Delaware Water Gap to Harper’s Ferry

Day 76: 6.4 miles

Delaware Water Gap to Kirkland Shelter

At last, it was time to return to the trail. Our resupply box and tent pole had FINALLY arrived at the post office and two of our tramily members were due to arrive around lunch time.

We got our post office business taken care of and then walked down to the pizzeria to wait on our friends, the Hope Hikers (Toots and Paw Paw). When they arrived (YAY!!!) they had another hiker with them. Rabbit is a hiker from South Korea, and will soon be the third hiker from his country to “Triple Crown,” or hike the AT, PCT, and CDT. We all spent some time catching up on recent adventures. We hadn’t seen the Hope Hikers since Levi took on the boulder with his forehead.

A whole pizza, giant sandwich, and gyro later, we were back on the trail. We’ll, all except Rabbit. He was taking a zero day and would catch up later. It was a scorcher and Levi and Kristen hadn’t used their trail legs in three days. We had a very rocky climb out for the valley and stopped frequently for water. We had hoped to go a bit farther, but the Kirkland shelter was nice and had a water pump easily accessible so we chose to spend the night.

Day 77: 19.7 miles

Kirkland Shelter to Tentsite

We successfully hit the trail before 8 am. Rocksylvania is real, folks. We started out going over a section called Wolf Rocks, but the rocks didn’t end there. They just didn’t have cool names.

Snake rocks might’ve been appropriate for the remainder of the day. Or maybe drought rocks. We had been lucky during most of the proceeding trail with water access, but now with the heat wave we had to carry water since streams and springs had dried up.

We took a break around two. While everyone was off getting water, Levi watched a real live animal planet episode back at the shelter. A rat snake flushed a toad out of a bush, but mid-pursuit the toad just froze and the snake lost track due to poor vision. Nature is pretty cool, eh?

We hiked along a ridgeline for the rest of the day. The tentsite had good water access and Rabbit caught us by dinnertime.

Day 78: 17.5 miles

Tentsite to Bake Oven Knob Shelter

We hiked on ridgeline to the infamous Lehigh Gap–a precipitous and rocky descent into Palmerton, Pa. The rocks were hot to the touch after baking all morning, and we kept a sharp eye out for snakes (which we later learned was unnecessary, phew!).

We stopped for lunch at a local pub, while chores were run at the nearby post office and gas station. We enjoyed Yuengling and perogies, and were happy to get back on trail.

Our hike was pretty uneventful for the rest of the day. Around 5, we were a few miles out from a shelter and Kristen suddenly needed access to a privy. There’s a 2 mi/hr pace, a 3 mi/hr pace, and a Kristen-really-needs-the-privy pace. She set off with dust at her heels towards the shelter.

An overwhelming majority of shelters have privys nearby, and we assumed our destination shelter would as well. She arrived to the shelter, found the side trail, and sprinted down it. About 100 yards down, the grass was overgrown, massive spiderwebs cris-crossed the trail, and it became apparent that no one had come this way in a while. The side trail was for springs, NOT a privy. She hiked back up the hill to the shelter where the rest of the group was arriving, muttered a few profanities, and set off to a secluded spot to dig a cathole. (Which is not very easy to do in Rocksylvania)

We filled up at the spring, then ended up finding a tent site nearby and settled in for the night.

Day 79: 26.5 miles

Bake Oven Knob Shelter to Windsor Furnace shelter

We made fast work of the miles in the morning, trying to maximize our time hiking before the heat could really set in. In honor of Paw Paw’s birthday, we threw out the crazy idea of hiking 31 miles for his 31st birthday. At our morning pace, it would be possible.

After lunch, we made a stop at Eckville shelter. This shelter is slightly off-trail and maintained by a caretaker. It had a shower and a flushing toilet. We ran into Good Time Gumby, who we had seen back at the beach.

It was valiant effort, but we only made it 26.1 miles to a shelter. However, it was a monumental day for a few other reasons: it was our first night hike and Toots and Paw Paw saw their first rattlesnake. The shelter was very nice, and we enjoyed some Mountain House Meal Apple Crisp for Paw Paw’s birthday.

Day 80: 20 miles

Windsor Furnace shelter to Rock N Sole Hostel

After our epic day prior, we slept in a bit and got a slow start. There were plenty of rocks to make our day interesting, and late morning rain made the going slow.

Luckily, we were able to make it to our road rendezvous point by 5, and were picked up by the owners of the Rock ‘n Sole Hostel. The Rock ‘n Sole Hostel is a cute and cozy out-building and comes complete with an outdoor shower, privy, and many warm comforts of home. Dinner on the front porch consisted of burgers, potatoes, mixed veggies and an ice cream and warm cookie dessert. Levi went out for a resupply at a very well-stocked Dollar General while Kristen drank tea and chilled.

Day 81: 13.4 miles

Rock N Sole Hostel to William Penn Shelter

Breakfast consisted of coffee, fruit, OJ, egg casserole, coffee cake, and warm bagels. After taking in as many calories as was offered to us, we packed up and got back on the trail. The day was pretty easy, but the trail was flooded and still rocky. We stopped at the 501 shelter for lunch and to watch videos we had been talking up during the morning. While there, the caretaker of the shelter stopped by and said hi. He was very kind and handed out Gatorade to each of us.

After that, we hiked 4 more miles to the 1000 mile marker. We had queued up a playlist and timed everything to culminate at the 1000 mile mark, but it turns out the marker was placed 0.2 miles later at the shelter. Oh well.

The shelter we stayed at was a cool, two-story shelter with room for 8. We chowed down on dinner while watching more videos and passed out at sundown.

Day 82: 18 miles

William Penn Shelter to Yellow Spring tentsite.

The beginning of the day was eventful as Kristen fell down stairs of shelter. After we determined that she was okay, we moved on to walking flooded trails and wet rocks. Hiking was extremely dreary and chilly, so we stopped under an overpass for a break. We walked a bit farther and crossed 1890s bridge where we ran into Allen and Nancy setting up for a Trail Magic lunch. If we hadn’t taken that break at the overpass, we would have missed them. As we sat, Allen and Nancy brought us homemade ham sandwiches, potato salad, watermelon, chips, and local chocolate milk/Gatorade.

As we started to hike on, we ran into lots of overgrown trail. We did frequent tick checks.

We then walked through a section of trail flooded by a burst beaver dam. The water was disgusting, but was so widespread that we had no choice but to walk straight through the gunky water. We then stopped at a shelter with a spring in order to wash out our footwear, and take a privy and snack break. Kristen had what appeared to be blisters on the tops of her toes. Luckily this went away by the next morning.

We ended the day by hiking four miles to a buggy tentsite.

Day 83: 20.1 miles

Yellow Spring Tentsite to Clarks Ferry Shelter

Levi got to start the day off right chowing down on his breakfast a few feet from a spook-free deer. The day was full of wildlife as we saw two rat snakes, one of which was on trail.

The weather got humid early, and Kristen was struggling and kicking rocks. We took a break at Mt. Peter’s shelter to get water and found out that water was a loooong way down. 300 steps down.

We had nice views of the Susquehanna river from both sides of the ridge we were walking.

We pulled up to Clarks Ferry Shelter and proceeded to make a large fire to keep bugs away. It worked on things that fly, but not so much on things that crawl – Paw Paw and Toots found a few fishing spiders on their side of the lean-to and decided to set their tent up on the inside.

