Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Whites

Written By: Emily "Lightning" Ginger

I felt like I was tapping into a family treasure as I crossed Franconia Ridge in the White Mountains of New Hampshire (my father's family has a long history of visiting this area, starting back in the 1970's). The views from on top of the ridge were astounding and when I reached the very top of Lafayette (one of the mountain peaks along the ridge line) I stood there frozen in awe and with my eyes tearing up I said outloud to myself "I am happy to have walked 1800 miles just to see these views." I really understand now why my grandparents and extended family hold the Appalachian Trail in such high regard.

The terrain in the White Mountains is hard because you walk straight up and straight down steep mountains (our hiking speed was cut in half!), but the pristine land was some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. If there is one place on the trail that I will definitely return to, it's the White Mountains. I just hope that when I return I can do long day hikes and not have to carry 35 lbs on my back. Hiking without all the weight on my back makes hiking more enjoyable.

I can't believe that we have already passed through the White Mountains- I have been looking forward to them for four months and it all passed by too quickly. We are currently hiking in the last state that the AT crosses- Maine. I have been to Maine once in my life, when I was 9 years old and I remember it as my favorite family camping trip. I can't believe that we are finally here!!! Unfortunately, Maine marks the end of our trip and it's hard for me to imagine what it will be like to be sitting in a lecture hall three weeks from now, surrounded by a concrete jungle. As much as I want to complete this adventure (and not have to fill a mileage quota everyday) I don't want it to end. Perhaps I need to find a different place to live than Chicago, somewhere that I have better access to nature and hiking. I hope my transition back home goes well and that I'm able to recall these beautiful views in my mind when I'm missing them.


In regards to our video blog post which included footage of food caching, we would like all our readers and viewers to know that these Appalachian Trail thru-hikers in no way condone the caching of food along the AT.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Whites

Written by: Brandon "Monkey" Imp

This entry is about my experience in the White Mountains.
When people ask which section of the AT has been my favorite, I say...the Grayson Highlands of Virginia. It is geographically small but has unique terrain for the east coast - sections of barren rock like that found in Arizona. Also, there are wild ponies to play with!

The Whites came close to being my favorite. Visually, they are stunning. Every mountain has a view and most have a few on the way up and down. Hiking in the Alpine Zone above treeline is so rewarding! The sweat and bruises endured on the way up are paid out by wonderful views found infrequently on the east coast.

But, the Whites have not been my favorite. The Whites brought about emotional turmoil and inconsiderate people.

Imagine a swing. It goes up and down and stabilizes in the middle. The middle is where I have been for most of the trip - stabilized. (This is not to say that I have not had super highs and super lows, they were just spread apart and controllable.) The Whites have been pushing me up and down; I swing so fast that the expressed emotions are either euphoric or horrifying. I couldn't control them and they, on top of people I have met in the park, have wrecked this part of the trip.

I will go into detail of two of these huge swings after explaining the people of the park (as they are part of the swings). Many of the people I have met in the Whites have been unkind and disappointing. Unfortunately for my case, only the excellent people will be reading this blog (the teenage crew from the huts, the couple from Garfield camp, the 2011 thru-hikers...). The disrespect I received from hut croo members and other vacationers stems from their lack of understanding of the AT, the path it takes, and the labor involved to get from GA to NH. Sure, the trail and huts may be a place for them to vacation with the family, but they are my home. I live there. I wouldn't walk into your house, throw a chair over, and stick out my tongue. Why? Common courtesy!

Deep breath. Calm down. I am getting flustered just thinking about it all.

Case 1: Franconia Ridge and Garfield

The morning started off perfect. I woke up on a bunk in a hostel, finished my Ben and Jerry's from the night before, and the sky was clear. Two Virginia friends we made on the trail, Christine and Adam (, were vacationing in the area, so we all went out for a filling pancake breakfast. Full of positive energy and good food, we hiked a few thousand feet up to get to Franconia Ridge. My expectations were high because EVERYBODY says this stretch is the best on the AT. We start along the ridge trail and there were...trees. And more trees. We took a side path to an overgrown view. HOW was this so great? I got pretty sad. Then, the trees cleared out, the wind picked up, and there were 360 degree views. For a ridge that takes 1.5 hours to get over, we spent 4. We took it all in, filmed it, and enjoyed it. The joy I was feeling was...inexpressible! For months we saw few views! We would climb mountains and there would be nothing at the top! But NOW THERE WAS. We had a perfect day for the ridge and even met some enthusiastic day hikers. The joy was contagious! Even the panting people were filled with glee!

