April 30, 2011

part two: photo dump

part two: photo dump

me & carson hikin'
me & Carson hikin'

settin' up the ENO
Carson & Mike settin' up his hammock

beautiful scenery

again..on the same property
again...on the same property

Mikey, Me & Carson enjoyin' the river

silly us!
Silly us (:

secrets (: at betsy's
Robins eggs at Betsy's

Betsy's barn
the barn at Betsy's

her garage & stained glass studio
sweet mess-up
sweet mess-up

us in front of the giant keffer oak
the Keffer Oak
each limb was a small tree in itself

the view from McAfee's Knob
the view from McAfee's Knob

sock brock enjoyin' the view at McAfee's Knob
Sock Brock enjoyin' the view

another shot
token AT picture
[parents don't worry--we only sat there long enough for the picture to be taken (:]

enjoy (:

Part One: Photo Dump

Erwin -- Uncle Johnny's Hostel
Mike & Me at Uncle Johnny's hostel in Erwin, TN
although we didn't stay here, we enjoyed loungin' on the porch with our trail friends!

most of our trail friends!
Trail Friends!
Back row: Sam, BattleCat, Over---> the top, Tree Frog
Front row: Burley, Greenlite, Malarky (from Ireland), Upstate & Caboose

Katahdin 1822 miles away
Miles to Katahdin: 1822
Miles to the Doller Store: 2 (:

Here's a shelter--since many of you are wondering what they look like
This one is actually new as of last fall, so it's very nice!

Baby David came to visit!
Baby David came to visit [with Matt & Amanda of course] (:
 love him

Cabin @ Roan Mt. State Park
The cabin Mimi & Papa rented in Roan Mt. State Park
[this was before we Red-Necker-ized it by stringing a clothes line across the whole porch]

washin' clothes (:
Washin' clothes the old fashioned way (: hahahaha ... since there were no W/D facilities at the state park we improvised. YUCK!

another shelter
Another shelter. This old barn was actually the back-drop for a movie in the '80s and was turned into a shelter for hikers.


This is Hazzard. The point of the picture was to show how much food he's eating. Look at all that stir-fry!!!!

friends at Kincora Hostel
Friends sittin' around at Kincora Hostel [owned by the famous Bob Peoples]
Long story short, we stopped by Kincora for lunch..but it was raining so we stayed [after only 4 miles]. Throughout the day about 18 more people trudged in soggy and cold from the rain. This little gem of a hostel was why we had to hike a 24 & 26 mile day back to back. But...I'd stay there again given the chance!

Walkin' somewhere between Kincora & Damascus


almost there! .. 26 miler!
Friends at Jack Porter this is for you (:
[since you requested more pictures of us..we'll try to be better about this!]

we made it!
26 miles later...we made it!
Interesting fact about the sign -- it's actually pretty famous -- Bryan Blevins made this sign as his Eagle Scout project & his sweet parents are the ones who took us in for our stay in Damascus (:

mail drop goodies!
Mail Drop Goodies
Shout-out to: OD & Cathy, friends at Jack Porter, Megan & BD Davis, Mimi (:

Sock Brock enjoyin' lunch
Sock Brock enjoyin' a lunch of Nutella & PB

lunch break
Lunch break!

snow. yet again.
White Top Mt.
[or, "snow...yet again"]

The Place -- Damascus (hostel)
"The Place"
a hostel in Damascus [where we stayed the 2nd night because of horrible weather]

Dad & Honey droppin Carson off
Dad & Honey droppin' Carson off in Damascus
We love visitors!

Mike pettin' the [not-so] wild pony
Mike petting the [not-so] wild, very pregnant pony

Carson's turn
Carson's turn

now my turn!
now my turn!

beautiful (:
she was a beauty!

April 28, 2011

Almost asleep in tentville

Howdy everyone at home! We've had a really hard time finding Internet service in VA...sorry for the lack of updates.

