You asked, Mouse answered . . . .

We traveled to Bear Mountain NY this past weekend to see Sarra.  Aside from being lost in the wrong park at midnight and the constant rain, it was great to spend some time with Mouse.  The bonus was what a beautiful area and park.

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We had a great weekend and she is doing well.  The hiking terrain has been hard and she’s had a few issues (rash, ticks, poison ivy, lost weight, annoying bugs), but hey, it’s all about the AT experience right?  She’s past the 1,400 mile mark, WOW. She should be out of New York this week and then into Connecticut.

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We asked if anyone had any questions and here’s her answers:

1)      Have your expectations of both the trail and people been met?  Hmm . . . . that’s hard, yes they have been met.  Especially meeting the people.  Before coming out here you don’t understand how you can meet someone and a few hours later be really close, but you do.  I was looking for people who were ‘like’ me and I’ve found people that are all different in many ways, but we’re all out here doing the same thing.  You can’t come out here and be normal; we’re all weird, ha.   For the trail . . . . I thought it would be hard and it is!  But, I still enjoy it all.

2)      Have you ever been scared while on the trail?  Yes.  When Vulture and I were camping by ourselves and in our tents.  We could hear a thunderstorm in the distance, but it wasn’t raining so it was really eerie.  Then, something started walking around our campsite, probably some animal.  That was the first time it had been just us camping so it was a little unsettling.

3)      How do you deal with the bad weather?  Hike in it, ha.  Seriously, you just keep walking.  There is only different weather; its all just weather and you just hike.

4)      How do you deal with the gnats?  They were awful in PA when it was hot.  Sometimes I can ignore them and sometimes I curse them.  Sometimes I hold my trekking poles in one hand and swat with the other.  Sometimes, I just stop and stand there clapping at them trying to kill them all.  I hate gnats.

5)      Have you learned anything about yourself that surprises you?   I have, but it’s hard to put into words.  I realize I don’t want to be a hippie living in the middle of nowhere.  I’ve learned I want to be more than I thought.  I actually want a real adult job and not just ‘make soap’.  I am capable of more than I thought.

6)      Have you been able to appreciate your surroundings or too focused on getting to the end?  Thinking about the end doesn’t diminish my appreciation.  But, sometimes the hiking does.  Sometimes it’s such a long day you’re only focused on looking down, hiking and getting to camp.  The newness of the trail has worn off; I’m out of the honeymoon stage.  But, the trail is different now, more challenging and the scenery will change the further north we get.  Soon we’ll get back to the awesome views, which are easier to appreciate rather than flat trail.

7)      What’s the weirdest thing you have seen or that has happened?  The caterpillars, they are everywhere.  There are colonies of them on trees.  You’ll be hiking and think it’s raining but it’s actually the caterpillars pooping from the trees, there’s so many of them.  It’s insane.  They hang from their little threads and you run into them.  Seriously, there are millions.  The other thing was, I woke up at midnight and half my bottom lip was swollen and I don’t know why.  It looked like I got punched in my sleep.  When I got up that morning it was still like that for a few hours.  Weird.

8)      What was your hardest day?  Two days around Bland VA, I had to take a short day because of blisters on my feet.   So, the people I was hiking with got ahead of me.  Then the next two days I didn’t see anyone I knew on the trail and I was in a weird section where I didn’t see a lot of hikers.  So, I felt lonely and the hiking was hard.  I was tired and trying to catch up.  Plus the rocks lately, the trail is just all rock and it’s really hard, especially when you have to stop to take off your backpack to maneuver through the trail.  Stopping/starting takes a lot of time.

9)     What has been your best day?  Last week, Vulture and I woke up at 4:00, were on the trail by 5:00, hiked 13 miles up this pile of rocks, got trail magic that morning, went into town and hung out at a diner for 3 hours eating a bunch, got back on the trail and did the last 11 miles with our friends.  It was just a normal yet simple, enjoyable, positive day

10)     Alex, yes I have seen some monkeys – there were two hikers behind me that were imitating monkeys.  They were fun.

11)     How will you adjust when you get home?  Although I will be glad to be home, it will suck.  It’s going to be hard, but I will stay as busy as I can.  I’ll go backpacking and hike as much as possible.  Cars and crowds freak me out so it will be a challenge to drive and I’ll want to stay away from crowds.

