February is known as the month of love. Some people find their true love, some are born on Valentines Day, while others ignore this month altogether. Jesus tells us the most important command of all is to love!
“Jesus answered, “The first and most important one is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul (life), and with all your mind (thought, understanding), and with all your strength.’ This is the second: ‘You shall [unselfishly] love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-32
So do I really desire this? I surely love the Lord with all my heart, soul and mind, but what about loving my neighbor? And who truly is my neighbor? Could my neighbor be my own family member who I have shunned? Could it be my friend who I don’t call a friend any longer? Or is it just the guy who lives down the street that I wave to every now or then?
I have been thinking a lot about unconditional love. From what I understand, unconditional love is when you love so deeply without any hopes of love in return. I find that so many times, I love, knowing that the person I feel a great connection with is so distant.
Children, especially teenagers can fall into this category. My grandson is a huge part of my life. Yet, I know that he has his friends, his hopes and desires and they do not include me. Do I love him any less? Gosh no! I love him even more so. That to me, in this period of time and space, is unconditional love. I could never turn my back on him no matter what choices he makes. Whether he is my flesh and blood, or a child I raised from the time he was five, he surely is worthy to love.
Yesterday I was told that because someone is not your flesh and blood, they are not yours. So all these beautiful children that are adopted, my dear friends who are fatherless or motherless, my Dad who married my Mom when I was in my 20’s, are not family? What kind of love is that? Did Jesus tell us to only love who we choose? He loves all of us, whether we love him or not. Even on the cross, he chose to love the ones who crucified him. That is some crazy kind of love!
When we become Christians, when we choose the Lord to be our one and only savior, we become family in all the sense of blood, flesh and bones! Our surnames, our earthly parents are an added bonus, but the true gift is our inherited brothers and sisters. The family we marry into, our children we accept as our own-flesh and blood, test us to our wits end. But in the end, when we are called to account for how we lived, I believe our Heavenly Father will be more interested in how we loved!
Unconditional love is the key to living a life that is meaningful and fulfilling. Once we grasp this command, we can truly appreciate all that Jesus desires from us. So no matter who you are, what family you have attached to, the only way you will ever get to know God is when you open your heart, and learn to love unconditionally.
It’s so funny how one day truly does make a difference! January 1st is that day. We set goals, we head back to the gym, we look at all the junk food we have in the house and start purging. Let me tell you, there is nothing wrong with that. I have many plans for 2023 and lifestyle is on the top of the list. But here it is, near the end of January and hmm, did I even remember what my resolution was?
I look forward to new beginnings. It gives me hope for the future, joy that things can be different and allows me to start anew. Thank you Lord for allowing do overs, for never giving up on me and for always being available, whether it is the beginning of the year or the end.
One of my priorities, I do remember is to recommit to blogging. There is something that draws me to writing about my love for the Lord. My relationship with Jesus is my focus. It’s what makes me who I am and keeps me grounded.
Yet life has a way of railroading me to and fro. Why can’t I just focus on being true to my daily devotional’s and time with the Lord? Am I that distracted, did you say squirrel? Or am I just not prioritizing my time? I’m thinking it’s a little bit of all of the above.
Blogging for the Lord. That truly is what I want to commit to. Loving Jesus comes natural, but do I really know who he is? I know his character, his compassion, his acceptance, his love for everyone, and his desire to seek and run after me. It boggles my mind just how genuine the love of God is for each and everyone of us.
So now what? My plan is to keep running after my sweet Jesus and trying not to trip up on being perfect. Because we all know, perfection isn’t possible but I can surely strive to be better than I was yesterday. With that, I will blog and share my thoughts, my joys and heartaches that make me who I am.
I pray that you follow your passions and do what God designed you to do. Maybe, just maybe, you too, will sit quietly and ask, what do you have planned for me in this upcoming year? Once you feel a tugging, a calling of sorts, pursue that path and believe that you are being led. It doesn’t need to be grandiose but rather, a true sense that you are feeling guided to do something and to be set apart. Our Heavenly Father, I trust you that you have a plan for each one of us, it’s just a matter of asking, what do you have desired for my life? And then begin.
After six weeks with Dad, I relinquished him to the grandiose care of my loving and very capable sister Kari. There is nothing more perfectly designed than two sisters who can orchestrate time and therapy with their earthly father.
