Day 60: June 13, 2022 Dismal to Woods Hole Elevation Profile +2720/-1357 15.4 Miles; Total 625.5 Miles

Last night was magical. Sid is onboard with entertaining. He must’ve learned something from hanging with Grandpa for the past two months. One of the hikers he met yesterday, Blue Sky, he’s a native of Montana was walking around aimlessly. He was cold as his shorts were wet and was in need of warmth. Sid started a fire, allowed on the AT, in our designated campsite fire ring. Then went looking for Blue Sky. He couldn’t find him but before long we had several other hikers looking for an active fireside chat room. Hot Dish, SeaLegs & Night Owl, and Shine joined the warming station.

Sid Preparing the Fire at Dismal Falls

We all ate dinner as Sid kept the fire stoked. He has a way of making others feel welcome. Shine, the youngest of the group, maybe 20’s started his hike May 8th. He’s fast. Sid liked talking with him and as Hiker Midnight came upon us, he told Shine he’d see him tomorrow. Shine laughed and said probably not. He does 20-25 miles daily and will be far ahead. But if you want to hike with me, be ready at 6am and we can hike together. Sid said great!

Sid is a Happy Hiker Nowadays

Morning came and before my alarm went off at 5:30am, Sid was up and packing. Then after getting all his gear in his pack, he started a fire to stay warm till Shine showed up. Promptly Shine arrived and the boys were off.

Early Morning Pond

I meandered until 7am and never saw them. The trail was pretty nice today, just one little climb and mostly ridge walking. I stopped a few times for breaks, saw two big gardener snakes, and a deer with her fawn. Tons of birds flew overhead greeting me along the way and around 1:30pm I received a text from Sid. Where are you? I’m at the Hostel. Evidently Sid had already hiked the days miles, took the turnoff and had arrived at Woods Hole Hostel. I was quite impressed as he did 15 miles in less than 6 hours!

Bunkhouse at Woods Hole Hostel

By the time I made it to the Hostel, Sid already had us checked in and he was relaxing on the porch with Pirate, Stormy, Tippy-Toes and Unicorn. For someone who doesn’t like backpacking, he sure is adjusting well! Once I settled, Sid took my backpack to our Safari Tent.

Sweet Tent with Double Beds
View Overlooking Pearisburg From Our Safari Tent at Woods Hole

Woods Hole is the oldest Hostel on the AT and billed as the one you must visit. The granddaughter Neville has carried on the tradition that her grandparents Roy & Tillie Wood started in 1986. As a kid, she spent her summers helping the hikers who wandered by and fell in love with the 1880’s Chestnut Log Cabin. What is there not to admire? This place has charm that you cannot buy. It is a working farm with goats and pigs, an organic garden that supply’s all the fresh produce that the meals are prepared from and so much more. Once you arrive you are offered a Smoothis, and Fresh Bread with three different choices of cheese, along with hand whipped butter and apple-butter. This place is going to be hard to leave. Everyday at 4pm, there is yoga on the lawn, a blessing before the meal and the freshest dinner on the trail. It is such a peaceful place and one I will never forget!

Charcuterie Board with Stormy, Pirate and Sid
Neville Ringing the Dinner Bell

I am so thankful for the turn of events. Lord, you saw what I didn’t. You have opened my eyes to this time with my grandson that will be a lifetime memory for the both of us. I have seen Sid take on something that he truly did not sign up for. When we all stood around this afternoon and introduced ourselves and gave thanks for something, Sid was thankful for the animals he has seen. He has captured snakes, frogs, crawdads and salamanders. He is fascinated with the critters around here and I’m sure when Grandpa arrives, he will be fishing for trout. Dinner will never taste so good. It’s been a treat watching him interact with the other hikers and being his own person. My Sidekick is pretty darn special!

Evening Blessing Circle Night Owl & SeaLegs, Wildflower & Aster, and Unicorn

Thank you Jesus for this incredible child of God who knows you, loves you and has this passion for people and animals. I admire the fact that a teenage boy can be so at home in a place that is so far away from where he came. What a gift it is to watch him grow!

1880 Woods Hole Hostel Pearisburg, Virginia

“To the end that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭30:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Day 59: June 12, 2022 Weary to Dismal Falls Elevation Profile +2606/-3614 16.9 Miles; Total 609.9 Miles

What a breakfast! Weary Feet Hostess had a pile of food for us hikers. After a restful night in my tent, I was up eating scrambled eggs, sausage patty’s (my most favorite) and a stack of fluffy pancakes! it was hard not to finish it all. Sid had a double portion and he was thinking Food Coma and how many miles are we hiking today? After our big push yesterday, I had planned a Nero on the Trail. Little miles and lots of rest & relaxation.

Leaving Weary Feet Hostel with Full Belly’s

Dismal Falls is our destination today. Maybe 2-1/2 miles with a slight climb but so worth it. We did a little road walk to get back on trail then climbed the some 20 steps to get back on trail. Back to the Green Tunnel. Sid is not impressed with the tunnel. He says it all looks the same. Well, to a point he is right. I appreciate the tunnel as it provides shade and some amount of comfort. It has tall trees, big trees, trees of many shapes, sizes and variety. But in the end, it really is applicable when hikers refer to it as, well, the Green Tunnel!

