Here is another trail update by AT hiker Joe “Psych” O’Donnell.
I’m writing to you from Great Barrington, MA, where I’m sitting at the local Co-op enjoying some fresh food, a much-needed respite from trail food.
Since my last update email from Philadelphia, I’ve hiked about 375 more miles north. I completed hiking the rest of the infamous Pennsylvania rocks, only to be surprised that they didn’t end in New Jersey. Or New York. Or Connecticut. Oh well. I still enjoyed hiking the Tri-state portion of the trail, and am excited to be in Massachusetts currently with 4 states remaining on the trail.
These past almost 400 miles have been challenging. Just before Vernon, NJ, I slipped on a log and took a bad fall forward going downhill, landing on my right knee. When I stood up and bent my leg, it was painful, and weight-bearing was difficult as well. I hobbled two more miles to a road crossing where I had fortuitously planned to meet my Aunt Diana a few days before, and she helped get me back home for a few days of rest and recovery. I got the knee x-rayed to rule out a fracture, and was relieved to hear there wasn’t one. I was able to spend the 4th of July with Francis and my family at the Jersey shore and got back on trail where I left off on Monday. Talk about well-placed and timed injuries…
Fortunately my knee has felt pretty good since I’ve gotten back on trail, but I did cut my mileage back to 13-15 miles/day from the 20+ I was doing before the injury to not stress it from overuse and give it some additional time to heal. As the northern sections of the trail (the Green Mountains of VT, White Mountains of NH, and southern ranges of ME) are more difficult, I will be focusing more on safely and enjoyably hiking them rather than trying to log big miles.
I’ve also been able to reach out to some friends and arrange meet ups along the trail. A former Wesleyan trustee (whom I knew from my days as a student) and his wife generously treated me to dinner and hosted me for a night at their house near Kent, CT. It was great to see them, share some trail stories, and “re-civilize” a bit. 🙂
In a few days I will be spending a day with my friend and former landlady in South Hadley, MA. A week or so after that I will be passing through Rutland, VT, where my AT thru-hike dreams began at the age of 10 at Camp Sangamon for Boys. I am planning to stop by and visit camp for a day or two to see old friends and maybe inspire one or two campers to consider thru-hiking in the future by sharing my experience with them. That’s how it happened for me when I encountered scruffy AT thru-hikers on parts of the trail we day hiked when I was a camper. Now I’m the scruffy thru-hiker. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same).
Even with these visits to break things up a bit, it still can be pretty lonely out here. I definitely appreciate the solitude a lot of the time and see it as a good opportunity for reflection, but I’ve been missing Francis, my family, my friends, wishing some of them could be out here with me. Kind words are always appreciated in the form or email, text, or calls, and I will respond when phone service allows. This home stretch I hear is typically more psychological than physical, and while I’ve developed some on-trail methods for staying positive, hearing from friends is one of the biggest morale boosters for me.
Finally, a few state-line pictures for your enjoyment:
Thanks for the support and be well,
Joe “Psych” O’Donnell
Thru-Hiking, Fundraising, and Advocating for Mental Health
“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” -Sir Edmund Hillary