Thru hiking – it has its ups and downs

April showers bring May flowers. And just like those flowers,  we are doing what we can to bloom wherever we are planted. 

Hot Springs,  NC sucked us in with the wildfires,  dumpster beer and tasty food.  Many hikers at this point have a bad knee,  foot,  ankle or leg and walk around town looking like the cast from The Walking Dead.  We had to move on from Hot Springs – however it was harder than we thought it would be… We arrived to the trail head to find some of our trail buddies and a former 2013 thru hiker  (Maps you rock!) offering some delicious trail magic-beer and snacks. 

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When we left Hot Springs the forecast said rain for about 4 days straight.  While we understand we can’t always have perfect weather,  it’s hard to get motivated knowing that’s what you will be getting into.  We either went to bed to rain and sometimes thunderstorms, or ended up with the periodic rain throughout the day.

Tick season is approaching and we have picked about 7 ticks off Skye Stalker since Hot Springs.  Thankfully her monthly anti flea and tick treatment (Nexgard) is doing some work as the ticks die upon trying to bite her.  Why they have no medicine like that for us is beyond me.  Instead of chewing a tasty treat once a month that prevents ticks and fleas like Skye does,  we shower ourselves in DEET.

We have started to become accustomed to the stench of ourselves.  Prior to going out in public once arriving in a town we would want to shower and have clean clothes on.  Now,  a shower is still key,  clean clothes aren’t such a big deal. It seems that even when we do wash our clothes, they smell within a few hours. 

I do have another shirt now. I invested in a tank top because the weather has been so nice.  One of the benefits of the tank top is that it may help even out my hiker’s tan. However,  I am frequently reminded that I do not have access to a shaving razor and so it looks like I’ve constantly got two wookiees in a head lock.  

I also decided to try sleeping with no clothes on in my sleeping bag now due to the warmer Temps. This was recommended by some of the other trail ladies.  While I was more comfortable temperature wise,  texture not so much.  I was so dirty and had so much dry sweat from the day that I was sticking to my sleeping bag like crazy.  It’s like if you were baking with dough and were about to roll the dough in flour.  I was the dough,  my sleeping bag was the flour.  This encouraged me to get a sleeping bag liner in the next town (Erwin, TN).

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The guidebook we have been using to help us navigate on the trail is the 2015 AWOL Appalachian Trail guidebook.  It’s great in many ways. For example,  it will tell you what’s ahead for mountains, water,  etc.  We were all really excited to see that we would not only be hitting the 300 mile marker- but shortly after,  we would be hiking “Big Butt Mountain”  at mile 302.7 (yes,  we are that mature). What’s not that exciting?  There was no sign to really prove we hiked Big Butt Mountain.  In the absence of the sign,  I did (being Musicbox and all) start to write a song about it to the beat of Sir Mix Alot’s,  “baby got back” :

I hiked big butt mountain and there was no sign
All them other hikers can’t deny
When you climb up to that big bald face and there’s no sign in its place
We’re like,  “ugh”

More to come on that little number later…

As mentioned in the last update,  the privies have become few and/or far between.  One of the most popular privy designs in the shelters right now have not really been keeping much private.  The design is pretty much an open dressing room, or the boards that are there are so small that you practically moon someone when getting up. 

Snorlax and I regretfully need to inform our followers that we will no longer be able to be leg or foot models.  Unfortunately the wilderness has given us traces of poison ivy,  numerous bug bites,  scratches,  and as previously mentioned – blisters and calluses.

Skye Stalker’s favorite hobby out here aside from hiking and chasing critters,  is hunting for Charmin treasures (use your imagination). This is something we hear other dogs love to do as well. Because of this we have been keeping an even closer eye on her.  Just a friendly reminder to hikers to really practice that leave no trace rule because there are ambitious Charmin treasure hunters out there…

While being out here we have been working on trying to identify different plants,  and other species.  We have not encountered many poisonous spiders but have heard that there are some recluse spiders out there.  Right now it seems as though the most vicious spider we have run into currently is the barking spider.  It is often not seen but the stench is horrific and generally exacerbated by town food.

