A quick update to report that I have made it to the mental half way point, on schedule, and in one piece. The last couple of days have been beautiful, with perfect weather. I feel strong and I have great company, Switchback and Arrow. Two guys I met way back in Tennessee, who are great company. I will give a better update in Boiling springs later this week. I’m really bummed out not to have a phone. It’s a bit of a lonely feeling not to be able to get in touch with loved ones, especially Jesse. I’m happy to be here though, and excited to meet my mom and Mitch very soon!
So, it’s winding down to my last few hours with Jesse. It’s been so great to have him, and Front Royal has been a nice little town to spend a day and a half in. Tomorrow morning, we go our separate ways. I’m getting picked up by a really nice woman from the visitor center, for a ride to the trail head. Jesse is getting picked up by a rather expensive, but necessary, cab to bring him to Dulles airport.
It’s going to be sad for a bit, especially since my hiking buddies are a couple of days ahead of me. It could take me a week or two to catch them. I know I’ll feel good though. I love what I’m doing, and we’re getting closer to New England everyday, which really comforts me. I love the northeast! I’ll be passing the Mason-Dixon line in a matter of days, and the half way point in a week! The greatest part of that is, I’ll be meeting my mom and brother in Boiling Springs, just in time for them to cheer me on in the half gallon challenge! Obviously, I’ve been looking forward to that for weeks!
So onward and upward I march. With a smile on my face and a tear in my eye. It’s great to be alive!
I just wanted to brag that I am close friends with an amazing woman! Allie Yanikoski, the only person I’ve ever called my soul mate, (Jesse doesn’t mind. He can tell when he’s defeated:)) just ran her first marathon ever, and finished the race with an incredible time of 3 hours; 57 minutes; and 18 seconds. I’m so proud of her. She really is about as tough and driven as they make them.
So, the next time I’m struggling on the trail, I will think fondly of Allie, and how she kicked some serious marathon booty!
You’re amazing Allie!
Today is my little guy’s birthday. He’s 11 years old. I wanted to text Royce to tell him to give him a nice birthday chin scratch, but I have no phone. So if any of you Montana folks read this today, and see Royce or Max, please pass along the message for me. Tell Max I can’t wait to see him in August.
I am very happy to see that no one thinks of me as a big cheater for doing a canoe trip. Because after hiking one day through the Shenandoah National Park with Jesse, we decided that a canoe trip actually sounded pretty rare and special. I think Virginia is trying to kill me. Temps have been in the high 90s and deer ticks are in abundance. As water sources got fewer and fewer, floating down the river just kept sounding sweeter and sweeter. So we did it.
It’s possible that the A.T. got mad at me for it though, as we turned out to have a near death experience pretty much immediately. That may be an over-dramatization, and I apologize, for that’s just the way I am. We hit the river with another hiker, Boyscout, who took a kayak. After an hour of smiles and cool water splashing us we were sort of thinking that everyone still on the trail is a sucker for not being there too. I think that’s about when mother nature gave us a smacking. We came around a narrow bend in the river to find a strainer (uprooted tree) dead center. Boyscout hit it right away, flipped, and got trapped under it. Jesse and I thought he was in serious trouble, and instead of doing the smart thing, which would have been going to shore and throwing him a rope, we paddled hard right for him to try to get him out. Naturally, we ended up flipped and hanging to the same tree.
I thought back to my tiny pieces of rafting experience in Glacier, and how they say, avoid strainers at all costs, keep your feet above water so they don’t get trapped in rocks or other debris, and swim with the river to shore. So I told everyone else to do the same, and Boyscout and I ended up downstream a little on separate banks. Jesse, possibly being less panicked than I, realized that he should use the small window of opportunity he had to retrieve the canoe. He was able to manage standing on top of it, and wedging the canoe out from underneath. Once it was loose in the river, he basically floated on top of it to shore. I never would have thought to give a damn about any of our stuff or the boat itself at the time, but I’m sure glad Jesse did. Only because he’s safe now and if I’d have lost all of my hiking gear, that could have been it for me, not to mention the possibility of having to pay for the outfitter’s gear that was lost by us. Boyscout’s chest and arms were all scratched up, and he had lost his paddle and a lot of his gear to the river. Jesse and I were in good shape and everything except for Jesse’s paddle and sunglasses was still floating inside our canoe.
