As many of you know, I am not able to hike for the remainder of the season. I have a stress fracture in my left foot. I’m disappointed, but I’m a realist. I could probably bind up my foot, take a lot of Vitamin I (Ibuprofen) and force my way to the end, but then I’d probably end up with a much worse injury. The trail will still be there and I need to concern myself with my long term health.
But I am simply not ready to leave the AT yet! Through the help of wonderful friends, I’ve found a place to work that will be near the trail. It is just a temporary position, through mid to late October, but it will allow me to stay close to the AT, meet up with people who I met while hiking, and give me time and a safe place from which to arrange my next steps. Plus, I’ve never been to Maine and I can’t wait to see it.
I will be working at the famed Appalachian Trail Lodge & Café in Millinocket, Maine. It is located near Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the AT. Don’t get me wrong, this won’t be glamorous. I be spending a LOT of time cleaning, doing laundry, making beds and sweeping. But I’ve helped out at several hostels along the way and am pretty sure I can manage. I will be out of this boot on my foot mid-week. The doctors say I can walk normally as long as I wear a supportive shoe, like my hiking shoes, Go figure. I am not allowed to hike, carry a backpack, walk over rocks, or run. But I can still work. Here is a link to the AT Lodge:
What I wanted was to hike all of the Appalachian Trail this year, but I did manage to complete 1,405 miles, which isn’t too bad. Less than 10% of those who start EVER complete the trail, so I knew the odds were against me when I started. This is not how I hoped the summer would go, but this is the best “Plan B” I think I could have found. It will also give me time to arrange an English teaching job overseas. If possible, I will get a position that will end in May/June and come back to the trail to finish. That may not be easy to arrange, but I’ve lucked out so far.
Thanks so much to all the people who have offered me a place to stay, a kind word and positive thoughts. So far, everything seems to be falling into place, but I may need your help in the future. It means so much that I don’t walk alone.
Yesterday I found that I have a stress fracture in my left foot. It will take 6-8 weeks to heal. This will end my thru hike of the AT for this year.
I am, of course, disappointed but I want to thank everyone who supported me on the journey of 1405 miles. No one accomplishes anything difficult alone. Many, many have supported me. I am grateful for all the love, assistance and encouragement I’ve had. I am humbled by what I’ve received. Hiking the Appalachian Trail has been a huge privilege. It has been very difficult physically and mentally, but I’ve received more than I’ve given.
I am so lucky. And I’m not hanging up my trail runners yet.
It’s official. I have just gotten back from the doctor. I have a stress fracture. I’ll be in a boot for 6-8 weeks. There’s every reason to think my foot will heal completely, but not before the end of the hiking season. I’m off the trail for this year. Though I am terribly disappointed, I will simply make plans to heal up and try to finish next year.
Today I will feel very sorry for myself for the rest of the day. There will be ice cream and wine involved. Tomorrow I’ll begin making a new plan for the future.
But here’s what matters: even if I’d have known this was going to happen, I would still have started hiking the trail. It’s been an amazing adventure. And my adventures are not over.
I have some ideas about what to do next. And I’ll work on them tomorrow. Today I get to be a baby about this. I’ll cry and be mad and whine. But just for one day. I’ll be a grown up tomorrow and make a new plan.
I’m beginning to believe that anything can happen. Especially good things. Have I mentioned I’m the luckiest hiker on the trail? If you are reading this blog, you know that I’m exhausted and my foot hurts. And that these things have made it tough to stay on the trail or make decent miles. What I’ve needed is an inexpensive place to rest–somewhere I could eat healthy food and lay around watching trash TV between naps, until I feel better.
Well, that’s what I got! My friend Kathy is out of the country, in Canada, right now. But she reads my blog and realized I needed a break. So she offered her house outside Albany, NY while she’s gone. AND arranged for her neighbor, Julia, who has never even met me, to drive 2 hours to pick me up off the trail and take me to her house last night. We just got back from the grocery where I bought fresh food for 4-5 days. It’s amazing. I slept 12 hour last night after a shower. My clothes are clean. And I’m not eating hiker food today. It’s a miracle. Exactly what I needed.
