The Last One To Kathadin Wins

It’s been close to 100 miles since our last update on the trail, and this 100 miles seems to be a little bit different than the others.

When we left Pearisburg, it was just me,  Snorlax, Skye Stalker and Game Warden.  Veto left the trail to go home, and Cheesus and Two Step took another zero in Pearisburg. 

We have made it over 700 miles,  and are about 1/3 of the way to Kathadin.  I wish I could say the same for our first pair of shoes.  We started the trail with oboz hiking shoes.  Research says the average hiking shoe can make it about 500 miles… We really stretched that-230 miles too many.  We retired our shoes in Daleville. 

It was a catch 22 in our dash to Daleville. We wanted to get there quick to get our new shoes-but our feet wouldn’t let us.  Between the heat,  and sore feet-especially the last 30 miles to town,  we were tired.  The motivation that strikes as you get close to town is amazing. Motivation to get iced cold water which we didn’t have to hike miles for and filter.  Motivation to get a chance to sit in a chair.  Motivation for a shower and a normal bed, even if for a night. 

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Pictured above are the old and new shoes side by side.  Thanks to my mother in law for sending us our shoes. 

While we are still in Virginia,  Virginia keeps offering us different vistas and experiences daily.  We lucked out with the weather from Pearisburg to Daleville.  Although it was hot to hike,  the nights were perfect.  We slept with the rain guard off the tent every night. We got the chance to look up at the stars from our tent and see the sunrise in the morning.  And we had some killer camp sites to do just that. 

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The trek to Daleville brought many new experiences.  We made it to McAfee knob which is one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail.  We were lucky enough to catch the sunset there,  and the sunrise.  (Snorlax didn’t brave the sunrise with me because he’s Snorlax and likes to sleep-but Game Warden did!)

Being one of the most photographed spots,  we did come across some day hikers as well. Of course we could smell them from a mile away-in a good way.  While they can probably smell us from a mile away – in a not so good way. There were some day hikers who were carrying their babies on their back.  I was concerned for their safety due to the fact that Snorlax and I had our dirty socks hanging from the outside of our bags.  I was afraid that the ratio of the stench of our socks and the size of the babies that they could die from the smell.  The smell made me want to vomit,  I can’t imagine how something way smaller than me could react.

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Between me,  Snorlax, Game Warden and some other fellow hikers we camped with that week we saw a total of 10 bears.  I’m not sure if I should be grateful or not that they don’t stick around long enough for me to get any photos.  We did however get pictures of the encounter we had with the baby deer. 

One morning while hiking we stumbled upon this baby deer just sitting on the trail.  It was so calm it even let me pet it,  and Skye got to give it kisses as well. 

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We also saw the Keffer Oak tree which is over 300 years old. 

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As mentioned before we are out of the “bubble”.  Many people we started with are about 200 miles ahead of us.  We do still run into people who started in March like us,  but not many.  Frequently when we meet people and they ask when we started,  they generally reply, “oh you’re taking your time.” It wasn’t until recently we met a section hiker who asked the same question.  When we told them March,  their response was much different than others. Instead they said,  “oh you’re behind.” None of us had much to say about that but it got me thinking later on… Behind what?  Yes,  there is a good percentage of people who started in March 200 miles ahead of us,  but there’s still a good group of us who started in March traveling together, having fun. 

We have made it through the 700 miles with no serious injuries.  The thought of going home hasn’t crossed our mind.  The only time I cried was when Skye had to be boarded for the Smokies.  We’ve taken the side trails to catch the views.  We take the time to look beyond the trail and observe the beauty around us.  It’s about the smiles – not the miles.  If being behind means all of that above – then I’m going to be behind the whole way to Kathadin. 

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We got a chance to go check out “The Captain’s”.  He had a zip line over to his place and offered us some cold sodas.  I should have known that day that’d we have an awesome week because a bird pooped on me.  That statement is for real.  Apparently it’s good luck when a bird poops on you and that’s just what happened when I was relaxing in the hammock at the Captain’s. 

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With all this heat and some of the bodies of water we can see from the summit,  there’s a strong desire to use a hang glider off the mountain into the lake.  Unfortunately,  it seems as though it’s not really allowed,  based on the signs posted every where on the trail…

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What I want to know is who on the trail is carrying a hang glider around?

When in Daleville we got a sweet care package from my sister which included not only treats – but water guns!!  The water guns have become an awesome addition to our gear.  Thank you Missy!

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While on the trail,  one of our friends reached out to us.  He informed us that someone else he knows (from Connecticut not Maine) is hiking the trail currently and to keep an eye out for him.  He informed us that his trail name was Wildcard and that he may be close to the same mile marker.  Well,  when in Daleville we met Wildcard. Turns out Wildcard started in March as well.  We were all even at the same wedding for our mutual friend a few years ago…and now here we all are today on the trail.  It’s moments like this that remind us how small the world is.  The trail brings people from all over- And no matter what you did before,  we all are in this together now. We are all traveling this footpath seeking fellowship with the wilderness.  This is not a race,  it’s a journey – and the last one to Kathadin wins. 

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Sorry I’m Not Home Right Now I’m Walking In The Spiderwebs

While there may be a song for almost every emotion or action you experience on the trail… On the trail it is not always as glamorous as the original musician may have made it. For example,  when Gwen Stefani was singing about walking through spiderwebs,  for some reason I don’t really think she was hiking daily for hours and walking through literal spider webs or the hanging silks of caterpillars.  Just a guess. 

We are a little over two months in on our adventure. We started in Georgia in early spring,  where things were still hibernating and the trees were bare.  We are now entering summer,  the trees are coated in greens and vibrant colors of the flowers which have now blossomed and have reached Virginia.  The temperature keeps getting hotter and we are now seeing more signs that us thru hikers aren’t the only wild ones out there.   When we started we had things in our pack like copious amounts of  soap.. Which we realized is not really realistic out here.  The weight of our packs have fluctuated.  What we drop in weight with gear,  it is then replaced with food. 

