Day 95
Clarence Fahnestock State Park - Pawling, NY State Park
22.5 miles

Today was a great day to be alive, which made it a perfect day to be hiking.  I'm happy I'm still on the trail.  The weather was really nice today and that helped out.  I heard there was rain coming the next few days, but I won't worry about that until I have to.  The day went fairly quickly and by 4:15PM, I was at the road crossing that led to town.  I tried hitching a ride for about 30 minutes before I started walking the three miles into town.  I had no luck and started on down the road.  I got about 1.5 miles down the road when a little old lady was pulling out of her driveway and she asked if I needed a ride.  I was pretty thankful that I didn't have to finish the road walk because the shoulder was narrow and the cars were fast.  The lady was very nice and took me to the town park where they allow hikers to camp for free.  Tomorrow I'm going to resupply and then try to get a few miles out so I can keep the northern momentum going.

Day 94
Graymoor Spiritual Life Center - Clarence Fahnestock State Park
13.8 miles

I woke up with the sun like the rest of the hikers, but since I was only hiking 11 miles, I lounged around for a bit.  I even read a couple chapters in a book I picked up at a shelter.  Eventually, I gathered up the energy to get started.  It didn't take long to pack up and finish breakfast, and shortly after, I was on my way.  The day went fairly quickly.  I stopped for a quick break and got some interviews for my independent study and then it was four short miles to the road that led to the campground, or so I thought.  When I got to the road, there was a sign that said to keep going for another two miles to a side trail that led to the state park beach area.  I was slightly disappointed, but then again, it was only another two miles and I could just knock a couple miles out of my day tomorrow. The best part of the day was when I found a $5 bill folded up and tucked in between two boards of a picnic table.  That bought me a bacon cheeseburger and when the ladies behind the counter brought out all the unsold fries after the restaurant closed, that was the cherry on top.  After that, I got a shower, set up camp, and talked to 2-Step.  All in all, it was a pretty good day on the trail.  Tomorrow, I'm going to try and get 22 miles in and stop in a town that has free camping, so I can get a few supplies.

Day 93
West Mountain Shelter - Graymoor Spiritual Life Center
13.4 miles

This morning I had coffee with a deer.  I was the last one to leave and as I was putting the last few things in my pack, a deer walked up on me.  I stopped and watched it, and it just stared at me before walking towards the shelter.  I was planning on finishing my coffee at the shelter so I was curious if the doe would still be by the shelter.  After throwing the rest of the stuff in my pack, I walked to the shelter to check on the doe.  It was there and as I crept by, less than 15 feet from it, it only stopped chewing long enough to give me a look as if to say, "Don't mind me, just do what you need to do."  I sat down and watched the doe do its thing while I enjoyed not rushing out of camp like a maniac.  The doe was even kind enough to let me set up my camera for a self-timer shot and she even looked at the camera.  It was an amazing affirmation of my choice to enjoy the rest of the summer on the trail, rather than worry about the miles.  After that, I was ready to start my day.  I realize that I still hike like I'm trying to hike 25-30 mile days, but I'm trying to remind myself that I can stop and enjoy taking breaks again.  I had my first opportunity at the top of Bear Mountain, where I enjoyed the view of the surrounding area from the top of the look-out tower.  The view could have been better, but even with the clouds and moisture in the air, I still enjoyed the view. From the tower, it was only 9 short miles to the monastery where I was spending the night.  I stopped to check out a view a half mile off the trail, even though it was raining.  After that, I was back on my way to my camping spot for the night.  It didn't take long to get to the road that led to a shower, a pavillion I could hang my hammock in, and running water.  It was a good spot and best of all, I could get here and enjoy where I was instead of just eating dinner and going to bed.  I think this next month on the trail is going to be really good.