12)     What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get home? I’m going to sit with my dog Molly for about an hour because I miss her.  Then probably cook something because I miss cooking.  Then open my windows and sleep in my bed continuously for 2 days!

13)     What do you eat on an average day and how often do you eat?  It hasn’t been hard to eat Vegan, but it’s been frustrating because there are usually not many vegan options in restaurants or with trail magic. For breakfast I’m sick of oatmeal so I eat a lot of high protein Builder Bars and dried cereal.  I stopped having lunch and I just snack all day long on dried fruit, granola bars, peanut butter and tortilla, gummies, candy, veggie chips.  Dinner is usually something mom sent, beans and rice, pad Thai, ramen noodles.  When I’m in town I eat a lot of fruit, French Fries and Subway.  I like to try to stop every couple hours and eat.

14)     Do you whistle in the trail like you do at home?  Yes, I whistle and I sing a lot to pass the time and it’s fun.

15)     As you walk through different states are the trees and greenery different?  I don’t notice the trees being different but the terrain is definitely different.  The south was mountainous, the trail was soft dirt.  In Virginia there were still climbs but not as extreme.  In Pennsylvanian and New Jersey it was really, really rocky.  So far, New York has been kind of a combination of nice dirt paths and short technical climbs.  I imagine the last 3 or 4 states will have a totally different scenery and tress than where I started in the south.

16)  What so far has been your greatest moment? Getting out of PA. Because above PA feels like the north and a really big accomplishment.  It’s like were getting close to the light at the end of the tunnel.  Also because PA was a really hard state terrain wise.

17)  Was there anything you weren’t prepared for? The chaffing and how actually dirty you really are.  We discussed chaffing, but until you experience it you have no idea.  I’ve used different treatments 0ver the months, Gold Bond, baby powder, Vagisil, Monkey Butt Paste/Powder.  I’ve tried different shorts, different types of underwear!  You name it.  I’ll probably have scars.  And you smell so bad.  Its not BO, its worse and so offensive.  Its more like a salt and vinegar smell.  Even after you shower all your gear still has the smell.  For the most part we don’t notice it all the time because we all smell the same.  But I’m really sensitive to the smell of clean people when we get into a town, ha.

18) No Uncle Steven, I did not hike naked on the 21st (which is actually hike naked day).  Although, it was probably because I hiked through a state park that day.  A crowded state park!  If I had been in a random field I probably would have LoL.

We didn’t get to all of them, but we will.  Stay tuned for ‘Questions, part II’  By the way, thank you so very much for the well wishes, cards, money, encouragement, gift cards, good thoughts and prayers.  It still means a lot and really does help me push through some days. There are some really tough days out there, but I’m still enjoying it and having a good time.

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Random info, stories and musings . . .

So, where is Mouse and hows the trail?

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As of this morning she was around mile 1,273 in Pennsylvania and not close to many towns at the moment. Tonight she’s at Delaware Water Gap PA (if you’re looking for her whereabouts on a map). A few days ago I was looking at the map in my office, (I add a new page as she gets into each state) and thinking, ‘wow, I can’t believe she’s gone 1200 miles – it’s just so amazing’. Then, it hit me ‘oh my gosh, I can’t believe she has 1000 more miles to go’!! But as I was telling her that story she was quick to remind me that it’s under a thousand miles now, which is actually a pretty big deal when you’re hiking those miles. I think she’ll cross out of Pennsylvania at the end of today.  Her Grandpa and I like to play “where will Mouse end up today”  She says the terrain is very rocky – like sharp creek bed rock and somewhat strenuous to hike.  She sent the picture below and said “notice there is no dirt on the trail”.

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She found 2 ticks on her yesterday, yikes!  The weather is good, but warm. I also received a text saying “apparently Pennsylvania is having a heat wave!”  They all have some type of heat rash from the constant sweat and then you put lack of bathing on top of that! Doesn’t make for baby soft skin. In Boiling Springs, PA a few of them received new shoes, Mouse included. They gave her fits at first and after she had mailed her old ones home she requested them back. I sent them, but in the meantime the new ones were broken in and she ended up sending the old ones home again. She said her feet are swollen and I received this picture yesterday.  I told her she has ‘hobbit feet’ and to get those elevated!!