We're cozy here in Tentville near a small town called Catawba, VA. So near in fact, that we were able to walk to the Catawba Grocery (gas station) for some health food: 8 hot dogs, 1 bag of super cheddar munchies, 20 oz drinks, 1/2 a bag of powdered mini donuts & a 1/2 gallon if vitamin d whole milk that Mike's just polishing off! I'd give you a calorie count...but I can't add that high (: Haha! This gluttonous trip to the convenient store was the dangling carrot that kept us moving for 23 miles today. We heard most of the east coast got lousy weather last night from the storms in Alabama-- in case you're wondering, we weren't exempt. Fortunately, we knew bad weather was on its was, so we holed up in a shelter last night. A shelter us a half step above a tent in nasty weather. Although you still catch the spray that the rain blows in & get that good old fashioned clammy, sweaty feeling in your sleeping bag, you don't have to pack out a wet tent. We laid & listened to the thunder & hail shake the shelter happy to be under a roof instead of just a tent-fly. One great thing about the storm was that it brought in cooler weather to walk in today. With all the rain, streams became rivers & the rivers became swollen monsters. After lunch we enjoyed getting to take off our shoes & wade through a few creeks that had overrun their bridges.

Virginia has treated us well for the most part (so far). The terrain is generally more moderate which has allowed us to up our daily mileage to the low 20s. The trees are all getting their leaves back & it's neat to look out over a mountainous landscape covered in green trees & greener pasture land with a big blue sky to top it all off. Although the inclines & declines are more moderate, the soil is much more rocky - which has caused both Mike & me to wine about sore feet for a few days. It's funny to hear the comments escalate from "It feels like someone put my feet through a meat grinder" to, "I feel like someone tied me up & beat my feet with a rubber bat" and so on and so forth. To our credit, our feet are monstrously swollen. Other than the little discomforts, we're staying healthy & are still grateful to be on this adventure. We're hoping to be at the I-81 interchange near Roanoke on Sat. AM to be scooped up by Doug & Marlene (more of Mike's fam). That'll put us 720 miles in & 1/3 of the way done with this daggum trail! If I had to describe the first third of the AT in a few words, I'd say it's been a lot like eating a cup-cake with strawberry icing. Totally kidding. It's been more challenging than we could possibly have fathomed. But with great challenge, comes great reward. We're looking forward to what the next 1400 miles hold. And no matter how many days it takes, as my grandpa Pop used to say, "You could stand on your head & stack greased BBs for that long." (:

Thanks to Debbie Wilson for the package in Pearisburg!!! What a treat. (:
*please hold further packages until we come back after the cruise! I'll give a new PO list & dates

As usual, no way to add pics tonight so expect a photo dump this weekend!

April 26, 2011

Virginia, the land of rolling "Narnia" hills, wildlife, & family

I'm sitting here in Pearisburg, VA with Mike & Betsy (Mimi's first cousin who has graciously taken us in) enjoying the late evening. Betsy picked us up this AM & brought us to her gorgeous, absolutely stunning home ... where its beauty is only rivaled by the beauty of the surrounding mountains. Mike talked to Mimi & described our time here perfectly...we've been engulfed by Betsy's hospitality! After she scooped us up, she let us tour the house & get cleaned up while she made us a good ole Southern BBQ lunch (including hand-pulled BBQ, pinto beans, potatoe salad, & slaw!). I think good cooks run thick on the Williams side (: We've also gotten to meet Larry, one of Betsy's dear friends. She described him perfectly, "the most colorful person we've met on the trail." He is an absolute trip...with a giant heart. He's even offered to take us back to the trail tomorrow after taking us to the post office. What an angel.

Now, let me back up. Last week, Carson (trail name: Jabbo) hiked 100 miles with us! Honey & Dad picked us up on Saturday @ Elk Garden & took us back to Damascus to hang out for the day before bringing us back for more hiking. We thoroughly enjoyed showing off Damascus as if it was our own town. We took Dad, Honey, & Carson to Quincy's for lunch ... longed around town, literally all day, dined at Dot's Cafe for dinner & hit the trail again around 7PM. Our week with Carson was an adventure for sure! It started with night hiking...2 miles up Mt. Rogers (the highest peak in VA). Let me just that I hate night hiking. We walked up a creek bed the entire way. Blah! After that we were in "wild pony country" - we only saw one (well, Mike saw more when he pulled water that AM, but they were all gone when we made it back up the hill...go figure). However, we have some great pictures ... we'll post ASAP, I promise! Out lack of ponies was made up for later in the week because we saw a baby black bear. Our last bit of wildlife for the week was a sweet little (probably rabid) racoon! Again, more pictures will come later! Sorry guys. Anyway, Carson finished his week with us near Bland, VA where Mom & Mema picked him up & took us all to lunch! Gas station buffet baby! (: We were so pumped & proud of Carson for beasting out 100 miles with us!

