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Iceland Preview (I got a GoPro!)

I’m a few days back from Iceland and truly, there are more words than could fit in this blog post to describe the experience. If you’re contemplating a trip to Iceland…DO IT…and do it now.

If you need more convincing, then I suggest you take a look at the short preview video I made of our 10 day trip. And by “we” I am referencing my dad. We took a 10 day road trip around the Ring Road leaving in late May and returning this past Monday. I’m working on a longer video of our entire trip, but I hope this can hold you all over for now.

Iceland 2016 Preview

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Three Years Ago

Three years ago, I was in North Carolina hiking my way north on the Appalachian Trail. I really miss the trail and everything that was my life those three years ago. However, I know that those moments cannot be replicated and to fill that void that I feel every day (especially in March & August), I have to continue to seek out new adventures. Iceland is that adventure that I’m focusing on for the next couple of months. After that, I don’t know, but as I get older and realize how quickly three years went by, the only thing I know for certain is that I will always go somewhere new.

And now, more photos from my time in Scotland – the Highlands edition. I headed north out of Glasgow to Fort William for the day where I did some hill walking with incredible views of Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the UK. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the gear nor the time to hike Ben Nevis on this trip. Next time!

That evening, I took the bus north to the Isle of Skye. Skye was by far my favorite stop on the entire trip. I went on an all-day tour of the island with a local, Donald, and 5 others in his 6 passenger van. Interestingly enough, each of us was from a different English-speaking country: the United States, Canada, England, and the rare Glaswegian couple on holiday. If you’re thinking about going to Skye, I’m going to tell you right now that you have to go. It’s incredible.

I stayed in Portree for two nights. I was only supposed to stay there one night, but as I waited in the small town square for my bus…well, it never came. I was there early and there was no way you could miss any bus in the small town as it was the only place the coach buses stopped and picked up passengers. Thankfully, there was one bed left at the hostel. I could have been upset because this meant that I would miss my planned morning of exploring Inverness. Instead of sulking, I went out and ate dinner at a nice local restaurant. I could count on one hand how many times I had eaten out by myself in the States. Really, I can only think of one time when I was in the outskirts of Boston for an internship interview. I thought I would be anxious about it, but I really didn’t mind at all. I enjoyed the people-watching, being able to write, and plan my exploring.

After catching the bus the next morning to Inverness, I unfortunately had to head straight to the train station as I had to be in Edinburgh that night. Along the way, I stopped in Pitlochry, a small town in the Highlands. I chose to stop here because I wanted to go to a whiskey distillery and this one was the most accessible for me. The town was certainly a tourist destination, but I enjoyed my time all the same and the tour was really interesting.

 

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Next post, I’ll get to the last part of trip in Edinburgh!

Tri for a Cure – My First Triathlon

Apart from planning for my trip to Iceland in May and preparing for a busy wedding season, I have begun training for a new endeavor. I will be participating in my first triathlon on July 17th right here in South Portland. I will be swimming, biking, and running in the Tri for a Cure with over one thousand women in Maine’s only all-female triathlon. The course consists of a 1/3 mile swim, 15 mile bike ride, and a 3 mile run.

And while I’m truly excited for the months of training ahead, the coolest part of this triathlon is that the main focus of everyone’s efforts is to fundraise in support of fighting cancer. Money raised goes directly to the Maine Cancer Foundation and towards effective treatments for many forms of cancer. I have set my goal to raise $500. I have never raised this much money on my own, but the next few months will be dedicated to meeting this goal. You can read more about my reasons for participating on my Tri for a Cure Page.

I am currently in my second week of pre-training as I like to call it. It’s really just training, but I’m using the first 8 weeks to get used to the routine of tri training and work myself up to the level I want to be at when I start the more intense training in mid-April. Swimming will be the most difficult section for me. While I can swim pretty well, I’m not a very fast swimmer and my stamina in the water could be vastly improved. I have never had great arm strength and I’ve always struggled with breathing techniques in swimming. Not to mention that this 1/3 mile swim will be in the ocean! I’ll have to get used to the choppy water and wearing a wet suit. While the race will be in July, the ocean temperature averages about only about 61 degrees.

