Every day is a blessing as I curse the mountains and weather . . .

By the time you read this Sarra will be around Damascus VA. That would be the 4th state and 469 miles on the trail. Last week was the one month mark. Lets just have that sink in for a moment . . . . . She has walked 469 miles, no wait . . . she has CLIMBED mountains for 469 miles in just a little over 30 days. Just for comparison, Indiana is around 250 miles from top to bottom!!  I think I can speak for her when I say she is thrilled to be out of North Carolina, and I quote ‘NC is a bitch’ (the terrain, not the state!). She called Sunday morning at 7:30, which was odd because she never calls that early.

Sarra: hi what are you doing?

Me: ummm I’m in bed, I was sleeping.

Sarra: oh yeah, it’s Sunday. I forget what day it is sometimes.

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She told me she was at Kincora Hiking Hostel ran by the trail famous and inspirational Bob Peoples. She was frustrated. It had been a few long hiking days. She was trying to decide mileage to hike that day. The choice was 2 miles or 18 miles. I guess the shelter in between at 11 miles is closed until December due to bear activity! That kind of wakes a mother up on an early Sunday morning. She said ‘I just don’t want to do 18 miles, I’m tired of hiking’.   I said, ‘then hang out and just do 2, it’s not about the destination it’s about the journey.’ She sounded tired, she sounded frustrated, and she sounded like she needed a hug. Ok, probably not, but that’s how mom’s solve a lot of issues, hugs! ha. She told me she has a couple spider bites that are itching like crazy. Then we talked about trail magic, apparently you don’t get to partake in a lot of trail magic when you’re Vegan. They serve pancakes, hamburgers and a lot of spaghetti with meat sauce.

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That’s another reason for the frustration. She explained that it doesn’t make her want to stop being Vegan, it’s just frustrating that no one else is Vegan. Sarra would love for everyone be healthy and to help them to understand that it’s really easy, good for you and actually delicious. So food and hiking – the two most important things while on the AT were both frustrating her at the same time. She didn’t have great phone reception so I told her to give me a call later in the day. After I hung up I sent her a text and asked her to think of 10 positive things she was grateful for during this past month.  I also let her know that I had received a sweet letter from a total stranger in Virginia addressed to teamsarra that I wanted to read to her thinking it would boost her spirits. Then we both went on with our day.

So, back to the hostel and the bears. Bob Peoples owns Kincora hostel at mile 414. For donations you can get a bed, shower, laundry, kitchen and shuttles into town. He’s welcomed more than 19,000 guests. He’s also logged over 7,000 hours of trail maintenance since 1988. The thousands of volunteers and special people that keep this trail going is beyond amazing.

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For more information check out: www.appalachiantrials.com/bob-peoples-kincora-hiking-hostel-hampton-tn/

In our AT guide at Watauga Lake shelter it says Bear Closure Notice, I had read that before Sarra mentioned it. Here’s an excerpt ‘This includes approximately 4 miles of the AT. Bears are active in this area. Individuals are only permitted to hike through this area. Please continue hiking through this area without stopping. No preparation or consumption of food or overnight stays allowed’ I asked Sarra if that kind of freaked her out – the ‘hike without stopping’ part. I read it as -run like hell for 4 miles to avoid being mauled- LoL. She explained that it’s not so much the AT thru-hikers as the daily visitors to the lake area that picnic then leave food and trash which attracts the bears. But don’t worry, neither she or any of her friends have yet to see a bear!

So, later in the day she calls me back. She said she’s hung out with other hikers all day, took a nap and was leaving to do her 2 mile hike to the next shelter.  She felt better (naps and hugs will cure a lot of things!).  I also read her the letter from VA.  It was an uplifting, encouraging note with $10 included so Sarra could buy herself a ‘treat’ at her next resupply.  It also had this cartoon on the letter:

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Just so many positive happenings the past few months. Which brings me to the point of this blog. Sarra has said several times that every day is hard. Every day she hurts. The weather can be extreme or it could be a beautiful sunny day and you still have frustrating times. BUT, you meet the most wonderful, nicest people and the climbs are rough but the views are amazing. Then you roll into camp, muddy and tired, cook some dinner and fellowship with the other hikers and you can’t wait to get out the next day and do it again, frustrations and all. Welcome to the 550 miles of AT in Virgina, Mouse.  Where every day IS a blessing, even when you’re cursing the mountains and the weather. Happy trails . . .