In addition, Dad was released from Home Health Care. No more Nurses, Doctors, Physical Therapist or Occupational Therapists checking in at home. Exactly four months ago, Dad underwent open heart surgery, including a new pacemaker defibrillator implant. After a few setbacks and scary situations, he has made it up and over the big hump and now, off to Cardiac Rehab! This is a huge deal. He uses Treadmills, Bicycles and Stair-steppers three times a week. It makes me a bit nervous but this is all monitored by professionals. In addition, Dad walks three laps around his neighborhood park. Our Lord is one mighty healer!
Returning home was a wonderful celebration and reminder that I am missed. When I arrived, my husband George had decorated the walkway with hearts and flags ushering me to our front door. It made me feel so loved and appreciated. Even Zoey our four-legged dog was grinning from ear to ear! Sometimes the most simple things are the truly the best!
These past months were ordained by my sweet Lord and Savior. From the moment I left home, my path was paved. I had all intentions of hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. There was never a time that I felt as if I had enough, was too tired to continue, well I was exhausted most everyday, or weather could stop me from forward motion. The time I spent on the trail is etched into my mind. The friends I made along the way, the beauty of the east coast and the Appalachian Mountains, the rain, heat and thunderstorms were all reminders that I was so blessed to experience such a place in space.
I have been asked when I will return? I would love to say I am going back this year so that I can complete this as a Thru-Hike. A Thru-Hike is one that is completed in one calendar year. However, that is not an option for me or my family. God willing, I will have an opportunity to continue my steps on one of the world’s oldest and longest footpaths, in the not-so-distant future.
So now I am going to stay put. It is one of the hardest things this wanderer must do. There are homebody’s who enjoy the confines of their warm and cozy surroundings. The joy of flush toilets, running water, bug free environments and controlled temperatures. But I, on the other hand, could keep walking with the minimal amount of worldly possessions on my back. My family, however, are not supportive of endless wandering and I truly am grateful for this. Balance is a virtue that needs to be first and forefront.
And anyhow, why would one want to spend months on end walking miles, day after day? I believe that the Lord desires us to seek him, and walking for God is one way to do this. He also understands my chemistry, what makes me tick, and how much I love His grand creation. He knows the thrill I have when I meet someone new, connect with and share all of God’s glory with them. And then there’s something special that draws me closer whenever we wander in the wilderness together. Just me and Jesus.
So I will wait patiently until he calls me back. Back to a place where the wind blows on my face, when the rain showers the dirt off my filthy body and where I feel free to walk my cares away. Until then, I will chase after the Lord right where I am. Home in Granite Bay, which honestly, is a great place to be!
As I went to bed last night, I told Sid that we needed to get up early to beat the heat. Well, he must have taken it to heart because at 4:30am, Sid was at my tent ready to go. Wow, I’m impressed but it’s still dark so go back to sleep. I’ll wake you up at 5:45am. I rolled over and woke up at 5:30am. I made my coffee, packed my stuff and Sid and I hit the trail at 6:15am. Much more appropriate time for hiking. But I love his Can-Do attitude.
Dragons Tooth is one of the iconic parts of this trail. Sid has heard many rumors and tales of the approach. It’s terribly difficult, it’ll take all day, you best approach it from the north and not the south! It has been this allure of trail mystic! But in reality, it is just another climb on the AT.
We followed Sid’s advice, due to his expertise and experience, that he has gained in these past weeks. Every hour on the hour, we will take a break. Ugh, this is so against my school of thought but I’m always open for new ideas. We hiked one hour and took a lounging break. Then another hour and took a break. However, it worked out perfectly because by 10am we were on top of Dragon’s Tooth! It was wonderfully executed. Sid climbed the tooth while I watched! And took awesome photos and videos of him.
After it was all said and done, we grabbed our packs and headed down the rock face, fully equipped with ladders and white blazes. It was a bit more than I had signed up for and was quite steep for my little feet. Sid was a gem and hung tight to make sure Noni stayed alive and well.
Once we made it to Lost Spectacles Gap, we followed the Dragon Tooth Trail which had access to water. We had been sipping nothing but drops of water. I thought this might be a better option. We followed the Blue Blaze and within a half of a mile, we found a spring that was spitting out a small amount of water. It was more water than we had and we were overjoyed! Sid filled up and so did I. Afterwards we continued down the trail and I zeroed in on a loud rattle. It was a huge rattlesnake that apparently consumed a small hiker or large mouse. It’s belly was bulging! She slithered off the trail and into the brush, but still scared the life out of me! I don’t like the excessive amount of snakes out here. We have had much more than our fair share of encounters.