Day 92
Lemon Squeezer - West Mountain Shelter
10.5 miles

Thompson walked with me during the first part of my day.  We had a good time talking and checking out the scenery.  When we ended up at the Lemon Squeezer, we had to snap a couple self-timer photos.  It was a cool spot on the trail, where the trail went between two boulders that were so close you had to take your pack off.  We climbed over it rather than take our packs off.  From there, the trail meandered up, over and around the many small hills and mountains that make up Harriman State Park.  I'm definitely enjoying New York much more than I was Pennsylvania, just a  day ago.  At around 10AM, Thompson turned around to head back to his car while I continued north to enjoy the sights and sounds of the trail at a slower pace.  It was weird to think I would only be hiking 10 miles today, but I thought I would start out slow to get used to my new plan.  No sense in rushing it, right?  I'm excited about the new opportunities that this new plan has opened up.  I thought about a question I had on a final exam for one of my classes at Northland College. The question was, "After you take this class, what will you do with what you've learned?" (Or something to that effect).  My answer was that I was going to take the time to enjoy my surroundings and not rush around like a maniac, taking on too many responsibilities and projects.  Well, I didn't really do that, but now that I have the opportunity, I intended on taking advantage of it.  I still have things I need to do for my independent study, but since I'm not rushing around like a maniac, I hope to have more energy to be able to do them.  It didn't take long, even just strolling through the woods, trying to take my time, to get done with the 10 miles, and by 3PM I had set up my hammock, enjoyed the view from the shelter and was on my way to napping through the hottest part of the day.  This was amazing.  I had no idea the trail could be so enjoyable and relaxing.  This is exactly what I needed after wearing myself thin with too many big days.  Lesson learned, I need to take more time to do things, to really enjoy myself, and give myself plenty of time to enjoy the experience.  After my nap, I started catching up on my journal and before long it was dinner time.  While making dinner I got to enjoy the view of the Hudson River and the New York City skyline.  I was looking forward to trying to capture the lights after the sun went down.  I think I can get used to this new plan.  I may not get to say I thru-hiked the AT, but I can certainly say that I will have enjoyed an entire summer being outside, doing what I love, and meeting new and interesting people.  Thank you to 2-Step and my parents for being so supportive and encouraging over the last few days.  I'm so glad I have you in my life and really appreciate everything you've done for me.

Day 91
Palmerton, PA - Harriman State Park, NY 
(yellow blazed)

I woke up excited to see my friend, Thompson, from New York.  We met out in California and it had been a long time since we'd seen each other.  I was glad too, that I wasn't just going home in defeat.  The point of this summer, besides trying to hike the whole trail, was to enjoy the time backpaking and gaining experience for future adventures.  I was going to get that chance the last month on the trail.  I was apprehensive about not having a real plan, but I knew that it would work out in the end and I would just have to go with the flow until something more definite came up.  When Thompson arrived, I was ready to go and after dropping Cold Chocolate off at Delaware Water Gap, we were off to Harriman State Park with a stop in New Jersey to go see a movie.  We got to Tuxedo, NY, and had to get help from Thompson's dad in order to figure out how to get to the AT.  After picking up food for the night, we were back on our way to the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail.  Thompson's dad said this trail would take us up to the AT and on our way to our campsite for the night, we found a map of the park and knew for sure we were on the right path.  It was fun to catch up with Thompson and to see a familiar face in an unfamiliar place.  It also felt good to be back on a trail with a new plan.  My new plan is to just start hiking north on the AT to see how far I get.  My goal is no longer Katahdin, but is now to enjoy the time I have left on the trail and not stress out about the white blazes.  It had gotten to the point, before this decision, where I would debate whether or not it was worth taking my pack off to go look at a view off the trail.  Now I can enjoy every view and plan my days around the sights of the trail, rather than how many miles I have to put in before it gets dark.  Thanks Thompson for helping me out.  I appreciate everything you did, hopefully we can get you out of the city for another weekend on the trail!!

Day 90
Allentown Hiking Club Shelter - Palmerton, PA
4.1 miles

I was going to hike 18 miles into town, but when I woke up to grey skies and rain, I didn't feel up to it after coming to the realization that I wouldn't be a thru-hiker after today.  A few other hikers were only going to the next road crossing 4 miles away to meet up with a friend so they could go see the new Batman movie.  I asked if I could hitch a ride into town and I was happy when they said yes.  I walked along with Wild Bill, Long John and Detective and enjoyed the company.  I was able to interview Wild Bill before parting ways and I hope to post his and some of the other interviews I've conducted on the website soon.  After arriving in Palmerton, I walked down the street to the Jailhouse Hostel and signed in.  It's a free hostel for hikers that the town of Palmerton has in the basement of one of their town buildings.  After a hot shower, I was starting to feel a little better about how the summer was turning out and was looking forward to not having to chase every white blaze and actually being able to enjoy the rest of the time on the trail.  After I had settled in, a couple other hikers walked in and I realized one of them was my buddy, Cold Chocolate.  I was glad to be able to hang out with him while I was still kind of bummed about the last day, because he's a hilarious person and it was a good way to help lift my spirits.  Also, today is my brother's birthday, so Happy Birthday Case!

