Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Dreams Furloughed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2013 by J.K.o

Still no change on our government’s situation–which means hundreds of thru-hikers, like our government employees, will have to furlough their dreams of completing an Appalachian Trail thru-hike.

Here is an excellent, updated write-up of the shut-down’s impact on thru-hikers from October 5th.:

http://thomasgounley.tumblr.com/post/63087023290/updated-what-appalachian-trail-thru-hikers-are-writing

Check it out!

Feeling the Affects

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2013 by J.K.o

For several years, I dreamed of the day that I would leave to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. I remember plotting and planning, waiting in excitement for the moment that I would begin walking north from Springer Mountain, GA. My hopes and dreams  for this tremendous journey did not stop there, but continued to grow and evolve as I journeyed north for 4.5 months towards Maine.

I encountered many things, some good, some bad, but never did I come to the point when I could go no further–when some outside force would step-in to say “Sorry! Proceed no further! The Appalachian Trail is CLOSED.” Well folks, as of yesterday,  sections of the the Appalachian Trail (as well as, CDT and PCT) will be closed because of the government shut-down.

One of my favorite aspects of hiking the AT was the utter solitude and obliviousness from the world around me. I have never been a fan of watching the news or reading the papers, so the AT only provided me with an even greater blanket of security from the shambles of the political world. But, today I realized that the impact of this governmental shutdown affected me in more ways than I had first thought. It taught me that even the government and politics could impact the area of my life that I thought was free and secluded–my place in the wilderness. I remember a time when I was very early on in the trail. I was resupplying in Helen, GA. When a friend came to pick me up from Dick’s Creek Gap, she told me of the horrors of the tidal wave in Japan and the subsequent nuclear meltdown; she told me about the capture of Osama bin Laden. I listened in horror as she detailed all the chaotic events that had taken place during my first week in the woods. I remember thinking how grateful I was that I could hike and be oblivious to all those crazy events.

I share all of that to say this– Imagine that you, like me, have been waiting and planning to thru-hike one our nation’s beautiful long-distance trails. Imagine that you are weeks and months into your amazing journey and you arrive to a place that is barred, closed, off-limits. Right now, hundreds of South Bounders are making their way to GA from ME. Many of them will never get to experience the beauty of Shenandoah National Park or The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They won’t get to see the beauty atop Clingman’s Dome in the Smokies or see families of black bear rolling around the countryside in the Shenandoas. Instead, they will be forced to find alternate routes, arrange shuttles, and spend exorbitant amounts of money trying to navigate their way around these massive sections of the AT.

We cannot forget the nation’s other long-distance trails: Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail–they too meander through many of our nation’s spectacular national parks. Yellowstone, Glacier, and Yosemite are just a few of the parks that will affect these other trails.

People hike these long-distance trails for many different reasons, but the one thing that unites us is sought in the solitude and quiet of the wilderness. There is a freedom that one experiences when they roam about on no-man’s land with few possessions on their back and no worries about paying bills, keeping the gas-tank full, or running to appointments.

However, in the next days, hikers will be moving about the trail and will at some point reach one of these pivotal “road blocks” that will impact them in more ways than they realize. The government shut-down will have then reached the farthest, most remote corners of the wilderness. Even without internet, electricity, radios, or mass communication channels–the shut-down will have made its case all-the-way out in the deep, quiet of the woods.

Appalachian Trail: Sam’s Gap to Hog Back Shelter (2.5 miles)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on September 29, 2013 by J.K.o

Looking for a sweet day hike just outside Asheville? Ditch the Blue Ridge Parkway…you know everyone and their mom is out there on the weekends.

The Appalachian Trail makes many sweeps and crossings within an hour of Asheville. Of course, it can be a little overwhelming to pick a section–not knowing what the terrain is going to be like. Well here’s a nice start…

If you’re looking for moderate terrain to hike and don’t mind the trademark roller coaster up-and-downs, check out the AT where it intersects Sam’s Gap on the NC/TN border! From the parking area, hikers can choose to head north or south. North will take you to Big Bald, Spivey Gap, and ultimately…Maine. However, making a left out of the parking area and heading south on the AT will take you to a quieter and more remote stretch of trail that leads to Hog Back Shelter, Devil’s Gap, and Hot Springs, NC.

