About the Author: Pat-Rice Z is a Jersey girl who has relocated to the DC area. She is a 2019 AT Thru-Hike hopeful who is considering going NOBO or leapfrogging, however the adventure unfolds. You can find her on Instagram @halfway_to_the_sky.

To see all of Patrice’s posts, click her name above!

Weeks 17-18: Fort Montgomery, NY to Connecticut to Upper Goose Pond, MA

My friends and I moved through the Mid-Atlantic states in one month, one month! It took us five weeks to get through Virginia but now we are speeding up the eastern seaboard. We want to finish but at the same time we want to enjoy this experience so we have slowed down a bit. Before we were definitely doing 100 mile weeks…now we do 80-100 mile weeks. 

July 25

Today was like a normal heat wave day, chilling at Canopus lake, before we continued to the shelter. This shelter, the RPH Shelter was so cool! It is an actual building with a porch and picnic tables. The road runs along the shelter so tonight we ordered Chinese food. The water is however contaminated. Many New York water sources have warnings about bacteria so I stay clear, these are “moo warnings.” Cow farms that are upstream make for bad water. This was the first night in a long time where I was actually cold at night. One of my tramily members lent me his flannel jacket. Summer nights are turning colder the more north we travel. 

July 26

Something interesting happened to me this day. It was a normal day like any other. We hiked and went to a deli, we danced by the side of the road so our friend could get a hitch (worked). We played music and laughed. We met two more SOBOs (they are all really chill people). I loved talking to them. They warned us about upcoming obstacles and gave us advice and we did the same. But it was at this shelter…at the Telephone Pioneer Shelter that I realized that I am officially a tree hugger. A group of about 7 teenagers come up to this shelter to smoke. We were discussing daily plans when I heard one of them say audibly, “where is the trash can?” I don’t know why but something about this statement irked me. “There is no trash can, you pack it in and you pack it out.” He was holding an empty Poland Springs plastic bottle. I can almost guarantee that it weighed less than 0.5 ounces empty. I saw him holding the bottle and walk behind the shelter and then come back around no longer holding it. I knew what he did. Later they decided to squat by the privy to do whatever it was they came to the woods for. Like a meddling neighborhood watch group, I went behind the shelter and found the water bottle on the roof. Now again I have no idea why but this made me furious. I started shaking with actual rage as I complained to my tramily. “HARD WORKING VOLUNTEERS BUILD US BEAUTIFUL SHELTERS SO WE CAN ENJOY THE WILD. WHO LITTERS?! THIS IS A PRIVILEGE!” I’m usually very calm tempered. My tramily was in shock to see me so angry. I said very little to the boys when they left but we made sure to give them their water bottle back (by the way it was less than a mile to the road they parked on). I saw the most graffiti in PA, many a phalic symbol drawn on rocks. I however have seen the most broken glass here in New York. Many beautiful campsites that are perfectly flat are ruined by a sea of sparkling glass shards. I picked up pieces of trash all along New Jersey and I do try to help out when I can. Most of the trash is accidental trash, like the corners of wrappers. These things usually fall out of pockets when someone is taking out their map or phone. But to purposely leave something behind like that kid? That just drives me insane. Someone has to pack out that trash and guess what, it is usually the volunteers who love this land. Other countries don’t have opportunities to hike in the wild like we do, all trails don’t have shelters like the AT does. THIS IS A PRIVILEGE!! Let’s stop disrespecting and taking advantage of a system that is only set up for our benefit. 

