Meet you in Vegas!

Ok so, imagine this….. the world is finally my oyster, after all the lockdowns and travel restrictions, I’ve been perhaps the most successful covid dodger of all, im fully vaccinated and ready to do a thing, then full disaster scenario happens.

Wednesday January 12th, zoom call with the Mountain Company who are willing to open up a last minute place in the first Everest Basecamp Trek of the season in April. I’m totally shitting myself because this would be a WW (Without Willow) trip, lone ranger style, but this is it, it feels like the right time, I’m at my peak fitness, my travel account, thanks to the inability to buy flights for the last 3 years is looking reasonable, I’ve got until Friday to secure my place.

Thursday 13th January, totally and utterly smash my knee to smithereens. At 11pm I’m finding myself lying in hospital in utter shock whilst a pompous consultant who doesn’t even bother to introduce himself relocates my kneecap to a more appropriate front facing position.

I was in total shock that it had happened to be honest, I thought I might have sprained it, I tried to carry on in my dance class thinking about when you sprain your ankle, walking it off is the way, unbeknownst to me I was walking around with a pretty much ligament free knee.

I was lucky because I was able to get an MRI scan pretty much straight away, but I remember sitting in the fracture clinic feeling like a total fraud, there were people all around me who were in casts and these huge braces and crutches, and I was sat there with a tubigrip on my knee, I felt for sure the consultant was going to whip it off me, and tell me to suck it up and get on with walking. Instead he used the words ‘catastrophic knee injury’ full ACL rupture, partial MCL and meniscus tears, he called it the unhappy triad. When you hear ACL you can also hear the sharpening of the sugeons knives. Just 24 hours ago I was contemplating Everest and suddenly I found myself in a full immobilising hip to ankle brace, crutches and a no weight baring instruction.

I’m not going to sugar coat it, I went dark, to be honest I’m only just seeing some light, it could not have been worse timing, I had so many plans this year and I just couldn’t and sometimes still can’t see how I was going to do any of them. I felt like my life had been put on hold for the last 2 years and now this, the sickest joke of all.

The people in my life are amazing, im not one to accept help willingly, but it was made so easy for me, it wasn’t a choice, from dropping in meals and treats, to driving me to hospital and physio appointments, letting me shower in their walk in showers and rescuing me when I was adamant I could make it on crutches, when in the middle of winter I definitely couldn’t. I’m not an easy patient and I’m so appreciative of everyone’s kindness.

Enough of the darkness, fast forward several months, I’ve been an exemplar physio student, and have been deemed a good candidate for non surgical treatment, which seems ludicrous that I can just go about my daily business with no ligament in my knee but I have to believe. Surgery would put me out of the game for over a year, but without it I could be back to fitness in months, so I’m going full out with rehabilitation.

Meanwhile…….started to hatch some alternate plans for an adventure. I have this long long list of things I want to see and experience in my lifetime, but I’m beginning to realise that the list is not vertical, it’s not first place, second place, third etc, it’s horizontal, everywhere is number one, there might be a few 1A or 1Bs but essentially I want to do it all, nowhere holds more value than anywhere else.

Way Out West!

Saturday 26th March

Day 1

10 weeks after said catastrophic knee injury I find myself landing in the Las Vegas Airport. Willow waiting for me in an airport hotel. Nope we absolutely are not going to the strip, the lights and the glamour are not for us, we are more smell your socks to see if they will do another day type girls. More on that later.

We are doing the Mighty 5 National Parks of Utah. A 10 day jaunt around the enormous wild west state, and we are ready to walk some walks and view some views.

Day 2

We picked up our rental car and tried to get out of Vegas as quickly as possible. I’ve passed on the driving this trip, this is Willow’s country after all, but I didn’t envy her, no-one likes driving a different car out of a multistorey car park in front of people, it’s like you immediately forget everything you know about driving!

Within an hour we are in full desert, full sun, full 90* heat and it’s everything. We have a few longish drives but we have tried to limit car time, after all this is the USA, a short drive to meet friends is often 4 hours each way!


We hit Zion later that afternoon, and immediately wanted to stretch our legs. You cannot drive through the park it’s a shuttle bus only situation and we made it just in time for the last departure of the day. We did a short Riverside walk to get our bearings and caught the golden hour just right.

We are not quite ready to allow ourselves full vacation luxury, we don’t want to get too accustomed to the high life then have to feel like we are slumming it again in our one person tents, so we’ve settled on a variety of places to stay including some glamping situations. To us it was total 5* boujie, chandelier above the bed, and a little fire heater, bliss. Just to keep us down to earth and not get swept up with being Mariah Carey we ate cold tuna sandwiches on the floor and had to walk to the shower house.

Day 3


Up bright and breezy. It’s pretty chilly over night, definitely below zero, so getting dressed needs to be a sport, a cardio activity to get going. It’s a poptart breakfast of champions obviously and back to Zion for our full day itinerary.

Our early start was to get going on one of our hardest trails of the National Parks. Angels Landing is a 6 mile hike up to the top of what is a called a fin, a narrow and pretty much vertical climb and then decent, gaining 1500 ft in altitude. It’s solely reliant on chains and posts to assist the climb. This was the first time putting my knee under any great stress, but it was a head down and focus kind of activity. The picture below is our first view of the fin, after hiking up 23 switchbacks I hilariously thought at first, I was at the top, I couldn’t really believe there was a trail any further.

Going up was nearly type A fun, the trail was packed and the pace was slow. But the challenge was perfect. The views from the top were magnificent, with the canyon opening up all around. At one point I said to Willow, ‘I’m never doing this again” and I think I must have got the intonation wrong because it sounded like I was having the worst time but what I meant was, the likelihood of me ever standing up here ever again I my life was slim, I was reminding myself to look really hard at it so I could remember it forever.

Snack of an absolute winner consumed at the summit.

Now, I always remember watching mountaineering documentaries and them saying the summit isn’t the end it’s half way! The saving grace for the descent was that it was so dangerously busy the we went at a snails pace, I had a lot of concerned comments about my knee because of the bionic brace, but it was surprisingly OK (later that night it was quite enormous, but we’ll just skip that). We passed lots of terrified hikers going up as we decended, but most memorable and I still can’t get it out of my head was a women hiking up the chains with a 2 month old baby in a front carrier. We are experienced hikers and this was super challenging, one false move and there’s a sheer 1500ft drop on both sides of you, trying to not mum shame by any means but this was a really bad choice and made me feel immediately queasy. I don’t think I’ve ever been on a hike like this before where the next day my arms hurt way more than my legs.

We spent our afternoon on the Watchman Trail, a short 3 mile loop which ended up being fantastic, we were slight creepers and followed a guided hike so we could hear some fun facts about rocks, the first of many on this trip.

Does anyone else get big fat sausage fingers when they hike? Mine were particularly bad today. They don’t do it when I use my trekking poles, anyone got any other tips?

A chance encounter with a Park Ranger changed our total game plan for our trip. We over heard that all National Parks have a junior ranger programme with no upper age limit and if you complete the workbook you get sworn in and a badge, this kind of offer was completely irresistible to us. With just 20 mins to complete the book we ran to the nearest bench, and started our assignments, raced back and took our first junior ranger pledge. There’s nothing you can say to discourage this behaviour at my age, I’m a proud outdoor nerd with a passion for fun facts!

Our last hike of the day was a short trail to the Rim Overlook. The golder hour was just glorious and what a way to end our Zion adventure and lead us to the next.

I almost feel guilty for mentioning this, but there’s a hot tub at our glamping site, I honest to god did not know that until we checked in, I feel guilty about saying it because we are hard-core adventurers, but nowhere near guilty enough to not use it, obviously. Would it be more balanced if I mentioned we had to eat cold tuna sandwiches on the floor again for dinner?

Day 4


Just a short car jaunt to the next park on our list, we climbed up and up and ended at 8000ft above sea level and full snow. Very unexpected for me, I should have done slightly more weather research, you hear desert and think cycling shorts will be fine right?

Straight to the visitor centre to collect our Junior Ranger packs.

We drove to the trail head and got our first glimpse of the famous amphitheatre and Hoodoos, no joke I have genuinely in life never seen rock formations like it.

It was vast, as far as the eye could see, ombre orange stacks, some uniform some taking on their own personalities.

I cannot begin to tell you how many times I said wow, it was unreal, we both kept asking each other, are you seeing this? It was otherworldly. We did a short 3 mile hike all the way to the bottom of the basin and up the otherside, mingling with the hoodoos. I feel like this blog isn’t the time or place for full rock facts, but please see me for more details should you want them, spoiler alert but as a fully qualified junior ranger I feel correctly positioned to perhaps run a short power point presentation for you should the need arise. For now the basics are, water, wind and time created these formations called Hoodoos.

After our hike we decided to drive the scenic road through the park to the highest point. We were not prepared for the onslaught of cold. We stopped at every viewpoint but it felt teeth shatteringly frosty. I actually do love a bit of snow, but this was cold and high, some people have said they have suffered altitude sickness in Bryce, but after experiencing real altitude in the Andes I can safely say they were in fact probably in need of a drink of water and to pull up their big (insert gender) pants.

Tonight we would be staying in a very primitive Yurt. Not camping but definitely not glamping. No electricity or bathrooms, only a log buring stove. Because we had been so cold during the day we totally panicked about not being able to light the fire and get warm. We drove to several gas stations to make sure we had something we could light the fire with but ended up with the best purchase of cheesy jalapeño bread to keep us warm instead.

But worry not, we girl scouted the heck out of the fire and got it lit in seconds. Cooked our bread on the top and completed our Junior Ranger books by headlamp light. We may have been too good at the fire because both of us ended up outside of our sleeping bags in just T-shirts to sleep, we boiled ourselves.

Day 5


Great night in the Yurt, apart from everything smelling like a campfire from here on out it was glorious, 10 out of 10, highly recommend.

Being so close to the park we were back nice and early. We had chosen to do the Fairlyand Loop trail, mainly because the name just spoke to my heart. It was an absolute gem, 8 miles that basically swooped down to the bottom and then swooped back up again. A record number of wows! were said. We had relative solitude for the first part of the trail, just the sound of us nattering away. Sometimes we talk about serious life stuff and sometimes we walk in total silence, I like both. What I love the most is when we start ranking our favourite things, it’s an endless debating game that just fuels our fire. We are a special kind of people.

Sometimes I like to take ‘Hi, my name is Sophie and my hobbies and interests include, hiking, being outside, dogs and snacks’ type photos, just in case the need for a profile photo arises. See below.

We stopped for an incredibly leisurely lunch, we ate pringles and tuna with sun on our faces and for a small window of time it felt like the world outside our canyon didn’t even exist.

Now picture this, we haven’t seen anyone for several hours, but we casually pass a couple hiking the same way as us, a few steps, miles, minutes later it’s hard to tell, Willow decides now is a good time to do a (at least) 10 second long fart. Now what she failed to do was A. Check behind her and B. Look at my horrified face looking at both her and the hiking couple stood directly behind her. I wouldn’t normally tell a story like that, but it seriously made this hike all the more memorable and also, I fear our trip might be a bit too dry without our usual sick jokes, it’s to counterbalance the knee situation, which so far, apart from some sizable nighttime swelling, has been on the good list.

We had a bit of a drive to get to our next accommodation, so we couldn’t dilly dally, it was Junior Ranger pledges and on the road we go.

Our accommodation for the night was the Aquarius Inn. I wished it was trying to be retro or ironic in it’s decor, but the damp bedspreads and lingering smells of smoke from the last point in time you were able to smoke indoors said otherwise. Bonus points for the 2 king size beds, TV and heated pool though. On the way in we had spotted a roadside sign for Curry and Pizza at a little diner. It was unclear at the time if it was a curry house or pizza place, but I can now confirm it was infact a curry on top of your pizza kind of place. I’m not selling it well so far but we absolutely annihilated it, best food so far, think chicken tikka on a pizza base with a curry as the sauce and a load of cheese on top for good measure.

Day 6


Poptarts and go!

We only had a day to explore this National Park. Although size wise it’s not smaller, the accessible areas without an off-roading vehicle are. If it was my little mitsubishi I probably would declare it off road worthy but the rental car would cost the value of my house to replace so we stayed pretty firmly on the roads.

Today was a day of lots of short hikes, we started with the Cassidy Arch, named after the famous Butch Cassidy who was said to have a hide out in the rock formations.

Capitol Reef is home to some historic fruit orchards and also pie, delicious fruit pie. So it was an obvious choice where to do our Junior Ranger homework today.

Fun fact of the day, Capitol Reef is named for the white dome like rock formation that early settlers believed looked like the Capitol building in DC, and the Reef part is because of the 97 mile long ridge line. I would not have known that without our diligent participation.

The afternoon consisted of short drives to lookout views and one final hike with some beautiful immersive scenery. I don’t want you to get the wrong impression here, we had a fantastic day, and really saw some fascinating rock formations, and the general scale was pretty indescribable, but it definitely felt like the underdog National park, Zion and Bryce felt like Disney with it’s infrastructure and visitor numbers but Capitol Reef had some much lower key vibes.

Can I just take a minute to talk about my feet, or maybe my trainers and socks situation. God bless Willow, because whatever combination of footwear I’ve concocted on this trip has created the perfect conditions for possibly the worst smelling shoes I have ever experienced. My guess is that because they are gortex, which make them totally waterproof, not a necessary quality needed in footwear in the desert, which clearly I did not think about, they don’t let any sweat out, but instead form daily warm sweat cocktails inside. How does one get a footwear sponsorship or at the very least odor eating insoles??

