We’re Maniacs, Maniacs on the Trail

Honey- we’re home!  That’s right, after leaving Maine to drive to Georgia on March 20th , we returned to Maine by foot on September 27th. It only took us 6 months and 7 days to get there.  But, just like when we arrived in Georgia by car, that was not the end of our journey, it was just beginning. Although we had just walked from Georgia to Maine, our end goal was still about 280 miles away.

One may think that with almost 2000 miles of hiking experience, that everything is almost a walk in the woods- think again. It seemed as though the real challenges had just begun.

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We went from New Hampshire, where they say live free or die, to Maine- Vacationland or the way life should be. Although they describe it as vacationland and say that’s the way life should be- hiking and living in the woods of Maine , in the fall- is not really what most would call vacation.

Pre trail me said there was no way we would still be hiking the trail in October in Maine. Yes, we have hiked in Maine through some of the coldest temparatures, even in February when the temps are below zero. The difference between day hikes in Maine, and backpacking in Maine (when your only home is a tent) is that it’s freaking cold. When the day is said and done, or even the weekend backpack trip – it’s generally a chance to stop and get real food, a cold beer, all served by someone else- then go home to a shower and warm bed. Instead, when you’re hiking the trail – when the day , weeks or months are said and done- you add boiled water to your dinner and fall asleep with the dirt, dried sweat, and sometimes blood, and tears from the day in your tent, hammock, or shelter.

So, with all of the above being said, we were still on the trail in October, and still havng fun despite the cold temps. We weren’t quite ready to go back to “civilization” just yet.

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Similar to previous states, the further north we got- the better the views. With better views, usually come more complex climbs.  Not more than 1 mile after we cross the border into Maine, were we doing hand over hand climbs onto large boulders, squeezing between crevices of rocks and rock sliding. Oh yeah- we were rocking.  20160928_113330[1].jpg

We had been on auto pilot for some time and here we were, in our 14th state, and have been out here for 6 months- and now we needed to think a little bit more in regards to where and how we should be stepping, and reaching for things. You get to the top of one giant rock obstacle, to then be able to see further and have to try to think about your next moves. I was a big fan of butt scooting on the trail, in fact- one of my most frequent words of advice on the trail was that you were never too cool to butt scoot.  But (no pun intended), despite being a regular fan of butt scooting down rocks, some rocks were way ahead of me and I would just slide right off. Luckily, Snorlax was generally close by to catch me and prevent me from falling over the edge. I ripped a lot of pants this way. 

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Mahoosuc Notch was the first big test we had once we entered Maine. It is described by our guidebooks as the most difficult or fun mile of the AT.  It took some people anywhere from one hour to about three hours to complete. Generally, one mile takes us anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.  Of course it rained the day before we were going over Mahoosuc Notch, and also sprinkled during our trek over this section.  It took us about 3 hours to complete this section.  We were having flashbacks of Pennsylvania a.k.a. Rocksylvania all over again. I felt like the cast of, “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” but with about 30 pounds on my back, and instead of going through grassy areas, we were going through the aftermath of  dynamite in a Mountain. In some sections you could hear a river running below you, and you knew that if something fell down there, it was done.  The same day we went up what is considered the steepest part of the AT.  The goal for that day had initially been 15 miles, but by the time those areas were completed, we called it good at about 7 miles.

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Skye Stalker did not do the Mahoosuc Notch section. Although we believe she probably could, it would have taken us longer , as well as we did not want to risk her getting hurt. Luckily, my brother in law , Blake and my sister Missy had taken Skye at one of the last road crossings and returned her at the next road crossing. While we were out hiking the toughest mile in the rain, our trail boss was chilling on a couch, in a warm house, eating as much she wanted. It really is a dogs life.

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Oboz sent us another pair of shoes. That marked our 4th pair on the trail, as well as our 4th season. We hit the 2000 miler marker not too long after we entered the state of Maine.

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The state of Maine brought us tears of joy, and pain. Snorlax , amongst many other hikers had some days where they wanted to quit the trail. Our bodies were beat up. My left knee had some persistent pain which slowed me down a lot, especially going down mountains. I developed trench foot on my feet, which also affected my speed and enjoyment in hiking. I had also lost two toe nails by this time. I was ready to become a foot model.

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Unlike R.Kelly, our minds were telling us yes, but our bodies were telling us no. We did not make it this far to just give up, but boy- was the trail really  testing us.

We had been in Maine for about a week when we walked into the Rangeley area, which is not far from Snorlax’s hometown.  His parents, my in laws- Greg and Jeanette- took us in and fed us some amazing home cooked meals, got us showers and laundry. They even took Skye again for some sections to let her rest up.   (they won’t ever let us get pictures of them so here is the closest I can get)

Piazza Rock, Saddleback and the Bigelow mountains were the next big milestones that we would be conquering.  While the cold was a downfall of hiking this late in the season, the colors make up for it. Fall is definitely one of my most favorite seasons in Maine.

If you find yourself in the Rangeley area and looking for a small hike, but also maybe a good place to do some business and play a game of cribbage with your friend, I recommend the Piazza Rock trail hike and swing by the shelter. The Piazza Rock shelter has a double seater privy, with a cribbage board. You do need to bring your own cards and may need to make your own pegs.

The Bigelows were beautiful. Not that anything else we have seen has not been beautiful. It was amazing to go through so many areas that I have never seen before and I had lived in the state practically all my life (minus a brief period that I went to college in NH).  Any picture I took along the trip, I instantly felt like it did not do it justice. In order to see the beauty, you had to just be there- in that moment- and nothing else.

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One of our obstacles in Maine was fording multiple rivers. It was good and bad that we have had a drought this year because the bodies of water weren’t very high in some areas. This would make it easy to ford, but difficult to have a drinking source.  We were on somewhat of a deadline when crossing a section of the Kennebec River. There was a “ferry” (it was a canoe) service for this section as it is dangerous to cross on your own.The ferry service stopped October 11th, or you would have to call and pay for the service. We made it by October 10th. Skye decided that she didn’t want to take the ferry and swam across. Not sure she was expecting the water temp she jumped into but made it across safely.

The ferry was featured in a new artictle in one of our local papers: http://bangordailynews.com/2016/10/13/outdoors/new-appalachian-trail-ferryman-helps-take-hikers-across-dangerous-river/.

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While we were close to home, we grabbed our cars and slackpacked ourselves for about 80 miles or so. Slackpacking actually didn’t make our trip easier like expected, and was actually more of a headache.  We slackpacked from Rangeley to Monson and called it good. We parked the jeep in the 100 Mile wilderness with boxes full of resupply food, and of course some beer. We did this so we wouldnt have to carry about 12 days worth of food through that stretch, and have a little bit a celebration drink with our trail fam.