Another Day in the Green Tunnel

We arrived at Dismal Falls shortly after 11am. Sid already scoped out a campsite along the way. There were a few people here but most are leaving now. Maybe as the day warms up, more will arrive. But as of present time, it belongs to Sid and I. It’s a large limestone rock slabs with waterfalls cascading into a 5-6’ deep swimming hole. It’s quite nice and I imagine many of the locals come out here.

Dismal Falls & Swimming Hole

In Sid fashion, there were snakes to find. First was a harmless water snake, possibly a gardener snake. It was fairly small and had no rattles. Sid walked up Dismal Creek and by the time he made it back, Cough Drop and Dragonfly found a Copperhead. Now that’s trouble. I did not get close enough to take photos but one of the other hikers showed Sid and I a video of it. Cooper snakes are venomous and something not to be messed with. It evidently slithered away back to the dark hole that it came from!

Only Good Snake is a Snakeskin

As it warmed up, many locals had showed up. Families with kids, adults with beer and everything in between. I guess Sid attempted to get a ride out of here as he is in dire need of Taki’s! The Mom came over and offered to drive us into town as it is on their way home. Oh my word Sid! No, thank you and they probably don’t sell Taki’s in Virginia anyhow. The older daughter grimaced and said she had the Blue Taki’s yesterday. We stayed at Dismal Falls and did not take a ride anywhere.

Wild Roses in Bloom

By afternoon the sun was shining and Sid and I jumped into the swimming hole. There was another hiker who showed up, Butt Flap and he started the parade of hikers dipping in the pool. It was so refreshing after sitting on the shoreline for sometime. Butt Flap had minnows nibbling at his feet giving him a much needed pedicure. I looked down and found a Crawdad munching on my foot. Oh my goodness, I must have more debris to be defunct and they called in the big guns. We rock climbed to get out of the pool as there was no other option to vacate the pool.

Rock & Boulder Climbing 101

So another day in the books. It was a super relaxing day with little miles and not much to do. Those are needed from time to time. This is Sid’s fifth day on trail and he’s covered some miles. I am getting used to my new Sidekick, as I call him. He’s relaxing in his tent and will most likely stay there the rest of the afternoon. Dinner is Red Chili and Beans with Summer Sausage. He told me he’d rather have Top Ramen every night. Wow, he just might be a thru-hiker in disguise!

““Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.”
‭‭Exodus‬ ‭23:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Day 58: June 11, 2022 Helvey’s to Weary Feet Elevation Profile +2606/-3614 16.9 Miles; Total 609.9 Miles

We had one heck of a day! I woke up in the Shelter with Sid and Unicorn and you’d think I killed a goose. There were down feathers everywhere. Oh no, what has happened to my sleeping bag? Somehow someway there was a large rip in the inside seam near my feet. There were feathers all over the shelter. Unicorn was up so I had him hold the lactating goose bag as I gathered as much of my precious down that I could, and re-stuffed my bag. Unicorn watched and tried to blow the feathers into a pile. It was of no use and I grabbed my needle and thread and began the repair process. I have used this sewing kit more on this trek than any other. Thank goodness, I didn’t leave home without it!

Unicorn to the Rescue

After the repair, Sid and I had breakfast. Oatmeal, granola and hot chocolate in the cereal. No coffee as I was on water rations. The word on the trail is there is no water for over ten miles! You’d think we were hiking the PCT rather than the AT! Sid and I loaded up 2 liters each which equates to four extra pounds and headed out before 7:30am.

Sid Leading the Way

Sid was game to go all the way to Weary Feet Hostel if it meant he could eat a real home cooked meal. I just wanted a shower and laundry after be immersed in Ivy of the Poison for the past two days. It’s everywhere and really hard to avoid. It would be a long day, but the silver lining is the climbing would not be too terrible today.

Brilliant Yellow Shroom

Sid likes breaks. I like breaks so we managed to take many throughout the day. I remember Birdie from Bear Garden Hostel had said, the key to happy hiking with kids and teens is many breaks. She was spot-on. We typically walk a mile or two and stop. Sid wants to know how many miles we’ve hiked and how much longer till we reach the top of the Ridgeline? It’s a game. We guess how far we’ve come and how much farther we have to go. By our second break, we ran into Unicorn, Mulligan and Slaps. They were sitting, enjoying a flat area atop the ridgeline and snacking. Sid and I joined them for a bit and we all took off together. Sid was in the lead with me following until I stopped to take pictures. Then Unicorn and Mulligan followed Sid. He liked that as they were talking the whole time and it passed the time quickly.

