And Then There Was…

image

The terrain on the Appalachian Trail is constantly changing. Yesterday the day started with a dirt path, which evolved into pine needles,

image

which evolved into roots,

image

which evolved into rocks,

image

which evolved into gravel,

image

which evolved into a tar road,

image
Professor

which led us to our motel room at Howard Johnson in Daleville, VA. With all those changes came constant elevation changes as well. No matter how hard I try to prepare for these changes of the trail, I am never prepared AT ALL when they actually happen.

The same can be said about changes happening in one’s tramily  (trail family). There is the knowledge that hikers will come and go. I had experienced this when my cousin went home in Franklin, NC. last year. This year Whatever Works

image
Whatever Works

and Lambo

image
Lambo

decided to join me. Neither one had long distant hiking experience, but they were willing to give it a try. We also had Spirit,

image
Spirit

a friend and trail mentor who I had met in the Smokies last year. She was willing to join us for a section to help us along. So even though I  had anticipated our group changing with someone at some time leaving the group, it was an unpleasant surprise when it actually happened. It was like my equilibrium was off balance. Spirit had to go home for a family emergency from Marion, NC.

High Top and his dog MoMo

image
High Top and MoMo

had joined us at some point earlier and also talked of leaving for Trail Days in Damascus, VA. So, at Atkins, VA we said goodbye to him.

These changes left us all with a sense of loss, maybe even fear. The biggest question for me was could the remaining tramily continue without the support of the ones that left.We continued on our way and at Woods Hole Hostel another in our party talked of going home.

Then High Top and MoMo returned at Pearisburg, VA and Spirit also. It seemed like maybe the group would be okay.  This was not to be. Expectations, miscommunication and personality differences worked into the tramilies disintegration. It wasn’t fun or pleasant and there was a lot of emotion. The sense of having lost something precious was almost deafening. Did I  play a part in it? Yes. Was I the only one? I can only claim my part. Lambo and Whatever Works left the trail and flew home.

The only way I  knew how to handle it was to hike. Spirit and I headed north on the trail. To say the trail’s terrain  was hard was one thing, but the mental trail for me was immense.

image
More bags under eyes than normal

More change is in my future. Spirit and will head in different directions in less than 300 miles. I will be faced once again with finding my way alone on the trail. Hard to imagine when I  hear about there being 6,000 hikers on the ATC registry for 2016. I’m sure I will meet a few hikers to go through the upper states with as well as meeting up with a few hikers I met last year.

No one said change was easy, but it is necessary for us and for those we love. All we can hope, is that we become better people through it’s messy process.

image
Shit happened
Advertisements

On the Hunt

It seems that since I was a child, I have always been on the hunt for something. Whether is was for rocks, animals or something more internal. Hike the Appalachian Trail, seems to be running in a similar fashion. I spend my days with my eyes glued to the trail a lot. Mostly, so that I don’t trip on a root or a rock. Because of this fact I have been finding some interesting things.

image

I find rocks that interest me. A lot of rocks! Anyone who knows me knows how much I  love rocks. I started my obsession with rocks when my dad would take the whole family to the Kinney dumps to look for agates. Let me just explain to those not from the Iron Range of Minnesota that we have two kind of dumps, garbage and mine dumps. Mine dumps are piles of dirt. The overburden of soil on top of ore that is to be mined, is removed and piled up and becomes a very LARGE hill. In some of theses hills we can find agates. At the Hill Annex Mine in Calumet, MN you can find fossils.
http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/hill_annex/fossil_tour.html

How this has come into play now, is that I am picking up small rocks to send home from every state. So, instead of my pack getting lighter as my food disappears in my stomach, it gets heavier. I have found Native American points which we call arrowheads. I have found coal, iron, slate, quartz etc. Every time Whatever Works and I get to town, we head in the direction of a post office to send home a few of our favorite finds.

image

My other obsession on the trail has been my hunt for salamanders and newts. I  love these little creatures. When it rains, newts actually can be seen crossing the trail. It is very hard not to interact with these little creatures. I am constantly looking for them.  When I go and get water from any creek bed. I  have been able to see at least one or 2 a day.

There are two things that I am constantly looking out for besides the two above. They are poison plants, ivy and oak to name two. The other thing is snakes. Other hikers have been telling us about seeing rattle snakes. Whatever Works and Lambo have been told to only wear one ear bud to listen to their music. We haven’t seen any rattlers, but we did see this rat snake sunning it’s self on a log. It was at least six feet in length with a two inch diameter. This snake isn’t dangerous, but Whatever Works was wishing I hadn’t shown her.

image

The internal stuff can be as simple as, “I hope I’m still on the trail, I haven’t seen a white painted blaze on a tree for sometime. I better not voice my concern to Whatever Works.” Then the tougher ones of why am I  out here and what am I to learn from this experience. Then there is the next career and what does it look like. I  also think a lot about who else has walked these lands and why. From Native people, to African Americans to Civil War soldiers. Someone said to me yesterday that this soil is so rich because of all the blood spilled on it. What a sad story that tells.
Maybe we need a little more of this rock I see on the trail everyday.

image

So, I must go to hunt down my next adventure along the AT.  I will keep you posted.

SOOKIE

40 days

image.jpegimage.jpegimage.jpeg
Well it’s been about 40 days I believe. 40 days since we started. It has seriously been the hardest thing I have done ever. Everyday there is a new pain somewhere in my body. My big toe on my left foot has been numb for weeks and I have a constant burning like someone has a lighter to the right side of my neck that sometimes causes my right arm to twitch and go numb. Fun times. Haha.

