After an enjoyable zero in Great Barrington, MA, I would love to say I was ready to hike. But, honestly, the newness and excitement of hiking had long worn off. My feet were still sore, my legs stiff. I suppose that is one of the many mental challenges involved in hiking–delayed gratification. Successful people continue to work hard for a goal even when it isn’t fun or easy. I have committed myself to this hike and come hell or high water (or both), I’m going to finish! So, onward I hiked.
I did decide that I was tired of pushing high miles. The terrain was still fairly flat and enjoyable, so why not start enjoying it? The next few days I hiked somewhere between 11-15 miles each day. I stopped at the post office in Tyringham, MA around lunch one day and had the most pleasant experience I have ever encountered at a post office. The post mistress, Louisa, was so sweet and helpful! Tyringham is a sleepy little farm town, but they have a library (with electrical outlets and wifi) and post office all conveniently located near the trail. Not a bad pit stop for thru-hikers.I even met a nice crew of day hikers from New Jersey that have a time share in Tyringham. It was refreshing to meet so many people who were excited about my thru-hike–and I love trying to encourage people who are tempted to do it in the future! One of my favorite places I stayed during this stretch of trail was Upper Goose Pond Cabin. It is a half mile off trail, but totally worth the extra mileage. The Cabin is managed by Appalachain Mountain Club (AMC) volunteers and is located on what I was told is “the clearest pond in all of Massachussetts.” There are canoes at the cabin in which hikers can row around the pond or cross over to the island…in case they haven’t exerted enough energy for the day.
After a good night’s sleep at the cabin, I devoured a fantastic blueberry pancake breakfast with a pile of other hikers. There was a fairly even mixture of north-bounders (NOBOs) and south-bounders (SOBOs). The blueberries in the pancakes were made possible by the SOBOs who carried the blueberries 11 miles from the Cookie Lady’s house. Which brings me to my next favorite place I stayed… The Cookie Lady’s house is a well known pit stop. She and her husband live on a nice piece of property in which they allow hikers a free place to camp and charge their phones and unlimited access to water. They greet each hiker with a smile and free cookies! In addition, you can purchase boiled eggs and however many blueberries you would like to pick from their plethora of bushes. Make no mistake, I gorged myself with an amassment of both.
After the the Cookie Lady’s house, the trail led me to Dalton, MA. It was there that I met well-known trail angel, Tom Levardi. Because their aren’t many low priced lodging options in town, Tom opened his porch and back yard to hikers for free camping and has done so for years. He also has electrical outlets/charging stations and water for free. Unfortunately, while I was at his home, he talked about shutting it down after this year. He said he has dealt with too many inconsiderate and rude hikers from the Class of 2015. I heard a few days later that there was an incident and he closed his doors right then.
This is where I would like to take a minute to address an ugly truth I’ve had to realize about the AT. Just like in life, there are flat out cheaters and liars on the AT. They work very little, have little to no respect for those who do work hard, and feed off the benefits like a hideous flesh-eating bacteria with no remorse. This folks, is known as the “yellow-blazing” crowd. Yellow-blazing is a trail term used to describe the act of riding in a car to skip a section of trail. Therefore, the people who do this have not actually hiked every mile of the 2,189.2 mile trail. Simply stated is the definition of thru-hiking in accordance to the ATC:
Therefore, at best these yellow-blazers can be termed “section-hikers.”
So, why do I care? The problem is, these bottom-feeders have been known show up at trail magic by hitch hiking from road to road and completely devour the food. A few minutes later actual thru-hikers show up on foot to find out the last hot dog has been gobbled or the last coke drank. I’ll tell you, it’s really quite difficult to race a car by foot.
This careless bunch hops from town to town, maybe hiking a few days in between, and camps/stays at all the free locations and sucks the generosity dry. Some of them have been known to party excessively and cause traditional landmarks (such as Tom Levardi’s house) to be shut down. These people continuously attempt to excuse their actions by misusing the phrase, “Hike your own hike (HYOH).” As in, let me be me and do what I want. You see, for that saying to be relevant you have to actually…well, hike. Anyway, HYOH was meant to justify ones own choices such as wearing boots vs trail-runners, hiking with vs without a dog, dry food vs cooked food, water tablets vs a filter, etc. It was never intended to excuse someone from hiking miles so they can still claim to have thru-hiked. Plus, once their actions and glorified road trip/hiking mixture begins to infringe on my experience then they are suddenly ruining my hike, and that’s a problem.