July 27

Today started like any other day but it turned into a sh*t show literally. We went to Tony’s Deli in the morning and actually ran into some of the boys who were smoking at the shelter last night. We saw a humongous tree (no markers but definitely as old as our country for sure), walked boardwalks and fields, and crossed into Connecticut! It was at pre-lunch when the literal sh*t began. We sat down for a snack and I got the call of the wild. I walked to the privy and was stuck there for over 15 minutes. Yup for 15 continuous minutes I couldn’t stop pooping! It was as if my body wanted to rid itself of EVERYTHING. Um excuse me body I am not Ultra-light…then we continued hiking. We turned a corner and this is where we saw the “Welcome to Connecticut” sign. I scream and sighed with mixed emotions. Connecticut is the beginning of New England. I am greatly intimidated by New England but here we are. I am happy that I made it this far, only a 1/3 left of the trail. But at the same time…oh no! Only a 1/3 left of the trail! Some say it is the hardest part, some say it is the best/most beautiful part. It took us one whole month to complete the mid-Atlantic states. Connecticut is only 50 miles which means by this time next week I’ll be in Massachusetts…which leads into Vermont…which leads into New Hampshire and Mount Washington and Franconia Ridge and AHHHH so many emotions! But after the Connecticut sign we started to climb and climb and oh sh*t…I have to sh*t. Ugh diarrhea is the worst especially when you have to dig your hole after you’ve gone (sometimes there just isn’t time). From where I pooped to the next shelter, I passed the most day hikers/weekend warriors that I have ever seen in one place on the trail. It was really nice to see whole families walking together, tenting together, swimming in the nearby river together. We stopped for actual lunch at 10 mile Shelter. I ran up to my tramily and loudly began complaining about my poop and expressing my fears over water borne illness when I saw a couple in their 30’s facing each other trying to picnic at the shelter picnic table. Their faces were 2 inch from each other’s. They were feeding each other chocolate and drinking French wine. Oops sorry guys to spoil the romance. But yes when they finished smooching and left we ate our actual lunch and then I continued to poop. Ugh. That night we were at a campsite where the privy was a toilet in the middle of a path with NO WALLS OR DOORS. Andddd I had to poop again after dinner. Only this time I was a sitting duck for mosquitos. I have never had so many mosquito bites on my butt like I did after using that  privy…

July 28

Today went as follows: great, terrible, great. We started from walking three miles to town where I met an old friend from college, Renny and her fiancé. I hadn’t seen her in YEARS! I loved catching up with her over brunch. Luckily my pooping/stomach issue seemed to resolve itself. I was starving for fatty foods and I scarfed down my omelet with hash and rye toast with butter in record time. The cheese and butter just tasted so good. We resupplied and Renny brought us back to trail. We usually get sucked into towns but we were only in Kent for about 2-3 hours. The climb out was horrible though. Connecticut is a part of New England and it is true they don’t believe in switch backs. It was a combination of factors but the climb up to Caleb’s Peak nearly broke me. I’ve cried or almost cried on trail a couple times. I’m actually surprised by how little I cry on trail and when I do it is usually about something in my home life (long distance relationships are not easy). Today was the first time that the TRAIL almost brought me to tears. I’ve been having trouble with the climbs lately and I am completely nervous about the climbs here in New England, I’ve also found it more difficult to breath while climbing (phlegm? Exercise induced asthma? Just plain humidity?), along with the BUGS! I’m not sure why but they love to buzz around my left ear and only my left ear. I swat and in 2 seconds they are back. It is almost scarier when they stop buzzing because that means they have landed…on me! I’ve pulled so many out of my ears. Gnats have also been a problem. When you have 20 flying in front of your face, you feel like you can’t take a deep breath in because you will either inhale them or swallow them (I’ve done both). I have a head net but it is harder to see and you sweat more. Plus the gnats are still there blocking your view and the mosquitoes are still there buzzing in your ears- they just can’t bite. 

On the climb up to Caleb’s Peak I had all these factors plus black flies biting my forehead. It was this last bit of pain that nearly brought me to tears. I could hardly breath by the time I got to the top. I tried drinking water but kept choking. I continued and nearly lost it again with the bugs. I threw down my trekking poles and bathed my hair and body in lemon/eucalyptus spray and put the head net on again. Sweat is better than bugs. The trek down the mountain was actually borderline dangerous. There were no stairs just giant boulders with limited foot holds. I scooted on my butt for many of them. Lately I’ve noticed that my toes are going numb, I believe it is from these steep descents and my toes hitting the end of my shoes. My hands were very sweaty at this time and I felt like my hands kept slipping off the handles. A fellow hiker who I really liked also just recently broke her ankle in New Jersey during a rain storm and it weighed heavily on my mind. I didn’t want to injure myself. While walking the flat part of the trail, I was still steaming with anger. The gnats actually got WORSE as we walked closer to the river. I was so angry at some unknown source. I felt personally victimized and wanted to scream, “LEAVE ME ALONE!” At the next trail head I saw a fellow hiker in the Housanic River. The river showed a current, brown water, and dead bugs. I didn’t care…I jumped in. There were no bugs biting me in the water and at least I was cool for a moment. 

The night got better when we got to the campsite. There was a swing and as I was talking to Pusher and Puma about the next day a fellow hiker who I hadn’t seen since Pearisburg showed up. “Puddles!” It was so good to see him. It felt like a mini reunion and I felt the magic from the beginning of the trail again. We told stories about our last months, caught up on trail gossip like where our friends were (ahead and behind), and discussed the future months. The beginning of the trail really does have this magic to it. I’ve mentioned it before but it really is like Freshman year of college. Everyone is nervous but also excited and everyone wants to met everyone else. You make the most friends at the beginning of the trail. April 1st was a huge start day and I was in a bubble of people for a long time so fortunately I met many people. I see the same names over and over in the registers of people I know but will never catch up to. There is no true way to know who is behind you unless you slow down and they catch you. Puddles had been following along in the register. Seeing him definitely lifted my spirits. I hadn’t really enjoyed Connecticut but after that deathly climb and descent today, we walked alongside a river, pastures, and then wild flowers. Connecticut made up for today.

