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1100 Mile Summary 
Unfortunately I don't have the exact mileage in front of me, but suffice it to say I'VE MADE IT MORE THAN HALF WAY!

Quick Stats:
18-22 miles a day VT thru NJ
18-30 miles a day in PA
Tried 5 days of shelter camping, prefer hammock
Pack weighs ~15lbs w/o food, water
Pack weighs ~28lbs w/ 4 days food, 2 liters water
I finally shaved in Unionville, NY!
3 moose in ME
1 bear in VT, 2 in Mass, 1 in PA
I weigh around 158lbs (started 170, gained 3 since VT?)

The Summary:
This Saturday, Aug 25, Andrea picked me up at Pen-Mar Park just over the PA border in MD for a few days vacation in DC. On Thursday I managed to pass the half way point - where there is no sign or indicator - as I walked with a new (to me) Southbounder named Chilly. I plan to return to the trail on Wednesday, Aug 29 to quickly knock out Maryland's 40 miles of trail.

My last summary was of Maine to Vermont, when I was also picked up for a few days respite from the trail. This summary will be for the remainder of VT on to MD, about 700 miles and 35 days!

VERMONT had a lot of rain, and therefore a lot of mud. I really started to see Northbounders on a regular and more frequent basis, around 10-15 a day, and the mud was virtually non-stop. I left my trekking poles in NY since I decided they weren't a value-add, but they certainly came in handy for jumping over puddles and prodding for places to step in the oozing dirt carpets. :)

MASSACHUSSETTES was a love-hate relationship for me. The mosquitoes were by far the worse here than any other state, but the terrain was finally starting to become (not to sound like a wimp) easier. The blood thirsty bugs were so bad that they would actually bite through my hammock AND my silk sleeping bag liner while I was sleeping - I had to use my sleeping pad or actually get in to my sleeping bag even though it was too hot for either. About half of my time in Mass was rain, the other half gorgeously clear. The nice thing about Mass is that you're only in it for a few days but you still end up walking through or very close to a town with supplies. Dalton, MA is the first place on the trail where us Southbounders can stay at a free hostel, and there are TWO in town. I stayed at Tom Lovardi's house with 12 NOBOs, and his hospitality is really phenomenal. It was just before I left Mass that a few of us thru-hikers helped to rescue some day-hikers with a heat-exhausted German Shepherd.

CONNECTICUT was the best state for me so far. The trail alternated from flat ridge walks with views to flat river walks with swimming. Conn is also where the mosquitoes start to fade away and just before NY will virtually disappear! Like Mass, this is a short state, with a few food stops not far from the trail. While other hikers were cursing out Kent, CT for its posh and wealthy nature, I was enjoying the very clean feeling town especially with the ongoing Summer Sidewalk Festival. Fortunately I also had made friends who lived nearby (from the day-hiker dog fiasco) and was able to stay in Kent without having to shell out the $100 for a B&B.

NEW YORK and NEW JERSEY you basically lump together as one state - even when you're in NJ on the trail you might got 0.5 miles to a town that's in NY. The bugs really aren't a factor at all, but now is when you have to start watching your water sources - NY, NJ and PA this year have been awfully dry. It seems all the day-hikers have Brooklyn accents, and every 4th road crossing seems to have a local creamery or farm stand nearby. :) I hadn't seen a Southbounder since VT and the day before I hit NJ I increased my pace hoping maybe to catch up to Lady and the Tramp (a lady with her dog) since she was traveling a bit slower now that she had her cousin in tow. After sunset I found them camped at a stream and I filled them in on news-from-behind. News rarely travels from behind, so this is always an important event. Lady and I would end up staying together from NJ and almost all of PA - Tramp faked an injury a few days in to PA so he could get off the trail and chase squirrels at home. In Unionville, NY, just off the trail in NJ, we all stayed with the Mayor at his house. For a few years now he has been welcoming hikers to come up for a free shower and laundry, and often times to crash for the night. His second-hand-man, Butch, is more than willing to shuttle you to a real grocery story and add your photo to the hiker album they accumulate each year. They both love interacting with the hikers and helping us out, and we had a fantastic time talking and sharing stories - Unionville has 160 registered voters by the way. :)

PENNSYLVANIA is a long state, but fortunately most of it is on flat dirt roads or well groomed trails so it goes quickly. This is where I went from 18-22 miles a day to 18-30. The NOBOs all cry and whimper about PA, claiming its soooooo rocky, or the rocks will destroy your shoes, or the sun will bake you on the exposed ridges!!! Babies. The exposed ridge portions don't last long, the rocks are certainly a factor but they're hardly worth noting, and all our shoes seemed to hold up just fine. I even walked 15 miles in 2 days with just my foam Croc's. While PA is super dry (only springs/streams below 900 feet seem to be flowing) there are a large number of towns through which one passes - allowing you to fill up from a garden hose or business. The longest stretch I went without a water source was probably 16 miles - forcing me to carry 5 liters. In Deleware Water Gap, PA Lady sent home her dog, but a few days later (not that I'm calling him a dog!) we met up with another SOBO named Mr Wiffle. So for much of PA the three of us would travel together (at least meet up at a shelter), until eventually Lady went home for a vacation and I moved faster than Mr Wiffle. In my final few days in PA I finally caught up to Chilly, the Colby grad that I've been trying (half-heartedly) to catch since Katahdin - he ended up taking 4 days off and I ran into him on the day he returned to the trail. PA towns are generally easy to get to, often right on the trail, and often have a cheap or free place for hikers to stay - many have town pavilions available for sleeping in.

I'm now a mile or two in to Maryland, and am under the impression that the rest of the trail is fairly attractive and easy. I'm looking forward to Shenandoah National Park, the highlands in between there and the Smokies where one can see the wild ponies, and the Smokies themselves. I should be passing through some of the most beautiful sections of the trail during the fall foliage!

As for gear, I'm once again making drastic changes. After my third Gregory backpack started to fall apart I decided to get my money back and go with another brand entirely. Unfortunately I ran all around DC yesterday and didn't find anything that I liked - hopefully today will be my lucky day. However, I did find a $23 pair of Chaco sandals at REI (clearance + on sale + ugly color, normally $90) and will see if I can hike the trail in them. I've already met 3 NOBOs wearing them in complete satisfaction and they are considered by many to be ideal for backpacking (except for that whole winter thing). I'll throw my trail runners in my bounce box in case I decide I need them.

So far so good. My feet are definitely in a constant state of "ow ow ow ow!" when I'm not moving (ironically) but whatever I had in my bowels seems to be completely gone and back to normal. I'm hoping this 100F heat wave will pass while I'm in DC because I also hear VA is fairly short on water too.

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