Sid and I continued to the parking lot and took a hard right turn to Catawba Groceries. As always, the scariest part of the trail is the Road Walking. The motorists zipped by at 50-60 mph as we attempted to pretend we weren’t too phased! But we were. After 20 minutes or so, we were inside an air conditioned grocery store and purchased everything we had been dreaming of. Hamburger, Onion Rings, Pizza, Soda, Kombucha and Water! Food never tasted so good.
Today was a bittersweet day. I can say that I have had the best two hiking partners ever. Blue was right at my level, willing to try just about everything and anything, hiked through crazy weather and endured much that the trail could dish out. Sid was a bit more aloof, and not too thrilled about hiking. He believed this was more punishment than enjoyment. But in the end, he embraced it, learned to find some joy and thrill from the trail, and was a great partner! We laughed a lot, we tested each other’s patience, and we even threw sticks at one another. Yet in the end, we accepted the trail for all that it was. Sid and I are much better because of this incredible journey we shared as partners.
We sat and decided that this was the final leg for Sid. He has covered over 150 miles, climbed up and down more trail than he signed up for, experienced more snake, lizard and other reptile encounters than most kids have in a lifetime and had a little bit of fun along the way. We went to just about all the Hostels in Virginia, met pretty close to every shuttle driver in the immediate radius and had a darn good time! When it was all said and done, I think Sid may have enjoyed his time on the trail after all. I know I sure did!
Today Sid and I are both leaving the trail. I have always known that the only thing that would take me off the trail was injury or family. My dear father has endured much during this past year. He had open-heart surgery the week I started hiking and just last week, had another procedure done to help his heart continue to pump effectively. Unfortunately he is not as healthy as we all hoped and prayed for. It is time for me to go home and relieve my beautiful sister so she can be with her family. This is a blessing for me to be able to spend time with Dad and I so look forward to being home with him. So Friday, I will climb aboard a plane and fly home. My husband George and Sid will start their journey home, driving cross country from Virginia to California. That should be another great adventure for the two of them, and our wonder dog Zoey.
Sid, Blue and all the other wonderful people that I met on this trail have enhanced my life. The Appalachian Trail will always hold a special place in my heart and I will definitely return to walk it’s incredible dirt, rock and roots again. Until I return, may it’s beauty, luster and lure remain. Thank you Jesus, my true partner of the trail, for giving me this opportunity to experience a once in a lifetime journey and to be the daughter you designed me to be. I have loved each and everyday that we have walked side by side. This was your calling for me and I am grateful to have been commissioned! Until we walk again, I will treasure this time we had together. What an incredible and wonderful God I serve!
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV
What a glorious morning. We both slept so good in our bunkhouse. No one was milling around. And the temperature and birds were perfectly behaved. At 8am, yes you read that right, I was ready to get a move-on. This is going to be hard to believe, but Sid was not. He had a chance to catch up on his Netflix Series “Stranger Things” and was quite content hanging out. My husband George, Sid’s grandpa and ride out of here, was making his way to Florida. We have four days to burn till he arrives. Hmmm, what to do? We decided to stay another day on trail at the same position, so basically a Zero on the trail. We haven’t done that yet so something new for Sid.
As the day progresses, I get antsy. Sid has come to the conclusion that I have a very difficult time at Zero’s. And I must admit, he is right! I feel like I need to be doing something but there really is nothing to do but REST. Haven’t I had enough rest at this point? Maybe, maybe not. We stay put and I read the National Geographic Book on 266 Places to Visit in the World. It’s surprising as many are on the East Coast. The Appalachian Trail passes through many of the top billing’s. The Shenandoah’s is one spot in particular and The Whites another, with it’s crazy weather. There were some that my husband and I have traveled to like Cinque Terre in Italy and Switzerland. What a relaxing way to spend the day, and I was doing something. Expanding my horizon to new adventures worldwide.
Around 5pm, we made our way back to the trail. We left our compound at HipCamp and walked a little over a half a mile down a gravel road, following Trout Creek. Once we arrived, there was another hiker named New Wave Dave. He was a section hiker in 2020 and realized 400 miles into his hike, there was a pandemic. He said the obvious issue was he couldn’t find toilet paper. I had to laugh as I had totally forgotten that, that was a thing! He ended his hike and now he is back figuring out where to go next.
