Hey all, long time no blog post. As you know, 2020 was a whirlwind of a year. I quit my job, sold my car, got rid of my apartment, started hiking the Appalachian Trail, and as I left off in my last post, cried as I had to give up my dream due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This post is meant to update you all on how my year has gone and what my plans are for 2021.
When I got off-trail, I still had hope that after the two week quarantine things would go back to normal and I could get back on. Obviously that wasn’t the case. Instead, I decided to take a travel nurse job in a COVID field hospital. I worked there for 6 weeks and then spent another 4 weeks in the hospital helping out in all the units including the COVID ones. I learned what this pandemic really was and it solidified the fact that I made the right decision to get off trail.
While working in the COVID field hospital, I got this crazy idea stuck in my head: I wanted to live in a van. About a week later, I looked at a van and a week after that I purchased it and took it home. My sister, dad, and I then spent about a month renovating it so that it would be ready for me to live in full time.
After this I took two months off from working. To be honest I was burnt out, as are many nurses I know working during this pandemic. I am privileged to be able to take this time off and it was much needed.
In these two months I completed:
The Northeast 67 4k footers: hiking all of the Maine peaks in two weeks.
Then I decided to do something crazy and I completed the NH 48 Direttissima in less than 11 days. This was about 250miles, with an average of 22miles a day. I was wrecked and lost a toenail (don’t worry, it’s almost grown back).
Lastly, I completed the Terrifying 25 trails in NH just in time to take a travel nurse assignment in Virginia.
While in Virginia, I made some amazing friends and even got a dog…KEIKO! He is a menace but I love him. I also completed a few hiking lists down south: one in North Carolina called South beyond 6k feet and one in Virginia called the 5 peaks above 5k. I even hiked the 24mile Virginia triple crown in a day! I have truly grown to love Virginia and the people here and I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since I left. I always said I wouldn’t extend somewhere, but this place felt like home and it was nice spending the holidays with people I know and love. I will truly miss my friends and my amazing coworkers. It was rough with COVID numbers on the rise while I was there and we really felt it. I sure hope that things settle down for them and for all the other healthcare workers.
On the bright side I am fully vaccinated against COVID!
“So what’s your plan next?”, you ask. I get this question a lot. Well, it is still my dream to hike the Appalachian Trail…but with COVID being worse than it was when I got off-trail last year and watching all the Facebook sites this year is going to be overrun with AT thru-hikers, I don’t feel morally right contributing to the problem. So unless things change in the next week (unlikely) for the better with vaccinations I will not be hiking the AT NOBO in 2021. Instead, I have decided to hike a couple shorter thru-hikes and I couldn’t be more excited! My goal for 2021 is to just have fun and enjoy my life. All of this starts March 22nd when Keiko and I, with the accompaniment of my friend Corey and his dog Loki will be stepping on the 335 mile Pinhoti trail! If that wasn’t long enough, we figured why not jump on the 290 mile Benton Mackaye trail after? Oh yeah, I also have a couple more fun adventures up my sleeve!
Anyways, I hope you enjoy following my adventures in the next couple months and consider donating to my charities. My goal is $8500 and I hope to meet that goal by the end of my trip. Thanks in advance for your generous donations!
It’s been over a month since I started the AT. At my average mileage I would have been over 300+ miles at this point. Crazy to think that instead I am currently working at a field hospital as an RN for COVID-19 patients.
To be honest, I am sad, real sad. But life moves on. The trail will be there for me to hike in the future. Rather than dwell on the pandemic and moping around, I thought I’d post a rundown of my first amazing week on trail. When I get back on trail, I won’t be actually doing a day-by-day, so consider this a treat!
Day One: March 16th 2020
Amicalola State Park to Stover Creek Shelter
Total miles today: 11.6
Miles on the AT: 2.8
This was a day where Special (a.k.a Ed), Dug (a.k.a. Erin), and I realized “Wow are we really here.” I think between the three of us we said “GUY’S WE ARE ON THE AT ” about a million times. Starting the trail was unreal. Nothing could bring our moods down.
Weather started off as misty and rainy. We were all decked out in rain gear to start happy as can be. When I say happy I don’t mean a typical “happy”. I mean the happiest I have been in a very long time. That’s saying a lot considering how happy I am generally. I was finally living my dream. I saved up money for three years, quit my job, sold my car, and moved out of my apartment. It’s funny to say that this is my dream, when normally people’s dreams are to get married and have children. I’m out here being NOT NORMAL apparently. But whatever, I’m cool with that. I love my life and was loving every second of the trail.
The first section of the trail is Amicalola Falls State Park and it involves a lot of steps. When I say a lot I mean 604 steps. I actually had a thru-hiker say to me the day before “skip the steps they suck.” Everyone talks about the dreaded stairs. How the stairs are a killer. They all dread the stairs. I must be psycho because I LOVED the stairs. Just ask Special or Dug and they will tell you how fast I scurried up the stairs. I was just so excited. Not only were the stairs fun, there was a beautiful waterfall we passed!