When I only have a few hours to kill, but am in need of getting away from society–I often head to this stretch of the AT. I hike 2.5 miles out to Hog Back Shelter, stop and have a snack, and then head back another 2.5 miles to the trail head. I takes me about 2 hours and the terrain provides me we enough challenge to feel like I am accomplishing something (calorie-wise)!!

This section starts by crossing under the I-26 bridge, then quickly turns up the hills and starts climbing into the treeline. The trail is completely shaded in this area, so no need for sun screen! It starts out with a moderate climb that sweeps around the side of the mountain. The trail quickly ushers you into a hidden meadow with large, ancient Oaks.

Eventually it meets up with an old logging road cut through the forest. Keep trekking and the trail begins to follow an old fence, no doubt built there around the turn of the century. One can imagine all sorts of cattle grazing the hillside.

Just around the time your legs have warmed up for the hike, the trail takes on a more challenging terrain. Steady up-and-over hills make the way. The climbs are more short, abrupt, and steep, rather than long and sustained. But it is the number of them that make them a great workout for the legs…don’t worry–there’s always the downhill side to rest on.

About 40 minutes into the hike, you will arrive at High Rocks. This is a beautiful, sweeping vista overlooking TN. The outcropping is approximately 200ft. off the trail and well worth the climb!

Keep walking south and you’ll climb up-and-over three more hills. Once you begin making a big descent, you are just about to the shelter. Hog Back Shelter is about 0.1mi. off the trail. The shelter will house about 5 hikers. The shelter also has a privy for your comfort and convenience (a privy with a pretty awesome view too!) and a water source. Unfortunately, the water source is 0.25mi. away from the shelter…a bit further than I want to walk off trail to source water. Nonetheless, it’s a great place to kick your shoes off and have a snack.

Hog Back Shelter, AT

The hike back to the parking area is generally a bit easier as you are gradually losing elevation toward Sam’s Gap.  All-in-all, this a great day hike if you’re up for some moderate strain. It takes me about 35 minutes to beam out there from Asheville so it’s not too bad for distance. Plus, you won’t have the droves of people that the parkway attracts.

Just take I-26 west from Asheville and then take the exit for Wolf Laurel. From the exit ramp, make a right. At the end of the bridge, make a left. Go about 3 miles and the road will wind back toward I-26. The parking area is on the left…enjoy!

How’d you stumble across my journal?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 24, 2012 by J.K.o

Here’s an interesting little sample of some of the search terms people typed into the Google search engine that led them to my thru-hike journal. Upon reading this list of various words and subjects, I was surprised at some of the ways people found my blog…

  • “Fuzzy Navel Appalachian Trail” -by far the most common phrase used to locate my journal; this one I understand
  • “how thru-hikers take baths” -I will admit that I searched about back country hygiene too. haha.
  • “2013 trans-am” -apparently I am now a Pontiac dealer?
  • “hot thru hiking girl” -why, thank you!
  • “annie hairy navel” -who is annie and why is her belly button so hairy?
  • “mounth blank forest” -mounth…mounth…what is this?
  • “man standing on cornice” -interesting…too bad I’m a WOman!
  • “top 100 pictures that changed the world” -I can’t complain too much about that search term. Glad to see my adventure ranks among the highest.
  • “cairn wildlands nero” -what does the evil emperor of Rome and CD burning software have to do with hiking the Appalachian Trail?
  • “backcountry medicine” -now that’s more my style!
  • “easy and difficult” -I’m so glad to see that when people want to know the personification of easy/difficult they will come to find that it’s thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail
  • “mel gibson ‘stay the course'” -someone’s been watching The Patriot. Hey! That’s an idea.. hike the AT with gear from the 1770s. Okay, that might suck.. that might suck A LOT.
  • “washington crossing the delaware” -for some reason my journal keeps linking back to Revolutionary War heroes… I guess that’s pretty cool?
  • “erwin, tn hippy food”
  • “mil lidel poni” – what!?

From this point on… the search terms just get weirder!