As we finished dinner, Honeybun’s Mom showed up and was picking up a few hikers. These shuttle drivers go long lengths to accommodate weary hikers. We talked a bit as the three hikers were slow to arrive. She left and I went back to dinner.
Another car pulled up, very busy little campsite and Sid recognized them from the Grocery Store yesterday. Small town USA. It was Jason and Derek, local guys from down the road. They do a lot of Trail Magic around here and had drinks to share. Sid had a coke and I had a Laguintas. We sat around and talked about needs of the hikers. It appears that Jason has property down the road and wants to start a business selling Brats, Bread & Beer. He served 20 years in the Military and most of his time was in Germany. Jason loved the Villages abroad and thinks that he can provide a feeling of that right here on the AT.
By Hiker Midnight, I was ready for bed. Both Sid and I retired and planned our day for tomorrow. An early wake-up and a climb to Dragons Tooth. Sounds like another picture perfect day. The weather has been so nice lately. Hopefully it will continue until Sid returns to his life of Riley! Indoors, climate controlled and no hiking! We’ll see. Only the good Lord knows for sure.
Call me crazy but I’ve moved back to my teens. My alarm went off at 5:30 and I rolled over and didn’t wake up till 6am! Who am I? Sid was still asleep in the Shelter as the rest of us hikers were drinking coffee and planning the day. The news guys, Paper-Clip, Popeye, Matt & the Girl were talking about their next three days of hiking. Popeye turned to me and asked what are your plans? I laughed and said we’d go as far as we could until it was no more fun. And that’s how we roll. No real plan in place.
I left a little after 8am as Sid was still packing up and was in no big rush. The morning was an easy downhill, until the uphill started. For me, I love uphills in the morning especially when you start with a mile or so of flat or downhill. That’s what today was. Perfectly positioned climb. Now Sid, on the other hand, likes everything but climbs.
I took off with the Clan of Four and we hiked together most of the morning. Once I made the summit, I stopped and waited for King Sid. I started to get reports on his whereabouts as there was a group from Peru/Canadians who were bagging peaks for the next few days. I was so excited to talk with them as my most favorite backpacking partner of all times, Salamander Sally just returned from Peru. They had been talking and walking with Sid as they made their first summit of the day. Sid was slowly plodding his way to the top but not before he took his much required break.
Once on the bench, Sid and I headed to Audie Murphy’s Monument on Brushy Mountain. Audie Murphy became the most decorated U.S. soldier in World War II. Though he was around 20 years old at the end of the war, he had killed 240 German soldiers, had been wounded three times and had earned 33 awards and medals. After the war, he appeared in more than 40 films. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder throughout his life and died in a plane crash near these mountains. There is a film, “To Hell & Back” where Audie plays himself. What an amazing tribute to a National Hero! One of the many reasons I love this trail.
Sid and I had lunch on the benches and in Sid fashion, he reclined. The Peruvian’s stopped by and we all hiked to the lookout. It had a stunning view of the mountains to the south.
After lunch, Sid and I moseyed along the dedicated Ridgeline. It was a razorback ridge that was thin and rocky, and clearly defined one side of the mountain from the other. There was no true distinction between West Virginia and Virginia. Sid was in the lead and before long, he vanished. I passed the Peruvian’s and before long, I found Sid lounging in a tree like a cat! It made me laugh and just about everyone who passed us, had a comment. We chill axed for a bit of time and I started planning our next few miles.
Hey Lounge Lizard Sid, I think I found us a place to stay tonight! Sid wants to know if it involves food and drinks? I’m thinking that’s a good possibility. Ends up that at the bottom of the canyon where Trout Creek flows, is a dirt road, VA 620. Follow the road to the east for a half-mile. there is s cabin we can stay at tonight. I contact Doug and he tells me it’s available. Perfect. Better yet, he’ll give us a ride into town to get resupplies. Even more stars! We are locked and loaded and running down the trail. Before we know it, we have arrived at HipCamp. No lock box required. The door is open.
Doug arrives and he promptly gives us a quick tour of his property. It is a bunkhouse with an outhouse, on-demand shower and laundry. Everything a thru-hiker could desire. He cleans out his truck and gives us a ride to town. Okay, so it’s not really a town you may be envisioning. It is a convenient store and gas pump. But they have everything that Sid and I require. Chips, Sodas, Beer, Burgers and Fries! As we are waiting for our food to be prepared, we see all our hiker friends. We talk for a bit, catch up and find out that they are all staying at the hostel down the road.
