Still in Connecticut…

me face

You may be wondering why I’m still in this state when I should be in Massachusetts by now. Have no fear, there is a perfectly good explanation for that. But before I give my excuses, let me tell you about New York.
For some reason the people of New York decided to build the trail next to swamps. As you may well know, swamps are a place where all kinds of horrible critters live. I’m talking about man-eating turtles, poisonous butterflies, flying snakes, Sasquatch, and terrifying blood sucking mosquitoes.

NY Swamps

NY Swamps


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The mosquitoes drove me crazy in NY. I don’t know how my friend Sara Rockclimbing(that’s her last name in my cell) does it. These guys bite me everywhere. They always get me through my shirt too. Any place that my shirt is tight across my body is always vulnerable: shoulder region, my back when the pack is off, and my rock hard six pack. NY really tested my sanity but luckily I survived.
Nearing the end of NY I came across Stick-Man. He hiked the trail couple years ago. It was fun hanging out with him and enjoying his stories, words of wisdom, and trail advice. He, like many other former thru hikers, had the same general advice: slow down and enjoy the journey. It’s the journey, not the destination that matters.
Stick-Man had a funny bear encounter during his hike. One morning he had to use the bathroom and there were no privies in the area so he did what we all do, go in the woods. He was squatting under a tree and doing his business when he randomly looked up above him. There, in the tree, was a bear looking down at him! HAHA! Seriously, true story. His first thought was, “Get the camera!” So he pulled up his pants, ran got the camera and took a sweet pic of a bear still hanging out in the tree. Too funny!

The Lemon Squeeze

The Lemon Squeeze


Even though NY was full of harrowing dangers, it had some sweet terrain that we had to get through.

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The sign at the border was nothing glamorous so only Chuck got in on this one.

So… back to my excuse regarding Connecticut. I am blaming my longer than planned stay in CT on Michelle.

The perpetrator for all my fun: Michelle

The perpetrator for all my fun: Michelle

I was walking from Kent towards the trail head when she pulled up and offered to give me a ride. While talking to her I found out she was going bouldering with her friend Tara aka (Star). Of course I simply had to invite myself on the fun and those two were more than welcoming. We had loads of fun on the rocks.

Star

Star

bouldering

After all that climbing we got hungry so it was off to Star’s house. She is a chef and served us up some delicious pasta and fried chicken.

Right now I am 7 miles outside of Massachusetts and will be there in a couple hours. CT was loads of fun and it will be dearly missed. Here are some more random pics I took:

Hopscotch!

Hopscotch!

A legit privy

A legit privy

Me slowly roasting in 90+ degree temps (NY)

Me slowly roasting in 90+ degree temps (NY)

Umm, as for the care packages and where to send them, I don’t even know! Call El Tigre. I’ll put all that responsibility on him. He can handle it, that’s why they call him…

I miss everyone at home and hope to be back sooner than later.
Spider Man

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Happy 4 of July!

The one day that I finally make it into town happens to be a holiday. That’s bad news because post office is closed and so is the library. I am unable to upload cool pics from my gopro untill i get a computer so be patient my friends. Pics of danger, suspense and adventure are yet to come. Until then I will leave you with a small update from my new/old iPhone 3. Oh, before I forget to my family and friends, pls send me a text with ur name. I lost everyones contact info with other cell.
I’m currently in Kent, Connecticut repacking all the goodies my friends sent me. I should be in Massachusets in a couple days- super excited about that. As for New York, glad to be moving on. NY was exciting, miserable, super, hot/humid, easy, ferocious mosquitos, swamps everywhere… I think you got the point. Did you know that there is a hurrican in the Atlantic called Andrew? I just found out about the guy last night while cowering in my tent during a crazy lightning storm. Anyways, all is well. I think there’s a town coming up in a few days with a library so stay tuned my friends for pics and… another Bear story (insert suspense).
Spidy

El Problemo (that means “Problem” in Spanish)

Hey guys, this is El Tigre (aka Lex the defender, Big Al…) reporting in on Spiders behalf. All is not well with Spider-Man. As if fighting off daily bear attacks, wrestling with Mountain Lions, building fires using only sticks and stones, and finding an appropriate place to go to the bathroom wasnt enough, his cellphone took a bath in Gaterade (more like Haterade). It is pretty much toast. I am not exactly sure of the details on how this happened, but word has it that he was climbing a 300 foot tree with only one hand while talking on the phone with Park Rangers to tell them about some poachers that were hunting some rhinos and after he climbed the tree (for better cell signal) he got thirsty and as he was drinking the Gatorade, one of the poachers shot at him and it hit the bottle which exploded all over his phone and got it all moist and stuff. Don’t worry, he scared off the poachers with his stare and beard….. yeah… the story checks out.