  • “sometimes I get a ravenous hunger” -one of my entries is titled “ravenous hunger;” although, the person that typed this into Google was probably the person that typed in the very next search term below…
  • “thru-hike weed” – yeah, that guy in that last search term probably had the munchies?
  • “fat hikers blizzard sad” -if you keep responding to those munchies you will end up a “sad fat hiker”
  • “using shetland ponies”
  • “palmerton, pa construction worker with pink tools” -the trail crossed by Palmerton, PA; I’m not sure what it has to do with pink construction tools, but cheers to that one brave man at the construction site!
  • “maniac mullet fishing lures” -not sure how this links to my journal, but at least I can count on my audience of red necks and avid mullet anglers.
  • “hairy navel annie” -I’m really starting to feel bad for this hairy-stomached Annie, whoever she is?

the heat is on

Posted in Appalachian Trail Thru-hike Journal, Uncategorized on June 21, 2011 by J.K.o

Hey guys! I have reached Kent, CT and am so excited to have just over 700 miles left in my journey. In just two days I’ll be in Mass. and on Friday I’ll be taking some time of the trail in Boston. Lately I have been hiking with Nero, Shoefly, Charlie, Estero, Downhill, and of course, Tiger Lilly. My time in town is brief today, so for now, I will leave you with one of my earlier journal entries…

June, 16, 2011

Today is an absolutely lazy zero day. It wasn’t planned you see, but last night, 2 people showed up to the hostel and said that they would take us all to Straudsburg, PA. Of course, when we heard about this impending event, naturally we decided to take  a zero day.

Yesterday was an easy day; we only did 16 miles from Wind Gap to Delaware Water Gap. It seems that lately the heat has been unbearable. It makes me very vulnerable to dehydration as I sweat buckets and buckets of water. Furthermore, it causes me some serious chafing as so much salt it released onto the skin. If ind it so difficult to stay hydrated.

I know it seems that I am complaining, but it is very difficult to sustain this kind of climate. Two days ago we stayed in Palmerton, PA and then hiked 20 miles to Wind Gap, PA. This was probably the most miserable day on the trail, aside from day 2 on the whole trail.

Outside of Palmerton there is a giant rock scramble, one so steep that you have to put your trekking poles away and use your hands to climb up. That day the weather was said to be in the upper 90’s. Knowing that the sun was going to bake the rocks we all woke up at 4am and started hiking at 5 am. The rocks were arguable the easiest part of the day…

We hit the ridge line and the scenery was barren. Surely I wasn’t in PA, but New Mexico or Arizona. Apparently that area was a superfund site, an area that is environmentally depleted and the government funds it restoration. It was upsetting to see how PA’s industries had destroyed the mountains. All of the springs in that area suffered from zync contamination. It’s a good thing we’re all zync deficient! The sun beat down on us at 5:30 in the morning and continued to bake us well into the day.

The trail was exceptionally rocky and incredibly tedious to navigate. I traversed the landscape like a zombie. That particular area had no water sources for fifteen miles, so I packed out 3 liters. plenty for 15 miles. Too bad I drank it all by mile 9. Luckily Chaninsaw had some extra water and gave it to me. I guess I was sweating so bad that I couldn’t stay hydrated.

I was very happy to reach the road outside of Wind Gap. I hitched a ride into town and stayed with all the guys at the Travel Inn.

Wildland Urban Interface

Posted in Appalachian Trail Thru-hike Journal, Uncategorized on June 8, 2011 by J.K.o

Wildland Urban Interface, or WUI,  is a term used in forestry sciences that describes the juxtaposition of private homes and lands to designated forests and wilderness areas. However, it makes a great descriptor for the times when a hiker emerges from the bush and enters into a bustling town for resupply. One could say that WUI is the juxtaposition of the smelly hiker to the civilized town folk.

Resupply day  is always an interesting event, you never really know what you are going to encounter. A few days ago we hiked into Waynesboro, PA. I could hear the sounds of the cars in the distance. As we approached the road I emerged triumphantly from the trail, crossing the road eagerly to begin my next important task- securing a ride.

