Family, Emotions and 1,000 miles . .

This is going to be an update trail blog on Mouse from mom’s perspective. When my son Kyle moved to Indianapolis at 18, I bought him a sign that read “Home is where your story begins”. When Sarra moved to Cincinnati I gave her a pillow that was embroidered “Home is where you mom is”. Thursday she hiked a section of the AT that is nicknamed the roller coaster, due to its small, continuous ups and downs. Not mountains, just rolling hills. It was quite appropriate due to a week of roller coaster emotions for all of us.

It started Saturday when Brian and I took Lydia (our grand-daughter) to the Indianapolis 500 parade. I got a call from Sarra and she was on the hiking struggle bus. She was tired, emotional and didn’t want to hike. It’s not the first call I’ve gotten like this, but somehow I knew it was different. This wasn’t an ‘I want to quit’ call, I doubt I’ll ever receive that call from her. And it wasn’t the usual, I need a pep talk call which I’ve received a few times. It was somewhere in the middle. I had a hard time hearing her due to the parade, but my advice was to find a nice shady spot, sit down and have a good hard cry, get out your IPod for some music and think about what you want to do when we meet you in Harpers Ferry West Virginia next weekend. I don’t know if it helped or was what she needed, but she did all I had suggested. The next day she got off the trail for the night and stayed with friends of Vulture, whom she’s still hiking with. A bed, shower and home cooked food will do wonders.

Tuesday, we received a call that Brian’s father Bill, who was diagnosed with stage 4 Lung cancer over 2 years ago and has not been doing well, was now bedridden and gravely ill. Of course we knew we had to cancel our weekend to see Sarra so Brian could be with his father. When I called Sarra, she totally understood and agreed, but again the tears flowed from both of us. I’ve been surprised at how well she and I have been able to stay in touch and I don’t miss her anything like I thought I would. I imagined lying in bed not being able to sleep thinking of her being cold, wet and hungry. Although I think of her all the time and trail duties from home keep me busy, I don’t miss her. It’s like she’s just on a vacation. Except . . . this week I miss her terribly and she was missing me.  So, I was torn, do I stay home for Brian or do I go to Harpers Ferry for Sarra. Before Sarra left on her adventure we talked about everything that needed said, things that we didn’t want to think about, but had to be discussed. We have a plan for every situation. I told her if she ever needed me to meet her on the trail for any reason I would drop whatever and drive to wherever. Sarra also knew it was a possibility that her Grandpa Walker would probably not live to see her finish her hike. But one thing we didn’t plan for was 2 situations happening at the same time. Her needing a day off with her mom and the passing of her grandfather.

I had decided that I needed to be here for Brian, so Thursday morning when I pulled into work and my phone rang I said ‘we both know that I need to stay’. As I sat in the parking lot and listened to how emotional she had been and about her sobbing uncontrollably the night before, it tugged at my heartstrings. I hung up and sat in my car and cried. All day I couldn’t shake the war in my head about staying or going. After work I went to visit Brian’s father and talk to Brian, who had already been discussing the matter with his family and they all agreed I should go to Sarra. So I text Sarra that I was coming out. Remember those rolling hills she was walking? Ups and downs? She got my text and called back saying, what? Then told me she was a day ahead of schedule and could I leave the following morning to get to her in time for her day off. What?? There was no way.  Lots of roller coaster ups and downs this week.

Let me tie this up. I’m not going. Brian and I will meet her in 3 weeks where ever she may be. Sarra and I had a really nice long talk and she’s feeling better, which in turn makes me feel better. She called her dad and he passed the phone over to her Grandfather, which I know made him happy. We talked about her trail family. Sarra said her group is aware of what all is going on with her emotions and back home, they’re taking good care of her. She explained what awesome support she has out there. Which brings me back to ‘home’. Sarra’s home will always be with us no matter where we are or where she is. But right now, the Appalachian Trail is her home and whomever she is hiking with is her family. I can’t express enough how wonderful the people are on and off that trail. It is such a community, one that she’ll be a part of forever. Needless to say it’s been one roller coaster of a week for all of us. Keep burning up the trail Mouse and congratulations on hitting mile 1,000!! You’re doing great and learning several life lessons along the way. We are all incredibly proud of you.

