Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Other Pennsylvania

So, I mentioned in my first PA blog how nice it was on the trail. Well, after Duncannon, PA, as Renee pointed out, it got rocky! After Port Clinton, PA it got even rockier. However, I am at the end of PA heading to New Jersey today if I can just get motivated. It rained last night and I am not sure if that helped or hurt things! The humidity is a killer out here. I miss Colorado!
Here is the low down of what has been going on:
Out of Duncannon, Spice Rack and I hiked with Renee and David. Poor Spice rack got a little bored with the pace and would run ahead ocassionally, but always met us in the evening. He was quite the trooper and made me appreciate his companionship all that much more! Renee and David were troopers as well. It was not all that easy terrain as Renee mentioned, but I am glad they made it home safely. I told them I was worried about them making it back to their car as both seemed to be hurting some on the 2nd and third days! Their company was a blessing, though and reminded me why I am out here.
Upon leaving Renee and David, I was in a race to catch Spice Rack by dark. He was about 13+ miles ahead of me at that point and I was starting at my usual siesta time. My pace was as quick as I could go over the rocks without breaking myself. Twice I fell, once forward and once backward. It was frustrating. Then, I got to the shelter just before the PA501 shelter (where I was to meet Spice Rack) and found I was just 45minutes behind him. So, I took off in a slow sprint from the shelter as it was uphill out of the shelter and trotted down the trail hoping to catch him on the trail as he wrote in the register about pizza at the 501. No luck catching him and I arrived to the 501 first to find a thru-hiker who is always angry about something. My spirits fell and I looked around for the register to see if Spice Rack left me instructions of where to go. Luckily, I found the register with Spice Rack! Hooray! There was pizza at the shelter which I ate happily as I cooked a box of Spongebob Squarepants Mac&Cheese(actually 2boxes).
Reunited with Spice Rack, we headed to Port Clinton, PA the next day. A long day, but nice to be in a town. We got ourselves a room at the Port Clinton Hotel which was not worth what we paid, but it saved us from dealing with the angry thru-hiker and the other weirdos at the pavilion. The next day, we did a short day to the Eckville Shelter which use to be a hostel. It was loaded with sodas and all sorts of goodies you could have for donations. The place was sweet! We enjoyed it immensely! From there, we found ourselves back out on the trail pushing over more rocks and heading closer to Palmerton, PA. The distance was too great, so we camped by a road on a Friday night! Silly idea as we got the locals shooting off fireworks next to our tents, basically. What excitement. The next day we did a short day into the Jailhouse hostel in Palmerton, PA. It is nice to have short days.
From there, we had a huge rock climb to Wind Gap with limited water as the weather has been hot and humid and dried up most of the springs. It was nice to be in a hotel in Wind Gap with the AC on full blast. From there, we were able to push into Delaware Water Gap, where I am currently using the computer at the Church of the Mountains Hostel. It is a nice place. The pastor and crew are great people. I highly recommend checking it out. Now, it looks like either 10 or 17miles out of town and into New Jersey! No more long states until Maine. Looks like I am going to make it! We will see what happens. There are suppose to be lots of friendly bears in Jersey. So hopefully, I do not get eaten by a bear! We will see what happens. There are many snake photos on my camera currently which I hope to make sure Gabe, the 10yr old I was working with before I left, gets a chance to see them. I know he would appreciate their beauty.
And of course, I could not end my blog without a shout out to my husband who commented to me the other day when we talked that I truly am his soulmate! I love you my darling and am counting down the miles until I get to see you and spend the rest of my life with you! Only 615miles until I am with you! Love you lots! Thank you everyone for your support and love. Take care and keep in touch with the progress as I move north! Lots of Love to everyone!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Renee's Trail report

Here is a trail report from Peeps' friend Renee who with her boyfriend David joined the adventure for a couple of days.


We started out Saturday night at the famous Doyle Hotel. It was pretty clean (except for the bathrooms!) and quiet. We met a few other thru-hikers and section hikers including Spice Rack, Clockwork Orange, Forever North, Snail, and Lo Di Do. No euchre tonight as David and I had not slept much the night before. It was good to see Peeps (Kasey) again.

