Friday, May 29, 2009

AT Days 13-22

The following are Tarah's journal entries from our final ten days on the trail. Entries from our first twelve days on the trail can be found here.

May 14 – Day 13 ~21 miles

Today felt great! Still have tired feet at the end of the day, but they are feeling better for longer each day!
Met some interesting people today – a ranger and a ridge runner, some old school hikers and their light weight friends (some miles apart of course) a couple of guys (Big Foot & Green T.) that started their hike in March, some people without a plan, and a guy (Tom) who started the hike with his brother – but his brother has since ditched him.
We’re staying at the Icewater [Spring] Shelter tonight- perhaps our only one this trip – but we made numbers 6 and 7 so camping wasn’t/isn’t really permitted. We’ll see how it goes. :)
Today we also did Clingman’s Dome – the highest elevation on the trail – does that mean it’s all downhill from here? I don’t think so!

May 15 – Day 14 ~21 miles

Holy hail storm! This afternoon we hiked through quite the storm. It chilled me to the bone, but I was already wet, already cold, and on the trail anyway so we kept on moving – at least that way we generated some heat!
Made it to our shelter in about 10 hours – despite the rain it was a wonderful day! My feet didn’t even bother me much when we got into camp – maybe it all the river walking!
Last night after settling into bed Cargin and Scott rolled into camp. We saw them again and this morning they admitted we might just keep seeing each other. We discovered that they started on the 4th and are planning their summit a couple of days after ours. Today they got into camp about an hour and a half after us (they waited out the hail storm).
We have quite the characters staying at the shelter tonight – and thankfully we are tenting! There is a group of 5 in from Shelby to see the plane wreck and they have enough supplies to outfit a circus! We started the evening with them going out to find firewood. They tried roping it down from trees – then they tried cutting one down with one of their many machetes – they had success there and seemed to just keep on chopping! Anyway a fire was started and I think we came to the tent as the party was getting started.
Despite their many offerings of making room for us in the shelter, I am glad to be in the tent. :)
Also here tonight – Moe King.

May 16 – Day 15 ~21 miles -> $17.75

We started the morning with a quick hike out of GSMNP and made it to Standing Bear Farm for our resupply by 12:30. Standing Bear was a great environment – I can see how some people may get sucked in for days at a time! They had a nice library, Internet, phone, showers, washboard laundry and of course our reason for stopping – a resupply “store”. Everything was reasonably priced – so we’re set until we get to Hot Springs (plans to meet up with mom were also finalized at S.B.)
We were happy to have a banana with lunch today – yay fresh fruit! Then decided S.B. taints their food to make you want to stay! We were rather sluggish those first miles back on the trail! They also tried to get us to fill up on water. We figure they taint that too, to get you to stay for a couple of days. J Of course now we are at camp and there isn’t water like our data says (unless you count the stuff falling from the sky). So goes a day on the trail…
Here’s hoping for a slight break in the rain so we can scarf down some food before hitting the sack. :)

May 17 – Day 16 23.3 miles

Long rainy day into Hot Springs. We’ll meet up with Mom and Ashley tomorrow morning – change out some gear and do a resupply. I’m going to check out some shoes to see if I can make my toes happy.
Good long day – good pace! In tent by 9:00pm – started 9:00am and took an hour water break today.

May 18 – Day 17 ~11 miles -> $14.50

Today was a relatively slow day. We met mom, dad, and Ashley shortly after 8am in Hot Springs. Since the outfitter didn’t open until 9 we went for breakfast despite the fact that Chris and I decided yesterday that we didn’t want to go out to eat – but we kept it light – I had an and egg and cheese biscuit and Chris had some home fries – much less than most hikers eat (for instance Cargin and Scott each had about 3 entrees).
Any who – went to the outfitter, but they didn’t have shoes so we supplemented mom’s resupply for us with a couple of other things. Heaviest resupply so far, but it will last us awhile.
Got things settled and were on the trail by 11:30 (2 hours later than intended). Also got a new bite valve today (thanks dad). Ashley made sour cream chocolate chip cookies – yum and we got some Neiman Marcus cookies from Chris’s mom – woo hoo!
11 miles to shelter – did laundry – and a party showed up. Maybe 15 people around now. More reason for a big day tomorrow.
Money rundown today:
$14.50 spent
$6.00 breakfast thanks mom & dad
$6.00 bite valve thanks dad
$20 donation from dad – Thanks!
Partial resupply already – priceless
Thanks :)

May 19 – Day 18 ~23 miles

We were second out of camp today. Moe King left about an hour ahead of us. It was nice to get moving like we would on a regular day – after yesterday it was doubly nice. With a big day planned it was good to be out of camp around 7:30 – and before most people were up.
We made great time today, covering the first 4 miles at roughly a 20 minute pace. We made it to the first shelter of the day around 11 and had a snack before moving on again.
We had a beautiful exposed ridge hike today. There was mental stimulation for the footwork, some nice views, and it was just all around good hiking. I think it was my favorite section of our hike so far!
Made it to the next shelter shortly after 2 and had lunch with Moe King and Kermit. Then moved on to our lovely campsite for the evening. After last night at the shelter it is nice to be just the two of us.

