Tuesday, May 28, 2013

5/24: Catawba, VA

Hello all,

Wendy here with another post from the trail. Today we conquered an awesome part of the trail- Dragon's Tooth! It is a short blue blazed trail that leads to two massive stone monoliths. They are perched on a hill and overlook a massive valley. The view was incredible! We also got to climb all over both of the rocks, always a favorite hobby of Breeze and I.

Next was the trip to Catawba. We had plans of leaving town after a quick bite to eat, only to be warned later that the Hpmeplace restaurant could not be skipped. Ever eager for all you can eat, Breeze and I hopped into line and quickly got seated. We opted to pay $14 each and enjoy unlimited roast beef, fried chicken, and all sorts of tasty country cooked sides. Wow did we get our money worth! Not only that but we also got unlimited peach cobbler. Wow did I punish my poor stomach! Needless to say, we weren't feeling like hiking after our dinner so we opted to camp behind the grocery store tonight. We will head  first thing in the morning to the grocery and leave town early the next day. 

Until next time,

5/23: Pickle Branch Shelter, 691.1

Well hello there everyone, it's Breeze. 

There are certain days out here where I get frustrated by the way humans communicate. I know that sounds weird, but allow me to explain. Have you ever taken a picture of something beautiful, but the picture just doesn't do the sight justice? Well it happens to me a lot out here, with words and pictures. My limited vocabulary and writing ability always seems to hold me back from adequately communicating how I feel. Nevertheless, I will do my best. 

Today on the trail we got to see the memorial of the most decorated solider in the US military during WWII, Audie Murphy. Dear God, was Mr. Murphy a warrior. The man earned 24 decorations during his service, including the Medal of Honor, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Service Cross, and three Purple Hearts. The stone monument was erected in 1974 by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and an American Flag flew behind it. It was an awe inspiring sight, and every patriotic bone in my body was tingling. Beside the original monument were two separate structures that hikers have built over the years with simple rocks. Scattered amongst the stone piles were personal belongings left behind to show respect, such as small flags, dog tags, and military patches. As a small token of my appreciation, I did as many hikers have done before me, and added a stone to our hiker-made monument. It was the least I could do. 

Directly across from the monument stood two benches. I sat at one of the two benches for a long time, just to enjoy the peacefulness of the moment. I was more moved by this place than by all the memorials I visited in Washington, D.C. combined. There were no screaming kids or noisy tourists. I didn't have to compete with 10,000 other people for a decent view or picture. I was literally the only one there. It was as if the monument were built just for me. I could hear birds singing and the sun was shining. I was able to actually collect my thoughts, and truly appreciate what was before me. I said a small prayer for Mr. Murphy, and for all veterans of the United States military. Thank you so much for your service. 

Well guys, that's about it for me. Until next time, 


P.s Check out how cool the hiker-made monuments are in the pictures. Almost better than the original, am I right?

5/22: Keffer Oak

Hello all,

Wendy here again with another update from the trail. I am quite embarrassed to have come up with this day, for it does not look great in terms of our hiking. That said, it is my duty to share both our triumphs and failures, so we will simply have to chalk this one up as a learning experience. 

After Zeus dropped us off from our ride back from D.C. we were left to do the dreaded task of reintegrating yourself into the hiking world. Thankfully we had the Keffer oak to look forward to, which is a giant oak tree measuring 18' around! When we got there, however, we realized we had been beaten there by the infamous Riff Raff crew and they had different plans for our day. 

The Riff Raff crew is a rag tag band of past thru hikers. They now follow current thru hikers in vehicles and specialize in "distracting" them. They find that there are far too many hikers that make a "death march to Katahdin." To help them slow down, they stop them with adult beverages and convince them to stay the night. 

Not too much can be said about the night except for the fact that beverages were indeed consumed and much fun was had. By the end of the night the Riff Raff had managed to distract a dozen hikers, many of whom we knew and hadn't seen for a while! Tomorrow we have big miles planned, time to get back on track!


Saturday, May 25, 2013

5/19-5/21: Washington, D.C. (Breeze)

Hello loyal followers, it's Breeze. I guess it's my chance to give a recap of my time in the nation's capital! 

First of all, I just wanted to throw a huge shout out to Rachel, Amanda, and Ashley! I don't know how Wendy and I lucked out and got to stay with the three coolest girls in D.C., but that is exactly what happened. I guess I need to try this whole spontaneous thing out more...it seems I'm pretty good at it. So where to begin? 