It turned out we had an audience. We walked into a guys yard on our side of the river, told him about our little mishap, and he laughed and said, “I know, I watched you guys swimmin!'” As shook up as we were, it was kind of nice to get laughed at. He told us that a motor boat had been caught under that same tree, not a week before. Apparently the tree was a new obstacle in the river, which came with the recent flooding. He happened to have spare paddles and didn’t mind parting with them. Kind of crazy to have that kind of luck. So we let our nerves settle and then hit the river again, this time extremely cautious around every corner. Within minutes, we found both paddles, and most of Boyscout’s gear.
Jesse was beating himself up a little bit for the spill. I don’t blame him at all, both of us were underestimating the river. We figured, if the outfitter drops you off at a boat launch with no map, no safety tips, no warnings of coming obstacles, then it must not be very rough water, or they would have had the pants sued off them long ago. He even said, as he gave us life jackets, “Law requires you to have these, but I know you aren’t gonna use em. They make a great seat cushion if nothin’ else.” We never dreamed that there were parts of the river with dangers they didn’t even know about. That was our mistake. Plus, when you see another person in a very dangerous situation, and have 20 seconds to decide what to do about it, you’re bound to make some hasty and maybe regrettable choices.
Crazy as it may sound. I’m still glad we took the river. Nothing even close to as dangerous as that happened again. We met lots of nice locals. The outfitters felt terrible and were very apologetic (even bought us a 6 pack). Saw lots of big fish jumping, and made some pretty big memories. The real kicker, is that I lost my phone and camera, and Jesse lost his phone. Life without a phone is tough. I should have one meeting me in the mail soonish, but I’m probably going to have to get along for another week or so. I ordered a phone on line, but what do you know, it isn’t here yet. Sorry to everyone who can’t get a hold of me. I will check my email and this blog again tomorrow. Jesse and I are staying in Front Royal for 2 nights, tonight we are at a hotel with no phone in the room. Which sucks. We will make sure to find one with a phone for tomorrow and make rounds calling friends and family.
It’s been so great to have Jesse here, and the Shenandoah National Park was absolutely gorgeous. Jesse will be taking off on Thursday morning. I will miss him dearly, but I’m happy to have had him with me all this time. I’m almost to the 1000 mile marker, well by almost, I mean a couple of days (40 miles). I feel ready to start kicking some A.T. butt, even though there is no excuse for this god-awful heat! Let it try and stop me! Maine or bust!
Just a quick note to let everyone know that things are going fine. Better than fine, actually. We made it to Waynesboro. Which means it’s time to start the Shenandoahs and things are looking pretty luxurious for the next few days, with the promise of beer and snacks at frequent intervals. And what’s better, is that John, James, and Arrow, some old friends of ours (as old as other trail-hiking friends can be, anyway), are in Waynesboro tonight, we’ve been hoping to see them for a long time now. And what’s the best yet, is that Jesse is here to hike with me for the next 8 days!
A really nice couple I met at the Belton last summer has put us up for the night. They have been extremely generous and helpful, and are great company. We’ve had a lovely night in their beautiful log home, great conversations, and absolutely delicious homemade spinach lasagna! They showed us around their property for a while today, and took us to their neighbors for an incredible view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. They really do live in an extraordinary place.
So things have been wonderful. I saw a cute little (but not too little) bear yesterday and came face to face with a skunk the day before. I didn’t get sprayed, so it was a good experience. I’m happy to be seeing more wildlife! Makes me feel at home.
