Saturday, July 14, 2012

Entering the Land of Milk and Maple Syrup

So first off, I want to thank you. I happened to look at my blog statistics page today and saw that I have over 10,000 hits to this little wacky story of my hike I have been sharing on the interwebs. I am truly humbled that people are following what I am doing and, not to sound like a broken record, really hope it inspires you to chase after your dreams and do something that will better the world. So from the bottom of my sweat covered, mosquito bitten heart, thank you!

And please, if you haven't had a chance to donate to Active Water, please check out their website and consider it. Together, we have raised enough money to build a clean water well in Zambia, Africa and we are now a little over half way to building a second one. That is truly amazing. Hundreds of lives are going to be impacted in a huge and tangible way. I have seen and experienced a fraction of what they are going through. Many of the water sources that I have to rely on have dried up or are reduced to mud puddles. I have had to drink standing swamp water and some other very questionable water this week, including sulfur water out of a water spigot just to stay hydrated. But none of it compares to the disease filled nastiness that our African friends have to walk miles upon miles to gather and carry back. This, my friends, is why I am walking. It's the entire purpose of why I am out here. And even if all the water on the trail dries up, I will push on, because this hike is not just my story to tell, it is their story too. It just takes a few crazy people willing to step out to give a voice to it. I want to share a few lyrics from a Katie Herzig song called "Make a Noise."

Believe, that you can change the world
Your dreams, have been living in a code of silence, So let them out
Find your voice, find your voice and make a noise.

So along with making a noise out on the trail, I am making some miles disappear too. As you are reading this, I am taking my first steps in to Vermont. I have breezed through Connecticut and Massachusetts and now get to experience the final 3 states. It's about to get all kinds of crazy up in here as the trail goes through big mountains again and I get some big elevations. So here is what has happened since last time:

Day 117 (7/6) - Ten Mile River Shelter to Kent, CT (8.7 mi)
Today was a magical day. The miles seemed to just disappear quickly, mostly because we played brain teaser games while we hiked. It was a lot of fun and sometimes frustrating trying to solve some of these riddles. Around 1, we made it down to the road that goes into Kent and there was a picnic table set up with a bunch of homemade food. A trail angel named Mom had prepared a huge lunch buffet for hikers to enjoy. It was amazing. She said she was doing it for all the moms because as a mother herself, she was blown away by the kindness of other trail angels taking care of her son when he thru hiked a few years ago. After a nice visit and awesome lunch, we walked to Kent so everyone could pick up their drop boxes and resupply. I didn't need much, so I spent a good amount of time just sitting in the park. Time passed by pretty quickly and the temperature seemed to get hotter and we still would need to hike 8 miles to get to the next shelter, so we decided to ask the Vicar at the Episcopal church if we could camp in the church yard for the night (the 2 hotels in town were extremely expensive). He gave us permission so we set up. Another trail magic experience today! We met up with Rocky and Sunshine (who were waiting on Sunshine's sister to pick them up and take them to Baltimore for a few days) to go to dinner. We ate at a pizza and pasta restaurant. While we were in there, a real nice family was sitting next to us, asking us questions about our hike. They were very fascinated by how far we had come. This was a typical conversation we have on a normal basis now. After they left, the waitress came by and told us that the family had paid for our meal. We couldn't believe it! How amazing that a family would pay for 5 stinky hikers to eat! I was just blown away. The kindness of strangers goes a long way and it's just another way the trail is teaching me some valuable life lessons. Am I willing to be as giving to a total stranger, especially one that is extremely stinky? It is something I need to get better at.

Day 118 (7/7) - Kent, CT to Pine Swamp Brook Shelter (17 mi)
Today started out nice- some breakfast, cooler temps, and a nice walk out of Kent. The terrain was as expected- a big uphill, a downhill, and more uphills. Then it got completely flat for about 5 miles. This was nice with the exception of the ten billion gnats that were flying around me. To make matters even crazier, I was soaked head to toe, not due to the light sprinkling, but because of all the humidity. Everything was drenched. I dried out a little during lunch, but it didn't take long to get soaked again. It was bad enough where everything, and I mean EVERYTHING in my downstairs area was rubbing and chafing. This made for an absolutely miserable last few miles. Once I set up camp, I stripped all the way down in my tent and gave myself a wet wipe bath. I am hoping that my clothes, especially my underwear, and my downstairs area will dry out nicely tonight. I am going on and saying that I doubt it...and it's supposed to rain. I need a magical day like yesterday again.

Day 119 (7/8) - Pine Swamp Brook Shelter to Brassie Brook Shelter (21 mi)
So with all the damage done yesterday, I was a little nervous about the hike today. I have heat rash almost everywhere between my waste and knees. I had to walk a little funny to keep things from rubbing. Luckily, we caught a break in the weather. It only got to the upper 80's and we had a nice breeze all day. The terrain was great so we pushed. I actually averaged a little over a 2 mph pace which I haven't done in a while because of the heat. If these temps stay like this the next few days, I can put a huge dent in Massachusetts by the end of this week!

