Thursday, June 30, 2005

June 30-July 1 in PA

June 30, 2005 | Day 95 | Miles: 14.4 | Total Miles: 1218.7
End: Eckville Shelter, Tent
Warm and super humid
Not a bad day of hiking today. It wasn't as bad as advertised--everyone said the rocks got worse after Port Clinton, but it didn't seem much different than the rest. We hiked the day with Fatigue today, and supposedly hit the PA high point--The Pinnacle. We'll have to look that one up, to see if that's the case...
Yesterday, Hairball and Snowbunny, plus Patch, caught up to us. Very cool to see everyone! Everyone did the 24 miles into Port Clinton in one day versus two like we did, so we're with the biggest group of thru-hikers we've seen in a while. Patch ended up taking a day off at the Microtel, but Hairball and Snowbunny are here tonight along with a few others. The shelter here is like a cabin in someone's backyard. Very odd. We decided to tent out, because of the bugs, but we did partake in the solar shower, flush toilet and fridge with cold drinks and ice cream sandwiches. Yum.

three h's
rock factor - 4
i still hate pennsylvania. not for any particular reason today, but it sucks. the shelter is nice...actually, the shelter is kind of gross, but the tent area is nice. there is a fridge here stocked with drinks and ice cream sandwiches. very tasty. that's because this shelter is on a road and next to a house which belongs to the caretaker. the caretaker idea is great, but the caretaker is a grouch. he's not happy we're here. if you don't like hikers, don't be a caretaker. same deal at the 501 shelter. actually, most of the people in pa have been grouchy...ah, yes, the worst state ever. only 65 miles or so until the delaware river...can't come soon enough.
today's song - rhythm of the night, el debarge (kill me. we went back to cabela's for the free shuttle back to the trail, and this little gem was playing when i went inside to use the facilities. kill me.)

July 1, 2005 | Day 96 | Miles: 17.4 | Total Miles: 1236.1
End: Bake Oven Knob Shelter, Tent
Warm, humid, mostly cloudy with mist and rain in the morning
How is it that despite the fact that it didn't rain last night, everything was wet this morning? Ugh. Talk about humid! It did rain a bit this morning but cleared out in the afternoon. Unfortunately the rain didn't take away the humidity. Oh well. We just keep on moving forward... The trail was a mix of pretty mellow old woods road walking and boulder fields. We did see lots of salamanders, one deer and one small snake. We're camped out near the 1940s shelter, and have experienced the joy of the PA's watersources--the top spring was dry so we had to go 0.4m downhill to the third spring for water. Not fun! It took us 43 minutes roundtrip... Hopefully we do get some rain soon to fill up the springs and streams in NJ/NY... Not much else to report. A short day into Palmerton tomorrow. Yeah :-)

mostly cloudy, light am rain, humid, evening clearing
rock factor - 7
i must quote a shelter register entry from another thruhiker: "i'm masa. bad rock lode. foot is very pain." i think that pretty much sums it up. masa, you see, is japanese, and speaks very little english. we only saw him for about 2 days as he is doing some big miles...very impressive. in a related story, pennsylvania continues to suck. hopefully, we get out of this state soon or my journals will be unfit for public consumption. needless to say, we grumble a lot. it wasn't as hot today because of no sun, so that was an improvement. only about 45 miles left of pennsyltucky...get me out of this state. unfortunately, we heard that the rocks continue for about 40 miles into jersey. ah, sweet at, how we love you so. we're still hiking with fact, we can't get rid of him. he started in waynesboro, va and is planning to go to the ny/ct border. great guy, and i keep trying to convince him to ome to maine with us. i've convinced his heart, but not his head. with our zero day in hamburg, some folks have caught up with us. most notably, hairball and snowbunny. it's great to see some familiar and friendly faces out on the trail with us. we also saw patch at the hotel, and after his zero is just a day behind...he's going to try to catch us within the week. that would be great. our unplanned zero day, by the way, was a great decision. we've felt fresher these last two days. granted, they haven't been big days, but things are feeling pretty ok...still plenty of aches and pains, though. i think you get those when you hike 1200 plus miles. currently, we're hiding in the tent from the's a sauna in here. so, hot. i hate pennsylvania.
today's song - allentown, billy joel (this section of trail is maintained by the allentown hiking club. shhh whooo haaa...i hate billy joel. i hate pennsylvania.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

June 28-29 in PA

June 28, 2005 | Day 93 | Miles: 9.6 | Total Miles: 1204.3
End: Microtel Hotel, Hamburg, PA
Hot, sunny and humid
Another hot, humid, rocky day in PA. We didn't get up too early today, as there were three late arrivals to the shelter last night. And one of them was a fellow Bowdoin grad. When she found out who we were, she said "I've been wanting to catch you!" There is a community behind us, of course, through people we've met and our shelter register entries, and she had found out we were living in NH and went to Bowdoin. Funny how small a world it is! There are four Bowdoinites out here on the trail this year. Pretty cool. It was fun to meet her and chat a bit.
In any event, this morning we wandered through the rocks, and down the steep trail into Port Clinton to pick up our packages at the PO and get some lunch. We have to say Thank You! Thank You! to our friends Gayle and James Lazarus. Gayle sent us some chocolates and July 4th "gear"--fancy earrings for me and a headband with stars and stripes pinwheels for Ryan. That should be a good photo :-) And James sent us all sorts of hiking goodies--jerkey, dried fruits, chocolate, trail mix. Yum! Perfect. Our food bags are full of great treats now :-) Thanks guys!
After we packed up our packs, and ate lunch, we headed about a mile down the trail to hitch into Hamburg to hit this hotel. As we came out of the trail onto the road, we met two section hikers who graciously offered to give us a ride. Good thing as the book's directions were wrong and we would have been wandering around aimlessly... But we made it and we're here in A/C, cleaned and in clean clothes, relaxing. Ahhhh.... Civilization :-) How nice.

three h's
rock factor - 6
really hot. rocky. ouch. we are tired. we were badly in need of a shower, laundry, and a real bed. plus, we decided to take a day off tomorrow. a little relaxation will do us good. we stopped in port clinton today to pick up our mail drop. we were amazed the post office was open, since it looked like the whole town was closed...and had closed about 30 years ago. not good times. (thanks to our friends who sent surprise packages.) we did stop at the one restaurant in town, but we couldn't stay at the hotel in town...because it was closed. interesting... oh yeah, three month wonder i'm tired. now, i must sleep...a lot.
today's song - running with the night, lionel richie (oh yeah...this little diddy was cranking while i devoured my veggie omelette, chicken parmesan sub and fries at the three c's restaurant.)

June 29, 2005 | Day 94 | Miles: 0 | Total Miles: 1204.3
End: Microtel Hotel, Hamburg, PA
Hot and humid with afternoon thunderstorm and rain
Ahhh, the zero day. A very happy day :-) After sleeping in, we dodged the traffic on the highway this morning to get breakfast at Dunkin Donuts, and then went up the hill to the Cabela's Superstore. It's basically a ginormous hunting/fishing/outdoor store. As we were walking in, we saw a guy walking out with a rifle. Yikes! And lots of trophy heads on the wall; a mountain display in the middle of the store with polar bears, dahl sheep, deer, bear, etc an aquarium with freshwater fish, plus all the gear and a restaurant. We spent about 3 hours wandering around. Quite a spectacle!
We are now relaxing in our hotel room, watching it rain and thunder outside, and very content with our decision to take today off! Back out onto the trail tomorrow...

cloudy, hazy, thunderstorms
rock factor - n/a
a great day off. we ate, we sat, we ate, we sat, we ate, we sat. perfect. we did tour the cabela's super store. wow. if you need to hunt or kill anything, go there. it has an aquarium and a mountain of stuffed "trophies." interesting. back at it tomorrow...supposed to be in the 90's again. ah, pennsylvania.
today's song - lowdown, boz scaggs (it was on while we were eating in wendy's...mmmmm frosty.)