Eager to see the city, Wendy and I woke up in time to follow Rachel to work on the metro. This was my first time on the metro, so of course I looked like a straight tourist in front of all the daily commuters- much to my dismay. Keep in mind that I've been in the woods for two months, so cities are far from my thing. Someone (everyone should read Rachel here) gave me a bus pass that had a negative balance. I swipe my card and an absurdly loud buzzer goes off, similar to the buzzer at a basketball game (ok maybe not, but it was loud!). *BAAANNN*! I about come out of my skin. The bus driver prompts me to insert a dollar into the machine, so I start fumbling with my stupid hiker Ziplock wallet. She asks me to swipe my card again. *BAAANNN*! The bus ride was only supposed to cost $1.50, but I insert 2 more dollars before the buzzers stop. At one point I drop a dollar on the ground, but I don't even bother to pick it up. Instead, I offered up the extra dollar to the D.C bus Gods as a small sacrifice so that they may allow my suffering to end. Finally, after what felt like an hour, I was allowed to ride the bus. 

The rest of the day however was fantastic! We tried to do all the awesome tourist things that we could in one day, which included the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, the Capital Building, and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. We spent 3 hours in the museum alone, but I could have spent all day in there! I am completely obsessed with NASA's Apollo program, and the space race with the Soviets during the Cold War. I read every single word of both those exhibits. Another one of my favorite exhibits was the Wright Brothers. Learning how they built their own wind tunnel to test wing designs and calculate drag coefficients blew my mind. Those were some seriously smart guys. As an engineer, I'm completely in awe of their genius. All day I was a kid in a candy shop, running around like an idiot shouting out awesome facts and figures to Wendy. "Dude, this Apollo Rocket burned a half a million gallons of fuel in 2 1/2 minutes, creating over 7 1/2 millions pounds of thrust!!!" Oh my, is my geek showing?? Sorry guys.

By around 6 o'clock, we were touristed out. D.C is a tiring city. Luckily, Rachel and Ashley rode to the rescue and invited us out for some food and drinks! Wendy and I had a great time hanging out with them, and were super sad when we had to leave. We are already scheming about a possible return to D.C once we hit Harpers Ferry. Maybe a Nationals game? Six Flags perhaps? With Wendy and I, you never can tell what we're going to do next. I guess you'll just have to keep reading the blog and find out for yourself. 

Hope everyone is doing well, 


5/19-5/21: Washington DC (Wendy)

Hello all,

Another special trail update starring points of view from both Breeze and I. I plan on telling you how all of this mess got decided and how we ended up where we were, then Breeze will write up what an amazing time we had while we were there (spoiler alert: it was super amazing.) Let us begin, shall we?

The day started off just as planned- we left Trail Days with Zeus and headed back where Kent had hiked to and had been picked up by Jessica and I a few short days prior. Another passenger, our good friend Ref, was off to Washington D.C. so that he could catch a flight back home for a wedding. We were having a great time (these three guys are easily the best friends I have on the trail,) until someone makes a joke that we should just go to D.C. and see the city for a few days. 

Knowing of only one person in the city (technically I didn't know her, she was the sister of my best man!) I decided to give Joseph a ring and see if his sister was somehow willing to give 2 smelly hikers a place to stay for 2 nights. She agreed and within 20 minutes the decision was made and I would become forever indebted to the Villnow family. 

Six hours later we arrived at Rachel's house around 20 minutes outside of the city. She took one whiff of us and sent us straight to the showers! We got washed up quickly and made a beeline for the brewery down the street to snag a growler before they closed shop. Finally, they graced us with steak and vegetables for dinner. 

Talk about being treated, these girls really knew how to show hikers love! Afterwards we sat around the back deck, drank beer, and swapped stories with Rachel and her two awesome roommates Ashley and Amanda! I can thank them a million times and it won't ever be enough, they let 2 smelly hikers into their house without ever meeting us yet we felt totally at home and welcomed. 

While I will leave the next day for Breeze to discuss I would like to mention that the following night we were treated once again by the girls out on the town. They took us to a few awesome bars and we had another great night with them!

5/17-5/19: Damascus Trail Days (Breeze)

Not gonna lie, I'm running out of ways to kick my blog posts off. But anyway, it's Breeze with an update from the trail. 

Man oh man, Damascus Trail Days is something to see. I never in my life have seen anything like it. I don't even know where to begin. I guess I'll start by describing Tent City. 