At the top of the falls Dug’s stepdad was waiting with coffee and breakfast prepared!!!
The rest of the day took us on the beautiful approach trail 8.8 miles up to the top of Springer mountain where the AT actually starts as well as 2.8 miles of the actual AT. The trail on day one was crazy beautiful: a foggy “Slenderman looking” forest.
When we finally saw the top of Springer I wanted to cry. I was finally here. I was finally doing that dream. To top it off, the sun came out when we arrived at Springer. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
The only downside to the day was my back bothering me, but I made it through. There was nothing that was going to stop me from finishing this trail. Plus we had a shot of a Fireball with a couple other thru-hikers to commemorate our first day! 10/10 day for sure.
Day Two: March 17th 2020
Stover Creek Shelter to Justus Creek Shelter
Total miles today: 11.5
Miles on the AT 14.3
Well we learned today that we were the slow moving crew. We decided to wake up at 0800, but did not end up getting going until almost 10am. I feel like this is to be expected at first because none of us knew how to pack our bags properly and just pack up camp in general. I am sure as time goes on we would get faster. Weather was rough in the morning. It poured all morning until lunch where we got beautiful sunshine for the rest of the afternoon! (yay!)
My morale this day was pretty good. I was happy to be on the trail and grateful to be finally hiking. Although this was the first day we started to hear about all the COVID-19 issues. People were concerned about whether we should be on trail at all. This day the ATC officially asked all thru-hikers who haven’t started to postpone their hikes. At this point, I felt safer on trail then I would be working as a nurse at home with COVID-19 patients. But we were nervous about how resupply would look as we progressed on trail. For now we are continuing hiking and we will see where things go over the next few days. We felt good about staying on trail.
Some fun things throughout the day:
Eerie views with fog and green that feels like a scary movie
Making Special climb into a massive hole in a tree
Saw a cute orange salamander!
Day Three: March 18th 2020
Justus Creek Shelter to Lance Creek
Total miles today: 9.7
Miles on the AT: 24
Today was a day filled with games. We all discussed different types of games we would play at camp as kids. Games like 9 Rocks, I’m Going on a Picnic, and Big Blue Moon. Dug and I both figured out each other’s games really quickly and tortured Special with them. We spent hours trying to figure out the puzzle Special gave to us! This distracted us in the morning because we all started to become even more concerned with everything going on with COVID. Morale was really low to be honest. We saw a couple handful of people get off the trail because of it. We spent a long time at lunch discussing and trying to figure out what we were going to do. My biggest concern was spreading COVID to all the little trail towns. Who knows if I am a carrier? It didn’t help that it would be raining all day long.
We also toyed with the idea of resupplying the next day since we sent boxes and trying to carry as much food as possible. That way we will limit exposure and limit transferring it up trail. I am feeling really down this day… All we were thinking about is what to do about this situation. I knew the trail would be mentally hard, but not in this way.
Highlight of the day: We are starting to make friends and can start to see some of these people becoming tramily. And we saw our first views!
Day Four: March 19th 2020
Lance Creek to Bull Gap
Total miles today: 8.4
Miles on the AT: 32.4
Resupply day!!! We were so excited for resupply that we got up at 0600. Special ended up hiking ahead of us because he wanted to get to resupply early. We also had the first big climb of the AT: Blood Mountain ooooo! To be honest this hike was not as bad as expected. People kept saying it was so hard but I found it to be pretty easy. Blood Mountain was beautiful and we lucked out with a view! It had been foggy all morning and the sun broke when we got to the top!
There is a cool shelter at the top and you can stay there if you have a bear canister. After the descent from Blood Mountain was our resupply at Neels Gap. There were so many people here and on the descent. It was crazy the amount of day hikers that were out. Almost nerve wracking. Who knows who has COVID? Some thru-hikers did create a trail name for COVID. Peaches (tbh I don’t know his actual name) called it “coconut virus” and it just stuck among thru-hikers. Just a little bit of morbid brightness in the darkness that is this pandemic. We wanted to push more miles today, but after Neels Gap we just didn’t have the emotional energy to do it.
Dug and I ended up not going all the way to the camp Special went to and we camped soon after the resupply. Dug also had horrible blisters that I had to treat and care for. Thankful for my nursing knowledge and knowing the proper thing to do! Also… ask Dug how this went because I laughed the whole time while I popped them.
Highlight of the day: Trying to hang a bear bag. It was Struggle City to the extreme. I think it took us almost an hour. It also didn’t help that Falkor (a.k.a Ollie) was stick-happy and would jump on me any time I tried to throw the rope. At one point, I got on the shoulders of our new friend Level One (a.k.a Emilio) to get the bag higher. It didn’t work but we did get a lot of laughs.