Day 1 – We covered about 11 ½ miles from Duncannon to a shelter. Saw a timber rattlesnake in the trail that rattled at us, and then it finally decided to move off of the trail. We scrambled over many good-sized rocks while traveling along the ridge line. The rocky trails out there are nothing like the dusty (and smooth) ones here in California. I kept wondering what I had gotten us into.

Day 2 – More mileage today, about 13 total. The first half was fairly easy, and then we began a long uphill climb over smaller rocks that kept wobbling every time you stepped on them. There wasn’t very much water around, and I think I must have been dehydrated because I got a migraine around mid-afternoon. I kept telling myself not to throw up. By the time we got to camp my head felt better, but my feet were killing me. My hiking boots didn’t have enough arch support, and my until-then mild case of plantar fasciitis (from running) was now full-blown.

Day 3 – We turned around about half-way through the day after having lunch with Peeps, as we wanted to have a bit of a time cushion to get back. Today was supposed to be Naked Hiker Day, but we only saw one couple wearing strategically-placed bandanas. Everyone else had clothes on, so no exciting photos – ha ha! I can’t imagine hiking with only boots on – the chafing would be brutal! I think we covered about 12 ½ miles.

Day 4 – Back down the wobbly rocks for about 13 miles again. We saw a doe, a black bear, and a snake today, in addition to hiking through a small thunderstorm. David was sick and dehydrated, and my feet hurt so badly I was nearly in tears. I think we covered this section slower than on the way out. There was just way too much drama today.

Day 5 – We met some really nice trail volunteers and their dog Casey. It was cool in the morning but got much warmer later on. We eventually made our way back to Duncannon and I was SO happy to get off my feet! Later that evening we decided if we were thru-hikers and had trail names, David’s would be No Sweat (because he sweat so much even his shorts got soaked) and mine would be Cat Lady (because I have 2 cats and volunteer at an animal shelter).

Friday we visited Gettysburg, and Saturday we went home. We ended up getting home about 10 hours late due to flight delays and cancellations (note to self: don’t fly Northwest!)

Despite all the foot pain, it was a fun trip. I will be much more appreciative of the dirt trails out here from now on!

I really want to thank Peeps (Kasey) for inviting us to join her, for cutting her daily mileage in half for us slowpokes, for running down to the spring at Peter’s Mountain shelter (that was a LONG way down the hill!), and for the Slim Jims! Also thanks to Spice Rack for waiting for us periodically and for letting us use his spices for our mac & cheese! The mental and physical strength that the thru-hikers have is really impressive. Happy travels to Maine, Peeps!