We loaded up and Doug gave us a tour of the countryside. It’s rural farmland, nice homes and more deer than I can count! There were ranches that backed up to forestlands and mountains in the backdrop. Everything is green as far as the eye can see. This is so different than California which is turning brown, if not brown, by now. I wonder if the East Coast ever gets brown?
We eventually made it back to HipCamp Bunkhouse and collapsed in the lap of luxury. We had running water, laundry and a shower. Oh my, and a refrigerator! What a beautiful place we have landed in. Sid and I both took showers and before long, we were fast relaxing in a toasty, fairly clean, bug-free environment. This is living!
I have had a wonderful couple of weeks with Longe Lizard, aka Sid and also known as Frog-Nabber. I can’t wait to see what the next couple of days will bring. We still have Dragons Tooth and McAfee Knob approaching. But the days are starting to come to an end and I am so thankful for the time we have had together. What a crazy kid he is, and what a great sense of humor he has! He makes me laugh all day long and I still wonder, how did I become so blessed to have this child join me? If you ask Sid, this has been some undue punishment! But I believe that in the back of his mind, deep down in his soul, this has been a memory that will live on for years to come! Where else can you go and have so many replies, amphibians and mammals to hang with? And hike a little 🤣
What a great day and an unexpected note to end on. Thank you Jesus for this little Utopia that we found along the way. You are always looking over us and paving the way ahead. So where are we gonna go tomorrow? Only the Lord knows for sure. And that’s fine with me.
“Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.” Isaiah 25:1 NIV
I woke up this morning to a text from Sid. “Grandma, there’s Bear next to my tent. Is he going to eat my food?” Oh my! That got my attention. Now, why didn’t he scream or yell or anything besides send me a text at midnight while my phone is on silent. The bear must not be hungry enough for Top Ramen or Hot Chocolate so all was saved. And Sid was unharmed, but he didn’t get much sleep after that. I, on the other hand, slept like a baby.
I was up and ready to go at 6am but Sid was not budging. I sat around until close to 9am before I could get Sid moving. This is not going to be the day we were getting any extra miles. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that this last week hiking with Sid is going to be low key, low pressure and low miles. It is what it is. I’ll play catch-up once George arrives.
We packed up camp and hit the trail after 9am. The terrain was interesting as we had private property that we hiked through. Once leaving our campsite, the first bit of business was finding water. There was a creek within a mile or so, and we filled up. I had to go pee and found a secluded place to take a squat. All was good until I went to get up, and the biggest rat snake slithered passed me. That just about knocked me over. I told Sid and being the snake expert, he immediately had to inspect my find. The snake was safe as Sid could not locate him. No worries since we would be encountering more of that creature later today.
Once I had my shorts up and my skirt in its proper place, we were back on trail. We saw an old abandoned cabin and then climbed a bit. There was, the most majestic Keffer Oak, the largest oak tree along the AT in the south. The tree is estimated to be about 300 years old and it appears to be quite happy, right where it is.
Afterwards we cut across pasturelands that just harvested hay. It was recently cut and wrapped in large circular bins. You could smell it! I’ve never been up close and personal with this product. It was much larger than it looks when you’re driving down the interstate. Sid took his try at rolling the haystacks, but they wouldn’t budge.
After our first climb, Sid found a rock to rest upon. It was a huge rock outcropping that looked over the valley below. It was also covered with blackberries which were just getting ripe. After eating a handful of berries, Sid retired for a nap. As I said earlier, today was going to be a low mileage day.
We carried on for a bit more and stopped to have a hot lunch of Top Ramen and yes you guessed it, another nap. I relaxed for a bit but was antsy to get moving. I told Sid I’d keep moving and he could catchup later. I headed out and after 1/2 hour, I saw a couple of nobo hikers. I asked if they had seen Sid and they told me he was still sleeping. I decided to make good use of my waiting time and found cell service and called Dad. It’s Fathers Day so I was thrilled to get a few bars. Dad just had his second surgery of the year. He was also napping but we were able to talk for a few minutes. I was so happy to hear his voice, even so briefly.
Sid arrived about an hour later as we made a plan of attack. We’d hike to the next Shelter which had water and stay the night. It was only six miles and by 1pm we had managed four miles. The last miles were easy as we hiked along a slab of overlooks which made the views worthwhile. We crossed the Continental Divide which marked the flow of waters from the west to the east. Then a downhill slide into our home for the night.