Day 89
Hamburg, PA - Allentown Hiking Club Shelter
21.9 miles

I was planning on doing a 30-mile day, but a little less than halfway through the day, my physical and mental strength broke down.  I couldn't take another step.  I called 2-Step and could barely talk.  My dreams of becoming a thru-hiker had just been dashing into the Pennsylvania rocks and I couldn't take it anymore.  I was tired and worn down and the stress I felt about trying to rush through almost 1000 miles in 6 weeks felt like a ball and chain wrapped around my feet.  It was too much and I decided I didn't want to do it.  In the end, I stopped 9 miles short of my goal and had come up with a new plan for the rest of the summer.  I had a friend in New York City coming to pick me up in Palmerton, PA and we were going to camp overnight on the trail in New York.  From there, I was going to figure out a way to get to Vermont so that I could still try to finish on Mount Katahdin by the end of the summer.

Day 88
Hamburg, PA
0 miles

I wasn't planning on a zero day, but I needed one, especially after the last 9 miles of the day before.  My feet had been getting pretty beat up by the Pennsylvania rocks in my New Balance Minimus shoes, and I took this opportunity to get some shoes with a little more of a sole on them.  I drank lots of water and recharged on food.  I got all my errands done and was able to hang out and relax with the other hikers and really recharge for the days ahead.  I found out too late (my fault) that instead of the middle of September, my classes actually start on the 5th of September.  This means in order to get done, I have to hike an average of 25 miles a day.  I'm nervous about it, but I'm going to try for it anyway.

Day 87
501 Shelter - Port Clinton, PA
24.1 miles

Surprisingly, I woke up feeling much better than I expected to.  I wasn't too tight; there were a couple spots that felt sore, but pretty good for the most part.  I was excited to get to town for another shower and some more food.  The morning went pretty quickly and then it went downhill fast, 9 miles before town.  Every water source was dry for the last 9 miles and I only had a half bottle left to get me to town.  To make a long story short, that last 9 miles felt just as long and as hard as the 35 miles the day before.  I was definitely in panic mode when I got to the road that led into town.  I knew if I stopped that I probably wouldn't get back up.  I didn't bother looking at the guide, I just went to the first house I saw and knocked on the door.  Fortunately, Maxine and Eddy were very nice people and they invited me inside.  Just stepping into an air-conditioned room helped me feel better.  Maxine took my water bottle, filled it with ice and cold water and I thought I had never tasted anything so good.  She refilled my bottle 3 times before I thanked them and was on my way.  I still felt pretty weak so I sat down on the side of the street to try and cool down and muster up the energy to walk to the hotel a few blocks the other way down the road.  As I was sitting there I saw a state trooper coming my way and I flagged him down.  Although  he seemed unsure, the officer said yes when I asked for a ride to the hotel.  He took my trekking poles from me, had me put my backpack on the seat behind him, and made me get in on the opposite side of the car from him.  I didn't care what I had to do as long as I didn't have to walk.  When I got to the hotel, I was so relieved.  Recently, my debit card for my primary checking account has gotten so beat up that it has stopped working, so I called 2-Step to see if she could call the hotel and pay over the phone with her card.  I went inside, after talking to her, to let the person behind the bar know they would be getting a phone call and ordered a cold soda as well.  That's when I met two of the nicest people I've had the pleasure of meeting this entire trail.  They told me that the soda was on them.  Something as simple as that had the power to lift my mood and make me feel refreshed.  It wasn't long before the caffeine and sugar were helping to energize me again, and I was able to join in the conversation between another hiker and the couple that bought my soda. The bartender then came up and informed me that his register wouldn't allow him to punch in credit cards without scanning them, so 2-Step's card wouldn't work either.  This wasn't good.  I called 2-Step and told her the problem and we figured that transferring money to a different account I had should work, since I had that debit card as well.  So I went back inside to wait for 2-Step to let me know that the transfer had gone through.  It was at this point that my day was made.  The couple (sorry I didn't catch your names) that had bought my soda told me that I should go ahead and order some food and they would buy it for me.  I was shocked, I told them I was fine and the woman said no, and that I should get something.  I was very thankful and went ahead and ordered a turkey and bacon club.  Not long after that, I got word that the transfer had gone through and I tried to pay for a room again. It didn't work again.  I didn't know what was going on.  When the couple left, I thanked them profusely and gave them my website, telling them to check in and see how the hike was going every once in a while. After they left, I started trying to figure out what was wrong with my card.  I called 2-Step again to confirm the transfer had gone through, and she said it had, so I tried it again.  It still didn't work, so I just told the bartender that he shouldn't worry about it and I would just go camp at a free spot in town.  He said I couldn't leave until I paid for the sandwich I had ordered.  I looked at him confused, and said that the couple from before had paid for it.  He said, "Well I didn't charge them for it."  This guy had been rude and very short with every hiker that came in, so I just gave him some cash, got my change, and walked out in a huff.  This was not what I was expecting.  Three other hikers had actually gotten a room, but when they saw the room, they asked for a refund. To make another long story short, we walked 1.5 miles down the road to the next town over and paid for a room for 2 nights that cost the same as one night at the other one.  It was also one of the nicest hotels I've stayed at on the entire trail.  I also found out that the reason my card hadn't been working was that I had been trying the wrong card the whole time.  I'm glad I did though, because then I wouldn't have met Disco, Mountain Goat and Palm Tree, and we wouldn't have been able to split the hotel room together.
P.S. Thank you so much to the couple that offered to pay for my soda and sandwich. Your generosity was amazing and came at just the right time in my trip.  Thank you!

