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Monday, April 30, 2012

"The bear went over the see what he could see.....but all that he could see.....was the otherside of the mountain!"

Well, we've had a few turbulent days waiting to hear what's going on with our hiker.  Yes, she'd hurt her leg, but by the next day she had caught up with someone that she is enjoying the company of....."Fanny Pack" is his trail name.  They are hiking together and at about the same pace.  They are enjoying conversation and have a lot in common, so for now.....all is well.

Backpeddling for a moment though, we hadn't heard from her all day Sunday....which when you are expecting to hear, and know that the trails have been slick, that her leg is hurt, that there are bears, and that she is with someone you only know as "Fanny Pack" .....all day was VERY long!   Of course, friends, and grandparents checking in to ask if you've heard, only makes it seem even LONGER!!  This afternoon, the plans for a road trip were beginning to form when I just heard from her (almost 40 hours later!).

She is in Cherokee, NC., and hitched into town with some hikers so that she'd be sure to have reception on her has been recommended to me by TheCrazySheepLady that I buy Kristin a Smartphone.

Kristin was excited but sad to report that she had missed hiking with Missy Bishop and Mark Bell - and a few others from MCTC whose names she didn't recognise -by just a day.  She'd gotten to the shelter on Sunday night to find that they'd been there just a day ahead of her!  She asked that I please post this so that they could see that she'd seen where they'd signed in (Missy and Mark are from the MCTC- Community College, and she'd hiked with them in the Smokeys last fall)!  Sorry you missed each other....would've been fun for everyone!

She's planning to make it to Standing Bear Farm Hostel and catching a ride to the bus depot to head home for Kelly's Graduation.  She'll get in to Lexington and I'll get her from there.  We'll see her for just a few days and then she'll head back out this weekend to resume her footsteps along the trail.

The shelters have been very crowded and she's needed to tent on the perimeter each night.  However, the  weather has been beautiful for a change, and she's enjoyed the clear skies and views. 

Sunday night she had supper early, and then she and Fanny Pack hiked until late in order to make it to the shelter that night.  She said they'd hiked a couple hours in the dark, but no one is allowed to just camp along the trail.

Her food supply is holding and keeping her satisfied; she hungrier now that the mileage is higher each day.  She says the whole time she's hiking she's thinking about either her career path or her next meal!   :) 
Does that surprise us?   hee,hee! 

Kelly was able to borrow a backpack from a friend of Kristin's (trail name Chapstick) so she'll be good to go when she's ready to head out and catch up with her.

Well that's all for now.  We hope to see her later this week.  At that point, she should have a chance to update the Blog herself.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Only whispered her name while passing thru.....

Well, I'm glad to see that Kristin was able to get on this site and post the flicker link for her photos. (I just went to the site to see them.) 

She got to the NOC yesterday and picked up her boxes and cards..... thank you to those who had sent her things.  She was tossed between going out for pizza at the NOC's cafe or eating the boxed food.  Well, even though she was going to get the pizza, she talked with us for too long and the cafe had she enjoyed several things sent to her!  :)

At the NOC, she was given a whole bunk house to herself!!  She said she would've been happy with just a bunk, so she was feeling spoiled.  :)  She seemed to be in good spirits.    She had shared stories of all the days she's been in the rain, 4 different days of hail storms, and terrible winds.  She was hoping the nicer weather would be heading her way soon.  One of the older men who had been hiking with them slipped and fell off the ledge yesterday.  His backpack threw him off balance and he wasn't able to stop the momentum from falling.  It took him over 20 minutes to get back to where he was because he'd fallen so far.  He was pretty banged up.   This doesn't sound good.......   :(


I was just away from my phone for a minute and missed her call.  Apparently the horrific storms that we had all night were what greeted her this morning!  She said it was horrible thunder and lightning.  She thought there was a break in the weather and headed out.  She had been hiking for quite a while when the hail began that were the size of quarters; she is pretty bruised.

I guess it is wet and slick and she also had a spill that re-injured her quad on her right leg and pulled a hamstring on her left.  :(    Her message sounded pretty bummed.

I'll hear from her later and update everyone.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Photos on Flickr

A wise man once told me that, even though all we hikers have to do for five months is walk, walking shouldn't be all we do.  "You see," he said, "it's all about balancing the miles with the smiles."

