As thru-hikers finish their average 6-month adventure on the trail and return home, they must adjust to their old ways of living. This is the reality that Kaelin and Meg, our Salazon-Chocolate-sponsored thru hikers are now facing. After months of living in nature, these women are nervous and excited to get back to their families. It has truly been a pleasure following them along their journeys that involved physical and mental challenges and helped them grow. We were able to follow their adventures, new friendships, and challenges, see some beautiful scenery, and spread trail magic (sea salted chocolate).
Kaelin, a former public relations intern at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, connected with us while we were working on releasing our caramel bar. She started her hike of the A.T. on March 1st near Amicalola State Park in Georgia. Her trail name became ‘Shutterbug’ for her love of picture taking, which we took full advantage of! Kaelin made friends very easily along the trail and shared our salted chocolate with just about everyone whom she crossed paths with.
Her journey began in the winter months. She encountered heavy snowfall and rain, but she learned how to keep warm and enjoy the scenery – nothing could stop her. One early morning, she hiked up to Clingman’s Dome to see the sunrise in the freezing cold – it was magical. In Virginia, she was able to visit her family and she took some amazing pictures at McAfee’s Knob. Along the way, she even helped with some ‘trail magic’ activities, such as giving rides to hikers on her ‘zero days’ and handing out treats, like Salazon chocolate.
In June, Kaelin decided to do a flip thru hike and go southbound from Maine back to Harper’s Ferry, where she left off. The terrain was much more difficult, but the scenery and weather were beautiful. One night, she even heard a moose! Her hike went pretty smoothly down from Maine, but she was in no rush to finish. The journey had been long, but Kaelin was enjoying this way of life and her new friends.
Toward the end of her journey, the scenery in Pennsylvania was reminding her of home. She had less than 100 miles to hike and was set to fly back to Indiana on September 20th. Shortly after arriving home, Kaelin was missing the trail and the community. However, she was excited to see her family again and is already thinking about her next adventure; the Pacific Crest Trail in 2015.
Meg, (or 'Delightful' as she was called on the trail), is a recent graduate of Ohio University from the photography program. We connected with her through some mutual friends and she also found our salted chocolate in a local market near the university. Meg started her hike in mid-May in Southern California near the Mexico border. She immediately "hit the ground running," hiking through the desert.
Meg’s photography skills are incredible and she captured some amazing moments along her journey. The PCT is less ‘developed’ than the A.T. due to the terrain, so communication was an added challenge, but we managed to get some great updates of her progress. Meg met some great people along the way. One man even knew the guy who’s portrait was on the old packaging of our caramel bar – they finished hiking the A.T. together. Another man traveled all the way from Germany on a three month visa to hike the PCT. Meg even met someone from her hometown in Ohio.
Our salted chocolate traveled high and low along the PCT with Meg. Fink, a friend that she met along the way, ate his salted chocolate on the tallest mountain in the continental U.S. – at around 14,505 elevation on Mt. Whitney. The High Sierras were an amazing experience for Meg. The scenery was like nowhere else. At the finish of her hike, she faced some unexpected challenges. During the last week, Meg and her friends encountered heavy snowfall. They began to hike through the snow, but soon decided to take an alternate route. Then, one mile before the end of her 5-month thru hike, Meg and her friends encountered park authorities. Due to the government shut down, they were prevented from finishing the last mile. It was a long journey for Meg, but she finished with her head held high. She is now safe at home in Ohio, ready to begin a career in photography.
Salazon Chocolate has traveled far and wide this year all around the country thanks to Shutterbug and Delightful. It has been a pleasure to follow these women on their hiking journeys. We are proud to partner with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Pacific Crest Trail Association to donate a portion of our proceeds from our Organic Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & a Touch of Caramel and Organic Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Organic Turbinado Cane Sugar, respectively, to protect, preserve, and promote the trails.
The sense of mystery about Kaelin’s upcoming journey is exciting for both her and us. And on that journey, we’ll be supplying her with a stash of Salazon Chocolate. Kaelin’s favorite is 57% Organic Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Caramel; find out if it’s yours too! Take 10% off your Salazon Chocolate order with discount code HIKINGCHOCOLATE.
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