No Room For Elephants

For me, hiking has become an influential exercise in self-determination along with physical and mental toughness. While hiking the Appalachian Trail I have been sharing photos from the trail, blogging my adventures and testing out new product designs for Hyperlite Mountain Gear. I’m privileged to have some of my writing featured on their blog.

We all have a uniquely winding journey to the present point in life. No Room For Elephants; Why I Hike and Keep Hiking was written in an attempt to explain my story.

I hope you enjoy.

My article can be found on the Hyperlite website @

Use code ZBAT15 to save 15% off any Hyperlite pack.

AT Week 7_Massachusetts & Connecticut

Mt. Greylock in the distance.

Arriving back in North Adams after three days of rest and relaxation, I had a nagging feeling of guilt, having spent time away from my long distance mission. The weather had been exceptional over the weekend and the thought of missing great days of fall hiking and southbound progress weighed heavy on me, so I hastily restarted my journey late Monday afternoon. Graciously my mother had shuttled me the three and a half hours back to the trail and we shared a barbeque lunch together in town before I set off hiking.

BBQ chicken sando with Ma
Heading south.

Standing 3500 feet above sea level, Mt. Greylock provided a steep but rewarding climb that first day back on trail. A large building similar to a coastal lighthouse stood atop the peak and offered views in every direction. This was going to be the last big mountain for the next few hundred miles so I took some time at the summit to survey the surrounding area. Pressing on I reached the shelter around 6:45 and made my usual dehydrated dinner accompanied by a giant crusty baguette I had packed out with me from town.

View from Greylock Tower

Eager to make progress and carbo-loaded, up the following morning I set out for what would be my highest mileage day so far. Passing through two towns, Cheshire and Dalton, I stopped at the latter around noon to eat lunch and take advantage of the public showers offered in the community recreation center. Knowing the famous Cookie Lady was closed for the season, I grabbed some Gatorade and snacks at the local Cumby’s before leaving town. After 25.5 miles of moderate hiking, I reached the October Mountain Shelter and was greeted by a group of section hikers who offered me some wine upon my arrival. Graciously I indulged on the fermented grape juice while chatting with them about my southbound east coast adventure and listened to their experiences on the Pacific Crest Trail out west.

Little Red Eft

The next day on my hike I passed a guy walking his dog off leash. We exchanged hellos and went on our separate ways. Further down the trail I noticed what appeared to be another dog off leash aimlessly meandering along. Something about this large dark furry animal gave me pause, so I stopped and watched. I waited as it emerged from around a fallen tree and, to my surprise, it was a large adolescent black bear. Stunned, I reached for my camera to capture the moment but as I slowly unzipped my hip belt pocket the bear looked up and at once darted off into the woods. The brief run-in with nature elevated my heart rate but luckily resulted in no injuries.

Although I continued on unscathed from my bear encounter, my hastened pace eventually caught up to me in the form of foot pain that started to slowly develop throughout the afternoon. I began noticing my left ankle was getting irritated with each progressive step. As I hiked, on the relentless pounding also migrated up my leg causing bothersome shin splints. With a resupply box and heavy overnight rain in the forecast, I pushed through the pain to reach the next town to recoup.

Snack break view

Emerging from the woods into farmland, I was soon swarmed and surrounded by mosquitoes. The few miles leading up to Great Barrington are bordered by massive corn fields and the highly toxic Housatonic River which make a perfect breeding ground for the blood sucking pests. Even at a slight jog the buzzing bastards left me with dozens of itchy bites as I reached the road leading into town. Thumbing my way to the hotel was a pretty quick process and I spent the night eating a plethora of microwaved meals in my quaint motel room, a scene that would have made my overweight younger self very proud.

I had veggies as well
New state happy face
Rockin into CT

While I slept and into the next morning, over two inches of rain soaked the earth and I restarted my hike through puddle filled fields. The warm sun high in the sky heralded me further south and towards the edge of Massachusetts. By late afternoon, wading past the recharged stream in Sages Ravine, a wooden sign announced my arrival in the fifth state on this journey, Connecticut. I stopped for celebratory selfies before continuing up Bear Mountain where a lone rabbit greeted me at the summit. Saying goodbye to my new fluffy friend, I watched the setting sun paint the sky with pink hues and eventually arrived at camp well after dark, aided by the light from my headlamp.