Somewhere after the ferry, but before the 100 mile wilderness, Skye retired from hiking the trail. She had made it over 2000 miles. In one of her excursions of chasing a chipmunk, and returning with her pack lopsided – she was slightly limping. We removed her pack to see if that would help but it didn’t make much difference. Snorlax carried her to the next nearest shelter, which happened to be close to a road. Our friend Merlin slackpacked to where one of our cars were parked and drove up to get us and Skye.  She rested the night and the next day she seemed to be fine, but we knew it was a sign that she needed to go. We got her to my in laws where she remained for the rest of the trip.

The 100 mile wilderness some may be asking- what’s that like the 100 acre wood where Winnie the Pooh and his friends chill? Not exactly. It is generally considered the “wildest” part of the AT. Also considered one of the “most challenging to navigate and traverse”. Because this section is so isolated, food and assistance is not easily attainable- therefore they recommend you carry a lot. One of the pictures above is a sign which you see prior to entering the 100 mile wilderness. The boxes pictured above are filled with food, snacks, stove gas, and toiletries which Snorlax and I had left over from our pre trail prep. We filled the jeep with this stuff and parked it in the wilderness. The other picture above is our family just about to enter the wilderness. Look at the smiles in those faces. 100 miles left of this journey, and here we are- together, like we have been for the past 6 months. (from L-R: Snorlax,Shaggy, Musicbox (me), Game Warden, Spam, Sniper, Earl Grey, Frisky, NP, Pinky and The Brain, Tourmin, Mama Bear, Dayman and Hollywood). This is our family (missing a few in this picture).  

When we were parking the jeep in the wilderness- some other hikers ran up to us, asking us if we knew how close town was- because they were low on food.  It was a great feeling and perfect timing on their part that they approached the right vehicle, at the right time. We were able to feed the two hikers for another 4-5 days so they could make it to Katahdin comfortably.

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Approximately 70 miles into the wilderness, we made it to where the jeep was parked filled with our goodies.  It was the best feeling being able to help other hikers. There had been multiple people who had run out of food and would have been in some tough spots if it weren’t for the jeep.  All my overplanning with food worked out for all the hikers. It was also a great opportunity to have my homemade dehydrated meals tested out by someone else other than my husband.

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The last few days we encountered some snow on the top of Whitecap Mountain, and fought some rain.

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Above photo courtesy of The Brain 

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We had some near death encounters which could have been caused by crazy fires, or slipping and falling, and maybe some from people getting hangry and emotionally drained. I remember at one point slipping while going down a mountain and going flying in the air, parralell to the ground. I landed hard on my back right on a rock and a root pertruding out of the ground. If it was not for that backpack I was wearing, our trip would have ended a lot sooner than planned. It’s these moments where I need to just step back, sit down and take a deep breath.  I did not make it this far to just end my trip like that.

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There we were, less than 100 miles left to Katahdin. We could finally see her. We have been chasing her for months now, and she’s just been sitting here looking pretty. After over 2000 miles, and over 6 months of snow, rain, humidity, heat, scraps, bruises, poison ivy, trench foot, and various injuries, lack of showers, dirty smelling clothes,tears, bland food and spending time away from our comforts of society- she didn’t even dare show her face. Those clouds were blocking the first chance we got to see her. But at this point, we were able to tell her that there was no stopping us now.

 

Prior to summiting Katahdin we stopped in Milinocket. This gave us a chance to pick up a package from our trail family who left in Harper’s Ferry- Cheesus and Two Step. We also picked up some balloons for the summit. In the box from Cheesus and Two Step were some personalized flags for Pinky and The Brain, Game Warden and Snorlax, Skye Stalker and I (amongst some other awesome treats). The flags were customily made by them – therefore made with love.

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We summited Katahdin on October 19, 2016. The skies were blue and there were clouds, but they kept moving fast- just like our emotions. It took us 6 months and 27 days. Dogs are not allowed in Baxter State Park where Katahdin is. Skye stayed with my mother and father in law until we finished. Skye was there in spirit. We summitted with some of the best people ever. We were the kids who slept late and procastinated because we knew it wasn’t a race. It was all about the smiles, not the miles. Many said we were behind- but behind what?  We just had the journey of a lifetime. We gave up so much to be able to go after one of our dreams. And despite how tough it got at times, we pushed through and made it. We were surrounded by some of the kindest people we have ever met not even while just on the trail, but also on our summit day.  I still remember getting dropped off from Gainsville to Amicalola Falls from the cab driver who ripped us off on the fare, but also said we wouldn’t make it 6 months in the woods. Well you’re right Mr. Cab Driver, we didn’t make it 6 months. We made it 6 months and 27 days- so put that in your pipe and smoke it.

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Pictured below are Daddy and Wakka, other family members who were not there when we summited 

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Live Free Or Die

We arrived in New Hampshire,  the state known for its motto,  “Live Free Or Die” on September 8th. We have been so busy living free and trying not to die that we haven’t had much time to keep this blog updated! 

We walked into New Hampshire directly into the city of Hanover (rather than in the middle of the woods).  As we walked through the town,  in our stinky hiker attire,  the locals passing by in their cars were yelling out their windows,  asking if we needed a place to stay.  We kindly declined due to us having our hearts set on the free pizza slice for hikers and eighty cent PBR beers awaiting us at Ramunto’s Pizzaria.  

Sitting in the Pizzaria,  enjoying our free slice and cheap beer-a hiker special, we were surrounded by Dartmouth College students sporting their pastel Polo shirts,  Sperry shoes,  clean shaven and tidy haircuts.  They smelled of Old Spice and Axe, and we smelled like old spices and looked like we should be carrying axes. It was “Thirsty Thursday”  for these college kids and us hikers were thirsty too but for multiple reasons. I tried convincing our friends to crash a college party but they weren’t down with the idea… Thinking back to my college days, crashing the party wasn’t necessary. 

It wasn’t until this night that I would be able to say that I’ve been to an Ivy League school.  Multiple thru hikers set up tent city behind the athletic fields of Dartmouth College.  At this point of the trip I felt as though I’ve earned my ability to say that because I have had poison ivy all summer.  

Continuing with our living free life we got some free donuts from a bakery named Lou’s and a free bagel.  We got a chance to get discounted showers at a senior community center and did laundry.  Hanover had easily been the most hiker friendly community in awhile.  

Not long after leaving Hanover we got a pleasant visit from our friends Carrie Jo and Alyssa. In tote those fine ladies brought some trail magic of all sorts and we visited Carrie’s meme who lived in New Hampshire. Meme made us an amazing home cooked meal and dessert. The chicken and biscuits were amazing,  as well as the homemade strawberry shortcake , even homemade whip cream! Meme also sent us off with other treats so luckily we were able to share with fellow hikers. 

Shortly after we entered the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  

The white mountains cover about a quarter of the state of New Hampshire and a small portion of Maine. They often described as the most rugged mountains in New England . It’s also often said that by now we have done two thirds of the trail but only a third of the work.The elevation gain/loss of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail is the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest 16 times. At this point of the trip,  I’m definitely feeling as though we’ve done some work! 