So, anyways, now I am left handling the massive logistical nightmare of replacing his phone with another one. If he has not returned your texts and phone calls, you now know why. As of right now, he is finally in New Jersey and loving it. No more ridiculous rocky terrains and rhino poachers. Spider has some interesting stories to tell, but that will have to wait for another week or so. Have no fear, I will deliver him a new cellular device soon!! That’s why they call me El Tigre 😉

New Jersey

New Jersey is a breath of fresh air to put it simply. This is a land of rolling hills, smooth trails, birds chirping, sun is always shining, loads of deer and bears- simply paradise! Every hiker that has made it through PA is so excited and pumped about the awesome terrain.
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However, PA did leave its marks on me before I was done. My feet became swollen because of the terrain. This has never happened before on the trail. Swollen feet forced me to take an unexpected zero. As if chubby feet were not enough, my heel cracked in several spots. It was quite painful to walk on it but I super glued it together, took another zero and continued trekking.
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PA really put me behind schedule. But the worst thing that happened to me was “The Gatorade Incident”. Somehow my Gatorade bottle soaked my cell phone. Yep, the cell is now dead so I can’t return your calls and texts. However, Mike another hiker, had it worse. We had an unusually cold night no he boiled water and put it into his Gatorade bottle. This works great when you put it into your sleeping bag. Mike did just this and crawled into bed. Then he heard a “pop!”. The cap came off and hot water started pouring out. He grabbed the bottle and tried to throw it out the tent but he forgot the mesh door was closed! The bottle bounced back at him and soaked everything else! Hahaha! Gatorade bottles are the worst.
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I came across this lovely family the other day. They asked to be put on my blog so I of course I couldn’t refuse. Fun group of people.

Tent Maker and First A

Tent Maker and First A


The Koreans were such a pleasant surprise when I came across them. Last time I saw them was in the Smokies on that 0* night with the T-Rex dream. Seeing hikers from a long time ago is like seeing family for the first time in ages.

The Kallin Family

The Kallin Family


The past few days I have hiking with The Kallins. Super awesome trail family. They started hiking on March 30th. The kids are great! Cartwheel is a 8 year old lady who is a bundle of energy. Robin Hood is her brother who is a sharp kid who has the greatest memory I have ever seen. He recited to me a 12 stanza poem with no hickups! They have a blog too that you can read: http://kallinfamily.com/
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This pic is a little blurry but after studying the bear tracks carefully I have been able to determine the following facts: Its approximately 1 year and 3 months old male that is 268lbs. Looking at the tracks it is clear that he is a very happy bear but is slightly bloated from the last meal.
I have a bear story that I simply must share with you guys! But, Mom if you are reading this, simply skip ahead to the next pic. (She is terrified of bears). Martial Arts was hiking in the Shenandoah’s when he saw a large pile of bear poo on the trail. He was thinking to himself that there must be a large bear somewhere nearby. As soon as he walked past a large tree he stopped and glanced to his side. Sitting there within arms reach was a huge bear starring him into his eyes!!! Martial Arts simply froze with indecision. He didn’t know whether to move forwards or backwards. He stood there for a couple seconds and blinked. The bear blinked back. And then he had a moment of clarity and decided to continue forward. He was so scared walking away that he never even looked back to see what the bear was doing! haha!

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This is a rock garden. For some reason we have this weird obsession in building rock towers. Seriously, it’s awesome! I’ve built and added onto many rock towers.

turtle
I spotted this guy hiding in his shell so I put the GoPro in front of him and waited for him to come out. So I waited…and waited… and waited… he FINALLY came out and walked off 18 minutes later! The lesson learned: Turtles are in no rush to go anywhere.

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Huge thanks to my friends back at home that sent my the last care package! The candy was great and the card was super cool. I almost shed a tear when reading the card but that wouldn’t have been very manly…

Right now I am in Vernon, NJ. Awesome locals! I hitched a ride immediately into town with no problem. Then a lady, Andrea, gave me a ride to the hostel and even offered me her couch if the hostel was really bad. That was extremely thoughtful but the Church Hostel here is excellent so I declined her offer. This town has surprised me with their hospitality.

I am looking forward to NY and what it has to offer. As of right now I am only 10 miles from the NJ/NY border. PA messed me up a little and really slowed me down but I’m hoping to make up those lost miles quickly.