Day 84: 15.6 miles

Clarks Ferry Shelter to Darlington Shelter

We got up and hiked four miles to town. We crossed a bridge into Duncannon (the rails were home to a million spiders) and were a little worried by the strip club and gun smith right as we entered town. As we made our way further into town, things got nicer. We stopped by the post office and took advantage of the great hiker box by filling our snack bags with granola bars.

We stopped at a breakfast place called Goodies for an early lunch, and then the historic Doyle for beer. Kristen resupplied at a gas station and met a local named Steve who offered to take us to his pool/ a real grocery store. She politely declined.

We stopped early at a shelter for much needed privy use (disruptive town food) and water fill. We then hiked some uneventful miles down to a stream, then across fields. We went up and over a hill, and the rocks began getting slightly better. We marched up a long hill to the shelter, just as the sun was beginning to set. There, we met a section hiker and his adorable black lab, Liberty.

As it got dark we made dinner and then headed to our tent. As we were laying down, we got text from Toots about a snake in the privy. (To clarify, the snake was not emerging from the toilet itself, but lurking down from a rafter.) Just what you want to think about as you’re laying down to go to sleep.

Day 85: 19.5 miles

Darlington Shelter to stealth site near Whiskey Spring Road.

Today’s terrain was the easiest we have seen so far. We hiked 3mi/hr downhill and then across fields, roads, and along streams. We stopped at the Hiker place for water and to use the portapotty. Kristen got to spend a few minutes exploring a cool old graveyard with graves dating back to the early 1800s.

We continued on into the town of Boiling Springs. For lunch, we went to a local pizzeria and ate most of 2 large pizzas. To digest, we stopped at bench by shallow pond and sat in the shade for a spell. Finally, we got up the inertia to hike 4 miles uphill to the shelter. In order to save ourselves a few miles the following day, we decided to press on to a tent site. We ate leftover pizza for dinner and hit the hay.

Day 86: 23.9 miles

Stealth site to Birch Run Shelter

We hiked a pretty easy (though hot and humid)14 miles into Pine Grove Furnace State Park. The trail wasn’t too challenging, but we did run into a couple slithery fauna. Toots and Paw Paw saw a rattle snake just off trail in the leaves and Kristen walked over what she thought was a root, but was actually a rat snake.

As we entered the state park, we saw a lakeside beach and filled up on water at the rest area. Next, we went to the general store–the home of the half gallon ice cream challenge. The store was supposed to close after labor day, but was in fact open with limited hours. After much consideration of flavor choice, Levi and Kristen both did the half gallon challenge. (Levi ate 1.5 quarts of vanilla/chocolate and .5 of Moose Tracks; Kristen had 1.5 quarts of black cherry and .5 of chocolate). At the general store, we met Snicker Bear, another hiker who did the challenge and would be completing her thru-hike in Harper’s Ferry. She was nursing an infected shoulder wound, a broken toe, and a full belly of ice cream–but there’s not much that can stop a hiker when they’re so close to the finish line.

This day was a SCORCHER. The heat index was around 105 and we had passed more than one person who told us it was too hot to be hiking. After eating our ice cream, Levi hung out at the general store while Kristen, Toots, and Paw Paw went to the AT museum. There was lots of cool information and artifacts about trail construction, some of the earliest hikers, and trail components.

Finally, we got back on the trail. Clouds lurked in distance, but the wind was welcome. There were some sprinkles, but we never needed rain gear. It was the perfect amount of rain. We hit the old halfway point, then Dead Woman Hollow Rd (halfway according to AWOL guide), and then official halfway marker.

Paw Paw’s parents met us on trail and hiked with us to a parking lot. They all left for a hotel, while we went on to Birch Run Shelter.

Day 87: 14.7 miles

Birch Run Shelter to Rocky Mtn. Rd

This was a quick and rainy day, with some surprise rocks at the tail end. Luckily we were able to get picked up by Kristen’s high school friend, Leah Stefanski Hanson (she just got married). At her house, we got our first shower in a week and quickly began a load of laundry. We had also sent four boxes to her house, and had fun opening the resupply box, box of snacks from Aunt Dana, Kristen’s new shoes, and a new water purifier. Her cat, Pickles, really loved all of the new boxes! Leah’s husband came home a few hours later with two large pizzas and we chowed down happily. A few episodes of Parks and Rec later, we were ready for bed.

Day 88: 22.9 miles

Rocky Mtn. Rd to Ensign Cowall Shelter

We ate an awesome breakfast of leftover Panera pastries (from the wedding) and fruit. We reluctantly got packed up and and got back on the trail around 9:30. By about 10:30, Kristen’s shoes weren’t looking so new anymore. It was rainy and muddy for most of the day.

In the afternoon, we crossed the Mason-Dixon line and began the Maryland section of the trail. We met up with Toots and Paw Paw (and Paw Paw’s mom, Crazy Mountain Mama) for a bit, as they cruised through while Slack Packing. An hour or so later, we had to crossed crazily flowing stream. There weren’t supposed to be any serious water crossings in MD, but the rocks to hike across were completely submerged due to the amount of rain. We made it to shelter just before dark. To our surprise, the shelter was crowded with two groups of section hikers. We slept next to a guy named Stewart who had warned us he “snored” and usually slept in his tent. Thank goodness for ear plugs is all we’ll say on that matter.

Day 89: 28.1 miles

Ensign Cowall Shelter to Canal Towpath (Hostelling International-Harper’s Ferry)

Anyone who knows Kristen well knows she does not like to get up and out of bed in the morning. This morning was particularly difficult, and Levi almost had to break his wedding vows and deflate Kristen’s sleeping pad. Around 7 am we had put on wet socks and shoes, packed damp packs, and draped ourselves in our ponchos. It was going to be a long day.

The rain didn’t stop. At all. We trudged up and down stairs-turned-waterfalls, through ponds, and over never-ending partially cobbled paths. It was exhausting and unrelenting. Our final descent was actually rather dangerous (sorry Moms and Dads) due to the wet rocks and early loss of daylight due to cloud cover. We got out our flashlights and made it down the mountain without incident. After a short flat stretch we road-hiked to a hostel for a hot shower, warm bed, and access to pizza.

Day 90: 3.7 miles

Canal Towpath to ATC (Appalachian Trail Conservancy) Head Quarters

At the hostel we had a nice breakfast and did our laundry. We headed out around 10 am and had a smooth flat walk into town. The Potomac River was running WILD. The river was muddy and extremely high. It came about 6 ft. from the trail! We hit the bridge to cross and were in awe of the large tree parts floating downstream. Our walk through historic Harper’s Ferry was beautiful–hopefully we can come back here some day to appreciate it fully.

When we finally made it to the ATC HQ, we spent some time talking to the folks working here about our travels and the impending rain. We learned that the bridge would be closing around 4pm due to the flooding, and we texted Paw Paw and Toots who were behind us. Hurricane Florence is going to be pretty serious business.

About half an hour after we arrived, Kristen’s grandparents (Pappy Fries and Pat) walked up the ATC! After such a rough few days of hiking, it was so comforting to be greeted by family. They had been following our journey on their AAA maps and knew quite a lot about milestones on the trail and AT culture. We got our official picture taken for the register, bought some postcards, explored the headquarters, and headed off to lunch. We had delicious fare at Almost Heaven, then drove to the hotel. Pappy and Pat surprised us with a cooler of beer and some beignets from Cracker Barrel. We took a nap, then hung out in the hotel room for awhile showing off our gear. Pat even gave the sleeping pad a try! We had dinner at a diner and went to sleep shortly afterwards.

