5 months and we're looking at our last 10 days on the trail. I can't say I'm not excited to be almost done, Silverback and I talk about what it's gonna be like when we get home all the time. Mostly we talk about how we are going to sit on our comfy couch, eat all the food we've been missing, catch up on Game of Thrones and most importantly not have to carry a heavy pack and hike 10 hours a day. We're so excited to see all our family and friends and be reunited with Ghost, Eli and Portia. At least we've still felt connected through our blog and Facebook.
We've come to know the trail as our home but the excitement of actually going home overtakes the sadness of leaving the trail. Im sure we will be missing the trail life after settling in back home. It's definitely going to be a bittersweet end when we finish.
Since we opened the GoFundMe we have been making sure that we go into towns more often and really stuff our faces. We've also been making sure we pack out extra food and we've been focusing on buying high protein and carb foods. We haven't had that ammonia smell since! We're really grateful for all of your donations, we wouldn't have been able to come this far without them!
Our joints and feet still ache everyday, a few people have told us that they won't stop hurting for a couple months after we're done! Not exactly what we wanted to hear but that's better than having permanent damage. We have heard though that if you have to go up shoe sizes while out here (we both have gone up a full size) when you get back home your regular shoes won't fit anymore! Really hoping that's not true...
NOBO - SOBO Rivalry
We heard that the Northbounders and the Southbounders had a bit of a rivalry going on but we thought it was just a joke until our first day in New Hampshire. Some of the sobos we met seemed to have their heads all puffed up because they had come through two of the hardest states which included the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Apparently they didn't think us nobos would make it through because we've had such "easy" terrain up until that point. Little do they know that the next 1300 miles of their hike won't be as much about the physical challenge. There aren't incredible landscapes to frolic through anymore, and most of the time you're just slogging out high mileage days, day after day through the "green tunnel" without getting any views after your climbs. It's much more mentally strenuous than up north has been. So even though they have done some of the toughest climbs they are in for a whole new challenge as the real thru-hiking begins.
The White mountain range was spectacular! They completely blew the entire trail beforehand out of the water. We hadn't seen anything quite as breathtaking as this mountain range. And the pictures and videos we have shared of them do them no justice, if only you could all visit them one day.
Our first climb into the whites was Mt. Moosilauke a 4 mile, 3800 foot climb, which has been intimidating us since the very beginning when we would flip ahead in the guide book, actually all of New Hampshire and Maine was intimidating before. But to tell you the truth even though the climbs were steep and rocky and difficult, they were actually the most fun we've had on the trail. There's something really exciting about having to maneuver and hoist yourself up big boulders and steep rock walls, it's like being in a jungle gym! And then after we finally reached the summit we were rewarded with a stunning view that made us forget about all our previous struggles. Hiking above tree-line, in the alpine regions sometimes made us forget we were still climbing because the views were constant and we were just dazzled by them.
Another amazing thing about the whites is that there are huts along the trail where we could stop and do a "work for stay", so basically they let you sleep in the hut and eat leftover dinner as long as you help out with some chores. We only did that once but the other huts we stopped at were generously giving us all their leftovers for free because otherwise they would have to pack it all out (they would have to hike it down the mountain). So we offered ourselves up as garbage disposals and they fed us enormous amounts; we all gained weight going through the whites.
Mount Washington was a strange experience. It is such a beautiful mountain and apparently the 3rd most dangerous mountain in the US, many people have died climbing it, mostly because of its unpredictable weather. Climbing to the top of ol'Georgey boy was fun and the views were incredible but getting to the top was strange because it's very touristy. A Cog train runs up the mountain bringing tourists up so they can take a picture with the summit sign. Getting to the top we were all sweaty and tired and we actually had to wait in line to get a picture with the sign. And I heard one lady say (because the sign was on a large rock pile) "I have to go all the way up there to get a picture!?" And then her husband replied with "Well you can just take a picture of it from here." Seriously? We climbed 6 mountains just to get to the base of Mt. Washington... Not to mention we've hiked all the way from Georgia! Not that we think we're hot shots or anything but people need to be less lazy because that lady missed a really nice view from the summit.
We've been keeping pace with Dirty Mike & The Boys which is actually only Redbeard and Sandyman now. And also with Google, Silence and PBS. We hiked through the whites with them and have been sticking together since. Everyone really meshes well in this group so it would be nice to keep together. We plan to summit together but it's hard to make plans like that out here. As of right now actually, Redbeard, Sandyman and PBS are ahead of us and Google and Silence are behind us so who knows if we will all get back in pace with each other. It's a nice thought.
Xena is still fighting the good fight! Actually the most recent update we have of her is that her sprained ankle never stopped hurting so she went to the hospital and apparently she has been hiking for about 100 miles on a fractured ankle! That girl is an animal... She hopes she can continue on with a boot cast, but I'm afraid going through the whites would be dangerous like that. She truly is a warrior princess, but this might not be something she can fight through.
We're not sure where Pippin is now, he shouldn't be too far behind us. We keep writing in the trail journals telling him to catch up, so hopefully he does! We haven't seen him in over 300 miles!
So some people end up having to flip flop, which means they flip up to Katahdin and start hiking south because they weren't going fast enough to make it northbound before Baxter state park closes (October 15th). So we have been running into some flip floppers who we haven't seen since we were down south! It's really cool to see they are still on trail even if they are going slow. Some of them still have a long way before they finish. We're really glad we didn't have to flip, having Katahdin as our finale seems like the most epic way to finish our grand adventure.
The next time we connect will be in Monson, Maine and we will hopefully get a video up there. After that we will be entering the 100 mile wilderness which is basically 100 miles with no towns and scarcely used roads. It's not very accessible so we have to carry in enough food to last us and hope we can make it through the ruggedness of the wilderness. Then Katahdin will be waiting for us at the end.
