Tuesday, December 08, 2009

CHESTNUTS ROASTING ON AN OPEN FIRE

OK, is this activity a fond, familiar part of everyone's Christmas memories?

How many of you actually roast chestnuts as part of your holiday celebration?

Has anyone EVER done it? In the last hundred years, anyway?

Monday, December 07, 2009

WORD PUZZLE

This question was posed by "Freebird" one evening on the Appalachian Trail, as a bunch of us sat cooking, rinsing clothes, eating, sorting gear, and whatever else we did in the evenings.

Name 10 parts of the human body that have only three letters. Authentic words, that a doctor would use: in other words, "tit" and "ass" don't count. Nor does the one contributed last night by my 88-year-old mother, "nut."

OK, gang, have at it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

SURPRISE

Heh, I'm posting on my blog.... that should surprise whatever former readers of mine must have surely written me off by now.

Catching up:

That "inspirational talk" went well, I guess. I enjoyed it myself, anyway. I didn't plan a bit of it, except to take my backpack. I just told about my trip, off the top of my head. My audience seemed to like it .... they seemed to be paying attention, laughed when I said something funny, said "Ooh" when I described something that had been difficult, were impressed when I showed how I just swing my backpack up over my shoulders. Afterwards, they gave me a big golf umbrella, since a couple of them had been reading my trail blog and liked the story about getting caught in a rainstorm and then changing my clothes in a shelter full of men.

What else, since I've updated on anything at all in my life?

Well.... Steve and I have moved in with my mother. No longer RV-ing full-time, for now. I don't feel comfortable anymore with her living by herself. Also, staying here, we are handy to help our son Jon with the care of his daughters. It feels strange to be living in a house. We have our own "apartment" -- a bedroom, a small room we've made into a living room, and a full bath. We share the kitchen, usually eat dinner as a family, the three of us.

I lost 20 pounds in my three months of hiking the Appalachian Trail, and I've gained it all back. It was inevitable.... in real life how could I keep off the results of hiking 15 miles over mountains day after day carrying a 30-pound pack? Even training for SavageMan I gained.

I'm a lifetime member of Weight Watchers, and last week I started going to meetings again. Cutting back on my food has been a shock. I've managed to pull it off about 3 days out of the 7. I don't think I'll have any loss to show at tomorrow's weigh-in. Next week I'll try for 4 days. I just don't have what it takes to suddenly start eating 18 "Points" worth of food a day when I've been piling it in. Yeah, 18. Based on my height, age, gender, and overall activity level (this means all day, not just a workout), that's my base. Now, this is the equivalent of maybe 1200 calories and I'll tell you what, that's not enough for me, small though I am. Well, everyone has 35 optional "Flex" points per week that can be eaten or not, wherever and whenever. I've tried using these to up my daily allotment to 20, then 22. Still not able to stick to it day after day. We also get extra points for exercise, and I use those to the max. But I'll tell you what, I'm still hungry. I'm thinking, we're all different, which is worked in by allowing for age, height, gender, activity level, etc., but I may simply need more food than someone else of my same age, height, gender, and activity level. So I'm going to bump it up to 25 points a day, which comes out to roughly 1500 calories, and see what happens.

That's enough for one post. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

SAVAGEMAN PICS

They only have pics of me on the bike, but they're nice!

Note especially #5 (the other person in the photo is a guy walking his bike up Killer Miller Hill) and #12 (the guy falling in front of me on the Wall.) Just so's you know I told the truth! :-)

Too bad I've gained back 2/3 of the weight I lost on the Appalachian Trail.... it shows in the photos :-( Time for the yo-yo to go back down.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

INSPIRATION? MOTIVATION?

People keep telling me, reading my blog posts, and sometimes my Facebook page, that I'm such an inspiration.

I have even been invited.... this blows my mind and scares me to death.... to give a talk to the annual meeting of the Department of Natural Resources State Secretaries' meeting next week. A motivational talk. About what has interested, or inspired, or motivated, or compelled, me to do the "amazing things I've done."

???????

What, indeed? I guess, since so many people have said they find my aspirations and accomplishments inspiring..... they must be.

So what has inspired me? Or interested, or motivated, or compelled me, to undertake and usually achieve the things people seem to be finding so inspiring?

Well..... because they're there. To see if I can do it. To see if I can do it again. To see if I can do it better, or stronger, or without feeling so awful during or after. To see if there's a better way to do it. Better than I've done it before, or better than I've heard or read of it being done. Better meaning, without the difficulties someone else had. Or, maybe with the same difficulties, but knowing about them ahead of time and being prepared to deal with them.

Sigh...... I don't know what to say in this talk. I kind of feel like all I've done is what the Nike slogan says: Just do it.

I like what Yoda says, too: "Do, or do not; there is no try."

I can't see myself standing there at the annual meeting of a statewide group saying, "Look at me, I've done all these things, am I inspiring or what?"

Good grief. Help.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

SAVAGEMAN AT LAST!!!

After four years of wanting to do this race!! I've wanted to do it before it WAS a race -- when Kyle Yost staged a trial run to see if it was feasible. That year, it was too close to IM Florida. The next year (the inaugural year) we were away. Last year, I registered, started training, then got that damned Achilles tear. This year...... I'm FINALLY a SAVAGEMAN!!!

This is by far the best-organized and best-supported race I have ever participated in, in 20 years of I can't imagine how many races altogether, but 22 marathons, 3 half-iron triathlons, and 2 full Ironmans. More volunteers than I've ever seen, and they were the most enthusiastic ones I've ever seen, too. The rangers from Deep Creek Lake State Park and the State and County Police officers were outstanding.

Guess what was in the goodie bag instead of a t-shirt? Arm warmers! For the bike ride! Black ones, printed with "Tri-To-Win SavageMan Triathlon." Love 'em! I didn't have any, and was thrilled. (Finishers got a finisher's shirt at the end.)

I have started and deleted 2 race reports over the last hour. I get into it and decide I'm being too wordy, too detailed, got to start over..... maybe I can just do highlights now and write a full report in sections over the next few days.

My race goals were:
  • Finish within the cutoff time of 8.5 hours.
  • Ride all hills, no walking my bike.
  • Ride up the Westernport Wall, earning a brick with my name in it inlaid in the road.

Swim: 46 minutes. This is the official time; my watch said 55, so I don't know what the discrepancy is and I'm not going to investigate! I'll take it. I stepped on a large splinter on my way to the water, had to pull it out; it didn't bother me in the race but it's been sore since.

Transition #1: Slow. I took time to dry off well, take a potty break, and eat half a PB&J sandwich. I put on my arm-warmers but didn't wear the long-sleeved shirts and jackets I saw a lot of other riders sporting.

Bike: Well!! By mile 18, reaching Westernport where The Wall is, my average speed was 18.5mph, compared to my usual 16.5 at that point. I thought, YEE-HAWW! I'm gonna rock this course!! But later..... well, maybe it was the too-fast first 18 miles that made my whole ride almost 40 minutes longer than my most recent training ride of the same course.

Westernport Wall: I took my sweet time up the first three hills, snaking back and forth across the streets to reduce the incline. With only The Wall left, I was relaxed (had thought I'd be shaking with stage fright and adrenaline) and not winded at all from the preceding climbs, and I put the hammer down and tackled it. The sidewalks were lined with spectators 4 deep, yelling and ringing cowbells and blowing horns. They cheered me on: "Come on, push it, come on, push it honey, you got it, you got it, lookit 'er go, you got it, you got it, AAWWWWWwwwwwww ......" I had veered just slightly to the left and might have recovered and gone straight after all had a guy not just that moment fallen right there. There was no way I could go around him. I had just enough of a split second to unclip and dismount to avoid hitting him. I had made it about 3/4 of the way up.

You only get one try at the Wall. If you don't make it, you pick up your bike and walk up the grass on the side of the street. Which I did. After all my hype about the Wall and a brick with my name engraved in it, I didn't even feel disappointed. I tried it, I gave it my all, I had bad luck, oh well, let's get this bike up the hill, I've got a race to finish. I still don't feel any major disappointment. It's just one of those things I knew could happen, and it did; no big deal. Next time....

After the Wall comes Big Savage Mountain. With no flat or downhill in between. You crest the Wall and keep on climbing. I was off my bike from walking the rest of the Wall and couldn't get clipped in and going. Couldn't get the momentum on one foot to get the other clipped in, and fell, spilling all the sweet tea out of my aero bottle that I'd just refilled, gashing my ankle in a way that almost looks like a "Don't Go There" slash through my Ironman tattoo. I had to walk it the 100 yards or so to the clothing-drop station ahead, where there was a little flat pull-off. (Clothing drop was for the warm duds we'd put on in T-1, when we were wet and facing a 4-mile fast descent on a cool fall morning. We wouldn't need them the rest of the ride.)

