Saturday, May 30, 2015

A (not so) lengthy blog.

As Mom ordered, a lengthy blog.
What life is like on the trail.
(Only 70% accurate)
Imagine waking up to the song of birds, right at the first light of dawn (5:25 am). You sit up and put away your bed with mechanical ease. You also wake to find that it rained during the night, and your tent is wet, all the same, you have to put it away.
You mix your normal breakfast drink and add the instant coffee to it. Oddly enough, it's one of the only foods you don't get totally sick of.
You finish packing your pack by 6:15 and head out for a 20 mile day.
The leaves above let loose the water they held kindly all the night, just so they could give you a morning shower, and the tall grass sees to it that your feet stay nice and wet.
Above, the caterpillar have started their descent on long silks to catch on you as you walk by, and the spiders, having left their webs, give you the same greeting.
The morning cool gives way to the heat of the noon day sun, and the humidity levels exceed 200%.
You've sweat 1 1/2 liters of water by 9:00 am, and you chafe more than you ever have, you try all you can to alleviate the pain, and yet almost nothing is achieved.
You come to the first water source of the day at 10:00 am, filter a liter of water in to your pouch, and down another.
The mosquitoes have devoured your arms and legs at this point of filtering water, while you struggle with opening a packet of drink mix, wishing that all of them would just go to a fiery underworld.
11:00 am rolls around and you've eaten half of your daily snacks and are trying to wait another hour for lunch.
Gnats suicidally attack your eyes.
By 2:30 pm you're half starved with 6 miles to go and the pointless up and downs become even more pointless.
You crash into your planned camp site at 5:00 pm to find that it's full, and decide to press on another 5 miles to the next water source.
Your guide book doesn't mark any camping so you hesitantly stay at a barely passable campsite just before the water.
In the morning you find that the water source has one of the best campsites on trail.
Now all of that sounds very negative, and you may be wondering why anybody would want to do a through hike?
A few answers.
Very few responsibilities.
No worries.
If you're around somebody that wants to argue, you can just leave the shelter.
You can eat more than you ever have, and you still lose weight.
You make close friends incredibly quickly.
It's very peaceful.
The views.
No true schedule.
The people you get to meet.
The oddities that you get see/be part of.
Overall, this is a fun thing, but there are a lot of hardships that you have face.
Current mile: 1293.4 with 895 miles left.
We are in the town of Delaware water gap, PA.
Various pictures.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Do not read this title.

A simple update.
Mile 1257.5
Walnutport PA.
We will be night hiking tonight to avoid the heat of the day.
We went to town today and grabbed a bite to eat a McD's, where we both ate a bundle meal a piece.
That's 2 big macs, two 1/4 lb. burgers, 10 chicken nuggets, and 2 fries (some 2100 calories).... for each of us.
Then we went to K-mart to buy water, as the next water source is 12 miles away.
The trail has only gotten more fun as we have gone on, and we have gotten well into the groove of things.
Sorry for such a short post, but this is hard with my phone. We're sitting here by the trail letting our shoes dry out, as we let things cool off.

Saturday, May 23, 2015


72 days.
7 states.
1094.6 miles walked.
15.2 miles a day average.
1/2 of the way
That is old information.
Daniel and I are past that already.
Our adventures are going well, our moral is holding strong, and we are suffering from T-rex syndrome, a case that most all of us hiker trash suffer from where you gain massive, strong legs, and lose your arms to disuse.
The skies have stopped their neglect on us, and the rain has returned. Throughout most of Virginia, we had very little rain, and many of the water sources started to dry up.
Although, this also means that the rain has returned and we have to walk through it.
You know you live a primitive life when, you go to a camp ground to access more modern amenities than what you had before.
Daniel and I have been hiking with two friends; Hawkeye, his dog Lucy, and Boyd. We decided that we would try to rent a cabin at the Deer run camp grounds in PA.
We come to the front desk and ask about any available cabins.
"Yes, we have two open." answered the lady.
"A primitive cabin, and a Luxury cabin. The primitive doesn't have a bathroom, and the luxury does."
Upon asking, we found that the Luxury does not cost any more than the primitive.
An analogy that Boyd gave summarized those options rather well:
"Would you like to walk to the top of the mountain, or just take the ski lift?" 
The hardest challenge that we face this time of the year is chafing.
Chafing all day, chafing without relief, chafing that cannot be explained, only experienced. Chafing on your arm pits, chafing around the areas that nobody talks about, chafing on your feet...
Thankfully the weather has cooled down due to the rain, but this problem will be prolonged until the later summer months.
Current mile: 1112.
Various pictures of our trip into DC.
~The Arkansas twins - Link and Folklore.

Monday, May 11, 2015

... Is that Roy?

