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11 Dec

I have started this post 16 different times. I have quoted Tolkien, waxed poetic about the impact hiking the AT had on my life, and began to tell the story of my friendship with Carrot. None of it worked. No intro led perfectly into what I want to write, and I can think of nothing to set this post up as poetically as I had hoped. So, I will just write.

Our lives are demanding, by choice. Carrot and both aspire for some pretty lofty physical goals while working long night and swing shift hours. Carrot has completed many triathlons over the past two years. She recently accomplished her first Ironman and CRUSHED it! Sick and wounded she started the race in good spirits and ended it strong. Completing an Ironman was a bucket list item for Jen and I was lucky enough to have been there to cheer her on. It was truly inspiring. This coming year she has her sights set on a few more tri’s with another Ironman distance set for next fall. I have no doubt she will accomplish any goal she sets for herself. She is one of the strongest women I know. 

This past year I finished a deep open water swim with a friend that we relayed. 6.2 miles total, both swimming 3.1 miles. I also finished a 1.4 mile ocean swim/race. In 2016 I hope to accomplish many more swims with the longest being a 5k, solo. I have registered for my first Ultra. In June I will run a 50k trail race in Bryce Canyon, UT. Jen will be there as my support. We love a physical challenge and know from past experience that we do our best when we are side by side. 

We continue to push ourselves at work getting upset when we feel we have lost knowledge or have to advocate a bit too hard for our patients and their care. I may be a type B personality and she may be type A, but together we both aspire to better at what we do and will always be growing. We both love to be challenged.

For those who do not know I am currently living in HI. I have a good job and can enjoy perfect weather for outdoor activities year round. I have met an amazing group of people and have friends here that I will keep for a lifetime. Carrot is in Atlanta. She is near her family and also has a great job. She is settling in and creating a wonderful life that is perfect for her now. We are 6,000 miles apart. We talk and text daily. We know about each others life down to the most minute detail. She can probably tell you what I had for breakfast, and I can tell from our texts what time she fell asleep. She is my person. I am hers. My mother said it best recently describing us as “sisters of the heart”. 

The past 2+ years have not been easy for either of us. My marriage ended and I faced illness and injury. I moved far away in hopes to heal my heart and was met with a few obstacles. A year and a half later I am starting to feel like myself again. I am healthy and beginning to feel “whole”. I am at last ready for some new challenges. I am reclaiming myself physically and am finding peace with love. I have my family and my friends, both new and old, to thank for this. While I am a bit of an introvert and loner, I am also aware that I would not be where I am without the love and support of these amazing people that have graced my life. Jen’s hurdles have not been that different. I am not at liberty to write so freely about her life but suffice it to say that she too has been met with a big move, heartbreak, and the love and support of her family and friends. She is squaring off with her challenges and conquering them with strength and grace. 

While hiking the AT I adopted a mantra. Strength, Endurance, Grace, Acceptance (SEGA). I would say these words as I climbed, crawled, and clawed my way towards our goal. I strongly feel that this is our mantra. I continue to use these words to get me through a workout or a challenging shift. I feel we both use this mantra to help us get through our days and our lives. 

I am very aware that we are not any different than anyone else. Everyone has hardships to overcome. We all deal with injury and illness. We all have to conquer this thing called life. Everyone just handles it differently. 

What does all of this have to do with anything? Carrot and I have simply realized that there is never a “perfect” time. You have to make a list of your priorities and goals, and you have to put a plan into motion. In 2011 Jen and I made a commitment to thru-hike the AT. I made a move from Germany to AZ to live with and train with Carrot. Carrot made the move to AZ from WA to start our training for the first of what we hoped to be a three year journey. Our goal was the Triple Crown. The AT, the PCT, the CDT. A very lofty goal. 

We accomplished the AT, not without hardship or heartache. It did not go as planned, but then we have come realize most things do not. I believe there is a saying out there about “the best laid plans”. Our lives have taken many different turns over the past two years, but about a month ago we did it again. Truly not much differently than we did the first time. Organically, 6,000 miles apart, in a conversation post shift we decided to commit. Together we agreed that there is never a perfect time and that if we want to do something we need to take action and begin to make the changes and arrangements  necessary to accomplish a second thru-hike. Yes, you guessed it, we have committed to the PCT. 

April, 2017 we will set out to hike from Mexico to Canada on the PCT. Thrutrailchicks is now up and running again as a training and gear blog as we map out our ideas and plans to conquer yet another long distance trail. This was always the goal. The AT (my dream), the PCT (Jen’s dream), and then the CDT (combined desire). We will not talk of the CDT. The AT taught us that goals of this magnitude are indeed best met one step at a time. Anything can and will happen. However, we are a bit stronger and wiser. I feel we are better prepared to accept the challenges we will face. Slightly less naive we will put into place a plan to hike. Starting now we simply place one foot in front of the other. We hope you will join and support us along the way. 