Our first real big mountain of this section was Mt.  Moosilauke.  Measuring in at 4802 feet,  it had been the first mountain above treeline if not ever,  in awhile.  The talk of the trail was Moosilauke for the next few days.  We were like kids waiting for Christmas… or a big exam. 

Overall,  the climb up this mountain was amazing. We started the hike with about ten of us,  and by the time we reached the top,  and hung out for a little bit-more started showing up.  All those kids who sleep late and procrastinated  arrived on Moosilauke that day. September 13th. Why do I remember that day? Because I’m a little bit superstitious and find 13 to be unlucky.  But also because it was the eve of Snorlax’s and mine three year wedding anniversary and wouldn’t want to celebrate without our friends and family.   The views were amazing as well and it was a moment where you were reminded of why the heck you were out there.  We were all meant to be here for reason but the reason was yet to be determined. However,  whatever the reason it was for good intents and usually in tents. .. And often could be intense. 

The white mountains were the start of the last chapter of this journey and you started to see more than what you saw at the beginning.  

New Hampshire was exciting on multiple levels.  We were so close to were we used to call home, as well as so close to the finish. Best of all-we got to see more friends and family we had not seen awhile or had even met.  My sister,  Missy (aka as Weenie to me), her husband Blake and the youngest of their pups Wyatt came to visit. 

Missy and Blake fed us with beer and pizza (weird,  I know – like who likes those things?)  and helped us resupply. I also got a chance to get a new pair of pants which were needed due to the fact that the current ones were too big.  What I gained in knowledge ,  I probably lost in body weight. 

We finally got a chance to hike the Franconia Ridge section of the trail which we have seen featured in many popular backpacking photos and articles. As predicted, we were not disappointed. 

The next big exam was Mt.  Washington.  Known for its most drastic weather changes, and overpriced chili (amongst other things).  Snorlax and I were up there this time of year last year and I was knocked over from the wind and bundled in some of my warmest clothes.  We lucked out this year had beautiful weather,  and clear skies. 

We were able to watch the sunset on Mt Washington. However,  due to taking that  time to watch the sunset,  didn’t leave us much time to hike on to the next shelter which was more than five miles away.  And what use to take us two hours to do,  could take up to five hours now as the terrain was much more challenging.  That night ten of us humans and a Skye dogg slept in the dungeon of the Lake of Clouds Hut which was about a mile south of Mt. Washington.  The dungeon is the emergency shelter at Lake of the clouds,  the Harry Potter room of the huts.  The room is not even the full basement of the Hut and alledgeally sleeps like 6 but as always,  we proved that to be wrong and squeezed ten and a dog.  

We then hiked up Mt.  Washington again because it was so much fun and not cracked up to be as scary as some make it seem. .. Despite the lists of deaths that occur on that mountain displayed at the top. 

It was Mt. Madison,  the neighboring Mountain which we found to be the next big challenge. Still above treeline,  but only 5366 feet,  the winds seemed about 50mph or more that day and we could barely keep ourselves up. The winds blew off our friends glasses,  and we could not even hear them yell for help as the winds were so loud. 

Another exciting thing to happen in New Hampshire?  Oh Missy and Blake visited again and got to meet most of the trail family.   As well as Snorlax,  Skye and I got to meet Mama Bear’s mom, Jennifer. 

Jennifer helped us slackpack the wild cat mountains,  and also watched Skye so she could rest up while we did some bigger mile days . New Hampshire had definitely been more challenging than other states.  Being above treeline put us at higher risks of getting hurt if we hiked in the rain and other not ideal weather conditions,  and also slowed us down.  Having the support of family really helped us out.  Much love to Jennifer, Missy,  and Blake… And of course the rest of our squad! 
Other Notable trail angels: Lost Camper, Mountain Dude, Some Butter, Trash Panda and Cosmo the dog.  They hooked us up with some trail magic of tasty treats including Dog goodies. Also- Dennis the menace who hooked us up with safety supplies,  wood and Kindle, as well as a squeekie tennis ball for our trail boss. 

Being in the final two states,  we started realizing how far we had come and how little we had left.  We grew so much,  as well as our family.  It was the ideal trail mix-sweet, spicy and a little bit nutty. 

We started to embrace our lifestyle more and more.  We had experienced some of our longest stretches without traditional comforts like showers,  shaving, laundry and those other things like cell service.  We were finally unplugged but felt so much power outdoors and with each other.  We were home. 

It was the first time I got myself in a situation where I had to wipe my toosh with a leaf. The first time I had to poop first,  and then dig later. The first time I learned to snap. The first time I cried on the trail aside from a time I needed to drop our dog off at a kennel and she couldn’t hike with us.  I learned to French braid (somewhat). Ya know – just live free or die type of everyday things. 

New Hampshire –  you tested us,  but showed us a lot. We will be back,  until then- happy trails. 

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough 

Never give up.  

There will be days that you wake up and don’t feel like trying,  maybe because you’re tired or you feel like everything/everyone is against you. Keep going. 

Some days will be harder than others and that’s the truth. Ask for help if you think you may need it.  Either way keep pushing. 

Every day cannot be perfect.  Make the best of it. 

Live in the now. Don’t overplan. Just be prepared.  

Learn and grow from experiences,  that’s what helps things to keep getting better.

Most importantly – ALWAYS HAVE FUN!  

What is this post about you may be asking yourself as you read this. Well,  it can be anything.  However, in this particular circumstance I’m talking about marriage and hiking. Ya know,  they go together like a horse and carriage-isn’t that the saying?  Maybe not but it was worth a try. 

If you could not tell by now,  Snorlax and I love hiking.  We also just happen to love each other and  made that whole love thing official by getting married three years ago September 14th.

 Happy three year wedding anniversary! 

Every year we take a photo of us on our anniversary  with the photo from the year before.  This year should not be any different just because we were living in the woods.  Tradition is tradition. 

The first year we were on Cadillac Mountain in Maine. 

The second year we were on Mount Washington,  in the Whites of New Hampshire .  As you can see,  the weather was not as ideal as the first two but we kept going.  (see a pattern yet? You may not be surprised we got engaged on a mountain too). 

This year,  year three,  we were on Kinsman Mountain in New Hampshire. Also in the whites of New Hampshire.  Also not great weather.  That’s OK.  Not every day can be perfect but we are still having fun and making memories.  

You have to be able to get through the difficult,  not perfect times to get the good. 

The climbs can be fun and exhausting but that view at the end…that’s the reward. Not everyone is willing to do the work prior to that reward,  some may do it differently-that’s okay.  It’s your life,  your hike.  

The unexpected can happen- an injury,  lost item/lost one, bad weather,  bad news,  great weather, great news,  job or no job,  money or no money. You will survive!  If you want something or work at something hard enough – it will work. 

