All in a Day

It has been another full week of hiking on the AT. My days become a long series of forgotten thoughts as my feet take me mile upon mile north towards Maine. I start my day anywhere from 5:30-6:00 am. I start somedays wishing I  could sleep in. Then I  think about the miles for the day and I reach over my head and release the valve to my air mattress and begin packing for the day. I stuff my sleeping bag into it’s tiny bag,  change into my hiking clothes which I wear every day till the next town I resupply in. Unzipping my tent I look up to the sky to see what the weather will be for the morning. I know that like the changing terrain of the trail, the weather can change just as often. My stinky socks that I have left outside my tent are put back on as well as my gaiters. I use gaiters to keep small rocks and sticks from entering my shoes.

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Once out of my tent, it is a privy stop and then I go to retrieve my food bag which I  have either hung in a tree or off a bear pole.

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Anything to keep our food safe and the bears away. It is now time to cook my breakfast which had been oatmeal with freeze dried fruit and a coffee. While my breakfast cooks, I start packing my backpack. First clothes, then sleeping bag and air mattress. Next food bag, then on top of food bag goes a bag full of miscellaneous stuff, like charges, band-aids and matches. Along side that bag will go my kitchen-pot, lid, spoon, cup and stove. Last I take down my tent and stuff it into it’s bag and then push it into the pack.

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I close everything up, check the area to make sure I didn’t forget any gear or trash. I make sure I have enough water till the next water source then off I go.

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I hike, take pictures, talk to other hikers and think. At around 9:30 am it is second breakfast time which for me is a protein bar. 12:30 pm is lunch, tuna, or peanut butter or baloney.

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The next thing is making it to camp which has been as early as 1 pm but is much better when it is 3-5 pm. Once Spirit and I  go our separate ways, I will probably hike until 6 or 7. It is all dependent on the weather and terrain and other features along the trail which strike my curiosity.

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A significant thing that happened this week is that Spirit fell on the trail as we came down The Priest Mountain.

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Even though she was passed by a young hiker who didn’t even ask if she needed help as she laid in the trail, she cleaned her wounds and bandaged them and made it down to where I  was waiting. I didn’t know she had fallen until I saw her bandaged leg.

We rested for a few minutes and then decided to continue on. We hadn’t gotten very far when she yelled, “Sookie, look.” I looked down at her leg and it had blown up and looked like and ostrich egg was sideways on her shin and blood was bubbling out. We got her down on the ground, raised her leg on her backpack and I  grabbed my shirt to put pressure on the wound.

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911 was called and we waited for assistance. When it arrived 2 1/2 hours later, Spirit was asked if she could walk. She says yes and gets up, throws on her backpack and beelines down the mountain.

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She passes the paramedics, the gurney crew and everyone else who was there to help her. We made it down the mountain in 1 hour having gone 2.5 miles.

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I think everyone afterwards wondered why they were called.

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We did find out that some in the rescue crew didn’t  like hiking, some did, and one saw a timber rattler and shook for 4 minutes afterwards.

We ended up in a cabin in Montebello, VA for the night with no way to contact the outside world.

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The town consists of a general store, post office and fire hall. The next morning I went on the trail to hike alone to Waynesboro, VA.

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Spirit headed to Stanimals 328 Hostel in Waynesboro to rest her leg until Sunday morning.

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On Friday my husband Tom came through the area on his way to his brother Jerry’s and so I  got to see him for 24 hours and he was on his way. It was a short visit for not seeing him  for such a long time, but he encouraged me to go on to Maine.

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And so I shall. Tomorrow Spirit and I  will head into the Shenandoah National Park. We are hearing about all the bears and are sure to see a few.

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The Adventures of Yuri and His Earthling

Why oh why did I mail myself back to my earthling Sookie?

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Yuri returns to Minnesota from Hot Springs, NC

I must have been bonkers! The last week has been filled with bear threats, snakes and bad weather.

The highlight of the hike so far is when I  came across Lilly hanging in a shelter.

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Lilly lost and alone.

She looked so sad and alone. I had to convince Sookie that Lilly weighed just an ounce at most. Sookie just shook her head but agreed to carry the extra weight.

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A few more ounces.

