Monday, October 3, 2011

Kathadin, done and done!!!

I PROMISE there will be a better post soon...but for now, all you need to know is that on September 26th, Rachel and I climbed Katahdin - the amazing mountain that sits at the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. After 5 months and 26 days, we (partly reluctantly, partly readily) finished our thru-hike. Along with 10 or 11 other people that day, we became part of the small group of people who have walked from Georgia to Maine (or vice versa, but let's face it, northbound is where it's AT. :) )

Congrats to all the other thru-hikers that have finished this year, or are about to finish in the next couple of weeks. We did it!!!

Pictures coming soon..

Friday, August 12, 2011

New Hampshire!

This is the state of freedom. Of intense mountains, colder weather, and more wilderness than we have seen in the last few hundred miles. We just crossed into New Hampshire in Hanover, where the trail goes right through the Dartmouth Campus. Staying in Dartmouth tonight (and probably tomorrow night as well). More to come on New Hampshire.

As of now, I'm getting ready for girls' night in Hanover with Catalyst, Rocky, and Laugh Track. We've been wanting to have one since Virginia and will all finally be in the same place at the same time tomorrow.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hey guys, still here! In Vermont!

So Petek has posted the last few blogs, so it's about my turn, I suppose. I must admit, the initial necessity of finding a computer as soon as I could on a town stop has become less of a priority the longer I spend in the woods. Sorry about my increasingly luddite ways.. We just got to Vermont and stayed the night in a great hostel in Bennington called the 'Vortex'. Interestingly, as we travel further north, it seems like there are more people opening their homes to hikers (rather than having more business-oriented establishments). It's been really a blessing to connect with so many wonderful, selfless people along the way. The heat wave in New Jersey really brought out the nicest people as well. It seemed like you couldn't hit a road crossing without a few gallons of water or an ice chest with cold sodas left behind. Really made hiking in the 100+ weather possible.

We're getting closer and closer to the excitement of hiking in the Whites. I'm pretty intrigued to see how it will be to hike through an area that I am relatively familiar with. Yippee!

- RD

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


In a day or two, we will have crossed into Massachusetts. That means 10 states done, 4 to go. We're more than 2/3 of the way there!

Stories to follow. At every library, I've been blogging away and doing internet related chores, but this time - THIS time, I will leave you to sit in a corner and read while the thunderstorm passes over.

Monday, July 11, 2011

And the countdown begins...

We're less than 1000 miles away from Katahdin, the northern terminus of the AT in Maine. A lot of huge milestones have been happening recently...including passing the halfway point, and finishing Pennsylvania. That means we've got 7 states left. Most of them are short, so we will blow past at least 4 more states in the next three weeks. It's hard to believe that we've started counting down.

My trail name changed from Bandit to Pair of Aces recently. I'd never really meant to stick with Bandit, but no better name had come along. So here I am at Harper's Ferry, a town that is really significant for thru-hikers because it's close to the halfway point of the trail (and you get your picture taken there as an official thru hiker candidate). Baltimore Jack - a trail legend who's thru-hiked 9 times - suggests that I be called Pair of Aces, since my knees are always wrapped in ace bandages. I really like the name, and since I hear "Oh my God! What happened to your knees!?" just about every day, it seemed to fit my hike better. There, Casey. Happy? :D My knees are fine, by the way - the aces just keep swelling down and are mainly a mental comfort.

Rachel is sticking with Catalyst. At the halfway point, she and 7 other thru hikers that were with us tried the traditional half gallon challenge. That's when you eat a half gallon of ice cream to commemorate the passing of the halfway point. What do you get for it? A tiny wooden spoon stick that says 'Half Gallon Challenge' and a whole lot of stomach pain. My advice to people hiking in that area - stay away from the privy at the next shelter. Rachel was a trooper, but she chose not to get sick by finishing the whole thing. She got a wooden spoon that says 'The I tried club." And no stomach pain. She did eat more ice cream than she's ever eaten in her life. I didn't try the half gallon challenge. I mainly took pictures and watched people put themselves in pain. I did the quarter pint challenge with ice cream. That worked out pretty well.

Mmmm..Neopolitan. Catalyst, Poncho, and Pebbles (CCW) at the half gallon challenge.

Pair of Aces

Halfway marker. More than halfway!

Soul Slosher at the half gallon challenge. Before

Soul Slosher at the halfway challenge. After. The look on his face was priceless.

There was a strip club. It's directly on the AT. Those white things on the side of the marquee sign are blazes.

Aqua blaze!

There is a section of the Appalachian Trail between Waynesboro, VA and Front Royal, VA, that somewhat parallels the Shenandoah River. Many a thru-hiker chooses to do a multi-day canoe/kayak trip down the river as a part of the adventure. Since you end up skipping some AT miles, this is called aqua-blazing. We chose to start aqua from the town of Luray. That's a little more than halfway through the Shenandoah National Park, so first we got to see the park and take ample advantage of the waysides that sell blackberry milkshakes. Then we got picked up by the river outfitter in Luray and took a 3 day vacation from the AT!

We got to carry a lot more food than usual, including a coconut and a pineapple. Basically we just floated down the river for three days, which was pure awesomeness. The highlight was when Rachel and I saw two bald eagles, simultaneously. One was behind me and the other behind we were both pointing, at a loss for words, and trying to get the other one to look. Rachel wins though. Apparently the one behind me swooped down to the river and caught a fish.

Here are some pictures - mostly of Rachel, since they're from my camera.

Playing bumper kayaks on the river. The HMS Coconut, agressively attacking the HMS Pineapple. The captain of the HMS Pineapple does not look too concerned.

The HMS Pineapple, reporting for..duty?

Camping on the river

Scalin' some rapids. That's how we do. Yeah, they're Class 1. So what?

The impurists are born

There's a set of thru hikers called 'purists.' Purists basically feel that for a thru hike of the AT, you need to walk past every white blaze while carrying your full pack. At some point after Trail Days (Damascus) and before the Shenandoahs, we decided to not worry about the blazes anymore. Our hiking philosophy morphed into what we've started calling the 'impurist' way of thinking.

We're still hiking more than 2000 miles, but somewhere along the way, we realized purists don't get to see some of the coolest things near the AT - simply because they have to walk past white blazes. For example, a lot of times there will be some other trail that junctions with the AT in two places a few miles apart. Usually these trails are called blue blazes. The blue blazed trail will be a side trail with waterfalls and beautiful scenery, while the AT section in between the junctions will usually be the usual green tunnel/woods. You have three choices as an AT hiker - 1) take the side trail and bypass a short section of the AT, thereby seeing the cool stuff 2) stay on the AT and not see anything but chipmunks and trees, or 3) go down the side trail, see the cool stuff, then come back and hike the AT. Otherwise known as 1) the impurist way 2) the purist way, and 3) the crazy purist way

To sum it up - we are of the opinion now that we don't have to walk past every blaze. As long as there's a good reason (like gorgeous waterfalls and swimming holes), once in a while a blue-blaze is better than walking on the AT simply because the AT has white blazes. Sure, we might do 2100 miles instead of 2180...but hey...(2180-2100) << 2100.

Next up: the impurists aquablaze the Shenandoah River!