"Waynesboro is a little bit close Mom.." I pleaded in vain.
"Waynesboro is right before Shenandoah, and you'll need to resupply there anyway." She answered back.
"But we'll be there before the package gets there."
Regardless of my pleas, she sent the package to Waynesboro, a mere four days journey north of Buena Vista, VA where we were, leaving Daniel and I to drag our heels for a day or two on our way to Waynesboro, or spend a lot of money in town waiting on the package to get there.
Naturally, Daniel and I had a hard time doing this, and decided that we would do only one extra-short day, and then could just go normal pace the rest of the way into Waynesboro.
This did not please Mom, as Daniel and I arrived in Waynesboro on Tuesday, and not Wednesday like she wanted.
Daniel and I resupplied, and ate in record time, and was just about to go about getting a ride to the Shenandoah entrance, and I call mom to let her know what our plans were.
But then she sounded rather concerned about the phone and tablet not having enough battery life to last all of Shenandoah, and told us not to rely on the Waysides having outlets for us to use, so she suggested that we go to the library and charge the devices, and post a blog.
So rather begrudgingly, we yielded to her rather commanding suggestion, and in the end it made it much easier to get back to the trail, as a one of the Kroger employees gave us a ride out of town.
However, we didn't have enough time to do the 7 miles to the first hut in Shenandoah, thus forcing us to camp just outside of the park, because you have to stay at or in one of the hut/campgrounds in Shenandoah
The following morning,  when I turned on the phone and called mom, she wanted to know where we were...
Exactly where we were...
"Okay, which cell tower are you at, the one with the tractor seats?"
"No... We're at the first cell tower...what tractor seat?"
"What mile are you at?"
"Around 820 something."
"When did you start this morning, have you had any road crossings, how many steps into Shenandoah have you taken, are you wearing clean underwear?"
There was no time to hike during this text conversation, and quite honestly, I almost turned the phone off just so we could get a move on.
The day went on like almost any other, it drizzled rain on us, it got sunny again, and as always it was humid.
And then...
"Why, Hello guys!"
I stopped, and looked up.
Before us, was a tall "gentleman" wearing a Texas flag shirt, and walking up to us with a smile the size of Texas.
My brain could not make any clear idea of how Roy could be standing in front of me.
"I must be dreaming..." Was my original thought, and then it became quite real, Roy was indeed standing in front of me.
"No way..." Was Daniel's first reaction.
I only wish I could have seen the looks on our faces when we saw him.
Then all the pieces started falling together, Roy is a pilot, Mom delayed us in town, our precise location was demanded of us, you think we would have caught on at some point.
We greeted him heartily, this was the first familiar face (apart from our friends on trail) that we had seen in two months.
Roy was kind enough to drive us to the first wayside in the Shenandoah's, two stinking, sweaty, and shocked hikers to eat...
You think he would know better.
The Blackberry milk shakes at the Shenandoah waysides was one of our goals on the trail, and they did not disappoint us. Along with the shakes, the burgers were also good- the pretzel bun was a nice touch.
But the best of friends must part, fair or foul the weather, and as we  had to finish our day of hiking, and we said our goodbyes.
About an hour after seeing Roy, we saw the first bear on trail as it ambled away.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

30 miles, and The Dragon's Tooth.

Several things happened that should not have happened together.
One: Daniel and I hiked 30 miles in one day.
Two: We night hiked.
Three: We went over Dragons Tooth. (located between Catawba and Roanoke, VA)
If you were to take any one of those, you wouldn't have done anything extraordinary, however, if you were to do all three of those, then you would have done something stupid. (Like we did.)
Our plan that day, was to go a simple 13 miles to a shelter and avoid the rain that night, and with such an easy day to go by, we took our time going to the shelter.
When we reached it, we found a rather unnerving character there, and we had 7 hours of daylight left, so we decided that we would press on and maybe go all the way to Four Pines hostel 17 miles on.
Between us and there was two tough climbs, Bush mountain, and Dragons Tooth.
We beat the never ending Bush mountain without stopping, powered on by a sugar rush of Skittles.
When we reached the almost nonexistent top, we found a bench, on this bench someone had wrote "Voted best bench ever! - Seat and Stool magazine."
(To be read in a story telling font, for best results, an Irish accent is suggested.)
We reached mile 26 right as things were getting dark.
Before us, was the legendary Dragons Tooth, a dark fog surrounded us as we ascended the rocky, damp, treacherous climb, the eery mood shattered by an up beat song playing on the tablet, we were on our first night hike, and we were ready.  (End of story telling font)
Dragons Tooth is one of the hardest descents on the Appalachian trail (northbound), with a series of super steep rock faces with rebar set into the stone to allow safe passage.
Daniel and I did it at night, when it was wet, and when it was foggy out.
We might have been going 1/3 miles per hour while going down.
We crashed at Four pines at 10:15 that night, quite thankful that everyone was awake.
We barely even had dinner that night, a package of tuna is all that we had before bed.
Daniel and I are at Waynesboro, VA. Just before the Shenandoah National park, 861 miles are behind us.
~Link (Sam)
Pictures are: Daniel outside the Priest shelter.
The Dinosaur in Glasgow, VA.
And "Drifter" eating his cheese.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Our adventures through Damascus