Take care everyone and God Bless.

Pennsylvania

It’s been a while since my last blog post so I’ll try to catch everyone up on what happened. Lets see… after posting previous blog post in Harpers Ferry I found out that my care package was still not in. It would only come in the next day in the evening. With that in mind I had to make a decision, stay in town all day and do nothing or go to D.C. I found out that Matterhorn and Fritz were going too so I joined in. There is a local train that took us straight into D.C. for $11.
DC1
Boy did we stand out! It’s funny seeing people giving us double-takes all the time. Everyone was giving us these confused looks because they have no idea how to categorize us. Usually you can look at a person and see that they are a local business man, tourist or something. We just didn’t fit in with the D.C crowds. Scruffy, beards, large backpacks…
It’s funny that I thought D.C. would be a nice time to rest up. It was the exact opposite. We spent all day walking around exploring museums. I think I did more walking there than on the AT! My favorite museum was the Air and Space.
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This place is HUGE! There are rockets, space capsules, nuclear missiles from cold war, airplanes and much much more. I could spend a whole week in that one museum alone. Definitely best museum in the world in my opinion.
We also went to American History Museum. Honestly this place should simply be called ‘The War Museum’. They had every kind of weaponry throughout the era and helicopters inside there.
DC3
The Natural Science Museum was super cool. Loads of animals from all over the world. I wish I could stay there several days and read all the info plaque about the critters.
D.C was very neat in the sense that all the museums and monuments are free to visit. There is so much awesome history in this place. But boy was I glad to be out of the city the next day. Talk about sensory overload! Cars honking, engines roaring, people yelling. Everything is so loud and fast moving. You might laugh but us hikers have become sensitive creatures of the forest where everything moves at a slow quiet walking speed.

I eventually got my care package and took off down the trail. Maryland was really neat. The trail is very well maintained and is flat and easy to walk on for the most part. On my first day in Maryland I came across Dave. He is a local that was walking to Annapolis Cliffs. After talking to him for a bit he invited me to go climbing with him. I was totally stoked! We climbed some of the best routes Maryland has to offer.
climbing1
Spidy in his element!
The next day I was moving along the trail when I ran into a couple of guys climbing some smaller cliffs. I couldn’t believe my luck when they invited me to climb with them. 2 days in a row!
climbing2
I didn’t get too much hiking done but it was totally worth it!

The AT Museum is between Harpers Ferry and Boiling Springs PA.

AT Museum

AT Museum


This is a small place that holds loads of info on the first Thru-hikers to ever finish the trail. These guys averaged 70 lb packs!!! The average base weight out here with food and water is 30 lbs. The most memorable hiker was Bill Irwin.
Museum 2
He wrote a book, Blind Courage, this is on my list of must read books now. This man is a true hero for accomplishing such a daunting task while blind.
Official half-way marker

Official half-way marker


ATC at Boiling Springs PA

ATC at Boiling Springs PA


I eventually got to Boiling Springs. It just happened that I was there in time for a giant festival “Founder’s Day” in this little village. Kelly runs the ATC and asked if I could stick around for half day and talk to the locals. She was hoping I could educate them about the AT and enlighten them in a way. I was like “sure!” So that’s exactly what I did. Boy did I feel like a celebrity! Everyone usually had the same response: “You hiked from Georgia?! And you are going to Maine?!! WOW!”. Hahah! I was like a Trail-ebrity if you will. I’m not used to such attention but I could get used to it!
Kelly in the Turtle Suit with Crocs and I

Kelly in the Turtle Suit with Crocs and I

I kept trekking on and got to the Doyle Hotel. It’s a hiker tradition to stay at this place.

Doyle Hotel

Doyle Hotel


Do you remember those old western movies where the cowboys walk into the bar/casino? Well, that’s exactly the same vib I got from this place. It’s an old western style hotel inside and out. The quality was not great by any means but I couldn’t complain.
Trillium and Rogue

Trillium and Rogue


I split the room rate with Trillium and Rogue. Rogue has the coolest stache. It’s naturally half white- thus his trail name. They have a blog that you can follow also:
http://www.theadventuresofscottandjoanna.wordpress.com

Everything was great until I reached the dreaded second half of PA. I’ve heard rumors of this treacherous stretch of trail and they all ended up being true!

