shifting drishti


May 2017

Here comes the sun do do do do

​This last week has been utterly soul crushing. Rain all the time, several inches. Flash flood warnings. Icy cold rains just seeping into your bones. This video is me last night feeling my soul slightly breaking. It was projected to be more rain today, but the trail gods must have known we needed a slight break (projected to rain till Monday) and today was beautiful. Leo and I crushed out miles and felt good. For a brief moment I forgot about the souls crushing past week of setting up a cold wet tent in down pouring rain and icy wet bras in the morning and couldn’t remember why his past week has felt so rough and today has felt so great. The sun is truly life giving. I’m thankful for even a brief respit. 


600 miles down!

Oh I forgot to mention…

Leo and crossed the 25% complete mark a couple days ago.

Accidental Trail Days

Festival scenes aren’t really my thing. Neither Leo or I do grreat in a crowd. There is a big festival in Damascus  VA each year called “Trail Days”. It’s a big chaotic festival celebrating hikers. I had meant to skip it. I had no intentions of going. But….

I had found myself in Rural Retreat VA, standing under the I-81. A little over 50 miles earlier I had accidentally poured boiling water on my inner thigh. I had been doing my best to keep it clean but I knew I should have someone look at it. I was in a lot of pain and looking at a map I was only going to get more Rural if I kept hiking and I might not have cell service. As I was trying to figure out whether to keep walking or try to hitch to urgent care a guy in an old mini van pulled up.

“Need a ride?”

“Maybe. Yes. Hmmmm I’m not sure. You know where I’d be able to get medical attention?”

“Yeah hop in!”

As we rolled down the freeway I asked where we were heading.

“Trail Days. They have free medical for hikers.”

So, despite saying I wasn’t going to Trail Days for 500 miles, I ended up at Trail Days.  First thing I did was visit the medics who were there to attend to hikers who had ODed. Stoned and black out drunk hikers kept walking by as I sat there in booty shorts with my leg held up by one medic and the other one got in between my thighs to have a look. 

They were the most attractive men I have seen in months, and they seemed to have showered recently, so I tried to get my flirt on. Just unbathed and burnt– don’t look for any wedding invitations anytime soon.

The next morning I visited the doctors where I was told I had done a good job keeping it from getting infected (pat on the back) and I was payed out on a couch in a church basement as they dressed my wounds.

So, despite my best efforts I ended up at Trail Days. Full hiker Trash. 

Grayson Highlands

The Grayson Highlands are the only place so far on the Appalachian Trail that I would like to come back to and spend more time here. Beautiful and open balsa filled with wild ponies.

I don’t know much about wild ponies and their behavior. Shortly after the photo above these three ponies came after Leo. They had their heads down low and were just walking towards him. Leo was too scared to bark and I didn’t know what to do so we just kept backing up. The more we backed up the more the ponies were coming towards Leo. In panick and fear of my puppy being kicked by a pony I grabbed Leo by the handle on this backpack and started running away. The ponies started a gentle Trot following us up the mountain. I shouted, “back off ponies! We don’t want any trouble!” I showed how tough I am in the face of ponies. 

Oh, and we passed the 500 mile mark. 


Wanted to give a shout out and a big thank you to everyone who has contributed to getting Leo and I this far. We appareciate it and we owe y’all a big hug, hope we’re making ya proud. We couldn’t do it without your help!

Mandy Ellis

Sam Penturf 

Amy Livingood 

Pam and Pete Bontekoe

Diane Buckery 

Kim Phistry

Scott Drew

Becky Clutter

Laura McNeil

The Bangerts 

Libby Rose

Karen Skulrak 

Ilana Esquenazi

Meredith Stone 

Katy Conroy

Ira Ryan

Robin Jones and Taylor Bones

Elizabeth Azzolini

Sarah Gorski

Maxwell and Mary Streeter

Stan Streeter

Kiri Haggans

Caitlin Costello

Christian Coon

Tara DeFransisco & Rance Rizzutto

Mavis and Al Streyffeler 

Rubi Mcgrory 

Creeping out of Damscus

Damascus is kinda THE Appalachian Trail town. They have a huge festival called “Trail Days”. However, someone in the town must have a bee in their bonnet about hikers. There has apparently been a no camping ordinance in place since the 80s but has only recently been enforced. This has the hoste owners in upheaval. 

The town also has a rail-to-trail bike path that goes through town- Creeper Trail. There seems to be a push towards becoming more of a cycling town. I didn’t take this push as personally as many other hikers. Hikers are far trashier than cyclists. They spend less money at spots, and seem to have a higher theiving rate.

I just follow white blazes. Those are the mArkers for the Appalachian Trail. Leaving Damascus I didn’t know it was common practice for hikers to throw out the “pass every white blaze” rule of thru hikers and instead take the Creeper Trail (bike path) to skip some miles and more importantly some steep climbs. Leo and I took the AT. We held true to the Appalachian Trail. Hopefully she stays true to us. 

Hike Your Own Hike

The phrase “hike your own hike” is used a lot out here. The idea of worry about yourself and do your own thing. A lot of hikers have mixed feelings about the phrase because it is quite often used to bully other hikers. If someone is being loud and keeping an entire campsite up they’ll tell those being kept up to “hike your own hike”. In place of “FU”. 

The other day I was at a hostel waiting out a snow storm. One of the guys at the hostel is an ultra marathoner who at mile 393 had hiked 17 days and taken 18 zeros. In the middle of our small talk he looked at his phone and his mood abruptly changed. He had already paid for the night, but asked for the owner of the hostel to immediately take him back to the trail. He was going to hike out that night. 

He had been holding up for a girl and she had sent him a text to go on. Explaining that she felt it was time for them both to “hike our own hikes.” 

All the ways I had seen that phrase used that was the first I had seen it used to say, “I’m not that into you.” I keep wondering if that phrase will work for me in my post-trail life the way that girl used it. Presumably I’ll start dating again at some point. I see myself in a beginner improv class in a mid-size city in he middle of the country. Make out with one my classmates after we all hang out one night. Then when he asks which level 2 I’ll be signing up for I just look past him and utter, “I think it’s time you hike your own hike.”

I’m sure he’ll get the hint… 

Pushing Through

The other day as Leo and passed over grassy balds the wind gusts were over 80 mph. This is the most exposed stretch we have experienced so far on the trail. I have been waiting for there be a stretch like this where we would be able to see mountains for ages. Unfortunately the timing came with scary wind speeds. 

We were trapped in a situation where we had to keep moving forward. There was no safe space for us unless we could get 6 miles ahead to a big red barn. Everywhere behind us was just as exposed.

We had to move.

As one other thru hiker passed us, with his nose down, trying to keep his face from being torn off by the wind he hollered; “HAVING FUN?!” 

I didn’t even look at him as I shouted back


Right before reaching the shelter one of my trekking poles officially broke. 

We were broken.

We trudged on and made it to the barn. It was our shortest day yet, with only 6 miles of hiking. However, it was more exhausting than many days that were 3 times as long. As we laid in the barn I was thankful to have gotten through the scariest hike we have had. I thought about how often we have to push through challenges and danger to get to safety. 

After my attack many people, who love me, wanted to keep safe. They didn’t want me to go alone anywhere and to stay in when its dark. For me the goal is always to be safe, I feel that’s most people’s goal. However, sometimes we are in a spot where the only thing we can do is stay on our feet and push through. Safety will be on the other side. You have to make the decision if you will make it there or give up. 

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