Oh hay there
Chugging along right on track

Water, food and shelter are important when spending many days alone in the woods and that night, after pitching my tent, I retrieved water from the nearby Brassie Brook to start my dinner preparations. As soon as I began to filter my water, two holes burst open causing the majority of the collected liquid to spill out on to the ground. Luckily a fellow hiker at the shelter named Captain Crust offered me chlorine tablets to sterilize the remaining water I had to get through the night. In the morning, I searched to see what stores might have a replacement, but finding none I reached out to social media for advice and then started hiking.

Best gear around

Trail angels came to my rescue when a thoughtful stranger named Bridget responded to my post and we arranged to meet up later that day. With help on the way and little time to get there, I picked up my pace to reach a parking area which was over six miles ahead in under two hours. I arrived around noon and was greeted by Bridget and her friend Janet who drove an hour from their homes in New York just to help out. They brought me an entirely brand new filter kit along with freshly picked apples, and a combination of healthy snacks. I chomped away as we all chatted for close to an hour. While talking to them, I found out that Janet’s son attends college in my hometown back in Maine. I marveled at what a small but generous world we all live in.

Trail Angels save the day

Saying goodbye and after many appreciative thank you-s I marched on another twelve miles to complete the 23 mile day. The combination of a long day and faster than normal pace caused my shin bone and ankle to become swollen again. I awoke the next morning knowing that I had overexerted myself and hiked with an aching limp for the better part of the day. Running low on Advil and seeing a town coming up on the map I decided to make a detour in hopes of finding anti-inflammatories and ice to help quell my pain. The local pizza shop provided me a bag of ice and I laid down in the town park to elevate my leg on a bench for awhile.

This spot hurts

Laying there as my swelling subsided, I met another hiker named Don who was utilizing the warm sun to dry out some wet gear. We struck up a conversation about our thru hiking adventures and he offered to give me a ride back to the trailhead. It was near dinner time and my new friend put on his trail angel wings and suggested we get supper together..his treat. I gladly accepted and we proceeded to munch down some spicy chicken wings and greasy pepperoni pizza. With leftovers in hand, I hiked the remaining mile to the shelter from the trailhead and settled in for the night where I ran into Captain Crust and Mountain Doctor.

Tasty trail magic thanks to Don

Shortly after ten o’clock the next day, I crossed over the state line, saying so long to Connecticut and hello to New York. Entering the sixth state on my journey filled me with joy and added to my sense of accomplishment. It’s hard to describe how good it feels to step over an invisible line that denotes how far you have gone. Each time it adds to my self-confidence and reaffirms my decision to walk away from my normal everyday routine back home and devote a large chunk of life to pursuing a childhood dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Another state in the bag

AT Week 5-6_Vermont my shadow

Having completed the undisputedly  toughest states on the AT (Maine and New Hampshire), I eagerly looked forward to the more gentle terrain of the 12 remaining southern states. After a few days of rest and relaxation in Hanover, I stepped back into the woods on a late Wednesday afternoon with a fully loaded pack ready for new adventures in the Green Mountain State of Vermont.

Just a walk in the woods

Crossing into Vermont, the trail took on an obvious departure from the more familiar long rocky stair-stepping climbs of the previous weeks and transitioned to smoother gradually inclined packed dirt surfaces, ripe with plenty of switchbacks and void of the treacherously slick roots and jagged rocks. Although the terrain was slightly easier, the hiking also targeted different muscles, taxing more of my hamstrings and calves to walk up the ramp-like inclines.

One of many switchbacks

Spending the first two nights camping by myself in empty shelters, it became evident that the bubble of northbound hikers was dwindling, and a new realization that the trail would be a more solitary experience started to sink in. It was an ironically eerie feeling to arrive at the Happy Hill shelter late that Wednesday afternoon without seeing another hiker in passing. As the night wore on, it was clear that I would have the place to myself and, since the weather called for rain storms, I decided to stay in the stacked stone structure reminiscent of an old church or schoolhouse. Sleeping alone in the old stone shelter during a night filled with thunder, lightning, and heavy downpours, I had little sense of comfort with a mind filled by scenes from countless scary movies. But the pitter patter of raindrops on the metal roof slowly but reassuringly lulled me to sleep.