Sunday, June 26, 2005

June 26-27 in PA

June 26, 2005 | Day 91 | Miles: 17.4 | Total Miles: 1179.8
End: 501 Shelter
Sunny, hot and humid
Today = not a very happy trail day.
Why, you ask? Well, first it was hot and humid, meaning dripping sweat and energy drain, even with more than 4 liters of water consumed. Then add in a ridge with the trail only about 6 inches wide, strewn with rocks, and lined with brambles and/or poison ivy and/or grasses. Lovely. Made for a very tired, grouchy Sparkplug. The heat and the overgrown trail just makes me sometimes wonder what the heck we're doing out here. Yuck. I'm feeling very uninspired and unexcited by the hiking in PA. Not the best.
However, the positive of the day is where we are currently staying. It's more like a hostel than a shelter. Doors and windows, with a solar shower out back (very refreshing!), a water spigot, and a port-a-potty with TP provided. Very nice. We even ordered pizza and had it delivered. Yum!
On the fauna list today, we saw three deer, three grouse, a pair of goldfinch, a small snake, 5 bunnies, and numerous chipmunks. A big day for the "wonderful" state of PA.

three h's, plus one more for double the humidity
rock factor - 6
poison ivy factor - 11
let's set the record straight: pennsylvania sucks. this state is miserable. first of all, the heat and humidity. granted, not pa's fault, but it was oppressive today. easily, the hottest day we've faced. second, the trail: it's boring, uninspiring, even ugly. not a whole lot to look at. usually, i enjoy the woods we walk through...not these, they just look dirty. oh yeah, we walked through a construction site today. then there are the rocks. it hasn't been consistently rocky yet, so we've had some breaks now and then. but, it's not just the times the trail is only boulders, even the level parts have small rocks sticking out of the ground waiting to snap an ankle. consequently, we spend all day string at the ground trying not to trip and die. finally, the poison ivy. the p.i. hit an all time high today...which is saying a lot if you've been to northern virginia. for about 4 miles, we walked a ridge that was covered with the stuff. most of the time, it closed in on the trail...sometimes the trail was a foot wide, but most of the time down to 4 or 6 inches wide. all poison ivy! needless to say, we are not pleased with the blue mountain eagle climbing club, the supposed maintainers of this section of trail. a lot of grouchiness on the trail today. nice stop tonight, though. then again, it's hard to beat a water spigot, "solar" shower and pizza delivery. less pain in the knees today, and my feet felt good, too. oh, i almost forgot, we have less than 1,000 miles to go to katahdin! now that's a major milestone. if we can just get through these 100 miles of pa. pa sucks.
today's song - homesick, finn brothers

June 27, 2005 | Day 92 | Miles: 15.1 | Total Miles: 1194.9
End: Eagles Nest Shelter
Warm and sunny, with a few sprinkles in the evening
Today was a bit of a better day in PA. The terrain was mostly flat, still lots of rocky sections but not as much poison ivy and a wider treadway. We've found the rocks really beat up your feet. Definitely tired feet tonight.
But overall, in much higher spirits than yesterday--always a good thing! We hiked most of the day with Fatigue, which was fun. Ryan told him all the bad jokes from his repertoire to make things more exciting... right... :-) Not much else to report. In to Port Clinton, PA tomorrow, a short day with a shower, bed and laundry at the end. Sounds good to me :-)

three h's
rock factor - 7
not a great day, but a better day. it wasn't as hot, and the p.i. factor was very low...only a few leaves in one short stretch. however, it's still uninspiring here in pa. and, pa still sucks. the rocks today were definitely the worst yet. they make your feet really sore, and my feet are indeed sore. ouch. knee pain minimal. speaking of that, i need to go stretch.

Friday, June 24, 2005

June 24-25 in PA

June 24, 2005 | Day 89 | Miles: 11.4 | Total Miles: 1144.9
End: Peters Mountain Shelter
Hot, humid, hazy and heavy
Well, the Weather Channel said we were starting off a string of 90 degree days today. Ugh. Hot and heavy. We finally left town about 10am after breakfast and a trip to the PO, and took our time during the hike. The first few miles took us on a scenic tour of the Duncannon streets, bridges and the highway. Then a climb up to the ridge where we wandered for the rest of the day. It was alternately rocky, flat and poison-ivy lined. Lovely. But the shelter we are at for the night is very nice. Double-decker and a big porch. Not much else to report. We did see a cute baby bunny along the trail today, but that was about it.

three h's
rock factor - 5
"duncannon, pennsylvania: you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villiany." what an amazing place. the bar scene at the doyle last night was exactly as expected...gritty. but, the 22oz. pabst blue ribbons were only 2 bucks, so no complaints. the doyle was an experience, and i doubt i'll ever stay a plave like that again...i think the shelter tonight is nicer. it was hot again today, and it is supposed to be even hotter tomorrow. i'm going to try and get up early to beat the heat and shock danielle...we'll see. so, jessie is tryig to get to maine. we had been reading all this stuff in the registers about helping jessie out and giving him a ride. we finally found out who jessie was...a cardboard cut out of this guy's head. it's bit creepy, actually. but, i carried jessie for a few miles on the back of my pack, he likes to ride on the outside, you know. there is an e-mail written on the back where you're supposed to send a picture of jessie on katahdin. i sure hope he makes it.
today's song - power of love, huey lewis and the news. (it was on in the post office this morning...not my fault.)

June 25, 2005 | Day 90 | Miles: 17.5 | Total Miles: 1162.4
End: Rausch Creek, unofficial campsite, Tent
Sunny and hot
Well, another hot, sunny day in PA. Luckily not as humid. We managed to get out of the shelter by 7:45am, and there was only one person left when we departed--a very motivated shelter! We wandered along the ridge, dodging the rocks. We reached a spring at 6m, which was our last water source for the day until here. Made for a bit of a thirsty afternoon, but luckily the terrain was pretty mellow so we weren't sweating buckets! Not much else. We're camped out by the stream with Fatigue, Masa--a Japanese man who speaks little English and is over here hiking the trail. Very nice, and we feel so badly we can't converse with him more! But we're all trying--, and CycleHiker, who we haven't seen in a while. A pretty spot for the night.

three h's
rock factor - 5
i did manage to get up early today. and, we even left camp early today. we pretty much had to because it was really hot. but, we managed it well, even though water was scarce, and we're feeling pretty good tonight. water is starting to become more scarce here in pa. and, really, we haven't had much rain. ok, for hiking...not so much for living. knee pain was back today, but not nearly as bad as the other day. i think with more stretching i can manage it and reduce the pain. it's i-t band and patella tendonitis...not a fun combo. the knee braces help, but stretching will help more. oh yeah, best friend. hottest day of the year and we built a to burn off the rest of my eyebrows.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

June 21-23 in PA

June 21, 2005 | Day 86 | Miles: 12.2 | Total Miles: 1107.9
End: The Stones', Boiling Springs, PA
Sunny and warm
How is it that we're relaxing and staying with people we hadn't met before 3pm today? Wonderful coincidence. While we were at Glen Group, we worked on a project for Ski NH, an organization representing NH ski areas. One of our contacts was Karl Stone. Great guy. When we told everyone we were hiking the AT, Karl said we had to call his parents in Boiling Springs, and stay with them. Sure, we said... But then we were almost there and we talked to Karl again and then took him up on his offer, and called his parents. Only managed to leave messages, but it worked out! We met up with them in town, they took us home, we showered, did laundry, chatted, had dinner and are staying the night. Wonderful people and so nice of them to do this for us. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Stone!
As for the trail, it was a relatively easy 12m day into town, with the last 2m consisting of wandering around the boundaries of corn and wheat fields. Whatever it takes to get the trail through... But boy was it warm out there in the sun! Pretty though. More of the same in store tomorrow, so lots of sunscreen for us :-)

sunny, hot
rock factor - 6
hospitality at its finest. that's really all i have to say about today, besides a huge thank you to the stones, ray and gay, for feeding us and putting us up for the night. the stones are parents of our friend, karl, whom we know through work, and they just happen to live in boiling springs...more importantly, they just happen to be home today to be a fantastic stop on our journey. thanks doesn't really say enough. we walked through a bunch of cornfields today, and we're expecting more of the same for tomorrow. time for some extra sunscreen. speaking of sunscreen, today, being the summer solstice, is traditionally hike naked day on the at. i did participate in this tradition. i refuse to say for how long, but i did hike naked...let's just say i don't have any new tanlines.

