New problem: hot temperatures mean a lot more sweating and therefore stinky and stiff clothes and since it hadn't rained since Virginia, until the other day, our bodies are getting coated in layers of dirt. Solution: getting creative...showers and laundry by way of garden hoses and streams. Some of the shelters we've stayed at lately have had showers and some of the towns have allowed free camping in the town parks. Since they are free that usually means no hot water or if we're really lucky, solar hot water or access to a garden hose. But since we're coming through so early in the season most of these places don't have the hot water set up yet...luckily it's been in the 80's lately so a little cold water is actually very refreshing.
We've received some amazing trail magic recently! For those unfamiliar with the term, there are trail angels and trail magic. Trail magic is where someone leaves food, water, etc or does hikers a big favor such as a ride. Trail angels are people who in some way provide trail magic to hikers. We would like to give a huge thank you to Kathleen and Brian in Pawling, NY. The Lions Club in Pawling allows hikers to camp for free at the town park which is where we met Kathleen and Brian. After chatting with them for a while and accepting some water and a couple snacks they left the park. About 30 minutes later they drove back with a cooler full of ice cold gatorade, water, and more snacks. This completely made our day and their generosity was amazing. Thank you so much!
We also received some great trail magic today. We stayed at Jess' Treat hostel in Sheffield, MA last night which is run by a lady who opens up her home for hikers to stay. This morning she offered to drive us in to town for free, a drive she usually charges people for. We were expecting to have to make a 4+ mile road walk this morning (walking on pavement with heavy packs is not ideal) so the drive in was very appreciated!
A few pictures to finish out Pennsylvania:
Duncan sleeping at the laundromat in Wind Gap.
Trying to stay warm after all the sleeping bags and clothes had already been packed away.
An awesome boardwalk that was almost 1 mile long made for some very easy and enjoyable walking! We saw a bunch of turtles all sitting on a log.
I think this picture speaks for itself.
Hiking through New Jersey and New York it was very easy to become lazy. There were so many towns and deli's and bars right next to the trail. While it was great to be able to hop off the trail and grab a sandwich or a beer and hop back on, it made it very difficult to stay focused on the trail.
Duncan gets a free ride in to town.
While hiking through New York we mistakenly chose a very challenging section to try to do a huge day. The majority of the trail so far is up along ridges since this isn't good for farming or developing in any significant way, it was the cheapest place put the trail when park services started moving it off roads and private property. But in New York the trail doesn't travel along the tops of the ridges. It goes straight up and straight down the other side, and most of these ridges are made of solid rock so it feels like you are doing more rock climbing than hiking. Climbing straight up the rocks was a very slow and exhausting process. One section even required the use of a ladder.
The real roller coaster of the AT is not in Virginia but in New York. So after that exhausting day we decided we had earned ourselves a day of relaxing by the lake. Lesson learned: New York state parks are very serious about their no swimming without a lifeguard rule. While talking with the park rangers about how we had not followed stated rules we decided it best to not mention that we are both certified lifeguards and high-tailed it out of there and back to the trail.
The view from the shelter we stayed at that night. In the distance, past the Hudson River is the New York City skyline. Just barely though, you can't see it in any of our photos.
Near the end of New York we passed by a volunteer trail crew doing some serious renovations. By using a pulley system they are able to move rocks as big as one ton. Currently the trail goes straight up the hill and is getting wider and wider as people try to find an easier way up/down. When their renovations are complete it will include some very nice switch backs and steps which will make this section so much easier to use.
The trail goes right through the middle of a zoo! Its not the nicest zoo around. fortunately they have a philosophy of not keeping any animals that can survive in the wild. All of their animals are rescued.
There are a couple different challenges that hikers can do along the AT, the four state challenge and the Connecticut challenge. The four state challenge involves hiking from Virginia through West Virginia, Maryland, and into Pennsylvania. Ian was very excited to try this but by the time we got to the end of Virginia we were not ready and then Ian had to fly back to Seattle for a funeral. So when we got close to Connecticut Ian was very excited for the challenge of hiking through all of Connecticut in one day. I was quite a bit more apprehensive about the idea. For a long time I had been pretty scared of the idea of hiking for so long, I didn't think I could do it. Ian pointed out though that after hiking all day, every day for the last three months we are in the best shape we will ever be in. So we have the muscles to do it, the question was did we have the mental stamina to. After a lot of thought and planning we decided to go for it.
We gave ourselves 36 hours and planned to hike through the night. We took a break for a couple hours to avoid being stuck in one of the biggest thunderstorms I have seen in a long time and later took a short nap. The stars throughout the night were amazing and the trail cooperated by mellowing down on the rocks and crazy hills. By the end of 36 hours we had hiked 54.7 miles. We did it! When we finally reached the Massachusetts border we were hopping up and down in excitement.