Day Five: March 20th 2020
Bull Gap to Poplar Stamp Gap
Total miles today: 11.8
Miles on the AT: 44.2
My trail journal entry from today really shows you how I am really feeling. “Today was a really hard day morale wise. I struggled through the first section. It is hard to know what is right to do. Most people in my life are telling me to stay on trail but people online are telling us we are selfish for continuing our hike. I don’t know how to feel about it. We will continue to hike until Monday and look at how the virus is affecting things and how it is progressing before we make our decision. Dom (my BF) says he supports whatever decision I make. Mom is pushing me to stay on the trail. I’ve cried a couple times today. My friend from work Brianna texted me a little bit and made me feel better about staying on trail. A lot can change in 2.5 days. Otherwise, it was a good day. We pushed, got some good mileage, and had some beautiful views. It was supposed to rain but it turned out sunny all day. I even got a sunburn and had to put on my long sleeve shirt to prevent my shoulders from burning more. Whoops.
We made some more friends today! A young father and his daughter made a fire for us, but are currently struggling to get it going. Hopefully I feel better tomorrow.”
As you can see, I couldn’t even focus on the trail today. All the stuff about the pandemic and the hatred we were getting online was really hard to handle. On the bright side our friend Which Way (also don’t know her actual name) drew an arrow with chalk that led us to a great view. This was the first time I had service on trail and was able to call my mom and dad. That really helped.
Day Six: March 21th 2020
Poplar Stamp Gap to Tray Mountain Shelter
Total miles today: 14
Miles on the AT: 58.2
Today was a big day! We did 14 miles and my legs were feeling it big time. I was having some IT band issues and spent a lot of the day when resting massaging and stretching it out. My body was starting to accept sleeping outside and I had been sleeping much better at night. Most of the day was easy mileage with not a huge amount of elevation loss or gain. We were going to camp two miles earlier but we decided we did not want to start our next day with a huge climb up a mountain.
We were trying our best to social distance, but it had been really hard. There were so many day hikers along this trail, it’s insane. We felt like every five minutes we were running into huge groups of hikers along the trail, which made us feel weird about hiking and not quarantining like our friends and families. Overall, I felt pretty good about being out there but still had my concerns about what the right thing to do was. We kept saying to ourselves. “We will make our decision at Hiawassee,” which was the next resupply town. When we finally got to camp, it was on top of Tray Mountain and had a beautiful view where we got to watch sunset! I also burned myself on my stove… The issue with this shelter was that there were SOOOO many people, it was unnerving to be around such a huge group.
Fun fact of the day: We saw a trail runner running by. His face was covered in white, and I decided to call him sunscreen. Erin and I got a huge kick out of that.
Day Seven: March 22nd 2020
Tray Mountain Shelter to Dicks Creek Gap
Total miles today: 11
Miles on the AT: 59.2
This was the first overnight where I woke up freezing cold in the middle of the night. Thankfully, I had plenty of layers to put on and got nice and toasty. Of course that caused me to sleep through my 0600 alarm…whoops. I had a message from Special saying that the hotel we wanted to stay at was filled up the previous night, so I gave them a call and booked a hotel and shuttle for the night. Thankfully I had service, a rarity for me on trail. This was a sad day. We had a point in time where we were going up a blue blaze trail to go and see the view of Powell mountain. Dug and I looked at each other and both knew…we were getting off trail because of COVID tonight. We took in what would be our final view on the AT before hiking down to our shuttle. Also we both had a good cry.
We decided we were lucky though. We didn’t get to hike much of the trail, but we sure got to see some beautiful sites. Just in those seven days we saw so many different beautiful landscapes. This day alone we had the woods, a ridge walk, and what seemed like a jungle.
We also didn’t stop so much for water and just kept pushing because we just wanted to get to town. This made for a hard day because we were dehydrated for sure. When we finally got to Dicks Creek Gap, our shuttle showed up about five minutes later and we signed into our hotel room for the night.
Dug and I both called our families and cried. We knew we were making the right decision. In “celebration” of completing our first week we got Dairy Queen for dinner because why not?
As you can see, it was an emotional seven days on trail. I had the time of my life and I know now that when I am able to finally start my thru-hike that I am physically and mentally prepared to complete it. AT 2021 comeback anyone?
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has asked Thru-Hikers to get off trail. So who would have thought my first blog post from trail would be the one of me getting off trail. No, this is not forever. I still plan to finish my AT thru-hike this year. Dug aka Erin, Ollie and I are devastated. But with everything going on with COVID-19, we feel that we would be socially irresponsible if we stayed on trail.
Here are the reasons:
When we had our first resupply at Mountain Crossing we probably saw around 150 people.
When hiking, some days we would see about 60 people.
Almost every night, even when avoiding shelters, campsites have been full.
Traveling from untouched mountain town to untouched mountain town would put those people at risk and stopping at towns in unavoidable.
Campsites and sections of trail up north are already closing.