There was no running water or electricity at the venue the weekend of our wedding,  people were running late,  dates got mixed up to vendors,  and the day of it was raining.  I just knew at the end of the day if Snorlax and I both said I do,  that was all that mattered to me.  Luckily,  the rain stopped before the wedding,  the water and electricity came back,  and everything else worked out.  If I freaked out at that time and let everything get to me,  who knows how that day would have ended.  Sometimes you just need to go with the flow and do your best to have fun and make things work. 

We ended up on Mount Moosilauke September 13th this year.  The weather was great and we were approaching a town from the trail.  A majority of our friends recommended we take our anniversary photo there since it was so nice.  We couldn’t break that tradition so we waited.  Even though the day was great! 

We did make it town that night and tried getting everyone to go to one of our favorite restaurants,  the Common Man,  in Lincoln,  New Hampshire.  Everyone wanted something different and tried getting us to go to the Common Man for our anniversary dinner and go to the other place with them… We weren’t sure what the next day would bring so we stuck with our decision and went to the Common Man.  

It worked out great- the service was great,  the food was awesome.  The manager even hooked us up with a free delicious bread pudding after all those miles we have put in (over 1800 miles now!) 

The next day (our anniversary),  it was supposed to rain.  We decided to get another night at the hotel we reserved but slackpacked that day so we could still get miles in and still keep most of our stuff dry. 
We packed out beers in our packs since we could afford the extra weight since we were slackpacking. We loved providing fellow hikers on this rainy day with trail magic. 

The weather man didn’t lie.  It rained.  Some puddles were deeper than others.  I went up to my knee in some spots. 

The rocks were slick.  The climbs were steep.  The Whites have slowed down our 2.5-3 miles per hour pace to about 1-2 miles per hour pace (two if we are really lucky). 

What would typically take us 7-8 hours to do,  took us about 11. We finished the hike in the dark,  got back to the hotel around 9:30 to find out nothing around there delivered and closed at ten.  The only thing still open was a McDonald’s which was two miles away.  Two miles seems like nothing on the trail or in a car,  but when you’re looking to not hike and just want food-its a little too much.  We ended up getting a cab to go through drive thru for McDonald’s for us. 

The McDonald’s was almost cold. The fries you could tell were the ones sitting in the fryer for awhile.  We didn’t care, we had food.  

So,  most everyone who is reading this (if anyone still is) is probably thinking that our anniversary was bad. Not us!  We are out here living day by day,  going after something we have both wanted. We have our health and each other’s love – and to us,  that’s all that really matters. 

There will be bad days-it happens.  Just never give up,  live in the now,  don’t overplan,  and most importantly  have fun! 

Any fellow Nobos reading this- if you have come this far-nothing can stop you now!  Keep going! 

Now take a hike!  

Mud, Mud,  I Love Mud. 

I pretty much give away my age and demographics with the title of this blog. Any reader from Maine,  especially anyone growing up in the 80’s or 90’s would know that Rick Charrette is the songwriter and I love mud was generally a song taught in the school chorus for grades 4th and below.  

This song would come to mind everyday hiking after a big rain storm on the trail.  It also came to mind a lot when hiking through the southern part of Vermont. Vermont – also known as Vermud. The word on the trail prior to hitting Vermont is that, well, it’s muddy.  It wasn’t even a mile after we hit the Vermont border that we could vouch for that rumor. It was like once you hit Vermont you flipped a switch to be walking through mud. Ankle deep mud.  

While our shoes may not have been huge fans of the mud,  it was actually not so bad.  At this point of our journey,  we are acclimated to many things which non thru hikers would not tolerate.  I would take the mud in Vermud over the rocks in Rocksylvania any day. 

Despite Snorlax,  Skye Stalker and I living in New England and being so close to Vermont,  this was really our first visit to the state. The general consensus is that yes-we enjoyed it. 

The climbs were challenging at times but you were generally reminded at the end of the climb what you were out here for.  Unlike Pennsylvania,  where you experienced uncomfortable circumstances just to have no view and/or reward.  

We hit over 1700 miles since our last update and now have less than 500 miles left of our journey.  

Less than 500 miles!  We are so excited. By the time we are able to post this blog,  we will likely be in New Hampshire, and will be down to the final two states.  

We have been out here for more than 5 months.  That is almost half a year.  Half a year of living in the woods,  isolated from society and the family and friends we have had for years.  

There were days I’d wake up pre trail and try on about three different outfits before leaving my house. Right now my backpack has a tank top,  a t-shirt, and two pairs of shorts.  It’s no big question of what I will wear,  like most cartoon characters where the same stuff every episode with no question.  Same shirt,  different day.  Our home is different every night.  The entertainment for the evening instead of watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones is watching an ant try to carry a piece of Ramen back to its home.  Sometimes it’s killing flies to feed to spiders.  Some hikers shared a story of the time they watched a fire pit flood from the rain and observed two cigarette butts float down the run off of the rain and try to guess which one would go faster.  This is what we call AT T.V.

Yes.  Every thing you just read above is true. We are watching our own National Geographic channel or Planet Earth daily-but without the frequent narration and fancy edits. 

There are times when we just look around and ask ourselves – where are we? And how did we get here?  

For example,  the first town in Vermont we visited was Bennington.  We were just outside the post office discussing where to go for breakfast. A local interjected and asked if we would like a ride.  We gladly accepted.  Anytime we can save our feet extra miles we do!  However,  while on the way to the diner,  he insisted he show us his house because he was interested in opening up a hostel.  This is not something I would have predicted I would be doing pre trail life. 

One of the next towns in Vermont we stopped at was Rutland. One of the most frequently talked up hostels on the trail is the Yellow Deli. 

The Yellow Deli,  often referred to as a cult but known as the Twelve Tribes (go to their website to learn more about them- http://www.yellowdeli.com) ran a hostel in the same building as their deli. The hostel cost was by donation,  and they also offered work for stay. They would also welcome you to their breakfast and dinner.  Some may say that they were fundamentalist Christians posing  as hippies in order to lure emotionally vulnerable young adults into their cult.   While very kind,  they had the ability to make you feel comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time.  

Other hikers would warn you to not drink their tea.  The Yerba Mate tea is this delicious tea the deli made, and it was this that was rumored to lure you in.  

The tea was delicious.  Snorlax,  Skye and I managed to get out of the Yellow Deli safely (some stayed 3-7 days) .  However,  the tea had quite the affect on the digestive system.  The whole day down the trail after departing,   the barking spiders were quite active and made me question whether or not my name should be Fart box instead of Musicbox. 

When we were in Rutland at the Yellow Deli,  we had a chance to slackpack to Killington. This slackpacking allowed us to get more miles in  but still stay in Rutland to meet some visitors we were expecting . 

My big brother Chris and my oldest niece Alexa came to visit us while we were in Vermont!  