Lilly and I hit it off immediately. Dismal Falls didn’t seem so dismal to me.

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New pals.

One evening Sookie put Lilly in the tent and forgot me on her backpack.

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Sookie, I think you forgot someone.

I fixed that though before the sun set.

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Then one day as we were heading up another mountain, Sookie pulled over to let a hiker pass us. As this hiker went by, he stated, “That’s not your bunny is it.” I looked over at Lilly and I  knew it was over. The last I saw of Lilly she was heading north with her earthling, Fried Pickles.

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Lilly and Fried Pickles

Sookie felt so bad for me that she gave me a pan pipe that she found in another shelter.

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No body knows the trouble I've seen.

Spirit though it might be a good idea to teach us how to sing rounds.

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"Rose, Rose, Rose, Rose.

Neither Sookie or I was having any of that. All I could do was think of Lilly and play the blues.

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"Play another Yuri."

I have met a few nomads on the trail. There was Helmet.

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Waiting for Helmet to show up.

Then there was Spot.

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Spot goofing around.

And last but not least, there was Ribbit.

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Ribbit looking for some shade.

Sookie and I are moving up the trail. This week we had an 18 mile day, hit 500 miles so far this trek and saw lots of great views.

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We will keep you posted as we continue NOBO. Waynesboro, VA here we come!

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Sookie and Yuri NOBO or Bust.

And Then There Was…

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

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which evolved into roots,

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which evolved into rocks,

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which evolved into gravel,

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which evolved into a tar road,

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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

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Whatever Works

and Lambo

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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,

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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

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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.

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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.

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Shit happened

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

SOOKIE

40 days

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hampton, TN Update

We are now at Black Bear Hostel. Yesterday we were rerouted off the AT because of a fire in the area. We had 7 miles of USFS road to hike around the mountain. We were able to camp at the field where a fire break was being put into place. All night long we could hear trees and branches falling in the forest. We have also just heard another fire has started in the area. We will see where before we leave here tomorrow. We should be in Damascus, VA by the evening of the 25th. We also have to avoid the Watauga Lake shelter due to recent bad bear behavior. The shelter had been closed for 2 years because of a sow and her 2 cubs causing problems. The shelter was just reopened and all ready 2 hikers had their tents shredded. Sorry no pictures. The hostel has asked us not to use up all their data. Just letting everyone know we are safe and that you may not hear anything for 5 to 6 days from today. On the bright side. I was walking down the trail yesterday morning and a young bearded man and his dog were walking south towards me. I looked up and said, “Matt, is that you?” He looked at me and said, “What are you doing here?” It was a young man I had hiked with on the trail from Helen, GA. last year. What a surprise!!!! Trail magic indeed.

Update: All hikers that were held in place since noon today have now been brought off of the mountain. The hostel went and picked up the hikers that the USFS walked out of the danger zone. A lot of planes were in the air all afternoon. There is now a fire ban in place. Since we have been hiking we have only had a 1/2 day of rain. We are all hoping for rain, even though it isn’t fun to hike in.

Sookie

I Think I Have Entered the Twilight Zone

When I  decided to return to the trail after last year’s injury, I never realized how difficult it would be to get beyond Erwin, TN. Last year around this same time, Spirit and I hopped a ride from Miss Janet to the Jonhson City bus station. My trail days were over for 2015.

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Enter this year, Spirit, Whatever Works, Lambo and myself got on the trail +30 miles south of Devil Fork Gap. The place I had left the trail. This time we traveled past this location with a minimum of normal aches and pains. My husband was heading home from visiting his brother in the state of Virginia and I asked him to swing down to pick up gear we needed to unload ourselves of. Which he did.

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We went in to Erwin and got a hotel room in the late afternoon of April 6th. The weather has been cold, windy and at times wet. All things that we usually put up with, but one in our party had what we thought at the time was athlete’s foot. So, we tried a few things to try to heal the feet. Bleach baths, Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar, creams, the list goes on. I asked the Facebook group, Appalachian Trial Women’s Group who were all very helpful. As the days passed without improvement it was decided today that a visit to the Dr. was in order.

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Verdict-not athlete’s foot. No definite conclusion of cause. Though Dr. stated another hiker came off the trail with hands looking the same. So a steroid cream prescription was given and we hope this does the trick.

