Originally Posted July 30, 2014 by Venture Outdoors
We received an update from Charlie this week! Here’s what he has to say!
Ten Mile River 2, CT, 7_20 I recently crossed from Connecticut into Massachusetts, and I’m now just over the 2/3 point on the trail-still about 650 miles to go.
I was still in Virginia when I wrote the first part of this account, and hiking with a buddy called Trigger. The trail in the northern part of Virginia goes through the Shenandoah National Park, which was fantastic and dense with wildlife. I saw 12 bears there-9 of whom were cubs. I also saw a rattlesnake and a baby deer that must have been less than a week old. I had a bad day in the Shenandoah, coming down with food poisoning, which took me off of the trail for four days. Trigger stayed with me for the first day, and then continued on the trail after I went into town to get a motel room. He’s still a few days ahead of me on the trail now.
I’ve been lucky to have friends and family visit me on the trail. My mother came up for a day in Harpers Ferry 1, 6_19Harpers Ferry, and some friends from Pittsburgh made it out the next day. We enjoyed some river rafting and kayaking on the Shenandoah River there, and the friends stayed on for some hiking on the trail the following day.
The trail passed through parts of eastern Pennsylvania later on. I had heard from other hikers that PA was infamous for having very rocky trails, and the state certainly lived up to its reputation. My feet were pretty sore by the time I reached New Jersey. One distinctive feature of the trail in PA that I did enjoy, though, was that there were mushrooms springing up in great variety, and I spent a lot of time taking pictures of them. I’ve shared a bunch of these with the Western PA Mushroom club.
I got to visit with Laura Vayansky Edwards and her husband Rich and daughter Mary. They are caretakers for the PA 501 shelter-one of the best shelters on the AT. They treated me to a nice barbecued chicken dinner.
I was again visited by friends on the trail in PA-a couple from Pittsburgh joined me for a day hike, and we stayed in a B&B that evening. Then another friend from NJ met up with me there, and came along for two days of hiking, with a night of camping. He was lucky with timing, and got to experience the phenomenon of “trail magic,” which is the much-loved practice of bringing food and drinks to a spot on the trail, and giving it away to hikers! Many of the people who do this (called “trail angels”) have hiked the trail themselves in the past.
After PA, the trail continues through shorter sections in NJ, NY, CT, and MA. This has covered some beautiful ground, and each section seems to have its own surprises. These states have more wetlands than I imagined, and I’ve been thrilled to see some beaver dams along the trail here. CT surprised me with a large number of frogs, with great variation in size and coloration. They also have plenty to eat-both CT and MA have lots of mosquitos!
I’ve also taken my opportunities for a couple of side trips from the trail. I spent one day with the friend from NJ, and we hiked out to a “secret” swimming hole that he knows. Later, I took a train from the trail into Grand Central Station, and connected by subway to get to Brooklyn. I met up with the same friend and his family there, and we had a great lunch of chicken and waffles before I returned to the trail that same evening.
Bee’s nest, 7_13Some of my other highlights from the trail include seeing a large paper wasps nest (I didn’t get stung), and harvesting a bunch of wild blueberries, which I ate with my cereal for breakfast.
I’ve noticed a lot of very old stone walls along the trail in the mountains. I think these date from the times when people expanded from the east, and tried to establish farms in the mountainous areas. This is of course very poor land for farming, but it was the western frontier at one point. That must have been backbreaking work, and there were generations of people living in or close to poverty in Appalachia.
I’m starting to meet some southbound thru-hikers now, who have started their hikes in Maine and are heading for Georgia. They usually start later in the year than the northbounders, to avoid the cold and the season of black flies in Maine.
After Massachusetts there are only 3 more states left (the trail goes through parts of 14), and I’m looking forward to crossing into VT in a few days. The southbound hikers warn that VT is pretty muddy. We shall see! The last couple of days in Massachusetts have been stormy and very wet on the trail. Some of the stream crossings were pretty challenging, because of much higher water flow than usual. There was also a lot of water flowing on the trail itself, so it was like wading through a stream for several miles. The sun has come back out now, though, and it looks better for the trail ahead.