Friday, June 29, 2012

Palmerton, PA to Vernon, NY

Mile 1351

Sunday, after attending the branch meetings in Palmerton, we got back on the trail.  Leaving town after some time off is usually hard, but we were ready to get back to hiking after our zero day.  We got to the turnoff for our shelter around 6pm and talked about what we wanted to make for dinner.  We saw a family already at the shelter, and were surprised to see that there was some awesome trail magic waiting for us! Two adult brothers and two daughters have a tradition of packing up a full barbeque dinner up to this particular shelter every year.  One of the brothers is a former (two time!) thru hiker and they were awesome to hang out with.  They brought burgers, hot dogs, corn, potatoes, watermelon, cherries, oranges, s'mores, etc.  Beau ate 3 hamburgers, 3 hot dogs, 3 ears of corn, and a baked potato.

Best trail magic ever!

The next day was (thankfully) our last day in Pennsylvania.  By this time, we were definitely ready to be out of the boring scenery and rocks.  Really, the first half of Pennsylvania was lovely. But we needed out.  We stayed at the church hostel in Delaware Water Gap and enjoyed pie at the local bakery- a must if you are hiking through DWG.

The next day we hiked .3 miles and were into New Jersey.  We finally had some nice views and really liked Sunfish pond.

Also, did anyone else know that New Jersey has a mini Washington monument?

The trail goes through some marshy areas in NJ and we walked on this boardwalk for a while.

Sorry for the brief post.  We're definitely still having fun and loving the trail, but I feel like things are pretty routine over here! I'm having a hard time thinking of anything out of the ordinary to report.

I'll leave you with a photo of me and a cow we met in Palmerton.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Duncannon, PA to Palmerton, PA

Mile 1250
We are almost out of Pennsylvania! These northern states are going to go by fast.  The trail in PA is known for rocks, rocks, and more rocks. I will admit, the trail is definitely more rocky than normal. But there is SO MUCH hype for how awful the rocks are in PA that we were pleasantly surprised it's not that bad.  There are large patches of boulders, but mostly it's normal trail. Normal, flat, boring trail.  The parts that are rocky slow you down a lot so we are having a harder time getting in bigger mileage days. 
Knife's Edge, but I keep forgetting the name so I've been calling it Shark's Fin.
I have been having this mental back and forth all week.  I think to myself "Wow- you've gone 1200 miles! That's a lot! You're almost done!" and then I think "No, no you're not. You still have 900 to go. You are not almost done and you still have 9 weeks." Sometimes I catch myself thinking too much about what we're going to do when we finish or what it will be like to get to Katahdin and I have to remind myself to focus on short term goals.  #1 short term goal is always getting to our destination for the day. #2 short term goal is usually the next town or maybe a big landmark like a state line.  #3 short term goal is the next fun thing we have, like my parents coming.  This breaks the trail up into much more (mentally) manageable sections.

We (but mostly me) were getting tired and grumpy in the past few days so we decided to take a zero day (gasp!) in Palmerton, PA. It is also getting super hot and we are getting sluggish and need a break. I cannot believe how bad we smell!  Our clothes bags are awful. Laundry and a shower was pretty necessary at this point.  Also, we (with the help of my dad) made some phone calls to see if we could get a ride to church on Sunday.  If we are going to be in town on a weekend, we like to call the Bishop of the local congregation to see if there are any ward members who would be able to take us in Saturday night and give us a ride to church the next morning.  I arranged with someone to be picked up today, so we are looking forward to being able to go to church tomorrow.