May 20 – Day 19 ~21 miles

Today was a not so good day. I felt sluggish and slow and climbs felt like they lasted all day. I got frustrated with my pace and pushed on past a shelter and took my decision out on Chris. All in all – not a good situation.
We talked about whether or not we need to leave the trail – if our hiking styles will make this a bad trip for our relationship. We’ll give it some more miles, but our relationship is much, much more important than any trail.
Positives for the day included some amazing views and meeting a few more people. Also – being outdoors, no matter how uncoordinated I felt – leave it at this, if I didn’t have trekking poles and closed toe shoes I would probably have a broken nose and ten broken toes, so huge positive – trekking poles.

May 21 – Day 20 ~20 miles

Not really sure how far we trekked today as I’m not sure where exactly we camped last night. Stopped earlier than we would have liked since there doesn’t appear to be any place to camp between this shelter and Beauty Spot Gap. This will make our next resupply either at the very end of tomorrow – depending on how well we get moving in the morning or first thing Saturday.
Today was a much better day. The pace felt relaxed and yet we covered good ground and would have gone further had trail conditions appeared like there would have been good camping in the next 3 miles as opposed to roads.
Any who – happy trails, happy journeys and happy thoughts.
* Power music today: Queen (Bicycle Race), Talking Heads (I’ve got a Girlfriend), Kanye West (Amazing), Girl Talk, and a random church hymn,

May 22 – Day 21 ~22 miles + 1.2 miles to resupply -> $28

This morning we managed to roll out of camp at 7:15! Our biggest challenge has been actually getting out of our nice, warm sleeping bags each morning, it seems. However, some mornings the call of nature gets me moving a little faster!
So, got out of camp – and after Chris got going in the right direction he caught me and let me know that overnight the toe monster had gotten him and that after 3 primarily foot problem free weeks a strange sore had popped up.
We stumbled through Beauty Spot (not the name I would give it) and up Unaka Mountain to decide his foot needed a rest. After squeezing some junk out of his toe we moved on to the shelter to reassess.
With a decision to hike in Crocs we managed to make our resupply and move on to the next shelter! What an afternoon!
Happy in camp and here’s to happy toes.

May 23 – Day 22 ~17 miles?

So, we are set up in the middle of a cow pasture right now – somewhere between the summit of Hump Mountain and Doll Flats. We started climbing the mountain with looming storm clouds and after walking through some thick mist for a while we decided to abort our mission to get to Doll Flats. Isn’t that what a thru hike is all about?
Started our day going up, up, up to Roan High Bluffs and then walked down some annoying cobbles and then onto the balds. We had 4 balds today, and until we got on Hump Mountain, they made me think of the Sound of Music – all green and stuff – it just needed Maria singing. :)
So here’s to a squishy, hilly, some sort of night! Happy hikers and feet tomorrow. :)

May 24 – Day 23 ~16 miles -> $10

Today we woke to a dreary fog/mist on the top of Hump Mountain. Made our way to Doll Flats and filled up on water. After walking a couple more miles we had a discussion that led to us deciding today would be our last day on the trail.
Some may say that was a hard decision or that it was giving up – but in our minds we have spent 90-95% of our journey talking about everything else we want to do. The other times we talk about random stuff or about how we have had better times in Acadia with the views and technical hiking. All in all, what is the point in hiking 2200 miles if it isn’t enjoyable? We aren’t ones to do something just so we can say we did it.
They say it’s about the journey – not the destination. We’ll see what other adventures present themselves this summer and accept that as the path God has intended for us.
And – we hiked 400 miles in 23 days. I think that’s pretty good stuff.
Tonight we’re at Abby’s Place and tomorrow we’ll meet mom and dad for the drive to NC (just when we though we were through with the state for awhile!).
Sweet dreams & here’s to a whole new adventure!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Summer Travel Plans

We're looking at about eleven and a half weeks of travel, with stops in:
Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, Illinois, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia.

We'll be hiking, climbing, canoeing, rafting, caving, visiting National Parks, spending time with friends & family and more!!!

Way better than just walking 2000+ miles.

View Epic Journey Summer 2009 in a larger map

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The AT Days 1-12

The following are Tarah's journal entries from our first twelve days on the trail. Entries from our final days on the trail will follow shortly.