For the first time in our lives we can live like the fat kids we have always had living deep down inside of us. The more calories – the better!  Calories are our friends.  Jumbo Iced honey buns that have like 680 calories are the new favorite Breakfast.  Cheese is like a staple at every grocery trip.  The last grocery trip I think we left with about 22 cheese sticks,  plus a pack of cheese slices.  There have been times where you could catch a hiker eating from a block of cheese like it was a candy bar.

We value our food.  I recently dropped a sliced tomato on the ground and still ate it.  Snorlax recently ate an ant that happened to get in his food. 

Also found in our packs recently – beetles and bees.  It was quite the surprise when I went to go grab the toilet paper from Snorlax’s bag the other day and a bee flew out of the toilet paper bag.  A few days later,  as I was fumbling through my bag for something a beetle walked out of it.  Our friends recently carried a caterpillar around with them for a day.  We sometimes jump a little,  or make a little shriek.  However,  for the most part we just shrug a little,  laugh, and just brush it off like no big deal because this is our life. 

As we continue to hike through all the farm lands,  it has added additional questions. What initially started as,
“is that dirt or a tan? ” has now become, ” is that dirt,  a tan,  or poop? ”

Whether it is the weekend or not is usually determined by the increase of hikers coming from the opposite direction,  with small packs.  The big reveal that someone is not a thru hiker: the smell.  We generally can’t smell each other because we all smell.  You will know when a non thru hiker comes through because you can smell the scent of clean linen,  deodorant and fresh shampoo/soap. When a day hiker walks by its like walking into a Yankee Candle store or passing by the fragrance kiosk in a department store. 

We have made it over 600 miles and are over 1/4 way home! We are finally starting to feel a little bit faster and our feet hurt.  We are getting ready to retire the oboz sawtooth hiking shoes we started the trail with.  We had another pair at home that our family will be sending us. 

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We have bugs entering our eyes,  mouth and nose at least 5-7 times a week while hiking .  I was recently so tired and making a wrap in the dark that I accidentally left the plastic  on the cheese and took a bite. 

And while it may not be as dramatic as Samuel L. Jackson’s,  Snakes on a Plane movie,  we are seeing snakes everywhere now. 

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The snake pictured above on the bridge hung around our campsite all night.  It went up to the tree from the bridge railing and slept in the tree near us all night.  We were anxious,  imagining a scene from a safari movie where the snakes would just be dropping from the trees. 

We went to Bland, VA to get mail and more food recently and ended up staying the night because it was late. We ended up camping outside a motel because they were booked.
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Virginia has brought us multiple prime spots for swimming or at least dipping in to cool and rinse off.  And with the temperature increasing,  those water holes are key. 

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We camped at Dismal falls recently which was amazing.  We have been hiking in rain for what seems like weeks. When we had our first glimpse of sunshine with no interrupted rain storms,  we decided to start hiking late one day and soak up some rays and let things dry at Dismal falls. 

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All you can eat buffets are slowly sneaking into our routine when we stop in town.  While in Pearisburg,  VA we visited an all you can eat Asian buffet.  While Snorlax and I like to believe we excel in many areas of life,  the buffet category needs a little work.  Some of the fellow hikers there the same day had about 7+ plates.  Snorlax and I had about 3-4 plates each.  However,  I was able to finish three different four ounce cups of ice cream… Because everyone knows you can always make room for ice cream. Also,  it is key that I eat as much ice cream I can along the trail in preparation for the half gallon ice cream challenge which takes place when we reach the halfway point on the trail.  The half gallon ice cream challenge is essentially eating a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting.  The prize? Aside from being the closet thing  to an ice cream master, and having a bloated stomach-you get a wooden spoon.  We are actually out here not for the great views and connection with nature,  but for ice cream. 

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Skye Stalker has her pack back!  She has been running around like crazy chasing chipmunks and Squirrels and the chaffing has healed.   The leash is being used a little bit more now because she seems to have gotten too used to her freedom. We have experienced first hand why some say if you give them an inch,  they take a mile.  While having her out here has been great,  it can also be a challenge.  Trying to keep her basic  training she had at home and now trying to relate that to our new home in the wild is something we are trying to work on.  In Maine (our home state)  we don’t have many poisonous things and so trying to teach her to not be too snoopy can be hard.  However –  she is doing well,  we are just trying to be more cautious of these things before it’s too late. 

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Game Warden’s dad,  Dean,  visited and joined us for about 12 miles of the hike.  This was his first time hiking and he did great.  We had great weather,  great terrain (minus the mud), and great views.  We celebrated with Mexican food and margaritas.  He also brought Princess Skye Stalker some more treats! 

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As we get ready to depart Pearisburg and hit the trail,  we will be missing a big piece of our trail family.  Veto will be leaving the trail and heading home.  It was his personal choice.  While we would love for him to stay,  we support him and will miss him.  He did say he would try to visit and still do some sections with us.  (So Veto- keep those legs moving and remember that the hikers appetite may not be the same so try to avoid the 680 calorie honey buns.  We will take care of Game Warden for you!)

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Some statistics say that about 72% of  people drop off the trail.  All have various reasons – money,  injury,  personal issues,  family emergencies.  As of right now,  we know of about 7 people who have decided to leave, and some who are thinking of it. Hopefully the ones who didn’t want to leave will get that chance to come back and finish.  As we go further,  our pace and goals change and the people you are used to hiking with change. There are friends you haven’t seen for a few weeks and out here it seems like forever.  Where at home if you haven’t seen a friend for a few weeks it’s not so abnormal. 

While Snorlax, and I (and even Skye Stalker)  have had our days where we just don’t want to hike,  we aren’t done hiking. We have had our share of some bad luck – including our bank account recently being hacked.  Trying to take care of financial matters can be difficult in the woods! We just keep trekking. Not even a crappy hotel stay where the shower barely drains and the dryer I’d broke can keep us away…

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We are walking home,  slowly but surely.  Thanks again for the continous support! 

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Meet Virginia

Meet Virginia. And get used to her because we will be here for a little bit… Like another 500 miles little bit. 

When we were in Damascus about 60 miles ago,  we stayed at the Woodchuck Hostel.  The owner was  a former thru hiker and both him and his hostel were really cool.  The hostel offered the usual amenities of a shower,  laundry,  and snacks other than Ramen and instant potatoes. What was not usual was we had access to lawn games and the grill!  We took full advantage of that and grilled ourselves some vegetables and steak. 

