The Infamous Whites

The Infamous Whites

I’ve made it through the Whites! New Hampshire’s White Mountains are known as some of the most difficult miles of the trail. I had been hearing stories about them since I stared the trail, and they really did live up to everything that I had heard. I had great luck at the huts, experienced some of the infamous nasty weather, and hiked some seriously beautiful trail. 

I had great luck at the AMC huts on the trail. The first hut I passed was Lonesome Lake hut. I stopped in just to check it out, and after chatting with one of the croo members for just a few minutes, they offered me the leftovers from breakfast. I had pancakes, eggs, and oatmeal for free. It was a great first experience with the huts! Later in the week I would do work for stays at two of the other huts, and they were both great experiences. It was a real treat to eat some real food, and I was happy for the roof over my head at Madison hut when it was storming all night. Aside from the work for stays and breakfast leftovers, it was great being able to stop in to fill up my water bottles. I was able to fill up from the sinks inside the huts a couple of times a day, which meant I rarely had to spend time filtering my water. 

The Whites are renowned for having some of the worst and most unpredictable weather in the country. For some reason I always envisioned myself walking through the section with perfectly blue skies, but that was not the case. My first couple days in the Whites were filled with light rain and dense fog; I didn’t see a thing from the first couple of summits. Sadly, Franconia Ridge was totally socked in by fog when I hiked it. I’ve heard that it’s one of the most spectacular ridge walks on the trail, so I’ll have to get back there and walk it again during good weather some day. Luckily the weather improved after the first couple of days. Conditions remained good while I hiked over the Presidentials, but got sour quickly when it was time to hike over Mt. Madison. Crossing over the mountain and the following ridge was without a doubt one of the scariest experiences I’ve ever had in the mountains. Winds blew at a steady 85 mph, and I struggled to cross the two miles of ridge line while crawling on my hands and feet. It was extremely hard to make out the cairns marking the trail through the dense fog. I was almost knocked over by the wind several times. It took over two and half hours to cover the two miles from Madison Springs Hut to tree line on the north side of the ridge. I would later learn that myself and the two hikers in front of me were the only ones to cross the ridge that day. Several hikers behind us had attempted to cross shortly after us, but turned around before reaching the summit of Madison.

When I wasn’t pigging out at the huts or struggling to keep footing on windy ridges, I was enjoying the incredible beauty of the White Mountains. I had always sort of assumed that none of the mountains on the east coast could compare to the Rockies, but the Whites come pretty damn close. Even though they are significantly lower in elevation, they feel every bit as huge. The trail there was definitely the most challenging I had seen on the A.T., requiring lots of hand over hand climbing on steep rock faces. While the climbs were exhausting and challenging, the views were well worth the effort. 

I am now almost halfway through Maine, and the end is within sight. I’ll post again later this week with a few words and some photos from southern Maine. 

Cheers,

McLovin

The Best Work-For-Stay Ever

The Best Work-For-Stay Ever

A few days ago, I had my first work-for-stay experience at one of the Appalachian Mountain Club Huts within White Mountain National Forest. I could have never imagined what would ensue, but I’m pretty sure that I ended up getting the best WFS arrangement of any thru-hiker, ever. I’ll preface the story by acknowledging that many of my thru-hiking peers, especially those who have done a WFS at one of the huts, will have a hard time believing this. Regardless, this really did happen, exactly like I’ll tell it. 

Throughout the White Mountains, the Appalachian Mountain Club operates semi privative huts just off the trail. The huts have large bunk rooms, a full kitchen, and a communal dining area. They vary somewhat in amenities and size, and are typically run by a “croo” of 3-5 college aged kids. For $130 per person, guests can reserve a bunk for the night, as well as dinner and breakfast at the hut. As a favor to thru hikers, each hut also offers a couple of work for stay opportunities each night. Hikers are expected to contribute a couple hours of labor, usually washing dishes or cleaning, in exchange for a heaping plate of the leftovers from dinner, and a spot on the dining room floor to lay down their sleeping pad. For the sake of those involved, I’ll leave the name of this hut out of the story. 