Now we're being carted around by Larry to scoop up some last minute supplies before we head back out for a big week before we visit Doug & Marlene in Roanoke! Bless you Larry, and a big thanks (:

I wanna give a shout-out Congrats to Courtney & Kenny on their engagement! (:

April 15, 2011

Sleeping dry in Damascus

Hello to our faithful followers! We're sitting on a worn-out green leather sofa in 'The Place'--a hostel owned by a church here in Damascus--digesting the 14" calzone that we just downed at the local pizza joint, and listening to the wind sling the rain against the window behind our heads. And let me go ahead and point out that the rain sounds much better against a window from inside a dry room than it does on the fly of Tentville! Oooh, Mc would cringe at my epic run-on sentence up there! But Mikey's got control of the keyboard, so I can write pretty much whatever I want. Allow me to catch y'all up on the last few days of walking...

Tuesday AM, we wake up in the rain that never blew away during the evening like the radio predicted. After cooking breakfast in Tentville (while still snuggled in our bags--we've found that this is a great way to do breakfast!) we break camp and walk four miles to Dennis Cove Gap with plans to pay the Kincora Hostel a visit and hopes of a dry place to have a snack and something proper to drink (like a Coke!). After a short trip up the road, we pulled up to the hostel and found our friends Over the Top, Battlecat, Hazard and Burly sitting around a table playing a game of cards. It's crazy how much a smile/hello from a friend and a dry porch can completely change your outlook on a day of walking with wet feet. We drop our stuff and make lunch while chatting, taking our time since neither of us is eager to step back out into the rain to finish the 18-mile day that we have planned. All of you math people know that as the limit of spending time in comfort approaches infinity, the likelihood of returning to discomfort is zero (this is a proven theorem...feel free to be impressed with my calculus skills). Our day of hiking was over the second that the proprietor Bob Peoples came out and mentioned the wood stove that we was on his way to crank up. We spend the evening in a warm den with our friends and watch as more and more soaking wet hikers trickle in. Bob drives us into Hampton, TN where we purchase and eat 3 large Little Caesars pizzas (Megan will appreciate me noting that she only had four pieces). Before evening is out, I count 22 hikers in the 18 person capacity hostel--don't tell the fire marshal. Mc and a snuggled into one bunk to make room for a German guy named 'Cologne'. End Tuesday.

Wednesday AM, we're up and out by 7 to attack a 24-mile day. We have dinner arrangements in Damascus, VA (51.5 miles north) on Thursday evening and no intention of missing food and kind hospitality. The terrain proves to be more wicked than expected and we move slowly up the steep elevation gains, traversing the rim of lake Watauga all day. We make camp at Iron Mt. shelter as light fails and go to sleep with stiff legs/sore feet. End Wednesday.

Thursday AM, we're slow to get out of bed even after snoozing thru our 6am wake up and 7am move out alarms. After polishing off the dried fruit and a few granola bars, we hit the trail with light packs (unencumbered by large food stores) and high spirits--a new state is a comin' round the mountain when she comes. Today we encounter the first stretch of the Virginia miles of legend--dreams of rolling hills and easy climbs come true and we increase our speed without trying. Miles melt away and before we know it we're looking down on the green valley where Damascus lies. We pull into town just in time for dinner, and are greeted warmly by Eugene Blevins and his wife Linda. They lead us to their home and after a quick shower we join them downstairs along with their younger son Barrett and his girlfriend Christie for a huge dinner of fresh veggies, fruit, Dominoes pizza and the grand finale--angel food cake! We immediately feel like part of the family and conversation is so enjoyable that we keep our hosts up past their bedtime. We sleep like two worn out hikers should in a cozy guest apartment.

