntie Jen and Uncle Dave drove up to bring us our food drop and took us to the fabulous WalMart and a laundry run and surprised us with some fresh fruit (THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!) It was so great to see them again (twice in one week!) and they also got to go into the hostel and meet some thru hikers!

Phew! Lots of stuff but there it is! A great time so far, an awesome zero in DWG and we have already crossed into New York! Only about 100 miles until NEW ENGLAND!!!!! Stay tuned!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Welcome to New Jersey

And what a welcome it was. This morning we left the hostel early and crossed the Delaware River into NJ. It was a pretty hike but very foggy and cloudy today after all of the rain yesterday. We are still battling some rocks but they should be ending soon...our feet will be so happy then. Later in the day we got hit with 2 thunderstorms with heavy downpours. So here is the answer to the question we get way too often, "what do you do when it rains?"
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Thursday, June 23, 2011

So Long PA...it's been.....

So I now have my phone with me so I will be trying to do quick blog posts from here more frequently. We are now at mile 1285.3 in Delaware Water Gap, PA. We are zeroing at the Church of the Mountain's hostel. One of the church's main outreaches is the hiker
hostel where they have finished a portion of their basement and will be hosting a potluck/BBQ. A great way to end a rough stretch of terrain. The rocks have been brutal for the last 100 miles but we have a had a lot of off-trail adventures. Stay tuned. Here is one of the FEW views we have had in the last week or so.
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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sweet motivation

  So here we are part way through Rocksylvania and we haven't even hit the rocks yet.  I keep waiting and have been told from various people different places that the famous massive amounts of rocks in PA start.  I know it is soon so I think I am mentally prepared.  Lately while we're hiking we've been discussing various aspects of the trail and parts that we have enjoyed most.  I loved the south, especially the Hump mountains in TN, and various parts of Virginia, but lately I've been getting an itch to be in New England.  And by New England I mean Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.  Connecticut and Massachusetts will be exciting too, but there is nothing like the final three states on the trail.  The woods are different there and the mountains are very different from the rest of the trail.  Those of you who know Vermont or who have hiked in the Whites in NH probably know what I'm taking about.  I'm excited for the spruce forests, cold mountain streams, Maine lakes and to be hiking above tree line for days in a row.  Our plan is to be to Delaware Water Gap Wednesday evening and be into New Jersey on Thursday morning.  When we get to New England I want to slow down and be able to take as much time as we want to get through the last three states.  Knowing what we have to look forward to there will be my motivation through the next few states!

View of the Presidentials from the Carter range
 We're headed back to the trail later this afternoon after a really fun last few days. A huge thank you to Elizabeth, Eats mom for everything she has one for us the last few days! It has been a blast!
Thats it for now, next time you hear from us we should be in NJ or maybe even NY!!

PA Already???

Ok so here we are in PA, state number 7! But I guess we have sort of been flying through states recently, so here is how it all went down...

Before anything, when we got into Waynesboro with Teri, we were super surprised when we went to pick up our packages at the outfitter: Pete from Florida, one of our blog followers, sent us some mail magic!!! We had a package from someone we have never met, filled with delicious candy bars and Kashi bars (YUMMM). Thank you so much Peter!!!! I don't have much to say about the following week in Shenandoah besides two things Jetpack didn't mention...
1. We got killer trail magic with Papa Muskrat (a section hiker) and his wife Mama Mink. They made us an incredible dinner, let us stay on their campsite, and then made us breakfast in their RV in the morning. We got to share this with our new friends Puddle Duck and Coyote.

2. Also, Shenandoah has a lot of wildlife...here I got one of my favorite pictures so far: (make sure to check out the little cub against the tree!)

