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.