Greetings from the Northeast! I’m not sure what exactly is considered the Northeast but I’m north of the Mason Dixon line and East of the Hudson River, so I’m definitely in the Northeast. Getting here was a challenge of course, but it’s been awesome. In order to get out of the South I had to pass a series of challenges or ‘feats of strength’ if you will. Starting with the 4 state challenge, which I crushed. I was moving pretty well all day and the trail through Maryland was good for putting up big miles. Except for the end, the last 7 or 8 miles included a rainstorm, a few good climbs and a very serious downhill. It was a long day, but I’m glad I did it.
The next day I passed the halfway point and the day after that there’s this store that has the “Halfway Half Gallon Challenge.” It’s really just a gimmick to get us to buy ice cream. You don’t get it for free or anything if you finish it. Still I had to do it, I’d been training for this moment my whole life and had 100 percent confidence I could do it. Anyway I got to the store around 8:30 in the morning. I primed my stomach with some pop tarts and a danish and hiked about 5 or 6 miles from my campsite to work up an appetite. I worked on my strategy for days leading up to this event and thought I was being pretty savvy going with Neopolitan(van/choc/straw), this way I wouldn’t get burned out on one flavor. Since a carton of ice cream is only 1.5 quarts you have to drop another 3 bucks on a pint to complete the challenge, and their selection was terrible. I chose peach and it was only ok. This was like the easiest challenge ever. Then I hiked all day.
The real challenge is the state of Pennsylvania. PA is notorious on the AT for being the hardest or the least favorite of all the states. There’s all these super sharp rocks that shred up your sneakers and wreak havoc on your feet. People have come up with clever names like ‘Rocksylvania’ or ‘the Pennsylvania Foot Massage’ and I do not like foot massages. Plus there’s snakes, I saw a huge rattler and a buttload of rat snakes.
Worst of all for me was the allergies I dealt with in PA. I walked through a field of hay or grass or something, got this stuff all over my arms and legs and had a pretty significant allergic reaction. I had hives all over, sore throat, was sneezing like whoa and one of my eyes swelled up all crazy. I felt like Thomas J in ‘My Girl’ ///SPOILER ALERT/// except I didn’t die. I still hiked all day, but then it rained on me, it absolutely poured. It was not my day.
If it wasn’t raining in Pennsylvania, it was hot and humid. I’m not complaining or anything, I still enjoyed myself, but I can see why people aren’t crazy about the place. I blasted through there and got to Delaware Water Gap, a town right on the border of Jersey, a week after I got into the state.
New Jersey and New York have been pretty sweet. It would have been a nice touch if Jersey had speakers on the border playing Bruce Springsteen, or at least Bon Jovi, but they don’t. These states are underrated. They’re tough and slow going with lots of rocky ups and downs but really scenic, much more than I expected. Today I climbed through the lemon squeeze, hiked up bear mountain, through a trail side zoo and over the Hudson River on Bear Mountain Bridge which was quite spectacular. I don’t feel too far removed from civilization though. They call this section the deli run because of its close proximity to towns and restaurants. It’s a good section to stuff your face.
I’ve had some really good trail magic lately. A bunch of people have hooked me up with rides, Luke and Anna May drove me back and forth to WalMart so I could resupply in Port Clinton, PA. In Jersey I caught a ride in a big camper from a bunch of fun dreadlocked kids coming from a festival. I also got a ride back to the trail from a guy named ‘Sidecar’ not to be confused with the awesome Seattle trail angel of the same name.
In New York My friend Jessie drove up from Jersey, took me to Greenwood Lake and fed me a big piece of blue fish that she had just caught. My friend Angelika, a world traveling New Yorker who I met when I first started this hike in Georgia, met me at Harriman state park and took me out to dinner. Sometimes I wonder how I can be so lucky. Really. Things are going great. The trail has been fun, tough but fun. My body is feeling really good, besides the allergies which I’m on the other side of. And it’s been fun to take this on as a physical challenge. It wasn’t really my plan to move this quickly when I started but I’m sort of crushing it and I’m enjoying the pace.