Saturday Sept. 30th – End of day
Temp. Hi – 66* / Lo – 45*
Miles hiked so far – 16
Nobody hiked in to the shelter or vicinity last night. It was just us and we were being shaken by wind consistently throughout the night until morning.
We fell asleep at 8 o’clock last night and didn’t wake up officially until 8am. We both were awake to pee at 6 and it was so cold out we just snuggled back up and dozed off again. My Enlightened Equipment quilt is SO warm. We slept for 12 hours!
It was very windy today.
While we were packing up this morning, another section hiker walked up and chatted with us. He was from upstate New York and heading to Springer solo, beginning at Harper’s Ferry and said he planned to be there by Thanksgiving. His massive section made ours look nothing like a section, but a casual stroll in the park.
He got a huge kick out of the fireplace in the shelter. He told us he packed minimal clothes and was enjoying our company but to keep warm, he had to keep moving. We said farewells and finished breaking down our campsite.
We got on the trail late, around 9:20am and continued south. Tonight we are lodging at Skyland Resort. From the shelter to the lodge it’s about 7 and a half miles.
We didn’t eat breakfast today and I was feeling it. I was dragging super hard and was getting anxious because we opted out of refilling our water this morning. A few miles in however we came upon the Pinnacles picnic area parking lot and lo and behold – there was a water fountain AND restrooms! We sat and ate some energy bars and cameled up on water. Propel Raspberry Lemonade drink mix saved my life today, y’all.
I was in my head a lot today. B hiked ahead of me while I found my pace. I could feel my left pinky toe forming a hot spot. It started to become a little annoying.
Oh my god, Stony Man. Let me tell you about the busiest day hike location I think I’ve personally encountered yet. I was overwhelmed with the descending people-traffic and tried to take my time so I didn’t trip, yet get out of there quickly while trudging up jagged rocks and what seemed like a hundred switchbacks.
(If I was going to cry today…or at all, this was it.)
But I didn’t. We carried on and I felt miserable and it was only day 2. I began wondering what we were doing and why we were even doing it. Did B feel this terrible? If so he wasn’t really showing it. Skyland was so close, but so far. The climb to the lodge was killing, and me and B bickered most of the way up. It was the worst. We were starving, it was freezing, and I found myself craving a cold, sugary Pepsi the last 2 miles.
Finally the trail opened up to a fire road. This was apparently the back way up to the lodge. I started to feel relief until we came upon another intersection and blindly chose which way we should go – up. Again.
Luckily it was the correct choice. We finally made it to the office which was next to the dining hall, where we picked up a couple sandwiches and chips and felt 110% better almost immediately.
(We were just hangry the whole time, who knew?)
We ate on the patio overlooking the mountains (it was freezing), then checked in to our cabin. It was so welcome after a pretty mentally hard day. Today is our second short day. If only 7.5 miles was this hard, what do the 10 and 11 mile days have in store?! We have ended up hiking MORE than what’s listed on trail signs & on Guthook’s, due to side trails and anything we want to see out of the way. Sigh.
We both took warm showers and an hour nap, setting the alarm for 5pm so we could make it to dinner at the dining hall at 5:30. I wanted to eat and then go back to bed.
Dinner was delicious. I had a Thanksgiving style turkey and dressing dinner, with an appetizer of crab and corn chowder, while B chose the bison meatloaf and a salad. Then we shared the blackberry ice cream pie which was AMAZING.
(This is the part of the trip where I am beginning to feel like we are cheating a little.)
Sleeping in a warm bed tonight and eating an incredible dinner. However, we wanted this experience to be part vacation and part work. It is living up well to the expectation so far. Hiking 9 miles tomorrow to Big Meadows is on the agenda, so I’m going to sleep well and warm tonight after this cold exhausting day so I can focus better. If this whole week is a repeat of the way I felt today we’ve got a long road ahead, hah!
All in all, it WAS a beautiful day when I stopped to realize what I was doing and where I was, and why we even began this trip. Our goal is to complete the AT in time, in sections. This is the easiest part of the AT according to past thru hikers, and a great introduction. We are lucky to be here and I’m going to enjoy it even when it gets hard. I am here to grow and challenge myself.
My daily journal entries while en route and on trail! No photos for these posts. If you’d like to see pictures you can find them on our Instagram page! All mileage includes AT & side trails and is read according to our Garmin GPS tracker. This part of the trip was comprised of Shenandoah’s ‘Inn to Inn’ Southbound hike as well as some backcountry camping. Thornton Gap to Swift Run Gap.
Wednesday Sept. 27th & Thursday Sept. 28th
Yesterday (the 27th) was B’s 33rd birthday. We both worked all day knowing we had a long drive ahead of us.
Last night we left home around 7:45. Drove 5 hours east to Frankfort, KY – (ironically the home of the distilleries of 2 of B’s favorite bourbons, Buffalo Trace & Woodford Reserve.) We were so tired. I booked a cheap hotel (Bluegrass Inn) from the road and we showed up 30 minutes later to check in at 2am. I slept so heavy in that hotel room and 7:30am came quickly.