Sid followed by Mulligan & Unicorn

I caught up with Sid as he stopped to recline. He found the 600 mile marker and knew I wanted a photo. It was made of rocks, quite artfully done and fairly large. No one was going to miss it, that’s for sure. I sat and was quite amazed by the miles that keep clicking by. At this rate, I just might make it to Katahdin. The school of thought is if you are in Harpers Ferry by the Fourth of July, you will finish. I’ll have to pick it up a bit but Sid is up for the challenge and I’m thinking there’s nothing stopping us now!

Me & My Sidekick Sid at 600 Miles

We continued on and had a brief stop at Jenny Knob Shelter. There’s no water flowing from the Spring so we kept moving. Finally after ten plus miles, we found a small creek and gathered water. There was a sleuth of hikers filling up and resting near the water. It’s a creek that is flowing both above and underground, for now. We filled up and finished the last five miles with glorious and wondrous water onboard.

Only Game on Trail – Finding Water

Why does it seem the last mile is on a bungee cord and keeps getting longer and longer? We finally made it off the trail, across the Suspension Bridge and road walked to Weary Feet Hiker Hostel. And let me tell you, my feet were weary! On my Knees caught up and we all walked in together. The owner Julie Sloop is a class act. She showed us around, gave us towels, with washcloths (which is above and beyond) and said, whenever you are hungry, let me know. She piled on the Spaghetti in a heaping portion, fresh green salad, watermelon and of course Sweet Tea. I chose the unsweetened version but that Sweet Tea is everywhere on the AT. We ate our supper, did our laundry and retired to the comfort of our tents. I love my little tent. As Sid and I were walking outside to our humble abode, there were Fireflies all over the field. I’ve never seen them before! They were sparkling in the night air, dancing and flashing their disco lights. It’s really something special to witness. Unfortunately my camera doesn’t capture them. I’ll have to work on that.

Our First Suspension Bridge

What a perfect ending to a tough day. We did over 17 miles when you consider the road walk to the hostel. Sid is becoming a good backpacking partner after all. I think he likes all the people that we are hiking with and the Platinum Stays that come along with trekking the AT. It has been a long day but we had strength and even if my feet were weary, we continued on. Sid just might enjoy this thru-hiking, especially when he can soar like an Eagle!

“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:31‬ NIV

Day 57: June 10, 2022 Laurel to Helvey’s Mill Elevation Profile +2314/-1642 9 Miles; Total 594 Miles

We had all intentions of getting 8-10 miles today. Late start but I’m hiking with a teenager. Funny thing, the other youngsters were moving pretty slow too. We had breakfast, packed up and hit the trail like a herd of turtles. Once we crested the first hill, it was obviously painstakingly slow going.

Free Willy – The Crawdad

Sid was having muchtodo about nothing! His legs were spinning as fast as a three-toed sloth. He was bent over, not to pick up some critter from the ground, but rather to wretch onto the trail! Sid, what’s up? My stomach hurts and I feel like I’m gonna throw up. Oh boy. Could he have Nora-Virus from two days on the trail? Crumb! We turned around and hiked back to our previous camp at Laurel Creek. As soon as we got here, he lost his breakfast! I pitched his tent and in he went, only to slide out and get rid of anything leftover. This isn’t going as planned.

New Start to the Day

So… here we are day three. Me and Sid on the trail. Not what I envisioned but at least we have a nice place to layover until whatever creepy crud he has in him, vacates his teenage mutant body. A huge blessing, we had a Trail Angel stop by and dropped off a cooler full of Gatorade and other icy cold drinks! Once again, the trail provides.

Trail Magic Perfection

The sun is shining through the trees, I have a bench to sit on that was donated by Sandy, the best hiking dog ever, so it says. And I am able to relax near a River. I’m thinking, this is a fine Zero on the trail. I haven’t taken one of those yet. Sid was gracious to propose a lovely place to recover, and it’s free! No Hostel or Hotel fees. I’m thinking, I’ll read a book, and maybe take a nap. It could be much worse!

The Day is Not Lost

Sid had a good rest, warmed up next to the fire and was ready to take another crack at the trail. After a rocky start, we cranked out a few miles. Along the way, someone did the mileage art. 593 miles, how odd. But it made us laugh. We had picked up another hiker along the way, Unicorn. He is a riot and made the conversation light and easy as we did our final climb. His name Unicorn is based on the fact that he comes and goes freely on the trail, bringing laughs and goodwill, and then vanishes. How appropriate! And what perfect timing.

593 Miles on AT

We ended at Helvey’s Mill Shelter. A short day but a great recovery! When you have lemons, make lemonade. Sid is back in the supine position sleeping in a shelter. So…tomorrow we will do it again and hit the trail with high hopes. Whatever bug Sid had, he seems to have rid himself of it. Thank you Lord for your healing powers and mercy’s. Sid is resting peacefully, and I am content. We hiked a few more miles and we are getting closer to Maine. One baby step at a time, with an abundance of mercy and grace!