Resupply is eventually going to be impossible.
We want to set an example for other thru-hikers.
We should be enjoying this trail, but have been nothing but upset about everything going on and whether we are doing the right thing.
The trail will always be there.
Thanks to all those who have been supporting me for staying on trail. Many people have told me to continue on and push because I am in “isolation.” Yes, in theory I am the epitome of social distancing. But in reality I have been one of the people ignoring everything the CDC and WHO are recommending. I would love to stay on trail, but morally I feel that would not be okay. I hope my friends and family can support my choice. Keep your fingers crossed that things will die down soon and I can get myself back on trail ASAP.
Now that I have put a damper on things, here are some pictures of my first week on trail. As soon as I feel better about things, I will do a full write up because this truly has been an amazing week.
Lastly, I am going to talk about individuals that I have done multiple hikes with. These people are my biggest supporters next to my family when it comes to training for the AT and these poor people have probably listened to me drown on and on about my hike coming up.
Brian: You and I hiked 3 of my original NH 4Ks together and a couple other smaller hikes! Thank you for always being up for hiking when I asked you. I can remember texting you “Hey, do you want to hike with me?” on numerous occasions and you always said yes! You don’t hike as much as me and my friends but man can you keep up and even go faster at times. I can’t wait until we can hike again. When I hit the AT in NY I hope maybe you can spare a day to see me!
Tiffany: you started my terrifying 25 journey with me! We did 3 of the trails together and had a blast. Remember when I completely smashed my Apple Watch whoopsy! Happy Health reasons might have gotten in the way of our hiking but you have supported me in so many other ways on my journey!
Alyssa Mulno: You were one of my first friends that hiked NH 4Ks with me. You know what I was like before I was a hiker and how much I struggled. What a difference now. We did 7 of my original NH 4ks together. Thank you for helping me up those mountains in the early days of my hiking. We haven’t gotten to do many hikes recently, but as soon as you are all healed up I’m waiting for you to meet me along the AT.
Tyler: HA HA. Do I need to write anymore? Oh, how our friendship over the years has made me laugh. Thanks for always being up for doing crazy hikes with me. You and I did my first 11mile hike together. I can remember we were WRECKED after. You are the person that always creates havoc on my hikes. For some reason we always get lost or take way longer than expected. I am starting to see a trend here.
Erin: Okay we have only done one hike together but after reading my last blog posteveryone can see why you are on this list. I can’t wait to see what the AT brings for us both. As I tell you almost every day, I am so excited!
Austin: As with a lot of my hiking friends, it seems we also have a weird way of meeting. Thanks to Neal at our gym for showing off how strong I am because he really helped create such an amazing friendship. You hiked 10 of my original NH 4Ks with me. You were also the first person I have ever had a successful backpacking trip with. Our Semi-Pemi was incredible and I couldn’t have imagined a better person to have hiked it with.
Corey: Here is another friendship of mine that happened by chance. Remember the story of Erin and Ollie in my last blog post? Well Corey was the guy who was with Erin. Since that random meeting, You and I have been on so many hikes. At least 2 a month? Our day where we hiked the northern presi’s was incredible and I couldn’t imagine another person to have hiked that with.
Will: Can I first say thank you to Instagram? Will was the person who gave me the energy and drive to hike all of the Vermont 4Ks. I had posted on my Instagram that was being lazy and didn’t want to hike three days alone. Well he messaged me and was like “If you don’t want to go alone, I’ll hike with you.” So yes, I did meet a random man from the internet and I am so glad I did! We have only hiked twice together but man were they hikes. The first was in Vermont where we hiked 2 Vermont 4ks. Then Will had a crazy idea to attempt a Single Season Winter 48 (SSW48: When you hike all NH 4Ks in on Winter. Crazy, I know) He messaged me one day and was like “Hey will you do a Hale/Zealand/Bond Traverse with me. Next thing I knew I was doing a 23 mile hike over 5 NH 4Ks. We started at 2:30 am to attempt to catch sunrise, got no sunrise because of clouds but still had an incredible day. Thanks Will for messaging me. I can’t wait to hike again.
Jo: If anyone has ever heard me talk about Jo, they hear me say this woman is a badass British lady. Also attempting a SSW48, I know she’s incredible. We met through our other hiking friend Alyssa F (addressed below). Since then, Jo has pushed me beyond limits I didn’t think possible. Everyone knows I hate running, but then Jo came into my life and I found myself trail running with her. I know crazy. We have done some really fun and fast hikes. I can always count on her to answer my hiking pack questions and she is always sending me little tips and tricks on how to make my hiking life better on trail. I legit get a couple paragraphs a week on this and I am so thankful! She has been one of my biggest supporters when it comes to AT planning and I am truly grateful to call you one of my best friends.