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Churning out the miles with a stop for a famous AT photo!

 

Mouse has officially (as you can see in the ‘official’ document below) changed her trail name to Mighty Mouse!

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And boy does that fit.  Last week she logged over 127 miles and the week before that she put in 129!  She is a mighty hiker, that’s for sure.  She also continues to remind me that whoever said Virginia is flat doesn’t know what they’re talking about.The climbs are constant ups and downs.

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Thursday was her biggest day yet – she put in around 29 miles.  By Friday the 22nd she should be in Waynesboro, VA.  When she left a message on my phone to send her next drop there I thought I must have heard her wrong, I knew she was around mile 786 and that would put her at mile 861 in just a few days.  I wasn’t sure if I could get the package together and have the allowed 2 days for it to reach its destination.  Now, I know snail mail moves slowly, but she’s hiking faster than the mail is trucked or flown, haha.    Seriously, my highlighter doesn’t move through the pages of the guide book to mark where she is fast enough.  When people ask me her location, I used to pull the number right off the top of my head. I now have to actually think about it and sometimes look it up because it changes so fast.  Virginia is the state with the most miles on the trail, 550 total.  It’s so long they sectioned it into Part 1) southwest, Part 2) central,  Part 3) Shenandoah’s and Part 4) Northern.  She’s moving into part 3 and will have Virginia behind her in about a week and a half.  So, Mighty Mouse it is!

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She is still hiking with Vulture and apparently they have been put in charge of Rimy.  The Mississippi boys had to split up.  Arrow and Snooze needed to speed up to meet parents in the Shenandoah Valley, so they left Rimy in the safe care of Mouse and Vulture.

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She continues to have shoe issues and now sock issues.  She had a pair of socks that were low cut, letting leaves in. The leaves would rub her heels causing blisters.  And, she has worn out 2 pairs of socks that have a lifetime guarantee!

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Although this time the shoes aren’t causing blisters, they’re just falling apart.  My guess is they heat up from trail friction of the rubber flying over the rock because she’s moving so fast.  I can picture little sparks or flames coming from her heels when she gets up to speed.  She has them duct taped and has put the sole back on with shoe glue.  I’ll be taking her another new pair when we meet the first week of June.  Hope they hold out until then.  I wish I could post the video that Rush took of Mouse and Vulture hiking when we met them in Pearisburg.  First of all, they were singing a stellar version of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen!!  Second, Mouse is in the lead and from behind all you can focus on is her ponytail swishing from side to side as she glides along the trail. I said, ‘do you always go that fast?’ In a matter of fact reply she says ‘well, yeah.’

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Besides the speed at which they are moving, the second big deal at this time is ‘THE picture’ on McAfee Knob.  It’s an AT hiker must, but a little background first.  According to Virginia.org, “McAfee knob is one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail as it winds its way through Virginia.  The Knob has an almost 270 degree panorama of the Catawba Valley and North Mountain to the West, Tinker Cliffs to the North and the Roanoke Valley to the East.  Due to its popularity you will not be alone on this hike, but the overhang of McAfee Knob and its views make up the lack of solitude”.

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When Sarra text me one day last week where she was I sent back in all caps, Ahhh, you get to take a picture at McAfee Knob.  Having done so much research on the trail before she went, we both knew this was a monumental must.  All hikers have that picture; it’s a rite of passage in a way (although you can get to the Knob by doing about a 4.4 mile day hike from VA311 so it’s not an AT exclusive).  For the most part she doesn’t take pictures from her phone; she’s taking them on her camera.  But, this had to be an exception, so I asked her to send me a picture that day.

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As soon as she sent it I put it on Facebook and immediately it had 59 likes and 22 comments, most of which stated ‘get off there’ ‘ your freaking me out’ ‘ that makes me nervous’ LoL.  It’s a pretty awesome picture and apparently a totally awesome view.

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Oh, and on the 1st of May she ran into about 2 inches of snow after a 2,000 ft climb up White Mountain.

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Then there’s the ponies!!  Graceland Highlands, we’ve mentioned it before, but the pictures are fun.