Then we descended Lafayette, the terminus of the range. At the bottom I notice a croc was missing. End euphoria. Cue lingering disappointment. The climb was tough so I chose not to go back for it - it may have blown away anyway. Then we climbed and descended Garfield. Why. Why. Why. The descent was so vertical, so slick, so dangerous! The pace dropped to below one mile per hour. Disappointment escalated into hatred, shame, despair, and anger. My blood was boiling and I wanted to quit the Appalachian Trail. By the time Emily and I got to Garfield campsite, it was 2.7 more miles to our night's destination and it was 7 pm. Now, although we have never paid for a campsite along the entire AT, and even though the trail is maintained by volunteers, and even though all of the huts and shelters are owned by the non-profit AMC, there is a charge to camp at the site. $8 per person = $24 = .5 hotel room. The caretaker at the site, bless his heart, was doing his job. He told us we would not make it to the hut by dark and they only allow 2 hikers there per night. There is no stealth camping (camp on an unofficial site) between here and there, and his campsite was full.

However! We could go down into the woods off the site and camp! We went down in the woods, and then further, then I ran into a tree, then I fell down a drop, and finally arrive at a tiny clearing. Now I was scraped and bruised. Remember how fifteen minutes prior I was ready to quit? Well I was still off my rocker. I was emotionally distraught. I was exhausted! We went up to an overlook to cook dinner, hoping the nice view would cool us all down. A couple joined us on the rock. After talking and learning of their hiking background (she thru-hiked), we learned of the latest thru-hiker gossip - Pop Pop quit. Pop Pop! This man is elderly and determined. He made it 1800 miles, broke a trekking pole, had a few bad days, and quit while descending Garfield. The trail was getting too dangerous for him and he was satisfied with making it this far. Re-enter Brandon's slump. There are too few of us left! These mountains are not safe! Something is not right! We returned to our campsite and was soon followed by the caretaker - we owe $24. $24 for being nowhere near anybody and for not using the resources of the campsite. We tried to get out of the charge, but the caretaker favored his job over human compassion. Enter my dislike of the White Mountain people! I go to sleep angry.

Case 2: The Presidential Range and Lakes of the Clouds Hut

Again, a perfect morning. We were taken in out of the rain by strangers (thanks Seth and co.) and so I woke up in a bed. Our clothes were dry and we got out of the house by 7:30 a.m. We planned on a short 11 mile day to arrive early at Lakes of the Clouds hut, guaranteeing us spots for the night. The day was beautiful - weather and scenery. The hiking did not hurt as much as usual. I saw Mt. Washington looming in the distance all day and was excited to climb the landmark the next morning. Besides a hard fall Kate endured, we were good when we arrived at the hut in the early afternoon. Euphoric, actually.

We entered the hut and saw chaos. Everybody seemed to be screaming and stressed, yet this was "normal." Have I been in the woods that long? The first croo member we met, bless his heart, was doing his job - AMC says no thru-hikers could stay that night. HI NO. Sorry. This is our only hut experience. We are staying. The hutmaster gives the OK and we are sent to the dungeon. The dungeon is an emergency room kept open year-round. It holds six rotting bunks, smells of feces, and the walls ooze the blood of those who have died in the room. HELL NO. I have standards. This is below those standards. We did not want to risk being expelled from the hut (a storm was coming) so we stayed quiet about our discontent (complaining only to other hikers who came in, and some sympathetic guests.)

With a storm outside, all 115+ guests were in the dining hall, and we were asked to remain separate from the paying guests. I felt like a second class citizen. I was holding out though - our work for stay would be giving a talk on the AT and we would get a big meal afterwards. We sat around for the next few hours, unable to escape from the noise or relax. We watched as the guests gorged on hot food for over an hour. Finally, the Traveling Circus would talk. Excited to finally interact, we sat and gave a panel talk. Out of the 40 that decided to listen, about seven were engaged (yeah teenagers!) The blank faces, droopy eyes, and silence after jokes were disheartening. Then came dinner! We sat in the kitchen. For us, there was a slice of break, cold lasagna and veggies, soup, and chocolate cake. I ate as much soup and cake as I could, disappointed my promises of fresh, warm food was unfulfilled. While disappointment followed disappointment, the dungeon loomed in my thoughts. Little Brown, a thru-hiker we have known since Georgia, used his kind persona and 6'+ stature to persuade the hutmaster to let the Traveling Circus escape the dungeon and sleep in the dining room with the 25 teenage girls having a "slumber party." Whatever, screaming girls beats out the prisoners of war room.