Day 7


Onwards and quite literally upwards as we are pretty much travelling north up the map. Next stop is Moab, the nearest town to our next two National Parks. We did the drive last night and arrived at our next accommodation, which I have some opinions on. I’ll set the scene with talking about Moab, totally disproportionately expensive to any other towns next to the other National Parks. A cheap and nasty motel room was 200 bucks a night, an actual hotel room was into the 300s. Imagine how lucky we felt when we found a youth hostel with private rooms available for just $32 total? At this point in our trip planning weeks ago, im certain, between us we had well over 50 internet tabs open, looking for the best option, what I don’t quite understand is how and why we didn’t question why the Lazy Lizzard Hostel was a fraction of the price of everywhere else. Now I have travelled all over the world, I have slept in hotels, motels, hostels, barns, the floor of a church, trains, buses, the list is endless but I have to say the Lazy Lizzard was at the bottom end of my of my scale of standards. Very tiny room with definitely not clean bedding, questionable damp carpet, to be fair I think we overpaid at $32. I’m probably ever so slightly more tolerant than Willow, who has a soft furnishings obsession, there was no way any part of her bare skin from her feet to her head was going to touch any part of the floor or beds. Did I mention we had booked 3 nights here?

After a jolly good word with ourselves we got on with our first day in the area, Arches National Park.

First up was the Devils Garden Loop Trail. 9 miles filled with natural arches and mind-blowing scenery. It was genuinely a pleasure of a hike, we did a lot of rock scrambles, slides, and ridge lines. On the second half of the trail we barely saw a person and had wonderful moments of deep peacefulness. The weather was just crystal clear and warm, it was the kind of hike that the further you go the more your internal batteries charge up.

Knee holding up really well, but I could definitely feel all of thoes miles. We did some car touring for a few hours in the afternoon, there are over 2000 arches in the National park, loads visible from short hikes of less than a mile each.

We saved our last 3 mile hike of the day for the very end. The hike was pretty much all on smooth slickrock on a pretty steep incline. It wasn’t demanding, it was pure joy. Delicate Arch is the most famous of arches, we had heard good things about watching the sunset there but unfortunately so did 100 other people. One complaint I have about the park is that there’s always someone in the bloody arches, but this did not distract from the raw beauty of that sunset. It was the kind of sunset I will remember forever. We sat eating salt and vinegar pringles and filled out our Junior Ranger books with the sun going down casting an orange/red light over us and the arch. I genuinely have the world’s worst memory but I will never forgot this moment.



Island in the Sky

After such an epic day yesterday, we were far less grumpy about the Lazy Lizzard, I’d sleep in a public restroom if I had to, if it enabled me to hike thoes hikes and see thoes things.

Canyonlands is vast and very canyon-y. Deep, wide and winding gorges carved aggressively by water over time. Due to the enormity of the park we couldn’t really find one appropriate length trail, especially as our day ended up being 16 miles yesterday. We ended up doing many, many short trails instead, anything between 1 – 5 miles at a time hitting all the honeypot sites we could.

By this point I’m running out of adjectives to help convey what we’ve had the total privilege to see and be part of. We ended our day here on a hike that was totally deserted, just us blabbering on to each other ranking which midwife from Call the Midwife we would want to deliver our fictional babies (Trixie, nurse Crane and Sister Juliene came out top for thoes wondering) It was the weirdest hike because the first mile or so was pure sand dunes and I just couldn’t get over the fact the ocean wasn’t right around the next bend. Instead we sat watching the sun lower down in the sky with the canyon totally to ourselves and our own thoughts.

Epic end to an epic day was margaritas and Mexican food, vast amounts of both. Need I say more.

Day 9


The Needles

We said our farewells to the Lazy Lizzard this morning, I shall remember it not so much fondly but grateful it enabled me to afford the visit.

Canyonlands is enormous enough to have multiple districts. Our second day, just like yesterday was very canyon-y. Another day of short hikes to great vistas. Slightly less remarkable than the previous I would say but it was so much quieter. If we were able to do an over night backpacking trip this would be the place to go, it was remote and full of cool cowboy history and stories.

We set off from the park mid afternoon with a pretty hefty 5 hour drive ahead of us. I didn’t realise until this particular car confinement that I’ve grown weary of long road trips. This one in particular was H for hard and F for far. The road was so straight, we drove a hundred miles without even making a turn, surrounded by never changing desert. Willow was a champion driver and companion, trying to make the dust around us interesting, but I was suffering, especially when we passed a petrol station with a toilet and snacks and Willow assured me there would be another so didn’t stop but that was a lie, there were no other anythings for miles.

Tonight we are staying in relative luxury, a cheapish motel, but they have wooden floors which satisfies Willow’s hatred of shared carpet and crisp white sheets that have been chemically boiled. Great nights sleep!

Day 10




Last day today and we went out with a bang. We started the day on the Navajo Reservation, bucket list item for me are the slot canyons. I think I’ve said this too many times now to be believable, but I have never seen or experienced anything like this before. It was breathtaking, the colours and shapes and smooth lines were from a different planet. To be honest the photos speak totally for themselves.

We ate a totally gourmet sushi lunch at Horseshoe Bend State Park, over looking a huge meander in the path of the Colorado River. We are pretty low maintenance, a great view and a flavoured fizzy water water is my dream day.

During this lunch a decision was made. At this point we didn’t know if it was a good or bad decision but we were prepared to just go for it. It was a 4 hour drive back to Vegas and our flight was at 1am so we had the rest of the day. Instead of driving straight there, our decision was to make a detour to the Grand Canyon, which would add an additional 3 hours to our drive. I’ve been lucky enough to visit and hike the Grand Canyon years ago but Willow has not. I tried to play it cool like, it’s OK, it’s just a big canyon, just in case we didn’t make it, but I was just as excited as she was.

We seemed to get there in no time and our first glimpse was worth every uncomfortable driving second.

We had basically an hour to look at it as hard as we could. We raced to get our Junior Ranger pack, an unexpected 6th National Park and then raced to find a spot and sit and just look. I remember my dad telling me about when he visited when he was younger, he said that you should keep looking away and then looking again because with every single change of light or position of your eye it will look different. It was overwhelming actually, maybe because it was the end of our trip or maybe because it really is just that grand.

Iceland, the country not the supermarket.

Two full years has passed, for a while I feel like I’ve been slowly fraying at the edges, without any wild to hold me together. Lockdown has been harder for me in ways it probably wasn’t hard for others and easier for me in so many ways that I have to feel some gratitude. During the first full year of covid I walked over 3000 miles. Each mile propping me up, bonding with friends I am truly appreciative for and adventures I will always remember. But still, two full years of my life has passed.

28th July 2021, me, scrolling through the socials, article saying travel restrictions have changed, send article to Willow, Willow reads article. Many, many hours on the Google, some hysteria and tears, mainly on my end and 2 days later we have flights to Iceland booked. Not only booked but booked for 4 days time, of which I have to work for two of. We are excellently matched travel companions because neither of us has to worry about each others preparations or packing or gear, we will turn up as equally prepared or unprepared as each other. Didn’t sleep an enormous amount non the less, waking up thinking about where my bloody crocs were, if I have enough grip left on my very old trail runners and most importantly what flavour dried pasta meals will be the least gross and most calorific.

Covis tests, covid tests, covid tests. Adding a new dimension to travel anxiety, one before I leave, one when I’m there and one when I get home, I don’t even care if it’s over kill or the tests cost neary double the price of my flights, it’s a small price to pay, I’ll have my brain tickled by a swab for the chance to get on a plane. Devon needs to step up it’s game though, there’s literally nowhere to have the tests done, it’s been a long while since I’ve felt the annoyance of backwards rural living.

Iceland, Day 1

International travel from the UK is actually amazing. We have the world right there, flights a go go. You know what’s not amazing, traveling to any airport from Devon. I feel like I’m being a bit harsh on my home County and I don’t mean to be because it’s got a lot to offer but public transport is not one of them. However, that being said, I got a considerable amount of joy from being on a National Express coach even if it did take me 10 hours to get to Luton Airport.

Meet me in Iceland were the last directions we gave each other after not seeing each one another for nearly two years. It seemed so normal to just casually see Willow at baggage reclaim, but I couldn’t stop the tears when we finally got to aggressively hug each other in the middle of Keflavik airport, not even caring who was watching our hysteria.

Our first day in Reykjavik consisted of catching up, finalising trekking plans unpacking and repacking our pack, making our best ever trail mix and picking up our packs exclaiming, mmmmm how is it so heavy? Honourable mention of the day has to go to the bowl of soup we had. God knows we love a bowl of soup and this Icelandic (questionable) meat soup was outstanding.

Laugavegur Trail

Day 1

Landmannalaugar to Alftavatn

24km (15miles)

First of all, don’t ask me to pronounce anything in Icelandic, it’s basically alphabetty spaghetti. Secondly, I barely got any sleep last night because I was all het up about making a decision about what to bring on this hike. I had most of my gear sorted, but I had room for one more thing and two items to choose from. It could either be my down bodywarmer or a tube of prawn cocktail pringles. Stay tuned for the answer to this cliffhanger (as if you don’t already know what I chose!)

This is definitely the least prepared we have ever been for a hike. We were definitely not unprepared by any standards, we are girl scouts first and foremost, but when we arrived in the pop up seasonal tent village of Landmannaluagar and looked at the check list for what would be required for the 4 day hike to Porsmork we laughed and started the hike anyway.

Hiking boots – nope

Map – nope

Compass – pretty useless without the above map

GPS – nope, how do they even work?

Guidebook – well…… I did have a guide book that I had downloaded, written by a geology professor which provided some information about the trail and a lot of very useless information about rocks. The best information he gave was that the trail was well marked which we were wholly relying upon.

The trail is broken into 6 day stages, we only had 3 and bit days just because of our travel schedule. We knew we wanted to double up on our first day, I had heard that the first hut at Hrafntinnusker, was high and exposed and subjected to radical winds to the point where your tent would need to be weighted down with rocks, so we wanted to push on to Alftavatn, but after that we didn’t really know. We could be picked up by bus in either Porsmork which would be us then completing the hike in the recommended time scale, or push on the Skogar which would mean us completing the 6 day hike in 3 days, doubling up on every stage. (Without reading on, if you know us, you can predict our decision im sure)

The first 2 miles of the trail were overcrowded with day hikers fresh from their bus with nothing but an enormous camera and umbrella in their hands. The weather was dull and rainy but the mountains were too majestic to care and still looked spectacular. Within 5 mins of hiking, the phrase, ‘wow, look at that’ or ‘oh man are you seeing this’ was just on constant repeat, and even though we knew neither of us were hiking with our eyes closed, we just couldn’t help but say it.

By about 3pm we had reached the first hut and completed the first 12km. Most hikers had stopped here, there was a huge encampment of tents and hikers milling around in crocs, already done for the day. We ate a swift lunch of tuna wraps and prawn cocktail pringles (did you guess right?) and carried on hiking, even though we were cold and wet and tired and tried not to think about how warm they must be.

The second half of the hike turned out to be one of my favourite landscapes of the hike, it was like nothing I had ever seen before, and at this pont I had no idea that everyday would be a landscape like nothing I had ever seen before. Jet black, glinting rocks like glass (I know from my new found rock knowledge it was obsidian), geysers and boiling springs, radioactive green moss and the snow covered peaks of volcanoes. The terrain was hard, continuous steep ups and downs in loose ashy sand. Around every corner and every high pass was a new set of mountains, it’s like a new chapter of your favourite book, you know it’s going to be good, but every page turn gets you more and more gripped and immersed in the unfolding story. It’s the only reward for the hard work.

As the afternoon went on, the weather closed in on us, and rain began to fall and hard. We had to descend into a lush green valley way below us to find our home for night. Even in full waterproofs, I was getting soaked by sideways, in your earhole, freezing rain. The steep downhill trail turned into a river of slippery mud and rolling rocks. In the very distance we could see the lake we would be camping next to, but it was definitely a head down and hike last few miles.

Soaked to our bones we reached camp as it stopped to a light but continuous drizzle. You have to stay at the mountain huts as wild camping is not permitted, but you can put your own tent up outside the huts which we have chosen to do on this hike. Easier said than done when your fingers are so cold they have frozen into spatulas. I would highly recommend practicing putting up your tent with wooden spoons instead of hands if you are going to do this hike, it would have been a skill worth having at this point. We stayed in our wet clothing to cook dinner, for fear of our sacred dry sleeping clothes getting wet, but it was pretty unpleasant. Still no pringles regrets BTW.

Do you have a minute to talk about our Lord and Saviour (nope not Jesus Christ) but King of the luxury items, talcum powder? Seriously, I should be sponsored by Johnson and Johnson, because I have nothing but rave reviews, when you are wet and just want to be really dry, talc is the way, when you smell terrible and need a fresh scent, talc, when your butthole is chaffing, talc. It’s the only thing I carry in my first aid kit and I would never hike without it.

Day 2

Alftavatn to Porsmork

34km (21.6 miles)

Pretty freezing, wet and windy night broken up by a totally surreal moment of going for a wee at 1am and it being light. The sun barely sets this time of year this far north, so knowing we had a lot of hiking hours in a day, we decided to push on, double up on the next two stages, and do the 20 plus miles all the way to Porsmork.

We got a pretty early start, well away on the trail in the 7 O’ clock hour to a few patches of hopeful blue sky. I managed to basically tumble dry my wet clothes overnight inside my sleeping bag, but my shoes were absolutely soaked and frozen which was mildly unpleasant but wore off after a few steps. The great thing about trail runners vs boots is that I know they will dry and be warm almost immediately where boots would just stay wet for eternity.

First up on our agenda was our first river crossing. A total faff, taking off your pack, your shoes and socks and trying to get your leggings to roll up above your knees but not cut the circulation off, then crossing the fast flowing glacial river without getting dunked or swept away, to then repeat the faff in reverse. When you first enter the water it takes your breath away, then by about the middle of the river you’ve lost all feeling in your feet, then searing pain, then it’s over. I enjoyed it way more than I probably should have, totally refreshing!

