Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 78: Poolside?

It was cold last night. Shivering, can't sleep kinda cold. Though I think I got a few hours in after the sun came up. I may have made the wrong choice when I sent my 20 degree down bag home for the summer. Perhaps I should've invested in a 40 degree summer bag, but I cut costs and got a $15 glorified Snuggie instead. I have a silk liner, too, now, but the combo was no match for the cold front that came in last night.

One Life has a summer sleeping bag and he was completely sinched up and mummified (and he's an angel for letting me wear his poofy jacket!!). In the morning we both slept in because we hadn't slept through the whole night. Got up around 8, left by 9 something.

Because of the cool night, though, it made for beautiful weather throughout the day. Possibly the best hiking weather of the trip?! Bright sun. Cool breeze.

One Life and I walked at a good pace over rocks and roads, and we stopped at a shelter for a a snack and water. More hiking, uphill, then another snack break before walking into the Caledonia State Park. What a great park! There was a pool where we finally caught up to Xan, Neutron and Sandbagger. They had hitched into town for a $5 buffet at Ryan's. I was a little jealous, but then was distracted by the pool. I rinse/washed me and my hiking clothes in the shower before setting my stuff down in our hiker corner. Laid the wet stuff to dry then jumped in the pool. It was a bit chilly getting out, but I laid on the sun to warm up a bit.

Charged my phone as I caught up and chatted with the guys and had a hot dog from the snack bar. What a nice hiker haven - and only $4! The guys had been there for a few hours, so they moved on up the trail a little after 4pm. One Life, Scatters, Bo and I stayed put for a bit longer before she left. I showered and put my hiking clothes back on and took off with One Life. It was another few hours (ten miles) till the shelter, and it was already 6pm.

We passed a very cute shelter on the way, then had a big climb. We knew we wouldn't make it before it got dark, so we stopped at a small campsite for a sunset dinner. After dinner, we made it another mile before headlanps were needed. Night hiking!

We made it to the shelter around 10:30 and tried to be as quiet as possible while setting up our tents. There were a lot of people all over the place, and many of them were already sleeping, but we made it to bed. It will be cold again tonight. I really hope to sleep through it?!!

Today ends my first week where my a average mileage is fewer than 100 miles. Hoping to bump that back up in the next few weeks. But I will officially be halfway tomorrow!!! Hoping to compete in the "half gallon challenge" (an AT halfway tradition: eating an entire half gallon of ice cream in less than one hour). I will dream of quick digestion and stomach fortitude...
(23.2mi 15st)

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Birch Run Shelter

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 77: Back to Big Miles

Woke up late. One Life and I had planned (key word) to wake up early and get a big day in. Maybe catch the guys...? But we didn't end up leaving camp till almost 9am. Perhaps it would be a fast-walking day?

Scatters caught up and the three of us hiked together for most of the day. Stopped at a shelter (which was .3 miles off the trail and it was very downhill, ugh) for lunch and water, then after more hiking, we stopped later on a sunny rock with a view. The weather was really nice. Hot in the sun, but there was a cool breeze and a thick canopy in the woods.

This section of Maryland is the part I had already hiked with my friends, Erin and Mike, last November. Many parts of the trail did not look familiar though because there was so much foliage now. Last Fall, there were no green leaves, so we could see more of the landscape then. And there was an AT sign I somehow missed!?

After a few miles of boulders and rocks that made the trail a bit hard to follow, we three eventually made it to Pen-Mar Park which is right on the Maryland side of the border with Pennsylvania. Beautiful park! Tiny Dancer and Salty were there after completing the four state challenge the day before. Moped and Logos/Earthling showed up, too. I hadn't seen most of those faces for a while!

We got sodas from the machine and a few hikers got pizza (and shared!!), and we relaxed in the cool shade of the pavillion for a few hours with our shoes off. It was a nice break. And we didn't want it to end. (btw: the numbers on the sign in the photo are a bit off...)

Around 7pm, Scatters, One Life and I left for the next shelter, which was 5 miles away. We wanted to make sure to get there by dark - thank goodness forking summer days! We passed the Mason Dixon line and we had OFFICIALLY made it to Pennsylvania!! State number SEVEN!!?! It was a nice feeling, but strange to cross off so many states so quickly when Virginia took forever to cross off.

We got to Deer Lick shelter (name?!) by 9pm and filtered water before it was dark. Miles and Ugly Tuna were there. Scatters, One Life, Moped and I chatted in the dark with section hiker Bo while we snacked, and then it was time for bed. Apparently there's a pool 13 miles from here. We're all hoping for a swim in the afternoon tomorrow. Maybe we'll catch Xan and Neutron there...?

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Deer Lick Shelter

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 76: Farewell Dallas!

Well, it definitely was NOT my most comfortable night of sleep ever. It was very warm in my tent, and I just didn't seem to be tired enough to sleep. I tossed and turned for a while, then I must've gotten a few hours in before waking up around 6:30. Thank goodness the morning was cool.

We had pop tarts for breakfast, and we broke down our tents and packed up. Four miles to go to meet back up with Kristi and Scott. The cool morning began to fade into a warm morning as soon as we started walking.

We passed a civil war battlefield that had a few information plaques to read. One Life is a Civil War buff and was very excited to be wandering through history. It's pretty hard to imagine what all went on here back then. A mile or so later, we caught Xan, Sandbagger and Neutron at the Back Pack Campsite, and we stopped for a break. They'd had a large group of campers there last night, too. But they had flush toilets and showers! I went and had a quick, rinsey shower (putting back on my gross, sweaty clothes, but it's better than no shower at all!), and charged my phone a bit. One Life took off with Q and Zack, and I chilled for another few minutes.

