Where are they now? Some updates and some closure…

March 13th came and went with the idea that I was going to come back to this space and finish what I started, at least here, on this blog… but that didn’t happen, neither did Katahdin. Funny how life happens.

March 13th marks one year that I officially started my AT journey and one year later, I am realizing more and more that the journey didn’t stop when I left the trail in Lincoln, NH last August, only 200 something miles from “completing my dream.” My journey is still in full swing and in some ways more beautiful and magnificent than I could have ever imagined. But it took a little while to get to this point.

Leaving the trail. Not finishing. “Giving up.” “Failing.” It has hung over me as a dark cloud for a while now. I can’t pretend that I wasn’t extremely disappointed in myself when I did not finish the trail and I won’t pretend that I was anything but pissed of… at the trail, at myself, at life for not going my way. I don’t say this for any kind of sympathy, more to validate those feelings because they were real and worthy of experience and mention. I have an assumption that many folks who attempt the trail and don’t finish have a lot of shame, guilt, and frustration but it is what you do with those feelings that counts…

For a while, I just brushed those feelings off. I didn’t deal with them. I was sick and tired and hurt and my defenses were down. I just started moving on with life, because that is all you can do. And then life just took over… life happened and my journey started up… and in a way it felt better than ever…

I got a new job. A perfect job… at least for me during this time. It was a job working with people and kids that I was familiar with and passionate about. With a flexible schedule, a great purpose, and still a taste of adventure.

I moved to a new place. A beautiful place. With land and trails and animals. It is a new setting but speckled with familiar pieces of a life I have loved before, surrounded by water and mountains, and wonderful people. And my Millie… I have my dog back and she is perfect.

And then I fell in love. A deep love. A love that has shaken me up and re-energized my heart. I have never been in love before and I have to say it has been one of my most exciting, yet comfortable  and rewarding adventures.

All of these things probably wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t hike the trail and the sure wouldn’t have happened if I got off the trail at the exact time I did. Not only that, but I wonder if  I would have been ready for those things if I didn’t take the time to attempt my dream adventure of the AT… or even known I had wanted them.

Hiking the trail turned out to be almost exactly the opposite of everything I thought it would be… I thought I would finish and feel this overwhelming sense of achievement, instead, for the first time in my life… I truly felt what it feels to fail. Failure sounds like such a dirty word with such a negative connotation. I know it might be many people’s instinct to want to respond to this blog post saying how I shouldn’t look at my time as a failure, and of course, I don’t as a whole. But the fact is, I failed at my goal of doing a thru-hike. And I want to make that an okay thing to say, because truth is, I am proud of my failure, because that means I attempted something really hard. I took a risk. I tried. And although I didn’t make it,  I am empowered by the thought that I followed my dreams, I didn’t succeed, and I am still okay. Actually, better than okay. I am happier than I have ever been in my life.

In honor of my Hufflepuff trail name…

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”― J.K. Rowling

I hope inspiring thru-hikers read this blog post and know that you might not finish your hike, for whatever reason… you might fail. And that is just as okay as succeeding. It may not feel as good and I will tell you it will be really hard for a while, but in truth, I think I probably got more out of not finishing my thru-hike as I would have if I had that golden photo of me at Katahdin.

So don’t let it scare you. Do it anyway. And to others who have failed…at your hike or maybe anything else that you attempted whether it be a relationship, a job, a crazy adventure… be proud of your failure. Let it empower you, mold you, teach you, and expand you.

Most of the lessons I learn from my hike are so sacred that I hold them close to me… not necessarily wanting to share them with others, because they might not quite understand them anyway. I will continue to learn and reflect from the trail. And some day… maybe years from now with friends or my partner or maybe my own children strapped to my back, I will finish my hike. And when I do, I believe it will be the exact right time for that to happen and I will be so very happy.

Until then, I am closing out on my trail journey … but my life journey is just taking shape and I have to say… I am really excited.

And for anyone who will just miss my mad blogging skills, no need to fear! Here is my newest blogging adventure: http://makingitinmidcoast.wordpress.com (I know it is true love with my new guy, because he is willing to blog to me! Doesn’t the saying go, “Those who blog together…”)

So thanks for coming along for this adventure. It truly was extraordinary…

Healing and Feeling…

Well, I have been “home” for almost 12 days now.  I only put quotes around home because I really don’t have one. Of course my parents house will always be my home and Westbrook, Maine is indeed my childhood hometown. I just really miss feeling like I have a home of my own. For the last four months the AT has been my home and as much as I really don’t want to admit to myself, I miss it. In truth, I didn’t think I would. I thought, maybe this is just the universe giving me a way out… an easy reason to leave. But now that I don’t really have a choice (my doctor is refering me to a hematologist because he can’t understand why my body will not absorb iron and my hemagloblin levels will not increase) I kind of want to be back there. I think more than that, I just want to have a direction. I have never been one who is good at sitting around. One of my friends said to me, well… maybe that is the lesson… maybe you are suppose to experience what it is like to just be. To not have control and just feel what that is like. Well, for 12 days I have been feeling it, and I don’t like it. Amongst all that loss of control is a bunch of other emotions that can cause a person to feel a little overwhelmed and crazy…

Within a days time I can feel any number of these emtions: failure, shame, relief, guilt, hope, grief, acceptance, jealousy, anger, joy, fear, and regret. It’s exhausting and yet so very unproductive much of the time.