Surprise, totally new landscape today. A lush green hobbit valley. I love a traditional pointy mountain and all morning we were surrounded by them, erupting around every corner. It’s name is Hvanngil, translated means Angelic Valley. Under our feet was a path straight though a lava field, not obsidian today but basalt (nerd knowledge thanks to our geology guide book) and all around us, bright green mountains and super pretty wildflowers. The ground is so black it’s hard to believe it can support such a delicate and pretty ecosystem. The contrast between the black and the colour scale is really unique.

With some reasonably easy terrain we found ourselves at the first hut by noon, solidifying our decision to press on, we are not the kind of hikers who are good at hanging around camp for an afternoon, although perhaps this is something to investigate for when our bodies give out, but for now we are happy to do big mileages while we can.

With the afternoon came many more changes, we started following a deep gorge, that eventually twisted and turned away, leaving us in a dry and barron basalt desert, but flat (mountain flat) terrain.

Our destination of Porsmork is pronounced Thorsmork. Thor being a norse God and Mork meaning trees or forest. Iceland is not home to any forests thanks to viking invasion who wiped them all out, but a few have regenerated in this rich valley, mostly shrubs no taller than us, but our guide book told us it was tradition to yell “Mork” in celebration of seeing them, which we took very literally for the whole afternoon.

One last river crossing at the 31km mark and we thought we were done, only to discover the actual campsite was a further 3.5km away. I thought we were home and dry with no tantrums, but we trudged on pretty grumpy about the additional mileage with the only consolation being that it was shaving miles off our day tomorrow.

Setting up camp was remarkably easier with opposable thumbs, we are camping pretty much at sea level so the temperature, although still only about 10 degrees, was remarkably warmer than the night before. We have nicknamed Porsmork, pronounced Thorsmork as ‘Porksmork’ which has brought us great joy in many a damp situation so far on this hike, we just have to keep reminding ourselves to not say it in front of other people so they don’t think we are accidentally mispronouncing it.

We bought ourselves a snickers bar each which was so delicious and retired to our tent before 9pm, pretty nervous about the hike tomorrow with very little margin for error, it was going to be a big day.

Day 3

Porksmork to Skogar

26km (16.2 miles)

Slept pretty well, in fact better than I probably would have in a bed, except for the old lady hip pains of being on the ground. From the tent it was hard to be sure and I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but it looked like blue sky. Carefully unzipping the tent we were welcomed by full sunshine, not a cloud in sight!

Our living space is small, our tent is about a metre wide in total, and there’s some intense yoga positions we need to be in to allow the other person to enter or exit or move really, but the combined body heat has been well worth it in these conditions, but we have been fantasising hard about a tent with 2 side openings.

Today’s hike was to take us immediately up over 1100 metres of elevation gain over the top of the active volcano Eyjafjallajokull, which you may remember from the 2010 eruption which caused flights ground to a halt. Early start for us but a wonderful day for hiking.

The day started in full greenery of every shade but was constantly climbing. Not unbearable and the few incredibly steep sections gave way to flat plateaus which proved some much needed respite and sped up our pace. One section definitely got my heart pounding when crossing a deep ravine on a knife edge, which gave way to a section of chain to hold onto to stop anyone falling down the cliff. Absolutely no way I was going to stop and take a picture, I could barely form words and held my breath the entire time and that’s coming from someone who takes absolute joy from the look on my mother’s face when I stand near cliff edges.

The upward climb got continuously more strenuous, there were some terrifying sections of loose ash sand, like walking up an escalator going in the opposite direction, but they were short sections which gave way quickly to other equally terrifying terrains just just keep your brain active. Once we reached the first high pass the landscape opened out to an enormous white and black plateau.

We found ourselves saying things like, let’s walk on the glacier but stay close to the lava. Not a sentence I have ever used in my life before. There were lots of choose your own adventure moments, either walk on razor sharp lava rocks or slippery cold ice. I feel pretty confident walking on scree and sand type ground, probably because I’ve grown up playing in sand dunes, but feel like bambi when it comes to snow and ice which is the total opposite for Willow who has several white out months every year. Shortly after laughing at willow sliding down a sand bank on her derriere I got my comeuppance when it turned to an incredibly steep down hill section of ash covered melting ice. Her words of wisdom were ‘just let your feet slide a bit’ to which I replied, I can’t I’m too busy trying to swallow my mouthful of bile, apparently stressful mountain situations give me terrible indigestion.

On we climbed as the wind kicked up a gear forcing us back into our layers of clothing, to cross the relentless snow fields followed by lava flow followed by ash scree and over again.

We finally reached the high pass of 1100m just in time for lunch. We couldn’t dawdle here, the wind was whipping up into a frenzy and we still had the downhill to do.

Pretty immediately we began to feel the warmth of the sun and had to keep stripping layers off as we descended off the top. The trail was rocky making it slow going but not steep. We had a constant stream of hikers coming towards us on a day hike from our destination seeking the thrill of a mountain top without the hardship of the pass. I’m wondering if I may have lost my tolerance for people over the last months after turing to Willow and proclaiming ‘I’m not saying hello to any more people, im sick of it’

The path turned green and the valley opened up to rolling hills and a deep river gorge. We followed the river down the whole way, being treated to enormous and picturesque waterfalls, that were so loud we couldn’t hear each other but providing a glorious cold mist spray for newly crisp, sunburnt faces.

The hike down was not at all strenuous except that we were nearing 80km after only three days of hiking, our legs were tired and our feet were pounded. We took a ridiculously luxurious pack off, shoes off, feet in the glacial river break with snacks. The ice cold water hurt so good, it was like torture therapy. Another honourable mention goes to our trail mix, a perfect blend of UK and USA, sweet, salty and spicy, it was genuinely a work of art.

The final push of the descent took us down the side of a 65 metre waterfall, where the very bottom would be out final campsite. It was magical and thunderous and possibly our most majestic non mountain tent view ever. We plonked down, poped our tent and began to relax in the sheer relief it was over, a 6 day hike beasted into 3 days finishing with a rainbow. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be, burnt face and all.

Vacation days

Our last 2 days in Iceland were about the closest we’ve ever been to taking a vacation. On the way back to Reykjavik from the trail we stopped at one of Iceland’s infamous public pools, a beautifully clean and warm outdoor pool with many hot tubs varying in temperature from warm to cooked lobster, an ice bath and sauna, everything our poor little bodies needed, absolute heaven, followed by a picnic in the park full of weird cheese and breads and strange chocolate and liquorice items.

Our final day was spent moseying around the old harbour in Reykjavik on a truly beautiful summers day and a whale watching boat tour. We saw Dolphins in large pods and puffins playing and our commitment to seeing a whale was rewarded right when everyone else had given up hope and gone inside to warm up from the artic winds, the breaching back of a Minke whale.

Tinged with some sadness we treated ourselves to some great food for dinner with many stories shared of the last 2 years apart and dreams of our future plans. Friends who suffer together stay together.

Cue more airport crying……

The first rule of rash club…….

One of the things I love most about Willow is this;

Sophie: Hey Willow, remember just 2 weeks ago when we were super suffering up a mountain a we said we needed to take a relaxing beach holiday, well do you want to hike an AT section next week instead?

Willow: Sure do!

And that is how ridiculous adventures are born!

Cut to 2 weeks later and we are standing in Caledonia State Park with a white blaze to guide us forward. We are back!

Day 1

Caledonia State Park to Quarry Gap shelters

2 miles

Most of today was spent in the car driving straight across the exceedingly boring state of Pennsylvania. We knew we had just a jaunt of a hike to our first shelter so we dilly dallied a lot, didn’t get started until gone 5pm and hiked straight up to the first shelter. I think I forget to say that we are backing tracking to the section we missed last year due to flooding in the area, we are in southern Pennsylvania which is weird because it’s the first time we have miles to the north of us that we have already completed. Pennsylvania gets a bad rep for being extremely rocky, but so far so good, the trail was well maintained and apart from the pack the weight of a toddler I felt pretty free. Definitely in the green green tunnel though.

The shelter was beautiful, it’s close to real life so it has a custodian who has made a little garden and it has the most delightful swing, couldn’t be happier, so far this is the correct amount of suffering!

Day 2

Quarry Gap shelters to Pine Grove Furnace state park.

18 miles

Up and out on the trail early this morning. I’m really happy with my choice if pop tart flavour, crisp apple and I also really like that a happy day can be as simple as a good pop tart flavour.

There is very little to remark on during our hike today, everything is very enclosed in green, there are no sweeping views or mountains to summit but the biodiversity is incredible. Butterflies are our trail guides today making me feel like a really dirty and sweaty Disney Princess.

Weirdly today we passed the official halfway marker, it’s weird because I have already hiked way more than half the trail in terms of mileage but because we have gone backwards we have never actually passed the equator of the trail.

The afternoon was a beautiful forested hike, a huge amount of work had taken place to clear the overpowering pines out to make room for more species to thrive, but the air felt oxygen rich and so noisy with birds, bugs and one giant rattle snake which we didn’t stick around to get a picture of, I recommend googling a picture if you are desperate to see one, it’s much safer!

We also passed through what turned out to be a nightmare but started really cool. An invasive plant had clearly gone rogue and had taken over literally everything, it was bright lime green with a triangular shaped leaf, and at first I was just in awe at how powerful it was, but as we entered the forest that feeling became very oppressive, it was so dense and everything was suffering and suffocating, as it closed in around us we realised the plant had sharp barbs that were ripping our clothes and then our skin. It was nearly impossible to see where the trail went and just had to press on. My skin was on fire with what was to be my first rash of this trek, not happy with whatever this plant was!

Just as we hit a rocky section a juvenile copper head snake shot out in front of me, I let out my very distinct snake scream and stood up on a rock to get out of its way. Willow nearly gave me an actual heart attack when she fell off the rock trying to get a better look at the snake, I didn’t even ask her if she was ok before grabbing her and yanking her off the ground, it was not the time to wallow on the ground with a deadly snake just feet away!

We ended our day further than we had planned. We are trying to up our daily mileage on this trip, we are both very comfortable with 12-15 mile days, individually we have done 18 mile days but not in succession. We were also spurred on by the lure of cheeseburgers at the state park which is just the most luxurious way to end your day and they did not disappoint.

Lastly, and I think it was possibly a trail first for willow, she had her first trail tantrum, like throw your trekking poles down and refuse to move tantrum, it was amazing! I’ve had so many if these it’s old hat for me but level headed willow was furious about having to walk 0.3 of a mile off trail to our campsite for the night, I wanted to laugh really baldy but didn’t want to rile her up even more. Made my day actually!

Day 3

Pine Grove Furnace State Park to Alec Kennedy Shelter

18 miles

We had a goal today, to get to a grocery store that’s right off the trail for lunch so we were up and out asap this morning. We stopped for a quick snack break and thanked our lucky stars for such a great weather. I’ve realised that number one on my list of grumpy Sophie makers is rain, actually more specifically wet, I hate wet and so the blue sky, even though we have hardly seen it though the trees has been such a trail blessing.

The trail was mostly unremarkable, this seems to be a bit of a pattern, there are still no views and the only way I can describe my surroundings is green, like the greenest of greens, “can you BE any greener” said Chandler.

We got to the store around midday and took a luxurious lunch break, we ate things, we drank loads of fruit flavoured things and we had a small nap on a bench, yep we made hiking great again!

The absolute best part of our day today was by far the toughest, right at the end of the day we encounter a rock maze, literally boulders the size of houses stacked up and around with the trail winding right through, hard on my legs but good for my brain!

Well it’s been a while since we had to share our trail with some Trail Bros, but just as we were about to hunker down in the shelter for the night 4 Bros turned up and we quickly relocated to our tent. They weren’t terrible but we left them and their massive bongs to it.

Day 4

Alec Kennedy Shelter to Darlington Shelter

19 miles

To avoid bro time this morning we were up and out before 6am, we were packed up and gone within 30 mins which is a record for us. We hiked a mile or so in the dusky light before stopping to eat breakfast poptarts and watch the sun rise through the trees.

Another great food stop 4 miles in, the trail went straight through the town of Boiling Springs so it would have beeen rude not to buy a second breakfast, for the economy and all that!

Today’s miles were weirdly flat, we were crossing the longest valley floor of the AT, the Cumberland Valley. We walked over 16 miles of farmlands, pastures, roads (booooooo hamburger meat feet) corn fields (booooooo they hurt when you have to walk really close to them, scratched my arms and face all up, cue second rash)

We stopped to rest our poor feet nubbins in a cold cold stream and I could have stayed there forever, but we had to push on before the heat of the afternoon scorched us in the open fields.

The miles were not stunning, we didn’t round each bend and gasp with wonder but it was extremely interesting, we were in civilization but felt really unseen, no-one batted an eyelid when they saw two filthy girl hobos hobbling through a farmer’s field with huge backpacks. We walked through an old cemetery, over boardwalks and crossed huge 6 lane highways.

When our final 3 miles of the day came around we were ready for a change in elevation, the day had pounded our feet into stumps so the uphill was a relief. Hard on the heart and legs I did some cry laughing but at very long last we were rewarded with a very mediocre view!

Our camp spot for the night was glorious, flat, no rocks, loads of space, the trail Bros caught is up but they are so reckless we are happy for them to be bear food for us, I’m pretty sure I can out run a high as a kite bro!

Day 5

Darlington Shelter to Duncannon

13 miles

Last trail day, up and out again around 6am, I hate getting out of my comfy tent, but not having to hike in the midday sun is worth it. We’ve been trialing hiking a mile or so before breakfast and I think I like it.

