October 4th 2014

I’ve been meaning to write a blog post for those who might want to send a care package or letter but don’t know how. 

The way it works is you send it through the post office addressed as “General Delivery: Hold for thru-hikers Christine Kegel or Drew Rowland (ETA DATE)” and add the city, state and zip code. They will hold it for us up to a month and we will pick it up when we’re on our way through town. 

We like to keep it minimal and appreciate food and letters the most :) We like cheese-itz, trail mix/GORP, macaroni & cheese, tuna in pouches, beef jerky, honey roasted peanuts, almonds, hot chocolate, dehydrated vegetables, granola, dried tortellini, flour tortillas, cosmic brownies, biscuits, strawberry jelly packets from fast food places (I heard Chick-fil-A has them), powdered eggs, dark chocolate m&ms, and are willing to try any dinners from the Mountain House or Backpackers brand of dehydrated food found at REI and Walmart.

Our next couple stops include:
Waynesboro, VA 22980 (10/11)
Buena Vista, VA 24416 (10/15)
Daleville, VA 24083 (10/20)

If you send something - please give us a heads up to expect mail! Send a message to Drew at (904) 860 1374.

Thanks!!!

October 4th 2014

I’ve been meaning to write a blog post for those who might want to send a care package or letter but don’t know how.

The way it works is you send it through the post office addressed as “General Delivery: Hold for thru-hikers Christine Kegel or Drew Rowland (ETA DATE)” and add the city, state and zip code. They will hold it for us up to a month and we will pick it up when we’re on our way through town.

We like to keep it minimal and appreciate food and letters the most :) We like cheese-itz, trail mix/GORP, macaroni & cheese, tuna in pouches, beef jerky, honey roasted peanuts, almonds, hot chocolate, dehydrated vegetables, granola, dried tortellini, flour tortillas, cosmic brownies, biscuits, strawberry jelly packets from fast food places (I heard Chick-fil-A has them), powdered eggs, dark chocolate m&ms, and are willing to try any dinners from the Mountain House or Backpackers brand of dehydrated food found at REI and Walmart.

Our next couple stops include:
Waynesboro, VA 22980 (10/11)
Buena Vista, VA 24416 (10/15)
Daleville, VA 24083 (10/20)

If you send something - please give us a heads up to expect mail! Send a message to Drew at (904) 860 1374.

Thanks!!!

October 1st 2014

Happy October!

Made it to Harpers Ferry and officially (meaning through the Appalachian Trail Conservancy) signed up as part of the class of 2014 AT thru hikers! We were the 104th and 105th SOBO thru-hikers to pass Harpers Ferry this year.

In other news, yesterday we saw a goat wandering around on the trail. We were dumbfounded. We’re not sure if it was a wild goat, but it had a bigger beard than Drew and he got jealous. You never know what you’ll see out here!

September 30th 2014

We stopped in DC for a weekend to rest up, visit family and celebrate our half way milestone!

After laundry, a shower, a satisfied craving of sushi, and a good night’s sleep in a bed, we still didn’t feel like doing anything, so we just enjoyed a little down time and walked around the house like we had 120 year old hips. If we could take negative steps on our days off I think we would!

Our day in downtown DC was very informative to say the least. We went to Ford’s Theater and learned more than I can ever remember about Ole Abe Lincoln. It was really eerie to stand 6 inches from the same gun that killed him. My favorite tidbit learned that day was actually not related to Abe at all. Did you know, in his day, Ford’s Theater was able to hold 2000 people, whereas today, it can only hold 650 butts!

We popped into the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch and saw a Elvis’ honorary DEA track suit, a tiny flower child shirt from when Michael Jackson was still cute, and lots of pictures of musicians being cool.

We strolled by the white house, up the mall, and made a wish in the reflecting pool before ending the day with a giant Albert Einstein.

We rode the Metro around and noticed the stark difference to the NYC subway. We could breath fresh air for one thing and the cars rode a lot smoother. However, I think the Subway in NYC has more personality.

My Uncle had the foresight to know we were overdue for a good steak dinner. What a delicious meal!

Our drive back to the trail head was through rolling hills of Maryland. Even more trees changed color in our absense! As we drove through the country side I couldn’t help but think about all the Civil War history around here. I love how much American history this area holds. It’s so different from growing up in FL.

