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.