I left the guys and caught up with One Life as they were climbing the hill from Alt 40. The boys made a great effort in the last mile, and we finally made it up to the washington monument to find Kristi and Scott hanging out by the beautiful view. There was a great breeze up there! And lots of berries to pick!! Xan, Neutron and Sandbagger showed up for a snack and a break, then they were soon on there way. We'd catch up with them later on.

Kristi and Scott were going to take the boys and One Life to lunch in Boonsboro, and they very kindly invited me to come along. How could I say no?! We crammed all our people and packs into the car and made it to a wonderfully over-air-conditionned pizza place. We stuffed ourselves silly and had plenty of pizza left over.

Back to the monument to drop off me and One Life. While we chatted, TC showed up - I hadn't seen gin in a while! He had a slice of pizza while we said a long goodbye to the Dallas kids. Their visit was too short! But they had a great time and were clearly exhausted. I'm so glad I got to share that experience with them and with One Life.

Back to hiking?! Nah. We waved goodbye to the Texas car and took the extra pizza up to the lunch shelter (25 yards from the parking lot) and charged our phones, chatted with TC about trail gossip, and drank Gatorade. It must've been above 90, and it was humid. We waited till 4pm to leave, and by that time Chef (who is now going by "No Longer Chef" because there were too many "chefs") and Casper and Moped had caught up.

We began hiking with TC and crossed the I-70 footbridge to many honks brought on by many sweaty waves. We took a break at a shelter and I got water, then the three of us continued on. We got to Black Rock Cliffs where we enjoyed the view and a rest. We all decided that we probably wouldn't catch up to Xan/Neutron/Sandbagger tonight. Early day tomorrow...?

We made it to Pogo campsite and set up. Got water, made dinner, and ate as the light eft the sky. Moped showed up in almost darkness, and after a little web browsing, I am now in my tent blogging. It's warm again. Seems a TINY bit better than last night, but not by much. I do feel tired tonight though. I'm hoping to make tomorrow a good, solid, long day of hiking. This heat is supposed to break by Wednesday!!

Pennsylvania tomorrow...? State #7?!?

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Pogo Memorial Campsite

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day 75: New Shoes

I woke up slowly after eight gorgeous hours of sleep in Little Foot's sister's room (thanks again, Lisa!). Went downstairs to shower and saw that Powder had already left (before 6am, I later found out!). Neutron and Xan were still sleeping, and One Life was just waking up, too.

Within an hour, Big Foot had made a slew of French toast and we were all up and eating. We got a ride over to the ATC again to get Xan's package and then we were back making final pack-ups. One Life and I were ready to go around 11, so we got a ride down to the trail head and took off along the canal. So nice and flat. Then I realized I had forgotten my phone! One Life didn't have anyone's numbers, so I tried calling the ATC since I knew Neutron had left his number on his information card. Their switchboard was down!? I tried Powder, but his phone was off. I was pretty sure Neutron's iPod was plugged in next to my phone and that he would see it before he left, but even if he didn't... our 8 hours of hiking would probably only equate to a mere 10 minute drive for one of Little Foot's parents, if it came to that.

Powder texted a few numbers to One Life's phone, so I called Little Foot who said that the guys had picked up my phone. Woo hoo! I knew I could count on them...

I hiked on in the heat of the day with One Life out in front of me. The school/charity he's hiking for ( was sending two kids up for an overnight hike - all the way from Dallas! The principal and her husband were driving Quentin ("Q") and Zack up to meet One Life at Gathland State Park at 3pm, so we only had to make sure we were there by then.

My new shoes were doing great, but I wasn't feeling all that great in the heat. A bit lethargic and lightheaded at times. I had some Gatorade, which seemed to help, but it was just plain hot hot hot out. After a few breaks and snacks, we made it to the park. McGyver was there with Sandbagger's mom who had trail magic! Joy!!

One Life, McGyver, Grace and I hung out under the pavillion while we waited for Sandbagger, Xan and Neutron and for Q and Zack to show up. It was nice and cool under there, and so were the drinks Grace brought.

Soon everyone arrived. I met Q and Zack and Kristi (the principal) and her husband Scott. I got my phone from Xan and Neutron. And we all snacked and hung out until it was time to start walking again.

I took off slowly with One Life and the youngsters, and I learned more about their school and friends and Dallas. Zack quickly got the trail name "Bingo" and Q got the name "Tiger." They were definitely going at a slower pace than we were used to, but it was probably good for me with new shoes and four recent zero days under my belt...

We didn't catch up with the guys, but we did make it to the Rocky Run shelter where there was a boy scout group AND a girl scout group camping. Luckily, we were able to find tent spots on the ridge for the four of us. We set up our tents, then I took Q and Zack down to pump water (and to flirt with the girl scouts...?) while One Life started cooking their dinner.

Good times camping with the Dallas boys! We made a big ole fire, ate dinner, hung a bear bag, sang a few "songs," and made s'mores. Q and Zack seemed to be loving it all, and it was really cool to show them how we do it all out here everyday.

We chatted till dark and then headed to bed. Could be an early morning to make it to the [other] Washington Monument by 10am...

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Rocky Run shelter

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day 74: Back Towards the Trail

Woke up to an amazing breakfast prepared by my mom. HUGE pancakes and fruit and cheesy eggs and juice. So good! I just wish I had been hungrier. I could only handle a regular-person portion... (it must be all the non-hiking)

We all packed everything up (Powder did his best to deflate the air mattress), and soon after my friend Connie showed up, we took off for Harpers Ferry. Xan, Neutron and I chatted with Connie while Powder and Russell rode up with Dan. It was a quick trip to Little Foot's house, where we had a few cold drinks and snacks. Connie had to leave, but before she did, we went to pick up One Life who had rolled into town an hour or so ago. Connie dropped us back off at the house to get ready to watch the USA-Ghana game. She tried hard to resist the urge to hang out and eat and watch the game, but then One Life and I convinced her to stay for the first half. Yay! More Connie!