We hit the road this morning at 8:15 and made it to Swift Run Gap to meet trail angel and Open Arms hostel owner Alison by 4:30pm. She drove us about 36 miles north to Luray where we checked in to our hotel and ordered some pizza. We also realized when we dropped the car off at the trailhead we are exiting from later this week, that we forgot the USB wall plug for our phone charger. We did have our solar panel but the wall plug is much easier when lodging. We asked the front desk at the hotel in hopes of left behind extras or one we could even just use for the night and the attendant gave us his to keep! Thanks so much front desk guy.
I am beat! We will probably go to bed in the next couple hours (after I take a hot bath and then organize our packs accordingly) I think I’ll get our breakfast and water ready to go and then just relax.
I want this trip to go slowly. I want to take our time and relish in the experience. So far it’s been beyond great and pretty seamless. I’m so excited!
Tomorrow we get picked up at 8am, hike from Thornton Gap to Mary’s Rock and are camping at Byrd’s Nest #3 shelter. It’s a very short first day with a pretty big climb. We plan to get to the site fairly early. I have big hopes of napping and reading some of the book I have downloaded on my Kindle app. (Stephen King’s ‘It’.)
Friday Sept. 29th – End of day
Temp Hi – 73* / Lo – 46*
Miles hiked so far – 6.2
This morning we woke up at 7:30 and waited in our hotel lobby for Alison to pick us up and drop us off at the Thornton Gap Trailhead entrance. Before she arrived we perused the free continental breakfast and found an old timer reading a newspaper and a woman with a fairly talkative kid. (Among the people, a selection of some cereal, muffins and fruit.) I grabbed an apple and realized before we went outside to the parking lot that I wasn’t even hungry. I was nervous! My stomach was in knots. I took a couple bites of the apple which was piffy. I still wasn’t sure what to expect out of all of this.
Alison texted me and let me know she’d be a few minutes late. We were in no rush. We hung out in the parking lot, watching some dew glisten on a spider web.
In the van with us was a guy and his pup, and a woman called Ladybug and her friend (I forget her name!) Ladybug attempted a thru hike last year but had to stop after 600 miles. Now she’s picking up sections. She was so pleasant to talk to! I love meeting hiking women, and these two were heading NOBO – the opposite direction of us.
When we arrived at the trailhead we all said our goodbyes and good lucks, I sat on the shoulder of Skyline Drive to put my boots on and adjust my trekking poles and then off we went, beginning our 40 mile hike back to the car at the Swift Run Gap entrance.
We started with the climb to Mary’s Rock – lots of elevation gain within the first mile, mile and a half. Not the most encouraging way to start a trip, but we had to venture forth to get to our camping spot for the night. The views at Mary’s Rock were incredible. We ran into “guy and his pup” once again and we parted ways for the second time. I made a Cup-a-Soup, and we also tried to eat a Mountain House Eggs with Bacon and no.
Then we chatted with two section hiking ladies from Pennsylvania, one of them telling us the story of how a bobcat crossed her path that morning. The other woman began laughing as she opened her Pop Tarts and told us she woke up the entire camp last night yelling “There’s a bear!! There’s a bear!” In her sleep. She said she felt so bad waking everyone up, as we all laughed together. Bear anxiety is real, people!
We continued on to the shelter, Byrd’s Nest #3. We arrived early in the day. Around 12:30pm. We explored the area, hiked half a mile down to the piped water source, had a snack and then returned to the shelter/campsite and set up our tent. I was feeling a little sleepy so I took a nap in the shelter while B gathered some wood for the fireplace. Byrd’s Nest #3 used to be a day use area, and then was transitioned into an overnight shelter for hikers.
We ate tuna wraps for lunch.
When it started to get chilly and a little windy, B started a fire and then I boiled some water for dinner. We made and shared a ramen pack and a rehydrated sweet & sour chicken. It was warm and filling. We hung our packs and bear canister behind the shelter. We decided to call it an early night after watching the sun go down and are now lying in the tent. It’s 7:40pm.
Tomorrow we have about a 7.5 mile day.
And just like that, we were back home.
In the wake of returning to normal, every day work life tomorrow – I find myself with no energy, sighing loudly every few minutes and trying to avoid thoughts of the overwhelmingly busy reality that’s about to hit.
I have a few things I can cling to in the coming weeks. Blog posts, video editing; a beginners backpacking trip I’m fronting in a couple weeks. Another Mountain Chicks weekend outing in November. Lots of van camping and our 4th wedding anniversary next month.
I won’t lie, I was missing my bed and my dogs. I had thought and hoped maybe I’d be on a crazy high when I came home but it seems to be the opposite =( I guess I’m just feeling emotional. It’s only been a few days and I already feel so detached from it all. This trip took forever to get here and then, it was just…done. While I will never forget the mere week and a half Virginia was our home, where we met wonderful like minded new friends and the trail was always certain, and the white blazes led the way…
I needed more time.