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So here are some stats so far:  She is in week 9, has hiked 861 trail miles, hiked in 4 states, is about 40% through the trail,  is averaging 18 mile days, has worn 4 different pairs of boots/shoes, spent the night in 9 hotels, 27 shelters, 6 hostels and in her tent 13 nights, received 5 mail drops and met up with family 3 times.  Way to go Mighty Mouse, you are living up to your trail name.  We are all very proud and in awe of you.  Happy Trails . . . .

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ps if you would like to drop Mouse a note or anything send it to our house (512 W. Jefferson St Alexandria IN 46001) and I will be glad to include it in her mail drops.  She loves to get encouragement from everyone and really appreciates all the support.

Sarra’s Journal

(CHECK BACK, PICTURES TO BE ADDED)

4/29 Damascus, VA 468.8 miles

4/30 Lost Mountain Shelter 484.9 miles

5/1 Wise Shelter 502.5 miles – okay, so I’m very bad at journaling oops! Let me catch you up on the past 3 days. Wednesday I did 10 miles into Damascus in less than 3 hours, to say I was excited to get to town is an understatement. Got into town and went straight to the Woodchuck Hostel to take a shower. The hostel was awesome! No bunkroom, we got actual beds which is a big deal out here. After I cleaned myself up, I went with Bumby and Smokebreak to Hey Joes and got a giant vegan burrito. I was in Spanish heaven. That is the first burrito I’ve had since I left Alexandria. I got all of my chores done and spent the rest of the day doing nothing, it was bliss. The next day I dragged my butt out of town after a great free breakfast made by Wood Chuck himself. After 3 hours of hiking, a thunderstorm rolled in. I still had 6 miles to go so I started running down the hills. When I finally made it to the shelter I was wet and cold so I changed clothes and jumped right in my sleeping bag. Seth, Smokescreen, Jon Solo and Yukon all stayed in the shelter. I taught them some card games and by 8 we were all ready to go to sleep. It rained all night and was still raining when I woke up this morning. Eventually it let up enough for me to pack up and take off. I hiked with Seth for a while which was a nice change from hiking by myself all week. We had a 2,000 ft climb and as we got higher I started to notice snow on the ground. Yes SNOW! On the first day of May. By the time I reached the top of White Top Mountain there was 2 inches covering the ground. Later in the day I made it to the Grayson Highlands and finally the fog and clouds lifted just in time to see the ponies! It was amazing, they’re tame enough to pet. It was worth the snowy morning. I’m now laying in the shelter with Smokescreen, Dirty Bird and Yukon. Today was a good day. We’re still in the Highlands so hopefully I can enjoy breakfast surrounded by the ponies.

 

5/2 Fox Creek VA 603 510.2 miles – Today was a perfect example of ignoring my own plans and doing whatever I felt like. I’ve learned that a sunny Saturday is the perfect time for some trail magic. So, when we were a mile from a road crossing some southbound section hikers informed us that we were in for some amazing trail magic. Needless to say we all ran that last mile. This was by far the best trail magic we have yet received. For the past 5 years a man named Grey Jay has set up camp in the woods for 2 weeks to do trail magic. He had loads of fruit, snacks, sodas and grilled cheese. Me, Dirty Bird, Yukon and Ninja Face all showed up around 11:00. By noon we had all decided to just camp there for the night, even though we had only done 8 miles that day. The magic and hospitality we received were too hard to leave. We sat around all day and ate until we were too stuffed to move. At the end of the night we had a total of 12 hikers that got sucked in and decided to stay. Six strings played guitar and we all sat around the fire and talked. It was a much needed laid back day.

5/3 Partnership Shelter 531.5 miles – I did not think I was going to make it today. I’ve been battling a head cold for the past couple days so when I woke up it was hard to breath. I started hiking and felt awful. I put on some music and made myself hike past the first shelter so I wouldn’t call it quits for the day. Then 3 hours went by and Yukon and I stopped at a gap to eat. Not even 10 minutes later Rush showed up in a car! He had taken a day off with his girlfriend. I love how things just work out. Rush and I ended up hiking all day together, we both needed the support. By 6:00 we had made it to the shelter, my second 20 mile day. The shelter had a shower so I immediately jumped in. About an hour later Vulture and the Mississippi boys showed up. It was a nice little reunion.