I've been trying to follow his advice, enjoying the sights, making new friends, and checking out the trail towns.  I'm currently at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City, North Carolina.  I just uploaded a bunch of photos from my trip thus far, and I would like to share them with you.  Check out my Flickr account:

The computer station is closing soon, so I'll have to get a real update in another day...

Happy trails,
Rainbow Dash

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bunkered Down

I just heard from Kristin while I was uploading the previous photos.  She FROZE last least her water did!  REALLY!!  She was at a shelter, but like I said they are only 3-sided buildings.  The wind still howled did the snow!!  She said she slept backward in her sleeping bag with the drawstring drawn, but it didn't help and she got claustrophobic!  She also got something in her eye last night (I think it's called "cold")  and it's still bothering her......her lips are dry and cracked from the wind and ice.  :(

For a few days now, she has been hiking with a father/son team that is on the trail. The dad was just going to hike with his son for a week or so and then head home. (She's been with others, but they were staying behind and she wanted to move on.)  The son was a bio major and is now going on to Med School.  He graduated coming up to 2 years ago, but has been taking prep classes and entry exams to continue on in Med School.  For a few months now, Kristin has been thinking she'll go on to Med School, too, and has been enjoying her conversations with this young man. 

Last night I guess they all froze even after they shared some of their gear with Kristin.  Kristin said that she'd never had a time before where she had sustained such a long period of being cold!  I would've had a cold sore by this morning!  :)   (Now, I'll probably get one for such writing the word!)  

Today, a group of them headed to town and are staying in a bunkhouse while the snow accumulates.  A few others were heading on, but Kristin isn't sure how they'll survive tonight; it's supposed to be 20 degrees again.

PS- The other name I couldn't come up with from the Log Book that Kristin read was "bum-knee".   I mention these names, because I know they are following the Blog, too and would like honorable mention!


A Picture is Worth 1000 Words!

This was the stone that was at the Trail Head in Georgia. 
It is a tradition for hikers to carry a stone (pebble) from Georgia all the way to Maine and visa versa. 
How does that fit with "take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footsteps"?
Does this mean this was the stone someone brought down from Maine?!?!

Here she is at the trail head.  The stone is just behind her at the bend in the trail. 
Many people begin the hike thinking that the walk will be smooth and nicely paved the whole way........ha!  This paved walkways provides those photographic moments for the family, and false assurance for the mother who is just supposed to let her "baby" walk away!! 
Those crazy blue things she's wearing are Long Johns. 
All her articles of clothing are bold/bright this's to fit with her Rainbow Dash persona!
I told her it's why the Rangers were worried she was alone and why they all thought she was 15!! 
(hee, hee)

This was a very difficult moment for Kelly and me. She was excited and nervous at the same time.
She can do it, and she's got a great support crew cheering for her.  That pack on her back is all she'll have for survival for the next 5 months!  It has her lodging, her bed, her clothing, and her food! 
No extra room for frills!

This water fall was close to the trail head.  We drove up the mountain for several miles to get to it.  This is only the top 1/4, and definitely is not displaying the depth.  Kristin walked past it on her approach trail and up the 604 steps to get to the mountain top.  The sound was beautiful; its power awesome.  She is blessed to have a country that has such beauty and allows its citizens the freedom of exploration.

It's "snoooooooow" cold!!

We've continue to hear from Kristin these past few days, but live with "dial-up", and have not been able to post!  Ah, the woes of rural Kentucky.
She's doing great....but extremely cold.  The mountain tops are bald so there is nothing to break the wind. They had expected a storm (snow and ice), but made it to Blueberry Farm Hostel and bunked there.  She says the Farm reminds her a lot of our farm. (Maybe I should send them a few llamas!!)  Hikers from the AT bunk there during several weeks of the year, but their main purpose is a U-Pick Blueberry Farm.  Kristin was unhappy that she was there too early for the blueberry picking!! 

The couple who run/own the hostel were gracious hosts and treated everyone to a warm place, cozy beds, and great food.  I'm sending them some of my jams (peach & pear) to say thank you for treating Kristin so nicely.They even chauffeured them into town for the others to hit the grocery store and restock. 

