Day 1, august 26th
Start: Hanover, NH, mile 442 (note that these miles are counted as ‘miles south from Katahdin’, the northern terminus on the AT)
End: cowboy camp at mile 466
Miles hiked: 26
I want to start with a quick introduction to my hiking partner on the Appalachian trail, Andrea “scuttlebutt/scudz” Jordan. Scudz is a great friend of mine from Denver. We played on the same ultimate frisbee team and beer league kickball team. Scudz has climbed many of Colorados 14’ers (including 7 together). She lead climbs on many of Colorados toughest walls. She’s also a total nerd, and loves Denver cruiser rides nearly as much as I do (they’re my favorite, and assuming you haven’t heard of it, search it. It’s so rad).
When I originally planned this summer, I planned to hike the pct and at solo. However, as I became better friends with scudz, she showed interest in the AT. Her cousin that she is close to is Luke ‘strider’ Jordan, who thru-hiked the nct last year, 2013. He is the youngest to ever hike the 4,600 mile trail, and one of only a few handfuls of people ever to do it as a thru hike. So she has hiking in her blood.
I was really excited to hike the pct solo, as I wanted the experience to be my own, and a very personal journey. On the at going southbound, I was very happy to have Andrea going with me. It’ll be a good change of pace, and I’m so excited to start with her.
Andrea started the trail from Katahdin on august 1st. Roughly the same time I entered Washington on the pct. We had talked a lot, and I decided I would meet her wherever she was at when I finished. This was good, as she would have her trail legs under her by the time I got out to meet her, and would have her own hiking style.
She also keeps a blog, which you can find at hopefulwanderings.wordpress.com. Check it out!
I threw in a few throw-back photos from us in Denver last year.
Turns out she got to Hanover, nh, 442 miles into her journey. That’s a 17.5 mile average, which is amazing considering she started doing the two most difficult states. I was extremely impressed. There’s no way I could have done that with the shape I was in going into my pct hike. This also means that I will not hike those 442 miles this year. I plan on finishing these miles going north next year after doing the CDT. that way, I could end my triple crown on Katahdin. That would be awesome!
Scudz and I wake up and get going around 7:30. I have to fully resupply, and the grocery doesn’t open until 8:30. I make the rookie mistake of taking way way wayyyy too much food. Just seven days off has turned me into a total Sheryl. It’s by far the most full my Kumo pack has been. And we really only needed food for two days, to killington, Vermont. Oh well. I couldn’t resist bread and olive oil with oregano. Too good.
A free pastry for all through hikers at the local bakery and we’re on the trail. Literally, one step out of the bakery and we’re on the at, on the sidewalk. The Appalachian trail is the sidewalk on the Main Street of town. White blazes (the marker for the AT) are painted on the street light poles. We walk the downtown and past Dartmouth college. Such cool old buildings from the early 1800’s. New England is so good! I love looking at the old buildings as we walk by. No one looks at us funny; backpackers are everywhere in this town.
We walk the streets and down to the Connecticut river that separates New Hampshire and Vermont, crossing over to Vermont. This is Scudz 3rd state! Very exciting.
“I like crossing into new states, it’s exciting!” She says
“Very! It took me 1700 miles to through my first state! The easy coast is so much better that way for those morale boosts.”
We continue walking the sidewalk past old revolutionary era looking buildings for some time before finally entering the forest on a dirt path. It feels good to be back pounding dirt under my feet! I feel soft, though. My feet aren’t there, and I’m having trouble adjusting to the time difference (three hours from the west coast).
The forest we are in is nothing short of enchanting. Everything I remember from when I hiked the long trail through Vermont in 2010! The green canopy above us is thick, letting only little rays of sunlight show through. The undercover is dense green plants, and the rocks are covered with green moss. Its no wonder the AT is often referred to as the green tunnel.
It’s sunny, and hasn’t rained for days, yet everything is damp. The rocks are wet and slippery. There’s mud puddles all over, and the dirt on the trail feels like peanut butter, not even close to dry. This is very much due to the humidity here. It’s bloody hot! Only 83 degrees today, but it’s a wet heat, reminding me of my years in Michigan. Every breath is damp. My hands feel clammy against my poles. Such a contrast from the pct, where everything feels so dry, save for the last 200 or so miles of the trail.
