WEEK 6: EQUALITY

It has been yet another eventful week. I’ve covered many miles, two states and one district.  It really began on Wednesday when we tackled the “roller coaster”.  I had been hearing tales of its difficulty for weeks.  It’s described in the guidebook as 13.5 miles of tightly packed ascents and descents, which essentially translates to “the least fun roller coaster ever”.  Luckily, it had stormed the night before, which lowers the temperature considerably and we started hiking around 6:00am, so we were able to make it through the roller coaster and to a hostel around 1:00pm.  The hostel was stone and looked like a castle.  It was a great place to rest and prepare for the next day.  To be honest, I was kind of underwhelmed at the difficulty of the coaster.  I guess that means I’m getting better at this hiking thing.  The next morning the owners of the hostel made us chocolate chip pancakes, then we were on our way.

Unfortunately, I’ve been having a bit of foot pain lately.  Since my second day on the trail my third metatarsal has been hurting on and off, but a few days ago while hiking I heard a pop and the pain has been high and constant since then.  I was in a lot of pain Thursday morning, but I really wanted to hike 20.5 miles into Harper’s Ferry that day, so I did.  A section hiker looked at it during my lunch break and thinks it might be a hairline fracture.  Oops!

I reached Harper’s Ferry around 6:00pm and walked right to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.  Harper’s Ferry is known as the unofficial halfway point, so that’s where they built the Conservancy.  So many people drop out before this point that they don’t have you register until 1000 miles in.  Being a flip-flopper, I’m only about 550 miles in, but they still let me register.  I was the 178th flip-flopper to reach this point.

Friday morning, Dexter, Lost Boy, Butcher, Spider and I took the train to Washington D.C. for a day trip.  Soon after arriving, we found a Farmers Market and decided to check it out.  We looked at a few booths when one of the vendors waved us over.  It turns out that she was a hiker last year and knew Spider (he hiked last year as well).  She told us to come back when she got off work and she would show us around the city.

To pass the time, we walked over to the monuments.  Spider and Butcher thought it would be a great idea to walk across the Reflection Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  They were fully ready to be taken off to jail, but somehow, no one even batted an eye.  And I have video proof!

After that, we found a beautiful stage next to the Washington Monument, so we got on it and sang a few songs.  We were about to leave and I couldn’t resist, so I got up there and performed my favorite monologue from The Merchant of Venice.  It felt amazing to perform some Shakespeare again.

By the time we got back to the Farmers Market my sister had texted me about the Supreme Court ruling.  We helped our new friend pack up her booth, then walked over to the Supreme Court.  We celebrated with all of the gay and straight allies for hours.  It was a blast!  There was a bit of hate going on but ultimately there was an overwhelming sense of love.  I’ll never forget that day.

By this point we had been hanging out with the girl from the Farmers Market for hours and felt very comfortable around her, so she offered to let us sleep and shower at her apartment.  Of course we accepted.  After cleaning up at her place we went out for drinks, then walked over to the Jefferson Monument.  It was around 1:00am and all lit up.  It was a beautiful sight.  I could have stayed there all night.

In the morning we went over to the Museum of Natural History and now we’re going back to the trail. Virginia was nice, West Virginia was cool and it’s on to Maryland tomorrow.  It’s a good week to be an American.  Good thing it’s almost the 4th!  I’ll tell you more about those plans next week.

Have a gay day!

Love,

Hollywood

I am dedicating this hike to the orphaned children at Heart for Africa in Swaziland. For more information, I hope you visit my fundraising page at: gofundme.com/st984k

To read more:  janinemaxwell.blogspot.com

WEEK 5: A MONTH IN REVIEW

This week, I celebrated being on the trail for one month. That means a few things. It means I’ve beat the main drop out point with nearly 50% of hikers having dropped out by the end of Virginia. I’m still alive, hiking has become habitual and I’m having even more fun than I could’ve ever imagined. I was talking to one of my hiker friends the other day and he was saying, “ya know, these are the good ole days. It’ll be stories from this trip that we’ll tell our grandkids about in fifty years”. Now, I’m not saying that every day is all sunshine and daisies. This is really hard and there are definitely days when I think about how easy it would be to quit. In fact, this is probably the hardest thing physically and mentally that I’ve ever done, but each day I just remind myself that I can do anything and with each mile I walk, this becomes more and more true.