The thing I liked best about Big Savage, and the other horrendous hills as well, was riding (repeat, riding) past men half my age who were walking their bikes. Other than having to quit the Wall and then not being able to get started, I did not walk my bike at all. A lot of riders did.

No, wait, that's not totally true. Twice on long hills my chain fell off, not a big deal, easy to fix, but again, on the steep hill I couldn't get going again. Rather than walk up those hills, though, I walked my bike back DOWN so I could get a new start from the bottom. It was my goal to RIDE every hill unless I fell.

Y'know what, folks..... I'm tired. And I have to be at work at the gym tomorrow morning at 7. I'll finish this in another post. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

READY TO ROLL

Preparations for SavageMan are rolling here at Deep Creek Lake State Park -- the inflatable buoys are in place in the lake, there are signs directing and encouraging athletes (a sign on the first stiff hill, just half a mile into the course, says "Let's Get This Party Started!!") All through the campground here, where we've lived since I left the Appalachian Trail, there are campers with cool road and tri bikes on their cars or locked to their picnic tables. I just met Julie, first real-life meeting with this email friend who put the SavageMan bug into my ear 4 years ago.

Four years! The first year, which was an unsupported "trial run" (the "0th Annual SavageMan Triathlon"), I didn't participate because it was too close to IronMan Florida for me to recover fully and continue to train. The next year, the inaugural running, we either left too early or got back too late with whatever work-camping commitment we had; I forget. Last year, the second year, I was registered but then tore my Achilles tendon and was out, although I did do the swim. It was my first-ever DNF in 20+ years of races. (I guess I just had my second DNF in June, by not continuing the Appalachian Trail.)

This year, I'm IN!!! I've stayed uninjured, I've fought off the inevitable taper-week cold with tons of vitamin C, I've stayed calm and collected this last week, and I'm IN!!!

The weather is going to be perfect. Low 54*F (about 57* by the time I get out of the water and onto the bike), high 68*, partly sunny/cloudy, only 10% chance of rain (that's as good as zero.) Not too cold, not too hot, wind from SE at 7mph..... couldn't ASK for better.

I am breaking my "no training the last week" rule and going for a short brick: Bike ride up the first hilly road, where that cute sign is, (Toothpick Road, Garrett County is notorious for its weird road names), do a loop for another short steep hill, then come back and run one loop around the campground. They say don't do anything new the day before a race but I always break the rules. I've never done this before but I need to loosen up.

Then it's on to packet pickup and bike check-in, mandatory athlete safety meeting ("This is a highly technical and dangerous course....") and then relax for the rest of the day.

I don't even have my transition bags packed and you know what, I'm not spazzing. I'll just throw some stuff in some bags and be ready. No obsessive sorting and resorting. I've done enough half and full Ironman races that I know the drill and have a list here.

This was going to be a short post. I guess I'm more excited than I thought!

Pray for me, if you're a praying person. And if you're not, then send good vibes. I want one of those bricks :-)

Friday, September 18, 2009

TWO DAYS OUT

I've cleaned surface dirt off my bike and done a few other get-it-ready things:
  • Switch new computer-holder-gizmo to other side of aerobars to make room for aerobottle
  • Take off hand-pump holder, since I've lost my hand pump
  • Taped down the spring-loaded armrests on my aerobars: I discovered, falling on the Wall, that a smack to the armrest will snap a zip-tie. Luckily that day I had duct tape. I've replaced that with less-conspicuous electrical tape.
  • Cleaned out my water bottles and aerobottle tube and stopper (a shower pouf.)

That duct tape... electrical tape....

My bike does not look like the spiffy, pristine tri-bikes a lot of the racers have. My bike serves me as real wheels much of the time. I ride it to work, to my mother's place, to wherever I need to go when I can't use the truck, or when I need training, or when I don't want to use diesel fuel. My bike has been used, not just "ridden." It is a vehicle, not a toy.

My paint has chips and scratches. The bar tape on my aeros is chewed up from a fall and I decided that, since that doesn't impair its function, the marginal cost of replacing it isn't worth it, even though I'd look classier.

I have red reflective tape on parts of the frame for times I've needed to ride at dusk. This is nearly impossible to remove, and also has chips, scratches, and gouges from falls.

It looks like a serviceable road bike that's given a lot of service, because that's what it is .... not a jazzy, snazzy racer bike.

My saddle pack and top-tube food carrier have obviously seen better days. I could have replaced both but decided to keep them and save the $40.

I am not going to look classy, but everything I have works.

My helmet is 4 years old, but it passed inspection. It's got old sticky stuff on it from previous race numbers. It's not one of those pointy outer-space aero helmets, either. Nor is it shiny anymore.

My only pair of bike shorts is in the sink being handwashed, since we don't have a washing machine (live in an RV.)

I'm going to wear my bright blue and orange Ironman Florida jersey.

That, plus my age in plain sight on my calf, should put the fear of God into 'em.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

SHOULD HAVE.....

..... been posting about my summer and my SavageMan training and my adjustment to life off the Trail.

But, as I learned on the Trail, "Should have" is a useless thing to say. The fact is, I haven't, and I regret it. My emotions have changed, evolved, and morphed over the summer and I'd have done well to record it. I haven't had the heart for it. I've been holing in on the sofa a lot, reading books (on the Trail I often felt I'd give a lot for a chance to lie on a sofa with a good book); I've been spending totally unproductive time playing FarmTown on Facebook. I've mostly kept up my training but have had a hard time getting or staying interested in anything else. I got a message the other evening from my hiking partner, Jim Dandy. He's not at Katahdin yet but has reached Maine. He was about 230 miles from finishing when I called him and we talked for awhile. It made me want to go back to the Trail as soon as I can manage it. I've been looking at new recipes for dishes that will dehydrate well.

I've been asked by two of my readers for an update, which I find very gratifying and flattering. Folks are wondering about me?

OK, here's the scoop.

SavageMan is coming up on Sunday!!! I'm as ready as I can be... certainly can't get any readier at this point. Well, yes, I can, by eating well and resting well and staying calm.

Calm was a problem until I stopped freaking out about the impossible hill called The Westernport Wall, and started picturing myself pedalling up it "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms." I went to a different church on Sunday, last minute decision, and that song was on the agenda, as well as "Love Lifted Me," also very appropos.... lift me right up that hill! The Wall is what it is and my attack on it will be what it will be. I've tried it 8 times now, made it twice.

I've ridden the entire bike course 4 times. The first time is described in my previous post. Ride #2 went differently: no bears except the hills themselves. Tried the Wall 5 times and fell 5 times, gave it up and went on. Decided the climb up Big Savage Mountain was a lot harder than I'd remembered. Didn't think Otto Lane and Maynardier Ridge were all that bad; Killer Miller Hill sucked.

Ride #3: Did not even try the Wall, rode around it. Big Savage still very impressive; Otto Lane not too bad; Maynerdier Ridge joined Killer Miller in "Hills that Suck."

Ride #4: Rode around the Wall again. Stopped at the top, looked down, thought, "From up here it doesn't look all that bad..." Walked down it, started from maybe 50 feet away on a cross street to get a little start, and ground up it. Several times I thought I was a goner and each time was surprised to find myself still upright and the pedals still turning. But I made it. On to Big Savage, which had gotten steeper and longer since my last time; Otto Lane finally joined the "Hills that Suck" list. But I finished the ride in 4 hours and 23 minutes, 7 minutes faster having ridden both around and up the Wall, than the last time when I'd ridden only around it. I'm not going for time, here; just hoping to beat the cutoff so I'll be allowed to run and finish the race. You are required not only to summit the Wall but also to finish the race, to get that brick.

On Sunday, the only way they can keep me off that Wall is to close the street. I am going to attack it. Going around is a valid option, no penalty for it; but, if I don't even ATTEMPT the Wall, I stand NO chance of getting a brick. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

In the Half-Iron-distance race, I am the oldest female registered, the only one in my age group (55-59), and the only female from Garrett County, MD, the host county. I've been through previous years' registration lists, and I'm the oldest female ever to register. Which means I'll also be the oldest female finisher in the race's history. A feather in my cap even if I fall on the Wall!

But I want one of those bricks. My name engraved in a brick for an accomplishment, and that brick inlaid in the city street where I accomplished it. Eventually there will be a stone somewhere with my name engraved on it, but I'd like one for something I did in LIFE.

Three more sleeps. I pray for dreams laced with victory.