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Quick Sarra Update

I don’t have too much to tell and Lydia would rather I not be sittting in front of the computer at the moment, haha. But, I know you all are curious on how things are going.  Sarra is meeting my parents Thursday and she’s sending her journal pages home with them.  Until then, here’s a little info from the past few days:

Last week she got off the trail in Hot Springs NC, a small, friendly little town, and her group rented a cabin for the night. The following day took a zero (no miles) and hitched a ride into Asheville NC along with Fiddlehead and Pig Pin.

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I was reading Pig Pen’s fb page about the guy that picked them having sleep apnea then text Sarra asking if she got a ride. She replied she did and had a funny story – apparently he did have a sleeping disorder among other things!  They all enjoyed the town for the day.  Sarra said she didn’t realize she had been there before until they went to a Vegan restaurant that she knew she had ate at.

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The next day they were trying to figure out how to get back to Hot Springs.  I’m sure Pig Pen’s hat helped get a ride!!

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At this point, the group that all met that first day they all hit the trail have been hiking together for about 3 weeks.  I think they’re spreading their wings solo again.  Some want to move forward, some need to get off the trail, some want to slow down.  What a great group to start with though.  I know Sarra has had such a positive first few weeks because of all of them.  They will hopefully pass each other along the way to Maine and hike together again at some point.  I want to personally thank each of them for helping take care of my Mouse and it was a pleasure to meet each of you and I hope to keep in touch.  Thank you also for sharing your beautiful pictures and allowing me to share them with Mouse’s family.

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Back to hiking after Hot Springs.  On Monday they had some bad weather.  Sarra said the wind was whipping and rain was coming at them sideways.  She was hiking with Arrow, Remy, and Snus at this time and had planned to do her first 20+ mile day. But, after they had gone 15 miles in the downpour they decided to cut it short.  They called Miss Janet who lives in Erwin, takes hikers into her home and also shuttles them back and forth in her 10 passenger van.

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They got off the trail at mile 331, went forward into Erwin which was at mile 342 and got a motel room for the night.  In the morning Miss Janet took them back to mile 331 in order to make sure they didn’t miss an inch of the trail and they slackpacked (left their backpacks and just carried necessities) the 11 miles.  That evening they spent the night at Miss Janet’s with about 10 other hikers.

She says the past few slow days have rejuvenated her.  She’s enjoying meeting so many new hikers and looking forward to meeting my parents Thursday.  It’s hard to believe she’s been on the trail for about a month now and later this week will hit 400 miles!  That about catches us up to today.  She was planning on hiking about 16 miles.  I promise as soon as I get more information I will pass it along.  It’s awesome to have so many people following her on this adventure.

Sarra’s Journal Part 2

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4/3/15 cold Spring Shelter 125.6 miles – Today was beautiful. We got shuttled out of Franklin and started hiking at 9:30. There were some hard climbs today, but nothing we haven’t conquered before. To be honest it was a pretty laid back day. We hiked 15.8 miles and all had sore feet by the end of it. We found an amazing camping spot on the mountain. After dinner we sat around and talked. Lost & Found is here and today I met Vulture. She was on Springer the same day I left. Great dear day, storms tonight. I had some great deep talk with Pig Pen tonight too.

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4/4/15 ‘NOC’ (Nontahala Outdoor Center) 137.3 miles – It stormed last night, but my morning it had stopped. We had a short hike to the NOC but it was all downhill so it was a rough hike. The NOC was beautiful. This weekend was the hiker fest so they had gear tents set up. I finally bought my first alcoholic drink!! They were having a free spaghetti dinner at 4:30 so we set up our tens in a perfect spot by the river and sat in the sun. After dinner we drank, hung out and eventually had a fire. There were lots of hikers at the NOC so we sat around the fire, a couple guys played music and Hiaku sung. It was a beautiful day.