We had some pretty shit miles ahead of us, a big rocky section, which was basically like walking on knives, a sharp downhill where I decided with the rising length of NHS waiting lists I’d better sign up for a double knee replacement now so that in 10 years time when I regret this madness im at the top and then a 3 mile road walk. This picture pretty much sums up the non hilarity of the day. I wore my bandana like a Bedouin camel herder because the nats and mosquitos were practicing their harmonies directly in my ear hole!

Willow: we have a terrible hobby, I know let’s park our car, pay someone a lot of money to drive us far away from the car and try and walk back to the car over a mountain range carrying all of our belongings on our backs.

Sophie: friends who suffer together stay together! Rash club for life!

Playing with the big kids!

Ok so I’m not sure how this post is going to go. We have just got back from our second trek and are feeling a bit broken, broken enough to pay for an entire hotel room just so we could take a 3 hour nap! That’s not because it wasn’t incredible but it certainly was hard. I’m going to start each day off with ‘today was tough’ because it really really was, 3 days was plenty of suffering for now!

Ausangate Trail to Rainbow Mountain

Day 1

Upis – Pucacocha


Starting elevation- 14,430ft (4400m)

Highest elevation- Arapa Pass 16,370ft

Today was tough. After an early start and a 3 hour dawn drive we arrived at our trail head in the village of Upis sitting at 14,430ft (4400m). It’s just me and Willow on this trek (this should have been a warning to what was coming) but we still had a guide, a cook and horseman with us. Today was supposedly the easiest day but still started at an elevation equal to the highest point on our previous trek. We had a breathtaking view of Ausangate Mountain, a 22,000ft giant glacier in front of us, drawing us into the landscape, which was immediately very different to anything we had seen before in Peru.

The terrain was good under foot, rocky but clear pathways, a reasonable gradient but always climbing. We started off at a pace way too fast, our guide stopped and asked us if that was our pace and being beginners in the high altitude business we were like yep, to which he replied slow down chiccas. Altitude is a weird thing, it hits you sometimes but not always. By lunchtime Willow was doing some serious suffering, headache, blurred vision and nausea, our guide had a device to monitor our oxygen levels and heart rate and her oxygen level was down to 79%, anything below 80% is worrying, mine was 82%, we were probably ascending too quickly. Lunch was a welcome break, soup and carbs, lots of water mixed with Diamox (for altitude sickness) and ibuprofen (for everything else). We had our first high pass about an hour’s climb away, but feeling good from our break and taking our pace from our guide we made it to 16,370ft (4990m) no problemo.

We are essentially circling the Ausangate peak, in the morning we were facing the south side and by the afternoon we were sneaking around to the west. The landscape after every turn was just so different, sometimes it was lush and green and full of grazing alpacas, the world’s most hilarious and least majestic animal whom I fear I share an affinity, and then it would look it was like something out of a sci-fi film.

Around the next corner were beautiful glacier fed lakes, it’s absolutely freezing at this altitude, so we couldn’t stop for long, but we could clearly see our path. About now I started to suffer hard, my head felt like it was in a vice and I was very stumbly.

By the time we got to our camp I was ready to collapse, I couldn’t formulate thoughts and was not making much sense, I was trying to explain that I was finding it hard to count my steps but I couldn’t find the words, I was like ‘I can’t remember numbers in the order of the alphabet’ and I was trying to say the word fountain but all that kept coming out was fontoon. Cue mass laughing hysteria, with a hint of worry that I was having a stroke!

Tonight we are camped at the foot of the west glacier, you can hear it cracking and moving, and sudden avalanches are scary and so loud. It’s absolutely freezing, by about 5:30pm the ground and our tents were already covered in frost and it’s still daylight, we estimate the temp going down to about 10 below freezing.

We haven’t met any other hikers today, and we are the only ones camped here tonight, to look up at the stars, a night sky like I have never seen before, the milky way, right there just for us to see seems like a huge privilege only worthy of us pilgrims.

Day 2

Pucacocha – campsite 2


Starting elevation- 14,760ft (4500m)

Highest elevation- 16,400ft (4998m)

Today was tough.

Slept ok for only being about an inch off the completely frozen ground. I slept in 3 pairs of socks, 3 pairs of trousers, 3 tops, a fleece, a down coat, hat, scarf and gloves, inside a down sleeping bag with another sleeping bag and blanket on top, it was cold but manageable except for my old lady hips which are always uncomfortable sleeping on the floor.

First up was an hour and a half climb to another 16,370ft pass. Again I was annoyed that I was in struggle town straight away, I could not catch my breath and I had to ask Willow if my eyes were open because I was struggling to see (one eye was closed which was probably why I was stumbling around). Of course we made it, we didn’t have a choice and the view of the mountain from the top was epic.

We were too cold and doddery to stay at the top so we descended to a sheltered spot for a quick snack break. Cue more hysteria for no reason, I think the phrase we have used most is ‘we need to take better vacations’. I feel like a little year 6 on a taster day to big school and have ended up on the big kids playground by accident surrounded by imposing 22,000ft year 11s. We are not quite out of our league but we aren’t quite in it either.

After lunch we had another 16,400ft pass to climb, I was really anxious about it because of the morning struggle but it ended up being ok, reaching the summit in an hour. It was almost enjoyable but not quite. The terrain is very similar to Corsica, rugged, steep and rocky except we are 10,000ft higher than we were in Corsica. It’s hard to talk for being so breathless and it’s hard to smile for fear of your teeth shattering in the cold, but the sense of achievement at every mountain pass surpasses all these feelings.

Tonight we are camping in a beautiful valley, I am now quite literally wearing all the clothes I have with me me, with each layer completely tucked in, going for a wee is quite the ordeal.

Day 3

Campsite 2 – Rainbow Mountain and Red Valley


Starting elevation- 15,682ft (4780m)

Highest elevation- Rainbow Mountain 16,568ft (5050m)

Today was tough!

3am start, for thoes who know me well, I am not a morning person and I’m even less of a middle of the night kind of person. It was freezing but we had a cooked breakfast of pancakes before starting our trek to rainbow mountain for the sunrise. The walking was actually pretty ok, it helped that we couldn’t see where we were going because we were trekking via headlamps so I couldn’t psych myself up about any impending uphill sections. And within 2 hours we arrived at Rainbow Mountain, 16,568ft in height, just as dawn was breaking, the only people as far as the eye could see.

Now I’m going to start by saying how utterly lucky and blessed we were to be able to capture that moment, to be the only ones high in the sky seeing the dawn break, just for us, it was a really special moment.

Now I’m going to say that it was so fucking cold we were hyperthermic, barely able to stand, it felt like my whole body was convulsing, my face was wind burnt and my lips were cracked and bleeding. It’s so hard to get a good balance of suffering and enjoyment, and now looking back on it, wow, I can honestly say it was a moment in my life I will remember always but in the moment I genuinely thought I was preparing my body for death.

We lingered way to long at the top, Willow was uncontrollably shaking and I unceremoniously puked my pancake breakfast up right off the top of the mountain. We needed to get moving and down! The rest of the days hiking was truly beautiful, down through the red valley, wildlife becoming more abundant the lower we got.

It was a spectacular end to this trek, I feel awe and wonder at the things I have seen and experienced and conquered, I also feel broken and worn out, nothing left in my energy supply, it’s been a long time since I depleted my store to quite this level, but we did it four 16,400ft+ peaks in 3 days, mother fucking trekking champions.

New hemisphere, new continent, new country!

Ok, I’m not on the AT this year but still wanted to chronical my adventures so I hope you don’t mind. This year’s adventure is coming to you from the high and mighty Peru!! It’s literally a dream come true actually, I have always wanted to go to Peru, I would say it’s a top 5 bucket list destination for me and luckily I have my top quality sidekick Willow Bean for company!

We arrived in Cusco from very separate origins on Monday 17th June. It had taken both of us over 24 hours to get there but our months of planning over WhatsApp and Willows Google Doc spreadsheets meant we arrived in the same place on the same day. Neither of us had very many words only beaming smiles to share and the look of, if I’m not horizontal in a dark room in the next hour bad things are going to happen!

Checked into hostel – amazing

Lay down on a bed – amazing

Slept for 2 hours in the middle of the day – amazing

So far Peru is excellent!

We spent the next 2 days exploring the city of Cusco acclimatising to the limited oxygen of being 11,152ft (3,399m) above sea level.

Out of pure coincidence we arrived during a huge festival and everyday has been parades, singing, music, dancing, weird gun shots every 15 mins and thousands of people everywhere. Over kill on your senses but the most colour and vibrancy I have ever seen.

We have eaten some incredible food, I could not be happier that Peru is home of the potato, I love me a potato based meal! We have also eaten delicacies such as guinea pig and alpaca, all delicious! And soup, soup everywhere, and I freakin love soup!

We have done a lot of walking the dusty city streets full of people trying to sell you anything Lama or Macchu Picchu based much like being hassled in the Medina’s in Morocco and we tested ourselves to hike to a big white Jesus statue that towers above the city. Out of breath most of the way it still boosted our confidence that we can move our bodies in the thin air.

Next up, our first trek in the Andes!

Mountains – big ones!

Salcantay Trek

Day 1

Challacancha – Soraypampa and Humantay Lake

12 km

Starting elevation – 11,979ft (3651m)

Highest elevation – 13,845ft (4221m)

Ok, so this trek is very different from our usual, we have a guide and we are in a group of 10 people, we have porters and horseman to carry our stuff, chefs to cook our food and no on the ground tents. We have levelled up in the trekking world, definitely glamping and I was feeling a bit apprehensive about it until 100 paces into our first days hike and I couldn’t breathe at all. Altitude renders you breathless in seconds and I wouldn’t have made it 1 mile if I had had to carry my normal pack. The first part of the trek was directly up. I’m always nervous about being able to keep up with people and not being the chubby red faced girl holding everyone up but I was ok, middle of the pack and apart from the not being able to breathe thing my body felt strong. Luckily just about everytime I was at the point where I didn’t think I would be able to take another step our guide Miguel stopped for a breather. It was slow going but we hit a sweet spot at the top where we followed a flat canal path for the rest of the morning which felt great.

At lunchtime we arrived at possibly the place I was looking forward to the mostest. Skydomes! Seriously cool glass domes in the middle of the mountains, heaven! What was not heaven was the weather, it was absolutely freezing, snowing and windy I was wearing all of my clothes. We had our first lunch prepared by our chef, which was amazing. Later it turned out all of our meals were amazing, always 3 or 4 courses, soups, vegetables, meat, it was perfect.

The afternoon had me worried. It was such hard work to get to this campsite and we were going on an afternoon hike to Humantay Lake another 1000ft directly up and the weather was very questionable. But we layered up, saddled our very small day packs onto our backs and started the ascent.

It was a huge struggle but as we crested the mountain we were rewarded beyond words. A sublime glacier fed lake that was sheer beauty.

After a huge dinner we retired to our skydomes feeling like the coldest but luckiest people on earth.

Day 2

Soraypampa – Chaullay


Starting elevation – 12,690ft (3869m)

Highest elevation – 15,213ft (4638m)

Well to say I was nervous about today was an understatement beyond, I couldn’t really form words in the morning at breakfast except please excuse me while I sit in the toilet for a while. This would be the highest altitude of the trek and also the highest I have ever been.

The day started off with us hiking at very first light around 6am, it was freezing, I was hiking in thermals under my usual hiking clothes of a t-shirt and long sleeve plus a fleece and a down coat. We were looking directly at Salcantay Mountain, an oppressive 22,000ft mountain of which we were to pass over its shoulder.

As predicted it was hard going like hiking through syrup, we had to stop to catch our breath about every 10 mins but only for seconds else you would get cold. As we hiked up we started to shed layers as the sun came up. I had weird pins and needles in my hands and blue finger nails from the altitude but was feeling pretty good. I usually count my steps, it was a trick willow and I have used before on hard hikes, 100 paces at a time and then a break as a reward, but my befuddled altitude brain couldn’t count numbers in order, once I went from a break to step 14 and I was already so out of breath like I had sprinted and couldn’t count any more numbers so I resorted to a 1 – 2, 1 – 2, 1 – 2 count just to keep pace.

It was relentlessly up, up a section called the 7 snakes, which was 7 steep switchbacks to a viewpoint of the whole valley we had climbed up.

One more super steep ascent and push to the top and after over 3 hours of climbing we made it to Salcantay Pass.

After the elation of the summit had passed we were brought quickly out if our stupor with the realisation of what goes up must come down! 5000ft down actually, and another 7 hours of hiking! After saying a quick prayer to Pachamama (Incan mother earth) for the protection of our knees we were off. In comparison to our ascent we were off to a blistering pace, gravity pulling us down and oxygen filling our lungs.

It was rocky, steep, roasting hot and very stumbly but we made it, destination Andean Huts. Dinner and bed at hiker midnight aka 7:30pm!

Day 3

Chaullay – Playa Sahuayacco


Starting elevation – 9414ft (2879m)

Today was a very different hike. We were at a much lower elevation and for most of the day we were downhill bound but instead of exposed mountain sides we were deep in the jungle. In Peru its called the cloud forest or high altitude jungle and it was richly biodiverse with fruits, vegetables and flowers. We crossed beautiful waterfalls, saw pumpkins on vines 20ft off the ground dangling above our heads and ate freshly picked passion fruits.

Thanks to our early start by lunchtime we had nailed our mileage for the day and were left to relax all afternoon, reading (thanks Kirsty for great book!!) in the sunshine surrounded by mountains and playing with the local puppy whom we named Lola, it was pretty perfect. Due to its proximity to the equator, Peru pretty much has equal daytime and nighttime so it’s dark by 6pm, but in the mountains as soon as the sun goes behind the high pass it’s dark and cold which is about 4pm. Tonight’s accommodation – jungle domes, which were amazing, and by far the warmest, I only slept in one pair of thermals and one pair of socks, half the attire I have been wearing at night!

