June 29, 2011

What Caboose is up to

Howdy friends!! First off -- here's the next mail drop for the boys: [I've had to re-do them, so stay tuned if you want to send something---please let me know if you do! They'd greatly appreciate treats!] 

Next Mail Drop for the boys [let me know if you send something!]:
*Please get it in the mail by TOMORROW [Thurs. June 30 -- with July 4, who knows how long it'll take the PO!] 

Michael Martin or Brock Cooke
General Delivery
Manchester Center, VT 05255
*Please hold for thru-hiker
ETA: Tuesday, July 5

Many of you are wondering, "what is Caboose doing, now that she's home?!" Well...I'm hangin' out enjoying summer! I've had great time already with friends and family -- lunches & dinners, coffee dates, on-the-calendar craft nights, etc. I am still enjoying being home and happy with the progress the boys are making. Last night, after a 31.9 mile day [their biggest yet!], they stopped at mile 1517.9. That means only 661.2 until Katahdin! They are officially in Massachusetts & will be pushing into Vermont at the end of the week. That means only THREE states to go! With about 6 weeks left, they're on schedule to finish around the first week in August! 

June 27, 2011

Good Morning from Connecticut!

Upstate here.  How are things in SC?  Loop and I are feeling absolutely capital here in Connecticut.  The rain has moved out, the sun is up, we're dry and clean and our bellies are full of homemade french toast (and sausage and blueberry Vermont maple syrup!).  This morning is our last with Pam and Bob (Loop's parents).  They flew up from SC to see us, and we have spent two days now in a cozy Bed & Breakfast in the small town of Kent.  And folks, let me say it again...the generosity and support that family and friends have shown us out here is so humbling.

But, let me back track a bit--the last week out here has been so full, and there's a bunch to catch up on.  Last Sunday, Caboose, Loop and I crawled out of our tents to start what would be our last day hiking with Caboose.  We had camped (rather by chance--mainly owing to running out of daylight the night before) right on a huge, westward-facing cliff that gave us a nice view of the failing sunlight over the surrounding mountains.  Looking back, I don't think we could have asked for a better 'last day' for Caboose.  We were blessed with plenty of sunlight, moderate temps and the most beautiful terrain we've encountered yet.  I tried to write something in my journal that would accurately depict the NY landscape, but as usual my words fall short of explaining the picture in my mind.  The dirt path would wind left and right, up and down through a shady old hardwood forest, where the beeches grew close enough to create a patchy canopy, but were sparse enough to allow the greenest twelve-inch-tall grass to cover the entire forest floor.  Then, the path would turn steeply upward and climb bald rock (leading sometimes over, sometimes under and even through the granite outcroppings) until it left the forest completely and topped-out onto a sunny bald, where the rock and blueberry bushes seemed to be in an endless battle for ground space.  And back down into the beech forest, all the time skirting the perimeter of a glacial lake, riddled with lily pads.  You can imagine how ready we were to appreciate this type of scenery after spending two weeks staring at our toes, hopping from unstable rock to sharp rock in the Pennsylvania flat lands.  After an entire day of this NY beauty, we made it to the foot of Bear Mt.--our final climb, where we were to meet Lt. Col. Austin for a day or two (or four, haha) of rest. Sadness, gratefulness, pride and about a million other indescribable feelings poured in as we summited Bear Mt. and I realized that my (and Loop's) time with our fearless team leader had come to an end.  It seems like yesterday morning that we were walking down the back side of Springer Mt. in Georgia, looking northward across the hundreds of miles ahead of us--not knowing what on earth the weeks ahead would hold.  But, our parting was made more pleasant by a few decompression days of Austin hospitality, West Point Academy walkabouts, New York pizza, New York City hang-arounds, time with old friends (and new friends), slackpacking, more selfless Austin hospitality, home-cooked Mrs. Austin meals and sweet-air conditioned-dry sheets and warm bed-type rest.  God is good.  Loop and I moved out on Thursday morning (yes, we spent four whole days with the Austins), and it seemed fitting that two miles into our hike, a seven-hour long down poor began.  There must be some sort of cosmic, AT scales, where if you tip the balance by spending too many days in comfort and niceness, you have to pay it back with a few days of toughness and borderline misery.  Nothing is intolerable though.  Especially when you know that in three short days, you'll be meeting Pam and Bob at a Bed & Breakfast!!  I know, we're spoiled.  We won't make any bones about that.  Guilty.  Spoiled rotten.  Loop's good friend Colin (and his trusty Dachshund, Bobby) drove down from Buffalo to spend Saturday hiking with us.  We did less hiking and more relaxing in civilization--eating at bistros, buying old books at a library sale, and other highly-rugged and manly outdoorsy-type things.