Little Foot grilled up hot dogs and hamburgers and we all ate and watched the game. Connie left at halftime (thanks so much for helping us out, TripF!!), and then rest of us hoped hard for a USA comeback in overtime. Unfortunately, it didn't come, and we were all left in a funky, saddened mood. Xan, all of a sudden, realized he forgot to get his package at the ATC on Thursday. The office closed at 5pm, and it was 5:14. Though the plan was to hike out after the game, the combination of the all-round poor mood and the resupply package whoopsie, we decided to stay the night here and hike out tomorrow. Four zero days in a row! I guess I deserve it. 1000 miles and all...

The evening consisted of planning my future mail drops, BBQ chicken, catching up with blogging, ice cream, AT movies, and The Life Aquatic. I'm itching to get back on the trail and try out the new shoes, but my return will have to wait until the morning. Hope it doesn't get too hot tomorrow. It's been deadly out there the past few days.


-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Knoxville, MD

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 73: I Love REI

Woke up to drop my mom off at work again, and then picked up Powder and Russell. We all had breakfast back at the apartment before I drove out to REI with Xan. He had to return his old sleeping pad and try to return his hiking pole. I had to exchange my failing sleeping pad (the same one he had), exchange my back pack (the inside fabric had ripped so that the internal frame was shifting all around), and I had to get some new shoes.

Xan and I stood in the customer service line and soon had our go. We both came out successful! He got more than enough credit to get a new hiking pole, and I got everything exchanged with no questions asked. New sleeping pad (so clean), a new pack (same one, but one size smaller) and a new pair of trail runners. AND Half Elvis was there! I told him I'd missed him by only a few hours back near Front Royal, and he told me about the awesome trail magic I'd missed. Oh, timing...

We drove back to DC, and I dropped off Xan. The guys were gonna head back to check out a few more Smithsonian museums. I went back to the Capitol Hill to have lunch with Leah and Becca at 7th Hill. Saw Anthony doing his pizza dough-throwing thang behind the counter, and also ran into a few other old friends. Good times.

After lunch, I said goodbye to Becca and Leah and stopped into CVS to fill a prescription for more poison ivy steroids. I managed to get more PI on my feet and a bit on my elbow, and I thought I'd get some meds before going back into the woods. I may not take them for this episode, but I'm very glad to have them if/when I need them. Like most people, I really don't like this poison ivy thing.

Back to the apartment for a well-deserved (though short) nap. Powder had been chilling out there all day, and Dan got home shortly after I did. Napped! Then I went to pick up mom. After the guys got back from the National Art Gallery, we had some snacks and then headed out for a night on the town!

Solly's on U street was the perfect pub for hikers in hiker gear. We were joined by a few of my friends and my brother, and Scatters was in town and joined as well. Fun live bluegrass music upstairs, and lots of PBR. Too bad we were getting yawny at 11pm! We managed to make it until 11:30 before walking across the street to Ben's Chili Bowl. Late night grub and giggles, and we caught the metro home. Oh my bed... Back on the trail tomorrow!!

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Washington, DC

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 72: DC Summertime

So hot today!!! I didn't forget how hot it gets here in the summer, but it definitely made the Atlanta boys feel at home.

I got up and dropped my mom off at work. Then I picked up Powder at Leah's house (he's staying there with the dog) before coming back for breakfast. No need to pack up since we'd be staying another night, but the guys packed a few sandwiches and snacks before I dropped them off at the Lincoln Memorial. They were going to do the tourist thing while I went off to surprise my old office. And it worked! Great surprised faces all around!! I chatted with everyone for a while before having to take off. It was so nice to see everyone! It made me kinda miss working there... (but not working...)

I picked up Amy from work and we went over to Trader Joes. I picked up a few things for dinner and tried to redeem a lotto ticket that had gotten damaged in the rain (no luck). We went over to Amy's house for a second to see her animals and then I was headed back to Capitol Hill.

I went over to Leah's house and hung out with Russell (the dog) for a bit. He didn't know what to think of the drastic temperature change after I took him out for a walk. He's probably just as happy as we are that we are not hiking in this weather.

I drove down to the mall to pick up the boys, but Xan and Neutron were fine to keep on museuming at the Air & Space museum. Powder and I went back to the apt to lay low before cooking dinner. Mom and Dan got home shortly after, and then it was time to cook a birthday meal.

A few friends came over to hang and the boys showed up right when dinner was ready. Ten of us feasted and caught up and watched the draft, and everyone had a great time - most of all my mom! Funny that it was HER birthday and I had all MY friends over. Ha! I'm just glad she enjoys my friends and had a good night.

Tomorrow to REI!

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Washington, DC

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 71: Homeward Bound...?

And USA wins!!! What a game against Algeria. Wow. We were all awake and watching all the opportunities the US had, and then it finally happened for them. We almost had morning heart attacks with our cereal...

My friend Amy took the day off working DC and drove out to get us at Little Foot's house. And she brought sodas and snacks! What a gal! We all hung out for a bit before packing up and driving over to the ATC in Harpers Ferry. Xan, Powder and Neutron had their photos taken and put into the book, and we wandered around the musuem looking at things. Then I realized that I had left my SPOT locator on top of Amy's car at Little Foot's house!!?!? Ugh, what an idiot I am sometimes... Well, it wasn't still on top still, so I called Little Foot to see if it was back at his place, and luckily it WAS. It had fallen off while we turned around in the driveway. Thank the goodness!!!

We stopped by to pick it back up and then we were on our way to DC! We made good time until the beltway, and then we hit traffic. I definitely don't miss that. We made it into DC and stopped by my friend Leah's store to surprise her there. Surprise!

