A Day In The Life Of Jake and Therese

Wake Up, Hike. Sit down, Hike.

No seriously, I mean, all we do is hike. Alright, it’s a little more in-depth than that, my friend. There’s setting up camp, breaking down camp, making fires, trying not to die in the middle of a freezing evening.

Sometimes, when we’re walking along a ledge, I’ll look down it and sing, “It’s a long way to the ground if you wanna rock and roooooollll.”

Anyway.

7:45am – Sunrise

Get up with the sun, watch it rise over the hills because you probably camped somewhere with mad views, yo. There are a few ways this moment can go:

  1. If it’s mild outside, you’ll enjoy the hell out of it with a cup of black instant coffee.
  2. If it’s your first morning, you’ll feel so god damn refreshed.
  3. You will stand in front of the views with one hand on your hip while you brush your teeth thinking, “This…this really is the LIFE.”
  4. You will definitely make coffee, slowly eat something, and enjoy easy conversation with your partner.
  5. If it’s freezing and windy, you might get knocked down and you will stay in  your sleeping bag.  You will not make coffee. You will slowly peak through the rain cover of your tent and yell to your partner, “OH MY GOD.”

8:30am-9:45am – Packing Up Camp

There’s a variation of time here because sometimes you move fast, other times you move slow. When it’s nice out, you will move slow. You will relish in all the moments of getting your food and smellables down from a tree. You will fold up your tent and refill your pack with a renewed joy. The trail is waiting!

But some mornings it is cold. Sometimes you wake up inside a tent covered in frost. You will then roll over with a cold nose, complain to your partner, run to get your shit, skip taking a shit, and haul everything into your pack. The worst moment in all of this is having to get out of your bag for the last time before having to fold up everything with cold fingers and no hope of warmth until you get moving again.

9:45am – Resuming the hike.

Get back on the trail feeling positive because this was your choosing, this is all your doing. You are in charge of the ultimate outcome for the day, the week, the month. This is your hike,  your moment. And you’ve got a best friend doing it with you.

Look at the sun shine. Look at all the spaces in between the trees. Even if it’s freezing, this is a beautiful day.

Look for water, you probably don’t have enough from last night. Make a Spongebob joke about how you really need water. You need it. You really need it.

1:30pm – Break and Lunch

You’ve probably had a few breaks now, especially if it’s hot, or if there’s lots of hard climbs. Eventually you will realize you are super hungry and the snacks aren’t doing it for you. You need to sit and sweat and eat some dry Ramen. You should do this on top of a mountain and not in a gap, because making a climb after lunch really hurts the tummy.

3:00pm – Break and Regroup

Where are you? You don’t really know. You don’t have the map, just the guidebook. Honestly, everything kind of looks the same and every time you look at the guidebook you instantly forget all the names of the gaps and the mountains and the swags and the ridges after you close it and nestle it back in your pack. What’s the difference between Steelhead Gap and Sassafrass lalala.

At this point you make a definite goal for where you’re going to end up at the end of the day.  You want to end up tenting somewhere because you hear the shelters are full of people and mice, plus you are OUT here. Might as well camp, right?

6:30pm – Desperately search for a site

You can’t blaze new tent sites, so you need to find one. Except the sun is setting and you are so tired. Your feet and calves are really hurting you now. Every time you stop it gets harder to start again. You have no idea how many miles you’ve actually hiked.

At first it was easy to find a site, but now they seem to be less and less plentiful. You come up with chants to keep yourself going. “Grapes. Are. Awesome. And. So. ARE. YOU!” You look back to make sure your partner is still there. You share a look of delirious exhaustion and disdain.

7:15pm – Hallelujah There’s a Site

You see your partner raise his fists into the air up ahead. Praise be, you found a site. You desperately unclip your pack and peel it off of you. You sit down on a log. You take your shoes off to air out your sweaty feet. You are alive, you made it.

Now you have to set up camp. And make dinner.

You set up the tent in the waning daylight to get it over with. Then you collect firewood and build a setup, no matter how windy it is. Seriously. Nothing will stop you. The fire is a comfort, a staple, a ritual.

Eventually you make your dinner, which tastes so good. You eat any left over snacks from the day and relish in the peace of the woods. As the sun sets, you laugh about how long the day was, how hard you worked, how beautiful everything is.