Hitching is a science; there are several methods and approaches to securing a safe and acceptable hitch. The most important thing to remember for women hitch-hikers is to NEVER hitch alone. When one waits on the side of the road they should look amiable, patient, and smile. Typically, Tiger Lilly and myself will stand by the road whilst the men wait behind some bushes. It is a known fact that female hikers get rides much more easily then the men.

You never know who is going to pick you up- just be courteous. Normally people are used to thru-hikers going to-and-fro and it is a part of their normal routine to pick up hikers. Still, say thank you, introduce yourself, and politely apologize for the cloud of stinky funk that is floating around you.

Hitching is just one of the many oddities of thru-hiking WUI. The moment I walk into a store, Wal-Mart for example, I find myself instantly overwhelmed by the sensory overload of people, colors, and sounds. When the thru-hiker enters a store they must exercise caution when picking out their food and various sundries. One doesn’t want to purchase too much food and have to carry a seriously heavy burden. Stay focused, have a plan, and don’t let your hunger/excitement overrule you.

Meanwhile, the hiker must also change their mannerisms to jive with “civilized folk.” I have to remind myself that people aren’t quite used to the stench of a foul thru-hiker that hasn’t bathed in a week. When we were in Wal-Mart last, we received some pretty funny reactions from people in response to our deathly odor. Some people are aware and understanding….others just turn and walk in the other direction. One lady almost seemed angry about our smell. She walked by with her small child and said “Oh my goodness that smells so disgusting!” We all looked at each other and could only laugh. I mean, when you spend as much time with other stinky thru-hikers as we do, you get used to the stink and forget about it.

Sometimes thru-hiker WUI occurs outside of the city or grocery store. Here in Pennsylvania, the AT dissects many state parks. Tiger Lilly and I came upon a beautiful stream on a particularly hot afternoon. We decided that it was high time to strip down to our skivvies and a take a bath. We smelled so bad! So we waded out to the center of the stream and took a most-needed, most-wonderful bath. However, we failed to realize that we were in the middle of a very crowded Michaud State Park on Memorial Day Weekend. People started walking by and staring at us. Little children asked their parents why there were girls taking a bath in a stream. We incited much ruckus and was so funny! I honestly didn’t care what any of those people thought of us because we really needed to take baths!

The point is that thru-hikers illicit some strange responses from the civilized world. It is a funny sight to see when a grungy hiker interfaces with polite society. I cannot wait for the day when we summit Katahdin and head to an airport. I feel bad for the airline worker that has to handle my hiking pack. I feel bad for the other luggage it sits next to as it will indefinitely adopt some of my hiker stench. I feel bad for the people that have to sit next to me on the plane. I’ll just smile politely and say “sorry for the stench–I just finished hiking the Appalachian Trail.”

We are now in Palmerton, PA, battling intense heat. The updates are as follows: my pack broke yesterday, but the folks at Osprey are sending me a new one in 2 days, my Leki trekking poles broke, but I am having them fixed in Delaware Water Gap. Oh yes, and I am now down 30 pounds since I started the trail.. looking a little scrawny. haha. We were also reunited with some of the original member of the 2 Shelters Down crew.

of mice and men

Posted in Appalachian Trail Thru-hike Journal, Uncategorized on May 20, 2011 by J.K.o

I left you all on a good note, but I feel that I should recap the misery that was Shenandoah National Park. Prior to entering the park, we endured 3 straight days of soggy, cold rain; unfortunately this did not end and we had rain, rain, rain everyday in the park. It was a week of consistent rain in fact. For those of you who don’t know much about outdoor gear, it is designed to repel water to a certain extent. Once gear is fully saturated with water it will lose its ability to repel rain. By our third day in the park, we experienced torrential downpour and our gear soaked it all up. In a moment of weakness and just plain insanity, I booked us a room at the pricy Skyland Hotel in the park. We desperately needed a night to dry out and get hot showers! We referred to this move as a mental health sabbatical- as another night in the the cold rain might cause me to quit the trail entirely. I know that rain sounds like a wimpy thing to get tired of, but consider this- all my possessions were soaked with water; I had NO dry clothing and conditions were leading us to mild hypothermia. A night in a hotel was a very good thing!