Saturday, June 18, 2005


Another state and many more miles under my belt. Out here, some people talk about the trail not being about the trail miles, but more the S-miles. There have been many smiles lately as well as tears. I have been doing some good reflecting and learning about myself as I approached the halfway point and gone on by! There is an odd sense of accomplishment having made it this far! "Spice Rack" and I were talking the other day as we sat on a stone bench and looked out at the valley below about how it took us 3 months to get this far and yet will take us only 2 months to do the other half of the trail! It seems odd, but we are more fit now than in the beginning. Another thing about the trail is the passage of time. Some feel the time has passed slowly, while I feel like it is flying by. I do not feel as though I have been on the trail for 3 months. Every day there is something new to see and experience. Sure the walking gets old sometimes, but then you crest a hill and see a view or you decide to check out the trail in the dark for a night hike. Every day is an adventure. New people to meet as they come from behind and leave you in the dust. I just met a guy, "Teach," who began on April 27 (a month after me) and has caught me at this point. He is a teacher, thus the trail name, and needs to be done by school time. Great group of people in my general vicinity these days! Have run into "Three Cats" again as he was off enjoying his wife and daughter's visit.
So far, Pennsylvania has proven to be a very beautiful state. Sure the heat and humidity have been hard at times, but the terrain has been great. We have gone from a nice graded trail to rocks to fields of wheat and corn. The terrain varies so much in one day it keeps me from getting bored! I have encountered many snakes as well. Most of the snakes have not been poisonous, but some have been. In the Shenandoahs, I passed a timber rattlesnake. That was exciting. "Spice Rack" was leading and the snake only began rattling after I had gone by him. It was crazy! We stopped and took photos of the snake before he decided we were bothering him and he moved into the woods. Then, between Bears Den Hostel and Harpers Ferry, I almost stepped on a Copperhead. He seemed unphased by our presence. "Spice Rack" and I waited for "Mongrel" to make sure he saw the snake and we all took photos before the snake moved off the trail. There have been many black snakes along the trail as well as little baby snakes. It has been interesting to see so many snakes. Good thing the snakes do not scare me.
Currently, I am in Duncannon, PA waiting for Renee and David to come in for the night before hiking with me tomorrow. "Spice Rack" and I are looking for a good game of Eucre tonight if Renee and David are up for it when they get in! I think the shock of the Doyle Hotel here in Duncannon will make things interesting. Here is what has been written about the Doyle Hotel: "The 4-story brick building was one of 1200hotels built by the Anheuser Busch Brewing Co. to market their beer. It replaced the National Hotel, known by some as the Johnson Hotel that had occupied the same lot. The flag topped turret can be seen for long distance. The building had 30 guest rooms and is an Italianate design with arched windows and doorways. It was sold in 1932 to John Lukens. New laws had made it impossible for a brewing company to own a retail business. This building is known to most hikers passing as a respite from the trail." The hotel is an old building and would best be described as a boarding house setting. No air-conditioning, but there is a ceiling fan and luckily the nights have been cool lately as well as the days! Glad to be taking a day off today and looking forward to seeing Renee & David.
Today, a hiker had his daughters arrive to surprise him. It made me wish Mike and I lived closer to the trail so I could see him. "Teach" had his girlfriend come down from Jersey last night and again I wished Mike was closer to the trail. It is hard to make do with just talking on the phone, but it is a reprieve to know he will be out this way in a month and a half. He is always on my mind and forever in my heart! Those are the 2 pieces of my body and soul which drive me along the trail. I love you my darling! Not long now and I will be with you again forever.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Half way there!

I got a quick call from our girl today so that she could tell me that she has passed the half way point and is passing through Boiling Springs, PA. Apparently it is customary to celebrate this occasion with the half gallon challenge. Never one to pass up a good challenge she downed half a gallon of Cherries Jubilee ice cream last night in about an hour and a half. Unfortunately I also have to report that the Snickers challenge was a dismal failure. I think that she made it just over a day eating around 20 Snickers bars before digging into some real food and promptly handing the rest out as Trail Magic. One final point is that since she is staying so far ahead of schedule I have finally posted a list mail drop locations with an estimated date of arrival. I'll try to keep this as up to date as possible if she varies from her schedule, but always try to get stuff there at least a couple of days before the expected date just in case she goes on a distance rampage some day. This list is in the links section on the right side of the page.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

So, I have hiked 1009.8miles by this point. It is exciting, but I have another 1165.1miles to go. The next few states look easy and I have a fun hiking partner for now! Also, Maryland looks like it will be interesting. For those who do not know yet, Spice Rack and I agreed at some point in the Shenandoahs we were going to hike the state of Maryland eating just snickers bars and flintstone vitamins. So, today will begin the experience. We decided we cannot call it a challenge and thus have termed it an experience.
Not much has occurred since Bears Den Hostel from where I last wrote. That place was amazing and it was great fun hanging out with Susan and Rob. Good games of Eucre as well as reisling, beer, and smores. The 20miles into Harpers Ferry were long but leisurely the next day!
Once in Harpers Ferry, we connected with Spice Rack's Dad who picked us up and took us to Fredricks, MD for the next couple evenings. We took yesterday off to rest and relax. Spice Rack's dad is big into trains and we spent our day at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, MD. From there, we headed back to the hotel to get situated and packed before heading out to watch Shakespeare Under the Stars on the campus of Hood College in Frederick, MD. It was a fun evening watching Much Ado About Nothing. When we got back to the hotel, Spice Rack and I celebrated our 1000mile achievement with Chimay and Rogue Dead Guy Ale as we organized things further and I talked to the love of my life! For those who may not know who that is...It is my HUSBAND! Around 2am, we finally relaxed into our beds for the evening, planning to depart from the hotel by 8am.
That brings me to the current moment. I am at the ATC headquarters in Harpers Ferry, WV checking in and using the facilities. For those curious, I am holding strong at 160pounds. I think the scale here actually has me at about 162lbs. It was nice to know I had not lost the 10pounds the scale at Bears Den said I had lost! After eating well in town, I am now ready to conquer the trail with just 54Snicker Bars and a bottle of Flintstone Vitamins. We will see how things go over the next few days! The next people to join me along the trail are my friend, Renee, and her boyfriend, David. I look forward to their company as they will be with me for part of Naked Hiker Day on June 21st. Watch for photos from then! HAHAHA! Take care everyone and be sure to call or write my husband and wish him a happy birthday today! I wish I was there to give him a great big birthday hug! Don't overwhelm him though with attention. He is still my shy little guy! Lots of love to you my darling and to all my friends and family!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