After we left Shenandoah we stayed at the Bears Den Hostel, a gorgeous stone house with a great hiker special where your stay includes a full Tombstone pizza and a pint of Ben&Jerry's!!! A great night of course! We met some really great people there including Swift, Mothership, and Lost and Found, all of whom we have been hiking with off and on since then. We then made our way to a campsite right outside of Harper's Ferry where we were given a whole bunch of Starbucks Via instant coffee packets by some section hikers (a total win!! I LOVE these!), but not before stopping a pizza joint for a celebratory beer and dinner after crossing the 1,000 mile mark that day! I guess I got overly excited (and hungry) because I ate so much that when we made it to the campsite, I had to make myself throw up. Sorry for the imagery but it was actually pretty funny. Eats beat at his own game! The next day though, brought us in to Harper's Ferry WV, the 'unofficial halfway point' of the AT, home of the ATC headquarters, and....OUT OF VIRGINIA! We took the all-important 'half-way' picture on the porch of the ATC HQ and placed it in the 2011 binder to join the ranks of all thru hikers, past, present, and future who have made it to that point. We were lucky enough to get there while our dear friends Vinca and Poncho Verde were still there and will forever in history be next to them in the book!

The town of Harper's Ferry is a really great, historical town with plenty of awesome places to eat as well as an outfitter where I was able to replace my clunky boots with some awesome trail runners (I am so much happier, and faster, now!) Immediately after crossing the bridge out of HF, we crossed the border into Maryland!! (WV is only 8 miles on the AT). We got through Maryland pretty quickly, but not without back-to-back 97 degree days with intensely high humidity. NOT FUN. I did however, manage to hitch into town for a Chinese buffet with a few other hikers while Jetpack took a nap in the shade at Pen Mar park. After I returned we once again crossed state lines, heading into PA!!!

The next day (another 97 degrees) we got some more awesome reader participation! Tracy, part of a long-running family friendship, picked us up to take us somewhere to eat, to resupply at WalMart, and then back to her house. We had SUCH a great afternoon hanging out in their beautiful (air conditioned) home. Here we got to do laundry, eat ice cream cones, eat an incredibly amazing salad, and hang out with the whole family. It was such a nice time to get to spend with them and we wished we had been able to stay, but we had a big day the next day!!! Thanks again Lombardozzi family!!!!

So this big day...the HALFWAY POINT!!! We finally made it to the real halfway point, mile 1090.5

We then ran into another rattlesnake, Jetpack's first and my third...it's getting old now! Haha actually they are really cool now to see, but still a tiny bit scary. We then rolled in to Pine Grove Furnace State Park, the home of the infamous half-gallon challenge. We both succeeded in eating entire half-gallons of ice cream....not pretty. We didn't get sick, but it is nothing I will ever do again. As our dear friend Swift put it, "I have insulted my body".

Since then, the hiking in PA has been pretty easy for the most part, with lots of ridgeline walking. I am definitely really getting hit with the 'green tunnel' feeling. There has been such a long stretch where the views are far apart and are rarely breathtaking, something I am not used to at all having grown up hiking in the Whites. The AT gods however, were determined to make sure that this trip doesn't ever get boring. Stay tuned for the off-trail adventures that have really made this a one-of-a-kind journey for us. Should be up sometime tomorrow. Until then...