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4/5/15 Locus Cove Gap 147.6 miles – Last night got below freezing so there was frost on my tent. When I woke up no rain though, so I was happy. We packed up and went to breakfast at the NOC restaurant. It was glorious. Coffee, breakfast, burritos and home fries. At 10:30 we were full and ready to go. The climb out of the NOC was rough! Six miles of going up. It felt like it would never end. My main thought all day was “Holy Shit were going up there?!” We stopped at the first shelter to have lunch and take a break. It was only .7 miles to the top of the bald and the climb was worth it. We had gorgeous, clear views of the mountains. We stayed up there for an hour. I even got to take a nap. We hiked a couple miles back down into the gap and set up camp. Very calm night, perfect Easter Sunday. Smoky Mountains tomorrow! “Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better”

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4/6/15 Fontana Hilton 165.9 miles – North Carolina is a bitch. Georgia seems so easy compared to this terrain. The climbs are tough. There aren’t as many switch backs so the trail goes up at a 60 degree angle. We got an early start today because we had 18 miles to do. I left camp at 6:40. The first couple hours I was so tired. After about five miles I finally perked up. We had some trail magic today, sodas at the bottom of a gap. I’m not so picky out here when it comes to food so I chugged a Mt. Dew for some extra energy. The miles went pretty fast. Since we started so early we got to the shelter at 3:00. The Fontana Hilton is amazing. It overlooks the lake. It’s pretty full tonight but I’m not feeling very social tonight. It’s been a tough day. There is a shower here though so that’s a huge bonus. Can’t wait to enter the Smokys tomorrow.

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4/7/15 Russell Field Shelter 199.8 miles – Hit the Smokys today. It rained off and on. Very sleepy day. My feet hurt. “Live is not easy but life is beautiful”

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4/8/15 Double Spring Gap Shelter 196.5 miles – Today had its ups and downs (pun intended). It started out slow, it was a little foggy but the weather was still nice. The terrain was crazy, it was either insane up hills or knee crushing declines. By the end of the day I was dragging myself into camp. I realized today that it doesn’t matter if the hike is easy or the weather is perfect. You can have a bad attitude at any time, but I never once think of quitting. I only focus on getting to camp and when I get there everything is great again.

4/9/15 Gatlinburg 199.6 – What a day! This morning I woke up in the woods and now here I am on a bed in the middle of this circus of a city. I was so excited to see my parents. We got our clothes washed and stomachs filled, resupplied our food and are all in high spirits again. I’ll be sad to leave my parents but it’s time for me to return to the woods.

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Sarra’s Journal

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3/30/15 Top of Georgia Hostel 69.6 miles – This morning was crazy.  I finally slept well last night, didn’t wake up until 3:00.  around 6 a HUGE thunderstorm came in.  Pig Pen, Fiddlehead and I ran to the shelter to wait it out.  Around 7:00 the rain had stopped so we packed up and took off.  We only went 11 miles but it was a tough day.  After hiking 15 miles yesterday we were all pretty exhausted.  We had a mile long steep climb and a 2 mile decent into Hiawassee GA.  My feet felt like I was walking on broken toes all day.  I finally got new boots, so hopefully they’ll work out better.  The Top of Georgia hostel is amazing.  The staff here are so nice.  The first thing they did when we got here was offer us drinks.  Me, Boots, Fiddlehead, Pig Pen and Hiaku all have a room together.  I finally got my foot long sub!!  I ate it in less than five minutes.  The hostel was doing my laundry so I walked around town in over sized scrubs.  But, I’ve gotten used to looking a mess, ha.  We’ve all had showers and get to sleep in warm beds, so it’s a good day.  We have a 18 mile day tomorrow, so we’ll see how that goes.  Life is still good here on the trail.  “When life knocks you down, roll over and look up at the stars”

