AT Blog #6: Bears / Big Apple / Baldwin

Hanover, New Hampshire! I’ve hiked a grand total of 1,736 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia. Hanover is the home of the prestigious Dartmouth College. Yes, the Ivy League school folks; I’m tryin’ to shake some hands. Since my last blog I traversed New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont. It’s convenient that the states are much smaller up here. It gives you that feeling of accomplishment more often.

Every step since Pennsylvania (aka: big pile of rocks, snakes, and disease) has been substantially better. In New Jersey, the rocks magically disappear and give way to magnificent dirt. In New York we catch a ride into New York City to take a break from the woods and soak in some culture shock. In Connecticut the people in towns become much more hospitable. In Massachusetts the towns were historic and interesting. In Vermont we got back into some true deep wilderness and had some amazing views. Not so fast… Here comes two of the hardest states on the trail; New Hampshire and Maine. We’re ready for it though. We want the challenge and we’re prepared to tackle anything that stands between us and Mt. Katadhin in Maine.

My group (Poundtown) has formed into a truly great thing with some really awesome people. Right now we consist of RockN’Roll, Strider, Boo Boo, Barley, Heads Up, Michigan, Rainbow Monkey, Kricket Spork, Black&Tan, Cowgirl, and I (T-Funk). On that note, I would like to thank my fellow Poundtown members for electing me “Mayor of Poundtown.” I hold the position to a high standard and I can assure you that I will strive to do my best.

Stories of life on the trail:

– 4th of July is great. We camp on top of a mountain with a big fire tower that we climbed. You could see for miles upon miles. Every direction we looked we could see different cities’ firework shows off in the distance.

– So it turns out that there is nothing short of a zillion bears in New Jersey. “New Jersey???” you say? I know, that’s what I thought too. Easily the highest bear population density on the trail. I am “lucky” enough to take part in a stare-down with a massive 300 pound black bear. “What did you do?” you ask? I slowly walk backwards for about 10 yards, then turn and sprint for another 347.

– Example of some magnificent trail magic: I’m in High Point State Park in New Jersey. A lady walks up to me at the ranger station and asks me “Are you a thru hiker?” I say yes and she says, “Well you and your friends can come stay and clean up at my house. I’ll do your laundry, give you each a pizza, some beer, and ice cream. Then I’ll make you guys breakfast in the morning and drive you back to the trail whenever you would like.” God Bless America.

– My friend Green Bean from Georgia flies up and hikes most of NY with us. She likes it so much that she catches a bus to Harpers Ferry, WV, jumps on the trail there, and she’s hiking all 1,000 miles back to Georgia. Best of luck to her.

– We experience a record breaking heat wave while we are in New York. It tips the scales at over 100 degrees four days in a row. It’s the hottest it has been there in 10 years. Hiking 20 miles a day in those blistering temperatures isn’t really what most would call “an ideal day.” The worst is that you simply never cool down because you go to sleep in it as well. We get through it though.

– Poundtown goes to New York City… Yeah, we’re ridiculous, so what? A very big thank you to my Uncle Jim (I’ll call him “Beak” in the sense of sticking to trail names). We catch a ride into the city and Beak hooks us up with a 5 star hotel room. There’s nothing like 11 thru hikers staying in a single 5 star hotel suite overlooking Times Square. You should have seen the looks we got from the front desk when we were checking in… We see the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Wall St., Ground Zero, Central Park, and so much more. So a big Poundtown thank you to Beak, Auntie M, and especially my Mom for showing us a great time.

– One night I am too lazy to hang my food bag in a tree. You might remember from a previous blog that we hang our food bags in trees to keep the bears away.  Well on the lazy evening, a particularly hungry raccoon got a hold of it. I wake up to a missing food bag and after a long search and rescue session, I find it 100 yards away. Everything is half consumed (he obviously wanted at least one bite of everything in order to explore his options) and torn to shreds. Great way to start the day.

– It storms while we are in Stormville, NY.

– It seems that we start to lose a sense of how to act in society after 5 months on the trail. RockN’Roll is standing in front of a descent restaurant’s window and I suppose he thinks it will be a great place to raise his arm high in the air and pick at his armpit. I know that’s the view I prefer outside the window of my steak dinner.

– Poundtown sickness update:

Giardia: Kricket, Strider, RockN’Roll, Black&Tan.

Lyme Disease: Me, Heads Up, Black&Tan

– This one is a personal favorite. Unfortunately, I miss this event by 15 minutes. Heads Up and Barley are sitting in front of a grocery store in Salisbury, CT. A guy walks up to them and begins asking them about the trail. Then, halfway into the conversation, Heads Up thinks he recognizes the guy and finally says, “Do I know you?” The guy responds, “Probably.” It was Alec Baldwin. He gives them an autograph saying that it is the least he can do for someone walking across the country.

– Big shout out to my new friends from Lakeview, CT. Thanks for the ride out to the lake for a 3am swim and the ride back to the trail at sunrise.

– We wake Boo Boo up on his 21st birthday with a big Poundtown rendition of “Happy Birthday” at 6:55am.

– I would also like to give a shout out to my new friends from Great Barrington, MA. It is by far one of the best towns on the trail. Thanks GB.

– I see a bobcat.

– We are warned that Vermont is extremely muddy. Directly under the “Welcome to Vermont!” sign is a massive mud puddle. And sure enough, that mud doesn’t end until New Hampshire. More like Vermud…

– Poundtown set what had to be a world record for the amount of people riding in the bed of a Ford Ranger truck… 9 people and 9 packs. I was lying across 4 people’s laps.

– I am standing on top of Bromley Mountain with some other thru hikers. It’s amazing how many different cultures there are on the trail. Alabama, Ireland, Michigan, Germany, Indiana, and England are all accounted for on this mountain top.

– You know a trip into town is successful when as we are walking back to the trail a cute blonde in a BMW pulls up to us and says, “Bye Michigan!” and blows him a kiss.

– There is a man named Warren Doyle thru hiking this year. He’s somewhat of an Appalachian Trail legend. He has hiked the trail 16 times and once held the speed record. He is known for being a kind of older quiet type guy. Our grouped passed him one by one this day. The other guys said he just nodded his head when they passed him. As I pass him he stopped me and said, “You must be a member of Poundtown” and proceeded to ask me everything he could about us. That’s right; building some street cred with the legends.

I reckon that’s about it for the time being. As always hope you’ve enjoyed this installment of T-Funk’s Adventures. It’s rounding down y’all, two tough states left until the checkered flag…

T-FUNK!

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