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We also went to an all you can eat pizza buffet where I  was convinced we were going to get kicked out for possibly cleaning out their inventory.  Snorlax had about ten pieces of pie,  and I had about nine-including dessert pizza. We did not get kicked out,  but I felt like we were going to have to be rolled out of the place. 

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The first day leaving town and hitting the trail, we planned on heading to a campsite not too far in which offered water nearby which is always a plus.  We made it almost to the spot when about a mile ahead was a sign advising of a detour due to a washed out bridge. 

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This sign didn’t stop us from heading to the site.  We opted out of the detour and decided to take the risk.  We scoped out the “washed out”  bridge area and decided it wasn’t too bad and camped for the night. The next day before crossing the river we geared up to carry Skye Stalker’s pack so she would not get it wet,  and wore our camp shoes to keep our hiking shoes dry.  Although the water was cold,  it was manageable to get across. Not too far after lacing up our hiking shoes and getting Skye Stalker’s pack back on,  we came across a bigger,  more rapid river.   That one was about up to our knees and again manageable – just a funny,  unexpected surprise.  There is video of it on our Instagram account so please feel free to check it out. 

Part of the trail is near the Virginia Creeper trail and along a river with some awesome campsites.  We were recently luckily enough to snag some of that Waterfront real estate.  Skye Stalker really enjoyed it.

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We have been hiking through some really nice farmlands which has also limited our technology service.  While somewhat entertaining,  the cows also scare me at times.  Our hiking start time has been a little earlier than usual thanks to the help of the wake up calls from our farm friends. 

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Our favorite part of the most recent section so far has been the Grayson Highlands.  Throughout this section there were many balds offering great views,  ample water,  and the best part-wild ponies.  We realized no matter how old you are ponies are a distraction.  We arrived to camp later than we wanted to that night because we took some time to interact with the ponies. 

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Skye Stalker was not sure what to think.  She initially went over to play with them and many of them ran away.  At times when they got close to her she would then run.  She eventually warmed up to them and seemed to enjoy walking with them and watching them. 

When Snorlax asked me after I pet the ponies if they were soft, I simply replied “well, they’re a little hoarse

That same day we made it past the 500 mile marker which is exciting. 

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One of the nicer features of Virginia is that they seem to know their shit. Unlike Tennessee which had no privies- Virginia has privies,  and nice ones too.  By nice it means they seem to have doors,  some have trash cans,  and even toilet paper. 

Getting toilet paper on the trail has been much different than at home.  The single rolls are usually thin and offer more sheets.  With more sheets it is generally more bulky and harder to pack.  The packages of the soft toilet paper usually offer too many rolls.  You find yourself splitting up the rolls with friends to cut down on weight and help save money.  Some hostels will even offer deals with a stay where you get a brownie and a roll of toilet paper.  That’s a bold reminder that you aren’t staying at a Hilton Hotel or anything like it. 

Now that we are really getting into summer weather, everything is blooming,  and the wild life seems to be making more appearances.  Skye has been doing some additional off trail exercise by chasing all the chipmunks. 

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We have seen an increase in deer and snakes as well.  Just the other day we had a snake come visit us while we were sitting and enjoying our lunch. 

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We came across another unexpected surprise (not so wild) recently when we stumbled upon our trail friends Game Warden and Veto.  They had left the trail for about a week to go to a wedding and just returned. We were very excited to have them back!

One of the shelters that we stayed at recently was close enough to civilization that we could call for pizza delivery!  Everyone who stayed at the shelter that night ordered pizza and we had ourselves a little pizza party.  It was the day before Snorlax’s birthday so we got the shelter to sing to him.  He was also treated with a s’more with bacon and an oatmeal pie with a match as a candle (we live in the woods remember).

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With the pizza,  we also indulged in some hacky sack playing and shooting some sling shots-because that happened to be some stuff people carried around.  The next morning we were treated with a little trail magic from Mike and Mary who are also known as M&M.

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Recently Skye Stalker developed some chaffing from her pack. We have taken some days off to rest her,  and treat the chaffing.  I also added some fleece to her straps to help soften them and hopefully prevent chaffing.  Prior to the days off we did keep her pack off and divide the weight between the two of us to carry.  We will likely be still carrying her stuff until we see major improvement.  Luckily she has shown improvement and she has remained in good spirits the whole time. 

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When in Marion,  a group of us went out to celebrate Snorlax’s birthday.  We went to a Mexican restaurant where they decided to feed him dessert and also cover his whole head with whip cream.  It was quite amusing and he didn’t seem to mind too much. 

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I had no clue when I told them it was his birthday and they said they’d take care of him this is what they meant.  I made up to him by helping clean it up and we got a round of shots for the group.  Happy birthday to my awesome husband and trail partner! I couldn’t imagine doing this adventure without him.

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You may see Snorlax on the trail with his new toy-the lightweight yo yo.

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A shout out to my friend Megan who sent me some heavy duty cream for my poison ivy! She literally saved my butt.  I am happy to report it is healing.  However I still have the tendency to scratch my butt in public if I don’t remember to reapply my treatment.  I’m sure there are some people out there who probably think I’m homeless based on that behavior and my clothing. 

It has been over two months and we are still loving this adventure. With the warmer weather approaching we are looking forward to sending more gear home,  more swimming to cool off but dreading hiking in this heat.  The temperature this week is expected to be over 80 degrees.   Thankfully,  where everything is blooming the trees will help keep us a little covered from the sun. 

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Meet Virginia.  We have walked 500 miles and we are ready to walk 500(or 1600 +)  more. 

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But Baby It’s Cold Outside…

Left Erwin on May 4th, on Skye Stalker’s birthday,  with a plan to do at least 13 miles a day to get to Damascus,  VA to make it to trail days.  Trail days is generally a three day hiker bash of current and former hikers. It has been compared to Woodstock for hikers.  Prior to leaving Erwin,  we sent home more things that we were carrying in our pack to lighten up load.  We sent home most of our cold weather gear,  which turned out to be premature.  The day we left Erwin and several days following,  the temperature had been around 30-40 degrees. 

