Day 97. Hello Massachusetts! And just like that, I’ve reached my 11th state. I crossed the border (and the 1500 mile marker), and all that’s left now are those 3 grueling states in the corner of America. Those happen to be 3 of the hardest state terrains, but who cares, it’s all hard. From here, the end feels like it’s within reach, and that’s a great feeling to have. As for today’s post, I’m feeling a bit pensive and creative, so I’m going to break from my usual hiking summary and do a philosophical interview to recap my day and feelings instead. This may be silly, but who cares, it’s fun and different. And Different is Good.
Michael: I heard you met a 6th grade class on a field trip today and they asked how this experience has changed you. Has it?
Sharkbait: Hmm, well to be honest, not much. At least not in some big life-altering way that other people out here are searching for. It hasn’t provided the answers to all life’s questions … but then again, I didn’t come out here searching for that. However, it has taught me how to appreciate the simple things in life more, and focus on what makes me happy daily. I’m sure these two areas of growth will be more pivotal parts of my life in the future because of this experience. Oh, and worrying less. It’s so easy to be carefree on the trail and give ones usual stressful mind a break. There is so much to love in the day, and it’s not worth spending a second worrying about what could go wrong. If you do, you’ll miss what’s right in front of you. Like a waterfall, or a clear mountaintop view, or (most often in my case) a giant black snake.
Michael: You’ve hiked with many different groups and partners, but you are still doing this by yourself. Do you feel alone out here, and do you like the solitude?
Sharkbait: You really are never alone out here, and I’ve yet to camp by myself once in 97 days. In fact, tonight is a big group with familiar faces at my campsite: Transformer, Hungry Cat, Mousetrap, and 6 others. I haven’t seen Mousetrap since Harpers Ferry, but it feels like we hiked together just yesterday. Even when you walk 16 miles “alone”, you are still passing people (or being passed) daily. Dayhikers love to stop and chat, townsfolk often do too, and let’s not forget the cars/trains … you hear them pretty much all day every day, reminding you that you are never truly out of civilization. I like hiking alone though, which is new to me, and there is definitely a sense of tranquility in that for me now that wasn’t there before. That kind of solitude is welcome.
Michael: We all know how much you hated PA, has the trail improved for you since?
Sharkbait: Oh yes! I rebooted my mental state at Delaware Water Gap with a few days off and I can honestly say I’m loving this trail again. I had a great time with my dad that just finished, and I’m back to being excited for each day’s hiking challenges. For example, today was a beast of a day! I climbed 4 huge peaks in cold/wet conditions, slipping and struggling most of the way. But I loved it. Lion’s Head provided amazing views of my last week’s journey, then Bear Mountain (highest peak in CT) showed me everything coming up in Massachusetts. It was the toughest climb I’ve done in weeks, but the views were well worth the trial. And they stayed with me another few miles as I ridge-walked to Mt Race and then up Mt Everett. I could see hundreds of miles across MA and my adrenaline was pumping with excitement to take this state on.
Michael: Sounds like you did a lot today, what was your favorite moment?
Sharkbait: Well, the plethora of views I just mentioned are probably it, they were simply spectacular. But I also had a great time at camp afterwards. I got in around 4, and contemplated going another 8 miles to Great Barrington, but decided to have a casual evening instead. I made a big dinner, I rinsed off the day’s dirt, and I called my wife. But the best moment may be just moments ago as I was typing this. I sent Huevos a quick note that I was almost to his hometown of Dalton, and he called for a quick video chat. We talked for a few minutes and I learned he is in Harpers Ferry, but still hiking strong. Huevos was a fun part of my tramily in Georgia, and I’ve always wonder how he’s held up since. I heard rumors of him at times, but nothing concrete. I’m happy to report he’s doing great, still hiking and now loving life! He told me that he finally found his own personal happinesses from being out on the trail, and it warmed my heart to hear it. Love that kid.
Michael: What about the worst?
Sharkbait: Do I have to have one? I’m not sure I do. Well, ok, how about this. I passed by Salisbury, CT without stopping in for breakfast. I knew Hungry Cat was planning to, and I could have joined him at one of the many delicious sounding bakery’s. Oh well, money is tight now and I have plenty of food in my bag, so no big loss. But I’ve been spoiled the past few days and oatmeal wasn’t exactly an exciting alternative.
Michael: You have hiked 1500 miles, you must feel like an expert of the Appalachian Trail by now. What advice do you have for future thruhikers reading this?
Sharkbait: Enjoy every moment, because it is a gift to be able to do this. Life back home is waiting to crowd you and stress you again, so treasure everyday where food, water, and a dry campsite are your only real concerns. Don’t get surly (like everyone Happy met), and instead take time off when your spirits dip low. Stop at the views, take the side trails, talk with the people, and soak up every moment of the hike straight to your heart … because it will be over before you know it. I can’t believe I’m nearly 3/4 finished…
Also! Keep a daily blog. Writing each night will keep your mental state strong while also capturing your experience real-time to go back and relive again after. And if you get bored writing the same thing every day, you can mix it up with something goofy and different like this interview. You really were very smart to suggest this tonight, Michael.
Michael: Thank you, it’s a gift.
Sharkbait: And, if you aren’t too boring, faithful readers will come along and encourage you along the way. They are fantastic at motivating you to keep going on your worst days … and congratulating you for your accomplishments on the best ones. Thanks everyone!
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)
- Start Mile: 1497.3
- Start Time: 07:55
- End Mile: 1513.8
- End Time: 16:10
- Miles Hiked: 16.5
- Miles to Go: 677.1
- Lodging: Glen Brook Shelter