M.I.L.'s AT journal

Oh, where to start! Such an experience - out of the ordinary stuff for an old lady like me. But I did it (or at least part of it). 55 miles at the age of 55 - nothing to be ashamed of. It started in Ann Arbor, MI where I met Peeps who had come off the trail to attend the wedding of a friend. Memorial day morning we were waiting in an alley for the Greyhound. 24 hours later we got off of the Greyhound in Waynesboro, VA. It was difficult to get much quality sleep on the bus. Several layovers - one at 2:55a.m. - 3:55a.m. The bus ride was probably the least fun of the whole adventure. We walked a few blocks to the Post Office in Waynesboro so Peeps could check her mail and send a package. There were several thru hikers showing up there - many had had to wait out the holiday weekend in Waynesboro to collect their mail drops. I was anxious and curious but not really nervous. I met and talked to Beam a little bit and did run into her later in a shelter. We had just donned our packs to head out the door when a man asked if we were walking to the trailhead (about 4 1/2 miles) or did we want a ride? Duh? He took us to the visitor center at the trailhead and we drank hot chocolate and used the restroom.

I stepped foot on the trail about 9:24 a.m., Tuesday, May 31, 2005. Only seven miles the first day to Calf Mountain Shelter. I knew that would go o.k. - and it did. I had a little trepidation going over my first "ladder like" barrier (there should be a picture of this event coming). But it was the first of many firsts I would experience. Shelter life was nice. 2 recent high school grads camping near the shelter when we got there. We thought we might be the only ones in the shelter that night as it was only 7 miles from town. But we were soon joined by Box 'o fun and Ang; then Mouth in his kilt; then Hunter (the dog with his own pack) and Birdie and ?. Interesting to hear all the trail talk - who is where, who is no longer on the trail, trail sightings, etc. I felt a little out of it as I knew none of them and the whole camping thing was new for me. So I just kind of sat back and listened. There was a concern about Beam who was supposed to be at the shelter but never showed up. I got a good sense of the trail journals that are in each shelter and how these help the hikers keep tabs on each other. Pretty cool.

June 1 - day 2 and 13 miles to go today. Not too worried and as it turned out the first 12 went by quite easily and I was making much better time than the day before. There were lots of pink flowering bushes lining the trail - very nice smelling. We saw a deer close by when we took our lunch break. Both of us were more talkitive and did a lot of singing to and with each other. Then Peeps saw a sign that there was a spring 100 yds off the trail and a warning that there might not be water at the shelter. That meant that we had to fill our bladders in our backpack and our water bottles to make sure we'd have enough for cooking and the next 13 mile day. That added about 6 - 8 pounds to my pack and as I had already projected we'd be there soon with only a mile to go, I complained just a little on the last mile (all up hill of course). But we were there before 5:00 and again had lots of company in the shelter - One Thing, Spice Rack, Mongrel, Hot & Sweaty, & one other ?. The 2 high school boys were camped there also - looked like they were having a tough time.