Day 120 (7/9) - Brassie Brook Shelter to Great Barrington, MA (16.8 mi)
Two huge milestones were hit today. First off, I hit the 1500 mile mark. Holy crap I have hiked a long way. Still have just under 700 miles to go, but the end is getting closer and closer each day. The second milestone was entering Massachusetts. This is the 11th of 14 states. I have to say, Connecticut was gorgeous and had great terrain, but Massachusetts beats it as far as views go. From the peaceful, story book atmosphere of Sages Ravine to the endless views from atop of Mt. Everett, I was in heaven. The descents from Bear Mtn and Mt. Everett were challenging, but it didn't get me down (except literally I guess). We came across some trail magic in the form of ice cold Cherry Pepsi and while we were enjoying it, the trail angels responsible, Bearwalker and Buttons, stopped by to check up on the cooler and offered to take us back to their place for showers and laundry and to stay the night. They had me at shower and laundry, since I had done neither since July 4 in New York. Sorry Connecticut.

Day 121 (7/10) - Great Barrington, MA to East Brook Stealth Site (14.7 mi)
We got off to a later start than normal, but that was fine. We ate breakfast with Bearwalker at Dunkin Donuts before he took us back to the trail. The terrain wasn't bad, but I think all of us were hurting a little. We have pushed some big miles and its been a while since any of us had a zero. Instead of making it 17 miles like we planned, we stopped early and found a flat enough spot to set up our tents and hammock next to a creek. I could have gone further, but my feet will probably thank me for it. We will try to tag those miles on to tomorrow. I am looking forward to a day off in a few days and sadly have been planning ahead to see when I want to take my next day off too. There are a few cheap places coming up with hot tubs and swimming pools- both of which my body would enjoy, but I have to earn it first!

Day 122 (7/11) - East Brook Stealth Site to the Cookie Lady's House (23.9 mi)
It was a go big kind of day; after all it's my four month anniversary. When I was looking at the guide last night, I saw that we would be close to the Cookie Lady's house. It was a little further than what we were going to push, but there was a guarantee of water and cookies. Add that on to the 3 miles we didn't do last night, and it easily made for my second biggest mileage day. The first half of the day involved a few decent climbs, but the second half was fairly flat. It was a matter of keeping the feet cranking while keeping the bugs off. The mosquitoes, flies, and gnats are killing us out here and the bug sprays are not working. I almost skipped dinner tonight because there were just swarms of gnats. Hopefully I can pick up a bug net in a few days, or at least a flame thrower.

Day 123 (7/12) - Cookie Lady's House to Dalton, MA (9 mi)
Sometimes you get to a town and you just want to stay there. Today was a day like that. The terrain was completely flat for the 9.5 miles I hiked and the other 9 to Cheshire looked easy too. I have a package waiting for me in Cheshire so that was the goal for the day. But once we got to Tom Levardi's house, there was no leaving. Tom is the definition of trail angel. He has opened his house to hikers for 30 years now. When you walk up and the first thing he asks is if you would like some ice cream, you know your day is over. He offered a shower and laundry which is always awesome and much needed. So the plan now is to get a ride to North Adams and slack pack back to Tom's which will be a 24 mile day, but without the big ol heavy backpack.

Day 124 (7/13) - Zero Day
Today was a day of errands- I had to pick up a drop box in the next town, get fitted for a tuxedo, and treat myself to a movie. Spider-man was awesome! I also got a bug net so all those pesky insects will quit bombarding my face.

Day 125 (7/14) - Dalton, MA to North Adams, MA (24 mi)
I think I overestimated my speed ability today. I hit the trail around 10:45 with a light day pack that only had my 2 liter bladder, lunch, a few snacks, and my camera. I was ready to fly. With the amount of miles I was planning on doing plus an average speed of 3 mph, which is easy when slack packing, I thought I had today in the bag, but sometimes there are hidden variables that can derail that bag. The big one was climbing up the north face of Mt. Greylock. That sucker was steep and it's also the highest peak in Massachusetts. Once to the top there were amazing and breathtaking views. You could see 5 states and the surrounding mountain ranges and towns way off in the distance. I also got to pass several hikers I hadn't seen in a while like Dakota Dan, Steamer, Sparrow, Pedestrian, and Wall-e. They were all heading north while I was trying to speed south. Hopefully I will cross paths with most of them tomorrow or the next day. I started getting a little nervous when I arrived in Cheshire at 5 and I still had 9 miles to go. At best I could get there by 8, but at 8 in the woods it looks and feels like 10 and I didn't bring a headlamp. I was just going to have to be careful. When I almost got out of the woods, I met Mrs. Maggie and Sasha. We had all heard of each other but never met. We talked for a few minutes while the mosquitoes feasted on us and then parted ways. They were hoping to hit 12 miles, all of which would be done in the dark. When I finally hit the road, I had a lot more light to see where I was going since there was no tree cover. Around 8:15, I made it back to Tom's, and after a nice long shower, crashed hard. It was great to get those miles in without my pack because that puts me in position to enter Vermont within a few miles of hitting the trail tomorrow!


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