So, it is with full stomachs, and rested legs and spirits that Loop and I are leaving Kent, CT and the Cookes this morning.  I think that we (as in humans) just naturally resist change, so it's always with hesitance that we embrace turning a page and starting a new chapter of anything.  But, we know that change will bring new things--possibly great things, perhaps some bads, but mostly just different things.  And Loop and I will charge onward into this new leg of our journey with enjoyment and wonder.

As always, thank you to our followers and supporters--we truly would not be out here if it weren't for you.  A special and huge thanks to the Lt. Col and Mrs. Austin for putting us up during your rest/recoup days.  Thank you Josh for coming home to see us and show us the city.  Thanks Collin for making the drive--good to see you again.  A tremendous thank you Pam and Bob for the wonderful lodging and meals.  Thanks lastly to our drop box senders--Andy and Cindy, Honey, and OD and Cat.  We love and appreciate you all.
All for now.  Be blessed and stay joyful.  Caboose, we miss you! 

*Caboose here, adding pictures from Simpsonville (: 

Prima Pizza
Prima Pizza -- delicious, New York-style Pizza! Thanks Mr. Austin!

The Chapel at West Point
the Chapel at West Point 
[one of my favorite things that we saw!]

Me & Mike on the way to NY
Me & Mike on the way to NY 
[thanks for driving Josh!]

The boys strollin' the streets of NY
The boys strolling the streets of NY [in their matching blue (:]

Delicious! [morning snack of course]
YUM! Morning snack of course! 

"Blogworthy" - Josh
"Blogworthy" - Josh

Me & Mike in front of Radio City!
me & Mike in front of Radio City! 
[ignore the greasy-ness, please! it was HOT in NY!]

Sorry ladies, the one on the left is taken (:
Sorry ladies, the one of the left is taken (:
[Thanks to Josh, we have this lovely picture to remind us of our time in NY...I'm thinkin' it may possibly make our Christmas card?!]

Mike, checkin' out the seals at the zoo in Central Park
I LOVE this picture. We were walkin' through the zoo in Central Park -- the zoo keepers were doing a show with the seals .. Mike was totally enthralled by them! (: 

Mike & Lego Indiana Jones
Mike & LEGO Indiana Jones! 
These incredible LEGO people were at FAO Schwarz Toys [I've never seen such expensive toys in my life!]  

Me & Jack Sparrow [so dreamy haha!]
Me & Jack Sparrow [so dreamy! haha] 

Brock, Josh, Me & Mike on top of the MET!
Brock, Josh, Me & Mike on top of the Met!

Celebrating my being done with the trail!
We met up with Alexa once she got off work ... had pizza at Lombardi's & headed over to Gatsby's for celebratory drinks -- the boys wanted to toast me home! (: 

So long NY
so long NY
[I'll be back!]

June 24, 2011

Get wet & sandy!

Mike & I read the book Lone Survivor before we left for our hike on recommendation by Brock. So we were all familiar with the term "get wet and sandy" - used by the instructors to the men in Navy Seal training school. These Navy Seal wannabes had to literally immerse themselves in the [freezing cold] Pacific ocean then roll around in all of their combat gear in the sand. From the beginning, when rain was quite frequent, it became a familiar term to us. On the trail you can't exactly stop the rain and most of the time you don't have anywhere to go -- except North. Since I've been home, the boys have had some pretty wet days [Mike told me I couldn't have picked a better time to have bailed...and I couldn't agree more (:] And, right before I left we had one hell-of-a-storm. We'd just climbed up the highest mountain that we'd climbed in a while because for the most part our journey had taken a rather flat turn, from West VA. to PA in fact, so when we hit NY we weren't quite ready for the big ole hills that were destined to return. As I said, we'd just huffed and puffed our way up to the top when the heavens opened up and drained their contents on to the three of us. At some point, after the wetness has soaked through every.thing.you.own. it becomes fun - like being a kid again! Anyone seeing us would've surely claimed that we'd dunked ourselves in the nearest river, packs, shoes, and all and decided to continue walking. The rain wasn't bad, except that we looked like three drowned rats...the scary part was the thunder and lightning! Especially since we were all carrying metal hiking [or ski] poles. Mike and Brock were fairly sure we were going to die, but I reminded Mike that we'd been in a similar situation at Max Patch and that I was confident the Good Lord wasn't going to take me in a lightning storm. When we finally made it to the back side of the mountain and the rain stopped we literally had to wade through trenches of water ankle deep - this does wonders for already slightly moldy shoes. It also makes your feet look like prunes & the skin peel off. Thankfully we ran into a ridge-runner, who might I add, was exceptionally dry for the weather we'd just experienced. He told us that our friends Porter, Pace, & Deva had bailed on their plans for a nice dinner at the next shelter [Dreamer, Porter's wife was coming into town & was bringing "real" food!] & were at a hotel. We scurried our way down to the visitors center that was a mere 0.3 miles off the trail, spread out all of our belongings [which has quickly become a habit] and dialed up Porter. He & Dreamer graciously offered to come rescue us into the arms of a dry, warm, comfortable hotel room & we gratefully accepted. Again, these guys have the biggest hearts!