The ground is lava..of sorts

Unscathed, I awoke in the morning to a fully saturated forest floor all around me. The streambed behind the shelter which was bone dry the night before when I arrived was now a flowing path of gushing liquid freshly fallen from the heavens. This new moisture rich earth foreshadowed the soggy and muddy terrain that lie ahead.

Those are some good looking powerlines

Another change was the abundance of fields bisected by the trail. Without many high peaks, a bulk of the views in the state were located atop these cleared pastures randomly speckled throughout the countryside. Popping out of the trees briefly to pass through grassy open areas, I took advantage of the newest form of trail candy I had come across…wild apples. One spot in particular had two inscribed benches where I stopped to indulge in a few tart yet tasty treats while resting for a bit. The inscriptions were a reminder to relax and enjoy while also welcoming each visitor to the green mountain state.

Thanks Johnny Appleseed

The Appalachian trail in Vermont is a dual personality pathway in the woods. Upon reaching Mt Killington, the presence of other hikers greatly increased since the AT and the slightly older Long Trail share roughly 100 miles through the southern part of the state. Even though they carried large backpacks stuffed with gear separating them from the usual day hiker crowd, it was quite easy to discern who was an LT hiker vs an AT hiker. The type of equipment and comfort items brought on trail were the clear giveaways and, as I headed further south, the cleanliness along with the pleasing aromas of fresh laundry helped to set them apart even with my eyes closed.

“The big yellow one is the sun”

Trail magic was limited but fittingly “when it rains it pours”. It worked out one day where my normal mileage got me near Gifford State Park which is a state-run campground close to the base of Killington. Having researched the area, I knew there was an Irish pub close by with live music scheduled for that night. After pitching camp and getting cleaned up, I hitched a ride over to fill up on music, beer and food. At the bar, I sat next to a group of men chatting and laughing in the typical Friday night fashion. Focused on completing my previous blog post, I was glued to my phone when my idle ears eavesdropped on their dialogue and I offered up a quick joke.

The man to my immediate left turned and chuckled and then introduced himself, giving me a curious look up and down in assessment considering my odd choice of attire which was my cleanest and least smelly clothing at the time (long johns with a t-shirt and shorts worn over top).  Explaining that I was hiking the AT he shifted in his barstool, his eyes brightened up, and we then began to talk about life and politics while sharing a few drinks. He was a retired local and avid skier, pointing to his hat signifying that he skied over 100 days last winter and told me of his plans to do the same again this year.

Pass the pepto please

Having the opportunity to indulge on non-dehydrated foods, I quickly ordered loaded nachos, a burger with fries, and homemade bread pudding a la mode, all washed down with some cold local brews. After a few hours of pleasant conversation, it was bill time and my new companion Denny graciously offered to cover my check, which I hesitantly accepted knowing how much I had just eaten. He gave me his number with the invitation to call when I was finished hiking to join him by hitting the slopes once the snow flies.

View from Mt. Killington

After reaching the rocky summit of Killington the following morning, the trail began to resemble the phrase I had heard used many times before to describe this state. Vermud. Increasingly for the next few days, I encountered some of the slowest moving and annoyingly muddy sections of hiking I have yet to navigate. My pace was stuttered, having to tip toe around massive puddles of watery dirt and mud seemingly everywhere I went. Eventually I perfected a technique of using my trekking poles to form a human bridge over the ponds of muck while gingerly walking around the outer edge of the muddy pools scattered at my feet.

Vermud at its finest

On day eight of nine in Vermont, the weather was warm and dry as I made good time hiking with a fellow SOBO’er and Mainer I joined up with named Pete. We spent a couple hours together chatting and hopping from dry spot to dry spot. He was getting a ride into town that afternoon and we parted ways near a parking lot. No sooner did I start uphill again when the winds intensified and the sky darkened. We had been hearing thunder off in the distance earlier but now it was right on top of me.

