Day #28-Change of scenery; Miles hiked: 3.1

This morning began as day 28 of living in the woods. It ended with a Broadway show. With easy access via rail, a trip to NYC is a popular tradition among the AT community and today was my day to make the trek!

This was my view from the shelter where I woke up this morning:This was the view just a short 1.5 hour train commute later:First things first was a much needed shower and laundry (it’s been 8-9 days) at Tripod’s wonderful sister’s apartment-thanks Sarah! Then it was off to explore the city…while Roo and Naps went to a movie I made a run towards the only wilderness NYC has to offer: Central Park.Next was catching up on the civilized eateries I’ve been craving-Starbucks and Chipotle. Final event of the evening was a real treat-seeing The Lion King on Broadway (yes, in my hiking shoes). I’ve been a musician since I was 6, so I especially enjoyed seeing the pros make magic on Broadway. Thanks to my Papa Dick for help snagging that ticket! There are no stars here, but goodnight from Times Square (even though it’s really a polygon).

Day #27-Deli-blazing through New York; Miles hiked: 21.8

Today was another deli-hopping day. The terrain was pretty gentle which was a nice break on my legs and the sun wasn’t nearly as hot.

Check out this flag I found painted on a mountain this morning. It’s a 9/11 memorial.I spent most of the day with the other 3 hikers I’ve been hanging around for the last 50 or so miles.

We found yet another New York deli where we downed massive sandwiches. This week has been the first one where I’ve felt like I have true “hiker hunger.” I’d guess I’m eating well over 3,000 calories a day and feel like I can barely keep full.The deli caused a bit of a “food coma,” so we napped for a bit before cranking out 12 more miles after 4 pm. Accidentally hiking late is becoming a bit of a habit, but I’d say it’s worth it if it means I can spend more time with hikers.On my evening walk to the shelter I did pass this cool lake.New York City tomorrow!

Day #26-The long green tunnel; Miles hiked: 19.4

Today was spent in what I was taught by a trail friend to call the long green tunnel–20 miles over thickly forested mountains. This can wear on the morale, and today was certainly one of those days. However, while every day on the trail has its challenges, it also has its sweet moments.

This morning my friend Killjoy and I destroyed breakfast platters and grilled cheese at the Appalachian Deli. One of the highlights of hiking through New York is what hikers call deli-hopping. If you hike 15-20 miles a day, you can hit one of these establishments essentially for every lunch. I was too distracted by the food to take pictures.

After the deli was a long 15 miles where I saw only one other hiker and no views. With the heat back, it was a bit of a rough time, but I made it through!This evening Killjoy, Roo, Naps, and I have crashed at a state park with a beach.I’ve bonded a lot with this group over the past few days and look forward to getting to know them better and sharing my ministry. For now, we’ve decided to cowboy camp outside the state park bath house. Oh, and I can’t believe it but I hit mile 400 today!

Day #25-Bears and mountains; Miles hiked: 20.5

As far as trail days go, today was pretty eventful. This morning I started walking early to catch up to my friends after staying with Half Slow. First up was the Lemon Squeezer, a very narrow section of trail that a hiker/pack can barely fit through. I went to resupply while I was hungry yesterday, which meant I accidentally bought way too much food and payed the price in extra weight today. However, I eventually made it up to Fingerboard Mountain where I ran into these two bucks.On top of the ridges in this section, you can see New York City only 40 miles in the distance.

Today’s main attraction was Bear Mountain, a popular tourist spot with a road and a perfectly manicured trail to the top.I also saw my first bear of the AT at the zoo that the trail passes through. Yes, a real live zoo. The fun was nowhere near over as there was also a public pool next to the zoo with free admission for hikers-what a blast it was to go swimming in chlorinated water. I’m calling it a shower! On my way back to the woods, I crossed the Hudson River-will be going to NYC with some other hikers in just a few days!Relationships are forming quickly–can’t wait to see what’s to come.

Day #24-Double vortex well spent; Miles hiked: 10.1

When I woke up at Wildcat Mtn shelter this morning, I had plans to hike 19.6 miles. That obviously didn’t happen, but I can’t complain!

First off, I ran back into Killjoy, one of the other single girls hiking in my bubble right now. We had a grand time filtering water out of a puddle until we got to the first road where the locals had cached some jugs-New York is dry, but the locals rock!Eventually lunch rolled around and 7 other hikers shows up and started talking about going into town. Running low on food, I couldn’t resist the temptation and illegally hitched with three others to Walmart (you can get ticketed in NY, so we waved instead of sticking out thumbs). Once at Walmart, we got plenty of stares pushing packs around.After the resupply, what hikers call the vortex kicked in (insatiable desire to stay in one place, especially when that place has chargers and running water) at Wendy’s.

When I did finally get dropped off at the trail, I planned to hike 5 more miles but only accomplished .5 before I met Half Slow again, my favorite Vietnamese friend. The second vortex quickly kicked in and I spent the rest of the evening doctoring his blisters and learning more about his story.I’m camped in the parking lot next to his RV with big miles to walk tomorrow, but it was a day well spent!

Day #23-Hello New York; Miles hiked: 12.3 (+2 if you ask me)

Today began with the last leg of my march to the post office. I left camp with what I thought would be plenty of time to get down to Greenwood Lake by 11, but encountered some unexpected terrain that put me racing to the window at 11:57 before the noon closing. Let’s just say the residents of Greenwood Lake had the pleasure of watching a hiker sprint through their streets (with a pack of course).