It’s funny, because I came out here with the expectation of solitude and self reflection, and while I have gotten a bit of that, I’ve been amazed at how vital the friendships I’ve made have been to the success of this trip. For me and many others I’ve talked to, the people are the best part. I truly hope that I maintain some of these friendships for years to come. These are some of the most kind-hearted, genuine, and generous people I’ve ever met. It’s fascinating to hear everyone’s reason for coming out on the trail. Most of us have our surface level reasons, whether it be that we met someone who did it or had a few months open, but when you get to know people a little better there’s almost always a much deeper reason for their journey. There are a lot of broken people out here. I don’t really know what else to say about that other than it’s oddly beautiful to see us all collectively working together in our individual healing. I hope everyone finds what they’re looking for or at least a sense of peace.

With this week coming to a close, as well as reaching the end of Virginia in the net few days, I find myself sitting in a shelter in the middle of Tropical Storm Kim with some of my new friends mere feet away, writing to you guys and reflecting. I miss home a lot. This past week has definitely been the most difficult one yet, but as the days go on I’m coming to realize that out here in the woods is the most at home I’ve felt in a very long time. I feel safe, loved and confident. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.

A few days ago I walked 26.2 miles in celebration of a month in my new home. We woke up early, did 13 miles by one o’clock, got awesome Trail Magic, went a mile out of my way to get a blackberry milkshake, got lost with about eight other people for nearly an hour, then finally made it into camp. It wasn’t easy and I was in quite a bit of pain by the end of the day, but I walked a marathon and I’m darn proud of it. Most people don’t get why I’m out here and that’s fine. But I know I’m exactly where I need to be. I think I’m going to walk another marathon tomorrow.

Well, that’s all for now. I can’t wait to tell you all about next week’s adventures!

Love,

Hollywood

I am dedicating this hike to the orphaned children at Heart for Africa in Swaziland. For more information, I hope you visit my fundraising page at: gofundme.com/st984k

janinemaxwell.blogspot.com

WEEK 4: PEOPLE ARE AWESOME!

What started off as a bad week ended up becoming one of my favorite on the trail.  It began with Spriglet having to get off the trail due to a leg injury and some family stuff.  This was a big blow to our team.  We miss him a lot.  That same day, I got dehydrated and nearly passed out/threw up several miles up the mountain.

Now flash forward to Thursday.  After a long, hot slow day of hiking I met several ladies in a women’s hiking club.  We talked for a bit then they gave me some candy and suggested that I spend the night on top of Spy Rock.  I didn’t know what it was, but that gave me the little push I needed.  They also mentioned that they would be doing Trail Magic at a road crossing Saturday morning.

I got to Spy Rock just before sunset and all my friends were already there.  We rock climbed all of our stuff up to the top where there was a perfect 360º view and watched the sunset with Candy and Poptarts.  Afterwards, Excalibur and Jokes and I cowboy camped under the stars.  I can’t imagine a more perfect night!

In the morning we were determined.  There was a big day ahead of us.  By 9:00am we had hiked four miles to “The Priest’ shelter to confess our sins.  The Priest is a famous shelter on the AT where thru hikers confess rules they have broken and write them in a log book.  It was hilarious to read everyone’s entries.  I confessed that I had yellow blazed 14 miles from Pearisburg to The Captain’s Party and deeply regretted it.  We hung out there for a while and then were off.

We hiked four more miles up a mountain and then down about 4000 feet.  At the bottom we got a hitch to a nearby campground where the owner gave us a bunch of free snacks.  It was awesome!  I ate ice cream, chips, soda, sour patch kids, two chocolate bars and drank a Coke.  Then after all that the owner gave us a free hitch back to the trail  It turns out that he is a past thru hiker and just likes to help us out.