I’ve swam at the South Portland Rec Center three times since I began pre-training. The first time I swam, I was nervous being in the pool with several others. I hadn’t swam in a lap pool for a few years. I tried swimming in the winter when I lived in Portland at one of the public pools a few years back and felt so uncomfortable there. It was like this guys club and each time I went some older man would make a condescending comment towards me. It felt as if I had infiltrated their little club and wasn’t allowed in. I was worried I might encounter the same situation in South Portland, but I have not at all. It has been nothing but a positive experience with fellow, friendly swimmers.

I began swimming 20 laps (500 meters) and only being able to swim 2 laps before having to take a breather. This week, I was able to swim 4 laps without pause. 1/3 mile is just about 500 meters, so I’m slowly working my way up to being able to swim 20 laps in a row.

I’m not too worried about the biking section. I bike often where the course runs through South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, so I know the route and feel comfortable in that part of my training. I bike to work 1-3 times per week in the summer and fall, so I had planned on buying some new tires for my bike this year anyways. I still have mountain bike tires on it as this made way more sense to have when living in Bucksport when I was in high school. Yes, I’ve had this bike since I was 14, but it’s in great shape and just needs a tune-up and some road or combo tires.

I was actually able to ride my bike to work on Wednesday this week since it was almost 60 degrees out and it’s finally not dark outside when I’m ready to leave work. It’s a 3.3 mile ride to work, with some hills involved and I loved biking to work so much last year. While I arrived super sweaty, I just felt more energized in the morning and really enjoyed the mostly downhill ride home in the evening.

The running is the easiest part to train for; however, since it will be the final section of the triathlon, it will be important that I have enough endurance to finish the race strong. Right now, I’m working on finding a strength training plan that will work best for me.

In the past, my training has culminated in a half-marathon or marathon in early October. But, this year my peak training will happen in July. This works out really well for me since wedding photography really starts to pick up in August. Along with family sessions keeping me busy in the fall, I’m super busy and not sure I would be able to find the time for training, photography, working at OTTO,and trying to find some downtime in there as well. I am shooting 14 weddings so far this year with the majority of those falling in the time range of August through October. I’m really trying to get everything in order before the busy months are upon me. While my health didn’t suffer last year, it was the first summer I wasn’t training for some race or other. And without that motivation, I wasn’t as committed to running as I usually am. I just didn’t have the time. But, I was running around all the time anyways and biking to work, so I stayed healthy throughout the summer.

This year however, I want more of a challenge and I love testing myself athletically in new ways. Tri for a Cure will be my 2016 challenge!

 

2016 Adventures + Glasgow

It feels like spring. It snowed on Friday, yet only two days later most of the snow in our driveway and super small yard has melted. At the end of January I noticed bulbs beginning to pop up in the garden. And the damn mint is even growing! Don’t get me started on mint, which I personally consider a weed considering how it takes over entire gardens. Anyways, the bipolar temperament of Mother Nature this winter has been confusing for me, a lover of all things snow. What has this odd thing of a warm and relatively snowless winter been like so far?

-We certainly did not have a white Christmas. Instead, I played baseball with my 3 year-old nephew in my parents’ front yard. Not to mention that Miles and I played tennis on Christmas Day as well. The nets were put away for the year, but we made do.

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-At work, I use my lunch break time to walk around downtown Portland. Last winter, I ceased this habit for more than a few months because of the cold and wind. This winter, I haven’t had to stop at all and have consistently kept up with it. The one day I decided I wasn’t going to go outside and stay in the office all day I went crazy. It’s hard enough for me to sit at a computer most of the day; my daily walks through the West End are what keep me sane and I believe keep the creativity fresh and fight the mid-afternoon fatigue.

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-We take our cat, Pi, outside on a leash. It’s true. We live at a busy intersection near a community college and foxes are rampant in the area. They live under our garage. There’s no way in hell we would let him out on his own. So, last summer we decided to try out a harness and leash. He’s amazingly awesome with it and persistently asks to go outside every single day. It’s dark out when I get home from work, so it’s mostly a weekend gig for now, but he’s into it. We figured this would stop when the snow came and the cold weather. Well, we haven’t had much of either and he doesn’t really mind the snow, so we’ve continued the routine. Pi is just fine with our mild winter.