We chatted, then said goodbye to Amy. Leah had somewhere to be, the the boys and I went over to Banana Cafe for cold margaritas and tacos. It was hot in the sun, but cooler when it finally went down. Leah came by, Dan picked us up. We stopped by Leah's brand new house. Then the hikers got in the back of Dan's pickup and he took us on a sunset (moonlight?) tour of the monuments. It was so nice in the cool breeze of the evening! And it was cool because Xan and Neutron hadn't been here before.

Got home and snacked. Mom was glad to see us all again. I called my friends Chris and Billy who live across the street, and we all hung out until we were all ready for bed. Great day!

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Washington, DC

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 70: Just to BE the [Wo]man Who Walks a Thousand Miles...

I wasn't up quite as early as yesterday, but I made it onto the trail just after 7am. The mornings are so cool compared to the rest of the day that it's a shame to waste them sleeping. Little Foot and Powder got out before me, but Xan and Neutron were still snoring when I left.

Three or four miles left of the roller coaster! It was more tough climbs and descents before making it to the Bear's Den hostel. We should've pressed on to stay there last night - it was amazing! It's an old stone mansion that has been converted into a lovely hostel supported by the ATC. There's a hiker deal for $27 that includes a bunk, shower, laundry, clothes to wear while your laundry gets cleaned, a medium pizza, a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and a soda. What a deal!! I caught up with Little Foot here, and we had a short break before pressing on. I'll have to go back to this Bear's Den haven sometime...

Onwards in the heat! Thankfully we finished the roller coaster and we sailed over smooth flats and slight inclines and declines. The only problem was the heat and the lack of breeze. Then we passed 1000 miles!! There wasn't a sign (it moves every year with trail maintenance and changes), but someone had written 1000 in the dirt with small rocks. Wow, what a milestone. I've WALKED one THOUSAND miles?! Hard to grasp, but it's true.

So, after a high five and a photo, we had to stop for water and the only places to do so were off the trail. We stopped at the Blackburn AT Center which was .3 miles straight downhill. But the place was really nice with a gorgeous view, and this one was free for thru hikers. I hate passing up on a great place to stay and we've done it TWICE today!!?! We saw Stickwalker at the center and, after climbing back up the hill with full water, we saw Powder and Russell. Little Foot and I were going to continue to gun it all the way to Harpers Ferry to try to make it to the ATC before they closed at 5pm. This was gonna be a bit if a stretch, and we'd have to walk at a solid 3.5 mph pace to do it. It was very hot out, but we sprinted for two hours to make it to Keyes Gap and the VA - WV state line. We weren't going to make it by 5pm. I called the ATC to see if maybe they could stay open a bit longer, and Laurie said she'd be there until 6, so it wouldn't be a problem. Awesome!

We slowed down in a bit on the last 5 miles and made it to the river. Oh Shenandoah! We hoofed it over and made it to the ATC by 5:30, and Little Foot's friend Brian was there waiting. Little Foot lives just over the river in Knoxville, MD, so he's a local to these parts.

We got our photos taken at the ATC and talked to the volunteers a bit. They keep photo books of all the hikers who cone through, so we could check to see who was out ahead of us, and we could see their real names and emails. Helpful!

The three of us headed back to the trail to walk into town, and we stopped in for a beer after spotting Roadrunner in the street. Paul Bunyan was in the pub with his folks. I love just walking around town and seeing people I know! After our beer, we walked back to the trail end of town and spotted Neutron who had just arrived. I hadn't seen him or Xan all day! We stopped there to chat until Xan and Powder showed up. Then we chatted some more while London Joe, Red Lobstah, Roadrunner and his wife hung out. It was a big ole group of us. Around 8:30, we finally decided that we should get the last 3 miles over with and get to the dinner that Little Foot's parents were making.

It was a quick last few miles along the old canal (flat!), and we rolled in close to 10pm. Burgers! Chicken! Hot dogs! Little Foot's parents welcomed us with open arms, platefulls of food, and air-conditioning. We showered up and ate till we were all full and we didn't last much longer after 50 miles in two days... Bedtime for all! (and I got Little Foot's sister's room and bed - aw yeah!)

We all plan to wake up to watch USA play Algeria at 9:30. Come on, USA!

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Little Foot's House in Knoxville, MD

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 69: A Long, Naked Day

I was awake and up before the sun today. The longest day of the year and I was up at 5am. I couldn't believe it, but after a pop tart and a pack up, I was walking by 6am. It felt great to be out at that time. Little Foot, Powder, Russell and I walked together for a few miles as the sun came up. We saw a bear, too, running away, but he stopped to see what we were all about.

The three of us walked under I-66 at the peak of rush hour. Monday morning. We were all glad to be walking to Maine and not commuting to work. We made it to the next shelter by 8am, and we stopped to have more breakfast. Superman came in, and we all chatted about the glorious day before packing up to get back on the trail. Powder and Russell left. Then I did a few minutes later. I wasn't sure how far back Little Foot and Superman would be.

So, the thing about today is that it is the summer solstice. And in the hiking world, the day of the summer solstice is International Hike Naked Day. Ahhhhh, now the title of this blog entry makes sense.

Well, it's not "Hike Naked ALL Day" day or "Be Seen Hiking Naked" day, so I thought I'd give it a go IF the circumstances allowed for it. After Powder left the shelter, I saw my chance. I walked for a bit not knowing if any southbounders would be flying my way, or if Little Foot would be right behind. I kept saying to myself "ok, after THIS tree just go for it!" I was smiling with anticipation, and unsure if I'd actually go for it, but I did NOT want to be caught.

Finally, I threw down my pack, whipped it all off, threw the pack back on and hiked! Ha! I told myself to go at least 100 paces... But then I managed about 100 yards. Then 200... Then I freaked out and put everything back on. And I didn't get caught!! (as far as I know). No photos for proof, just a very nice rush of adrenaline pre-10am. And just like the James River jump, I was once again proud of myself for participating in an honored AT tradition.