5/4 Chatfield Shelter 538.2 miles – Surprise, surprise, another short day. Today I did have a real reason to not go very far. MORE BLISTERS :< I am not a happy camper. The day started out nice. Woke up at 6:30 and by 7:00 Rush, Dirty Bird and I had a hitch into Marion. We resupplied and hit up the Sonic where I had a large order of fries and a large order of tater tots for breakfast. My pre-trail self would be ashamed. After that Dirty Bird and I walked to the coffee shop where I had a mail drop to pick up and hung out there until 11:00 then caught a shuttle back to the trail. I had bought new socks in Damascus and I FREAKING HAT THEM!!! They get leaves stuck in them and yesterday all the leaves gave me horrible blisters. I’m back up to seven blisters. Within the first mile I knew I wasn’t going to make it past the first shelter. Walking was grueling.   If I could burn these socks I would, but then I couldn’t get Darn Tough to send me a new pair. They will get a snarky email though. Other than all the pain it was a nice day. The air is finally warming up. It’s just me and Caleb in the shelter tonight. I might zero here tomorrow if my feet still hurt, but I’ll have to wait until the morning to decide that. PS You suck Darn Tough, good job at making terrible socks that bring pain to innocent hiker.

5/5 Knot Maul Branch Shelter 557.1 miles – . . . . This day. Is it really still Tuesday? Because I’m pretty sure it should at least be Friday. This has been a LOOONNGGG day. I’ve burnt my hand on my pot, couldn’t buy a new gas canister at the gas station, found myself with no TP, ran out of water for 3 miles and spit on my own face. And the hiking, oh lord the hiking was awful. I told myself I was going to get to this shelter or die trying and I just about died. Halfway through the day I had to sit down and take a nap. I didn’t’ even bother to take off my pack, I just slept upright on the side of the trail with it still on. Today was like when you lay out in the sun and then you need a nap because the heat makes you tired, except I had to just keep hiking. I swear today was 86 hours long. My feet hurt, my blisters hurt, EVERYTHING HURTS! But, I made it to the shelter and Ninja Face had extra fuel he gave me, and it was a beautiful day. And, I love Virginia. Some days I hate this trail with everything I have. But the worst day out here is still better than the best day back home. This trail gives me exactly what I need every day. And some days I need a good kick in the ass. Hopefully tomorrow is kind to me. Three more days and I get to see my mom and Paula. I’m counting down the hours to a hot shower.

5/6 Jenkins Shelter 577.1 miles – Today was better. Had awesome weather this morning. We’re finally getting warm mornings so getting out of the sleeping bag isn’t so bad anymore. The first 10 miles were great. I had energy, the sun was shining and the terrain was hard but good. I spent an hour at Chestnut Knob shelter for lunch. After lunch, hiking was a little rough. As soon as I took off I started getting sleepy. I forced myself to keep going for 2 hours and then stopped for a snack where I took a nap for the second day in a row. I prayed for some energy to make it to the shelter and not even a mile later I hit some trail magic. Prayers answered! I downed a sprite and some fruit and took back off. Luckily, Ninja Face caught up and hiked to the shelter with me. We’re both without normal groups so we’ve had some lonely hiking days. The past couple days have been hard. Nineteen miles yesterday and 20 today. I think it’s time to take it down a notch for a couple days. My body feels fine, but the hiking is starting to take a toll on my mind. The days feel long and the shelters never seem to come up fast enough. I’m due for a nero (near zero) and a BIG meal!!

5/7 stealth camping 595ish miles – Today was a GREAT day. It began with me hiking 5 miles in 1 ½ hours, which is absurd out here. I haven’t hiked that fast since back home at Mounds. When I got back down to the road I found Arrow and Snooze, finally people from my family! I hiked on ad 7 miles later found Arrow sitting at the end of the trail. I had been thinking all day about how I wanted to hitch into town for some food but couldn’t go alone. So when Arrow mentioned getting lunch I immediately threw my thumb out. In a couple minutes we had a ride to Subway. It just so happened that Vulture, Rush and Yukon were also at Subway, more family! So, we at and all got rides back to the trail head from a section hiker named Low Gear. I had planned to stop at the shelter but decided to hike on and stealth camp with Vulture and Rush and Yukon. I’m so happy to be with familiar faces again : )

5/8 Dismal Falls 610.4 miles – Finally a shorter day! Hiked with Vulture and Rush 14 miles to Dismal Falls. The falls were beautiful! We all set up camp and then went for a swim in the Falls. It felt good to wash off. Vulture, Rush, Ninja Face, Breakless, Yukon and myself all camped together. It was a great night. I’m sure Vulture and I ruined some tourist days by sun bathing on the rocks in our underwear, but we’ve accepted our hiker trash status, haha.

