Hiker Hunger…It’s For Real

A funny thing starts happening on the trail where food is concerned. Every hiker goes through it at one point or another. It is called, hiker hunger. What is it you ask? Well, for me it first started in the middle of the night. I had eaten breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, second lunch and supper. Seems adequate to us hikers, and for those not hiking, it may seem excessive. That M&M we first dropped on the trail and didn’t pick up, is now found along the trail dropped by another hiker, and we pick it up and easy it. It seems that all day long we think of food. At night we dream of food. In camp we have fantasies about food we will eat once we get to town. If we have left over food on the trail, (we usually don’t) someone is sure to consume whatever it is when offered.

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Don't eat me

One evening we were at Over-Mountain Shelter, a boy scout troop had passed us and were set up when we arrived. We were in the process of coming when a young scout walked up to his fellow about friends with a whole package of oreos. You would have thought he had gold the way we were acting. Whatever Works, Lambo and myself couldn’t stop looking at that package. Finally, I got my courage up and asked the about who owned the cookies and if they would be willing to sell 3 cookies for fifty cents a piece. He didn’t even hesitate in telling me, “No, I’m going to need them after supper.” The 3 of us were very disappointed. It was about ten minute later when the scout came to me and opened his package up and told me, “You can have just one.” He then did the same to Lambo and Whatever Works. I asked him if he wanted the $1.50, but he said, “No, that’s okay.” Lambo ate his right away. Whatever Works was shortly after and I saved mine for after supper. Those were the best cookies we ever had.

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Whatever Works & Lambo trying to decide about where to have lunch
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Lambo and Whatever Works contemplating the menu in Bland

We can hardly wait to get to a town to gorge ourselves with real food. Not that our trail food is fake, it’s just not that appealing when you eat the same thing for months on end. I have been eating oatmeal every morning for breakfast. I even added it to my beans and rice the other night because I had put to much water and didn’t want to waste fuel boiling it out. Then I have tuna or peanut butter every lunch. I’m really getting tired of the lunches. Supper had a little bit more variety, but not much. I eat soups that I doctor up with chicken and veggies, spaghetti I add veggies also, and last but not least beans and rice. Sometimes, I also have mashed potatoes that I’ve added veggies to. You get the picture.

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So, when I get to town I just want to gorge myself with fresh veggies, fruit and meat.  Oh and also a great cup of coffee.

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BLTA Wrap
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At the Anvil on Harper's Ferry
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And coffee please

The problem with this is that my stomach isn’t used to this type of diet and can’t always handle it. I know I’m in trouble when the old stomach starts to grumble and bubble.  Have you ever tried to unsnap a backpack waist belt, chest strap, throw off the pack, open the pack, search for the tp you thought was right at the top and discovered it wasn’t, and then hi-tail it to the woods all before the shit hits the fan. It isn’t a pleasant experience. Trust me, it’s happened twice.

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I now watch what I eat in town. Plus I have a good supply of Imodium and anti- diarrhea tablets close at hand. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

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MoMo waiting on us for a new trick
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Strange But True!?!?

It’s now been two weeks since I got a cold after sleeping in a hostel in Waynesboro,  VA. I slept in the top bunk while a young man with a cough slept on a couch next to and below me. There were actually 12 of us hikers sleeping in a small basement room with bad air exchange. Seriously it was wall to wall hikers. Then two sores developed between my toes on my left foot. They were so painful I started to limp. I don’t know if the sores were athlete’s foot, a poison weed, or spider bites. I don’t know if the combination of the illnesses lead to the peculiar sights of the past week or something else? Let’s see what you think.

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The day began innocent enough. The sun was shinning. You can see it in the picture above. It’s what the picture says that gave me pause. “RESTRICTED GROUNDS; BREEDING CENTER; NATIONAL ZOOLOGICAL PARK.” The sign Belo it was like a second warning.  “PETS ON LEASH; NO CAMPING; NO FIRES; STAY ON TRAIL.” Needles to say, I was beginning to get all kinds of thoughts of government experiments. Then came the gate.