Tent City is insane. Literally thousands of hikers come in and take over a very, very large section of woods outside Damascus. By the time I got there on Friday, entire neighborhoods and subdivisions had been built in the woods. A few names of subdivisions include Trail Talk, Billville, and Riff Raff. Riff Raff had so many tarps hanging from trees, they had more square footage than most moderately sized houses. It was just insane. The Riff Raff area alone was so big you could get lost in there. By the time night rolled around, all of Tent City was one big party. If you wanted to find the heart of the party, literally all you had to do was follow the beat. Located in the center of Tent City was the largest fire pit I have ever seen. It must have been over 15' across, with walls around 2'. The flames rose to twice the height of any human. A massive drum circle was located around this fire ring, and people were all hanging out, listening to the music, or dancing around the fire. I'm not gonna lie, I took a lap of two around the flames. I mean what can I say? When in Rome, sometimes you have to do as the Romans do.

The best part of my time in Damascus was catching up with some really good friends of mine, Zeus and Spider. I spent the entire weekend with them and we had a great time! We spent hours wandering through Damascus, catching up with old friends and talking down vendors. Vendors will do anything for a current thru hiker! We had so much fun, we are already making plans together for Trail Days next year! 

Man, what an experience. I wish all of you had been here to see it! Catch you down the trail! 


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

5/16: Kimberling Creek, 605.5

Hello everyone! Breeze here with a trail update. I hope y'all have had as good a day as I've had, because today was great, and unlike any other day I've had on the trail. The reason for this is because this is the first day of the entire trip that I didn't hike with Wendy. As you may know, his fiancĂ© is headed to Peru on the 20th, so I decided to give them some much needed alone time and do some solo hiking. It was very strange not having him around all day, that's for sure. I honestly can't remember the last time we slept more than 20 yards a part. But don't worry, this morning I pulled on my big boy pants and only cried for around 30 minutes or so. 

Other than Wendy's absence, the day went really well. I woke up early and knocked out a 10 by 12, and coasted into camp around 3:30 after putting in a solid 16 mile day. The big news of the day is that we have eclipsed the 600 mile mark! I'm really starting to feel accomplished, even though we still have quite a ways to go yet. I celebrated this monumental achievement with two other thru hikers, Violet and Orange Blood. Orange Blood and I built a 600 mile monument out of stones at the campsite and had lunch by the creek. What a beautiful campsite. 

After we met up at the 600 mile marker, we decided to hike together to a little place called Trent's Grocery and grab a burger and a milkshake. I'm such a sucker for a milkshake. Hanging out with Violet was so awesome. She's a 51 year old stockbroker that is skinny as a rail and smokes like a chimney. She also lives about 2 hours from Katadhin in Maine! She has hiked Katadhin half a dozen times, and has done Mt. Washington over 50 times. She had tons of pictures on her phone of the area, and gave me, Orange Blood, and Wooden Spoon tons of advice on places to stay and can't miss things to do. After our little chat I definitely have a hankering for some lobster! I love meeting people with different experiences and life backgrounds. It's honestly my favorite thing about the trail. 

I could talk forever, but I guess that's it for me. Until next time, 


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

5/14: Jenkins Shelter, 575.2

There are deer running all around this campsite! Wendy was just standing outside his tent and said, Dude, there is a deer standing 3 feet from me right now. Deer, I swear to God, if you so much as nibble on my tent, I'm going to kill you." Too funny. All the animal activity at this campsite has us a little more on edge than usual. This is because there is a sign at this shelter stating that there is an aggressive bear in the area and that we should be on guard....yikes!! The sign also states that if a bear does come to the shelter, you should attempt to fight it off, and that this shelter has been defended many times in this manner.  Hopefully we make I through the night! Haha, just a joke everyone.

Today was a really nice, average day on the trail. The highlight of the day was definitely a little bit of trail magic left just for me! One of our really good friends, Spider, found out if was my birthday yesterday, so he sat on the side of a random dirt road and waited for an hour and a half for someone to pass by. His goal was to get a hitch into a town and buy me a birthday cake. Unfortunately, the closest town was a long way away, so he settled on leaving me a nice cold Coors Light on the side of the trail with my name on it! What a super awesome guy. The best part about all of this is that lots of other thru hikers passed by the beer, but left it for me. Thru hikers are so great. 

Everything is going so great out here. I can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring! 


5/17-5/19: Damascus Round 3 (Wendy)

Hello all,

Wendy here with another update from the trail! It seems that we just can't find our way out of Damascus. No matter how far we go it just seems to keep sucking us back in! This time was a very special visit- Trail Days! This is the biggest AT hiker gathering of the year. We were told that over 13,000 people attend the gathering every year! 

This weekend was a once in a lifetime experience. The atmosphere was incredibly energetic and it was so great to see all of the hikers that we haven't seen in a while! Some of the highlights include Lady, Bomber, King, Zeus, and Buttercup! In addition to all of the hikers, every major backpacking gear vendor in the United States seemed to be there! To cap off the weekend, free food was everywhere!