Finally settling my nerves, I prepared for bed and checked my phone for reception. What luck! After 2 weeks of nothing, I had a single bar! First text was Mom: Call...Sunny. No. No! NO! Not good! Sunny is the family dog, is over 13, and knows my deepest secrets. When I am down, he pulls me up. Whispering in the back corner of the dining room, I talk with my dad. Sunny is dying. They are about to put him down. Choking back tears, I say goodbye to my dog. I tell him I love him. (My lord I am tearing up now!) Mom says he heard me and picked up his head. That a boy! Good puppy! Then I run out of the hut bawling. I cry and cry and cry. Others are outside laughing, and I am miserable. On an island of despair. Three more weeks and I could have hugged him goodbye. Instead, nada. I go to bed crying. Things haven't been the same since.

My emotions have swung this way and that so suddenly in these mountains. Please let this stop! I need three more weeks of strength! Get me out of this mess, legs!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Whites

Written by: Katherine 'Ringleader' Imp

Four months. We have been living in the woods for four months. What does this do to your mind? Your body? Your soul?

The only way for me to explain this transformation is to describe our time in the Whites...

Day 1: Mount Moosilauke

Morning -- begin to make our way to the first white mountain of New Hampshire.

All: We made it to the Whites! Woohoo! We've come so far! Together! How exciting!

Lunch -- break at shelter before beginning 2500-foot climb

Emily: Kate, what are you doing?

Kate: I'm closing my eyes until Bran gets back from the privy.

-- 30 seconds later --

Kate: *snoring*

Emily: If she's taking a nap, I'm going to sleep too.

-- 2 minutes later --

Kate & Emily: *snoring*

Bran returns: I guess I'll take a nap.

-- 2 hours later --

Emily: Why am I so tired?

Bran: It's raining.

Kate: Because you hiked 1700 miles.

Bran: I hate hiking in the rain.

Kate: We should go.

Top of Moosilauke -- freezing, rain/hail, insane wind

All: This is awesome! I feel so alive!

Bottom of Moosilauke -- ends with 1.5 miles straight down on wet rocks; follows waterfall

Kate: I wish I could just sit next to the waterfall rather than walk past it.

Bran: I hate rocks.

Emily: That took forever. I miss my 4 mile/hr pace.

Moosilauke parking lot -- people offer us a ride to a hostel in town

All: Yay! Luck strikes the traveling circus again! So happy!

Day 3: Franconia Ridge

Morning -- hike up to ridge, below tree line

Kate: This is supposedly the most beautiful part of the Appalachian Trail! Exciting!

Bran: Damnit! My shoe is soaking wet and covered in mud!

Emily: I feel like I have nothing to look forward to anymore.

Kate: You two are ridiculous.

Bran & Em: Why are you criticizing us?

Afternoon -- get to ridge, beautiful day, clear skies

Bran: This is awesome!

Emily: How beautiful!

Kate: There's no where else I'd rather be.

Day 5: Lakes of the Clouds Hut, The Presidentials

Morning -- Kate slips on wood plank. Slams shin. Falls in puddle of mud. Can't get up.

Emily: Kate! Are you okay?

Kate: *crying* Fuck the world!

Emily: Kate, you have to get up. You are lying in a puddle of mud.

Kate: My shin hurts so bad. I'm tired of feeling like shit all the time!

Bran rolls up: What happened?

Emily: Kate took a bad fall and has been lying in a pile of mud for 10 minutes.

Bran: You want me to film you?

Afternoon -- get to Lakes of the Clouds Hut, treated like 2nd class citizens

Kate: Why are they segregating us from the other hikers?

Emily: Because we aren't paying to stay here and we smell.

Kate: I hiked 1800 miles to get here. They should be bowing down and feeding me with a spoon.

Bran: I'm not sleeping in that rat-infested Dungeon.

Night -- the Traveling Circus entertains 120 Hut guests with a panel discussion about thru-hiking

Hut worker: You three can sleep in the dining hall if you'd like. Thanks for entertaining.

All: Only the traveling circus....

Day 7: hike into Gorham, NH

Mood -- changes every 5 minutes

Injury count -- not good

Emily: legs look like they went through a garbage disposal

Kate: bruised shins, bad knees, broken toe

Bran: stabbed foot with trekking pole

Transition stress -- clearly has begun

All: So ready to go home, but also don't ever want to leave....