Sleepy Sid in Helvey’s Mill Shelter

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Day 56: June 9, 2022 Route 623 to Laurel Cr Elevation Profile +3485/-4960 9.0 Miles; Total 585.0 Miles

Sid and I stayed at Bear Garden Hiker Hostel for the past night in our private bunkhouse. It was a good thing because Nora-virus has been spreading like wildfire. More than half of the hikers at the Hostel had it. It’s a bug that’s highly contagious and hits you like a stomach flu. The only good thing is most of the people I’ve talked with are back to hiking within 48 hours. But in the meantime, you have no desire to hike, let alone drink or eat. It just wipes you out.

Ready to Roll Leaving Bear Garden Hostel

Sid and I got a ride back up to where we hiked from yesterday. It took us 45 minutes to get on trail. Once we arrived, Sid and I headed out into new territory and I was nobo again. There was tons of limestone around with huge boulders and smaller stepping stones with plenty of rocks on the trail. Sid went ahead but his legs were tired and he wasn’t coasting down the trail like yesterday. Today we had full backpacks with five days worth of food.

Taking a Required Break on top of Limestone Rock

We stopped at Jenkins Shelter where Flora and Six had been laid up for the past two days. They also have Nota-virus, arg. You can’t escape this creepy crud. Sid was ready to call it a day but we’d only made 4-1/2 miles. He rested for an hour or two, and we headed back on-trail.

Teenagers Can Sleep Anywhere

We had a slight climb and you’d think we were hiking to the moon and back. How far have we gone? Are we close? Can we take a break? Oh my goodness, we only have four miles to go and we will be there before you know it. Within a couple of hours, we made it to Laurel Creek but not before I took a hellish fall. Sid had just asked me, Grandma how many times have you fallen? I was quite proud of myself as I’d only fallen a couple of times and both were fairly unscathed. I have no idea what I did but before I knew it, I was on the ground and sliding down the embankment. Luckily Sid was right next to me and helped me up. My left knee took the brunt of it and was a bit bloody. Other than that. No real injuries to report. Praise God!

Sid Walking on Water My Feet Soaking in Water

We both headed to Laurel Creek, me to clean up and Sid to release his frog. You’d think I was hiking with Steve Erwin! Sid always has some critter in his midst or is thinking of what else he can catch. Nothing is safe with the hunter among us. We relaxed at the water for a bit and then headed up trail to scope out a campsite for the evening. We were not alone as this was the final water stop for 18 plus miles. Things are a changing on the AT!

Healthy Crawdad Captured & Set Free

Sid and I discussed our next plan of attack. We have forty miles to get to our resupply with little water. Sid drinks like a fish so this could be an issue. We will make it to Brushy Mountain Outfitter tomorrow for ice cream and burgers, and then push on for a few more miles. That’ll set us up for a dry camp and a short hike to water the following morning. Best laid plans of mice and men.

Bloodhound is Leaving the Trail No More Water – No More Trekking

These past couple of days have been trying to say the least. I haven’t been myself, a bit wobbly and unsure. It’s funny when you think you have it all figured out and then you fall on your face! It reminds me so much that I don’t have anything without you Lord! What a great reminder that you are still in control of my destiny and I am not. I am grateful that you brought me Sid to keep things lively and childlike. He is everything I am not, and yet he has this love that is unsurpassable. I am truly thankful for his company, and his heart!

“And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:3-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Day 53-55: June 6-8, 22 Zero to Route 623 Elevation Profile +3485/-4960 17.5 Miles; Total 576.0 Miles

Zero Days at Smith Mountain Lake. Oh what an unexpected surprise! Blue’s friends Greg and Rhonda swept us away from Bear Garden Hiker Hostel and took us to their beautiful condo. It was absolutely perfect. We arrived and were promptly escorted to showers. Good call on Rhonda’s part. Then we had Mexican Food and Margaritas. By hiker midnight, 9pm I was looking for a place to lay my head. Mission accomplished. I laid my head on three pillows and went quickly to sleep. And slept like a baby!

Blue with Greg & Map of Smith Mountain Lake

The following day was a ride on their pontoon boat around the lake. What a huge lake. It is man made and has homes that line the miles and miles of shoreline. There are numerous fingers and before long, I was hoping Greg knew his way back, as I was totally lost, or rather misplaced! An interesting fact about this lake is the water releases. Daily they release water from the dam to generate electricity and then pump it back to refill the lake. Only in Virginia would they come up with such a logical way to create energy. It’s ingenious!

On Greg’s Boat on the Lake

I had a wonderful time with Greg and Rhonda. They are God’s people and as generous and kind as anyone could possibly be. Blue flew back home and I picked up my new partner Sid. He’s my 15 year old grandson who does not like hiking. From a perfectly suited partner to a teenager who would rather be with his friends. Hmm, imagine that! I’m hoping within the next few days I’ll change that.

New Hiking Partner Sid

On Wednesday Sid stepped his first foot on the Appalachian Trail. Just as we were getting dropped off, it started raining. How appropriate. We both put on our rain jackets and started walking the trail. I chose to slackpack today as it would be an easier way to sell Sid on this hiking thing. I don’t think it worked. The rain definitely did not help matters but it’s just what happens out here.