It's strange to be almost finished, One of the ways we can tell how much time has passed is because of the change of seasons. It was a bit colder when we started, then it got extremely hot and now things are cooling down again and the leaves are changing. It's kind of cool to be surrounded by the forest all the time and really experience the weather and the seasons change. We used to feel very aware that we were surrounded by miles of forest, but now it feels "natural".
Life is gonna be much different once we get home and have to be civilized again and start careers. So we're just gonna enjoy our last days on the trail and think of ways to bring this empowering, rugged way of life back home with us.
Again we are so thankful for everyone who has been supporting us and praying for us. ❤️
We are so close to victory!
3 1/2 months sure came quick! The days and the miles are flying by and we've been out here for over 100 days... It's a long time to be living in the woods! It's weird how accustomed we are to this life already; sleeping in a tent on a thin pad, eating the same (not so good) foods every day, never being/getting clean, planning our days according to water sources.. Oh yah and hiking everyday all day long! The list goes on of how different this is from our regular civilized lives. The change is real but we have adapted and I'm sure if we were to be out here for a few more months we would slowly lose the desire for civilized customs. As of now we still do enjoy staying in a hotel/hostel where we can have a shower and a bed and the comforts of convenient food and water. Also the treat of relaxing and watching a movie!
Physical Changes and Challenges
Luckily we haven't really had any injuries since Silverbacks shin splints. His shins are doing well now.
I have been making sure I stretch every night before bed and every morning before getting hiking again. It has been helping a lot, my knees don't hurt as bad and overall I feel more ready for each day. Silverback has not taken the advice to stretch very well even though he sees the difference it makes in me... Stubborn Skinner.
Doing high mileage days consecutively has taken a bit of a tole on our feet, there isn't a day that goes by that our feet don't ache. Usually by about 10 miles our feet start hurting, but as long as we take a good lunch break then we can push out another 10 before we start hobbling around like a dog with a sore paw.
The last few states have been really dry and we have had a few days when we planned on camping near a stream/spring but it was dry so we had to move on. Luckily trail Angels have been leaving water caches near many of the roads, we're very thankful for those.
We've noticed that our sweat has started to smell of ammonia, which is a really bad sign. Apparently it means that our bodies have began to burn off muscle. To solve this issue we need to start eating more and focus on getting more protein and carbs into our diet. As you have seen in our last video we have opened a GoFundMe to help us afford more town stops in order to get more food in our bellies.
Some bad news is that Recon's feet never really recovered from getting plantar fasciitis and so although he was back on trail and catching up, his feet just weren't holding up. So sadly he had to say goodbye to the trail. We got to see him once more though on the 4th of July, he also sends us pictures of himself "checking in at 0 feet above sea level" (him on a beach)
Xena isn't too far behind us, she's been a real warrior with the trail. She's been sick and injured plenty along the way but she just keeps hiking! She had to get off trail for almost 2 weeks because she tripped and jammed her hiking pole into her shoulder causing a flare up of some serious tendinitis... So she was home for 2 weeks and then had decided she would just get to the halfway point and finish the rest next year but I guess the warrior princess in her just wouldn't let the hike go because she continued trekking her way north. Recently though she has sprained her ankle something fierce and has been stuck in Vernon, New Jersey.
We were hiking with Shade for a while but then she and some other hikers (Dirty Mike & The Boys) stayed in a hotel in Pennsylvania and we kept going. We recently heard from Shade and she has decided to get off trail, she actually made her way to Toronto to visit a friend! She beat us to Canada! Shade really impressed us and proved herself to be quite a strong hiker. Out of all of us she has done the biggest day so far at 27 miles. Dirty Mike & The Boys slack packed a 27 mile stretch and ended in town in a hotel and Shade decided near the end of our day that she wanted a bed and a shower so she went beast mode and did 27 miles as well, without slack packing! Although she is done for the year she plans to finish the AT next year and we hope we can cheer her on in her final trail moments.
We've been hiking with Dirty Mike & The Boys for a few hundred miles now. They're a hilarious group of guys, but they're slowly starting to disperse now. It's difficult to keep a group together out here no matter how hard you try. Our friend Pippin said it best: "You have to hold on to people with an open hand out here." Apparently the boys are right behind us so hopefully they catch up soon!
We've been leap frogging with Pippin for a few days. We actually met him almost 1,200 miles ago in Tennessee and have run into him many times along the way. We just caught up to him again in New York. Pippin is cool.
It would be nice to have the statistics on how many hikers out here have actually hiked the whole trail so far. We have met many who decide they don't feel like hiking a day or a section or a whole state and just hitch a ride up ahead. One of the big rules out here is to "Hike your own hike", we try not to mind the hikers who choose to yellow blaze but it really bothers us when they claim to be thru-hiking but yet have skipped hundreds of miles. We work really hard to get to where we're going and it's discouraging to run into people we have already passed hundreds of miles ago.
When people hear we are married they always say "The trail will either bond you or break you." And I think it's fair to say that since we have come so far already, the trail has bonded us. We have come 1,520.6 miles and have 668.5 to go! We have seen many people quit the trail so far but we feel determined to finish. Having two people obviously increases our risk of having to quit, but I think it also increases our chances of making it to Katahdin because we always have each other and never have to deal with the loneliness of the trail.
Since we have opened our GoFundMe account we have had many generous donations and we are very grateful for that. Just having the support of our friends and family is a tremendous motivation. Now knowing that we will be able to nourish our bodies more than we have been gives us a real peace of mind.
Thank you so much everyone. This is such an incredible journey and we are adamant on getting to Katahdin!
We rest in knowing that the author of all things watches over us.