Milestones on the Appalachian Trail

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Sorry for the delay in posting. Christine Krejca joined me again for two weeks on the trail. I’ve been a bit preoccupied having someone to actually talk to. More about that in a bit. First, let’s talk about the milestones on the Appalachian Trail that I’ve crossed recently.

1,000 Miles!

I crossed the 1,000 mile mark on the Appalachian Trail. A thousand miles! Crazy! Almost halfway for the trail.

I’ll be at the unofficial halfway mark of Harpers Ferry in the next day or two. The official halfway is kinda fluid. The Appalachian Trail changes in length every year as the trail gets rerouted, switchbacks get added, etc.. However, Harpers Ferry is really close to halfway and, importantly, is where the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (the nonprofit that supports the AT) is headquartered. Hence, the unofficial halfway.

Bennett Lee at the 1,000 mile mark on the Appalachian Trail.
Bennett Lee at the 1,000 mile mark on the Appalachian Trail.

I got passed. No longer the first NoBo.

As of Thursday, March 16, 2023, I got officially passed by another North Bound (NoBo) thru-hiker.

Chris and I were getting shuttled back to Mountain Home B&B when the owner/driver said Anita was waiting there and had been trying to catch up with me. Chris immediately thought “Who is this Anita hottie who has been following you, and do I need to be worried?” I had no idea who this person was.

Turns out Anita is a guy and is also pursuing the Calendar Year Triple Crown. He started in February—a month after me—and has already caught up with me. I told you all that I was slow! His trail name came from when he was hiking the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) and didn’t have a name. Every time he was asked, the answer was always, “I need a trail name.” Morphed into “Ineeda”, i.e., Anita. Works great for everything. Anita trail name. Anita nap. Anita ride into town.

We all stayed at Mountain Home B&B Wednesday night. Thursday morning he was back on the trail and officially passed me as the first NoBo thru-hiker. Chris and I stayed a bit longer at the B&B and added stars to our stay there. For Chris, the B&B was 4-stars*. For me, it was 3-stars*.

Anita is rocking 25 to 30+ miles per day. I’m still doing usually less than 20 miles per day. However, Chris has gotten my pace up from about 1.5 mph to just over 2 mph. If I can keep that up, I might be able to pull off the Calendar Year Triple Crown. Otherwise, I might be doing something more like a 14-month Calendar Year Triple Crown. 🙂

In addition, I should note that I also recently crossed paths with No Rush, the self-proclaimed last SoBo (South Bound) thru-hiker of 2022. I also passed the first SoBo flipflopper who started at Harpers Ferry. Flipflopping is where someone starts at a midpoint instead of hiking directly from terminus to terminus. No trail name for that flipflopper yet because he had only been on the trail for a few days. He’s in good company, though. He’s hiking with Viking, who recently thru-hiked the entire AT and is now back section hiking (hiking a portion).

* star = orgasm

Anita, Bennett Lee, and Christine Krejca at Mountain Home B&B in Front Royal, Virginia.
Anita, Bennett Lee, and Christine Krejca at Mountain Home B&B in Front Royal, Virginia.

Finally Lost my Toenail

There’s a joke among thru-hikers that “You’re not a true thru-hiker until you’ve lost a toenail.” Well, check that off the list because I finally lost my toenail. Having never lost a toenail before, I wasn’t sure how it happens. It’s been so long since it was first damaged that I was beginning to think that I stopped the damage in time and wouldn’t lose my toenail at all.

For those who don’t know (like me), apparently after a toenail is damaged, a new nail starts growing underneath the damaged old nail. Eventually, the old one gets displaced and just falls off. For me, it happened in the shower at Mountain Home B&B. I looked down in the shower and saw that my nail, which had been black and blue for two months, was suddenly very white. I reached down and touched one end, and the other end popped up. Oh shit! This is happening now! I’m losing my toenail!

The toenail literally just lifted off. It wasn’t painful like I was afraid it would be. All the pain with losing my toenail was back when it was originally damaged. The nerves on my nailbed aren’t exposed and stinging like I thought they would be. However, the underlying nail is a puny, thin half nail and the exposed nailbed is a bit more sensitive than the rest of my calloused skin. Thus, I’m keeping the nail covered with a bandaid just to keep it protected. Also, it just looks weird and freaks me out a little. Here’s a thumbnail photo (no pun intended) so you can be freaked out, too. Click on it to see it full-size. (Even though you know that you’re going to be grossed out, you know you’re going to click it. Go ahead. Click it.)

Bennett finally lost his toenail!
Bennett finally lost his toenail!

