March 29, 2011

Goodbye Smokies! Hello NC...again!

Well, here we are typing from Tentville again. We're camped just shy of I-40 (listening to the 18 wheelers rush by in the distance) so service is good & we figured we'd take advantage of it & give a little update.

Yesterday we said goodbye to our sweet family & got a later start from Newfound Gap with the plans of walking 10 or so miles. When we arrived @ our intended shelter, the sign stated that it was 0.4 miles off the trail...bummer! Not wanting to tack on an extra yard to our journey & having 2 hours of daylight left, we pushed on. One if the joys of the Smokies is that you cannot tent camp wherever you want. Actually, you cannot tent camp at all--you must stay in a shelter. What's crazy is that they actually enforce this with "ridge runners" - extremely fit Nazi..errrr, park rangers who hike miles & miles each day checking shelters & who is where, & asking questions like "Where are you from?" "Are you thru-hiking?" "Can I see your pass?" "Have you seen so & so?" Actually, the one we met was really nice & I know his job is to enforce the rules...but c'mon. So anyway, you get the point that pushing on to the next shelter (5.5 miles away) was a big deal. I wish we could adequately describe the trail during the evening portion of the hike yesterday. Everything is so wet & green. The moss & ferns seem to be doing their best to take over everything. Rocks, downed trees & still growing trees the same. The trail is a creek bed of smooth stone cutting through the moss, that has you walking through the water running downhill. The evergreen forest grows so thick that you feel like you're walking through a tunnel. And then there's the ever present mist, moving through trees & rolling over the surrounding mountains to fill the low areas like it has a life & mind of its own. Toward the end of our day, we crested a mountain to look down on an endless sea of clouds from above, with little green islands (the mountian tops over 6,000 feet) poking up sporadically in between. No picture will do justice, but we'll share what we were able to snag when we can.

Our first negative hikers interaction on the trail came when we arrived at the shelter after dark and were told rather rudely that the shelter was full & basically best of luck finding sleeping accommodations. Maybe the shelter was full & maybe they meant no ill will, but there was something offensive in the way they sat flicking things into the fire & telling jokes as we set up our tent on a slightly level, soaking wet patch of grass in the dark. We may have been left with hurt feelings, but a warm meal fixed in the vestibule of Tentville & eaten in our cozy bags put us to bed in tip top shape.

Today was more of the same terrain, but with much nicer weather. The highlight of our day was taking a long lunch with a new friend - Skid. He's a veteran thru-hiker / published author with the North American "Triple Crown" under his belt & a book coming out in a few weeks.

Total mileage for yesterday: 15.6
Total mileage for today: 17

Miles from Springer: 237.3
Miles to Katahdin: 1941.8

Thanks for following us from home! (:

March 27, 2011

204.7 miles down!

Well, tonight we sit in a hotel in Gatlinburg, TN with Andy, Cindy, Cayden & Honey (: They scooped us up at Newfound Gap at mile 204.7 -- rollin' right along! [Brock, we're on schedule.] After getting picked up, we got cleaned up at the room & went out for a steak dinner! I've been dreaming of steak for days. And the one I had for dinner measured up to my dreams! [And Mikes!]

I'll be honest, this 2nd week has been tough. It's been much colder than the first week, and much wetter. Yesterday we walked in the 30ish degree weather - wet. It not only rained, it poured. We pulled into our shelter around dinner time, dripping wet & soaked to the bone. Let me just say, I'm ready for some spring weather! Sunny & 70+ looks better every stinkin' day!

Since our last post, Mike & Kayla came & visited us at the NOC (: Bless their souls. We needed a visit from friends & they were so sweet to take their time to come see us! They picked us up & took us to the Microtel Inn in the booming city of Bryson City, NC. We cleaned up & went out for pizza [Mike's preference] at Pizza Hut  & spent the evening watching TV & catching up. You know, typical trail things! (: We woke up, went to Bojangles for breakfast [which beats trail food any day], shopped the local Ingles & headed to the NOC to hang out until time to part. Oh yea--I got new shoes at the NOC too!! NO MORE BLISTERS! My sweet doctor uncle Andy cut the dead skin off today right before dinner! I have clean, free feet!

