Having completed the entire Appalachian Trail, it was now time to roadtrip back home and reflect on this incredible journey. Enjoy reading my final blog entry about my Appalachian Trail hike from Georgia to Maine. If you missed it, here are my previous entries and videos from the trail.
Here is my last video related to the trail. It includes a time-lapse from Day 1 with my clean-shaven face all the way to Day 139 where I looked like a castaway. Enjoy!
A lot has happened since I left the trail. For starters, I created a table of contents for my blog posts so you can find the complete collection of my journal entries in chronological order.
Jumping back to July 17th, the day after I completed my thru-hike, I found myself eating breakfast at the Appalachian Trail Cafe in Millinocket, ME, with Honey Bear and her family, No Shoes, Myagi, and Hawk. This diner lets thru-hikers who have completed their journey sign the ceiling tiles each year. See if you can find my trail name below. Fellow hikers Transformer, Mumbles, Honey Bear, Myagi, No Shoes, Landfill, and Hawk also appear on the tile.
My friend, Michael, showed up and joined us. The last time I saw him was in the Smoky Mountains after he hiked the first two weeks of the trail with me. He originally was going to summit with me but I ended up finishing my hike a day early. I was eternally grateful he was still willing to drive all the way from Wisconsin to pick me up from Maine and road trip back to the Midwest. Thus, we climbed into my Ford Focus and said farewell to my hiking buddies. It was strange driving again. Michael had driven nearly through the night so it was my turn to drive. I was pretty tired from 4.5 months of hiking but I rallied and we headed south.
Though my body was exhausted, we decided to visit Acadia National Park. It was an overcast day and I was not used to all the crowds of summer tourists. It was fun to experience the park but I missed the solitude of the trail. My legs and knees were extremely sore yet Michael cajoled me into hiking four miles around a pond at Acadia. Later I tried a lobster roll and it was amazing. We paid a visit to the grocery store where my hiker hunger was still extremely alive; I bought only junk food. Then we spent the night in a hotel and it felt so good to be in a bed again.
I made Michael drive us to Rhode Island so I can now say I’ve visited every state on the east coast. From there we headed to Six Flags New England. After visiting four amusement parks on the trail, we decided to keep the momentum going and ride some more roller coasters. Afterward we found some Bureau of Land Management (federal land) woods to camp at. It felt so natural now to set up my tent again in the woods.
We continued driving west through New York. A stop at Niagara Falls seemed like a fun thing to do so we took a peek from the American side. Afterward we took a quick detour to Lake Ontario where I went for a dip. It had always been a goal of mine to swim in all five of the Great Lakes; mission accomplished. We could even see Toronto across the lake. That night we found a state park to camp for the night and went for a short hike.
To continue our amusement park streak, Michael and I visited my favorite amusement park, Cedar Point, in Ohio. It was at this time I came to the realization that I have visited six amusement parks in four months, four of which I visited on the trail. I must hold the record for most roller coasters ridden during a thru-hike. After Cedar Point, we left Ohio and made our way back to my hometown of Dearborn, Michigan.
DAY 144 and Beyond
Michael and I continued our road trip across Michigan where I visited some old friends. It was here that my friend, Jawad, convinced me it was finally time to do something about my beard. I had become so used to it that the length and unruliness didn’t bother me. Jawad’s mother remarked, “you look like ISIS.” Coming from someone who is actually from the Middle East, this was reason enough for me to pay a visit to Jawad’s barber.
Eventually we arrived back in Milwaukee, WI, where my journey began. A week later, Michael moved down to Asheville, NC. He had only first visited the city in February when we set off for the trail from my friend Lindsey’s place in Asheville. He loved it so much that he found a new job down there and long story short, now he and Lindsey are roommates. Crazy how life works out.