This AM, we awake to the smell of Bacon frying, and head downstairs for a breakfast of the southern gods--eggs, bacon, country ham, sausage and biscuits and Gene's homemade gravy. BOOM! We spend a lazy morning reading and washing clothes, and the Blevins take us for a spin around town to give us the low down on all that is Damascus. We are joined by their older son Brian. We say our farewells mid afternoon and head into town with the intent of putting a few miles behind us before end of day, but once again decide to bend our plans to the impending bad weather. We figure we've got plenty of rainy nights in Tentville to come and feel no pressure to add onto that number when we've got a perfectly good hostel nearby. So here we sit on the old green leather sofa with the rain tinking on the glass behind us. God is truly prodigal in his provision for us.

Special hello and thanks to our 'drop box' senders! BD and Megan, OD and Cat, Pee and Em, and all of you fine ladies and gentlemen at Jack Porter (the notes and pictures from home were especially encouraging)! We're so blessed to have such generous and uplifting support.

Eugene and Linda--your hospitality to two strangers was above and beyond. Thank you again for everything!

Grace and peace y'all. And good night from the sweet sweet trail.

from Springer to Damascus

Where we've been since we started! (Along with the miles hiked each day)

Day 1: Hawk Mt. Shelter 7.8 miles (+1.8 for the back tracking to Springer)
Day 2: Big Cedar Mt.13.3 miles
Day 3: Neels Gap 9.6 miles
Day 4: Blue Mt.18.8 miles
Day 5: Hiawassee, GA 18 miles
Day 6: Whiteoak Stamp 12.6 miles
Day 7: Carter Gap Shelter 11.7 miles
Day 8: Campsite 16.8 miles
Day 9: Cold Spring Shelter 14.7 miles
Day 10: NOC 11.5 miles *we saw Mike & Kayla here & stayed in Bryson City
Day 11: Locust Cove Gap 10.5 miles
Day 12: Fontana Dam 18.5 miles *we saw Papa here
Day 13: Russell Field Shelter 13.5 miles *first day in the Smokies
Day 14: Silers Bald Shelter 14.7 miles
Day 15: Newfound Gap 12.5 miles *we stayed in Gatlinburg, TN w Andy, Cindy, Cayden & Honey
Day 16: Tri-corner Knob Shelter 15.6 miles
Day 17: State Line Branch 17.0 miles
Day 18: Max Patch Summit 14.7 miles
Day 19: Hot Springs, NC 19.8 miles *Duckett House Inn bunk house
Day 20: Hot Springs, NC 0 miles *we stayed here with OD & Cathy @ the Birds Nest
Day 21: Spring Mt. Shelter 11.0 miles
Day 22: Jerry Cabin Shelter 15.4 miles
Day 23: Hogback Ridge Shelter 14.7 miles
Day 24: Ogelsby Branch 18.1 miles
Day 25: Curley Maple Gap Shelter 13.1 miles
Day 26: Cherry Gap Shelter 12.8 miles
Day 27: Iron Mt. Gap 3.1 miles *we stayed @ Roan Mt. State Park w Mimi, Papa & OD (Matt, Amanda, David & Heather visited)
Day 28: Roan Mt. State Park 14 miles *slack-packing
Day 29: Campsite on bald 16.6 miles
Day 30: Campsite in field 18.3 miles
Day 31: Dennis Cove Gap 4 miles *Kincora Hostel
Day 32: Iron Mt. Shelter 24.6 miles
Day 33: Damascus, VA 26.1 miles *Eugene & Linda Blevins took us in for a night (:
Day 34: Damascus, VA 0 miles *The Place Hostel

Miles from Springer: 463.5
Miles to Katahdin: 1715.6

April 11, 2011

Enjoy the Photo-Dump (:

Friends, here are a few pictures since we haven't been able to add any since Gatlinburg, TN. These start in the Smokies and go through Hot Springs, NC.

The Smokies
our only view in the Smokies
excellent sunset view...a sea of clouds
[one of our only views in the Smokies]

Standing Bear Farm
the Standing Bear Farm Hiker Hostel
we stopped here for a snack [flat soft drinks, 2 packs of crackers, 1 pack of Nutter Butters, 1 Pay Day & 1 Snickers all for $5!]