By the time we left Erwin there was a stench I could not decipher,  whether it be my pack or camp shoes.  Turns out through further research that the putrid smell was indeed my camp shoes. 

On our way to camp, we passed a campsite where a local drunk had been hanging around,  drinking vodka,  with other thru hikers-Carlos.  While Carlos seemed like fun,  we decided to continue our trek on to meet up with the rest of our trail family. 

We went to bed cold and hungry that night because it was windy and rainy,  and we didn’t want to go outside and cook.  We didn’t want to cook in our tent either and make our current home seem like a scene from a Breaking Bad episode.  We settled for Slim Jim’s and Gummi peach rings for dinner. 

The next morning we woke up to the sound of our neighbors and Carlos talking and drinking vodka at like 9:30 AM, a hole in our now second tent (we think Skye Stalker’s harness got caught and ripped it) ,  and a cold wintery mix of weather.  Carlos had migrated from the previous camp to ours and was trying to convince others to go on a joy ride with him and drink vodka.  He already convinced another thru hiker-Sharknado. 

I should have known by the start of the day it could have been a spin off of Alexander’s Horrible,  No Good,  Very Bad day.  Before leaving camp we did the traditional camp chores with the addition of calling L.L.BEAN for a new tent,  and trying to devise a plan to get rid of my putrid camp shoes.  While Snorlax was on the phone with L.L.Bean,  I flagged down Carlos who had been driving up and down the mountain road in a PT cruiser.  He drove this thing all over the place like a Nascar driver heating up the tires but much slower and likely not the same purpose.  Carlos being polite as he is,  not only agreed to get rid of my putrid camp shoes,  but also offered vodka to me – all not even before 10:30 AM.  I politely declined. 

Once we left camp we made it half a mile up (straight up) the mountain,  in the cold,  snowy/rain mixture before Princess Skye Stalker decided she just didn’t feel like hiking today.  So Princess Skye Stalker went back down the mountain and went back to our last camp spot and laid down.  A common saying on the trail is hike your own hike.  Well,  when you are hiking with your pup,  it’s hike your dog’s hike.  I ended up carrying the 50 pound Skye Stalker (and her pack) up part of the mountain until she decided she was ready to hike.  We only did about 5 miles that day and thought we had lost our trail family until Damascus. 

Luckily we were able to catch up with them but due to cold and crappy weather,  our miles didn’t catch up to original plan to hike into trail days. 

The next day our motivation started off strong but went down quick – not for any bad reason but for the same reason which ironically keeps us going some days-Trail magic!  Waves (a 2015 thru hiker) and his friends Carolyn,  Alison,  Dave (and Leland not pictured) provided us with some sweet trail magic and as always,  great company. 

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While at trail magic,  we received an update on our favorite local (who may indeed be loco) Carlos.  Fellow hikers shared that Carlos showed up to one of the hostels with his intoxicated side kick Sharknado.  They had still been cruising around on the bender in the PT cruiser.  They stopped in at the hostel and not too long after they had been there,  the boys in blue paid a visit.  In an attempt to blend in,  Carlos had grabbed some trekking poles and started walking.  He didn’t make it too far before he was being held at gunpoint. 

The officer allegedly knew Carlos because he had said,  “God Dammit Carlos we been friends for too long,  don’t make me do this”

In the midst of all of this,  the owner of the hostel came out and said,  “entertainment is free here at Uncle Johnny’s”

Carlos and Sharknado were later arrested for Grand theft auto.  Apparently the PT cruiser wasn’t theirs.  I may never know if my putrid camp shoes made it to the trash or not.  If not,  then I feel really bad for the owner of that PT cruiser. 

Because our miles didn’t go as planned,  we needed to hitch into one of the smaller towns to pick up more food.  We hitched a ride in the bed of someone’s pick up truck which was fun. 

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The guy also gave us a ride to the beer store.  While waiting for our friends in the store,  the driver informed me he had 3 DUI’s in the past… Little did we know he had an open beer in the front too and it was his idea to go to the store to get more!  We made it back to the trail safely,  but he made a point to tell us at least 3 times to be safe.  I really think it was him we needed to worry about. 

That same day we ended up backtracking – which I know we say we never do.  However, a section hiker had fallen on the rocks so Veto and I went back to help.  We are happy to report she is OK now and it was worth the backtracking. 

We stayed at barn converted into a shelter one night. 

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It had a great view.  (That’s just Veto frocklicling in the background)

While we were there,  there was another dog there that the owner had leashed and kept barking at Skye.  She eventually put the dog in the tent.  However,  the dog ripped through her tent to get to Skye Stalker. Let’s just say things were OK but it got awkward after. 

Skye Stalker met Murphy the dog which had been popular on the Internet for awhile.  There was a story which went viral saying the dog was rescued in the trail – long story short – it was not but she’s still super cute. 

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Since our last update we have stayed at a hostel for the first time. 

We have gone over 400 miles.  We are officially done with North Carolina and Tennessee and entered Virginia. 

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We did make it to trail days but we got a ride in and went back to where we left off hiking after.  Trail days was fun-Skye got a complimentary check up and she is awesome.  Stubborn some days but awesome.  A friendly tip from the vet to help pack on extra carbs for Skye Stalker – baby food. 

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We went to hiker prom at trail days-our duds were from a thrift store.  We were covered in denim seeing as though we haven’t been able to wear it for weeks now. 

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We got a lot of gear repaired for free and an awesome foot wash from the One Way Ministry.  Steve was the man who did the foot washing and also did a prayer for us!

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Thank you to Game Warden’s dad,  Dean for the dog treats.  Skye Stalker loves them. 

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Thanks to our awesome neighbors at trail days who provided us with some awesome meals. 

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We did graduate from dumpster beer to trash bag beer at trail days.

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At some point,  and I do not know how or when,  I managed to develop poison ivy.  Like a lot.  I have it on my feet,  my legs and my butt cheeks (yes – that is right). Hiking and sleeping have been somewhat challenging with the presence of constant itching,  blisters,  and ooze. Nothing says through sickness and health like your husband putting calamine lotion on your butt. 

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Skye Stalker got a new collar because hers kept falling off. 