June 2
- day 3 and another 13+ miles to go today. Shouldn't be difficult since I made it the day before without any major problems. Oh - the weather - it started raining just as we were packing to leave and it never stopped until late the following afternoon. At about 7 miles, there was a wayside camp store. We stopped there and bot 8 hamburg buns, 2 pkgs of cold meats, a large pkg of cheese and a large bag of chips -- all of which we ate (except for a few of the chips) before we left there. There were some of the other hikers there and a couple from the campground that were doing their laundry. They let me put my wet jacket and hat in one of their dryers while we ate. Everyone is so friendly out there. Then it was back out in the rain to do the last 6+ miles for the day. Stayed at Pine Gap Hut (shelter) that nite. I think we made even better time today as there was no reason or wanting to stop along the way. I think there may have been some spectacular views from some of the mountain tops, but the fog was so thick we couldn't see anything. It was One Thing, Spice Rack, Peeps and myself (trail name was M.I.L. for mother-in-law).

June 3 - day 4 - was scheduled to be just an 8 mile day. But we were at the 8 mile point by 1:00 - again the rain kept us moving quite fast. That shelter wasn't real pleasant so we agreed to push on. The problem for me was that the next shelter was another 12+ miles. After about 6 more miles we came to a major highway intersection and I decided to hitch a ride to the campground about 1 mile before our next shelter. Peeps and Spice Rack stayed with me until I caught a safe ride with a family from KY who were going to the same campground. I was able to freshen up a little in the restroom there, buy some snacks and call home while I waited for Peeps and Spice Rack. We then went the last mile to the shelter which was quite full. We had caught up with Box 'o fun and Ang. One Thing was there and Beam. Also two older (my age) couples who were section hiking.

June 4 - day 5. Saturday morning and I had to decide whether to call Jim to come as it was a Saturday and he wouldn't be able to come until the next weekend if not today. I didn't mention that my right big toe was sore since day 1 or 2. My nail had been hitting the front of my boot and caused a blister under the nail. Quite painful with every downhill step. I was afraid the nail might come off within the next week and that would have been more painful. So I decided that I had experienced the trail and was very glad I did - but I knew my limits and decided to call Jim. It was a tough and emotional decision but looking back I think I made the right call. We made reservations at Big Meadows resort - 8 miles further down the trail and told Jim to meet us there. Spice Rack, Box 'o fun & Ang were waiting for us at the shelter after hiking the mile both ways to make the calls. I invited them to share the room with us which they were delighted to do. They & peeps hiked an additional 8 miles that day and hitched rides back to Big Meadows where I was waiting, refreshed after a bath and a shower and ready to give them all a massage. It was a great nite with lots of laughs, a game of hearts and a real pillow to sleep on. Jim made it to the resort about 11:00p.m. We all had a real breakfast together in the morning, packed all 6 of us with all the packs, etc. in our little Subaru and got the four of them back on the trail at Skyland resort about 11:00 a.m. Oh, the last day of hiking was probably the nicest for me. (Maybe because I knew I was going home the next day.) There were a few sort of tough mountains but there were also miles of level lush green forests and lots of deer sightings. I felt like I was walking through an enchanted forest - like in a fairy tale - the visual will always be with me. The weather was also very nice that day - sunshine and not too humid. We also had a spectacular view from some rocks just before we entered the Big Meadows resort. I want to thank Kasey (Peeps) for allowing me to tag along on a small portion of her journey. I have great admiration for what she is doing. She will have stories to tell her children and grandchildren for years to come. (You are planning to give me grandchildren some day - aren't you?) She will know herself much better because of this thing she is doing. As I know myself better from the short week I was out there. And I am a better person for it. Bye, M.I.L.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