Lake of the Clouds Hut (not where the story takes place)

I pulled into the hut around 4:00 PM after a 15 mile day out of Lincoln, NH. As I approached the hut, I found a girl who was working on the croo there and asked her if I could help out with anything. She told me the work for stay spots had already been filled by other thru hikers, but if I hung around a while they might be able to find something for me to do, or at least share some of the leftovers with me. The food was what I really wanted, so I figured it was well worth waiting around. 

After sitting patiently on the bunch outside the hut for almost three hours, I began to worry that she had forgotten about me. Or perhaps she hadn’t forgotten, but had realized that there wouldn’t be enough food for me and didn’t have the heart to tell me. Just as I was getting ready to move on and attempt to find a campsite before it got any darker, the girl came back out to the porch and told me they had found a task for me. I followed her into the kitchen, where I met the other two girls who were working croo there. One of the other girls said to me, “We found something for you to help us with! Tonight is our last night together here as a croo. We’ve worked together all summer long, and tomorrow morning the three of us will be split up and sent to different huts for the fall season. As a tradition on our last night of the the season, we take a photo wearing nothing but our aprons. For your work for stay… we need you to take the photo.”

I couldn’t quite believe my ears, but I quickly agreed. Before I could gather my thoughts, dresses and shorts were hitting the kitchen floor, and the three of them were standing there bare ass naked. They slipped on their aprons, handed me one of their iPhones, and told me to follow them out to the roof where we would take the pictures. As the sun was setting over the White Mountains, I photographed the three of them in their aprons on the roof of the hut. 

After climbing through a window back into the hut, I piled a plate as tall as I could with stuffed shells, salad, peas, and bread. I sat at one of the tables in the dining room and a ate every bite of it with a ridiculous grin on my face. I slept on the floor next to the table, and headed on my way early the next morning.

A hard earned meal

It was, I’m quite positive, the best work for stay ever. 

Cheers,

McLovin

Vermont!

Vermont!


Twelve down and only two more to go! I was really fortunate to have perfect weather nearly every day in Vermont, and it made for some really great days of hiking. Here are some highlights from the past week or so:

Camping on Glastenbury mountain 

On one of my first nights in Vermont, I decided to camp on top of Glastenbury Mountain. There was an old fire tower on top of the mountain, and the view from the top of the tower was the best I could remember since the Smokies. Looking back into Massachusetts I could see Mt. Greylock and the ridge I had just come from, and looking north I could see Stratton and the Green Mountains of Vermont awaiting me. I couldn’t help but smile as I stood up there and thought about how far I had come, and the incredible mountains that still lay ahead of me. I cooked my mac n cheese in the tower that night and enjoyed a stellar sunset. The next morning I woke up early and took my coffee up there for an equally impressive sunrise. It was an awesome night and morning, and it got me uber stoked to be in Vermont and New England.

Birthday golf in Manchester Center

I celebrated my 25th birthday last week in Manchester Center, Vermont. It wasn’t my favorite trail town, as it seemed to be mostly an outlet shopping destination, but I did manage to find an awesome motel to stay at. The Palmer House hotel gave me a hiker rate of $85 for a double room, which I split 5 ways with my friends Captain Planet, Library, Wook, and Rainbow Mama. We had way too much fun playing a round of golf on the motel’s par 3 course, then ordered pizzas and wings and watched some mindless television in the room. The next morning I picked out a new book at the Northshire Bookstore and hiked 10 miles or so up the trail. All in all it was a pretty great birthday!

Rutland, Yellow Deli, and Killington slackpack 


When I passed through Rutland, VT, I got a hitch into town to pick up a couple of packages and resupply at Wal Mart. The Twelve Tribes run a Yellow Deli and Hiker Hostel there, right in downtown Rutland. I wasn’t planning to stay the night there, but when I stopped in at the Yellow Deli for a sandwich I ran into Otter and Fish N Chips, who had stayed there the past two nights. They filled me in on how they were able to leave the majority of their gear there all day and slack pack 18 miles up and over Killington by taking advantage of a local bus route. I was quickly convinced to stay the next two nights there and take advantage of a free slackpack. Bebop also ended up showing up there the next day, so it was fun to catch up with him again. Their religious beliefs and practices aside- they treated me really well, and even fed me a delicious breakfast for free. It was definitely an interesting experience staying with them, but I got a kick out of watching them all interact with each other and wondering how it all worked. I wouldn’t dare ask them about it! 

It was BEAUTIFUL.