July 29

Our motivation had been a little low lately but today was a good day. We struggled to walk 14 miles by 8 pm yesterday yet today we did 15 by 1 pm without any trouble. Maybe we should wake up early every day? One of our tramily members who is now two days behind is from Connecticut and his parents wanted to host hikers. We were graciously invited into their home. We arrived at Fort Montgomery and as we waited to be picked up, a woman named MeLisa pulled up with fresh cut watermelon and offered her home to us. We turned down the offer for AC but ate ALL the watermelon. She could not have pulled up at a more perfect time! This was my first trail Magic in Connecticut. 

July 30

Zero day in a pool with unlimited fruit and vegetables nothing more to be said. It was heavenly!

July 31

This was a hard day. I barely slept from the party but woke up with my period and cramps. Right after we were dropped off I somehow managed to break the chest strap of my backpack. There were many climbs and they were difficult with a heavy ill-fitting backpack with full resupply and low energy because of cramps. Then the bugs came and ate us before being chased by the rain. We crossed into Massachusetts that night and my left quad started to hurt after taking pictures. I had no idea how it happened. Unfortunately we met two very rude women at the campsite. I always find it more disappointing to find rude women than men. C’mon ladies, we should be supporting each other! When we arrived we saw a campsite that was big enough for 6 tents and there were only two set up, the owners were not around. We decided to set up here and did not continue looking for a different spot because we didn’t have to, there was plenty of space! Then the two owners came back, we refer to them as the two rude women. Turns out they wanted this space all to themselves. My tramily members politely said hi to them and their first responses were, “couldn’t you have gone anywhere else? There are other tent spots you know. How many people are with you?” They then began asking questions about our hike and were snarky about our response, “headed to Maine.” Honestly they are the first people ever to scoff at us when we said, “headed to Maine.” It isn’t like we are in Georgia anymore, we are less than 680 miles to Maine. Considering we have come 1,500 miles we are pretty darn close…

August 1

The first of every month is my trail anniversary. I have officially lived in the woods for 4 months! The skeeters on the way to Great Barrington were the worst I had ever experienced. It was about a 2 mile swampy section where we were swarmed beyond belief. I tried stopping to put on bug spray and grab my head net but that was a mistake. When I took off my backpack, the mosquitoes started biting me through my clothes and into my back. Pusher passed by me, swatted a couple skeeters and then yelled, “just run!” We literally hiker-ran to the road for relief. But that night I experienced the sweetest Trail Magic ever. A section hiker named Evan, and his friend Steven found themselves with too many Mountain House meals (expensive freeze dried meals) so they decided to feed the hikers (three in my tramily and two more SOBOs). They offered me one of the Mountain House Meals, I said yes and then started to set up my stove. When I turned back around, Evan handed me the Mountain House I chose already made! We got to talking and he said that he aspired to thru-hike the AT after college and wanted to extend some Trail Magic. People are wonderful. 

August 2

My friends got to see my world, we got to see Pusher’s world, we got to see Digg’s world and now it was Puma’s turn. She grew up vacationing in the Berkshires (the mountain range we now traversed) and she wanted to show us around like locals. Puma’s sister picked us up and we went blueberry picking, we got to go swimming in a pond, we ate a feast of fancy cheeses, and went to see a dance festival at the venue Jacob’s Pillowbear Beckett, Massachusetts. Best of all, I had the most pleasant sleep in a hotel bed and a shower! Another great zero day. Days like this help make this AT hike more into an adventure and less like a grind. I’m very glad that I took 6 months of my retirement early.

August 3

Today was my little brother’s birthday. It was too difficult to call but I was able to send him a text. I’ve been grateful for good reception lately. In our travels we passed a Shaker campsite and then ran to Upper Goose Pond Cabin in the rain. It was like a little hiker haven. I seriously had the best night of sleep of the whole trail (probably because I was so exhausted). The bed was comfortable and near a window so the sun graced my face in the morning as I listened to owls howling. When the rain cleared up I went down to the pond and soaked my feet. Perfect day. Today’s mileage total 21 miles!

Stay safe, Drop Sticks