More days, more miles. More memories. This was only just a taste of one of the best experiences of my life. I need more.
This isn’t over yet!
Unofficially, however. The last full weekend of August, a few of us Mountain Chicks got together for a weekend of camping and hiking. It was a beautiful weekend of getting to know each other a little more and tackling some trails. As you can see my summer has been quite fulfilling, but with not enough hiking. I changed that a couple weekends ago. We are training to leave for our Appalachian Trail section hike in a few weeks so hiking as much as possible up until that point is necessary.
BK, S (plus Fernando!) and I (with Cash!) met up and camped at St. Francois State Park. Friday night we stayed up late talking and listening to music. We turned in around midnight probably, and got up the next morning to head to Mina Sauk Falls at Taum Sauk Mountain State Park. While there were no falls running, it was a beautiful hike still.
After Taum Sauk we ventured to Hughes Mountain to hike the Devil’s Honeycomb trail. It was so cool! There were crazy views of Missouri on top of Hughes Mt. (1,200ft. elevation). Hughes Mountain summit is comprised of rhyolite, a type of igneous rock.
After hiking all day, we were thirsty and exhausted. We came back to our campsite and changed into comfy shoes and clean clothes, then drove down to the creek to sit until the sunset.We spent the evening around the fire with some beer and s’mores. I am so grateful for these girls! It is so difficult to meet people as you get older. Getting to be a Mountain Chicks Ambassador has been a great gift for me! It has taken this extremely introverted, “say no to everything” anxious mess of a girl and turned her into a mountain climbing, squat to pee in the woods, dirt and sweat caked, trail loving, ramblin’ woman.
Another fellow Mountain Chick – H, messaged me this past Wednesday night and asked if I had any plans for Friday. B and I had the day off work. We were actually planning to go backpacking for two nights but he got called in to work on Sunday. Instead we decided to just dayhike.
So the timing was perfect when H texted me because B and I had a 12 mile hike planned, and he is MUCH faster than I am. I let H know the plan and she happily obliged to coming along and I am SO GLAD SHE DID. The hike (Pine Ridge Trail at St. Joe State Park) is listed as 12.6 miles, but it ended up being 13.something miles (we can get one of those marathon stickers now, right?) and my feet found blisters in places I didn’t know blisters could form. I am glad to be getting these hotspots out of the way and calloused before our trip in a few weeks!The majority of the hike, H and I talked her PCT adventure, and about sangria and watermelon. So we took it as a sign when we went to Applebee’s for post hike food that the seasonal drink on their cocktail menu was…Watermelon Sangria! I must say this summer has been one of the best yet. Making new friends and adventuring as much as possible as well as pushing myself to new limits. I am loving this new chapter in my life; my 30s. I have never been more open to new things or accepting of myself. It is glorious. I highly suggest it.
OMG. I am caught up on my blog. I solemnly swear I am not going to fall that far behind again! I will be blogging here as well as vlogging our Virginia and Appalachian Trail trip on our YouTube channel.
This coming weekend I have organized another Mountain Chicks Midwest event. If you’re located anywhere in the Midwest click the link there and stay tuned for lots of chapter events all over the Midwest! (States Served: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.)
Like my last entry, this one is late. By about 4 weeks. Better late than never?
We have had a pretty mild August (weather wise) surprisingly. Enough to tent camp comfortably, with even a little chill at night…MY FAVORITE! Last year on the same weekend, M, K & I ventured north to Savanna, IL for an all women’s motorcycle meet up and camp out. It was an absolute blast…becoming one of my favorite weekends of the year to look forward to. We camp out near Mississippi Palisades State Park on the Mississippi River, on a stretch of privately owned land. Attached is an abandoned restaurant and bar.
This year, M’s co-worker (we will call her K2!) came with and so K and I followed the two of them up in my car and acted as their support vehicle. (Mostly I felt like those guys on Sons of Anarchy who tail the biker club in a black van…) This event is one of the most laid back, accepting and inclusive groups of girls I have ever met. I don’t even own a motorcycle and they don’t question why you’re there. It’s all about the company and enjoying a fun weekend in a neat little town.K2 hanging by the river Our little tent cityShower bus!Some of the best pizza I have ever had was at this little eclectic place in Iowa called “Bombfire Pizza“.There was a very cool meteor shower this same weekend and we sat out under the stars, with local Rhubarb wine and karaoke blasting in the background.
After the Babes in Motoland 3 weekend, B and I spent a couple days at the lake with his parents and mine. The week before BIM3, I had the beginnings of a gross cold setting in. The lake weekend, I believe it was at it’s peak. I was SO sick I ended up sleeping a lot of it, and stayed up in the cottage out of the heat because it was making me miserable. The first time I have ever been to the lake and spent the whole weekend inside! We still had fun though! The next week, I battled off the rest of my sickness and it finally disappeared after day 15. Ick.
The first three quarters of August was busy and so much fun. The last of it was just the same! That will be saved for my next entry, as the whole post is related enough to work together!