Wild, the movie based on the book about the PCT trek by Sheryl Stray will be hitting theaters in November and then Robert Redford will be releasing his film from the best seller, A Walk In The Woods, by Bill Bryson on his trek through the AT. These films will bring a lot of focus on the joys, dangers and excitement of Thru hiking and I hopethey will fully capture the most important experiences of the trail like making new friends, learning about new lifestyles and traditions, sharing the positives and negatives of the trail with fellow hikers, stepping outside your comfort zone and pushing yourself harder than ever. I think most hikers will agree that the most surprising experience on the trail is the kindness of strangers.
I heard all about “Trail Angels”, those special people who set up tables with food and sodas at trail crossings to feed hungry hikers. Some are folks that have hiked the trail in the past and now want to give back by helping Thru hikers with a ride into town or a ride to resupply. I met my first Trail Angel on a cold March morning near Hawk Mountain Ga, and was treated to hot coffee and bottled water. What you don’t hear about are the Trail Angels that are so generous they will invite you into their home and treat you like family!
I have enjoyed help from friends along the trail, and trust me, when you hike out of the woods and see a familiar face it makes you so happy you will cry tears of joy! I am blessed with friends like Patsy and Terry Jackson who drive all the way from Ohio every six weeks to meet me on the trail, goodie bags from my neighbors in I’On, (thank you all – I miss everyone) and of course my extended family from Charleston, Susan Marlowe, and Carol and David Williams, who are constantly texting me with words of encouragement, send care packages and meet me on the trail with a big hug!
If you stay on the trail long enough you will experience kindness beyond belief. I was fortunate to meet Donna and Guy Kipp in Warwick NY during my hike and they have become great friends. Donna and Guy are teachers at the local school system (Guy is a retired Science Teacher and Donna is still working), and they are very involved in their community.
They treated me to lunch at a local winery then Donna took me to their beautiful little town for my resupply.They invited me to stay at their home and prepared delicious home-cooked meals and introduced me to their friends.They are so gracious and have helped so many hikers over the past few years. I felt so comfortable around them and now consider them friends for life! How wonderful is that?
I didn’t start the trail thinking that I would meet so many people and make friends along the way but the trail has a way of opening up a whole new world of opportunities to experience the kindness of folks around you.If you ever lose your faith in humanity, just hop on the Appalachian Trail and your opinion will change quickly.
Although hiking through Pennsylvania has been a challenge for my feet and knees, the food, history and people have made it enjoyable. The term Pennslyvania Dutch refers to the people of Eastern Pennsylvania of German descent who migrated to the area in the 18th century. Most sought refuge in a colony established by William Penn.
The farm land is beautiful and the people are known for their values such as strong work ethic. I took a zero to rest and avoid a terrible lightning storm at a B&B in Danielsville (The Filbert Inn), and the experience was one of the best of my trip.
The Inn has a country store with a treasure trove of items from the past. The breakfast was amazing, all fresh from Kathy’s home and farm ( Kathy Silfies is the owner), and the grounds were beautiful and well maintained. Kathy picked me up from the trail and handed me a glass of tea before I took my stinky backpack off!
I was also treated to dinner at the local bar, which was amazing!!!!! Kathy and her friends wanted me to try a local dish “Pierogies”, and it was delicious. Pierogies are fried dough filled with mashed potatoes and topped with bacon, onions, and cheese. I learned about other local dishes, liver pudding, scrapple, brain pudding and cabbage & noodles…will try those another time.
The LeHigh Valley is famous for their covered bridges. Some locals say the bridges were covered to resemble barns, making horses less hesitant to enter. We passed through a beautiful covered bridge on our way to dinner and I asked Kathy if we could stop for a picture. As we took pics she said she had never really taken the time to see how beautiful the bridge and the creek under the bridge really were. Sometimes you get so busy with life you miss the important things. Hiking the trail has made me realize that you have to stop, take a breath and enjoy the simple things in life. When I packed my things to head back to the trail, Kathy asked if I would take a pic of her doing The SAYBAK Trail Jump! She had taken a pic of me doing the jump in front of the covered bridge the night before my departure. We had so much fun taking the pics and I walked back on the trail feeling good about making a new friend. Walking the Appalachian Trail is more than just getting from Georgia to Maine, it is about enjoying the journey, meeting new people, trying new things (especially food), exploring new traditions and cultures, visiting historical sites, and meeting interesting people along the way. Life is good on the trail.
He is handsome, strong, muscular and quite the “Ladies Man” on the Appalachian Trail. I fell crazy in love the first time I saw him and I will admit, I even suggested he sleep near me tonight in this shelter because he is so damn cute! His Trail name is Duke. He has hiked the Florida Trail (1100 miles) and now he is thru hiking the AT. I really admire his strength and determination and he has inspired me to keep moving forward. I love you Duke! YOU ARE THE MAN!
Duke and his Thru hiker owner ,Optimist
I met a 29 year old Thru hiker in Maryland and have seen him at campgrounds all through Pennsylvania. His name is Rare Breed and he is from Boston. Rare Breed will be joining the U.S. Marines after his hike to Katahdin and feels that his 40 lb. pack and 6 month hiking experience will prepare him for Marine Corps Bootcamp! During his hike he took the 4 state challenge and by adding a few extra miles set foot in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, all within a 24 hour period! The Challenge is through the entire state of Maryland (just over 40 miles) and is popular with “Young Guns” who are Thru hiking the AT. Rare Breed completed the hike in 21 hours! He carries a license plate on his pack (a Virginia plate that he found on a physically challenging day) for good luck and he will take it to Katahdin. Good luck Rare Breed, I am cheering for you.
Pic of Rare Breed hitting the trail after a night in a shelter