Palmerton is lovely.  Friday night we stayed in a hostel that's in the basement of an old jailhouse.  It's exactly what you would expect- old, kind of dingy, kind of dirty, but free and awesome. It's right across the street from a good diner, the laundromat, and the library, so perfect for hikers. We walked in and who was there but Lady Forward! She and I hiked together before Beau came on and got along splendidly.  The first couple weeks of Beau's hike, we were doing less miles to get him in shape and so I got behind a lot of the people I had been with.  I hadn't seen her since Beau's first day on the trail! Beau can tell you about all the "squealing" and hugging that went on when we saw each other.  Unfortunately she had been there most of the day and was heading out first thing in the morning, so we will be behind her once again.  Hopefully we will catch up soon and be able to hike together again.

I desperately wanted to wash everything we had, so I affixed this blanket into a toga to go to dinner and run some errands. The grocery store gives thru hikers a free apple or orange with every purchase.

You may be wondering why I am carrying a Christmas fleece blanket in the first place.  After Harper's Ferry, we wanted to swap out our heavy warm sleeping bags for something a little lighter.  We started using fleece liners as sleeping bags. These turned out to be not enough coverage and we were too cold at night, so I had my parents bring two fleece blankets that we could carry to supplement the fleece liners.  This combination is perfect and is lighter, less bulky, and certainly cheaper than buying a 30 or 40 degree bag.

Lastly.... do we have any entomologists in the house? What on earth kind of caterpillar is this- something from a Dr. Seuss book?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Harper's Ferry, WV to Duncannon, PA

Mile 1141
I'm over the mid point. When we got to the 1000 mile mark- we're almost halfway! At Harper's Ferry- psychological halfway! The midpoint that the guidebook marks- halfway! The sign that indicates the midpoint- halfway! I'm over it.
But now, the numbers in the "miles to go" column is smaller than the "miles completed" column. That's a good feeling!
After a delightful weekend at home, we got back on the trail and back into hiking mode. Maryland has pretty mild terrain, and we did our biggest mileage day to date, 25 miles. We were just saying that it's too bad it wasn't 26.2 to make it a solid marathon when we got to the shelter and saw that the spring was .6 away. Score?
The next day was rainy allllll day long and we felt okay about cutting the day a little short. My mood was vastly improved when we got to Pen Mar park and were able to order pizzas with a few other hikers.
Luckily it's been nice and sunny so our clothes could dry out. Thursday brought us to Pine Grove Furnace State Park, home of the famous half gallon challenge. It's a tradition for thru hikers to down a half gallon of ice cream in commemoration of the halfway point at the park. I didn't think I'd be successful and since we weren't with a group, we didn't attempt. But we did complete our own pint not-a-challenge. Also, we ran into a Girls Camp group completeing their 4th year hike. Funny, huh?
We continued to eat our way through Pennsylvania when we rolled into Boiling Springs for a quick lunch/mini resupply pit stop. We only needed a snack and breakfast, and all the town had was a little gas station, so we tried to maximize our calorie consumption. 1 chaco taco, 1 ice cream drumstick, 2 muffins, and 1 quart of chocolate milk. 2,560 calories.
We did a half day into Duncannon today and my parents came to see us for the last time. Our first stop, as with most hikers, was the Doyle Hotel. It was built as a brewery in the early 1900s and has since been turned into a bar/hotel targeted for thru hikers. We knew the rooms were an absolute dive but the food was awesome. We'll go to church tomorrow and head back into the woods for the next 150 miles of the famous Pennsylvania rocks.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Zero Day at Home

On the trail, we are only able to post photos on the blog that Beau has taken on his phone.  We don't carry the USB cord for the camera and most computers we have access to don't have a slot for the memory card. Here's another massive photo dump with photos back from before Beau came on the trail to now.

Side note: I'm noticing in a lot of these photos I have my pack cover on, which is funny to me because I feel like I hardly need to use it. I guess there was a stretch of potential rain for a few weeks and I happen to like a lot of the pictures from those days. 

It's hard to believe we are (basically) halfway through the AT.  Technically we still have a few more days before we get to the halfway mark, but most people consider Harper's Ferry to be the psychological halfway point of the trail.  We are in a good groove now, getting good mileage in every day and feeling confident in our abilities to handle situations that may arise.