literally ringing out the water from our clothes

us being dropped off by dreamer
nice and dry after a night at the hotel in Chester, NY with Porter, Pace, Deva & Dreamer!
thanks guys (:

PS--if you still want to send something to Tyringham, MA it's not too late! The boys should be there by Tuesday, so if you get it in the mail tomorrow, it can still make it! (: Please just let me know!

June 23, 2011

Goin' to Carolina in my mind...[and in real life!]

Out here on the trail the boys have referred to me as their general. When we passed through the Civil War battlefields in Maryland, we almost gawked over the fact that two generals had been killed in the same battle, on the same day. Today generals in the army (for the most part) run the show from behind the scenes--not the front line of battle any more. This is my official resignation from the battlefield. I am leaving the boys to man the field while I run the show from home. I've walked 1400 miles - from Georgia to New York, and folks, "the show is over, say goodbye..." (Madona anybody?!) To be honest I've been conflicted over this for a while. When we went home in May for Mel's graduation & the cruise I begged Mike not to make me come back to the trail. I didn't care what people would say or think, I just wanted to stay home. But...for whatever reason, I did come back. Over the past 4+ weeks I've hiked hard, seen a lot of beautiful country, & made up my mind. Both mine & Mike's hearts are saddened when we think about me not crossing the finish line with the Monkey Tribe, but we are both a peace with me going home. I can't explain to you what's changed about the adventure...over the past 10ish days of hiking I've racked my brain to come up with an explanation and I just can't. I've very much enjoyed the towns we've seen and the people we've met, but honestly my heart just isn't here (corny as that sounds). It's really hard to make your body keep moving somewhere where it doesn't want to be. So, I'll man the Monkey Tribe from home...keeping up the blog, making sure mail drops get sent on time, and making sure the boys keep moving north! They have much to look forward to, with the Cookes visiting over the next 2 weeks, pushing into the last 5 states, and hopefully a visit from me a little farther up! Thanks so much to everyone for your continued support and prayers! God's provision for and over us has been so encouraging! (: See ya in the Palmetto State folks!

If you'd like to send a package to the boys (or encouraging notes, they love these too) the next spot is Tyringham, MA. Please get it in the mail by Friday of this week with an expected ETA of Mon. June 27!
**also, if you sent a package to Kent, CT please let me know so I can let the boys know to look for it!

Stay tuned for pictures from our time in NY with the Josh's family (:

In my mind I'm goin' to Carolina, I can feel the sunshine, I can just taste the moonshine...

June 17, 2011

photo dump

the furnace we camped behind in Boiling Springs, PA
it was a lovely spot!

catching the sunset before heading into [dumpy] Duncannon, PA
heading into Duncannon, PA

Mail Drops!!! Thanks Eliz & Drew, Honey, OD & Cathy, and Megan & BD (:
mail drop in Duncannon!

a beautiful church in Harrisburg, PA

i love it.

one of my favorites! [you know how i love flowers]

the "band" ... Frank the barber & Tom the local
hands down, the best Saturday AM on the trail!

us with the guys!

us with the folks at Bert's diner!
Blaze, Upstate, Caboose, Loophole & Greenlite with the waitress & owner

PA Countryside

Mike bouldering on the section out of Palmerton

Brock at the top...