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And then the fence.

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I wondered whether something was being kept in, or being kept out.

The trail got darker and darker as we worked our way further into the woods. As we rounded a tight curve in the trail, a smell so fowl hit me in the face. It was so awful, I sped up to get past and beyond this area. Then right before a powerline, I saw something fast, grey and large dart through the brush parrelel to the trail. I quickly caught up to Spirit and said,  “A bear just darted in the woods and are in that brush.” We looked at the brush, but nothing moved. Even as I had said it was a bear,  I knew the statement want true. I knew I hadn’t just seen a bear,  but something I couldn’t identify.

It is now that the sky got dark and thunder started to rumble in the sky. We were only a half a mile from the next shelter. I picked up my pace with Spirit coming behind me. It was up hill and soon I was alone as Spirit picked her way carefully along the trail. I heard something coming across the top of the trees. Not knowing if it was wind or rain, I stopped and threw down my pack and started to pull out my rain gear. Within seconds I was in a down pour, desparatly try to get my rain jacket on, curled in a ball trying to keep my shoes dry. As I was doing this, an older couple came walking by and asked me if I was okay. I replied, “Yes, I’m just trying to get my rain gear on.” Within minutes the storm had past and as usual, I was wet.

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We got to the shelter and it would be two hours before we saw the next hiker. Pace came in telling us he had stopped to put his rain fly on his pack. The next thing he knew, a tree fell in front of him and then one feel behind him. It was then he got as small as possible behind another tree and waited the storm out. The next two hikers were an hour after him and they reported 20 downed trees. The following day we would hear that a tornado went through the area. We would be the last  people to go through the undamaged trail. It was now an obstical course.

The next day was overcast and threatening rain. We had areas of rock to hike over and around. While doing so, I came across this interesting print and water mark.

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I’m not sure what kind of creature left this behind, but it reminded me of the story in an old Saga magazine about the Ape-man of the Whiteface Reservoir. http://www.bigfootencounters.com/articles/hansen.htm

I wasn’t sticking around in case the creature came back. It wasn’t much longer and we came to the infamous Roller-coaster of the Appalachian Trail. This is the part in the trail where hikers enter with anticipation, excitement and joy.

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All kidding aside, we think that the person or people who put in this part of the trail was a sick, sadistic, bastard. It is 13.5 miles of ups and downs that only a lunatic would enjoy hiking.

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Thankfully not too far away, there is a slice of comfort called the Bears Den. The outside is a little forbidding, but when all was said and done it was a safe haven.

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The next day was actually the nicest hiking day in quite some time. We were at the top of a ridge and it looked and felt like it had been occupied before the civil or revolutionary wars. In fact, I once again found a point from an arrow. Then I found some thick, glazed pieces of pottery on the trail. All evidence of another time.

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It really was peaceful.

Now we were on to Harper’sFerry, WV. I had just entered another state.

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Now it was time to hike into the city and get my picture taken at the ATC headquarters and register my hike.

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With that completed, we headed up to our hostel for a good night’s sleep or so I hope. I hope everyone hasn’t had a week like mine, but if you have I would like to hear it around my next camp fire.

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PS-please don’t share this with my mother as she is already anxious enough. 

Hiking Through a National Park.

Spirit had been telling me for weeks about how much she enjoyed hiking though the Shenandoah National Park on previous hikes. She told me about easy hiking, waysides, and animal sightings. So, a week ago we left Waynesboro, VA and two days later we entered the park. Because we were on the Appalachian Trail, we had to fill out a backcountry permit. This permit tells the Park Service who you are, where you will be and when you leave the Park.