June 22, 2005 | Day 87 | Miles: 21.6 | Total Miles: 1129.5
End: Cove Mountain Shelter
Sunny in the morning; afternoon thunderstorm with a huge downpour of rain, then clearing
Off to an early start this morning after bagels and fruit at the Stones. Yum. A big thank you again to them. Such wonderful hospitality!
The first 10m were practically flat, wandering the boundaries between fields and pastures, through narrow stretches of woods between the two, and a bit on the road. Pretty in spots with the wheat fields and huge, magenta thistle. After lunch, the trail got a bit more undulating with some lovely rocks, oh yes, and then a thunderstorm rolled through and it downpoured on us as we trudged up a mountain. Lovely. We got soaked. Plus, poor Ryan's knee was really hurting him at that point so that sucked. He was really struggling, which is always horrible to see. I felt so helpless. He seems to be doing OK now, but we need to do some serious stretching on it and keep our fingers crossed that it is feeling better tomorrow. We at least had clean and dry clothes to change into when we finally got to the shelter, and spirits are a little higher. We are still in our hiker void, with no thru-hikers around. It's us, Fatigue and a couple out for the night. Pretty quiet. On to Duncannon and the Doyle, an old hotel that is legendary among hikers for its bar and cheap rooms--plus, even better, only a 4-mile day!

three h's, pm thunderstorm...very soggy
rock factor - am, 1; pm, 5
our longest day, yet, and 90% of it was great. we walked through a ton of fields...flat, easy, and nice for a change. pennsylvania isn't exactly about hiking, really it's more like walking. but, it is rocky in the hills. and the rockiness leads to uneven footing. uneven footing leads to lateral movement which makes my knee hurt. that brings us to the last 10%. my left i-t band is really tight making my knee hurt a great deal. frankly, i'm a little worried about it. i've had a ton of aches and pains, but nothing this painful in a spot that i already know might be a problem. so, extra stretching tonight, and luckily we just have 4 miles into town tomorrow...where i'll be stretching even more. if that doesn't work, i'll be looking for vicodin.
today's song - jeese's girl, rick springfield. (remind me to tell you about jesse.)

June 23, 2005 | Day 88 | Miles: 4 | Total Miles: 1133.5
End: The Doyle, Duncannon, PA
Sunny and warm
The rain yesterday really cooled things off a bit and provided us with an unhazy, clear vista of Duncannon and the PA farmlands as we headed down into town this morning, which was nice. The Doyle is an interesting place; it might be historic, but it sure is rundown, although friendly and definitely has character. We are in the "honeymoon suite," which cost us all of $26 with tax. Lovely yellow drapes and green painted walls with a shared bath. Worth the $26 and not much more, but a fun spot for the night. We've managed to get clean, eat, do laundry, get groceries, make some phone calls and relax a bit. Down to the bar for dinner and beer this evening, and then sleep! :-)

sunny, hot
rock factor - 4
short day into town to stay at the "historic" doyle hotel. really, the doyle is indescribable. but, when i say "historic", i really mean "old and falling apart." that being said, it's awesome. the perfect place for grubby, stinky hikers to spend the night. in fact, this old hotel built around 1900 is basically for hikers and hikers only. although, i'm sure the bar scene will be interesting tonight, and there's no way i'm going to miss it. no knee pain today, but then again we only did 4. but, i'm feeling cautiously optimistic. jessie has moved on with pacman...remind me to tell you about jessie.

Monday, June 20, 2005

June 20 at halfway!

June 20, 2005 | Day 85 | Miles: 17.1 | Total Miles: 1095.7
End: James Fry Shelter, Tent
Sunny and nice
Hurray, hurray, we now have less, mileage-wise, to do than what we've already done! Wow. Halfway there. Very cool. It's taken us 85 days to get this far. Amazing. As for "halfway there," please note that it was Ryan, and not I, that wrote out ALL the lyrics to "Livin' on a Prayer" in the Pine Grove Furnace, PA Store hiker register :-)
We made it to the store about 11:30am and dove right into the "Half Gallon Challenge," a thru-hiker tradition in which you try to eat a half gallon of ice cream as fast as you can. Now, I love ice cream, as many of you know, but I couldn't quite do it. I was on the verge of either passing out and/or throwing up with about a cup of ice cream left, and that was it.
I had to stop. Very disappointing. Oh well. I did get the "I Tried Club" spoon as a condolence :-) Ryan on the other hand was amazing and finished his ice cream in 48:45. Impressive. I am sure he will goad me about his feat later, but for now he is feeling badly for me and how my stomach has been feeling all afternoon. We spent 3 hours in the park, recouperating, and I was really surprised I actually pulled off the 7m to the shelter. Thank goodness it was mellow terrain.

So, we're halfway there... Do I have any profound thoughts? First, I know I'm impressed with us for walking this far. It takes determination, a fair amount of stupidity, a tolerance for suffering and a whole hell of a lot of desire to keep walking every day, even when you don't always feel like it. :-) We are lucky to have each other to push and prod each other along. It's been a ton of fun all in all, depsite the pain that is often the other half of the equation :-)
Gear-wise, things are holding up well. Our Osprey packs (Aether and Ariel 60s) still look brand-new; our tent is awesome; our Waldies (the silly foam shoes we wear) are a godsend; I'm on my 3rd pair of Merrells (lasting approx. 450m each), my second set of shirts, have replaced two pairs of socks so far, having used 5 in total, replaced two sets of undies, and have switched to a skirt for the summer instead of keeping the conertible pants. I'm still using my Mountain Hardware 25 degree sleeping bag, which I've washed twice. We've gone through tons of TP, Gold Bond and Body Glide for chafing, and are on our second filter cartridge for our water filter. Not bad overall. I'd say we're doing pretty well...
Body-wise, I'm (knock on wood) feeling good. My back hurts sometimes, as do my feet, but overall this body is a tough one :-) Amazing how many miles it can take me!
People-wise, we are loving it out here. There are many, many cool people on the trail who have quickly become our friends. Everyone does their own thing, but there is a comraderie which is wonderful. Makes the trail a great place to be. Also, the community surrounding the trail, with all the trail angels and the friendly towns, is amazing. All the generosity that has been bestowed upon us just because we're out here renews our faith in humanity :-) Plus all the support and help from our family and friends at home is HUGE! Gloriously wonderful.
Trail-wise, GA felt tough but it was beautiful and well-maintained. NC/TN had more ups and downs, but were wonderful as well. We loved the Smokies, and would like to go back; we'll skip a second visit to the Shenandoahs. Southern VA had some realy nice views and nice terrain; northern VA did not thrill us as much with all the poison ivy and narrow trailway. WV was great--only a few miles! MD was quite lovely as well, and so far the 45 miles we've done in PA have surprised us with lots of blooming mountain laurel and pine trees, and less rocks and more flat sections of trail than expected. I'm sure the rocks are yet to come but we're not complaining too much so far :-)
I still hold true to my estimate that 90% of the time, we're having fun out here. That's a pretty good average, isn't it? :-) All in all, happy to be out here, and psyched for the miles to come :-)

mix of sun and clouds, warm
rock factor - 4
big day for the campers out here on the ol' at. most importantly, we hit the halfway point. yahoo! unfortunately, i saw danielle hit her lowest point today...both mentally and physically. poor girl was but, attempting to eat a half gallon of ice cream can do that. at pine grove furnance state park at just about halfway, the thruhiker tradition is to eat a half gallon of ice cream for induction into the "half gallon club." let's just say that danielle will not be eating cookies and cream for quite some time. i, on the other hand, was victorious! 48 minutes and 45 seconds. no cookies and cream for me for a while either, but the 2500 plus calories and numerous moans were worth the little wooden spoon. now who would have bet that i could eat more ice cream than danielle? in case you are wondering, the record is 4 minutes, 59 seconds. gross. we're in a strange vortex other thruhikers really around us. very strange. we have the shelter to ourselves tonight, and we didn't see another hiker the whole 4 hours we were at pine grove eating and recovering and recovering some more. (fatigue was there, but he's just doing a section, and he watched us tackle the ice cream and was a good cheering section.)

scorecard at halfway:
pairs of my socks - 7
pairs of my shoes - 4
pairs of my underwear - 4
plastic bottles of gold bond - 4
lipton noodle or rice dishes - too many
maps - 18
water filters - 2
my sleeping bags - 3
snickers - not enough
blisters - enough to last a lifetime
(mom, you can skip this next part.)
places on ryan's body that have hurt or currently hurt: left foot, right foot, right big toe, left ankle, right ankle, right achilles, left shin, right shin, left knee, right knee, left groin, left hip flexor, right hip flexor, general crotch area (chafing...not good times.), left trapezius, left elbow, right elbow...not to mention a number of cuts, bumps, bruises and bug bites. are we having fun? you bet! now, if we can just survive the pennsylvania rocks...or dutch.
today's song - livin' on a prayer, bon jovi. (really was there any other choice? and, yes, the entire lyrics were left in the pine grove furnace log book for all to enjoy. "tommy used to work on the dock...")