9:00pm – Peace.

You sit with your partner. You have cleaned out all your food stuff and found a tree with a big side branch with your headlamp on. If you’re Therese, you tie a bunch of sticks together and toss it over. You get better and better at this every night. Your partner ties some master knots and once everything is hung, you sit down in front of the fire.

If it is freezing, you grab your blanket.

You sit and look at the mountains or the woods or the stars. The stars are amazing and bright, brighter than you’ve ever seen before. You can almost see spots after looking at them for so long.

The woods is silent except for the wind. Sometimes you hear a rustle that makes you jerk your head. You wonder when you’re going to see a bear.

In this world, 9pm is late. You start to feel tired. You stare at the fire and have scant conversation with your partner. Everything feels perfectly in place. You are truly happy, even if you’re a little nervous about the wild life.

Each night, you feel better and better about going to sleep.

If it’s cold you’ll keep waking up in the middle of the night. You’ll have delusions about a squad of raccoons stealing your pack. You’ll wonder if your smellables got blown away in the harsh wind. You might even run over to your partner’s tent and say, “Hey…Jake? Jake are you still alive?”

He will make fun of you for this in the morning, but he will also be super appreciative.

Tomorrow? You do it all again.

You meet new people, see new sites, climb new, more painful mountains.

You are a thru-hiker. You are a beast. You are a machine. You are alive. THIS is the life.

xoTM

 

 

Hiawas-see What I Did There?

The Best Thing About A Bed Is The PILLOWS.

Holy crap. Cuddles and comfort a plenty! I cannot explain the elation that came from getting a shower, laundry, and pillows on a huge bed. As Jake and I were trying to talk, his legs kept involuntarily moving around under the covers. You could almost hear them saying “OH MY GOSH we’re FREE from the mummy sleeping bag!!”

I clung to those pillows all night. Seriously wish I could take them with me.

Why was last night so dopely and aptly timed?

There was a thunder storm. Boom shaka laka yeah dude the sky was filled with veins of lightning and the buildings shook like thunder. Did we know this storm was coming? Absolutely not. I dunno if it’s too soon to say, but I think Jake and I are savants.

What Trey Mountain Does To A Woman.

First of all, it’s not called “Troy Mountain” and shouting “THIS IS SPARTA” from the top of it really really doesn’t make much sense.

This mountain was absolutely BEAUTIFUL. We hit the top and could see the mountains around while enclosed in a little rhododendron enclave. Jake has this immaculate talent for picking the perfect song for each moment. He’s been clipping his high-class-super-awesome headphones to the back of his pack while we hike miles on miles on miles. And every time? Perfect tune-age. ‘Tis a quality that is extremely admired in such woodsy times.

All this up and down, though? It’s a knee killer. I’ll probably be in the market for a knee brace. Other thru-hikers see me going and say, “Woah! No trekking poles? I admire people like you, girl!” What I want to say is, “Those were never on my dar, kid. I didn’t know they existed ’til I got here.” But I don’t, because that would take my mysterious bad ass magic away.

In and Outta Town

With a beautifully short stint at The Budget Inn, we make moves back to the Trail. It is, after all, our true home. It feels nice to have these comforts of “normal life,” and I treasure it for the small time that I got it.

Jake just came into the office to get more coffee and said, “Oh wow. What’s that? Is that…a computer?”

“Yeah! See? Here’s where you hit these buttons, and they magically pop up on the screen. And then you can put something on this magical thing called the Eyentern-Net.”

He looked sarcastically dazzled. “Wow.”

Forward, ho, Hikers!

xoTM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Night Three 

10pm feels like midnight. The wind is roaring, I mean ROARING through the sky. It sounds like there could be a hundred people outside my tent. 

This weary traveler could not stand to walk anymore. No, not after summiting Blood Mountain. Wow what a walk today. So many miles. 

And yet, as Jake and I sit squished in the same tent playing the poem game with a head lamp propped up and flickering in a ceiling pocket, I can’t help thinking that this is the life. This is truly living. Staying warm with a buddy, playing games….

Wow. Sorry, I got so distracted because a gust came through that felt as though it might uproot my tent. That’s where I am now – we both can’t fit in one tent when it comes to sleeping. Tonight shall be interesting indeed! 