Snorlax and I are down about 10 pounds each.  Skye Stalker about 7  pounds. 

We both got new camp shoes,  and both upgraded from the mini Sawyer squeeze water filter to the big squeeze (much better!)

We have seen some pretty big snakes

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We bathed in a river for the first time

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One of our new favorite recipes on the trail is what I like to call poor man’s pad Thai.  It is chili Ramen,  peanut butter and peanuts. 

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We hiked through a cow pasture one day which was really cool.  However,  Skye stepped in poop and when we had to lift her over the barbed wire fence,  Snorlax managed to get cow poop on him. 

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I saw two Cubs recently which really startled me to say the least.  The first I just heard a noise in a bush and looked over to see the Cubs head pop up but soon ran away.  I immediately grabbed Skye Stalker and picked up some speed,  leaving Snorlax behind (not on purpose).  I started making more noise along the trail and soon after I heard something in the tree and looked up to see a bear going down the tree like a fireman down a fire pole- and let me tell you that fire was lit right under my tush. 
I did not get a picture because that was the last thing in my mind.  We did manage to make it close to 20 miles that day and I’d like to thank those baby bears for that. 

Right now we have managed to get out of the “hiker bubble”.  Many hikers skipped miles after trail days.  I’m proud to say that we didn’t and even though we didn’t get to hike there initially,  we eventually hiked back to Damascus. 

I do apologize for the delay in updates as we have had limited time and technical resources.  I’d like to thank you all for the continous support,  and thanks again for those who have donated to us on our page.  This post was longer and more scattered than usual due to the time between posts but I hope you all still enjoy it.

Happy trails to you until the next post!

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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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Oh I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain…

We made it through the Great Smoky Mountains! The first few days hiking without Skye Stalker were weird.  I’d constantly find myself turning around looking for where she was.  However, we had way more space in the tent with just two of us which I feel guilty saying but it was pretty nice.  The Smoky Mountains offered a variety of vistas: rocky balds,  fields of straw like grass,  fragrant &  shady pine forests,  with lots of sage all around making the Smoky mountains smell of weed ( which is quite fitting considering the name is Smoky).

We have been criss crossing between the Tennessee and North Carolina borders for the past week or so.  We heard stories prior to our adventure to the Smoky mountains from former hikers.  They told us how it’s so cold they would have to chip ice off their Tents.  We did not have that issue,  we were hiking in Temps of 70-80+ degrees-only enhancing our thru hiker fragrance as described in prior posts. 

One of the many rules of the Great Smoky mountains (aside from no dogs)  is that you need to camp at the spots where there were shelters.  The shelters also needed to fill up first before anyone could just set up their tent outside the shelter.  The shelters were either about 5 miles (which makes for a pretty easy day) or about 15 miles apart ( this mileage is pretty undesirable for Snorlax and I right now).  Typically on any other part of the AT you can camp anywhere along the trail- this is convenient because you can hike until you are tired and set up wherever without having to be at a specific shelter/site.   It appeared that the Smoky mountains also had less water sources along the way so we had to carry more water.  And while dogs weren’t allowed on the trail,  horses, and mules were. Therefore, you would have to watch out for stepping in a huge pile of their business along the trail or keep alert to not get trampled by any while hiking if they are behind you. You could also see bear scat along the trail which answers the question whether or not they poo in the woods… They do, on the trail or wherever they want. There were not many privies at the shelters in the smokies, some of them only had “toilet areas”. The toilet areas were pretty much hills of toilet paper, making it look like a homecoming float just exploded. Because the privies were so far and few between shelters, Snorlax actually had to use the woods for like his first time since this whole adventure began.

Snorlax and I started to do some night hiking recently.  We decided to start this week not only because of the full moon but also because we have been sleeping in (we don’t have a furry four legged friend waking us up) , and in order to get to those shelters which are over 5 miles away, we either needed to get up and going quicker or just hike later into the day.  Anybody who knows Snorlax would know early rising is not really a thing for him and we made a rule early on to not set an alarm while on the trail.  Night hiking with a full moon is great though because the moon is so bright you don’t need a headlamp,  and the temperature is cooler.  One night we rolled into a shelter at 11:30 PM and everyone was already asleep so they didn’t see us come in. The next morning we woke up to a bunch of people talking, you could hear some people asking who was in the tent. You could hear a little dog which just kept barking at our tent (no one else but that dog would probably know that a dog was in our tent). I could hear someone whisper, “I saw a girl go in the tent”. When we finally got out we stepped out to a group of over 40 boy scouts, singing “bohemian rhapsody” and enjoying the outdoors. Skye Stalker was the most popular one at the shelter that morning.

We resupplied in Fontana Dam with what we thought was enough food for 7 days.  Turns out our appetites have increased drastically that by about day 3 in the Smokies we needed more food.  Although our pack weight went down recently because we dropped some gear, it’s now gone up because we need more food.

In the Smokies we did hit some milestones,  such as making it past the 200 mile marker of the trail,  hitting the highest point on the AT which is Clingmans dome (6655 ft),we have been on the trail for a month,  and most importantly having our first Ramen bomb – which is Ramen with instant potatoes.  For those reading that and making disgusted faces –  do not knock it until you try it. 

On our way to the gap where we would be able to get a ride into town to resupply,  we lost track of the white blazes and ended up about a mile off trail.  While we didn’t end up completely lost or in danger,  it’s not really ideal to get off trail or need to back track,  especially when you have little to no food.  When we did make it to the next gap before town,  we arrived to some wonderful trail magic provided by the First Baptist Church in Sevierville,  TN. 

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We also got a cheesy photo next to the Tennessee/ North Carolina border sign. 

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Snorlax and I also did some other type of hiking we are not used to-hitch hiking.  Our first hitch hike was quite easy and pleasant.  An older,  retired couple picked us up and brought us to Gaitlinburg,  TN where we would be able to get more food.  They gave us a lot of educational historical information along the way about the area.  We saw a mama bear and two Cubs along the way. We were very grateful that it was from the car and not on foot on the trail.  Pat and Eddie if you are reading this- thank you very much for the ride and your kindness.  Snorlax and I were amazed that they didn’t even roll down the windows considering we did not smell the best…

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We spent a Nero in Gaitlinburg,  which the best way I can describe the city is a tourist boardwalk town without the boardwalk.  Snorlax and I indulged in some 5 star cuisine – McDonald’s.  We ended up splitting a 20 piece chicken nugget,  two large two cheeseburger meals and shakes.  We also visited the Smoky Mountain Brewery,  and of course did laundry and resupplied. 