After Mike & Kayla visited on Tuesday, Papa visited on Thursday. Go ahead & say it. We're spoiled. We enjoyed dinner with him in Fontana...pork sandwiches with fries & slaw! YUM. He also hiked with us some on Friday [7 miles actually] up to the nearest look-out tower. You go Old Man (: [I say that very lovingly] Just a shout-out: We missed you Mimi! & hope to see you soon!

Papa actually hiked us across into the Smokies....which are awful!!!! They haven't gotten Mike's gold star or my vote for "favorite section of the trail." The trail is muddy...ankle deep mud. And it isn't a nice trail like the rest has been [in NC & GA], it's a dang ditch! It's been tricky not to slip into an injury. AND, this mess has slowed us down! There's definitely no denying the beauty of this section though.  This morning, the rain subsided for a bit and tiny rays of sunlight (visible on the ever present misty/fog) stabbed thousands of tiny holes through the shadowy evergreen forest, revealing so much unseen beauty.  Moss and ferns (still dripping wet from the gully-washing rains) grew right from the trunks of Firs, Cedars and Pines.  It's the little things, ya know?  We're outta the Smokies in two days, so hopefully we'll be back to our beloved trail.

Thanks again to all of you folks at home for your support--whether in the form of trail visits, encouraging calls/notes and mostly your prayers.  You keep us moving on!

Enjoy the camera dump:

new shoes
New shoes for Mc (:
= no more blisters!! & one happy camper!
the view from the parking lot at Fontana
The view at Fontana

lookin' down from a look-out tower in NC
The rickety stair case on the look-out tower 3.5 miles past Fontana Dam [the highest dam on the east coast]

the view---Fontana Lake
Fontana Lake from the look-out tower
walkin' through the green tunnel!
Mikey & me walkin' through the green tunnel

in a HUGE tree trunk!
in a HUGE tree trunk!

shout-out to Just Tomatoes! Thanks for the yummy veggies!
Shout-out: Just Tomatoes!! thanks for the veggies friends!

attempting to dry all of our stuff
our attempt to dry our clothes..FAIL

me & mike at the highest point on the trail
on the highest point on the AT...too bad you can't see anything but us!

the view from Newfound Gap after the mist cleared away!

March 22, 2011

catch up

Tonight I'm sitting in a warm, cozy bed in a hotel in Bryson City with our sweet, dear friends, Mike & Kayla! We called them a few days ago & just threw out the idea of meeting us at the NOC and hanging out for an evening & they took us up on it! [for real, bless them! -- their visit couldn't have come a better time]. Since our last post -- we've had a few tough days.

We stayed at a campsite just beyond the road that leads into Franklin [U.S. 64] on Sunday after a 16.8 mile day. About midway through the day we got the bright idea of calling the local pizza place [in this case Dominoes & Pizza Hut] to see if they would be so kind as to deliver a pizza to the AT-road crossing. No such luck. ): We were pretty bummed out at this point...but knew that if we pushed on, pizza would be that much sweeter on Tuesday. [and trust was]

Monday we woke up & hiked our butts off again - for a 14.9 mile day. Half way through the day we came up to the Wayah Bald [5,342 ft summit]. At the top is the John B. Byrne Memorial Tower. It's a stone observation tower & the view was GORGEOUS (: The tower was built in 1937 by the CCC & renovated in 1983.

Today, we woke up to the sun rising! Our view was pretty blocked by trees, but we could still see the colors changing & streaking across the sky. We thought we would have a nice short hike into the NOC ... but boy were we wrong! The 4,000 ft, 13 mile descent proved to be one of the hardest days yet. We got some great wisdom from Swift yesterday while we were lunching at Wayah Bald -- "the uphills are tough & wear you out, but the downhills are tough, wear you out AND injure you." You've gotta be careful going's bad for the knees, ankles & feet. Tomorrow will be a short hangout with Mike & Kayla before hitting the trail again. 