Friday July 18. Warwick Turnpike, 1358.4 (overnight at Warwick Drive-In Theater) to Bear Mountain Bridge, 1399.7
I was up pretty late for a hiker. It was well after midnight when the second film finished. I watched Tammy on screen 3, followed by the latest X-Men film on screen 1. Honestly, I had the best seat in the house because I could sample all three screens, each of which had a double feature. And as a bonus, the owner, Beth, sent over a huge box of French fries–so many I couldn’t finish them! But they still smelled pretty good in the morning, even though I was still full. Beth had showed me where to fill my water bottles in the morning and an available electrical outlet to charge my electronics. The ladies room was locked tight, but there was a freshly cleaned porta potty. All of this for $6!
While I was packing up, Laura, who works at the theater, came by with her three kids to go for a walk. She offered to take me back to the trail so I wouldn’t have to walk. When I got in the van, her daughter said, “Mommy’s taking you because she’s a good person!” I almost cried. Her mommy IS a good person.
They took me to where the trail crossed NY17A, near their home. On the way we passed out of New Jersey for the final time on this trip. There’s a parking lot with a hot dog stand, but it wasn’t open yet. I sat and talked to the owner, Buddy. He’s 78 years old and says he gets to the stand at 7a each morning where he often talks with friends. He opens the stand by 10:30a and closes at 3:30p. Then he cleans up and goes to the bar for two beers with his friends. He says it keeps him going.
I hiked on and within two miles first hit the rocks of the Eastern Pinnacles, then Cat Rocks. Fortunately there was a blue blazed, bypass trail around each. And I should have taken both of them. The AT in this section was clearly designed by a mountain goat. But the views were nice.
I took a break at Wildcat Shelter, then hiked a couple more miles to Lakes Road, which leads to Greenwood Lake, NY.
And this is where I decided to act on a decision I’ve made to make some changes in my hike. I’ve been worried about finishing before winter. But, at least for me, it’s not about taking every single step of the trail. It’s a journey and while the destination matters, it’s not what I focus on most. There’s a saying on the trail: Hike Your a Own Hike. That means do it your way and don’t worry what anyone else says. This is MY adventure.
From here I called a taxi to take me to Bear Mountain State Park. This seems like an odd move for a hiker, but I’ve decided to skip small sections and make sure I hit the parts I’m most interested in. I’ll still hike most of the trail, just skip over a few sections. I’ve evaluated my health and I don’t think I have the energy to hike all of the remainder of the trail, over 800 miles, before the end of September. I could come back next year and finish, but I don’t want to count on that. I have a lot of things to do. I’d rather skip a few short sections and still get to the end. That’s my hike.
And besides, Bill Bryson did less them 900 miles and he got a book deal and a movie out of it. 😉
And this state park was not to be missed. The Appalachian Trail not only goes through Bear Mountain State Park, it goes through the middle of the zoo and museum buildings. In fact, the lowest elevation on the trail is right at the bear’s enclosure, 163 feet. It’s all uphill from here!
Then I called the Bear Mountain Bridge Motel who picked me up at the edge of the park. The price includes pick up/return to the trail and laundry. I’ve got too much food in my food bag, so I took a shower, watched trashy TV and stayed off my feet.
Tomorrow I as I’m crossing the Hudson River, I will cross the 1400mile mark!
Saturday July 19, Bear Mountain Bridge, 1399.7 to US9 and NY403, 1405.5
I slept a solid 12 hours last night. Didn’t think I could keep breakfast down, so I loaded some snacks in my pockets for when I got hungry.
By 9a I was dropped off at the edge of Bear Mountain Park. I immediately began crossing the Hudson River on the Bear Mountain Bridge.
I walked about 6 miles, slowly, to the Appalachian Deli. I got a huge chicken and bacon pizza, which I planned to nosh on for the rest of the day. Possibly breakfast, too.
But that’s when everything changed. I got an email from Julia saying she would come get me and let me stay in Kathy’s house. Can you say “Trail Angels?”
Now I’m resting, eating healthily food that’s nevertheless seen the inside of a backpack and sleeping as much as my body will let me. Mostly, I’m off my feet, letting them heal. This is just what I need right now. And it will allow me to come back to the trail refreshed and ready to finish.
I may not be the fastest hiker. I may not be able to carry much weight. But boy am I having fun! Last night in Vernon, NJ my fellow hikers and I were the guests of honor at a community dinner at the Methodist church. Tonight, I’ve set up my tent at the Warwick Drive-In Theater. For $6, I can watch any of three screens of movies and spend the night. THIS is livin’!