It got down to 20 degrees......a bit "nippy" to be sleeping out-of-doors.  :)   She crossed into Tennessee yesterday and at the border saw a mom and her two cubs.  She said they were larger than she'd expected.....made yearlings.....?

She hadn't been hungry the first few days out on the trail, but is ravenous now.  We have begun dehydrating at home again in preparation for her next boxes.  We have some great meals ready to send.

While checking out the Log Book at the Hostel, she saw the signatures of  "Giggles", "Booksmarts", and someone else I can't remember the name of who had stayed there last year.  She had hiked with them from Harper's Ferry on.  So, she's enjoying a brush with the past.

I know there's more that I need to be updating, but I can't remember everything at the particular moment.  I'll check back in later.  We are posting pictures later today....I finally got around to giving that my attention.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

And the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down, so Kristin started bailing

Well, we heard from Kristin around 2pm this afternoon.  She's clocking up 15 mile days now, and the group she was with decided to get the lead out and join her pace.  She'd wanted to be doing 22 mile days, but is compromising for the company.  :)

It was not her laces that broke, but the loop on the boot that holds the laces and it weaves back and forth.  I guess someone at the Outfitter's store tried to fix it, but I think she'll contact Merrill directly and see if they'll help her out.  Her other boots were by them, but they had 600 miles already on them- hence the new pair!

Nothing much to say other than she's wet and a bit chilled.  She said her sleeping bag is dry, though.  She's at a shelter tonight and she said she may actually sleep in the shelter and not her tent tonight just to let the tent dry.  More storms are headed her way, so she's trying to make the best of everything.

She's having a great time and enjoying the group that she's with.  A couple who had been celebrating their anniversary was coming off the trail yesterday and drove a group of them out for pizza.......    she was quite pleased about the opportunity.

I'll have more to post later, and hopefully she'll be able to add her stories this weekend.  She'll be at a hostel in a few more days, and that'll provide her with Wi-Fi, laundry, toilets, showers, and real beds! (not necessarily placed in order of importance)  ----  Luxury at its finest!!   :)  What more could a girl ask for!??

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

.....and a snake on top!

I was hoping that Kristin would be able to blog today, but I'm not sure the place where she's staying has that capability enough to share.  :)

She made it to her food drop by about 11 this morning.  She also needed new laces for her boots;  surprisingly they had snapped the first day out.  She had an soaking wet hike today.  The rain that she'd hoped wouldn't come, apparently came and never left!

It dropped like bucket fulls during the night and everything, EVERYTHING got wet.  It hit the ground with such force that it splattered up and got underneath the tent fly, through the screen, and onto the floor.   She said everything was soaked when she packed up this morning.

I guess there were other critters who apparently didn't like the deluge either........she awoke to find a SNAKE on top of her tent!!  In case anyone is wondering......these are the types of stories which do not a happy mother make!  :(     I guess she's with a group of hikers that is predominantly males....  which, like everything, can have its pros and cons.   I guess they are eager to help out when needed......but, I'll let her tell more about that.

Well that's all I'll post for now.  I'll see what she has to say later, and still leave room for her to get the info to you.

Ha!  Before I sent this, she for some clarification.  There was no SNAKE on her tent, there was a bank (mud slide) on top of her tent.  She said it was an awful mess!  I have NO idea how that was translated so poorly, but we just had a good laugh of that one.....sort of like the childhood game called "gossip" or "telephone" where the original message is totally warped as it's relayed from person to person.

There is a father/daughter pair out there with her.  The daughter is 12 years old and is hiking with her dad over Spring Break.  They are heading home today.  He was very worried leaving Kristin.......he brought a snack and a warm drink to her during all the awful rain last evening.  That sounded nice.  She had found out from them, that they have hiked various sections of the trail in many different states every chance they can......awesome!     :)

She didn't think she'd be able to post from her location, so I'll let this post stand.  Hopefully we'll hear from her SOON!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hiking Buddies!

Information from April 17
Well, today (Tuesday) was a great day for Kristin.  She made friends last night and hiked out with them this morning.  I guess they went at a fairly slow pace and made camp early because they'd been warned about severe storms in the area that would hit just after lunch.