Also, Vermont was GORGEOUS. So many great views, spectacular stretches of forests, and pristine lakes and streams. After a month and a half of pushing through the somewhat lackluster Mid-Atlantic section of the trail, it was really great to be back in some tall mountains and captivating forests.

Yesterday morning I crossed the border into New Hampshire, and spent an enjoyable day in Hanover. I spent a couple of hours at the pizza shop, where the thru hiker special is a cheese slice and a 20 oz PBR for $0.80 (yes, eighty cents). I resupplied at an awesome Co-Op in town, and set up my tent just beyond the tree line, about 200 yards away from the co-op and right behind the Dartmouth softball fields. I hung out there for a little while and Otter, Fish N Chips, Wook, Scarecrow, and Muffin Man showed up and set their tents up nearby. A little later we all headed back to the co-op for dinner. I pigged out on a giant Greek salad, a sushi roll, and two more slices of pizza. After dinner we had a few cold ones on the outfield fence while watching the Dartmouth softball team practice, and then hit the hay. Tonight I’m camped about fifteen miles north of Hanover.

In just a couple more days I’ll start the White Mountains. In only 5 more weeks I’ll be standing on top of Katahdin. Where has the time gone…

More soon!

Cheers,

McLovin

NJ, NY, CT

NJ, NY, CT

Hey friends! I am writing this post from Upper Goose Pond Cabin, in Massachusetts. It’s a really cool cabin on Upper Goose Pond, with great swimming and even a few canoes for hikers to use. There is a care-taker who makes a pancake breakfast every morning, so I’m looking forward to that when I wake up tomorrow. I ran into my friend Bebop here whom I haven’t seen since Damascus, VA, so it’s been fun catching up with him and hearing what he’s been up to. Before I get any further north, I wanted to write a post on New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.
I was counting down the miles until reaching the New Jersey border, as I couldn’t wait to be out of Pennsylvania. While the beginning of NJ was still a bit rocky, it mellowed out quickly and gave way to some really enjoyable hiking. My feet finally got a break from constant rocks and I couldn’t have been happier about it. I put in a few good days and the state flew by. The most memorable part of the section for me was a long section of board walk which wound through a wetland area. It was really nice to walk on a different surface for a little while, and cool to see such a different environment than I’m usually walking through. I also got off trail for a couple of days and visited Emily’s home town of Pearl River, NY. We had a lot of fun, and I got my first taste of New York pizza and bagels. I got back on the trail after a couple of days hanging with her, and before I knew it I had reached the NJ\NY border.


New York…. What a state. It didn’t take me long to get the hang of hiking there. I learned quickly that if I started early and hiked fast in the morning, I could reach a deli or pizza shop almost EVERY DAY by noon or so when the heat was really becoming unbearable. Yes, basically every 20 miles or so there is a deli and/or pizza shop within 1/2 mile of the trail. IT WAS A DREAM. I thought the Way Side restaurants in SNP would be hard to beat, but this was a whole new sort of amazing. I would typically stroll into an air conditioned pizza shop around noon, and savor a few slices and a massive soda. I always ordered my slices one at a time, in order to hang out in the AC for at least a few hours. For dessert I’d have some ice cream or a cannoli, whatever was calling my name. Before heading back to the trail, I’d swing by the deli and pick up a large sub sandwich, or “wedge,” potato chips, and a brownie or cookie to pack out for dinner. So I was eating delicious food every day, and only carrying about a day and half of food at time. I really wish I could hike the entire trail the way I hiked through New York. Aside from the trailside delis, the highlight of New York for me was taking a train into NYC for a few days.


As I hiked the trail through NY, I could see the Manhattan skyline in the horizon several times. I figured since I was already so close, it would be a shame not to pop in for a visit. I made plans to travel in from Pawling, NY, where there is a rickety wooden boarding platform directly on the trail. It’s a pretty funny site. I took a Metro North train from Pawling directly to Grand Central Station in Manhattan. Stepping off the train into a sea of people in the station was a real trip. After walking around the city for a little while I met my cousin Nick for drinks in East Village. After a few beers he brought me to a speakeasy which was really awesome. We entered the place through a phone booth inside of a hot dog place. They were mixing some incredible cocktails, and it was a really cool experience. Later that night I went on a pizza tour, walking from pizza place to pizza place and trying a slice at each one.


