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RIGGIN' THE AT

I was seven years old when I went on my first overnight backpacking trip with my Dad on the West Rim Trail in north central Pennsylvania. It was great! I jumped in all the puddles, walked too close to the edge for my Dad’s comfort, got my first tick, tracked mud in the tent, and generally had a grand adventure I could tell all the neighborhood kids about. We continued to go on a trip or two a year as I grew up and while they got more difficult, I always had a great sense of satisfaction upon the completion of a journey and joy in facing down the wild and the elements with a backpack and a hiking stick. One of my favorite memories was a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park with my uncle and cousin from Colorado. We had a close bear encounter, were caught in a lightning storm above treeline, I fell into an ice cold lake, and had my first encounter with real altitude. However the best part of that trip was quoting Bear Grylls nonstop with my cousin George. 

A special trail to me was the Loyalsock Trail near Williamsport, Pa. I had been on day hikes and an overnighter on this trail before when I was very young and I was in awe that anyone could walk 60 miles in a row. I was so impressed that when I was nine or ten, I made it a goal of mine to hike the trail someday. As I get older, I got more involved with wrestling and work. I didn’t go on as many backpacking trips. I still enjoyed fishing, hiking, and messing around in the woods but I was too busy in the summers with work and too tired from wrestling in the winter to do any longer hikes. I continued wrestling my freshman year at Messiah College, where I was pursuing an engineering degree. This was a really hard year for me, it was a very big jump from high school wrestling to a top ten division college program. The starter at my weight ended up being the National Champion that year, and I was his primary training partner, so it was a very humbling experience. I learned a lot from him and my other teammates about what it takes to be elite and achieve your goals. This experience was invaluable. Unfortunately, my grades suffered that year. I had a 1.9 GPA and was very close to flunking out of the engineering program if I didn’t get my act together.

I made the decision to quit wrestling so I could better focus on my studies and I achieved the grades necessary to get into the civil engineering program after my sophomore year. I missed having a physical challenge in my life and I lived with other wrestlers so when I watched them come home dog tired from practices and tournaments, I felt like I had left something on the table. If I had had their dedication and focus, I knew I could still be wrestling and it ate me up. I knew that I didn’t want to feel like this again. These feelings were part of the reason I decided to hike the Loyalsock trail after my junior year of college. I found the challenge of a hard hike gave my a little bit of what I was missing from wrestling and I thought it would be a great idea to achieve a goal I have had for a while. I hiked the trail in 4.5 days and when I reached the sign at the end of it, I knew longer hikes were in store. Me and my friend from high school made it our goal to hike the entire Appalachian Trail when he graduated from college. The time couldn’t come fast enough. I was very bored at my engineering job and I craved adventure. I would go on as many weekend trips as I could but a combination of being bored, beer, fast food and general inactivity led to me gaining a good deal of weight. It was something that crept up on me and then all of the sudden was out of control. I knew I needed to get hiking to get my life back in line. 

While waiting to hike I did A LOT of research on the Appalachian Trail. I perused Reddit, Youtube, TheTrek.co, and other blogs and books. It was the only thing I could do to keep from going crazy. In my research I stumbled across a youtube video of Backcountry Banter sewing a synthetic quilt (basically backpacking sleeping bag.) I had read about this before but the way he presented the process in his video seemed simple enough that I could do it.  I asked my mom to teach me how to thread the needle and sew a straight line and I was off on my first project, I made a quilt that was too short and looked VERY home made. But it was warm, cozy, and light. I was hooked. I made underquilts for hammocks, a lot more top quilts for friends and family, rain mitts, backpacks, rain coats, rain pants, a puffy jacket and a snow skirt, gators, fanny packs, wallets, and other projects I can’t remember now. I had a lot of fun making useful items out of raw materials and it was a thrill when they actually worked. My sewing was very sloppy and rushed then but it was just because I was always very excited about my projects. These projects were really good for me because they gave me something to do while I waited to start the trail, my mind was so ready to be out there. 

My body wasn’t. I weighed around 210 pounds on our first day of the trail January 1st. I had been steadily gaining weight since I quit wrestling and then in April 2018 I quit chewing tobacco. This was a great decision for me but one of the side effects of nicotine withdrawal is weight gain.  I replaced packing a lip with the wendy’s dollar menu and it showed. I felt crappy and tired a lot and I knew I couldn’t live like this. Luckily I had my goal of hiking the trail or I might still be in that rut. 

I wanted my hike to be unique and I had read about people tackling the trail in the winter and that sounded like a real challenge. I practiced my cold weather camping alot in the years and months leading up to the trail so I felt confident that I could hack it. I learned lots of lessons through these trial winter trips and without them I would have had a much harder time. So the Start date of January 1st was selected and I got prepared to be cold wet and miserable for a while. It would be worth it to have the trail to ourselves and the views unobstructed by leaves.


There were a lot of well meaning people who told me I was crazy to be hiking so early in the year, that it would be dangerous, miserable, lonely, and that it might cause me to give up. I appreciate their concern and it made me feel cared for. But I am so thankful that I didn’t listen to them. What follows is the trail journal I kept while I was out there on the trail, I will fill in the gaps where my blog is lacking (aka New England), and elaborate on some of the more exceptional days and miles.

The Beginning


Hello friends and family welcome to our Appalachian trail journal. Me and Taylor will try to post daily with pictures, lessons learned and gear discussion. This adventure has been a long time coming and I want to share and remember it.

12/31/18

We started the day at 3:30am with breakfast and coffee before we headed to the Philadelphia airport for our flight to Atlanta. The flight went relatively smoothly and we arrived in atlanta before noon before calling an uber to take us to the approach trail in Amicalola Falls State Park where we registered, snapped a pic at the arch, and headed up the 9 mile approach trail. The trail begins with an overcrowded stair climb to the top of the falls. You can drive to the top as well, so that's why it was so crowded. Luckily once outside the state Park boundaries the amount of people decreased significantly. The approach trail gains 2000 ft in 9 miles but rolls from ridge to ridge so there was a lot more ups and downs than I was expecting. Anyway we made it to Springer Mountain and set up in the adjacent shelter. We are now in our sleep bags while a driving rain pelts the tin roof. I am very thankful for that roof. Tomorrow we officially start our march to Maine and couldn't be more excited despite the water pouring down from the sky. I will talk more about this trail and our preparation for it tomorrow but I am very tired and want to get an early start tomorrow so I can listen to the Rose Bowl. Happy New Years!

Day 1
Miles: 15.8
1/1/19
Younger and I will be alternating blog posts daily. The true official start of our winter Appalachian trail thru hike has begun. We were lucky to sneak a day of great weather in before 3 days of rain hits us. Younger was moving at the pace of a turtle but he kept reminding me the turtle wins the race. Rolling Georgia hills beat us down but we can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. Met some great people at the shelter we are sleeping at tonight and even got a full block of cheese and a mountain house breakfast meal. Couldn't be more thankful for our first trail magic. Lucky to be in a shelter with a man carrying mouse traps to keep the furry critters away from our heads. North we go.