The views that we come across are crazy ( see above photo ) I can’t seem to get pictures to be where I want them so that’s why they are all at the top.

What else can I talk about??? Umm well the places we have stayed have been very interesting. We are at the Big Walker Motel today and it is by far the nicest and cleanest place. The last place we stayed was by far the worst. The water lines were outside the walls and there was black mold everywhere and it smelt like raunchy moldy towels that had sat in dirty swamp water for month. When you took a shower the hot water made such a high pitch sound that if you were in the from not showering you had to leave. I thought my poor ears were going to bleed. There also was a pile of trash that looked like it use to be some kind of building in the front yard that a bunch of cats were living in. I watched one of the owners of the place go and throw out something for the kitties to eat and slowly a few of them came and ate whatever it was. I felt like I was seriously staying at the Bates Motel. ( again see above photo ) it was nasty. Never ever stay at the Relax Inn in Atkins. Sleep in your car.

What else, what else …. Well I miss being home that’s for sure. I miss being a bum, watching tv in bed with Chase and snuggling with Kitty and getting kisses from Dais and Teeka. I miss my ultra comfy bed but I have to say that my hammock kicks ass and I sleep very well in it when I finally crawl into it at night. I have Amber to thank for reminding me that all those things will be there when I get back tho. Thank you Amber!!! I miss you too!!  And am proud of you for doing so good in school!! You’re amazing. I also have to thank Chase who is the best support. Rooting me on everyday. It’s great when I get cell service and have messages from him telling me how proud he is of me. Thank you Chase, I miss and love you! And last but not least… DAD!! Thank you for the huge box of just cookies and all the work you’re doing to send us food  I just finished a bag of crumbs that was left of the cookies yesterday  yes I shared but I also hoarded some. Haha thanks Dad!! Also thank you for taking care of my 3 babies, I hope they are behaving themselves.

I guess that’s all I have. Sorry it took me so long to write something but believe it or not I’ve been busy!! Haha it’s a lot of work backpacking across the mountains!! Much more than I ever thought it would be. I think I’m doing good tho, hiked a 19.2 mile day and 14 miles day with out dropping dead so go me! Haha well I’m off to wash the raunch stank off my cloths, campfire and BO create and interesting brew of smells. Thanks for reading!

19

20160501_144506

Number 19 is made up of the first and last single number; 1 and 9. This makes number 19 a number of completions. Number 19 is the number of beginning and end.

Whatever Works and myself started the day before last with Little Bear, Patrice and Gandolf. This group of young women are traveling together creating a documentary about women thru-hiking the AT. (You can watch the trailer at http://www.thruatdoc.Com). The 5 of us gals had stayed the night at Hurricane MTN. Shelter.

20160502_070700

Whatever Works and I  were to be interviewed by them in the morning light. We got up and cooked our usual breakfast of oatmeal and dried fruit with coffee, packed and got ready to be interviewed. All of us had a great time during the 1 hour process. When the interview was over, there was no delaying the inevitable…time to hike.

We had fallen a day behind Spirit and Lambo in the Grayson Highlands. Who could blame us really.

DSC02319

DSC02322

 

DSC02357

But, enough was enough. Rain was in the forcast and so on we went to Wise shelter where we got held up by rain.

DSC02379

This set us back even more miles as we waited out the weather. The next day we started out in the rain and by 11 am things had cleared and we hike 11 miles to Hurricane MTN. Shelter where this story began.

The film crew mentioned the fact that if we hike 19.2 miles we could order pizza at Partnership Shelter. We knew we had miles to make up. If the terrain allowed (meaning not to many rocks) we thought maybe this could be a possibility. We had never done miles anything close to this before. We had out.

DSC02395

We thought we were doing great until we hit a ridgeline with rocks. When walking on rocks, you forget everthing and only feel how much your feet wish they were no longer related to you. It is pure punishment. When we got off the rocks we could have kissed the ground, but we just kept walking. We stopped for a snack and then lunch and then we arrived at Trimpi Shelter. Whatever Works wanted an hour break, but it turned out to be half an hour when someone told us the forecast of rain. Once again we were trying to stay ahead of the storm.

DSC02346

You can only walk so fast. When the wind picked up and almost pushed us off the trail up on another ridgeline I knew we were in trouble. I told Whatever Works that we have to get lower and to watch the trees. Hikers have been killed by falling trees on the AT. We finally dropped in to a place with less trees and considered our options, but it looked like too many poisonous plants.

DSC02400

On we went. We finally came upon VA 601 and there was Patrice and Gandolf waiting for Little Bear who was behind us. She showed up 10 minutes later ready to camp. We were also ready, but Patrice had looked up the for cast which included hail. At that moment it down poured on us and we were off to hike the last 4 miles of 19.

Let me tell you, those last 4 miles were pure hell. Our feet, legs and patience were gone. The pace was fast and hard and Whatever Works and I had our moment of blowing up at each other. She was hunger, tired and sore. All I knew was a hail storm in the mountains is serious and nothing to fool around with and we wouldn’t arrive until dark. I wanted to get to the shelter as fast as possible. So, I left and hiked off me confusion  and anger.

We finally arrived at the shelter at 9 pm. Andrea arrived a short time later. We had hiked 19 miles, we would never be the same.

There wasn’t any room left in the shelter so Patrice called for 2 taxis from Marion, VA. We arrived at the hotel across the road from Spirit and Lambo at 10 pm. It was no time to wake them up. We were cold, wet and smelled real bad. Our reunion would have to wait until the morning. It would be great to be together once again.

DSC02265