Strength, Endurance, Grace, Acceptance. Welcome back to Thrutrailchicks. Let the journey begin. 





Day Nine: Tahoe Rim Trail

5 Nov

Oct. 29, 2013
Marlette Campground to Spooner Lake TH
4.5 miles

Ugh. I tried to get Jen to write this post, but it was technically my “turn”. So before reading know that I do not wish to write this. If it seems like I am bitter, I am.
A year to freaking day we got hit by Sandy on the AT. A year to the day! 12+ inches of snow. It is pretty and quiet and peaceful and blah, blah. It makes trail finding impossible. Especially on a trail that is small, alone, and pretty much marked only at intersections! Not a big deal when you can see the path, but buried under 3,000 feet of that stupid white fluffy stuff one can’t see squat.
Now, Jen and I were in the tent this morning making our decision. After looking at the map we realized the best course of action was to take the trail 0.5 miles to the fire-road. Once there we would take the fire-road, which is also the alternate TRT, 8.5 miles to a major trail head and hitch a ride into town. After this we would get a hotel room and see what the weather was like to determine if we could finish the trail with small day hikes.
The only problem with this plan is that once we packed up everything we had to get somewhere dry. Aggie is a three season tent. She was doing her best and did quite well, but with the weight of the snow she was sagging and her zippers were separating. Nylon does well when wet, but when there is contact on both sides as well as pressure the moisture seeps through. So where the tent had collapsed a bit and made contact with our stuff and our sleeping bags and our things were wet.
Some of you may or may not know that when down gets wet it loses it’s loft. The loft, or negative space, between the feathers or fibers of anything is what traps the heat and keeps one warm. Our immediate danger was that once we packed all of wet gear, and sweated through the clothes we were wearing, we would have nothing to warm us at the end of the day. So we knew that if we stuffed wet gear, wet down, and a wet tent into our packs we had no choice to get to a hotel where we could be warm and dry our things. If we left camp, we had to make it out. No other option.
Another issue freezing weather brings is that it takes a toll on all batteries. So even though we had our phones we could only turn them on after warming them against our bodies and use them for a short time. At nine am it was decision time. Jen turned on her phone so we could take a final glimpse at weather and received a text. Scott, aka Slacker, had been paying attention from home and had checked out some local web cams. Unknown to us he had borrowed a truck and driven to Tahoe! So we quickly touched base with Slacker and packed up camp in the snow.
The 0.5 miles to the fire-road was not easy. Hell, none of the hiking was easy. But any savvy outdoorsman knows that a lot can go wrong in a half of mile. So together, using the map, we set short bearings and hiked from one to the next. We were elated that after about 45 minutes we saw a sign.
We held our breath as we neared the post knowing full well it was possible that we could have just come full circle. Looking for prints in the snow we cautiously made our way to the sign. We did it! We found the “road”. Now we just had to keep ourselves on this path and hike carefully out.
Luckily for us the road was marked better than the trail. I am assuming this is for Ranger use. It does not matter really, we just had to keep the blue diamonds as our blaze and we would be set.
Hiking was slow and hard. Making trail in over a foot of snow, at times two due to drifts, is not without considerable effort. We took turns cutting trail to save energy. We were deliberate with our steps. We did stop at times to catch our breath and take notice of the beauty. The woods, fresh snow, animal tracks, and solitude are really something I cannot explain. The awesomeness of our surroundings were not lost on us.
The road had a couple of trail heads on it as we made our way out. At each one we stopped to uncover the signs, look at the map, and track our progress. I believe it was at the third one of these when I heard Jen draw a deep breath. I could not see around her and was like “what!” She took a step and I was able to see Georgy Bear galloping through the snow to greet us. What a happy sight. Scott soon crested the same hill and with a large collective sigh we knew we were soon to be warm and dry.
We all hiked back out another half mile or so to the truck. An easy task with the weight of our well being lifted, and because Slacker had already cut the trail. We attempted to take pictures but all batteries were too cold and dead, and yours truly was too cold and wet to bother with trying to find the replacement camera battery amidst her cold, wet gear. So we piled into the truck and sailed over the last four miles to the highway.
So what did we do next…. Eat of course! We made our way to a wonderful cafe, the same we had our send off breakfast feast, and quickly devoured nachos and French fries. Health food!! Carrot and I used the bathroom to strip off some wet layers and then ravenously consumed our fat intake looking and smelling like drowned rats. All the while clean, well dressed tourists were casting sideways glances at us as we drank a beer and laughed out our good fortune.
After breakfast Scott and I got coffee to go, and Jen looking out for us made her way to the Nestle bakery so we had enough chocolate to help ease the pain of our decision. We knew that after we had been hiking through two week old snow patches on the trail that there would not be a significant amount of melt to make the trail passable for us.
Scott drove us back to our starting point and to Jens car. We all took task to digging her car out and making our way down the road. It is always crazy to drive from elevation back down to the desert. By the time we had made it back to Jen’s home town the sun was shining and the earth was dry. It felt surreal.
So, what was next? Girlie things of course! The next few days were spent shopping, going to San Francisco, and visiting Alcatraz. There was also a fair amount of wine consumption. The night before my departure my dear friend Ashby made her way to me and the four of us managed to consume 7 wonderful bottles of wine, pizza, and laughed and cried through the night.
Please note that in true “thrutrailchicks” fashion this trail is not over. In the spring I will return, and we will finish the TRT within 6 months time. If you happen to be in the Tahoe area you can look for us. I imagine we will be easy to spot. There are probably only two hikers in the world that will now carry snowshoes throughout all of the seasons. Carrot and Lucky will now be seen as those strange hikers with snowshoes strapped to their packs in July. None of them will know our story, but you all will understand why. If we hit the trail, I imagine it will snow. We will have the last laugh this time though, for we will be able to do what we do best. We will be able to continue to put one foot in front of the other and conquer what lies ahead.