Monday, August 03, 2009

THREE BEARS ON A BIKE RIDE

Could be the title of a children's story, but actually this is a training-ride report.
Yup, saw 3 bears on my ride. One mama-cub duo, and one other adult. The mama and cub surprised me, and no doubt they were surprised, too, when I whizzed past where they were taking a drink out of a ditch, just off to the right of the road. The cub wasn't much bigger than a basketball. Mama jerked her head up but I was already past them when I heard her startled "Whuf!" I glanced over my shoulder but she wasn't giving pursuit.
The next one was halfway down a straight hill, so I saw it a hundred yards or so ahead, slowed down just a tad and yelled at it: "Yo, bear! I'm coming! Move, git!!" It did. When I passed the spot, it was nowhere to be seen.
I had planned a 3.5-hour ride, headed to Westernport to check out the Wall, maybe try to ride it, keep going till 1.75 hours, then turn around and ride back home.
I changed plans, though, and kept going on the course instead of doing an out-and-back. Seemed there wasn't much point in re-riding the course backwards when I could keep going forwards and see what more of the course was like. After about 35 miles, I passed a turn-off and kept straight so that I looped back home instead of finishing the course, totalling about 48 miles.
Guess what, I rode up the Wall. It goes up for 3 blocks, with 2 cross-streets, so after each block I rested on the cross-street for a minute or two before tackling the next block. The third block is the worst. The pavement is in terrible condition, with holes and cracks, grass growing up out of the cracks, patched spots that are rough, plus the pitch is 31%. It's been closed to cars for years. My back tire skidded a couple times when I guess I lifted the front wheel up off the road pulling forwards -- gotta watch that. But I made it up. Lowest granny gear, but I made it. Actually, I probably will go a gear or two higher next time: I was standing on the pedals and the low granny was actually a little too low; I think it made me wobble.
I guess those 3 sections could also be called "three bears on a bike ride."
At the top I stopped, got off the bike, took a whiz in the woods, and settled down before continuing up Big Savage Mountain.
The alleged 7-mile, 1,950-foot climb up Big Savage wasn't all that bad. I stayed in my low gears and moseyed easily up. It would go up, then level off, up, then level.... not bad at all. I wondered if I was even on the right road, it was so much less taxing than I'd expected.
I didn't need my cue sheet; the route is clearly marked with paint, with plenty of advance notice of turns, curves, and scary descents. When I reached the turn-off where I could continue the course or go home, I went home, which was 13 or so miles. I knew exactly where I was, having ridden/driven that road a jillion times. It's on the way to my mom's house.
Neither of my bike computers is working, so I had my stopwatch running and then figured my mileage with a combination of the cue sheet and G-maps. 48.1 miles, time 3:55, = 12.3mph average, including several stops, the Wall, Big Savage, and the large number of other Garrett County, MD hills and long grades. It was actually very nice not having the computers. I just kept my gears easy and had a nice, no-pressure ride.
Next week I'll do the whole course. It's not as bad as I thought it would be. There are two or three more "bears" on the part of the course I didn't do, including one called "Killer Miller Hill," which some SavageMen have said is the worst of all, although it doesn't get its own page at the Savageman site.
I guess we could say Savageman's "Three Bears" are the Westernport Wall, Big Savage Mountain, and "Killer Miller Hill," whicih, of course, I haven't tackled yet. We shall see!
I'm happy, and relieved. Except for the Wall, so far this is just the Garrett County bike-riding I've been doing for years. I can do this.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

SOMEONE FINALLY SAID IT

I hadn't been able to put my finger on the answer before, no matter how hard I thought about it and how hard I tried.

The answer to the question asked of me on the Trail, by hikers, non-hikers, and by my own self:
"Why are you out here? Why are you doing this?"

I was watching the TV broadcast of the Ironman World Championship in Kona (it was on NBC last Saturday.) A participant who was a Navy Seal said, "You do this to test your soul."

To test your soul. That's the answer I've been looking for.

The great Christian writer Oswald Chambers said, "The author who benefits you most is not the one who teaches you something you did not know, but who puts into words what you have been struggling dumbly to express."

It's not the answer to why I run marathons or why I do triathlons, even the two Ironman triathlons I've completed. Those are physical tests. I guess my spirit is challenged to go through with marathon or Ironman training, but the events themselves don't test my soul.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail did. And I found I wasn't up to it. I have to develop some more before I can undertake that soul-test again. I have to develop and mature and change in a number of areas before I'll be ready. I thought I was ready. I guess I was ready to start.... just not ready to keep on.

Partly it was my body. My body was ready to start but not to continue past 1,000 miles.

But it was also my soul. Part of my soul is still out there, with my friends who are now in New York.

My AT hike is still a work in progress. So am I.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

ONE OR THE OTHER BUT NOT BOTH

Nope, this isn't about leaving the AT and returning to real life.

It's about my bike computers.

Since I started biking 3 weeks ago, my cadence computer hasn't been picking up. I cleaned the sensor, checked the position, checked the wires... still didn't work. Front-wheel sensor working fine, so I had my distance, time, speed, average, and max, but had to guess at my cadence, relying on (of all things) how it felt.

Yesterday I broke down and bought a new front tire (every tube I've put in, since running through the glass, has flatted.) Took both wheels with me in case I decided to buy 2 and have them put on. Ended up buying only one tire. They wanted money to put it on so I said, thanks, but no thanks. If it were free with the purchase, fine, but I can put the tire both wheels back on myself, thankyouverymuch. I'll buy a new rear tire come payday.

It was wonderful today to ride without my front tire going flat. But now.... my FRONT sensor isn't picking up, and, since removing and replacing the wheel, the REAR one is. So now I have cadence feedback but no distance, time, speed, average, or max.

Yes, I put the wheel on right side around. Yes, I've tinkered with the sensor position, and the position of the little gizmo that gives the info to the sensor. I rubbed dirt and dust off both. Nothin'.

Anyway, per schedule I rode for an hour by my watch. No stats other than that my cadence was in the 80's and 90's. I'll credit myself 16 miles: medium-distance, medium-pitch hills, as much downhill as up (for once) and I probably averaged 16. Maybe.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

BIKING TO WORK

Well, I wish I had a video. Or even a photo. But didn't have the foresight to have a photographer accompany me.

My first day at the gym job. I was supposed to open the facility at 7:00a.m. I left at 6:05 on my bike allowing me plenty of time for an effortless 7.5 miles, planning to get there at 7:45.

Until I rode through the glass.

There must have been a wreck. There was crumbled windshield glass all over the road. There was no way I could ride around it, and by the time I saw it, I was already in it.

And of course a tire went immediately flat.

I was only about half a mile out from the gym, and thought, "I could walk the bike there as fast as I can change the flat." So I pulled my running shoes out of my backpack, changed shoes, and started walking.

The County Fairground is right there, and I saw that the lower gate was open. I could cross the hypoteneuse of a right triangle, rather than its sides, by going through the fairgrounds. Good! That'll save time.

Until I discovered that the upper gate, right across the road from the gym entrance, was locked. Chainlink fence, 6 feet high, topped with barbed wire, gate of the same. Locked.

By now, if I go back down through the fairgrounds and back around the right-angle of the road, I will be late. I'm opening the gym; there's no one else there. I can't go back around the road.

I have to get over the fence. Chainlink. Six feet high. With barbed wire at the top.

I saw an above-ground electric box, about 2 feet high, a few yards along the fence. And above the box.... a place where the barbed wire was broken. We're on! It's the only way I can even get close to opening the gym on time.

I climbed up onto the electric box, picked up my bike, hoisted it over the fence, and dropped it down on the other side, keeping my arms out of the way of the barbed wire.

Then I tried to find a foothold.

Yeah, right. Chainlink has little diamond-shaped structures about 2.5 inches across. Standing on the electric box, I only had to climb up about 4 feet of them. But my toes wouldn't fit in, and the little x's formed by the chainlink structure protruded above the top rail, even where the barbed wire was broken. I had to navigate over those sharp wire x's as well as through the little sagging place in the barbed wire.

It took half a dozen tries. I had to find a handhold between the x's to give me some leverage and stability, and stick the tips of the toes of my bike shoes in between the chainlinks and hope friction or something would hold me in place, while I dodged the sharp x's and maneuvered into the narrow spot where the barbed wire was loose.

I had to unhook my shorts from the fencing and barbed wire several times, while not losing my grip with the other hand. From the top of the fence, it was 6 feet down (no electric box on the other side.) I dropped my daypack over as something, anything, to land/fall on.

Several cars passed during all this. No one stopped to see if I needed help or to ask what the heck I was doing. I guess a small, skinny, older woman in shorts and a bike helmet, climbing over a barbed-wire-topped chainlink fence at the fairgrounds with her bike waiting on the other side, is an everyday occurrence.

I prayed, "Lord, I'm training for SavageMan... Please don't let me get hurt."