Sarah: Sarah and I also met through Alyssa F and I am truly grateful and thankful for that. Sarah has become one of my best friends over the last couple months. You heard me talk about her in my last post on how I met Erin. She and I are just on the same level mentally and physically. We get each other. Hikes with her just make sense. Also we have some of the best conversations while hiking about our bodies and minds. I am truly grateful for all the thinking she has made me do. I can always count on her for a podcast to listen to that allows me to learn more about me as a person. Also plug for her as an amazing entrepreneur. Check out her website! She is amazing coach on wellness, especially for women who are trying to break out of that “diet culture” https://linktr.ee/slacourse
Alyssa F: My hiking soulmate. I sometimes wish we met earlier in life because I don’t think I have hiked with anyone else more than I have hiked with you. We have been hiking in NY, Maine and NH. Hopefully one day other parts of the world. You are the reason why I have two of my other best hiking friends and I am forever grateful. I have also met so many hiking people through you and you make me less afraid to meet friends through social media. I couldn’t even possibly talk about our hikes because there have been too many to count. I love how the second time we met, you stayed with me and we hiked the rest of your Terrifying 25 trails!
Dom: Sorry for all your suffering. For those of you who don’t know, my boyfriend isn’t exactly a hiker. We have this funny saying that I have “trail boyfriends” and he is okay with it because it means he does not have to hike with me. But of course, we have gone on a couple hikes together. He has even hiked one NH 4000 footer (attempted a second), two terrifying 25trails and two 52 with a view trails! He might not have been happy but he did it for me and I appreciate it. Next to my family, he is my biggest supporter and has probably listened to me the most talk about hiking, the poor guy. We did start our relationship off by me saying “in 2.5 years I am going to do this hike and if you are not okay with it, don’t bother dating me” and here we are. Thanks for being so okay with this and for encouraging me to follow my dreams even when they don’t make life easier for you.
I guess we should now talk about my two first “failed” backpacking attempts as an adult. The first one was with Tyler, Kayla, and Dimitrios. First off, make sure those you are backpacking with are compatible hikers in more than just physical ability. Let me just say that the four of us have really strong personalities that made for an interesting hike. Not only that, but we were a little overzealous on choosing our hike thinking we would get over the Wildcats and Carters in a single day and get all the way to the Osgood tent site. A dumb move on my part back then but I didn’t know any better. I had not even started my attempt to hike the 48 4Ks. So as you can tell, we didn’t succeed and ended up camping for a couple days in the Great Gulf wilderness which was fun! We ended up spending fewer days in the woods as planned due to an injury of my friend, but nonetheless this set off my love for backpacking.
The second attempt was with Alyssa M, Kevin P and Dimitrios. I couldn’t even tell you where we hiked, my best guess would be Bog Brook Trail. All I know is we did 8 miles in to a campsite and we essentially ran it. I was in the worst shape out of the three of them and we all were running to keep up with Kevin. Man, can that man hike fast. Sadly because he was going so fast his knee started bothering him. So after one night at camp, we ended up hiking back out to the car and ended our hike early. Regardless of injuries and other personal issues, this was one of my favorite hikes. Good friends, good hiking, and overall good times. Thanks to the three of you for helping me grow that love.
I have a few people in my life that have gone on only one or two hikes with me. Stacey, Shayna, Q, Jill, Bobby, Jenna, Christina, Nykia, Camila, Matt C, Colin, Steve, Steve, Nate, Chris P, Maddie, Jess, Kia, Zach, Mike L, Matt C (aka Posty the Pirate), Liz, Kyrelle, Jane, Sue, and Erica. I am for sure missing some people. Some of you went on your first ever hike with me, some of you have been on a few hikes and some of you are better hikers that I am. Thanks for being a partner of mine and for agreeing to hike with me. You all gave me the opportunity to hike with someone new. Watching your smiles as you see the view and realize your accomplishment just makes my heart happy.
A few shout outs to my one-two hike-wonders:
Stacey, that hike to the tea house in Banff was so incredibly fun. You did amazing! Shayna, our walk to the sunset in Banff was one of my favorite memories from that trip.
Q, remember when you thought 3 miles was going to be a long hike but then you felt like you were short changing me because it was easy? Oh what about when I took you up one of the tallest 4Ks up one of the hardest trails? Jill and Bobby were there way ahead of the two of us. You might have struggled, but you did amazing. Jill you are just incredible how you flew up that mountain with your dog on your shoulder and good for you Bobby keeping up with her because I for sure could not.
Jenna you beasted up those two mountains! We hiked almost 9 miles for your first hike! Wow!
Christina, hikes with you are always fun and most certainly involved the dark and alcohol. Need I say more?
Nyckxida you are a light. We have only done one baby hike but I will remember the day I met you and Alyssa forever. We had so much fun exploring the belknaps.
Camila! We went on your first winter hike together! As a flatlander, you did incredible! Running and falling down the trail with you was so fun!
Matt and Ellen, remember 4th of july? That sunset was beautiful!