Blog Day 2
16 miles hiked
Overnight low of 42
This morning started off with a nice downhill to woody's gap where we stopped and chatted with a guy named Lionheart, he offered us a ride into town for food and some water. We declined the ride but took the water which was very nice of him. But what I appreciated more was his words of encouragement and enthusiasm for us, it's great to hear a stranger believing in you. My spirits were boosted further when a Miami Hurricanes and Michigan Wolverine fan playfully berated me for my Ohio State hat. Go bucks. Thoughts of all the glorious moments in Buckeye history propelled me to the top of the next mountain, Preacher's rock. After that it was down then a 5 mile up to Blood Mountain, the highest point in Georgia . It was a real one foot in front of the other and don't look up till you get there type of climb. My back was cramping up so I drank more water but I need to be better about hydration in the future. The views were amazing on the way down but you needed to pay close attention because of the slippery walks. We ran into some SOBOS who took our pictures and offered us more encouragement. It's crazy to think they are finishing the trail we are just starting. We hiked a mile after Neel's Gap and set up camp near a spring. The rain started after we set up the tarp and we cooked dinner. That was a mistake. As soon as we started eating the mice surrounded us so we made sure to hang our food so they don't cuddle up with us and chew holes in our gear. Looks like we're in for some rain the next few days. Well that's all for now, goodnight

Day 3
Miles 6
Weather: rain/mid 40s

Rough night in the woods that ended up turning into some gear malfunctions. Mice surrounded our tent and ate a hole through Youngers pack and my food bag last night. The mice also repeatedly ran into our heads as we slept. Youngers sleeping bags were soaked to the bone from the downpour forcing us to make the right decision and come into town for the night and stay at a hostel to dry out our gear. Lionheart came to the rescue again and picked us up at Hogpen gap. We grubbed on some delicious pizza, got a shower and even received a beer each through trail magic. Another day of hard rain tomorrow before two beautiful days we are looking forward to. Watching a vhs tape as I type up the blog.
Day 4
12 miles hiked
Slept in a hostel last night

After our short day and drying out our gear at Mountain Crossings hostel we hit the trail feeling refreshed. It was easy walking on an old forest road for most of the day and we made it to Blue Mountain Shelter early in the afternoon. We cooked beans and pulled pork tortilla wraps with cheese and hot cocoa and are turning in early for a big day tomorrow.
Once again want to thank Lionheart for his help and advice, it has been a big boost.
-Jacob 

Day 5
Miles: 19
Weather: beautiful and 45

Perfect day of hiking that started with a chilly morning and no mice incidents. Our legs are starting to get in shape and younger is officially upgraded from a turtle to a rabbit, and in no time will be ripping the trail. We learn something new everyday that helps us succeed and we couldn't be more thankful to be out here. It's the little things in life that mean the most and we are starting to realize that more each day. Tray mountain was beautiful and even had a nice icy coat to the trail. Tomorrow we should be crossing into North Carolina with a big climb ahead. Want to thank everyone for their love and support.

Day 6
Miles: 17
Overnight low of 28, sunny and very pleasant during the day

Well we did it, 9 miles into the day we finished our first state. At Bly Gap we crossed from Georgia into North Carolina. Georgia wasn't easy, that's for sure, but it taught us a lot. Don't let your sleeping gear get wet, don't let the mice eat your gear, listen to your bodies, and trust each other's instincts.

North Carolina started off with a gnasty uphill and trail covered in blow downs. It's not gonna get any easier, but bring it on. Yee Yee!


(I started this day with the slowest hiking I’ve ever done, I wasn’t eating that much because I wanted to lose weight and I figured I had enough fat to run a calorie deficit. I was wrong and after eating lunch at the border I felt much better and was able to put some miles together.)

Day 7
Miles: 19.7
Weather: overnight low of 35/ sunny high 40s today

Day started off with a nice easy climb out of Standing Indian Shelter but shorty after we were brush monkeying over miles of blowdowns across the trail. Makes you really appreciate the trail crews work at keeping the trail clear. Many small creek crossings that led to Albert Mountain with one heck of a view and 100 miles on trail. Currently eating peanuts noodles for our first dinner and beans as our second, couldn't get better. Going into Franklin NC tomorrow morning to resupply on 3 days of food and get some delicious town food. Tschafs out


(this was truly one of the most beautiful and wild days on the whole trail. The mountains of NC were gorgeous and the trail ran along multiple ridges, which is my favorite type of trail)

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Day 8
Miles:8
temp: 35 and rainy overnight, foggy in the morning, sunny and mid 40s during the day

We woke up early this morning to make the 4 mile push to winding stair gap to get a hitch into Franklin. Our first hitch hike went very well as we stood there less than 5 minutes before a former thru hiker of the AT and PCT picked us up and drove us the 10 miles into town. We got a hearty breakfast, picked up food for the next 3 days, grabbed 2 footlongs from subway, picked up new socks and gear tape and caught a ride in the back of an AT 09 thru hiker's truck. Schaf took off like a bat out of hell from the gap and I chased him the 4.5 miles to the next shelter. It only took us an hour 20 minutes and we relaxed the rest of the evening. Feeling really good about this hike tonight. Yee Yee!

Day 9
Miles: 22.3
Weather: overnight low in mid teens/ day temp mid 20s feel of 0

Cold start to the morning taking a good hour before we could feel our hands and feet. We did the most miles done in a day on trail so far and our knees and feet are feeling it. Two more days before we are sitting in a hostel in Fontana before the smokies. Supposed to be another cold night in the low teens. Big climb out of NOC tomorrow morning, if we feel good we may push it to Fontana. Thinking about all, tired and ready for bed goodnight 


(the end of this day was a pitch black 4,000 foot descent that was dangerous at the top, knee crushing at the bottom and a stiff mental challenge throughout)

Day 10
Miles 16.8
Weather: over night lows in the mid 20s, but would have been much colder if we were at a higher elevation. Daytime temps were in the 30s and 40s and sunny, without too much wind.
Today was bookended by two challenging climbs. The first was an 8 mile crawl out of the NOC fueled by breakfast sandwiches and coffee from the NOC general store. After the big climb we pushed another 8 miles ending with the incredibly steep and appropriately named "Jacob's Ladder" before the shelter. Today was hard because there was very little water on the trail and we were very thirsty on the final push. I am very happy to be in my sleeping bag, it will be a chilly one today.

Day 11
Miles: 11.6
Weather: low 20s overnight/ sunny and low 40s during the day

Woke up early to hike the 11.6 miles into Fontana before we were picked up by Nancy at the Hike Inn Hostel. We arrived and got a delightful shower and received our resupply boxes thanks to Michala and Lydia. They told us they were one of the heaviest boxes they ever had their hands on but what do you expect with a winter thru hike and our ascent into the smokies. We are excited but weather is on the way and we have a 13 mile climb to get into them. Went into town and got pizza, breadsticks and cinnamon sticks but were bummed to find out we are in a dry county and couldn't get our hands on a cold one. Real test is yet to come and new gear should be pulled from the bottom of the pack. Pumped to use our ice cleats and gaiters should be one heck of a week.