The next night I stayed in Brooklyn at the home of my friend Thibaud. We met last year while we were both traveling through Bangkok, Thailand. We had a great time reminiscing about a couple of wild nights we had there. His wonderful wife Daniela cooked a feast of salad, pasta, and meatballs, and I went to sleep feeling fat and happy. The next morning I ate an amazing bagel before taking the subway back to Grand Central. I boarded a train back to Pawling, and arrived about 2 hours later. I stopped in town for one last slice of New York pizza, then got back to the trail and crossed into Connecticut a couple of hours later. 


Connecticut only lasted a couple of days, but I was pretty impressed and surprised by how beautiful it was. I guess I wasn’t expecting much for some reason, but it turned out to be really nice. The trail was smooth, the heat was tolerable, and there were some excellent views.


I’ve been in Massachusetts for a few days now and it’s been pretty great. There have been some awesome swimming opportunities, several good climbs, and many great views. My Aunt Deb and Uncle Erik also drove out from Boston to see me near Great Barrington, MA, which was a treat. We spent a night at their friends’ home in the area, visited Edith Wharton’s home, and enjoyed some great food and beer. The next day they hiked a few miles up the trail with me before saying goodbye. They brought me an entire batch of chocolate chip cookies. Talk about trail magic!


In just a couple more days I’ll be in Vermont, and there will be only three states left between me and Katahdin. I can’t believe how far I’ve come since April, and I’m excited to get back into some real mountains. I’m slowing things down to enjoy this last month and a half. 641 miles to Katahdin…

Cheers,

McLovin

Bangin Rocks in Pennsylvania 

Bangin Rocks in Pennsylvania 

Hi! I’m writing this post from Morgan Stewart shelter on the A.T. in New York, mile 1,437. I apologize for the lack of posts lately! Since I last wrote, I’ve finished the states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Tomorrow morning I will finish New York and cross the border into Connecticut. The last few weeks have really flown by, and it’s finally starting to feel like I’ve made some progress on the trail.


Pennsylvania really took a toll on me, and I was more than ready to get out of there by the time I reached New Jersey. PA has the reputation of being the rockiest state on the trail, and it’s a reputation that is very well deserved. I entered the state feeling strong and consistently walking 20-24 miles a day, but as soon as I got to Duncannan, my pace slowed to about half of that. I found it impossible to get into my normal rhythm while hiking atop the sharp rocks. My feet took a serious beating, and I would often kick rocks on accident up to ten times a day. I choose my steps pretty carefully, but the rocks are nearly impossible to avoid. The worst are the small, sharp rocks which protrude from the ground at such an angle to perfectly trap your toes as you’re making a stride forward. I was honestly pretty sure that I had broken a toe or two at one point, but they seemed to have healed up alright. The balls of my feet and a few of my toes are still rather numb from walking on the pointy rocks all day, but I’m thinking it’s just temporary. As if the rocks in Pennsylvania weren’t enough, there were a handful of other things frustrating me as well.


Looking at the elevation profile for Pennsylvania, you might think the hiking would be pretty easy since it’s relatively flat. There are shorts ups and downs, but they’re all less than about 300 feet or so of elevation gain. Compared to the states further south or north on the trail, this is pretty petty. Unfortunately, the lack of elevation gain also means a lack of views. Most days in PA are spent following a flat-ish trail, which winds endlessly through the woods, following sharp jagged rocks from shelter to shelter. Even when there was a “view” indicated in my guidebook, it usually ended up being just a small opening in some trees where you could see down to a farm or two. Meh. To be fair, there were a couple of impressive vistas towards the end of the state. Most of my days in PA were also painfully humid and buggy, which made things even more enjoyable. Still, while I didn’t always look forward to the hiking in PA, I had some fun times and always found a way to enjoyed myself.





In all fairness, the first 40 miles or so were really enjoyable. Nice, easily trail through farm land in the Cumberland Valley. This stretch was also packed full of blackberries, and I feasted daily. I came across trail magic several times in the first few days as well, which is always a treat. 