Riding the Rollercoaster

Ever since I started the AT, I’ve been hearing that the trail eventually flattens out and gets easier. Oh, wait…you’ve got that climb up Sassafras next. Don’t worry. It gets flatter. Nope. Well, it gets flatter after the Smokies. Nope. OK, well maybe after the Shenandoahs. Nope. A thousand miles into the Appalachian Trail, I’m now in the “Rollercoaster”. Do rollercoasters invoke images of flatness to you? This section is so well known for it’s PUDs (pointless ups and downs) that the ATC actually made a sign about it. Ha ha ha. So hilarious.

The "Rollercoaster" on the Appalachian Trail.
The "Rollercoaster" on the Appalachian Trail. When is this trail ever going to flatten out like I've been hearing about?

When exactly does this trail finally flatten out? Pennsylvania? Also known as Rocksylvania? The “Whites” that I keep hearing about that are the steepest part of the trail? I had to look up where the Whites are. They’re mountains in New Hampshire. New Hampshire? I forgot that’s even a state. Kinda like I forget New England is a state. I’m kidding! I know New England is just the northeast coast. Also, I now know that Virginia is definitely NOT part of New England. Virginia is “Mid-Atlantic” as Scott, the owner of Mountain Home B&B corrected me. Seemed to strike a nerve when we lumped Virginia into New England. Kinda like when someone says Texas is part of the South. Don’t lump the Texas in with Alabama and Mississippi. We’re Texas! How many of you states were ever your own country? Yeah, none of you! Buncha lame colonies and territories. We’re the Republic of Texas! We’re the biggest state in the USA.** You should be honored we ever bothered to join your tattered little union. Secede! Secede!

I’m sorry, what were we talking about? I got distracted with Texas pride.

**Except Alaska

Chris Krejca Joined Me Again

If you recall, Christine Krejca joined me for the first three days of my adventure. Since then I’ve been hiking pretty much alone. I’m highly introverted and love time alone with my thoughts. The trail is amazing for that. However, hiking the AT outside the normal spring and summer “hiker bubble”, I sometimes go days without any human interaction at all. Not even social media because I’m out in that boonies without internet access. That’s a little much even for my introversion.

Fortunately, my nonhierarchical CNM partner Chris decided to use her spring break and all her personal days from work to join me on the Appalachian Trail again! For two weeks I had someone to talk to every day about philosophy, relationships, polyamory, childhood traumas, tantra (classical tantra, not the sexualized neo-tantra that Western society thinks it means…although we did discuss that, too), God, life, the universe, and everything. That’s also why I’ve been a bit neglectful in my blog these past two weeks. I don’t regret it at all. Time well spent with Chris.

I also want to say that Chris’ mom reached out to me specifically to tell me to take extra special care of Chris because she was still recovering from COVID that she contracted just three weeks before her trip. There was no need for concern. Even after me hiking over 800 miles and Chris recovering from COVID, she’s still faster than me! Her normal hiking speed is still faster than my fastest walking speed. I simply can’t keep up. Every step she’s pulling just a little bit farther away. The slightest pause or distraction puts me even farther behind. And I can’t catch up because I’m already maxed out. Thus, she was always politely stopping to wait for me. But thanks to her, I pushed myself everyday that we hiked together. My average speed bumped up from about 1.5 mph to a little over 2 mph.

She also helped me get up in the morning. Without her, my alarm would go off, then I’d poke my head out of my sleeping bag…nope! Too cold! Then tuck my head back into my bag. Sun comes up. Ew! Too bright! Then pull my hat over my eyes and tuck my head further into my bag. With her around, I actually got up when my alarm went off. I just hope that I can maintain my increased speed and morning schedule even though she’s not around anymore to motivate me.

Thank you so much, Chris! I loved having you with me. I know that I said this to you before, but I want to reiterate that I appreciate that you chose to spend your vacation time with me. You could have gone anywhere and done anything, and you chose to be with me. I am honored. I can’t wait to see you again this summer!

I Have a Trail Name Finally

Since I’ve been mostly hiking alone, I don’t have a tramily (trail family) to give me a trail name. Thus, a couple of posts ago, I created a poll to have my friends and family vote for my trail name. Despite the popularity of John Brooks’ write-in ballot of “Trailly McTrailface”, the overwhelming winner is “Tight Squeeze” (or just “Squeeze” for short). Lee Casteen suggested that name based on my viral caving video Tight Squeeze at Deep Cave. I’m very happy with the name. So much better than other names I’ve been called throughout my life. 🙂

Thanks, Lee and everyone who voted!

Sorry, John. So close.

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6 Responses

  1. Congratulations Bennett! I have been waiting for an update. Glad you had some good company on your trail! Keep it up! Cheering you on from KY!

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