Lastly--Mike's trail name is Upstate [no longer the Conductor] -- as a nod towards home! (:

Since Kayla was sweet enough to bring her computer for me to use, here are some pictures from our first 10 days on the trail: 

Mike gearing up
Mike gearin' up

Mike's boots---all new. They don't look like this now!

Mikey & Me on top of Springer Mt! 
Ready, Set, GO!

Typical supper on the trail 

Mike walkin' through the tunnel @ Neel's Gap
Mike walkin' through the tunnel at Neel's Gap

Nasty wet day
Me walkin' in the nasty weather 

clothes hanging out to dry
water bottles...pretty full (:
smoke coming out of the pot..dinner's on! 

trail friends
Rooster, Zip Code & Upstate 

my blister friend
Hello blister friend. Please ignore the fuzz from my socks! YUCK! [just be glad you can't smell them!] (:

Me & Mike in Tenville one morning 

Blueberry Patch
Tree Frog, Pickle, Zip Code, Upstate & Me [Caboose]

Trying to tame the far, no luck. 


Mike & Me at the NC / GA state line! Movin' right along 

on the famous tree @ Bly Gap
Me & Mike on the famous tree at Bly Gap 

lookin' @ the view!
Enjoyin' the view 

mountains (:
The veiw we were enjoying! 

stone tower @ Wayah Bald
The stone tower on top of Wayah Bald

river's end
A late lunch at River's End at the NOC (: 

March 19, 2011

Hello NC

Being in a new state is a pretty exciting thing. It's a definite marker that you've made progress, even if the terrain looks exactly the same...and the state line is a small carved piece of wood nailed to a tree in the middle of nowhere. We crossed into NC a little after lunch yesterday, rested @ the famous Bly Gap & spent the afternoon almost on all fours climbing one of the craziest ascents we've hit yet. We've already noticed that on a steep climb all you want is a section of easy down, or when it's raining all you want is dry, or when its hot you're dreaming of two mornings ago when the misty wind blew in every crack of clothing & made your teeth chatter & vise versa for all of these. These things will consume your thoughts all day if you aren't careful. Our bodies and minds desperately desire the comfortable middle ground & this isn't just true of an extended outdoor trip. We are ruled by these thoughts at work, at home...or in any situation & if we're not careful we'll miss life. We're realizing that there is a lot of beauty & enjoyment in process, not just when you meet that next goal.

As I wright this, Mike & I are grabbing a bite to eat on top of Standing Indian Mt. at 5500 ft looking down on the last 3 days journey. Since we last touched base we've moved on from the cozy Blueberry Patch. Our parting gift from Gary & Mrs. Lennie was an enormous country breakfast consisting of: scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausage, cheese biscuits, homemade sawmill gravy (Gary's speciality), pancakes, & Mrs. Lennie's blueberry syrup. While we ate our feast, our hosts made sure that our OJ & coffee cups were never empty. Beside each plate was a small envelope that informed the visitor that there was no charge for staying @ The Blueberry Patch, but that hikers donations allow them to continue to serve hikers. "Service," it said, "is what our Lord Jesus has called us to, & we hope that our efforts have honored Him." That's the kind of folks you'll find @ The Blueberry Patch. The kind that not only offer you a ride into town, but toss you the keys (literally, he lent us his car!), give you directions & say, "Park the truck over there when you get back." Gary & Lennie, we know our Lord is honored by your generosity & service.

Last night we camped in our tent @ White Oak Stamp after a 13ish mile day, a much needed shorter day. Our friends Pickle & Tree Frog had waited for us. Sadly, old man Zip Code wasn't with us. His sweet wife met him for a few days in Hiawassi...but we're confident we'll see him again (funny side story: his wife met him in Hiawassi last year & after paying for a hotel room noticed that he seemed down about his trail friends leaving him behind, so she took him back to the trail & told him she was going home. Since they couldn't get a refund, the hotel offered them a free stay so they're cashing in on it this weekend.)