It was already 2:30 by the time we got back to the trail and we didn’t really think that it would be possible to reach our goal destination before sundown, so we decided to take a quick swim in a nearby swimming hole.  It was fun, but after about an hour, we heard thunder and knew we had to get moving fast.  We got soaked, but it didn’t really matter, because we knew we still had to do a huge climb straight up the mountain.  It was exhausting and morale was low, but after many hours we got to the top.  It was just before 7:00.

Without much consideration, we made the snap judgement to make the final push to the Devil’s Backbone Brewery.   The only problem was that there was only about an hour and a half of sunlight left and we had almost six miles to walk.  Most people hike at a rate of about 2.5 miles per hour, so we knew we had to cruise.  We also didn’t know if the brewery closed at 9:00 or 10:00, but we were determined.  I’ve never hiked so hard in my life.  We ran, fell and tripped a lot, but somehow made it to the road crossing by 8:20.  After a few minutes we got a hitch and made it there before 9:00.  The best part was they didn’t close until 10:00!

We got hamburgers, nachos and plenty of beer and just had a wonderful time.  If you are ever in the area, you need to go to Devil’s Backbone Brewery.  It’s some of the best beer I’ve ever tasted, great food, and really nice staff.  I’d for sure give it a 10 out of 10!  After they closed we set up camp on their property (they allow free tenting too!) and fell asleep.

Now I’m sitting here writing this in the beautiful Virginia mountains and am about to get a full hiker breakfast from the brewery (did I mention that this place is awesome?), then it’s back to the trail where I belong.  Oh, and the road crossing we are at just happens to be where the ladies are doing Trail Magic this morning.  They said it’s mimosas and donuts.  I can live with this!

Love,

Hollywood

I am dedicating this hike to the orphaned children at Heart for Africa in Swaziland.  For more information, I hope you visit my fundraising page at:  gofundme.com/st984k

janinemaxwell.blogspot.com

WEEK 3: NEW FRIENDS AND NEW EXPERIENCES

This week started with a ride up to The Captain’s Party.  Every year, this guy throws a huge party two weeks after Trail Days (which was where I started my hike in Damascus, VA), and has a giant hiker feed.  He knows how to throw a party!  There was tons of food, beer, limbo, karaoke, a bonfire and so much more.  To get to his house you have to take a mini zipline across a river.  Joker and I sang “Jackson” by Johnny Cash and June Carter for karaoke, and while they didn’t announce a winner, we know in our hearts that we won.  9:00pm is known as hiker midnight and we stayed up until 2:00am singing karaoke and telling stories around the campfire.  It was just about perfect.

The next morning I packed up and attempted an easy 10 mile hike straight up a mountain.  That sucked after staying up and drinking a little too much the night before.  After huffing and puffing for hours, I made it to the shelter, and then following a quick nap, I stupidly decided to hike seven more miles to the next shelter.  It was getting pretty dark and I was walking slow and a few miles in I see a baby black bear about 30 feet in front of me.  He stops, stares at me a second and then runs away from me as fast as his little paws could take him.  I was a bit freaked out, but decided to push on.  No more than ten minutes later I looked down a little bit to my left to see a big black bear staring at me.  This one wasn’t moving.  That’s when my last four years of theatre training kicked in.  I did what I do best and immediately broke out into song.  A couple lines into my rousing rendition of “Get Out and Stay Out” from 9 to 5, the bear bolted off into the woods.  I didn’t know if I should be proud of it or if that bear was telling me I need to practice more.  Either way, that’s how I learned to appreciate my training and that I shouldn’t hike after dark.  Have a “BEAR”y good week!

Love,   Hollywood

I am dedicating this hike to orphaned children at Heart for Africa in Swaziland.  For more information, I hope you to visit my  fundraising page at:  gofundme.com/st984k

janinemaxwell.blogspot.com