*important to note that TRT was just a backpacking trip. No lifelong dream of either of us. Just an accessible footpath through this beautiful land.
** special thanks to Scott for enduring my presence in the apartment and for bringing a warm dry place to us. A simple act, but thoughtful and caring. It was not unappreciated.

Day Seven: Tahoe Rim Trail

1 Nov

October 27, 2013

Mile 31 to Marlette Peak Campground

23.6 miles

Big day for the chicks! We woke up to a cold beautiful morning. Drank our calories and headed out for an immediate climb to the highest point on the trail. We summited Relay Peak early in the morning and took some not so flattering self photos at 10,330 ft. The day’s forecast was windy, but we had underestimated the toll it would take on us as we hiked. At 10,000 feet 35 mph winds are quite uncomfortable. Plus, Jen had been suffering from some low level nausea for a few days and I had started the day with same. While the morning was beautiful with a stunning view and some bright sunshine, the wind kept us from spending time on the summit.

The hike down was uneventful and after about two hours we stopped for our first break. We did our best to stay warm in the sun, but the wind was too much. We ate quickly and headed off down the trail. The day of the week was Sunday and it was in this section that we ran into loads of day hikers and trail runners. We took a “secret” way down past the Gallena Falls due to the fact that while yours truly was taking off her gloves she lost her poles to gravity. So we took the road less traveled, also known to Jen as the gripping rock scramble back down to the safety of solid ground. (sorry Jen!) We continued our descent to the next trail head that was well populated, had bathrooms, and a trash cans for us to deposit the refuse we had been carrying. (This is not to be look lightly upon for hikers LOVE to get rid of our trash. We understand that we “pack it in, pack it out”, but getting the old tuna packets and dinner bags out of our pack feels like spring cleaning!) As we sat on a sunny spot on the concrete like the hobo’s we are we looked to the weather.

We had been keeping our eye on the forecast. We knew that there was some expected precipitation headed our way and we wanted to be super responsible and safe. The forecast was for one inch slushy accumulation. Our gear and our preparedness had been for up to a few inches of snow, so we were comfortable with moving forward. The wind continued to blow as we hiked in Nevada. The afternoon was our normal routine of hiking and breaking, except that our breaks were taken behind rocks to shelter us from the blowing sand and gusts of wind.

We hiked on picking up the pace in order to get our miles in for the day. As the afternoon progressed the wind blew at a ridiculous speeds. Jen and I were both blown around and having to lean into the movements we were making in order to make progress. We actually had magnificent views and hands down the best view of the hike, but I was unable to stop for photos due to being knocked around.

We descended yet again into camp and set up for the night. We were at an established campground with a privy and bear boxes. This was nice, for we did not have to bear bag in the dark. The campground also had a well with potable water and a pump. A nice addition to prepping for the morning. Little did we know our six am wake up was not to be as expected.