Steve, we only met that one time hiking in Maine and might have only managed one peak but man did we brave the cold the three of us together! Also post hike Disney plus was pretty great.
The other Steve: We met on those two hikes for Alyssa’s birthday and I really grew to appreciate you as a friend. I am glad I got to see you when I made it out to Colorado for that short time!
Nate, the amount of Dix jokes I have in my brain now will last me a lifetime. The way you make whisky bottles sexy is incredible. I am glad we now have had two opportunities to hike together! I can’t wait to follow your year long road trip!
Chris P, remember our winter hike up Kearsarge? You had no traction and were slipping and sliding everywhere. It was so fun! Because of that hike, I now own a second pair of traction for people I bring on hikes.
Liz, Kyrelle, Jane, Sue, Erica: sorry for the more than you bargained for hike to the waterfall in Nashville for Aja’s Bach party. At least it was pretty!
Maddie: you were such a trooper hiking up to Glen boulder with Tyler and I. We might have had to help, but you made it above tree line and I was so proud!
Kia, Jess, Mike, Zach, and Dimitrios: I was just talking about how fun our trip was with Jess and Kia and how we decided to forage the river instead of hiking back the 2 miles. All of us were soaked over our ankles (well except Zach who we all entrusted with our phones). I still smile when I think about that day.
Matt, Posty the Pirate Cherkerzian: I am honored to have given you your trail name. I am sad that we only just started hiking together because already I can tell that we make great hiking partners! Hopefully you and I can hike more in the future together!
Lastly, Let’s go back to one of my worst hiking days ever. Mount Moosilauke. I don’t have any pictures because of how bad that day was. My poor hiking partners: Kevin, Kevin, Mike, and others who may have been there and have been blocked out of my memory. I laugh at how bad I was at that hike. I unfortunately only got 2-ish hours of sleep due to some unforeseen issues with my friend’s tent flooding. We had a late drive into the night to my parents house in NH then had to get up early and drive back. I’d love to blame lack of sleep on how horrible I was to hike with that day but I am willing to admit it. I was so out of shape. Like incredibly out of shape I laugh about that day now. Thanks guys for putting up with me. Come join me on the AT for a day, you’ll notice a HUGE difference!
Aja and Will: The now newlyweds I took on as twins bonds traverse overnight for their first 4000footers. Beasts right? They both did incredible! Thanks for allowing me to take you on this crazy hike. I hope the views were worth it! 5/48 done. When are we doing another?
The day I finished my NH48 4000 footers: Mount Isolation. What a day this was. I started with 8 people total and peaked with four. Dom, Fe, Tamara, Kevin, Jason, Cameron, and Tyler. Everyone made it up over 4000ft, which is incredible considering two of them are not hikers, but man did they put in a strong effort. Two went down at 4000feet accompanied by the wonderful Kevin (Sorry dude you have to hike that again lol). One went down at 5000ft, which is a HUGE accomplishment. Fe, Jason, and Tyler pushed through and celebrated with me at the top…we might have had a little too much to drink and ran down from the top a little tipsy. I am still in awe about how wonderful that day was. All seven of you who joined me for that special day meant the world to me.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about why I would ever attempt to hike 2200 miles. Many people I mention this hike to have the first response of “Are you crazy?” Most of the time I just say “Yeah probably”, but now that I am about to embark on this journey of a lifetime I wanted to really think about my reasoning for hiking the AT. Lots of people have reasons like finding themselves, or for a person who passed away, etc. I don’t have anything like that. I just love to hike. It’s as simple as that. I have wanted to do this hike since I was a little girl. I have been doing a lot of reflecting about this and finally realized why I’m doing this. I am doing this for all the people who have shaped me into the hiker I am today.
So the next couple posts are a tribute to all of those amazing people. (Sorry if I forgot anyone! I have hiked with so many people!)
My first memory of hiking happened when I was 6 years old. My parents decided to take 6 year old me and my 12 year sister on a hike to Mount Washington. We stayed at Lake in the Clouds hut and watched the fireworks on the 4th of July. I don’t remember much from this hike other than going up the Ammonoosuc trail and there was a large water crossing. Note that I am not a large human now, can you imagine 6 year old me? Well, my dad had to pick me up and carry me. This was the time of the external frame bag…You can imagine what happened next. My dad picked me up and my head hit against the metal frame (Explains a lot huh?). My poor father cared for me as I cried for the next 20 minutes. As always, hiking comes with a little bit of pain and I enjoyed the rest of the hike with the exception of going down the Jewel Trail the next day because it took FOREVER. So as you can see, I had a very enjoyable first big hike right.
But that’s okay, it’s still a fun story and a part of my formative years as a hiker.