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Appalachian Trail : Unknown Territory Video Blog - part 10

The tenth installment of the Unknown Territory Video Blog

Check back every Wednesday for a new installment and follow along with the adventures of a lawyer, an Ivy grad, and a city chick.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fantasies of Showers and Clean Clothes

Written By: Emily "Lightning" Ginger

We haven't had a campfire for at least a month. I believe this is due to a number of factors: we are too tired at the end of the day, it was more exciting in the beginning, the days are longer, and the weather has warmed up quite a bit. I know that I personally don't like sweating the smell of campfire from my pores all day when I am hiking. Really, we just haven't needed a fire. However, for the past week, as soon as we get to camp we all go to work at getting a fire started. The bugs have come out in brutally full force (smoke helps keep them away)! The bugs are everywhere and there's just no way around them. While hiking at a pace of 3-miles/ hour we have flies swarming our heads and biting us all over. When we stop walking we get eaten alive by these incessant flies and the mosquitoes jump on board too. Kate and I spray ourselves with insect repellent but they find the spots that didn't get sprayed and go to town on those few square inches. Once Brandon's tent is set up, he jumps in and rarely comes back out (sometimes to eat dinner) so that he can avoid the bugs. All daylong we are just swatting at our bodies- I'm sure it would look quite comical to an outsider.

We have also been experiencing excruciatingly hot and humid weather, on and off, for about a month (mostly on). As soon as we start hiking early in the morning, I have beads of sweat all over my face and arms. After an hour of hiking the beads of sweat have turned into streams running down my face, arms, and legs. By midday my hair and clothes are so saturated that I look like I just jumped into a lake. We only shower and do laundry about once every 5-7 days, so as you can imagine we smell RANK- I don't know how it happens but our clothes end up smelling like a combination of bleach chemicals and mildew- it's so awful that sometimes I can't stand to walk down wind from Kate or Bran. From four months of not wearing deodorant the stench has really set in our skin and clothes (showers and laundry can only do so much for us at this point). I think that since I am restricted to one set of really smelly hiking clothes, recently during the day my mind has been drifting towards thoughts of my wardrobe, lotions, and perfumes; I fantasize about the option to shower daily, as well as the different salves and garments I can wear again when I return home.

Home! My goodness! That's less than a month away! What a shock it is to be sitting in the state of New Hampshire right now. I never thought I would actually make it out of the state of Virginia, but here I am, having walked here from Georgia, with only two states left to traverse. WOW! With so little time remaining, I think we've had a wake up call- this is going to end, and soon. I feel the pressure to soak up every last bit of this backwoods experience that I can... so I guess I should get off this computer!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Foreshadowing

Written by: Katherine 'Ringleader' Imp

"I find myself hanging out at REI."

Yianni Stoner. Talk about blast from the past. 19-yr-old Yianni is the only thru-hiker we've met that refused to adopt a trail name. We met him during the first half of our thru-hike and got to know him quite well. He got off the trail in the Shenandoahs because the "green tunnel" wasn't quenching his thirst for outdoor adventure. Instead, he planned a new trip -- hike the John Muir trail in California. Prophet, another fellow thru-hiker who has been hiking with us for awhile, decided to go with Yianni to California. Thus, the Traveling Circus got to meet up with Yianni a few days ago when he came to pick up Prophet from the trail.

When we asked Yianni about his return to civilization, he responded with the sentence above: I find myself hanging out at REI.

On the one hand, picturing Yianni lurking around REI is priceless. Talking about gear, food, and the trail with customers. Haha. I'm sure they all thought he worked there.

On the other hand, what does this say about our return? Have we become so accustomed to this lifestyle that we will have trouble assimilating back to our previous lives? Will I have to get a part-time job at REI to satisfy my craving to talk about gear, food, and miles?

Emily, Brandon, and I rarely think about our transition back to society. But Yianni gave us a huge wake-up call.

I remember telling people about this trip before we began. I got it down to a few sentences, kind of like an elevator pitch: I'm graduating law school early so I can hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine with my friend Emily and my brother Brandon.

It was easy to form an elevator pitch before the trip, but what will I say to people when they ask: How was your trip?

Can I really answer this question with an elevator pitch? Will anyone really understand what I'm talking about? Am I going to feel ostracized from the life I left behind?

I have no idea what to expect upon my return to civilization. Thru-hiking is a lifestyle. And while most believe that the adventure ends on Katahdin, my guess is that the transition home will be just as daunting as some of the insane climbs we've done on the Appalachian Trail. Nevertheless, I look forward to cherishing 5 months of memories and sharing those memories with whoever chooses to listen...