On the Trail Again

So, I posted how it went with the Awesome M.I.L on the trail, but I have not mentioned anything since then. I have acquired a new hiking friend and enjoy his company immensely.
On Sunday, 5 June 2005, Spice Rack and I left the Awesome M.I.L and her wonderful husband, Jim, around 11am to head out on a 24mile trek. Bad idea to start so late in the day. We had intentions of making it to Elk Wallow Gap Wayside in Shenandoah National Park before they closed at 5:30pm. That meant we would have to do about 18miles in 6 hours. We did not think it was possible but held onto the idea! It did not work! We got there around 6:30pm to find everything closed as well as the bathrooms. We entertained thoughts of staying there for the night and getting shakes in the morning, but decided after cooking ourselves dinner we would move on! About 9pm, we took off for our last 5.5miles of the day! Yup! In the dark we headed for the hills. It was crazy, but I felt secure as long as I had someone to hike with in the dark. Night hiking was really neat, but I've realized I need a brighter light. It was a little hard to see everything and not trip over rocks. As a matter of fact, I did trip and went all the way to the ground. Spice Rack helped me up and we moved on to great views of the night sky! The night was beautiful but tiring. We pulled into the shelter at true midnight versus hiker midnight (9pm). What a day!
The next day we planned a stop in Front Royal to pick up Spice Rack's P.O. drop. Since we did not get Mountain Blackberry shakes in the park, I decided I wanted a Wendy's Frosty in town and thus joined Spice Rack on his hitch into town. It was another scalding day and we hung out in the P.O. and any air conditioned location we could find. Then it was back to the trail where we stayed at the Jim & Molly Denton Shelter for the night. Nice cold shower there got the heart racing, but felt good to be slightly clean. Ran into Freeheel and Motorin again. It was nice to see friendly faces again.
In the morning, we were still at the shelter when in rolled Iron Foot. Now, some of you may remember I started with Iron Foot back when he was named Kyle. I helped name him Iron Foot. It was great to see him and for the past 2 days Spice Rack and I have been playing leap frog with he and his british companions, GG & Slip.
Currently, I am at Bears Den Hostel awaiting the arrival of my friend, Susan, from DC. She is going to stay the night here with Spice Rack and I. We did the 10miles here over the Dreaded Rollercoaster Section (which was more like a log flume than a true rollercoaster) before 1pm. We then headed down to have lunch at the Horseshoe Curve Restaurant with Iron Foot, GG, & Slip. Nothing like fried food and beer on a hot day. Spice Rack and I left our packs at the Bears Den and hiked down to the restaurant so we just had to hike back up a mile. Upon return it was a great shower with some after bath splash to make me feel like a lady again! No stinky girl here! That will change in the heat tomorrow as I descend upon Harpers Ferry. Will be there tomorrow night with the intention of taking a day off to check out the place!
Hope all is going well with my friends and family throughout the country. For those reading this, please make sure and either email, write, or call my husband to congratulate him on winning his first marathon over memorial day weekend. Also, commend him on a job well done this past weekend at yet another marathon! He won his age group and ran the marathon in 3:15hours+/-. Do go to the link and check out how he is doing with his races. He needs the support since I am not there to give it to him! I hope he knows how much I send out all my positive energy to him on each of his race days and worry about him all day! I look forward to town stops when I can check it out and see how he is doing! My husband is my best friend in the world as well as my motivator and inspiration for many things. Thank you my love and continue to do well in your races! My love is always with you!