Max Patch
Sunrise on Max Patch
[well worth the rainy night]

Max Patch
Again - Max Patch

first mail drop!
Our first mail drop in Hot Springs
[goodies from Honey, Mema, & our friends at Jack Porter]
Sock Brock waiting for dinner
Sock Brock waiting for dinner one evening

April 10, 2011

Goodbye Te-northcaro-see

We started the weekend (our 4th on the trail) with a minimal 3 mile walk to Iron Mt. Gap where Mimi, Papa, & OD were scooping us up. We sat snacking, sun-bathing & catching up with our long lost friend TreeFrog for a short bit & got picked up .. with a Wendy's frosty for each of us! (Yumm...real restaurant food! Haha) Mimi found a cabin at Roan Mt. State Park, so that's where we headed. And..an added bonus -- Matt, Amanda, baby David & friend Heather were on their way through TN so they joined us for lunch at the cabin! Such a treat (: It is always so refreshing to see family & friends, and this weekend we gotta double shot. We sat around enjoying grilled pimento cheese sandwiches, Cheez-its, & fruit for the majority of the afternoon. Matt & Amanda even brought us a treat - donuts from Ike & Jane's & a Hemingway book for Mike. After our (wonderfully) lazy afternoon that included rocking in the chairs on the porch, smoking pipes, & reading, Mimi fixed a dinner of veggies, bbq chicken, & sweet potatoes! We finished off the evening with a game of Scrabble!

We woke up on Saturday to a huge breakfast (again fixed by Mimi) & all headed out to Carver's Gap. The gang hiked up to Roan Mt. with us (our last 6000ft peak until the White Mts) . Carver's Gap was 14 miles above where we got picked up Friday & since we were staying at the cabin for another night, we got to slack pack. This means that we literally took nothing but our water filter & some bars & were able to cover the same amount of ground in less than 1/2 the time! Oh my goodness it was so nice & we even did a little trail running (for you Ben!) Since we were heading South, we passed all of our friends & were met with jealous looks. I think it was mostly because we got to go about 12 miles downhill instead of uphill! Once we made it back to Iron Mt. OD & Papa picked us up, took us to get cleaned up, then out for BBQ! Bless you Mimi, Papa, & OD (Cathy, we missed ya!) We'll be able to push on now...onward to Damascus!

*if you're going to send a package to Damascus, we'll be there this coming Friday...please put the date on the box. The PO address is on an earlier post.

Miles from Springer: 374.0
Miles to Katahdin: 1805.1

April 5, 2011

April weather

"The sun was warm, but the wind was chill. You know how it is with an April day, when the sun is out & the wind is still; you're one month on in the middle of May. But if you so much as dare to speak, a cloud comes over the sunlit arch, and a wind blows off the frozen peak & you're two months back in the middle of March." Robert Frost's words rang in our ears all day. We hiked 15 miles yesterday wearing our thinnest shorts, socks, & tees in 80 degree hot sunlight. We were stopping at every creek, stream, puddle, etc. to splash a little water on our arms & faces. On the uphills we were sure we were withering! Our plan was to hike 18 miles, but when we reached Hogback Mt. Shelter two things stopped us: first, the nasty t-storm that was brewing, & second, the sign propped against the tree that read, "Trail magic. Breakfast, Sam's Gap 2.4 miles north. Muffins, eggs, hash browns & sausage. If this sign is here, I will be there." I wish we could somehow impart how incredibly persuasive food is out here. Food consumes at least 70% of our daily thoughts (& that's a conservative estimate). So we bedded down in the shelter with our new friends: Over the top, Battlecat, Malarky, & Greenlight. The thunderstorm lived up to its expectation, roaring all night long. Fifty mph winds whipped rain against the back wall of the shelter - there was no where to hide. Our snug bags kept us warm though & we slept pretty well. The real surprise came this morning. We awoke to a quiet forest & assumed that the rain had moved out, & that we'd have another nice day. What we saw though, was a steady snow falling through the trees, adding to the inch or so that was already on the ground!!! IT WAS 80 DEGREES YESTERDAY! We went to bed slightly sweaty, too hot to even zip our sleeping bags, and awoke to an icy wind blowing snow into the 25 degree shelter. It's April baby! I'm glad we toted the extra weight of a few pieces of winter gear. We broke camp with chattering teeth (& a bad attitude on my part *my =Mc) & walked the 2.4 miles to Sam's Gap with stiff legs, exchanging few words. But oh how trail magic will lift the spirits! We found "Quiet Paul" Thrailkill ( 2007 thru-hiker) cooking on a big camp stove on the tailgate of his truck. We sat in camp chairs under the I-26 overpass & chatted with Paul as he served us each 3 eggs, a whole shredded potato worth of hash browns, a Johnsonville Brat, & a homemade bran muffin. Oh, & fresh OJ! Words can't express our gratitude Paul.