Rainy Day Start

We saw quite a few animals from the beginning. A baby fawn and her Mama, a Mama and baby groundhog, a big bullfrog and salamanders everywhere. That helped Sid seal the deal. He does enjoy catching anything that moves and in no time he had a frog and salamander. I guess it could’ve been worse. No rattlesnakes and no bears!

Bullfrog Master

The rain was off and on most of the day but nothing too terrible. We made our way to Chestnut Knob Shelter. This shelter was a Fire Warden’s cabin for years, and was later converted to a shelter that sleeps 8 hikers. This is the only shelter that I’ve seen that has four walls and a door with windows. It’s pretty swanky for hikers, especially thru-hikers!

Chestnut Knob Shelter

The highlight for the day was Burke’s Garden. A clearing in the trees to the north looks down on Burke’s Garden, a very fascinating geological formation. The valley to the north, which looks like a giant, 8 mile by 4 mile crater from above, was formed by a limestone sinkhole. The valley has only one natural outlet, in the north, and only two roads leading out of it. The AT to the north walks along the rim of the Garden for 8 miles. It’s quite beautiful and many call it “the thumbprint of God”.

Burke’s Garden

The day was long and we arrived at Bear Garden Hostel after 6pm. There was applause for us when we arrived. Ended up that there were two other hikers behind us that had just finished the Marathon Challenge and they were the recipients of the cheers. When you slackpack the marathon, you earn a chocolate cake! It’s well worth the pain, suffering and agony once you sink your teeth into Birdies homemade cake. Sid and I did not get cake as we only hiked 17-1/2 miles but if you combine it being both of us hiked, I’m thinking 35 miles and we earned something. We both indulged in soda and top ramen. That works for me. Chocolate Cake is overrated!

Sid on Walker Gap

Blue is back home and Sid is on the scene. We had a rough start and honestly the miles were a bit long today. I have a better plan for tomorrow and hopefully we will be rain-free. It appears that the rain is heading to other places, which is a huge blessing for Sid and I.

Day One for Sid

Well Lord, this was not exactly the homecoming I expected on the trail. Just because someone is related, doesn’t mean that they will be much like I. Sid is quite capable of doing anything he sets his mind to, however her truly has no desire to hike the AT. All I ask is to keep an open-mind and he may find the silver lining on this summer trek. Time will tell!

Day 52: June 5, 2022 Davis Hollow to Bear Gardens Elevation Profile +3498/-2873 11.1 Miles; Total 558.5 Miles

Big to-do today. Within a mile of the first climb this morning, Blue and I passed the 1/4 Way Sign from Georgia to Maine. That is a significant milestone for me. 547.5 miles down and only… too many miles to go! But I am making progress and I’m still enjoying the trail, most of the time.

Blue and I 25% of the Way to Maine

Our early morning sunshine was helpful in thawing me out from the prior night. I have been freezing the last few nights. Stupid me and total “rookie mistake” on my part, I mailed all my cold weather gear home and swapped out much too early for summer clothing and bag. Needless to say, summer has not arrived to the Virginia nights! So usually, I am the saddest in the morning when I deflate my air mattress but this past week, I rejoice. The last thing I do in the morning before I pack up my tent is roll my air mattress up and start my morning. Nowadays I can’t wait to start my day because movement means thawing and slowly warming up!

Morning Sunlight on Blue’s Feet

Today was ideal temperature and another easy peasy day. Only 11 more miles, and Blue will be off-trail. This is also the saddest day for me as she has been the most perfect hiking partner. We have so much fun walking together, talking about our friends and family, praying and sharing this incredible journey with each other. When Blue prayed to God to introduce her to someone who likes to backpack, I had no idea what a blessing she would be to me!

Walking through the Overgrown Mountain Laurel

The last couple of days have been splattered with all things Appalachian Trail. We had PUDS, River crossings, Ladders and Gates to climb over or squeeze through, Open Fields of Grain, and much R&R (rocks and roots). But what has been more impressive are the animals we have seen of late. We’ve had Whitetail Deer prancing in front of us, Bear running from us, Baby Skunk hiding in a bush wanting to scurry away, and Birds singing all day! I think the critters sent out a memo and came out in groves, to say goodbye to Blue. They knew she was leaving the trail and wanted to bid a farewell.

Blue Holding onto the AT

Blue and I stopped at Quarter Way Inn to pick up our last resupply boxes. It was a good stop as Lisa was an AT Thru-Hiker in 2009 and now runs a beautiful hostel. It’s actually a home that houses stinky hikers like us. No offense Blue as you really smell more like a rose. Lisa also makes beaded necklaces that represent the 14 states you walk through on the AT, all in different colors based on the miles in each state. It’s really a unique piece of art that I acquired and am now wearing around my neck. This is another big deal as now I have to finish this trail or return my necklace!