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Awesome M.I.L

Well, I am back on the trail and for the last week I brought my mother-in-law (M.I.L) with me. She was quite the trooper! Here is my version of our time together. She is suppose to write Mike with her version of the trail!
The greyhound ride back to Waynesboro, VA was worse than the ride to AnnArbor, MI. I think every bus we took from AnnArbor to Stauton, VA was the oldest and dirtiest buses they owned! We had a 2+ hour layover in Detroit, where the awesome M.I.L was unable to defend against the crazies. I think she helped me attract them! That was an experience. Both guys who talked to us thought she was my sister. We were glad to leave there.
Upon arrival in Waynesboro, VA, we went to the P.O. to mail some items up the trail. As we waited at the P.O. for it to open, in walks One Thing. It was good to see a familiar face especially someone I had started with. I realized trail life was going to be just as good as it was in the beginning. While I took care of my package, M.I.L met another thru-hiker named Beam and chatted a bit with her. As we headed out of the building, One Thing informed me Woody and Irma were not at the hostel thus no reason to take M.I.L to meet them. Infront of the P.O., a gentleman asked if we were headed to the trail today to which we replied, "yes!" He then asked if we were walking or did we want a ride. It does not take much convincing for a thru-hiker to accept an easy hitch, so off we went. He stopped by the outfitters on the way to the trail only to find it closed! So, it was off to the trail.
It was a slow go on the first day due to both of us lacking sleep. We did a pace of just over 1mile per hour. It was crazy, but I was just glad to be back on the trail. That night at the shelter, we met Box of Fun, Ange, Mouth, Hemlock Muppet, Birdy, and Hunter. It was also my introduction to the Bear Poles in Shenandoah national park. We had a blast hanging bear bags in the evening as well as taking them down the next day. The pole we used to put the bags up was heavier than most of us could lift on our own, so we were quite a sight! It was tons of laughs.
The next day was M.I.L's first 13mile day. I think we both were a little nervous, but confident she would make it. We were slow and steady and had a great time. It was a sunny day but not a hot day. Still some fog, but it made for an enjoyable hike. At the shelter on the second night, more people I had started with arrived. It was great! I was excited to see Bootleg as he was my beacon in the snowstorm back from Helen, GA to Hiawassee, GA. M.I.L got to meet more people and the shelter was fuller than the night before. It was shaping up to be a good hike.
Then came the rain the next day! We both knew she would not escape 2 weeks on the AT without rain, but was unsure of how it would work out. We had fun despite the wetness and coldness. It was the first day we came across a wayside/campstore in the Park. We arrived to find a group of thru-hikers hanging out in the laundry room. M.I.L and I bought some food and joined the others in the laundry room. As we were getting our food, we met Spice Rack; who was actually at the shelter the night before. In the laundry room, we made sandwiches and conversed with fellow hikers. Spice Rack was quiet as he hugged a dryer for heat. The longer I sat still, the colder I got and ended up joining Spice Rack in the dryer hugging. As he and I hugged the dryer together, I talked him into joining M.I.L and I at the next shelter. He was shooting for a 26mile day. He was still debating when he left. We left a little after the others, but arrived at the shelter to find both Spice Rack and One Thing hanging out there. It was nice to have friends! During the evening, Spice Rack wheeled and dealed with M.I.L for the following day.
The next morning, the deal to do 20miles was in place as long as Spice Rack and I carried the weight in M.I.L's pack. We left her with her sleeping bag, water, and some snacks. It was a lot lighter and we set out on the trail. About 12miles into the day, M.I.L decided to grab a hitch as her toe was hurting from a blister under the nail. During lunch, Spice Rack had helped her tie her boot in a way that helped a little, but she was still unsure about the 20miles. We caught her a ride and Spice Rack and I did the last 8miles in to meet her. There was no cabin available, so we headed to the shelter, where we found Ange and Box of Fun. They were glad to see M.I.L and the night was filled with laughter.
The next day was planned to be a 16mile day, but M.I.L woke up saying she was done and heading home. At first I did not believe her. She spent a good portion of the morning crying which was partially due to her sugar intake as well as the great people she had already met along the way cheering her on. We hiked back a mile to the campground where she had caught the hitch to the day before and called Big Meadows to secure a room and then Jim to secure a ride. From there, we headed back to the shelter, where we found Spice Rack, Ange, and Box of Fun waiting for us. During the hike back, I had come up with the idea of doing 16miles with half of it being a slack pack and then all of us staying at Big Meadows together. Right away Spice Rack was in for it, but Ange and Box of Fun took some convincing, but not much! The day was set and it seemed as though all were happy. Spice Rack again hiked with M.I.L and I for the day. At Big Meadows Lodge, M.I.L checked into her room and saw us off as she headed for a nice soak in her bathtub. Spice Rack and I headed for the trail. Ange and Box of Fun were going to actually remain pure to the trail by carrying their packs the whole way but hitching a ride back to stay with us for the night. Off Spice Rack and I went down the trail. We met up with Box of Fun first and decided to scare her a little. We pretended we were being chased by a bear and Spice Rack actually got her to take off running with her pack on and everything. I broke down in the trail laughing until they stopped running. It was great. At the end of the 8mile slack pack, Spice Rack and I caught an easy hitch back to Big Meadows with a park employee. Not long behind us came Box of Fun and Ange. We headed down to the taproom for dinner and the live entertainment. From there, we headed back to the room and played cards until Jim arrived. We finished the game and it was well past our bedtime (hiker midnight = 9pm and we were up until real midnight). The night was full of fun and I think it was a good celebration of the Awesome M.I.L! She was truly amazing out there!