We are newly equipped with our cold weather gear and nrw shoes and can’t wait for the leaves to change as we work our way down Skyline Drive. Onward to Shenandoah!!

September 23rd 2014

We crossed into PA over the Delware River, George Washington style. Except it wasn’t Christmas and we weren’t going to war.

Delaware Water Gap was a small town with a local bakery and rafting company. It had a wonderful church hostel and was home to one of the oldest Jazz clubs in the country. You could tell this town was pretty old and they liked it that way. While we were there we celebrated the coming of fall with delicious pumpkin ice cream!

We’d been hearing about the rocky terrain of PA for 1000 miles, but to tell you the truth, it wasn’t as bad as the NOBOs made it out to be. We’ve been hiking on rocks since the Whites. Despite the rocks, we ended up doing some bigger miles and faster days because it was so flat! Most of PA was ridge running, and once you get up to elevation, it’s smooth sailing.

We stopped in a town called Palmerton because they converted an old, unused jailhouse into a free hostel for hikers. We thought it would be a neat experience to spend the night in a jail cell, but it had been gutted long ago and converted to a basement.

Every few miles or so PA becomes fields of flowers and corn. On beautiful days it’s a nice change from the woods. These are the type of fields you want to layout with a book and picnic lunch.

The hiking has been lonely lately now that the NOBOs have gone and summer is over. We only see people come out on the weekends. We didn’t see another SOBO for the longest time until we hiked through Duncannon. After our excellent lunch of BBQ pork sandwiches - Pittsburg style, we walked down to the local hiker hostel and met a few section hikers having a beer. We stopped to chat for a bit but the place was giving us bad vibes so we moved on and found an amazing stealth spot with a view. We watched the sunset over Duncannon from Hawk Rock.

That night we happened to run into our section hiking friends and had a wonderful time around our first campfire since Vermont. The nights are getting colder and fires are always welcomed when you aren’t the one who has to start it. ;) We ended up enjoying their company so much we stuck together for a week and had a fire every night! Such a rarity for us but a necessity when it gets down to 44 degrees at night.

We hiked through Boiling Springs with our friends after a beautiful, easy hike through Cumberland Valley. Our first time off a ridge in a while. It was a pretty little town with streams running everywhere and when we left, we saw a picturesque scene of fly fishermen in the water with this historic town in the background.

The next night we made it to Pine Grove State Park where we explored the AT museum. A nice park and cool museum if you are ever in the area. One of the first people to through hike the AT shortly after its completion in the 1930s was an old woman named Grandma Gatewood. She hiked it in converse shoes and all her possessions in a duffle bag! Props to her - I couldn’t do it the way she did.

The park was once an old iron mill, and the iron master built his mansion on the property, which is now being used as a hiker hostel. The caretakers cleaned it up really nicely and the old building is really cool. It even has a secret room we speculate was used during the underground railroad. It is definitely one of the nicest places we’ve stayed so far.

We welcomed out first crisp day of fall on the day we reached the official 2014 midpoint! We treated it like the boy who cried wolf because we had already passed two other midpoints before it. The original AT midpoint (which had a fancy plaque) and the midpoint used up till last year (which had a fancy wooden sign pictured). Either way, we are over half way done now and it’s been such a confidence booster knowing that! We are on the countdown now!

September 12th 2014

Thank you to everyone who has sent care packages to us! We love knowing family and friends are following our journey and sometimes it helps me finish up a long day knowing that you’re watching!

If you are shipping to us general delivery at a post office, please send it via USPS. We are able to bump the package forward to another post office if we miss it. If UPS is the only way, let me know and I can give you an address of the closest hostel that will hold it for us.

Our next mail drop stop will be in Duncannon PA P.O. 17020 by September 18th.

We love you!

September 8th 2014

The boarder crossings keep getting less impressive the further south we go. New York to New Jersey was literally a painted line on a rock. But there was a noticeable difference between states! People seem to be much friendlier in the garden state.

Our first stop in NJ was in a small town called Warwick with one of the last operating drive-in movie theaters in the north. We made it there on Labor day and spent some time at a farmers market/farm/outdoor bar with outdoor music. It was a hot day in the shade and we just enjoyed the opportunity to relax for an afternoon. After dinner we camped at the drive-in and caught a double feature to the backdrop of fireflies on a cool summer night. It made for a very quaint, small-town American day. (We caught Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).