Once at the Shelter, I attempted to find a relatively flat space and Sid set himself up in the shelter. Dinner was Alfredo with Bacon Bits and Hot Chocolate. We hung out with some new hikers I’d never seen before. Because of our lack of miles, we have others that are catching up. I will know the entire Class of 2022 before long!
Hiking is a dance. Sometimes you have a strong partner and other times you are the teacher. This past couple of weeks, I’ve been working with my new partner and trying to figure out a compromise. It’s slow and steady that wins the race, and I’ll get the Golden Globe for this exercise in patience and steadfastnesses. Our goal is to make it to Daleville by the end of the week. That’ll take us over Dragons Tooth and McAfee Knob, two iconic spots on the Appalachian. And that’ll be just fine!
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:” Philippians 2:5 NIV
Today for all intentions was a Zero Day! You all know how I love a day off. For the past ten days, I’ve been hiking or slackpacking and honestly my feet needed a day off, more than me. I laid in my tent till close to 9am. I know, crazy but it felt wonderful. Sid has commandeered a cot and took over the horse stall. At 11am, Honeybun took us to town to buy some food and plan out our day. I had talked with some hikers yesterday on the Ridgeline about our shuttle driver and the accommodations. Well they bit and as we were inside Walmart, Pink Panther and Moxie called asking for a ride. Sid and I returned from our shopping and Honeybun headed to the trail to pick up the hikers. Mulligan decided to tag along.
Honeybun took us all back to the Ranch and showed the new recruits around. Sid had busted his cell phone screen and needed to get it replaced. So our next bit of business was finding a repair shop. Ends up that on the east coast, time does not equate to money. No one wants to work weekends, or they are on extended vacation or they’re closed. But finally, several phone calls later, we find this guy in Blacksburg. After talking with him for a bit, he sounds legitimate and we drive a half an hour to his repair shop. I open the door and there’s two guys sitting in what appears to be a dormitory studio apartment. Hmm, Sid is a bit taken back and I start talking. He has several phones he’s repairing, lots of screens that are in new boxes and he’s fixing a phone while we are there. He obviously knows what he’s doing and with the University across the street, he has a lot of clientele. In fact a kid walks in and he hands him his phone back, screen replaced, as good as new. The kid thanks him and says he’ll see him again. The repair man tells me it’s the fifth time he’s fixed his phone for $100 a pop! I think I’d rather spend the money on a good case to keep the phone protected?!?! He’s a great customer. Within five minutes, he has heated the seal on Sid’s phone, pops it open, removes the teeny tiny screws, and replaces the screen. What a business! Sid pays him with all the money he has and we are off.
Meantime back at the ranch, our friends have taken showers, hand-washed their clothes-being the power is still out and waiting for Honeybun to return. HB operates quite the shuttle business. He provided twelve shuttle rides yesterday and is on number seven today. He never seems to have a day off. HB returns and we all decide to head back to the trail. The shuttle is the same price whether there are two or ten. So having five hikers to split the ride, makes it much cheaper for Sid and I.
Pink Panther, Moxie and Mulligan stop at Walmart and we all head over to Wendy’s. This is getting to be a habit. Mulligan asks the gal at the counter, what has the most amount of calories? That’s what she wants! It’s so funny as I try to be somewhat healthy when I order but as a thru-hiker, it’s about the most nutrient dense, calorie laden food you can consume. Sid and I order Strawberry Shakes and Sid gets a Burger and Fries with it. I’m good with a shake.
All five of us head back to the trail and as we pull up, Just Vince is standing on the side of the road. After talking with HB, Vince gets a ride to town. Another shuttle service provided. Another few dollars earned! We bid farewell to Honeybun as Sid and I head up the trail to the first campsite we could find. Within a few minutes, we arrived. Nice flat site with firewood and trees to climb. Sid was as happy as he could be for being back on trail. I’m glad to be back as the weather, for now, is lovely and I too, am in my happy place.
Happy Father’s Day to all the Dad’s out there. To my husband George for being a role model to our children and grandchildren. He loves the Lord and through that love, he has been an incredible father and mentor to our family.