Boulder fields for miles

Boulder fields for miles


Overgrown brush everywhere

Overgrown brush everywhere


The overgrown brush causes a serious problem, ticks and poison ivy. The brush is a tick haven which isn’t good for us. PA has the highest rate of Lyme Disease for hikers and I believe this is the main reason. Oh, the poison ivy is everywhere! I used to follow the rule, ‘leaves of 3 let it be’ but now I have a new rule. ‘If it is green and has leaves, it’s probably poison ivy.’
The swamp

The swamp


No one told me the trail would walk thru a swamp. I guess its because of the constant rain the past 5 days. Yesterday I hiked for hours in this watery/muddy/goo none stop. It’s nasty. But this has actually taught me a valuable lesson. Hikers usually dread the rain. We don’t like it because our gear gets wet and the trail gets nasty. But there are others out there like Farmers for instance that anticipate the rain for a good crop turnout. You always have to be thankful for the good and bad things in life because what may be bad for you, may be a good thing for someone else.
trail conditions 4
I just keep telling myself ‘100 more miles and I’m out of PA!’.

On a side note I do want to mention that a lot of hikers have dropped out. The ATC estimates 60% of the usual crowd is gone. There are a lot of reasons why people quit but a couple stand out. Many people have lost what they call the “charm and fun” of hiking. They expected the whole experience to be an exciting time with new adventures around every bend. But that’s not the case. The honeymoon phase of hiking has worn off for all of us. We still have lots of fun but we must get past the daily grind first.
The grind is this: Our feet are always hurting and sore. We are always either sweaty and stinky from the humidity and heat or wet from rain. Occasional blisters from walking in wet shoes all day. Chaffing around my hip belt area because of sweating and rubbing. Poison Ivy on my body. Mosquito bites on arms and legs. Food boredom from eating the same general food all day. And the list goes on and on.
But this is not a reason to quit in my opinion. When the going gets tough, you have to put effort into whatever the task may be and finish what you started. This trail is like life in the sense that new relationships, new jobs, new hobbies are always fun and exciting in the beginning. However, as time passes on, the honeymoon phase of that particular thing will wear off and you must persevere and finish the task at hand. This builds character.
http://www.artofmanliness.com/2013/06/25/what-is-character-its-3-true-qualities-and-how-to-develop-it/
I know that even though PA is tough and tearing my feet up, there are better days ahead. The White Mountains promise to revive that childlike energy in all of us that we once had when starting in Springer Mountain.

As of right now I’m in Hamburg, PA. Yesterday I had and awesome time with locals at the Union House Bed & Breakfast. Mark and his wife even payed for my meal! Great food, good company.

Good times at the Union House

Good times at the Union House

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Random 1

Well, I’m going to find a place to eat around here, do laundry, hitch a ride back to the trail and keep you guys posted on my whereabouts soon.
Take care!

Quick update

Nothing quite like a selfie haha!
Hey everyone. Im alive and still hiking the endless miles. I just wanted to let u guys know im in Pennsylvania right now. Us hikers have dubbed it Rocks-sylvania though. Word on the trail has it that trail maintainers secretly pile large amount of rocks on the trail for us. It has also been rumoured that they go around and sharpen those rocks, pointy end up of course. I have not wittnessed these atrocities personally but there seems to be clear signs of holiganism. It is clear that someone is trying to make our lives miserable. Mother Nature is on my list of suspects.
There is so much that happened aince my last post but that will have to wait since i cant really post pics with my cell phone for some reason.
Ive been with Kristo on and off. You should check out his blog in te mean time.
http://www.kristohikes.com/?m=1
Take care and God Bless!

Operation Virginia – Success!

hands up

Hey everybody! I’m doing fairly well as of right now. Just hanging out at the public library, that’s where all the cool kids go by the way. Virginia has been a blast. A lot has happened in this state and I’m so glad to be finally done with it. I’m ready to move on and see what else the AT has to offer.
state line

Before entering the Shenandoah’s, my sister sent me another ‘Action figure’. It is awesome! Spiderman is an excellent addition to Chuck Norris. Some people accidently call them ‘dolls’. I always correct them quickly and tell them that Chuck Norris has made people disappear for saying lesser insults.
spider doll