We left Sam's Gap with high spirits, ready to attack the 15 miles ahead of us. The terrain turned out to be pretty difficult with most of the day seeming to lead uphill. The slick snow & mud from the downpour last night added an interesting variable to the equation. Big Bald was our highest summit for the day. We got a beautiful 360 degree view of the snowy mountains surrounding us, but the wind up top with no barrier from the trees made the peak almost unbearable. The rest of the day passed as most do, with little ado. It's worth mentioning that we passed a southbounder / flip-flopper who is within 3 days of finishing! (He hiked from Springer to Hot Springs, NC & is almost done picking his way from Maine back to Hot Springs!) It's also worth mentioning that today is Mimi's birthday!! (We think she's 36) (:

We're back in Tentville tonight, all by ourselves in the woods. What a treat! Tomorrow brings us to Erwin, TN...we hear they have a wicked pizza buffet...oops, there goes our food obsession again. When we get home we're going to need some serious support in our battle against weighing 800 pounds!

April 4, 2011

Hot Springs, NC

Disclaimer: this was written a few days ago...enjoy (:

We made it to Hot Springs, NC Thurs. night after a 20 mile day in the snow, sleet, & rain. (As badly as I want to say that it was all uphill, it wasn't. It was actually rather pleasant for most of the day! Especially after coming off the summit of Max Patch (: )

After leaving my fam in Gatlinburg, we trudged on through 4 more days of rain & cold. Some days did give us enough of a break to dry our tent out at lunch...Mike would attach it to trees & let it flap in the wind for about an hour...we were workin' with what we were given! Tuesday night (where we posted from last) we were camped about a mile from I-40 & about 2 miles from the Standing Bear Farm & Hiker Hostel, definitely too close to pass up! We stopped in for snacks: Payday, Snickers, crackers, Nutter Butter, & 2 soft drinks, all for $5!! It was amazing (: AND, we got another dose of trail magic from a man named Apple, an actual Trail Angel. He was set up at a gap about 3.5 miles from Max Patch & had unlimited goodies! We arrived at the end of the day for him so we were allowed to take as many treats as we wanted! Score!!!

We'd already decided that we wanted to camp on top of Max Patch, but when we got to the summit it was rather wet...like the ground was soaked & rain was blowing in from all directions. After a little thinking & debating (weighing the options-mainly would we get struck by lightening) we decided "What the heck?!" We'd wanted so badly to camp there, so we did! One of the coolest things we've already seen on this trip is God answering specific prayers & He answered another prayer by giving us an undescribably gorgeous sunrise. We woke up & actually had about 20-30 minutes of perfect visibility; something we haven't had since we started the trip! Praise the Lord! (: After that, the fog & mist quickly returned & engulfed us, placing us back into the eerie wilderness.

We hiked our intended 16.5 miles to the last shelter & quickly decided that we were "crying uncle" & sucking up the last 3.5 mules & making it to Hot Springs. We snagged the bunk-house @ the Duckett House Inn, and were informed today by the other hikers that we'd made a good decision - they got covered in snow / rain all night! Hey, at least we were warm & dry! This morning, after a delicious & fatty...I mean hearty breakfast @ the Smoky Mt. Diner, OD & Cathy met us for the day / night at a local inn. We spent the day knocking around town...trips to the PO to pick up our packages (Shout out to: Honey, Mema & our friends at Jack Porter!), lunch, grocery shopping & a looksie at the local outfitter. We are now snuggled up by a fire waiting for one of Cathy's delicious dinners! Man, we're getting spoiled out here...and we're soaking up every single minute of it!

PS- We're set to roll over 300 miles on Sunday!