The last time I saw them was in March.  We had a nice visit breakfast together.  Seeing the familiar faces from home helps motivate us to keep going! It’s been great meeting other hikers families as well . Some parents have traveled all the way from California and Alabama to help out! Thanks to Clothesline And Foto and Wolfsong (Zing and Sprinters parents),  as well as Moonbeam for the recent trail magic!  

The weather has been warm but definitely getting colder.  Therefore we had to request our cold weather gear sent to us. Thank you to my mother in law (Snorlax’s mom) for sending us our cold weather gear!  She also snuck in a bottle of wine for the adventurous! 

We did get a chance to jump in the water what may have been our last time before it gets too cold.  

We have been trying to enjoy as many sunrises and sunsets while we can.  One of the cabins we stayed at recently had a  ladder to the rooftop which offered prime views.  

Fun fact: You can be legally naked in Vermont but cannot be seen undressing in public.  We did see some naked hikers which caught us by surprise.  I’m grateful it was quick in passing and Skye didn’t lick anything she should not. 

We are coming close to the end of our journey. We have just left Vermont and entered New Hampshire (which is familiar territory for us)… Two more states left!  I feel like we are leaving out details of our journey sometimes so please feel free to let us know if you ever have any questions or things you want to hear more about! 

Thank you for the continous support and happy trails!  

New Jersey, New York, Then Hello New England! 

Aaah yes. Here we are,  5 months of hiking the Appalachian Trail.  Over 1600 miles hiked,  and only three states left to go.  We still have the occasional comments on how most hikers have already been through a particular town,  or question whether or not we will finish. The answer is yes,  we will finish.  We are in Vermont during this update,  and although we may be slower than some,  there are still many behind us. We are in the home stretch now.  We are walking home at our own pace.  

We can proudly look at how far we have come,  not just how far we have to go. We have walked from Georgia to Vermont,  and are still going, with less than 600 miles to go! 

Pennsylvania was tough.  Every state has had its challenges but at the time,  Pennsylvania seemed to take the prize for being the least favorite state.  

We entered New Jersey and immediately felt a difference.  Although it may have still had the annoying bugs and a good amount of rocks,  we started reaching elevation that offered spectacular views. 

Although water sources are much slimmer than they were at the beginning of our trek,  the water sources have been more frequent than Pennsylvania.  

Skye got her pack back in New Jersey and she’s still going strong.  She spends about 80% of her day chasing Squirrels and chipmunks,  but never catching them.  That 80% Snorlax and I spend telling her to leave them alone and then fixing her pack after it has flipped sideways due to her running so fast.  One of her other favorite things to do is go into the water to swim,  with her pack on (the pack is not waterproof!). 

New Jersey on the Appalachian Trail has been known for its delis.  Because you go right through some towns in Jersey,  which happen to have many delis, you can pack little food in your pack and just buy food along the way. 

We received some awesome off trail-trail magic from Game Warden’s cousin,  Tracy who lives in New Jersey.  He picked us up from a trail head,  brought us to his home and fed us pizza,  and some of his homemade beer,  and had breakfast sandwiches and coffee in the morning .  We also had a chance to shower and do laundry which is always a plus.  It was great to spend time with trail family’s family.  And If anyone has a chance to try Tracy’s beer,  I highly recommend it. 

New York  came soon after New Jersey and was just as awesome.  However,  one bad thing to say about New York was the trash on the trail.  There seemed to be a lot of broken glass and trash throughout the trail which is probably because most parts are so close to the road.  

We did find an old Rolling Rock beer bottle which we thought was pretty cool. I guess it’s true that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.   

We got a chance to hang out with some Donkeys that happened to reside near one of the shelters we visited.  Skye tried to play with them but they weren’t too keen on the idea… 

We continue to get awesome trail magic (including New York Bagels and New York Pizza!).  A section hiker,  by the name of Mac Daddy,  out with his family provided us with great company and bagels,  oranges and watermelon.  His son Elias was hanging out and educating us on the Pokémon character, Snorlax.  He seemed pretty excited to get his picture taken with our trail Snorlax and his Pokémon stuff . We also got some beer and pizza trail magic from a newlywed couple,  and got to share our backpacking tips for their new adventures. 

After doing so many miles,  gear starts to lose its luster.  My camp shoes from Astral that I got at trail days broke. Our darn tough socks started to rip.  The tips on my leiki trekking poles had gone.  Our oboz shoes were about toast,  and Snorlax’s Osprey backpack load lifters straps broke.  Luckily enough all of the above companies are supportive of thru hikers and replaced all of those things. 

Like New Jersey, the trail in New York goes by some delis.  The trail also went through the Bear Mountain zoo,  which was actually one of the lowest points on the Appalachian Trail physically and mentally. While wildlife is cool,  seeing them not in the wild and behind a cage is not as cool.  

It wasn’t that long before we were in Connecticut,  the gateway to New England and welcomed by my Aunt Kelly,  her significant other Roger,  and my cousins –  Alisha,  Kacey,  and Alexa, and their kids-Sofie and Logan.  They all live in Connecticut,  not even very close to the trail but still drove almost two hours to pick us up.  They spoiled us with all sorts of good food and beer,  showers and laundry.  We even got to go to the gun range with Roger and shoot a few rounds. We relaxed by the pool,  and watched some television.  Best of all? I got to see family.  It was awesome of them to drive all that way,  and also welcome our trail family into their home as well.  

It was great to be surrounded by such strong women,  such as my aunt.  About a year ago she was diagnosed with Guillain Barre syndrome,  where she was paralyzed and unable to speak.  Now,  she is walking on her own,  doing occasional hikes and talking again.  She told me while she was in the hospital and couldn’t speak,  she over heard the doctors tell family she wouldn’t make it. Aunt Kelly told me that she said in her head,  “Eat shit”  and she knew she was going to make it.  I’m so proud to call her my aunt and how far she has made it.  It just reminds us more and more that when  people imply we won’t make it,  to tell them to eat shit…in a nice way.   

While waiting for our new shoes to come in the mail,  we spent some time in Cornwall,  CT.  The local package store provided us with a complimentary beer. We enjoyed the beer at the top of the mountain,  watching the cars race at the Limestone Speedway.  

Once we got our shoes,  we picked up the miles once again and made it into Massachusetts.  

We were welcomed into Massachusetts with a thunderstorm on some open ledges.  It’s those moments where most people would be thinking they were through with hiking.  However,  that adventurous side of us was thinking – we are thru hiking now.  Those views,  in the storm even,  and the feeling of the warm rain on our skin-reminds us we are alive.  When we left 5 months ago after getting rid of most of our things, and put what we need in a backpack – we did it to live simply , but also simply live. 

There has been an increase with south bound hikers and it’s nice to hear more of what’s ahead.  We recently camped at a cabin on a pond where the caretaker made pancakes in the morning.  The south bounders brought fresh picked blueberries and those were added to the pancakes – now that’s team work. 