Reintegrating back into civilian life proved a difficult task for me. For the first two-to-three weeks I still experienced what I called the “hiker hobble”. Whenever I got out of bed or got up from sitting or laying down for a while, my legs and knees were so sore and stiff and I couldn’t climb or descend stairs very gracefully. Each day I had to remind myself to change my underwear (I didn’t always remember). I felt like I could wear my clothes several times at least before they are actually dirty. Showering daily also didn’t seem necessary. My hiker hunger seemed to subside after a week and a half. I no longer craved sugar and I actually started feeling full when eating and had to curtail my portions. I guess I don’t need a large Dairy Queen Blizzard anymore.
I paid a visit to the doctor and he cut out a sliver of my infected toenail and the infection soon disappeared. The dentist also added some bonding to the tooth I had chipped way back in the beginning of my hike when I cracked it biting into a frozen Clif Bar. The calluses on my feet and hands dried up and became very hard, flaking off constantly for a few weeks. My skin was very dry and rough for quite some time.
When I summited Katahdin I knew I had accomplished an incredible feat. However, it didn’t seem to hit me until a few days after. Whilst driving back with Michael I started reflecting on what I’d done. I was almost surprised that I had even decided to hike the AT. I’ve said it before, if you had asked me a year ago if I’d ever want to hike the AT I would have said hell no. I could not believe I had hiked 2,200 miles and I could not believe I had decided to hike it in the first place. It hadn’t felt like a life-changing event until the days after when it really sunk in. I hiked across the country with only a pack on my back. I had hiked through freezing temperatures, snow storms, heat waves, downpours, over boulders and mountains, forded rivers, overcome physical and emotional hurdles, and survived it all. I felt like a total badass and there is nothing life can throw at me that I can’t handle.
Back in society I’ve found it very noisy from cars and dogs and people. I don’t really care to be around so many people and I enjoy my solitude. After this hike I don’t feel like I belong in cities. They are fun to visit but nature is so much better. The comforts of modern-day life I enjoy but there is definitely something to be said about living with only what you can carry on your back. I’ve become more of a minimalist and I try to not sweat the small stuff. As long as I have food and shelter, any other problems aren’t worth stressing over. Life is only complicated if you make it complicated. Life is actually very simple and the only things that matter are the things you choose to matter.
As for my future, just over two months after I completed my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, I will embark on my next adventure. I will be traveling to New Zealand for a year on a work/travel visa. So stay tuned!
BY THE NUMBERS
Total miles hiked on the trail: 2,190.9 miles
Approach trail in Georgia: 8.8 miles
Descent from Katahdin: 3.9 miles
So, from start to finish I hiked 2,203.6 miles, not including the countless miles to and from shelters and privies, walking around trail towns and other cities I visited.
States hiked: 14 (GA, NC, TN, VA, WV, MD, PA, NJ, NY, CT, MA, VT, NH, ME)
Total days: 139
Zero days (days of no hiking): 18
Total elevation gain: 667,150 ft.
Total elevation loss: 665,680 ft.
Bears sighted: 4
Tick bites: 2 (that I’m aware of)
Amusement parks visited: 4 (Dollywood, King’s Dominion, Luna Park, Six Flags Great Adventure)
Pride festivals attended: 2 (it was unplanned but I stumbled upon the Roanoke and Boston pride festivals)
Footwear used: 1 pair of hiking boots and 2 pairs of hiking shoes
Trekking poles used: 3 pairs (ground the tips down on the first pair and broke the second pair)
Major injuries: 1 infected toenail, 1 dislocated shoulder, and countless blisters
Non-trail cities visited: 6 (Gatlinburg, Asheville, Roanoke, Washington D.C., New York, Boston)
A big thanks to all of the people who helped me along the way. To the friends and family members that sent me supplies and visited me on the trail to the random strangers who provided trail magic and invited me into their homes, I am truly grateful for all the love and support I received. The trail restored my faith in humanity and taught me to always lend a hand and to pay it forward. As for this blog, I am so grateful for the support and comments from you all. I didn’t have any expectations when I began blogging, as this is my first go at it, and I am so glad you enjoyed going on this adventure with me! As I said before, stay tuned for more adventures to come!
This is one of my favorite songs. It seems to embody my lifestyle right now, forever gypsy.