Me and my Coveted Necklace

The day was complete with a soaking our feet in the North Fork of the Holston River. We had only a mile to go and two hours to burn, so why not. It was cold and refreshing, and seemed like the perfect end to our miles together. The last mile was a narrow path through private property with a few ladders to climb and biting flies to swat! I have been bit before but typically I don’t feel it until I rub my hand over another lump or bump. These flies are feisty. I think they start biting before they even land, like a mid-air chomp! Luckily as soon as I ran into the darkness of cover, the woods, they let me be. Eventually I would need to return but for now, the forest is the trail. Just as we came to the road for Bear Garden Hiker Hostel, the cutest but most deadliest of all creatures waddled in front of Blue. A teeny tiny baby skunk, oh my. I wonder if this skunk stinks as bad as me? No, probably not but no need to find out. We turned down the roadway and made it to our final destination, Bear Garden.

Sadness Prevails as Blue Leaves Me

Bear Garden is a Christian Hostel, equipped with a Chapel, Bunkhouse, Shower and all the amenities a hiker desires. They have two flags flying, an American and Christian Flag. What a concept! I love this place already. We met two hikers immediately. One was Cousin and the gal, Hollywood. This was her first time hiking any portion of the Appalachian Trail, and possibly any other trail for that matter. But she was dressed like she was straight off the runway of the Red Carpet gaining her Trail Name of Hollywood. She had matching shirt, pants and boots all in olive green, one of my favorite colors, along with Stylish Glasses and a Scarf. She was so excited about hiking eight miles today. We talked, shared stories and blogs. And then she helped me set up my first ever Instagram Account. I was advised by Hollywood that this is a great platform to get my blog out to more people. Great. Now I am fully vested in Social Media. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I’m thinking it’s a God thing and I’m embracing it!

Birdie-Owner of Bear Garden Hostel Blue, Hollywood & Me (Left to Right)

Blue has been my constant companion for the past six weeks. We have laughed and cried, we’ve climbed over mountains, rocks and roots, we’ve slept in undesirable places but most of all, we have learned to love one another. She has been my constant sounding block, has heard my stories told over and over to many hikers, and she is my fact checker! That woman has the uncanny memory of an Elephant. If I say 10, she’ll tell me, it was actually 9 rocks we stepped over! And she speaks the absolute truth. Mrs. Blue, you have been a great encourager, a quick student and made me a better hiker. Seriously, I have never hiked as fast as I do trying to keep up with your tremendous pace. And that will certainly be an important factor that gets me to Maine!

Me & My Blue Our Final Leg

Thank you Lord for answering Blue’s prayer and bringing her to me. What a glorious time we had together, keeping each other from getting lost or temporarily misplaced, and spreading your love on the trail double-time. May she be safely returned to the loving arms of her husband Alan. And may you bring her back to me when the timing is right. I will patiently wait for Blue’s return to the trail. Amen.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭27:17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Day 51: June 4, 2022 Partnership Shelter to Davis Hollow Elevation Profile +2359/-2947 13.3 Miles; Total 547.4 Miles

Early bird gets the worm. I was cold and it was time to get up. It’s funny how that works. I seem to have a built-in alarm clock that wakes me up before 5am. The problem was that there were another 6-8 hikers still sleeping! Blue and I are always the first to leave. We were packed up and hitting the trail shortly after 6am.

View over Walker Mountain

The morning was brisk which makes it easy to do the miles. I want to move as it warms me up. Blue and I had an easy day today being we only have 25 total miles to go in two days. So we split it, and took our time. We started in the forest, went straight up to a Ridgeline, and followed it most of the morning. Ups and downs with lots of rocks strewn on the trail. I’m not sure if they truck these rocks in from other places or if they are homegrown? Anyhow, they are a pain to walk over and makes our morning a bit slower than usual.

Glade Mountain Forest

As I’m heading up a pass, there’s a gentleman ahead. He is taking his time and Blue blows right pass him. I stop and talk with him and find out he’s a Pastor. His name is Glen Evans and he lives in Northern Virginia. He asks where I’m from and I give him the abbreviated version I’m from NoCal just as my friend is, but she’s originally from Russia. We met while volunteering at our church in the Coffee Shop. That sparks his interest as he’s an Organic Coffee Bean Farmer and has done many missions in Honduras. What a coincidence as Blue’s husband Alan is in Honduras this very moment. We talk about his mission of teaching the Hondurans how to farm coffee so they can be self-reliant and help educate their children. What a wonderful man! I’m just in awe at the people I meet on this small stretch of dirt.

Me with Pastor Glen

I catch up with Blue and we have our morning break, then push on to The Settlers Museum that Pastor Glen mentioned. It is an outdoor farm that has all the components of a working farm. We mill around looking at the Farm Equipment, Live Coop with grown Ducks and Chickens, Machine Shop, Laundry Room and Working Outhouse as Blue testified to. One of the remarkable things I love about the East Coast is their history. Almost daily we find some historical treasure along the trail!

Working Chicken & Duck Coop

Just down the road is one of the Original One-Room Schoolhouses built in 1894. There were 62 schoolhouses in Southwest Virginia in 1890’s. Typically one teacher would instruct seven grades from October-March. Her salary was up to $30 month. Teachers have a special place in my heart. My son-in-law Matt is a High School Mathematics and Special Education Instructor.