To my Dad, Jerry. This has been a tough year. You have showed incredible faithfulness in all that you have endured. I am so grateful for who you are! One of the strongest men I know, the one who has loved me like your own daughter and the man who loved my mother so well! You are my inspiration to keep going when things get tough out here Dad. If you can push through all that you have this year, then I can make it to Katahdin. I love you Dad and know you are the best earthly father a girl could ever desire. Happy Father’s Day!
“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;” Psalms 103:13 NIV
I did it! I broke 20 miles for the first time on the AT today! And what a day it was. I left early with Shuttle Driver Honeybun at 6:30am. We picked up another hiker and headed north. Sid stayed back at the Farm and drove the riding lawnmower. He mowed about an acre or two of grass and when Honeybuns’ parents came home, they wondered who was on their mower? Sid introduced himself and luckily no one got hurt or arrested.
Honeybun dropped me off first and I hit the trail running. It was suppose to be another scorcher of a day so I wore my typical skirt and tank top. The morning was so nice. After last nights electrical storm and rain, the grasses, shrubs and trees were glistening. My trail runners were damp in a few minutes but I was happy as a lark!
I started running into my bubble of hikers. On my Knees, Pink Panther and Mulligan were all hiking nobo from the Shelter. They talked about the intense lightening show and downpour of rain they experienced last night. Virginia has had its fair share of wild weather since I arrived.
Today was all about climbing and crazy descents! There were two huge plateaus I went up and over. The first climb was fairly steep but I had fresh legs and no backpack. I stopped along the way to pick wild blueberries. I’ve seen so many berries during the last months of hiking but today was the first day I found ripened berries. The season has begun. Watch out Mr. Black Bear. I’ll be snacking from here to Maine.
There was such a variety of topography today starting with pastoral lands to forests to rock outcroppings to nasty uneven descents. As I was on my way down, one of my trekking poles snapped in half! I hike with Black Diamond Carbon Fiber Poles so they are ultralight and take much abuse from me. My husband always says I should be a tester for hiking equipment because if it can break, I’ll be that person who will use it to its limits! I am hard on my stuff. It certainly does not sit in the garage collecting dust. I found a stick and continued on. One trekking pole and one slimy crooked stick.
As luck would have it, I found my namesake on the trail. Kelly’s Knob. After passing a woody section of the AT, there was a 100 yard side trail that led to some imposing cliffs. The cliffs have great views to the south, but to get to the best of the views you need to literally jump across some scary crevasses. I don’t jump across anything, let alone a deep abyss that would definitely end poorly for this hiker. It would’ve been a 6-7 foot leap of faith and I was quite content standing right where I was.
Once back on the trail, I headed to the valley below where the temperatures soared. I stopped at John’s Creek and had lunch. Way back when I had mentioned the Walking Wounded. They were a group of five who I met after Silva Bald. Well, two of the five are still on the trail. They were slackpacking also, trying to catch up on some miles before heading north. They both looked great, lots of ton of weight and their injuries have healed. This trail is an amazing weight loss program. Most of the people I’ve met from the beginning have dropped anywhere from 15-45 pounds in 2-3 months. Just hiking the pounds away! I haven’t weighed myself but I’m sure I’ve dropped at least ten pounds and I’m eating constantly.
After my lunch stop, I climbed up my second plateau. It was another 2000’ upward forward motion through Mountain Laurel, Scrubby Brush and muck. I could see the weather was changing with dark clouds forming and the winds were picking up in intensity. By the time I was on top of the Ridgeline, rolling thunder had begun and the rain started pelting me. I definitely wasn’t hot anymore. The only thing that kept me from getting cold was moving! I picked up my pace and without success, attempted to run between the raindrops. I was soaking wet from head to toe. The wind was so strong that trees were snapping and falling on the trail. It was not my favorite day of hiking. There was a few moments when the trail was so littered with branches, tree limbs, overgrown bushes that I thought I was on the wrong trail?!?! But I was smack dab on the AT. All afternoon the rain and wind never stopped. I made it to my exit point at 6:30pm and was never so happy to get in a car and dry out! What a day I had!
As I was heading down the mountain, I was grateful that Sid was not with me. This would’ve done him in and I still plan to get him back on the trail for a few more days. Back at the Farm, they had crazy rain and wind and the power went out. Honeybun’s parents told me this was pretty typical when living in the country. The power should be back on in a day or two, hopefully. They have a portion of their ranch on Solar and it will keep their freezer going as they still have half a cow from last year. I was glad to be back, showered, and warm and dry. Sid and I had dinner, courtesy of Wendy’s Fine Fast Food. We ate Baked Potatoes, Chili and Chicken Nuggets. Not my best meal on the trail but it was palatable.