Day 12
Miles hiked: Nero
Weather: toasty warm in the hostel over night, mid 30s and rainy during the day
We got a late start today and decided to only hike a short bit before hanging out in the "Fontana Hilton" for the night to heal up my feet and prepare for the big climb tomorrow. This is a good lesson on not letting blisters get out of control. This upcoming section will be the most challenging weather wise of the trail because of the high elevation so we wanted to make sure our bodies and minds are prepared. So we are eating the rest of the town food we bought and are organizing our packs for snow. We may not have service up in those mountains so don't be alarmed if posts are delayed or it is hard to reach us - Jacob

Day 13
Miles: 11.4
Weather: overnight low and daytime temps in low to mid 30s with rain all day changing to sleet

Crossed the Fontana dam this morning and headed into the Smokey Mountains. Water was gushing out the bottom of the dam. Never saw anything so powerful and cool. Crawled up the 11.4 miles to Mollies shelter where we got a fire started in the stone shelter and dried our gear out. Going to try and crank up the miles this week and make it to Hot Springs by Friday. Didn't get to use the ice cleats today but I'm sure they are going to come in handy. Saw some of the first wildlife on trail today and hope there's more to see. Youngers feet are feeling better and we are ready to keep pushing.

Day 14
Miles hiked: 19.4
Weather: mid teens overnight, snowing and a high of 25 during the day
Today was tough, there was a lot of snow, ice, and mud. The rain from yesterday froze on everything making the woods look like an ice palace, it was very beautiful and a great reminder of the benefits of winter hiking. The wet feet, slippery trail and accumulating snow were reminders of the negatives. We are staying at double gap shelter tonight and it will be another cold one, I just hope the clouds lift and we can see the view from Climgmans dome. On a side note we are pretty sure we saw a red wolf print, a very endangered species that resides in the park. Taylor also saw wild turkeys and heard a wild pig - Jacob 

(I hiked about 6 miles in the dark this night, my feet were bloodied from blisters and the tape wouldn’t stay on. My feet were so raw and coldI hobbled through the night crying in pain and asking myself if this was something I really wanted to do. But this experience only hardened my resolve. I had been more tired from wrestling before, wrestling with a torn labrum was more painful, and at least I wasn’t starving myself for a weight cut. Focusing on this and reflecting on the sacrifices our servicemen have made for us put my struggle in perspective and it didn’t seem all that bad. This was supposed to be fun after all!)

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Day 15
Miles: 13.4
Weather: low teens over night and snow/ snowy mid 20s during the day

Day started with a nice chilly morning where our shoes were bricks from the snow the night before. We forced our feet into them and suffered through the cold and stiffness until they warmed up. We need to get some bags to put our shoes in so we can sleep with them. We climbed up to Clingmans Dome early in the morning where we reached the highest point on the Appalachian Trail. In Youngers eyes “it's all downhill from here”. First night since Georgia where we have company in our shelter. Got to use the Kahtoola ice cleats today and man are they a life saver. Want to thank my mom and Mr. and Mrs. G for them, as well as Dakota for my OR Rocky Mountain high gaiters keeping my legs warm and snow out of my boots. But also want to thank everyone else who is following along and supporting us on this adventure. Much love schafy

Day 16
Miles hiked: 19.8
Weather: mid teens overnight and mid 20s rising to around 35 as we finished our day at lower elevation
Today started off early as we tried to get out of the shelter before sunrise. The older gentlemen we shared the shelter with became crabby with us for making noise and hurried us out, because of this I lost one of my mittens scrambling to not disturb them. The day got better and the views were spectacular at sunrise. We cruised along the ridge going up and down on the snow covered path. The kahtoola micro spikes were great for this. The day ended with a significant drop in elevation that brought us warmth but did not do any favors to schafs feet as he developed bad blisters over the last 4 miles. We are leaving the smokies tomorrow and I have mixed feelings about this section, it was rough and cold, but beautiful.

Day 17

Miles: 17.6

Weather: overnight low in high 20s/ daytime temp ranged from low to high 30s with snow, sleet and rain

Beautiful sunrise this morning with warmer temperatures since we were at lower elevation. We are officially out of the smokies and our bodies are feeling it but it was definitely worth the wet feet. That being said both our feet are in rough condition with 5 days of soaked socks and boots. We are hoping we can heal them this weekend while at the hostel. We thought bears would be hibernating by this time of the year but yesterday we saw tracks in the fresh snow walking the trail. Enjoying the warmer night at lower elevation and having bean burritos and tuna pasta. Excited for Max Patch tomorrow hoping we get some good weather and our feet feel better by morning. No pain, no gain, no Maine

Day 19
Miles:13.1
Weather: 40-50 mph winds low mid 30s overnight/cloudy mid 40s daytime

The start of the night begun with high winds ranging to 50mph with temperatures in the low 30s. We set a tarp up in front of the shelter opening in the start of the night but it was extremely loud all night not letting us get a good nights rest. Made it into Hot Springs by mid afternoon today and the Laughing Heart Hostel is amazing. They have a full kitchen, shower, bunks, laundry and a walkable town to food. We met some great people at the hostel and a former thru hiker named jay bird who took us to a local bar and pub with live music to get good food and beer. He paid for everything and we couldn't be more grateful. The Appalachian trail community has already been great to us. Yee Yee!

Day 20 & 21
Miles: 0 & 11
Weather: warm in hostel and low teens during day tonight is suppose to be close to 0 if not lower with windchill

Great two nights at the Laughing Heart hostel where our feet got a good rest and healed up and we demolished town food. We both weighed ourselves at the hostel and we dropped a good amount of weight, especially myself. Now back to work to start cranking more miles and battling the cold. Got a late start today walking through a fresh layer of snow and cold temps. Always sucks walking out of town with a loaded pack weighing to much but at least we know we have food. Tonight is going to be the coldest night on trail so far and we are at Spring Mountain Shelter 11 miles from Hot Springs. Bummed we couldn't get reservations to soak up in the mineral hot springs but we will definitely be making a return to this sweet little town.

day 22
Miles hiked 15.8
Weather mid teens with high winds over night, around 30 with 30 to 50 mph winds all day
It was very hard to get out of the sleeping bag today so we had a late start. Luckily we only had 16 to do and set out around 10am. We started out going downhill before a deceptively steep 6 mile up hill to a fire tower. We were worried about daylight so we did not make the side trip to the top. After this is where the fun started, we came to a sign that said "exposed ridge line, bad weather trail to the left." We are big strong men so we figured the snow, ice and high winds didn't count as bad weather and pushed on up to the ridge. The views were great but the wind literally knocked us from our feet several times. It was exhilarating and restored energy to my legs. The last 2 miles were uneventful and we rested for the night in Jerry's Cabin Shelter. -Younger 


(This ridge walk was really nuts, it was a real struggle to get across it and one of my best memories of the trail. High winds and steep drops are addicting.)