Mrs. Blue Teaching Backpacking 101

After class was finished, we headed down to Sweetwater Venue. This place is a must stop for hungry hikers. The Chef is amazing. Pulled Pork Mac-N-Cheese, Apple Dumplings, sweet tea and lemonade, and all the electrical outlets to charge your electronics. Blue and I stayed the afternoon, charged up and ate more than we needed to! There were lots of hikers and everyone was super friendly, refilling our tea all afternoon.

Sweetwater Venue in Atkins, Virginia

We still had a few more miles to hike so after 5pm when it wasn’t quite as warm, we ventured out for our final miles. We hiked through some nice farmlands that someone had mowed a strip so we had a path to walk upon. The last few days, we have walked through quite a bit of private property. It truly must have been a logistical challenge to gain the rights to pass through hundreds, if not thousands of acres of land. This trail is over 2,000 miles and I get to walk every single mile of it. That’s pretty cool!

Looking Over Our Route Today

Today was an easy day. The weather was ideal, the terrain was fairly mild minus the first few miles of rocks, and we took many breaks to visit sights along the way. If everyday was like today, I’d never make it to Mt. Katahdin before closing. I started doing some math and have determined that I need to hike 100 miles per week, if I plan to reach the terminus by the end of September. That is ambitious but very doable. If the good Lord is willing to take me all the way, then I will happily continue. Just one step in front of the other.

Long Boardwalk over Boggy Creek

Day 50: June 3, 2022 Hurricane to Partnership Shelter Elevation Profile +3505/-4209 19.1 Miles; Total 534.1 Miles

It rained for most the night. The good news is it stopped by early morning, and I stayed relatively dry. It’s all about site selection. When it’s raining or it’s gonna rain, it’s always best to find a high spot and something that has protection. I had both. No rain came inside my tent and the back side was virtually dry. Lots of big trees covering my little tent keeping me warm and dry.

Blue Heading out into Mountain Laurel

Blue was up and rearing to go this morning. We had a nice walk in the woods, which made it a bit darker than usual. With the cloud covering, it seemed much earlier than it was. We made it to Comers Creek Falls and there was a sign warning hikers of the bridge being out. There was a 1-1/2 mile detour. Oh goodness. Not a good way to start the morning. Blue was ahead and in perfect Blue fashion, she either didn’t see the sign or neglected to read it. She powered down to the creek without a bridge. I called for her but she couldn’t hear me over the waterfall. So I continued down to find her. When I got to the creek, it appeared very passable by stepping over a few well placed rocks. Lucky for us it was early morning which typically is low flow and we both got across easily.

Comer Creek Falls

Once up and out of the canyon, we came to Dickey Gap and stopped for our morning break. I pulled my wettish tent out and hung it to dry. As we were eating our snacks, Mulligan shows up walking sobo. She was accompanied by her Father and Uncle. They both flew in from parts north, New York and Michigan, and met her on the trail. They planned to hike with Mulligan for a week. Lucky for us, they had a car parked at the trailhead and proceeded to bless us with apple & pineapple, banana bread, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And if that wasn’t enough, took our trash to boot! What a morning we had.

Mulligan with Uncle & Dad

Blue and I decided to push some miles and set up for lunch at the next road crossing, about six miles north. With belly’s full, we took off and scaled the trail. There were some climbs but nothing too terrible and the trail was pretty well-groomed, which usually is not the case. By 1230, we had covered close to twelve miles and we had set ourselves up for our biggest mile day yet. We had our lunch and set our sights on Partnership Shelter, almost eight miles further.

View of Rye Valley

The last stretch was the hardest as my feet were beginning to feel the brunt of the mileage. My right heel is always the first to complain, then the inside of my right foot and typically the left shoulder. Blue had stopped about three miles short and found a lovely spot. I was not interested, primarily because I didn’t have enough water and was looking forward to what laid ahead. So we pushed on and made it to the Shelter.

Meadow before Partnership Shelter

So you ask, what’s so great about this Shelter? Glad you asked. It has a phone that you can use, for free, to order Pizza! I know, that’s absolutely ridiculous but true. So I walked over to the phone, called Pizza Delivery and within an hour, we had pizza, salad and a liter of Dr.Pepper. I asked if they would deliver beer but they don’t. I know, what good is pizza without beer? And that was exactly what I thought. As luck would have it, Steve from Damascus was working on patching a few holes at the Visitor Center. I struck up a conversation with him and before I knew it, Blue and I had two beers! How much better does it get than that?

Thanks Steve from Damascus Drinking inside Blue’s Tent

I guess I started something because after I ordered pizza, so did Siesta & Rushee, and another group of hikers. We all waited by the roadway and before long, our pizza arrived hot and ready to devour. So now you know why I wanted to get to the Shelter. Blue and I ate half the pizza, finished the salad, and drank a liter of Dr. Pepper. And then we waddled back to our tents, fat and happy.