So, onwards...

I caught up with Powder at a stream, and we both snacked more and I soaked my feet. It was getting hot already and would be VERY hot by noon. Back to hiking at our different paces. We didn't know when Xan and Neutron left, but we hadn't seen them since we departed at 6am. We were going to try to get in 25 miles today and then another 25 tomorrow to try to make it to Little Foot's house by Tuesday/tomorrow night. USA soccer game at 9:30 Wednesday morning!

I walked on until I got to a shelter about 15 miles from our start. I snacked until Superman arrived, then we chatted as Little Foot and Powder rolled in. We hung there for a while, but it was during the heat of the day (2-5pm), and it was quite sweaty out there, so we didn't feel bad about taking a few hours off. Finally we took off to conquer some of the "roller coaster," which is 13.5 miles of 10 rolling hills. It's a bit of a struggle to get through it.

Little Foot had planned to do it naked. So, I "blocked" for him. Leading off with a 150-200 yard head start, I started climbing up the first mountain and Little Foot dropped his shorts. My head remained front-facing, and I was completely gentlewomanly by avoiding looking back... though there was a fair distance between us. I was just there to make sure no southbounders caught him in the act and to make a bird call if I came across anyone.

After two huge mountains and no breeze, I was sweating like a fool, and Little Foot was still naked (according to him). I started pulling my sun visor waaaay down on switchbacks as to avoid any periferal sightings, and until we came across Alpine and her mom camping, it worked brilliantly! I gave a bird call, and Little Foot re-robed for the rest of the day, and the two of us struggled with the next four mountains. We were tired after a long day and hurty from so many miles, but we made it to the shelter in one piece.

We still hadn't seen Xan and Neutron, but we assumed they must've been behind us. Powder and Russell came in with Xan about 30 minutes after we got there, and Neutron came in just minutes after that. It would just be the five of us.

Dinner, jokes, clean up and now time for bed. Another huge 25+ mile day tomorrow, and I doubt I will be as excited to wake up as early as I did this morning... We'll see.

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Sam Moore Shelter

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 68: It's Hot Out Here!

Slept gloriously last night and woke up feeling refreshed. Happy Father's Day, dad!!! It's really cool that I could spend some time with my dad on his day.

We went out and had the hotel breakfast in the lobby AND feasted on the beakfast strata mom brought. Stuffed once again! We had a late check out, so we watched soccer while we packed up slowly. Eventually, we were packing five hikers (with full packs), two parents (with coolers/food/clothes) and a dog into the minivan. Dan had his motorcycle.

Off to Target! I got shorts, and Powder got a wiffle ball and bat (standard issue). We hung out in the shade outside Target before making it back to the trail head. It was pretty hot out there, soooo we hung out by the cars in the shade in the little parking area and feasted on the leftover food. Mmmm pudding, strata, fruit and pretzel sticks. Deetz/Power Pack showed up, and Loon/East Wind/Seldom Seen were just leaving for town. Beaver Chief and Ghetto Sheep came among as well, and we all threw back as much food as we could before hiking.

Then it was finally time to leave. It was still hot at 4pm, but there were miles to walk! I said my goodbyes ti the family and took off. Uphill for a while, but not too bad. Lots of sweating, but I didn't stop till I got to the shelter 5.9 miles away. What a nice shelter! A covered picnic area (with leftover trail magic sodas) and a great big porch. AND!! Apparently the guy who brought all the food had a big ole party Saturday and Sunday morning with burgers and beer and hot dogs, and it was Chris "Half Elvis" - the guy from my REI trip back in April!!! Holy small world again, right!!?! Unfortunately, I missed him by a few hours, but it was pretty cool nonetheless.

I wasn't planning on staying here, but Superman was here, and Ghetto Sheep seemed cool, and the rest of the kids were on the way, and then they said they were going to stay... so I decided to stay, too. No biggie. Fifty miles to do by Tuesday night, but I won't think about that right now.

Warm afternoon and evening, and good chit chat and hanging out. The boys had a session of batting practice. Dinner was eaten, I cleaned up, and then it was time for bed. Big miles day tomorrow....?

[[BIG THANKS to my mom, dad and brother for coming out and treating me (and my friends) like gold. I love you so much and am so fortunate to be stuck with such a generous and loving family :) ]]

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Jim and Molly Denton Shelter

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 67: A Royal Zero

Woke up in a room temperature room around 9. Slept well! Didn't make the continental breakfast, but packed up and sat with everyone in the lobby while the Australia/Ghana soccer game was on.

Little Foot and his parents left to go pick up their other car that was still parked in the Shennys, and Xan, Neutron and I walked over for a snack at McDonalds. Then we wandered over to Kmart. Then my parents arrived! Hi mom and dad!! We all packed into the van and swung by the post office to pick up Powder and Russell who texted me at the perfect time.

We drove the 15 miles over to the hotel in Strasburg and were glad we weren't hiking in the 90+ degree day. My mom set up the food on the one picnic table near the parking lot, which was in the BLAZING sun. No dogs in the hotel, so Russell dug a cool hole under the table and we tried to hide in the small shady spots.

An hour later, we were all too hot to stay out there so we moved the party into one of the rooms and tied up Russell outside the window. Little Foot and his parents showed up and we all feasted on ham salad sandwiches, fruit, quinoa salad, chips, dips, brownies (from Leah - thanks girl!!), and sodas. We chatted for hours about the trail and other fun things until Little Foot's parents left to head home.

