Day #35-Goofing off at Upper Goose; Miles hiked: 14.0

Today was a really fun day on the AT in Mass. We only hiked 14 miles, which at this point feels pedestrian.

For starters, I saw my first wild bear this morning. I was with another hiker who carries an umbrella, and when he flashed it at the bear, she didn’t know what hit her and ran off. She did have a few cubs, but they climbed a tree.

A few miles later, we passed through an old Shaker community with a trail stand selling soda and chips-hiker heaven!The true highlight of the day, however, was arriving early to Upper Goose Pond Cabin. This place is simply amazing–an AMC cabin free to thru hikers with bunks for 14 and access to a beautiful pond.

Some other hikers and I had a great time taking out the canoes and swimming in the crystal clear water.As fun as the lake was, the true highlight of the cabin were the caretakers’ kids. They stole the show and are all little monkeys…right down to the 10 month old who is already walking. Hiking through the woods is great, but this trail really is all about the people you get to meet along the way.

Day #34-Praise Father for the good days; Miles hiked: 13.5

The past three days or so have been pretty rough due to my NYC-acquired head cold, heat/humidity, and some rough terrain. But my how my Father is in the business of redemption! Today the sun came out, the heat and humidity subsided, and I found myself back in the hiking community. It was a great day!

After sorting through some issues with my cell phone (it’ll get fixed soon!) and resupplying, it was off for a beautiful walk through the Berkshires. Check out this view of Mt. Everett that I climbed over yesterday:I also ran across some midday trail magic for a sugar and caffeine boost-jet fuel for hikers.It’s pretty easy to tell that we’ve made it into New England with all of the ponds and bogs we’ve been passing…I think everyone is ready for some views and they are back!I didn’t catch a picture, but there were about 10-12 other thru hikers and some section hikers at the shelter and I’m glad for some new faces to know and serve. We’re all headed to one of the AT’s most beloved shelters tomorrow. Stay tuned for more adventures!

Oh, and can’t miss the fact that I crossed the 500 mile mark today–I can’t believe that I’m almost 1/4 done with the trail. Sometimes time stands still out here, but the miles build up pretty fast.

Day #33-I won the rain game!; Miles hiked: 16.4

Today was beyond an early start, but it all paid off. My alarm went off just before 2 am with the call to become a savage hiker in search of shelter (and mainly good food) on a stormy day. Rooster and I started walking AT northbound at 3:03 am.

At 4:24 am, I entered the great state of Massachusetts! By 5:30 am, the sun was beginning to provide some light as we summited Race Mtn-my first time climbing over 2,000 ft on my thru hike and my first real climb at that.The Mid-Atlantic region of the AT has been a great spot to gain my trail legs with its overall gentle terrain (with the exception of the rocks), but my heart longs for the mountains. They are back, they are back!

Our early start paid off and we arrived at our luxury resort (commonly known as the Days Inn) just before the severe thunderstorms began at 10:30 am. The rest of the day has been somewhat of a feeding frenzy as we explore all that Great Barrington, MA has to offer (including its laundromat).I got to eat tacos tonight, but am sad to report that it just isn’t the same as it is in the South…we’re getting too far away from Mexico.

Day #32-Calm before the storm; Miles hiked: 19.9

Today was my last full day in Connecticut. I passed a high school, fell twice, and climbed some mountains. I’ve found myself in a bit of a lull between waves of thru hikers, so the trail has seemed a bit lonely the past few days. Looking forward to either catching up to or being caught by some more hikers!

In the meantime, here’s the falls of Falls Village, CT.In case no one’s noticed, I especially love walking through fields and found another one today with the bigger mountains of Mass in the background.I also passed Bert’s thumb-one of the more peculiar rocks along the AT.There are some pretty severe storms in the forecast for tomorrow, so another hiker I just met at the shelter and I booked a room at the Days Inn in Great Barrington and are planning on waking up at 2 am to get there before the worst of it starts. Wish us luck!

Day #31-One month down, four more to go; Miles hiked: 17.3

This morning I was still a little soggy from my storm escapade the night before, and it didn’t get much better as it’s been crazy humid. However, hikers are pretty good at laughing off the dampness. It’s also been exactly 1 month since I started my journey!

I can definitely tell I’m getting close to New England and some real mountains now…the climbs have gotten a lot longer and more frequent. This is Caleb’s Peak:If twice wasn’t enough, I got hit by trail magic for a third time for lunch! Thanks to Tinkerbell for faithfully serving hamburgers even though most of his customers were in town watching the World Cup.

In between the climbs, I walked for quite a while along the Housatonic River where it was completely flat.This afternoon was rough with humidity and a virus I picked up in New York, but I did get to spend some time with my new friend Rooster. Looking forward to town in a few days!

Day #30-Back to reality?; Miles hiked: 18.1

I boarded an AT-bound train from Grand Central Station this morning. When I went down the steps onto the platform at the trail I thought “back to reality.” How interesting that was because my life is usually quite the opposite, and leaving the trail is going back to reality. I will admit I was a little salty to be leaving NYC and it’s AC and endless hot food…but as soon as I got off the train, I was swarmed by Boy Scouts and other volunteers working on a survey for the ATC and offering trail magic. ”Twas a wonderful welcome back!I met back up with some hikers I’d seen before my trip and several new ones too. Now that I’ve been on trail for a month, I feel much more at home in the hiking community.

Later in the afternoon, I crossed into my 4th state-Connecticut!Not even a half mile later, I hit the second trail magic setup of the day! It’s hard to keep having a bad day when there’s endless free hamburgers to eat. Here’s a pic of the trail angels (former thru hikers themselves) who were kind enough to set up for us!Because of my late start and two hamburgers, I hiked into the night where I got caught in a pretty bad storm. It was definitely scary, but thankfully there was plenty of room in the shelter when I finally arrived (and other hikers who were sympathetic to my situation).

Day #29-NYC Shenanigans; Miles hiked: 0.0 (but 8-10 if you ask me)

Today was technically a zero day, but it was a far cry from my previous, very relaxing zero days. Today was high time to explore NYC!

This morning Tripod commuted back from the Poconos and accompanied me on some hiker errands to resupply and investigate new shoes at REI. New York is full of culinary treasures–sure can’t get falafel on the trail! This afternoon we wandered uptown to the Met and saw some beautiful art. There were almost a dozen Monet paintings that I studied in my French classes at Vanderbilt just casually hanging in one of the galleries.

I also found this awesome water source (or fountain if you’re not a hiker) outside!While I still haven’t seen a bear on the trail, I found these three hanging out in the Met.The final excitement of the day was journeying out to Brooklyn to eat with Tripod’s grandparents. I really enjoyed meeting them and their dog. Thank you for all the hospitality!

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!