While the weekend was incredible, there was some quite somber news to report. During the annual parade for the hikers, an elderly man who was driving in the parade had a medical emergency and ended up running over several hikers. The accident ended in several hikers being airlifted, however thankfully nobody lost their lives. A prayer goes out to all of the people affected and their families. 

Until next time,

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

5/15: Bland, VA

Hello all,

Wendy here with yet another update from the trail. Believe it or not, it is town day again! 4 days sure can pass by at different speed out here (largely dependent on the weather,) and this 4 days seemed to fly by! 

Today saw us perched 12 miles from Bland in the morning. Desperate for the taste of a DQ blizzard, the two of us actually hiked out in the morning! 8:37AM is when we broke camp to be exact! We are quite proud and enjoyed the change of pace from the late day/late night hiking we have been doing.

Because we were so motivated to be in town we actually managed a 10 by 12! The terrain wasn't bad at all and we scored one of the things that has been on our list for quite some time- we saw our first bear! We had about the best encounter you can hope for- he saw us before we saw him and he was around 25 yards downhill. We didn't see him until he began tearing down every bush and tree in his path to get away from us! Maybe they are big raccoons like everyone says.

Today also marked another unique day- Breeze and I will be separated for the first time on the trail. Jessica will be coming and meeting up with us one more time before she goes on her trip to Peru for 2 months. Because of this, Breeze has chosen to give us a night alone and continue hiking tomorrow. He headed up to the next shelter this evening and I am camping out near the road so I can hitch back into town tomorrow to meet my boo!

Until next time,

5/13: Lynn Creek Camp

Hello everyone,

Wendy here with a very special update from the trail. Sir Breeze is officially a young one no longer; he has turned 23 today! We had just what the doctor ordered for celebration- a 12 mile day to a great campsite!

The day started at our usual late pace. By the time we had stirred, the only hiker that remained was Blacksquatch. Even he had a better excuse than us, however, because he was turning around that day to meet some friends in town. Unphased and determined to have a good day, we set out around lunch for our day. 

The day was fairly easy and full of nice long breaks and enjoyment of the nice weather. It feels so good to be in sunshine after the rain! We spent most of the day leap frogging with an awesome hiker named Whirled Peas (a play on world peace.) She is a ton of fun to be around and is always positive and happy no matter which hill we find her on! The last time we left her, she mentioned a friend may be walking southbound past us. If he was, we were instructed to tell him it was Breeze's birthday and that he would know what to do. 

About an hour later we met up with her friend, CC Rider. Upon reciting her speech we were both gifted 2 wonderful things- Guinness Extra stout bottles! While Breeze isn't a huge stout fan yet I'm working on him! Thanks Whirled Peas for the help!

Finally at mile 12 we stumbled upon a wonderful campsite that was empty except for one tent. We decided that we would make the 3 miles up the following day and camp there instead of pushing on. What a great call! Being able to setup camp, cook food, and hang the bear bag all before dark was quite a treat.

Happy birthday Breeze!

PS- the picture wasn't taken today but it is one of my favorite pictures thus far. We were on a hitch that required one of us to sit on a lawn mower in the bed of a truck. Breeze, ever chasing adventure, signed up for the seat.

5/12: Davis Path Campsite 545.3

Well guys, I did a little pleading with the rain last night, and for once, she listened! It has been a beautiful day out here on the Appalachian Trail!

As you might have guessed, it's Breeze. You can't ask for better days than this. Wendy and I put in a solid but relaxing 15 mile day. Honestly, it was relaxing! I can really get used to these rolling hills in Virginia! Wendy and I took a ton of breaks, and enjoyed snacks, views, and a new hobby of ours: hackysack! A few days ago we saw a group of thru hikers playing and having a great time, so we had to give it a try! We aren't very good, but we're getting better fast. We'll be ready for the big leagues soon.

Tonight in camp has been so much fun. Since tomorrow is my birthday, our entire group of friends decided to pack out a few adult beverages in to camp. We have all been sitting around the picnic table for a while now, swapping jokes and telling stories. We even started quoting Will Ferrell movies for a while (one of my favorite activities)! At hiker midnight (9 pm for you townies), we all raised our cans and celebrated my birthday, and for hiking 25% of this trail. I couldn't have asked for a better time.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there, especially mine. Mom, I wouldn't be out here without your love and support. Thank you so much for everything you do for me. I love you.


5/11: Partnership Shelter

Hello all,

Wendy here with another trail update! 

Today was a short 7 mile day because we had to go into the wonderful town of Marion to resupply! After that we enjoyed a party at the shelter with the fun patrol. And we celebrated a birthday! Allow me to take you through the day of a town run for a hiker. 