Day Five: Tahoe Rim Trail

1 Nov

Oct. 25, 2013

Tahoe City to Watson Lake

13.4 miles

This was actually an impressive morning for the girls. We woke up at 07:00 and were off to breakfast. It is not often we open a restaurant but today we did. We had a yummy of eggs, potatoes, and pancakes before heading back to the hotel after packing. This packing proved to be quite epic. Both us were saddled with HUGE food bags, enough for 6 days, each weighing in at approximately 11lbs. Couple that with 8 pounds of water and you have quite a load. Once stuffed we shouldered our packs and headed off towards the trail. Just needed to stop by the grocery store for some extra Ibuprofen and sunscreen.

The climb out of Tahoe City was not small. 1400 ft straight up and out. It started on a road and then after about 1/2 mile took a turn into the woods. Now, if you are a mountain biker or a trail runner out for one of these specific purposes the trail would be awesome. For a backpacker it is terrible! All of those serpentine turns, small humps, log jams, and whoopdies equal great fun when running or biking. When backpacking it equals BS leg tiring obstacles that serve no purpose in the enjoyment of your hike. When biking or running you don’t mind the extra  mileage of those fun, fast switchbacks. When trying to hike from point A to B it is simply obnoxious to double back on your footsteps and head in the opposite direction of the end goal. The beauty of the trail was not lost to us, but we were aggravated that the trail we were on was not sole built for our intended purpose of the moment.

This frustration led to foul moods and the desire for the day to end. We took frequent breaks and laughed at the fact that we were upset by trail conditions for a voluntary challenge. Once we hit Watson Lake we set up quickly and ate dinner in Aggie. Our options for bear bagging were quite limited so we chuckled at the fact that we were simply making the bears work a little extra for their food if they wanted it. We were quite sure our 10 foot branch on the verge of breaking with 22 pounds of food slung over it would not prove to be much of a challenge for the bear. We were exhausted physically and emotionally and at that point in the dark simply did not care if the bears got our food. It would just mean a little extra loss and many less pounds to carry. As we were falling asleep we took pride in our 13+ miles. It was the longest mileage we have ever been to accomplish when leaving the town vortex. So despite the trail conditions and the general grumpiness we felt a sense of accomplishment while drifting off to sleep.

Day Three: Tahoe Rim Trail

24 Oct

Oct. 23, 2013
Phipps Creek to Twin Peaks
17.5 miles

Well, it was hump day for sure. We both started the day a bit sore and tired. The adrenaline from the first two days had worn off and the reality of backpacking had set in. We were thankful to Jen and Em from the night before for prepping the water ahead of time. I climbed out of my sleeping bag to let down the bear bag and bring breakfast back to the tent. I crawled back into my sleeping bag and we drank our breakfast in warmth before breaking down camp. This morning was a bit colder than the previous and while there was no frost on the tent it was still quite chilly! Our camp was in the shelter of trees and the sun was still too low to even cast shadows. We started out the day with layers still on, and set off down the trail.
Jen and I have a nice rhythm when hiking. One leads, then we break, then the other leads. Today we made sure our first break was on a peak in the open for the sun was still climbing.
It is pretty noticeable at altitude. In the sun you are warm an in the shade you are not.
Today’s terrain was quite varied. We went from straight up rocks, to dirt path, to fire road. We struggled. Our bodies were tired and we were feeling the miles as we did them. When we stopped for lunch there was a lot of stretching and flopping about. Maybe even some moans and grumbles about the current state of legs. I also think we both took some Ibuprofen to help with recovery. However, we never complained. We made statements and observations but we never once complained.
Our afternoon was full of more difficult terrain, but also some fantastic views well worth the miles. We were afforded multiple views of Lake Tahoe, some beautiful mountains, and a fantastic ridge. We hiked through some snow fields, parted with the PCT, and ended the day with a 1500+ Ft climb.
Our camp was on a knob overlooking the lake with a magnificent sunset. Pictures here were taken with the camera not the phone so they will be uploaded later. Sorry for the tease, but trust me when I say it was beautiful.
We had exerted ourselves quite a bit on the climb and we cooled off fast. We set up the tent quickly and ate our dehydrated dinner of beans and rice with tortillas inside the those trusty nylon walls. With full bellies we bundled up and zipped in. The sun was setting and were ready to sleep. After a few recollections and observations about the day, we looked at the map and made our plans for tomorrow. We both groaned a bit as we made sure our alarms were set for early, and within minutes of the sun setting we were asleep.