As I was walking with God today, he sure had my undivided attention. It was a bit unnerving in the afternoon. Once the rain started, I didn’t see anyone else hiking. Well, of course not. They were all hunkered down in a shelter or in their tent. This is a big problem with slackpacking as you don’t have all your gear. I had a rain jacket, my visor and a bandana. No tent or tarp and no way to really stay warm. But you know what? My Lord kept me safe. He provided me with sure feet, quick steps and a clear mind. I traveled down that obstacle course of a trail, climbed over fallen trees, and slippery rocks and never missed a step. If you have ever hiked with me, that’s a miracle! It was incredible that I managed to get off that trail unscathed. Nothing short of God’s strength and protection over me. What a beautiful day it was after all.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NIV
What a sweaty night! I slept in the shelter as there was predictions of precipitation for the early morning hours. But as usual, the practice weather reporters were wrong, and for no good reason I subjected myself to snoring. Honestly it wouldn’t had matter where I slept, in my tent or in the shelter, as the air was still and it was miserable night of sleep, with or without snores.
Sid and I discussed the departure time of 6am. With these temperatures, my only way to get in the miles is either early morning hiking or late afternoon walks. Early morning won out. Sid was up at 5:30am as I was packing up my gear and making a version of Cold Brew without ice. Sid suggested that he stayed behind and would catch up with me. That sounded like a fine plan, at the moment, as I proceeded to leave shortly after six.
The rest of the Shelter peeps left fairly earlier too. There was one last water source about a mile from the shelter. We all stopped there, cameled up, meaning drinking as much water as possible and storing it in your body like a camel. It does help, especially when you are many miles from the next reliable water outlet. I drank a liter at the watering hole, carried 2-1/2 liters and continued on. I actually had one extra liter I purified and left with a note, For Sid, Love Noni. One thing about thru-hikers, they respect others equipment, provisions and trail magic. Sid retrieved his water a couple of hours later, sitting right where I left it, atop a log.
It was another scorcher but God’s grace was with us today. There was a bit of a breeze that kept the temperature down, ever so slightly. Sid and I were in communication and once he left the Shelter, I had close to four miles on him. Our plan was to meet at the top of the crest, take a break and eat lunch.
This was a great way to allow me to get in the miles early, and give the teenager a bit more sleep. I arrived at our lunch destination and waited. One of the hikers from the Shelter, Just Vince (his name is Vince) stopped by and had lunch with me. He hiked the AT back in 1974-75 and was reliving the trail some 50 years later. He’s close to 70 now and admits that it’s a different trail and much harder than he remembered. I betcha it is! Sid arrived a bit later and was pooped. He pulled out his pad and laid down for half an hour, without eating. One thing is for sure, the hotter it is, the less you have an appetite. But he was drinking plenty of electrolytes and three liters of water!
I decided to finish off our hike at Peters Mountain Trailhead (TH) where we could get a ride into town and regroup. There are many Shuttle Drivers and Honeybun answered first. Yes, I can take you wherever you want to go. I like his Can-Do attitude and he met us at the TH at 4:30pm. We talked for a bit and decided to head back to his Hostel, bare bones, and stay the night. We stopped along the way, picked up Pizza and Drinks and we went back to his Grandparents Ranch, which he inherited. Sounds familiar. Many of these hostels and farms are passed down in the family.
Sid will stay here tomorrow, work for stay, which includes mowing the lawn and picking up manure. I’ll head back to the trail and do what I do best, hike! Slackpacking is the only way to go when it’s this hot and there’s big climbs ahead.
Honeybun, his Trail-name from 2019 hike of the AT, is a worker. Honeybuns are a dessert roll that many hikers eat as it provides over 450 calories in one serving. They are a large donut-like substance that’s caked with 48 grams of sugary frosting. Honeybun is a slim marathon runner and evidently needed the extra calories. However, his favorite meal is Cow. He is raising four heifers all with names. T-Bone, Sirloin, Rump Roast and Fall Feast. He’s a character and Sid seems to like him. While I have my tent pitched in the field, Sid is sleeping in the barn. All is good in our world and I think Sid and I have found a good partnership. I hike and he works at the Hostels. It’s not the way I had planned this summer trek of the AT, but it allows us both to get what we want, and we’re both happy campers.