We were recently lured into a Hostel right off the trail called Hiker’s Paradise.  The signs on the trail described the best burgers and pizza.  We arrived to find what was like an unfinished garage,  with a gravel floor on the inside and we had to cook our own frozen pizza or burgers.  Great people and the “real food”  was still better than our Ramen but hikers beware. 

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We got some awesome trail magic from a group of geocachers. I believe the group was called New Cache Order.  They had so many goodies and it was all (as always) very much appreciated.  It was even exciting to see there were fellow “chivers”  amongst us so Skye Stalker got a photo with one of the members. 

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Trail magic isn’t always in the form of food.  That same day we stumbled upon a random aloe Vera plant which became very helpful for those of us with sunburns and poison ivy. 

Sometimes the trail just has magic,  like making things disappear or appear out of nowhere… For example,  I pulled a dead salamander out of my food bag the other day.  Luckily everything was in individual bags within the bag.  However,  I’m not quite sure how the salamander got there,  how long he was in there and… Was he dead or alive when he got in there?  I may never know.  If that happened to me about two months ago I would have freaked out more.  But,  that’s just part of trail life for you. 

There’s all sorts of wildlife out there and you never know when it will appear. Sometimes your dog brings you dead frogs.  Sometimes the Patridge isn’t always in the pear tree. Sometimes it scares you while you are doing business in the woods.  Sometimes a rabbit hops in front of you on the trail and you’re not sure if you should just follow it… You never know when you may stumble upon trail magic in the form of a mad hatter tea party…

It’s hard to believe that this week I would have been on an all inclusive trip to Disney for a work conference.  While I am a flattered I was selected,  I am having a great experience out here on the trail and appreciate all the support we get from my former Co workers.  Disney would be nice but I’m not sure if they could compete with my mysterious pet salamanders,  the “clean”bathrooms and spatulas for drink mixers I have out here. 

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On our way to Erwin (we had about 13 miles planned for that day) we got to Spivey Gap to find a note from some of our trail buddies. 

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It informed us that they got a shuttle into town about 11 miles earlier than expected.  As Snorlax and I stood there debating what we should do,  well – fate decided for us soon after.  Miss.  Janet showed up in her magical trail mobile.  I realize by now that Miss.Janet may not have been mentioned yet in previous posts.  Miss.  Janet is a legend on the trail.  She helps out in many ways but is generally following us thru hikers around town to town and giving us rides when needed.  She starts in GA like we do and will follow us to Maine. 

Miss.  Janet (not to be confused with Miss.  Jackson if you’re nasty).

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Snorlax and I decided at that moment that Miss.  Janet and our friends note were a sign,  we needed to go to town sooner.  So we didn’t hike 13 miles that day,  we did about 3 and met our friends in Erwin, TN.  In Erwin we did the typical resupply of food for the week and resupply of alcohol and real food consumption (If you find yourself in Erwin,TN I recommend the mango margaritas from Los Jalapeños).

The next day we decided to slackpack for our first time.  Slackpacking is essentially using a much smaller pack than our typical set up.  We will generally carry only enough food and water for the distance you plan to cover.  We got a ride back to Spivey Gap and slackpacked about 11 miles, and got a ride back to our hotel for the night.  I managed to forget my trekking poles at the hostel right at the end of the trail because I left in such a hurry to catch our shuttle back to our hotel. Luckily one of our friends got them for me but just goes to show rushing around gets you no where.

Miss.Janet warned us in Hot Springs that these next sections she calls the shin splint alley because everyone wants to do more miles and they just end up hurt.  Sooo going to Erwin a little bit early wasn’t such a bad idea… Sometimes you just got to slow down,  and smell the roses.. Or taste the mango margaritas. 

We are not sure when our next town stop will be.  Please feel free to email or comment on this page if you have any questions or things you would like us to discuss which we have not addressed yet. 

Because we will be away from the Internet on May 4th, we would like to take a minute and recognize one of our favorite hiking buddies – Skye Stalker.   Happy 5th birthday!  This girl has been hiking since we adopted her as a pup.  She’s one of the fastest hikers we know but she’ll also always take the time to slow down and wait for you.  Although her taste in presents for you isn’t always the best – she still makes you smile.  She always reminds us to stretch,  drink plenty of water and stop and smell the roses.  Happy birthday Skye Stalker – May the fourth be with you. 

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