This has been a tough week.  Nothing really in particular has gone wrong and I haven’t had some sudden change of heart, but it has been the first time on the trail that I’ve had the thought of actually wanting to go home.  I hate to admit that.

I wish that my posts every week could be filled with positivity and life changing events, and there is some of that.  But, I also want to be honest about the hard times.

We started this week by going into NYC for the second time.  We had slept literally ten feet from the train tracks the night before and had been kept up all night by loud steam engines whizzing right past our heads.  We groggily took the train in the morning into the city, but quickly realized that nowhere would let us in with our hiking packs.  This led us to running around all day from museum to museum like chickens with our heads cut off, only to be told that we couldn’t enter.

The highlight of the trip was the night when we went to dinner with several of my theatre friends from college and Shakespeare and Company.  It was great to see all of them.  It really rejuvenated my spirit.  I told them stories from the trail and they told me about all of the exciting projects they are working on.  I wish I had more time to spend with each of them.  As my acting professor, Dr. Pender, would say, spending time with them “feeds my soul”.  Their hearts are so open and honest and I find I’m able to have vulnerable conversations with them in ways that I often struggle to have with most of the hikers.  The next day my friend let us leave our packs at her place so we were able to get to The Museum of Natural History and the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty.  I quite enjoyed both!

Overall, NYC was an exciting and soul feeding trip, but the combination of lack of sleep, limited funds, navigation problems and the general stimulation over-load of the big city led to high tensions on our return trip.  I had several meltdowns while hiking that day.  I started to think about how nice it would be to take a shower, sleep in a real bed, and use a flushing toilet when suddenly these thoughts had consumed me.  I wanted to get away.  I didn’t sleep well that night or the night after.  Like I said earlier, I wanted to go home.

The only problem is that I am an unbelievably stubborn person and refuse to ever give up on anything, so I had to find a solution.  It took a couple days of walking, and thinking, and walking while thinking, but I eventually figured it out. On the trail, we often say the phrase, “hike your own hike”.  I’ve been hiking with a group since my first day on the trail and have been so focused on the needs of the group that I hadn’t really been hiking my own hike.  I came out here to find my own strength and test my limits, but have had a security blanket around me the entire time.  Don’t get me wrong, it was great to have that, but now I’m ready to take it off.  My goal this week is to put me first.  I’m going to stop at waterfalls when I feel like it and camp near a view if that’s what I need to do.

Last night I got to the Berkshires in Massachusetts and went to see Henry V at Shakespeare and Company (where I trained a couple summers ago).  Next to this adventure, training at Shakespeare and Company is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.  The whole time I was at the show I was thinking how good it felt to be home.  I miss that place so much and I know I’ll be saying the same about the Appalachian Trail in a few months.

This week I will hit my halfway point, which brings up a lot of emothions.  I don’t know what the second half will hold, but I can’t wait to find out.  And I will find out!  I don’t know exactly what I’m trying to find out here, but for now my goal is to be selfish and do what makes me happy.  I’m ready to hike my own hike!







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.






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!



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


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!



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


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!



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


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!



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



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!



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



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



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.