Day 86
Peters Mountain Shelter - 501 Shelter
35.5 miles

The hardest thing I did today was not quit hiking. The second hardest was hiking 35 miles.  I was definitely tired by the end of the day, but even before the hike got hard, only a few miles from the shelter I started at, I began to really think about stopping.  I realized too late that my classes start September 5th, and in order to hike the whole trail I had to keep a daily average of 25 miles.  That was weighing heavily on my mind, as was the fact that I would be hiking alone for the rest of the trail.  At the pace I had to keep, I would meet peeople one night and never see them again when I left the next day.  It made the rest of the time on the trail seem much more daunting than it should feel.  It got so daunting it stopped me in my tracks and I had to sit down and do what I hadn't done on the trail up to this point...cry.  I sat there for 15 minutes and didn't see a single person.  I was so desperate I pulled my phone out of my pack and tried calling 2-Step.  The one time I didn't have service in 2 weeks was at this spot.  That didn't help at all.  After a while, I had gotten everything out and when I could think clearly again I realized that all I could do was keep going to get to a spot where I had service.  The rest of the day was long, but uneventful.  The next thing I remember is stopping at a campsite, desperate to see a sign for view that would mean I was only 7.5 miles away from the shelter.  I had service there, so I called 2-Step.  I was relieved to hear her voice and we talked for a few minutes.  Eventually, I got back up and kept moving.  Turns out that I had already passed the view and didn't even realize it, which was a relief because instead of having 8 or 9 miles left, I only had 5.  I found that out when I walked around a bend in the trail and saw the shelter that was only 4 miles away.  This meant that when I was sitting, talking to 2-Step, I had only been about a mile away from that shelter.  I stopped for a minute to talk to another hiker and then, before losing all motivation, I continued  on to the 501 shelter and the shower that was waiting there for me.  Four miles later, a shower, dinner and sleep happened in quick succession.

Day 85
Duncannon, PA - Peters Mountain Shelter
11.2 miles

The morning was pretty hectic.  I was trying to get all my town chores and errands done in a timely fashion, but it always seems to take longer than I think.  After packing up, getting a shower, and scarfing down breakfast, we were on our way to the grocery store so I could resupply.  Thanks again to Mike and Francesca for the generous hospitality you showed to me and my family.  Thank you as well to my parents for always helping me out when you've been able to meet me in different towns.  I appreciate you always helping to chaffeur me around town when I can't find what I need at one store or another.  Lisa, I'm sorry you missed that meeting, but I'm glad we got to spend a little extra time together at the Doyle.  I was starting to feel lonely thinking about heading North without anyone hiking with me.  I was glad to get one last bacon cheeseburger in with you guys before starting out.  After my parents left, I said some quick hellos to a few hikers I knew and then threw my pack on my back and got the hell out of dodge.  The hike started with a two mile road walk that included two bridges.  It was hot and I was glad to escape into the cover of the trees.  I only received a brief respite from the trees, because the trail started to climb the ridge pretty quickly.  Soon enough, the shower from a  few short hours ago was a distant memory.  The climb didn't last long though and I was at the first water source outside of town quickly enough.  I ran into my friend Golden and caught up before filling my water bottles and saying my goodbyes.  I have a few friends on the trail ahead of me, but if my ambitious schedule succeeds, I won't be hiking with them for very long.  If all goes well, in six short weeks I'll be standing on top of Katahdin wishing it wasn't over.  Although it's not over yet, and I still had 6.5 miles to go before the next shelter.  As I was hiking along, it started getting darker and I realized there was a storm rolling in.  Fortunately, it only started raining a mile from camp.  When I arrived at the shelter I was pretty wet, but I was happy to still see room next to three other hammocks to hang mine up.  After setting up, I checked in with my parents, made dinner, and made my routine call to 2-Step.  After catching up, I got in the hammock to write up my daily log while listening to the pitter-patter of raindrops on the shelter roof and the cry of coyotes off in the distance.