At least with the trail, there was a purpose. The purpose was to walk north. To get to Kathadin. And now that purpose has been postponed and I really don’t like that. I know my purpose now is to get healthy and feel better but that is not as easy as it sounds. The first week  home I pretty much slept. I had a couple of outings to see my grandparents and go get a meal with my family but I was never really out of the house for more than two hours. My mouth sores were awful so I wasn’t up for eatting more than apple sauce, soup, oatmeal, and yogurt. Really anything that couldn’t be sucked down with a straw caused me great pain which sucks for a person who loves food as much as I do! This past Friday I was feeling a little more energized so I went to the DMV to get my license renewed and then dealt with getting my car inspected. That would give any healthy person a headache so it really sent me over the edge. I went to my Mom’s camp for this past weekend but ended up leaving early because my rash had spread all over my body and was driving me nuts and I just wanted to go soak in an oatmeal bath. I slept most of yesterday and today I ran some errands in the morning but then got a really bad headache this afternoon and laid down for a few hours. So reality is… I am still feeling pretty crappy. Not all the time, but enough of the time that I am constantly annoyed. I am ready to be better. I have had my fill of experiencing the whole “no control” mumbo-jumbo and now I want back into the driver’s seat.

BUT… that’s not the way life works. So I am continuing to go day by day and focus on what I can control. LIKE seeing my dog. I had been struggling about when and if I would get my precious little baby dog, Millie. I have said all along that I wouldn’t say goodbye to Millie twice so I had sworn that I would not see her until I summited Katahdin. BUT after a week of being home and realizing that I might be home for longer than I originally anticipated I decided that I was really just making myself suffer for no good reason and that I was ready to get my girl, no matter if I went back to the trail or not. So, I made plans with my bestest friends on Monhegan and I will go and get her on Wednesday. I will stay on island for a few days before coming back for my doctor’s appointment at the end of next week. It will be good for me to go to Monhegan. I know it will take a lot out of me energy wise and I am nervous about having to talk to everyone about the trail and what my plans are, because at this point, I still have no plans. And I am a girl who likes plans. But so far I have only been greeted by love, support, and understanding so I can only imagine that is what I will experience on Monhegan as well.

I will be glad to have a change of scenery and to be able to escape to the backside with my beautiful puppy and just enjoy the ocean air. It will probably be the best medicine. As much as I have been feeling yucky physcially lately I can really see how this can all take a toll on my mentally if I am not careful. Without hiking or working or even having my dog I wake up in the morning and lay in bed thinking about how I literally have no reason that I have to get up. That’s okay at this point, because I am trying to heal and get strong but I can’t let that be the case for long. I NEED purpose. I crave it. One thing I struggled with on the trail is that I never felt like I was contributing to something bigger than just myself. I missed being apart of something bigger… something collaborative. A classroom or a community or even just a family. I look forward to that type of purpose in the near future… hopefully sooner rather than later.

But until then I will contine keeping myself occupied with lots of phone calls to friends, visits with my parents and grandparents, and re-reading Harry Potter (I have almost finished the first three books since I have been home! My friend Donna calls re-reading Harry Potter “comfort food without the calories!’) I will count down the hours until I am reunited with my puppy and enjoy my time going “home” to Monhegan for a bit. I will remain hopeful but also realistic. I will enjoy the day to day and try my hardest to only worry about that I can control. I will look for the lessons (I haven’t been doing a great job of that lately) and I will trust the universe.

Next time you hear from me I hope to have a big, furry, cuddley, perfect baby by myself. Millie… here I come.

A Hiccup in plans – and hopefully a lesson… or two.

First of all, I am really sorry. I am sorry that I haven not posted for so long and left everyone a bit in the dark. It is unfair to do to such an amazing support system! I should have at least had the decency to post: I am not dead. No need to worry. But for some reason I could not come to this space period, which is silly since I have only found love, support and acceptance from you all for every decision I have made and during every challenge I have faced.

Well… I got myself a challenge.

Rewind to 10 days ago…

I was in Lincoln, NH where I got off trail to meet my beautiful friend Betsey for a little R&R before taking on the last leg of the Whites. Then my Dad ended up surprising me in Lincoln and coming up. I was overwhelming upset by his visit (not his fault… this is just what had been happening A LOT lately). I was just so emotional and weepy and seeing him just got me all off kilter (well, I thought that is what got me off kilter.) During his visit I started feeling kind of out of it. Headachey and just exhausted. The morning he left I decided to take another day off just by myself to try and pull myself back together and get some rest since I was just feeling exhausted and sick. I started feeling like I had the flu with all the normal symptoms… achy, fever, fatigued, chills, and very dizzy. I made myself get sick thinking if I just got it all out of me I would feel better. Well, that was a no go. I just started feeling worse and worse.

On the third zero day it got real bad. My headaches were the worse I have ever experienced. I could have the TV or lights on. They were piercing pains shooting through my head and I barely had the energy to get out of bed. That afternoon I knew I needed to get to a doctor so I called a local Medical Center in Lincoln and they got me in (thank you Universe.) The doctor there was great and looked me all over and drew some blood. She put me on some antibiotics just incase I had an infection or lyme and told me to stay put until they got the blood work back (hopefully the following day).

I knew I wasn’t quite right since I cried through the doctors visit, at the pharmacy, and during the shuttle ride home. I just couldn’t see straight my head hurt so bad and I wanted to know what the heck was going on. So back to the lovely Echno Lodge I went. That was a bad night.

The next day I still woke up feeling awful but I was hopeful to hear back from the doctors to see what the lab results were from my blood work. I waited and waited, in the dark yucky motel room, feeling worse and worse. The doctor never called and as much as I kept thinking that things would just get better they didn’t. That night I asked my mom to come get me the next day. She was there by 10am the following morning.

