In September 2012, HIKE for Mental Health co-founder Tom Kennedy fulfilled a lifetime dream by completing a seven day thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in New Jersey. Tom and three other hikers trekked from New York to the Village Farmer and Bakery in Pennsylvania on a journey they dubbed “The Quest for Pie.”
Following is Tom’s trail log of the epic journey that he and fellow Hike for Mental Health hikers Deb McNish, Paul Robinson, and Martin McHunley began.
So far, so good. Leo hiked with us until the New Jersey border. We all had a great time.
We are at the shelter at Wawayanda State Park having dinner. Everyone went to get water so I’m watching the camp. It was a great day, but I never want to do that section of the AT again. Nice to see they put the ladder back. Last time we had to climb down, and it was hairy. This time we just climbed down the ladder.
I am hoping I can get everyone up and on the trail early. If we leave early enough we can hitch into Vernon and have lunch and a cold drink at the Vernon Inn. God, I could go for a cold one right now.
Beautiful day! Lots of boulders and ROCKS! Day one DONE. Some challenging climbs, good company and full shelter at the end of day. Beauty all around us, nature is so healing, thank God we have the ability to meet these challenges that puts a smile on our faces!! It was so nice to hike with Leo to the state line trail!!
A great day for a hike. Greenwood lake was beautiful. The climb up prospect rock was much better than the last time with Kaye Moore in the rain. We had a great view of NYC. Very dangerous rocks in the rain. Great company all day. Great to hike with Leo several miles.
Last time I did this section it was pouring rain all day. It took nearly 11 hours to cover the same ground as we did in about 8. Today’s hike was beautiful but challenging. Great hike with great people!
Today we got on the trail around eight thirty. It was very cold last night last night. Martin’s brand-new hammock blew a seam and that was the end of his hammock. He slept on the picnic table.
When we got to the lookout on top of Wawayanda Mountain we could see Highpoint off in the distance. From there I called the Vernon Inn to see if they would pick us up on 94 and was told that they don’t do that and we needed reservations for lunch.
So we went anyway. Someone named Tom at the inn overheard the conversation and said to call him when we got off the mountain. So we did, and he showed up and drove us. When we told the bartender about the phone conversation, she brought the manager over and asked us to tell him what happened. He apologized and said they love hikers there. So we ate and drank and then another guy named Tom drove us back to the trail.
After about an hour and a half we got to the end of the board walk. That’s where Paul said he needed to drop out. He called his son, but his son could not pick him up till ten pm so deb convinced him that he just needed electrolytes and she gave him some, so off we headed to the shelter. On the way we ran out of daylight and had to use our headlamp over very rocky and steep terrain but we all got there safely. I was really dragging big time, so by the time we got there, I just went to bed. Good night.
A zero day.
We woke up to crazy rain and decided to stay in the shelter I collected rain water all morning and I’m going to bed early.
Paul and Martin slept most of the morning until about three pm.
Not much else happened.
Everything went very well today. We left the shelter about six thirty. I went ahead about two miles then stopped and had breakfast. Saw a doe and a bald eagle, then we continued to Unionville to get drop boxes. Then we headed to Highpoint, about eleven miles. I’m tired. Gonna have dinner and then go to bed. Oh, we had pizza for lunch today, but we have a very long day tomorrow. We stopped at the secret shelter for water. We did about thirteen miles today.
One word to sum up
Teach says, “Fly.”
Martin says, “Awesome.”
Tom says, “Mileage.”
Paul says… Paul has noword but his first response was, “chafe.”
So tomorrow, big mileage again, I think about fourteen.
Godspeed to the quest for pie.
We woke up late, around 8 am. We had a lot of mileage to do today, thirteen miles. Paul left the trail about mid-day but promised to meet us at the conclusion for pie.
We left the shelter this morning with the plan to stealth on Rattlesnake Mountain. But we got there with still a lot of day light left, so we pushed on to the top of the Buttermilk Falls Trail where we camped for the night. No shelter. I’m beginning to get summit fever. I can almost taste the pie.
We bear-bagged our food, and I got an early start in the morning. Destination: Mohican Outdoor Center, only ten miles away. It was slow going for me in the beginning, but after the vitamin I took clicked in, I was off and going.
Got about a mile from the center and I ran out of gas. So I did a Goo, drank some water and off I went with my second wind. When I got to the Center it was one forty five but the cabin we were put in was another quarter mile down the road. Got there and went straight to the shower. First shower all week and I had a clean set of cloths to change into. I went back to the lodge and had a sandwich and soda. It was after four when deb and Martin showed up. That night we ordered pizza and another woman there took Deb to get drinks. So we had pizza and listened to live music. Tomorrow we will have pie.
We were on the trail early, around six am. It was cold but the views were great. We all hiked together this day. Sunfish Pond was beautiful. Martin’s girlfriend, Donna, and her friend Heidi hiked in to meet up with us as we were on the home stretch.
When we got to the parking lot by Rt. 80 Paul met us with cold drinks.
At 0 mile marker, halfway over the bridge to PA, we completed our thru hike of New Jersey on the Appalachian Trail!
But the quest was not over. We needed pie. When we got to the bakery we were taking pictures and a woman came out of the bakery and asked if I was Tom. I said, “Yes, the quest is here.” They gave us all coffee and pie and hot dogs and did not let us pay.
I stayed true to this glorious quest. And just like that it was over. I started this hike with doinit as my trail name. I am now “Captain Trails.”
This hike was a challenge that I wasn’t going to give up on. I’m not going to say that I learned anything profound or that this was a magical, mystical hike. Or spiritual. It was a hike I committed to and there was no way I would fail, barring major injury.
What I did learn was that it takes a lot of fortitude to fight the pain. The whole ball and more of my left foot is nothing but a huge blister, that I had to hike on all week. I got it the first day. So every step after that was pain. My pack was very heavy; I have know idea why. But it was. After a couple of days all my muscles hurt and I was very badly chafed. To the point of blood. So to say this was easy would be a lie. But it was a quest. But not really a quest for pie. It was a quest to right a wrong.
Last year I failed at this attempt. I could blame the fact that it rained everyday. But the fact is I have no one to blame but myself. It was my decision to get off the trail. No one else’s. And I have regretted that for a year and a half. So this time, no matter what, I was going to complete this hike, no matter how hard it was. This was truly a quest in every sense of the term. But it really wasn’t about pie. This was a personal quest.
People who know me will tell you that when I set my mind to something I don’t give up easy, if at all. And this time giving up was not an option at all. Just was not an option.
I also got to appreciate what a beautiful state I live in. I have seen things that most of the population of New Jersey will never see. I have also seen more rocks then I ever care to see again, but I know I will.
When I got to the bakery, I almost cried, because when you want something so badly and work so hard to get it, it just feels so good, almost surreal.
I know this was only an 80 mile hike but again it was by far the longest hike I ever did. And keep in mind I’m a s- s- s- sixty year old, out of shape guy. Not a young kid.
So now I sleep well; I completed my quest; I righted a wrong in my own heart. So now it’s time to plan my next adventure. I don’t think I will ever have the opportunity to do a thruhike. But I know in my heart that if I ever did have the opportunity that I would complete it, again barring any major injury.
So that about sums it up. It was a great hike with good people. And I know I am better for this. I do not cotton to failure.
Captain Trails (formerly, Doinit).