Day One: Tahoe Rim Trail

24 Oct

October 21, 2013
Echo Lake to Mosquito Pass
7.5 miles
After a relaxing night in South Lake Tahoe we got up early to get started on our last minute errands and coffee stop. Jen had done her homework and looked up the post office hours as well as the best place for breakfast. After getting to the PO we found that the hours on the Internet were wrong. It is not often that these two hikers are anywhere too early, so we decided to go ahead and get breakfast first.
We ate at the Driftwood cafe and it lived up to its Internet rating. It was delicious! Jen had a healthy serving of oatmeal and a muffin, while yours truly had potatoes with veggies and bacon covered with two eggs. Yummy! We both had our share of coffee and then off we went. We picked up two stuff sacks, a harder task than one would think in Tahoe, and then back to the hotel to pack. After gearing up we headed to the post office to send out our drops and get to the trail head.
We parked the car and started out around 13:00. The weather was amazing. We took it slow and hiked at a nice even pace. Our plan was to get at least six miles in before camping, and we were quite pleased to make it a bit further. We set up camp at the last site along Aloha lake. It was gorgeous. We ate a quick meal overlooking the lake. As the sun set the warmth left. After a quick bear bag we squirreled away into the tent and the warmth of our down bags. Sleep was not far behind. It was a beautiful first day out.





Here we go…

13 Oct

Well, it will be interesting I can guarantee you that. Since finishing the AT in June our lives have been a roller coaster. While I cannot exclude Jen, AKA Carrot, from this statement my life in particular has taken some very sharp turns. So before blogging about the preparations for the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT), I will recount the some of my experiences as of late. So if you will allow, I will elaborate. If you don’t care and simply want to read about the trail prep just scroll down and I will highlight it for you.

My life: Finished the AT in June. It was amazing! All of our families were there including part of our trail family. Could not have asked for a better finish, really. It was an amazing day.  After this I flew back to AZ only to make a quick turn around to head to DC for a Travel nursing assignment. Gil went with me, for he was part of the reason I picked DC. There is apparently world class BJJ here and he was excited to train. Luckily for me, AKA Lucky, I love my job here. I am new to the PACU setting but my coworkers and colleagues are top notch. It is a great blend of critical care nursing with the turn over of an ER. The unit is fantastic and has a manager that is one of the best I have ever worked for. This is important because in late August I found out that my partner and best friend of 15 years, husband of nine, had been cheating on me. Multiple times with multiple women. The details are grotesque and the reality horrific. I am betrayed and broken. If you do not know me you can ask any of my closest friends and they will tell you that I feel honesty is the most important quality in a person. So here it is; new job, PCT on the horizon, life plan in place with my partner, and in a matter of 24 hours it is all destroyed. The one person with whom I had trusted my life and my love took all from me that I knew to be true.  The next week was a blur. My parents were here and brother stayed the night with me to keep me off the ledge. Carrot arrived the next day from California. She got me through the hardest part. Jen kept me sane, let me cry and scream, and helped me to find a divorce lawyer that will see me through to the end of this terrifying process. She made it ok to go from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other. She laid out a plan for me that put me into survival mode. Carrot even got optimistic and made a list of things for me to look forward to. I am not there yet, but I keep the list close at hand for when I need a reminder to keep keeping on. Work is important. My job gives me a reason to wake up on most days and get going. I am so thankful that I currently love my job for it has helped me in this time of unrest. I could not have asked for a better group of nurses to be around. No platitudes are given to me in response to my situation. Just a simple “that sucks, if there is anything I can do…”. This is important. For some moments in time I am sick of being a strong independent woman. Sometimes you just simply want to be quiet and let the pathetic wash over you. You do not want to hear “everything happens for a reason” or “God has a plan”. Because currently my response to that includes nothing but four letter words. I know people mean well, but my co-workers have really surprised me. There has been none of that. Just support and offers of copious alcohol. They do not look at me as if I am a wounded puppy, they look at me as if I am a Nurse, there to do my job. For now, that is my survival. I go to work. I come home. I have fallen into some old bad habits such as too much wine and cigarettes, but I know they are not to be permanent. Simple vices to get through to whatever will be the next stage of my life.

So now I ask you: What would you do if you were newly single, almost 40, and lacking of social skills outside of work? My answer… retreat to the wilderness. While Carrot was here plans were set into motion for the TRT. We will do another middle distance hike (maybe the AZ trail, maybe the Ozark trail) prior to hiking the PCT but for now the TRT. I fly on Saturday and we drive on Sunday after last minute preparations to Tahoe. We will spend 24 hrs at altitude before setting off so this sea level human gan get used to thin air. It will be an air sucking hike for me for I have indulged too much in the great crop of our nation as of late. But alas, I will do it. Carrot yelling and cheering at me in the same breath. Fun will be had by all. Also, we will be joined by our four legged thru-hiking companion Georgy. Let’s hope there are no porcupines to be hunted on this trail!