Great Barrington, MA to Delaware Water Gap, PA

Day 59: 17.6 miles
Great Barrington to Riga Shelter

Since we were in town we had to hit up the McDonald’s one last time. A kind trail angel in a Casper van gave us a ride to the trailhead and we were off!

Shortly after starting, we had to pause and lather up in bug spray. The mosquito onslaught continued the entire day, but the Picaradin seemed to work.

The elevation profile on our app had us worried, but the trail over Mt Everett was largely gradual. We stopped for water at a shelter and continued over Mt Race. The Northern section into the ravine skirted the mountain and we hiked with a beautiful view off to one side. Once down in the ravine, we crossed the state line into Connecticut. The trail meandered alongside a brook for almost 2 miles, which combined with a steady stream of weekend hikers made it extremely difficult for Kristen to empty her bladder.

Bear Mountain (CT), the highest elevation we will see for weeks, was a challenging but enjoyable climb. There was a fair amount of rock scrambling towards the peak. We loved the flat hike between the peak and Riga shelter, making it to the shelter earlier than anticipated. The view from the shelter was beautiful and we had an unusually good night’s sleep

Day 60: 18.7 miles

Riga Shelter to Pine Swamp Brook Shelter

The day started off with an easy downhill into Salisbury, CT. We went up and over a few small mountains and then down into Falls Village where we had lunch (pastrami Rubens) at Toymaker’s Cafe.

Afterwards we climbed up and over Mt. Easter and choose to spend the night at Pine Swamp Shelter. The tramily pressed on to a campsite four miles beyond, but we needed to stop. Choosing between a wet tent to carry and bug-bitten appendages, we opted to tent. The rain began about 30 seconds after we finished eating dinner.

Day 61: 17 miles
Pine Swamp Shelter to Kent

The morning started off well enough. The rain had ceased and despite the humidity it was relatively cool. We hiked up and down on squishy pine-straw trails and eventually descended into a valley with a wide, rushing brook. Because of recent rain the brook was running higher than usual. It looked like it could be a dangerous crossing, especially since it lacked any rope hold or partial foot bridge. Kristen, being slightly more confident on rock crossings, took out a trekking pole, changed into camp shoes, and journeyed across. Easier than expected! Levi followed more carefully and without issue (and without shoes at all).

Following a few more up and downs, we descended and came to a flat rocky path alongside a river. Although the trail was flat, our bodies were tired and our feet were especially achy. What should’ve been a brisk 4 miles turned into a crawl and we took a much needed break at the south parking lot.

Tight Achilles. Bruised balls of the feet. Feeling tired despite good sleep. Itchy from mosquito bites. Not knowing when we would next stop in town to shower and do laundry. Carrying a wet tent. Running low on snacks. Dreading the next uphill. Knowing the rain was returning at any moment.

Sometimes there are rough days on the trail, and this was one of them. We had only zeroed in town two days prior, but if possible, we needed another stop into civilization.

At the top of the next climb (which was a doozy–if we thought rock scrambling ended in New Hampshire we were sorely mistaken) we made some calls to locales in Kent, CT and found an opening at The Fife n Drum.

With the promise of town, our spirits lifted and we did the final 4 miles of the day easily. 4.8 actually…it was a bit of a road walk from the trail to the Inn. We were rewarded for our efforts though–this stop was the closest we’d come to most people’s idea of a honeymoon.

The town of Kent is picturesque with clean, orderly buildings and high end boutique shops.

We entered to the restaurant and were welcomed to the bar despite our ragged appearance and undeniable stench. We had a delicious dinner and then made our way up to our room, a beautiful king suite with a lofted ceiling.

After showering and rinsing out our clothes, we promptly collapsed into bed. A wonderful ending to a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Day 62: 12.8 miles
Kent to Wiley Shelter

We successfully avoided hiking until 12:30. Kent had a wonderful Coffee & Chocolate shop which we stopped by for breakfast. We needed to buy some more snacks so Kristen shopped at IGA while Levi charged phones and checked out the Kent Welcome Center. There just happened to be an ice cream shop on the way back to the trail head, so that necessitated another stop, complete with a milkshake and a close game of checkers. At last, we were on our way.

There was about an hour of dry hiking before the rain moved in. We threw on our rain gear and continued slowly, especially on Levi’s least favorite downhill terrain–large granite slabs. At some point we crossed the border into New York, but there weren’t any fun signs to mark this momentous occasion.

At .1 miles from the campsite, we stopped at a water pump and filled up. On our last bottle, we heard a group moving up the path. It was our tramily! We found the shelter completely empty and all set up inside. During a break in the rain we hung our bear bags and encountered a large owl sitting on a tree branch. Hoo! Hoo!

Day 63: 8.8 miles

Wiley Shelter to Telephone Pioneer Shelter

In the morning we hiked about 5 miles to Native Landscaping Inc, a garden store along the trail which is friendly to hikers. We took a break at their gazebo, bought some ginger ale, and asked about the best way to get into the nearby town of Pawling.

Unfortunately for us, hitchhiking is illegal in New York state and Pawling didn’t have any Lyfts or Ubers available. We ended up walking the three miles into town to pick up our resupply boxes from the post office. Once all four boxes were in-hand, we found a pub to eat nearby where we could also sort all of our goods.

Like Kent, Pawling had a welcome center with public restrooms and power outlets. We charged up, repacked our bags, and made one last stop (CVS for new insoles) before taking a cab back to the trailhead.

Our bags were heavy and we were worn out by walking to and through town in the heat of the day. Exhausted, we paused at a shelter 3 miles from town and looked at our maps. Either we could continue on another 7 miles and have to choose between a 14 and a 28 mile day the following day, OR we could throw in the towel and pull two 20-mile days to get into our target town.

We threw in the towel. It was a mostly great night of sleep (some rowdy NOBOs arrived and were loud until around 9) and we were ready for big miles the next morning.

Day 64: 21.7 miles
Telephone Pioneer Shelter to Canopus Beach

We headed out bright and early, managing almost 8 miles before 10am. Around 11:30 we took a half mile detour to our first NY deli. There was a pizzeria connected to it, so naturally we stopped there as well. All in all we had three slices of pizza, a chicken club, three drinks, and ice cream. It was a great lunch and we were ready for more hiking.

Around 3:30 we stopped at RPH shelter– a fully enclosed sleeping building with a patio, flower garden, and newish privy with toilet paper. We only stopped long enough to snack, use the privy, and look at the rest of the day’s terrain on the app.

The final five miles flew by. Around 6pm we hit the side trail for the beach! Some SOBOs we had met back in New Hampshire greeted us, and they just happened to have grilled leftovers which they shared happily.

Day 65: 20.2 miles
Canopus Beach to Ft. Montgomery

We got up and out early, heading around the lake to get back to the trail. The terrain was a jumble of ups, downs, and road crossings. It got hot, humid, and sticky early on. There were lots of stone walls, one of which formed a ledge we walked along.

Around 14 miles into the day we came to a road crossing which had a deli at it’s junction. The Appalachian Market did not disappoint. We downed two large Gatorades and a Ginger Ale, ate a deli sandwich apiece, and talked for awhile with a New Yorker.