The first ingredient to any town run is tons of people. Because most hikers resupply in the same towns, everyone within a day of you is trying to line up to make it in and out of the town in one day.   This is used as a technique to spend less money in town by not having to stay there and purchase a hostel or lodging. That means that the few campsites and shelter before it will always be packed!

The next ingredient is an important one- transportation. While we all agreed to walk 2185 miles, walking 4 miles down a busy backcountry road is one way is just unacceptable! There are 3 possible solutions- a town you literally walk through, a shuttle, or hitch hiking. 

There are only a handful of towns on the trail that are truly walked through. These a true blessings to behold! However, most times you are left with one of the latter two options. Shuttles always cost money but are very reliable. If you are willing to fork out the cash, it is a very quick way to get in and out of town. By far the most common method among hikers, however, is hitch hiking. It is free and available at every road crossing!

Well I just realized what a huge bit of rambling I was doing! Stay tuned and I will talk about the hitch hiking in more detail- it really is exciting!

The final ingredient to town is my favorite- town food! Everyone will be looking for one thing and one thing only; the fabled All You Can Eat (AYCE!) It is the thing of hiker dreams and we will all eat pretty much anything as long as they will let us eat as much as we want of it!

Marion was a wonderful town and we got all we needed- food resupply, Mexican food, and beer! It was a great place, although tough to get a hitch in and out of! We got to hang out for most of the day with Triggs and her dog Grommet. Triggs played ultimate and soccer and has a lot of sports to talk about with Breeze and I! As for Grommet, Breeze and I are slowly being accepted as friends.

The night ended with an awesome night of the game Mafia and birthday celebration! Mafia is an in the head mystery that is fun to play in groups! Unfortunately Breeze was a town person and they were all slain. Finally, Fire Hazard celebrated her birthday! This trail birthday was complete with cake, a cupcake, and a card! It helps to have a birthday just outside of town.

That's all for now, more to come!


Saturday, May 11, 2013

5/10: Campsite, 524.8

Rain, would you please stop? Please? Don't make me beg rain, because you know that I will.

What's up everyone, Breeze here. As you can see, I'm pretty tired of the rain. It's rained every day since my folks dropped us off on the trail last Sunday, and today was definitely the worst weather yet. There's just something about running from a thunderstorm at 3500 feet that makes you feel so alive. In the storms defense, the weather today was all Wendy's fault. He just wasn't believing hard enough. I guess this joke needs some explaining...

Wendy and I have had a running joke out here since we began the trail. Anytime the ball just doesn't seem to be bouncing our way, it's because one of us isn't believing hard enough. If the uphill is particularly tough, or the weather is bad, or the campsite just won't seem to appear, all we have to do is believe that things will get better, and they always seem to.

Ok, so now that you know the background, I can continue with the story. The sky was dropping buckets of rain on us, and lightning was flashing above our heads. I've never been so wet in my life, and keep in mind I have been swimming. Throughout the entire storm I was messing with Wendy. "Come on man, just believe the rain will stop, and it will," I would jokingly say. Or, "You aren't believing hard enough, Wendy. You have to believe! I believe!" Finally, Wendy got tired of my comments, and stops dead on the trail. "Thunderstorm, cease!" he cried, in a Gandalf-esque way. And low and behold, the rain and lightning quit. If you believe, good things will happen. We're thinking of changing our trail names to Wendy the Mystical and Breeze the Believer. We make things happen.

Another good story from the day is about Pretzel the Pony Kicker. Poor, poor Pretzel. Apparently while he was petting the Grayson ponies, one of the baby ponies began chewing on his rain jacket. In order to get the pony to stop, he gently nudged it with his foot. There's one thing you need to know about thru hikers: we love the telephone game. You know the game. Word of mouth has a way of manipulating a story. Wendy and I love the telephone game, so we began telling people that Pretzel the Pony Kicker double foot dropped kicked the poor baby pony off a cliff. By the time the tale reached Pretzel, he was a pony killer. All he could do was crack a grin, but couldn't figure out how so many people had heard the story so fast. Word travels faster than you think out here, Pretzel. Especially when you're going around killing innocent ponies.

Well guys, I've rambled to you long enough. Some of you have jobs I imagine. Until next time!

Breeze :)

5/9: Campsite Z

Hello all,

It is Wendy with your usual daily dose of trail story! Today was an awesome day even if the terrain was tough (hint: it was!)   This day could not be bad for one reason and one reason only- wild ponies! Oh and we got lost. In the forward direction. Allow me to explain!

The day started off late (or normal if that's how you'd like to refer to it at this point,) and we left in good spirits about the day ahead of us. 