On the drive back to Maine (Kancamangus Highway + dizziness and extreme headaches = loooong drive) I got a call from the doctor in Lincoln. She got my blood work back and I was suffering from severe anemia. My hemoglobin level was half of what it should be and I needed to get my irons up and strong before I could start feeling better.

Okay. Anemia. I can handle anemia. I will be back on the trail in a few day. Just get me some damn iron.

So we got iron supplements and I got back home and had pretty instantly decided I was getting better.  I think I was just happy to be home because the next day I didn’t feel better at all, actually I was starting to feel a little worse.  I broke out with a bunch of sores in my mouth (apparently a sign on anemia) and a weird skin rash (yep, you guessed it… anemia.) What a dumb illness.

So, the last week has included a lot of sleeping, laying, eating anything with iron that doesn’t hurt my mouth sores, and a whole lot of pity parties. I have gone out of the house to see my grandparents and to the grocery store, both of which were then followed up with a two – three hour nap. I kept saying to myself, if I can’t walk the perimeter of Hannaford’s, how am I going to summit Mt. Washington? But I have been just taking it day by day and waiting to get in with my own doctor to figure out what I can do to get better, faster. I called my doctor’s office every day to see if he has any cancelations so I could get in and that leads us to today…

I got an appointment.

I was so happy. I just really wanted to see my own doctor. He has hiked much of Maine and New Hampshire, so I was hopeful he would be able to a.) help me figure out what was going on with my body and b.) give me a honest idea of when I would be able to get back on trail.

It was a bit of a frustrating visit just because it just kind of confirmed everything I already sort of knew. I was severely anemic. I needed to get better before I started pushing my body the way I was going to be pushing it come the White and Maine. Getting better was going to take some time. AND there were a lot of questions about my anemia we needed to figure out. (Lots of back story here, but my anemia is most likely chronic since I have the same low levels as I did four years ago, blah, blah, blah… yada, yada, yada.)

When I asked him what he thought was a realistic timeline for getting back on trail he told me, “Well, your not going anywhere for two weeks since we have a lot of tests to do and I will need to see you again. And realistically you won’t be at your optimal health for at least four to six weeks.”

What does optimal health mean, really?! I mean what AT thru-hiker hiker is really in optimal health when they get to the Whites anyway? But I didn’t ask this question. I just kind of sulked in my chair and then shuffled myself down to the lab where I had ten vials of blood drawn… gross.

So that’s where we are at. And I wish I could say I know what that means for me. Two more weeks puts me at the end of August. I have at least a month of trail left, which brings me to the end of October. That’s saying if I can get back in two weeks. If not I am really pushing it weather wise. I am just trying to be realistic about all that is happening and remember that throughout this entire trip I have always said that I would do what is best for my body whatever that meant for my hike. So, that’s where I am at with it all right now. There are no decisions really made because at this point there are none to be made. However, the reality is there. I may not be finishing this hike the way I originally thought. But, I am starting to see some major lessons and opportunities that are presenting themselves that make me feel like this was all apart of the plan. Maybe.

I am going to just focus on feeling better and getting my strength, and also, my joy back. I have been feeling so yucky for so long in so many ways. I don’t want to feel that anymore. (That means… I need to get my dog.)

In the meantime, I will try to update at least the last week of hiking on trail that got me two Lincoln, NH (there were some great days in there before things started heading south… figuratively south… I was still technically going north. duh.) and I will be better about filling you all in on my progress and all those damn, friggin lessons I am learning.

Thank you for your love and support. And please, no sympathy… I have been giving myself PLENTY of that and I am on overload. This isn’t the end of the world, or my hike… it’s just what is.

Day 140 – Moose Mountain Shelter to Smart Mountain Campsite

I slept a little late but got up and dressed quickly since it was pretty chilly out the next morning. I beat Bear Bell and Funny Bone out of camp but I knew I would see them later on in the day.

20130805-105010.jpg

20130805-105123.jpg

I began a rather easy morning with a flat hike and then a quick descent off of Moose Mountain.

A little trail update for y’all.

20130805-105145.jpg

20130805-105201.jpg

After my climb down Moose Mountain it was time to climb up Holts Ledge. It was a more difficult climb than I thought it was going to be and I took a lot of breaks. There was an older woman who was just day hiking and had passed me when I had stopped for a morning snack. She was sweet and we chatted a bit before she moved on by. She told me that I would pass her in a bit since she hikes “slow.” After I had my snack I hiked on and I did catch up to her but I just trailed behind a few hundred feet down mountain and was happy to stop and catch my breath when she did. Damn this climbing takes a lot of work.

20130805-105134.jpg

Happy heart rock! My favorite!

20130805-105218.jpg

20130805-105232.jpg

A little after eleven I made it to the top of Holt’s Ledge. Now it was time to go down! The view was pretty but I knew I was going to get better views later in the day so I didn’t stop to enjoy it too long.

20130805-105247.jpg

20130805-105302.jpg

20130805-105321.jpg

I hiked down the mountain and enjoyed the gorgeous light that was peaking through the trees. I love out it creates such a speckle-y pattern on the ground as you walk. I call it forest tie-dye. I was going to stop at the shelter at the base of the mountain for lunch but if was a ways off trail so I decided to hike a little further and aren’t I glad I did…

20130805-105543.jpg

I came across this sign from Billy Ackerly’s house. Bill, better known as the “Ice Cream Man”, opens his home to hikers to stop and rest and have some free ice cream!

