Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A new project

Hey all, just letting you know about a new writing project I am starting working on. My experience working on this blog reminded me how nice it can be to put down in writing so many of my thoughts. I've decided to start a new blog that has a more general topic.  I'll still be writing about travel, but I'll also be writing about vintage fashion and design, home improvement, other small projects, and all the other little hobbies and activities I involve myself in.  Basically, I am trying to explore the world around me with a more careful eye.

I do hope you will stop in to check it out. 



Monday, June 13, 2011

Wrapping up a Fabulous Year

So, the last year has been interesting, surprising, and unexpected.

I didn't hike as much of the trail as I thought I would, but I hiked enough to learn something about myself and to be satisfied with what I accomplished. I am proud and impressed with the people who are out there right now still hiking, trying to finish (aka Pete). I am happy with what I've done in the last year. I rediscovered one of my own dreams.

I want to visit every National Park in the US at some point in my life. As a little girl, growing up in Wyoming, Yellowstone NP and the Grand Tetons are a part of who I am. They inspired in me a love for the outdoors that still drives me to try new things like Kayaking and hiking even though, in truth, I'm a bit of a city girl.

During my last visit I hiked for only a few days, but I visited nearly 20 National Parks. Some of the most memorable were Fort McHenry, the Liberty Bell, and Gettysburg.

I am now in a state of transition. I'm done hiking, but haven't gone back to full-time work yet. I am hanging down in lovely south Texas, working at a wonderful steakhouse with wonderful people. I am researching jobs and places to live next year and enjoying the time I have to spend with family. One year, 300 miles walked, and 5,000 miles driven later and I am in a happy place. I have some great future goals and can't wait to share them later.

What are some plans you have for yourself this coming year? (former students reading this, this would be a great time to talk about your first year of college)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Service as Patriotism

I've taken an unexpected detour from my plan to join Pete on trail. His need to make time has been a part of my decision, but more important to my decision is a long held dream of mine. Since I was little, I've wanted to visit all our countries' National Parks. This part of the country is so ripe with parks and monuments that I can't help but choose to road trip to as many as I can.

Since starting I've visited Harpers Ferry, the Gettysburg war monument, Fort McHenry, the Hampton House, The Catoctin Mountain Park, and the Eisenhower Retirement Farm.

One of the things I am struck by, while walking the homes and trails is the relationship our sense of Patriotism has with service. At Gettysburg we honor those who died in service during the Civil War. The Eisenhower site documents the years of service he gave as a soldier and a president. Even the Catoctin Mountain Park recognizes the service of the men in the CCC and WPA during the depression in creating many of the roads, trails, and shelters still in use today in the National Parks System.

However, it isn't just the people and places that these parks memorialize that epitomize this dedication to service. It's the men and women serving as park rangers, tour guides, bus drivers, and even school chaperones who represent much of what it means today to serve their country. They work to keep history available to us and to make it come alive for us.

As Americans, we are raised with the idea ingrained in us that it is our duty to find a way to serve.

How do you choose to serve? What can we as a people do to continue to recognize our history, both good and bad?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Easy, sunny days

I've made it back to the East Coast. Pete's attempting the four state challenge today (4 states, 40 something miles, 24 hours). That's a little too much for me, so I'm spending the day at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park. I've walked most of the beautiful town, and now I'm taking a short break at a beautiful vista of the Shenandoah river up by the Murphy Farm.

So, my question to you is, if you could travel to any National Park in the US, where would you go?

-Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Writer's Block

Two months.

Almost two months to the day since I got off trail and said I'd be posting regularly until I got back on. I haven't written a word since. I'll be back to the AT next week.

We plan our lives. We make choices, often sure of what the outcome will be. If you're OCD like me, you know exactly what your plan is 15 minutes after you've made a choice.

But, sometimes life throws the metaphorical curveball. Sometimes, life, like the playground bully, takes your plan and stomps up and down on it, laughing in your face.

What you have to remember is, "all journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware." To unlock this secret, though, you have to commit to the journey without assuming you know the destination.

I find myself in this situation. I've hiked 300 miles. In joining Pete, at Harper's Ferry, I'll have skipped around 800 miles. I am now and will remain forever a section hiker. I'm not ever going to thru-hike the AT. I'd like to go back and home the missed sections, but I'll never be a they-hiker.

To many people's eyes, (and sometimes in my own) I have failed. I took a year off my job (which I may not be able to get back). I am poorer than I've ever been. I have $1000 to survive on until August when I, hopefully, go back to work.

Did I do it all for nothing?

I guess it depends on how you measure success:

Yes, if I measure by completion if the original goal, completing the whole trail, I failed.

