Well hello everyone! I am dearly sorry for my absence of updates about my adventures on the AT but my life has been a whirlwind of an adventure lately.
Fresh and clean at the beginning of my Thru Hike
So now I am going to do my best to summarize everything about my trip thus far. I am so excited to tell everyone about everything and I just want to say firstly that I am doing very well with the trail with only a few mishaps and changes. So brace yourself because this post may be fairly long as I do feel I have a lot to talk about.
OH.. and by the way I am writing this blog post from a hotel room in Hong Kong. Yes, Hong Kong. Let me explain..
Little Hump in the Roan Highlands at dusk right before Virginia!
CURRENT PROGRESS on the AT: Mile 470, Damascus, Virginia
The View from Spring Mt. at the start of my journey.
Before I get into the start of talking about the AT I will explain why I am in Hong Kong. I have not quit the trail but only taking a week long hiatus to do a job here and then in a few days I will go back to the trail and continue.
Brace yourself because this story is quite ridiculous and I swear to you its absolutely true. I will post lots of pictures to help break this up. OK here we go..
So about two weeks before I hit Damascus I received a message from a Canadian friend named Daniel whom I met when I was traveling in Puerto Rico earlier this year. He asked me if I would be willing to take a trip here in two weeks to help him shoot a video for a Chinese startup company. I was very confused but inquired more about the job. Everything was kind of confusing but the more I learned the more it made some sense. So, Daniel had completed a unique road adventure last year and made a really cool youtube video about it which I will link here. The Chinese company saw this video and an intern for the company contacted Daniel as they were looking for a unique youtube style video to showcase their new product Yoswit which is a smart home device.
This is my friend Daniel.
I agreed to help him as I always love to seize any opportunities and as I continued to hike, it became more real. I thought it wouldn’t happen and it quite frankly sounded ridiculous to me that this was even real. I ended up getting a flight confirmation sent to me for Friday May 20th and at that point I realized I was actually going to China during my AT thru hike.
Now this is where things get complicated. I luckily had the help of my father to send me my clothes, camera gear, and most importantly passport so I could go on this trip. The package was guaranteed by UPS to arrive in Damascus on Thursday the day before I had to leave. I planned to hike into Damascus on that Thursday, pick up my package, shuttle to a hotel near the Tri Cities airport in Tennessee and be on my way.
The Day before I got to Damascus I got a call from my friend Sullivan Van Way who was road tripping around the area and asked me where I would be on Thursday. I told him I’d be in Damascus and that we could meet up and he agreed. He also agreed to take me out to the airport to save myself from getting a shuttle which was even better. I was hiking very strong into damascus. I was doing 20-30 mile days and my body was definitely hurting as I hiked into Damascus on Thursday morning. Sullivan met me on the trail at the last three miles with donuts in hand for me which was a pleasant trail magic. It was so crazy seeing someone from back home after being in the woods for a month and a half. I reunited with him and introduced him to my hiking friends. We spent the day riding bikes and hanging out until my package was supposed to arrive. Well my package never arrived and after a lot of confusion and frustration with UPS whom my Dad spent hours on the phone with while I didn’t have service I was let known that my package with my passport was misplaced in New Orleans and that it was on a semi truck somewhere in Alabama on the way to Roanoke Virginia. Now as you can imagine receiving news like this when you have a flight and obligation to be somewhere was a nightmare.
I tried not to panic as I was thinking of any possible solution to this problem but no resolve was coming to mind. I came up with the best idea I could which was to drive to the UPS sorting facility in Roanoke and try to speak with someone there about it. Long shot yes, but I had to do something. Sullivan and I got in the car and left for Roanoke. After a 2 hour car ride we finally found the facility. I quite literally walked up to the security booth for the facility and started telling the security guard my story. He pretty much looked at me like a crazy person and then told me he would call someone. I was able to speak to a manager there who “looked into” my situation. He basically didn’t help at all and simply told me my package was on its way and that there was nothing they can do. For the record UPS is a piece of shit in my book now. We spent so much time trying to resolve the situation and they did not help at all. I will never do business with them again if possible.
Honk Kong Skyline
Defeated, me and Sullivan checked into a nearby hotel to get some rest. Now things get more complicated now. On top of all of this I was having a great deal of pain in my left ankle. I ignored the pain through all the craziness I was going through because I simply thought it was from the excessive hiking I had been going through. Upon arriving at the hotel I find out that my ankle was completely swollen and infected from a sore I had acquired on my ankle. Holy hell its like the day just kept getting worse. I’m missing a flight to Hong Kong and now regardless of that I have a major foot injury.
the Staph on my ankle
Sullivan took me to an Urgent care facility first thing in the morning where I found out I had a MRSA staph infection. I had to have the infection cut open and drained. The whole experience was very painful and now my foots so traumatized I can hardly walk. I have no idea whats going on with the Hong Kong trip or what will happen but my friend Daniel took his flight like normal. He let me know they would try to reschedule my flight which was great and all except the fact that I now have a serious infection on my ankle and can hardly walk. I was extremely defeated and discouraged at this point as we drove back to Damascus. I got my stuff and checked into the woodchuck hostel to try to regain my composure. Sullivan went home and I appreciate him so greatly for all his help.
Me with my good buddy Taylor whom I met in Africa last summer who lives in Hong Kong.