Pausing to put on my poncho, I attempted to wait out the storm as it passed but, after 20 minutes of heavy rain, I decided to march on and finish the remaining 3.5 miles to reach the spot I had planned to camp for the night. Each step was carefully calculated so as to not get my shoes wet, knowing I still had another long day before getting off trail to clean up and resupply. It started raining around 3:30 and by 5:30 I hadn’t yet reached my destination. With the sudden deluge of rain, the trail transitioned into a fast-flowing river, at which point I gave up on keeping my feet dry as the daylight slowly vanished. Trudging through ankle deep water, I finally reached camp around 6:30, fully soaked and quite aggravated. 

Should have brought my kayak

It continued to rain all night and I awoke to pools of water everywhere. The stream I slept next to was raging and the trail was even more of a river than the evening before. Begrudgingly I got dressed by climbing into my cold wet clothing, slapping on my soggy shoes and setting out to wrap up this water-logged state. With knowledge of an upcoming three day vacation from the trail raising my spirits, I abandoned all concerns about my footwear and splashed straight through the middle of every mud puddle I came across while loudly bitching to myself about the lack of proper trail maintenance that led to this situation.

“Two roads diverged in a wood..”

As I crested a small hill, a sign fell into view marking the end of the Long Trail and the entrance into Massachusetts. Quite fittingly the thirty or so feet separating the two signs consisted again of ankle deep mud water, which I sarcastically stomped in like a delighted child after a rain storm. My frustration was quelled with the satisfaction of finishing another state and (as the YouTuber Darwin onthetrail always says) the experience of embracing the suck. I continued a few miles further on to the town of North Adams to meet up with Hannah where she and I ate dinner before heading home to Maine to attend a weekend music festival put on by one of my favorite bands, Skyfoot.

Peace out VT

Each state so far has contained new challenges that make for memorable experiences which set each apart from the other. Nine long days on trail allowed me to conquer Vermont and taught me some good lessons in determination and solidarity that I carried with me into the next state on my southward journey, Massachusetts.

AT Week 4-5_New Hampshire

Everyone said the Whites would be hard and slow hiking but, in just 10 days, I had walked from one edge of New Hampshire to the other, feeling better than ever. Having spent countless hours over the past year checking off high peaks from my NH48 list, I had a sense of comfort and familiarity with this region.

One happy hiker

After celebrating my morning exit from Maine last Friday, it was fitting to next summit Mt. Success. I had thrown myself through the ringer navigating the 282 miles across my home state. My mind was so focused each day on pushing past the suck and racking up mileage that, once in NH, I had to take some time with a map to chart out my course and arrange the next resupply locations.

Later on that night, I was joined by my girlfriend Hannah at the Rattle River Shelter where we shopped for supplies at the nearest Walmart and later dined at the local pub. My hiker hunger and gentle charm sparked the bartender to wager a food challenge that I easily won. She clearly underestimated how much of a bottomless pit my stomach has become. Tasked with finishing the entire chicken prosciutto pizza and lamb burger with fries I ordered for my dinner and also eating a big slice of homemade strawberry cake with all the fixings without assistance, I easily won us free beers and dessert. It was quite literally a piece of cake 😉

Trail Angel Hannah near Mt. Moriah summit

The following morning, Hannah accompanied me on the trek up to Mt. Moriah. On top of the 4000 footer’s summit we ate lunch, tried feeding the numerous Gray Jays that greeted us, and then said our goodbyes as I continued on south down the AT. I then summited three more 4000 footers that day before setting up camp at a tentsite near the Carter Notch hut. 

Realizing that within a few days I would be hitting the Presidential Range including Mt. Washington, my excitement and anxiety levels grew. I had wanted to hike the entire presi-traverse in one day since camping anywhere above treeline along the 15-mile stretch is strictly prohibited and confined only to very pricey mountain huts. Having hiked this section on an eleven-hour day hike last fall, I was aware of the challenge ahead of me.

“If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

The next day, after bagging two more 4000 footers (the Wildcats), I stopped at the Pinkham Notch center to recharge my electronics and fill up on some thru-hiker discounted but still heaping full bowls of chili served with fresh wheat bread. While digesting my second helping, I checked the weather, packed up, and then left for the Osgood tentsite. The following day’s forecast called for strong afternoon thunderstorms which complicated my plans for a one-day trek across the Presidential Range. I decided to chance it and left camp at 5:45 the next morning in hopes of ducking for cover in the Mt Washington visitor center while the worst of the storm past overhead.