Happy Trails,


Friday, June 17, 2011

Taking a break

  Happy birthday to Eats! We are off the trail for a few days to visit with Eats' family and celebrate his birthday!  His mom and brothers came to pick us up from the trail yesterday and took us to his Aunt Jennifer and Uncle Dave's house.  We had a wonderful time there both tonight and last night, eating great food and enjoying wonderful company.  Thanks to them for their wonderful hospitality and all the great food they had!
  Today, to celebrate Eats birthday we spent the day at Dorney Park- an amusement and water park near his aunt and uncles house.  Flying around on roller coasters and going on thrill rides was a great change of pace from the trail and an awesome way to spend the day.
  This past week has been a bit of a rough one for us.  A lot has happened both good and bad, but it has resulted in us making very slow progress, so we have some catching up to do over the next week or so.
  Earlier in the week I had the unfortunate experience of being sick on the trail.  I think I had food poisoning, because it luckily only lasted a little over 24 hours, but it was rough while it lasted.  I can't think of many things on the trail that could be worse than being really sick in the middle of the woods.  I was really weak and tired so we didn't manage to hike very far that day.  The day before, Eats and some of our trail friends Vinca, Poncho and Tippy Toes found three abandoned kittens by the side of the road while hiking.  Since they couldn't leave them there they hiked them in ten miles to the shelter that night and we took them into town with us the next day.  They quickly found homes but Eats had become very attached to the one he had been carrying (Bob) and had decided to keep him and since his mom was coming to visit in a few days she could bring him home.  I will let Eats tell you the story of Bob because he was his kitten and was the one who carried him and fed him, but Bob did not make it through the next night.  It was completely unexpected and so sad because we had taken him to the vet and he seemed to be doing alright.  So we buried Bob the next morning along the trail, and for anyone who has had to bury an animal, you know what a terrible experience it is and it was extremely draining and emotionally tiring for us.  So we will think of Bob as we continue to hike north and wish he was with us!

Eats ready to hike with Bob

Half way!!!!!

Last week we reached the official halfway point at mile 1090.5!! When we got there, there was a couple who were out hiking for the day and asked us how we felt about being at the halfway point.  Were we excited or was it completely unbelievable that after ALL time on the trail we were ONLY half way??? We weren't really sure how to respond because in our minds we had already passed the half way point since Harpers Ferry is looked at being half way by many people.  I decided I was excited, because it meant that I still had 1090.5 miles of experiences to look forward to, and if the next half is anything like the first part has been, I can't wait for every mile!
Jetpack at the half way marker

Three miles after the half way mark the trail passes through Pine Grove Furnace state park.  This is home to the half gallon challenge where hikers get to try and eat a half gallon of ice cream.  With our overwhelming love for food, Eats and I have been talking about this literally for years since we first learned about it.  We were totally pumped for the challenge and had our top flavors picked out before we got there.  There were only a few flavors to choose from when we arrived, and we both went with Chocolate swirl- vanilla ice cream with a chocolate fudge swirl.  Before doing this, a half gallon looked like a lot of ice cream to me, but not out of the question.  Let me just say that a half gallon in one sitting is absolutely disgusting! We both did it, but there were a few serious points when I thought I wasn't going to be able to finish it, I almost quit more than once-it was just totally disgusting and I wouldn't recommend doing it at home.  But we sat around for a few hours after to let it digest and watch other hikers eat theirs and we still managed to hike 28 miles that day! 
Thanks for reading and happy trails!
After finishing the half gallon challenge!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Harpers Ferry, unofficial halfway point!!

Hello everyone! Were made it! We're in Harpers Ferry, WV mile 1,015. We crossed the 1,000 mile mark on Saturday which was extremely exciting and felt like quite an accomplishment! We got into town yesterday morning and went to the ATC headquarters and got our halfway point picture taken.  Each Thru hiker gets a number when they get to the headquarters and we were hikers number 308 & 309 for the year. We spent some time at the trail headquarters which is full of information, history, pictures and facts about the trail.

  Last week was a long and hot week in Shenandoah.  The temperatures soared into the upper 90's which made hiking quite a task.  We didn't love the park as much as we were hoping to-the views were few and far between, shelters were spaced so that we had to do really long or really short days with few places to camp in between but for the most part the terrain was much nicer than we'd had in a while, so that made it easier.  We did have some great wild life encounters as well- Eats saw another rattle snake, we saw a tiny fawn the other day as well as lots of other deer and my bear count is up to 12!
  The official halfway point will come later this week on Thursday or Friday and we are looking forward to the Half gallon challenge to celebrate, where hikers take on the challenge of eating a half gallon of ice cream (and I believe the time frame is in less than an hour).  So we're stoked for that and to be finally counting DOWN the miles to Katahdin!
Happy Trails and thanks for reading!