Saturday, June 18, 2005

June 18-19 in PA

June 18, 2005 | Day 83 | Miles: 16.8 | Total Miles: 1057
End: Antietam Shelter, Tent
Sunny and nice out
A day of trail magic! Right before the Maryland-Pennsylvania line there is a park the trail goes through. It had some nice views out into the valley below as well as a bunch of picnic pavilions, restrooms, etc. We sat down to eat and another thru-hiker came up to us, saying that a nice gentleman was cooking up hot dogs and such for hikers. Well, we couldn't pass that up :-) Rex was hanging out by one of the grills with tons of food, and was happy to share and chat. Awesome!
Ryan could have stayed forever, but we had to get down to the next road crossing by 2pm as Aaron, our friend from DC, had agreed to meet us there, shuttle us into town and have an early dinner with us. How nice to have a trail angel friend :-) We hit the supermarket, had pizza and a Blizzard at Dairy Queen, and got back on the trail within a few hours. Wonderful! Our stomachs were full but we managed the 4.5m here in good time on the moderate terrain. We've set up the tent in a pretty spot by the river. (I have to admit I wanted to stop at the shelter 2m in, but Ryan wished to keep going (amazing, I know!) and this was the right choice. A much better camping spot!)
By the way, we crossed the Mason-Dixon line today and are now in PA! Woohoo. Into the mid-Atlantic and out of the south. Yeah :-) 6 states down, 8 to go. Hopefully we'll make it through the infamous PA rocks, manage to find water despite the said many dry water sources and keep away from all the rattlers! Doesn't it sound inviting? Sign me up :-) But hey, we just keep on moving... New England beckons :-)

sunny, warm
rock factor - 3
new feature to the journal: rock factor. pennsylvania is supposed to be really rocky...full of death type rocky. so, each day the rock factor will let you know how much of this trail myth was true. 1, meaning a few pebbles here and there, all the way up to 10, meaning the trail was unidentifiable and the rocks were sharp, pointy, loose and throwing flaming spears at us. speaking of pennsylvania, we have crossed the mason dixon line! goodbye south! no more grits and no more y'alls! don't get me wrong, the south is nice, but the further north we get the happier i am...and closer to home. (assuming we actually find one.) many thanks to aaron, who took time out of his busy wedding planning schedule to come visit us again today. a guaranteed ride into town is always appreciated. the visit was short, but great to see him again. thanks, bomber! we were a little late meeting aaron because of a little dose of trail magic at pen-mar park, thanks to rex. rex used to be stationed at a nearby base, and still lives in the area. every year, his regimen has a reunion scheduled for the 3rd saturday in june at noon at pen-mar. well, once again, rex was the only one who showed up. but, he knows no one is going to show up, so he's just as happy feeding the hikers. so, if you ever find yourself around the pa/md border on the third sat in june, stop in and have some hot dogs and potato salad with rex. he's a really nice guy.

June 19, 2005 | Day 84 | Miles: 20.8 | Total Miles: 1078.6
End: Birch Run Shelter, Tent
Mostly cloudy but it didn't rain on us, amazingly
Our easiest 20-miler yet. It wasn't hot, which helped too! Started at 8am, got to Caledonian State Park by 12:15, had lunch, used the restrooms, filled our water bottles, called our dads for Father's Day and finally took off around 2:15. Made it here by 5:30pm.
We're in a strange hiker "vortex" right now. A bunch of people we know are behind us, and a few are way ahead but for the past few days since Harper's Ferry we really haven't seen any thru-hikers. Very odd. Tonight it's only us, a ridgerunner (someone hired by the Appalachian Trail Conference to be out on the trail for the summer, checking in on the shelters, etc) and Fatigue, a section hiker who's been wit us for a week or so, on and off. Quiet. Other than that, not too much of excitement. We did see a Scarlet Tanager today, which was cool. On to the official half-way point and the Half-Gallon Challenge tomorrow! (It's a thru-hiker tradition. Buy a half gallon of ice cream and eat it as fast as you can. According to the books, the record is 4:30 minutes. Yikes and wow, all together!)

mostly cloudy, few sunny breaks, almost cool
rock factor - 3
to start the day off, someone threw a dart into my left calf about 50 feet down the trail. i was all proud of myself for getting out of camp before 8, and then i got stung or bit by something. it hurt...a lot. now, you can barely see the mark, but i was not happy. we took a 2 hour lunch break at caledonia state park (the trail goes straight through). the smell of match light filled the air, but do you think i could get a cheesburger? nothing. no one would take pity on the grubby thruhiker. not even the mennonites. so, hungry... i did however get a ton of great looks. "look, that guy's wearing a skirt." i wouldn't have it any other way. tomorrow...the halfway point! so, all that stuff you just did...rinse and repeat.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

June 16-17 in MD

June 16, 2005 | Day 81 | Miles: 17.3 | Total Miles: 1027.1
End: Dahlgren Backpack Campground, Tent
Sunny, breezy and not as warm
All summer hiking days should be like this. We were warm, but there was a breeze, so we weren't boiling and sweating buckets. Our 17.3m were relatively easy, especially the first 2.7m where we left Harper's Ferry and were on the C&O Towpath--read completely flat.
And now we're here at this great area where they've created a little campground. Tent pads, picnic tables, restrooms, hot showers and drinkable water, all free. How nice is that? I don't know why they did it; it is close to a road so perhaps they're trying to encourage people to get out in the woods, but whoever decided to put this up to the planning board, we thank you. It's great. Plus we were here by 5pm. Ahhhhh... All in all a good first day out of town. :-)
On another note, we are now in Maryland. 5 states down, 9 to go... :-)

mix of sun and clouds, breezy, warm
the heat finally gave us a break today. it was nice to not feel like i'd jumped in a 90 degree swimming pool with all my clothes on. but, best of all, welcome to maryland! we had .1 of west virginia to finish up this morning, then across the potomac river in maryland. we should hit pennsyltucky by saturday...not looking forward to it. if we survive pa, we'll be thrilled. so, we were a little bummed we didn't take in more of the history of harpers ferry, so it's on the list for next time. speaking of history, we learned that the hilltop house hotel is known not for its charm, service or decor, but for its discretion...if you live in dc apparently it's the place to go to have an affair. who knew? in other news, the spot we're camping tonight has ones. on the trail.
today's song - don't go back to rockville, r.e.m. (i can't think of any other songs that so prominently feature maryland.