The people who have been the most supportive of my plans to hike the AT have been my family. My mom, dad and sister are 100% on board and in some ways just as and even more excited than I am. My sister and I talk gear, supplies, and websites probably every other day. My mom is flying down with me to send me off and my dad keeps asking how many more days until I start. So 10/10 best scenario I can ask for as a burgeoning hiker. My family has essentially spent years hiking in NH. They have come on multiple 4Ks with me so I didn’t have to hike alone, often hiking behind me as I run up the mountain and turning around when they meet up with me. That was super helpful when I did not have as many hiking friends and didn’t want to do the drive alone. My favorite hike I have done with my family is the Laugavegur Trail in Iceland. My whole family hiked 55K across a section of Iceland. I was so proud of them and this was probably the best family vacation we have ever had.
I could go on about my family and how supportive they have been with my hiking and how I truly attribute my love for hiking to them.
As long as we are talking about hiking experiences while younger, I need to talk about the family who took me hiking ery memorial day weekend: The Lanes. Every year I would go camping with the Lanes. Jill Lane is my childhood best friend. She did not like hiking that much when we were kids. Her parents on the other hand were hikers like me. They had a goal to hike all the NH 4Ks together, so naturally both their children were in really good shape. I on the other hand hated sports and physical activity so I was not in good shape. So when I say I struggled, that was an understatement. I have no clue what we hiked, but no matter how difficult it was for me I always had a smile on. These hikes were the only time physical activity didn’t make me hate myself. I had the spark at a young age. I had the “this is really hard but I like the pain feeling of hiking”. I do appreciate the Lanes for pushing me to hike with them. It truly helped create my love for hiking.
The last vivid childhood memory of hiking was when I used to go to camp for three weeks in the summer. I was always the theater kid at camp. I was in the show every year I was at camp. It was my thing. I can’t remember the show, but this particular summer I had one of the leads or supporting leads. We had rehearsal everyday because we had to put the shows up with a quick turnaround. Well, my camp one day was offering a day hike excursion. I signed up immediately because I was a “hiker” and I can remember my director getting so mad at me. But here I was choosing hiking over theater and I don’t regret it. I do attribute my love for hiking now to these memories as a kid and I don’t regret choosing hiking over other things in my life even back then. Thanks Farwell for giving me those opportunities.
I’m going to tell you a crazy story. Well, it’s crazy to me… We will see what you think.
This is the story of Erin and Ollie and how we met.
One day I was scrolling through the wondrous Facebook. Oh social media, how I spend too much time on you. My Facebook timeline is composed of babies and dog photos, the stream of hiking and travel nurse posts from pages I follow, and Trump memes. (sorry friends if you are a Trump supporter, all my friends are liberals lol) When it comes to hiking pages, I will only post occasionally when I do something of magnitude or I need advice. Most of the time I just look at hiking pictures because I always want to be hiking. But of course I do have to work for a living, a girl has to eat somehow. Social media has been wonderful for my hiking community. I have made so many wonderful friends through posting on Instagram and Facebook and I am so blessed because of it. One day I saw a post from a girl named Erin who just finished her NH 4000 footers! At the bottom of her post, she asked if anyone was hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2020. I saw she was about my age, so I thought I would message her. We ended up adding each other on Facebook and talking gear, as all hopeful thru-hikers do.
After about a week or so, I get a message from Erin:
“Erin: Hey! I was wondering if you’d be cool with starting on the same day (or maybe week)? No obligation to stick with me of course! But I thought it might be nice to at least vaguely know someone in the vicinity while we ease into it
Me being my extroverted self with probably a little too much trust in strangers (Sorry mom and dad): I am 100% cool with that! We can still both “hike our own hike” as everyone says to do but I know I’ll feel more comfortable starting at the same time as someone else! Also we should hike a little before that, if you are interested!”
So here I am now committed to starting the AT with a complete stranger from the internet. Smart, I know. Well, over the next couple weeks we tried to find time to hike together, but neither of us could find a time where we were both free. So as these things go, our plans kind of just fizzled out and never happened. Welp, but it was whatever.
A couple weeks later, I had plans to meet this girl Sarah.
Sarah is another social media person who is now one of my best friends. (Like seriously. LOVE. HER.). Sarah and I felt very noncommittal and had a hard time deciding where to hike. On the drive up to NH, we settled on hiking Mount Garfield. Meanwhile, I told Erin I was going to be hiking Whiteface/Passaconaway and didn’t update her that I changed my plans. So Sarah and I meet for the first time driving to Mount Garfield. Mind you, we are not early risers when it comes to hiking. We get to the trailhead for 10am, which is fairly late for a 10 mile hike. We are putting our boots on and getting ready to go when a car pulls up behind us. Next thing I know the cutest dog jumps out of the car.
A little fact about me: I LOVE DOGS and they are all the cutest dog I have ever seen. I can’t help but ask to pet almost every dog I meet. Because they are all good boys and girls. I walk over to this pair of hikers and ask if I I can pet their dog. I snuggle and pet their dog, say thank you, and walk away. As I am walking away, I hear “Hey, are you Nicole?” I turn around with a puzzled look on my face and she replies “I’m Erin!” I was WOWED! Erin and I decided independently of each other to hike the same trail and showed up later than most hikers would. The rest of the day Erin, her friend Corey, Sarah, and I hiked Mount Garfield together. We all are pretty equal when it comes to speed and ability. We had an amazing day.