Day 4

Playa Sahuayacco – Aguas Calientes


Starting elevation – 6771ft (2064m)

Highest elevation – 8974ft (2736m)

Well today really felt like it kicked my ass actually. The day started with a killer uphill, over 2000ft gain, we had a couple of great stops along the way, one to a coffee plantation and one at the coolest swing set I’ve ever been on. I want to remember these things and not the suffering I was enduring on the climb.

The pace set by our group was probably just a bit too fast for Sophie short legs, but as always just as I was getting the feeling that I definitely couldn’t possibly take another step up we reached the top. Our reward this time was our first glance at Macchu Picchu in the distance.

The down was equally as punishing, although shorter. Willow and I managed to corrupt a couple of girls in our group from my side of the ocean into playing a trail game classic, which Harry Potter character am I thinking of which was a helpful distraction from the suffering.

Once down at the bottom I thought I would be relieved for our flat afternoon hike, but it turns out hiking 8 mike’s directly next to an active train track isn’t that fun and no amount of ranking Disney characters would be enough of a distraction. Luckily we were staying in a hostel over night, because it was really the first time I landed at camp for the evening feeling broken!

Day 5

Macchu Picchu

Starting elevation – 6232ft (1900m)

Highest elevation – 8835ft (2693m)

Ok today was the day we had pilgrimaged here for, hiked over mountain passes and through jungles to feel deserving to enjoy the wonder of the Incan ruins. And it did not disappoint.

Firstly we were lucky enough to get a ticket to climb Huayna Picchu. The iconic pointy mountain that overlooks the ruins. They only allow so many people to do this per day because of the treacherous path named the stairs of death. Basically it was a carved stone ladder ascending 300m directly up. To be honest we were totally fine, but we passed a lot of people who were definitely not fine, clutching onto vegetation for dear life and shouting a lot at the people around them for coming too close. The climb took about an hour and all of my available oxygen but the view from the very precarious rock at the top was spectacular, literally breath taking and unbelievable that I was even there!

After climbing down the death stairs also known as the gringo killer we were able to explore the ruins and hear about the Incan paradise. I still feel totally overwhelmed that I’ve seen it, been to it and experienced it.

Whilst this was an incredible trek, it’s actually a bit of a warm up. We have one rest day in Cusco before we head out on another trek. This time the Ausangate trail, 3 days with 4 near to or over 16,500ft (5000m) passes. You’ll hear from me in a few days! (Hopefully)

The Garden State

Back on the AT for a few days. We had originally planned to just jump right back on where we left last year but there had been some super flooding and we were hearing stories of hikers having to wade through flood water up to their necks carrying their packs over their heads. We decided to skip Pennsylvania and move on to the Garden State of New Jersey, just over 70 miles in 6 days, should be a walk in the park!

Day 1

Kittatiny Point to Mohican State Park.

9.5 miles.

Snake Day (you’ll see why)

We have done absolutely no research on hiking in New Jersey, it was such a split second decision to change our plan we had no time to really do anything but have enough food for our hike. My pack is upsettingly heavy, I actually weighed it for the first time ever and it came in at 33lbs, (15kg or 2.5 stone) it’s got a full day’s worth of water and 5 days of food in it and to be honest I was a bit gutted it didn’t weigh more because it feels like so much!!

Really nice gradual uphill, nice wide trail, little bit rocky but what a difference from Corsica!

Lunch time we got a gorgeous spot, apparently one of many lakes we will pass. We dipped our toes in until the fish started to freak me out and this water snake made us both shit ourselves! There are several very poisonous and deadly snakes in this part of the world, one being a water moccasin (cottonmouth pit viper) which we think this one might be.

The rest of the day was pretty nice. That was until I had a close encounter with a very large rattlesnake. It was inches away from me when I heard it rattle and I did a comedy jump in the air and a not so smart thinking run backwards towards Willow. Luckily it moved out of our way pretty quickly but made my legs shake for a while.

I didn’t want to admit to willow how much I was suffering, my feet and knees were killing me still from our Corsica hike, I could barely bend my knees to step down off rocks and finally had to admit it as I sat down on a rock only 0.2 of a mile from our destination for the night, nothing to worry about, Willow was suffering in silence as well, so as soon as we let it out life got better. It was just upsetting how much I was having to beat my feet back into submission, I thought they were already under my control, but they had obviously smelt freedom in the week between my hikes.

As soon as we got settled at our tent spot for the night (evening yoga, leg rubbing and air mattress inflation) we heard some commotion and a hikers dog had just been bitten by a copper head snake, that’s three deadly snakes in one day!! The dog was in a bad way, it’s back legs were already paralysed from the venom, and if you know me you’ll know I like dogs way more than humans so it was all a bit stressful.

Played a not so fun game of ‘would you rather’ before bed which consisted of debating which was better between opening your tent to a bear or a rattlesnake, pretty sure that contributed to a night of very vivid animal attack dreams, not ideal when you are knee deep in wilderness.


Mohican to Brink Road Shelter

13.8 miles.

Today was incredibly green, every green colour you could ever imagine we could see today. We are the woods, occasionally we pop out onto a ridge or a pond but other than that we are deep in a green tunnel. We did get the opportunity to climb a cool fire tower which gave up our best views yet, we were just about high enough to see the top of the cloud line.

The trail has been unbelievably rich in wildlife, nothing scary today, except that we met a couple of hikers who had unfortunately walked through a hornets nest and had described the moment where she thought she was being attacked by flying snakes, eeeeek!

This is what we have been seeing for 90% of the day, the forest is very young and dense (like the students I used to teach!!)

Tonight we have a not so great camp spot, it’s nice and flat which is nice but the mosquitos are pretty unbearable. We have heard that tomorrow morning we will cross a road with a petrol station, which we confirmed with some southbound hikers so I’m pretty happy to go hard on my snacks tonight and replenish tomorrow!

Day 3

Hey there friendly blog readers! Willow here! Sophie asked me if I wanted to be a “guest writer” about one of the days on our New Jersey section and I must say, I’m quite honored. 😉 I first thought I should choose a day that provides the best opportunity to make fun of her, or defend myself against any potentially embarrassing stories she’s told about me in the past, but I realized A: she’s pretty open and will tell her own embarrassing stories, and B: whatever she has said about me is pretty much spot on! So I decided to write about the day we called “the day we almost got a snack”…which just seems appropriate!

Day 3,

Brink Road to Mashipacong Shelter

12.4 miles

So we were really keen to aim to hit a really interesting place to stay at the end of Day 4, so we decided to go for a shorter mileage day today so that both days would be a sensible length. We woke up and ventured out into Mosquito Town (Brink Shelter – SO bad) and had breakfast with some other hikers before setting off on the trail.

Now, we knew we’d be at a road crossing at a place called Culver’s Gap about three miles into our day, and AWOL and Guthook both mentioned that there was a gas station. (Just a side note, these are the guides nearly every hiker uses at least one of – one is a yearly book, the other is an app that geolocates you and has up to date comments. Both have their pros and cons but together work really well.) We double checked with some southbounders the night before and they confirmed, yep, gas station and some restaurants. Hurrah! we said as we ate way more of our snacks than would normally be allowed! As we hiked down we were both leaning hard into food fantasies about what gas station snacks we’d buy – coffee and juice and salty snacks, oh my! – and came out on the road to discover that…the gas station did NOT SELL SNACKS and both restaurants didn’t open for hours. We were both really upset about this fact, and at least three other hikers passed by, equally annoyed. That gas station is missing such a money making opportunity…at least put out a vending machine, guys!!

The rest of the morning continued pretty uneventfully until lunch. We planned to stay the night at a shelter with no water source, so we stopped to filter and fill up with extra water for cooking later. As we walked down a blue blaze to a shelter and stream, we passed a man who was clearly not a hiker, but we asked him about whether the water source was flowing. He said that he didn’t know about that, but that he was a camp director and in a half hour he’d be bringing fifty kids from his camp for lunch and we’d be welcome to have a drink a snack with them. Well then! Jackpot!

So we filtered our water and they arrived, and were super, super nice – great staff, nice kids, only one problem…they were a diabetic youth services camp, and because they had to spend ages calculating carbs and ketones…we just couldn’t stick around long enough to nick a snack! Foiled again…the day we almost saw a snack.

In more somber news, that afternoon we arrived at a place called Sunrise Mountain, with a covered pavilion on top. Sadly, one of our trail idols, Jennifer Pharr Davis, came up to this shelter on her first thru hike and found a man who had committed suicide. Knowing that made it a bit eerie, but we decided to be conscious about thinking about that person and honouring their life and struggle. It really was a beautiful spot.

Mashipacong was a decently nice shelter in a clearing. Sophie and I arrived quite early that evening but decided to stick around, and after a while we were joined by a nice older gentleman we had met earlier and several other hikers. We popped our tents quickly as rain was brewing, and spent the evening in our usual thrilling rota of activities – sore muscle yoga, Kindle reading, and a last late night* buddy pee trip before bed (*late night = 9PM, FYI). We do lead a glamorous life…

Day 4

Mashipacong to the Secret Shelter

12.5 miles

It was really nice of willow to not only contribute to this blog as she is so very important to our adventures but also to skip over the tantrum I had when I didn’t get the snacks!!

Today started off with rain falling on our tents, I would say we have reached expert level in packing up our belongings completely inside our tents and we can even take down the inside layer of our tents without having to get out!

The worst thing about it raining today was that we are passing the very highest point in New Jersey and we have not had many rewarding view points so far so we had been looking forward to that, but the very best thing was definitely Willow and her comedy horse silhouette with her rain poncho on, cheered me up a treat!

The first 5 miles were pretty terrible, it really rained hard and the terrain was mostly down hill with slick rocks, my feet really took the brunt, there’s nothing you can do to protect the skin on the bottom of your feet once they are wet! The saving grace was a visitor’s center which offered not only a place to dry off and inside flush toilets but a free can of pepsi for hikers!! We stayed here well over an hour, until the rain was definitely passed over and the sun was out!

Only a mile later we hit the highest point in New Jersey, and got some nice views from the observation deck.

The afternoon did not disappoint either, we were out of the green oppressive tunnel and hiking through some pretty glorious meadows.

We headed for a cool little place to stay just off the trail tonight called the secret shelter. It’s on a piece of private land owned by a former hiker who thru hiked in 1989. He has built a shelter and a well water tap, it has an outside warm water shower and privy, we are tenting on some great flat land and really love it here despite some pretty shady characters at the shelter who just gave us an opportunity to roll our eyes frequently and mouth to each other ‘go get a job douche bags!’

Day 5

Secret shelter to Vernon NJ

13.9 miles

Today we are hiking to a town to resupply our food, that means we are allowed to talk about food all day today! We don’t allow ourselves to do this unless it’s a town day. We have invented some new trail games this year which include, which Harry Potter character am I thinking of? And what smell am I smelling? To add to our old faithfuls which zip is this zip? and what’s in my hand? New Jersey has the highest population of black bears but I’m pretty sure our chattering has kept them away!

Today was the day of the bog boards and boardwalks. The trail maintainers in New Jersey are both wonderful and sadistic. Whilst the boards keep my feet dry and out of the bogs, they are really slippery and often crack and creak when you step on them.

We walked a completely flat section around an amazing wildlife preserve which was teaming with birds of all sorts and later in the afternoon through a state park with an elevated boardwalk where we saw deer and turtles frolicking beside us.

We were picked up at a road crossing late afternoon by a really nice family who run a motel near to the trail where will will be staying tonight. First order of business is high calorie beige coloured food followed by showering multiple times with nice smelling things and lying very still on a bed.

Day 6

Vernon to Waywayanda shelter

5 miles

We planned today to be a Nero which means nearly zero miles, a short day. I was kind of worried about the first couple of miles as they appeared to be straight up on a section of trail called Stairway to Heaven, you know when they name a section of trail it’s for a reason and I was very apprehensive about climbing a rock staircase for 2 miles.

It actually turned out to be just fine, sometimes I forget that I’m much fitter and much more seasoned for hiking than I ever have been, it was actually very enjoyable.

The problem came over the next 3 miles. We were caught in a massive storm, the heavens opened and dumped gallons and gallons of rain on us and for a hot second we were dangerously in a thunderstorm, it was so dark in the woods we couldn’t really see a thing but all around us the ground was shaking from thunder and at one point we heard a lightning strike hit a tree, it was so loud, we both screamed, although neither could hear each other over the rain and ran towards each other. Water was rising around us, at one point we were knee deep in water fighting the current of a burst river, we were saturated, packs and everything as we didn’t have time to stop and get our rain gear out, it was too dangerous we needed to find shelter. I think it was one of the most frightening things we have experienced, it just came on so quick and the power of water can be so devastating.

We did get to the shelter and just stood there in shock for quite a long time. We couldn’t even get it together to get our wet stuff off and it was really hard for me to see a time in the future when I wasn’t going to be wet, I was totally disheartened. We did eventually make a plan that included wearing our dry rain ponchos with nothing on underneath for a while to air dry as we didn’t have anything to dry our bodies with, which we just hope the other hiker in the shelter didn’t realise and ate some jelly sweets which helped.

Unconventionally we have decided to put up one of our tents inside the shelter tonight, the thought of sleeping in the shelter with mice running all over you all night is not every appealing but it was an absolute monsoon outside so this is our compromise. Bit of a squeeze for 2 people but a great bug net!

Day 7

Waywayanda to Prospect Rock

7 miles

The storms and rain were relentless all night and way into the morning, there was some loud rolling thunder and cracks of lightning but I have to say the rain was very soothing and I slept really well. We had to wait until mid morning before we could leave but at least we had been into town the night before so we had a fresh set of hiking clothes to put on. We did end up deciding to do a much shorter day than planned, I think willow could have sucked it up and done the 15 mile’s but I was done, 7 was going to be my max, I wanted dry feet to be in my near future because they were in bad shape.