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There was only one  hotel in town which had laundry on site. We declined to stay at this hotel because we were recently advised that someone died there that week,  and also there were reviews of bed bugs.  While I know based on some previous posts of the places we have stayed at in the past sound just as fancy sometimes,  we had to stay somewhere else in this case.   Our hotel did tell us that we could do laundry there and we did however try that which was a big mistake.  The owners yelled at us and started complaining about local hotel drama which we just did not have time to listen to.  Needless to say we ended up doing laundry on the other side of  town (and are very grateful for Jessica from the NOC in Gatlinburg for the ride).

Snorlax also called L. L. Bean while we were in town because after only three weeks of use,  my guaranteed for lifetime sleeping bag ripped,  our tent ripped,  his merino wool base layer pants ripped and my glove liners ripped.  While we understand that nothing lasts forever – we were expecting more than 3 weeks use out of it.  While the service over the phone was not the best,  (and as former L. L. Bean employees we would know if a manager heard the call they’d be disappointed in the representative) we were pleased to find new gear shipped to us at our next stop. 

We finished the smokies within 6 days,  which was a little over 70 miles.  We made it on the trail the last day of the smokies before 9 AM and made it to the pick up spot for Skye in record time (for us slow pokes).  We waited for Skye Stalker at Standing Bear Hostel which was a really cool place.  The hostel had a tree house,  trampoline and a little shed stocked with goodies.  People were playing music and enjoying the break from hiking.  I was craving salsa and chips but the only chips they had were holiday red and green tortillas with a sell by of March 28…of course I got in the holiday spirit. 

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We got Skye Stalker back and returned to the trail.  Within 24 hours of being out of the smokies we received about two days of rain.  Everything was soaked.  We were cold,  soggy and it took over a whole pack of 30 wet wipes to “clean”  Skye stalker off enough to allow her into the tent.  By this point our blisters have turned into calluses and now those callused blisters have a prune texture to them from all the rain.  The trails turned into rivers in some parts, and everything you touched provided a trace if not a coating of mud.  Luckily it did clear up a little bit for us to allow us to see some views at Max Patch,  which lifted our spirits.  Not much further past the summit did we stumble upon some former 2014 thru hikers providing awesome trail magic.  PBR beer,  Brownies and little Debbie snacks never tasted so good.  Thank you to Mo and friends for the delicious trail treats. 

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About 36 miles later we came into Hot Springs,  NC.  We ran into some of the Culture club who we haven’t seen since Hiawassee,  GA.  We enjoyed some of the hot springs – which was essentially a hot tub with mineral water,  and of course we indulged and beer and food.  While this town did not have a local brewery,  they did have what us thru hikers have been calling dumpster beer.  Dumpster beer is unopened cases of a variety of beers which have been placed in a dumpster after a business closes.  This is not something that you find everywhere and in fact is likely pretty rare I assume.  We only stumbled upon it because once a thru hiker catches word of such “trail magic”  it’s like a game of telephone and just goes through the grapevine rapidly.  We have also been indulging in some tasty HOMEMADE cookies from my awesome sister in law, brother and nieces and nephew (love you guys).

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Currently we are still in Hot Springs,  NC.   There are wild fires and part of the AT is shut down because of this. We have been seeing the fire department helicopters go with buckets of water to the mountains to put out the fires.  We are alright but we will likely need to get a, shuttle around the location of the fire to continue our journey.   Despite all the rules and crazy weather,  the smokies were fun but glad we are back to the freedom of camping where we want and have our pack leader Skye stalker back.  Next town stop is likely Erwin,  TN-until then happy trails or as Skye stalker would say (if she could talk) happy tails to you!

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Up, up and.. No freaking way

North Carolina – a better place to be they say.  Definitely better views than Georgia so far.  With those beautiful views are usually harder climbs.  I should have known that North Carolina was going to be more tough when as soon as you cross the border they welcome you with a straight climb up an over 4000 ft mountain.

Since in North Carolina we have been hiking in snow,  rain,  colder Temps then hot Temps- all making for some challenging climbs up some of these higher mountains.  We spent our zero day in Franklin,  NC.  We enjoyed some brews at the Lazy Hiker Brewery,  had some burgers,  and spent $1 each to become members of night club so we could do karaoke with the bonus of getting a free appetizer.  Will we go there again? Probably not but worth the dollar.  We did get our group up to sing The Proclaimers,  “I wanna be (I would walk 500 miles)”…fitting for a bunch of thru hikers.

We received some awesome trail magic from boy scout troop 5 from Jasper, TN.  The troop was really well mannered,  and the food was delicious too.  They had some experience hiking and shared some of their stories.  Skye stalker even got a hot dog. 

Our miles have not been the amount we had initially wanted due to uncomfortable hiking temps , and tougher terrain.  We had some tough nights where we are short on water,  but must set up camp due to rain and nightfall,  and have nothing but snacks and candy for dinner. 

Initially we were upset (maybe just me) that we weren’t doing the 15+ miles a day we thought we would be at right now.  Instead of the 15+ miles,  we have been doing 8-12 miles still.  However,  we keep reminding ourselves it’s not about the miles but the smiles. 

We have been playing “leap frog”  on the trail with a bunch of great people. We have come across a few other trail dogs.  One of Skye’s favorites is Shenny,  short for Shenandoah.  We had initially started hiking with a good group of people who we called the culture club.  They’re a little bit faster than us so we haven’t seen them in a week or so.  Right now  we have been hiking with a few other couples- Two Step & James, The Game Warden &  Jason,  and of course me,  Snorlax and Skye Stalker.  So far we have been calling us the couple’s therapy group (subject to change).