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Day 23
Miles: 15.5
Weather: rainy in morning/ super windy all day in low 40s

Another day battling the extreme winds that gusted over 50mph at times on the ridges. Temps were in the low 40s all day but with the constant winds it made it seem a lot colder. Staying at hogpen shelter tonight with a big day tomorrow going over Bald Mountain. First shelter where we had a decent walk to get water. A bad storm is suppose to strike tonight and we are glad we are under a roof. Seems you can't keep your feet dry more than a day out here. Excited to get new Altras in hopes to have dry feet. Working on our second dinner since the bean and rice wraps didn't cut it.

day 24
Miles hiked 20.7
Weather rained overnight turning to snow at 8 in the morning, the temps continued to drop and it continued to snow with high winds all day
The day started with a long climb to Big Bald Mountain, but there was no view because of the snow. It was extremely windy up top so we didn't hang around for long. The long climb down took its toll on my feet and schafs shin so we are gonna hike a shorter day tomorrow and go into town for some food and a spare canister of fuel. - Younger

Blog day 29
Miles hiked: 18
Weather snow all day accumulating 6-9 inches
Today was rough we tried to push 25 miles to stay in a hostel but we couldn't contact them to make sure they were open. So after 18 miles of walking through boot deep snow and  getting hit in the face with snow covered rhododendron branches we decided to stop at more land gap shelter and push into town tomorrow . The night was very cold in the shelter but we are okay and are hiking 10 miles straight to McDonalds this morning. Younger 

Day 25,26,27,28
Miles: 6.2, 17.1, 17.6, 16.3
Weather: sunny and beautiful for most the days/ low 20s mainly overnight

This is the start of multiple blogs we missed due to crappy service. Beautiful morning on day 25 with my shin feeling better after some good stretches and youngers feet all taped up. Got into Erwin TN to pick up a new fuel canister and went into town to an all you can eat pizza buffet. Salad never tasted so good and southern sweet tea is still my favorite. Guess we either smelled to bad or ate to much because we were kicked out. Day 26 and 27 we had some miss adventures with Youngers college friend bringing some good food and hiking several miles with him the next day. We finished the day up with an icy climb in the dark to the highest shelter on the AT, Roan High Knob Shelter. Today was beautiful and we went over several grassy balds with amazing views all around. We are now in a hostel in Roan Mountain Tennessee thanks to my mom, drying our gear and preparing for the “Tennessee Turnpike” Tomorrow refueling on some good pizza.


(the last 2 miles of this were steep sheets of ice, like an angled hockey rink. You had to swing from tree to tree or else you would slide 2,000 ft back down where you came from. On top of that my light wasn’t working. It was a blast!)

Day 30
Miles hiked 9
Weather: overnight low around -10 plus wind chill, mid 20s and windy during the day
After a very cold night we got up and pushed the 9 miles plus the 1 mile side trail into Hampton TN. We figured it would be wise to stay inside since we were chilly last night and it is only getting colder tonight. Tomorrow night the temperature should be back into the comfortable mid 20s and we are eager to get back on the trail and push into Virginia to meet our dads for a week of father-son bonding on the Appalachian Trail-Younger aka "Mittens"


(This was the craziest experience of my life and the closest i’ve ever felt to death. I want to detail it more in a seperate post but it was the closest I’ve been to hypothermia and I had a strong urge to just give up and freeze. I’m thankful for the mental preparation I did to get ready for a situation like this. Lets just say you don’t want to be soaking wet when the temperature goes below 0)

 Day 31
Miles: 21.7
Weather: mid 20s during the day with snow flurries this morning

Got a late start this morning after spending the night in a hostel leaving us with night hiking for a good 5 hours. Hiked a total of 22.7 miles with one of the miles being the side trail to get back on the AT. Rough hiking through snow all day and night with snow drifts ankle to shin deep. Dinner is doing to be amazing and we are throwing together the last meals we have. Can't wait to get new shoes the holes since Georgia are just getting worse.

Day 32
Miles hiked 16
Weather: overnight low mid 20s, low 30s and snowing during the day
After pushing a late night it took us a while to get hiking this morning and when we did get going we were greeted with more snow. It snowed for several hours adding to layer we struggled through the day before. It was shin to knee deep most of the day which was exhausting and mentally taxing. But the weather is getting warmer and we had an excellent dinner consisting up rice, beans, peas, onions, Thanksgiving ham, filet mignon, and cheddar cheese. I'm convinced we are eating the best out here (we might be the only ones out here.) Anyways tomorrow we cross into Virginia and meet up with our dads, Yee Yee! Younger

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Day 33
Miles: 9.9
Weather: overnight low in mid 30s/ beautiful day in high 40s

After a delicious and large dinner last night we set an alarm for 430am to get an early start into Damascus. We hiked the 9.9 miles in 4 hours with the smell of town food on our mind. We are officially in Virginia meaning we hiked through Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee. Virginia is the largest state on the AT at alittle over 550 miles. Dads met up with us and we got some laundry done, cooked some steaks in the parking lot, showered and have a hotel to stay in. Excited for the week of adventures with fresh shoes and socks. -schafy 

 Day 34
Miles hiked: 16.5
Weather: sunny and mid 50s
Well the Dad's are with us and the weather reacted appropriately. This is by far the nicest it has and it looks like it will stay in 60s all week till they leave. That's when the freezing rain will resume. This means the dads won't have to deal with frozen boots, keeping the water filter next to your body, and freezing cold changes into frozen snow gear. It also means we can stop for lunch without freezing which is really nice. Its gonna be a great week. - Younger "mittens"

Day 35
Miles: 12.4
Weather: beautiful and sunny in mid 60s/overnight low in mid 30s

Slow and steady day crawling some hills with the dads. The weather was absolutely beautiful and we would like to say the best day on trail so far. Felt like a spring day even though we are on a winter thru hike. Took a nice 30 minute lunch on top of buzzard rock with the sun shining down before we approached the famous ponies. Should see more ponies tomorrow wishing I could give one a ride. Staying at Thomas Knob Shelter tonight and even convinced Mr. Younger to rack under the roof with the mice. Schafy

Day 36
Miles hiked 12.4
Weather: 40 and rainy over night, high of 60 and some rain in the morning.
The morning started slowly with rain, ice and mud. We went through the "fat man squeeze" and luckily everyone fit through, even mr schafs large external frame pack. As we crested the last knob before Grayson Highlands, the weather broke and the clouds blew out revealing a stunning view that looked like it was straight of the movie Jurrasic Park. Only the triceratops were replaced with wild ponies. We shared the trail with them for several miles of open country before descending back into the woods to stay at the "mouse motel" or old orchard shelter as its officially known.  -"Mittens"

 Day 37
Miles: 14.1
Weather: overnight low 40s/ high 50s in day with on and off rain

For all you following this blog this will be my only entry.  We have been hiking with the boys since Damascus. Hiked from Old Orchard Shelter to Trimpi Shelter today and it wasn't to bad.  A little rain here and there but not to much up and a fantastic waterfall for lunch. Great tree varieties including red, scarlet, and  white oak, tulip poplar, basswood, umbrella and big leaf magnolia, and persimmon. After spending the last four days with the kids I can confirm that they are extremely persistent, diligent, and a little nuts. My hat is off to them and I wish them well. I am looking forward to icing my body and enjoying my own bed.  -Beans.

On another note lastnight we heard coyowolves (a crossbred between coyotes and wolves) howling in the distance after a fresh kill. Good thing we had papa Schaf with the axe for protection. This is definitely a rig shelter tonight with younger and I on the top skinny bunks. Last day hiking with the dads tomorrow excited for more town food and a hotel. -schafy

Blog Day 38
Miles hiked: 10
Weather: torrential downpour overnight with a total precipitation of  around 4 inches, sunny with a high of 70 during the day

I've never experienced such intense rain before as I did last night in the top bunk of Trimpi Shelter. 3 separate times I was woken up by the rain pounding the tin roof. It was impossible to see the picnic table outside of the shelter with a headlamp because the water was so thick. I am very grateful for  the shelters on this trail because there is no tent or tarp that would have kept us dry last night. Luckily the weather improved quite a bit when the sun came up

 Day 39
Miles:13.6
Weather: stayed in hotel overnight thanks to our dads/ windy highs in 40s during day

First day back on trail without our dads and we miss their company. Packs are extremely heavy with an 8 day resupply and this will be our last time doing this many days. The dads must of brought the warm weather because we are down below 20 degrees tonight again. We want to thank our dads for the lessons learned especially elevating Youngers feet to reduce the swelling (jarhead) and appreciating all the trees out here (beans). See you back in PA soon. 