As we got close to the end of Massachusetts and near the Vermont border,  we were walking down the street from the trail and heard someone yelling to us.  Some locals invited us over to join their BBQ . It was a great time with lots of laughs and they even gave us a ride to do some errands.  The generosity of strangers,  and even family and friends who you barely see is amazing.  Hiking the trail has given us so much faith in humanity and helps keep us going. 

Being out in the woods for months at a time can be difficult to  keep up with everything.  I recently found out the musician Prince died, and we have no clue what’s popular for music and are isolated from current events.  Sometimes we are grateful for the disconnection, sometimes it makes it difficult to hold conversations with non hikers while in town.  I feel like by the time we are done we will need a cliff notes for the year 2016.

We have been out here for five months,  and are coming close to the end of our journey. While knowing what’s going on is important,  I think we will just continue to live in the now,  focus on our goals and keep trekking.  Thank you for the continous support and as always. ..Happy trails!

We Built This City On Rocks And Ankle Rolls

Pennsylvania. Also known as Rocksylvania. When some imagine Pennsylvania,  they may think,  ya know,  farm lands,  Hershey candies,  maybe even Philly Cheese Steaks or historical sites like Gettysburg.  What is Pennsylvania actually like?  Like a dump truck,  or better yet – an airplane just took a bunch of rocks and dumped it on the trail.  Dry and hot.  The water sources were  actually ditches with rocks and no water.  The bugs-especially the gnats behaved as though they were hit men,  out to get you- pestering you in your eyes, mouth,  nose and ears.  At times,  when you went to actually kill the culprits,  you could lose balance on the rocks and if not fall,  almost fall.  When asking other hikers about the bugs,  they would describe the situation like guerrilla warfare or worse. Dramatic maybe,  but when this is all you know,  it can be realistic. We constantly resembled Pig Pen from Charlie Brown and the Peanuts with all the bugs flying around us. 

When it did rain,  the ground would just suck up the water and make the rocks slippery – but the water sources would still remain dry. And with all those rocks- no views. But hey – it’s okay , we are out of Pennsylvania. 

One really exciting thing in Pennsylvania was my friend Katie came to visit and was our trail angel. Katie and I worked together in Maine and she just recently moved to Pennsylvania.  She provided rides to the store for us,  returned some broken trekking poles for us,  provided some trail magic and even visited over dinner. 

Skye managed to get stung by a bee.  She has a habit of trying to eat bugs. .. Well she caught this one.  The bee stung her right in the mouth.  Initially,  we weren’t sure what happened . She ran off, shaking her head vigorously, and made a motorboat sound in her mouth.  Soon after,  her right side of her face started swelling.  We were 20 miles from the nearest vet, it was like seven at night in the middle of the woods.  Luckily we had cell service to call the emergency vet.  They recommended some benadryl (which we had already given her), and to watch for labored breathing and make sure her gums do not turn pale or blue.  We are very grateful that she turned out to be Okay and the swelling was down by the next morning. Did she learn her lesson? No,  but hopefully it will not happen again.  

Pennsylvania was getting us down.  The Rocks were getting annoying.  We had barely seen any views.  The bugs annoyed us. We were tired of carrying an abundance of water.  In order to protect Skye,  we had taken her pack as well so we had extra weight on us.  We reached close to Palmerton,  PA when a storm was approaching.  The next climb coming up was completely exposed and rocky.  We made the decision to dodge the storm and take shelter at Mechanical Man’s house. It was a lodging service  listed in our guidebook.  We ended up camping in his garage,  listening to his teenage son’s band.  (one of the band members resembled Zackary Binks from Hocus Pocus). 

We were able to have dinner in a town by the name of Kunkletown.  The restaurant in Kunkletown did not have a proper alcohol license,  so we were able to get two beers or very large glasses of wine for free with our dinner. The next day we headed to the mountain but this time we slackpacked with the help from Mechanical Man. He also was awesome enough to watch Skye while we did so.  Slackpacking and taking a brief break from sleeping in the woods boosted our morale and we were ready to tackle the rest of Pennsylvania and keep moving.  

So Pennsylvania in a nutshell?  Rocks. Halfway point. Rocks. Half gallon ice cream challenge. Rocks. Blueberries. Rocks.  Skye got stung by a bee. Rocks. A friend came to visit. Rocks. Slackpacked. Rocks. 

So,  for those who may not also be following us on Facebook or Instagram,  we are out of Pennsylvania. Due to limited town stops and technology resources,  the blog is behind and we do apologize.  Please feel free to send us messages if you are anxious for updates.  Until then, thank you for the continous support and happy trails to you! 

Help! We need somebody.Help! Not Just Anybody. 

Don’t be alarmed by the lyrics of the popular Beatles song in the title of this blog.  Many of you have asked us throughout this journey if you can send us stuff or if we need anything and we appreciate it.  This blog post is addressing  just that. We aren’t in any trouble – just providing ideas of what you can do to help (for those who want to). Now that we are in the north, over halfway home and the terrain is getting harder,  and we will be getting closer to the closing for the season at Baxter State Park,  we were hoping friends and family May be able to help us achieve our goal of submitting Kathadin.  

We will be looking for little to no cost lodging that is dog friendly,  to accommodate not just me,  Snorlax and Skye Stalker,  but our trail friends as well if they happen to be with us.  

Assistance with slackpacking. What is slackpacking? Backpacking but without  all of our camping gear,  generally just  a small day backpack.  Someone would drop us off at a spot along the trail that can be reached by car,  drive further up (10-20 miles usually) and meet us there.  For example,  a possibile spot in Maine would be Grafton Notch on Route 26, to East B Hill Road in Andover,  ME.  

Trail magic is always welcome.  Hanging out at parking lots of trail heads with cold drinks,  good food and good company is always nice.  The northern part of the trail doesn’t get much credit for trail magic,  mainly because I think it’s hard to coordinate with all the hikers so spread out towards the end of the trail.  Let’s show everyone that it’s not always southern hospitality and we northerners know how to provide magic too (not just our views on the mountains). 

Shuttling to stores-like grocery stores, outfitters, and places to shower and do laundry are always awesome as well.  

If you are near PA, NJ, NY, CT, VT, MA, NH or ME and want to help-let us know and we can go from there.  If not- that’s cool too, we are up for the challenge no matter what.  This post was mainly to get the word out of how to help on the trail for those who have been trying to find ways to get involved since the beginning.  

Whoa We’re Halfway There… Ooooooh Living On a Prayer (and Ramen,  honey buns,  and tuna…) 

We Left Front Royal,  VA with more motivation than usual.  We likely had more motivation knowing that in less than 100 miles we would not only be reaching over the 1000 mile marker on the trail,but also soon after hitting the psychological halfway marker on the trail: Harper’s Ferry,  home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters.  

