Thursday, June 30, 2011

blues and yellow... make miles?

so as of today, i'll sort of be considered a "yellow-blazer." which means that instead of following the white blazes of the trail, i'm going to skip a section of the trail and take the "yellow blazes" of the highway. i'm only going to skip eighty or so miles (roughly 3.5% of the trail), and i'm going to finish them when i get through hiking, so i guess when i get to katahdin, i won't "technically" be done, but what's 80 miles when you've walked 2,100? i've just definitely got the virginia blues. (it's not an actual, depressive state, mind you, so don't actually worry about me there.) between having to take zeroes for my foot to heal a while back and then just messin' around and taking unplanned zeroes, most of my hiking friends are four or five days ahead of me.

so my wonderful friend jennifer is gonna drive us north and do an overnight with us. we've been in the same general area for a bit now, and she came out and did a day hike with us at the beginning of last week. it was a really interesting day, haha... it started out awesome and sunny, then we got rained on, and then for the second time thus far in virginia, i was hailed on. then it cleared up but we could still hear thunder, and by the time we got to dragon's tooth, it was raining and thundering and lightning. dragon's tooth is a challenge in perfect conditions; coming down it in a thunderstorm with a dog was even harder. there was a section where the foot ledges coming down the rockface were only 4-5" wide, so i would have to inch out there, drop down three feet, call swayze out onto the ledge that i had just done, and then use her harness to basically guide her down to the ledge that i was currently standing on and hope that she'd stay there while i dropped down another three feet. but i really enjoyed it. :) i like rock scrambles. after walking in the woods all day, they're like miniature puzzles that you've gotta figure out.

even though i'm yellow blazing, i'm still thoroughly enjoying the trail thus far. i stopped the other day and talked to a park ranger for over an hour about the trail and the flowers and the trees and the butterflies. a really pretty black and white butterfly flew by and he informed me that it was a zebra swallowtail and that when you see a lot of butterflies gathered around a spot on the ground, they call those drinking clubs. and he told me that the really creepy owls that we hear at night are called bard owls. and we talked about a lot of other cool stuff... his name was mike donahue and he was awesome. and i'm still meeting a lot of really cool people. virginia's just so monotonous at times. it was really awesome, though, coming down to the water of the james river and walking across the footbridge. the footbridge across the james river is the longest foot-use only bridge on the AT and was donated by a guy and his wife with the last name of foot who hiked the trail a while back. their trail name was the happy feet. :)

we need to get on the road and get goin'. more updates later. :)

oh, and someone brought it to my attention that y'all can't comment on my posts now. i don't know how to fix that, but maybe i'll transfer this blog over to another blog soon. we'll see. until then, i've got facebook so you can leave comments on my wall or something. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

i spy with my two eyes... a bear!!

ok first of all i'm so excited cause one of my bestest friends just found out their little bun in the oven is gonna be a girl. congratulations times a billion to natalie and andrew. :)

so it took me over 500 miles, but i finally saw a bear! and four of them, nonetheless! a mama bear and her three cubs. swayze and i came around a corner and i think her tags alerted them to our presence. i wouldn't have known they were there had it not been for the fact that they made so much noise as they hauled butt up two tees. it was really cute... they were probably thirty or forty yards away (i'm not real sure... not good at distance) and two cubs went up one tree and the third cub went up another tree and the mama bear stayed at the ground keeping an eye on both trees. when they realized we weren't coming any closer, the lonely cub came down his tree and went over with his brothers and sisters, and the mama bear just sat there at the bottom of the tree and watched us. it's so crazy how fast they can climb! tip: if you're ever being chased by a bear, don't climb a tree. it won't get you away from them. it was a really neat experience seeing them. :)

i finally washed my hair last night after not having washed it for over 160 miles. i felt disgusting, and i washed it three times and took a 90-minute shower. i didn't think it was possible to run a hotel's hot water out, but if you have hair like i do, it's completely doable. i ran out of hot water halfway through and had to turn the water off and finish combing through my hair while i waited for the hot water to replenish itself. needless to say, it was one of the most glorious showers i've had in a very long time. the last time it took me that long to take a shower was back on spring break of 2006 when i'd spent an entire week on a dive boat in the bahamas without any conditioner. i have yet to do my laundry. it's sitting here in a bag beside me in the library... it's quite disgusting. i went to goodwill today and specifically bought a $6.50 outfit to wear while i do my laundry so i can wash every bit of clothing i have.

