Friday, April 28, 2006

Good-bye Smokies and Hello Hot Springs

Well, we've had quite the adventure these past few weeks. Officially Megan and I have passed our three week mark, encountered numerous thunderstorms, walked over the largest dam this side of the Mississippi River, out-paced many of our fellow hikers, and have plodded through over 250 miles of this blessed trail.

Update on the achilles: I entertained the thought of taking a week off to let it heal when the zero day in Franklin, N.C. didn't really do the trick. But somehow from Franklin to the N.O.C. (3 day journey) the achilles healed midstride. I've been babying it a bit, but for the most part I don't have to worry about it at all. So thanks to all who have prayed for my recovery, it has been doing great as of late.

I knew the 16 days of sunshine would come to an end abruptly, and of course it did, as soon as we set foot in the Smoky Mountain National Park. We combatted two thunderstorms from atop the highest peaks around. Very scary indeed. And trudged through mud and slop pretty much the entire 70 miles of the park. Needless to say, we were ecstatic to leave the park and continue north toward Hot Springs, N.C., our next resupply point.

Just leaving the park didn't really guarantee that we wouldn't get blasted by rain, and let me tell you, we did. It had been days since we had seen the sun, annoyance and depression were overcoming us ever so swiftly. The shelter that we had planned to stay in on Wednesday was full. No room in the "inn", so to speak. We trudged on, trying to locate a campsite. The rain set in. We found a campsite, not optimal, it was on a slight slope, which proved to be a huge mistake. I should know better, but when you are tired, hungry, and wet, sometimes the "grey matter" up yonder, doesn't really function very well. We set up the tarptent in the pouring rain (mind you the tarptent has no floor), we put down our plastic sheeting that we use as the floor of the tent and within minutes the runoff from the slope was washing into our tent. Megan says, "What are we going to do?" Good question. I remember my mom telling me how you can sometimes trench around a tent to direct the flow of water away from it. Bright idea for groggy mind, eh? I step out into the downpour, which has now become a festival of lightning and thunder. I take our tiny little, bright orange trowel and begin to dig a trench from the slope toward the side of the mountain, directly in front of our tent. I build up a little dam along the front of our tent and direct the runoff toward the steep cliff to our side. It seemed to work much better than I thought. I'd like to say we stayed dry that night, but though my trench worked wonders, we managed to get about everything we were carrying wet and muddy. Fell asleep around 4 a.m. when it stopped raining, didn't want to get up the next morning, knowing all was wet and nasty. But alas, the sun shone the next day and we had time to dry most everything out.

And here I am in Hot Springs, N.C. staying at a cool little thru-hiker inn, enjoying the sunshine and loving my life once again. Thanks to all who have sent notes of encouragement and goodies along the way. They are greatly appreciated, there are really no words to describe the elation, honestly.

A note to all who are following Megan and I on our itinerary. We are about 4 days ahead of schedule. We will be getting to Erwin, T.N. by May 3/4 probably. So if you are sending things, keep that in mind.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Phase One:

Here are the first pics from the Trail. Enjoy these gems!

106 Miles From Springer: Still Trucking

Hello all! Megan and I have made it to our second Trail Town: Franklin, N.C. We are taking an extra day of rest here this weekend to allow my achilles tendon to heal a bit. The weather continues to be incredibly warm during the day, and last night it was pretty warm as well. I am loving the journey so far. The second shower felt just as good as the first shower in 10 days. Crazy isn't it?

I'm seeing more flowering trees now, but most of the hills are still brown. When we reach the tops of the mountains we can see the lush green valleys below. Beautiful!

We've had some serious climbs in Georgia, and were glad to leave them behind. North Carolina has been brutal at times, but not quite as hard as the Georgia section. I'm looking forward to meeting up with some of my teacher friends in Wesser, N.C. or Fontana, N.C. Can't wait to see you.

Monday, April 10, 2006

65 Miles From Springer

Hello all! Megan and I left from Springer Mountain a week ago Monday. We have made it to our first trail town, Hiawassee, Georgia. We are 10 miles from the North Carolina border. Tomorrow we will pass out of the first of 14 states in our journey.

Life on the trail has been pretty intense so far. Within the first week I had to replace my well-worn boots. I hadn't planned on getting new boots until Virginia, but was forced to do it, when the back of my ankles were being rubbed raw on the steep descents. Luckily, at mile 30 there is an outfitters store called the Walasi-Yi Center, that fitted me for some new boots and we've been trucking ever since. As of today, I've hiked over 30 miles in the new boots and haven't had a blister yet!

The weather has been crazy hot during the day. No leaves on the trees, so I have quite the farmer tan (or sunburn). My nose and ears are blistered and peeling. For those of you who suggested I take sunscreen, you were right. I am a fool! In the seven days of our journey all but one have been sunny and hot. By mid morning we are wearing shorts and t-shirts for the remainder of the daylight hours. But as soon as the sun goes down it gets downright cold. Four of the six nights Megan and I have slept in the tarptent and have been warm enough in our sleeping bags and liners. In fact, I haven't even worn all of my clothes that I expected to in order to stay warm at night. That is a pleasant surprise! I'm sure we will run into some cold weather here pretty soon, but until then I am enjoying the warm days and cool nights.

The trees are leafless (at least most of them), but I see the buds starting to form. A few flowering trees have started to blossom, which provides a nice contrast to the brown forest floor and bare trees. There are wildflowers popping up here and there and sometimes a clump of grass near the trail. But other than that, all is pretty brown. I am enjoying the leafless trees, because it allows for a much greater view of the mountains beyond. I've never seen better overviews! Not too much in terms of wildlife. I've seen a few salamanders as I filter water from springs and streams, lots of songbirds, some hawks, chipmunks, a snail or two and that is about it so far.

My achilles tendon on my right foot has been swollen and very painful the last three days. It has slowed me down considerably as I hike throughout the day. Hopefully this partial day of rest in Hiawassee will help it get on the road to recovery.

Love and miss you all!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Going Away Gift

Last night at my going away party, I was given this custom made patch for my pack. How cool is this? Mom sewed it on today and only broke one needle trying. Way to go Mom!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Ready or Not

It is finally time to shove off the mainland for this incredible Appalachian Trail voyage. Tuesday will be the culmination of many months of planning and preparing. Megan and I met one night last week to go through our packs and double check our list of gear and other supplies. This is the first time I have talked to Megan face to face since she left North Carolina last summer to return home after our A.T. trip was cut short (due to Darrell Tipton, rutheless murderer). It has been somewhat of a challenge trying to put together a six month trip with someone who lives 700 miles away.
This past week has been strange. I feel like I've had too much down time to think about the upcoming A.T. trip. All of the planning is done, the first package mailed, and here I was sitting at home with too much time to think. The thoughts that crept into my head were all negative thoughts, which is highly unusual for me. I began to worry about being warm enough at night. I worried about the fit and form of my boots. I bothered with what toiletry items I should ditch, and which ones I ought to carry with me. It has been hard to shove these thoughts out of my head. And I am completely ready to start hiking in Georgia just to get away from these worries that I can do nothing about.
Today my parents had a going away party for me. Mostly family attended, but many friends stopped by also. How incredible it is to be able to share about this adventure that means so much to me with people that want to listen and learn. I went through my gear, piece by piece, discussing the purpose and other related factors. Just like I did in my classroom a few months ago for my students. Fun.
I'll end today's blog with a quote that I love. I am not sure who coined this phrase but it seems to fit. "Not all who wander are lost".