May 2, 2009

Today we started the AT. Mom and Dad dropped us off at Amicola Falls State Park and then hiked about 3 miles or so with us. We started around noon after signing in as hikers 667 and 668 for the 2009 thru year.

We arrived at the summit of Springer around 4pm. It was really anti-climactic – but after a couple of photos we took our first steps on the AT! Yay us! We stopped around 7pm, roughly 5 miles past Springer – around 14 for the day.

May 3 – Day 2 AT ~16 miles

Today started with waking up in the rain and it looks like we are going to sleep in the rain. However, the day was mostly dry and the sun even came out for a little while!

We saw a variety of creatures today including: red lizards (about 4 of them), a million different centipedes of all different colors, a variety of birds, squirrels, and chipmunks. We also saw several humans. We played tag with a group of 4 for a couple of miles and they did not catch up again in the end. Perhaps we’ll see them another place, another time. There were about 3 other people we passed and 2 ultralighters that passed us.

We had our first hot dinner tonight, with Chris’s mac and cheese exploding and mine turning into soup. Thankfully we have 2200 more miles to figure it out!

For now – rain and occasional thunder – tomorrow Blood Mountain and Neel’s Gap.

May 4 – Day 3 ~17 miles ‡ $2

We started today with a break in the rain, it even seemed promising enough that we took off our pack covers in hopes of things drying out! Then the mist rolled in and so we covered everything up once more.

Stopped at Neel’s Gap for lunch and that’s when the rain came pouring down. After comments from other hikers on our tenacity, we took off into the rain for six miles of singing through bear country and a trail that turned into a river!

All in all, a good day – even if it was a bit damp. Now that camp is set up it appears we’ll have a dry evening – maybe a dry day tomorrow?

May 5 – Day 4 ~11 miles

Today we started out in our crocs because our shoes were still wet from yesterday’s downpour. I ended up changing into my wet shoes because I started getting a little rash on my foot. The little rash turned into a big rash that is now covering both of my feet 0 oh joy! Thankfully it doesn’t itch or hurt so I’ll keep taking benadryl and hope that it goes away.

We had a low mile day today so that we can go into Helen for a resupply tomorrow. If all goes well we’ll hopefully make it to Tray Mountain Shelter (and maybe my feet will clear up!)

May 6 – Day 5 ~13 miles (trail) + 5 miles (road) ‡$16

We started the day with a loud thunderstorm and loads of rain – and some magic! We were walking into Helen to do a quick resupply and after 4 miles of road walking (where the store should have been) a nice man picked us up and drove us the other 2 miles (he had already taken the Swiss guys to the store and they told him they had met us on the trail – and he came back!) After our resupply we walked about 1.5 miles and a couple of women picked us up to take us back to the trailhead. What fabulous magic! We were able to start hiking again by the time we wanted to leave town!

*A quick side for memory sake – one of the women may have been trying to get us to buy pot … hmmm …

*Additional note: for those who have watched Northern Exposure, the old man that picked us up reminded me of Maurice – in looks and mannerisms

Anyway here we are, about 5.5 miles past our original plan and we’ll hopefully make it to NC tomorrow!

May 7 – Day 6 ~17 miles (79.3 total)

Today we made it into North Carolina! And, North Carolina means business – almost as soon as we entered the state we went up, up, up!

Feet felt a little better today, just a little tender at the get go – but the couple of blisters I have are feeling OK as of now.

It was nice and sunny today – a great break from the rain. Tomorrow we’ll see what the trail has in store for us!

May 8 – Day 7 ~19 miles

Today we had a pretty easy day in North Carolina. There were rolling hills and occasional views – and of course that one pesky thunderstorm that was right over our heads (literally no time between lightning and thunder) and drove us to a shelter for about an hour. There were about 10 of us there waiting out the heaviest part of the storm – and we were the first out when things lightened up a bit.

We gladly added 3 miles onto our planned day when we arrived at that campground by 5pm. Chris would have driven me crazy with that much daylight left and there was a crazy, growly dog there.

*As a side, there were also two hikers who had told us in the morning that we probably wouldn’t see them again – they were planning the shelter where we are now – as of right now we passed them twice in the morning but have yet to see them at the shelter – and we have been here for about 2 hours. Maybe we’ll see them in the morning.

Another shorter day tomorrow and a resupply!

Oh! And it seems that every time I say it’s just a 5K we climb up, up, up!

May 9 – Day 8 ~20 miles

So we skipped our resupply today in favor of going to the NOC tomorrow instead where we won’t need to go off trail for goodies.

Had a late start today but good miles through early afternoon when we were thwarted with a very cold rainstorm. Regardless – we stayed on track and are at the shelter for the night – and made our fist 20 mile day.

May 10 – Day 9 ~16 miles ‡ $12

Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Birthday Ashley!