crazy man and i went to pizza plus last night and spent an hour and a half there eating. we both had two platefuls of salad and a pizza sub with chips and lots to drink. i'm eating so much. a few days ago, we hiked through an extremely dry section of trail. swayze was able to drink a little bit from streams that were almost dried up, but i hiked sixteen miles on less than 2 liters of water. on any given day, i drink at least four, if not five liters. thank God it was very windy and cool that day; otherwise, i think i would have been even more grumpy than i already was. anyways... there was a gas station/deli half a mile off the trail and all i could think about the last five or ten miles was a turkey and swiss sub, a bag of cheetos, a big glass of water, and a root beer float. when i got to the store, i ordered my turkey sandwich, bought the biggest bag of cheetos i could find, a 24 oz. sprite and when i was done with all of that, i went for another 24 oz. sprite, a pint of ice cream, and a root beer and made my own root beer float. :) it's crazy, but i've lost right at 20 pounds out here and i can eat whatever the heck i want. i will have to join a gym as soon as i set foot off the trail. no doubt about that. it doesn't come without downsides, though... suffice it to say, my waistline isn't the only thing that's gotten smaller. :( hahaha

i'm beginning to get worried that i won't reach katahdin on time. we're going to have to step up our pace. i've heard that there are days in the whites in new hampshire where five miles is a good day. the most we've done thus far has been 24, and that wore us out mentally as well as physically, mainly because we weren't prepared for it. i'd woken up that morning thinking we would do 14, but when we got to the hostel that we wanted to stay at, they were going to charge me $32 roundtrip to take us into town that was only 10 miles away, so i said, "screw it. i'll walk the ten miles." and we did. like i said... it wore us out, but i wasn't $32 in the hole like they thought i'd be.

i can easily see how people get the "virginia blues." all we do is walk in the woods and over rocks. in georgia and north carolina and tennessee, we'd climb a really big hill and have some grand view that made it all worth it. in virginia thus far, we just walk a lot and loodk at trees. granted, grayson highlands and white top were gorgeous... i know not everyday can be an albert mountain or a charlie's bunion, but hopefully virginia will give us a few more photo ops in the next stretch.

speaking of photos, i'm trying to get some on facebook. i've got roughly 80 up, but i've got over 1,000 pics on the camera and all the computers i've been on take forever to upload them. enjoy them as they come. :)

Monday, June 6, 2011

God is good! :)

i finally have a working cell phone, so i'll be able to update more and talk more and text more. not that i want to fill my days with talking and texting, but it's nice to be able to contact the world outside the woods every once in a while. :) 

my foot is getting better, but it still sucks sometimes. i'm icing it as often as possible and taking prescription-strength doses of ibuprofen at night... i can tell that the ibuprofen helps, so i try not to take it while i'm hiking 'cause i don't want to hike through the pain and make my foot worse than it already is... 

i stayed like three days in erwin, tn and took a short break there to help my foot heal a bit. we did a 20-mile slackpack day and swayze loved it. :) then we got to see brandon 'cause he came from johnson city to pick us up and take us to the trailhead! it's always really nice seeing familiar faces when you're out on the trail. 

i still haven't been able to get to a decent computer to upload all of my pictures... which i need to do soon because i've got almost 4gb worth of  pics on my camera and it says i've got less than 200 pictures to go before the memory's full. 

