This past week was my break from school (PRAISE!) and as many people asked what my plans were, some questioned my response of “I’m going hiking!” “Wait, for the whole week?” “Oh… cool.” “Like camping, you mean?”
Spending your last week off from school out in the woods, isn’t everyone’s idea of a relaxing break. But it’s just what I needed. And in case you’re wondering what it’s like — wondering what exactly it is that I do for a week in the woods — here’s a little taste for you.
My journal entries for the week, untouched, unedited. 🙂
For your enjoyment.
TELEPHONE PIONEER SHELTER
Well today was nutty. And there is no possible way to capture it all here!
Our day began at 8 am, meeting up for our little caravan — and we didn’t end up at the trail until 1:30. In between that we drove to Graymoor Spiritual Life Center, left my car by a red barn (hopefully it will still be there), sang our hearts out to some great car music, and then proceeded to add over an hour to our drive by accidentally going to the wrong train station and then driving in circles around the right one. haha.
Hiking in the 3.something miles (after a relish lunch of tuna tacos) was breathtaking in both ways. But as we walked over swampy wetlands, gorgeous meadows, and rocky hills (yes, we did actually experience all those terrains) we were reminded of why we think strapping 30 lb packs to ourselves and living in the woods is such a crazy beautiful thing.
Upon arriving at our shelter we were faced with the obstacle of a crazy big fallen tree — it just sat there like Gandalf saying, “You shall not pass!” — but we did it.
Shortly afterwards we were joined by Iris and later Mosey. The rest of our evening was spent setting up our tents and the resetting up mine after a nearly catastrophic downhill slide into my tent wall, successfully rehydrating our first dinners, questioning our portion sizes, sharing crazy stories, learning survival skills from Mosey (“DO NOT PANIC!”), admitting we’ve never hung a bear bag before, and then nearly losing a toiletry bag, headlamp, and phone in the process of actually hanging our bags.
What a day. Can’t wait for tomorrow.
Today was the day of rain, rain, rain, newts, rain, underestimated miles, and more rain. It rained from about 2:00 am last night to 2:00 pm today with just a few much enjoyed respites.
Despite all the rain our spirits were not dampened. We kept coming back to how much better we were doing today than we were on our first test hike. We realized at 11:15 (just 2 hours after we left camp) that we had already hiked 5 of the 7 miles we had planned for the day — oops.
After much rejoicing — we somehow stretched those last 2 ish miles out for two hours. haha. There was lots of taking layers on and off and stopping for snacks and water — we had committed to having lunch at the shelter. My stomach was not thrilled with that decision.
Once finally at the shelter we made lunch, visited the privy, organized gear, laughed till I almost had a stroke, made dinner, attempted to make a fire and totally failed (due to everything being soaked). BUT we made up for it by successfully hanging our bear bags on the first try. Woot!
Another first for today is sleeping in a shelter. We have always toughed it out in our tents, but with a forecast of thunderstorms all night, we didn’t want to risk it.
9 miles! woohoo!
Ways to describe today… up and down???
That’s pretty much what the trail was — lots of ups and downs and lots of rocks, and lots of leaves covering rocks, which is even worse. Every misstep my brain would flash some horrible fall or injury before my eyes… only slightly unnerving. haha. But we made it in good time at a nearly 2.5 mile per hour pace.
We took our good time getting our of the shelter today — there was sleeping bag yoga (unfortunately Corinne has a picture to prove this), back-cracking lessons, breakfast making, more stretching, laughing (of course), tent drying, water fetching, privy visiting (it was the nicest so far), and finally pack packing.
Our hike was much warmer today and we decided to rock our new bolder bands — they were great!
After a long hike we finally arrive at R.P.H. Shelter with aching feet, but happy hearts at the prospect of dinner and setting up tents.
Little did we know how glorious this little shelter was. It looked a little sketch being so close to a road and private houses… But it has bunk beds rather than a wood plank floor, a desk/bench, and it has a gorgeous little porch with plastic chairs, soda bottle wind chimes, and a picnic table. It also has a privy and a water pump.
As we glanced through the shelter log we noticed a bunch of people had gotten pizza delivered. WHAT?! Funny how fast a particular craving can come on. lol.
A medium pizza, an order of mozz. sticks, and a caesar salad later we were ready to call it a night.
8 miles tomorrow!
Today was a power day.
I decided to take the lead instead of follow, as I had just hit my groove! I felt like I could conquer the world!
We ended up hiking nearly three miles in an hour and twenty minutes.
We stopped for lunch on Shenendoah Mtn — what a great view! Lunch today was peanut butter on Matzah crackers (taken from the hiker box at R.P.H.), my last packet of fruit snacks and a snickers bar from Corinne. 🙂 Tasty!
It was quite warm today and we were sweating up a storm! We also may have gotten a little sunburnt, but we did our best to stay hydrated! I drank almost all my water!
After lots of rock scrambling and tricky ridge hiking, we made it in great time to NY 301. From there we had a mile hike on the road to the camp office. Somehow in our planning we missed that extra mile walk — but the hope of a possible shower made it worth it.
The campground is super great in that they have three free sites that AT hikers can use, but the sites themselves are not so great. BUT we were able to finagle our tents in such a way as to avoid most of the gravel, roots, and broken glass pieces.
After settling in and basically inhaling our Ramen Noodles (they taste so good after hiking all day, trust me), we ventured to the camp bathroom and took what felt like the most amazing showers of our lives and SURPRISE! they had an outlet so we could charge our phones and let our parents know we’re alive (and — okay, to update snapchat and FB too). 🙂
Our tents definitely feel like home now — so cozy and always close to each other. Everything has its place and as we both lie here in our sleeping bags journaling we find ourselves humming in harmony.
This is the life.
I didn’t actually get around to writing a journal entry for the final day, as I crashed into bed pretty quick after we arrived home. It was our longest day yet! 13 MILES! Whoo!
The hike was all ups and downs and still lots of rocks. As we got tired, or just gave into the seemingly mindless autopilot hiking mode, I found myself turning into a jukebox. This appears to be the pattern of our last days (on both hiking trips now) — as we push through the longest miles, the songs just start coming. I sound like someone who can’t decide on a radio station while they’re out driving in their car — singing a bit of one song then a chorus of another. Everything from 70s to today’s pop to spirituals to veggie tales to well, just about anything. Corinne sings along to what she knows or picks up on harmony lines. We laugh as I get out of breath on the uphills, and as I try to dance and sing without tripping over rocks on the downhills.
It’s these moments where life feels right. Where you want time to stand still.
But time passes. We made it back to the cars — which were a GLORIOUS sight! We drove home. We said goodnight from two different houses miles apart. We slept in comfortable beds. We woke up to “normal life” the next day.
The trail seems like a completely separate world. And it leaves a bit of an ache in your heart. But we know we’ll be back. And we know that for now, “normal life” is good.