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-I bought my first pair of cross-country skis in January. I’ve wanted to buy some for a few years and finally went up to L.L. Bean and did it. Of course, just like the year when I got snowshoes for Christmas from my parents, it hasn’t snowed much. So, every opportunity I have had, I’ve gone out and used my skis. We’re lucky to have several great places to ski nearby. I’ve headed just a few minutes down the road to Robinson Woods in Cape Elizabeth to ski and yesterday went up to Pineland Farms in Gray to ski their groomed trails through the woods. It was a perfect day to ski and I came home with almost the entire back of my shirt drenched in sweat. While I have been downhill skiing almost my entire life, I stopped cross-country skiing when I was 5 because I outgrew my xc skis and really my sisters and I were all way more interested in downhill skiing anyways. I went once in college with my friend Marsha and we disastrously got the bottoms all covered in ice and gave up and walked back to her house. Needless to say, I’m no expert on xc skiing form these days, but it’s fun nonetheless.

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-Our heating bill has been low! Great for the budget, but it only makes me think of climate change 😦

-Running outside has continued throughout the winter as most of the time the sidewalks and roads have been devoid of ice.

That about covers my rant on our winter so far. It’s supposed to snow tomorrow, but we shall see if that actually holds true.

Okay. 2016 adventures. Where am I going and what am I doing this year?

The most exciting news is…I’m heading back to ICELAND!!!

I cannot wait to go back and spend more than 24 hours there. I originally planned to go solo as Miles will be in grad school until the end of July. But, I was talking to my dad about my plans and he decided to come along with me! We will be in Iceland for 9 days and heading out in late May. We’re renting a camper van from this awesome company kuku kampers and driving the Ring Road for a week, exploring Reykjavik for a day, and will end our trip at the Blue Lagoon (because I just have to go back) before hopping the bus over to the airport.

One of the coolest things besides the spectacular beauty that we will witness during our road trip, is that the sun will not set until after 11:00 PM and will rise again around 3:30 AM! Essentially, it will hardly be dark and we can take some great photos during that late night twilight time. The sheep should be out, so we’ll need to be cautious of them as they will be roaming freely throughout the country at that time of year. We will most likely miss the Northern Lights, but we are trying to plan a way to go to the Arctic Circle. If that doesn’t happen, then we at least plan to go the edge of the Arctic Ocean.

You may be asking yourself, “she was just in Iceland only 4 months ago. Why not go somewhere new?” And the simple answer is that Iceland blew me away. I could not wait to go back. While I spent the majority of my 24 hours there in Reykjavik, it was such a tease. I spent most of my October trip in cities of Iceland and Scotland, with the exception of my 2.5 days in the Highlands. No matter where my next vacation would be, I decided I wanted to do more of an outdoors/nature-centric vacation. I tossed around the idea of heading to the western U.S. (I think that will be my next trip) or to the Dolomites in northern Italy. But, I couldn’t get Iceland off my mind. And when I saw how cheap the plane tickets were, I was sold. I could afford the round trip flight, sleep in a camper van, and live off of cooking my own food and gas station hot dogs, which Iceland is apparently infamous for. And that is why today, I still appreciate those months of hiking the AT and sleeping in a tent and navigating our way through new places along the way. I would probably have still enjoyed this Iceland road trip regardless of whether we thru-hiked, but I feel that I can put it into perspective ahead of time. Some nights of sleeping may suck in that van, but imagine what we will see along the way on the Ring Road. That’s why it’s all worth it.

I will be shooting one wedding before we head out to Iceland and then shooting several more mostly in August-October. I have a couple of weddings to shoot in June and July and normally, we aren’t crazy busy with family shoots at that time of year. It’s usually August, September, and October that are the busiest for my sister and I. I sacrificed two BIG weekends for family photo sessions when I went to Iceland and Scotland last October. My sister and I were both completely okay with that decision, but as we grow with each year and our fall becomes busier with weddings and family sessions, I knew that this year I wanted to take my big trip earlier in the year.