While it was raining when we arrived in Front Royal,  it had stopped by the time we left and once again the heat was on (metaphorically and literally speaking). We have gotten more comfortable with our pack weight and routines by now that bringing some wine in a bag or transferring a bottle into a Gatorade bottle and packing out some hot dogs isn’t out of the ordinary the first day we leave town.  Bringing the comforts of civilization into the woods helps us from going a little bit more crazy than we already are.  

There are days where we have contemplated eating the fungi around with hopes that it will give us super powers and make us faster like Mario and Luigi would do. 

The shelters along the trail seem to keep getting better and better the further we move north. The shelters are the dream club houses I had as a child.  Part of our diets are the dream diets we wanted as children. Candy all day long, chips,  cereal high in sugar and wait… There’s a challenge to eat a half gallon of ice cream coming up?  I don’t want to grow up-I’m a Toys ‘R’  US kid…or just a kid trapped in an adult body (However I’m pretty sure my feet are the same size as the average 4th grade student).  And the pain we experience in our feet,  knees and backs some days makes us feel like we may be pushing 80 years old.  

We are grateful that although growing old is mandatory,  growing up is optional.  Life is a playground and don’t forget it. Out here on the trail is like Neverland in the movies of,  “Peter Pan” and, “Hook”. We eat bowls of Ramen, imagining something more.  We are all out there for different reasons and while we may not be looking for our shadows,  we are sometimes looking for something more of ourselves.  We have fake names that are often simple but ridiculous. 

You introduce yourself and people may respond with,  “oh that’s a funny name-how’d you get that?”  Never in real life is that a common response when I say the name my parents gave me… And it’s OK. I often wonder that if the person who gave you your trail name is considered “your maker”  like the vampires in the HBO show True Blood.  

We made it to the 1000 mile marker within a few days after leaving town,  with the biggest issue being trying to coordinate enough people to do our own rendition of Vanessa Carlton’s song,  “1000 miles”  by the sign.  While we may not be the next winners on The Voice,  we had fun (video on our Instagram and YouTube). 

Soon after that big milestone we not only left Virginia,  but flew right through West Virginia,  then Maryland and have now entered Pennsylvania.  We made it to Harper’s Ferry which as mentioned is the psychological halfway point,  then made it past the official halfway point!  


When we left Harper’s Ferry,  we left missing some essential pieces of our hike-2 pieces of our trail family.  Unfortunately,  Cheesus and Two Step have left the trail . While we hate to see them go,  we understand that they need to do what is best for them and we will support them. We met Cheesus and Two Step the first day on the approach trail on the climb to Springer mountain back in GA.  Like the family we have back at home,  our trail family will always be our trail family no matter where they are. A shout out to Cheesus and Two Step for making over 1000 miles and to the unofficial official halfway point. 

While Trail Magic hasn’t been as common as it was in the beginning and further down south,  we keep receiving the occasional trail magic which always brightens our spirits.  A big shout out to, “The Real Deal” who provided us with a nice cold beer,  conversation and some safety supplies.  

Curtis,  Tanya and pup Mocha who are caretakers at one of the awesome shelters in PA,  brought us some cold sodas and provided some for us to take up the trail as well (which gave us energy to push on) 

There’s always the unintentional trail magic as well…

Snorlax,  Skye Stalker and I decided to do some night hiking recently to beat the heat and get miles in.  We wanted to get to Pine Grove by Saturday to do the half gallon ice cream challenge. I spent the last five miles of the night hike whining about how my feet hurt and doing a frantic dance to get the moths and bugs from flying into my head lamp and face.  When we were approaching the shelter around midnight it was a surprise to us to hear people up still,  and having a fire. They soon signaled us to this hidden trail.  When we could finally see some of their faces,  it became evident based on the fact that they were wearing jeans and had coolers that these people were not hikers,  and we were not at the shelter.  

Turns out we ended up at a local hang out spot in the woods for some young  adults.  They provided us with some beer,  safety supplies,  some live music by the fire and even a foot massage.  They loved hearing our stories of the trail and we enjoyed the socialization of non hikers and the amusing discussions they had amongst themselves. It was a great,  unexpected way to end a night hike.  

Game Warden, Snorlax,  Skye Stalker and I  hiked into Pine Grove soon after ready to eat some ice cream (Skye didn’t get ice cream). We had a light breakfast to save room for Ice cream, and a black coffee because we heard it helps balance the acids in your stomach. Snorlax and I started with black raspberry,  and Game Warden with mint chocolate chip.  Because half gallon tubs of ice cream aren’t actually half gallons,  once you finish those tubs,  you go and get a pint of another ice cream.  We all went with vanilla for our pints. I finished in 56 min 58 seconds. Snorlax finished 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Game Warden finished in 1 hour and 59 minutes.  The wooden spoons that we received weren’t as grand as we expected but we heard it’s what you need to get into Kathadin. 😉

It took us about a full 24 hours to recover.  And for the first time in my life the thought of ice cream was making me sick for pretty much all of those 24 hours. 

With all that ice cream in our bellies we weren’t ready to hike and needed a place to stay.  The hostel in town didn’t allow dogs (much like many of the places we have come across lately since we hit WV and further north).  We tried staying at the Pine Grove State Park but that was full.  The ranger there let us at least take a shower there before we attempted to waddle the trail with bloated ice cream bellies. It wasn’t soon after our showers our luck had changed.  A couple nearby heard of our situation and let us set up our tents on their site.  George and Kat were from Maryland,  camping for the weekend.  They just started getting more into hiking and backpacking and were full of questions.  Of course we were happy to help,  especially since they were so gracious to us. They also introduced us to giant Marshmallows,  and now s’mores will never be the same. I’m hoping this time next year I’ll be reading their blog about their journey on the Appalachian Trail. 

We have just entered Pennsylvania and most hikers have been calling it Rocksylvania due to all the rocks.  Recently a couple we know hiking with their dog had to send him home due to the rocks,  heat,  and lack of water.  The pup also developed a hot spot. We are staying positive and taking extra caution with  our little pup hoping we do not need to do the same.  

We are finding right now that prices are going up in rooms and everything else,  and places are less accepting of dogs the further north we go.  This has caused longer gaps in between showers,  and stays with real beds-hence the lack of posts.  That’s something we did consider pre trail and have been pretty lucky so far with everything so we aren’t complaining. 

We are happy to be back in the north and more than halfway home. A lot has changed in the past few months and so it  will be nice to be back in familiar territory.  We have heard of this new thing called Pokémon Go since we have been out here… my next adventure is likely going to be trying to find out how many points are owed to us because I’ve walked more than 1100 miles with a Snorlax…if anyone can help me figure this out-just comment below.  