Bellies full, we continued on slowly. At the peak of Anthony’s nose, the mosquitoes finally abated and we made our descent towards Ft. Montgomery.

The trail converged with a road which led us to the Bear Mountain Bridge and across the Hudson River. Once across, we stopped in a shady park to call for a shuttle to the motel and to talk to some other hikers. They were a mother and son doing a section hike and were very curious about gear and taking time off life to do a thru hike.

Our shuttle arrived, driven by “Grandpa,” the owner of the Bear Mountain Bridge Motel. He got us checked into our room and gave us the low-down on laundry, restaurants, and his grandchildren (one of whom we met the next day). Our attempt to have a lazy night in was thwarted by the pizza place which doesn’t deliver on Thursday nights. Fortunately there was a BBQ joint across the street, so we hobbled there for dinner.

Our attempt to watch the Steelers-Packers preseason game was ruined by the NY Jets hogging tube time. It was probably for the best.

Day 66: 15.5 miles
Ft. Montgomery to Fingerboard shelter

We started our day with a trip to the Bagel Cafe and had a semi-surprising visit from one of our extended tramily members. We knew he had plans to stay at the Motel the same night we were there, but he hadn’t arrived by the time we went to bed. He ended up using the late night and 100* heat index as rationale to take a zero day. We marched on.

We first got back on trail near the bridge and soon after hit our lowest point so far. Literally. The trail makes its way through Bear Mountain Zoo, and the bear exhibit is at 124 ft. of elevation. We saw two adorable sun-bleached black bears from the safety of their enclosure.

Next we climbed Bear Mountain, which seemed to be a very popular weekend hiking destination. It was hot and humid, but there were stone stairs nearly the entire way up. We hiked for a bit with a girl named Rachel who was doing a section of the AT before starting a new job. We climbed up and down West Mountain and Black Mountain before the terrain leveled out a little bit.

At one point, Kristen was leading and saw some movement off to the left. It was a rocky section of trail and she slowly approached. A snake, about 4 ft long, was spanning half of the trail. It’s tail was in the path and it’s head was hidden in the brush and presumably down a hole. Upon closer inspection as we tiptoed around it, there was a rattle on the end of it’s tail. Our first rattlesnake sighting!

Ambling on more cautiously now, we made our way to Fingerboard Shelter. It was a hot, rainy, buggy night.

Day 67: 21 miles

Fingerboard Shelter to stealth site

By 5:55am we had had enough of the mosquitoes and prepared to hit the trail. We used the last of our bug spray as Levi ran back to the shelter from retrieving the Bear bag, a swarm of blood suckers on his tail. Sadly, the bug spray can only do so much and we continued to be eaten alive.

The first fun event of the day was the Lemon Squeezer: a section of massive boulders with a human-sized gap between them. We both managed to make our way through without even having to remove our packs!

Somehow our day managed to get even buggier. We received countless compliments and jealous comments from day hikers about our head nets. One of our tramily members (Red Line) caught up to us for a bit and we hiked with him until we came upon a couple more day hikers…or so we thought. It was MnM’s parents surprising her with a visit! She was obviously overjoyed and their visit couldn’t have come at a better time. She was the most bit-up of all of us, had a small fall earlier in the day, and was struggling with the heat. Parents to the rescue!

Although the McMenemys invited us along to town, we had to get in place for our own rendez-vous the following day. So we walked on.

Shortly after the parking lot, we came across some trail maintainers who were weed whacking and clearing the brush around the trail. We thanked them for their work and said we hoped the cleared brush might help deter some of the mosquitoes. They asked if we had enough spray, and when we said we ran out but would pick up some the next day, one of them ran to their car to give us their can. Talk about Trail Magic!

We were aware of a pending rainstorm (and both in need of the privy) so we picked up the pace making it to a nearby shelter a few miles away by 3 pm. According to our weather app, the chance of storms had decreased and we seemed to be in the clear for the rest of the afternoon and evening. We left the shelter and soon found ourselves hiking along a granite ridgeline. The sky looked ominous, but we figured the storm was passing over us and would clear shortly.

Thunder rumbled, wind blew, and we put on our ponchos minutes before the rain began pounding down on us. At the first sign of lightning we returned to the cover of trees and chose to wait out the storm from the relative safety of the forest. When the storm cleared, we walked a few more miles to a road where we hoped to stop for hot dogs and ice cream.

To our great disappointment, the hot dog stand was closed. The Bellvale creamery was open though, so we continued down the road. After one giant ice cream and milkshake we we’re still hungry. We knew we were heading to a stealth site (not a shelter), which would likely be buggy and provide no cover for cooking dinner. Logically, it made sense to order another round of ice cream and shakes for dinner!

After filling our bellies with Bellvale Bog chocolate, Calf Trax, and The Great White Way, we got back on trail and hiked until sunset. We found a flat spot, set up our tent, and got ready for bed.

Day 68: 16.9 miles

Stealth Spot to Pochuck shelter

The bugs were awful, so we started walking fast. We were only a mile from the New Jersey state line, and stopped briefly on the ridgetop to savor the moment.

After a fast ridgeline walk, we hiked down what locals like to call the ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ It was a weekend, and therefore extremely crowded with locals.

When we got to the bottom we were greeted by Michael Freeman, a former colleague of Levi’s father. Michael was extremely accommodating and took us to grab bagels, gigantic sub sandwiches, groceries, and some trail beers. We were extremely thankful and had a wonderful time.

After departing, we hiked a long, smooth boardwalk through a beautiful marsh. At the end of the boardwalk, we stopped to filter water and Kristen’s trail beer tumbled out of her pack and busted on a rock. It was a sad moment.

We got to the shelter, cracked open our only remaining cold one, and phoned home only to realize we were a mere 14.1 miles from the New Jersey High Point, and therefore a short drive from family friends Stu and Sheerie Berjansky. Thankfully, they were going to be available the next evening and welcomed us to stay with them.

Day 69: 14.1 Miles
Pochuck Shelter to High Point State Park HQ

Occasionally we think a tent spot is flat, only to wake up with our pads slid in one direction or another. This morning we awoke with our feet pressed against the foot end of the tent. Whoops.

Our walk to High Point was rather uneventful. We got there right as Stu pulled up in the parking lot. The park office was handing out free sodas to thru hikers so we stopped in, fueled up, and hopped in the car.

Once at the house, we caught up with Stu and Sheerie and met their three loving doggos. They filled us up with pretzels, chips, guac, chicken, steak, corn, potatos, beer, and cider. It was a relaxing evening and we went to bed with full hearts and full bellies.

Day 70: 14.3 miles
High Point HQ to Branchville

We slept in until almost 8! A one-dog wake up party (Wrigley) came to energetically escort us downstairs towards the smell of coffee and blueberry pancakes. As we ate and discussed the day’s agenda, Stu decided to join us for our 14.5 miles to Branchville.

Sheerie dropped us off at the High Point HQ and we hiked a very quick and uneventful 14.5 to Branchville.

In the evening after dinner, we were left to our own devices while the Berjanskys went out. So we Netflixed and chilled. (The new Dimitri Martin sketch is great!) Around 8:00 we got a phone call from Levi’s dad asking us if we were still awake. Yes!

Dale was on a business trip in the area, and was able to stop by for a few minutes. We hugged and discussed the finer points of having such an immense beard. It was a great reunion.