Tahoe Rim Trail Prep:

New Packs! We have both decided to go with ULA circuit pack for the PCT. This will be our trial run for the pack. After extensive research and talking with the owner of the company we feel that this is a good fit for our bodies and the minimum/maximum weight we wish to carry.

I will set out with the GoLite 3 season quilt no longer being made as well as a sea to summit liner. Reviews to follow. It is going to be cold for us and we are setting off into new territory. Carrot will be carrying the new Zpack sleeping bag. So light! I am sure I will jealous.

As for footwear I will be carrying or wearing the Innov8 trail roc 236, OR the Vivo barefoot SynthHikers. I believe Carrot is sticking with the Brooks Cascadia for they simply fit her foot the best and are tried and true.,default,pd.html?start=4&cgid=womens-runningshoes-trail

(It is important to note that while we hike extremely well together Carrot and I have very different builds and foot structure. Most apparel we agree on, but footwear is where we have to be different. Our feet and our bodies are simply not the same.)

We will carry Aggie. Our Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 tent that we did the entire AT with. This is not the tent we will use for the PCT but it is the one we own. I am currently seam sealing Aggie as I type. Lets hope she holds up!

As for food: We plan on shaking things up a bit. At night we are going to try pre-made dehydrated meals split and wrapped in tortillas. We feel we need to get a feel for them and that they will be a good fit for the PCT. Lunches will be the same old Tuna and Nutella on a tortilla, and our breakfasts shall be our cold coffee/protein shakes.

Attire: Well, this one is still in the air. We have both bought new puffy beanies for night and plan on carrying a puffy jacket of sorts. I know I will have shorts and Capilene circa 1998, while Carrot has purchased some awesome new Ice Breakers long underwear. I do have a wool pair from EMS purchased last spring and we are simply waiting on a weather report to make a final decision. We will wear our Darn Tough socks, and some Lulu Lemon seamless long sleeve shirts. I will also carry a flannel bought this year from Patagonia. Please look to actual trail posts to see what we set out with. All of this is very subject to change.

Water Filtration: We are going with Sawyer. It was something we were in awe over during our last stretch of the AT.  We love the squeeze filter. We are going to give it a shot!

As always we will have sleep masks, melatonin, and ear plugs.  A must for any RN and especially anyone on the trail!


OK. So a lot of info in one post. We will see if we can add on to this as we post of our hike. Please stay tuned for pictures and details. We will try to post day by day alternating voices so as you don’t get sick of any one of the two of us.

Happy trails dear friends. Wish us luck!




14 Jun

We have been a bit cautious when using the word “almost”. Starting 400 miles back people kept telling us we were “almost” done. We would always smile and say “well, we know a lot can happen in (insert # here) miles”. The last few days have been a prime example of that.
We had to pick up our food drop Monday before leaving Fontana Dam. Jen lost the Rock/Paper/Scissors game and had to shuttle into the village early for the box. It was raining, of course, and we had gotten up early to get to the PO when it opened. Jen left for the shuttle and I continued to fill water and break down our camp. I had our stuff ready to go and just needed Jen to return with the food for our packs so I read while I waited, and waited. Soon I decided to heat up water for coffee and wait some more. It was pouring rain. Finally at 1145 poor Jen returned to the shelter looking like an angry drowned rat. When she arrived at the village, after waiting for a shuttle that never came and taking a ride from a random resort employee, she found that we were in resort summer hours and the PO did not open until 1145. So she waited… And waited. They were nice enough to open “early” at 1130 for her to get our package and get back to the trail. By the time she got back to the shelter neither of us were in the mood to hike out into the rain, so we took a second zero day.
The good thing about a second zero day is that you are ready to hike when the time comes. We were getting antsy and were excited to head out for a long day. The other nice part was that we headed out into a sunny day. The weather was warm and humid, but we were not complaining. Sun = Happy Hikers.
This day saw us 18.2 miles further down the trail. There were many short steep climbs, but with the sun shining we were just happy to walk. At the end of the day we set up camp in one of the many gaps, and proceeded to cook dinner. Unfortunately the wet weather has brought in lots of gnats. It wasn’t long before they set their sites on us and the dog. Poor Georgy had to fend for himself as we sought shelter in our trusty tent.
On the twelfth we walked down into the NOC. A large outdoor center on the Nantahala river that specializes in rafting and kayaking. We were very happy for we ate BBQ and drank beers. After lunch we secured our status as professional hobos outside of the outdoor retailer. We rested in their display hammocks and charged our phones in the outside outlets for about, I don’t know, three hours. It was great. Bear laid on the cool concrete near the door so he got wafts of AC as shoppers went in and out. As I said, professional hobos. Once digested we walked another 0.8 miles to the nearest shelter to sleep for the night.
We woke at our normal time, 8-8:30, and started hiking. The morning was sunny, but very windy. We snacked at an overlook and were able to get phone service. After looking at the weather it became obvious that the wind was moving a storm our way. We continued to walk and the sky changed quickly. Soon it was that sickly green you witness before a hurricane or tornado. The wind was strong and our adrenaline spiked when a tree crashed down to the right of the trail. That wood cracking was enough to quicken our pace along to the next shelter. There we decided to just stay the night and make up the miles in the morning.
June 14, up early and hiking before 8am! It was a clear, cool morning and the sun was starting to shine. We walked easily and covered the miles quickly. We met a father and son around lunchtime who shared some food with us. Jason and Jeremy were out to cover a section of the trail. When we ran into them again a few miles down the trail they offered us a ride into town! Traci and Zach, mom and son, made up the rest of this fabulous family. After not only giving us a ride to pick up our box and taking us to the hotel, they insisted on picking us up in the morning to take us back to the trailhead. Trail Angels! We are so grateful for their generosity. Once again it is hard to find the words for how thankful we are for their acts of kindness. Franklin was the kind of town where cat calls are still whooped out of windows of trucks and hitching made me nervous.
Fast forward a few days of walking and we are continuing to make great time. We are looking forward to seeing our families in less than a week! We have crossed into GA and have less than 60 miles to go. I think we are almost ready to use the word almost. However, we are still cautious. Maybe we will say “almost” when have less than a mile to go. Maybe when there are just a few steps left. It is a tricky word and our emotions and exhaustion level change by the day, sometimes hour. I can say that we are ready to see our families and our significant others and look forward to sharing this massive achievement with those who have helped make a lifelong dream a reality.