While the day was going pretty well in terms of spirits, the trail left something to be desired. Not only did our day include our first big climbs for a few days, but every bit of flat trail seemed to be filled with standing water. This made for a muddy and disgruntled Wendy!

This went on until around 4pm when we came around the bend to find a group of our friends sitting at the edge of the field. We went to investigate and found a most wonderful surprise- wild ponies! They were incredible and quite friendly to humans. They would lick you all over for the salt and even the newborn foal (Davy Crocket estimated him at 3 days old,) was able to come up and greet us! He made adorable neighs and ran around and hopped- I had to scrape my melted heart up off of the trail!

With our spirits lifted, we continued on to complete the rest of our daily mileage (suppose to be an 18.) Roughly one mile past our last shelter stop before we reached our goal for the night, however, the AT had a different plan for us.

Let me start this with a disclaimer: ask either Breeze or I who the one more likely to get lost and we would both answer with my name. When I hike I tend to check out mentally quite frequently and I am prone to miss turns or signs. However, I was not leading the pack for this one! Wouldn't you know he would lead us down the wrong trail that had a happy ending!

Continuing on, we somehow (probably our heightened state of glee about baby horses,) managed to miss a turn and wound up taking a neighboring horse trail. After descending from this trail roughly one mile and finding a sign letting us know we were in the wrong place, we decided to push on and wait for the horse trail to reconnect with the AT.

This went on for roughly another mile before we found the AT again and got back on track. We checked our guide, found where we likely were, and found that both the horse trail and the AT crossed the same path up ahead. We took that direction on the AT and moved forward. 

The destination was a place called the scales, which was once used as a high altitude cattle auction. This went into place right after the cowboys found out how much weight their herd lost when they got herded down the mountain! After our reading we made a new discovery- we had been walking south on the AT for the past mile, not north! 

This meant two things- one we were past the shelter we were headed for, and two we had just cut off quite a section of the AT! After we got to a camp and got settled out we found out that we actually cut off 8.5 miles of trail. While we typically might feel bad for such a transgression normally, we can confidently day we feel no shame for it was in true ignorance!

We pet a wild pony, what did you do today?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

5/8: Lost Mountain Shelter, 482.7

What's up peeps. As you could have guessed by the pattern, it's Breeze.

I love trail towns on the AT. Actually, I love pretty much everything about the trail, but towns are where the most socializing occurs. It's difficult to describe to people that have never long distance hiked, but there is such a sense of community out here. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone is so friendly. I guess it's kind of the way people should normally act to one another. From the moment we hit the streets of Damascus, thru hikers were calling our names and asking us how we've been. It's really cool to be a part of a culture like this one.

Ok, so this next part is for my brother Luke only. If your name isn't Luke, you can't read this next little segment. Nah, I'm just kidding. You can read it too. But dude, I met the coolest guy on the trail that I really wish you could sit down and talk to. His name is Burrito, and he's about like how I picture you when you're in your 50s. Burrito is a professional woodworker that builds and restores instruments. He mostly builds drums and Indian style flutes, but he also mentioned that he recently restored an 1860s fiddle! I mean wow. Shockingly, this isn't the coolest thing about him. Turns out he used to be the lead singer in a Led Zeppelin cover band! How sick is that? We had a pretty long conversation sitting at a bar in Damascus about his past jobs, but mostly music. We even talked for a few minutes about your hero, Paul Simon, and his Ovation guitar. So thanks for that little bit of knowledge! I can't wait for you to get your butt out here and do some hiking with me. This place would be like a dream come true for you.

Ok guys, sorry about that. Just had to have some brother time. Well today we hiked out of Damascus and did a 15 mile day, mostly in the rain. Blah! It's been so wet lately! And I've still got a little bit of a cold, but I'm getting better. Overall it was a pretty good day. We're getting so close to Grayson and the wild horses I can almost smell them!

Hope everyone is doing well!


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

5/6: Campsite, 465.0

Man what a day! Hello loyal followers, it's Breeze, and I'll be recapping the events of the day. But first, I want to wish my mom a very happy birthday! I know this post won't be published in time, but I hope she had a great day all the same. I love you mom! 