We are camped out at the shelter before the NOC. We got in about 5 – Chris ran (literally) to the NOC to get a couple of days resupply food and I set up camp and started laundry. When Chris got back we did baths and water and all that hullabalu to get clean for the next couple of days – week – whatever :)

Today was some nice hiking – ups and downs with quick views – kind of like Maine. For me it has been my favorite section of the trail so far, even if my feet TOTALLY disagree.

This evening after setting up camp Cargin and friend came through headed to the NOC. For people we weren’t supposed to see again we sure have seen them a lot. Not sure when exactly we passed them – but apparently we did. Who knows when we’ll run into them again!

Happy trails and Happy feet :)

May 11 – Day 10 ~ 17 miles

Up, up, up! That’s what we did today – I’m sure we went down a little here and there, but mostly I remember climbing when I think of today! We had some nice views over the Nantahala Gorge and from Cheowa Bald. It stayed pretty cool most of the day.

This evening we got to the shelter and there was a man there with dogs. He told us that if we were going to eat the dogs would beg – but we could just ignore them. My advice to hikers with dogs – put them on a leash.

Settling in now and ready to get warm! Chris has found that we are camping on nature’s Tempur-Pedic. If he shifts just right his bum goes in a hole and straightens out his spine! Just what you need after a long hike :)

*Additional note: The privy at this shelter was missing its walls! Just what you want when you have two unleashed dogs roaming the area…

May 12 – Day 11 ~13 miles + 2 road miles ‡ $45

Today we had a pretty relaxing day. We lazed in our tent until around 7:30 and left camp around 8:45. With only 13 miles to Fontana Dam we figured there wasn’t much of a rush.

Saw some crazy millipedes congregating on a tree and Chris spotted another snake that I just happened to walk over without notice – this makes 2. I better start noticing them, I don’t want to irritate a poisonous one!

Made it into Fontana after chatting with some crazy hikers. They were 2 older men who have been sectioning for a while – they’re finishing up the south this trip and then have Maine left. One likes Pennsylvania because of the road houses at every gap – the other thinks his friend wouldn’t know a good vista if you told him it was right in front of him :)

After walking to Fontana Village for resupply we partook in some magic from some ’08 thru hikers and a section hiker named Xanadu. Now we are at the Hilton (shelter) – there were free showers!

Tomorrow it’s onto the Smokies!

“I do not impact nature – Nature impacts me” – Tunnelvision this AM :)

May 13 – Day 12 ~23 miles

Enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! The first part of our day flew by with gradual up-hills and gradual down-hills. The trail was reasonably wide and pretty level. We reached our halfway point around 1.

Our second half was a little slower with a climb up Thunderhead Mountain and slightly rougher terrain on a little tired legs and feet – feet much more so than legs.

We made it to a full shelter after about 12 hours of hiking and after dinner and a little deliberation, happily pitched our tent (* you are only supposed to sleep in shelters in the Smokies, unless they are full).

Today’s excitement included interrupting a climbing lesson between Mama and Baby bear just before lunch and then about 45 minutes before getting to the shelter we heard a nice little growl before what I assume was a bear ran down the mountain.

Happy trails :)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Leaving the Trail

After three weeks and 400 miles, we have decided that we have way too many interests we want to pursue, to spend three and a half months walking in the woods. Instead we are going to spend the next few months traveling around the country seeing friends and embracing the outdoors in many more ways than just hiking one trail.
A tentative schedule of our upcoming adventures and when we'll be in your part of the world to come soon.

Thank you all so much for your support, thoughts and prayers,

Chris & Tarah

Pictures and thoughts from the trail coming very soon

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Trail musings...

Tuesday 5-12
Thoughts from 11 days on the trail:
Georgia: Lots of switch backs and pretty clear trails. Lots of rain!
North Carolina: Up, up and away! You actually climb up mountains here
but it also appears someone has stollen the switch backs.
Bugs: lots of cool centipedes of all sorts of colors.
Other critters: noisy squirrels, quiet snakes, birds that try to fly
up your pants.
People: interesting - some I would like to talk to more - some I enjoy
passing because they underestimate me since I am female.
Days: 11
Miles: 164
Money: under budget
Life is good - back to the trail!
Sent from our iPod

Friday, May 1, 2009

Tomorrow's the Big Day

Tomorrow, Saturday, May 2, we will be starting our long walk back to Maine. You will be able to follow our progress via this blog. The map on the right side of the page should be updated daily by our wonderful sisters. You can also find a link in the sidebar to our SPOT page that will show the previous seven days of trail activity.

We will be posting occasionally, but we won't be able to share any photos until we finish the hike, unless someone else on the trail takes our photo and emails them to us.

Please feel free to email and/or leave comments here and share our contact info with anyone else you think might be interested in our crazy adventure.