Even after a night like this, I wake up so excited to be surrounded by woods. 

During the day the mountains of Georgia look endless and misty blue. You can’t tell where you’ve been and you can barely figure out where you’re going. You have no idea where Springer Mt is anymore. It’s just…all. 


And then, at night, lights pop up. Civilization becomes a dotted backdrop to the now seemingly scant, dark mountains in your view. It’s shocking, because you can’t see ANY hint of buildings or civilized life in the day time. It’s beautiful. Expansive. 

God I have so much more to tell y’all. But, sleep beckons me and battery life must be cherished sparingly. 

For now, we bunker down in the woods. In three days, it’s off to Hiawassee! 

XoTM 

Day One Was Snow Joke! 

That’s right – welcome to Springer Mountain in Georgia. Where there is SNOW. 

Ok, not a ton, but c’mon! It’s March 16! It’s south! Where’s the warmth baby?! Instead I’m walking out of the car elated that I stuck gloves (albeit fingerless ones) in my pack at the last minute. 

I’m totally alive and loving living inside every layer of clothing I have here. Plus when you start hiking, it doesnt actually feel that cold. We made it through today. 

That’s right – WE! I have a friend who’s name is Jake and he is amazingly cool. In an actual shocking turn of events we were both visiting extended family in Virginia before taking the same train to Gainesville last night. He (and his driver) was super kind enough to offer me a seat in his ride up to Springer Mt. Parking Lot. 

Yeah, I had planned to go to Amicalola Falls and do the approach trail (so glad I didn’t). Just goes to show you how swiftly plans can change! 

But oh my god the DRIVER. Richard was his name. What a beautiful character! Right from the start he was yelling at us to get moving with such cheerful gusto. His back car window was patched up with a Budweiser box (until he had time to put some real cardboard in there, once business calmed down). God, it was just such a hilarious car ride with such a boisterous, happy man. 

Anyway, this is Jake, he’s mad cool. 


And so we trek on, spending our first night on a quaint little camp site with some cool views. We kept walking past the first shelter because it was too early and cold. So now we got this place! Even though now I’m way tired. Thank god for trees right? They’ll almost always support you. 


Time to put all our outdoorsy know how to work! 

It’s so surreal. This is IT. THIS is it! I feel enclosed in the trail, comfy and happy despite the weighty pain of my pack. This is truly a beautiful life. 

For now, goodnight until the next time! 
XoTM 

A Midnight Train To Georgia 

Wait. 

WHAT AM I DOING! 

I am going to Georgia right now. I am going to hike the Appalachian Trail. This is real. This is actually happening. 

From Gainesville, GA, I’ll be finding a taxi or some sort of shuttle to Amicalola Falls, where I will then hike about 8 miles to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail: Springer Mountain. 

Funny, isn’t it? How, despite your endless planning, the event doesn’t feel real until you’re standing on the edge of a platform with your pack that definitely is a little too heavy? 


ARE YOU READY TO ROCK?! 

I guess I just can’t believe I’m actually pulling all this off so far. Mom and Dad, did I make you proud? 

Ok, my head is a tizzy of thoughts. What am I doing? Who will I meet? I can’t wait to see the stars I can’t wait to be so exhausted that I pass out. What’s going to happen in the rain? And yet, I’m not worried at all. 

Sure, I’m nervous. The healthy kind of nervous! This is a life change, y’all. I’m about to take on a world I’ve never existed in before. 

Oh, also? They also haven’t scanned my ticket yet. I could be an imposter for all they know!!! (Imposter? I barely even know her!) 

Bless the people that are getting off on all these stops before me. 9 more hours to go. There’s also a handful of people around me with packs. This guy across from me has the same Z fold Thermarest. 

Oh Therese stop that’s too much. 

Well. 

For now? I am not quelled by the desperate length of this train ride. No! I am pumped. Plus I think I’ve got a Trail name in mind. 

I am Little Wing. Hear me roar. 

Can You Gear Me, Major Tom?

Much like the grubby caterpillar transforms into a beautiful butterfly, so does the gear one brings and ends up with while attempting a major hike.

Why, just in the past 15 days my list has changed immensely!