June 17, 2005 | Day 82 | Miles: 13.9 | Total Miles: 1041.0
End: Ensign Cowall Shelter, Tent
Sunny, breezy and almost cool
It was actually cool this morning--wow! Very nice. Great hiking weather and we won't complain. We didn't rush to get out of camp this morning as we knew we had a short day, and it was nice to stay in the sleeping bag for a bit longer than normal. We finally managed to get going around 9am, and meandered along all day.
The terrain was mostly mellow and we made good time, getting to the shelter about 3pm. PacMan was here when we arrived but he was moving on. I guess we're in a thru-hiker void right now, as we're the only ones here aside from a father and son out for a few days. Should be another nice night for sleeping; it's pretty cool already. Ahhhh. :-)

mix of sun & clouds, breezy, warm
nothing happened today. i can't even really make anything up. maryland is pretty nice...sort of...some rocky sections, but pretty mellow. no one ever mentions maryland. possibly because some people hike it as part of the 4 state challenge: start at the va/wv border and hike to the md/pa border. four states in about 45 miles in 24 hours. no thanks. we're on schedule to do it in 5 rushing for us.
today's song - dreadlock holiday, 10CC "i don't like bacon...i love it..." (in homage to hormel ready to eat fully cooked tasty. do you really need to refrigerate after opening? i think not. speaking of tasty did you know that a king size snickers has 510 calories? pure magic.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

June 14-15 in northern VA

June 14, 2005 | Day 79 | Miles: 20.5 | Total Miles: 1009.8
End: Hilltop House Hotel, Harpers Ferry, WV
Hot and humid again
A lot of milestones today:
1000 miles. Wahoo! Out of VA. Double Wahoo! Into Harpers Ferry. Amazing.
How did all this happen? Crazy. We're very proud of ourselves, and tired too. :-) We're enjoying our stay here at the Hilltop House courtesy of our wonderful friends at Glen Group. Thanks guys! This is perfect. We'll be taking the day off tomorrow and sleeping in, relaxing, eating, getting errands done and visiting the Appalachian Trail Conference main office to get our photos taken for the 2005 log, and to find out what number thru-hiker we are this year. Should be interesting.
And now, to sleep :-)

three h's
so hot, so very hot. today, was big: we left virginia and we crossed the 1000 mile mark. and, dinner at the hotel was buffet. really, what is better than a shower and an ayce buffet? harpers ferry is the called the "psychological halfway point," which i personally find to be the most ridiculous thing ever. halfway is still 80 miles north. that's when i'll celebrate halfway...when i get there. although, it is great to reach harpers ferry, and i'm sure i'll always remember the feeling i had crossing the 340 bridge. but, right now, i really just want to sleep. good night.
today's song - country roads, john denver (really, what other song could it be today? you can also substitute the fine cover of this classic by me first and the gimme gimmes...excellent.)

June 15, 2005 | Day 80 | Miles: 0 | Total Miles: 1009.8
End: Hilltop House, Harper's Ferry, WV
Warm and sunny
A big thank you to our wonderful friends and family! Mom and Dad, thanks for the snickers and the ice cream money. Yum! Krisser, thanks for the chocolate, cookies and other fun goodies. You are the best for thinking of us. Thanks to Abe for the Little Debbie treats, oh yes, and the "Monkey Butt Powder" for Ryan's (ok, and mine) chafing. It's hot and sweaty out here. What can you do? The bottle made us laugh, but will be quite useful. And finally, a huge thanks to my aunt Theresa, uncle Dave and cousin Sarah for packaging up and sending us a huge amount of food. Dehydrated meals, gorp, candy and more. Yum. We can't wait to eat it all :-) Thanks everyone!
Other than picking up all our packages, we had our photo taken at the Appalachian Trail Conference and found out we were hikers #284 and 285 who have been through Harper's Ferry, attempting to thru-hike this year. Cool. Now we're all officially documented :-)
We also did all our regular town chores and ate, of course :-) Back on the trail tomorrow, renewed and rested!

three h's
another hot day, but at least we weren't hiking in it. today, we ate breakfast, went grocery shopping, ate lunch, did a couple errands, ate dinner, packed up, stole ice cream from the hotel restaurant...a typical zero day. not totally relaxing, but no hiking, so the body is happy. appalachian trail conference headquarters are here in harpers ferry, so we stopped in to get our picture taken and sign the log book. we are thruhikers 284 and 285 for the year...we think that's just about the middle of the pack. back at it tomorrow, and into maryland. i did pause tonight and have a 1000 mile cigar. ahhhh...
today's song - you're the inspiration, chicago (this is one of the worst songs of all time, but it was playing the restaurant where we ate lunch. we were singing along...and getting some strange looks. but, i think that's because i was wearing a skirt.)

Sunday, June 12, 2005

June 12-13 in Northern VA

June 12, 2005 | Day 77 | Miles: 15.1 | Total Miles: 970.2
End: Dick's Dome Shelter, Tent
Hot and humid again
The good and bad of the day...
The good: We had a great visit with Corie and Rob! We had mexican food and soft serve ice cream last night--yum! Then a good breakfast in the morning and they walked with us for an hour or so on the trail. Not the most exciting stretch, but it was good to have a bit more time to chat with them. Thanks for coming out to visit with us, guys! Lots of fun :-)
The bad: The PATC (Patomic AT Club) did a bad, bad job of maintaining some of this stretch. We went through not only lots of poison ivy, but even worse, a huge 0.5m stretch of 6 foot tall grass. The trail was about 8 inches wide and essentially overcome by the grasses. We were blazing through it, with it hitting our legs, arms and head. UGH. And almost immediately my legs were covered with angry red welts. It was really painful and itchy and truly discouraging to feel that the trail was so overgrown and forgotten. Really frustrating. After a mile or so we got down near a road and there was a stream, so we took off our shoes and washed our arms and legs with soap--a big no-no, but I had to do something. I was feeling really low, and luckily, the washing, and a lunch break, helped a bit and my spirits were lifted slightly. Still, I plan to write to the PATC to express my displeasure about that section. It is not maintenance if the grass is 6 feet high and blocking the trail for a half mile! Sheesh...

three h's
corie and rob rock. they brought me new shoes. the pair i picked up only about 200 miles ago did not get it done. trashed. they couldn't stand up to the day to day pounding. oh well. luckily, my feet felt better today in the new shoes. still sore, but better. so, picture a field with 6 foot high grass and poison ivy at your walk through it. that's what we did for a 1/2 mile today. misery. the potomac appalachian trail club will be receiving a nasty letter from my wife. look out!
today's song - fight the power, public enemy

June 13, 2005 | Day 78 | Miles: 18.9 | Total Miles: 989.3
End: Bears Den Hostel, Bluemont, VA
Hot and humid, with thunder and showers in the afternoon
Ahhh, another hot and humid day. The first 9m were pretty mellow but after that we entered the "rollercoaster," which is a 17-mile section with 13 or 14 500-ft. climbs and descents in a row. Doesn't sound that bad, but it was a rough 9.9m with all those bumps, especially in the heat. Plus the last mile we were attempting to outrun a thunderstorm--and we lost. Got a bit wet. But then again it didn't much matter as we had been soaked all day from sweat. It's really gross when everything is soaked and sweat is running down your arms and legs. Ugh. Humidity, go away! But yeah, then we arrived here about 5:30pm and jumped right in the shower, put clothes in the wash and are waiting for the mexican dinner to be served. Yum! Awesome. Nick, Dave, Hopeful and Redwing are here, so it's a good crew in for the night. :-) And a wonderful spot. A cool old house turned into a hostel and run by a really nice woman. A very friendly place to spend the night.

three h's, pm thunderstorm
really, today was relatively uneventful...just hard. we started the "roller coaster" today, which is a 13 mile section with 13 500 foot climbs and descents. it's hard, and it was hot. needless to say, we were very happy to arrive at the hostel. it rained on us at the end of the day, but i don't think it really made us any wetter. that's how humid it was. my fingers were all pruney from the sweat..yuk. but, a great dinner and a pint of b&j's later, and it's all good. not to mention the shower...ahhhhh. oh yeah, i almost forgot...we saw a guy on the trail with two suitcases with wheels and a "backpacking tent" still in the cardboard box and plastic wrap. that's pretty much the strangest thing ever.
today's song - burning heart, survivor (we were talking about rocky to get us through the day.)