The rain might not have been such an issue if I weren’t already battling something else. When I was in Waynesboro, Virginia I was able to weigh myself; I discovered that I have dropped almost 20  pounds since I started the trail- way too much! My level of energy had diminished and I was fighting total exhaustion. To make things worse, I have lost my appetite for the most part. Thru-hikers should try to consume about 5000 calories a day; we burn SO many more calories than the average person. I always laugh at the those 100 calorie snack packs- as a hiker would die of malnourishment if they tried to live off of those whilst hiking.

Nonetheless, I haven’t had the stomach to consume enough calories or fat. It has earned me the nickname “Baby Stomach.” Dinner time is such a struggle sometimes; I can barely get through a single pack of Ramen Noodles. Meanwhile, the other hikers are scarfing down 4 and 5 helpings without blinking an eye. Day after day, I began to feel more exhausted; the little hills were becoming a huge struggle to climb. I was moving slower and slower. Tiger Lilly suggested that I might not be eating as much as I should. She is now working with me on taking vitamin supplements and finding foods that have high calorie and fat content- believe me, we need it out here! Yesterday I met an interesting man who had already hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and struggled to maintain healthy weight too. He said “don’t think of the AT as a long distance hike; think of it as a long distance eating contest.” This was probably the best advice I had ever received on the trail. So for now on, when I go to the grocery store to resupply, I will focus on buying all the junk food that I wasn’t supposed to eat as a kid. I know this sounds crazy, but I have to focus, buckle down, and work hard on eating enough food for now on. It is pivotal to my health on the trail. I would argue that the amount of focus I have to put into eating enough food is more than the hard work I had to put in during finals weeks at college… sad, I know.

Unfortunately, eating is not the only pest I have had to battle. Throughout the trail, there are 3 walled shelters that hikers can stay in. It’s a platform and a roof to keep you dry, for the most part. Well, it is a well-known fact that mice and other creatures inhabit these shelters and like to come out at night. We have stayed in many shelters, but never have we had any issues with mice as we have had in the Shenandoahs. At night we take care to hang our food bags on critter hangs- it’s a string with a baffle to keep the mice from crawling down to your food bag. A smart hiker will also hang their pack on one of the critter hangs too. The other night we stayed at Pass Mountain Shelter and the mice were ridiculous. There was this one fat mouse that would stick his little head up and check to see what was going on- then he would run at me and try to eat my headlamp strap. I thought my pack was hanging in a safe place, but I was wrong! I woke up to discover that the mice had chewed a hole into my  nice pack. The funny thing was, I left the zipper open so that they wouldn’t chew into the bag. It is smart to leave you pack open so that if there is something they want in your bag they can just crawl in, instead of eating a hole into it. Apparently the mouse that ate my pack wasn’t too bright!

We are almost half way! I am resting in Front Royal, VA for the next two days and I am going to try my best to eat as much food as possible. I heard something about a combination Papa Johns and Taco Bell- that could be a little slice of heaven! Other hikers have said that if you can make it to the half-way point 1,050 miles, that you will make it to Maine unless you get injured. I can honestly say that this is one horrendous mental battle; let’s hope we can continue to meet the goal that we have set before us.

So long! -Fuzzy Navel

2 months down

Posted in Appalachian Trail Thru-hike Journal, Uncategorized on May 10, 2011 by J.K.o

Virginia keeps getting weirder and weirder…. as we landed in Glasgow, VA, we were greeted by a giant statue of a dinosaur with a scantily clad cave woman riding it.

It hasn’t been long since my last post, but the environment has changed drastically. This particular section of the trail crosses back-and-forth over the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is an odd sensation to get to the shelter at night and hear the noisy hubbub of cars and motorcycles. Nonetheless, we have had some breathtaking scenery at the ample overlooks.

Spring is in full bloom and just keeps getting bigger and bigger. What was once a barren and leafless forest is now a lush, almost tropical, and fertile land. The trail is surrounded with brilliant hues of green and pink. The rhododendrons are exploding with clouds of pink blossoms and the vivid green plants seem giant and overwhelming. It is a scene straight from Jules Verne’s The Begum’s Millions–inside the lush, tropical forest at the heart of the city Stahlstadt.