Rocks, Rocks & more Rocks...the boys loved it.

after climbing the hardest / rockiest climb south of NH

me and Mike

drying our stuff in Delaware Water Gap

I think this joint has been my favorite spot that we've eaten at on the trail...the Village Farmer Bakery. YUM!


Gray skies.

the mile long boardwalk!

the marsh lands of PA

walkin' on the boardwalk

Monkey Tribe

June 16, 2011

New state--New Jersey!

Caboose here. Writing from...a park in Unionville, NY (time to teach you readers a new thru-hiker term--"stealth camp" (v.): to set up one's tent in an area not designated for camping. Ex."Jim, did you pay to stay at the bed and breakfast, or did you just stealth camp in the city park?"). Yes, I know I'm supposed to be at home enjoying the comforts of a civilized life, but I somehow found enough "gravel in my gut" as Upstate put it to come back out for a little while longer. This was a test for myself...to see if I really wanted to finish this adventure. I'll admit, I was a bit discouraged when a mouse chewed through my pack on my first night back out after resting at Susie's. I was also less than thrilled when on our 2nd day I slipped on one of Pennsylvania's nasty rocks and jabbed myself in the eye with my trekking pole (I debated telling authorities that Mike beats me, In an effort to go straight home without passing go or collecting $200.) However, both of these were more than counterbalanced by the number of blueberry bushes and wildlife that we've seen over the past few days. It's amazing how uplifting a handful of wild blueberries can be.

But, let me start by saying these 10 or so days have been different than the rest of the time on the trail. Pennsylvania is known as "the place where boots go to die," but it's also the state of town hopping. After Duncannon we hit Port Clinton. The town itself didn't have much to offer, but when you're hiking, you don't need much! The Port Clinton hotel came on a very high recommendation, so we hoofed it (always) to make it to dinner on time. Mike had a philly cheese steak sub, I had a grilled chicken sandwich with cheese and ham, Brock had Pam's wrap, and we all split the largest order of fries ever. Trust me, these sandwiches were of epic proportions! Mike's was so big that he actually barfed. That night we stayed at the hiker pavilion & thankfully so...there was a horrible storm! When we woke up, a past AT hiker, Kodak was there offering a ride to the local diner, so of course we hopped right into his F250 & rode down to snag breakfast. Two meals in a row- yes, we're getting spoiled. After breakfast, we swung by the post office to scoop up some drop boxes. Thirty minutes of food bag sorting on the sidewalk was plenty of time for breakfast to settle on top of the huge meal from the night before, and....well, we needed a bathroom. The only thing in sight was the town barber, who after seeing the tight spot we were in gladly rendered his facilities at our disposal (Haha, I meant that in a figurative sense, but I suppose they were quite literally at our disposal!) Our bathroom break turned into an hour and a half long hang out with the proprietor and his patrons. After finishing his barber work, Frank picked up his harmonica and joined Tom (who was at this point picking on a guitar with a very fresh and shapely hair cut) for a little jam session. We sat and drank coffee and ate cookies while singing along to Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, America, Jim Croce, Pure Prairie League and many many more. You know, just a usual Saturday morning down at the barber shop, listening to middle-aged men enjoying the simple things of life. We couldn't fight the bittersweet feeling that came from realizing the fact that we had just stumbled upon this good time. That we might have just as easily missed out on it. And that no matter how hard you try, you can't ever synthesize these times--they come and go on their own, and they're rare. So we just sat and enjoyed the company until Tom's wife came in and told him to go home! Haha!