Day 71: 7.7 miles Branchville to tent site

In the morning we went into the town of Milford and stopped at an amazing bagel place for breakfast. This NY/NJ/PA corridor sure knows how to make bagels! We went to see Sheerie’s studio, stopped at a grocery store to grab snacks, and then drove to the Hawks Nest- a winding section of road running along the Delaware river.

We stopped back at the house to have lunch and to grab our freshly laundered clothing. It was difficult to say goodbye, but hike on we must. After Wrigley, Brynn, Stu and Grace said their heartfelt and slobbery goodbyes we got in the car. Stu and Sheerie dropped us off at the trailhead in Branchville and we hiked a quick 7 miles to the tentsite.

Day 72: 20.7 miles from tent site to Delaware Water Gap

Seeing as we are hiking the Appalachian Trail, we deemed it fitting that we should spend a night camping. It drizzled overnight, but overall it wasn’t a bad experience. We should try it more often.

But alas, there was more family to be seen.

We hiked a level but rocky 20.7 down to the Pennsylvania border, where we were abducted by the Greenbergs and shuttled to far away Kendall Park, NJ for three days of R&R.

Day 73: Zero in Kendall Park, NJ

After a blissful night’s rest, we awoke to French press coffee and fresh bagels. Cousin Danny gave Levi a lesson on proper bagel cutting technique after Levi ‘nearly sliced his hand off’. Turns out, bagel-related injuries are the most common cause of visits to the local ER.

We spent some time catching up with Caryl and Kira, began a load of laundry (yes, our clothes smelled after only 35 miles), and avoided working on this blog. Following laundry, we borrowed the car and headed to a local REI to get a new filter and non-deet bug repellant.

As all of our trips to REI usually go, we spent an exorbitant amount of time debating products. In the end, we got a new filter which uses UV light to stop microorganisms from reproducing in water. We also got new socks, a collapsible cup, and bug repellant.

For dinner, Danny picked up hoagies and we all headed to Old York Cellars winery. The weather was perfect for walking in the vineyard, listening to music, playing Scrabble, and of course, drinking wine.

Day 74: Zero in Kendall Park, NJ

Day 74 was a relaxing one. We were slow to rise, and only did so when we remembered that there were bagels waiting for us.

We treated our clothes with bug repellant and lounged outside writing our previous blog post while waiting for our clothes to line dry.

We had dinner at a wonderful pho place, and then paid a visit to an incredibly ornate BAPS temple to experience one of their open Hindi services.

The day was capped with a trip to the Bent Spoon, a gourmet ice cream shop right outside of Princeton’s campus.

Day 75: Zero in Delaware Water Gap, PA

We started our day with a hearty breakfast of peanut butter cup pancakes and watermelon. After breakfast, we began packing, and departed for Delaware Water Gap shortly after lunchtime.

We stayed at the Deer Head Inn, a spot famous for weekend jazz performances. Instead of staying for the evenings performance, we made our way around town. We stopped for more fuel at a local outdoors shop, got some drinks and super glue at the gas station, and ended up eating Stromboli and chicken fingers at the pizzeria.

We had a relaxed night back at the inn, excited to meet up with tramily members Toots and Pawpaw (formerly known as Story, Country Kitchen, DB, and Jukebox… Sometimes trail names are hard) the next day.

Gorham to Hanover

Day 30: 15.2 miles
Gorham, US rt. 2 to Carter Notch Hut.

Our first day in the Whites took us through the Carter peaks in the Wildcat range. The climbs were long, but not as difficult as the Northbounders had been claiming.

What was supposed to be a ten mile day turned into a 15 mile day complete with our first Hut encounter.

In the Whites, a series of huts were constructed by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC, also known as the Appalachian Money Club) as a means for tourists to see the rough ranges in relative comfort. They come complete with bunk rooms, a mess hall, indoor composting toilets, and caretaker quarters for the staff. For a mere $120-$160 a night, one can have dinner, a sound night’s sleep, and breakfast, all with a view. Most of those pennies go towards the logistical nightmare that is the caretaking staff literally carrying all supplies to the hut on their backs. There are no roads up there.

Thankfully, the AMC has designed a few alternatives for the frugal thru-hiker. They are as follows:

Work-for-stay. Huts will employ 2-8 thru-hikers during the breakfast or dinner hours in exchange for a spot on the mess hall floor and leftovers.

Stealth camp. If the forecast isn’t life threatening, staffers are happy to point out the nearest tenting spot, usually located outside a .25 mile radius around the hut for environmental impact reasons.

Armageddon. If the weather forecast shows truly unsafe conditions, huts will accept as many thru-hikers as will fit on their floors.

Some members of our tramily were lucky enough to secure a work for stay this night, but we were directed to a stealth camp for the evening.

Day 31: 10.7 miles
Carter Notch to Osgood Tent Site

We started off the day with a bit of a miscommunication with the tramily. Because some tramily members did a work for stay, we assumed they would be staying late to eat breakfast leftover. Turns out, they were on dinner duty and left early. Some of us staying at the stealth site missed the memo and had a late start to the day.

We climbed out of the notch and summited Wildcat before descending to Pinkham Notch visitors center for a food resupply. We had lunch there with two section-hikers who are currently studying Philosophy at…Pitt! H2P!

A short hike to Osgood tentsite placed us right at the base of Mt Madison, our gateway to the spectacular Presidential Range.

Day 32: 10.1 miles

Osgood Tent Site to Lakes of the Clouds Hut

In hopes of beating out a storm, our day began early with a sunrise ascent of Mt. Madison. It was a very rocky climb, more boulder scrambling than trail hiking as we neared the peak… Or what we thought was the peak – Mt. Madison had a number of false peaks leading up to the final summit. This turned out to be the only view we saw from a peak in the Presidential Range due to heavy fog and light rain.

After hitting the top, we carefully made our way down to the Madison hut. Many people at the hut were only just leaving for the day, but we were already 3 miles in and over a mountain by 8 am.

Our tramily had split into its two regular hiking parties. As we filled water bottles in the hut, some members of the advance team managed to take the wrong side trails right after the hut and had to turn around to get back on trail. We had a front row seat to the confusion and got to watch them reroute from the warm comfort of the hut.

The Presidentials are decently marked with sign posts and Cairns, but due to the alpine environment, the trails scarcely have white blazes. As we got farther up Mt. Washington, those cairns became harder and harder to see through the thick cloud covering the mountain. We had few instances of navigational uncertainty but fortunately we managed to stick to the trail (unlike our amigos who got lost again). After what felt like an eternity, a man standing about 20 ft. ahead of us bellowed, “Congratulations! You made it!”

‘Made it where?’ we thought, looking around confused.

Five steps later we saw a building through the fog: we had arrived at the peak of Mt. Washington, the second highest point on the trail! Slowly we wandered around the top, following our noses to the building containing concessions. Many chili dogs, warm beverages, and moments of rest later, we pushed on to Lakes of the Clouds hut.

At Lakes of the Clouds, Levi and I did our first work-for-stay. After all of the paying guests finished dinner, the “croo” (mostly college aged kids who work at the hut) showed us to delicious leftovers and our work assignment: dishes. Following work, we laid out our sleeping pads on the mess hall floor. Unfortunately for us, several guests were still in the middle of a card game during ‘lights out’ and they continued to play loudly and with much headlamped commotion. We didn’t get to sleep until 11 pm.