Trail Provisions

26 May

Well, we are now at a place in Roan Mountain, TN. I have never been here, but have read a lot about eastern Tennessee as I have dabbled in my love of Appalachian folklore and life. It is a very beautiful part of the country. Green mountains, gorgeous trail, and spring fed hollows. It is simple in its beauty with untouched mountains and a sparse population. This is the part of the trail where it gets the reputation of being a “green tunnel”. The trail has a life of its own as it meanders down the coast, and it also has its own bit of magic that is rarely talked about off the trail.
We have explained before about trail magic and trail angels. However, there is another saying amongst hikers and it is that the “trail provides”. It sounds hokey I know, but I swear it is true. You just have to put it out into the universe and chances are you will get what you need. We, of course, have examples.
Most recently we experienced the trail providing for us in Damascus. We had always planned on staying in and zero-ing in Damascus. We had never even considered that we may be there during Trail Days. (A festival for hikers and vendors.) For a hiking town Damascus is surprisingly not dog friendly. There is a hostel there that accepts dogs but when we called for a reservation they were booked. So our new plan was to hike in, get our box, and hike out to the other side of town. For no real reason we ended up taking an extra day to get to Damascus. As luck would have it that extra day allowed for a vacancy at the hostel. We had a half day into town, an enormous meal, and a hostel with Internet! This proved to be awesome because it allowed me to Skype with my husband, and Jen to “FaceTime” with her boyfriend. We were happy girls. (The ice cream sundaes we had for dinner may have also helped improve our moods.) We needed a place to rest and refuel, we were sure it was not going to happen, and as we walked by the hostel we noticed a vacancy sign. It was early in the day and there was room in the Inn. The trail provided.
Another example. On our last day in the Grayson Highlands we had cut our food quite short. Somehow we had not put lunches in our last drop. We are not sure what happened but we suspect somewhere we will have double lunches. When that happens it will be less of an issue. Too little food proved to be a challenge. My poor hiking partner was starving. I was hungry, but Jen just does not have the fat reserves that this lady has and it was quite difficult for her to keep her energy level high enough to sustain the hiking we were doing. After a meager breakfast we set off down the trail with our empty food bags. Then, about 4 miles in, there was trail magic! Polaris, a thru hiker from last year, was there to support his moms current thru hike. His dad had driven in coolers of drinks and food! They were super friendly and encouraged us to take some food for the road…and we did. That day we went from having nothing to having too much. It was truly amazing. We were hungry, and then we were not. The trail provided.
Now for an obscure example of the trail providing. Somewhere in the Northern part of this journey I received an impossible gift from the trail. A tiny screw. My phone case is water proof. Where the head phone jack is there is a watertight screw. The case comes with a replacement plastic screw in case you lose the metal one. Well, I lost the metal one and then the plastic one. We were in a very rainy patch and I was worried about my phone. I keep it in my hip belt pocket to use the camera. At that particular time we did not have an extra zip lock and my phone was vulnerable. So that evening in the dark of the shelter I looked to my left and what did I see? A screw for my phone case! I asked everyone who was there if it belonged to them and no one claimed it. Magic! My phone was saved. I like to think that the screws I had lost showed up to replace the hardware I now use for my phone case. This little guy has been with me since. It is in my case now. Once again, the trail provided.
I know this may sound silly, but believe me it is not.
Last, but most definitely not least, was a time in Maine. I was sick. Not the call out from work sick, but the I need to get to the hospital sick. I had been running a temperature way above 101 for almost two days, been very ill multiple times, had not had a shower in at least 7 days, and had been deliriously resting in a tent while my hiking partner did her best to care for me with what she had. It was not much. We managed to get to a “road” sandwiched between two mountains. No cell service. No cars. Then as we were trying to figure out what to do, a family showed up. After talking to us for a bit they decided to cut their trip in half and take us to the hospital. So, these total strangers loaded up two dirty hikers and a dog and took us to the closest hospital. I cannot thank these people enough. When in need I was provided true Trail Angels.
I don’t know how it works or why. It is one of the great mysteries of the trail. All I know is that it is somehow true. If you put it out there…chances are you will get what you need. “The trail will provide.”