Let's Go Back to College

Written by: Brandon "Monkey" Imp

I am like an old person. I go to sleep early and wake up even earlier. My joints hurt. Holding a conversation is tiring. I talk about food (a lot). I stumble over words during conversation. I have found myself drooling.

Six months and twenty days ago, I received a Cornell University diploma stamping my entrance into old-people world. I did not realize it, but that moment terminated my college lifestyle. We are in Hanover, NH and are staying in one of Dartmouth College's fraternity houses - I have returned to college physically, but that is it. I cannot enjoy late night partying and I no longer have a beer gut. I enjoy sitting by myself in a tent and allow a song to repeat in my head for hours at a time. There's an Organic Chemistry book sitting next to me and a force field is preventing me from touching it. Ugh!! This is terrible!! I might as well get Depends! I think I have crows feet!

This "return" to college has been frustrating. Since I, as a hiker and old person, cannot uphold the beer drinking life of a college frat boy, my stay at Dartmouth has been low-key while the life around us has been everything but. We started off our stay at Sigma Nu. The brothers were kind and happy to have guests. However, it was a pig pen - ever see Animal House? The trash had not been removed all summer. The living room had 17 couches and only 2 were intact. We were told the living room would be our bedroom for the night. Around 1:30 am when the brothers were still drunk, screaming, and carrying on in the living room, I went to find another place to sleep in the house. The quietest place was a random hallway with a window - I could still hear everything in the house, but it was the best I could do. I turned off the lights and lied down on the floor (smelled of vomit). Three minutes later, I heard flapping. I switched on the lights and THERE WERE BATS. BATS!! I haven't even seen bats in the woods! But there were two of them flying around in the hallway. I went back to the living room. Around 3 am, Ringleader got fed up - she walked down the street and beckoned to another frat to let us in. Phi Delt to the rescue! The guys were happy to host us, were relaxed, and set us up on whole couches in air conditioned rooms.

The experience was frustrating because I could not enjoy the frat life. I used to do that! Not too long ago! But now I get grumpy past 9 pm! It was like returning home to see that your friends had carried on living without you.

It's 9:45 pm. I am tired and grumpy. Time to sleep. Maybe this will all change one month from now. Maybe!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Appalachian Trail : Unknown Territory Video Blog - part 9

The ninth installment of the Unknown Territory Video Blog

Check back every Wednesday for a new installment and follow along with the adventures of a lawyer, an Ivy grad, and a city chick.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Trail Update #6

1. We made it to Vermont!!!!!

2. Where are we now: Bennington, VT

3. Miles to go: 577

4. Group status: feeling good, still enjoying each other's company

5. Calorie intake: obscene, regularly have 4-course meals at McDonalds

6. Shout Outs: thank you to everyone who sent care packages to Dalton!

7. Last Places to Send Care Packages

Lincoln, NH 03251 [7/13/2010]

Andover, ME 04216 [7/24/2010]

Caratunk, ME 04925 [7/31/2010]

Send to:

General Delivery
City, State
Hold for Thru-hiker

My America

Written by: Katherine 'Ringleader' Imp

I have seen more of America in the last 4 months than I have in the last 24 years.

I've always loved traveling, but when you're young, places like Rome and Paris sound far more appealing than Bennington, VT or Dalton, MA. So those are the places I went. And now I'm 24 and I've seen very little of the country I've spent my entire life in.

For some people, the Appalachian Trail is place of solitude, a place to become one with nature. I wanted my experience with the trail to be more than that. I wanted to see America.

When you only have 2 weeks of vacation time in a given year, as many Americans do, most will choose to spend those 2 weeks on a beach, in a national park, or in some foreign country. Why? Because these places are welcoming, relaxing, and exotic ... and when you've only got 2 weeks of freedom ... these are the exact characteristics many Americans look for.

I live in a bubble. I know I do, and I don't pretend otherwise. It's a bubble filled with lawyers and city dwellers. And starting in August, I will join the rest of America that lives on 2 weeks of vacation a year. It is this thought that has kept my adventurous spirit going for the last 4 months. I came out here to get in touch with my country, and with the people that live in it. And that's exactly what the Traveling Circus has done.

In the last few weeks, we've worked on an organic farm, wandered the streets of NYC, and stayed in the homes of beautiful Americans living in Bennington, VT and Dalton, MA. We've also trekked over numerous mountain tops and saw the natural beauty that Connecticut and Massachusetts has to offer.