3/31/15 Standing Indian Shelter 86.3 miles – Out of Georgia and into North Carolina!  One state down, 13 to go.  Today was trying.  We were all refreshed and loaded down with food after the hostel stay.  We took off at 9:00 and hiked for a couple hours before stopping.  The first couple climbs of the day were tough.  I think I’m still recovering from our 15 mile day and the decent into Hiawassee.  It was a long day.  We hiked for 8 hours and covered over 16 miles.  My new shoes are better, but my feet are still recovering from the old boots.  When we got into camp I had my first doubts about this trip.  The day had been hard and even though it was 70 and sunny, I still had the voice in the back of my head asking what have I gotten myself into.  After eating, me, Boots, Dirty Bird, Rob, Fiddlehead, Pig Pen and Hiaku sat around and laughed for hours which raised my spirits.  I’ve realized there are always going to be doubts and sometimes it’s okay for them to get to me.  I just have to remember why I’m out here and how strong I am.  A thunderstorm is rolling in now, so I’m hoping my tent stays dry.  Tomorrow should be another beautiful day.  BElieve THEre is GOOD

4/1/15 Long Branch Shelter 102.5 miles – Today started so early for us.  Me, Fiddlehead, Dirty Bird, Hiaku, Pig Pen and Boots got up at 6:00 am and hiked to the summit of Standing Indian Shelter to watch the sunrise and eat breakfast.  We had beautiful weather again today, sunny and 70’s.  We hiked for a couple hours and ten stopped for lunch and sat around for another hour.  My feet took a turn for the worse today.  My new shoes seem to be worse than my old ones.  I now have EIGHT blisters and very tender feet.  The hiking today was easy until the last 3 miles.  We had a vertical climb to a fire tower.  The view was incredible!  North Carolina already looks different from Georgia.  We got into camp at 3:30.  After 16 miles of hiking.  We were all pretty beat.  I had double dinner tonight, the hiking appetite has finally kicked in.  I can’t eat enough!  Tomorrow we’re going to take a short 7 mile hike day and stay in Franklin.  I’m getting new boots again.  100 MILES DONE!!

4/2/15 Franklin NC Budget Inn – Finally got another pair of new shoes!  We started the day at 6:30.  Started hiking at 7:00 and made it to the road at 10:00 just in time to catch the shuttle to Franklin.  Sadly Boots had a mail drop at a different hostel so we had to leave him behind.  The first thing we did when we got into Franklin was find food.  We ended up at a place called The Grill.  After a salad, waffle fries and sweet potato fries I was stuffed and happy.  After lunch we resupplied at Ingles and headed to the 76 Outfitter.  FINALLY someone got me into the right pair of shoes.  Everyone was right when they said they had the best shoe fitters.  An hour later I walked out with some trail runners and a new water filter.  I headed back to the hotel to shower and grab some stuff to ship back home.  There was a cool coffee shop here so I splurged on a soy Latte.  I’m definitely starting to think about money.  You really do have to spend a lot out here.  I ended up “losing” my wallet.  I searched for an hour and after melting down realized that I left it back at the outfitter. We all got subs from Subway and spent the night drinking and playing kings.

Our first meet-up

First and foremost, Sarra is doing awesome, she’s with great people and they all are loving this journey.

We headed to the Smokys to meet up with Sarra and her gang Wednesday evening after work.  What was suppose to be a 7 hour drive turned into over 9 with a thunderstorm (but an awesome light show) and the ever present interstate road repair.  I hadn’t realized how much I missed Sarra until we started getting closer!!  We rolled in after 1:00 am and the office was closed but our key was in an envelope taped to the front door of the hotel, weird right??  Thursday morning Sarra was hiking to Clingmans dome starting at 7:00 am so I started my drive at the same time.  It was a beautiful morning driving through the park as the sun was coming up.  About a mile away from the highest point on the AT (6,643 elevation) the fog was thick.  I started walking up the half mile walkway to where the trail comes out hoping to catch her walking out of the woods.  She was already walking down out of the fog and we met in the middle and of course did our jumping dance of joy!!AT 2015 7

I got to meet her hiking posse and as I gave everyone a hug, I was greeted with ‘hello Mama Mouse’, my new trail name!  Luckily I had rented a Van because it was like a game of Tetris getting in 9 hikers and their 30 pound packs!!  But we did it and started down the mountain for a day in Gatlinburg.