Hope all is well at home! Thanks to everyone for your continued prayers & support.

March 18, 2011

Day 5 on the trail started around 8:30 for us. We got passed this AM while breaking down camp by Zip Code, Rooster (formerly Robert) & Tree Frog. We ended up catching Tree Frog (only because he stopped for water...this man flies!) & had "lunch" with him, then trailed him for the rest of the day. After lunch, we ran out of water. Let's just say, 8 miles in the 75 deg heat will NEVER happen again. We both thought we were dying....and yes, we know its dangerous..but there was literally no water for mmmiiiilllleeesss. Anyway, after we made it to water we realized we only had 6.2 miles to make it to the end of our hike so we decided to huff it out & make it to Dicks Creek Gap (which is roughly 18 1/2 miles from our spot last night). At the point when we ran out of water dreams of dinner @ McDonald's kept me goin. This girl is a goal setter & with a McDonald's dinner on the line I was makin it! We'd also heard rumors of The Blueberry Patch - a Christian run hostel where Gary & Lennie pick you up, wash your clothes, let you take a warm shower & feed you breakfast. Hopes of that kept me going too. Trust me, 19 miles is a butt-kicker! Especially since I have tumors...I mean blisters the size of extra toes on my toes. Oh well, such is the life of a hiker.

March 16, 2011

19 miles

Lights on @ Neels Gap was 7am. This was our earliest start yet...and it was 30 deg & wet. however, by noon it'd turned into a pretty nice day. We caught up to a couple of our hiking buddies - Zip Code, a postal worker from Durham, NC & Robert, who is from Anderson, SC. We actually hiked on & off with them all day. We got our 2nd dose of trail magic when we came to the road crossing @ Hogpen Gap. A sweet local man named Bruce had set up a tailgate for hikers. His spread included fresh fruit, cookies, candy, drinks, ice & lawn chairs. We capitalized on a banana & Pepsi before getting back at it on the trail. We finished up the day at around 19 miles & are laying in Tentville licking our wounds...hoping to sleep it off & pound out another 18 miler tomorrow!

Our dinner of brown minute rice mixed with Ramen & beef jerky (a close 2nd to home cooked spaghetti) is putting us to bed with warm full tummies.

March 15, 2011

Rain, rain...

We came into camp last night on Big Cedar Mt. around 7pm & set up camp before dark. From the top of the mountain we had a gorgeous view! We had enough daylight to enjoy the enormous range of mountains in view...then once it got dark we could see a few mountain towns with all of their lights. It was glorious! we went to bed we noticed the gale force winds outside. At 3am we woke up to a TORENTIAL downpour! I haven't heard it rain like that in a long time. Needless to say, we got another late start. The rain gave us a break around 9am & we started packing while we could. After hiking in the rain for about 3 hours, we decided to try to hit up the hostel @ Neels Gap. Trust me...dreams of a DDP or Coke Zero kept me goin' today. We finally made it to Neels Gap, booked the last bed (which we'll be sharing--hey, its better than being cold & wet) & got a surprise treat for dinner! We had no idea that a local church provided meals for the hostel throughout the week, so we were clueless when everyone started talking about spaghetti being in its way! (: All I can say is..Bless those sweet people! Trail magic is a wonderful thing! We had a full home cooked meal (with veggies, spaghetti, fruit, & dessert!) I feel like I just ate like a queen!! Now we're all bundled up ... clean & fed, reading before lights out in the hostel. We have big plans for tomorrow!

Miles from Springer: 30.7
Miles to Katahdin: 2148.4

IMAG0084, originally uploaded by ameganmartin.

IMAG0090, originally uploaded by ameganmartin.

IMAG0085, originally uploaded by ameganmartin.

Sorry for the lack of pictures...its a real process with this phone. Annnnddd it rained all day today, so we just walked. No pictures of the rain!

March 14, 2011

Maine, no turning back.