Day 33: 11.1 miles

Lakes of the Clouds Hut to Dry River Campsite

As we picked at leftovers and waited for friends to finish work for stay, we met a former thru-hiker named Neon who had hiked to the hut with the intention of delivering trail magic to hungry hikers. Score! We stayed at the hut for awhile talking to him and another hiker named Jet about our trail adventures while eating Neon’s apples and homemade pizzas.

Neon hiked with us for awhile and we stopped for a bit at Mizpah hut.

On our way around Mt Eisenhower, Rerun, a member of our tramily, had the misfortune of twisting his ankle on the flattest terrain of the trail. His ankle ended up being the size of a grapefruit by evening.

A difficult climb down from the range (including an actual descent of a rock face) left us exhausted. Luckily, we were able to hitch to a campground with showers and laundry. The night was capped off when a very nice camper whose sons had thru-hiked the PCT purchased us trail magic beers.

Day 34: 14.7 miles

Dry River Campsite to Galehead Hut

The morning started off with a long incline, but we enjoyed unobstructed terrain. Magically, the incline flattened out and we relished in smooth flat trail. Around every corner we thought it might take a steep turn uphill, but the red carpet trail lasted almost five miles. It was glorious and we were making excellent time.

After a steep climb up a cascade we arrived at Zealand hut and had an early lunch there. One of the volunteers at the hut asked us about our plans for camping that night given an impending hailstorm. We had mentioned a lean-to, but the caretaker urged us to push a few miles past it to the shelter of an enclosed hut. She stated that hut personnel know to take in hikers given dangerous weather conditions, and suggested requesting a work-for-sleep deal.

Great climbs and views led to our eventual arrival at the Galehead hut. Unfortunately, the caretaking team was made up of volunteers while the usuals were out for a required caretaker banquet. These volunteers were not up to speed on safety protocol for thru-hikers and were adamant that no more could stay at the hut. Furthermore, they alleged that hikers should be able to proceed an additional three miles over dangerous terrain even in the impending conditions. The caretakers were rude, loud, and even resorted to using profanity in their misguided frustration. Multiple members of our group cried. It was after much discussion that the caretaker yielded and we spent the night.

Day 35: 2.8 miles

Galehead Hut to Garfield Ridge Campsite

The storms held off until morning, so we decided to book it away from the formidable volunteer caretakers towards the Garfield Ridge Campsite lean-to.

The trail was steep, rocky, and included scaling the face of a waterfall.

Once in camp, we wrapped up and waited out the storms.

Day 36: 10.2 miles

Garfield Ridge Campsite to Lincoln, NH to stay at The Notch Hostel

The storms died down, but fog haunted us on our ascent of Mt Garfield. We were very fearful that we wouldn’t have any views on one of the most scenic ridgelines in the world, Franconia Ridge. As we ascended Mt Lafayette, however, the mist parted and revealed 360 degree views of spectacular mountain ranges.

The ridgeline was exhaustingly beautiful, and the wind was downright tenacious. We were very thankful for our rain gear as the wind was so strong that we could walk straight while leaning 20 degrees to the right.

Once down from the ridge, we hitched to town and gorged ourselves on McDonalds and pub fare.

That night we stayed at the Notch Hostel, a wonderfully organized place run by a woman named Bookie.

Day 37: 16.2 miles

The Notch Hostel to…Lebanon!

Bookie dropped us off at Flume Visitor Center and we took the .9 mile bike trail back to the AT. Maybe it was the coffee at our final hut, but the penultimate peaks of the Whites went by like a breeze. The Kinsmans were rocky, beautiful, and we felt good hiking them.

All went swimmingly until we hit the base of Mt Wolf. Levi tripped on a root and landed face first on a boulder. The initial bleeding was intense as forehead wounds usually are, but subsided after 10 or so minutes. Levi was able to brace for the fall and did not exhibit any concussion symptoms.

We were able to reach out to Keith and Delaina, college friends of Kristen who live in nearby(ish) Hanover. Thankfully, they chose to drive over an hour to pick us up at a trailhead and drive us to a clinic.

After some initial cleaning of the wounds, the doctor determined that no stitches were needed. This was cause for celebration in the form of beer and buffalo chicken pizza.

Day 38: Zero in Hanover

Doctor’s Orders.

Day 39: 18.5 miles

Back on the trail to Jeffers Brook Shelter

Taking a zero day really paid off, despite the circumstances. Our day started off on our escape route (Reel Brook Trail) and took us by the scene of the incident just before Mt. Wolf. Mt. Wolf was more technical than expected, and made us glad we had gone back the way we did two days prior.

After a quick mile of smooth trail, we ascended Mt. Moosilauke. The jury is still out as to whether that’s pronounced moose-ill-lock or moose-ill-lock-ee, even among locals. All we can say for sure is that the first 1.5 miles of climbing were pretty close to 1.5 miles of actual climbing. While it wasn’t something we weren’t used to, it was a fitting final 4k climb in the Whites.

Given an impending early morning rainstorm, we decided to push an additional 6.9 miles over the peak and down to a shelter at the base of the mountain. The peak included an alpine zone with unusually long grass and 360 views. It was relieving to be able to compare the intimidating terrain we had come from to the more welcoming terrain ahead.

Day 40: 15.7 miles

Jeffers Brook Shelter to Hexacuba Shelter

The early morning showers held off until about 10 am, which allowed us to take advantage of the smooth terrain. Mt. Mist was a relative breeze, and a 3 mph pace came naturally to us.

Unfortunately, heavier rains came through just as we started Mt. Cube, a granite capped peak not unlike many we saw in Maine. Slick surfaces and leftover fatigue from the previous day slowed us considerably. While we had our sights set on a 21 mile day, we decided to play it safe, dry out, and recharge.

Day 41: 17.7 miles

Hexacuba Shelter to Moose Mountain Shelter

The rain paused for a few hours giving us an opportunity to make some substantial miles, but then it came back with a vengeance. We trudged through one of the worst storms of the trip thus far, but managed to make it to leaky Moose Mountain Shelter with time to make dinner before nightfall.

Day 42: 11 miles

Moose Mountain to Hanover

Still soaked through from the day before, we hiked down into the city of Hanover for some much needed showers, laundry, pizza, beer, and gelato.

What’s in a resupply box?

First of all, “What IS a resupply box” might be on the minds of some folks reading this, so let’s respond to that first. A resupply box is a box of supplies that a thru-hiker arranges before the trail to be shipped by someone else while the hiker hikes. We pre-packed about 20 boxes before leaving and Kristen’s saintly parents are shipping them out upon request (roughly 10 day intervals).

Not all hikers arrange resupply boxes and prefer to purchase all food and materials on-trail. We DO shop on-trail to supplement our boxes, but love getting a steady supply of certain goods and the ability to request additional items which are also stored at Mom and Dad Sawl’s place. For us, resupply boxes make sense because many of the items inside the box were registry gifts from our wedding. Yes, some friends and family members purchased the items below as wedding gifts.

So, what comes in these mysterious “resupply” boxes? Lots of stuff… Most importantly–inspiration! But here are the contents of a typical box:

*Some Ellendale honey (for mixing into tea, oatmeal, and peanut butter tortilla wraps).

*Dehydrated Sriracha

*8 packages of Ramen. We typically buy Knorr sides and instant potatoes and mix Ramen in with those.

*Powdered drink mixes like Gatorade and Propel and assorted snacks– Cliff bars, Oatmeal, Goldfish, Kind bars etc.