What do the next 1000 miles hold? For one thing, we are vowing to take more zero days. And by "take more", I really mean "take some". This may come as a shock for those who are well acquainted with thru hiking, but.... until coming home this weekend I hadn't taken any zero days. We'd hardly taken any nero days- we've had very few (like maybe three) days under ten miles. When we get into town and want a full 24 hours of rest, we'll plan a half day in (10 miles) and leave the next day around noon for a half day out. That way we only pay for one night in town and still make progress every day. Isn't my name so applicable? Lately, we've been doing 20-24 miles daily and decided that with this kind of schedule, we need to take a zero day every now and then.  I think it will be good.

I'm a little nervous about this second half and entering unknown territory.  The first half felt like I was hiking home and hiking closer and closer to known territory.  I have very little knowledge of the trail beyond Maryland, and other than state lines, I don't have much to keep in mind as a landmark. Katahdin still seems very far away and I have a hard time visualizing what that will be like. I have confidence in my physical ability to get there, except of course for any unforeseen injury.  Also, my shoulder has been hurting badly in the past week. Not sure what the deal is with that, but hopefully it won't cause any problems. Vitamin I, anyone?

On the Beau front, he is doing wonderfully. It took him a couple weeks to get into the rhythm of this thru hiking madness, but now he is just as focused as I am on the task at hand.  Doing hard things is great for bringing out the worst in people, but we still really like each other. Go fig. When people figure out that we're married, they always ask how for how long. The next question is inevitably, "Wait... How old are you?" and the next one that remains unasked but I can tell it's in their head is, "And you still like each other after all this?" The answer is YES. I couldn't imagine a better hiking partner. Except for maybe one that carries my pack.

Okay, enough late night rambling. I am usually asleep hours ago, but iPods still need to be synced, Kindles charged, and laundry dried.

Right, the photos:

Max Patch

Snow? At the end of April?

One of my favorite days on the trail on a cool exposed ridgeline. Check out the frost!

This misty weather makes for cool photos

Lady Forward showing us how a vegan does a resupply

One of Beau's first nights on the trail - the view from our tent

A little Joby action

Beau has taken a lot of candid photos of me looking at the guidebook
TN/VA state line
Grayson Highlands ponies

A scenic cow

Face off
Hiking Virginia with stile

The Captain's!

Action shot of Beau

McAfee Knob

James River footbridge
Our first rattlesnake experience 
900 mile boots and new boots

Pepperboy and us at the ATC

Friday, June 8, 2012

Luray, VA to Harper's Ferry, WV

Mile 1020

After being dropped off back on the trail with enough food to last us until Harper's Ferry, we were happy to catch back up with the group we had been hiking with.  It's always fun when you find a good "bubble".  The Appalachian Trail is a constant revolving door of people- we meet a group or individual and will see them on and off for the next few days, and then one of us gets ahead or behind and we may not see them for a few weeks or ever again. For example, there are a couple people I was friends with before Beau came on, and I lost them when I slowed down for Beau to get in hiking shape.  Ever since then I've been hoping to catch up to them, and we see in the shelter log books when they checked in.  I was just about to catch up when we got in to Harper's Ferry, but we're taking some days off at home so we'll surely be behind them again. I'm out to find you, Lady Forward and Willie!!

Anyway, we were lucky enough to have a fun group all throughout the Shenandoahs and to Harper's Ferry. We even took a nice little team photo!

Lance Armstrong, Crush, Peppaboy, Beau and me, Golden, and Wildflower
This was the night that after eating dinner, I was still kind of hungry (normal) and pulled out a baggie of a soup/noodle concoction I hadn't tried before. Um, it was gross. But food shall not go to waste, so it was a big group effort to try to make more tasty. Garlic powder, cayenne pepper (by Peppaboy, natch), and hash browns were added to the mix and it was eventually finished.