The boys went for a swim in the pool while I showered and soaked in the tub. Nice and relaxing... When we were all dry, it was time for ribs and a movie. Dan made ribs at home that were as awesome as they always are, and we popped in Couples Retreat in the DVD player he brought with him. What a brother... And what a great night in! Slowly but surely, we went to bed in beds. (well, except Powder who will be sleeping in the van with the dog - it's a completely pet free hotel with a stiff $250 fine!?! Sorry Powder!)

Back to hiking and sweating tomorrow.


-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Strasburg, VA

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 66: Oh Shennys...

Right, so, last night kind of sucked. My new sleeping bag is just NOT warm enough. After I finished catching up on the blog, I bundled up because it was so blustery and chilly outside. I had tights on, rain pants, a turtleneck, rain jacket, socks, my buff over my head like a hat, and my jacket hood on. I must've fallen asleep for a bit, but then woke up cold. I put my sitting pad over my legs and tried to curl up as much as I could. I couldn't believe I was more chilled than when I was in the Smokies!!?!

So, I was in and out of sleep until the sun started coming up. Then it got warmer and I fell deeeeply asleep. Until TEN FIFTEEN!! I couldn't believe I'd slept in for so long. I was a bit baffled. But I guess I needed it.

Power Pack and Deetz had left my food bag outside my tent, and they were long packed up and gone. There were cars in the parking lot, and hikers were headed to the wayside for a meal. Wow. I was so far behind!

So, I packed up and made my way out of the woods and greeted Roadrunner, Taterchip, Papa Smurf and Powder/Russell. "Hey! Where'd you come from?! I thought you were way ahead?!" "No no.... Just woke up about 100 yards from here."

They had all ordered food for brunch and lunch, and I hadn't eaten all day. They'd hiked 2 hours to get there. I walked 90 seconds. Rather than order myself some food, I decided to eat out of my food bag. It killed me to pass on a bacon/egg/cheese sandwich, but I had already bought THREE meals in the Shennys - waaay above average. So, I had thai noodles and chicken. Roadrunner was nice enough to buy us all ice cream afterwards! What a guy...

Ok, so, up at 10:15 and on the road by noon. Would it be the 16+ mile day I'd planned? Only hiking could make it so... Luckily, it was a beautiful afternoon for hiking at speed. Got on my way and checked out a few vista points since the sky was nice and clear. Snacked along the way here and there and ran into the Roadrunner crew from time to time. It was nice to see Powder again on the trail. He'd been a few days back, but had caught up. I think Russell (the dog) missed me.

Somewhere along the way, Little Foot texted me that he and his mom had made it into Front Royal already and that I could crash there if I could make it out of the woods. Motivation! I had planned on staying at the last shelter before Front Royal, but since it was only 3 miles from the road, of COURSE I could make it.

I walked a few miles with Powder and Russell, and together we officially left the Shenandoah National Park. Came up to that last shelter, and took a break to eat dinner. It was about 7:45 at this point, and daylight was going to be a factor. Serenetina and Stickwalker were there, and Hoof It came in after us. I ate a bit of dinner and packed up to take off. Three miles to go at 8:30pm. No problem!

I semi-ran the first bit of slightly-downhill switchbacks, then stumbled through heavy canopy and woods. I refused to stop to get out my headlamp, even though I needed it. I clicked my poles together regularly to scare away animals. As I walked, I got a text from Neutron saying that he and Xan were still in Front Royal. Ha! It's gonna be a party!

Luckily, I did not come across any bears in those last few miles, but I did startle a few deer. I managed to get to the road in less than an hour (despite a huge, sneak-attack, surprise hill NOT mentioned in the book...), and the Little Foot family picked me up. Thanks Footses!!

We drove back to the Super 8, I showered, then we all walked down to the park where Xan and Neutron had been loitering. Hello friends! We all chatted and stopped by Anthony's Pizza for a bite (at 11:30pm), and finally made our way back to the hotel. Little Foot's parents were very kind to let us all crash on their floor. Much much appreciated!

So, my folks should be coming 'round the mountain tomorrow, and hopefully there will be much more fun ahead!!! (including laundry!!)

Looking forward to seeing mom and dad and brother!

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Front Royal, VA

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 65: Stealth Camping

Good morning in a bed! The three of us woke up and got moving a little later than expected, but it was all good. Some of our wet things were almost dry, but most of our wet things were still damp. My boots were kinda soaked still. Joy.

We suited up and headed up to breakfast. Saw that Roadrunner and Taterchip had already hiked 5 miles to make it here for breakfast, and we got a table next to them. One delicious omelet later, I was a happy camper. Had I really just eaten three straight meals in restaurants?!

One Life and I said our goodbyes and thank you's to Toboggan and started out in a blustery, sunny day. Saw Kit Kat and Dr Rock again, and she offered us an irresistable cold soda. Love her! Ok, back to hiking.

Up on the first ridge, the wind was quite strong. My sun visor blew off at one point, but luckily only into a nearby bush. After the ridge, there was a long bit of downhill over rocks. It was hard on the feet, but we made it to the Pinnacle picnic area for a snack with the oldies.

Onwards to the mountain until Byrd's Nest shelter (#3) where we all had lunch. Nice shelter. I dried my boots more in the sun, and noticed there was a dead, dried-up nightcrawler in my left boot. Nice. Wonder how long he'd been in there...

More uphill, then downhill (how it goes), but not too rushed since One Life's dad was picking him up two miles away at Thorton Gap for a few days off. We made it to the gap (and Kit Kat was there again!), but One Life wasn't sure where to wait since it's a bit of a confusing intersection. We walked around a bit and doubled back a bit before settling in a 4 foot by 4 foot area where my phone actually worked. Eventually, he got in touch with his dad, who finally made it to us, and they drove off into the afternoon with a future full of fridge food, sinks, couches, carpeting and beds... See you up the trail, One Life!!