Friday, June 10, 2005

June 10-11 in the Shenandoahs

June 10, 2005 | Day 75 | Miles: 13.1 | Total Miles: 941.9
End: Gravel Spring Hut
Hot, humid, hazy with afternoon thunder but no rain
Ahhhh, 13 miles. A short day. How nice. Isn't it amazing that now 13 miles can seem like a short day? Wow. We slept in a bit and started at 9:45am. We rolled into the Elkwallow Wayside at 12:45, just in time for lunch. Excellent! A gardenburger, fries and a wonderful blackberry shake. Yum. Ice cream on the trail three days in a row--how great is that? A blackberry sundae at Big Meadows, blackberry pie at Skyland yesterday and a blackberry shake today. Yum, yum, yum.We lounged around for a bit and then only 5.9m to the shelter. (By the way, the word "hut" here in the Shenandoahs is a misnomer; they are really just the same three-sided shelters that we've been staying in previously.) Just as we were leaving the wayside, there was a cute little fawn right on the trail, just looking at us. So adorable. It stood there on its wobbly little legs and finally decided to turn around and take off in the other direction, running. Mom just kind of looked on and then took off after it.
Thunder was rolling in the distance as we walked on, but we didn't get wet, and arrived at the shelter at 4:30pm. It is so nice to get into camp early and have time to eat, relax a bit, write and chat before bed, instead of rolling in late, rushing to eat and get things done before dark, and then collapsing into bed. It can't happen every day, of course, as there are miles to hike, but it's so great every once in a while. Nick, Dave, Break-a-leg and Hopeful and Redwing are here tonight. A good crew. We've been having fun with them. Tomorrow we'll be out of the park, and into Front Royal--another 13-mile day. Yeah! Corie and Rob are hopefully meeting us there for the night, which should be great! :-)

three h's, pm thunder
not as hot today...but more humid...yup, everything is wet. nasty. but, today was much easier. best of all, we started late, 9:45, hit the elkmeadow wayside for lunch by 12:30. ate for 2 hours and were at the shelter by 4:45...much more relaxing. the wayside, you ask? the best part of the shenandoahs is the fact that since skyline drive runs through the middle of the park, and since there is a road, that means there are fat people in suvs who need to be fed. so, we've had a number of stops this week for food along the trail...very tasty. it's especially great to go into a restaurant type place reeking like hiker...some great looks from the aforementioned fat people...could be the skirt, too. that's really the best part of the shenandoahs. so, feel free to bump this national park to the bottom of the list. also, in the shenandoahs the shelters are called huts. they're not huts...if they are, then they're the worst huts ever. but, not bad as far as shelters go. tomorrow, we leave the shenandoahs, and onto harpers ferry in three days...huh?

June 11, 2005 | Day 76 | Miles: 13.4 | Total Miles: 955.3
End: Quality Inn, Front Royal, VA
Hot, hazy and humid again!
Ahhh, a wonderful night in the shelter. First, two thru-hikers rolled in around 9pm after doing 28m-yikes!--just as we were all going to sleep. They were very nice, but kept us up for a bit, and then the Irishman slept next to Ryan and snored all night and kept flapping his arm into his face. Not good. Then at 1:45am, Hopeful woke me up, saying the raccoon (there had been reports of it in the register) had gotten up the bear pole (an odd contraption in the park--a pole with hooks off the top to hang your food bags. To get the food bags up there, there is another pole that you raise the bag up with and hook it on the hook. Not very user-friendly.). Supposedly it keeps the bears away, but I guess raccoons can climb them, and this one was obviously practiced, and was getting into the food bags. So in the middle of the night we were all up hanging our bags from trees instead. And then poor Nick--the raccoon had snagged his bag on the pole, and he caught it up there, and was whacking it with the hanging pole, which was quite an amusing sight, but the raccoon got his revenge--even after Nick had hung his food in a tree, the raccoon got to it and ate most of his food. No fun!
So not much sleep, but a short day into town. Not a problem, right? So why is it that some days it's so hard to walk? I mean, it's only walking.... But it's tough work to get up and be motivated and excited every day to keep walking. The mental aspect is difficult at times, especially now that we've been out here for a while. And with the heat and humidity it's even tougher. Oh well. We keep each other going. And even on the tough days, it's always there in the back of our minds that this is a great gift to be out here doing this, what we've dreamed of, and that we'll always look back on this as a great six months and never regret it, even the days that we were hurting and it was tough to keep moving forward. Katahdin is what sticks in our minds, and that goal keeps us going.
So after all that, we made it and we're here in Front Royal, awaiting Corie and Rob, so we can go EAT! :-)

three h's
ok, in town with a visit from corie and rob. yeehoo! very full from mexican food and milkshakes. now very tired...didn't sleep very well last night due to raccoons and irishmen. let me elaborate. i am certain that i have previously mentioned the art and science of the "bear bag." bears and other woodland creatures want your food, so the best way to keep them from eating it is to hang it in a tree about 10 feet in the air and 4 feet from the trunk. each night this leads to fun and games as i attempt to find a proper branch and then execute the throw. for someone of my coordination level, it is usually a bit frustrating. to ease this frustration, shenandoah national park has bear poles, 12 foot metal poles with 4, 3 foot sections at the top, each pointed away from each other with two hooks on each end for a food bag. picture a candy cane with 4 curvy ends with 2 hooks on each. anyway, you use a ridiculously heavy pole to hoist your food onto a hook. basically, it's the worst system ever, but it keeps you from having to find a tree and throwing a rope. the shelter register had entries from a couple folks that mentioned a curious and hungry raccoon at the shelter, but the 8 of us staying there thought nothing of it. so, at about 9:00 with food in the air, we all decided to get to bed, when two guys who just finished a 28 mile day arrive at our already fairly full shelter. but, we always squeeze in and the irish guy ends up next to me. the two smoke for a little while filling the shelter....very nice. when they do decide to sleep the irish guy climbs in next to me, and an hour or so later i wake up with something hitting me in the head. the irish dude has his fist clenched and his arm at a 90 degree angle on my head...and he's twitching in his sleep. so, i move his arm, and he starts snoring...loudly. eventually, he stops snoring, but only when his fist is back on my head! so, i move it again and the snoring starts. so after a couple hours of fitfull and fistfull sleep, i awake to hustle and bustle in the shelter and danielle tapping me on the shoulder. apparently, a raccoon has climbed the bear pole and is laying siege to the food bags. i'm grumpy and asleep, so i decide that we don't need to move ours. about an hour later, more hustle, more bustle and more tapping. the raccoon is feasting. one of the guys, nick (no trail name) is whacking the raccoon with the metal pole as it assaults what is left of his food bag. so, there i am half asleep at 3:00 in the morning, in my underwear throwing a rope over a tree to hang the food. meanwhile, the irish dude wakes up, smokes a couple more butts, then goes back to bed to resume snoring. ahhhh....shelters.

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

June 8-9 in the Shenandoahs

June 8, 2005 | Day 73 | Miles: 20.4 | Total Miles: 910
End: Big Meadows Campground, Tent
Not quite as hot but still warm, humid, sunny and a bit of a breeze
Three 20-mile days in a row... Not recommended for Team Snowplug. We were both hurting today, especially in the last few miles. We made a stop at 11.7m at one of the campstores for lunch and a few snacks for the next few days, but still the last 8.7m were tough! But we did have our first bear sighting--a momma bear and 2 cubs. They were running off through the woods when we saw them, so that was a good thing. Also saw many deer.
We're currently camped at Big Meadow Campground. Lots of "normal" folks around... We asked for the closest site to the laundry/showers, probably not what most people would ask for, and managed to get set up, both take showers and get our laundry done before heading over to the lodge for a drink and dinner. Ahhh. I'm currently writing this from the Taproom. :-)
We don't have a 20-miler planned tomorrow which is nice--just 18.8m :-) I am not sure how that will go but at least we have 2 13-milers planned after that. Sometimes all this hiking stuff is tough... :-)

sunny, hot
three hot days, more than 60 miles...yup, we're tired. two important things from yesterday that i was too tired/lazy to write: 1. we saw a rattlesnake...that gets the adrenaline going and 2. it took us 845 miles, but we finally caught up with bootleg. ok, he took 4 days off, but we still technically caught him. we've been chasing him since way back at neels gap...great to finally catch and catch up with him. ok, back to today. um...tired, sore, grumpy, pain, suffering...yeah, that pretty much sums it up. we also crossed 900 miles today. yawn.
today's song - kiss on my list, hall & oates (oh yeah.)

