Flashback Friday! Appalachian Trail Hike Summer 2014

Follow Along My Flashback to Our Long Weekend Hiking the Appalachian Trail, Maryland Section in Summer of 2014!

Everything I needed to learn about myself, I learned on the Appalachian Trail.  We had just gotten married in June of 2014 and after all the stress of planning our wedding, I was eager to get out in to nature and reconnect with our primal selves. I wish I could be pissed at someone other than myself, but unfortunately I am the one who not only chose the Appalachian Trail for a weekend “adventure” with my new husband, but I also chose the exact route.  Forget the fact that I inexplicably turned in to a complete bitch about 3 hours before we were scheduled to leave AND that I was trying to be mad at him for not helping to plan or pack…and that in spite of the fact that I knew approximately 2 weeks prior that we were going to hike around 30 miles in 2.5 days, but still chose to NOT get myself in hiking shape.  Yeah, this is our story…

Map picture of the Appalachian Trail in Maryland.  Unfortunately, it was taken at the END of our journey!

Friday Night, Day 1:

No maps in hand, we started our journey at about 8:30PM, headlamps in place and properly primed with tallboys of Bud Light.  On a side-note: “Big 40’s” (40 ounce can beers) are definitely going to make my “must have” packing list for hiking next time!  Our packs were probably in the 35 lb (editorial: we think they were actually closer to 50 lbs) range with all sorts of crap that made perfect sense at the time, but as I would find out later, you don’t need a whole lot of stuff to “survive” for 2.5 days. 

Apparently we hiked about 10 miles (editorial: after talking it over, we think it may have been more like 4-miles) the first night.  Starting at 8:30PM and stopping to make camp at about 12:30AM.  The route was relatively flat, minimal rocks and well marked.  Our feet were fresh and we (mainly me) were feeling no pain..thanks to the tallboys 🙂  We had really good daylight until around 9:30PM, then the headlamps were switched on.  I whistled, I sang and planned what I would cook once we stopped to camp.  I couldn’t be any happier and the next day, I barely remembered the ENTIRE trek!  Other than some sort of reflective dots that someone spent a lot of time attaching to the leaves of trees along the path.  So pretty….

Base Camp, night 1:

Well, it took us four hours, but we finally decided to make camp right off the main trail.  We have no idea if we blazed past the first shelter or are just short of said shelter, but it is time to stop.  Everything is SO wet, we are having a difficult time lighting a fire.  Thankfully we have a couple of sterno packs, so after lighting one we built our fire around it and before we knew it, we had a full on, raging fire!  It was after I pulled out the bag of wine = four bottles of wine, that I realized #1, no wonder the pack is so friggen heavy, we need to drink this stuff.  #2, What the hell are we going to put it in to drink?!  After searching through the cook kit, I found 1 pink plastic coffee cup and 1 pink bowl.  PERFECT for our box wine 🙂 About 2 bottles later (who’s counting), I don’t think I EVER cooked anything but, I had certainly found my happy place!

Approximately 3AM – Cut to sleep. 

I don’t know what time it is but I stumbled out of the tent, probably barefoot, and dropped drawer off the nearest log.  Not really sure where the “F” I am, but I am pretty sure I will have a tick in my ass crack after this.  Oh well, back to bed.

7:30AM-ISH.  WHAT THE F*&! DID I DO LAST NIGHT?! AND WHERE THE HECK AM I?!   Jeezus, Apparently 40 ounces of strawbeerita and a bottle or so of cabernet (from a box), isn’t such a great idea.  Ugh.  Husband is looking pretty good though and I am feeling frisky… hmmm, what the hell was that noise?!  Oh.My.God.  We are camped basically on the friggen trail!  A group of hikers just skipped by, with their beards and trekking poles.  Oh well, I guess it is time to break camp and get a move on.

Saturday, Day 2 on the Appalachian Trail:

Next time I will ditch the food, and pack more alcoholic beverage. Hiking without booze is harmful to my mental health! Hopefully we can make some good distance today.  Trying for the Ed Garvey shelter but not really sure where we are now, so we will have to play it by ear.  We think it might be about 16 miles or so.

08:40 am.  FINALLY on the trail again.  Whew!  Made some campfire sausage for breakfast and some instant Starbucks mocha.  Thanks Jason and Nora for leaving this crap when you visited a couple of years ago!  Not sure if my brain would have kick-started this morning without it.  It tastes like shit and literally gave me the shivers as it went down, but what the heck, it’s coffee.

08:55.  Oh, THERE is the camp ground we were looking for last night.  Nice.  Only 15 minutes of flat trail and we would have gotten here.  A sign would have been nice.  Or maybe it’s a different camp ground.  Who knows… I’d like to go with the theory that in our drunken hiking glory, we blazed passed the original camp ground at 2 miles and went on for an additional 8 miles before we finally collapsed with lack of additional alcohol consumption. Off we go.