We stayed in a shelter for the first time the other night.  Snorlax and Burley (who has been giving out earplugs to people at shelters) were having an unintentional game of Marco Polo snoring edition that night.  People are now wondering if Snorlax really deserves that name after Burley’s performance.  I was almost thinking there was a bear nearby. Prior to settling in we were giggling like little kids at a sleepover when our parents are asking us to keep it down.

While in Franklin, NC we did buy a new mini Sawyer and trashed our Coghlans water pump.   Not even a full day back on the trail after town the new mini Sawyer broke.   We had contacted Sawyer and no one got back to us.  When we passed by Nantahala outdoor center (NOC),  Howard there,  was nice enough to call Sawyer,  take care of the whole issue and replaced our broken one for us (thank you Howard!!).  When we were there we also indulged in some beers and pizza.  Snorlax decided to have more beers than some of us,  as well as carry extra beers in his pack (putting him over 35lbs) to have at the mountain.  This caused him to slow down but he was accusing me to be “like lightening” while I like to believe I’ve been going the same speed the whole time and his perception was off.  I was excited to drop some weight off my pack but donating  some things I don’t necessarily need. 

Instead of a zero day,  we ended up having a “nero”  or “hero”  day in Fontana.  At the AT crossing in Fontana Dam is where we had last hiked to prior to town where they would pick us up there by shuttle the next day.   We did hobo style camping like we usually do prior to town,  but this time it was in a marina parking lot.  It’d be an understatement if I said I was a little worried we would get arrested.   It did however have a bathroom and running water nearby which was handy.  Snorlax left his only t shirt there but was recently retrieved when we someone else wearing it  ( the man’s trail name is now the Bandit).

While in Fontana we had to get our permit for the smoky’s, resupply for about 6-7 days oppose to the 3-4, and unfortunately give Skye to the kennel because dogs aren’t allowed in the smokys. 

It was an emotional day as Skye Stalker left us for the time in the Smokys. I know she will be fine and have fun but I still wish she was with us to see it all. 

The Fontana Dam Shelter has an amazing view,  a fancy shelter known as the Fontana Hilton.  It even has a shower and flushing toilet.  We are not sure what to expect with all the hype about the Smoky’s but are excited to be continuing our trek on.  North Carolina – a better place to be they say-but who are they to say?  We’ll make up our own minds along the way.  Until then-happy trails to you!

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Just call me Prank Sinatra

Well,  our last zero day in Hiawassee was fun.  You could easily spot a thru hiker because most of us were participating in at least one of the deadly sins-gluttony. The locals have been great! Almost too great to the point strangers are telling me and Sean would make great looking kids.  We were leaving town on April Fools day (my favorite holiday).  The last morning before hitting the trail again we had breakfast at the Georgia Mountain Restaurant.  The town is great at spotting not only hikers but pranksters because they asked if any of us could keep a straight face and play a prank on their boss. I was still able to participate in my favorite holiday in my home away from home by complaining to their boss about our waitress – per Jennifer’s (our waitress)  request (let’s hear it for Shaye and Jennifer at Georgia Mountain Restaurant). Later that day I also tricked Sean by giving him what he thought was a  Ferrero Rocher chocolate but indeed a dehydrated Brussel sprout.

At this point we are going by the names of Musicbox,  Snorlax and Skye Stalker (but she seems to have many more trail names).  We are doing about 10-12 mile days.  We have learned that is age is nothing but a number out here,  and when in the city we need to remember to look both ways.  We have a hikers tan which is essentially tan lines from your sleeves and the straps from your trekking poles.  Our feet are sore,  but at least there are no more blisters.  Snorlax’s knee is doing better and my thighs may actually be regaining some skin back (thank you body glide & to my sister for sending me some spandex shorts).

All of us have gained our hikers appetite and are craving nothing but burgers, cold beer and wet food (well just one of us for the later).  We made it to North Carolina,  and are over the 100 mile marker. 

While things have gone pretty smooth,  we still have our moments as well… Like waking up in the tent to your pup being sick.  Or realizing you have another 3 miles to the next privy, and end up doing your business at the top of a hill,  hanging off a branch.  You find yourself some days doing pull ups in your tent because your sliding to the bottom of your tent from sleeping on a slope,  and sometimes can’t sleep due to crying coyotes. 

We have realized our idea of a hot breakfast is too time consuming and have resulted to things like pop tarts, and said goodbye to oatmeal.  We will be switching our water filtering system to save on time,  and have cut weight in our packs by tossing out random things like stuff sacks.  I’ve learned to use utilize resources such as hotel sheets when it’s time to do laundry in town and have only dirty hiker clothes.  I get excited when I see a trash on the trail so I can get rid of the extra weight while leaving no trace. 

For the first time in about 4.5 years I think Skye Stalker is actually cleaner than us. I can’t tell if I’m really tan at times, or just really dirty. I’ve gotten so used to walking miles and miles daily that I feel like life can be a deja vu, with a beautiful view. I feel like we’re part of the cast of the Lord of the Rings. Would I change it?  No.  Life is whiteblaze,  and I’m going to follow it all night (or day) long. 

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Same shirt – different day

Some say that if the plan doesn’t work,  change the plan but never the goal.  That’s how we like to roll. 

We left Pennsylvania March 21st and made it to another fine hotel in Gainesville,  GA by 1:30 AM.  I should have known by the lack of coffee and no clock in the room that agendas are out the window once you are in the south.  The day started out like most of our days have the last few weeks-hectic.  Check out at the hotel was 11 and our rental car needed to be returned by 12 (although I’ve been telling people we drove our own car and blew it up). We packed up our bags and rushed out of the hotel planning to stay at one of the hiker hostels…

Turns out the hiker hostel was full.  Our next step was to figure out where to go now and how-we ain’t got no car.  Here we are,  March 22nd walking around Gainesville, GA looking like some homeless folks with just our packs and our pup. 

If I had known that would be my last shower before we hit the trail I would have made it last longer,  and I would not have picked Subway as my last meal before I have nothing but jerky, trail mix,  and oatmeal. 

We managed to find a cab which could bring us to Amicalola falls for $90. However, when the cab arrived he stated he would need to charge $120 for Sean’s lady friend.  Back at home,  it’s based on the mileage – not people and you would think the extra would be for our four legged friend.  But anyways,  we didn’t argue-we just wanted to get out of the city and into the woods.  After a sketchy 45 minute cab ride,  which also included the driver telling us we wouldn’t make it 6 months on the trail,  we were at the start of the approach trail: Amicalola Falls. 