We braved the trail and by trail I mean river, the trail was a foot under water at best, bridges had been washed away, and we just had to wade our way through.

There was seriously one section where I was thigh deep (willow long legs was just knee deep but Sophie short legs suffered a bit) and it turned out to be really fun (until we started thinking about thoes water snakes then we had a pep in our step)

Within a few miles we had reached our goal of crossing the New Jersey New York state line, it was a pretty unimpressive site but we were over the moon to have completed another state.

We actually decided to hike on as just over the next mountain was the highest point in New York state so we trotted on for a scenic lunch on Prospect Rock. We had a great surprise on top as you could see the Manhattan skyline from the trail, we could make out the Empire State building and the downtown skyscrapers, it was so cool to see it from the wilderness.

Later that day we met the most amazing trail angels ever. A person who went to the same university as willow and has worked in Girl Scouting lives right off the trail and offered to pick us up. Janet and her family were so brilliant, they took us to dinner and even drove us miles back to our car, they were such kind people and I’m so glad to have met them, this was the perfect example of how kindness can really make a difference to a person’s day and what a perfect end to our section hike on the Appalachian Trail, until next time!

New Adventure, equally as ridiculous!

This blog was originally to document my time on the Appalachian Trail but I thought I would digress and tell you all about my most recent adventure.

Willow and I have decided we are now long distance hikers, it doesn’t matter what trail we are on, we like to pack up our troubles in our packs and walk, hike, skip and biff!

Lots of research went in to where we wanted our next hike to be, we always agree that we like to go to places neither of us have been before, there were lots of contenders, but we finally agreed on the GR20. Located in Corsica, it’s billed as the toughest hiking route in Europe, right up our street!

Day 1

Vizzavona to Refuge de L’Onda

Mileage – not much (6.75 miles)

Elevation – too much!!! (3870ft up, 2200ft down)

Baptism by fire does not even come close.

We arrived in Corsica last night and after a difficult journey due to the ever striking french air traffic controllers we didn’t arrive until well gone midnight, got up in the morning and caught the train to the mid point of the trail, Vizzavona. We are hiking the trail north bound which is against the flow, most start in the north and hike south, even our guide book is written that way so we are doing a lot of our own interpretation. The guide book has it broken up in stages and if we stick to it we will be hiking for 9 days straight. We will be stopping each night at a designated Refuge, high up in the mountains, they can only be accessed by foot or by mule. They provide basic beds, dorm style, some food and water. We are carrying our tents and will be sleeping in them to reduce the cost of our trip but mainly because I have a complete sound adversion to snoring!!

We arrived in Vizzavona about mid-day, we grabbed a few more bits to add to our food bags and set off. We had a basic elevation profile but again we had to reverse it, but all the signs and maps had said it was about a five and a half hour walk. The trail is well marked with red and white blazes which we will be following all the way.

Our first blaze

The beginning of the day was as wonderful as could be, we practically skipped along a wide rocky path, gently sloping uphill. We passed some amazing cascades and vowed to make the most of any swimming hole we find along the trail. We stopped for a picturesque lunch, wonderful, everything we had wished the trail could be. As the afternoon wore on we began to really climb, and I don’t mean in elevation, I mean literally rock climbing,the terrain was boulder after boulder, slabs of rock and straight up vertical in parts. We climbed way above the cloud line until we couldnt see down where we had come from anymore.

Five hours passed and we still were climbing higher and higher, on several occasions we had to stow our poles and just hand over hand climb. I had a minor heart attack when I lost my footing and slid down a rock face like one of thoes slimey toy men you get in a kinder egg that you throw at a wall and watch them fall down, except I have skin, which I left on the rock and also one false move and the 3000ft drop behind me wouldn’t have been a great end to the day. I only cried a little bit out of pure shock, but from then on I couldn’t stop my legs from shaking. We did have a moment of despair, looking up and still seeing so much elevation to go, the day was closing in and we realised we literally had no idea where we were going and if we would make it before dark. Reality set in when we passed a snow field reminding us how high up we were going to be, we were on the toughest trail in Europe and we needed to dig deep.

We finally reached the summit and looked over at our first real mountains.

we had just climbed the foothills. We were now at over 6000ft and had a scary decent down the other side. It had taken us nearly 7 hours just to get to the top and we still had to get down to the refuge. The down was tough with steel drop offs on both sides of us,we had to re-enter the clouds, which were beginning to make us wet and cold.

Just as we were beginning to think we had gone totally off course or that we had somehow missed the turn to the refuge we finally saw it. Such a relief to know you have somewhere to sleep, to put down roots if only for less than 10 hours. There was a large enclosed field for tents (enclosed because the predator around here are wild boar) and a shack which we were hoping would have either cooking facilities or a meal to buy, but we were out of luck, so we shared a twix and a snickers and set about making our home for the night. Bit of a wild day, way harder than I could have dreamed, even when reading the words toughest trail in Europe, I was nearly a bit cocky about it think we would be able to double up on stages, do 2 in one day, well if it’s anything like today we might struggle to make it. Note to self, make better choices tomorrow, early start, more food should help!!

Day 2

Refuge de L’Onda to Refuge Petra Piana

Mileage – 6.75

Elevation- 2985ft up, 1640ft down

Ok so another lesson learnt, it’s bloody freezing up in the mountains. I was so cold last night, the kind of cold where you feel like you will never ever be warm again, I was literally wearing all of my clothes and completely enclosed myself in my sleeping bag, pulled up over my head. Willow was freezing as well, this is a worry as I don’t have anything else I could possibly do or wear, I wore a pair of shorts, leggings over the top, a vest, a t-shirt, a long sleeve and a fleece, socks and a head band.

This morning the sun is shining, the sky is blue and we had food to eat for breakfast! Already better than last night!

We had a much better understanding of what to expect today, and our hike started off great and just got better and better. We had a short descent in the morning which led us to a small farm selling bread and cheese followed by what we knew was going to be very up for the rest of the day.

We were walking alongside a gorgeous River and vowed to find a place to swim and eat lunch, which we did. The water was ice cold snow melt and beautifully clear. What a luxury being able to be clean on day 2, frivolous really!

The absolute rest of the day was a steep and rocky ascent, on and on, up and up, scrambling over rocks. I had a minor melt down about needing a snack and willow convinced me to carry on, which was totally the right choice because about 50 paces later was our next refuge!

We booked ourselves in for a refuge dinner, not knowing what to expect, they are expensive, around 20 Euro each, we were hoping for our first hot meal in several days and boy did it deliver. Served family style around a table of hungry hikers, bowls of steaming hot lentils came out of the kitchen, along with plates of thick cut bacon, it was literally heaven, we devoured it and held our bowls up Oliver Twist style for more! There was wine and cheese of course because after all the is France, and a bowl of tinned peaches to finish, seriously great meal!

Due to sleeping in a freezer box last night we decided to rent a 2 man tent from the refuge and sleep in the same tent to try and conserve some heat, we are high up on an exposed ridge tonight with an amazing mountain view, so worth the suffering to get here!

Day 3

Refuge Petra Piana to Refuge Manganu

Mileage – 6

Elevation – 2430ft up, 3220 down

Much warmer last night, I’m not going to say toastie as I still had to sleep with absolutely all of my clothing on but it was much more comfortable.

Tough little upwards climb this morning. The first hour of hiking is definitely the hour of suffering, trying to get your legs to respond, warming up your body and lungs struggling to cope with the elevation and carrying a pack. We had amazing views from the top which were only a little bit spoilt by a willow farting loudly in front of some hikers which we blame solely on the dinner of legumes!

Now the next part of our day was very interesting in a if I put a foot out of place I’ll fall 4000ft to my death kind of way. We literally bouldered our way around the bowl of the mountain, hiked through snow fields, which were terrifying as you could hear the water rushing under you and could see claw marks in the snow where other hikers had fallen and tried to not slip of the edge of the mountainside. We hiked the very edge of a ridge line and climbed up a sheer rock face using a chain bolted into the rock. At this point all I could think was how furious my mother would be at how close to the edge I was, it was exhilarating and just the right amount of danger to make every step we took count.

We finally climbed to our our mountain pass, Bocca a e Porte at a height of 7300ft and looked down at our looming descent. It looked completely impossible and was definitely a one step at a time job. Only 100 meters and and we encountered a large and steep snow field, one false move and we could have slipped down into a huge boulder field below. One step at a time we laugh-cried our way through it, chanting I will not die on the mountain to myself, I was possibly on the verge of hysterical by the end and you know the saying ‘it scared the shit out of me’ well as soon as my feet were not lingers on treacherous ice I immediately had to shit, right there and then, it terrified it out of me!

We still had several thousand feet of decent which luckily weren’t nearly quite as scary but were bone crunching, down steep rocks. We kept looking back up, not believing where we had come from!

We finally reached a fabulous refuge with a small river running alongside. Once we set our tent for the night we took ourselves for a soak in an ice cold stream. The freezing water really helps with any aches and pains as well as helps with the stench of our bodies and clothes. Washing your undies in the river is quite possibly the very best luxury on the trail!

Day 4

Refuge Manganu to Refuge Castel di Vergio

Mileage- 10.5

Elevation – 1560ft up, 2200ft down

We had been really looking forward to today’s hike as the guide book had used phrase’s such as gently graded, nice paths, able to stride out, but we were hesitant to have false hope. So far saying we were hiking on a trail would not be accurate, we had been mountaineering, rock climbing and snow shoeing. We had been hiking 6 miles in about 8 hours each day be today’s mileage was our highest at just over 10. We got a good start and soon found ourselves in a meadow of heaven, no rocks, green fields, I felt like Bilbo running though the shire.

The hiking was fabulous and just what we needed to restore our legs. There were a couple of tricky sections and some magnificent views.

The only real thing to upset our stride was a heard of wild pigs cavorting towards us to which I scurried up the bank to hide and willow boldly protected us from.

Great camping spot tonight in a field by a hotel used as a ski resort in winter. There are showers that were surprisingly hot and wonderful bearing in mind the only soap I have is biodegradable washing up liquid and a small gas cooker where we were able to make some delicious cous cous for dinner.

Day 5

Refuge Castel Di Vergio to Auberge Vallone.

Mileage – 9.5

Elevation – 2855ft up, 2790ft down

Today was billed as another of the easier days and let me tell you what a bare faced lie that was!

It started off with an ok up, walking up a valley, but that soon turned into a sharp rock and scree up hill scramble, we could see a refuge that was our halfway mark but for 2 hours it didn’t seem to get any closer.

During the morning we noticed some people running towards us in race gear and for the rest of the day we were faced with a flood of ultra marathon runners, all fit and strong looking, not having to carry a heavy pack and people offering them beverages along the way, it really pissed me off, mainly because I was struggling so much to just bloody walk the trail I didn’t need huge French and German guys running towards me showing off their strong quads appearing to not be suffering at all!! (My opinion later very much changed when I hiked the terrain they had come from, they were super humans)

The afternoon was just a wicked downhill, steep steep rock faces and high winds. We are certainly feeling like we have our trail legs and can feel them getting stronger, but nothing can stop the crunching of your knees and ankles on a descent, there were several occasions when we had to sit down on the edge of a rock and butt slide down.

Our refuge tonight is a bit strange, it can only be accessed by foot or by mule but it has a bar that has a flat screen TV playing the world cup games, brilliant! They even cooked us an omelet for dinner!

Day 6

Auberge Vallone to Ascu Stagnu

Mileage – 5.5 miles

Elevation – 4035ft up, 4100 down!!

I was very concerned about today, it had been worrying me for a while. So much elevation up and down over a relatively short distance meant I knew we were in for a world of hurt. We had been told it was very beautiful but I was worried it wouldn’t be enough to motivate me to persevere. The morning started with our usual hour of suffering followed by some serious rock climbing and bouldering. It was actually a lot of fun, we have both gown to love this terrain, finding places for your hands and feet, making a leap to a new boulder, reaching beyond where we thought we could. We were climbing in the shade of the mountain which helped, it was actually freezing which motivated us to keep moving.

When we reached about two thirds of the way up we had read in the guide book to look out for a scree slope to the top. I was pleased to reach this landmark in the day for approximately 3 minutes before I realised how hard a verticle climb on loose scree really was. Every step was really half a step because your feet just slide backwards. I had a mini breakdown where I just started uncontrollably crying for a second, like loud wails, made even worse by willow trying to comfort me talking about Mexican food because then my crying turned into mourning over how much I love guacamole and how long it will be until I can eat it again. I got over pretty quickly but it just shows how crazy the mountain can make you!

The view from the top was an amazing, snow peaks and a frozen lake! It was almost too cold to stop for a snack, we met some German girls in the same spot but coming the other direction who told us that the next refuge had a hotel next to it with a bar that was playing the world cup games and that England was playing, motivation to plough on for us!

Further up we climbed until we were on the shoulder of the highest peak in Corsica, Monte Cinto. We didn’t have the luxury of time to hang out at the top as we had got word that the weather was on the turn so we hastily began our descent and by hastily I mean I took one step onto the downwards scree slope and caused a rather large landslide,my feet were buried in rubble and I just kept sliding down, another laugh/cry moment as it was both hilarious and terrifying. We had well over 4000ft over two miles of this and I couldn’t see how it was possible to take more than one step. We used a series of bolted chains to help us and on multiple occasions we both just had to sit on our bums and ride the scree. This section is actually a diversion, previously seven hikers died when some unstable rocks become loose and caused a huge shift, we were playing in the big leagues today and we felt the weight of it right on our shoulders and as the day went on in our hips, knees, ankles and feet. The constant pounding of stepping down off big rocks felt like stepping on a huge bruise on the bottom of both feet, there felt like there was no gaps between any of my joints, just bone crushing into bone! We fell into complete despair when it began to rain and we realised we could see our refuge but had to descend fully into a gorge way below and hike up out of it to get there, I went into that zone where I can’t really remember things, like when I arrive at work but don’t remember how I got there and have to physically check if I put a bra on! It’s a zone where I become very staggery. More of a tumble than and ramble we finally made it and immediately made the decision to get a plush hotel room for the night and do some luxurious washing of underwear in a sink! Before we even checked in we went straight to the bar, bought an orangina and some snacks and watched England smash out another win.