Sunrise view from Mt. Madison

Hiking up Madison, I caught a brief glimpse of a late sunrise before being engulfed in blowing mist (what I have termed “slow-rain”). After taking a painful slip, I slowed my pace to stay upright and on two feet. Stopping only for a quick coffee break at the Madison hut, I stepped out and back into the soggy chilly air to venture southward since time was of the essence.

Great views

In the last mile to Washington, two loaded Cog Railroad cars passed by just as the rain began to intensify. In the low visibility, I pinballed up the mountain from cairn to cairn finally reaching the summit around 11 o’clock to take refuge from the weather. Feasting on cafeteria pizza, chips and soda, I dried off as best I could when I noticed a couple stroll in who I had passed earlier. Noticing they were dripping wet from head to toe, I gave a head nod of acknowledgement as one of them said, “Looks like you missed the hail.!?” Patting myself on the back for my predawn start, I packed up and headed back out into the howling fog. I arrived at the Nauman tentsite a few hours later in high spirits. Completing my traverse right as the clouds broke I laid out my gear in the sun to dry and munched on some fruit snacks with a smile on my face.

The sun and goldenrod at Mitzpah Hut

Even with this section behind me, I still had ten 4000 footers to summit before leaving New Hampshire. Next up was a gorgeous and sunny trek to Mt Zealand, stopping at Thoreau Falls for a scenic break and spending some time in the Zealand Notch chatting with a local day hiker. The next day tackling South Twin, Garfield, Lafayette, Lincoln and Liberty was a breeze, albeit more of a gusty cold wind than a breeze 😉 . As luck would have it, the internet plus trail magic landed me a free and calorie filled ride into town for a much needed resupply.

Thoreau Falls

Knowing I had five more days before reaching the western edge of New Hampshire, I spent the night at the Notch Hostel to clean up and pig out. Given the lack of shuttle options and my economic efficiency (I’m cheap) I decided to take a loaner bike into town. Six pedaled miles later I returned to my place of lodging with food in hand and a nagging concern. I wondered if, since I had the energy to ride a bike after a day spent hiking 17 miles, maybe I have some weird form of restless leg syndrome? I never did get around to checking WebMD on that…oh well.

I’m getting closer to some MAGIC

Trail Angels were in abundance the following days. I was joined by my good friend Kris and her son Ronin at the summit of Mt. Moosilauke on Friday for some snacks, trail talk and of course laughter. Then on Saturday, my Aunt’s family met me at a road crossing for a huge bacon cheeseburger lunch that I polished off with chocolate milk, beer and hard boiled eggs. Leaving feeling stuffed, I hiked south together with my aunt and uncle for awhile. Sharing my time on the trail with people I know and love adds a layer of support that helps me get through the harder days when it is just me and the miles ahead.

Steep climb up the Cascades on Moosilauke

Moosilauke marks the end of the White Mountains and the shift in terrain was noticeable to say the least. Wider less mountainous trail combined with soft forest floor meant the next two days were more easily accomplished than anything from the month prior. So by Monday morning around 11am, I leisurely waltzed through downtown Hanover with pep in my step, smiling brightly back at the curious and confused faces of the crowds enjoying their Labor Day holiday along Main Street because I knew that just down the block I would be entering the third state on my southbound AT hike.

The taste of success..and granite.

Stepping over an imaginary invisible line dividing the two New England neighbors felt amazing. Suspended high above the river, a polished granite plaque signified the end of one state and beginning of another. I had proven to myself that I can “walk the walk” as the saying goes. Joy filled my being as once again Hannah’s cheerful gaze caught my eye. With celebratory photos and sweaty hugs out of the way, we proceeded to enjoy the rest of our day together in Hanover. I zeroed the next day to sight-see and recoup before heading out on the trail to take on Vermont.

AT Week 3_Southern Maine

Navigating the notoriously difficult southern Maine section of the Appalachian Trail proved to be a slow but steady challenge this week. Wet, rocky and rooty footing coupled with soggy misty days made for more tedious terrain to travel.

Cautiously advancing through the muddy miles, I still racked up plenty of scrapes and bruises. One morning after slipping and falling I rose to collect myself and immediately was stung by a bee. “Great!” Slowing my pace improved my confidence but didnt prevent further scuffs and dings. Gravity plus mud make for a constant struggle to stay vertical.