Minor Changes

20 May

I am laying in a top bunk of a hostel as I write this. You heard right, top bunk. So when the headline reads “AT hiker dies in tragic bunk bed accident” you will know it’s true. I feel there should be laws about people over a certain age sleeping in bunk beds, but when you’re basically homeless any bed will do. Actually the hostel in Damascus is quite lovely despite the bunks. We are staying at a place called the Hikers Inn and we are grateful for they allow our 4 legged companion to stay with us. They even have a dog bed! I know my hiking partner posted a recent update so I will spare you a repeat of those details. What I wanted to talk about were the small changes that have taken place from the beginning of our journey until now. Some friends have inquired about the differences so I will tell.
One of the main changes we have made is in terms of mileage. When we first started last June we wanted to do big mile days. Our first day on the trail was 25 miles. We were doing fine until all of our little issues started to build up. Swollen/infected feet, porcupines, abdominal problems. So, we started a series of high mileage days followed by low or no mileage days. We struggled with consistency. What we found out around Pennsylvania is that we really liked days around the 18 mile mark. This amount of miles left us feeling like we covered significant ground but also have us time to enjoy views and smell flowers. So during these southern states we are trying to learn from this. We were doing well, but this last week resembled mileage from our earlier months. Big, big, nero, big. So we have used the time in Damascus to come up with a plan that is consistent in hopes to accomplish timely miles and be nice to our bodies.
We made very few changes to our gear. I bought a new 20 degree synthetic bag for the wet spring, and in anticipation for the PCT next year. I love the bag and have been happy on wet mornings. Jen kept her 1+ season bag and added a liner. The liner is a thin piece of fabric that adds 15 degrees of warmth to her down bag. She too is happy and warm. I plan on getting a liner as my summer cover as we head further south. As the days get warm it is truly all we will need and takes up less room in the pack.
Our packs are the same. Mine has needed repairs and some patching, but Jens was of a bit sturdier build and has held up well. I have no complaints though, we put our packs thorough a lot and under the circumstances they have done better than any I have owned. We still carry 32-35liters of gear and food with our packs weighing in at about 30 pounds when full. We did have to purchase new pack covers to fight off the rain, but that is a purchase well worth it’s weight.
Our footwear and apparel have had minor alterations. I am currently hiking in the same shoes as Jen, but look forward to getting new shoes in Erwin. The shoes we are in are fine, but my feet are low in volume and have a bit too much room in my current shoes. Jen will also get new shoes in Erwin. We will weigh in on her thoughts at a later time. Our socks are different. We have a new favorite. For a long time we both swore by a certain brand of wool socks. Now, we are swearing by another. Darn Tough wool socks are made in Vermont, and as far as we are concerned… they rock. We are also sporting wool shirts. Last year Jens best friend Alison gave her a wool shirt to hike in. She conquered 1300 miles in that shirt before it needed to be retired. We were in awe at how well it handled both the wear and tear as well as the hiker smell. This section we each have one of these fine garments. They are, as expected, holding up quite well.
Mentally, we are better. Our attitude is slightly healthier than before. We no longer just have to put our heads down and hike. We have less pressure due to weather, and enjoy talking about the miles to come. We will do a comprehensive gear post/ review when we are done with the hike, but that requires links etc. that are bit too fancy for the phone. Stay tuned, we will update you in a few days!