It’s about 10AM, and I’m actually feeling pretty good.  Jake is pacing ahead of me and is a little too happy for my liking.  I can’t believe how unseasonably cool it is for summer.  I’ve only produced about 1/2 gallon of sweat so far, way less than my usual bucket or two.  So maybe we need to jog a bit…Oh yay…we’re jogging.   

11:30AM We just passed over I70 on the footbridge and a couple of cars honked.  I gave them the peace sign and then realized that they probably think we are “through” hikers and are giving us props.  Chumps.  Or maybe we ARE technically “through” hikers…After all, we ARE hiking through Maryland, and that should count for something!  Anyway, it was pretty cool and I can imagine what real AT hikers must feel like when they cross this bridge and realize that they only have 1000 or so miles to go.  Honestly, that would suck. (editorial after our through hike in 2022: hahahahaha… I had no idea how much!!)

12:30PM.  We have walked through about 6 neighborhoods now.  It’s kind of weird, traipsing through someone’s backyard.  Although, I told Jake that if we lived on the AT, I would absolutely have a water spout with a sign that says, “fill it up and keep movin on”.  Or maybe it’s because we are almost out of water and I might be panicking a bit.  Well, panic is a strong word…I am concerned, but pretty sure we won’t die of dehydration for at least another 24 hours.

A little after 1PM.  We just made it to the Washington Monument.  I had no idea that there was a Washington Monument outside of DC.  It’s not very impressive, so we do the “Griswald” and get back on the trail. 

Five minutes later I SEE WATER!  Yay!! Crisis averted.  I wash my face off, drink about a gallon of water and fill up my camel back. 

I try to talk Jake in to a little rest but he is still adamant about making it to the Garvey shelter tonight.  So I humor him and keep walking.  But I AM pouting.  My feet hurt.

1:30 PM.  My feet hurt.  and I am beginning to walk like an old lady with hip replacement.  I think he slipped the remaining bag wine in my backpack.  Bastard.  He wants to me to feel pain.  Whatever.  It’s like an extra 2 lbs.  I can do it. 

2PM.  My feet really hurt and my hip and my shoulder.  Why my shoulder?  I don’t even know.  It’s not like I am walking on my hands.  Probably the God damned wine bag with its 2 lbs of unnecessary weight!  Jake keeps giving me looks like I am the hunchback of Notre Dame.  Okay, so I might be hobbling like a cripple.  Jeezus, I think I have blisters inside my toes!  Or a couple of ticks have managed to wedge themselves in there.  Who the hell knows?  I am pretty sure I have a colony in my ass crack from lastnight.  Can I die from ticks in my ass?  What if they managed to find a way in to my actual body.  Actually I think I read that they don’t like wet places… but they do drink blood, so that probably doesn’t make sense?  I need some wine to take the edge off.   Shit.  He’s looking at me again.  This time smiling and shaking his head.  Is he friggen laughing at me?!  Let’s see who’s laughing when I polish off the wine later.  I smile and nod my head…nothing to see here!

2:07PM.  Okay, this sucks.  My feet really hurt.  My knees are now throbbing.  Forget the Garvey Shelter, at the next shelter we are stopping. 

2:30-ish.  No shelter yet.  He better stop with the looks and head shaking.  Punk.  I’m hungry. 

2:50-sh.  Hallelujah!!!! It’s a shelter!! Whoop, whoop!!!  Jake is looking at me like I am crazy.  Then he asks me, “are you sure you want to stay here, it’s kind of early.”  I give him the look.  This is a look famously honed by my Mexican Great-grandmother.  All 3 foot, 7 inches of her.  But that look could have you shaking in your boots.  That, AND she rolled her own cigarettes and drank black coffee with whiskey.  She was a bad ass.  Anyway.  We are stopping….AFTER we hike another .35 miles to the actual shelter.  These A.T. through hikers are fucking Masochists. 

Rocky Run Shelter.

Wow.  Texas needs to take some notes from the East.  Truly unbelievable the way shelters are built here.  It is basically an open faced log cabin.  Complete with wooden porch, full sized picnic table and a cute wrought iron rocking type chair. I have no idea if there is water, but I don’t really care right now.  I throw my stuff on the porch and roll out my sleeping bag.  Such a nice breeze rolling over the porch, rolling over me.. naptime.

Rocky Run Shelter

I wake up to the noise of thunder off in the distance.  The breeze has picked up and it feels really nice right now.  My feet are truly not happy and I can barely walk.  I must look like some sort of freak when I attempt to walk.  Oh well.  Gonna try and start a fire in the pit so I can cook up some dinner. 

Total luck.  There are still smoldering embers in the pit and the fire started right up! 

Dinner.  Ha!! I feel better now.  I know his pack was equally heavy.  I hid the massive potatoes and corn in his pack 🙂  I totally forgot about that!!  I giggle a little bit, then I do feel bad.  Poor sweety, I do love him very much and even though he doesn’t complain, I know he has to be hurting too.  I know because he hasn’t complained about not leaving the shelter…  I have an awesome treat in store for us, of a massive filet mignon, baked potatoes and roasted corn for dinner.  Plus we have dehydrated meals in case we are still hungry.  Hey man, a lady has to eat!  But first, I need some of that wine.  I pour us a couple of “glasses” in to our pink containers and get started on dinner.