I knew from that point on that Erin and I were made to meet each other and I cannot wait to start the AT with her. As they say, the trail provides. It sure did for me.
Hey all! As you may or may not know, I have decided to embark on the journey of a lifetime and hike the ~2200mile Appalachian trail(AT). Exciting, right? People tend to hit the AT in two different ways. There are those extreme planners who begin prepping ages before their trip and there are those who sit on their hands and start planning two weeks before. Can you guess which one I am? Although I greatly love to think, organize, and plan for the AT, I am trying to be more easy-going. I haven’t done as much planning as I expected in the last couple months.
One of the things I did plan the most is the Big Four! What’s the Big Four, you ask? The Big Four consists of the following four items: pack, shelter, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. These four tend to be the heaviest part of our pack, so I have put a lot of thought into them as my March departure date approaches.
I went back and forth on this one so much. I originally planned to use my Osprey Aura AG 65 Pack that I have taken on so many backpacking trips. It has been my go-to pack for the last couple years. I am in love with the anti-gravity function of this pack. It makes it feel like I have a lighter pack than I actually do! The downside to this pack is that it weighs over 4lbs and the waistband rubs my hips raw. I figured I wouldn’t be so happy with that for the 6 months I am going to be hiking. So what did I go with?
First off, I am super excited for this pack. I am by no way an Ultra Light Hiker, so all of this UL gear is very new to me. The great thing about this pack is that I still have the space of a 60L pack with the weight of an UL pack. This pack weighs in at 28oz ~ 1.75lbs! One of my favorite aspects of this pack is all the pockets. I like my backpacks how I like my dresses: pockets galore. More pockets always make me happy. My second favorite aspect is the removable sitpad! One of my least favorite things about backpacking is never having a comfortable place to sit when on breaks. After a while rocks and dirt start to get old. Considering I have 6 months of rock sitting ahead of me, I would like to be comfortable and this sit pad is going to give me that opportunity! Yay comfort! I am just overall excited about this pack! I have so much more to learn and am still trying to figure out how to use this pack to its fullest potential. I guess I have a lot of learning still do in the next 6 months.
This was probably the easiest choice for me when it came to the Big Four. I am a Big Agnes girl through and through. I have been using a two person Big Agnes tent for years and it has never failed me! So, naturally I choose a Big Agnes tent! This one is a beauty for sure, weighing in at 34oz ~ 2lbs 2oz. It has a bathtub floor, meaning a bowled shaped bottom and high seams. If there is ever a lot of rain then this works as a bathtub to not allow rain to run through the seams during floods. We will see how much water this claim holds when it comes to the rain on the AT. It is also very easy to set up. The poles are easily assembled in one piece and it even has a side entry door that makes getting in and out so much easier than a front entrance. It allows me to roll out of my tent without having to climb over all of my other equipment. I totally could have gone with lighter tents, but I have always been so happy with Big Agnes, that I am going to stick with them.
As for footprint, I am hiker trash and I’m bringing a sheet of Tyvek–it’s the lightest option!
I went out on a limb when I bought my sleeping bag and I couldn’t be happier. As with my tent, I stayed with Big Agnes. I took a bit of a risk and chose a sleeping bag that had zero reviews when I bought it. It has a few reviews now but still this was still dodgy territory. I was not disappointed! First off, this bag is so comfy and warm! I used it a couple times to test it at higher elevations in NH and I was never cold! One of the days, I was even warm hanging in my hammock. Probably my favorite thing about this sleeping bag is the integrated sleeping pad sleeve! I roll around a lot in my sleep, especially camping, and falling off my sleeping pad is super aggravating. This makes it (almost) impossible for me to fall off and I am very happy about it! Did I mention it also only weighs 2lbs 2oz? I’m not a UL girl, but damn, that is lightweight for a sleeping bag! I can’t wait to go live in this for the next 6 months. I’m gonna be so snuggly!
4. Sleeping pad:
Last but certainly not least, the most important piece of equipment for me: a sleeping pad.
For years I used a self-inflating sleeping pad that was super heavy and I never got a good night’s sleep with it. When it came time to decide on sleeping pads for the AT, I knew I would need something that would be light and comfortable. So the only logical choice for me is an inflatable sleeping pad. Weighing in at 12oz, you really cannot go wrong with this pad. I tried it out on a couple hikes and it helps me sleep in the woods more comfortably than my old pad. Sleeping in the woods is always a struggle. So my hope is the exhaustion will put me right to sleep on my plushy pad.
So there you have it! This is the gear I will be living in for 6 months of my life. Hope I like it!