This was way back at the start of Virginia, right after we crossed the TN/VA state line. (mile 460)

We were in a hurry the morning we made it in to Damascus, we ran out of food the night before, and were talked out of doing the last 10 miles of what would have been a 32 mile day by our friend Tribute.

Our main goal for the day was breakfast at Cavilers cafe, everything else was secondary, and we would only be delayed by our picture at the TN/VA border.
We rolled in to town at 10:00 am, and made a bee line for Cavilers.
The restaurant was in the old cafe style, with a bars and booths, and old vintage advertisements hanging from the wall. Daniel and I had ordered when Tribute and Headlights came and sat with us, so we felt a little bad when our food came first and they watched us eat, but they were in high spirits and just let us watch them eat a few minutes later.
After breakfast the only natural course of action was to get a milk shake, and we were right at the breakfast/lunch turnover time that ordering one wasn't inconvenient.

We stayed at "The Place" a hostel run by the Methodist Church of Damascus, we met the two night limit there, because we zeroed in town.
It was an old early 1900's building with plain wooden bunks to set up on.

Damascus its self was a really neat sort of town, with no less than four different bicycle shops and two outfitters, it needed the Transcontinental bicycle trail, and the Appalachian trail going through it.
Damascus is well know for the AT. Trail days event, an AT reunion/talent show/parade.

Most of the first day went without much excitement, we did laundry, resupplied, and went to the all you can eat buffet (and then got a milk shake!).

The next morning Daniel and I ate breakfast with Tribute and Headlights again, and then we went to church with Tribute later that morning.
As Daniel and I walked up the steps to the Church, a man greets us and asked me " Are you guys twins?"
"Yes." I answered
During this, Daniel had opened up the flyer he had handed us, the subject this week "The terrible Twins: Bitterness and Grudging"
At this point I'm thanking God that we already have trail names, as Daniel jokes that they're already warning people about us, and discriminating against us before we even come in.
We sat down with Tribute, who had been sitting alone, and people kept coming to Daniel and I asking us questions about the trail, where we started, and where we where from, Tribute told us later that no one had even told him hello before we had walked up.

After the Service, as Daniel and I were leaving, a man and his family came to us and asked if we would like to go out to lunch with them, and like any other thru-hiker, we said "Okay!".
They took us to Abington for Chinese, and then Starbucks, and then their house...
We could hardly believe their kindness.
(Thanks again Mike!)

When we got back to town, another fellow thru-hiker, Penguin, invited us to dinner later that evening because her sister had sent some money with her (Penguin's) husband to do some " Trail magic" for some of the other hikers.
After going by every other restaurant in town, we finally found one that wasn't closed on the far side of town, Pizza plus, which turned out great because they had an all you can eat buffet, and was right next to Food city.

I can't say much about the "Town wide WiFi" as it was not town wide, and it was rather poor.

And much to my surprise, you could not rent a unicycle in a town with four different bike shops, are there that few of unicycle-ers that we can be so discriminated against?

After we left town, about ten miles out, we came upon a sign that warned that a bridge had been washed out 1/4 mile ahead and that we were to follow the Virginia Creeper trail 1/2 mile until we crossed the AT again.
So Daniel and I discussed our options, and decided that that would be too logical, and continued down the AT, after what we thought was 1/4 of a mile, we came upon a stream with all the Rhododendron washed over the trail.
We climbed over them and crossed the stream with little difficulty, and said to our self's "That was easy!"...
Then we come to the river...
The river with the bridge washed out...

I sat down and started taking my shoes off, as the river was not deep and had several points where you could cross most of the way across.
Daniel didn't bother taking his shoes off, and started down the most promising path, but only got halfway before coming back.
Then as he started down the next one, when the unfortunate hiker made a faux pas...

One moment there was a splash, the next, an angry, dripping, and wet hiker was tearing through his pack to pull his sleeping bag out before it got wet*.

"Are you all right?" I ask mildly concerned.
"...Yes, my sleeping bag isn't wet."
Afterwards we laughed about it quite a bit, however, we were quite thankful that no one saw the event.

*Down losses its insulating ability when wet.

Pictures are: Daniel and I at the TN/VA state line, Tribute, a former thru-hiker and some kid that we talked to. And Headlights.

~Sam (Link)