June 9, 2005 | Day 74 | Miles: 18.8 | Total Miles: 928.8
End: Pass Mountain Hut, Tent
Warm, humid again and sunny, with afternoon rain and thunder showers
Staying at Big Meadows worked as great, as we had a nice breakfast there before we took off this morning. Then 8m to Skyland at a good clip, arriving shortly after lunch started. Perfect! A sandwich followed by a HUGE slice of blackberry ice cream pie. The top layer was a large one made of meringue which made it look even bigger. Yum!
Things took a bit of a dive after lunch. We were both pretty tired from all the walking we've been doing the past few days and Ryan's feet were killing him. We weren't exactly hiking quickly. Oh well. There were some nice vistas though, although very hazed over. We managed to get here by 7:15pm. The caretaker was here and he had brought up baggies of fruit. Yum! He section hiked the trail, finishing up in 2003, so knows that fresh foods are always welcome. Thanks Skyline! We are currently lounging in the tent, as the bugs are out in force. Happy to be doing a short day tomorrow. The heat and multiple 20-mile days have worn us out a bit, but not to worry, we're still hanging in there :-)

three h's, pm thunderstorm
so, in 4 days we've done 80 miles. very tired. the heat does not help. plus, you get into camp late, so there's time to set up, eat, get water, and go to bed so you can do it all over again. no time to relax and unwind, which is mentally tiring. my feet have really been hurting the last couple days, too, which is miserable. i've killed my latest pair of shoes already, so i'll have to find an alternative...175 miles for a pair of shoes is really weak. perhaps we'll hike past a money tree. plus, we're hip deep in the mental part of the game. we've been at this for about 10 weeks, and it's getting hard to keep pushing everyday. you know the scene at the end of braveheart in which william wallace/mel gibson is being tortured? the executioner says to him if he swears allegiance to the king..."this will all be over." the end of every day is just like that. all we have to do is walk off the trail and it "will all be over." no more pain, no more hunger, no more smell. but somehow, like good ole mel, we don't give in...with our last breath we yell "KATAHDIN!" there are two main differences, though: 1. no one gets their head chopped off, and 2. we get to do it all over again tomorrow.

Monday, June 6, 2005

June 6-7 in the Shenandoahs

June 6, 2005 | Day 71 | Miles: 20 | Total Miles: 868.2
End: Blackrock Hut, Shenandoah National Park
Hot, humid and partly cloudy
Ugh. Hot and humid and lots of miles to go after starting at 9:50am. Ugh. Plus the trail was not very interesting which made it more difficult. We have heard mixed reviews of the Shenandoahs from it being super easy to it being kind of ugly and not all that great. So far we are not overly impressed, but it was a rough day so hopefully things will get better over the next few days. Saw two deer, a small 8-inch black with yellow neck ring ringed snake, and a toad, plus some nice pink mountain laurel, but that was about it. Not much else to report.

hazy, hot & humid, ugh
there are few words i can use today that are fit for publication, so today will be brief. i hate summer. i hate it. why are we doing this? really, we couldn't figure it out today. what are we doing out here? the next two months ought to be interesting. so, we're in the shenandoahs...where everything is flat, there are escalators, gum drop trees and scantily clad women with beer. needless to say, i'm still waiting. plus, we hiked 19.2 miles today, and we were feeling half dead. then we come to a sign that basically tells us that the spring at the shelter may be dry. so, we go down this dirt road, as the sign suggests, and i mean down, to get water to carry up to the shelter. so, that's an extra 8 pounds on my back, which again is already overloaded with food from our resupply. by the way, we decided to not carry much food in the park because you can stop along the way at campgrounds,, why does the food bag weigh 50 pounds!!! so, .8 to go to the shelter, it's hot, looks like a thunderstorm is going to absolutely bring it at any second, the pack is full of lead, and then it happens. the largest fly in the world decides to play tag with my head. ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... needless to say, i was throwing my poles. "land where i can see you, you cowardly bastard!" ahhhhhhhhhh.... oh yeah, it's supposed to be in the 90's tomorrow. grumble grumble
today's song - imperial march from star wars

June 7, 2005 | Day 72 | Miles: 21.4 | Total Miles: 889.6
End: Hightop Hut
Hazy, hot and humid
7:00am and Ryan had to wake me up. Guess I was tired! We got out at 8:30am and were soaked in sweat within minutes. Oh well. Another long and hot day. But we did have a nice stop 7.5m in at Loft Mtn. Wayside where we all sat outside the store and made multiple trips in for Gatorade, chips and ice cream. Yum! And while we were sitting there gorging ourselves, guess who walked up the steps but Bootleg! Wow. We haven't seen him since we booked into Neels Gap on day 3 of the trip in the pouring rain and he waited it out and passed us by. That was the last we have seen of him until today. He was off the trail for 4 days visiting friends, which is the only reason we were able to catch him. Lots of fun to see him again.
Other than that, the great excitement of the day was that we saw a rattlesnake. I was hiking along and heard a rattle, looked down, saw the big snake, screamed and then turned right around and ran in the other direction. Yikes. He finally slithered a bit further off the trail and we were able to sneak by.
Thought of the day: I think Jewelweed is my new favorite plant. The rhododendron and mountain laurel are pretty, but not nearly as useful as the Jewelweed. Jewelweed grows in mostly wet places and has four soft opposing leaves with a milky stem. You can open up the stem and spread that part along any body part that has come in contact with poison ivy and it neutralizes the oil. Our friend Free Radical told us about it back at Watauga Lake and we've been using it ever since. If we see some along the way, we'll pick it for later use and Ryan will attach it to the back of my pack. A bit silly, I know, but everyone who knows me understands :-) I might look a bit odd spreading a plant on my legs but if it keeps me from getting poison ivy, so be it! I'd rather be that rather than crazy itchy! :-)

three h's
here's an idea: let's do our longest day of the trip on the hottest day of the trip. basically, we're stupid. it was really hot today. too tired to write. good night.

Saturday, June 4, 2005

June 4-5 in central VA

June 4, 2005 | Day 69 | Miles: 0 | Total Miles: 848.2
End: Tree Streets Inn, Waynesboro, VA
Partly sunny and warm
The smell that 10 hikers create in a large enclosed space, especially after 2 days of rain, is incredible. We didn't notice it while we were in the room last night, but when I left it to go to the bathroom or into the lounge this morning, boy was it like a wall of stink as you walked back into the room. Truly amazing and horrible.
But aside from the smell.... We packed ourselves up this morning and headed to get a big breakfast and do laundry. Then the PO and to check into the Tree Streets Inn. A really nice old home where we have a room on the third floor--perfect for us stinky hikers :-) Our hosts, Bill and Nickie, are very nice, and we're currently lounging in the shade in the backyard, reading and looking at the maps, after eating a nice lunch out here. Very quiet and comfortable. Plus so nice to sit for a change!
I am happy to have this day and the next to rest my feet--they got a bit beat up after two solid days of walking in the rain--and heal my bruises. I forgot to mention yesterday that after all my fast and nimble manueverings of the slippery rocks I took a hard fall on the stairs coming out of the last shelter before town. I have a wonderful bruise on my back thigh. Ow! I mean, really, am I that out of practice with civilization? Oh well. It's funny now but boy did it hurt! Still, we're holding up well all in all, but are definitely happy to be getting a bit of R&R for two days, along with getting all our chores done. On to the hiker BBQ that the town is holding tonight and then a free shuttle to the movies to see Star Wars! :-)

mix of sun and clouds, warm
our original plan called for us to arrive this morning, but with the long day yesterday we arrived early and with reservations already made...well, we're here for two days. waynesboro is your typical struggling community that you find all over the united states. most of the manufacturing jobs are being shipped overseas, and the plants are crumbling along with the downtown. meanwhile, we could walk a couple miles to walmart and a bevy of fast food options. the story is the same, only the accent changes. we've made the shift to the b&b for the night. not the best on the pocketbook, but great for the body and soul. don't get me wrong, the free linoleum floor at the free church hostel was free and great for being free, and since it was free...well, you see where i'm going. either way, if you ever have a reason to come to waynesboro (why?) stay at the tree streets inn...great place with great people. waynesboro is holding a hikerfest this weekend, so we'll be hitting the barbecue and free shuttle to the movies, but for the afternoon, i think relaxing and possibly napping on the patio is in order.
today's song - jack & diane, john cougar mellencamp...waynesboro has a tastee freeze, so maybe we'll be suckin' on chili dogs later.