20130805-105853.jpg

20130805-105642.jpg

20130805-105754.jpg

20130805-105827.jpg

I was VERY sad to say that when I arrived Bill wasn’t home but there was a note to help yourself to the ice cream bars in the freezer on the back porch and to enjoy the front porch and water hose. I sat and ate ice cream and had some lunch while reading the hiker log and the cute little book someone made about Bill the Ice Cream Man! He has been helping hikers for almost nine years! I was really sad I didn’t get to meet him.  As I was leaving Bill’s I ran into Bear Bell and Funny Bone. They were going to go get there ice cream and then we were all going to meet at the next summit of Smart Mountain. I figured I would probably camp at the summit but the guys were thinking they were going to push on. I figured we would all just see how hard the climb was and go from there.

20130805-105958.jpg

After leaving Bill’s I passed this marker on the trail. This meant that the following day I would be under 400 miles! Wow. So crazy.

20130806-113636.jpg

20130806-113656.jpg

Around 2pm I made it to the base of Smart Mountain and began the LOOOOONG climb to the top. It was a 2,000ft climb drawn out over four miles, which shouldn’t seem that awful, but it was. Awful.

20130806-113714.jpg

At least the views were nice. Part of the problem was there were a lot of “false summits” which is when the mountain levels out and you THINK you have maybe made it to the top, or at least CLOSE to the top… but really you are not even a little bit close.

20130806-113733.jpg

For instance, after climbing for over an hour and a half I got to a level area were I thought I was almost at the summit and then I looked across the valley and realized THAT mountain over there was the ACTUAL summit. Neato. Better get truckin.

20130806-113842.jpg

20130806-113857.jpg

20130806-113909.jpg

The last mile was the hardest. It felt like you were going STRAIGHT up and some of the time, I was. I liked the built in stairs and bars, but damn was I exhausted when I reached the top. I knew I was staying put for the night, no matter what Bear Bell and Funny Bone decided to do.

20130806-113929.jpg

There was a shelter at the summit and it was kind of cool because it was all enclosed which would have made for nice warm sleeping but it was pretty disgusting inside (lots of trash and remnants of rodent life!) I decided I better find a camp site.

20130806-113943.jpg

But before I step up camp I wanted to be sure to go enjoy my reward for hauling my butt up this big mountain!

20130806-113956.jpg

20130806-114028.jpg

20130806-114102.jpg

20130806-114120.jpg

20130806-114143.jpg

AWESOME VIEWS!

20130806-114156.jpg

The Whites are COMING! It was so daunting and exciting to look at all the huge mountains I would be climbing in a very short matter of time.

After enjoying the views for a bit I found a super SWEET camp site with a fire pit overlooking the valley below. I figured it was my turn to start the fire tonight and I wanted to try and get it going before Bear Bell and Funny Bone showed up to entice them to stay and camp with me.

It took awhile… but…

20130806-114214.jpg

Success! My first fire I built ALL BY MYSELF on the AT! Go Hufflepuff!

20130806-114305.jpg

When the guys finally arrived I knew they were going to be staying put. They were just as beat as I was from that climb!

20130806-114318.jpg

It was a picture perfect camp site! I mean really.

20130806-114333.jpg

I made a big dinner of spaghetti and meat sauce  and enjoyed wearing my new camp shoes that I had gotten with my mom in Vermont. They are water-sneakers which I got thinking would be good for fording the rivers coming up in Maine but they also gave me a little more support for walking around camp at night. No more hiking in my flip-flops!

20130806-121143.jpg

20130806-121204.jpg

20130806-121232.jpg

20130806-121248.jpg

20130806-121312.jpg

After dinner I headed back to the fire tower with the guys to watch the changing light. It was just so beautiful up there. But I realized how cold it was getting and new I was in for a chilly night! Good thing I got my sleeping bag back!

20130806-121328.jpg

Bear Bell set up his tent and we settled in to watch the sunset.

20130806-121338.jpg

20130806-121358.jpg

20130806-121411.jpg

It was gorgeous.

20130806-121438.jpg

I kept the fire going for a good three hours. I was VERY impressed with myself! It was a nearly perfect day in the land of AT. Gorgeous weather, spectacular views, and free ice cream! Plus I was stoked to have hiking company once again! I put on an extra layer of clothing that night to stay warm and boy was I glad I did, because it was a chilly evening!

Day 139 – Hanover, NH to Moose Mountain Shelter

20130805-103919.jpg

20130805-103936.jpg

I slept pretty well at Jim and Elaine’s although I was still feeling a wee bit off. I figured I was still just suffering from my birthday hangover. I was treated to one of Jim’s famous breakfasts before laying down for a bit longer while I waited for my package to be delivered in Hanover! (I love the internet and how you can track packages from the comfort of a bed!) Once I saw that my package had arrived it was time to head back to New Hampshire!

20130805-103951.jpg

Here is Elaine and I before she brought me back to the trail. My time with her and Jim was short but lovely. One of the best parts is that she is so much like my friend Tobey (well, they are twins so that would make sense) and it was just so comforting to be around someone who reminded me so much of my home on Monhegan! Oh, my heart aches for that island somedays.

Thank you Elaine and Jim for a great visit! I hope to see you both again soon!

20130805-104006.jpg

Elaine dropped me in Hanover and I crossed the AT marker in the middle of town on the way to the Post Office. Only 421 miles left!

20130805-104019.jpg

20130805-104035.jpg

I stopped at the Post Office and picked up my package from Jennifer. She sent me my sleeping bag back since I have only been using a sheet and sleeping bag liner since Connecticut and the nights are getting colder. She also sent some DELICIOUS brownies. I devoured one while sipping on my last town ice coffee for a while.