My shower tonight was amazing, the hotel had little bottles of shower gel so wasn’t just washing up liquid clean I was spa treatment clean, I can’t wait to put on my sink washed damp undies tomorrow, what a treat! We absolutely nailed the best steak dinner of my life in the hotel restaurant, I didn’t even care how much it cost, it was a shut up and take my money kind of meal, I actually started eating off the plate before the waiter had placed it on the table!

Today was the hardest hiking I have ever done and I’m damn well proud of us, we’re mother f**king mountaineers!

Day 7

Ascu Stagnu to refuge Carozzu

Mileage – 3.75

Elevation – 2330ft up, 2280ft down

It’s very hard to gauge what each day will bring. The guide book tellls you elevation, distance to hike and an estimated time for each day. Today was our lowest mileage day at just under 4 miles but the time given was well over 5 hours which was very concerning. Whether it was just slightly easier for us going in the opposite direction or whether we really have got our trail legs we absolutely nailed today.

It started off with a fun and reasonably short uphill climb, lots of vertical rock walls to traverse and an amazing view from the top of the mountains we climbed the day before.

At this point I just want to give a shout out to my trail runners, I wear a pair of Altra Lone Peaks and I have never once got a blister, the grip on them is amazing and I never feel like I have to rip them off me feet, cracking pair of shoes!

The downhill was even fun today, we hiked over huge spasimata slab boulders, using chains to slow our descent and provide good handholds.

We crossed over the river at the bottom on a high suspension bridge and very quickly found ourselves at our tent spot for the night, great day’s hiking.

Day 8

Refuge Carozzu to Refuge Ortu

Mileage – 5

Elevation – 3445ft up, 3460ft down

Another great climb this morning, very sweaty though, the air has turned very humid. The profile for the day was up for the morning, across a ridge and down at the end of the day.

That little flat stretch across the top was probably some of the hardest tertian we have encountered,we were on a sharp ridge line with drop offs on either side of us. For some unknown reason I took a strange turn and lost all the colour in my face, felt really dizzy and had to immediately sit down and loosen all my pack straps. Not really ideal. Luckily it passed with some gentle sips of water and my head between my knees, meanwhile willow was making an emergency evacuation plan and practicing her french for the rescue team, something along the lines of, mon amis c’est tres fatigue!

The views really are incredible. I love to look back over the peaks and recognise the ones we have hiked over, we are starting to feel a real sense of achievement.

Wicked downhill that was never ending to finish the day, had to stop for a snack and ibuprofen break, just rock after rock and we couldn’t even see the bottom because we were above the cloud line.

We did finally arrive at our very last tent spot and refuge. Weirdly this is the majority of peoples first day, we chatted with some hikers who were pretty broken after their first ascent up to the refuge, we were asked loads of questions about the up coming trail and felt like bloody rock stars having got to this point.

The last night provided us with an amazing sunset and a real life unicorn friend.

Day 8

Refuge Ortu to Calenzana

Mileage – 7.5

Elevation – 770ft up, 5130ft down

Typical woke up to thunder in the sky this morning. We have a lot of elevating to loose today so we were keen to get going. Just as we reached an exposed ridge line, hanging on to metal chains we were caught in a huge thunder, lighting and rain storm which was less than ideal. We decided to hunker down under a tree until it passed, it just didn’t a good idea to keep hiking with metal trekking poles in our hands and lightning flashing around us!

It did soon clear and so did the trail. Our last day was filled with actual trail, few rocks, wild flowers and a welcoming army of butterflies. We had views down to the Mediterranean coast and finally glimpses of civilization.

We elatedly hiked into our final town of Calenzana, absolutely thrilled to have made it, stupid smiles on our faces.

The following picture my not be beautiful to you, it may not compare to to the scenic views I have provided you with, but these legs, these torn to shreds, filthy, bruised legs are what I am thankful for.

Ps, this is not a tan line, this is reality!

Maryland, or as I like to call it, the land of luxurious toilets!!

Day 1 or 96

Harpers Ferry to Crampton Gap Shelter, 10 miles.

Yep, back on the trail peeps, only for a few days, enough time to knock out another state but I’m definitely back. Feeling so good about hiking again, packing my pack was so exciting, doing a food supply shop, packing everything into zip lock bags, being frivolous and packing 3 pairs of underwear, buddy I was pumped, until I felt the weight of my full pack and suddenly it all came flashing back, walking until your feet were bleeding, bruises everywhere, dirt in all your creases, matted hair, bears, snakes, ticks, all the dreadful things, what the hell was I doing……..

Adventuring with my best friend, that’s what, and I couldn’t wait to get going, I was physically (shout out to Sarah and her marathon ballet) and mentally ready, I felt strong of body and mind, so off we went!

The first 3 miles were a glorious, flat, canal towpath, a nice gentle ease in,  it’s over a month later in the summer compared to last year so it was hot, not as hot as it could be, a tornado blew through the state just a few days previously and cleared a lot of heat out but the humidity was high, humidity = sweaty, very very sweaty! I was absolutely ready to get into the trees and up mountains by the time the 3 miles were over, as soon as we turned off the towpath the trail was right there,  familiarly brown, roots and rocks galore, but I’d missed it! No prizes for guessing, it was up time, the elevation in Maryland is pretty low in comparison to other states and the climb out of town felt unusually easy. The best thing about day one is undoubtedly being able to pack a gourmet lunch, subway subs! 

When willow and I hike together we often spend hours not saying a word to each other, not because we have nothing to say but because we have so much to think about. The silence is often broken up with profound thoughts and stories about life, work, family and play and other times we talk about our favourite vegetables or best ever showers!  

Right at the end of the day we popped out at Gathland State Park, Maryland is rich in civil war history and there is cool stuff to see and read but very best of all was the flush toilets and running drinking water. Even if you don’t need to go, as a hiker it’s mandatory to spend at least 5 minutes trying to poop in every real toilet you come across, this one had seats, a locking door, paper, soap, it was pure luxury! 

With less than half a mile to our destination for the evening we filled every container we had with water, this late in the summer, the streams we crossed were bone dry, so we couldn’t believe our luck to have running drinking water. We hiked on feeling good after our first day and found our spot for the night, it was upsettingly off the trail though, I will walk all day to get to a destination, but when I get there and have to walk 0.3 of a mile off the trail I get pretty upset and I am fully aware of how irrational it is. Luckily the campsite was worth walking extra for, there were lots of beautifully flat spots, lots of logs to sit on and the whole place to ourselves. Nearly all of the thru hikers are way ahead by now if they are to make it to the end before winter sets in, but we did cross paths with a few sections hikers.  

Our evening consisted of camp chores which look like; crocs on, quick yoga stretch, tents up, sleeping pad inflated, sleeping bag out and pack unpacked, cook dinner whilst having a quick baby wipe wash, eat dinner, brush teeth, spend 20 mins trying to hang a bear bag, a couple of tent games including what’s in my hand (willow really got me with holding a trekking pole this time) and bed.  The crickets, cicadas, and other night insects were so loud I could barely hear willow in her tent right next to mine but I comforted myself by thinking that I wouldn’t be able to hear the snap of a branch under the foot of a larger animal which keeps me awake a lot more!

Day 2 or 97

Crampton Gap Shelter to Anapolis Rocks, 14.9 miles.

We planned a pretty big mileage day today considering we have only just got back the trail, but we were up for it. Maryland had been pretty well behaved so far. Nice trail, easier elevation, nice weather etc, and the morning flew by. There are very few views on this section trail and so deep into the summer months, the vegetation is lush and full, blocking out a lot of light, it really is a green tunnel, the air feels like it’s full of oxygen, the smell is like no other, unless you can smell yourself, that is a smell I could do without.

7 miles bashed out by lunch, willow took a small tumble on the way, hitting the deck knees first, she seemed to bounce down and back up again but managed to scrape up her shins, so we were glad our pitstop included yet more flushing toilets and running water. My feet really were feeling it, the trail before lunch went from trail to boulder field a few more times than necessary and we rocked into lunch starving, I had to really contain myself from eating my next days breakfast already! We probably sat for over an hour for lunch, it was such a lovely spot, there were a few hikers milling around and I was also putting off putting my shoes back on but we forced ourselves back into our sweaty everything and took off for the afternoon. 

Within a couple of miles we were going to see the original Washington monument, the one before the big white finger in DC. I caught a glimpse of a sign that said ‘Washington Monument State Park, 4 mins’ that was of course driving time, which was slightly disheartening as it would take us over an hour to stomp the 3 mile uphill!  

Right after the monument was my turn to bite the dust. I’m not as bouncy as willow, when I go down I go down hard,  so hard in fact I literally couldn’t get up, my hands were pinned under my body and my body was completely pinned under my pack,  I was panicking, then laughing, then when I was finally free, crying again at my stupid scraped up leg and stupidity. It’s such a shock when one second the trail is under your feet and the next it’s right under your face.  My thought pattern is always; oh my God I’m dead, nope I’m not but I’m definitely paralysed, nope I feel everything and I’ve definitely broken my pelvis, nope just kidding I’ve got a bit of a graze and I’m filthy but I’ll survive this time. Completely dramatic I know but falling hurts as a grown up, you are really far from the ground!!

We had a bit of trouble finding a camp spot for a while tonight, we had to hike nearly half a mile off the trail, but we got a great location right next to a water source coming right out of the rocks,  it was ice cold and amazing. I stripped off and washed as much of the days sweat off me as I could stand, it was like an ice bath. Today we passed a few day hikers carrying just a little water bottle if anything, out on a little mile long hike and they said something along the lines of ‘great day for a walk’, now usually I’m very jovial and respond with great English niceties, however when you just biffed it with 35lbs on your back I just wanted to scream back, ‘you mean nice day for some very vigorous sport, I’m a fricking hiking athlete bitches’ however I refrained. 

Had a bit of a mishap with dinner, we have been trying new things and had found a pesto pasta, but didn’t realise it was spaghetti pasta which didn’t fit in the pot and whilst trying to break it up I spilt pesto dust everywhere and we were pretty convinced a hipster bear would come for us in the night (spoiler alert, we made it!)

We were treated to a great view right by our tenting spot which was Anapolis Rocks, a beautiful vantage point where we sat and took in the glowing sky after the sunset. A pretty great day considering how terrible it could have turned out, chuffed with our mileage, chuffed with how uninjured we both are and chuffed with not having to dig a hole to shit in so far!

Day 3 or 98

Annapolis Rocks to Raven Rock Shelter, 12 miles. 

Today was a head down and hike kind of day.  We had no real view points or points of interest, it was just us and a very wooded trail, which was a relief as it would have been roasting in the direct sun. The trail wasn’t easy today, lots of boulders making it slow going and tedious, meaning we got to our lunch destination much later than anticipated, both of us having the hunger cranks, I literally ripped open my food bag and started eating immediately, so hungry in fact I did eat some of my next days breakfast!  

We had done a good bulk of our miles in the morning giving us a more relaxed afternoon however the trail had other ideas, the very last mile and a bit of the day was an uphill battle, I’ve really been working on my uphill strength and was very pleased that I was able to finally keep up with feather weight Willow. It was a tough climb because it was so sweaty, that amount of humidity just zaps your energy, I was sweating so much it was pooling on my eyelashes then I would blink salt water into my eyeballs, which was mildly unpleasant. The humidity has caused other even more unpleasant side effects, when you are wearing tight sports shorts and your are moist for pretty much 90% of your day, chafing happens, arse chafing to be exact and not forgetting the spectacular rash!

We arrived at a shelter tonight which was pretty much brand new, it was beautiful, but still my tent is the place I want to sleep, always. We got our camp chores done and had time to sit, and relax before retiring for the evening to our boudoirs. I actually had a pretty terrible nights sleep which mainly consisted of a series of unfortunate events, including but not limited to, rolling over my water bladder causing a small amount of flooding inside my tent, finding what I was convinced was a tick on me and after realising my headlamp batteries had died and I had deleted my torch app on my phone realised it was actually just a small very sticky sticker from the inside label of my t-shirt attached to me and also my air mattress deflating every few hours, not my favourite!! 

Day 4 or 99

Raven Rock Shelter to some Road crossing in Pennsilvania, 8 miles.

Packed up ready to go with only crossing the Maryland – Pennsilvania border on our minds.  We had a quick view point pitstop first thing followed by a literal sick joke boulder field decent for what seemed like miles. It was truly tough going, so impactful on your body, it’s impossible to get any kind of pace going and we are so fearful of falling that it takes forever! After just 5 miles we came to Pen-mar State Park where we ate lunch on real benches and pooped in a real toilet, I must always remember to appreciate these small things in the real world, it’s so easy to take for granted! 

After just a 5 min hike after lunch we crossed the border of Maryland and Pennsilvania, ending my 6th state and entering my 7th, it was also the Mason-Dixon line. I have now officially hiked all of the trail in the southern United States and have now entered the northern states. Unfortunately on this trip we could go just a few more miles to end the day,  I dearly hope my future will consist of more hiking, this trial and others all around the world.  I try not to complain too much about trail life, it certainly isn’t the easy life, but I’m addicted. 