We hike fast, and I realize that Scudz is strong already. Like, really strong. And fast! She goes up the steep slopes so quickly, just as fast as I’m going. She’s a natural, she runs marathons and is very active in Denver. Plus, she’s been hiking some gnarly terrain the past 440 miles. Still, I’m impressed.
Scudz and I talk and talk, catching up on each others lives from the past 4 months. She tells me all about our mutual friends in Denver and how they’re doing. She tells stories of the 14ers she’s climbed this summer (a 14er is a mountain over 14,000 feet in elevation. Pretty much a huge pile of rocks). She tells me of her travels to Minnesota, Oregon, And New Mexico. She tells me of her travels with our friend Casey to telluride to do the via Ferrata (not sure on the spelling, but it’s one of the coolest things ever that I recommended they do). This girl has been busy living life!
“So tell me all about the pct!” Scudz says to me after telling stories of so many of her travels.
I hesitate. How do I begin telling my story of the entire pct? What do I tell her? What even happened on the pct? I can’t think of one specific thing to say. It’s strange, all the memories are so vivid still, yet I can’t come up with anything.
“I don’t really know where to begin.” I confess to her. “I can’t think of anything.”
She pokes at me a little bit, but it’s a tough question. Wheredoyou begin?
As we hike on I get reminded of this or that from the pct, and I share random stories as they pop in my head. Eventually, I think, she’ll be sick of hearing more stories about my friends and things that happened on the pct.
We pass many hikers in the first ten miles, probably 20. All northbound thru hikers. So many hikers! I haven’t seen this many new faces thru hiking since the desert. Sure, I would see section hikers and day hikers around near heavy use areas, but that’s different. Pretty much once we hit the sierras, my group was in a bubble. All of the way to the border. We would be lucky to meet 3 new thru hiking faces (especially those also going nobo) in a week! Yet today, they’re everywhere. And they’re all so social! It gives me so much energy talking to everyone. Hikers everywhere!
Around lunch time, we hit a road that we have to walk on for a mile or so, using the bridge to cross a large river. We hear a loud bell ring, like the sound of a dinner bell, and see a man waving us over to his house. There’s other hikers there, gear all spread out on the front lawn getting sun.
“You want breakfast? On us!” The man yells to us.
“I hate breakfast, sorry.” I say to him with a grin.
“Well then get on up here!”
Randy and his wife make breakfast for every hiker they see, calling them over with a bell. How cool. As we talk, if comes up that this is my first day, and that I just finished the pct.
“You ever meet mass-hole?” He asks.
A great conversation ensues. I met mass-hole early in the trip, around mile 150 of the pct. I hiked with him in a group for several days to wrightwood. He’s from Boston, hence the trail name, and he’s quite the character. He and randy keep in close contact, and it’s fun heading stories about mass-hole and Dewey.
Randy tells us we can go bridge jumping, and he’s painted blazes on the bridge. You need to stand between them when you jump in. I don’t even think twice.
“I’m going.” I say as I take off my shoes.
“Yup!” Scudz responds.
Two others join. It’s a 30 foot jump, so pretty high up. I watch the water flowing far beneath us. Rad. A quick count to three and we both leap off the bridge, arms flailing. I lose my stomach on the way down. It seems longer than I imagined! We splash into the warm water at full speed. I quickly make my way to the surface and clear my eyes as drift downstream with the current. Man, it feels good to be alive.
Breakfast (at 1pm) is shared with many other hikers. It doesn’t last long, as we’re very hungry people, us thru-hikers, and soon we’re all off. Scudz and I hike with Six, a guy from Pennsylvania who is flipping his way all over the trail this year, eventually hiking every mile. He’s got a crazy life story, and so many random, serious illnesses. His story is very inspiring, overcoming it all to be out here hiking. Great dude.
Scudz and I hike through some beautiful open fields with views of endless green. We’re in the green mountains after all. Vermont’s name is even derived from ‘verde mont’ which is French for green mountain. Quite fitting. Before long it starts to get dark, and we set up camp in a flat, dry spot in the forest. My first night on the AT and I’m cowboy camping. Perfect. I feel back in my habitat, after a week of sleeping under roofs and in beds. This is where I’m meant to be, in the forest, under the trees. This is home!