I walked through the rest of town (Hanover is the longer road walk on the AT… almost TWO miles of walking on real roads. So fun!) Right before I headed back into the woods I stopped at the local Co-op to grab a few last items for my resupply. Outside of the store I met Bear Bell and Funny Bone who were both thru-hiking and getting back on trail today after a zero in Hanover. I sat with them and re-organized my food and gear for a bit before heading off. They were planning on heading to the same shelter that night so I knew I would be seeing them up the trail and was exciting at the prospect of making new friends.

But my excitement faded quickly as I began my hike for the  day.  I was only planning on hiking about 12 miles and from the looks of it the terrain would be fairly easy but from the first incline out of town my body seemed to be totally against the idea of hiking. It was warm out and I was just moving slower than molasses and I could feel my energy draining out of me quickly. I climbed for a little over an hour and ended up just kind of collapsing onto a big flat rock for a rest. I took out my phone to check messages and saw a picture of Millie that my friends had sent me from Monhegan. I am not sure what came over me but I just started balling. I was just so tired.  Tired of goodbyes and bugs and heat and this emotional roller coaster that is called the AT. I cried for a while and wondered if I should maybe head back into Hanover and figure out what to do. I felt like crap and was pretty content in drowning myself in my own sorrows… and then I heard it… whistling.

It was Bear Bell and Funny Bone. I quickly wiped away the tears and sat up just as they finished their climb up and over towards my rock. They stopped and chatted awhile and complained about the heat and how much tougher the climb out of town was than they suspected. Funny Bone decided to start moving forward but Bear Bell stood and talked with me some more. I was kind of annoyed since I was throwing a big ol’ pity party for myself and I only had an invite for one. But the longer Bear Bell talked the more I realized that he was not going anywhere until I got off my ass and started hiking with him. So I got up and we hiked.

We hiked all day together. It was awesome. I actually forgot I was hiking and I just got to enjoy someone’s company. Bear Bell is from France. He has lived in the states for the last six years and is heading back to France this winter but he wanted to have one last adventure here, and what could be better that an adventure on the AT, right!? He was fun and interesting to talk to and it was just so refreshing to have a hiking partner, even for a day!

20130805-104139.jpg

We continued to meet up with Funny Bone for much of the day. We all hiked through a bit of a rain storm together and then the bugs came out and we booked it to the shelter. There was a big climb at the end of the day which made me fall behind but I had a big smile on my face when I got to the top to see Bear Bell waiting for me.  We hiked the last mile together to the shelter before settling in for the night.

20130805-104206.jpg

20130805-104336.jpg

20130805-104359.jpg

20130805-104431.jpg

When we all got to the shelter we decided to tent. Funny Bone headed to bed right away but Bear Bell and I decided to make a fire and hang out for a bit. Both of us admitted that we hadn’t built fires yet on the AT! So we decided to give it our best effort. Really, Bear Bell did most of the work and I was put in charge of getting us water which was a task in of itself since the only water source was this murky, pathetic stream that you had to slip and slide your way down to in order to find a spot that was wide enough to fill up any bottles. By the time I got back the fire preparation was well under way! Bear Bell did a fabulous job building his first fire and he was very persistent even with wet wood that he had to work with! It was a fun night and as I laid in my tent that evening smelling like campfire I thanked the universe for sending Bear Bell my way that day. If it weren’t for him I may have still be crying on that damn flat rock!

(Cathcing up.) Day 138 – Goodbye Mama and Hello New Hampshire!

It was an early last morning with my mom at our Vermont home away from home.

20130805-085206.jpg

We wanted to leave Donna’s beautiful home in just as nice of condition as we found it so we followed the list and checked it twice and were out of there and heading back to the trail.

20130805-085225.jpg

But not without one last hug to my favorite house in Vermont. Donna, we can’t thank you enough for allowing us to make your home my birthday get away for the week! It was so comfy and peaceful and relaxing! Much better than any hotel we could imagine!

Of course it was raining and drizzly and foggy that morning kind of like my head. I don’t know if you could tell by now but I really, really dislike saying goodbye to my parents after they visit and this time was no different. The only good thing I had going for me on this day is that I was heading towards New Hampshire which felt amazing! My second to last state! Wow! Unfortunately with that excitement came some fear and anxiety around the type of difficult terrain… But day by day. Mountain by mountain I was going to do it.

20130805-085242.jpg

Around mid-day the rain had stopped and I reached West Hartford, VT which had a great little general store right on the trail. I always love that.

20130805-085321.jpg

20130805-085455.jpg

I walked right through town and past some trail magic. A woman who was “assisting” her husband on his thru-hike was giving out soda and cookies from the back of her car, right as I was heading back into the woods.

The trail was nice that afternoon with just a slight incline. The path was wide and soft and it made for a pleasant afternoon of hiking which was nice since I was missing my mom  and still feeling a little under the weather. At least the trail was enjoyable!

20130805-085536.jpg

I stopped at the “Happy Hill” Shelter for a late lunch which was a fun little shelter to hang out for a bit.

20130805-085645.jpg

I found some remnants of a coconut bra at the shelter. The best part is I am pretty sure that I know who they belong to… my friends Salad Days and Risscuit! I sure wish I could catch them.

The rest of the afternoon went by quickly as I zoomed downhill and into the super cute town of Norwich, Vermont…

20130805-090348.jpg

20130805-090406.jpg

20130805-090429.jpg

I found even MORE trail magic along the road in Norwich. I couple of section hikers live right along the AT and put out a cooler of watermelon and bagels in front of their home for hikers to stop and enjoy! So nice! I ate some watermelon quickly so I could make my way to….

20130805-090544.jpg

wait for it…

20130805-090556.jpg

20130805-090606.jpg

NEW HAMPSHIRE! YEEEEHAW!