Europe is beautiful. As is Cancun. But America is also a place enriched with interesting people, beautiful towns, and breathtaking mountains. What an amazing place to live.

Skinny Dipping

Written By: Emily "Lightning" Ginger

We are currently hiking in the state of Vermont. The scenery New England has to offer has begun to remind me of what I remember from our family vacation to Acadia National Park when I was a child- dense forest, streams, ponds, rivers, lush green mountains, etc. Sometimes the ground is so soft and thick with pine needles that I feel like I'm bouncing across a giant trampoline as I leap through the trees. The bodies of water we encounter are gorgeous, and also a great source of refreshment; I enjoy taking a dip in the evening to rinse the sticky salt from my skin, which is entirely drenched in sweat all day. I'm excited to hike up the White Mountains in New Hampshire (I'm looking forward to a sunrise from a view that goes for miles), and I hope to see a Moose in Maine! I am overwhelmed with excitement knowing that there's just a little more than 500 miles left and only two more states that follow this one. We are almost in Maine!

Though I'm excited to be finished and say that I accomplished this challenge, it's also saddening. There are so many opportunities for unique experiences throughout the Appalachian Trail that I wish I had more time to pursue them. We are hiking with a deadline which at times restricts the experiences we are able to have, but I wonder if we weren't on a deadline if we would then be dealing with other issues such as staying motivated to continue hiking and not getting detoured by all the bonus "distractions" along the way. For instance, we did a "work for stay" at an organic farm in MA. I had so much fun that I would have liked to stay and work there for a few more days. Also, recently we have been invited into several people's homes who gave us wonderful company/hospitality, hot showers, laundry, and a place to sleep- all complimentary (I don't think they would take money for it). Again, I would love to spend a few days getting to know these people and the towns in which they live. It's amazing how many people the Appalachian Trail brings together into a widespread but close-knit community of kindhearted, generous, and friendly people. I am definitely going to miss the abundance of genuine, and open- hearted people. I wish the rest of the world were more like the AT community.

The Freedom

Written by: Brandon "Monkey" Imp

I had this big plan. It was going to be perfect. I would graduate early from Cornell, hike the Appalachian Trail while applying to medical school, teach English abroad during my gap year, and enroll in a top medical school in 2011. Well, I did graduate early and I am hiking the trail, so those items have stayed in line. However, when it became logistically impossible to apply to medical school while simultaneously hiking the Appalachian Trail, the last few items did not make the cut. I chose to hike the Appalachian Trail rather than skip out and start my medical career a year earlier. Now, I get to experience the journey of a lifetime and have two full years before enrollment into medical school. I have no commitments or obligations. I am free to direct my life as I please.

This freedom is new to me. I went to Cornell straight after high school, so my life has previously been steered by academics and a potential career. I always took advantage of school breaks to travel and explore - even when I held a full-time job, I managed to acquire one in a new city. I got to taste the freedom, but constantly checked myself as to not get carried away.

But now! I am free! I can do as I please and go where I please! The Appalachian Trail was a good starting point. We take on a new name and a new identity. Your career does not matter nor your history - just whether you are sociable and can hike.

What have I done with this newfound freedom? Something I have been wanting for years - a mohawk. Yes, a mohawk. I had to work my way up to it. In Damascus, Nobody gave me my first trail haircut - a fohawk with an AT symbol shaved into the back of my head. A fohawk is similar to a mohawk, but you get to keep short hair on the rest of your head. It is a popular haircut in London, and I was very pleased with the way mine turned out. My second trail haircut was in mid-May after Kate's graduation. I got closer to the mohawk - I still had hair all over my head, but the mohawk was more pronounced. My third trail haircut was the real deal. My mohawk is wide and cut short with the sides buzzed. I think it is reminiscent of a military cut. For the years I talked about getting a mohawk, most of my friends thought it was a terrible idea. Terrible not for the social implication, but terrible for the way it will look. Well! This mohawk proves all of them wrong! It looks great and feels great. To me, it identifies my newfound freedom.

While the mohawk may not last forever, it is part of the beginning. I have two years of freedom to look forward to. Where will I go? What will I do? These questions have been floating around in my head, and I have developed a few answers - all tentative until I can nestle by a computer and telephone to do some defining research. Hospital work is a must. Leaving New Jersey is a must (sorry all!) CouchSurfing is a must. Theatre is a must.

Two years of freedom, coming right up!