Yesterday afternoon, we climbed out of the dense undergrowth and up to the crest of the mountains. The terrain took a complete 180 and the humidity of the understory quickly disappeared in the arid, savannah-like environment. The trail took on another appearance as well. Typically we tread over graded paths covered with dense leaves and sticks. The path at the top of the mountain looked like a hand-crafted mosaic of yellows and oranges. It seemed as if a mason had smashed up hundreds of kitchen tiles and placed them ever-so-carefully on the trail. When you spend hundreds of miles looking around at the trees and the trail, you tend to notice these things and appreciate them.

As for the challenges of the AT, at this point one of our biggest concerns is the heat. The climate has changed drastically since we started two months ago. Now we must pay attention to our water sources, protect ourselves from the sun, and make sure that we are staying hydrated. Each morning we study our trail guide for water sources. We always make sure to carry two liters and fill-up before long stretches that have no water. Lately I have found that water alone just does not cut it. I found that I was drinking a gallon of water each day, but still felt terrible because my electrolytes were way off-balance. I broke down and started buying Gatorade drink mix (a salute to all you folks down there at Univ. of Fla. for creating the stuff!). I find that I must drink one to two liters of Gatorade each day if I am going to make it to camp without a serious headache or dry mouth. Right now, we talk about the intense heat that is to come in the summer months; we plan to wake early and hike in the cool of morning only to stop hiking in the afternoon. Then we will resume hiking in the evening. The heat is no joke and I myself cannot handle it very well. It is probably THE biggest obstacle I have to face in the coming months that will stand between me and Katahdin. I know it sounds lame, but the heat is SO intense sometimes.

In a few weeks we will be leaving Virginia–thank goodness! After that, the trail gets flatter and the mileage gets much easier. I cannot wait to hit the next state and see what it has to offer. Each new state makes way to a new phase of the journey. Now that it’s been two months since we started we have learned so much. I am equally excited to continue learning and growing.

Peace out and God bless  -Fuzzy Navel

Pretty Little Pony

Posted in Appalachian Trail Thru-hike Journal, Uncategorized on May 6, 2011 by J.K.o

Virginia thus far…

We are officially half way through the state of Virginia and we have completed 1/3 of the ultimate journey to Maine. There is much excitement and celebration to be had! I would describe my relationship with Virginia as love/hate. Yes, the terrain is far easier than when we started in Georgia, but the environment has been unrelenting. Let’s just say that I am looking forward to West Virginia.

The moment we crossed the border, Tiger Lilly and I encountered grueling heat and scorching sun. We endured hiking in almost 90 degree temperatures–it sucked! Fortunately, the trail got a lot easier for us. Virginia is all about ridge lines. You might encounter one descent climb at the beginning of the day, but after that a hiker will find them self cruising on a flat ridge line. With an ease in hiking terrain came an acceleration in hiking speed. We found ourselves planning a 16 mile stretch and arriving at the shelter at 3 in the afternoon. Not wanting to sit around for the rest of the afternoon, we would decide to push on 5 or 7 more miles. Eventually, we just decided to start hiking 20 mile days as a part of our standard routine.

Around the time we settled into our new pace, we began hiking with a new group of characters. Spoon, Downhill, Savage, Breeze, and The Mayor started hiking with us and we have developed into a solid team. Kudos to Spoon who has decided to hike the trail whilst carrying a guitar; it makes for wonderful musical entertainment at the end of the day. Nonetheless, the boys have encouraged us to pickup our mileage, simply because we are fit and capable.

One of my favorite moments with our new group came when we hiked up Mt. Rogers and through Grayson Highlands. At this state park, wild Shetland ponies roam free. We were unaware of this until we started seeing large mounds of horse crap all over the trail. When we arrived at the shelter, we found three ponies camped out by all the hikers–ponies really like hikers. To understand this fully I must explain that as a hiker hikes they sweat pretty bad. Sweating causes salts to come out onto the skin; therefore, a hiker and all their gear is caked with salt. To a wild Shetland pony, a hiker is like a giant, walking salt lick. As we sat and enjoyed some water, the ponies pursued us and wouldn’t back off, so we decided to take revenge… and attempted to ride the wild ponies. Downhill made several unsuccessful attempts, but later mounted and rode a wild pony. The whole event inspired Spoon to compose a humorous song called “Pretty Little Pony.”