Day 84
Harrisburg, PA
0 miles

Since it's hard for me to get out of my hiker schedule, I woke up before everyone else.  I took that time to catch up on my daily log, while enjoying the cool morning air on the porch of Mike and Francesca's house.  It had rained sometime overnight and the air had a crisp feel to it.  Everything looked shiny and new.  I enjoyed the quiet neighborhood as people were slow to wake up on the first full day of the weekend.  With only the occasional jogger to break my concentration, I listened to the different bird songs as I finished updating my daily log, before starting my day.  When everyone woke up, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of bagels and danishes.  Around lunchtime, my parents arrived from D.C. and we headed out to lunch at the Troegs Brewery.  Tasty beer!  The party didn't stop there though.  After lunch we went back to Mike and Francesca's place and fired up the grill for some delicious steaks.  After all that tasty food, I let the kids stay up and I went to bed.
Granny Num
8/1/2012 06:30:00 am

Friends from Port Clinton
8/1/2012 07:27:15 am

Dead Lord, John Wayne... You have no idea how happy we were today to see your post. I have been looking every day since Port Clinton and were so worried that maybe things took a bad turn for you. You were in rough shape and it showed. This afternoon, when yesterday's date popped up on your blog, I was so relieved I could have cried! :) And THEN! When I started to read your post about that night, well then the waterworks REALLY started! lolol We have been thinking about you since that day we met at the bar and found you in a bad way. It wasn't until I starting reading your story the next day that I understood just what a wrenching time of it you had just had. I couldn't stop reading. No bloody vampire story could EVER be as engaging as your AT saga. Heart was breaking for you when I read about your 2-Step and how she had just had to leave the trail,(read her posts, too, and just have to tell you...,finish up this walk and go home and never let that girl out of your sight again, JW. She is a KEEPER.) how Tess and Molly had to leave, too, (one night while reading about how hot poor Tess was getting and how the Virginia heat beat that little Malamute down, my sleepy brain gave her a new, fresh-off-the-trailname, "Baked Alaska." :) LOL, and how brother Case stepped in when you really NEEDED a brother. You have a great family, JW. That's a blessing I know you count. I read about the days of your planning, and things like the weight of your pack and shoes, which you considered so carefully, and how much food weighs being as important as how nutritious it is, how you prepared for the AT by long hikes in CA. Well, I could go on and on, and will again. But I just wanted to tell you that our joy at hearing from you again today was only overshadowed by our upset at what happened in that bar with your bill. We couldn't be more embarrassed. And so terribly sorry for the trouble it caused you. We clearly told the BT you were on our tab. We are not ones to study the check, and simply paid and left. And will not be returning. Were relieved to see that fiasco had a happy ending for you - in a better hotel and with new friends. I scanned a few of your later posts and again found tears rising. But, friend, J.W., the relief and joy in your latest words is palpable, and we are behind your new decision 100%. It's easy to see that along this long trail, you have found yourSELF. No more running. Slowing down, stopping for vistas, does, and naps in the sun...well, a wise man could want for little else. I salute you for this enlightenment, and pray for your safe travel north, wherever that may lead you. For now you can stop anywhere along the way, because you have already completed...the most important journey of all. God bless.

John Wayne
8/13/2012 07:22:14 am

To my Friends from Port Clinton,

Once again you have managed to lift my spirits. As much fun as I've been having with my new plan I still sometimes feel as if I'm missing out by not finishing, but you've helped remind and reinforce my decision. There are still days where I think that maybe I should have pushed through the pain and stress, but then I would have missed out on all the experiences I've had since that decision. I still think about the afternoon that we met. I am so thankful that I walked into the hotel and had the opportunity to meet you! You will definitely be one of my fondest encounters from the trail, and I thank God everyday that I was fortunate enough to meet you. Don't worry, I think about how lucky I am to have someone like 2-Step in my life everyday and I'm more than excited to see her again after the trail! I had to laugh at Tess' new trail name, Baked Alaska. And, yes, as much as I get bummed about not completing the trail in its entirety, I am happy with my decision to slow down, and stop running (at least most of the time, haha). It helps to know that so many people support my decision, and I thank you, with all my heart, for everything that you've done for me. I hope to hear from you again and wish you the very best! Thank you -John Wayne

8/30/2012 06:38:56 pm

Nice blog! I've been looking for books on this nature and I'm glad that i found yours. I'll check back often for more useful information from you. :)

Joseph Aidan

John Wayne
8/31/2012 08:43:37 am

Thanks Joseph! I'm a little behind on the last few posts, but just got access to the internet again so I'll be uploading more stuff soon! If you have any questions feel free to ask away and I'll answer as best I can.


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