Speaking of shoes – we got some news that the Alexandria Historical Society Museum would like a pair of her hiking shoes to display when she gets home. How awesome is that! Just one of the perks of being from a small town community. Last week while out walking, I had someone stop me to ask how she was doing. I went to our local dairy bar, Dortees, and the waitress there wanted to know where she was and told me the picture of her sitting on McAfee Knob scared her to death. Also in the past few days our dentist office called and inquired on how to send her a care package. When I bring a package in the post office the mailmen are curious where it’s headed.  Then yesterday the cashier at Target went to school with Sarra and was asking about her. I have a hard time explaining to Sarra just how interested everyone is with her adventure. We have family in Tennessee and the company my cousin works for is following her and sends letters, treat money and fun cartoons. Her aunt and uncle send vegan treats, and her grandparents always send ‘Mouse Money’.  My co-workers come in to look at my wall map to see where she is and ask how she’s doing.  Her nieces, nephews and cousins have AT maps and log her along the trail.  This has really turned into an adventure for all of us – sorry you have to do all the work Mouse, but keep at it because we are all enjoying your undertaking back here!!

We are driving out next week, the 19th, to where ever she may be. I’ve been getting more phone calls from her than usual (which is just fine with me!). Although she got to spend a few hours with her grandparents last weekend, she says she misses doing family things with us. To be honest, we miss her doing family things with us too!! The next few states will go somewhat quick: New Jersey 72 miles, New York 88 miles and Connecticut 52 miles.  Massachusetts is 90 total miles, then comes the 3 last states which are extremely long, tough and yet incredibly beautiful at the same time – but  I’m getting ahead of myself, stay tuned.  Not a lot of information right now, just lots of hiking.  I think at this point Mouse and company are in the groove.  They have their hiking legs for sure and their mental state (which is so important for the second half) is in a good place at the moment.  So, I’m going to leave you with some AT pictures of the beautiful scenery, Happy Trails . . . .

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Alexandria Times-Tribune article, June 3 2015

Walker hits half way mark

By: JENNY CORBETT     download (5)

Alexandria native and 2012 AMHS graduate, Sarra Walker, began a 2,189 mile hike across 14 states along the Appalachian Trail, by herself on March 25.

While a freshman at IUPUI, Sarra took a hiking class and found she enjoyed it. Later transferring to Cincinnati State, she continued to explore hiking opportunities and learned of the Appalachian Trail experience while visiting an Outfitters Store in Cincinnati. After learning of the experience, Sarra, and her family, took time to research and talked to people who had attempted and completed the hike.

On Saturday, May 30, Sarra made it to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia the half way point of her journey. Sarra says that making it half way is a big deal. “Now I want to go all of the way,” she said. Although she said she hasn’t wanted to quit, yet, there have been days the journey has been hard.

Beginning in Georgia, Sarra now estimates she will complete the trail in Maine in August.

She has carried a 30 pound back pack carrying everything she needs to survive, including food, water filtration, and a tent. A vegan, Sarra has received dehydrated meal packets from home every two weeks or so. She says the meal drops have worked very well. She eats mostly oatmeal or a breakfast bar in the morning, a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. Sarra says her favorite meals have been the meals she and her mother prepared before her departure which include chili and rice and beans.

Hiking through 14 states, the trail has offered and will continue to offer various terrain, sometime well paved, sometimes swampy, and through the mountains. The trail, established in the late 1920’s becomes a social trail for hikers along the way. So far, Sarra says the weather has been awesome, although it has been a little warm; there has not been a lot of rain. She has enjoyed seeing the sights, including two bear cubs with their mother. So far, she says that entering Virginia has been one of the best things she has seen with the wide open pastures and animals grazing.

It is estimated that 3,000 people begin the hike each year with 400 to 500 actually completing. Only 25% of those who have completed the hike have been women. When Sarra began the journey she was number 733 on the trail. At the half way mark, there are 321 hikers on the trail ahead of her. She attributes that number to hikers she has passed, hikers who have quit, and some that have finished.

Sarra, although has not professionally trained, says she knows now, she is physically able to complete this journey. “The hardest part to keep going,” she said, “I know I can physically hike, it’s mentally challenging to get up and hike every day.”  She says the biggest lesson she has learned is to not have expectations for the day. She has learned to slow down and take in all of the views along the trail. “I’m still doing well,” she said, “and I am enjoying my time.”

The daughter of Terri and Brian Walker of Alexandria, Sarra admits she is a little homesick, however, she says the support of family and friends have been instrumental in her success.

To best describe her journey at the half way point, Sarra said, “It’s amazing.”