Day 38
Miles hiked: 10
Weather: torrential downpour overnight with a total precipitation of  around 4 inches, sunny with a high of 70 during the day
I've never experienced such intense rain before as I did last night in the top bunk of Trimpi Shelter. 3 separate times I was woken up by the rain pounding the tin roof. It was impossible to see the picnic table outside of the shelter with a headlamp because the water was so thick. I am very grateful for the shelters on this trail because there is no tent or tarp that would have kept us dry last night. Luckily the weather improved quite a bit when the sun came out and we hiked the last 10 miles to my dads car before heading into town to resupply. The Dads week over and so is the good weather they brought with them, it was great to spend time with them and it's sad to see them go, but that's the cost of having a real job. North we go - Mittens 

day 40
Miles hiked: 24
Weather: overnight low of 20, sunny during the day
We woke up to the familiar frozen boots again this morning, reminding us that it is still February. The week of warm weather was nice, but I think it might have taken our edge off a bit. Oh well, nothing to do but push through. We passed the quarter mark of the trail early this morning which was a great feeling. The trail climbed over wooded hills and down into farm fields all day, which was a welcome change of walking surface. The day concluded with a long climb to Chestnut Knob shelter. This shelter is fully enclosed and on the edge of a 4 mile by 8 mile crater like valley inhabited by amish farmers. I look forward to a great view of the sunrise in the morning. - Mittens 


(really cool shelter at the edge of a very weird and interesting valley. It was a spooky vibe)

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Day 41

Miles: 10.7

Weather: low in mid 30s/ daytime in 40s with mixed precipitation

Correction on the last blog post- we hiked 22.4 miles not 24 hands were a tad cold.

Day started out of a nice fully enclosed shelter where we walked around the Amish crater for most of the day until we reached Jenkins shelter. Had some on and off rain that changed to snow during the day no enough to add up but enough to make things slippery. People say PA is rocky but Virginia has had its moments of rock fields making us feel at home. Next two days are suppose to be rainy but can't be all sunshine and candy out here. -schafy


Day 42
Miles hiked: 13.5
Weather: rain all night and on and off rain during the day
Despite the rain and fog today was a pleasant walk because the trail followed old logging roads up and down the Virginia mountains. The logging roads are nice because they are generally rock free and aren't too steep, up or down. We are staying at Helvey's Mill shelter tonight and it's not our favorite because of the long walk down to water which we will have to do again in the morning because there is no water for the next 10 miles. More rain is in the forecast for tomorrow but the terrain looks to be favorable. Only 45 miles till the Chinese Buffet. - Mittens 

Day 43

Miles: 9.7

Weather: overnight low in mid 30s/ rainy and high 30s during the day

Short day today due to the crappy weather and not a big rush since we are meeting our girlfriends in Pearisburg on Thursday night. Fairly easy walking today on more logging roads with flat miles. Tomorrow we plan to pull a big day where we are 10 miles away from town and the Chinese buffet we have been dreaming of. Achilles and knees are a bit sore going to do some stretches tonight in hope for that to help. Already in our sleeping bags at 3pm cooking the first round of dinner to reduce pack weight. Staying at Jenny's Knob Shelter. -Schafy

Day 44
Miles hiked: 24.0
Weather: mid 20s overnight and sunny with high winds during the day
In our quest for the Chinese buffet we started hiking early this morning with the goal of getting to the shelter closest to Pearisburg Va for an easy push into town in the morning. 24 miles is our biggest day on trail so far but it went really well. The first half of the day was easy as we followed some logging roads before dropping to Dismal creek and following that gently up for a number of miles. This area seemed like it would be alot of swimming holes and cozy camp sites in the rhododendrons. We then climbed to a ridge overlooking Pearisburg and hiked 7 more miles, the last 2 in the dark. As usual we hiked the most difficult terrain in the dark and the rocks in this section chewed up our ankles and knees. Oh well, we are from PA, we should be good at hiking on rocks. - Mittens 

 day 45
Miles: 9.4
Weather: low 20s overnight/ daytime temp beautiful and in 40s

Awesome night at Docs Knob Shelter with a full porch around the outside. We didn't arrive till after dark due to the miles we pushed and wish we could enjoy that porch on a summer day. Cruised into town with the Chinese buffet on our mind but stopped at a fairly new hostel (Angels rest hiker haven) to do laundry and get a shower. Fortunately didn't get kicked out of this all you can eat buffet. Must of been the ladies obsession with my eyes. Highly suggest this hostel to anyone in southern Virginia looking for a place to stay. We hung out with two former thru hikers for the afternoon who take care of the hostel and they let us stay as late as we wanted till Dakota and Michala came and picked us up late. It's nice to socialize with some
people who have prior experiences on the trail and stories to tell. We sure have a different experience on the AT than most. We caught some sleep on the floor of a kitchenette for a good two hours before they arrived after 2am. We made the drive to Wintergreen Virginia to stay the weekend in a sick cabin and get a good rest in. Hats off to the girls for making the trek after some issues and taking two zeros with us.  Schafy

 Hey everyone we are still alive and headed north. It's been a challenging week in multiple ways and there hasn't been good service at our shelters so we will fill in the blog posts tomorrow when we are in Daleville Virginia, which is 18 miles away and have to make it there by 5pm to get to the post office so we can start making up miles this weekend.

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 Hey everyone we are still alive and headed north. It's been a challenging week in multiple ways and there hasn't been good service at our shelters so we will fill in the blog posts tomorrow when we are in Daleville Virginia, which is 18 miles away and have to make it there by 5pm to get to the post office so we can start making up miles this weekend.

Day 54
Miles: since last post due to off and on service hiked 92.7 miles ( 6.7, 12.4, 18.5, 12.4, 24.7, 17.8)
Weather: 5-7 inches snow, mixed precipitation, lots of rain, flooded trails

Sorry to all who have been following along on our journey and look forward to the daily posts. We got caught up in some weather, miles and lacking service areas. To fill everyone in we had a great two day zero in Wintergreen Virginia with the girlfriends and we're more than grateful for that. Devils Backbone Brewery had an awesome selection of beers that we took full advantage of, as well as all the goodies the girls brought. After they dropped us off Sunday in the rain/freezing rain we had a rough couple days physically and mentally to get back into the swing of things. We got dumped on by a large snow storm accumulating Monday over night more than 5 inches and was rough hiking Tuesday all day killing
our miles. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday brought lots of rain to melt most of the snow and increase the flooding situations. The trail has several inches of water on it making it a slop fest and normal river crossings are turning into tricky ones. More rain is on the way. This week has been the hardest for me both physically and mentally where my knees are swollen, I broke a trekking pole on a nasty fall in the snow, popped my blowup air pad, diarrhea and the rocks did some nice damage to my Altras. Younger has a swollen ankle we are icing along with my knees. We passed Dragons tooth (a famous rock to climb) with a crazy climb on NOBO's way down with rebar steps, tinker cliffsand McAfee Knob to get the famous picture in the fog and rain with no view. We made it to Daleville Virginia to stay overnight, charge up our batteries and get a resupply. I found the hole in my air mattress and made due with what's left of the broken section of my trekking pole by straightening the cut edge with a rock and using the short section of the pole with the tip. It works but it's short, let's hope the patch holds and better weeks come. -schafy

