Day 117. I’m back! To say it felt weird being off-trail these past few days is quite the understatement. I had a great rhythm going these past few months: wake, hike, eat, blog, sleep, repeat. But I haven’t hiked in 4 days, and even more odd, I haven’t journaled in that same time. So now that I’m back among the Appalachian mountains, I’m ready to jump back on the trail and close out these final chapters of my incredible thruhike journey.
Although not very relevant to my thruhike blog (nor of much interest to readers), my weekend off was both relaxing and stressful. Bittersweet, if you will. It was great to spend time with my wife and friends, and the wedding was a beautiful affair all around. But, it also felt very odd being in big cities again. In the past 4 days, I spent time in NYC, Philly, and Boston … you can’t get more “in the city” than that. I had a great time, but I did feel quite out of place. I yearned to be on the trail and sleeping in the woods while among civilization, and I’m glad to be back in “hike mode” again here in Lincoln. There is a peace of mind you experience along the trail that is instantly gone when sitting in traffic or standing in restaurant lines. However, my body was definitely strained after last week’s hiking, so the extended rest was warranted either way.
Tomorrow I go back to the trail, meeting my sister’s family at the AMC Highland Center before hiking through the Presidential Range together (or “prezzies” as the locals call it) over the next few days. It will be a nice slow transition back to the trail, which my feet and knees will appreciate.
Tonight though, I am staying at an amazing hostel in Lincoln called “Chet’s Place”. It is my first time doing what is called a Work For Stay (WFS). This is common with some hikers, as it allows you to stay for free at a hostel or lodge in exchange for performing household chores at the facility. Hikers on a strict budget are often interested in this, as it can significantly help to offset the expensive costs of a thruhike, when available. It is also very popular at the White Mountain huts, which are at least $75 a night and regularly offer 2-3 hikers a WFS per night to help them get through this difficult section. There are not many other sleeping options on the trail between Lincoln and Gorham, and any desired tent sites require you to hike down the mountain to an official campsite below the tree line. I may do a WFS at a hut after leaving my family, but for now, I’m getting a small taste of the experience at Chet’s Place tonight.
Chet (trail name, “One Step at a Time”) is an amazing individual, and only takes WFS or donations for his equally amazing hostel. The garage at his home is converted to a hiker lounge, and remodeled to also include a large bunk room building behind. He offers every amenity you could need, and eagerly welcomes hikers each year to join him at his residence for a night or two. Chet himself used to be an avid outdoorsman and hiker, until a horrific camping injury (a stove explosion) nearly killed him, and leaves him without full use of his lower body still today. Chet’s story is incredible. He spent 9 months in a drug induced coma while doctors attempted to save his life after sustaining 3rd degree burns to over 80% of his body. But he has the heart of a lion and the will of a giant, recovering faster and further beyond everyone’s expectations. Today, he is still limited to a wheelchair, requires an uncomfortable supply of medicine, and undergoes dialysis and other medical procedures regularly … but his spirits are ever high and he loves being a part of the community. And, looking around the hostel to the countless letters of support, admiration, and love posted on every available surface, it’s clear the AT community loves him too. (My favorite being the many signs like highlighted above).
There was not much work to be done, but I helped clean up the laundry room as requested, and offered to do anything more he thinks of before I leave tomorrow. There are a couple other hikers here as well, but overall it’s a pretty quiet night. With some time to kill, I went into town, saw Jurassic World at the local theater (eh), grabbed dinner at a local brewery, then finished last week’s video recap (will post tomorrow). I’m hitting the hay early to try and catch up on some missed sleep this weekend, and then excited to be walking among the mountains again tomorrow.
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)
- Start Mile: 1817.8
- Start Time: 0:00
- End Mile: 1817.8
- End Time: 0:00
- Miles Hiked: 0.0
- Miles to Go: 373.1
- Lodging: Chet’s Place