Yesterday Mimi & Papa dropped us off about a mile up the mail from Springer Mountain around 2:15. We backtracked the 0.09miles to "hit go" then hit the trail running ... well, walkin. We made it (a rough 7.8) miles to the Hawk Mt. Shelter around 6:30PM, set up camp & made dinner all before dark. After supper, Mike hung our food bags so the bears couldn't reach them & then hung out around the fire with some other hikers.

Today we woke up around 8:30 & had breakfast ... which left us leaving around 10 (a little late, we know...but we got a great night of sleep!) Tentville was extremely full last 25-30 people full, but when we woke up there were only about 5 of us left! We spent the day overtaking everyone who left before us this AM. It was neat getting to chat with the different people as we passed. Our favorite was a guy who sat around the camp fire with us last night. His name is Cody & he is an ex-pro Volcom skater who just finished serving in the Coast Guard. His 60 lb pack is an army issue OD green duffel bag that he's modified by sewing on backpacking straps & a hip belt. Needless to say he was moving a but slower than we were with our 30(ish) lb packs. We thought ours were heavy but we've realized we have little room to complain. We also met a guy who is walking barefoot and got to talk to a girl who thru-hiked in '07 with her husband. After hiking all say in sunny, 65 deg. weather, we're afraid we're getting spoiled...but who knows? Theres an 85% chance of hard rain tonight. Sleeping & starting the day wet may bring us down to earth. That's all for now (: (Mike is winding the phone charger & his arms are getting tired.)

March 12, 2011



One last trip around town for errands.

One last shower.

One last time being dressed up [for a wedding].

One last good, warm dinner.

One last round of visits with our family.

One last night in our cozy, snuggly bed.

For tomorrow we leave. We’re having one last breakfast with most of our family tomorrow, then we’re headin’ out for Springer Mt., GA. We’re hoping to hit the ground running after … one last lunch with Mike’s parents. (:

Everyone is asking if we’re ready. We’re as ready as we’re gonna be! We cannot wait to get on the get some miles under us, a few nights in the shelters, and days without showers. We can’t wait for oatmeal, rice, and bars. [We have way more food as you’ve seen…our family and sponsors have really taken care of us!] We can’t wait for the people we’re going to meet, the stories and experiences we’re going to have, and being away from everything. Here’s to the simple life.

Please keep us in your prayers as the days turn into weeks, and weeks turn into months. We’ll update on here and facebook as much as we can. We aren’t sure about how much service we’ll have up in the mountains but we know we’ll be able to update every time we come to a town [and probably at road crossings]…so stay tuned! AND…remember, we have the list of stops a few posts back, and since I know you’re just dying to send us stuff—print it off and keep it on your fridge—and send us lots of stuff!

Much thanks & love to our friends and families. Y’all have all been so supportive and we are forever grateful! (:

de caboose & the conductor

Check out this link:

March 10, 2011

'til next time...

Wednesday marked our last [sniff...for you, Kayla] get together with our friends until we return 5 or so months from now from this Big Adventure! OD & Cathy were, as always, gracious enough to open up their home to us [and they fed us!] for the evening. We shared a dinner of salad & pizza with dessert in honor of Kayla and Mike's March birthdays.

more friends
Sweet friends hanging out!

the birthday cake! 24!
angel food cake birthday cake [we had fresh kiwi & strawberries & cool whip to go with it!]

happy birthday mike & kayla!
Everyone singing to Kayla & Mike
*Happy Birthday to y'all!*

brock & carson
Brock & Carson

So long sweet friends. BUUUUUTTTTTTT this isn't "good bye," it's "I'll see ya later." (:

food for the trail

This is our stack for the mail drops. Things that our parents and grandparents will be sending to us throughout the trip. Almost everything here was donated [thanks again to all of our sponsors..and Honey!]. Here is a list of what we'll need if you have it in your heart to send us goodies while we're on the trail!

peanut butter [preferably crunchy]
MSR fuel canisters
dried fruit
candy bars. lots of them.
fruit [if it'll last in a apples & oranges]
gummy candy
beef jerky
instant coffee
power bars - cliff bars - larabars - trail mix bars
really, anything that can last about a week in a box (:

Thank you & bless you in advance!