5/9 Pearisburg, VA 634.9 miles and 5/10 Pearisburg, VA 654.7 miles – Two days of slack-packing!! We met my mom and Auntie Paula Saturday morning and dropped our packs off with them. I took off to have breakfast with mom and Paula while Rush, Vulture and Breakless started their hike. Three hours later with a full belly and new shoes AND socks I took off to hike a 24 mile day. It was a long day, but felt so good to hike without a pack. We finished and headed back to the hotel. We found the Mississippi boys, Ghost and Tree Beard. The next day Rush, Vulture and I all slack packed another 20 miles. When we finished we rewarded ourselves with Mexican and Margaritas. Great weekend with my mom and Paula. I’m so grateful for all they’ve done for us this weekend. Love you both!!!

Meet up number two – Pearisburg, VA

Friday May 8th Sarra’s Auntie Paula and I headed out to meet up with Mouse and her hiking family in VA.  I can’t believe how fast a month flew by.  I was the cavalry coming in with new shoes, new socks, snacks and a list of resupply items that Mouse had requested.  A few days before, I had made a couple hotel reservations at the Big Walker Motel and Holiday Lodge (which I found to be a little questionable).  But, I am learning that hiker hotels are not pretty, but functional and fun!!

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We didn’t roll into the Big Walker Motel until 2:00 am Saturday morning.  The office personnel was waiting for us so they could give us the key (an actual key!!) and turn on the ‘no vacancy’ sign then call it a night.  We loved the room, it was like walking back to 1965 or an episode of Mad Men.

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We were back on the road 4 hours later heading to Dismal Falls along a dirt road.  We could hear the falls, see a few tents and hear campers so we figured we were at the correct place.  Right as we pulled up, here they came up a side trail.

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Rush, Vulture and Breakless left their large back packs to slack-pack for the day.  We grabbed up Sarra and took her to town for a big breakfast.  We were in a remote area so a restaurant was a little hard to find.  The first place that Grace from Outer space (the name for our GPS) took us was no longer in business.  So we went on to another town and got caught up over a big breakfast.  Then, we took Mouse back to Dismal falls so she could slackpack also.  She had a full tummy, new shoes and socks, left her 30 pound pack with us and was feeling like she could fly!!  We would pick them up after a 24 mile day, her highest day miles yet.

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We went on to check into the Motel, which left us thinking ‘oh boy, maybe we should find another place’ LoL.  After unloading the car, making a trip to the local Wal-Mart we set out to find a place on the AT that we could do a little ‘trail magic’.  After much searching, down several roads and folks looking at us like we must be lost (not lost, just uncertain) we finally found a nice shady area with a picnic table to set up with our cold drinks and snacks for the hikers coming by.

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It was great to see them coming off the trail, so appreciative of a cold drink and the snack pick of the day seemed to be a pudding cup!  Thanks for the suggestion Paula.  We had a great, relaxing, shady spot and it was fun to chat with several hikers that stopped to chat and then went on their way.  When Vulture and Rush showed up, Paula took them back to the hotel to get cleaned up, to Wendy’s for a few sandwiches then Dairy Queen for dessert!!  058

The trail actually spit out next to a families back yard!  The owner pulled up and hoped out of his massive truck holding a beer!  He had obviously had several before that so when he walked over to us and stood there swaying and telling us the same stories over and over what choice did we have but to name him “drunk guy”.  He was actually a nice man, just a little toasty that day.  A few hours later Mouse showed up and we all headed back to the Holiday Lodge.  It was a hike hotel so when we got there we found several hikers that Sarra knew were staying there for the night.  They all had a great time together laughing the rest of the evening.  Our ‘questionable’ Motel became a fun place as we left the door open to see who was walking by, meeting hikers and hearing them all having a fun evening meet-up

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Sunday morning Mouse, Vulture and Rush were going to slackpack again.  We took them back to where we picked them up and they headed off for a 20 mile day

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Then we drove out to the spot to pick Mouse, Vulture and Rush up.  It was a beautiful winding drive along a creek, such a beautiful day.  We got there early and just relaxed in and out of the car.  That night we all went across the street and met up with a couple more hikers for a Mexican meal with margaritas.  Oh, and guess who showed up with his family? Drunk guy LoL  So of course Paula and I went to his table to say hi and meet his wife.  I’m pretty sure he didn’t make eye contact with us once!