One of my favorite stops in PA was The Doyle Hotel in Duncannon. The place is a legendary old trail hotel. When I say old I mean OLD. I believe it was established in 1908. It’s catered almost exclusively to AT hikers for as long as anyone can remember though, and it hasn’t seen any repairs or remodeling since then either. The place is more or less falling apart, but it reeks of character. I opted not to rent a room for the night, but I did stop in for a few pints. 


Another highlight of the trip was taking a nearo day at a brand new hostel near Port Clinton. The place was called Rock N’ Sole, and it was run out of the home of a friendly couple named Craig and Jodie. Craig is a recently retired state police officer, and he told me he only recently had the idea to start the hostel. He has converted his tool shed into a bunk room, and it’s actually a really nice space. The term “shed and breakfast” has never made so much sense. The real kicker with this place though were the home cooked meals from Craig’s wife Jodie. She made me a huge dinner plus dessert, and a delicious breakfast as well. She’s real easy on the eyes too. Sorry, Craig. 




That’s all I’ve got for now. I couldn’t be more excited about getting into New England. It’s going to feel great to be back in some real mountains. I’ll do my best to start posting a little more regularly! More soon on New Jersey and New York…

Cheers,

McLovin

Aquablazing!

Aquablazing!

Hello! I’m writing this post from James Fry Shelter in southern Pennsylvania. It’s been a little while now since I left Virginia, and West Virginia and Maryland flew by in only a few days. As you may have seen in my last post, I decided to canoe the last 40 miles of Virginia on the Shenandoah River instead of hiking on the trail. It was such a fun experience that I figured it was worthy of its own post!

I had been debating whether or not I wanted to aquablaze (A.T. term for padding a section of the trail) for quite some time. I was pretty sure it would be an amazing time, but I just wasn’t sure I wanted to miss any of the trail. Many people rent boats and aquablaze up to 100 miles, bypassing the entirety of the A.T. inside Shenandoah National Park. I knew I wasn’t interested in this option since I was looking forward to hiking through the park. I had been thinking however that it might be nice to canoe a smaller section of the river, after hiking through the park. I had actually decided against it, when I got a call from Barnum while lunching at a shelter. He told me that he was in Front Royal, VA, and he was setting up an aquablaze trip through a local canoe company. He filled me in on the details, and told me that our friends Sunshine and Moonshine were on their way into town and would also be joining. It didn’t take much convincing before I turned around and hiked 3 miles back to the last road crossing. I stuck my thumb out and got picked up by the first car that passed. A few minutes later I was hopping out of the car in a motel parking lot, where Barnum, Sunshine, and Moonshine were all waiting. We hit the grocery store for some provisions, then split a room at the Super 8 Motel. Our shuttle would pick us up there at 7:00 am the next morning and bring us to the boat launch. 

The plan was to paddle 40 miles in two days, and spend one night camped somewhere along the riverbank. A nice local man who had given the girls a ride into town lent us big plastic cooler for the trip, and we had it stuffed to the gills with 70 beers and a few snacks. Our shuttle picked us up right on time, and we were on the river about twenty minutes later. We paddled pretty leisurely most of the day, sipping cold beers and listening to tunes on a small speaker that Barnum picked up at Dollar General. After cruising about twenty miles, we pulled the boats ashore and set up camp at Watermelon Park Campground, in who-knows-where, Virginia. We woke up early the next day and shared a watermelon before heading back out on the river. Another twenty miles of paddling, floating, and soaking up the sun put us into Harper’s Ferry W.V., where the shuttle was waiting to pick up our boats. We arrived at the ATC headquarters shortly after, all of us sporting a solid sunburn for our half-way photos. 

The trip was an absolute blast, and I’m super glad I decided to do it. The two days we spent on the river were some of my most fun days on the trail so far, and if I were to thru-hike again I would definitely make the same decision. It was great to get a little change of scenery, and it was the first actual rest my les had gotten since I started. Don’t get me wrong though, it wasn’t as easy as you might think. Paddling a canoe 20 miles is actually pretty tough! For anyone interested in doing a similar trip on the Shenandoah, or for any of my thru-hiker friends south of me who may be considering an aquablaze, the company we used was Skyline Canoe in Front Royal, VA. They were really easy to work with, and they offered a reasonable price compared to the other outfitters in town. 