Rollin, Rollin, Rollin On The River

So like CCR and Tina Turner once said-we left good jobs in the city (about 3 months ago) ,  working for the man every night and day and we haven’t lost one minute of sleep thinking about the way things could’ve been…

This past week we took some time away from the dirt path and were rolling,  rolling,  rolling on the Shenandoah river.  On the Appalachian Trail this  is also called aqua blazing.  A controversial topic.  Are you a true thru hiker if you canoe part of the trail? The answer is yours. Hike your own hike,  make the journey what you want to make it.   We knew before we got out here that we wanted to do this.  We ran into a couple our age at home, and with their dog,  who did the trail before and recommended it.  

We started our canoe trip in Waynesboro and ended in Luray,  VA.  The trip was 40 miles river and 80 miles of trail.  

Virginia is one of the largest states we have hiked through so far.  Because we are in Virginia for so long,  some say hikers get the Virginia blues.  Aqua blazing is a good way to take a break from hiking but still get miles in,  and still get exercise.  It’s all about balance right?  We are out here every day,  walking miles to get water that we need to treat/filter before we can even drink it. Carrying 30-40 lbs on our back daily,  hiking 15+ miles a day –  rain or shine.  Our homes need to be set up every day and we we have to blow up our beds every night.  Then there’s the bear bagging that needs to be done,  and digging holes in order to use the bathroom…that’s just part of thru hiking…so if we want to take three days away from hiking the trail and instead canoe part of it- we will do it and not feel bad.  Plus – we got to work our arms too! 

Snorlax,  Skye Stalker and I weren’t the only ones who went.  In our group we had a total of about 18 other thru hikers.  Along this journey we had Game Warden and Veto (yes Veto came back to join the fun!), Two Step,  Cheesus,  Google, Pinky and the Brain, Mama Bear, Stonecold, Daddy, Hollywood,  Thumper, Dayman, Corn, Drag Queen, and Wrong Way.

The river was definitely not the cleanest but neither are we.  The river offered many classes of rapids which made for a little bit more of a challenge with our gear and Skye Stalker also in the canoe with us. We had a successful trip and us three managed to stay in and not tip.  However,  some others on the trip were not as lucky.  Despite others tipping,  everyone had a good time.  

Using a canoe instead of just our backpacks to carry our gear allowed us to bring beer,  hot dogs,  burgers,  vegetables,  chips,  multiple squirt guns and of course fireworks! Sounds dangerous I know but don’t worry we washed the vegetabless and thoroughly cooked the meat… Oh and no one lost any limbs with the fireworks.  

  

We made it to Luray and got a chance to camp for free in town behind an art gallery.  In an effort to express gratitude for letting us stay for free we tried to make art with our tents by making the AT symbol. .. It was a fail. The local gym let us use their showers.  It was probably my first time stepping in a gym in about 3 years.  I felt pretty classy walking in with my Dollar General bag of toiletries,  not having showered for about 4 days,  while I passed everyone with their brand name gear.  

We entered the remainder of the Shenandoah National Park in Luray and ended in Front Royal.  Not even being in the park for about 20 minutes we encountered a bear.  While we have seen many bear on the trail, most of them just run away.  This particular bear did not run away,  not even when we made loud noises to scare it away.  We backed off and waited for it to eventually pass by-which it did.  The Shenandoahs had places on the trail where you could get food,  and blackberry milkshakes which were delicious! However I would have to say I agree with Ron Burgundy from Anchorman that milk was a bad choice… At least hiking in the heat after. It gave me a preview of what the half gallon ice cream challenge may be like therefore I will not hiking that day! 

We also had a deer visit our camp the other night which Skye Stalker was fascinated with.

We made it out of the Shenandoahs and out of the rain,  just in time to be inFront Royal for the fourth of July. While we may not have had the fanciest Independence day,  we ensure that every day while out here on the trail we strive for that life,  liberty and pursuit of happiness.  

Summer, Summer, Summer time

Aah yes,  in the summer time when the weather is hot,  you can reach right up and touch the sky.. or so it feels that way most days in the mountains.  When the weather is rainy and thunderstorms however,  Skye Stalker doesn’t like that and you don’t get very far. 

We left Daleville with our feet happy and our skin kissed by the sun from spending too much time by the pool.. But a well deserved pool day it was.  We ended up taking an extra day unplanned but it allowed Cheesus and Two Step to catch up with us.

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The weather was still warm and sunny at the start of the week.  The berries are starting to make an appearance and it makes us berry happy. 

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The first day of summer on the trail is also known as naked hiking day.  Naked hiking day is just that,  you hike naked.  Snorlax and I decided not to participate for many reasons…chaffing as one of them..the smell another… And let’s not forget about my last poison ivy incident which still haunts me. We didn’t run into any naked hikers either which we are pretty grateful for.  The last thing I’d want to see is a sweaty,  unkempt, sausage or bush with the chance of prints of Alligator skin as a result of the pack straps leaving imprints. 

We spent most of the first day of summer at the Bryant Ridge shelter.  The shelter slept 20 and was like every kids club house dream come true.  This low mile day due to our long break was unplanned (as most of our days) but fun.  We didn’t want to take that shelter for granted and had to give it some attention.  We continued our never ending game of rumy which started in Hiawassee, Georgia, utilized the squirt guns and just took some time to rest our feet. 

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The heat went down within the next few days once the rainy thunderstorms and tornado warnings kicked in.  There were nights it seemed like the tent was going to blow away and next thing you know we’d be following the Yellow brick road instead of white blazes on the trees.  Skye Stalker does not like these storms (not ideal for anyone really) so getting her to hike was a challenge.  It slowed us down  a lot and really put a damper on our own spirits.  We made it to Buena Vista,  VA for a night to stay a little bit dry and warmer than we were.  We were out fairly early the next day back on the trail with some rain but nothing like it was.

We decided to pack out hot dogs to cook at camp which helped keep our spirits high and appetites full. 

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We saw a rattle snake for our first time.  It was right on the trail heading north like we were.  Luckily I saw it right before I was about to step on it.  The snake then coiled up in the striking position and did not move from the trail.  We backed up and waited.  It kept rattling.  We eventually had to bushwack around the snake to get to our camp for the night.  (We are working on trying to upload the video to our website on YouTube and Instagram so please keep an eye out for that).

Also new this past week, we have a new hole in our third tent.. Looks like we may go on four tents.

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We saw a guillotine which was cool.  Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

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We also hit the 800 mile marker within this past week and had our 3rd month anniversary on the trail.  We are less than 200 miles from getting to Harper’s Ferry which is the official unofficial half way point of the trail. 

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In honor of the three month anniversary with the trail,  we leave you with this little tune (please use 12 days of Christmas tune)

In the first three months of hiking the mountains gave to me:
Chaffing on my thighs
Poison ivy on my butt
Bruises on my feet
A diet of peach rings
Snorlax stepped in terd
3… Oh wait 4 ripped tents
Lots of Snakes, deer and cubs
And a partridge saw me pee

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