To move in a completely different direction, I thought I would take a minute to explain the overwhelming feeling a hiker can experience when they get to town and hear about current events. A brilliant literary, Pope, once said that “ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise.” I particularly enjoy this statement on the trail because we are completely oblivious to the crazy events that are going on around us. Even in the real world, I refused to watch the news; nonetheless, we did experience a bit of the craziness first hand, on the trail. You may all be aware of the tornadoes that ravaged the south about a week ago. Tiger Lilly and I were 17 miles south of Pearisburg, VA when the storms hit us. We decided to stay at Wapiti shelter for the night knowing that some storms were approaching. Around midnight we all woke up to the sound of ice pummeling the tin roof of the shelter… hail. We all looked out in amazement as the ground quickly turned white from all the hail. Suddenly, the wind gusted into the shelter and blew all the rain inside. All of us scurried to the back wall of the shelter and shielded ourselves with our sleeping pads. It rained into the shelter long enough to soak all of our gear. It was a pretty funny sight to see all the hikers huddled together, trying to stay dry. We didn’t encounter any tornadoes, but we definitely endured our fair share of wild weather.

After the storms, we hiked to Pearisburg and got some much needed rest. Pearisburg was exciting for us because it meant that we had hiked far enough north to send home our winter gear. I basically dumped out the entire contents of my pack onto the hotel bed and sorted through all the unnecessary cold weather gear. To my surprise, I ended up shipping home 9 pounds of gear! To a hiker that carries all their possessions on their back, 9 pounds makes a world of difference. Of course, I held onto a few layers just in case winter decided to have one last say. When we hiked out of Pearisburg, Tiger Lilly and I felt as if we could sprint up all the hills and hike so much faster. I’m telling you, a light pack is a morale booster to a weary hiker!

Since Pearisburg, we only had a short journey to the next town. Between there and here, Virginia got a whole lot rockier and  whole lot prettier. I found myself starting to enjoy the hiking more and more. In the last three or four days, we encountered large cliffs and boulders that seem to stand on a single point, balancing over the edge. The Tinker Cliffs were beautiful; standing strong like bastions at the corner of a Civil War fort. The trail looked as if it had been chiseled into the walls of the boulders. The word boulder doesn’t seem to do it justice. We hiked up to a ridge line near McAfee Knob and the house sized boulders covered the entire mountain top. It was crazy.

Now that we are about half way through Virginia, we are resting in Daleville with my parents. Right now, I am sitting in a comfy bed and watching cable television… what a sight to behold! The television could be on mute and I would still sit in amazement at the moving pictures. It’s funny how being in the woods for almost two months can change your perspective on everyday things.

This morning, as I was chowing down on a massive breakfast, CNN blurted out horrible stories about natural disaster and Bin Ladin’s assassination. One of the anchormen said that the US was enduring tornadoes, earthquakes, and massive flooding. It sounds like the book of Revelation to me? On that note, I am ready to go back into the woods. So long folks and thanks for all the warm wishes and support!

Stay the Course

Posted in Appalachian Trail Thru-hike Journal, Uncategorized on April 19, 2011 by J.K.o

To commence this entry, I thought I would leave you guys with a few excerpts  from my very own personal trail journal… No juicy details, but a few moments of candor to make your day! Here goes nothing–

4/12/11

“I know that I ‘ve gotten a little lackadaisical about my journal… so I’ll try and recap all the epic moments we’ve had. Right now we are chilling about six miles from Hampton, TN and Lilly and I will be taking a ‘near-o’ (almost zero mile) day at Kincora Hostel tomorrow.

Yesterday we hiked from Cherry Gap Shelter (17 miles outside of Erwin, TN) to Roan High Knob Shelter. It was one hell of a 16 mile stretch. We spent the entire day hiking in drizzling, cold rain. At lunch we stopped at a shelter to get our final meal before taking on the roughest part of the day. We hiked up Roan Mountain, which is approximately 6,300 feet high. Roan was the most intense climb; the trail was already steep enough and the rain, slick rocks, and slurpy mud made it a horrendous challenge. We fought through gale-force wind and frozen rain. Finally, we summited on what seemed like a never-ending stairway to Heaven. The top of the mountain was covered in beautiful Christmas trees and cloaked with fog. They say that Roan Mountain has some of the most beautiful views on the AT…yeah, we didn’t get to see any of those.