17. Pringles

DAY 88 and 89

The last 2 days were extremely weird.  I found it very hard to get a hitch back to the trail where I got off as it’s a toll road and the driver would have had to pay $20 to enter the national park.  I ended up getting a ride much further down the trail and with much deliberation I decided to hike south instead of north so that I didn’t miss the miles.  Made me feel very virtuous.  The trail was very bland today, and hiking in the opposite direction was disorientating, I dont think it helped that it was all uphill. I passed many familiar faces who all protested I was going the wrong way. I camped close enough to town that I could hear the 4th of July funzies, there was a brass band playing the stars wars theme and it made me chuckle in my sleeping bag.

After another weird southbound day I got myself back on track.  I spent an unexpected zero day in Front Royal,  it was my first real zero miles day in about a month.  I was able to sit in bed,  eat food and watch telly whilst it poured with rain outside,  exactly how bad weather days should be spent.

Day 91

Front Royal to Manassas Gap Shelter. 10.7 miles.

Because of all the rain and storms, it’s so humid. It’s about 95 degrees (35 Celsius) and 80% humidity. Within half a mile I had sweat running off my elbows and my glasses kept steaming up until finally I just took them off and hiked blind for a while.  The trail turned extremely rocky and it took me a minute to realise why it was taking me so long to make progress, I couldn’t see!! Parts of the trail were very well behaved,  the flattest trail I have ever had, with huge and imposing poplar trees lining my route.


Unfortunately the trail inevitably always goes up,  just under 1000ft but I felt every one of them.  I had to stop about a mile from the shelter which is unheard of for me,  I’m a plow on regardless kind of girl, but I had nothing left in my tank. I sat directly on the trail to eat some salty snacks.  The last mile was horrendous on my achillies and I was so relieved to get to camp.  I quickly pitched my tent and got my camp chores done. At 8:15pm I’m in bed hardly able to keep my eyes open!!

Day 92

Manassas Gap Shelter to Rod Hollow Shelter.  12.9 miles.

Today I cried a lot.  I cried because I was sad and missed home,  I cried because I fell over and bashed my knee,  I cried because I kept tripping and felt so clumsy,  I cried because my achillies is really bad and I mostly cried because I couldn’t get a damn Coldplay song out of my head and quite frankly I hate Coldplay!! Today was long and so very hot,  the humidity just sucks all of your energy. There were no nice views, just miles and miles of a green tunnel.

Day 93

Rod Hollow Shelter to Bears Den Hostel. 9.8 miles.

Bold statement: Today was some of the hardest miles I have ever hiked.  I entered what is lovingly called the roller-coaster,  it’s 14 miles of relentless mountain climbing,  9 peaks, no switchbacks,  straight up and straight down, rocks and boulders everywhere.  It was easily 100degrees, I felt like I was in the Hunger Games!

Sophie Neverclean 

There were several saviours to the day,  firstly I came across some epic trail magic. Parents of another hiker had set up at a dirt road crossing with cold beverages,  veggie chips and snacks galore, it was so wonderful.

Trail magic 

Secondly I passed the 1000 mile mark!  WHAT?!? I think I just hiked 1000 miles,  how ridiculous!

Lastly after dragging myself up the last mountain of the day, I’m very serious when I say dragged, it took me nearly an hour to climb 0.6 of a mile, I arrived at Bears Den Hostel. For a small fee you can stay or camp, use the shower and laundry facilities, they had frozen pizza you could cook and a lounge with sofas to chill on. I miss chairs with backs so much,  on the trail you either sit on the ground or if you are lucky the shelter may have a picnic table.  The hostel was everything I wanted after the hellscape of the day.  Today could have been terrible, but as much as it tried it just wasn’t. I was physically challenged beyond anything I’ve put my poor body through before but somehow I was exhilarated. The evening was spent with some great people, up until recently I’ve felt like a hiker imposter, like everyone else was legit and I was just pretending, but today I was one of them, a hiking viking!


Day 94

Bears Den Hostel to David Lesser Memorial Shelter.  11.4 miles.

I had a great pancake breakfast before leaving the hostel this morning, what luxury! The first part of the days hike was equally as brutal as yesterday,  the serious sweating has of course brought out the best in my skin, my leg rash is back with vengeance, but after 4 miles, a great snack with a view and the end of the roller-coaster,  I was finally done with Virginia!!!!!! Virginia has held 544 miles of the AT containing both my very worst and most bestest parts of the trail. I am so thankful to have reached this state line,  it’s through sheer stubbornness and determination that I’ve even made it here.

Not many minutes later the heavens opened and it downpoured,  for once I let it fall on me, I made no attempt to stay dry, grateful for the coolness and relief from the heat.  I was rewarded for my positivity about the weather with a trail centre where I was able to snag a free cherry soda to drink with my lunch. The rest of the miles seemed down right easy and uneventful in comparison to the last few days and I breezed the final 4 miles. The shelter I’m camping at tonight is one of the very best I have stayed at.  It has a porch with benches, the tent sites are all flat,  and there is a separate covered cooking pavilion with a porch swing which is where I’m sat writing my blog tonight.

Day 95

David Lesser Memorial Shelter to Harpers Ferry.  9.4 miles.

Great nights sleep last night,  I felt very at peace,  the trail the last few days has been so very challenging,  possibly the most challenging this far and I just feel so accomplished.  I guess now is a good time to announce that I’m ending my trail journey here in Harpers Ferry,  the spiritual half way mark of the AT.  Apart from the fact I’m considerably more broken than I care to admit,  I actually feel good, not great but good about this being my destination. The trail has become my tube of pringles (who doesn’t love a crisp metaphor)  if you eat half the tube you can put the lid on and save the the rest for another time,  you feel good about your decision and so does your body.  There are times when you look down in the tube and think well,  I’ve gone this far, I may as well finish the damn tube! The second half is never as tasty, tainted with guilt, leaving you with a very uncomfortable feeling.  I fear the ‘well I may as well carry on’ mentally will not only break me but leave a bad taste in my mouth about the trail. Right now the trail is still magical and wonderful to me but I’ve been hiking in considerable pain for several hundred miles because I’m too damn stubborn to stop, but I want to be the one to make the decision,  I do not want to be thrown off. I know you will all say nice things because you are all wonderful and your support has been my only form of sanity some days but I can’t help but feel I am letting people down. Once I have had time to think about the last 3 months I will dedicate a post to this decision, hopefully with more profound things to say that aren’t about snacks.

My final hike into Harpers Ferry was great, I got to pass another state line between Virginia and West Virginia and everything smelt wonderful from the rain.

Harpers Ferry holds the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the head office of the trail if you will.  I was able to have my pic taken for this year’s hiker log.

I couldn’t be luckier or richer in friends, Willow who has been my adventure partner, cheerleader and rock throughout my journey joined me for my last few miles of my trail journey.  We hiked to the Maryland state line, ending how we started,  scared, clueless,  but overwhelmingly happy.

16. Getting into the groove

Day 79

Rockfish Gap to Calf Mountain Shelter.  7.6 miles.

Great news,  I got my replacement mattress pad in the post today, mine has had a puncture in it for several weeks meaning that overnight it deflates and I end up with my old lady bones on the ground, I’m excited about the prospect of a full nights sleep.

Coming out of town I always do a short mileage day as my pack is always at its heaviest. The terrain and trail was well behaved,  I was just thankful to not be climbing directly up 4000 feet. I arrived at the shelter in great time and at the shelter was a ridgerunner, a trail warden if you will,  I love listening to their stories of pure human stupidity, like people hiking the trail in flip flops or complaining because the trees are in the way!

Perfect rest stop

It promises to rain tonight and for much of the day tomorrow,  I’m trying to he positive about it, but it’s so hard, I understand rain is the weather of my people but I can’t like it! I will enter Shenandoah National Park tomorrow which I’m excited about, loads of nature, views and tourist stops selling burgers and milkshakes.

Day 80

Calf Mountain Shelter to Blackrock Hut. 13 miles.

Around 4am there was an almighty storm, the thunder was so strong I could feel it in the ground underneath me, the rain was so heavy and loud it was oppressive and the lightning was blinding.  It did not start to even let up until after 10am. I finally crawled out of my tent and was surprised to see every other hiker still in camp, when usually people are on the trail before 8am. Everybody’s gear was a wreck including mine, my ickle tent is wonderful and feels like home to me, but no backpacking tent can withstand the level of wind and rain from last night. I had no choice but to pack everything away saturated wet inside and out, my ground sheet was buried under a sheet of thick sludge and all I could do was stuff it in.  The weather was dreary and rainy all day and I felt like my pack was so heavy it was holding the sky up. About 6 miles into my day at a road crossing a car pulled up, long story short,  I must have looked so pathetic they ended up driving me a couple of miles up the road to get me closer to my destination,  they fed me delish chocolate and I was somewhat embarrassed by my lack of cleanliness.

Hiker grime 

I had just a couple miles to the shelter and I got there seconds before another major downpour.  I have to sleep in the shelter tonight as my tent is such a wreck, but the group of hikers here are funny and interesting.  I feel like I am saying that more often now. Approximately 60% of hikers that started in Georgia have now dropped out,  the 40% of us who are left are serious about the trail, making shelter life more bearable.

Day 81

Blackrock Hut to Loft Mountain Campgrounds.  6.1 miles.

Up and out by 7:30am this morning, that’s a record for me,  but also I never sleep well in shelters so I’ve was awake from the early hours. I climbed Blackrock mountain early on, which had an incredible view down the Shenandoah valley.



In the Shenandoah National Park there are proper Campgrounds you can pay to stay at. They are mostly aimed at the road travelers with big campers but they also have little tent spots as well. For 15 bucks it’s so worth it, you get a flat camp spot, a bear vault for storage so no need to throw and store your food in a tree and a picnic table to sit at, sheer luxury for a hiker. To top it all they have flushing toilets, running water and a little shop, I’m pretty sure it’s a Hilton! I was able to admire an incredible sunset right from my campsite and had a real feeling of being humbled and privileged to see it. I am going to spend a day here before meeting my good friend Fin who is coming to hike with me for a week. I’m so much looking forward to having some company.



Day 83

Loft Mountain Campgrounds to Pinefield Hut. 7.1 miles.

Such a great day,  I love having a hiking buddy and I’m lucky Fin is an experienced backpacker.  The weather was great,  the hiking was easy and we just chatted up a storm. We stumbled upon our first piece of Shenandoah wildlife in the form of a rather large rattlesnake which took us a while to work out how to get around it. We are taking it easy for the first 2 days then I’m hoping Fin will motivate me to be doing more miles in a day than I have been recently. Fin is an athletic trainer so I’m hoping she will help me with my getting stronger goal, watch this space!!

Day 84

Pinefield Hut to Hightop Hut. 8.6 miles.

Another great hiking day, Fin and I are great hiking buddies, similar pace, similar routine and loads to chat about. There was a threat of rain and storms early evening so after a quick lunch at a beautiful overlook, which just so happened to be the 900 mile marker we booked it to the shelter and quickly decided to sleep in it to stay dry.  The rain never really transpired to anything and there was a weird vibe with some other hikers,  I definitely love my tent.


Day 85

Hightop Hut to Bearfence Mountain Hut. 12.9 miles.

Woah,  my first bigger mileage day in rather a long time and I have to say a brilliant trail day. The Shenandoahs have a bad rep from thru hikers because it’s busy with tourists and roads, but also because the trail is deep in a green tunnel with less viewpoints.  I however have been loving it. The trail is well maintained,  the terrain although very hilly is manageable, sometimes even leisurely.  We got 6.4 miles in before 11:30 where we stopped at a great picnic ground for a long lunch.  The sun came out and dried up all the rain so that achey, smelly hikers could hike the trail again.  It’s been pretty humid recently which means when I hike my glasses steam up #glassesgirlprobs. The 6 miles after lunch were good too, but by the last mile I was feeling it. On the side trail to the shelter we saw out first bear,  a cute little baby about 15ft away from us, rustling in the trees the otherside of us made us shit our pants and run, getting inbewteen a mama and baby is a sure fire way to get a bear chasing you and as Fin is a triathlete,  I’m pretty sure she’s got the upper hand.

Day 86

Bearfence Mountain Hut to Rock Spring Hut. 11.5 miles.

Boom, another double digit mileage day! Hiked our arses off all morning with the promise of a burger for lunch that did not disappoint. What absolute pleasure it is to hike in glorious sunshine, green all around with views to die for then get a great to try the famous Shenandoah blackberry milkshakes. I’m.worried I might get too accustomed to food that is so readily available.


From the shelter tonight there is a beautiful view down the valley where I got to watch yet another breathtaking sunset.  I truly feel like I’m a better person for experiencing such beauty.


Day 87

Rock Spring Hut to Byrds Nest Hut. 10.9 miles.

Another pretty big mileage day considering and I’m not going to lie, I’m feeling it, like someone poured concrete into my shoes overnight kind of feel. We had just a few miles to our lunch destination today, Skyland Resort, a fancy hotel in the middle of the Shenandoahs. I wasn’t going to let the fact that I look and smell pretty ripe stop me from getting my second hot meal on the trail.  I devoured a roast chicken dinner and then needed a small nap to recover.  They had great sofas in the reception area, I had completely forgotten what heaven it is to sit on soft furnishings with a supportive back to them!

The afternoon was tough but magnificent views put a pep in our step and we soon arrived at our last shelter before Fin has to go back home. Having such great company makes the miles float past.

The weather has been getting chilly at night and I usually sleep with my whole self,  head included in my sleeping bag, but I smell so bad I literally can’t stand my own stink. Tomorrow we have a 4 mile quick hike into town where I will have my first shower in 10 days.  I had no idea I could be so OK with being so gross.