I decided to make this weeks blog post about things I’ve learned so far.  Enjoy!

1. Safety meetings have nothing to do with safety.  It took me a very long time to figure this one out!  (It means you’re smoking illegal substances).

2.  Hiker’s food bags look like they were packed by a mix between six year olds and alcoholics.  We burn so many calories that we need everything we can get.  This includes pop tarts, whiskey and lots of candy.

3.  Telling a girl that you showered yesterday is considered a pick-up line.

4.  They’re called bear bags, but pretty much everyone hangs them to keep mice away.

5.  Mice are not scared of anything!  They will sit on your head or poop on your sleeping bag while you sleep.

6.  Townspeople sometimes call us “hickers”.  We find this extremely amusing.

7.  It is 10 X easier to hitchhike if you’re a girl.

8.  Almost everyone on the trail is either under 25 or over 60 and a veteran.

9.  Everything hurts — ALWAYS!

10.  I consider quitting on almost every big hill, then change my mind as soon as I see the lookout.

11.  There are a ton of Germans out here.

12.  I have yet to meet an African American on the trail

13.  You are never at the top of the mountain.  Saying “it’s got to be the top this time” will lead to disappointment 100% of the time.

14.  It is very confusing when hikers add you on Facebook.  Then after looking at a couple pictures there’s the sudden realization of “Oh!  That’s *insert trail name here*.

15.  Somehow walking 15 miles with a 30 lb. pack up a mountain all day gets easy after a couple weeks.

16.  Some privies have no walls.

17.  There are people who literally live on the trail for years.

18.  Cotton kills!  There is nothing worse than hiking in wet cotton.

19.  The saying goes, “at the end of the trail the men look like P.O.W.’s and the women look like Greek goddesses”.

20.  Hikers (hickers) are the nicest, craziest, most interesting people I’ve ever met.

Love,  Hollywood

Gofundme.com/st984k – to benefit the orphans at Heart for Africa




I have been trying to figure out how to condense this weeks adventures into one entry and decided to give you a glimpse of each day.

DAY 1: Within 5 minutes of my parents dropping me off at Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia, I met “4Be”, a 66 year old thru hiker who happened to set up his tent next to mine.  He introduced me to a bunch of people and we walked the hiker parade together.  After the parade I met Red Barron who showed me back to where he and his friends were hanging out/camping.  An area known as (wo)MAN camp.  They welcomed me in, did a shakedown of my pack, then gave me food and free alcohol.  Once we were sufficiently intoxicated we went to the bonfire.  The only word I can think of to describe it is “insane”.  It’s a giant fire with entire tree trunks burning and hundreds of hikers dancing around it.  The inner circle was doing tribal dances while the people on the outside were playing drums. I imagine a lot of these people were on drugs.

DAY 2:  4Be and I grabbed a quick breakfast in town before heading for the trail.  He has daughters close to my age and one that passed away a few years ago from cancer, so he was very kind to me and took care of me those first few days.  We ended up doing 11.7 miles my first day out and I am very proud of that.

DAY 3:  The day started with us doing a 2000 foot climb almost straight up.  It was hard, but 4Be kept me at a good pace.  When we got to the top, there was a perfect view.  I could tell I was slowing 4Be down and wanted to enjoy the view, so I told him to go on.  After hiking a bit more, I set up camp.  Minutes after getting in my tent, a bunch of people showed up.  They brought hot dogs, baked potatoes, bananas, marshmallows, filtered water, soda, made a bonfire, put up tarps  to stop the rain and started playing instruments.  It turns out they are past thru hikers in a group called “Riff Raff” who do trail magic (which basically means doing nice things for the current hikers).  It was an awesome night filled with awesome people.

DAY 4:  This was basically the best day ever!  It started with “Riff Raff”  making us breakfast and then I was off.  A few miles in I saw a baby calf right on the trail.  To its side was the mama and a few feet on the other side was a giant bull with giant horns.  It didn’t seem interested in me, but I was very careful walking by.  Later on, my friend Cotton and I found a cave to explore.  A 50 foot rock cluster to rock climb, and stunning 360* views.  Not long after that we started seeing the ponies of Grayson Highlands.  They were the best!   We pet them for a while and took many selfies with them.  After many hours of this we made it to the shelter. There were signs that said no tenting, but I decided to ignore them and set up camp.   Just as I was about to fall asleep I heard noises outside my tent.  It was terrifying until i heard munching and realized it was the ponies.  Then, they tried to munch on my tent.  The whole situation was hilarious and something I’ll never forget!

DAY 5:  This was the day I got lost.  After hiking a little over a mile, I realized I hadn’t seen a trail marker in a very long time.  Many prayers and an hour and a half later, I found my way back.  Hopefully, that doesn’t happen again for a very long time.