The next day we hiked out of the Shenandoahs.  We really enjoyed hiking in the Shennies, and it kind of/really bugs me that a lot of hikers complain about them. Really people? You don't like having easier terrain, more opportunities for trail magic, waysides with burgers and milkshakes almost every day, and the daily possibility of seeing a bear?

Waving goodbye to Shenandoah National Park
 Then we really felt the push to get to Harper's Ferry. I have been anticipating getting into Harper's Ferry for so long.  It means you've gotten past 1,000 miles, your chances of finishing are a lot higher, you get your picture taken by the ATC for their logbook, and for us, it means we're in familiar territory and we get to go home for a couple days of rest.

On Monday night, I texted my dad telling him what shelter we were staying in and added, "Can you believe we'll be crossing route 50 tomorrow?".  The next morning when we got a nice little surprise when my dad was waiting for us on the side of the road with lunch! It was awesome!

Hiking into Harper's was kind of surreal. I couldn't believe that I had actually walked there, somewhere I've been before, from Georgia. I've been to the ATC before and seen the thru-hikers photo albums and now I'm IN IT.

Our friends picked us up that afternoon and we're chilling at home this weekend. And eating. And catching up on Community episodes.

Harper's Ferry in the morning

I was the 377th Northbound thru-hiker of the year, and Beau is the 110th section hiker

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Waynesboro, VA to Luray, VA

Mile 936

Shenandoah National Park has been wonderful! It seems like a lot of hikers complain about the Shenandoahs for some reason or another, but we have really liked it so far.  We've seen lots wildlife, done several big mileage days, enjoyed the waysides, and experienced some trail magic.  The trail runs through the Shenandoahs for 100 miles and next to/near/crossing Skyline Drive.

We've seen some fun and not so fun animals! A few miles away from our first shelter, we saw our first bear. It walked across the trail 100 feet in front of us and didn't really care that we were there. We also saw a family of wild turkeys that day- a momma turkey and eight little babies.

On our second day we were walking along, Beau ahead of me, and all of a sudden he yelled "SON OF A GUN!" and jumped back several feet.  Hidden in the grass in the middle of a trail was a rattlesnake.  He didn't see it until he was right over top of it, his foot only a few inches from its head.  Now that we have some experience with rattlesnakes, we know these guys kind of hold their ground.  Eventually he slithered off the trail and we were able to pass.  The rest of the day Beau was super paranoid about finding more snakes.  A few hours later, I saw a little baby deer laying in the grass! Beau walked right past it and didn't notice.  We were about a foot away from it taking pictures, and it didn't even get up or look frightened.  It was so tiny and cute.  Our third day we only saw some deer in the morning, probably because it was a Saturday and there were tons of day hikers out.

We went to bed super early one night, and missed seeing a huge bear by the spring.  All the other people in our group were still milling around and saw it, but we missed out.

Camouflaged rattlesnake! 

little tiny fawn
Another plus with the Shenandoahs: Waysides! There are a few diners or restaurants along Skyline and within a mile from the AT.  It's a wonderful thing to look forward to.

Thursday morning "brunch". I think this is the first time I've had two patties on my hamburger.
Joiner, Pepperboy, Golden, Wildflower (in the background), Nito, Lance Armstrong, and Crush
 Friday "tea time". Blackberry milkshakes say what?

Bigfoot, Bigfoot's friend, Crush, Pepperboy, Progress
Saturday did not have a wayside in the plan for us, but we were lucky enough to run into some trail magic by a church youth group. Hamburgers and watermelon all around!

A few more photos from the past few days:

Golden & I. The careful observer will note that this is my third backpack.

We're getting back on the trail this afternoon and are carrying enough to get us to.... HARPER'S FERRY!!! We'll be going home for a few days to rest and see friends.  If anyone is interested in coming over, we're having a BBQ Saturday the 9th at my parents house at 5pm. Email or text me for details!