20130805-090616.jpg

Here I am straddling the Vermont/New Hampshire  line. It felt kind of surreal. New Hampshire. Wow. I walked here. From Georgia.

That’s just nuts.

Once I crossed over into New Hampshire I called Tobey’s sister, Elaine to let her know I had arrived and we made plans for where to meet! I grabbed an ice chai and walked around Hanover a little bit before hanging out on a bench for a while before Elaine arrived with a big smile, hug, and a cooler full of drinks and snacks. What a lady!

20130805-090638.jpg

She called it my “welcome BACK to Vermont” care package! Elaine and her husband Jim live in Vermont, actually right down the road from where I was staying with my mom for the last few days. It was funny to finally cross over into New Hampshire and then drive back to Vermont for the night after hiking all day in the opposite direction! BUT I was so excited to stay with Elaine and Jim. They had invited me to stay with them over a year ago when I met them on Monhegan and now I was actually THERE! Crazy.

20130805-090648.jpg

20130805-090658.jpg

20130805-090627.jpg

And boy did they spoil me! We had delicious snacks and dinner. I got all showered and clean and slept in, yet another, big comfy bed! Some day I would have to sleep in the woods again… but not on this night!

Day 137 – My toe hurts. I don’t wanna hike.

My toe was still throbbing in the morning. And it was big and red and swollen. Obviously I could not hike. Let’s be real honest. I had no real interest in hiking. I had one last day with my mom and I was going to spend it with her. Plus I still had some errands to run. We had breakfast and I blogged a bit in the morning before heading into town for lunch and one last visit to the outfitters.

IMG_2047

Mom let me drive… illegally… since my license had actually expired the day before on my birthday! It was my first time driving in over FOUR months. It felt awesome. Do you know how FAST you can go when you drive. I think I have the wrong idea with all this hiking business.

IMG_2048 IMG_2049

We headed to Panera for lunch. It is our favorite place. Panera twice in ONE week on the trail… such an amazing birthday week. Then it was off to the outfitters where I got some new water/camp shoes. While I was trying on shoes the salesman commented on my swollen toe. “Hunny, that looks infected.” Oh shit. Infected, of course. I thought it was just swollen from stubbing it but after shoving it in my boot the day before I think it was getting a little worse… I planned on hydrogen peroxide-ing the CRAP out of it when we got home.

After the outfitters we went to a yarn shop for mom and then headed back to Donna’s for one last night. What an AMAZING gift Donna gave us to spend this time at her home. It was nice to have a home-base and to just be able to be together with lots of comfort and space.

IMG_2050

I spent the evening blogging, snacking and playing with the BEST PRESENT I HAVE EVER GOTTEN! Of course one of the first orders of business was to update my background photo. Now I get to have my beautiful baby in my lap every night before I got to bed. I love my ipad. I love my ipad. I love my ipad.

IMG_2060

You know what I also love? My MOM! What a great four nights with the best mama in the world. It’s not the easiest job in the world, being my mom… but she does it well and I am SO lucky that she came all this way to spend my birthday with me and she worked so hard to make it so special. We were both feeling pretty anxious that night. Knowing that saying goodbye was going to suck the next morning… but the sooner we said goodbye the sooner we would see each other again.

I stayed up way too late blogging and packing and just pacing around the house and when I finally put myself to bed I STILL couldn’t sleep.

Here are some late-night thoughts before trying one last time to sleep. My final leg of this journey starts tomorrow. Here’s hoping the best is yet to come. Even though I have NO idea how I could ever top this birthday week I just had.

Day 136- First Day Slack Packing! Oh yeah!

I was still in a bit of a birthday coma when I woke up the next day but I got up and ready because I knew it was my first day SLACK-PACKING. I was pretty excited… however the night before I had stubbed my toe pretty bad and it was hurting a lot… but I figured that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have my mama slack-pack me so I would just shove my swollen toe in my boot and go (not the best idea I have ever had… you think I would have gotten smarter with age.)

Mom got me back on the trail that morning. She was not too pumped to be dropping me off in the woods and to be honest I was feeling kind of crummy still (head and tummy ache) and I really just wanted to hang out with her all day… but miles are miles and I just wanted to bust some out with a lighter load on my back.

It was cloudy and foggy and misty with no great views planned for the day… so really it was just about getting it done as quickly as I could (another not so great idea since I kept ramming my toe into rocks and roots because I was going too fast, which made it hurt more.)

Here’s my update from the morning. You might tell I was limping a little bit… ouch. Just keep moving, just keep moving. Sorry for all the rambling… I was really bored.

IMG_2037

I passed a lot of little off trails to views that I just passed by because it rainy and cloudy and I just wanted to be done.

IMG_2040

IMG_2042

Here are some exciting views of the trail. Wow. I was really bored. BUT here’s a little lesson… when you see two blazes on top of one another that means the trail is turning! I personally just wanted to trail to be done for the day.

Oh dear lord. This is kind of ridiculous… but this is how I entertained myself on a day of slack-packing. Classic. I guess we all now really know why I am still single.

Mom picked me up that afternoon and I was done. My toe was throbbing, my headache was in full force and I felt yucky.  I was glad to have the slack-packing experience but between the crummy weather and boring terrain and just wanting to be with my mom while she was actually in the same state as me I was totally over it. She brought me back to Donna’s where I promptly fell asleep and she went out and got us pizza.

IMG_2046

When I woke up we had dinner and watched a movie and I declared that I was NOT slack-packing the next day. That made me feel a lot better. Why rush to Maine when your Mom is right here!?

Day 135 – It’s my BIRTHDAY!