But, really what's the value of hiking over 2000 miles. None, on its own, except perhaps health.

The value is not in walking every step but in learning something while doing it. This I've done.

Hiking was harder for me than I ever thought. I cried more than I thought I would. It's been colder, longer, and more mentally taxing than I imagined. It's also been more wonderful.

It's been harder on my relationship with Pete than I ever thought possible. But, It's taught us how to communicate through major conflicts.

This journey has taken me to places far from where I ever thought I'd go, but surprisingly, it's also taken me back to where I was to begin with.

The biggest shock is that the same place could look so different.

*Quote by Martin Buber

Friday, March 4, 2011

Unexpected Changes

I'm writing to let everyone know that I have had to take an unplanned break from the trail for a few weeks. Pete is still out there hiking, so keep cheering him on . I'm hoping to meet up with him again in early Virginia. In the mean time, I'll be updating the blog with stories from the last few weeks when we've had no service.

Hope everyone is well.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, February 21, 2011

Not a real post

I'm in a town where I have no cell service and internet access is limited to 20 minutes, so I won't be able to post until I find more reliable service.

But, Pete and I made it to Hot Springs and out of the Smokey Mountains! This is a huge deal to me as I wasn't sure I would even make it to the Smokies. I am happy and tired and missing my family and friends, but I am excited about the adventures to come.

Can't wait to get a few more posts in. What is everyone else doing in the meantime?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The adventures we get are rarely expected

We are taking an unexpected break from The Smokey Mountains in Gatlinburg, TN due to the loss of my rain gear on trail. However, this is not the adventure I am preparing to relate to you but merely the means by which I am able to write to you.

Tuesday, Pete and I snowshoed over eight foot drifts on a seven mile trip over Clingmans Dome, the highest point on the AT. It was grueling and tiring and wonderful. But, this is also not the adventure I am preparing to relate to you.

My most recent adventure happened the night of our Clingmans assent in the quiet and dark of our sanctuary, the shelter. My adventure begins with the barely perceptible skittering of a rodent and ends with a vole attempting to find a toasty home for the night in my sleeping bag.

I woke at two AM to find that our timid shelter companion from earlier in the evening was now crawling rather aggressively on my face. After waking and startling poor Vinny the Vole off my face, he then tried to find a home at my side in my sleeping bag.

It's at this time that I start shouting, "Eaaaaoooow, get it out, get me out of the bag, it's in here..." while dancing the mad dance of panic of a person stuck in her sleeping bag with an unwelcome companion.

Pete woke to this racket thinking that I was being attacked by a bear or boar. He was disappointed to find that it was only a rodent nesting in my bag with me.

Needless to say, on the trail we usually fear the cold and the bears. What we never expected to have to deal with is the penchant of shelter rodents to take issue with is sleeping in their home.

In the end, Vinny the Vole and I made peace and parted ways. I wish him well but hope never to have such a close encounter again.

I will post again after we've made it out of The Smokies.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I'll Be Your Personal Cheerleader

Those of you reading regularly know that I've had a few struggles on this trip. I've questioned my ability to do this and needed a whole lot of encouragement from Pete to keep going. It feels good, for once, to be writing a blog about the other end of the situation.

After our eight day stay in Franklin, Pete and I trudged back up the mountain to pick up where we had to get off. I hate getting off the mountain for weather, because it usually means backtracking, road walking, and logging a lot of non-AT miles onto our feet. The days we spend hiking that include no white blazes (the marks that designate AT trail) are really frustrating for me.

So, when we arrived back at the Standing Indian Shelter for the second time, I expected to simply set up camp, eat a quick dinner as usual, and rack out for the night. Upon arriving, though, we found that we weren't alone in the shelter (this is unusual for us, winter hiking). Walking up to the three sided log building, we were met by the faces of two rather dejected looking men. They'd just started a fire and plopped down in front of it with very little enthusiasm or energy.

The story that we got from these guys was that they were up for an annual guys only week long hiking trip, but hadn't expected their first day to include breaking trail in over a foot of snow. They'd spent a zero day in the shelter and were planning on leaving to go home the next day.

Over the course of the night, we four sat around the fire, sharing stories, songs, food and beverage, and, luckily, the power that a campfire seems to posses worked its magic. As the night grew darker the guys cheered up and began to laugh and tell stories about other trips they'd taken. The crackle and pop of wet logs accented the lighter mood and served as a symbol for our ability to brave the cold of winter hiking. If they can make a fire from frozen logs, I told them, what's a little snow while they walk.

I shared my story. I shared the humiliation of breaking down in tears three days in and calling a shuttle to take me off the mountain and into town so I could go home. We all shared stories of sore, wet feet and cold nights and waking up to frost around the mouth of your sleeping bag.