A few weeks ago…

I was pitifully unprepared. You had every right to be concerned. Little Therese really didn’t have any idea what she was doing. Nothing made sense, I had no confidence, but accomplishing the hike still felt right. I wasn’t going to stop this journey because I lacked the know-how before I got the idea! That would be preposterous!

How could I possibly learn anything if I only accomplished feats that were comfortable?

Today, I am a NEW WOMAN! 

With the hike 2 days away (THAT’S 48 HOURS HOLY POO), I have finally reached a comfortable point of knowledge and preparedness. I present you with my new, beautiful, shiny, ever transforming…

Gear List:

 

  • Sleeping Bag zero degree, from my bro Jay, thanks Jay, you’re the best Jay.
  • Sleeping Pad Thermarest, ultimate science technology to keep you as warm (but not as comfortable) as you could possibly be sleeping on the ground.
  • REI’s Passenger 1 Tent because I realized I am afraid of snakes and also would like to stay dry if a shelter is full when it is raining buckets.
  • Jetboil Stove because I am a novice.
  • Camelback and H2O bottle for the hydration station
  • Sawyer Mini Water Filter and sanitation tabs so I don’t ingest something that will murder me, or something less harmful but still gross like river silt.
  • Mug and spork for moments of consumption
  • 6-7 days worth of food, mostly Ramen or granola bars, to be consumed with said mug and fork. The circle of life.
  • Repel MAX Go ahead, Bugs, try to land on me! You will DIE. 
  • Clothing 2 short sleeve shirts, 1 long sleeve shirt, 1 leggings, 1 pants, 1 pullover, 3pr socks, 2pr underwear, and some camp shoes
  • Merrell Moab Waterproof whatevers the best hiking shoes EVER! Maybe!
  • Cellphone and tiny solar charger, for photos, and contacting you goons once I’m out there.
  • First aid kit, still being constructed. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. But let’s be honest we all know I’m invincible!
  • Trash bags GALORE! Waterproof and handy. Line your bag, pick up your trash! So many possibilities!
  • Rain shell for my human body and my bag
  • Knife to cut all the bears I’ll be fighting.
  • Headlamp and Flashlight to be able to see the bears as I fight them.
  • AT Guidebook because David AWOL Miller is a boss.
  • Notebook for nightly reflection.
  • Book that I bought at AWP to read.
  • Gossamer Mariposa 60L pack to house all of these wonderful things.

I’m sure I’m forgetting little things…such is the way of the brain. But these are the major items in the pack, and I can now come to you with confidence that I am going to

OWN THIS HIKE

and probably get knicked and run down along the way. Truth is? I’ve never been more ready for anything in my life, so any crap that comes with it is just part of the hardcore, epic, lovely journey that I signed up for.

No one is making me do this. I can stop any time I want.

But that’s the most beautiful part about it all, I think.

xoTM

F.A.Q

Y’ALL HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS SO I’M HERE TO HOPEFULLY ALLEVIATE SOME OF THAT WORRY/STRESS/UNKNOWN TERROR.

Let’s get jiggy with it.

Have you read Wild?

No. I saw the movie, because I’m “lazy.” But what actually initially inspired me was a combination of my dear friend Mike from Sweet Emotions in Storrs, CT and Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.

Where/When do you start

JohnHayes_AT_Springer
Photo courtesy of John Hayes; “Appalachian Trail-Georgia 17

I’m heading down to Gainesville, Georgia on March 15th. From there I will get a ride to Amicalola Falls and hike 7 miles to Springer Mountain, the official start to the A.T. (there’s a really nice bronze plaque and everything)

Are you going…alone?

Yes. Yes, I am going alone.

HOLD YOUR HORSES! Don’t FREAK OUT! It’s going to be ok. First off, ask anyone who has thru-hiked the A.T. or backpacked in any capacity before, male or female, and they will all give you the same response: just DO IT!!! You’re gonna be FINE! (Even if you’re a woman!)