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Day 55
Miles hiked: 18.5
Weather: sunny and a high of 65 with high winds at the top of the ridges
We waited out the rain yesterday, taking a zero in Daleville. The weather broke this morning and it was wonderful to feel the sun again as we climbed back into the mountains. This week's weather looks like it will continue to be sunny and not too cold at night so we plan to take advantage of that and put some bigger miles in.- Mittens

Day 56
Miles hiked:18.4
Weather: sunny and windy again
Well schafs air pad is officially cooked. He tried patching it up in town using a bathtub full of water to identify leaks, found 3 of them, patched all 3, but the pad still deflated overnight. Luckily he still had a foam pad so staying warm at night won't be a huge problem, it just isn't as comfortable. And let me tell you there is an adjustment period sleeping on the wooden shelter floors with just a thin foam pad. Today's hiking was easy in the morning with great views of the surrounding mountains but the day ended with a straining 5 mile climb. Whoever said Virginia is flat was a liar. - mittens

Day 57
Miles: 22
Weather: mid 30s overnight/ high 50s and beautiful during the day with minimal wind

Started the morning fairly early knowing we had bigger miles to push. The day wasn't to bad with one or two bigger climbs but we are starting to see more mountains in Virginia as we walk the Blue Ridge Parkway. We passed a weather radar station that was pretty cool. Life without my blow up pad isn't as comfy and I will be buying a new one ASAP. Yeah I may be a little girl about it but I'll consider it to be one of my luxury items. Hoping to make it to town Friday for our resupply and I'm praying for some shoe goe cause my Altras are hurting. Weather has been absolutely beautiful the past two days and we are absorbing it all. Saw our first backpackers since the Smokey Mountains who were rigged up near the shelter as we came down the mountain. They all shuffled their stuff into the shelter making us feel uninvited but luckily for them we still had another 4 miles to push. -schafy

Day 58
Miles hiked: 18.3
Weather: mid 30s overnight and sunny all day
Today consisted of a big up climb and then a big drop. The first couple hours of the day were spent climbing Bluff Mountain, it was a gorgeous day and we could look out over the blue ridge mountains and back down on the James River as we made our ascent. We had a lunch at the top of Bluff Mountain, left over mashed potatoes from last night. We went back down a couple thousand feet, walked around the Lynchburg Reservoir, through the remains of a freed slave community, and spent the night at Brown Mountain Creek shelter. - Mittens

Day 59
Miles: 15.8
Weather: overnight low in high 30s/ day temps sunny and low 50s

Another day of nice weather out on the trail before some nasty weather hits us. The temps were dropping all afternoon and the wind was picking up before freezing rain starts late tonight. Our fun with the sun is on pause for now. We are stopped early today to get into town tomorrow for a resupply until Waynesboro in a few days. We had an awesome day of hiking with more of the blue ridge mountains in the distance. Had a short lunch consisting of army saltines and peanut butter on top of a grassy meadow with the sun shining down. -schafy

Day 60

Miles hiked: 42

The original plan for the day was to hike 3 miles and get a hitch into Montebello, Virginia to pick up a resupply box. But yesterday I realized that we would have to walk an extra mile and a half and about a 1000 ft downhill to even have a chance to get a hitch. And even then I could tell from the GPS that this was not a road with alot of people on it so a hitch would be unlikely, thus adding 5 miles to our day. We decided it would be wiser to get to Waynesboro Virginia where we could charge our electronics and buy a resupply at Wal Mart. So we bounced that box to PA, and schemed how to get the 42 miles from the shelter to town with 2 bags of trail mix, some nutter butter bits, instant coffee, and some dried bean soup between us. On top of the food situation bad weather was rolling in so we set off 14 miles to a shelter where we laid out our sleeping bags, cooked the rest of the beans,

and slept for a bit while we waited 4 hours for the rain to die down. At 9pm we set out again to hike the remaining 27 miles to town and a McDonalds breakfast. 27 miles is longer than we have hiked any other day on this trip so far and it was very challenging both physically and mentally. The rain froze on the rocks so there was plenty of falls and twisted ankles, the hunger really set in around midnight and reminded us of cutting weight for wrestling. We got into town around 10am and made a beeline for McDonalds and to the hostel for a nap. I will be more careful with where I send the boxes in the future but it was a great adventure and reminder that hunger is the best chef. We've been told that the next section has much smaller climbs and with good weather we should make good time to the border and check off the longest state on trail. - mittens 

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Day 62
Miles hiked: 13
Weather: mid teens overnight, sunny and 30s during the day
The chilly morning had us dragging our feet to get out of bed,delaying our start till 9:30. Once we finally got moving the trail conditions were not ideal. SNP has gently graded trails throughout but today they were covered with ice and there was a tree blown down every 50 feet or so for many miles. The late start and the slow trails made us abandon our goal of 21 miles and camp at pine field shelter instead. Hopefully the trail clears up in the coming miles or this will take a while. -Mittens 

Blog Day 66
Miles: 11
Weather: overnight temp below 10 daytime windy and cold in 20s

After battling the blow downs for miles on top of the snow and ice the past couple days our miles shrunk. We made it to swiftwater gap in SNP and got picked up by a trail angel to come into town. Youngers feet have been progressively getting worse over the past couple of days. He made the decision to schedule a doctors appointment for them today. The doctor didn't give great news and told him he has the worst plantar fasciitis he's ever seen and if it worsens he will need surgery. Unfortunately we need to take some time off trail to heal Youngers feet and hopefully can get back out there.

 (I took three weeks off trail to heal my feet and sew up a summer backpack. My feet were in such pain but I knew I couldn’t give up on my dream. I wanted to quit so bad during this time and I was very depressed while I was off trail. I could tell people thought it was the end for me and I had a burning desire to prove them wrong. I did exactly what the doctor said for recovery and I set back out on my own when my feet felt better. I was commited to taking care of them and finishing the damn thing.)


I'm back! I apologize for the lack of posts lately but since last Saturday I have been back on trail. Instead of starting back at swiftwater gap in Virginia, I elected to get on the trail near Allentown and head south to where I left off before flipping back up and heading north. I made this decision for several reasons: first off, it was easier to get a ride to the trail near Allentown, secondly I dropped alot of winter gear but was unsure how the weather would behave so it would be. easier to get the necessary gear if I ended up being cold at night and thirdly I sewed a new, smaller pack and wanted to make sure it was sturdy enough for trail life while I could easily replace it if it breaks or isn't as comfortable as I would like. In the last week I have travelled 131 and my feet feel better than they have since Georgia. I believe if I am diligent with my stretching routine I will be able to sustain this pace and continue to pursue my goal of hiking the AT, even if I am taking an unconventional route. Yee Yee!


(Southern PA)


The couch surfing tour of southern PA continued today as I have spent the last 2 nights at "The Estate" with good friends from Messiah who were kind enough to pick me up and drop me off at various points on the trail. I also stayed at lydia and Esther's place in Hershey PA last week and am laying in a parking lot Michaux state forest waiting for my old roommate and wrestling teammate Tyler to pick me and up and house me for the night at his place. This is definitely the most luxurious section of trail for me and I will be sad to leave it tomorrow and return to the true wilderness experience. Its been great catching up with everyone and  I really appreciate everyone's generosity.