We probably ate one of the best steaks I have had in years!  Too bad I only had one for us to share.  Looks like we might be on our own here tonight.  Oh darn…spoke too soon.

Through Hiker #1:  The Austrian.

Ova is his trail name.  Not sure why he chose a trail name that sounds strangely egg-ie and quite frankly, I probably wouldn’t understand his reasoning anyway (due to the really heavy accent), but Ova seems like an interesting fella.  First of all, my husband has never met a stranger.  He can talk it up with darn near anyone.  Case in point, the Austrian.  This guy can barely speak English and he is having a hard time understanding. But Jake is just talking away…

What the hell are they talking about, who knows!  But Jake manages to throw in a couple of obligatory laughs, grunts and head nods and the “men” seem to be communicating.  Whatever, hopefully he doesn’t talk to me. I’m not drunk enough to fake accent talk.

I do understand some bits and pieces.  Ova is in his 60’s.  His wife, “love of his life”, is back home.  He is on the trip of his lifetime (walking the AT), but he won’t be able to complete the entire through hike in one trip.  So he started at the half way point and is hiking about 1/3rd of the trail before he has to head back to Austria.  He has 1 month of sabbatical.  His wife is nervous about him being alone, but mostly he has really enjoyed the trip.  He mainly subsists off of snickers, granola and this amazing smelling coffee.  Wait…Wait… is that sports they are talking about?!!  What the heck?!  Sports, really???  The guy can BARELY speak English.  And I mean barely, and Jake is managing to bond over sports!  Men are truly amazing.

Through Hiker #2:  Trail name, Unknown.

And then there was the odd through hiker with friend companion, section hiker.  I call his companion, Chef, since he is really focused on cooking.  This dude hiked in two (not one, but two) ice chests full of meat and drink.  Lucky for him, there is still a lot of fire from my earlier cooking venture, so he gets started.  Steaks, pulled pork, sausages and hot dogs.  I still get a confused look on my face when I think about it. 

Through Hiker #3:  Trail name, Giggles” (Villanova Grad).  This guy was really cool.  Apparently his dad completed one of the first through hikes of the AT in the fastest time.  Needless to say, this kid has something to prove and wants to complete the AT too.  The bonus is, he has some really funny stories of hook-ups on the trail. 

Through Hiker #4:  Hiker Girl with Giggles.  She didn’t really say much, but I am pretty sure she and Giggles had a hook up at some point and he was trying to eloquently lose her. (*looking at this from a 2022 perspective, there is a good chance they are married now!)

Other Hikers:  The drunk frat boys.  Not sure these guys can qualify as actual “hikers”, but they did manage to park their car at the closest trail head and hike in about .8 miles with a couple of cases of beer.  So they get an honorable mention!

Sunday, Day 3 on the Appalachian Trail.

0600:  Breakfast.  Ova is making more of his famous coffee.  This stuff is magical.  I wonder if it is laced with something “special”.  Hmmm, whatever.  I feel great today and can’t wait to hit the trail for our last 12 or 16 miles.  We still aren’t exactly sure yet, but we are hoping to finish by 5pm. 

Sometime in the middle of the day. OOHHH!! Deer! Although, I am not sure if this deer is amused by us or wants to eat our faces?

7-ish PM: We made it! It was a long, LONG day and we managed to cover a ridiculous amount of miles to finish. It’s crazy how you think you are literally in the middle of nowhere and miles away from where you started. Then you get to your end car, and drive to your start car…and it takes less than 20-minutes to get there. 2.5 days, lost in the forest and you were 20-minutes drive time from vehicles. We basically hiked for 26 hours and covered 30-ish miles of terrain, which retrospectively isn’t all that bad for a couple of weekend “warriors”.

Lessons Learned:

  1. There is a whole lot that you can live without.
  2. Your mind can truly dictate your survival
  3. You can smile and be happy or frown and bring everyone down.  Either way it takes one step in front of the other in order to make progress.
  4. Strangely, when you run on a rocky path, you are less likely to trip.
  5. Just because I hurt, doesn’t mean I can’t keep moving forward.
  6. Without pain, there is nothing interesting to write about.

A little post through hike editorial here: Although this particular trip was completed in 2014, my husband and I have reviewed these notes together and after completing a through hike of the Appalachian trail this year (2022), we both agree that these lessons hold up today! I do find it incredibly humorous to read my thoughts from 8-years ago and see how much perspective is changed after full trail immersion for close to half a year. We had no maps, no GPS, no cell coverage and just went for it! Night hiking turned out to be one of our favorite ways to hike the trail when we started. Now after seeing the terrain in the daylight, I wonder how the hell we survived those days! I guess there are more than physical trail angels present on the Appalachian Trail.

Published by Analiese Kennedy

Ecology and anything outdoors is my Jam! We love exploring new places and connecting with others over a good meal and wine.

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