And with that, I Spidermanned up one side, through the hooks and spikes, and down the other. I was not hurt. My clothes were not torn. I was over!!

I had the gym open at 5 minutes before 7.

Whew!!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

BACK TO LIFE

Yesterday I went back to bed, after an hour-long birdwatching walk with a group from the park, during which I still felt so miserable I wanted to just go home and cry. I felt a lot better after I slept a couple more hours. Then I went with my mother to the viewing of a friend of hers, whose death we hadn't even known about when we got up yesterday morning (although I knew about it by birdwatching time, another reason I was miserable.) I skipped the planned swim and bike, took a rest day. I've been knocking myself out grinding my bike up hills with no particular plan except increasing the mileage of each ride (I got up to 24 with about a 4-mile killer hill about 5 days ago and was sick the rest of the day.)



Today, by contrast:

Got up at 6:15

Drove (did not bike) to gym where I start part-time job tomorrow, had hour-long orientation

Ran 30 minutes

Went on plant-identification walk with group from park, loved it, learned a lot

Feel much more optimistic, motivated, productive, hopeful; much less tired, remorseful, or depressed.



On my run, I followed Jeff Galloway's suggested run/walk pattern for 9-minute miles: run 2 minutes, walk 30 seconds. Not sure if this is recommended if you're already running 9-min miles (I don't think I am), or if you're hoping to achieve them (that would be nice.) Also not sure I'll stick with that pattern, but for now while I'm still testing and challenging my tendons, it's both conservative and ambitious enough.

I've downloaded and printed Gail Bernhardt's 13-week Ironman training program, to use for my SavageMan Half. My long runs won't have to be as long, but the swim and bike sessions are fine for me just as they are. The longest bike workout is 5 hours, which is just about what the SM course will probably take me (or longer....)

Since I'm 9 weeks out from SavageMan, I jumped into the program at Week 4, which happily is a "rest" week after 3 "build" weeks. I'm amazed at how easy this program is, the relatively few training hours and easy workouts. Reading over it, it became clear to me that I've been working myself far, far too hard, pounding myself too hard for too long on the hills on the bike, and doing too many bricks and 3-way's (all 3 sports in one day.) I've done low-key 1/2 and full IM training before, but somehow thought I needed to put in 2-3 hours a day for this one because of the difficulty of the course and because I've been hiking hills and mountains 8-10 hours a day and wanted to maintain my fitness.

There is no way I can maintain what 8-10 hours a day gave me. I might as well give that up right now, and as a matter of fact I have. What I can do is take that wonderful base and enjoy my 1-1.5 hour tri-training sessions, even if I gain a few pounds and lose a few muscle fibers.

So: tomorrow's training is supposed to be:
1-hour swim
30-min bike

I'm already breaking training, though. I'll bike the 8 miles to and from the gym, which will be about an hour of biking. Working 7-4 tomorrow, alone, my first day there. Luckily I've worked there before, maybe 3 years ago, and not much has changed.

With that work shift and a bike ride home, I probably won't work in the swim. It's OK, though. I really don't need to swim more than once or twice a week, just enough to keep me from panicking at the start of the race, and get me through before the cutoff time, a generous 70 minutes for the 1.2-mile swim. No problem there.

On with the show....

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

WEEKEND

We spent the weekend in Columbus, OH, with ALL of our kids and grandkids, and my mother, and Steve's parents.

We had a great barbecued-ribs picnic.

I shared the One-Hundred Pushups website with our 16-yr-old wrestler step-grandson and we did pushups together.

I went running, with our 13-yr-old grandson and 10-yr-old granddaughter along on bikes. One hour, 3 min walk/3 min run, no tendon problems.

We got photos of four generations on both sides of the family.

I hurt a beloved family member badly without meaning to and it continues to haunt me even though we hugged and talked about it. I'd give anything to be able to undo it. Anything. Anything.

I finally made friends with our one-year-old granddaughter.

I jumped on the trampoline with the grandkids until I got motion sick, which was about 90 seconds.

My mother, 6-yr-old granddaughter, and I went to our 10-yr-old granddaughter's gym and watched the last half-hour of her 4-hour gymnastics practice.

I played innumerable alphabet games with our 6-yr-old granddaughter for the 4-5-hour trip both ways in the car. I drove both ways, with her and my mother and my 50-pound dog. Steve and our son and the one-yr-old went in our son's truck.

I came home so drained and exhausted from the highs, lows, and exertions, that I wanted to cry but couldn't.

I went to bed at 8:30 and read Jeff Galloway's "Running Until You're 100." He recommends running every other day at my age. He says nothing about whether the off-days should include bike training for a half-iron triathlon with a 7-mile climb straight up the mountain, and that's only the longest of the climbs (1,950 of the total 5,700 feet of climbing.)

I finally fell asleep after 11 and woke up at 4:30. I don't know how I'm going to train today. I also don't know how I'm going to be ready for this triathlon.

It's not even 7 o'clock in the morning and already I'm discouraged.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

COULDA, SHOULDA, WOULDA

Tonight I'm feeling homesick for the Trail. I miss my hiking companions.

Maybe I should have stayed out there.
If I'd done some things differently, maybe I could have.
If certain things had been otherwise, I would have.

But I didn't, and things are they way they are.

Maybe I shouldn't have stopped.
Maybe I could have kept going.
If I could have.... should I have? Would I?

You know what.... "Should have..." "Would have..." "Could have...."

These are all useless speculations. Whenever we say these words, the fact of the matter is, we didn't. Pondering whether we should have, or would have, or could have, is continuing to try to make a decision that has already made.

The reality is, we didn't. Learn from it, pick it up and go from there; don't waste energy imagining how things might be different if we had, because imagining is all we can do. Better to direct one's power into the reality that is now.

Tomorrow's docket holds some serious hills on the bike. 20 miles, to the bottom of SavageMan's first, 4-mile "dangerous descent" (verbatim from course cue sheet), and then back up it.

I would have been irreparably sorry if my prospects for SavageMan disappeared -- if I chose the Trail, and then, for whatever reason, SavageMan was discontinued. This I knew.

I "could have" broken my ankle out there if I'd kept on, and and not been able to have either the Trail or SavageMan.

This way, I have both.

I RAN!

One hour, walk/run intervals in a pattern of 3:00/2:00 for a total of 24 minutes of running.

No word from my tendons, during, after, or today. No news is good news.

But my quads are sore. I can't believe it. I've been walking down mountains carrying a 30-pound backpack for 3 months.... I thought I had quads like the gods'. Twenty-four minutes of intermittent running, over very gentle rolls with downhills rarely coinciding with the run segments, made them sore.

Either I'm losing it or it continues to demonstrate, as I've discovered already, that these triathlon sports are not to be equated with hiking. I can't just jump into it as I thought I'd be able to. I have the endurance, and aerobically I'm fine on heavy-duty bike climbs, but my legs.... well, it's not the same. I thought I'd be able easily to knock off 2 or 3 hours of training a day.

Oh, well.... who *needs* 2 or 3 hours a day? It's not like I'm getting paid for this.

I just want to kill the Westernport Wall. Or at least put it out of its misery.

And then continue to ride the remaining 7 miles of Big Savage Mountain with something resembling aplomb.

Go on. Check the links. I dare ya. Well, no, actually I really want you to. This is one hell of a triathlon. I hope I'm up to it.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

ADJUSTING

First, though.... isn't today's date cool? 7/8/9. Won't happen again till 8/9/10.

Our granddaughter Gracie, when she was about 6, had a favorite joke: Why is 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 8 9. We laughed and said it was funny. She told it to us every time we saw her for a couple years. One summer, when she was maybe 9, she asked the question, and I answered: "Because 7 8 9." She was silent a moment and then burst out laughing: "Oh! I get it! Because 7 ate 9!" Then she looked abashed and said, "Took me long enough....."

Anyway....

I'm 6 steps forward and 2 steps back adjusting to off-Trail life. Yesterday was a rest day from training and I couldn't find anything to do with myself except read and eat. I finished John Steinbeck's "Tortilla Flat" -- a hilarious tragedy -- and started a borrow-and-bring-back from a coffee house: Jan Karon's "Home to Holly Springs."

I ate like an idiot. We didn't have any junk food so I made my own out of weird combinations. My weight is up 3 pounds today.... too many carbohydrates = fluid gain. My Google average is up a pound from last week although it still says "Maintaining your weight." I ate a lot of stupid stuff because I couldn't think of anything to do. I could have played the guitar or penny whistle (piano isn't set back up yet) or cleaned out my closet or.... but I didn't. I ate and lay on the couch and read books.

I haven't decided how much weight it's OK to regain. I thought I was 15 pounds overweight at the start of my hike and lost 20-21. I'd like to stay just under where I'd been if I'd lost the 15 -- which is where I am now.