The 4 State Challenge

The 4 state challenge is something I read about or saw on YouTube, I can't quite remember, but if you are sobo the goal is to hike from the pa/md border south to Harper's Ferry, roughly 41 miles. I started the challenge at 9am Wednesday. The day was beautiful but it was slow going in the morning because of the 30 I hiked the day before. The water source I was gonna use for camp the night before had a warning that it was contaminated and the water was turned off at Penmar park so I walked the first 6 miles without water. I felt like I was catching up on my hydration all day after that and was feeling very worn down by mile 15. I decided to eat dinner and rest for an hour or so. This boosted my mood alot. I think I was salt deprived because I already ate all my salty snacks but luckily I had some chicken broth to replace what I had been sweating out. After another 8 miles a day a couple

that had been day hiking offered to drive me to sheetz when they heard what I was attempting. I got a monster and some chips and set off as the sun set. Still feeling good. I pushed myself pretty hard till around 3am, listening to motivational podcasts and Ohio State marching band music. My mind wandered and I explored all the lessons my favorite OSU players and coaches taught me throughout my life. But at 3 am I hit a wall. I had miles like so I knew if I kept a 2 mph pace I could rest until 430 and have a little margin of safety to make it to Harper's Ferry by 9am. The hardest part of this challenge was getting up again when my alarm sounded and the next 8 miles dragged by. All I could do was put one foot in front of the other and fight the voice telling me to give up and sleep. Slowly but surely the miles unfolded and by 8:30 I walked into town and headed to the ATC headquarters to get my picture taken for the yearbook. I felt proud of myself for pushing through but I mostly felt hungry. So I waited in the hiker lounge till the pizza place opened and ate a chicken parm and a large pizza and about 5 glasses of coke. It was delightful. Then my day got even better and my friend Will from Messiah texted me asking if he could meet up and buy me a meal. I took a quick nap in my hammock and then we went to get a burger and explored the town a bit. He then got me a room at the Teahorse hostel where I met some other hikers and bikers and had a great time socializing before crashing into a very warm and comfortable bed. I can't thank Will enough for his kindness and generosity. I also wanted to thank Andrew and michala for calling me and encouraging me, as well as my Dad for advising me to be cautious because as we all know, I never listen to him. It was also really cool of everyone that texted and messaged me words of encouragement on Instagram. I only hiked 5 miles today because of the impending rain but I am excited to get back after it again tomorrow. Yee Yee!

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Virginia (again)


Last night was not the most restful night I've had on trail. Several large storms rolled through and at 3am I woke up to water dripping on my face. The silnylon tarp I'm using has a tendency to sag once it is thoroughly soaked and it folded itself over the ridgeline. For whatever reason once it folds on itself the water starts pooling and dripping through. I scrambled to tighten up my guy lines and used my trekking pole to spread the tarp a bit more. I also used my rain gear to protect my down sleeping bag and it helped a bit. In the future i will be sleeping in shelters when I am expecting extended rain. I hiked 15 miles today and was feeling alot more energetic than yesterday. This is partly due to the breakfast sandwich and hot coffee I bought from a gas station .3 miles off trail. It is very hard for me to resist a bacon egg and cheese bagel. Anyways I started the famous roller

coaster section of the trail and it is living up to its name. But the woods are coming alive with spring and the leaves are starting to sprout. It smells great and I am very happy winter is over.


Since the last time I posted a week or so ago I have wrapped up the remaining miles in Virginia, spent a weekend with friends relaxing, and came back to PA to head north. The last bit of trail in Virginia was a pleasant and a more social experience than what I have been used to. Every night in SNP there would be at least 10 people, a mix of thru hikers and section hikers. And the trails during the day were filled with day hikers, it was nice meeting  and having conversation with other people with similar interests. Now that I am heading north again it will be much easier to describe my hiking situation than while I was headed south and I am excited to see who i will run into again now that I am headed the right direction. My dad is hiking with me for the weekend and we are hiding from the rain in the Leroy Smith shelter. Tomorrows weather will be better and I am excited to meet upwith Michala and Andrew who are driving up to hike the day with us. I should be done with PA on Sunday which means I will be done with 7 of the 14 states, which is a cool halfway mark to cross. Yee Yee!


New Jersey

Since my last post I have travelled through the great state of New Jersey. It took me a little longer than expected but that's what makes it an adventure. Last Sunday I hiked 6 miles into Delaware water gap and after eating several hot dogs, pieces of pie, garlic knots, and half a pizza i would rather not hike out in the rain so I spent the night in a free bunkroom supported by the Church of the Mountain. It was fun hanging out with some of the first NOBOs I met. The next day we hit the bakery again and set out to do 25 miles to the next shelter. At about mile 14 I rolled my ankle pretty bad. I've rolled my ankle before and usually it is a quick pain and then back to hiking but this one hurt alot and took me about 5 minutes to collect myself and push forward. Despite my best focus I rolled my ankle 3 more times in the next 2 miles, each time increasing the pain till I could barely

hobble. I told my new friends I would have to stop early and set up my hammock. The next day my ankle wasn’t feeling strong at all so I took lots of breaks and went very slow so I wouldn't hurt it again. It was frustrating but this a long journey and I need a healthy ankle for it. On Wednesday I hiked 15 miles and my ankle was feeling totally recovered so that made me happy. I stayed at Rutherford shelter that night, it was a cool shelter but if mosquitoes were out, I would definitely passed on it, due to its setting in a swamp. On Thursday I had one thing on my mind, town food. I hiked into Unionville NY to stop at the deli and waited out a rather nasty rainstorm on the covered my trekking pole. The bear looked at me confusedly and then took his sweet time wandering off. That was exciting. I didn't use my headphones the rest of the day. I made it to the Wayawanda shelter that night.


 Last day of NJ

I set out from the shelter in morning, stopping at the state park office to use the bathroom and get some water I didn't have to filter. A few miles into the day I crossed into New York and was greeted by a tricky rock scramble. There was even a rebar ladder installed where it was too steep to climb without assistance. The trail then walked on large slick boulders for the next couple miles and I fell alot.  My shoes are about 800 miles in and have basically no tread. I kept telling myself to slow down and be careful but I still fell 3 more times, chewing up my hands and making my rear end sore. Luckily I came up behind a day hiker named Mike. We tackled the rest of the section together and chatted till we reached Bellvale creamery. We follow alot of the same hikers on YouTube and social media, and he is a fan of wrestling so we had lots to talk about. My only knock on him was that he is

a big Penn State fan. Despite out differences on this crucial matter he offered to buy me a cone and then invited me out to dinner and told me I could spend the night at his father's house who lives in the area. What luck! He treated me to a big pear salad (see michala I'm being healthy) and a meatball pizza. It was great trading hiking stories. He headed back to his home in central PA and I went back to his dads where we watched the Kentucky derby, a Dirty Harry movie, and called it a night. I am so lucky to have been able to charge my electronics, clean up, do my laundry, and get out of the rain for a night. The trail is such a great community, I feel an instant connection to everyone I meet out here and I would like to give back like Mike and his father when I am done.