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Sunday evening/Monday morning everyone was getting their things together and repacking the backpacks.  Town days are really busy, there is usually no relaxing at all.  The list always includes laundry, post office visit, grocery store, Wal-mart run, contacting home, updating social media, lots of chores to complete quickly before back on the trail.

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The weekend was great but went too quick and as Grandpa Mouse says, ‘it was time to release Mouse back on the trail to Maine’. Monday morning we dropped them back on the trail and headed home.  It was a fun weekend.  Always excited to see Mouse and love meeting her trail family.  I can’t believe how far 070she’s gone, I am over the moon proud of her.  She just seems so in her element.  Not every day is perfect by any means, but she is lovin life right now.  It makes this Mama Mouse so happy to see her mouse doing what she loves so much.  What a great opportunity for all the hikers.  Happy Trails . . . see you at Harpers Ferry!!

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Sarra’s Journals

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4/10/15 Ice Water Spring Shelter 210.3 miles – Over 200 miles down! I am so thankful for my parents for driving all the way here to visit. My trail family and I really needed their trail magic. Today was a great day. It started with pancakes ‘bacon’ and eggs in the hotel room. Then we crammed 11 hikers and the full packs into a seven passenger van to get back up to Clingmans Dome. It was a rainy day but still good for hiking. Mom hiked the 8 miles between Clingmans and Newfound Gap with me and I must say she kept up so well. She is an honorary AT hiker now! I talked her ear off all the way to the gap where she got to see some trail magic first hand. We had lunch and then it was time to say good bye to the folks. Three more miles and I was at the shelter just in time for it to down pour. We hung out, ate way too much food and played a card game called ‘asshole’. It’s been a goofy night, lots of laughing until we cried. We’re all in the highest spirits after the town day. One more day and then we’ll be out of the Smokys and onto Hot Springs for a much needed zero day. Thanks again mom and dad for everything! You guys are the best trail angels!! “Smiles not Miles” –Ghost

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4/11/15 Tri-Corner Knob Shelter 229.9 miles – Today we woke up and it was so clear outside, not even a cloud. We took off and only a mile in had a BEAUTIFUL view at Charlies Bunion. I stayed there for a while, we all took pictures and stared at the view. Today was mostly ridge walking so we had good views all day. We made it to the shelter at 3:00 and all laid in the sun for a good hour. Nothing much to report today. Fiddle made some hot toddies and it’s currently 7:00 pm and we’re all in bed. Hikers life is perfect.

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4/12/15 Standing Bear Hostel – This morning I was in the most remote shelter in the Smokys and now I’m less than a mile from I-40. Boy how things change. We had another perfect day of hiking. Clear skies and got up to 80 degrees. We hiked a full 18.5 mile day and made it to Standing Bear Hostel at 4:00. This place is like a different world. The care takers name is Lumpy and he seems to be permanently high (I mean that in the best way, he’s a great guy). There’s a washboard for your laundry, a compost privy, a wooden shower house, outdoor kitchen and you resupply food by the honor system. It’s a hippy paradise. The bunk house was full so I’m currently camped out next to a stream. Since we had to stay in shelters all through the Smokys I haven’t tented for a week. I’ve missed it. It feels good to be out of the Smokys, it’s a major milestone for us. In a couple days I plan to take my first zero in Hot Springs after almost 3 weeks of continuous hiking.  I’m starting to really feel the wear on my body.  It’s time for a little break.