I felt restless and sluggish all day. Maybe I should go take a hike on "rest days." I felt depressed and unmotivated. Hiking all day every day took the decision-making out of the Trail days. Wake up, hike 15-20 miles, stop, eat, sleep. Decisions were like, fill my empty bottle at this creek, or do I have enough in my other bottle to make it to the next one? Never anything like how to fill empty days.

Last night I slept in my sleeping bag on the deck outside our camper. It was cool and breezy and the bag/underpad combination felt right and today I feel better. Going grocery shopping and then out to walk/run on the SMan course, then taking care of Abbie and Sarah for the afternoon and evening.

Monday, July 06, 2009

SAVAGEMAN TRAINING

I had this idea that, having hiked 8-10 hours a day for 3 months over steep hills, 5,000-ft mountains, rocks and boulders, carrying a 30-pound backpack, it would be a cinch to switch to a couple hours a day of triathlon training carrying *no* pack.

It's not.

My arms and shoulders, accustomed to "poling" with my hiking poles, as well as push-ups, aren't used to swimming.

My legs, hardened to hauling me and my pack up and down hills, aren't used to pedalling.

My back, strengthened to the weight of my backpack, isn't used to riding position on a road bike.

My rib cage muscles, used to heavy breathing over long, slow effort, aren't used to the aerobic intensity of biking up hills.

My feet, accustomed to 15-20 miles a day walking on dirt and rocks in thick-soled leather-and-Goretex hiking boots, aren't used to running on pavement in flexible lightweight fabric running shoes.

I was worried about my Achilles tendons. I wasn't prepared for metatarsal soreness just from flexing my feet more on the road than on the trail. Plus I'm still concerned about my tendons.

My butt, smaller with less cushioning than before, isn't used to the saddle. My sitbones hurt.

Nevertheless, here's the training story:

Last week
Came home from Trail on Monday. Rested Tuesday and Wednesday.

Thursday: 35-minute swim, in wetsuit in lake. Later, one loop of SavageMan run course (6+ miles) walking, 30-second run every 10 minutes for total of 80 minutes with grand total of a whopping 4 minutes of running.

Friday: 16-mile bike, on SavageMan course, average 14.7mph. Saw a black bear, a turkey, and a deer -- more wildlilfe than on any single day on the AT.

Saturday: Rested.

This week
Sunday: Brick consisting of 18-mile bike, including a 2-mile-long uphill and a bunch of shorter ones, 15.7mph avg., then a one-minute walk followed by 5-minute run. No complaints from tendons.

Monday (today): Although my rib muscles were sore from yesterday, 40-minute swim with swim-to-bike transition and easy-spin 11.5 mile bike. Then got ambitious and did 9-minute run.

Tomorrow: I better be careful. Going pretty hard here. And right now, it's 9:30pm and I'm going to bed. Good night!

ONE WEEK LATER

I'm finally unpacking my backpack. This makes it official: it's over. I haven't been able to bring myself to do it till now.

Tent is set up outside airing out, sleeping bag and liner are in the hamper, rain pants in the closet, various accoutrements where the various accoutrements go (or in the trash), "everything dress" (nightgown, camp dress, town dress, laundry-day dress, even church dress, purchased for $1 at a yard sale in Damascus, VA) is hand-washed and hanging to drip dry, and I guess the pack will go in the big bin with my unused dehydrated food and other supplies. Maybe I'll store it in Jon or Jamie's freezer, rather than eating it up over the summer as I'd planned. It'll be that much less to dehydrate for next year (or whenever.)

Thank you so much to all who have been following my journey and offered their support, encouragement, and congratulations. I'll be getting to you all individually... stay tuned, waiting with baited breath!

I have a lot of catching up to do, blog-wise, on unfoldings between "The Last Night" and now. I've been in the water, on my bike, and in my running shoes (transitioning v-e-r-y carefully from hiking to running and listening carefully to my tendons. Up to 5 minutes of running now!!) I have also been to church with my mother, to the local 4th of July "Homecoming" parade and picnic, to our son's birthday dinner, and especially have been with our two youngest granddaughters catching up with them. Abbie wants to monopolize me, which isn't difficult as Sarah (13 months) doesn't even KNOW me and only fraternizes with me as a last resort if her parents, grandpa, or other grandparents aren't available.

~Sigh~

Thursday, July 02, 2009

THE LAST NIGHT

(My journal, 06/08/09)

Miles hiked: 11.x, short day following yesterday's near-20.
Hiked with: Jim Dandy and Bee Man, but they walked down the road to get cheeseburgers and I hiked on, so I was alone for 8 miles of thoughts and rocks and finished an hour or so ahead of them.
Stayed at: Blackburn AT Center, an actual house with wrap-around screened porch for eating, socializing, and sleeping (no access to actual house), 7 tentsites, a lukewarm solar shower, potable water from a hose, and a cabin with 4 bunks.
Weather: Cool and breezy.
Terrain: Steep ups and downs, and very rocky.

Bee Man, Jim Dandy, Solar Man and I stayed in the cabin. The 3-generation family slept on the screened porch, along with Lucky Star (a girl) and Pyrofly (a guy), who hike together and whom I've run into here and there for a couple months. It was good to see them again to say goodbye.

The caretaker cooked up a huge vat of spaghetti, with made-from-scratch sauce and Italian bread he'd also made himself, and brownies. Bee Man eats no wheat products and abstained, cooking up whatever lentil-rice mix he had there. I don't eat wheat, either, in general, but I took a chance and ate the dinner. Afterwards I took 2 Imodium tablets, then another before bed, and another on awakening, which allowed me to make it to the pit privy w/o having to make an emergency stop en route and dig a cat hole. Another tablet back in the cabin, and I was OK the rest of the day. Why does everything have to be made with wheat???

The cabin had a front porch, and after dinner I sat out there playing sad, sweet farewell songs on my Irish penny whistle. "Auld Lang Syne," and "God Be With You Till We Meet Again," the mood of which was shot when one of the guys, I'm not saying who, ripped this elongated, exaggerated fart, an everyday occurrence among hikers subsisting on dehydrated food and legumes, but this one rated probably an 8 out of 10, and that was the end of the sad sweet songs as typical ribald hiker hilarity took over. We have deteriorated into a bunch of dirtballs.

Solar Man had left the Trail for about 3 weeks and returned about 5 days ago. When he saw me he said, "Yard Sale! Gad! You look like a refugee from a war camp! Every time you go near a town you need to get 3 Big Macs!" Solar Man is fun. He's from Hawaii and has done IronMan Kona.

My last night on the Trail. Jim Dandy asked me, "Are you having regrets yet?" I said, "Yeah. But I'm doing the right thing."

I am. I can't wait to get on my bike again. I hope I can run. My tendons were aching today on the last section of the Roller Coaster. Not injured.... just stressed. My knees hurt, too, but I'm not worried about them. I have Achilles Tendon PTSD. My plantar fascia hurts as well, and my unhealed sub-callus blisters. Actually, now that I think of it, I hurt all over. Bedtime meds now include: Xanax to prevent nighttime panic attacks as well as induce sleep; Benadryl because my myriad bug bites itch (also helps with sleep); 600-800mg of ibuprofen, since as soon as I lie down my hips, thighbones, knees, shinbones, ankles and feet start to ache, about a 6 on a scale of 10. And of course, tonight, I included the Imodium as antidote to the bread-and-pasta dinner.

My last night. Harper's Ferry tomorrow will give me 1,013 miles. Even without the lure of SavageMan, I don't think I have another 1,170 miles in me. I am whupped.

THE LAST DAYS

(My journal from 06/27/09)

The die is cast.

Steve has registered me for SavageMan and I'm going home from Harper's Ferry, WV, the day aftre tomorrow. This is my next to last night on the Trail, for this trip.

I am not finished with the AT.

Next year. Next year, a start from Harper's Ferry in early June will put me with the northbound thru-hikers, with plenty of companions. I'll finish in time for Steve's mother's 80th birthday party in mid-September.

Now that I'm leaving, I finally have my backpack adjusted to compensate for the loss of my butt curve. I bent the internal stays and added some closed-cell foam for sacral padding.

Now that I'm leaving, I finally have my socks figured our: Cool-Max liner socks + knee-hi hose + Smartwool hikers.

Now that I'm leaving, I finally have hiking partners whose distance and pace match mine. It has been a pleasure and privilege the past 2-3 weeks to hike with Jim Dandy (my age) and Bee Man (daughter Val's age.) Jim Dandy and I have had spirited discussions on religion, theology, philosophy, and a little politics, that have made me think and want to read up more.

But I am sure this is the right decision for me at this time. I'll probably cry for a week after getting home, and I've told Steve to be prepared for that.