Sooooo, back to hiking (humming Carry On My Wayward Son....). A quick break with Roadrunner, Tattoo, Taterchip and Dr Rock, then lots of walking. Really nice afternoon hike. Good temperature with a cool breeze and not bad inclines. Before I knew it, I was .5 miles from the Elkhollow Wayside, seeing a bear cub scramble away in a downed tree. (that's right, One Life... you missed it...) Not too much to see after the cub disappeared, so I continued on and found Deetz and Power Pack at the wayside! Hey ladies!

They were finishing up their dinner, so I made mine. The wayside was closed, but they'd gotten food before it did. I was lucky to reap the benefits of leftovers: half a grilled cheese sandwich and fries. And some ice cream! Excellent.

They were planning on stealth camping in the woods near there and I was in as well. Too bad the clerk guy locked up the bathrooms! But good thing there were still outlets to charge phones with and a water tap out the back. Perfect!

We found a spot in the woods and set up camp as the sun went down. We chatted in the dark about life for a while as the deer trotted laps around us and the bats flew around crazy-like. Power Pack's brother and his girlfriend will be showing up around midnight tonight to join them for a few days. The girls are waiting up at the picnic tables and I'm headed to bed. It may be chilly tonight!

25 miles till Front Royal.

Location:Elkhollow Wayside

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 64: Walking in a Drizzling Wonderland

Woke up early to rain on the tin roof on the shelter. Aparently it poured around 2:30am as well. I heard nothing. The plan was to get up early and go have a late breakfast at the next wayside. One Life and I got up early (pre 7), and J Bird and Big Foot were already gone. Early is all relative.

It stopped raining once One Life and I got on our way. It was very very foggy though. We were gorillas in the mist. We came up on a parking lot at a gap and there was a family near a mini van. The little 3 year old boy saw us and said something like "dooah deeeed thope." I said, "oh, that's funny. He says we need soap" trying to translate and make a joke at the same time. Then the little boy continues, "dooah deeeed thope to wash yo hayah." Ohhhhhh! He actually DID say that we needed soap. Haha!! The mother looked embarrassed, but that boy was completely right. I was 5 days deep at this point, and I assume One Life was about the same. Gross. Kids just say the darndest things...

So, we hiked on to get to the wayside by about 10ish. It continued to be foggy, and on one long uphill, I lost sight of One Life who was ahead. Then a bit later, I came to an intersection. I wasn't sure which way he'd gone. So I whistled. Nothing. Then I thought about it and went with by best option. I knew we'd both end up at the wayside one way or another. It was just a matter of how far would it be to get back on the trail. Basically, this part of the story will be lost on most everyone, but the gist (jist?) of it is that we got seperated and, about an hour (and an extra MILE of walking for each of us) later, we were both at the wayside ordering a burger and a blackberry milkshake, charging our phones in the wall of the diner.

Delicious meal. Hoof It and Tattoo caught up and joined us. (small world side note: One Life's grandfather coached Tattoo in football up in New Hampshire - wow, right?) Once the drizzling stopped and the sun came out, we went back outside and thought about how we'd get back up to the lodge. Just then, Kit Kat drove by and said she'd be glad to take us back up the hill! Excellent.

Back to hiking, but my entry point was a bit behind One Life's, so I'd be playing catch up. I didn't catch him until the next shelter, where Roadrunner and Taterchip were gonna stay for the night (their recent schedule was centering around where they'd be eating next... Ha!). One Life took off hiking, and I got water and applied sunscreen since the day was quite hot and sunny. I took off about 15-20 minutes after him.

There was an eery calm. I could hear thunder, but it seemed far away. When I got a glimpse of the clouds out west, they seemed to be running north, like me - parallel to the Shenandoahs. Then a wind picked up. Big gusts. I stopped to put on my rain gear, and about 5 minutes after I did, GAHWOOOOSH!! The storm rolled right in. Buckets. Lightning. Thunder. It was great. Well, the gortex in my boots has failed, but it was quite refreshing to walk in the storm. Then there was a lightning strike with a thunder crack a second away... At that pount I got extra serious then and pushed on with a bit more umph.

I came across a field of fenced on horses on the left and saw there was a barn with stables. Guess who popped his head out as I got close. One Life had juuust about made it in there before the skies opened up, so he hadn't been walking in it! Lucky guy. Stick Walker, Belle and Serenetina were in there, too. I guess I was the unlucky one today.

No worries! The Skyland Lodge/Restaurant was just ahead. We stopped (me, to wring out my socks), and we set all our gear in the setting sun. Went in for a sandwich and saw Toboggan. Toboggan is a section hiker doing a big chunk of the Shennys, and he and One Life had met in the rain. The guy had gotten a room for the night that had two double beds and offered to share the room with me and One Life! What an unexpectedly wonderful surprise!! One Life and I were happy to take him up on his offer, and we only owed him breakfast in the morning. What a deal! This room was most anticipated because of all our wet stuff. Couldn't wait to begin the drying process... and to take a SHOWER!

The three of us hung out for a while in the room as we cleaned up and organized and watched the sun go down. I had planned on going a longer distance today, but this trail magic perk was simply un-missable. Thanks so much, Toboggan!! We giggled the night away and hoped all our wet things would dry up by the morning...

Ps: Mike has recovered at home and is doing just fine. And Erin wanted me to find the rock wall she helped to build on a volunteer ATC trip out here. I fear I may have passed it in the rain, but I got a shot of a nice one later. Perhaps this is her wall...?


