WEEK 9 AND 10: SUPER FUN, EXCITING BLOG POST!

First off, I need to apologize for not posting a blog last week.  It was a very busy week, but also I was just being lazy.  Last week I celebrated my birthday, passed the 900 mile mark, saw my parents, crossed from Pennsylvania to New Jersey to New York, saw a rattlesnake and a bear, and celebrated two months on the trail.  In order to make up for my lack of writing, I promise to make this post as exciting as possible.

Flash back to July 15.  We had been pushing big miles for about a week so that we could make it into New Jersey for my birthday.  There are a couple reasons for this. One, we wanted to get out of Pennsylvania because its rocky, rainy and has too many mosquito’s.  Two, you can buy a six pack of beer at Wal-Mart in New Jersey.

Back to the story.  We had just reached New Jersey and needed to hike 15 miles the next day to make it in to town, so Jokes and I decided to camp on the top of a mountain next to a fire tower.  The sign said not to, but we climbed to the top of the tower to watch the sunset.  It was beautiful!  Later that night I couldn’t sleep, so I took my sleeping bag outside, laid on it, and looked at the stars for about an hour.  The sky was clear, the wind was blowing and I could see every star the universe had to offer.  I even saw three shooting stars.  I can’t tell you what I wished for, but the people I love should be looking for very positive things in the near future.  It was a pretty great way to ring in my 22nd birthday.

The next morning we woke up to about 20 geese around our tent, we packed up our stuff and Jokes sang me a lovely rendition of Happy Birthday before we headed out.  Gosh, it was a perfect day.  After hiking those 15 miles through perfect weather and perfect views (and narrowly avoiding a rattlesnake) we reached a lakeside restaurant/bar in Branchville, New Jersey.  I met some nice locals who bought me a birthday drink, then up walks “Soul Flute” (one of the guys who gave me amazing trail magic my second night on the trail).  He thru hiked a few years ago and just happened to be doing a day hike in that area on my birthday.  He’s a bartender, so once he found out it was my 22nd birthday, he went up to the bar and had them make me a really fancy drink.  It was delicious!

After that, Dexter, Lost Boy and Ma’am showed up.  Ma’am had hiked 1300 miles, but had to get off the trail to go back to work.  Her husband was driving to Branchville that day to pick her up, so she had him pick up a fresh watermelon on the way.  This may seem like an odd thing, but it was my birthday request.  We cut up the watermelon and shared it with everyone at the restaurant.  Once we filled up on watermelon we went over to a nearby Mexican restaurant to stuff ourselves even more.  The food was delicious and there was even a Mariachi band to sing to me.  We said our goodbyes to Ma’am, then (somewhat sneakily) set up our tents behind a pizza place in town.  Just as we were about to go to bed, Jokes pulled out a Little Debbie birthday cake with candles and a “Birthday Girl” pin.  I have the greatest friends.

A couple days later my parents made the drive all the way from Georgia to New Jersey for some post-birthday celebration.  They picked up me, Dexter, Lost Boy and Jokes from the trail, we got a delicious dinner, then we all went to my mom’s friend Carolyn’s house for the night.  My mom and Carolyn have been best friends since sixth grade, so it was pretty neat to watch them hang out like old times. Carolyn and her husband Mike and their son Ben treated us like royalty.  Hot showers, laundry, beds and cookies included!

The next morning my parents, the boys and I took the train into New York City.  The boys went off on their own, while my parents and I went into the Drama Book Shop (my favorite place in the city).  I was having the time of my life looking at their new scripts and all of their different translations of Chekhov, when my friend Danny walked in.  He was a high school friend of mine and now works there.  It’s funny how even in such a big city the world is still pretty small.  After that fun interaction, we walked over a few blocks to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.  If you’re ever in NYC, you need to go see this play.  It was phenomenal!  All of the actors were good, but the lead boy was out of this world!  His entire performance was jaw dropping and to add to it he’s only a year out of college.  I definitely want to see that show again.