Someone had been hiking with a dog, which of course took to Kristing and followed her all day.  She said she loved it.  They shared Frosted Flakes and Animal Crackers for a snack mid-morning.  :)

They made camp early afternoon and while the storm was still being kept at bay, she allowed articles of clothing to dry in the wind.  She had put everything safely away just before the storms let loose again.  So, she headed to her tent and read one of the books Ms. Kinney had given her (thank you), and wrote letters to a few hiking friends.....oh, all right, I'll spoil the surprise and let Ben and Jenna know that a letter to each of them is on its way!  :)  ---well actually tomorrow when she arrives at the outfitters depot.   :)

She is rationing her food because she was supposed to be at the outfitters today picking up her next box of supplies; however, the climb was supposed to be steep and the footing treacherous.  She didn't want to do it in wind, rain, and lightning; however, if it's still bad weather tomorrow, she'll go anyhow, and take it slowly.  She'll be at elevation 4,450.

She is enjoying the company of other hikers.  She said it was certainly a sight to behold with everyone lounging around near the creek, resting their feet, and drying their clothing in the wind.  Her sleeping bag is still dry and her tent is serving her well.  She'd also sealed the seams to ensure even more rain-proofing!  :)

As of 5:30 p.m., the rain was letting up a bit and she was getting ready to head out of the tent, make supper, and visit with the other hikers.  There is a 30 year old in the group who had graduated from Fletcher High School, in Jax Beach.  He knew Ms. Fine (gifted history teacher-Kristin also had her). That meant he was graduating the year Kristin had Mr. J at Neptune Beach Elementary School and was graduating from there.  She was going to talk with him tonight and find out if he knew Mr. Holden, Mr. & Mrs. Jeffrey, Brenda Brown, Mr. Antone, etc.  What a SMALL world it is.

Anyhow, Rainbow Dash is safe, dry, fed, and with friends.  I'll sleep better tonight!
Tuesday, April 17
We heard from Kristin mid-morning.  Last summer when she hiked, everyone moved out just after sunrise.  She was surprised that the group she was with from the night before, were all still asleep with no signs of stirring.  She got up, had breakfast of rehydrated quinoa with brown sugar, raisins, apples, etc.-- 500 calories with protein, and headed out........alone. 

The rain began shortly after 8:00 a.m. and rained all day.  She never saw a single soul.  She called around 4:00 p.m to see if there had been the "Rapture" and she had missed out.  High winds and heavy rains continued until she made camp around 7:00 pm.  She had worn her rain gear all day and was dry even though she felt a bit chilled (I think it may have been nerves from never seeing anyone).   I take that back, at one point she saw a Ranger and he told her that she needed to make sure she got to the shelter that night because of the bears and the food situation (oh, brother!).  If she wasn't carrying a 4lb bear cannister, she wouldn't be allowed to camp on the trail, she HAD to reach a shelter.  Now, let me explain that these shelters are just like a "run-in" for the paddock animals....only 3 sides, not 4 sides and a door!  :(

She was successfully able to start her stove and had minestrone with TVP (soy protein) for supper.  She was weathering the storm when some others came and made camp.  Soon, it was very crowded, but she made some friends with a group of thru-hikers and stayed up talking until long after dark!  (That probably means they were in bed by 9:00 p.m)!   hee, hee. 

So, now I'm waiting to hear how this pans out and how she'll adapt her schedule to stick with them for a few days.  She is due to hit a package holding station tomorrow (or the next day if she slows to stay with the group) and will pick up her food supplies for the next 5 days.

I'm relieved to hear she's with a group for now.  The group had been only hiking 6-8 miles a day (they'd left earlier last week), and she'd done two 15 mile days, but at this point, I think she'll give up distance for conversation.  They were going to be camping near a creek tonight and that sounded nice.


She's Off! .....and Walking!

Monday, April 16. 

Well, I will be adding photos of her "send-off" later, but in the meantime, I'll update everyone.  We left her at the trail head on Sunday morning (Apr 15) around 10:30 a.m.  The weather was absolutely beautiful, around 74 degrees and the leafing-out on all the trees was such a vivid bright light green.  She had long johns under her shorts in case it cooled off; they were a bright green, too!  She'd looked crazy in them at home, sort of like the Grinch, but here in the woods, she blended in! --  That won't be the case in the northern forests!