Long story short, the next few days were a waiting game to see if my foot would heal and if they were going to reschedule my flight. My foot healed fast as I took it easy and with the generous help of my Aunt Kim who guided me with how to handle it, I was able to be cleared for flight. The company, Yoswit, that I was going to shoot the video booked me a last minute flight, and now I am in China.
Crazy right? Yea. I know.
So thats the current situation. Now I’ll talk about the trail!
These are my great friends Headshot (middle) and Chaco. We hiked for about 3 weeks together until I broke off and started doing my own thing! They are amazing people.
So the trail before that situation has been going really well. From the beginning I’ve really been loving my experience and adjusting into this new life. The Appalachian trail thus far has been a refreshing chapter of my life. Everyday I wake up and hike. Thats it really. I’ve been so fortunate so far to have some absolutely incredible experience and make some lifelong friends. The Appalachian trail has been an unexpected series of emotional and physical ups and downs. Some days are hard physically. Some days I have solitude and some are social. But everything, to me, is just perfect.
Headshot and Chaco sitting by a dark misty campfire.
I was very fortunate my first few weeks with weather. Although it was very cold in the beginning, It was nothing I couldn’t handle as I had my 19F degree bag and my +14F reactor fleece liner by Sea to Summit. I was kept toasty in below freezing weather but the cold made it hard to function in the mornings and evenings. As I entered the smokies I started to come across some of my first days of bad weather which I’ve learned is not the most fun experience when its cold. The past couple of weeks before I got hurt and came to China have been extremely rainy. Almost every day seemed to have a chance of rain. Hopefully upon my return the weather is expected to be warm for good. Im not sure if I am ready for the hot summer yet but being wet and hot is a hell of a lot better than being wet and cold.
LIFE on the AT
So life on the AT has been good. My average day consists of waking up around 7am when the sun rises and going to sleep around 9pm (hiker midnight they call it). I usually wake up and have some pop tarts for breakfast then pack up my gear and get ready to go. As you can imagine my days consist of a lot of walking. I usually take a view of how my day will look elevation wise using my AWOL guidebook and roughly plan what springs I will stop at for water and such. If I notice that there is a big mountain I have to climb in the middle of my day I will plan accordingly to prepare for a tough climb.
My Tarptent Notch, My home!
I usually break a few times a day for snacks and water and the occasional breathtaking view or to talk with people I meet or see. I eat a lot of peanut butter and tortillas for lunch typically and sprinkle in tons of snacks like goldfish, skittles and honey buns(honey buns are everything). In the evening depending on my mileage goal for the day I will pick a suitable campsite, typically near a shelter on the trail with a good water source to stay the night. I mostly always tent. Depending on who’s at the shelter or how the weather is typically people will make a fire and hangout before bed as they eat there food and prepare to hang their food up in trees so bears cannot get them. Some nights are not so glamorous. Some days are rough. Some days are great. You are always dirty and its hard to stay clean. You are also always exhausted. Even when your legs are conditioned to hiking everyday they will feel sore. It never gets easier because the more experienced you get the harder you push yourself. Mentally its a challenge. The thought of the size of the challenge I am attempting is huge. I’m now starting to realize after having my first real injury that there is a lot, a whole lot that can go wrong out there. There are a lot of reasons people get pulled of the trail. I’m feeling strong and confident however. Im in it to win it and I’m very happy I chose to do this.
My first Trail Magic. These guys were waiting at woody gap with pancakes cooking for me. I was so shocked that this was real.
Snacks and drinks!
Dave and Joyce gave us wonderful Trail Magic before we got to Gatlinburg in the smokies!
Trail magic is this insanely beautiful thing quite unique to the Appalachian trail. Trail Magic is when kind hearted individuals who have hiked before or have an appreciation for hiking show their love by paying it forward. I remember I came to woody gap, a popular road crossing near the beginning, and I was starving ready to eat lunch. I saw a group of guys who called me over and asked me if I wanted pancakes. It was heaven and I couldn’t believe that people did this on the trail. I completely understand the point of trail magic now. You pay it forward, and then the trail provides for you. It always provides.
THESE GUYS WERE SO AWESOME! Lost Leslie, Two-tone and company!
Lets talk about gear because thats always fun. Ive made some big changes to what I am carrying. Since I have started I have sent back various items including my winter gear, rain pants, physical awol guide, journal, and a few other small items. This has decreased my weight dramatically as well as I switched out backpacks. I gave into the allure of a nice Ultra light backpack and purchase a Zpacks arc haul backpack (25oz backpack vs my 2.25lb backpack) so my pack weight has significantly decreased. Ive also upgraded to Black Diamond Apline Carbon Cork light trekking poles as the ones I had pretty much crapped out. Im considering a summer quilt but unsure if I want to make that investment. Other than those things my original gear list was fairly solid. Ive been happy with most everything and there technically wasn’t anything wrong with my old backpack.
Zpacks Arc Haul backpack. 25oz
Sorry this post was so belated and I hope everyone enjoyed to hear my current update. If anyone every has any questions please just ask me!
Just a bunch of hikers drying out our gear on top of a mountain and taking a break.
Also the best way to follow me on this adventure is my Instagram: colelbrian and my Snapchat: Colebrian. There is no L in the snapchat. I post on both of those apps very frequently.
Thanks for checking in guys 🙂
Oh by the way I forgot to mention my trail name I have been given is Mowgli. SO theres that!
You’ve got to be wild to get the name Mowgli