Dryness adds to the overall comfort we feel when starting a morning (or anytime for that matter). Climbing into damp, cold sweat-soured clothing first thing is not a pleasant task and something I have not yet gotten used to. Knowing that your day will be spent hiking in wet shoes can suck the motivation out of you quickly but the trail beckons and I am here to answer the call.

The falls on the way up to Old Speck

Mid-way through the week the weather turned drier as the heat returned again. Even though there wasn’t rain from the sky, my excess sweat precipitation still managed to leave me dripping wet from head to toe. My shoes in particular took a smelly beating as the perspired droplets trickled down my torso and legs, funneling nicely into my trail runners. I was quite pleased to swap them out for a new pair when my mom met me for a resupply at Grafton Notch and brought a local favorite (George’s Italians) for some trail magic lunch.

Well fed, cleaned up and laundered, I restarted my hike that evening at 5:30 heading up to Speck Pond campsite. Driving to the trailhead from town and noticing the dashboard thermometer reading of 83 degrees, I quickly dreaded the thought of a late evening hike up a 4000 footer. Taking my time, I gingerly climbed the 4.6 miles. As I rose in elevation, the sun dropped behind the mountain while a cooling breeze eased my concerns and dried my sweat covered brow. Reaching the summit as the sunset, I was rewarded with beautiful sky colors and strolled into the campsite after dark, guided by the light of my headlamp.

The next morning’s hike through the infamous Mahoosuc Notch, “the most difficult mile of the AT”, actually was a fun experience. At times it was akin to bouldering at a rock gym. Trekking poles tucked away in my bag, I was hoisting myself up and over pickup truck sized rocks. Points where I had to remove my pack and required a fellow hiker Gandalf to help pass my bag through an opening no larger than a manhole cover and down into a crevice in order to proceed further along the trail.

Although the air was hot and humid that day, the shape and position of the notch in relation to the sun means that the water running underneath your feet remains ice cold all year. Fog was actually rising from the rocky ground and blasts of cold air made for a refreshing reprieve from the normal summer heat. The sensation felt like driving with the AC on but with the windows down on a hot day.

Camping at Carlo Col that night, I rested easy knowing that I was a half mile from the New Hampshire border. The Southern Maine section lived up to its reputation as a tough part of the trail leaving many more miles to still explore.

AT Week 2_Rangeley to Monson

Finding time to sit and write has been a challenge. This past week was filled with high mileage days broken up by town visits to gorge on calories. Because you know, “Treat Yourself!”

Only 2000 miles remaining

After my first week hiking through the 100 Mile Wilderness, I stepped on to the scale at Shaw’s Hiker Hostel in Monson and was shocked to see I had lost 12 pounds. That night I ate anything I could get my hands on to help replenish my body. Many how-to guides I read before this trip warned of men in particular losing large amounts of body weight when doing long distance thru hiking like the AT.

Until now my experience on trail is best described as a passionate day hiker. I was used to only having a protein shake and coffee in the morning during a drive to the trailhead, snacking lightly at the summit, and then stopping at the closest Mickey D’s on the return trip home as a reward for the days effort. But this routine hasn’t served me well on the trail.

Morning views

Like the cars we drive, each day I have to remember that I am a machine of sorts and require water to keep from overheating and also need fuel in the tank to reach the next destination. Lacking a dashboard filled with gauges and warning lights, I’m slowly becoming attuned to the signs of dehydration and the feeling of “zonk”. There were a few times after a long hot day to reach camp when, leaning over to setup my tent, I almost passed out due to low blood sugar and lack of water.

Establishing a new cycle of water and snack breaks has helped to increase my daily mileage and prevented nights rolling into camp completely wiped. With this new regimen, I hiked the roughly 110 miles from Monson to Rangeley in six days, spending two nights in hostels to reload on calories.

The Hiker Burger

Caloric deficits and a supercharged metabolism are no match for mere pub food…trust me. My new “hiker hunger” was put to the test in Caratunk at the Kennebec River Pub where I ate a salad, an order of fried pickles, and a 2lb double bacon cheeseburger, and then had room for Ben and Jerry’s later at the inn. I slept like a baby that night.