From Port Clinton we made our way to Palmerton, a real little gem! We hitched into town & stayed at the local borough municipal building--they offered bunks & a shower for free! FREE people! Just our game. We got in, started laundry, & yet again hit the local diner (Bert's). This place was delicious! And, we even had friends join us...Greenlite and Blaze. Dinner was fabulous & dessert was to die for! My chocolate cake with peanut butter icing...mmmmm! Need I say more?! We loved Bert's so much that we went back for breakfast and the owner offered us a ride back to the trail. Bless her...we weren't quite sure how we'd get back since it was a weekday morning, but the Lord provided for us again. I'll add pictures as soon as I can of the climb out of Palmerton! It's known as "the hardest / rockiest climb south of New Hampshire." Of course the boys loved it. I'll admit, it was a nice change of scenery, but it was also scary! We survived though, and even made it to Wind Gap for a dinner of a dozen donuts from Dunkin'. Don't judge us! All of this town hopping was nice because the terrain has been rough. Unfortunately, although it's been super flat, the rocks are killer! Foot pain is through the roof, body soreness is out of this world, and general moral...let it suffice to say that we've been down in the dumps! So the towns have been a necessity. Next up: Delaware Water Gap. We stopped here to pick up a package & hit up the local Village Farmer Café (known for their "true love special" - $2.50 for a hot dog & huge slab of pie). Mike & I had the True Love Special...Mike had it twice in one sitting actually & Brock had it for dessert! Towns have a way of sucking you in...and after 2 1/2 hours of drying our stuff & hanging around we wandered up to the local hostel (The Church of the Mountain hostel) and decided to stay on account of rain. We actually got a really good night of sleep, which was much needed & pushed out very early the next morning. Early, as in, we were walking by 6AM. This allowed us to do a 31.6 mile day! By far our biggest yet! We celebrated our biggest day with dinner at another diner (they had meatloaf on the menu which I've been craving, but it didn't even compare to good ole southern meatloaf). This led us to Unionville, NY. We barely made it to the PO for our mail drop!! (Thanks for sending it Dad!) I had to drop my pack at the top of the hill and sprint down before they closed. Our next stop: Bear Mt. NY to stay with Josh & his family. We're really excited about the the time off the trail, seeing friends, and touring the city!

A special thanks to: Mimi, Melissa, Carolyn & Jenna, Will & Julie, and Dad for sending packages and notes! We LOVE the treats! I don't know how folks do this without support from home--words just cannot adequately express our gratitude.

*if you want to send a package, the next drop to do so is Kent, CT. The estimated date that needs to go on the package is June 23. Please go ahead & put anything you wanna send in the mail no later than Saturday, June 18. Thanks everyone (:

PS- stay tuned to see where I am after New York! Haha

June 8, 2011

Captains log: star date 23.9 (rounded to the nearest decimal point)

"Hello old friend," Loophole greets the king-size Snickers bar sitting gently between his index finger and thumb (wrapper facing up and toward him in proper fashion) with a longing gaze on a morning a few weeks back when team morale was particularly low (owing mostly to sore feet, uncharacteristically high temps and long-mileage days). In the other hand, hanging down by his side rests an empty glass bottle (still perspiring)--drained of its cool, sweet Starbucks Frappuccino contents somewhere between the cash register and the front porch steps of the camp store that we just left. The time is 10am. In my hands: a pint carton that recently contained 16oz of whole milk, a half-full bottle of knock-off diet Dr. Pepper (Mc's drink that I thought she might need help finishing) and two Reeses fast break bars. And something incredible is about to happen.  Something comparable to dumping nitrous into the engine of a drag-racer.  That concentrated mass of sugar is about to hit our system like a tsunami! And sure, these things may not burn long, but they for-Dang-sure burn hot. And now we know that the scientifically perfected mixture of Frappuccino and Snickers is good for almost two full hours of Loop's finest and most aggressive hiking. We are now trying to create some sort of harness system that will dangle a Snickers in front of Loop and enable others to be pulled behind him. The prototype is currently in the testing phase.

So, updates.  Whew, so much has happened in the last seven days that I honestly don't know where to start.  I suppose I could start by apologizing to our faithful followers for going so long in between posts.  3G can be a bit spotty out here.  We are all safe and sound in Hershey, PA tonight, in the cool A/C and warm hospitality of Susannah Ray's home. Sidenote--Susannah is Steve Tingle's baby sister.  If you have your AT map handy, you may be asking yourself why we are in Hershey when it's 30 miles from the nearest point of the trail? Well, before I jump right into answering your question, let me take a minute to re-cap the last week--that will lay a good foundation for our coming here.  