We took another easy day and hiked 6 miles to Vernon NJ where we stayed at a lovely hostel in the basement of a church. Plenty of hot showers, laundry and Seinfeld reruns hit the spot.

We’ve made it through some of the wildest parts of Maine, NH, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York without seeing a bear but for what ever reason they are all over New Jersey. I saw 6 bears in 2 days! The cubs are cute but I know better and keep my distance.

We had heard from day 2 on the trail that NJ was a walk in the park and for the most part it was. The northern half of the state was mainly fields of flowers and miles of boardwalks! Easiest state so far.

One night we stayed a quarter mile off trail on a past thru-hikers property. The land had some old buildings on it from the 1800s and he refurbished the old ice house to be used as a cabin for hikers. We loved it there - Drew felt right at home cooking dinner on the porch listening to bluegrass.

The trail took us right through Branchville and dropped us off at a place called Gyps Tavern. On a really hot and humid day how could we not get distracted by ice cold beer and a beautiful view of the water.

We had a beautiful, angry thunderstorm that same night. One of my favorite things in the world is to watch the lightening from a dry place. It brought a cold front with it that feels like the first tease of fall! I don’t know if I’ve ever been this excited for nights in the 40s before!

Now that New Jersey is done we’ve got the dreaded PA rocks coming up. I hope this cooler weather persists. We are almost at the 1000 mile mark and the 4 state challenge, and we are feeling strong!

August 31st 2014

Strange getting back on the trail again. It felt too quiet? Not sure how to describe it but it was like I had to relearn how to be peaceful and not caught in the hustle and bustle of city life.

We took the train back out to the trail. It’s a different ride when you’re tired out and the thing you have to look forward to is the same trail you’ve been on for the past two months. The weather was getting hotter and the terrain promised less water but we knew NY and NJ had a lot to offer in terms of things to do.

For instance, our first stop back on the trail was a shelter that was close enough to a road, we could order pizza for delivery. New York had a lot more road crossings than any other state so far, and there was usually a deli within walking distance off the trail. We could eat sandwiches for lunch and dinner everyday if we wanted to.

On our hottest day out so far (heat in the 90s) we ran into a state park with a beach and ice cream! What a perfect find for such a hot day. We decided to stop there for the day and ended up meeting a trail angel who spends his summers at this park feeding thru hikers. First time I’ve had eggs in a while - I miss them.

The next night we stayed at a Fransiscan monastery. They had a shelter out by the baseball fields with a shower and picnic tables. It was a beautiful field but no monks came out to say hi. Drew was itching to play soccer with some.

We made it to Fort Montgomery for an afternoon of fun! We walked over Bear Mountain Bridge (Drew’s favorite part) and through a revolutionary war fort. Then the AT took us straight through a zoo and walked us by the bear cage. We thought this was going to be the first bear we saw on the trail but the cage was empty! The trail literally hands us a bear and we still couldn’t find it. Ha!

We passed a beautiful lake and stopped just to enjoy the afternoon. It was the Friday of Labor Day weekend and we were half hoping to get invited to someones dekicious smelling BBQ but no one took the hungry hiker bait. ;)

We climbed the 815 steps to the top of Bear Mountain (yes there were steps and yes someone else counted them) and saw NYC skyline from the top! It was 34 miles as the crow flies. How cool to look back on the city we just explored from a different perspective.

The rest of NY proved to be a wet hike - if it wasn’t rain, it was 80% humidity! We were trying to beat the rain to a shelter when we were interrupted with trail magic! This is the first cooler we’ve come to that hadn’t been ransacked by NOBOs. Huge NY bagels and string cheese and fruit and fresh food! Our long lunch put us behind and we ended up getting soaked. It worked out for the best though because the water source at the shelter was dried up and we ended up collecting rain water instead. Plus, we got showers and I kind of felt clean that night.

New Jersey should be short and sweet!

August 25th 2014

New York City!

What a whirlwind adventure! Drew did a lot of firsts this week including visiting the city!