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4/13/15 Roaring Fork Shelter 256.4 miles – I woke up this morning to chirping birds, a crowing rooster and the flowing creek. As much as I wanted to lay there for another hour, I could hear everyone else putting away their sleeping bags so I figured I should join. After I put away my tent, I bought some oatmeal and soy yogurt from the resupply, packed up my bag and took off. I hiked with Rush for the first time today. We had 4.5 miles of uphill and talked all the way to the top. We had an amazing view of the Smokys from the bald. Today was a little rough for me. As soon as we made it up one mountain we started to go back down. I now understand the frustration of the PUD’s (pointless ups and downs). Never the less, I put in my earphones and chugged along to the top of Max Patch. Unfortunately when we made it to the top, it started to rain and the wind blew it sideways onto our faces. I hurried back into the woods for cover and hiked the final 2 miles to Roaring Fork Shelter. There was just enough room for me, Vulture, Rush and Boots. Fiddlehead, Pig Pen, Hiaku, Tato, Dirty Bird and Walkarussa went onto the next shelter. Tomorrow I’ll be in Hot Springs and finally take a zero.

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4/14/15 Hot Springs 274.4 miles – Woke up to rain but luckily after an hour of hiking it had stopped. Eighteen mile hike, but it went pretty fast. Boots and I ran down the trail into Hot Springs. We all got showered, did laundry and got to lay around. I got a drink with Ghost and Chip and then later in the night went out again with the rest of the group. We caught up again with Lost & Found, he might be my favorite person out here. I also got to spend some time with Ghost, Arrow, Snooze and Treebeard. Overall great town day, even jumped in the French Broad.

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4/15/15 Asheville NC 274.4 miles – Finally got to hitch hike. A hoppy in overalls named YaYa took Pigpen, Fiddlehead, Rush and I into Asheville. I feared for my life most of the ride, but we made it safely. We got a room at the Sheridan then took off to get food and resupply. Fiddle and I ended the day by eating Vegan cheese cake in bed and watching Catfish. Best night ever. Oh, and we got to use the sauna at the Y. Great zero day

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4/16/15 Spring Mountain Shelter 285.4 miles – Back in the woods. Pigpen and I hitched back into Hot Springs today. Our group has officially broken up for the time being. The hike was short today but hard, my pack is so heavy!! Too much food. I feel refreshed after the zero day but I’m happy to be back into my routine. I met Yeti, Still Phil and Amish tonight at the shelter. It’s strange being on my own again, but I’m enjoying it. I’ll catch up with everyone again in Erwin.

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4/17/15 Jerry Cabin Shelter 300.8 miles – 300 miles down! It’s amazing how many emotions I feel throughout the day. Today I went from content, to sleepy, to upbeat, to beat down, to hopeful and now I’m back to content. I hiked along most of the day. The final 3 miles I hiked with Yeti and Amish, who I met last night at the shelter. Tonight it’s me, Pig Pen, Arrow, Snooze and Rimmy at the shelter. Today I thought a lot about what I miss back home and also what I love about being out here. I know I’m going to be missing out on a lot this summer, but it’s so exciting being out here and realizing how different each day is and how many different people I can connect with while I hike. I miss my hiker family but I’m already meeting new amazing people.

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4/18/15 Hog Back Ridge Shelter 316 miles – Today felt like 3 days long. It seemed to drag on all the way to the shelter. We had a good time last night, played card games and drank some moonshine, but when I started hiking the morning I felt so sleepy and the feeling didn’t really go away. I was so relieved to finally make it to the shelter. I met Honey Britches, TK and Parks tonight. Rimmy, Snooze and Arrow stayed at the shelter too. We played card games and went to bed pretty early, we’ve all had long days.

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4/19/15 – Buckets, it rained buckets today. It started off slow, like a normal day of rain. I hiked with Arrow most of the day. We made it to Beauty Spot Bald just in time for a down pour. The wind blew the rain sideways at us and stung like needles. I laughed most of the time because of how ridiculous it was. We made it 10 miles before noon and stopped at a shelter for lunch. We were freezing and soaked. Oh, we did get trail magic 2.5 miles into the day so that helped. The 6 miles after the gap were tough. The hiking was easy but the trail was flooded so we had soaked feet. Arrow and I made it into the gap and got more trail magic from some people currently thru-hiking. They told us that Miss Janet had just left and was coming back and could give us a ride into Erwin. We tossed out our plan of hiking 10 more miles to the next gap and decided to split a hotel for the night (me Arrow, Remmy and Snooze). Now we’re clean, dry and well fed again.