Slowly, the guys began to realize that there's always a bad day in most hikes and that the fun of making miles and sitting around a fire and waking up to the most beautiful sunrise you've ever seen make it worth the snow and cold and soreness.

The next morning as we all packed up and prepared to part ways, they thanked me for being their personal cheerleader and credited me for keeping them on the trail. I was just glad to pay forward the gift that someone else gave to me.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Kindness of Strangers

One of the things you realize once you've spent some time on the trail is that you have to, from time to time, rely on the kindness of strangers.

This can be frustrating when you are on the trail to find independence and freedom, but if you roll with it, you'll find many treasures mixed in with your reliance.

Something I quite enjoy is the necessity of coming into town for resupply and a hot shower. I've never spent any time on the East coast, so this is a great way for me to get to know this part of the country. But, coming into towns means finding rides, getting directions to laundry and outfitters and food and entertainment.

You really do, as Blanche Dubois says, have to rely on the kindness of strangers in a lot of these situations. For many hikers, town is a fast stop, usually at most just overnight, if that. They don't have a chance to see much of town or meet many locals. The curse, or the blessing, of our hike is that we have had a few (I mean LOTS) bad weather days where we get stuck in town. It's a drag, because it's expensive and we're not hiking (which is our job right now). However, the joy is that we have the opportunity to really get to know some of the people we meet.

One of the most recent examples of this is our eight (yes eight) day stay in Franklin during some of the most unseasonably cold weather we've had this year. We stopped into a small new Outfitter in town for a few odds and ends. What we found at Outdoor 76 was not just a place to buy new gaitors and shoe inserts. We found friends. We found people who really cared about getting us back on the mountain and went out of their way to help us get there. Cory and Rob, who run the shop, have been some of the friendliest people we've met since starting this journey.

I hoped that in taking this journey, I'd learn something about myself, grow closer to Pete, and meet some people to share the adventure with. You know you've done that when at the end of your hike, you don't just want to send them a thank you card for "being a part of your journey", you want to call them up and invite them on the next trip.

I'm sure that we will meet a great many people as we continue to hike, and there will be other people who are friendly and touch my heart in some way. But, these guys are the first people we've met that I was really sad to say goodbye to.

Cory, Rob, good luck with your new adventure. I wish and pray for all the best for the both of you. We'll see ya soon.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Secret to Happy Travel

“He who would travel happily must travel light”

-Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The folks at Mountain Crossings might use this quote at the beginning of their famous shakedowns. And, it is appropriate, given that after their help we have hiked a little easier.

However, I think there is something else to be gotten from this phrase. The weight in your pack is not so important, I think, as the weight in your mind.

To truly hike happy (or travel in any way for that matter) you can’t carry too many troubles or too much worry.

You must just let your adventure happen, let it be. To use the words of another beloved poet traveler, you must take to the open road afoot and light-hearted.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Discovering the Mystery of the Ascent

It’s 7am. I am tucked into my Mont Bell 0 degree bag, snow has been falling for most of the night, and everything I own is either on my body or frozen in a pile outside the warm sanctuary that is the tent. I know I have to get up.

“I like winter hiking, I like winter hiking, I…I’m so damn cold, this sucks!” This is a thought that runs through my head, often. Yet, I get up each day to below freezing temperatures and walk until my body is so sore, it doesn’t know what to do at the end of the day when I finally get to take off my pack.

Why am I doing this? Is it just to be with Pete? Is it just to lose weight?

Any long distance hiker gets to a point where they have to question what their purpose is.

I’ve successfully hiked close to 100 miles now, and one of the things that surprises me each time is how I feel about ascending the various peeks and summits we come across.

Each day there comes a point that I see yet another ascent rising up from the densely forested and sometimes snow drift laden trail, and I think, “No, not one more. I am sick of climbing.”

Physically, this is the most exhausting, difficult thing I have ever done. Walking up a hill was never so mentally challenging either until I willingly chose to strap a 40 pound pack to my back. I quietly curse Mother Nature for making so many hills each time I have to start a new one.

But, there is this moment…this moment as you start to see the end. When you think you might be getting to the top. Your legs are burning, you can barely look up past the next step to enjoy the view of the trail itself, but in the back of your mind and body you feel something kick in. It carries you the last few hundred vertical feet on pure adrenaline. Then, you turn the bend, clear the trees and are blessed with some of the most amazing views that nature has to offer. Each one is a little special, not just on its own merit but because you earn it with sweat and determination.