-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Skyland Lodge

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 63: Farewell Friends

I was last to get out of my tent [again] at 7am. But it was a nice, cool morning. Mike was feeling better, though still far from 100%. We were all still worried about his condition (which I underplayed in the last entry - he passed out at one point and scared us all, but most of all Erin). They decided to end their hike to go get Mike checked out, and luckily, One Life's phone worked enough so that Erin could call her dad to come pick them back up. I hated to see them go (and I can't help but feel guilty for choosing the high mileage goal in such heat with newbies to the trail!), but we packed them up and headed south down the 1.2 mile hill to Skyline drive. One Life was nice enough to carry Mike's pack back down the hill (I carried Mike's water!), and all four of us made it to the road. We got them comfortable to wait for their ride and then they shooed us back to our packs and our hiking north. I felt bad just leaving them. I should have planned the week a bit differently... Sometimes it's hard to imagine AT beginner hikers when you've been on the trail for so long...

Side Note: Who wants to come hiking with Stucco?!?!

So, One Life and I bounced back up the hill with no packs. Got back to the shelter, got water, divied up the food Erin and Mike left with us, and chatted a bit with J Bird before starring out again at 10:30.

Good hiking with a few hills. It wasn't as hot today, but it was still very humid. We stopped for snacks at one of the gaps and waved creatively at cars. Then we hiked more before getting to a picnic area for a late lunch. At this point we had both hiked NINE HUNDRED MILES!!! We talked a bit to a family and retired DC fireman Ron as it threatened rain and then sprinkled a bit. He gave us candy.

Back to hiking! Up down and around as One Life and I sang out our conversations to each other. It was all to the tune of that Kansas song "Carry on my Wayward Son," and we just changed the lyrics to suit the subject. It was very entertaining for us. May have been annoying if anyone else was walking with us...

After catching up with Patch and family, we finally came across the Lewis campsite through the thick fog, and we managed to find the camp store. We plugged our phones in and got a few snacks while chatting with Patch, Mamma Patch and Papa Patch. J Bird also caught up. After almost 50% charge, former thru hikers Peanut and Love Boat swung by. They'd been doing trail magic this week. We asked them a bunch of questions and also talked with Joe, the manager of the store. The weather was quite foggy and damp, so we were fine to hang out under cover while our phones charged and there was good company. Huge moth at the store!!

When the temperature started to drop a little, we wandered over to the Patch campsite to check out the fire. More chatting before One Life and I had to get going to make it to the next shelter before it started getting too dark. On our way out, Peanut and Love Boat shared produce with us!!! A banana, an apple, an AVOCADO, tomatos, spinach and snap peas. Joy of joys!!! Thanks guys!

We hiked the next mile singing loudly and came upon the Bearfence shelter around 8pm. J Bird, Tattoo, and Huffsaw had already finished dinner. We set up in the shelter, made food then blogged as the light left the sky. The lightning bugs have been so great the last two nights.

PS: I edited the mail drop page to include ETAs now.

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Bearfence Shelter

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day 62: Tick Tick Tick Tick

Beautiful morning in the campground!! Little Foot was up and gone early, and I was the last one out of my tent. It was so nice to wake up and walk 30 yards to the bathroom facilities (except the big ole mirror part - I've gotten quite fond of NOT seeing many if those around....).

Breakfast at the picnic table and then we packed up. We wandered back towards where we entered the campground and took off on a loop around the whole darn thing. Looking at a map makes it seem ridiculous, but the AT almost completely circumvents the Loft Mountain Campsite (which is huge), and it's not even on Loft Mountain - it's on Flat Top Mountain?!. Anyways, we went around and back to the camp store to pick up a few Gatorades. One Life was going to go for a marathon day (26+ miles), so he took off and the three DC/Baltimore kids followed.

Nice morning, but it was definitely going to get very hot today. Another 30% chance of thunderstorms and humid humid air. There was a bit of confusion again after a long stretch of trail without many white blazes, but all was figured out as we pressed on.

Around noon, we got to a shelter to have lunch. Saw in the register that Xan and Neutron had slept there last night and didn't get in till 11pm. Must've been a 25 mile day, late into the evening. They are possibly going for 40 miles today...?

One Life, Roadrunner and Taterchip were at the shelter, and we all snacked/lunched together and discussed how hot it was. We filled up water and relaxed. Then it was time to hike again!

The terrain coming up included lots of sustained uphills and, with the weather, it made for a pretty tough afternoon. Mike had been sweating a lot, but it was like he couldn't keep any water in him! His legs began cramping up, so we stopped at the summit of a mountain and snacked some more. I was getting kinda worried about the water situation, since there was no source until our destination shelter 4-ish miles away, but he seemed willing to press on. They left me at the overlook to get a head start down the trail, and soon after, I found and removed my first tick of the trip! It was a small one on the inside of my leg, and, yes, I shall monitor the area closely. After pulling the little sucker off me, I left to catch my two friends. After I caught up, I told them I'd rush up to the shelter and bring back some needed water.

Quite a last 1.2 mile climb to get to High Top Shelter (I pulled off a large tick from my ankle, and I saw a deer RIGHT off the trail, like 8 feet away, and was startled enough to take a photo), but I made it, dropped my bag and filled up my tanks. Pulled off another large ankle tick coming up from the stream!

One Life was at the shelter (he decided to ditch the marathon plan...) with Roadrunner, Taterchip, Tatoo, and Spike. After treating my water, I headed back out on the trail backwards to catch up with Erin and Mike. Wasn't too long before I found and refilled them. We all made it back to the shelter and took it easy. Erin found the smallest tick EVER on her foot. We're fighting a losing battle with these ticks, I think....

Mike still wasn't feeling well, though, as we all made dinner. Serenetina, Stick Walker, City Squirrel and Paul Bunion showed up, too. Busy shelter. It was pretty clear the Mike was severely dehydrated, so "Team High Top Shelter" pooled all our knowledge and electrolyte powers to help him out and get him better. It was a really nice community kind of effort. After he started feeling better, he pretty much crashed for the night, and everyone headed to bed. Mike definitely gave us all something to talk about other than the trail and what's for dinner. Glad he's feeling better.

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:High Top Mountain Hut