This can be an exhausting topic. But here’s some consoling thoughts I’d like to share:

  1. The hiking community is a group of people who generally tend to take care of (or ignore) each other. Encountering predators, to me, seems just as (if not more) likely living in the city of Richmond, VA.
  2. If you know me at all, you know I will make friends within the first two weeks.
  3. This woman is a bad ass and shares her story; she’s done way heftier feats than me. Also, remember how you asked me if I read Wild? Ok. Cheryl Strayed. I rest my case.
  4. Bears? See my bear/critter bit below.
  5. I am literally knee deep in the outdoor knowledge pool right now, between my super experienced Eagle Scout/NOLS graduate cousin and Summer from the REI store. I ask questions everywhere I go, read all of the books, and make all of the lists. I’m not just getting dumped off at Amicalola Falls with a backpack full of things I think would be cool to have. I’m doing my homework, I’ll be as ready as can be.
  6. Everything makes more sense once you’re out there. Which is a rule of thumb. You can’t possibly have a reaction for something that hasn’t happened yet! I am preparing for the worst, and ready for anything. A positive mindset goes a long way.

How long will you be out there?

While I would love to attempt a full thru-hike, my current goal is 2 months. I want to get as far as possible by May 15th, and then take some public transpo back to CT to see my little sister graduate high school (oh my gosh she is so old). 

After that? Well, we’ll see. I have romantic visions of week long summer camping trips with friends, sponsorships, writing jobs, beach days, and a newfound or (hopefully) old lover.

Are you sure you’re mentally stable enough for this? Like, it kind of sounds like you’re just running away from your problems.

Let me level with you, friend. “Mental stability” becomes a moot point when you’re dealing with someone in her 20s. Life is hard and uprooted and uncertain. Actually, this hike is giving me certainty. I am certain that I need to accomplish this. All of my focus has been put on not only surviving this, but thriving in it. This will make my life rich with experience, which I would not otherwise find sitting on my parents couch after a short shitty day at a part time job.

As for the running away? Well, no one can run away from his or her problems. In fact, this hike makes me face them head on. The unfavorable things that have happened recently in my life are not things I’m trying to avoid. I want to come to terms with them, and use them to motivate me to live a happy, crazy, adventurous life.

How are you going to get food?!?

Short and simple: carry 5-7 days of food at a time, resupplying my stash in the ample trail towns I will be passing through.

Mail drops, if needed for emergencies or treats, are going to be coordinated by my super amazing cousins. YOU GUYS RULE! Seriously, I’d be nowhere without them.

Wait, so can I send you snail mail? How can I contact you?

Snail mail is possible! If you really give a shit enough to send me something in the mail, please just contact me personally via email or cell phone before/during my hike and I’ll tell you what town I’m expected to be in and when.

I will also be bringing my cell phone! Texts can be received, but the most sure fire way of getting in contact is via email (here), Facebook messanger, or a good ole fashioned phone call and voicemail! (I would super appreciate voicemails) These three methods will provide a solid line of communication that won’t be affected by shotty cell service or high volume.

Are you camping every night for 2 months?! Do you have a tent?!

You bet your boots!  My hike is scheduled around making it to a shelter or tenting site every night, in ordinance with Leave No Trace etiquette. Every once in awhile I’ll make a stop in a town and stay in a hostel. While I hope to primarily camp, I will not be terribly separated from civilization.

Did you bring bear spray? I mean, what if you get EATEN BY A BEAR?

Y’all need to sit down for a hot minute and check your bear facts. I will be hiking an eastern trail, which means black bears are the ones I’ll have to worry about.

br2
It’s the music that’s unBEARABLE!

If you’re seriously seriously concerned, I highly recommend you do some bear research before you come at me with reasons why I should not go. In short? Bears will not attack a human unless provoked. 

So instead I’ll be minding mosquitos, super poisonous snakes, ticks, a myriad of other bugs, wolves, rac-ca-coons, blah blah blah. Hey, if you start thinking too much about all the things out in the wilderness, you’ll never leave. I’m afraid, but I’m also unstoppable. You never know what’s out there until you get there. What’s a life worth if lived in fear? 

I’d like to wrap this up with a common statement I have received:

“I’m so jealous! I wish I could go with you.”

My response?

Why the hell aren’t you?

It’s never too late to tag along in any capacity. Please, if you’re interested at all, in the thru-hike, in a week long hike, in a month long hike, PLEASE hit me up! I would love an adventure buddy, but most importantly?

I would love to see you happy, adventuring out in the woods, finding yourself, exploring, vagabonding, and rocking and rolling through this life. 

xoTM