DAY 6:  That morning, all of the talk at the shelter was about how you can order pizza from the shelter 20 miles from where we were, so guess what we did?  The first ten miles were done in the freezing rain.  Then after lunch Spriglet and I made the final push to the shelter.  Our legs felt like jello, but that pizza was worth every step and I slept great that night.

DAY 7:  we got a shuttle into the town of Marion, VA for 50 cents.  Right as I was getting on the shuttle, 4Be was getting off.  It was great to see him again and he even gave me donuts.  Spriglet, Castaway, Cotton and I all went in on a motel room.  It felt amazing to take  shower, wash my clothes and eat real food.  Later on we were drinking beer at the motel room and I stepped outside to call Claire (my college roommate).  While I was talking to her a van pulled up in front of me, so I walked away.  A few minutes later a girl drove up and followed some guy into a motel room.  I’m pretty sure he thought I was a prostitute.  Well that’s one for the books!

That’s it for week one.  Oh, and I guess my trail name is “Hollywood”.  I don’t really know how it happened, but a bunch of people are calling me that now.  I’ll let you now if it changes.




I’m here!!!!  It has been one year and two days since I made the decision to go on this hike.  In that year, I’ve done countless hours of research, training, buying supplies and praying.  Now the day has finally come.  Last night I had my last good shower, last shampoo, last time shaving, last night in a comfy bed and last episode of Friends on Netflix.  It’ll definitely be hard to give all of those things up, especially shaving (I loathe hairy legs), but whats way more painful was saying goodbye to people this past week.  This includes all of my college friends and professors, roommates, high school friends and family.  I’m going to miss all of you a lot.

Moving on…Friday morning my mom, dad and I loaded all of my stuff (which I finished packing at 3:00am…..oops!) into the truck and headed for Damascus.  When we pulled up to the town I felt a surge of emotion well up inside me.  It wasn’t fear or nervousness, like I would have expected, but instead it felt like home.  I looked up at the beautiful mountains before me and knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.  We spent the day exploring the city and enjoying the ‘Trial Days’ festival.  It was fun, but I was shocked at how few hikers I saw.  That’s when we explored some more and found ‘Tent City’.  It was a giant field filled with thousands and thousands of hikers and tents.  This is where I plan on trying to make friends today.

I was having a blast, but I could tell my dad was getting more and more anxious with each passing minute.  He’s not a fan of his daughter walking across the country by herself with no prior backpacking experience.  I haven’t the slightest clue why!  Just as we were about to head out for the day, we ran into some lost hikers who we offered to drive to Tent City.  There were two girls from Kansas City names Firefly and Moonbow (you go by trail names here), and two boys from Germany named Mother F***er and I don’t remember the other name.  I must have been too distracted by the name Mother F***er.  We dropped them off and the boys went on their way.  The girls, however, stayed to talk to us.  They were very nice and helped to ease my dad’s worries 100 fold.  They explained how safe the trail is and offered to hang out with me when my parents left.  I really hope I can find them today.  We then stopped for dinner before snoozin’ at the hotel.  My last meal was filet mignon and creme brûlée martini.  Not bad!

Well, that’s it for my first day amongst the hippies.  We’ll see how today goes.  Fingers crossed I make friend!  I can’t wait to update you in next week’s blog about my first week.  Maybe i’ll even get a trial name.

JanineMaxwell.blogspot.com                                    www.gofundme.com/st984k

Happy Hiking!


My first post

Hey guys! Well, this is it.  I officially leave for the trail in three days.  On Friday morning my parents are driving me to Damascus, Virginia, population 815, for Trail Days, also known as “Hiker’s Prom”.  They estimate between 20,000 to 30,000 people attend the event.  I don’t really know what to expect, but I know it will be the most perfectly strange way to begin my journey.  I will leave from there on Sunday. As far as the hike goes specifically, I’m doing what’s known as a flip-flop hike, which means I’ll start my hike in the middle of the trail, go up to Maine, then go back to the middle to hike back down to Georgia.  The reasoning behind this is to allow me to reach the finishing point at Mt. Katahdin before it closes for safety and weather reasons on October 15. I made this blog to keep everyone updated on my adventures in the wilderness.  You can plan on hearing the good, the bad, and the creepy-crawly.  I’ll be posting a new entry every Saturday, which my wonderful mother has kindly agreed to type up for me (thanks Mom!). As some of you know, I’m dedicating this hike to orphaned children at Heart For Africa in Swaziland.  My goal is to raise one dollar for every mile I walk, which should add up to $2,180.  For more information, I would love for you to visit my fundraising page at gofundme.com/st984k

Thanks for walking with me!


“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.” ― Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail