Not all those who wander are lost

14 states, 2,180 miles, 5,000,000+ steps

The pinnacle

We are finally at the point in our trip where I feel like we will make it home soon. Having been on the trail for nearly two months – and 80% of the work has been done in these first two states – theoretically, it is all downhill from here. I have learned a lot about camping and hiking, and a bit about myself as well. What I do know for sure is that the woods are beautiful, but at times this beauty is out-shined by desperation and intensity – usually when it’s raining or I’m close to running out of food. Lately I have not been as anxious about completing the trail on time – this experience has been so rewarding that I am already content with the results.
Yesterday was my favorite day so far. It was absolutely spectacular – you should look at the pictures. They are great, but they still don’t do these magnificent structures justice. They really can make you feel small with their sheer size and the obstacles that they present for a climber/hiker. Even though this trail is not nearly the most difficult thing I have ever done, the bad days still test my patience and will. These two sensations coupled together can make you feel completely helpless, but I have found it much easier to have a peaceful heart here lately. Until next time.
-Andrew “alpacka” Fortenberry

Isaiah 26:3
“You will keep in kerf exit peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts You.”

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Appalachian Trail Ramblings

1. An all you can eat buffet in the next town is the ultimate motivation for a thru-hiker.

2. The size of your beard on the AT is directly related to your respectability.

3. People ask – what do you think about while you are hiking…food, food, and more food.

4. It’s weird that I have lost 30 lbs, but I have the appetite of a pregnant elephant.

5. If I pass you on the trail and you smell like juniper berry or cucumber melon, then don’t talk to me, because I have already judged you as a yuppie.

6. If you are going to route the trail over the chest-deep mud, please make sure you build a bridge over it. Pulling group members out of the mud is hard work.

7. People get so offended when they see you hitch hiking…

8. The looks on people’s faces in town are priceless when they get close enough to smell you.

9. No, showering before I go to the buffet does not have priority when the buffet closes in an hour.

10. Yes, I did eat a Cheerio that I found on the trail…in fact I did it three times.

11. Hitch hiking is an art form.

12. Most of the time the AT is not a trail but is a life-size game of connect the dots.

13. Rain sucks!

14. It’s sad when I can climb down a steep mountain in the rain but I can’t walk down four steps without busting my butt.

15. Slugs move faster than they let on.

16. The best way to ford a river is to strip down to your underwear and just walk across.

17. It’s very discouraging when you wake up and see the mosquitoes waiting for you to climb out of your bug net so they can have their breakfast.

18. Spooning in the back of a truck is perfectly acceptable when everyone in the party is cold.

19. Hotel managers fear thru-hikers.

20. You go into a yuppie coma when you walk into your first Walmart after a month of hiking.

21. You know you smell bad when you wake yourself up in the middle of the night because of how bad you stink.

22. If you sound like a cross between a chainsaw and a bulldozer when you sleep, you should not sleep in the shelter.

23. Sometimes all you get at hostels to wear while your clothes are washing is women’s shorts or pants and a scrub top…rock them anyways.

24. Taking a nap in the middle of the trail is perfectly acceptable.

25. Painting white blazes on boulders does not mean that you have built a trail. It means you are a cruel person who doesn’t know the concept of going around something.

26. It’s messed up when the drive to the start of the trail is 1300 miles but the walk back is 2185.

27. You don’t get credit for all the miles you hike.

28. I now have a greater appreciation for hitch hikers.

29. I have been mistaken numerous times for a homeless person.

30. No pictures or words could describe what truly happens while hiking the Appalachian Trail.

-Alex-
“Wild Reeves”