I better keep this brief, but one thing before I go. I would like to hear people’s opinions on whether taking a canoe along the Shenandoah River for a few days, is cheating. The river parallels the trail, but I know it isn’t hiking. If I do it, did I still hike the Appalachian Trail, or am I a phoney?
Today has been excellent! We spent our last week hiking in the rain. Mostly high-spirited, but quite wet indeed. I knew that Virginia was going to be tough. Folks have been saying it’s wet, steep, plain, rocky, a lot of the same thing…the list goes on. So I’ve been mentally preparing myself, and it’s been going just fine. Not that I love being soggy all the time, or having to take 4 foot leaps from rock to rock, sometimes from wet rock to wet rock, but it’s been alright. I owe that, at large, to Bam and Tide Walker. It’s so great to have their company!
I’m relatively certain my body is getting frustrated with me. I just can’t seem to get enough to eat the last couple of days. My energy has been low and my tummy rumbles madly every 2 hours or so. Both Heidi, and a thru-hiker called Ompa that I’ve met on the trail, have warned me about this. How my body will go into starvation mode. It makes sense, having a 3000 calorie deficit every day for 6 weeks, I guess it’s bound to catch up with you. I’m confident that it will pass. I’ve been amazed before at my body’s ability to adapt and I know that I will get used to it.
So with all of that going on, damp, sore-jointed, and weak with hunger, I have to say, it was about the happiest day of my life yesterday when Tide Walker’s parents, Terry and Sandra, met us at a road crossing to take us into Roanoke. The seat of the car felt like a throne, and the hotel room feels and looks like a palace. It’s unreal! We’ve spent the last 36 hours clean, dry, well fed, and so happy! Terry and Sandra paid for our hotel room and bought us dinner. They’ve been so kind.
So, as seems to be the trend, life is good. I feel ready to hit the trail in the morning, and excited for coming attractions. The Shenandoahs and Jesse being the main ones.
Here’s a couple of photos of the D.A. I’ve been getting such great mail at my drops, thanks so much to everyone. I have another coming in two days and can’t wait to see the fan mail. You guys keep me going, and I love you so much!
And for those of you who played the “guess how much weight I’ve lost” game, the answer is, drum roll please ……………………………………………………….19 pounds! Wow, huh.
I’ll post the exact amount tomorrow night, I want to read people’s guesses. But I will say that Kiddo, weighs significantly less than Shayla! I’ll try to attach some good group photos too.
Special thanks to Mackenzie for adding all those pages. The captions are perfect and I really appreciate the new additions! Happy graduation as well.
Hello everyone. I’m updating instead of Shayla again because I made a few changes to the site that I wanted to tell everyone about.
First off, I added a separate page for Shayla’s (Kiddo’s?) list of mail drops. On that note, the dates for her next two mail drops (Daleville VA and Shipman VA) have changed. She’s running ahead of schedule at the moment, which means she’ll be in Daleville on the 17th instead of the 18th, and she’ll be in Shipman on the 24th instead of the 26th. Last I heard, she’s still planning to be in Harper’s Ferry on the 4th. If she has any more changes, I’ll be sure to update the list on the new page. I’ll try to remember to update the post she made in March, but I’d suggest the separate page for the most current list.
Second, I added captions to the pictures on the Photos page. I’m somewhat waiting for Shayla’s approval on this, since I did this using a short list she sent me with her camera memory card. I’m not positive I got everything right, but I think the captions should be fairly accurate. Also, just a heads up that the pictures closest to the top are the most recent ones, and the older ones are closer to the bottom.
Third, I added a Videos page. There’s two really neat videos of a tree Shayla saw. Of course, there’s also the infamous video of Shayla with her pet squirrel friend.
I think that’s everything new, for now.
I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this yet, but my trail name is Kiddo:)
I got it because I smile a lot, and look like I’m 16. Which isn’t such a bad thing. I love it. Sometimes I come up to some friends I haven’t seen for a few days and they say in unison, “Kiddo!” Makes me so happy.