When I think of not reaching the summit of Katahdin this trip, I feel regret.

When I think of not doing SavageMan this year, in this physical shape, living and training on the actual course, I feel heartbroken.

Heartbroken wins. SavageMan, here I come.
_____________

Miles hiked today: 19.8, over the first half of the "Roller Coaster" section on which I blew out my Achilles tendons last year. I'm stepping carefully and my ears are pricked for any suggestion of alarm bells coming from my heels.

Stayed at: Rod Hollow Shelter, where I stayed on that practice hike last year. I feel, again, that I'm home.

Shelter/tentsite companions: Jim Dandy, Bee Man, Bird, Freebird, Amero, and a 3-generation family consisting of 2 adult grandsons, 2 middle-aged sons, and the 77-yr-old matriarch, Nancy (trail name "Gran"), who hiked over 12 miles today with her progeny. They're out for a 3-day weekend, total of about 60 miles planned. Yup, Gran does that mileage. She was great fun to talk to. She started running at age 57 and in 20 years has run 400 races of various lengths, including 3 marathons. Her favorite distance is the half-marathon; marathons are too long and 5K and 10K too intense. Yup, she still runs, too, besides backpacking long days. She weighs 95 pounds and carries a 30-40-pound pack.

There was space in the shelter, but I tented. Just felt like it. I was next to the rippling creek. On my Irish penny whistle I played the hymn "In the Cross" because of the line, "Rest beyond the river."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

SURE

6/25

I called Steve and told him i want to come home. Harper's Ferry will give me 1,013 miles, and I can touch the WV/MD line before I go.
Then I will have 10 weeks to train for Savageman. The only tricky part will be to see if i can run, and then build up to 13 miles.
I am so excited about Savageman. When I think about not hiking thru to Maine, I kind of feel like "Ah, shrug, I can continue next year" (that's the current plan) If I think about not doing Savageman, I feel like my heart is breaking.
So that's what I'm doing.
miles today: 17.5
miles to go: 67
I am on the home stretch. Front Royal, VA tomorrow. I've been there before. I've been all over this area. I know where I am. I'm home.

NOT SURE

6/24

I'm definitely leaning towards the Savageman triathlon instead of the Trail, but haven't had the nerve yet to make the decision. I am tired in mind and body (which has dwindled down to muscle, skin, and bones) and I can never get my feet pain free. I have calluses that are rubbing blisters on the tissue beneath them, which are untreatable.
Miles traveled: 10.9 Short day.
Stayed at: Byrd's Nest #3 Hut (shelter) where mice ruled. Rustled in the backpacks during the night, and when chased out, would just sit and stare at us, brazenly licking whatever they'd found off their paws. They might as well have had their little middle finger pointed upwards.
Highlights: awesome cheeseburger lunch at a sit-down restaurant, "Skyland Dining Room" in Shenandoah National Park. They put us (Jim Dandy, Bee Man, and me) in an inconspicuous dark corner. On the trail, housekeeping and hygiene are limited to the most rudimentary methods, and we had to remember not to lick our plates and our fingers.

EVIL THOUGHTS

6/22

My blisters keep recurring even though my new boots are now two weeks old.
With my 20-pound weight loss, my pack doesn't fit right anymore. I've put extra padding where my bones are but I'm always adjusting and readjusting. sometimes my shoulder hurts all the way down my back.
I hurt. I hurt all over. I'm tired. I miss my husband, my dog, my mother, my piano, my friends.
I made a deal with myself that if I lost the joy I'd give myself two weeks before doing anything rash.
I don't know if I have the guts, or the feet, or the mental endurance, to finish this hike.
Miles today: 17.5, from South River Picnic Area (900.3) to Rock Spring Hut (917.8) still in Shenandoah National Park
miles to go: 1260.5 (except I'm not sure I want to right now)
companions: Still with Jim Dandy and Bee Man
Highlights: setting the afternoon pace and getting us to the shelter an hour earlier than original estimate without killing anyone (9 hours 45 minutes including food stop at a campground and detour to a Shelter to sign the register)
Taking pictures of the setting sun, a red ball predicting good weather tomorrow.
Watching a deer graze completely unafraid of us, ten feet away.
Marathons done:31.2
6/21

Happy Father's Day! Happy Summer Solstice!

Hiked from:Pinefield Hut, Shenandoah State Park, mile 885.7
Hike to: South River Picnic Area in Park, mile 900.3 (BROKE THE 900 MARK!!)
Miles done: 15.6
Weather: Sunny, windy, 80 degrees F (same as yesterday, which actually started out looking threatening but cleared up)
Camping in: Tent, in a grassy tree-surrounded meadow in the picnic area. This is no doubt illegal but we're quiet, not hurting or disturbing anyone or anything (except the grass), and we're too whupped to go on 5 more miles to the next hut. Plus, I cleaned up the ladies room and picked up picnickers' trash.
I. Am. So. Tired. Yesterday's 21+ miles left their mark on me today. I was dragging. My pack was hurting my shoulder and back and I couldn't get it adjusted to stop hurting. I took 800mg of Motrin which helped a little. at lunch I couldn't get enough to eat. Had tuna Fritos (very good together), then peanut butter straight out of the jar )probably nearly half a cupful), then a couple mini candy bars dipped in PB, then a bag of fruit/nut mix, and after that I still felt I could have taken on a big steak dinner had one been available.
Then the rest of the afternoon I couldn't get enough water. Literally. I was dying of thirst (Fritos, a vat of peanut butter) but water sources were scarce. When we found the picnic area I drank 40oz straight down and still wasn't peeing an hour later so I drank 20 more oz, which shortly in a modest amount of pee but enough that it counted.
Traveling still with Bee Man (used to keep bees) and Jim Dandy. also, a father-son duo is hiking southbound ("SOBO") from Harper's ferry, WV to Waynesboro, VA. They're camping illegally in the meadow, too.
Highlights: Finding Lamb's Quarters to cook into my dinner soup. Yum. It's one of the most delicious and nutritious leafy greens on the planet but no one eats it because it's a weed. They pull it out of their gardens and toss it in the burn pile. Look it up on Wikipedia to learn about a vegetable that will change your menus.

PINEFIELD HUT

6/20

Shenandoah National Park

Miles traveled 21.x (not sure since our campsite last night was a "non-established" unmarked one.)
Anyway, it was a new one-day AT distance PR for me. For all of us (me, Jim Dandy, and Bee Man.) Took us 12 hours including a couple of long stops.
Sleeping tonight in a shelter, Pinefield Hut, at mile 885.7.
Distance left to Katahdin: 1292.6 I've broken the 1300 mark for distance remaining!!
Highlights: seeing two turkeys accompanied by a gaggle of stringy, awkward looking chicks. Buying a cold Pepsi and a cold orange juice at a campground store (RV/tent campground) Drank 'em both down. Seeing lots of pale pink wild roses. Having an after-dinner "hot toddy" made with Sleepy Time tea, orange Crystal Light, extra sugar, and orange vodka (sent by Steve, he sometimes sends me nip bottles). Seeing the shelter after 21.x miles. Hitting the sack.

WAYNESBORO, VA

6/19

Stayed at Grace Lutheran Church Hostel-and how wonderful it was! Volunteer ministry with food, cots, computers, kitchen, and FREE (runs on donations.) Everyone was more than helpful.
Other hikers there: Jim Dandy, Hot Feet (a girl whose boots are 100% leather and too warm) Bee Man, and two others I didn't know.
Waiting now for a ride back to the trail. 13-18 miles planned depending on start time. I added padding to my shoulder straps to compensate for my weight loss. Someone had left closed-cell foam in the hiker box so it was free.
Weather forecast:90's, humid, afternoon T-storms. We'll see!

Evening-Traveled to: Dry camping in the woods in Shenandoah National Park near Skyline Drive.
Miles: about 10. The first day out of town is always hard because the food bags are full, we've eten unaccustomed food, slept indoors, started out late. We were tired all day.
Traveled with: Jim Dandy and Bee Man
The three of us found a flat place big enough for three tents. It's quiet, companionable and pleasant. I'm hungry, a couple hours after supper, but my food bag is hanging in a tree. So I'll go to sleep and then I won't feel it.
A whippoorwill is singing.

Monday, June 29, 2009

6/18

Waynesboro, VA
miles done:852.5
miles to go:1325.8 - 1330.8 depending on source of info.