After the show we headed to the Shake Shack to meet Jason, a family friend who lives in the city.  It was great to catch up.  It’s funny to me how only two months in the woods can make you so separate from society.  Just being around that much noise and that many people had me pretty overwhelmed, so we decided to end the night by heading over to Central Park.  You can’t even take this girl out of the woods for a day.  The next morning we met back with the boys and took the train out of the city.  My parents got us back to the trail, then slack packed us all day, which is when you just carry a small amount of food and water for the day and  they drive our packs to the days end location.  It was awesome.  By the time we got to the park where we were all meeting, they had a feast ready for us.  Jokes hikes significantly faster than the rest of us, so he had spent the last hour or so grilling with my dad.  We gobbled up our delicious meal, said our goodbyes to my parents, then went back to the shelter.  It’s good to be back on the trail, but I do already miss my parents.

Well, that’s about it for now.  I hope that was exciting enough.  Oh, and the boys and I had so much fun in the city that we decided to go back in.  We will be taking a train in tomorrow morning for a two day adventure.  It should be a good time.  Let me know if you’re in the city and want to hang out.

Also, several people have asked me what I want for my birthday.  I don’t want anything.  I have everything I need in my pack.  However, as many of you know, I am raising money for an orphanage in Swaziland called Heart For Africa.  While I have everything I need, thousands of children in Swaziland do not.  I encourage you all to take a look at the Heart For Africa blog posted below.  These babies are in dire need of love and assistance.  Heart For Africa is currently home to about 100 abandoned babies.  For my birthday, I would be ecstatic if everyone who reads this blog gives just a $10 donation to this fantastic organization.  How cool would it be if our donations literally saved the life of a child.  I can’t think of a single greater birthday wish.

Love,

Hollywood

janinemaxwell.blogspot.com

http://www.gofundme.com/st984k

WEEK 8: THE TRAIL GIVETH AND THE TRAIL TAKETH AWAY

So much has happened this week.  I’ll start pretty much where we left off.  The morning after the 4th of July activities we headed out of town.  It was super easy terrain and we were averaging about four miles per hour, so the whole crew decided to go into the next town with me to pick up a package and get a hot lunch at the diner.  We didn’t want to have to carry our packs with us all the way into town, so I suggested hiding them in the woods by the road.  Dexter and I hid ours in one spot while Lost Boy and Chance hid theirs in another.  I’m sure you can guess where this is going!

When we finished lunch and got back to the trail a couple hours later, Lost Boy and Chance discovered that their packs were missing.  In an instant our day turned to panic.  Everything we own is in those packs.  The boys ran off in different directions to see if they could catch the thieves.  Along the way, Chance found an empty beer bottle that he was certain came from his pack.  They had purchased beer for the 4th and packed out a few to enjoy at camp that night.  Soon after that, they found an older couple outside their home who said some of the boys from the nearby trailer park are known for stealing from neighbors.  Meanwhile, the cops arrived and were getting descriptions of the packs and their contents when our friend Regular Goat walked by.  Dexter and I ran up to ask if he had seen anything, when he pulled out his phone to show us a picture of the two packs he saw on the side of the trail.  He had taken the picture because he said the packs were completely ransacked and it looked like hikers had been murdered.  He wanted the picture as evidence!!!

After retrieving the backpacks, Regular Goat said the boys and the cops searched through their belongings to discover that absolutely nothing was missing, except one beer and a $20 dulcimer (a small guitar) from Chance’s bag.  We were ecstatic.  Maybe the kids stealing them got scared and dropped them, or maybe they had a change of heart.  I like to think it’s the later.  We hiked a few more miles to the net rest stop where we saw our friend D.No sitting at a bench playing the dulcimer.  Turns out Chance had absentmindedly put it down near a tree earlier in the day and forgot to pick it back up.  Those kids caused a whole lot of scare for one beer!  To make the day even better, there was a ridgerunner who was passing out free beers.  It turned out to be a pretty good day.