* Carnation instant breakfast. We like a 3:1 ratio of breakfast packets to water bottles once per day.

*Additional goodies: dried fruit, instant coffee, Cheezits, jerky

*Non-edible supplies: wet wipes, sanitizer, toothpaste, and the paper AWOL guide pages for the next section of trail.

Anything else?

Yes!

Sometimes we ask Mom for items on reserve. These are things that we either a) already own and feel silly buying and/or b) things that we don’t need a lot of, but you can’t buy in small quantities at grocery stores.

  • 2ft. pieces of aluminum foil to use as a wind-screen around the alcohol stove.
  • Cut pieces of window insulation film which we use as a ground sheet beneath our tent.
  • Travel sized toothpaste
  • Toothbrushes
  • Frog-toggs rain gear
  • Hair ties
  • Band-Aids/medicine
  • Ziplock bags
  • Clothing

We like to ship the boxes to places we’ll be staying instead of post-offices, just in case we arrive in a town after business hours or on a Sunday. Most hostels will accept boxes for free if you stay there.

Additionally, once per month Kristen’s Aunt Dana is sending us boxes of Georgia pecans and snacks. These are great by themselves on trail, but are especially tasty in peanut butter honey wraps or in oatmeal!

I think that’s all for resupply boxes. Keep those questions coming!

Rangely to Gorham

Day 20: 4.8 miles to Little Swift River Pond campsite.

Our stay at the Hiker Hut was blissful. We woke up to the sound of the rushing stream and enjoyed some tea with the owners of the Hut. Instead of hitting the trail early, we hitched back into town for some more food and a stop at the post office. We managed to catch a hitch into town with a local artist who owns an art gallery on the main road. After spending some time in the gallery, we cozied up in a coffee shop and did work online updating the blog, posting to Instagram, dowloading audio books, and calling some family members.

Our early dinner was a highly anticipated serving of Pad Thai and veggie lo mein plus blueberry soda. We caught a hitch back to the Hiker Hut and hung out on the porch for our tramily (trail family) to arrive. We had been hoping to rejoin them and were excited they were so close behind.

While waiting, Levi happened to find some shoes on the porch that had belonged to a former hiker–a hiker who decided the shoes weren’t for him and ‘hiker boxed’ them. Turns out, they fit Levi perfectly! In turn, he ‘hiker boxed’ the shoes he had picked up in Monson which weren’t in bad shape but fit poorly. Our first trail magic! Shortly after that, one of the Hut owners gifted us a leather-bound journal as a wedding gift. Sadly, by the time our tramily arrived the Hut was all booked up. They got a bit of trail magic themselves and ended up staying in the home of one of the business owners in town. We hit the trail in the late afternoon for a short hike in an effort to allow our tramily to catch us the next day.

Day 21: 9.2 miles to Bemis Stream Campsite

Levi and I made it to Sabbath Day pond lean-to 5 miles from where we started the day by about noon. The shelter was seated on a hill above a pond which hosted some playful water-dwelling salamanders (maybe?). We stretched out, ate some lunch, and were filtering water when our tramily arrived.

Our tramily includes six others who also started the trail on June 13th. We call ourselves the 613s and we are probably the current largest south-bound “bubble” (grouping of thru-hikers).

After lunch, we decided we had plenty left in the tank and continued on to the Bemis Stream Campsite.

Day 22: 12.4 miles to South Arm Road

We started our day with a climb to the peak of Bemis Mountain, hung out on the ridgeline for most of the day, then summited Old Blue in the afternoon. Old Blue may be our least favorite mountain so far. I don’t remember details (I think I’ve blocked them out), but the ascent was moderately rough and the descent was pure torture. It was a 2k descent over 2 miles, but the campsite wasn’t that far past the bottom.

As we were soaking our limbs in the stream, we met Yukon, the owner of the newly minted Human Nature Hostel, and three time participant on the TV series Naked and Afraid. He was doing his daily runs in the area to transport hikers to his hostel, and while we weren’t planning on staying until the next evening, it was great to meet him.

Day 23: 10.1 miles to East B Hill Rd to stay at Human Nature Hostel

With a shower and laundry in our minds we hiked over Moody Mtn. and Wyman Mtn.

Our stay at the Human Nature Hostel was great! It is a brand new geodesic dome hostel (Yukon did not want to be ‘boxed in’) with a bunkroom in the basement which maintains a 60-70* temperature year-round. We all took showers, did laundry, and got shuttled to all-you-can-eat Mexican dinner.

Day 24: 4.5 miles to Frye Notch Lean-to.
Although we had hoped to hit the trail in the morning, our AYCE Mexican replaced the evening Wal-Mart shuttle and most of us needed to hit Walmart in the morning. Walmart is a dangerous place after nearly a month without one. However, Kristen managed to not break the bank too badly.

On our way we also met up with some other SOBOs who started the day before us. We crossed over Dunn Falls (only soaked one of four feet!) and the hike to the campsite wasn’t too bad. Despite a clear forecast the wind was howling all afternoon and through the night.

Day 25: 12.8 miles to tentsite between Mahoosuc Arm and notch

As we journeyed across the Baldpates, we came across a NOBO who appeared to be drowning in quicksand. He was actually just manuvering across an alpine bog, but without the help of a plank bridge. He was sunk down to his hip, but managed to make it through. We found another route around it.

After tackling the Baldpates we went down into Grafton Notch, and then up over Old Speck (another 4k peak). The descent from Old Speck is know as the Mahoosuc Arm, a notoriously steep stretch with large granite faces leading up to the “hardest” or “funnest” mile on the AT, the Mahoosuc Notch. We took it slow and camped at a site close to Mahoosuc Notch with plans to traverse it in the morning.

Day 26: 7.1 miles to Carlo Col Shelter

The Notch was a BLAST! It was basically a boulder jungle gym. There wasn’t a set path through the Notch, just an occasional blaze of encouragement. Beneath some of the boulders there was still lingering snow and ice from the winter. We took off our packs a few times to squeeze through rock tunnels. The whole endeavor took just over 2 hours.

The remainder of the day was spent summiting 4 peaks and traversing alpine bogs. We spent our first night in a double-decker shelter at the Carlo Col campsite.

Day 27: 16.1 miles across the border to Gorham

To Kristen’s delight, the boulder scrambling a là Mahoosuc Notch continued just after our campsite. I guess Maine wanted to welcome or bid adieu to it’s hikers in style. Less than .5 miles into our day we crossed the Maine- New Hampshire border!

Aside from a short struggle up Mt. Success, New Hampshire showed us something that we hadn’t seen in awhile–easy terrain. It was a long day, but not a particularly challenging one. We found a tent site by the river right outside of Gorham and settled in for the night.

Day 28: .9 miles to Gorham

After hiking in the wilderness for a month it was strange to be walking on the shoulder of a road. We passed a broken dam, houses, buildings, street lamps, a short bridge, and a railroad track. Things so common in everyday life seemed so out of place.

We arranged to be picked up at a gravel parking lot by the owners of the Barn, a hostel in Gorham. The owners showed up in a pair of old tanks; a White Cadillac with duct tape tail lights and blue-leather interior and a burgundy Mercury to match. Both trunks could fit at least three dead bodies, and they both squealed from the breaks, tires, and probably everything else. We had our own hiker-trash entourage.