A few minutes later we made our way to the shelter–just in the nick of time for the snow to start falling. The cabin was cut into a stand of Christmas trees; it was very picturesque…. And then we met Clay. Clay was interesting character, to say the least. He hid in the loft of the shelter and talked to himself. Then he would play his harmonica and sing at all hours… like 6 am when we were trying to sleep. By the sound he made (something glass hitting the wood) we could tell that he was emptying and repacking his bowl to smoke weed. Shortly thereafter, he offered us some weed, to which we declined. The next morning, I was sitting quietly, drinking my coffee, and suddenly I heard Clay yell “Get the F*** out of here!” It scared me because I didn’t know if he was threatening me or self-motivating. It gets worse.. haha. I later heard him say “I’m not high enough; I need some Valium!”

4/13/11

“Today, we descended from Roan and walked over some frozen wasteland balds. The wind and snow was so bad that it formed horizontal ice cycles about 5 inches long on all the signs and tree branches. This afternoon we climbed up-and-over Big Hump and Little Hump; by that time, all the snow and ice had melted, but the wind was still pretty bad. We cam down from there and had to trek across a mile long bolder field. It was very difficult and I re-injured my knee pretty badly.”

4/14/11

“They said the hike would be easy today, as our elevation changes were minimal.. they lied! I didn’t think it was so easy. Apparently we hiked through an area that used to have meth labs an marijuana farms. The locals would hang fish hooks over the AT and it would catch the hikers in the faces. They did all sorts of things to deter hikers. I was so sketched-out for the first half of the day because the trail cut through farms and residential areas. I didn’t want to encounter any of the locals; I guess I shouldn’t have watched the movie Wrong Turn before I hit the trail.”

4/15/11

“I am sitting and relaxing in a very old and stinky recliner at a very wonderful hostel. Lilly and I stopped at Kincora, outside of Hampton, TN. The man that owns the hostel is famous on the trail–Bob Peoples. He has been very wonderful to us. Interestingly, he doesn’t charge hikers a fee to stay here–it’s all by donation.

When a hiker approaches the front porch at Kincora they are greeted by 9 friendly and colorful cats. Don’t worry about securing a room–the reservation system works when the hiker places his pack on an empty bunk. Oh an none of those extra fees here; the laundry, a towel, and the kitchen are all included in your stay. In the evening, Bob drove us into town to a grocery store. We had dinner at an Arby’s and let me tell you–those curly fries never tasted so good!

As I sit in this musty, old hostel, I am thankful to be inside on this exceptionally stormy night. A sign on the wall reads “My hiking is definitely getting in the way of my trail experience!” and I can totally relate this statement in so many ways. I very much miss my family right now and all my GCL  friends in Gainesville. I am also very thankful that the Lord has carried me so far. I am amazed that we have made it to the 400 mile mark.

I am often reminded and encouraged by a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Patriot. Mel Gibson’s character always says “stay the course.” So for now, all I can do is persevere and stay the course.

There are times when I look at a map of the AT. I see our current location all-the-way at the bottom. I think, how could we have hiked so far and only done so little of the trail? I realize more and more that 90% of this journey is mental strength and only 10% is physical. I am often contemplating my experience and reasons for being on the trail. I know that I will never repeat this journey again. I often wonder what and how it would be different  if we had started a week earlier or later. “

Right now, we are sittin’ pretty in Damascus, VA. I am so pleased and blessed that the Lord has kept us safe. I would like to close out with a scripture that I have been encouraged by these last few days.

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not a that things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” – 2 Corinthians 4:17-5:1

I liked the tent reference, as a tent has and will be my home for the next few months : ) As for the light affliction of hiking 2,179 miles, reaching Mt. Katahdin will be a worthwhile glory!

Much love,
Fuzzy Navel