Shenandoahs are really unusual in that there are loads of people here. I have created 3 classifications for the type of hikers that one may encounter out here.
Class 1: The Thru-Hiker. These are hikers that can usually be spotted from a distance. They are a raggedy bunch. Style and fashion are simply words from a past recollection that is long gone. Often times you can also smell them at a good distance too when standing down wind. Thru-Hikers are a rare bread. They are elite hikers who have no shame when it comes to looks or odor.
Class 2: The Section-Hiker. These hikers come out for about a week or 2 in attempts to chip away at the many miles on the AT. Constraints such as time, money, and family all restrict their ability to thru-hike. These hikers tend to hike with many more luxury items in their packs than is needed. Their clean shaven faces and new clothing always gives them away. Clothing and hygiene tends to be on their list of priorities.
Class 3: The Day-Hiker. These are hikers from the civilized world. I now refer to them as “Civilians”. Oh boy, where do I start with this group? These guys always look sharp. Their clothes is clean and definitely stylish. These people can not fathom putting on anything other than their best clothing for the trail. The reason is, pictures. Seriously! They take like a million pics on their short hikes. Most civilians are only hiking for a couple hours and very few will dare attempt overnight camping. You will always, ALWAYS, know a civilian by their distinct smell. I like to call this particular smell as (Fresh). The ladies always smell like exotic flowers, strawberries or some sort of perfume. And the guys smell like clean bodywash or something. Shenandoahs are full of civilians, especially on Memorial weekend when I was there.

Well, there you have it. My hiker classification. Feel free to share it with others.

Back to the Shenandoahs. Luckily for me Plan B was never initiated (coating myself with honey). I finally saw a bear!
bear pic

Nothing like a selfie with a bear!

Nothing like a selfie with a bear!


I didn’t get any closer for my bear selfie because I chickened out like a coward. I feel like I let everyone down. I know you guys wanted to see every detail in the bear’s face in my pics. Sorry, I’ll do better next time, promise.
Oh! My total bear count. Every hiker keeps a count of how many bears they see. So far no one has broken my record as far as I know: 12 bears! That’s right! 12 bears in 3 days.

There were so many critters in the woods out here. It was awesome! Except for the deer. The deer were the worst! No respect! These guys walked around my tent all night long making a racket while a tired Thru-Hiker is trying to get some rest. This happened several times when camping. One evening I was brushing my teeth and this Buck just walked out of the woods in front of me. He stopped in front of me (less than 20 feet) for a second to look at me as if to say, “What? You got something to say?!” and then he proceeded on grazing next to my tent all night long. No respect!
deer next to tent

They are the worst at hiding too. I was walking on the trail and this guy was standing maybe 15 feet away in the bushes quietly. I could simply see the guy thinking; “If I stay veeery still, I’ll be invisible!”. Needless to say I spotted him with ease and took a pic.
deer hiding

snake
There were loads of snakes out here too. That’s good. More snakes equals less mice. The mice chew holes in our gear and even chewed a hole in Sunshine’s tent! Horrible creatures!

The Shenandoahs have restaurants called Waysides that are usually .2 miles off the trail. Many hikers told be about one particular Wayside that had Blackberry milkshakes! I was so excited and hiked for several days in anticipation. To my dismay, no milkshakes!!! I was so sad that I wrote a poem haha!
ode to milkshake

One of the hostels had some Protien Pancake batter in the hiker box. Rugby and I were like, “Lets try to make some pancakes. How hard can it be?” I took out my titanium pan ($16) and proceeded to use my olive oil as butter replacement. The results were a disaster!

That should be pancake...

That should be pancake…


They were soggy on the inside and burnt on the outside. Rugby was a trooper. He ate them anyway and told me they were the best pancakes he ever tasted! Now that is a true friend right there.

bears den
I wanted to mention Bear’s Den Hostel. This place is truly amazing. It is ATC owned and operated. They really know how to take care of us hikers. It is the only hostel so far that has given us real mattresses to sleep on. Usually we sleep on plywood. If you are near Harpers Ferry, WV, please stop by and check it out. It even has a real sink with running water in the kitchen! We were standing there in awe. HAHA true story! Most hostels only have water available from the spigot outside to do dishes. Its the little things that makes us happy.

aka bathroom

aka bathroom

The umbrella - huge hit! Several hikers have now gotten one. Way better than rain coats.

The umbrella – huge hit! Several hikers have now gotten one. Way better than rain coats.

harpers ferry
Harpers Ferry is such a cool town. There are stone buildings everywhere and the atmosphere is… historic. That’s the only way I can describe it.

Every hiker gets their picture taken and placed in the AT Conservancy headquarters. This is what will be placed in their archives. Behold, my pic:
AT official pic

I’ve hiked 1,010 miles so far. That is not including all the million extra miles of hiking into towns, far away water sources, and taking side trails for panoramic views. I’ll keep on trekking and will keep everyone updated when possible.
God bless!
Spidy