She had to sign in at the Ranger Station and they questioned her reasons for heading out alone (believe me, I did too).  It was tough to see her go, but at the same time, Kelly and I were excited for her.  Ohana (her dog) was certain that I was a negligent mother, oblivious of the fact that Kristin had forgotten to get back into the car before I drove away!  She nudged me and whined for about 10 minutes and then kept her eyes glued out the window for the next 500 miles!

We heard from Kristin several times that day letting us know that all was well and that she'd made a couple acquaintances with different hikers.  She had successfully climbed the 604 steps that hikers have to face to raise them up to the level where the approach trail starts.  She hiked Springer Mountain, and then continued on and slept at a shelter that was actually on the Appalachian Trail the first night.  She had rehydrated her pasta and sauce, had her breadsticks she had brought from home and a whoopie pie she had kept safe in the top of her pack.  After this.....breadsticks and sweets will be an occasionaly luxury!    :)

By early evening, she had set up camp-- blown up her pad, unrolled her sleeping bag, cached her food sachel (bears) and was ready to hit the hay.  She said the sunset of pinks and purples was gorgeous and she was at peace.  'sweet dreams'


Saturday, April 14, 2012

12 hours to go!

Just the other day, I was talking with someone about how much our built environment was designed for motorists rather than pedestrians.  We were discussing how our pace of life is just a few miles per hour short of that in Fahrenheit 451.  Our conversation had reminded me of an incident that occurred when I was in Vernon, NJ, last summer.  I had come into town earlier in the afternoon and left my pack at the hostel, and I was walking around the town doing errands.  I went into a fast-food restaurant and asked for directions to the supermarket.  The woman behind the counter told me that it was "right next door."  I left the restaurant and started walking...and reached the grocery store ten minutes later.

I had the same sort of experience today, while we were driving to Dahlonega, GA.  We crossed the AT near Suches.  (We actually got out and did touristy things, like take photos and gaze out at the mountains, but I don't want to spoil the momentum by giving details.)  We got excited, knowing we were close to our destination; however, I won't return to the intersection until Tuesday morning.  I'm not necessarily trying to romanticize the slow-paced life--I'm the first to advocate high-speed trains--but the idea of slowing down a bit, of being a Clarisse, intrigues me sometimes.  Okay, I'll admit it: Often.

Anyway, we are now in a hotel in Dahlonega, GA, 19 miles from Amicalola Falls State Park and the start of the approach trail to the AT.  (The 7.8-mi approach trail is the customary beginning to one's AT journey.  Technically, I will only hike 0.2 mi on the actual AT tomorrow.)  We took a bunch of state roads getting here, and the scenery was just beautiful.  North Carolina and northern Georgia are dramatically more phenologically-advanced than Kentucky is; it looks as if it's summertime!

We went out for dinner--a "last supper" of sorts--in charming Dahlonega tonight.  I had a salad, garlic bread, and pasta, thinking all the while how much I missed fresh veggies and bread last summer.  The goal of packing food for backpacking is to maximize the weight-to-calories ratio.  The ideal is 1 oz. to 100 kc; anything significantly less efficient rarely gets packed.  The water content of fresh veggies rules them out, and most bread doesn't hold up well to being stuffed in a backpack.

Now, we're in the hotel and getting ready for bed.  I'm actually copying a list of inspirational quotes to share with the other hikers.  On the Appalachian Trail, the primary mode of communication (besides word-of-mouth) is a series of trail journals.  These wire-bound notebooks and composition books are scattered in the shelters that pepper the trail.  In each, hikers note their comings and goings, as well as their thoughts about the day or about life in general.  Last year, I just wrote a short summary of my day in each log before signing it.  This year, I'm planning to include a Wordle (or "Frame Game") and an inspirational quote with every entry.  (I'm also planning to sign with brightly-colored ink, but that's another story...)

So, in closing, here's one you've probably heard dozens of times before but that seems quite pertinent tonight:

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

Does the journey of two thousand miles begin with two steps?

Happy trails!
Rainbow Dash

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Four days to go!