As usual, Wendy and I got off to our usual 10:30 start. The horrendous storm we found ourselves in the night before carried on into the morning, so we were already moving pretty slow. Man it's tough to drag yourself out of your warm, dry tent when it's cold and wet outside. Fortunately, the weather cleared up shortly after we started hiking and the rain held off for most of the day. In hindsight, we probably didn't stop at the best campsite - the place was a fog bowl in a wind tunnel. A few miles into the day, we hit Iron Mountain Shelter, which is exactly 26 miles from Damascus. A few of our friends wrote in the shelter journal that they were going to complete the Damascathon challenge, and go all the way from Iron Mountain Shelter to Damascus, completing a marathon day. Well if you know anything about Wendy and I, you know it's just not in us to back away from a challenge (remember the Curly Maple Gap Pizza and Beer challenge??). There's just something about that word that gets our competitive juices flowing. After little deliberation, we decided to do our own marathon day, and officially cross the Tennessee/Virginia line all in one day! Well, we may have had to walk through the night, but we can check another challenge off the list! We did 27 miles, and camped just outside Damascus! What a day! It feels so good to say that we are finally in Virginia! I mean we walked from Georgia to Virginia?! How crazy does that sound! 

Loving life, 


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

5/7: Damascus Round 2

Hello all,

Wendy here with your second update from Damascus! After our literal marathon day yesterday we packed up late, broke camp at 11, and headed down the 1.5 miles of trail back into the town of Damascus!

The town was just as friendly and welcoming walking into as it was riding! We quickly met up with a huge group of hikers we haven't seen in a while and it felt good to know we had caught back up! 

We even got to see Double Dare again! We haven't seen him since soon after our pizza challenge but he is a great guy to hike and camp with! Not only did he hike the trail once before, he also got his name by being chosen to be on the Nickelodeon television show Double Dare and ended up winning! As if that wasn't enough he ran 100 mile foot races as a hobby post hike. What a character!

We ended up once again sucked into the vortex that is town and we will be sticking around for the night. The attraction of town and happy hour with other hikers is just too great! 

Until next time!

5/4: Damascus Virginia Round 1

Hello everyone, it's Breeze. Time to get caught up on the blog postings now that we have reliable service. What an amazing weekend we had in Damascus.

My parents came in for the weekend, and brought enough food to start a small catering service! We feasted all weekend on delicious pancakes, lasagna, and bbq. My mom is such a good cook, and I have definitely been missing her home cooked meals. We stayed at a great little house in downtown Damascus right next to the Dairy King. The AT literally passed by the front door, so we got to watch hikers roll by all day and even got to catch up with a few we haven't seen in a while. We even got see to see a hiker perform Thai Chi in his underwear outside of the downtown laundry mat...no wonder locals aren't always fond of hikers. Ain't nobody want to see that!

The highlight of the weekend was definitely getting to catch up with all my family at my great grandmother's 95th birthday party! I know I said 96 in a previous post...I was either misinformed or misunderstood. Nonetheless, it was a great party! Granny looks so great, I have no doubt that she'll break 100 :). I don't get to see this side of the family too much, so it was really nice to spend the weekend with everyone. Even Wendy made some new friends! All my little cousins were particularly fond of getting tickled and rough housing with his giant 6'6" self. Poor little Colton has never been so high in his life!

Damascus was everything I hoped it would be. I got my batteries nice and recharged with amazing food, family, and friends. Now off to tackle the great state of Virginia!


5/5: Campsite Y

Hello all,

Wendy here with another update from the trail! Boy was this one fun, we got caught in a serious storm!

The day started out with us parting ways with Breeze's folks and heading up the hill. Because we got such a late start we planned to walk only 5 miles to Vanderventer shelter. interesting fact- a girl was murdered at this shelter in 1975. Apparently a man was staying there and said he wanted her pack. He coveted this gear so much he murdered her for it. Crazy people be crazy!

When we got to the shelter we found it to be quite full and quite small. This was the only excuse we needed to hike on past this creepy shelter! We munched down a quick bite of beef brisket sandwich and headed back out into the rain.

We made it another 4 miles to a campsite before calling it quits for the night. As the weather went from bad to worse we quickly got our tents pitched and got out of the nasty weather. Man did it get bad! Crazy wind gusts and rain made for a tough night to sleep. In addition, condensation got the foot box of my sleeping bag wet!

All in all it was a tough day. Leaving town is never easy and leaving family is even harder. Couple that with our worst storm yet and you have the makings of a fun day! Unfortunately the trail won't hike itself!

Until next time,

PS- bonus rant! This goes out once again to anyone that plans on thru hiking one day- don't be cheap on the stuff that matters! I thought I could get away with not paying $100+ for a set of nice trekking poles. Instead, I chose to buy Walmart brand. Do you know where that left me? With 2 ruined sets of Walmart poles! Gear that you will be using all day every day for 2200 miles just has to be made for it. This is no normal backpacking trip we are on!

Do your research and find out where you can afford to go cheap or DIY but when they say spend the money, do it! I broke $50 worth of Walmart gear before having to buy a nice set of Leki poles. They weren't cheap but if anything happens to them, Leki will send me a free replacement pair no questions asked!