Pizza Delivered for All

I have to wonder what I did to deserve such an incredible hike as this? Coming into this Appalachian Trail, I had no idea that hiking could be anything other than pain, suffering and agony? The close proximity to towns is such a huge blessing! With towns, come hostels and showers and food and so many options for a thru-hiker. The biggest challenge this creates is that many hikers get sucked into town and never make it out. I have lost more than half of the hikers I started with, mostly due to injuries, pushing too many miles too soon or going into town and never coming out. The conveniences of town life are easy to succumb to. Who wants to return to a tent when they can go home to a house? Who wants to eat dehydrated food daily when they can cook fresh food or eat pizza? Or who wants to wear the same stinky clothes, take a bath with wet wipes and brush their teeth with stream water? Well, I certainly do.

South Fork of Holston River

This isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination but it allows me to be one with the Lord, without any distractions and to truly hear him speak over me. The short time I have been here, 50 days has been something I’ll treasure for a lifetime. The people I have met, the friendships I’ve created, the love I’ve been shown by my family back home, is incredible. As long as this gal can get up, put on my trail runners and walk, I’ll stay right where I am suppose to be. Just me and Jesus, hiking the trail.

“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:5-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Day 49: June 2, 2022 Roger’s to Hurricane Elevation Profile +1973/-3787 15.9 Miles; Total 515.0 Miles

What an incredibly sunrise! As we headed out this morning, we were greeted with a mixture of clouds, mist, and a sprinkling of sunshine. We thought we were going to have an easy-going meadow walk. But it quickly turn to bouldering. Just as we left our glorious campsite, we were greeted with rocks, big rocks, rocks that you need to use your hands to get over rocks. Well at least I do.

Early Morning Sunrise

Our first couple of miles were slow going. We did get to see a few more pony’s from afar, but this was not the morning I thought it would be. And evidently Blue didn’t either. After making our way through the Fat Man Squeeze, I didn’t make that up, we climbed a bit more through an Rhododendron Garden. On both sides of the trail, we’re beautiful in-bloom purple-pink flowers. They were lovely but once again, that didn’t trump the rocks!

Bouldering 101

After 2-1/2 hours, I was ready for a break. We sat, ate some snacks and hid behind a boulder to protect us from the wind. When we left Damascus on Tuesday, there was predictions of thunderstorms on Thursday. It appears they were right. The weather was changing from one moment to the next. First cool and misty, then windy and later warm and muggy. My outfit is getting a run for it’s money as it is suppose to keep me cool when it’s warm and warm when it’s cool. It actually does pretty good except for the constant odor! Blue says she doesn’t smell because of her clean diet! I need to be more like her.

Rhododendron Garden Path

The day was young and we had grand illusions of hiking 15-16 miles today. At 9am, we had only covered four miles so we needed to get a move-on! We were done with the rocks and started downhill towards the creek and back into the forest. One of the biggest difference between the AT and the PCT is the AT has plenty of water. There are springs, creeks, and some rivers most every mile or two. It makes it much easier as I only carry one liter of water and my small Nalgene that typically has some type of electrolytes or tea. Water is plentiful on this wet and wild trail.

Rocky Path

Just before 11am, we stopped for lunch on one of the last Balds on the day. Our tents were wet from the morning dew. There’s nothing worse than pitching a tent that’s wet from the night before. We found a huge boulder and Blue laid out all her worldly possessions. All my gear was relatively dry except my tent so I strung it to a tree-bush and let the wind takeover. As we were sitting and eating our early lunch, I noticed a pony grazing within 100’ of us. He was eating grasses and little yellow flowers and gave no mind to me and Blue. Once our gear was dry and our belly’s full, we headed out to finish up the days miles.

Pony Grazing at Grayson Highlands

The scenery today was much different from the typical green tunnel. We had a boulder scramble in the morning, some rugged meadows with brush, Rhododendron Gardens, and low meadows for grazing cattle. The variety was a welcome sight and allowed the day to pass easily.

Weather Moving In

By the afternoon, the prediction came true. Once we finished soaking our feet at Fox Creek, we tackled our one and only climb of the day. It was within the first halfmile that the thunder started. Here we go again. Blue stopped first and attached her trash bag to her pack and I put on my pack cover. Then we both had our umbrellas ready for quick deployment. And then the rain came. It wasn’t a soaking rain but enough to get you wet. We made it to camp just as there was a break in the weather. For the first time, Blue and I had to divide and conquer. With the rain coming back, there weren’t two sites next to each other that were ideal for both of us. Blue camped a bit south of me and we plan to meet at the Trailhead bright and early. Once I was all set up, the rain came back and it continues. I’m thinking this may be a long rainy night.

Stinky Smelly Kelly

Just before I left and went to my campsite, without Blue, she told me, I am not afraid! I thought about that and of course she is not afraid. She has the Lord protecting her. She knows that wherever she is or wherever she travels, Jesus is her shield, her comfort and her protector. What a wonderful testimony of faith.

“Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭62:1-2‬ ‭NIV‬‬