When I woke up the next morning I think I was still a little discombobulated. Did that all really just happen!? Then I turned over to look at my night stand and saw my beautiful little mini and knew that it REALLY DID! OMG. And now it was ACTUALLY my birthday and I got to celebrate ALL day with my mama! Holy moly guacamole… it doesn’t get much better than this!

IMG_1982

IMG_1983

The day started with a scrumptious breakfast that my mom made me with all local Vermont deliciousness. AND mimosa. YEAH!

IMG_1981

THEN I had all these amazing presies to open from other people who were sent with my mom! Talk about spoiled rotten! Thank you, thank you, thank you all you amazing, thoughtful people!

IMG_1985

One of the most THOUGHTFUL gifts came from my pals Cassie and Brandie who put together an entire care-package for me. And what blew my mind… they sent a HUGE bag of mini-eggs (my favorite candy in the whole-wide world!) Cassie remembered me talking about how I added these candies to my trail mix before I even LEFT for the AT so she went out and bought the biggest bag and saved it this entire time. I totally would have broken into this stash by now. What a wonderful friend.

IMG_1986

After breakfast it was time to conquer my box of cards… I was going to need a lot of mimosa for this. I could feel the tears already coming. Wow.

I spent over an hour… reading, laughing crying, ooo-ing, and ahh-ing at every amazing, funny, touching, creative, thoughtful card. The words, the drawings, the stories, the photos, the little special gifts. It just blew me away. I really couldn’t BELIEVE all the different people who sent cards… some from my best friends, some from the different island kids and teachers, some from people I haven’t seen for years, some from people I have never even met! For real. Was this really happening!? To me!?

IMG_1988

I laid out all the cards, one by one, as I read them and mom took pictures… this is her first attempt. Have I mentioned how much I love her and her technological abilities. She is hilarious.

IMG_1989

IMG_1993

Here we go.. now we are talking.

IMG_2024

I opened over 70 cards that morning! 70 BIRTHDAY CARDS! Who gets to do that!? It was so amazing. Those cards are something I will cherish for my entire life and that hour of opening them will be a memory I will take with me for a long, long time. On a birthday when I feel physically so far away from so many people I love… emotionally I feel so close. Thank you all for making that happen.

Here is a little tour of some of the cards…

IMG_2008

The card from Moe and Arlene that made me burst into tears!

IMG_2010

Lots of original designs and faces of people and dogs that I adore.

IMG_2011

A nose kiss and piece of puppy hair from Millie’s little sister. Classic.

IMG_2012

Kid’s cards are always my favorite 🙂

IMG_2013

Speaking of kids, I LOVE that my two favorite students of all time still make me home-made cards for my birthday!

IMG_2014

More super cute cards, original cards.

IMG_2015

Photos. I love photos.

IMG_2016

The card that made me laugh the hardest. Inside joke. But still hilarious.

IMG_2017

Original, beautiful drawings just for me! I have such talented people in my life.

IMG_2019

More amazing cards. Oh my goodness.

IMG_2021

And some very special teeth from my very special leo sister.

IMG_2023

28 never looked better!

After I look at my cards… again, and again. I worked up an appetite and it was time to head intown for lunch.

IMG_2028

 IMG_2030

IMG_2031

Another birthday tradition… FRIENDLY’S. Not that I have gone there too much for my birthday… but when you want a whole lot of ice cream Friendly’s is the place to go for the biggest, baddest, most disgustingly-over-the-top sundaes on the planet and that is what this birthday girl wanted. We ate and I sported my NEW Outer Islands TLC t-shirt!

IMG_2029

And my beautiful new hummingbird necklace!

We took a trip to the outfitters where I checked out shoes and sleeping bags but then all of a sudden I hit a birthday wall. I am not sure if it was my old age or just alllllllll the excitement or the huge-ass sundae I shoved in my tummy but I started feeling a little under the weather and really exhausted.

We headed back to the house where I took a birthday nap. Made birthday phone calls and of course…

IMG_2032

Played with my new baby! The first thing I put on my Ipad was the first Harry Potter book! I have been wanting to re-read the series but the books are a little bit too big to carry with me on the trail… NOT ANYMORE!

IMG_2033

We planned on going out for another fancy dinner but I was just so tired and still feeling like I was in birthday coma so I had the best runner-up to fancy birthday dinner… cereal, my favorite cereal… my Grampa Jack’s favorite cereal too. It was delicious and perfect.

IMG_2034

I finished the night with some facetimes with some of my favorite people. I also got a SURPRISE facetime from some of the youngest Hitchcock clan and had happy birthday sung to me by the cutest little 4(?) year-old I know! It was a low-key evening after and NON-STOP overwhelming and exciting and surprising day. As exhausticated as I was I knew that 28 was going to be a fabulous year because it sure did start off with a bang.

Have I said thank you? Have I told you that you are all amazing!? That every card  and gift and call and message and contribution to my ipad means MORE than you could ever, ever know!? Well, if I have not said it enough, let me just say it one last time… thank you all from the bottom of my heart for making this birthday SO amazing! I have A LOT of thank-you cards to write… but first I got to get to Katahdin.

Day 134 – Cooper Lodge Shelter to Killington, VT (Birthday Eve with my Mama!)

It was raining again when I woke up and I was pretty happy staying dry and warm in my sleeping bag but it was my BIRTHDAY EVE so as much as I wanted to just fall back asleep for a while I got up at 6am to get packed up in the rain and make my way towards Killington where my favorite Mama in the world was meeting me to whisk me away for some birthday celebrations!

After about an hour or so hiking the rain let up and just turned into drizzle as I made my way down Killington. Here’s my little update for all you dying to know.