Doug, Karena and the rest of the gang turned us loose last Tuesday AM, and Doug drove us to the spot where we left off in Harpers Ferry, WV.  Despite the fact that we failed to bring home the gold medal for the Flynns in family olympics, and the fact that Loop broke Doug's nose, Doug still insisted on aiding us further by driving our heavy packs ahead for us.  JACKPOT--sweet, slack-packy goodness! Pause.  The nose breaking story is well worth a diversion.  Picture the scene:  final event of the day, Van Wingertons (the nice, yet aggrivatingly-talented family that wins every year) are ahead on the scoreboard by a few points, sun is setting, bugs are heading home for the evening, temp is good, air pressure is good.  It's dusk--the magic hour.  The time when anything is possible.  A Flynn victory would clinch the GOLD MEDAL.  Desire.  Nervous, but confident--this is what we have trained for.  The event is the relay race. Perfect--we are deep in the speed category! The course circles the church building.  The baton is a sponge and the relay points are buckets of water.  I dip my hand into the starting bucket, my fingers clasp the heavy sponge and I'm suddenly aware of my surroundings once more.  I thrive off of this pressure.  My muscles tense as I crouch, waiting for the whistle.  Right arm ready to hold off the other racers once we bottleneck at the hairpin turn by the blue Igloo cooler.  TWEET!!! We're off and I'm winning.  Arm-barring and shirt pulling at the Igloo cooler as expected--they obviously hadn't thought of it ahead of time like I had.  Here's the bucket.  Sponge in.  Sponge out, and Marie explodes into the second leg of the race.  I trot back to the finish line to get a good view of the final bucket (manned by Doug)--this is going to be a close one.  Silence.  Nothing.  Waiting.  WHOOSH! Loop peels around the side of the church like a gazelle, with the Van Wingertons two full strides behind him.  I know this taste, it's familiar--yes, I can actually taste the victory!  Loop finishes his relay by lunging left as he drops the sponge into the bucket which is surrounded by other baton-receivers clamoring for their own respective sponges. Problem. Doug simultaneously lunges to his right to leave room for Loop to run straight through.  Loop, moving almost 76mph has no time to swerve.  Suddenly, Doug's nose and Loop's shoulder are occupying the same space at the same time.  Massive amounts of kinetic energy are now being transferred from Loops shoulder into Doug's face.  Disaster!!!  And the title slips away, as in other years to the defending champions.  Doug thinks his nose may be broken (judging by the general crookedness of its appearance), and decides to seek medical attention.  I know that an X-ray is not necessary.  I can prove with 98.7% certainty that his nose is broken using a basic physics equation.  Force = Mass x Acceleration (F=MA).  Loop, weighing approx. 68kg and moving at a rate of approx. 9m/s squared struck Doug with a force of 5kN (kiloNewtons)--way over the necessary amount to break  a nose.  Physics people, check my equation--accuracy is of the utmost importance.

Stay with me though!  Remember, I'm talking about the Flynn's generosity.  After slackpacking about 23 miles out of Harpers Ferry, we picked up our packs on Tuesday evening at a state park.  The Flynn family takes an annual vacation to a cabin that sits 1/4 mile off the AT, so the rest of last week was nicely broken-up by surprise sightings of Flynns in the woods, unexpected pizza dinners, hiking company and more slack packing (oh, and knocking out West Virginia and Maryland).  We've been completely spoiled.  Our time together ended on Friday at the Ironmaster's Mansion in Pine Grove Furnace State Park, where the Flynns accompanied us for ice cream.  Loop, Caboose and I easily dusted a half-gallon a piece to recognize being just over halfway done with our journey--approx. 1,100 miles! 

Shortly after we left the Ironmasters Hostel the next AM, I started to feel kindof lousy.  Fever, headache, muscle aches, crazy tiredness-type lousy.  A couple days of walking showed that I definitely couldn't hold the normal pace, so we pulled our third 26-miler to get into Duncannon with plans of seeking some medical attention.  Just before we made it to town, we bumped into a fellow named Joel from West Va, who was visiting his grandparents in Duncannon and had taken a hike up the hill above town to catch the sunset.  He knew Duncannon didn't have much to offer in the way of a good medical lab, and offered to drive us into Harrisburg (20 miles away).  We wrote down his number, and after sleeping in a local roach motel, we met up with him to cash in on the offered ride.  Once in Harrisburg, we were able to tell Andy (Caboose's uncle who's our doctor at home) where a good spot would be to order some blood work.  We swung by the downtown hospital, gave them some of my blood and then checked-in to a nearby hotel for some A/C and rest.  We laid around most of the afternoon (much-needed) and feasted on the spoils of the many drop-boxes that we scooped up in Duncannon (thank you Honey, OD/Cat, Elizabeth and Drew, Bryan and Megan and one mystery UPS sender!).  When evening rolled around, we indulged in a showing of the new Pirates of the Caribbean at the IMAX theater--but not without stuffing our pockets full of beef jerky, candy bars and other treats to enjoy in the dark (also from our drop boxes).  11AM came awfully early this morning, and before we were really ready we found ourselves having to move all of our gear down to the lobby for checkout.  That good old fashioned homeless bum/ stranded in a strange city feeling was just starting to set in when I remembered that the Tingles have family in Pennsylvania.  My call to Matt for help was a quick success.  His aunt "Susie" had unexpectedly had the day off from work and was willing and able to come scoop us up!  The Lord's precise provision throughout this trip has been so humbling.  She invited us to spend the night at her place and also offered to shuttle us back to the trail in the morning!  To top our two zero days off, we snagged dinner with Susannah at Fudruckers in Hershey, and came home for a batch of her homemade chocolate chip cookies.  