After getting off of the river I stayed a night at The Towns Inn Hostel/Hotel in Harper’s Ferry. The place had actually been featured on the television show Gordon Ramsey’s Hotel Hell. A few other hikers and I got a real kick out of watching the episode on YouTube while we were there. The next morning I took a train into D.C., where I met my girlfriend Emily, who had flown in from Colorado for the weekend. We spent a day visiting the museums, and then a couple of days lounging poolside eating pizza and sipping mixed drinks. We also met my sister for dinner one night at one of my favorite restaurants. She let us stay at her apartment one night, and even stocked her fridge with some delicious brews for us (sister of the year award!). It was a little rough transitioning back to the trail after three days in the city, but I got back into the swing of things quickly.

Since getting back on the trail I have blown through West Virginia and Maryland, and am now making my way through Pennsylvania. PA has been a breeze so far, but there are some really rocky stretches ahead.

That’s all for now! I’ll try to post another update sometime next week.

Peace love and pizza.

-McLovin

Why I Loved The Shenandoah

Why I Loved The Shenandoah

Greetings! I’m writing today from Front Royal, Virginia, just outside the northern boundary of Shenandoah National Park. I’ve been in the park for the past five days, hiking the 102 mile section of the A.T. that stretches from north to south. Between the beautiful trails, access to real food, and abundance of wildlife, I found it hard not to love the Shenandoah.

Sunset at Franklin Cliffs

The trail follows a ridge line throughout the entire park, which makes the climbs and descents much more manageable than what we’ve been seeing further south. There are still ups and downs, but they’re mostly minor. The trail itself is also really well maintained and easily traveled throughout the park. Think wide, level, dirt trails, mostly free of rocks and roots. It’s a walk in the park, so to speak, compared to some of the terrain further south. A lot of thru-hikers put in their highest mileage days on this section of the trail. Well made trails throughout the park make the hiking easy on the legs and lungs, and its many vistas make it easy on the eyes as well.

Mountain Laurel on fleek!
Mile 900
Green Tunnel

Since the trail stays relatively high on the ridge line throughout the park, you’re awarded with views pretty frequently. Getting great views without working too hard seemed a little too good to be true, but I was fine with it. The Shenandoah valley is a really beautiful part of the country, and I really enjoyed getting to see it from so many different vantage points. A couple of my favorite views were Mary’s Rock where I climbed up a fun little rock scramble, and Franklin Cliffs where I caught an awesome sunset after enjoying a blackberry milkshake at one of the park’s waysides. 

Mary’s Rock scramble
More Mountain Laurel…

WAYSIDES. These were one of my personal favorite parts about hiking through SNP. They definitely do have their drawbacks (Griswald-esque tourists, day hikers, and everything else that’s wrong with the world), but I think that the good far outweighs the bad. The waysides are restaurant/gift shops located off Skyline Drive throughout the park. They cater towards the masses of tourists who come to drive through the park every year. Nothing works up an appetite like a full day in the seat of a car! Anyway, they’re spaced out so that the average thru-hiker will pass one each day in the park. The restaurants have burgers, sandwiches, beers, and milkshakes. They are super pricey, but they were pretty much impossible for me to resist after hiking fifteen or twenty miles. Mmmm cheeseburgers and fries…

Blackberry shake at Loft Mtn. Wayside

My favorite part about hiking the park was being surrounded by wildlife everyday. I saw several deer with tiny fawns, and A LOT of black bears. Sixteen black bears to be exact. They are everywhere in the park, and it’s really cool to run across them. They all seemed to be pretty well behaved too, unlike the one who tried to steal my food bag in southern VA. I even saw a few cubs, which was a little scary but super exciting. I had been hearing about how many bears there were in the park and was hopeful that I would see some, but I never expected to see so many!

Lil cubber!

All in all, the Shenandoah was a blast. If there’s one downside to hiking in the park, it’s the trail’s proximity to Skyline Drive. The trail stays pretty close to the road throughout the park, crossing it some 40 times. This means road noise and motorcycles can be heard pretty regularly, but it didn’t really spoil the experience for me.

One of the many overlooks onn Skyline Drive

I’ve decided to aqua blaze the next 40 miles of trail. Three friends and I have rented a couple of canoes, and tomorrow morning we will launch them into the Shenandoah River for a two day trip into Harper’s Ferry, where the trail intersects the river again. Some people will bash paddling a section of the trail and say that it’s not a true thru-hike since I’m not walking every mile. I don’t get hung up on that though. I’ve hiked every mile of the trail up until now, and I’ll hike every mile from Harper’s Ferry to Katahdin. You’ve gotta hike your own hike, right?