I did get my packages and rewarded my efforts with a cheeseburger.While I couldn’t stop for long due to my postal commitments, I also crossed the NY/NJ border (pictured below) this morning and caught a glimpse of the NYC skyline-kind of amazing to be in the wilderness but still see one of the world’s largest cities.Cranking out such big miles so fast on still somewhat young trail legs left me pretty tired, so I spent the better part of the afternoon talking to people and eating ice cream at Bellville Farms Creamery–it’s obviously a popular spot!I’m hoping for rejuvenated legs in the morning because New York is beautiful so far!

Day #22-Midnight march to the post office; Miles hiked: 22.6

Wow, today was full of surprises. For starters, it’s pretty easy to lose track of the days out here and after taking a really slow morning/waiting out the rain at Mosey’s, I realized that it was Friday and I had exactly 24 hours to cover 33 miles before the post office in the next town closed. Off to the races!With the day halfway over already, I had to go as fast as I could to make up the miles, but passed some of New Jersey’s beautiful wetland areas.This boardwalk is a very popular photograph that people take on the AT, and I had no idea I would be passing it today-how cool! Anyway, I was making remarkably good time and was almost going to make it to the shelter before dark (a miracle considering how many miles I had to crank out) when the Lord intervened with other plans.

I climbed a rocky mountain and came across another hiker who had injured himself on the climb up and decided to go ahead and cook my dinner with him at the overlook since the sun was setting. We got to talking and had a fantastic conversation about life and faith. I was able to connect him with some local trail contacts (he thinks he’ll be fine by morning) just in case. Here’s the sunset we enjoyed together:The sun went down after my delay, but I quickly ran into another hiker who I got to chat with all the way to the shelter 4 miles away-we got to see some pretty amazing stars and twinkling fireflies. The day I thought would be a death march (and it seemed it at first) turned out to be one of my favorite trail days yet!

Day #21-How our Father answers prayer: Miles hiked: 17.1

Today was my first day without a friend from Vanderbilt by my side (besides the first few days which pure excitement carried me through), and I was honestly a little apprehensive about it when I got dropped off this morning. All sorts of questions from whether I want to join a tramily (close knit family of hikers) or not to whether I’m even doing remotely close to what I’m supposed to in this role swirled through my head.

Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to talk to Father when you’re walking through the woods and that’s what I did-and my how fast did He answer! I’ve been restless feeling that I haven’t been able to make deep connections with other hikers yet and I got to spend 5 miles talking to not one but two others today-what an encouragement when I left this morning afraid of being alone.

As for the views, here’s the ominous mist from the Culver Gap fire tower this morning that actually turned into a beautiful day.I also hit High Point, the highest point in NJ, today where I picked up that magical bug net. I was all out of energy to take the side trail to the tower that was already closed for stair-climbing, but here’s a picture from the distance. Even though it means I’ll have a lot of miles to crank out tomorrow, I chose to stay at Mosey’s Place Hostel per Trigger’s recommendations tonight and am very happy with that decision. In addition to the last laundry/shower for at least a week, Mosey and the other hiker here, Cookie Monster, have been a joy to talk to and learn about. We have been feeding a baby bunny (not pictured) that Mosey took into her garage-he’s so cute!

Day #20-An electrifying 4th of July; Miles hiked: 14.9

Today, like many days on the trail, had a rough start with a happy ending. For starters, the mosquitoes at our campsite last night were the worst I’ve ever experienced…I ended up sleeping in rain pants/jacket, a hat, and socks during a heat wave and they still bit the only exposed skin I had-between my fingers! Thank you to the Trail Blazers who sponsored the bug net heading my way soon.

After we got moving, we did pass a beautiful bog/pond with thousands of lily pads.As the day marched on, we were surrounded several times by some pretty electrifying thunderstorms with lightning way too close for comfort. For those of you who don’t know, lightning is my biggest fear on the AT. Humming How Great Thou Art for sure…However, after the storms I got to be rescued once again and spent a lovely evening at my friends lake house. Reminds me of all of my summers at home. Starting tomorrow, I am officially a fully solo hiker. I will miss the comfort of being around people I already know, but I’m looking forward to having more freedom to bounce between groups of hikers. Please pray for the Lord to bring those He wants me to minister to into my path (and keep me from breaking myself on these slippery rocks!).

Day #19-Goodbye PA, hello NJ; Miles hiked: 13.5

After another luxurious stay at the Shaykevich residence, today was my first day of walking in New Jersey.

I was lucky enough to meet up with a friend from Vandy who was kind enough to allow me to drag her a few miles down the trail in her home state-thanks Ashley!

First up today was one of the seven wonders of New Jersey (did you know there were 7 wonders in NJ?), Sunfish Lake.After discovering that the rocks weren’t all left behind in PA, we found a pile of them on top of a grassy ridge.Midafternoon, we found all the hikers at the Mohican Outdoor Center, an AMC operation with smoothies and milkshakes and fresh water-thank goodness, because it was hot today! Final attraction of the day was a real treat-a fire tower manned and in full operation! We got to learn the ins and outs of being a lookout from a guy who has dedicated his whole life to keeping the region safe.I met two other flip floppers today-one who just started from Delaware Water Gap. Please pray for hikers to link up with me in mileage goals so that I can start building some deeper relationships.