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3 of us were able to slackpack yesterday from Sams  Gap to Spivey Gap. It was a cold and sometimes windy day. The views where great as alway, but with one of our group down, it really didn’t feel the same. It was like last year. I would see something interesting, beautiful or amazing and have no one to share it with.

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But what really helped the day feel doable, was that another hiker had taken the time and placed a simple symbol along the way in the snow.

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So, fellow hiker whoever you are, thank you for lifting my spirits.

So, what does this article have to do with being in a Twilight Zone episode? Today was spent going to the clinic and hospital I had been in a year ago. Tomorrow we go back on at Spivey Gap which once again leads us back to Erwin. Hmmm.

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All I’m saying is this. If I am still in Erwin, TN in the September, someone try and pull me out of this rabbit hole.

Sookie

Seriously now. WTH was I thinking!?!?!!!!

I didn’t even get to have a drink of water and we were off hiking. It was 23 degrees on my little thermometer. I had been warm and comfortable in my hammock when my mom called me out to pack up and get going since everyone else was frozen little Popsicles. We would have breakfast when “we” and Mother Nature warmed up a bit I was told. It wasn’t long into the hike when we had caught up to Lambo who was waiting for us in a sunny spot when I threw my hiking poles down and pack to the ground and flopped down next to them and started screaming and my mom and Lambo about how crazy they were to be doing this and enjoying it. I literally threw a fit like a 2 year old with adult language involved. So far I’m thinking this is stupid but, I’m not quitting.

We are in Erwin now, Dad (the greatest man in the world) picked us up yesterday off the trail so I could doctor up my poor feet. Today we went and picked up new boots for me since mine are to small. It feels as if someone has replaced my lower half with Lego man legs and my feet and toes have turned into plump uncooked sausages. And when I’m not moving I have shin splints ( lovely ). Spirit says I’m laughing all the time tho so it’s not as terrible as I may make it seem (*cough* bullshit *cough*).

Oh My…YURI!?!?!?!

At noon today, I went out to get our mail. Expecting the usual junk mail, I almost had a heart attack upon opening the mailbox door. There in all his glory stood Yuri.
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To those who don’t know about Yuri, he has been hiking with me for the past few years. Last year when launching my epic journey on the AT, Yuri went missing. I was on day 1 of the hike. Yuri was right beside me on my pack.
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At about mile 6 I sat down for a break only to discover Yuri was no longer riding high on my backpack. Heart break are the only words that come to my mind at the moment I realized my hiking partner was no more. I posted an article on Appalachian Trials of MIA Yuri. (http://appalachiantrials.com/first-days-of-trail-life/) I kept hoping someone would come across him and let me know of his where abouts. But alas, this was not to be.

Now it is March 29th, 2016 and low and behold he shows up.
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He had this fantastical tale of where he has been. I myself wonder about some of the details. (He tends to exaggerate a bit.) Here is the tale in all of it’s fine glory:

YURI. “So, there I was bumping along on your backpack enjoying the sights when out of no where there was a crash & the lights went out!!  I don’t know how long I was out but when I woke up…WOW!

Everything was white & I was in an unfamiliar place; white towels, the feeling was so soft & warm. Then this lady asked what kinds of treatment I wanted. Treatments!?! I thought, what the heck is this place. Then the woman explained to me I was at a Resort SPA! A SPA! I told them to give me the works & figured you’d be there soon to join…
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But you never came…maybe spa’s aren’t for you. (ME. A lot of eye rolling)

Anyway after waiting a year, I figured I better get in the first box out of here and head home…and…HERE I AM!

ME. Unbelievable!

YURI. I know, RIGHT!

ME. Well, you are going to be so happy in a moment, I have big news.

YURI. You do?

ME. Yes, I got hurt coming out of the Smokies and had to get off the trail at mile 309.

YURI. Oh my…that is bad news. Not big news, but bad news.

ME. Oh, that isn’t the big news. The big news is that we leave tomorrow morning to head back to the AT.

YURI. WWWWWHHHHHAAAAAAATTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!
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ME. AND, I figured a great way to make sure you don’t jump, oops I mean fall off of my backpack again!
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Story by Andrea & images by Sookie