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We had rented 2 rooms at a favorite hiker hotel at the end of town, closest to the park. But, they were all starving so the first order of business was PANCAKES!!  After bellies full we drove to the hotel.  In my mind the place was a little questionable, but they thought it was the Taj Mahal so it was all good.  I forgot these guys sleep in the woods and haven’t showered in days LoL. They were all incredibly thankful.

The agenda for the day was laundry, resupply food, outfitters store for odds and ends, a run to the post office and library.  Brian and I gathered all the laundry and took care of that for them while they did other things.  Gotta say, it was some dirty and smelly clothes, Ha.

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Next stop was a grocery run.  Again, the drive through town brought out comments about how crazy it all was and why would they turn this beautiful park area into such a circus town.  I gotta say, I have always wondered the same thing??  They couldn’t believe Cooters go-carts, the Salt/Pepper shaker museum  or the huge Aquarium in the middle of town.  You could tell right then that these guys were going to be ready to get back to the woods quickly.  Everyone resupplied food for the next few days and of course items to snack on and ‘drink’ for the evening.  They all came out with bags saying they’d bought too much and this was going to be so heavy when they got it all packed up.  I guess it’s always bad to grocery shop when your hungry whether your hiking or just doing your weekly shopping!

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Friday morning Brian pulled out the electric skillet and we fixed them all eggs, vegan bacon and I had pre-made 3 dozen pancakes to reheat! They made the days hiking plans, repacked all their clothes, food and resupply items and again we played Tetris with the van.  But, this time we had Brian with us plus all of our luggage.  We did it, although I imagine when we opened the doors and everyone piled out we looked like a tiny circus car when all the clowns step out!!

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Luckily, I got to hike with everyone for about 8 miles from Clingmans Dome to Newfound Gap.  It was a little rainy but a good hike.  Lots of mud and rocks but also very scenic. Reminded me of why I love the Smokys so much.

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As we came out of the trail to the parking area we had some trail magic with trail angels handing out lunch from the back of their truck.  I think most of the hikers were all ready to go back into the woods.  It seems like the longer they are on the trail, the odder they feel when in town.  Like Grandpa Mouse told us “You know you can only keep her for about 24 hours then you got to release her to migrate on to Maine”.  We grabbed a bite, said good-by and good luck and what a pleasure it was to meet all Sarra’s trail family.

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Two big milestones as of now.  They have under 2,000 miles (1978.9 miles to go as of Friday night) and they have reached their highest elevation (6,643 ft) and I think they all felt every feet of that climb.  What a great group out on the trail being awesome!!
We told Sarra we would see her in 4 weeks and watched her walk back into the woods . . . and then picked up a few more hikers just getting off the trail and drove them into Gatlinburg on our way out of town!

2 weeks in

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So it’s officially been over two weeks on the trail and everything has been going too well. We’ve had warm weather, not too much rain, and amazing views. It really has been a dream. Before I came out here I got a lot of advice, some has been true and some have been way off. I’m not wet all the time. I had so many people tell me that I would either be sweaty or covered in rain all of the time. So far my stuff and I have stayed mostly dry. I also have had no need for a gun out here. Everyone I’ve met has been so kind and welcoming, no creeps yet. We also haven’t seen very much wildlife. A couple mice and some deer but that’s about it. One thing people were right about was the connections I would be making. I’ve met so many amazing people, and my trail family out here is amazing. I’m going to cut this blog short because it’s breakfast time and I’m starving! I want to thank everyone who has been following me and supporting me, Everyday while I’m hiking I think of the amazing people that I have back home thinking of me. I love you all, keep me in your thoughts

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-Mouse