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Backcountry permit

It is free for hikers to camp and pass through the park. This year our National Parks are celebrating it’s 100th birthday. To celebrate, the Park Service has picked 16 days for everyone to get a chance to enjoy the great outdoors.  There are still a few days left this year for you to plan a visit to one of our parks: http://www.nationalparks.org/connect/blog/2016-free-admission-days-national-parks

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Our first night in the park we camped in a location other than the shelter or hut. It was a sunny evening and so we hiked further into the park than the first shelter. We had just finished supper when we heard a noise in the woods. It turned out to be two deer and the slowly worked their way into our camp. It was interesting to me to see how close they came. I guess animals in a park have nothing to fear. It made me wonder about the bears…

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The next morning we headed out and hiked to Loft Mountain Campground.  We were able to take showers, do laundry and eat snacks before we headed to the Loft Mountain Wayside for lunch.

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Shower time
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Laundry time

Now because of bears in the park, Spirit wanted to hang our backpacks and not take them the .5 mile down to the wayside. I just didn’t want to do that, so I kept my pack on and watched the antics of the ever hysterical throwing of the bear rope over a tree branch. Before it was all said and done, Spirit had 1. Stepped on the rope then threw.   2. Just missed hitting herself as the rock came back to earth. and 3. Fallen to the ground. At this point I was trying hard not to laugh as I could see the frustration of the situation was getting under her craw. Finally,  the pack was in the air and we were on our way for cheeseburgers, fries and blackberry milkshakes.

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Blackberry Lemonade

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On the way back Spirit and I took two different routes. She went back the way we came to retrieve her pack, an uphill trek. I went back towards Ivy Creek. When I got to Ivy Creek, I remembered a ridge runner stating a day earlier about a possible bear problem in this area. I wasn’t too concerned until a hiker passed me heading north. He went around the curve in the trail and for the next 5 minutes I hear, “Go away bear, get out of here.” Then I think, “Well, the bear must have left? ” My pack is on the ground and I look south to see if Spirit is coming yet and then I look north and I see a black bear come around the corner and continue walking towards me. I grab my pack and put it on and I tell the bear, “Go on.” The bear stops, looks at me and then walks off the trail two whole feet.  The bear just stands there. I figure I better keep the bear south of me because Spirit won’t know it’s here if I go by it. I work my way south on the trail towards Spirit around a curve in the trail. Five minutes goes by and the bear is on the trail, coming around the curve. I repeat what I said before and the bear goes off the trail and I go south some more around another curve in the trail. Now there is a hiker coming towards me but it isn’t Spirit. I tell the young guy what has been going on and where the bear is. He goes a few feet and says, “Wow, it’s right here.” I take a step towards him and lean to look so I don’t get any nearer and I see the young guy is eye to eye with the bear only

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three feet apart.

The guy yells and waves his arms at the bear and the bear just looks at him. The hiker edges by and leaves. Finally, Spirit shows up and I tell her what has been going on. We head down the trail and there is the bear in the trail. We both say, “Get out of here.” The bear walks into the brush next to the trail and we walk by and finally leave the area. We did see a lot of deer and seven bears

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plus a lot of signs.

The next day we were visited by my husband Tom and his siblings

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They were in the area for a family get-together.

They had brought us lunch and later Spirit said I devoured the sandwich in 5 minutes. Then I went to our vehicle and did a small resupply and then down the trail I went with family in tow. At one point Spirit looked back in time to see one in the group running to keep up with us. At the half mile point 2 in the group were heading back and in another quarter mile, Spirit, Tom and I were on our own. Tom turned back at the one and a half mile point. He was on his way home to Minnesota and had a long way to drive. Once again Spirit and I were on our own.

Of course the trail was super nice through the park at the time my family was with me. The park service makes sure that the park trails are people friendly.

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The Trail Maintenance Crew works hard to see that it is so. My son Kevin was employed at Mesa Verde National Park on such a crew. I saw the hard work he did and so now I can appreciate the trails even more, knowing the hard work it took to make them that way. I make sure that every time I see someone working to maintain the trail

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Trail Maintenance Crew

I tell them how much I appreciate their hard work.

Even though the park had been a great place to be, I was ready to be out of the park. Spirit always tells me, “Be careful what you wish for…” I had forgotten in a short time what the trail could really

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No longer in the Shenandoah National Park
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We just came down what trail?

be like. I’m beginning to dread the rocks of Pennsylvania.

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