Now you're mostly caught up on the little details of the last week.  But, the most earth shattering development (I feel like I should warn you to sit down before reading further) is that our fearless team leader Caboose will be heading home to South Carolina at the end of the week.  She can probably fill you in best, but the paraphrased version is that after about four weeks of thought/prayer and battling with the feeling of being completely worn out, she's taking it to the house for some rest.  We've got nothing but admiration and appreciation for her efforts over the last ten weeks and almost 1200 miles in the woods.  And we are definitely going to miss her.  I miss her already.  But, in the spirit of finishing the adventure and taking up the torch, Loop and I will be pushing-on---Lord willing, to Maine.  We may end up in New Mexico without her daily direction, but she's promised to still coordinate and plan progress from home.  Who knows, maybe it'll turn out that she's got too much gravel in her gut to sleep in a comfy bed and she'll have to come do some more rock crawling.  Either way, please join us in congratulating her for such an amazing feat of toughness and courage.  Caboose--hats off to you.  We're proud to have hiked so much with you. (Haha, this is kindof crazy because I'm farewelling my wife in a super formal boss/employee kind of way.  I promise there were more hugs, kisses and tears involved in the actual team powwow.)

So Loop and I carry on.  We're dropping a tent, a plate, a spoon and a few other items--lightening up for the hard journey ahead.  Sock Brock has undergone a sex change and is now going by Sock Mc.  He/She will carry on with us in Caboose's honor.  No way she'll hike as hard or make us get up from lunch/sleeping/etc. near as soon as the real Mc.  I'd like to say a special thanks to everyone who's made this trip possible for us--there is no way we could have made it this far without the support from everyone at home and everyone we've met along the way.  If you haven't checked out our sponsor tab and you have a minute after reading this rambling novella, take a look at the companies who generously provided us with all sorts of healthy and energizing foods to eat.  Thank you all, sincerely.  

All for now.  You stay classy.  We'll keep pushing-out the miles.   

wild life
wild life (:

sleepy boy at the pizza place (:
sleepy boy at the pizza joint

Mike and the Flynn boys (you can only see Eoin)
Mike & Eoin with bunny ears

half way point!
1/2 way point!
Marie, Ana, Lydia, Douglas & Ian [and Big Doug] walked from their vacation cabin to the Ironmasters Hostel with us -- this meant that they passed the 1/2 way point on the trail with us!

brock, me & mike at the 1/2 way point
Brock, Me, & Mike at the 1/2 way point

Me & Mikey at the 1/2 way point!
Me & Mike at the 1/2 way point [1090.5 miles!]
the Flynn family walking up to the Ironmasters hostel after a 6+ mile walk with us
the Flynns walking towards the Ironmasters hostel

half-gallon challenge
1/2 gallon challenge!
Mine - chocolate chip cookie dough [34 min 50 sec]
Mike - Black Raspberry Burst [24 min]
Brock - chocolate [29 min]
*I'm afraid that my Nutrition degree may be revoked after eating a whole 1/2 gallon of ice cream in one sitting.

mike with his "member of the 1/2 gallon club" spoon
Mike with his "member of half gallon club" spoon

us saying goodbye to the Flynns at the Ironmasters hostel
saying goodbye to the Flynns at the Ironmasters Hostel

looking out over [disappointing] Duncannon
Brock, Mike & Me looking out over Duncannon

all of our drop boxes!!
all of the goodies from our drop boxes
Thanks: Honey, OD & Cathy, Elizabeth, BD & Megan!!
and Thanks to Erin for goodies at our last drop (:
We LOVE all of the treats...we just aren't sure how we'll carry them all! hahaha

a beautiful church in Harrisburg, PA
founded in the 1700s

Mimi, this is for you...the Reading Railroad! (: wish we could play some monopoly with you right now!