Currently, we are shooting 11 weddings this year and it’s very possible that that number will increase to about 14-15! It’s been a lot of work and many days where I come home from my 9-5 job as a Marketing Coordinator, go running, eat dinner, and then get to work on Tandem Studios work. While it is a bit less crazy this time of year, we had our big wedding show in January here in Portland and have been busy meeting with potential couples at least once a week. While I am not ready to take that step of solely being a photographer, I’m starting to think about a game plan and that’s exciting enough for now.

I feel lucky that I do not have to photograph weddings on two weekends this year when two of my friends are getting married. Also, my best friend is having her first baby in early May. I am super excited (and a bit nervous) that she wants me to in the delivery room with her along with her husband and mom. She is truly a third sister for me, so this means a lot for both of us. The kicker is that she lives near Albany, New York and obviously will be having the baby there…so I will have my own hospital bag and camera ready to go in my car, ready to drive the 4.5 hours at a moment’s notice.

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AND, at some point in July or August, Miles and I will be doing Part 3 of the Long Trail. For those just tuning in, we hiked about half of it when we thru-hiked the AT in 2013, hiked from the Maine Junction to Middlebury last year, and hope to hike from where we left off last year to Interstate 89. The ultimate goal is finish the final section next summer. Timing on that will depend on my weddings schedule and Miles’ potential job interviews and soccer pre-season schedule.

Those are the major plans so far for 2016 and of course we always plan to do day hikes in the summer, take trips home to Bucksport, and further explore the restaurants and breweries in Portland.

I will leave you with some more photos from my October trip last year. After leaving Iceland, I landed in the great city of Glasgow, Scotland. I spent two days here and had a blast walking all throughout the city. While I loved Edinburgh too, I’m more inclined towards Glasgow.

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Iceland and Scotland Travels

I thought there may be some interest in seeing photos from my October travels to Iceland and Scotland. My trip couldn’t have been better. I traveled solo and enjoyed the time to myself navigating two new countries. I walked over 100 miles during my week abroad walking all through Reykjavik, Glasgow, and Edinburgh and hiking in the Highlands. There is so much more that to see in both countries that  cannot wait to go back.

I’ll start with photos from my 24 hours in Iceland. I arrived in Keflavik just before 6:00 AM. The sun would rise for another two hours. The bus ride into Reykjavik, was about 45 minutes. It was still dark when I arrived with my backpack. I had the shuttle drop me off at my hostel even though I wouldn’t be checking in until later that afternoon. I thought it would be a good idea to get my bearings from the hostel and would know how to walk back there later on.

Yes, I was tired as I don’t sleep well on planes, but walking through a new city before dawn was peaceful and a perfect way to begin vacation. The only person I saw was the newspaper delivery man. The warm glow of lights shown through the curtains every few houses of those preparing for their Saturday. I made my way to Hallgrímskirkja, the stunning church in the center of Reykjavik.

The temperature was chilly, but not below freezing.I headed over to the bus station to eat breakfast and wait for my bus to head to the Blue Lagoon. It was now daylight, so the bus ride revealed the mountainous and rocky landscape. I can’t say I’ve ever been to a place quite like Iceland.IMG_2158

But oh. My. God. The Blue Lagoon was incredible. I spent well over two hours in the geothermal spa. The water temperature hovered around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, some spots hotter than others. You could even order drinks directly from the water. The people-watching was intriguing and the relaxing atmosphere even better. I think this photo about sums it up.IMG_1207IMG_1216

I spotted this lovely scene as I waited to head back into Reykjavik.

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After a relaxing morning at the Blue Lagoon, I was back in the northernmost capital in the world. I checked into my hostel and met a few fellow travelers in the bunk room. I finally could drop my pack and walk around the city with much less weight. First order of business was a late lunch. The receptionist at the hostel recommended a fish and chips place just down the street. I don’t eat fish…like ever. But, I was feeling adventurous so I decided to try it. The fish was freshly caught that morning and you could tell. The place was called “Icelandic Fish & Chips.” IMG_1217

A walk around the city took me to Harpa Concert Hall, which in some ways reminded me of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

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I did a bit of shopping – but of course I had to keep things to a minimum because of lack of space in my backpack. The main street was filled with young couples and their prams (and babies too), tourists, and families. Seriously, there were a ton of sturdy looking prams in Reykjavik.