I don’t consider myself athletic. I’ve heard runner friends of mine talk about “second wind” or “breaking through”, but having finally felt it myself, the experience of pushing yourself that far beyond what you think you can do is almost beyond description. It’s a thrill I never thought I’d get to experience.

I don’t think any gym equipment could ever motivate me to do physically for myself what the last month has given me. The beauty and mystery that each summit holds hasn’t gotten old yet, and I sincerely hope it carries me much further since I have miles to go before I rest.

Monday, January 17, 2011


It’s official. We made it out of our first state, Georgia. My first personal goal was to hike the first 80 miles to the North Carolina border, and I almost didn’t make it.

But, I am here! We may have gone slower than people thought was prudent. There may be people who think that we won’t make Maine. But I made it out of freaking Georgia, and that’s what counts right now.

There’s no way we could have done it without the help of many people. I would like to take a minute to acknowledge a few people who helped us survive the first leg.

The Hiker Hostel run by Josh and Leigh Saint was a great refresher early on after my first few frustrating days of hiking.

Winton, Lumpy, Pirate, Logan, George, and all the crew at Mountain Crossings were great about giving us a few days rest while I nursed an Achilles tendon injury and offered respite over the Christmas holiday. We spent a very pleasant Christmas Eve and morning with a family at the hostel.

Sage, Mega Mo, and Raggamuffin gave us wonderful and much needed advice. They helped keep us on the trail.

The young crew who plucked us out of eight inches of snow on Christmas night to drive us into Helen made what could have been a very cold night instead a night filled with warm food and beverage.

To the Sheffields, thanks not only for the ride into Helen, but for the encouragement and good company.

Thanks to the awesome man who offered us a right through Helen on our way back to the trail. I never thought I would hitch hike, let alone be picked up by a horse drawn carriage.

Thank you to the family who offered us a ride, accidentally took us to the wrong trailhead, and went out of their way forty minutes to get us to the right place.

Lastly, I have to take a minute to say thanks to Pete. He has pestered and pushed me to the point of making me cry at times, but without him I would not still be here. I can’t find words to explain to him in person how grateful I am, because sentimentality is just not our way. But, if he had a porch right now, I would hide under it (inside joke) and tell him that I am so glad he invited me on this trip.

Now, on to North Carolina and even more awesome adventures.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How To Stay Entertained Off Trail

One of the challenges with hiking in the winter is that we spend a larger amount of time in cities than most hikers because of weather. There’s only so much time that we can spend calorie loading in front of the TV watching AMC and HBO movies before Pete and I break down and try to kill each other. Sometimes we have to get out.

One evening in Helen, GA, in an effort to save my sanity and the annoying task of hiding the body after Pete drove me to murder, we decided we ventured out to a pub called The Hayloft where we met a couple of locals for a few friendly games of pool. While rapping with a cool blue haired chick with a carbon atom tattooed on her arm (you figure it out), a squat guy in a leather jacket walks up to us, flashes the ten inch blade he has tucked into his pocket and asks, “You think this is legal?”

I personally think this is always a great start to an evening.

He and his friend wanted next game; so, they joined our ragtag group of players. Though, ever the cautious one that I am, I made sure Pete was consistently between me and our new dagger wielding companion.

An hour and a hundred dollar tab that consisted of nothing but girly shots later, and our knife boy had been slapped in the face, pulled his knife on someone, and asked his buddy where his gun was. Naturally, this is when the police got involved.

After hearing that the police were on the way to escort him to his lodgings for the night, he attempted to leave by leaping over a handrail and down a flight of stairs only to be stopped by a 6’4’’ rugby player and thrown solidly face down to the ground. Standing well back, enjoying the show, it was at this point I was glad to see the police take over.

Sometimes, entertainment like this just happens, and all you have to do is sit back and watch.

Other times when you’re in town for a longer stitch, you have to work a little harder to keep boredom at bay and sanity in check. Occasionally, for Pete and I this includes pulling hijinks on each other.

One of the things Pete relished for a time was to get rid of his gum by putting it on random parts of my body, like my elbow or nose. He got a huge kick out of this, and I tried to humor him. My humor lasted until the moment I rolled over and found my shoulder blade stuck to the bed. It was then that I chose to retaliate. I did so by taking the gum and sticking it to his chest. Anybody ever get gum in your hair as a kid? Yeah… the next twenty minutes were spent giggling guiltily and watching him cut the gum out of his chest hair. I felt a little guilty, but I figure, he hasn’t done it since. So, I guess I got my point across.

No matter how you do it, it’s important to keep a good attitude when you can’t be on the trail. The key to enjoying the journey is to take whatever it throws at you and have a blast with it. Sometimes the unexpected or odd things that happen bring the most joy.