With the New Hampshire border fast approaching, I am eager to enter the Granite State and bid farewell to my homeland of Maine. New skills in hand and a growing appetite for more, I keep on my course heading south to Georgia.

AT Week 1_Katahdin to Monson

This week was a lesson in patience and listening to my body.

I started strong the first four days on trail, averaging 18 miles a day through some hot and humid Maine weather, but sleeping on the ground is taking some practice and has led to waking up not fully recovered.

My screaming quads finally forced a double zero to allow for rest and repair but provided a learning experience to take it slow and allow my body to recuperate. Passing by dozens of NOBOs who all were battle hardened from months of thru-hiking, my excitement kept building for the miles that lay ahead of me and led to overworking my muscles before gaining my full “trail legs”.

Laying in the shade on one of the hottest days so far by the shore of East Chairback Pond I read, napped, and soaked in the healing beauty of the 100 Mile Wilderness. The remoteness and isolation allow for a clearer mindset where the daily essentials of life fall into finer detail. When the only requirements are food, water and shelter, minor outside stresses become petty, bringing the task of survival to the top of the list.

Reminding myself that a zero day…or two was not an admission of failure but more an acceptance of the new life I have chosen for the next few months brought me a calm that has helped to ease the tension of rushing through this grand adventure.

Asking a million questions of the friendly hikers that I encounter, I am steadily gaining the knowledge needed to keep a positive mental attitude and the skills to bring my pace up.

Poet and Hippie Chick, proprietors of the Shaws Hiker Hostel in Monson, are the most welcoming and insightful people I have met on trail. Getting a proper gear shakedown to lighten the load I will be carrying, having family style meals including moose burgers and lobsters, all while bumping elbows with and soaking in as many tips as possible from all the accomplished guest hikers I have met here – 40 Ounce, Ben, Newton, Raisin, Ragnar, Hagrid, Blacklight, Time Keeper, Feather, Ketchup, David, and Picnic Basket – plus countless others whose names I am forgetting here.

Hyperlite How-To Article

Hyperlite Mountain Gear makes some of the best hiking gear on the market and they are headquartered in my home town of Biddeford Maine. I will be contributing to their blog during my SOBO AT hike and providing feedback on some new prototypes they have been working on.

Use code ZBAT15 to save 15% off any of their excellent backpacks while supporting a small local Maine company. I highly recommend the Windrider 3400 which is the pack I am currently using on the AT but they make something for just about any hiker or outdoor explorer.

Well Hello

I am glad you made it because I have some things I really wanted to show you.

Soon I will embark on my southbound Appalachian Trail thru hike (SOBO AT) starting at the top of Mt Katahdin in Baxter State Park. A lot of steps and turns have lead to this junction and I plan to put my best foot forward while sharing the experience with you.

Quitting a secure job to live out of a backpack in the woods was a major life decision that came with many restless nights but the endless sense of wonder for a pilgrimage along the Appalachian Trail has been with me since childhood. I hiked with my family as a kid but it was through my twenties when I steady gained more drive to get out and summit the mountains of Maine.

A typical day hiker, my passion for the higher summits accelerated last summer during pandemic shutdowns of 2020. With most social events cancelled and normal activities stifled I decided to get outdoors by hiking the Maine 4000 footers. That goal only took a month and a half to complete so I then turned my sights on the New Hampshire 4000 footers.

Through the winter and spring as the list dwindled down the dream of the AT began taking over. As summer grew near I knew my only option for this year was to hike southbound.  The Appalachian Trail Conservancy states that, “ Extremely difficult terrain to start. A southbounder or “SOBO” begins with the hardest part of the Trail first. Unlike starting in other more moderate sections of the Trail, you do not have a chance to get your trail legs under you before hitting the steepest mountains.”

Unsure if my body was ready for the heavy weight of a pack and extended miles needed to finish a thru hike I began to hike with my large overnight bag loaded with everything needed to survive in the woods. These hikes averaged from 17 miles carrying 27 lbs on my back but even with one day spent hiking through 5 hours of rain I kept wanting more.

Maynard James Keenan, the lead singer of the band TOOL, penned the lyrics that have stuck with me and continue be a driving mantra, “Spiral out, Keep going!” I believe in pushing yourself to learn and grow because that is what makes this life worth living.

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