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He Created This

When I have miles and miles of trail to hike, I find it easy to just put my head down and only look at the trail and where I place my feet. But then there’s the rare moment when you are able to look up at your surroundings and take in God’s creation. A couple days ago we were scheduled to climb four mountains in one day. The first climb wasn’t too bad because we were still fresh from the night before. By the time the second climb rolled around – the highest of the day – the weather was starting to look more and more like rain. I got a good view of the mountain when we were hiking up to it. This beast of an obstacle was called “The Horn”. It’s just over 4,000 feet and it was straight up. I put my head down and started up. I figured I would climb for a while and then take a break like I usually do. In fact, I’m usually the last one in the group to the top of a mountain, but for some reason I started up first. I’m not sure when I noticed it, but at one point in the climb I realized that I couldn’t hear the rest of the group behind me. Had they slowed down? Had they stopped for a break? I had enough water to get to the top so I decided to keep going. I kept trucking, telling myself that I would take a break soon. After a while of this, I caught a glimpse of the top of the mountain. I was over halfway there. I thanked God for bringing me so far and told Him that this one was for Him. I put my head down and kept going. I told Him I wouldn’t even take a break or wait for the others. I finally made it to the tree line. This meant that I no longer had the trees to shield me from the wind or elements. The climb became even harder, because the trail became a rock crawl. I put my trekking poles up and started crawling on my hands and feet up over these rocks and boulders. At one point the trail coincided with a stream going down the side of the mountain. My “trail” had become a stream for about 20 feet. I kept going. At this point I was praying my way up the rest of the mountain. I finally saw it…there I was…the peak. The sign marking the end of the climb. I wanted to run to the end but I was too cold to run and the terrain was too rocky. I could barely contain my excitement. I let out a loud roar that would have made even Mufasa sound like a cub. I walked up to the sign, put my hand on it to make sure it was real and then looked around. I could see everything from up here. God created all of this; the mountain, the lakes, the sun, the clouds, the trees, the rivers, the rocks – and it was all beautiful.
This adventure has gotten me thinking. The same God that created this beautiful planet that we take for granted every day is the same God that is getting me through my trials and heartaches. He is the same God that guides us through our lives and holds us close to Him when our lives get turned upside down. It’s easy to let the little things of our daily lives get to us or to get frustrated when we don’t understand something, but there is no denying how powerful and loving our God is when you are standing on top of a mountain.
-Alex-
“Wild Reeves”

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Moose, Mountains, and Monsoons

We are now 188.7 miles into our journey, and we are still experiencing firsts. We hitch-hiked into a small town the other day to eat at a diner and resupply. We rode in the back of a truck for 18 miles down a bumpy Maine road to get to the general store / diner. The people there were wonderful but didn’t really know what to do with us crazy, smelly southern hikers. On our way back to the trailhead, we saw our first bull moose of the trip. This thing was massive, and the scary part is that he wasn’t even full grown.
After we got back to the trail, we had about 24 miles until the next town, Stratton. On the first day back on the trail we decided to tackle most if not all of the Bigelow Mountain range. Other than Mt. Katahdin, these would be the highest mountains that we had climbed to date. The climb up Little Bigelow proved to be fairly easy because the temperature was nice and the climb wasn’t too steep. Avery Peak proved to be a lot more difficult because it was a lot higher, steeper, and the bottom dropped out of the sky while we were coming down Little Bigelow. After being drenched climbing up Avery we decided to make camp for the night and climb the West Peak and hike the last 8 miles into town the following day.
After a very cold night at the Bigelow campsite we had an easy climb up the West Peak and the South Horn. The first few miles down the mountain were rugged, but we were eventually able to finish off the last few miles and make it to Maine Hwy 27 and take a shuttle to our hostel in Stratton.

-Alex-
“Wild Reeves”

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Stratton, Maine

We crossed over the kennebeck river and climbed Bigelow mountain in the rain

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Filth

I have not a lot to say which hasn’t already been said… Nonetheless, never have I lived in such filth! To give some idea of it, the first time I sat in a chair after the 100 Mile Wilderness, my shirt stuck to the back of it, peeling off as I leaned forward. Also, never have my feet taken such a beating… and never did I think anything could persuade me to sit so often directly on the ground and on logs and rocks and the like. Lastly, about the only time we could take flat, even steps was when balancing on rotting planks laid down across the mud and through bogs. Anyhow, it’s now time to move on from Monson, at least partway recovered, and there’s no denying it’s a relief to be done with the dreaded hundred miles of wilderness.

– Jared (a.k.a., “Moss-man”)

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