Now flash forward a little.  We’ve been pushing pretty big days recently, so that we could make it to New Jersey for my birthday on the 16th.  We have done several 20’s in a row and on this day, we wanted to push 24 miles into town.  This is all fine and dandy until the trail decided to try to kill us.  We were making extremely good time and were only a few miles out of town, when it started to downpour.  Within ten minutes, the rain was so thick that we couldn’t see a person 20 feet in front of us.  Ten minutes after that, the trail had turned into a quick flowing river and thunder and lightning was all around us.  We finally got within maybe a half mile to town when suddenly the trail plummets straight down the mountain.  This was the steepest decline I had ever seen.  For the next half mile, we carefully took each step onto slippery rocks, in a flood, at what felt like a 90º angle.  Jesus must have been watching over us, because somehow none of us died.  I have never felt so happy to reach the bottom of a mountain.

After getting dried off and settled into camp, we headed down to the small town bar down the street.  Now this place was interesting.  They had beer on tap for $1.25, five and six year old children running around, and a bartender who was eight months pregnant and smoking.  We hung out for a little while, then the bartender showed us a video of a tornado that was over the mountain at the same time we were coming down.  Jesus was really watching over us that day!  Life is never boring out here on the trail.  Until next time.  Four days until my birthday!

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 7: THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

Last week didn’t end how I thought it would.  After going to the museum, Breezy (our host in Washington D.C.) drove us to her friend “Brave(s)” house.  Brave fed us all, bought us ice cream, and gave us a place to sleep for the night.  Before leaving the next morning, she looked at my foot and told me to call her if I needed anything, whether it be a ride to the doctor or a place to stay for recovery.   She’s truly a wonderful trail angel.

The next couple of days were really tough on my foot, but I pushed on.  However, Monday evening I was pushing harder than usual and when climbing over a fallen tree, I fell and instantly knew my foot was in trouble.  I was in a ton of pain and still had five more miles to go to the next shelter.  By the time I got there, my foot was totally bruised and swollen.  I was sure it was broken.  That night I called three people.  I called my Mom and Dad to tell them the bad news, and Brave to ask what to do next.  Even though she wasn’t able to help me that next morning due to prior engagements, it still felt good to know that there was someone close by who was looking out for me and had my back.

The next morning’s walk into town was rough.  I started crying partly due to pain, but mostly out of fear of having to get off of the trail.  It was when I got a hitch into town that things started to look up.  The man’s daughter is interested in walking the trail, so he was asking all of the usual questions, which I happily answered.  It was only a few short miles into town but I really enjoyed his company.  By the time we got there, he had left a message for the town nurse and told her to expect me, wrote down the address to the clinic, and even gave me a bag of grapes, because I had mentioned that we don’t get to eat fruit very often on the trail.  I wish his daughter the best of luck during her hike next year.

Unfortunately, when we got to the clinic, we found out that the nurse was on vacation until the next day and they don’t do x-rays.  However, the receptionist looked up the closest urgent care facility and wrote down the address for me.  While trying to figure out our next plan of action at the town Subway Restaurant, a random local walked in and asked if we needed a ride anywhere.  After telling him my situation and saying I needed a ride to urgent care, he dropped everything and drove fifteen minutes out of his way to get me there.  When we got there he gave me his number and told me to give him a call when I needed a ride back.  Also, this whole time Brave was calling and texting to check up on me.  After a very stressful couple of hours at urgent care, the doctor told me that the x-rays came out clean.  Nothing was broken!  To say I was relieved would be an understatement.   Minutes after calling the kind man from earlier, he was there to pick me up.  He had even found a free place in town for me to stay and recover if my foot had been broken.

When we got back to town, Dexter, Lost Boy and Excalibur were all sitting there waiting for me.  We all went out to lunch, then they bought me ice cream to celebrate unbroken bones!  It has been a good week.

For the Fourth of July we wanted to hitch into Gettysburg to watch Civil War battle reenactments.  While that didn’t work out, we did get to watch homemade boat races, saw a professional production of Damn Yankees at the Allenberry Playhouse in Boiling Springs, PA, watched fireworks and were once again welcomed into the home of complete strangers who were having a Fourth of July party.  They fed us, gave us beer, let us take showers and washed our wet clothes.  In fact, I’m currently tenting in their front lawn and have been promised a homemade breakfast before I begin hiking in the morning.

I continue to be amazed at the kindness of strangers.  It’s people like this who are making my hike possible.  Faith in humanity restored!

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