IMG_1947

I passed by Pico Peak, which would have given a great view if it wasn’t so foggy… so I decided to just pass it by. I hope to hike this section again someday… I sure loved Killington and I bet Pico would be just as fabulous! But seeing this sign reminded me, yet again, how glad I was that little miss Millie is not with me on thus hike! She and porcupines would not do well together!

I hiked my ten miles in the drizzle and got to the road crossing for Killington a little before noon. There was a deli a half mile down the road so I decided to head there since it would be an easier place for my mom to meet me!

IMG_1951

I got some coffee and waited for my Mama in the rain… at least I had a nice picnic table to chill out at!

IMG_1952

Just about a half an hour later my Mama drove into the parking lot and just like that we were reunited again! Nothing quite compares to the visits I have gotten from my parents on this trip. It is so comforting to have them come meet me. I never knew I was such a Mama and Daddy’s girl… but I totally am and I am now much more okay admitting it. I have the best parents in the world and I was SO excited to have my mom come for my birthday! It was going to be AWESOME!

IMG_1953

I got in the car and had fresh blueberry cake waiting for me from Aunt Judy! Yes! Let the non-stop birthday eating begin!

IMG_1954

IMG_1955

We stopped at Woodstock Market for provisions before heading to Sharon where we would be staying for the next four nights! A lot of people recommended this little Farmers Market for all kinds of good, local Vermont food. Mom spent as much as she would spend on a week’s worth of groceries back home and all we got was some snacks for the next few days! But they were REALLY GOOD SNACKS!

IMG_1956

We drove about 45 minutes to Sharon where the amazing Donna Isaac’s was allowing us to stay in her house while she was traveling for the week! Talk about a beautiful home. We were SO excited and happy to have such a wonderful, comfortable space to spend our time together in! What a gift Donna gave this mother/daughter duo!

IMG_1957

We unpacked and got settled in. I made fun of my mom’s packing ability. This is what she brought for four nights in VT. She would not do well packing for the AT!

IMG_1958

Mom got settled in nicely and began her marathon knitting adventures. It is nice to have a mama who is so good at entertaining herself and is content just hanging out. Takes the pressure of me a bit!

IMG_1962

I made us some fresh guacamole to snack on before we headed out to our fancy birthday eve dinner. While we were snacking a series of events occurred that lead me to kind of figure out a certain surprise that was going to occur for my birthday. It is CRAZY that I figured it out because I totally, seriously, 100% was NOT expecting it at all… but my mom was so nervous and exciting that I could tell she wanted to give me the surprise that night and she told me that she needed to video me, which could only mean one thing… that the Hitchcocks were totally involved. Once I thought I knew what was happening my mom decided it was time to go to dinner even though at this point I just started FREAKING out because I wanted to find out what my birthday surprise was…

So we headed to dinner and I made this pre-video as I was TWEAKING out because I thought I knew what the surprise was. I was literally having heart palpitations! I was SO excited. I couldn’t believe I had to go eat an entire dinner and talk about other things when really all I wanted to do was go home and open my BIRTHDAY SURPRISE!

IMG_1966

IMG_1967

IMG_1968

IMG_1969

Thank goodness it was a delicious dinner! Mom had fresh tomato soup and some decadent meatloaf and I had beet perogies with goat cheese and pesto and a yummy chicken with wilted greens and fancy sauce (I was too excited to even pay attention to what I ordered!)

IMG_1970

Dessert was banana cheese cake… oh.my.yes.please.good.

I was jittering all the way home and when we got inside Mom just sat down and started knitting like we were going to settle in for the night! HELL NO! There was no way I was going to be able to sleep NOW! Mom was worried because she had promised to not give me my surprise until by birthday BUT we figured that my birthday eve was close enough and neither of us could wait any longer.


Like I said before… Mom was supposed to video me opening the gift… this was the video she took. HILARIOUS. After all of that… we even flubbed up the video of me opening my birthday surprise! (WARNING: THERE IS A LITTLE BIT OF CUSSING IN THIS VIDEO!)

But we did another video. I am just a blubbering IDIOT during most of it. I was/am beyond overwhelmed and shocked. I admit that somehow I figured out that it was an Ipad but I had NO idea how many people were involved in the process!

IMG_1977

I mean, look at this list! Barbara and Mom have been   communicating and planning and emailing about this for over a month. Barbara and Pam collected money on Monhegan and Mom sent facebook messages to tons of people online. The thought, time, effort, and thoughtfulness that went into this gift is so amazing. I really can’t believe it.

 IMG_1976

IMG_1974

I really, still can’t believe it. I mean, do I LOOK excited… because I was/am! After I opened THIS surprise mom had one more thing to show me. I was not allowed to open them until the morning, but she brought out an ENTIRE BOX of birthday cars that she and Barbara had collected from SO many of my friends and family! That just blew me away. The first thing I saw in the box was a VERY special card from one of my favorite people on this planet, Mr. Moe-berman from Monhegan. For the last five years Moe had made me a superb drawing for my birthday (he is an extremely talented artist and cartoonist!) and when I saw my newest card for my birthday collection I just began to cry. I didn’t deserve all this! Why am I so lucky!? This was turning out to be the best and most memorable birthday I have ever, ever had. Wow. It still makes me all emotional just typing about it!

IMG_1978

I am actually really glad my mom spilled the beans that night because I was in such shock that night that I couldn’t even play with it! I ended up facetiming Barbara to thank her and just tell her the whole story and then I realized I hadn’t even turned it on yet! I was just SO overwhelmed!

After I regrouped a little, I brought my mini to bed and just kind of stared at it. I did take a video! Oh man. This is seriously, 100% the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me. I am still tweaking out.