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4/20/15 – Miss Janet is a saint. We walked to the laundry mat to wash our clothes and she picked us up from there and took us back to the gap to slack-pack to Uncle Johnnys. It was glorious walking 10 miles without a pack. I hiked with Remmy for the day and we took our sweet time. Even laid on the ground for a solid 30 minutes. I didn’t think I would ever slack-pack, but I’m SO GLAD I did. It was exactly what I needed. Miss Janet picked us up from the gap and took us back to her house for dinner and to stay the night. There are at least 20 hikers here. Oh, we had to say good-bye to Boots today L so that was sad. And, I just found out that Fiddle just left Hot Springs, so I probably won’t see her again until trail days. I’m still meeting new people every day so it isn’t as hard to lose other hikers. I know I’ll see them down the trail.

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10 lessons learned in 500 miles

 1) DON’T HAVE EXPECTATIONS FOR THE DAY:

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You can look at your guide – but don’t plan around it. If you imagine what the elevation is going to be and you think it’s flat/hilly, it’s usually totally different than what you planned. If you plan on getting to camp at 2:30 and you don’t make it, it’s sometimes frustrating. You have to go with the flow on the terrain and don’t plan an arrival time to camp or it will make you crazy. You’ll get there when the mountains say you’ll get there and not a moment before!

 2) EVERYDAY WILL BE HARD:

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It’s hard in different ways. Sometimes you’re tired, sometimes your body hurts and sometimes it’s hard mentally. You have to have a talk with yourself and persuade yourself to keep going.

3) THE WEATHER DOESN’T DETERMINE YOUR MOOD:

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You would think a beautiful sunny day would perk you up and a rainy day trudging through mud would bring you down. But, a lot of the time it’s just the opposite. It just depends on the hike, the day and the mood. Some of the best days have been quite wet, then a not a cloud in the sky day can still be a mental torture.

4) IT’S OK TO BE ON YOUR OWN:

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Before I left on this journey I wanted to find a group to hike with. I did find awesome trail friends the first night and we had a great 3 weeks together. I think it helped us all to start out together, encourage and learn with each other along the way. But for this section it’s time to hike alone. I’ve never done anything by myself or been on my own. It’s weird and I don’t love it all the time, but it’s what I need at the moment. But, it’s not all solitude. You meet and pass hikers all day long. You spend nights at the shelters together and might spend nights in town with several hikers. I hike alone with a 100 new friends!

 5) HIKING WILL TAKE AWAY FROM THE HIKE: 

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The actual hiking will hinder your trail experience. Sometimes you’re in pain and can’t appreciate where you are and what you’re seeing, you just want to get to camp.  You have to remember to be in the moment.

 6) THERE’S NO RIGHT WAY TO HIKE THE TRAIL:

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Before I came out here I was against ‘slack packing’ (hiking without your huge backpack). When I voiced my opinion about this, Miss Janet said we were dumb and didn’t have to hike every inch with our backpack. What’s important is that your feet hike every inch. The day we slack packed 10 miles was exactly what I needed for a mental boost. I was thinking ‘I forgot, I really like to hike’ and that day was so enjoyable. So don’t be rigid in your thinking or so hard on yourself making up ‘hiking rules’.

 7) PEOPLE ARE GOOD:

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I can’t say this enough. I came out here to be around good, polite, caring humans and have not been disappointed.

 8) A ROOF AND A HOT SHOWER CAN TURN YOUR DAY AROUND:

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This kind of speaks for itself. Two things I used to take for granted are now a luxury and a huge mental boost

 9) YOUR FEET WILL ALWAYS HURT:

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Period. Your feet will ALWAYS hurt! Even though I feel like I’m a strong hiker, at the end of every day my body feels fine but my feet always hurt.  Did I mention your feet will always hurt?

 10) IT’S OK TO GET UPSET:

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You’re going to hate hiking, you’re going to make dumb decisions and you’re going to be mad at the mountains. And that’s ok.  Then you walk a little more and things have a way of working themselves out.  Almost a quarter of the way through, wonder what the next 1,689 miles will teach me?  Happy Trails . . .

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