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March 23 2023, Newfound Gap to Peck’s Corner Shelter: Pink gifted me a teal bracelet before he decided to hitch to Standing Bear Farm. For the first time, I had been visibly and inwardly drawn to shades of blue—most of my gear and energetic vibe this year was blue.
Checkmate, Beans and I started our hitch back towards Newfound Gap. It was their first time hitchhiking and I could feel their impatience with it. We only waited a couple of minutes before Beans made a comment about getting a shuttle. I laughed, “Give it a minute.” Hitchhiking taught the lesson of patience. It was also a reminder to trust that the perfect ride was on the way—it could take five minutes or five hours—that was the joy of the experience.
We got picked up in no longer than ten minutes of having our thumbs out. A man in a pick up truck stopped directly in the middle of the road. His name was Jimmy and he had a trailer connected to the back of his truck, hauling a bunch of boxes filled with souvenir items from his shop. On our drive up, he said, “You guys are living the life. I, on the other hand, have been a slave to the system. However, I am ready to take a new direction in my life. I am ready to sell all my belongings and go fully minimalistic.” We talked about God and what God meant/felt like to us. We talked about scriptures from the Bible and shared our interpretations of them. He had such a pleasure driving us—said he was so happy he could help in such a small way.
At Newfound Gap, I stood at the sign that read “NORTH CAROLINA TENNESSEE STATE LINE”. I remember being at that exact spot 3 years ago with my ex. It was when I had already decided that I would no longer thru-hike as it didn’t seem as if it was my thing. I remember hiking up the trail about 500 feet and there was a hiker box with some snacks. I got so excited and overwhelmed with memories of my first thru that I walked back to my car and added most of my groceries to the box. When we came back to the sign, a wave of euphoria came over me. I looked at my ex and said, “I’m going to thru-hike the AT in 3 years.” I didn’t know why it would be 3 years; I just felt as if I saw a glimpse of my future even though I was convinced I would never hike again. And here I was, with a whole new group of people, and so happy to be actively living out my dream.
We got offered trail magic before we took off. A guy from Indiana eagerly offered us Honey Buns and Coca Cola! He said he would be coming back to section hike the AT in two years.
The first couple of miles back on trail we got spoiled with attention—it felt like we were the popular kids. All the day hikers would ask, “How far are y’all going?!” On command, the three of us would yell, “Maine!!” The day hikers would applaud and congratulate us as we walked past them.
The rest of the day, we sang the Krusty Krab Pizza song and bonded over SpongeBob references. I would randomly explode in laugh attacks for no apparent reason. That was the best kind of laughter. I would often stop mid-walk and just burst out laughing to the point of tears. Checkmate would say, “Ohhhh, here we go again. We’re never going to make it to the shelter if you keep stopping to laugh every three seconds.”
Met a couple of cute day hiker brothers from Israel who asked if I needed a hand walking over some frozen water streams. I said yes as I gave one of them my hand. I turned around to Beans and whispered, “I just wanted an excuse to hold his hand. I love playing damsel in distress.” We talked to them for a bit afterwards. I told them that I liked their accents and they got embarrassed as they didn’t want their accents to be so obvious. I reassured them it was very attractive.
When we made it to Peck’s Corner Shelter, Checkmate and I laid down beside each other. Everyone around us was sleeping and I randomly asked, “Did you get the vibe that those brothers from Israel were practicing incest?” He looked at me and said, “Dude. What the fuck is wrong with you?” I laughed, “I don’t know, man. They just had that kind of look in their eyes.” Checkmate goes, “You’re fucking bananas, dude.”
We made jokes about how everyone in the shelters probably hated us because of what we were talking about and how loud we were. I would start talking about Jesus and he would say, “Oh, here we go with all the Jesus stuff again. Dude, you are clinically insane. I’ve read your blog posts. You’ll be like, ‘I swallowed his cum and piss down my throat’ and the next line you’ll be like, ‘Have you guys heard about our Lord and Savior, Jesus?’” Haha! It was genuinely hilarious to witness all of the ways I contradicted myself. It was something I loved about myself. I felt the bubbling eruption of laughter again. I tried so hard to hold it back, especially because people were sleeping, but I just couldn’t. What a gift it was to be in a state of complete joy. It felt good to hear myself laugh again—an experience that felt lost and forgotten for quite some time.