Wednesday July 16 Murray Cabin 1339.4 to NJ94 Vernon, Episcopal Church Hostel, 1352.9
I spent the entire day here yesterday at the Murray cabin, resting my left foot which has pained me lately Except for the owner, Jim, I saw no one until after I’d crawled into my sleeping bag. Three hikers came in at dusk. A young couple set up a tent, despite the rain. Batman set up on the floor of the cabin with me. I got up just long enough to greet them and point out the facilities and to ask them to put their food bags inside the cabin since bear were in the area. Then I went right back to sleep.
In the morning, the couple slept in, but I had an exceptional conversation with Batman that reminded me to stop worrying. The journey is the thing–not the destination. He’s from Cedar Rapids, but lived in Hawaii last 2 years working at a museum. He’s been out of college 8 years, so that puts him at about 30, but he seems wiser than that. He has old eyes, and I mean that as a compliment. Also, he indicated I was 30 to 35, so that’s pretty special too. I suspect he was being kind. But it’s still nice to hear.
I got a later start but was in Unionville, for breakfast and resupply by 9a. There was a lot of road walking, which is never fun. Finally the trail turned into Wallkill Reserve, a wetland. The trail follows the perimeter on a wide, grassy path. With every step, 50 grasshoppers would jump. It was unnerving, like a biblical plague!
Water is less abundant in the north, but the sources are more creative. At the base of Pochuck Mt is an abandoned house. Its spigot is the water source for the shelter .4miles up the mountain. At Pochuck shelter, I met three retired gentlemen on a day hike. One of them had section hiked the entire AT.
At NJ 94, I got a ride into Vernon, 2.4 miles east of the trail. I needed to resupply since the stop in Unionville had just been a convenience store. The driver took me to the hostel at the Episcopal church. Hikers can sleep in the basement. There’s only 2 cots, but I was the first to arrive and got one of them. There’s lots of space on the floor, though.
I showered and borrowed a huge, oversized, pink, chenille robe. It wasn’t a fashion statement, but it allowed me to wash every item of clothing for a change.
Shortly after, Sprout (I’d met her in Palterton), The Weatherman (it’s gonna be 75 and sunny today) and Mad Jack (newly retired. Usually his wife, Good Vibrations, follows him in the Air Stream, which they now live in).
Hiking is hard, but being on the trail exposes you to things you’d never see, or even know about. There was a Community supper at Methodist church next door. A note had been left inviting us, but the pastor came over and personally made sure we felt welcomed. It was a very nice supper and I really enjoyed the fresh vegetables and salad! The locals asked a lot of questions about the trail and we felt like celebrities! After that, a quick resupply to the A&P, then off to bed.
Thursday July 17 NJ94 Vernon, Episcopal Church Hostel, 1352.9 to Warwick Turnpike, 1358.4
The day didn’t start off so well, but don’t worry. It got better.
I didn’t sleep well. Maybe I just can’t sleep in a real bed anymore? I was up before 6p and went nearby to The Mixing Bowl for breakfast. It’s a darling restaurant in a painted lady style Victorian home. The waitress was wonderful, the coffee good and plentiful, and the cast of local characters kept me laughing. It was a huge amount of food, so I used my toast to make a sandwich out of part of my omelette for later. I paid and walked through the small cemetery back to the hostel. Almost without warning, I threw up my spinach omelette with feta. I thought we were done with this!
So I got my things together and tried to hitch a ride back to the trail. No dice. I had to walk the 2.5 miles back to where I’d left off. Those road miles don’t count and they are hard on sore feet. Finally at the trail by 9a, I began the climb the locals call “The Stairway to Heaven.” It’s a rock climb. And I’m sooooo over rocks. But most are arranged into steps to the top of Wawayanda Mountain. Steep steps for a 1,000ft climb. But it felt so much worse. Leaving every city is a similar climb. This one was pretty steep, but it completely wore me out. I took a couple short breaks, drank lots of water, but it was all I could do to keep going after. At noon, I found a spot to lay out my ground clothe and took a 40 minute nap. That finally helped.
I’d read in my guidebook about the Warwick Drive in theater, but didn’t seriously consider it until a note in the Wawayanda Shelter (1357.9) indicated what fun it was. So when I got to the Warwick Turnpike, I hitched a ride about a mile and a half to the drive in. I took another nap while I waited for the place to open. By 6p the owner, Beth, was there. She told me where I could set up my tent so I could see any of the three screens, then lent me a radio that I could use to tune in to the sound. All this for $6! I can stay the night and they showed me where to get water before I leave. Just before the movies started, they sent over a huge pile of French fries! Did I mention I’m a lucky, lucky girl? Oh, yeah. They have free wifi here too!