June 5, 2005 | Day 70 | Miles: 0 | Total Miles: 848.2
End: Tree Streets Inn, Waynesboro, VA
Sunny and hot
A second zero day. Unusual for us but since we had planned to come in on Saturday and got here a night early, we figured we would just stick to our original schedule and take today off too. With us taking this extra day off, a bunch of our friends have caught up to us, including Patch, who has been trailing us since Damascus and trying to catch us. Imagine catching us! We haven't been doing super big miles but we've been pretty consistent and not taking too many days off, which is different than some. In any event, it's good to catch up with people. Sounds like there will be a big group of us headed into the Shenandoahs tomorrow.
Today has consisted of eating, grocery shopping, going to the outfitter, making phone calls and trying to stay in the shade. It is hot out!
A note about Waynesboro: they are very hiker-friendly. They put on a hiker BBQ (limited food options... I even had a bit of BBQ pork out of desperation, but not again. Ugh) last night for a small price and were giving away little prizes. We both ended up getting free movie tickets donated by some nice people in town, so along with the free shuttle they provided to the movie theatre after dinner, we saw the movie for nothing! What a great idea. Much appreciated too :-) We really liked Star Wars, although it was a sad story. Glad we had the chance to catch it not too long after it had come out.
Back to our reality tomorrow, although throughout the Shenandoahs there are places along Skyline Drive where we can hit the concession stands and even restaurants not far from the trail. Yum :-) A bit of a change from being way out in the woods but we'll definitely be taking advantage of it and will enjoy the burgers and shakes as we hike through the park!

sunny, hot
after i wrote my journal yesterday two amazing things happened. 1. we finally saw star wars, and 2. danielle ate pork. really, i have no words for either. thanks to the waynesboro hikerfest and their limited dinner options and free movie shuttles. two days off, and feeling rested...back at it tomorrow, and into shenandoah national park.

Thursday, June 2, 2005

June 2-3 in central VA

June 2, 2005 | Day 67 | Miles: 13.6 | Total Miles: 827.1
End: Maupin Field Shelter
Rain, rain, rain
Ugh. We woke up to rain this morning, and it is now 8:30pm and it's still raining. We were the first ones out of the shelter and it wasn't until 10am. The day basically consisted of a 5m downhill, followed by a 2m climb to the first shelter. We stopped there and ate lunch, contemplating what to do. Should we stay or should we go? Going would mean less miles the next day. Staying would mean drying out sooner. Going would mean getting wet. Hmmm. In the end, we kept going and continued the huge climb up the Three Ridges. One of our biggest, most continual climbs yet, and over 4000ft. too, with wet rocks and all. About halfway up, I said, hmmm, maybe we should have stayed... But it was too late so on we went. And it just kept on raining. We banged out the last 6.2m in 3 hours despite it all. Then it was almost immediately into the sleeping bags in an attempt to get warm. Brrrrr. Beantown was camped out in one of the corners of the shelter. He'd been there since 10:30am, after coming from the last shelter, and he just never left. Pretty funny although I don't think he was too pleased with himself in the end. But it's 16m to the next shelter, and really, it's pretty sucky out so might as well stay as dry as you can while you have the chance. The miles can wait until tomorrow :-)
Saw 6 toads and 5 bright orange salamanders today, plus a Scarlet Tananger at the first shelter today. Lots of other birds flitting around and singing and giving us false hope that the rain would stop, but none that I could really see well enough to name, and despite all their singing it still kept raining!

rain, cold hard rain, and wind
um...yuk. everything is wet...because it rained all day. all last night, and all day. still raining right now. i have to pee, but i'm holding it until the last possible moment, so i don't get soaked. that's how much it's raining. with this in mind, we may be deviating from our original plan, and going 21 miles straight into waynesboro tomorrow, instead of splitting it up into a 16 and a 5. if it's sunny tomorrow, we'll stick to the two day plan, because it's easier and cheaper. but, if it's still nasty, we'll probably just suck it up and go. other than that, today was interesting: up 200 feet, down 3000 feet, back up 3000 feet, down 1200 feet, up 200 feet, down 500 feet...or something like that. yup, virginia sure is flat. the good thing about today is that it answered the question, why am i still carrying my rain pants, my winter hat and my gloves? i needed them all today. it's june! in virginia! i've had to wear all my clothes today. i know i'll really be complaining when it's hot, but this is bit much. oh yeah, we're low on food. sooooo....hungry...
today's song - if god will send his angels, u2..."nobody else here, baby. no one here to blame. no one to point the finger. just you and me in the rain."

June 3, 2005 | Day 68 | Miles: 21.1 | Total Miles: 848.2
End: Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church Hostel, Waynesboro, VA
Rain, mist and fog
Another day of rain. Yuck. In the "real" world, it's raining and it's not a big deal. You're inside and you might have to run out to the car or to do an errand, but you can go back in and get dry. The rain is a bit of a hassle but not too big of a deal, right? But out here the weather is a huge factor. Everything gets wet and you have to walk all day and then try to get warm and dry once you get into camp. The shelters get full and everyone gets into their bags early to keep as warm as they can. And to go to the bathroom or get water, you have to get out of your bag and go out into the rain. Then it's still raining the next morning and you have to get up and start all over. Makes for a bit of tough going, but there's not much choice so you just keep walking.Well today, after waking up to more rain as described above, we decided we would just hoof it and get into Waynesboro today instead of tomorrow. 21 miles. And we hiked it in 8 hours. Despite the wet rocks. Ugh. But we just kept going and hammered it out. So after the rain and wet rocks and long miles, we're really happy to be at this hostel. It's a rec room where we're all set up on the floor. Plus a shower with towel and a lounge area with TV and snacks. And all for free. Thank you, thank you Lutheran Church! Very nice place to be tonight.
It was a record today for bright orange salamanders. 47 of them were seen along the trail today. I noted each of them for Ryan and counted aloud to keep myself amused :-) Anything to stay happy through the day. Plus we saw 4 deer and an adorable fawn. It was about the size of a large cat and was a great dark brown with white spots. So cute. It was cuddled up by a rock while mom looked at us intently as we hiked by. We didn't want to disturb them too much so we didn't even take a photo, but what a neat experience.
"Real World" News: I am proud to announce that I am going to be an aunt! My sister Kristen is pregnant and due sometime in December. Wow! I can't believe my little sister is going to be a mom. Very exciting! I'm so happy for her and Rob. And can't wait to spoil my little niece or nephew :-)
P.S. Our fortune cookie at the chinese food restaurant tonight said "You love challenge." Seems fitting, and we're up for it! We're tough. Rrrrr :-)

rain, more cold hard rain (ok, not all day, but i'm going for a dramatic effect.)
who wants to suffer? that's pretty much what today was all about. it was raining this morning when we left the shelter, and the trail was really rocky, and all the rocks were wicked slippery. not good times. in any event, we banged out 16 miles today in 6 hours without any real stops. we were moving. a brief lunch stop with 5 miles to go, and then we were home in an hour and a half. basically, we were hammering. danielle is a stud. she was more jacked than usual today. that chick is pretty tough. no surprise, and she impresses me everyday, but i was particularly impressed today. her feet aren't feeling the best right now, but two days off should cure that. this evening, after the all you can eat bonanza of ming garden and a pint of ben & jerry's we're feeling pretty good, and the floor of a church basement never looked so good. hey, it's a free place to stay. many thanks to the generosity of all the folks along the trail. it never ceases to amaze me.
today's song - yeah time for songs...must go faster, must go faster