I can't keep up the stream of thought journal. It's too much for me to write, too much for Avery to type, too much for anyone to read.
I lost Young Scott. Just couldn't keep up with a man 1/2 my age. :) Silly to try. I've hiked alone and with others, passed them or been passed and been alone again. Last couple days I've been with Jim Dandy, who hikes Young scott's miles but at my pace. We'll see how long it lasts. Actually I could go faster but what's the point, if the days endpoint is the same, and we're there so one of us can help if the other gets hurt?
I've had beautiful days and horrible days. Yesterday was the "second worst"- cold, raining, windy, I had really painful blisters. Not sure about these new boots. My worst day, I wrote in the register at the shelter (maybe 5 days ago) "I can't go on like this. I'm miserable. I want to go home and train for the triathlon my friends are training for."
I have this signature:
momsig2.jpg
That day I signed
momsig3.jpg

A lot of people the next day asked if I was really okay. I was, after a night's sleep, despite rain during the night that required an hour's cleanup before I could load and go.
Off now for a real lunch. I've lost 18.5 pounds, down now to 111.5 according to the scale at the YMCA.
I'll try real hard to record each day's mileage, weather, companions, and highlights like seeing a scarlet tanager. Thanks for reading - I'm still in the game.

HARD TO KEEP UP

6/10

It's hard to walk all day, then set up camp, cook and eat supper, socialize with shelter or camp mates, and still have time to write about all that's happened and still get the 10 or so hours of sleep that it takes to recover. I never thought that keeping up with paperwork would be a problem on the AT. so, backtracking a couple days....

6/8 (Monday) Young Scott and I had milkshakes in town and finally headed back to the Trail about 2:30; with only 5 miles to the next shelter, we expected to be there between 4:30 and 5:00. I t was hot (the thermometer in town had said 88.5 degrees F) and very humid, We had heavy loads from the re-supply (A resupply adds 10 pounds to my pack), I was a little awkward in my new boots, and Young Scott's milkshake wasn't sitting real well. He felt really ill and kept stopping to sit on his pack and rest. I stepped in cow shit with my new boots when the trail crossed a pasture. :(
We saw two curved sticks that had randomly fallen into a perfect Christian fish.
Fullhardt Knob shelter had an elaborate cistern system that collected rainwater from the roof and piped it down the hill to a faucet. Presto- running water! Funny color, though, and a sign warned to boil or treat it (which we do with all our water anyway).
The shelter also had what appeared to be thousands of tiny, almost microscopic baby spiders, little tan dots scurrying rapidly over the fire pit, picnic table, and anything placed near them: boots, cooking equipment, food bags, arms, laps, anything at rest. I couldn't imagine how fast their little legs must be moving. It looked like a microscopic Pac-Man game.

CATCHING UP

6/8

So Gaia and I left Mountain Harbour Hostel and proceeded to get lost. At the top of a long hill were 5 paths and roads, none of which had white blazes. Rumor had it that local folk, disgruntled in property line disputes, obliterated the existing blazes and painted blazes elsewhere to lead hikers astray. Whether or not that's true I don't know, but we picked a road and now and then we saw a blaze so we kept at it for a mile or so before we decided it couldn't be right so we headed back and discovered a turn-off so well marked we couldn't understand how we missed it. So we got back onto the Trail with an extra 2 miles or so to our credit. It was a long-miles day to begin with: the Trail Days Festival in Damascus, VA is May 14-17 and everyone is pushing big miles to get there. There are a lot of vendors, like at a marathon expo, good deals on gear, and good fair-type food. And a parade featuring thousands of current and former AT hikers. We ended up with a 16+2 mile day. Exhausted.
6/8

Young Scott and I are sitting outside the Post Office in Troutsville, VA, leaning against our packs, enjoying the shade, waiting for the P.O. to re-open after the government mandated hour long lunch break. Young Scott has to pick up his food box and I'm mailing some stuff home. Then we're headed back out to the Trail for a couple-hour hike to the nearest shelter (Fullhardt Knob Shelter, mile 723.6)
Tomorrow we reach the 1/3 milestone, expect we won't know it, it'll just be an estimate based on time. I just spent over $100 on new boots so I'm committed to another boot lifetime. The ones I got at Neels Gap (Day 4 of hike?) wore out. The uppers were losing their stitching. They smelled like leaf mold, swamp muck, sweaty socks, and the fabric softener sheets I'd been putting under the insoles in the hopes of diminishing the funk. I think they just added an ingredient.

Evening: I'm stronger! A rafter in the shelter is just the right height for a chin-up and I tried to see if I could do one. I did FOUR!! Prior to the hike I couldn't do even one. Of course, I'm lifting at least 16 pounds less than the last time I tried.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

RAIN, RAIN!

5/25

RAIN, RAIN!

After retiring at 7 last night, I slept till 8 am. Still tired, told the others i might take a zero day, took a nap, felt better, and started off at noon. Four miles uphill to Chestnut Knob shelter and I was whipped again. I sat in the shelter for close to an hour deciding whether to stay or go on. Finally decided to go, there was a campsite after 7 miles and all downhill. I took off feeling suddenly much better and practically ran the first few miles. Then the rain started. It POURED. My rain jacket was useless. When I came to the turnoff for the campsite, it was raining so hard I couldn't make myself hike the half-mile to the site in the rain, set up my tent in the rain getting it all wet, when there was a shelter just 3 miles on. So I pushed through the rain and the oncoming darkness (I'd had that late start and then a long stop at the first shelter). I booked. It was getting darker and my headlamp was somewhere inside my pack. I felt around for it unsuccessfully. Note to self: put headlamp in accessible place even if you don't expect to be night-hiking, since you never know.
so I hurried on and on through the rain and the darkness. I've never been rained on so hard in my life. The deluge seemed Biblical in ferocity. But no wind and it wasn't cold, so I was still OK. Water was running down the Trail 3 inches deep. It reflected the little light still coming through the heavy forest, so I could actually see the Trail, or at least the river it had become. I kept telling myself, if I can do the Ironman, I can do this. If I finished that marathon at IMFL, I can do this...I'm not cold like I was then. If the athletes at IMCDA got through their Ironman that riny day, I can do this. If it doesn't get any darker, I can do this. Finally I saw a sign, and it pointed to the shelter, and I was there, and there was still room inside. Thank goodness! I put down my sleeping bag, said "Guys, I gotta get my wet clothes off, if you're looking for a thrill this probably ain't it", stripped and climbed into my bag.
So...woke up feeling awful, went back to bed, considered a zero, reluctantly started a "short" day at noon, got a second wind, perked up, and ran through the rain for 3 hours for a total of a very wet, strenuous 14 miles. A roof over my head and a space for my sleeping bag on the dirty wood floor of a 3-sided shelter full of men, mice and spiders was pure luxury.

DITTO

5/24



Beautiful creekside campsite. Looked like I was going to be the only one but others showed up, decided I had a good thing going, and pitched their tents, too.
Lucky Star and Pyrofly, George (a girl) and Logan and their dog Corbin, others I don't know and/or didn't see - I was whipped, that "so tired I hurt" feeling, went to bed at 7.

RESUPPLY DAY

5/23

The plan is to hike the 3.5 miles to Rural Retreat, a one-horse crossroad, picj up my mail drop at The Barn Restaurant, buy lunch there as thanks, get a ride to Atkins or Sugar Grove to get groceries supplies that aren't in my box, get a ride back to the Trail, and hike 7 more miles to the nearest good campsite. 10+ miles plus shopping. Gotta get myself together and move on out.


ANOTHER GORGEOUS CAMPSITE

Under a rhodendron thicket, 15 feet from the creek. I've pulled my rainfly back so I'm mostly in just the bug net of my inner tent. If rain starts, I can easily hop out, pull it up, and clip it in place.
Whippoorwills are chirping all around. When one stops, another starts. all alongside the bubbling brook.
A dozen tents are just up the bank, so I'm not really alone as I sleep alone in my creekside hideaway.

TRIMPI SHELTER TO SHATFIELD SHELTER

From Ellie's journal, May 26. Apparently I typed these and somehow managed to only post half of them, I have no idea how. So....sorry for the delay. =(


miles today: 17.7
Total so far: 533.8
Miles to go: 1644.5
Marathons done: 20.4
Days on trail: 53
Average miles per day 10.06
Days left until Oct 1: 126
Average miles/day needed to make Katahdin by Oct 1: 13

So I need to average 13 miles a day from here on. I can do that - balance a 10-miler with a 16-miler, minimize "zero" days. Suppose I take a zero once a week. That means 18 days off, leaving 180 days. That ups the ante to 15.2 miles per day.
Well....lately I've been considering 14-16 and "average" day. I just can't slip up much.
Mt. Katahdin doesn't officially close for the winter until October 15th, but if there's a lot of early snow they shut it down sooner. That's why I'm aiming for October 1st.
Seems a long time away but I'm cutting it close without much room for error.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ellie update

She stopped by Glasgow Virginia on the 15th for a re-supply and on the trail again. She passed the 1/3 rd mark and the 800 mile mark this week. Hopefully she'll mail some journal entries when she stops by the post office in Waynesboro.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

10-MILE REST DAY

From Ellie's Journal 5/21

Hurricane Mt. Shelter to Trimpi Shelter
10.2 Miles

It was about 3.5 miles to the crossing of VA rte 16, where a thru-hiker named Gary was taking a couple of zero days doing nothing but shuttling hikers from the Trail crossing to Jerry's Restaurant and Store and back. Score! Off to Jerry's for a cheeseburger and real coffee (not instant!) Delicious. They had a free computer for hikers and I got to shoot off a quick e-mail to Steve. Patience was there! He was on the computer hassling disgustedly with his insurance company so he could see a doctor.
After another quick e-mail to the Women Hikers List, I got a ride back to the trail with Gary and set out for another 7+ miles. Strolled into camp a little after 2, with a long, lazy afternoon ahead, during which I set up camp, took a bath, washed and hung out all my clothes and bandanas, and caught up on my journal, and still felt like it was an easy, lazy rest day.