Once again I'm sorry for the lack of posts, I need to start posting at lunch or maybe the mornings instead of after a day of hiking because I always am tired and just push it off. I spent the last weekend off the trail celebrating a wedding but I took the train through NYC back to pawling ny and the trail this morning and hiked about 8 miles in the afternoon to a community park where I am set up now for the night. Tomorrow I plan to hike into Connecticut and cross off another state.


(It became hard for me to post from this time on, I was going through struggles in the relationship I was in and I found out some tough news about my fathers health. Again I was tempted to quit and abandon the journey. These days and the ones following as I headed north were filled with some of the most intense personal reflection I’ve ever done. Even though the weather in the south was difficult, the thoughts in my head in the north were a much bigger challenge for me. I was running out of money, I didn’t have a plan for after the trail other than the generic idea to start an outdoors company, and that was very scary as the miles ticked down.)

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Connecticut
I hiked 26 miles today to Stewart Brook Hollow Shelter, I didn't mean to hike this far but I ran into Flash on the trail he motivated me to push it a little farther. I met Flash first in Deleware Water Gap, he was hiking faster than me at the time but went back home to Canada for college graduation for a week and so we both were headed out of Pawling today. Today had a mix of tough climbs and rocky descents and it pushed me but luckily the last 3 miles were basically flat as the trail followed the Housatonic River. I made it to the shelter just as the rain started and am listening to it patter on the metal roof. I love the sound of it because it means I'm not getting wet.


Vermud
I have finally made it to the state of Vermont aka vermud. I'll let you guess why. But except for the giant mud puddle every 20 or so feet, this state has been blowing me away. The undergrowth has been so green, there are water sources everywhere, and the smell of the forest has been amazing. The weather has been kinda crappy so I haven't had too many views and when the sun is out, the bugs are thick but despite all that I will confidentially say that this is my favorite state so far. I'm camped tonight at story spring shelter and am hoping for a good view on Stratton Mountain tomorrow. 


Vermont past the town of Rutland has been a dream. The mud is basically gone and the temperatures have dropped so the swarms of bugs have died off. While I was in Rutland I did a work for stay at the Yellow Deli hiker hostel, helping build a staircase for the hostel because they are expanding to be able to handle more hikers in the coming peak season. I also recently passed the 500 miles to go mark, it's hard to believe how far I've come.


I am in New Hampshire now! Made it 19.5 miles to ore hill campsite. The trail has been very steep, muddy, and buggy. Definitely one of the biggest challenges so far, but the weather will be nice for a few days and the views are great!


(these were the wobbliest miles of the trail, I found a trail magic bottle of woodford reserve bourbon in the shelter the night before and polished it off with a friend “Badger” as we entered New Hamsphire. I slipped and fell a few times but it was a fun time and I’m thankful for the trail magic, my head needed some relief from itself.)


The White Mountains
The last 2 days have been very rigorous, they dont use switchbacks on these mountains so you climb straight up and straight down. The climbs strain my legs like I haven't felt in a while and the downhills are a but frightening. But its alot of fun, if a bit slow going. I hiked 17.5 miles yesterday, included a 3500 foot climb to my moosilauke in 4 miles. And the 2 mile climb down took 2 hours. Today I hiked from kinsman notch to franconia notch. The 16 miles took 10 hours but it was a rewarding day. Excited to climb mt Lafayette in the morning.


Today started with a big climb to little haystack mountain from which the trail followed the ridge up Lincoln and Lafayette before dropping and then summiting Garfield. Another drop followed before another long steep climb up twin mountain. The difficulty of the trail slackened for a couple miles then it was straight down to Zealand but I did a work for stay for a large dinner and then hiked into the night for a  couple miles before setting up camp and passing out. It was along 21 miles,starting at 6am and going till 10pm. The scenery makes it worth it and I'm having alot of fun.


Maine
I entered the final state of the trail today, New Hampshire was beautiful and a great challenge but I am glad to be in Maine finally. I learned alot about myself thru the challenge of new Hampshire and i want to write more about my time in the state when i have some more time to look back but for now I just wanted to let everyone know i that I am still alive and headed north. I'm camped at full goose shelter tonight. 


(It was during southern Maine that my relationship problems came to a head and we went our seperate ways. I was also very worried about my dad, he had a fast growing cancer tumour and was struggling to find a surgeon who could do the surgery quicker than the process was going to take at the local hospital. I cried every day for hours walking alone thinking about my family, about the man my father was and the example he has set for me. I wouldn’t have a love of nature or adventure that I have now without him. He showed me how to solve problems with simple tools and to never give up even if the odds are against you. He taught me how to be tough but also how to treat people. I wondered if this selfish adventure I was on would cost me precious time with him and I almost went home with less than 200 miles to go. I cried alot throughout the trail when I thought about my family and the love and support they showed me. They never gave up on me and  encouraged my dreams, without a support system like that I never could have pushed through the whole trail and especially the last bit. My twin sister Esther and my dad assured me I was doing the right thing and they would be waiting for me at Katahdin. So i started hammering the remaining miles of Maine. I was on a mission, my dad was getting surgery in NYC the 6th and could meet me July 4th in Maine. I had a goal and I wasn’t going to miss it. I had been alone enough and I needed my family.)


(I walked like a maniac through these last miles, I would leave camp at 4am and get in at 9 pm, I jogged the downhills and flew up the climbs. Nothing could stop me, not my pack breaking or a snapped trekking pole, not holey socks, not a total lack of appetite, not my plantar fasciitis, or my worn out shoes, I was going to be done with this trail July 4th or die trying.  A black bear discovered just how determined I was my second day in the wilderness. I saw her and her cub a hundred yards or so ahead of me and I did the usual thing, make a lot of noise and wait for the bear to wander off. Once the bear was sufficiently off trail I briskly walked by, not thinking much of it. Less than 5 minutes later the bear was back and pissed off. It bluff charged me to a distance of about 10 feet and stood on it’s hind legs,  snarling. It started taking slow steps at me and I slowly backed off. Then it struck me that the bear was just messing with me, and for some reason that really annoyed me. I was on too motivated and I was offended that the bear thought it could scare me. I grabbed a rock and stick, let out my best war cry and charged at the bear. I’m not sure what I planned to do if I reached the bear but I was gonna go down swinging. Luckily the bear caught on that I was serious and high tailed it into the woods. With 50 miles to go I felt invincible and that bear encounter gave me the confidence to finish the trail and attack life afterwards. I am very thankful for that bear and I will never forget that experience.


Seeing my sister and dad at the campground before the final climb was amazing, I was overwhelmed by their love and support. We spent one last mosquito filled night in Maine and summited the next morning, completing my epic journey. I cried again at the top, I often reflect on those final moments, it was so surreal and powerful and I never want to stop setting big goals and accomplishing them. Thats why when David reached out to me multiple times about starting a gear company using my hiking and sewing skills, his computer engineering background, adventurous spirit, and our rigging attitude, I couldn’t refuse. I moved out to Boulder CO, we set up a shop in the basement, registered as an LLC, built a website, sewed alot of fanny packs, and we are ready to take the business world by storm. I hope my story and the gear I make can help people get outdoors and take on their own adventures. The Appalachian Trail saved my life and I want to help people set their own crazy goals and achieve them. 

Yee Yee!

Jacob Younger