Another reason I care is these people are greatly skewing the AT thru-hike success rate. The ATC claims that about 1 in 4 thru-hike attempts are successful. I’m willing to bet it’s closer to 1 in 7. The problem is the completion rate is honor system based…and strangely enough, liars lack honor. So, when asked if they will sign a document stating they’ve hiked the entire trail, psh, why not?I suppose there are liars and cheaters everywhere. I had naively hoped that Appalachian Trail was somehow sacred and might be safe from these types people. To be fair, I don’t care if someone wants to have a section hiking and road tripping adventure. In fact, I’d encourage it–as long as they don’t wear the facade of thru-hiker to try and reap any undeserved glory.
The truth is, liars can present a great story to others, but deep down within they can’t lie to themselves. Whether they were too lazy, weak or impatient people who misrepresent themselves will never know the true feeling of the accomplishment they claim to have. There are no differences between those who cheat themselves in everyday life and the yellow-blazers of the AT. They mask failure with a false success, and there is really nothing that can be done to stop them. However, it’s wonderful to know when I stand at the summit of Katahdin and feel the ache in my feet from each mile of the 2,189.2 mile trail that has beaten me down physically, mentally and emotionally, I will proudly stand strong, smile and realize that I just accomplished one of my biggest dreams in life…and nobody can take that from me or experience the unamaginable feeling unless they, too, have done it.
Katahdin, here I come!
Below are several other pictures I have captured during this section of trail:
Thank you for stopping by! Until next time–
Hello Dixie, we met on the Kinsman Trail, NH and again at the Lonesome Lake Hut and talked about presentations after your hike. My trail name is “Hammer” from AT class of 2008. I have started reading and looking at your site and it’s wonderful. Great pictures and comments. I will follow you to your final summit in Maine. Maybe I’ll see you this weekend as I will be on the Wildcat Ridge Friday & Sat 16.
Hammer!! Yes, thank you for finding me on here. Too bad we didn’t run into each other again in the Whites. I’m in Maine now. Only about 220 miles to go. Feeling ready to be done! Talking to you really helped me push through the whites–thank you for your encouragement, positivity and spirit. I’m definitely wanting to do some post hike presentations. Thank you for the idea. Please keep in touch!
This was one of the best updates you have written so far. For people to cheat and make the experience suck for someone else will come back to them through life. I can only say that I’m very proud you had the stones to say something about it. Enjoy the rest of what you have left. The Northeast part will mess with your head. Godspeed Kiddo.
Thank you, Dommer!! 🙂
Hey Dixie! Been following your videos and hike for a good while now. Thanks for addressing the liars and cheaters on the trail. I thru-hiked in ’04 and experienced a lot of this kind of attitude as well. There would be often, up to a dozen here or there, that would just skip entire sections or hundreds of miles, get ahead of you, and ruin a landmark (as you say) because of rudeness and that entitled attitude. I remember feeling like I was finally past that crowd by a week or two’s distance, and suddenly I’d pop into a hostel or town and find that they’ve all been overstaying their welcome for days ahead of me, because they had skipped hundreds of miles and were just partying. It’s definitely an ugly side to the A.T. that isn’t often addressed, but it is affecting the trail, the experience, and the community. And, yes, they use the HYOH mantra, as their excuse. I’m glad you pointed that out. I’m not saying people have to be purists, nor have to hike past every single blaze. But, hikers need to be respectful to what the trail is. Skipping hundreds of miles and just partying the whole time, isn’t hiking, and certainly isn’t thru-hiking. And, that kind of attitude is hurting several parts of the trail community and even the infrastructure that supports the A.T. I hope we see a paradigm shift in the attitude of hikers and thru-hikers concerning the A.T. and that the trail heals and grows. It really comes down to respect. Thanks for your videos and blog! Enjoy the rest of your journey!
Jim–amen to everything you said! I hate that this was going on so far back as ’04, but I’m not surprised. Sigh. Oh well! Shame on them for cheating themselves. Thanks for your support!
Dixie, I have so enjoyed your posts and videos. FYI I am Erica Stones Uncle. Stay positive and get the yellow blazers out of your head. Easily said than done but just keep that wonderful positive attitude that you have had from day one. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience as I look forward to each and everyone of your updates. RTR and my wife says WDE (I am sure you heard that the Jacksonville Gamecocks just about beat the Tigers but hey a win is a win).
Hey Uncle John! Thank you so much for checking out my blog 🙂 Tell your wife I said WDE right back at her. Unfortunately our team is awful this year, but I take the good years with the bad. As a bama fan, how did you lasso and auburn woman? You must have impressive courting skills! Haha.
These photos touch my heart! The story is starting to get more real. I’m on your team and all of you are in my prayers… We’re all walking… Love to All. Albert
thanks for another wonderful blog. It’s disappointing to hear the affects of cheaters on other trail users and the local communities who support thru hikers; not sure what you could do to stop this happening.
Don’t let these people’s actions affect your experience in anyway; what you have achieved so far is remarkable, particularly when you are mostly travelling on your own. Your positive nature comes through your well written updates and photographs that are second to none.