I really wanted to try some Icelandic beer, so that night I headed to Micro Bar and tried 8 beers. My flight of 10 beers had bigger pours than I thought, so needless to say I bit off more than I could chew. But, hey I was on vacation. That’s what you do.

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Above is the list of beers that I tried, except for two of those. I have this list somewhere in my apartment, but it’s MIA at the moment.

There was a bit of regret the next morning when I had to leave the hostel at 3:45 AM to head to the airport, but once I got on the plane and settled in for a short flight to Glasgow, I was recovered enough to enjoy a few episodes of Modern Family.

I’ll end my post with a bit of street art in Reykjavik.

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My next trip to Iceland cannot come soon enough.

And I think I’ve convinced my family to come along too.

Something Unexpected

I am back! Back on the blog and back from my trip to Iceland and Scotland. Oh how I think of writing on here every week and then I wonder what of interest I could write about. I found something of interest to write about. Something that you ATC members may already know about if you have received the latest edition of AT Journeys.

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My dad’s STUNNING photo as we descended the Hunt Trail on Katahdin at the end of our thru-hike is on the cover of the Fall 2015 edition of AT Journeys! And I just happened to be in the photo too 🙂

Two nights ago, I received an email from Phys Ed, who many of you may remember as one of good friends that we met on the AT and who we stayed with in Gettysburg. He said that he just received his copy of the magazine and recognized me in it. I had no idea that it was the cover until he sent me a photo of it the next morning. I was floored. I had sent in some photos from our thru-hike awhile ago, I can’t even remember exactly when I submitted this and a few other photos to the ATC, but it was over a year ago. This is one of my favorite photos from our hike, although I suppose it technically post thru-hike. I’m very proud of my dad and his cover photo is well-deserved on this national publication!

Apart from how cool it is to see this magazine cover, I really want to read the article and see how they have approached the subject of “treading lightly” in the park and I’m sure conservation of the entire trail in the article. Finding the balance between wanting to share the trail with more people and conserving it for generations to come is a challenge that all of who are connected with the AT will have to contemplate and become active in achieving.

Never could I have imagined when I decided that I wanted to thru-hike 3 years ago that the back of my head (my best side) would grace the cover of a magazine. As many of you may know from reading my blog entry about our climb up Katahdin, my dad didn’t have the best time those last few miles as we descended the mountain. Wouldn’t you say it was all worth it now, dad?

2015 Adventures

There are ups to having a real job: vacation time. And adventure time.

Miles and I have decided that we want to finish the Long Trail. In August, we will hike about half of the section north of the AT over 5 days and then do the other half next year.

And the other adventure is still in the works, but I’m about 90% sure it will include Iceland and Scotland in October. Apart from working full-time during the week, I will be shooting 11 weddings this summer, the majority of them in August and September. Not to mention, two of those weekends I have two weddings, aka 4 weddings in a span of two weeks! A vacation will be much needed and I have wanted to travel to Scotland ever since I went to Ireland 5 years ago. Plus, Iceland is pretty awesome (or so I’ve heard), and it’s right on the way.

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Time to plan new adventures!

2014 in Review

Hey all!

As 2014 draws to a close, I wanted to share this awesome report I received from WordPress about Dirigo Bound’s stats. Pretty cool if you’re into this type of thing. The best part to me is seeing the number of people who have visited the blog. I’ve people from 90 different countries visit my blog! THANK YOU to each and every one of you. I know I’m not on here as much as I’d like to be, but I can’t thank everyone enough for reading.

Oh how I want to sit here all night and write and write and write. But, I have an awesome job during the week along with being a photographer on the weekends and preparing for the 2015 wedding photography season. Miles is starting graduate school at University of Southern Maine in a couple of weeks, and we have a kitten from Georgia. His name is Pi, aka 3.14, aka March 14 = the day we began our thru-hike.