Day 29: Zero day at The Barn

The Barn is the longest running hostel in New Hampshire. It is connected to Libby House BnB and is run by a great guy named Paul (whose cousin runs the BnB). The Barn has two floors: the first has a bathroom/shower, kitchen, laundry area, pool table, sitting area, and a bed; the second has what seemed like a hundred beds of varying sizes spread across the loft. We enjoyed all Gorham had to offer. Highlights include Dynasty Buffet (all you can eat for $10), fudge and an ice cream sandwich, access to Walmart, a cool sensory garden at the local park, lots of moose statues, and a post office to ship home 6 lbs. of unneeded gear. We sent home our leaking sleeping pads and bought new ones at a local gear shop. We also received some exciting items in the mail: a resupply box from Mom Sawl, a box of pecans and chex-mix from Aunt Dana, and Kristen’s new shoes and P-style from Amazon. It was a fabulous day of relaxing and ended with a homemade cake!

End of the 100 Mile Wilderness to Rangeley

Day 10- 9 miles. We started our day off right with blueberry pancakes, eggs, bacon, and hash browns for breakfast at Shaw’s. It took us a while to get everything packed up and sorted, so we got a ride back to the trail from our good friend Pegleg.

The trail to Horseshoe Canyon Lean-to was a very smooth 9 miles. In fact, the side trail up the hill to the lean-to was the most challenging part of the day! There were 11 of us at camp that night.

Day 11: 13 miles. We left camp and headed back to the bottom of the hill to fill up water at a stream. We hiked alongside the Piscataquis river for a while and eventually had to ford it. We found a good place to cross with an island in the middle and continued on to Moxie Bald Mountain. After the peaks in the 100 MW this one wasn’t so bad to summit and still boasted beautiful views. We headed down the mountain to Bald Mountain Brook Lean-to and were joined by many from the night before, plus a international student group of some sort. The privy had a hornet’s nest inside, but the brook had easy access to cool clear water.

Day 12: 14.7 miles. Pleasant Pond Mountain was a much bigger challenge that Moxie Bald. We had an early start on the day and made it into Caratunk by early afternoon. Stopping into town wasn’t originally part of our plan, but Levi’s sleeping pad had some leaks and he needed something to sleep on until Rangeley. Plus, the Kennebec River ferry only runs from 9-11am and we had missed it by a long shot.

We stopped at the Caratunk house hoping for a room, but sadly it was a full house. We did however partake in milkshakes, a pulled pork sandwich, and resupply. Fortunately, the owner was a very kind three-time thru-hiker who let us hang out on his lawn and use the WiFi, then drove us to Northern Outdoors where we had some delicious food and beer with friends, then stayed the night in a A-frame canvas tent with the JKTrekkers and Happy. And we all got showers.

Day 13: 4 miles. We got a shuttle from Northern Outdoors to the trailhead, then walked a short ways to the ferry. I use the term “ferry” loosely. It is actually a canoe rowed by a hiker and a sweet man who keeps SOBO hikers entertained while they wait with his golden retriever pup. After making it across, we hiked some pretty easy terrain to Pierce Pond stream falls. Kristen did the whole thing in her sandals because she had accidentally packed all of her socks and didn’t feel like re-packing. At the falls, we stopped for a bit with our companions the Gentleman Hikers and Happy, then pressed on towards Pierce Pond lean-to where we hoped to stop for lunch and continue on before the rain came.

The aforementioned rain came ahead of schedule though, and we found ourselves crossing a giant dam in rather slick conditions. At the Pierce Pond Lean-to we decided to call it quits for the day and snuggled in our quilts for some relaxation time. Not a nap. No one is going to…zzzz.

We woke from our midday naps when the Brothers (aka Double Up and ReRun) showed up to the lean-to. They told us of a mystical forest lodge serving huge pancake breakfasts and coffee. The Gentlemen Hikers headed away to follow the blue blazes and sign us up for breakfast.

It was a chill evening, complete with a picturesque sunset over the pond framed by laundry drying on the lean-to

Day 14: 17.7 miles. Started off the day with a short jaunt to Old Man Harrison’s where we enjoyed 12 pancakes apiece (apple, blueberry, and raspberry) and hot coffee. After breakfast, we hiked a brisk bit to West Carry Pond lean-to, but the trail was flat so we carried on to Little Bigelow Lean-to in order to get a leg up on the challenging Bigelow range. We had the campsite all to ourselves, and enjoyed a trip to “The Tubs” and the the use of our first dual privy.

Day 15: 15.3 miles. The Bigelows were beautiful but incredibly challenging. Steep faces of the mountain were unconquerable by foot alone and often times our way up was a bare root hand-hold. What looked like smooth terrain on the saddle was instead a horizonal rockslide, and the fastest way through involved balancing on the sharp edges of splintered boulders.

Once safely on top of Avery Peak, we had access to cell service (via US Cellular, of all carriers) and had a moment to call home. This brief contact with humanity also brought with it a flash flood alert, necessitating a push to the next town, Stratton, a mere five miles away.

We arrived at the Stratton Motel that evening, and celebrated with our first zero day (a day with zero miles hiking) the following day.

Day 16: 0 miles

We slept, we ate, and we ate some more.

Day 17: 13.5 miles

Despite a late night catching up on Westworld, we awoke early and took the 6:30 shuttle back to the trail. A SOBO “tramily” (trail family) of mostly recent college grads started the day with us, but soon were left in our dust…they caught up to us later.

The Crocker peaks were a blur, but Sugarloaf provided one of the craggiest climbs thus far, capped by a stunning valley view. An impending rain storm had us spooked, but the echoing thunder never turned to lightning. We passed the 200 mile marker without even noticing (the mark of true professionals). A quick climb over Spaulding peak led us to our campsite where we had a chance to dry out and rest.

Day 18 (the best yet): 16.9 miles.

We woke and climbed down deep into the Orbeton Valley. Once across the Orbeton Stream, we ascended into the Saddleback range, reaching the Poplar Ridge lean-to by lunchtime. Our next endeavor, Saddleback Jr. gave us a run for our money, but stunning views left us wanting more. We had a choice between camping nearby or pressing on over two 4k peaks to a lean-to only 1.8 miles from town. Pressed by an impending storm and drawn by a stacked resupply, we pushed on. This ended up being our best decision thus far.

The Saddleback Range is justly named, as its two main peaks – The Horn and Saddleback – are formed and spaced much like their equestrian namesakes. To add to the stunning shape of the formation, the entire saddle boasts pristine alpine scenery, some of which is hundreds of feet lower than treeline on the outer faces of the peaks.

We had a 360* view of surrounding valleys, lakes, rivers, and ponds as we clambered down the horn and back up Saddleback. Although the difficulty of terrain judged by rockiness and incline hadn’t changed much, we spent that section encircled by majestic views.

Our day ended with a quick descent and a stay at the Cadillac of Maine AT shelters, Piazza Rock Lean-To. The shelter had skylights, and the two-seater privy had a cribbage board. What more could you ask for?

Day 19: 1.8 miles

Day 19 took us a short distance into the outskirts of Rangeley where we picked up a room at the Hiker Hut, a collection of small huts along a stream completely removed from the grid save a collection of solar panels and a generator. After a streamside outdoor shower, trip into town brought juuuust enough wifi to finally get this post out (though no luck with needed shoes).

We are still having issues posting photos to our website, so please visit instagram.com/MtnMortons for illustrations.