We took the Metro North train into Grand Central Station. I loved riding the trains and the subways (which I found out are also called trains by locals). Not exactly sure why I find them so charming but I think it has to be a combination of the historical yet run down feeling you get when they screech and squeak along the railway. For some reason I also like the musty smell and loneliness of staring down a dark tunnel. Gives me chills! I could spend a day down there exploring the stations and inventing stories about what those walls have seen.

I picked up the subway routes pretty quickly and Drew was plenty happy to follow my lead. From the moment we stepped into the main atrium of Grand Central Station he was awed, over stimulated and exhausted with the city. It’s a big change to make in a day - that morning we woke up on a peaceful mountain side and by lunch we’re bumping our way through midtown.

He was delighted, of course, by the grandeur of the old station and needed a moment to take it all in. We only had enough energy to sneak a peek at the 42nd street library before heading to Brooklyn for the night.

Much of the next day consisted of laundry, showers, and naps, topped off with authentic NY pizza by the slice. It lives up to the hype, people. We did find the courage to venture out 3 blocks to the local Salvation Army to find some city clothes to wear. It’s amazing how different one block can feel from the next. And the smells! They changed drastically from block to block (not always a good thing).

On our second full day in the city I convinced Drew to wander outside our 3 block comfort zone to search for lunch. We were able to weave in some sightseeing and walked the Brooklyn Bridge on our way to Chinatown! What a cool experience! The skyline of Manhattan is breathtaking. We could see the Statue of Liberty and it surprised Drew how tiny it was - relatively speaking of course. Those grand photographs and sweeping camera angles make it seem larger than life, but its dwarfed compared to the southern half of Manhattan.

We made our way to Chinatown for some Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles, Inc. dumplings and roast duck soup. I could go for a bowl of their soup right now actually. We knew we we’re getting close to Chinatown when we paused in a park and suddenly realized everyone around us was Chinese. We lingered in the park to watch groups of old Chinese people playing checkers or cards and gambling on the outcome. They were throwing money down and all yelling over eachother in a mass of confusion. I found it comical as it sounds.

We spent some time in the Brooklyn Bridge park that night eating a wonderful picnic dinner overlooking Manhattan skyline. They pulled out a big projector screen to show Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. It was a gorgeous evening. We biked around Brooklyn to get there - my first time biking in a city like that. What a rush! It was fun but got my adrenaline pumping. It was a nice way to see all the beautiful old brownstone architecture, and I enjoyed getting off my feet for a while. Biking feels so fast when you’re used to walking!

After seeing Chinatown, Drew was feeling brave enough to let me take him back to midtown for an afternoon. This time we went to the heart of Times Square and realized the only thing to do there is eat and shop. We ducked into Toys R Us to see the big ferris wheel and check out the Lego collection. Too bad we can’t justify bringing Legos on the trail.

M&M world was our next stop - I had to show Drew the rainbow wall of chocolate. We had a field day picking out new flavors (raspberry and coconut) as well as stocking up on dark chocolate peanut m&ms. We left with two pounds of chocolate.

It’s hard staying in a place that crowded and stimulating so we ducked out of Times Square to eat some street cart gyros in Rockefeller Plaza. Perfect place to people watch for the afternoon. A lady sat down near us to start painting her toenails. I think that’s when I started to see how public yet private people’s lives are in a city this big. When there are millions of other people around you fighting for attention, it’s hard to notice any one in particular. Except the ones that smell like acetone. ;)

We found ourselves gravitating towards Central Park for some peace and quiet but it was much busier than we expected! Runners and bikers everywhere.

Along with the sight seeing, we enjoyed some of life’s simple pleasures as well.
Something as common as relaxing on a couch or curling up under a blanket we took great pleasure in. We watched the Birdcage in honor of Robin Williams death (first we heard of it was getting into the city) and just enjoyed spending time with family.

The longer we stayed the more comfortable we got exploring the city and really got to see a wide spread. Upper west side bagels, lunch in grenwich village, window shopping in soho, world trade center memorial, upper east side poking around, and Washington Square park dog watching. I was surprised to see how many people owned dogs in the city. Some big dogs too! I imaging that’s what contributes to the smell on the streets.

The week we were in the city went by SO FAST the next thing I knew we were rushing to Grand Central Station again hoping we got back on the right train. I wasn’t ready to leave but knew we had to keep making miles. There’s so much I feel like we didn’t do but I know we’ll be back.

Onward and upward to the southern states!