so i've decided to begin taking sundays as my zero or nero days. neros are where you take a "near zero" and hike a few miles but not as many as you would on a normal basis. i'm gonna try my best to start going to church every sunday. i went to church last sunday and it was the most awesome thing... i walked about half a mile and walked into the first church that i saw. everyone was really welcoming and i didn't feel out of place at all in my shorts, tshirt, and crocs. after church, i met a lady and she asked me if i would be interested in coming back with her to her house and having memorial day dinner with her and her family. i said yes and when we were walking out to her car, she was holding the hand of a little boy. she introduced him as her grandson willy and when i looked at him, he looked SO familiar. i asked her if by chance her daughter's name was keli, and when she said yes, we both looked astonished. this was willy bailey! i worked with keli at starbucks when i lived in bristol!!!! how crazy awesome is that?! so i went back to their house with them and we made pancakes and bacon and eggs and ate lunch, and then later that afternoon keli came over and we had bbq chicken and corn on the cob and cantaloupe and salad and other amazing foods. they dropped me back off at the place where i was tenting later that night, and i hiked out the next morning. 

then a few days later, i was reunited with a guy i'd met a few towns back and i finally got to meet his dog! sad thing, though, that his dog has since been pulled off the trail because of a bone spur. :( i also met back up with taylor, the slackpacker, and he invited me back to their RV for the night. i accepted that offer as well, and we watched "planes, trains, and automobiles" and ate dollar store pizza that night and it was amazing. i had the best breakfast the next morning of frosted mini-wheats and a banana and a cup of french-pressed coffee.... yum!!! 

i've noticed that i need to stop taking neros and zeroes... hahaha. it's just so awesome out here and everyone's so amazing that it's hard not to just sit back and relax and enjoy it all... when i got to a big lake the other day, i had full plans of hiking at least another ten miles, but there was an awesome shade tree that was calling our names, and we had to sit back and read a book and just lay in the shade for a few hours. the next day was our biggest mile yet... right at 23 miles. we hiked from 7a to 9p with a few long breaks in between. 

and as soon as we hiked into damascus, we ran into wendy! :) it was so awesome... we had hardly crossed the bridge to get into town and she stopped in the middle of the road and rolled her window down and we got in her car and she took us to the post office where i picked up the card that erin had sent us (thank you so much wendy and erin!! :)). thennnn she took us to the gas station and bought me a sobe and a little debbie and she took us to bella's off exit 19 and it was so much better than i hoped for!! then i went  home with wendy and got clean in a hot shower and slept in a super comfy bed and the next morning she dropped us off in damascus. 

saturday, my friend birch that i met out here introduced me to a set of locals that let me pitch my tent on their yard since the only place in town that would allow dogs wouldn't answer my phone call or their door bell. turns out that was good for my pocketbook, though, because it would have been $25/night and i can't do that. we got to see nick saturday afternoon and he brought me my new cell phone and we had lunch and awesome ice cream, and i got to see jolie and we had a good ol' time. then that night my hosts even let all the hikers come over to their house and i roasted my very first s'more on the trail! fun times for sure. 

sunday morning, i woke up and went to an outfitter to take a shower and then went and had coffee at a coffee shop. i brushed my teeth in their bathroom and then walked to church, where i met up with two other hikers that were there. the church was having a picnic that night and invited us over, and we went and we got to eat so much food and i even got to ride a horse! it was so much fun and i looked so redneck up on the horse in shorts and a tshirt and barefoot but i had a grin plastered on my face the whole time and it made the entire accidental zero completely worth it. the people out here make this experience absolutely, without a doubt, worth every minute of the time i spend sweating and in pain and struggling. :)

so to sum it all up, God is great and He's taking care of us out here by putting the appropriate people in our paths to make this journey easier on us. please keep praying and know that y'all are in my prayers as well. :) love y'all and miss y'all!! 

current trail things that i recommend:
filling your platypus with gatorade before you leave town
stopping and getting water whenever you can because you never know how crappy the next water source will be
mountain harbour bed & breakfast in roan mountain, tn
slackpacking as many miles as possible
bob's dairyland in roan mountain, tn
going to church and singing awesome songs
sitting in the shade on a hot day
staying with locals 
riding horses
bella's off exit 19 in abingdon, va
the community pool in damascus, va
having the time of your life