Our hitch into town today gave us a big cooler for free, and we’ve got it packed with cold beers and delicious chilled snacks. It’s going to be a nice break from ramen noodles and instant mashed potatoes. We’re staying at the Super 8 Motel in Front Royal, VA tonight, and we’ll head out early tomorrow morning. I’m pumped to be on the river for a couple of days!

I’m planning on taking a train into D.C. from Harper’s Ferry and spending a few days eating and relaxing there. Harper’s Ferry is the “unofficial halfway point” of the trail, and my body is more than ready for a few days off. I figure D.C. will be a fun place to hang out and be a tourist for a few days. I’ll post another update once I’m back on the trail and out of Virginia!

Cheers,

McLovin

Brewpub Camping

Brewpub Camping

Good morning! I’m writing today from a fantastic Adirondack chair in the sun at Devil’s Backbone Brewpub. Barnum and I got here around 6:00 yesterday evening, and we’ve had an awesome stay. It’s a huge property that feels more like a resort than a brewery. They have indoor and outdoor restaurants and bars, many fire pits, a big grassy field, and a stage for events. The coolest part is that it’s all surrounded by Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains. 
They sent a free shuttle up to the trailhead to pick us up and drive us the 5 miles down the mountain to the brewery. We headed straight into the pub for beers and dinner. I had a Vienna Lager and a pulled pork sandwich with fries, followed by some really delicious chicken wings. It was all top notch. We paid our checks and refilled our glasses before playing a couple games of cornhole.

Once the bar was shutting down and most of the other customers had gone home, I set up my sleeping pad under a nearby pavilion. It had outlets to charge my phone, a faucet with potable water, and lightning fast wifi. I joked that it was the best campsite I’d had all trip. I even streamed a movie before falling asleep!


They also offer a hiker breakfast in the mornings for only $5. I’ll hang here until breakfast is served, then I’ll catch another free shuttle back to the trail. In my opinion, this place was well worth the stop. All of the staff has been incredibly nice. I caught a few funny looks from some of the other patrons who had clearly showered this week, but some others were really friendly and interested in the trail. If I’m ever in the Roseland, Virginia area again I will definitely stop by. 

I’ll be back on the trail in a couple of hours, and it’s only twentyish more miles to Waynesboro. I haven’t yet decided if I’ll get there tonight or tomorrow morning. Either way, only a couple more days until Shenandoah National Park, and not much longer until West Virginia and the halfway point. 

More soon…

Cheers,

McLovin

McAfee Knob & Tinker Cliffs

McAfee Knob & Tinker Cliffs

Hello friends! I am writing this morning from the Howard Johnson motel in Daleville, VA. I arrived here around 6:30 PM yesterday, after hiking 26 miles from Four Pines Hostel in Catawba, VA. It was my longest day yet, and also my first slackpack. For those who aren’t familiar, slackpacking is when someone drives the majority of your gear ahead of the trail, and then meets you at an agreed upon spot to deliver your backpack. This way you can hike while carrying only water and snacks, which allows for bigger days and faster hiking. My backpack was waiting for me in the lobby here when I showed up last night. Some people might call it cheating, but it sure was nice! 

The day started with an early morning at Four Pines Hostel. This is a super cool hostel located just .3 miles off of the trail in Catawba, VA. It’s on a small farm, and the views of the surrounding valley are stunning. The hostel building is a large garage, filled with couches and cots for sleeping, a large table for eating and playing games, and a makeshift kitchen. There is also a barn with wooden platforms for sleeping, and tons of grass to set up your tent if you choose. The place has a really laid back vibe, and it is donation based so you pay what you can afford. I had a really nice night there, and the next morning a friend and I paid their shuttle driver Eddie $6 each to drive our packs ahead to Daleville, where we would be stopping that evening. He let us borrow some small drawstring sacks, which we used to carry our water bottles and some snacks. We took off towards McAfee Knob around 8:00 AM, with 26 miles to cover.