Friday, May 3, 2013

5/3: Wilbur Dam Road, 429.9

Hey everyone, it's Breeze. I'm so sorry for the lack of updates the past few days. Let me tell you, this has been a whirlwind of a week. I honestly have no idea where to even begin.

The highlight of the past few days has definitely been Kincora Hostel, right outside of Hampton, TN. The word hostel isn't a very fitting word to describe the place however. It's more like a hiker haven, a kind of nirvana for any long distance backpacker enthusiast. Everywhere you turn, you are rubbing shoulders with literal Appalachian Trail rock stars. Let's start with Bob Peoples.

Bob Peoples is an Appalachian Trail maintenance legend. It is said that when Bob Peoples builds a switchback, an angel gets its wings. It is also said that when when Bob Peoples hikes, mountains move to the side out of respect. And I'm not making this up. These quotes actually appeared in a story inside Backpacker Magazine. He has won the "Maintainer of the Year" award several times, and the plaques are proudly displayed on the bunkhouse walls. He has a presence about that him that will command a room, and will turn a bunch of rowdy thru hikers into a quite group of Indian-style sitting school children. He captivated me for hours telling stories of past backpacking experiences in Spain, Panama, California, and Ireland. If there is a long distance backpacking trail in your country, chances are Bob Peoples has hiked it. He's heading to Portugal this winter.

The next one up is another AT legend, Seico. I had the pleasure of hanging out with him all morning. Ok guys, are you ready for this ? Well here it comes...the man has recorded over 50,000 miles of hiking in his lifetime. Yes, as in half of a 100,000! Considering I have around 700 miles, this is just mind boggling. He has thru hiked 12 times, and yo-yoed 2 times (a yo-yo is when you hike up to Maine and then back to Georgia). He has also triple crowned, which means he has thru hiked all three of the US's 2,000+ trails. The numbers are just insane. I could go on and on about stats from Seico. It's just unreal.

Finally, I have to throw a shout out to the infamous Baltimore Jack. He thru hiked 6 years in a row and yo-yoed one of those years. Also, in his former life, he was the theatre critic for the Boston Globe. Wendy and Baltimore had a very spirited conversation about their favorite movies. To our delight, one of our favorite movies, Pulp Fiction, came up!

As you probably could have guessed, everyone at Kincora was super helpful and gave lots of tips on can't miss places to see and things to do. Seico even gave us advice on how to spot a bear! All the guys I just named, plus many more, are the reason why the AT is the most popular trail in the world. They are also the reason why the AT is the home to so many thru hikers each year. You guys rock and I cannot think you enough.

Now there's northing left to do but sit by the lake and wait for my parents! My great grandmother is turning 96 and I get to be a part of it :).

Life couldn't be better. Unless Chewie where here :(


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

4/30: Mountaineer Falls Shelter

Hello folks,

It is Wendy here with yet another update from ze trail. If yesterday was the best day we had, it didn't stay that way for long! Today trumped it with ease!

After our great night sleep at Overmountain shelter we got off to one of our signature late starts around 10:30. While we were a bit nervous because we had such a long day ahead of us, we felt pretty confident that the terrain was easy enough that we could make it to the shelter before it filled up. After all, the guide did say it fit 14! Don't forget that I am still without trekking poles so we cannot camp until Damascus!

The day quickly rewarded us with 3 back to back to back balds, all with incredible views. The climbs were tough but definitely worth it! Just when we though this would be the kind of terrain we would be seeing all day we were thrust down into the forest and away from the balds. The trail just kept lazily snaking downhill for what seemed like hours! We made up a ton of ground and even caught a few people who had left the previous shelter before us!

Nearing the bottom of our descent we found something that Breeze had been looking for since Springer- a rock face we could boulder! This one stood around 20 feet tall and it was a blast to climb! As if that wasn't enough, around 2 hours later we found an amazing tree to climb up for a view of what we had been hiking all day! To say I put my fear of heights to the test today is an understatement, I hope we can find some adventurous things to do closer to the ground next time!

Next on our list was a small side trail near the end of our hike to Jones Falls. WOW, talk about beautiful! Breeze loves waterfalls so at this point he was in hog heaven. After that we hiked on only to realize that our shelter is about 200 yards from a waterfall. What are the chances?!

Our final gift of the day was the shelter. Despite a full barn shelter last night this place was completely empty! This is surprising because it is one of the only 3 floor shelters on the trail! Having the whole place to ourselves was great and we spread out and stayed warm quite easily.

At this point I really don't know what else you could ask for from a trail in a day. Beautiful views, waterfalls, adventure, and a huge shelter all to ourselves- pinch me I'm dreaming!

Until the next dream come true,