I’ll have a more in-depth post coming soon.

P.S. Tomorrow is Miles’ birthday…

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Section Hike 2014: Stratton to Caratunk

Stratton to Horns Pond Lean-To

August 8, 2014

5.1 miles

After some morning trail magic and blueberry pancakes at the White Wolf Inn, Phys Ed appeared from the woods. It was as if no time had passed since we last saw him. He looked just like the hiker we last saw in Pennsylvania last June, although we looked a bit different ourselves. It was a hot morning, so we sat for about an hour eating, talking, and catching up. We couldn’t help but present Phys Ed with a Maine favorite: the infamous Whoopie Pie! In true thru-hiker fashion, the whoopie pie was consumed before the sandwich.

Miles needed to drop off the cooler of food and gather some things from the ski cabin, so Phys Ed and I decided to head out to the trail. It was surprisingly easier than I expected to re-adapt to hiking with a full pack and get back into hiker mode. Although I have been running a lot this summer, it doesn’t necessarily equate to hiking shape, but I felt pretty damn good. It’s a steep climb up to Horns Pond and I took one break on the way up to eat a plum and take a rest. I had decided earlier that I would take my break at a fork in the trail. As I sat there, several sub-groups of a French-Canadian hiking group came down the AT from the north. At one point, three adults came in from the trail from Stratton and two of kids from the AT. I’m sitting there enjoying my plum while they all speak to one another in French. Of course, I’ve been in situations before where everyone around me is speaking a language I can’t understand, but we were especially close and alone on the trail, so it was definitely a bit awkward and comical for me.

It was nice to talk with Phys Ed as we made our way up to Horns Pond together. There was a lot to talk about regarding his hiking this year, what we were doing in between hiking, and things we had experienced after we last saw one another on the trail. We arrived at Horns Pond a few hours later and Miles showed up about ten minutes after us. He had a tougher time going up than I did surprisingly. We debated as to whether we wanted to tent or stay in one of the shelters. Looming dark clouds persuaded me to hole up in the shelter while Miles wanted to risk tenting. I wanted to tent, but not if it was going to rain. The caretaker showed up while we were debating and said there was a zero percent chance of rain. For a few minutes we decided to tent, put our stuff by the tent site, got water at the pond, and by the time we got back to the tent site, decided to stay in the shelter. My intuition was correct and as soon as we made it back into the shelter, it began to pour. Like driving, hard rain that we would have been setting up our tent in. I still have the raincloud sixth sense 🙂

It seems that once you’re a thru-hiker, you’re always a thru-hiker. Well, at least one year later and when you’re still in good shape. While it was only a 5 mile hike that afternoon, it’s a mostly uphill section and will get you right back into the hiker mindset. The stress of my daily life was instantly gone and all I could think about was that day. Where we were headed, what we would have for dinner, and looking forward to writing in my journal and preparing for the next day. It felt like home, being back on the trail and hanging out with hikers we had just met.

It just felt right.

On the Trail in 2014

Just a couple of quick, but very important things to mention to everyone. I meant to do this weeks ago, but just remembered while I was at my computer!

A friend from college, RayLynn, is thru-hiking the AT this year and so I wanted to give you all a heads up since I know some of you enjoy following several hikers along their journeys! Her trail name is Bluebird and she just went through Harpers Ferry! I’m very excited to see a fellow Emersonian out on the trail, so please send encouraging words her way as she enters the northern half of the AT soon. Check out her Facebook page and blog!

Remember our good friend, Phys Ed, from the trail last year? We stayed at his house in Gettysburg, which was also the last time we saw him. Due to health reasons, he had to get off just past the New Jersey/New York border, which we were so bummed to find out. But, the good news is that he’s back out on the AT to finish his hike all the way to Katahdin, picking up where he left off in New York. We are planning on either hiking with Phys Ed for a couple of days or pick him up for a night off the trail at our place. Regardless, there will be plenty of trail magic involved. Enjoy the journey, Phys Ed, we can’t wait to see you soon!

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