We registered at Amicalola Falls,  hikers 909 and 910. We hiked 604 steps,  and did a total of about 4 miles before we decided to call it a day and camp. We weren’t planning on starting until the 23rd so 604 steps and a few extra miles was okay with us. 

We had our first full day of hiking March 23rd. Sean woke up to a deflated air mattress-which we were able to fix.  We have been doing about 8 miles each day and slowly worked our way up to about 10 miles a day.  We have met people from all over,  including New Zealand,  France, England and Finland.  Former thru hikers,  section hikers and local day hikers. 

My birthday was on the 24th and started out with a great sunrise on Springer mountain.  Sean probably won best husband (at least in a backpacker’s world) by carrying an extra 2lbs to provide me with a giant hard cider,  King size peanut butter snickers bar and a birthday card.  We ended the day by cooling off in the rain.

By day 3 most of us had attained our thru hiker fragrance which is a combination of B.O. and campfire (amongst other things). 

Our Good Friday was a Good Friday indeed as we received not one,  but two forms of trail magic that day.  A big shout out to the Springville Baptist Church and Benchmark for providing us with fresh coffee and fruit! Skyedogg found her own trail magic that day in the form of a dead mouse. 

By Saturday,  we were flaunting the new thru hiker accessories of blisters and chaffage.  I’ve always been a strong believer that thick thighs save lives but doing 8+ miles of hiking daily I’m not so sure my thighs would agree.  We were spoiled once more with more trail magic (thank you St.  Matthews episcopal church) and continued to learn what it’s like backpacking in the rain. 

Easter Sunday we headed out in the rain to hike what would be our first over 4000 ft mountain since we started the trail.  We came across the “Easter Bunny” handing out Easter candy.  We hiked in the thunderstorm and while it was not ideal,  we have remained in good spirits.  Skye dogg did not seem to care for the thunder so much but luckily it passed by and she kept on trekking. 

By Sunday we managed to slowly work our way up to 10 miles a day but have slowed down due to Sean hurting his knee.  We have hiked a little over 60  miles but stopped at Unicoi Gap to take a few zero days in town to rest his knee. There were minimal campsites on the way so we did our first hobo style camping g by the road which is not my favorite.

We will continue our trek on Friday from Unicoi Gap and will hopefully be doing another 10 miles or so.  Northern followers reading this right now amp up your trail magic game for us by August or September because we have been spoiled down here with trail magic.  While I have not tried any Georgia peaches,  everyone seems to be peaches.  Thank you to Kennesaw Outdoor recreation activities club for the trail magic breakfast Wednesday morning. 

It’s been about a week in the wilderness and feels like it’s been longer.  We pretty much have two outfits to decide between which would include deciding on shorts or pants.  We generally wake up when the sun rises and go to bed not long after the sun sets.  We already find ourselves not remembering the days,.  And getting to town you have to remember to watch out for traffic because the busiest traffic you see in the woods are other hikers.  we ask about weight like it is a normal conversation – not how much we weigh but the weight we carry.

It’s only been a week,  and things haven’t gone as planned but we like our new home and we will keep on trekking.  The plans may change but the goal is the same.  Katahdin-here we come. 

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Spring has sprung (and so has our journey)

March 20, 2016. The first day of spring, and the beginning of our adventure.  As winter fades away to welcome spring,  so does the stress of preparing for this big adventure to welcome the next chapter in our lives.  The last few months,  but particularly this last week before we had left to head to Georgia from Maine has been a whirlwind of emotions. And a never ending list of things that need to be done.  To think people are calling us brave for what we are doing makes me laugh a little. Mainly because right now I feel like we are chickens… Walking around with our heads cut off because of all the things that we needed to do.

We have been researching for months,  testing and retesting our gear systems.  We have been making meals, dehydrating them and then packaging them.  We then have been putting them in priority mail boxes to have them sent to us later on down the trail.  We have been cleaning  out our apartment-tossing things,  donating and packing what we think we need to keep (How two people who have everything we think we need to have for six months in a backpack have so much stuff in an apartment is beyond me).

We have had a tremendous amount of support from our family,  friends and even strangers. Making time on top of everything else we are doing to see everyone before we set out on foot for several months has been great but difficult.  You don’t realize how much support you have from people sometimes until something big like this is about to happen (Thank you!)

Here we are,  March 21st. Spring has just begun and so has our journey.  The idea of hiking the Appalachian Trail was just a seed years ago. Then that seed was planted about a year ago.  Today,  it’s sprouting out of the ground like a beginning of a flower. With all this love, and support from everyone we are about to blossom. 

There will be rain.  Heck,  maybe even snow which may try to stop us from blossoming.  There was even talk of a nor’easter right as we were driving down.  Well, us Norsters will be Norstorming that nor’easter so it doesn’t knock us down.  The problems which we encounter will just need to  be weeded out. 

The things we have taken so much time and effort to prepare for before this trek may work,  may not.  That’s OK.  Everything in life just needs a little trial and error sometimes.

The feeling I had as I snapped the last strap to my backpack as we left our empty apartment with nothing else was refreshing.  I realized this was really about to happen.  Excited, scared,  anxious.  We have been so sick of all the planning and preparing part and have just wanted to start.

Here we are,  with about another 715 miles more to go to get to Georgia.  Hopefully I don’t jinx us with saying so far- so good.  We have made it safely to Pennsylvania with multiple breaks on the way down. 

I write this from the finest hotel,  which costs about $50 a night,  allows dogs and has a great view of the highway.  The decor is likely circa 1977, every electronic makes a screeching noise when turned on, the towels have holes, the pillowcases say their name, there’s no fitted sheet and there’s about 5 foot distance from the bathroom and the bed so you don’t miss anything which is going on. 

Living like this would drive some people crazy. We are just living, and we are likely crazy-but that’s okay.  Not all flowers are the same,  some just need to be wild to thrive.  So goodbye winter,  you were fun but Spring has sprung and the journey has just begun.

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