"Ah, but provisions for a week, a hundred miles of trail stretching toward the horizon, and every step being a step closer to Katahdin.  A life more worthwhile even the gods could not dream of."
The Philosopher

I was about ten years old when I heard about the Appalachian Trail for the first time.  My mother mentioned it one evening and told me how wonderful she thought it would be to hike it.  I thought it sounded interesting, but I didn't give the trail much more thought until the summer of 2010.  That summer, I lived up in New Hampshire with a group of aspiring scientists as part of a Research Experience for Undergraduates.  We spent every weekday hiking in the forest to collect data.  As our location in a farmhouse in the White Mountain National Forest provided few forms of indoor entertainment, we spent our weekends hiking the peaks nearby.  I loved the idea of nature being a playground, a wonderland of sorts, a new world just waiting to be explored.  It was during one particularly long outing that I decided to hike the Appalachian Trail.

My plan was to begin hiking as soon as I graduated from college, so I spent my senior year reading everything I could get my hands on about the trail.  I gathered backpacking supplies and went on a number of practice hikes.  Thirteen hours after I took my last college final, I was on a train bound for Harpers Ferry.  A friend had volunteered to go with me, and the two of us figured that we would be able to hike from Harpers Ferry (the traditional halfway point of the trail) to Katahdin before he needed to head back to school.

Well, last summer, I spent four weeks on the Appalachian Trail.  There were a number of reasons that the adventure had to be cut short, including several reasons that I imagine anyone reading this blog has laughed with me about in the time since I've returned.  But, as fate would have it, I fell in love last summer.  Before my family drove to Bear Mountain, New York, to pick me up from my adventure, I learned that I loved little more than the sight of distant river valleys, the quiet rustle of wildlife in the morning, the scent of the moist air that comes with a summer rainstorm, the taste of fresh spring water, or the sponginess of the forest floor beneath my feet.  I loved the return to simplicity, the time to think. I loved the sense of community on the trail, the instant kinship backpackers seem to feel with one another.  I loved the utter lack of pretentiousness and superiority, loved the idea that each of us must find a way to eat, drink, and shelter ourselves, that we are all truly equals.  And, while there were certainly challenges, I loved waking up each day knowing that my main goal was simply to keep walking north in the "long green tunnel."

So, after a year spent living at my family's hobby farm, working on local environmental issues, and TAing at the local community college, I'm returning to the trail.  This time, I'm heading out alone, but I'll be leaving from Springer at a time when many other hikers are journeying north.  I've repaired my gear and purchased a few new supplies, identified mail drops from Springer to Harpers Ferry (the rest will be determined at a later time), and dehydrated weeks' worth of food.  This past weekend, I sent the first packages to Mountain Crossings, the Blueberry Patch, and the NOC.  My pack is loaded and ready.

I've even got a trail name.  Since the 1970s/80s, thru-hikers have taken on a trail name while on the AT.  It had originally been very low-key, but it's almost a rite of passage now.  Last summer, I hiked as "Thirsty."  (We hiked in Pennsylvania in 90-100* weather.)  But, this year, I wanted something more optimistic, something that fit how I feel when I'm hiking.  Someone suggested I go with "Rainbow Dash" because of an eponymous (Okay, honestly, pun completely intended!) patch on my pack.  Given that "Rainbow Dash" is at least 20% cooler than anything else I could have gone with, I decided it was a winner.

Now, I'm just tying up lose ends (e.g., going through some 2000 emails in my inbox--How does that happen?!) and waiting.  On the 14th, my awesome family is taking me to Springer Mountain.  I'll begin hiking on the 15th; I'll do the eight-mile approach trail and then sleep at the Springer Mountain Shelter before really beginning the northward pilgrimage on Monday.

Theoretically, I could be on the top of Katahdin on September 15.  While I'd planned to keep a journal of my adventures, I hadn't intended to blog about them.  But, enough people recommended I do this that they convinced me.  So...For the next 4-6 months, this blog will be updated by my family and me.  I'm not cool enough to have a smartphone, so my updates will only come during town stops.  However, my lovely family has promised to supplement those postings with daily details of my progress to Maine.

That's all for now.  Thanks for reading, and happy trails!