I have previously worked as park ranger on the Great Walks in New Zealand so I have an idea of what you are experiencing, though hiking with bears would be a whole new experience
Enjoy the remainder of your trip
Neville, I’m not sure if they can be stopped. I do think one they will regret it eventually. Thanks for being such an avid follower. I’m jealous of your hikes in New Zealand–that would be amazing!
I recently started following your vblogs and blogs. I really admire your tenacity and spirit. You’ve inspired me to at least entertain the thought of hiking the AT, even if its just for short stretches at a time. Looking forward to seeing the culmination of your journey, so keep on hiking on!
Michelle–uh oh. The seed has been planted. Be warned…you’ll start planning your trip before you know it 😉 Try a section–I dare you! Thanks for the words of encouragement and for following along!
Wish I could say that any of this surprised me, but I cannot. I think the AT experience will be quite different 10 years from now, and not for the better. More and more people will start closing their homes/properties because in the future, the hooligans will outnumber the actual hikers (if, in fact, thy haven’t already). The wilderness experience has been changing my whole life. More and more, it attracts the wrong sort of crowd, ones that are looking for ways to escape the dictates of society and do whatever they want to do for their own selfish pleasures, not as a sacred experience. Doing a thru hike takes COMMITMENT, and an awful lot of folks these days don’t have it in them. Once they realize the amount of work and planning it takes, and the physical and spiritual investment that you have to give it, they just do their own thing, cut corners, and give themselves a trophy they have by no means earned. But you have the right attitude. It doesn’t matter what this pack of idiot children does or doesn’t do, whether or not they brag to their bros and hos back home about the things they’ve never done (bet you don’t know what song that came from), or think they’ve accomplished something other than proving the depth of their incompetence at life. You will come away from this experience KNOWING that you accomplished something to be proud of, an experience you will NEVER forget.
Steve–I nodded my head so much while reading your comment it about fell off. Ha! And I don’t have a clue about the lyrics…care to enlighten? But yes. I agree with you! Thanks for adding to my rant.
Great job writing and you take wonderful pictures! I look forward to your next post and hope your well and your spirits are soaring after the whites, assuming your through them! Difficult, but great area to be hiking in.
A NOBO gave me the trail name I will be using on my hike next year….TOAST… as in I’m toast!
Toast–I love the name! My spirits were excited to be done with the whites, but my feet were more so 😉 It was a beautiful area. I’m in Maine now!
I just found your videos yesterday and have watched about a dozen so far. Disappointing to hear about the yellow bloodsuckers, seems they are everywhere nowadays. As long as there are genuine
people like you around there is hope. YOU ROCK, GO GIRL!
Thank you, Steven!
Looks like you are having an adventure of a lifetime. I admire your determination. I would never have been able to do this. Be careful and praying for you. (I am Carol’s mother, in case you did not recognise my name)
Ms. Diane, thank you for kind words! I knew exactly who you were when I saw your name 🙂 It has been an awesome adventure…very challenging, yet rewarding. I appreciate you thinking of me. I hope you are doing well!
Loving the videos and your perspective and ability to capture the interesting and quirky! As an aspiring thru-hiker for 2022 (when I turn 50) I am eagerly sucking up any and all information I can gather and this includes your work! 🙂 Your pictures are stunning! What are you using to take them?
Looking forward to your reply and seeing the rest of your adventure!
Brian (The Chief) Sims
Thank you! I am excited for you. I just use my iphone camera. I honestly wish I had gotten a fancy camera and learned how to use it before coming out here, but I’m happy with how well my phone camera performs!
I stumbled serendipitously onto your channel and binge watched every video all in one sitting! Although I was raised in Oklahoma, I live in Pennsylvania (very close to Port Clinton) and I actually cried with you when you were on your way home to Sugar. I frequent the surrounding AT sections as much as possible (The Pinnicle is my thinking chair :0) but you have inspired me to go further and to commit to more in the future! I just wanted to let you know that I admire your determination and I appreciate your authenticity. Keep it up and thank you for sharing this adventure with the world!
I’ve enjoyed both your vblogs and traditional blogging. Thanks for your post on the “dirty rotten bastards” on the trail. It it one of the disappointing facts of the trail. My son and I were part of the AT class of 2014 and witnessed a lot of just really, really bad human behavior. Very early on the trail, we began to do as much stealth camping as possible and build in longer or shorter days to get away from the trash. All that said, the AT and most of the folks connected to it our super people. I work at Auburn University, so when you get back to Opelika, say hey. War Damn!
I just met Tom Levardi in Dalton MA. I car camped in his yard and he shuttled me to a nearby trail head. All I can say is he is an amazing man, kind and generous to hikers. The hiking community is very lucky to have him!