Sunrise at Four Pines Hostel
The Dragon Wagon- Four Pines hiker shuttle

McAfee Knob is one of the most photographed spots on the trail; if you’ve ever googled Appalachian Trail then you’ve definitely seen a photo of it. We would cross the knob about 7 miles into our day, and we knew that it would likely be the most exciting part of the hoke. Unfortunately since we were there on Memorial Day Weekend there was quite a crowd at the top, but the view was still spectacular. A small cliff juts out from the mountainside, over what seems to be an endless drop below (think Lion King). Incredible mountain views stretch out in front of the Knob, which makes standing atop it a really special feeling. Since there was a crowd at the top and we still had a lot of ground to cover, we only hung out for a few minutes before pushing on. Hiking down from McAfees Knob, we saw a HUGE rattle snake hanging out just beside the trail. It was about three and a half feet long, and it’s definitely the biggest snake I’ve seen in the wild. Pretty neat!


This thing has been eating well…

From Mcafee Knob the trail follows a ridge line six or eight miles north, and then curls around to the east and offers views back towards the Knob. It’s always cool to look back after a morning of hiking and see exactly where you’ve come from and the route you traveled. The next 1/2 mile of trail north of here is known as Tinker Cliffs, where the trail parallels the edge of a steep cliff. Only a foot or two to your left, the ground drops off into nothingness and dozens of tiny farms can be seen in the valley below. Looking at the ridge line directly across the valley, we could just barely make out the knob we had been standing on earlier that morning. This little stretch was really exciting hiking, and I enjoyed it almost as much McAfees Knob itself. 

Barnum surveying the scenery

Cool old farming equipment

When we rolled into town yesterday evening, we headed directly to the local barbecue restaurant. For dinner I had chips and guacamole, a buffalo chicken wrap, and peach cobbler a la mode. Everything was delicious! By the time we got the hotel, I could barely move. Everything hurt, especially my feet. I made it onto the bed just as Step Brothers was starting on Comedy Central, and I knew I wouldn’t be moving for the rest of the night…
I’m taking the morning off in town to rest my feet and take care of some things. I’ll hike out of here around noon and will probably only cover 10 or 15 miles today. I think that will put my at the 1/3 mark. Time flies!

More soon…

Cheers, 

McLovin

Ponies & Pizza Parties 

Ponies & Pizza Parties 

The Grayson Highlands were incredible! It was without a doubt one of my favorite days of hiking since starting the trail. I had heard really great things about the area, and it definitely lived up to the hype. The day that I had originally planned to hike through the park tuned out to be foggy and rainy, so I zeroed at a shelter just before the entrance to the park and waited for better weather. Luckily the weather was much better the next day, and I ended up being really glad that I hadn’t blown through the park the previous day without being able to enjoy the views. 

Part of what makes the Grayson Highlands so cool are the wild ponies that roam and graze in the area. They are really cool to see, and there were even several baby horses around when I passed through. Some of them are super friendly, and even love to be pet. As nice as they can be, they’re known for going after hiker’s food bags. I camped on a grassy ridge on my first night in the highlands, and I was awoken around 10:00 pm by a pony who had wiggled his nose under the vestibule of my tent and was sniffing around for food. I gave him a little tap on the nose and he wandered off. 

As we were walking down out of the park, we got word of a big hiker picnic that was being hosted that evening at a local baptist church. Sure enough, as soon as we got to the next gap a van pulled up to shuttle people to the picnic. I’m not one to turn down a free meal, so I hopped aboard. Next thing I knew I was sitting under the pavilion at Troutdale Baptist church. Apparently they put on a huge hiker picnic once every year, and I just so happened to be passing through on the day it was happening. There were about 65 hikers there, and the spread was incredible. Every one of us had seconds, and there were still leftovers. I ate: Two cheeseburgers, one chili cheese dog, potato salad, pasta salad, chips and queso, macaroni salad, cole slaw, fudge, lemon squares, blueberry cobbler, and ice cream. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much in my life. Hiker hunger is real…

Unfortunately my phone died after my first night in the highlands, so I wasn’t able to get as many photos as I would have liked to. Here’s what I captured before it died:


I’m posting this from a motel in Marion, VA. Last night I stayed at the famous Partnership Shelter, where pizzas can be ordered to the shelter. Of course I had to take advantage of that luxury….

More soon!

Cheers,

McLovin