Mail Drops

After dividing up the mail drops, we separated out what's going to be in each of our packs food wise:mike's food

my food

It's a lot of food, but our goal is to make it 8 days right off the bat before stopping. We will probably hit Neel's Gap for a cold soft drink & special snack [maybe a hot dog if they have 'em .. or just something other than what's in our pack] -- then push on towards our first goal!

March 8, 2011

Ricky's Lucky Nuts

Carolyn & Paul of Ricky's Lucky Nuts have been absolutely wonderful! These guys are located in Durango, Colorado and make "all natural, grown in the U.S.A. gourmet peanuts."  "Ricky's Lucky Nuts was founded upon the revelation that a perfect marriage of peanuts and spices could be created to bring something entirely new to the marketplace."

ricky's lucky nuts

We contacted them about a sponsorship for our journey and they quickly hopped on board! (: Lucky for us, our thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail fits right in with their newest marketing campaign - about the adventure of flavor with Ricky's! They shipped us boxes of their individual packets [2oz each] which will be awesome for the light packing that we're going to have to do. The flavors include: Cocoa & Vanilla bean, Bombay Curry Coconut, Original, Spicy Chile Chipolte, and Black Pepper & Salt. I'm sure we'll both have our favorite guess for Mike is the Spicy Chile Chipotle & for me either the Cocoa & Vanilla bean or the Bombay Curry Coconut! We will see!

They also sent us some awesome apparel -- shirts and hats for the journey! We'll be posting pictures with those as soon as we start the trip! (: Thanks Carolyn, Paul & everyone at Ricky's Lucky Nuts! Your nuts rock!

Friends be sure to check out their website! They have some really cool things at the bottom of the page about The World of Spice & Serving Ideas! Find them on facebook & become their friend or "like" them! They've supported me & Mike, we'd appreciate it if you support them! (:

March 7, 2011

product donations

Over the past few weeks all of our product donations have slowly trickeled in. One of my favorite things is to come home after work to a package on the doorstep! Here are a few pictures of the goodies we've received. A special thanks to ALL of our donors! Check out our sponsorship tab at the top! (:

ricky's lucky nuts donation
Ricky's Lucky Nuts

ricky's lucky nuts

cape cod donation
Cape Cod donated vouchers for FREE chips!

minute rice donation
Minute Rice

crunchies donation
Crunchies dried foods

sunland donation
Sunland peanut butter
[individual 2 oz packets...perfect!]

larabar donation
LaraBar samples

goodonya bar
the GoodOnYa bar!

March 2, 2011

so little time

our bedroom needs to be cleaned. and organized. we have stuff everywhere. the clothes are in the dryer. a menu for our special "thank you" dinner for Mike's 'rents needs to be completed. documents that hold all of the important info for mine & Mike's lives need to be neatly stashed away in our organized binders. our drop box goodies actually need to be put in boxes. dinner should probably be started soon. tidying up before our last Bible study with this sweet group. all things that i need to be doing...right.this.minute.

instead i'm sitting on the back porch watching Mikey paint stain the shed in the backyard. he just told me to "come over & watch so that when the makeshift ladder gives way you can see me fall and the gallon of stain go everywhere." i promptly replied that he'd be stained for good ... like the reddleman in my favorite book. i've enjoyed these random moments of hanging out - there have been way more than ever in our married lives over the past two months & i hope that i can always remember them because i'm sure as soon as we get back from the trail life will pick back up & we'll be as busy as ever. [we do have a little insight for life after the trail, but that's another story for another day]

going back in time to this past weekend - Mike, Papa, Mimi & I went for a motorcycle ride! we haven't done this in a long, long time [mainly because of the cold] so it was nice to enjoy one last ride before our adventure begins next week!

mike, mimi & papa
the gang gettin' into picture position

the whole gang
the whole gang & the motorcycles [it was very important that they make it into the picture!]