THINGS HAVE CHANGED AGAIN

From Ellie's Journal 5/10


OK. Gaia and Mossy Brown were hiking together, Gaia's partner having gone home and Mossy Brown's partner taking down time for injury, and MB is getting off the trail til her partner is better, which leave Gaia (I'm just a tagalong) So GAia asked if she could hike with me to Damascus, VA, so she won't be hiking alone. So now Gaia and I are together.
Gaia had a maildrop box at the Mountain Harbour Hostel near Roan Mt., VA. I hadn't planned to go there but thought I'd check it out.
Wow. They charged $8 for a tent site but what a beautiful site. Grassy, wooded, a creek with rippling rapids 15 feet away to listen to all night. I had help setting up my tent: 7-year-old Sandra, the granddaughter of the owners. She chattered and pounded in the tent stakes. Then of course she wanted to get in, so of course I let her. She picked up my dowel-rod hiking poles and asked "Wow, are these your walking stick? You could use these for weapons." Smart kid. My thoughts exactly. Then later she took me across the creek to a beautiful green glade where she plays. What a delightful little person.
Also tenting were Bird and Limbo, an engaged couple, with their husky Nikka, whose Trail name is Mama Bear. All three of them are real nice. Arriba (Sally) and E.O. (Eternal Optimist) were in the hostel with Gaia, along with Heidi, a section hiker who's starting tomorrow.
In the yard are horses, goats, and cats. And the beautiful rushing rustling creek.

BARNYARD CHOMP

From Ellie's Journal 5/9

So Gaia and Mossy Brown and I moved on. It was cool and cloudy and nice for hiking. It was also a very hard climb up Roan Mountain, rocky, a little hand-over-hand invloved. We took pictures of each other at the top.
The guidebook promised water and toilets at Carver Gap, but there was no water and the toilets, well, I'd rather us the woods. Then it started sprinkling, then POURING. Aha, there's the water! so we clombed up the grassy bald in the wind and side-driven rain. My hands were freezing and I put on my fleece mittens covered with the dog-poop bags. I've been using the same ones since Springer. I call them my "lucky dog-poop bags". when I took my hand off my hiking pole for a second, the wind caught one of them and blew it away. No, my lucky dog-poop bag!! I went chasing after it, walking fast but not daring to run because of my tendons. Finally a bramble bush caught and held it for me. Mossy Brown and Gaia were cracking up. Gaia video'd it.
All day I complained that I wanted Kentucky Fried Chicken. So when we came to the turnoff for the Overmountain Shelter and saw a sign pointing to a "Barnyard Chomp" Going on there, I got my hopes up. It turned out to be a reunion of former thru-hikers, cooking for the current crop of hopefuls. No KFC, but delicious vegetarian chili, grilled cheese sandwiches, chips, cookies, and BEER!! What a treat! There was a challenge on for our tribe (I guess there were 30-40 people altogether, including "old" and "new" hikers) to exceed the number of beers, 128 I think, consumed last year prior to 9 pm. I contributed, er, consumed, 2. I can't drink as much as I did in civilization. I don't like the way it makes me feel. Anywhoo, I think the final count was 169. I went to bed it the barn before they reached that record. the shelter was a barn, with a loft, that could probably sleep 40 people and quite possibly did.
From Ellie's Journal 5/8

MORNING

I'm nearly as tired as when i went to bed. 15 miles ahead today. everyone's stopping at at Roan Mt. Shelter - at 6255 ft, the highest shelter on the AT.


EVENING Well, we didn't make it to Roan Mountain. It rained all morning, with thunder, though no actual storms. Until the rain and thunder stopped, that is. Then a true windstorm blew in. It was foggy and drizzling (we were in the clouds) with straight-line winds that I'd estimate at 40-45 mph steady with higher gusts. It was horrendous and we were struggling against it going up the steep climbs. The temperature suddenly dropped what must have been 15 degrees and my hands and face were freezing. I was watching and listening for falling trees, and I was short of breath from climbing, and all of a sudden I got one of those damn panic attacks. I rested in the hollow of a dead tree till I was breathing more easily, then started again, telling myself "This is not a heart attack. I've been to the hospital with this and it was a panic attack. I am not dying." Up ahead was a huge boulder with an overhang where several of us hunkered down out of the wind. I dug in my pack and fished out a Xanax tablet. It helped. Withing 15 minutes the panic was gone and I spent the rest of the day in slo-mo.
Gaia, Mossy Brown, and I decided to stop for the day at Clyde Smith shelter, for a nine-mile day. The wind has stopped and it's clearing up, actually turning really nice; but storms are expected to start again later and we'd just as soon not get caught out in it again.
I'm worried about my knee that I banged and scraped yesterday in the fall resulting from the twisted ankle. The ankle was my immediate concern and it didn't worry me that my knee was bleeding. I washed it off, then laced my boot tighter around my twisted ankle and continued on. now my ankle is fine but my knee is swollen, red and hot. damn. A couple of section-hikers, young girls who work in a health food store, gave me some Emergen-C, and i heated water and put hot bandages on it, as well as arnica gel (anti-inflammatory). I don't like the looks of it and neither do Gaia and Mossy Brown, both nurses.
today is sally's 63rd burthday. I taped birthday candles into the sign-in register this morning at Cherry Gap, with a note, gambling that she'll stay there tonight or at least stop in for lunch. I miss her but our goals and hiking styles have turned out to be too different for us to stay together.

BACK AT IT!

From Ellie's Journal 5/7

17 miles today from Uncle Johnny's to Cherry Gap shelter. NO RAIN!! Near the Nolichucky River the Trail was a tributary draining into the river. A dicey creek crossing: 8 inches deep, fast current, slippery stepping stones submerged by the creek rise; wet feet and thrills but no spills. I made it!!
Later on dry path I rolled an ankle, fell, and scraped my knee on a rock. Just lay there for a minute shouting "No sprains! No sprains!" Things got better when, 5 minutes from the shelter, I found ramps for dinne. Mixed with potatoes au gratin and split peas...Yum!

ZERO DAY

(from Ellie's Journal 5/6)


Uncle Johnny's Hostel is a very cool place. I could get used to staying here. In just one day I've started to feel as though the Trail is very far away. On the other hand, this morning I fired up my JetBoil to make coffee, later realizing I'd done it right besde the microwave. Oh, well...the JetBoil is faster anyway.
There are so many dogs here. LaMar is a samll, shaggy, black and white mutt who lives here. Rio is an affable pit bull mix. Mama Bear is a husky. Charlie and Holly are matching Great Pyranees. Holly was recently rescued from an abusive, negligent home and is now learning to be a real dog. Their owner ties them together on a 2-foot leash so Holly has to follow Charlie's lead. Cool!

DALEVILLE, VA

Yesterday I passed 700 miles. Closing in on 1/3 (727 miles.)

My boots are worn out.

I look thin. Not nicely slim.... thin.

I've hiked the past week with Young Scott, an 18-yr-old man who has the wisdom of one much older. He's a Christian and we talk some about theology and much about other things. We're following his planned itinerary, hiking generally 16-18 miles a day. I hope I can keep on keeping up with him. He could go faster if I weren't with him but I am able to do his planned miles.... we just get to the shelter an hour or so later than he might have alone.

Yesterday I stood atop McAfee Knob, one of the most-photographed spots on the Trail. Do a Google Image search and you'll see it!


Gotta go, folks waiting for computer (motel lobby.)

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Ellie update

Ellie called from Catawba, VA yesterday and everything's fine.
She hiked 73 miles in the last three days!
695 miles so far.
Avery has a bunch of journal entries she will be posting soon.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

GUESS WHO I MET ON THE AT?

I'm guessing some of my readers know who David Horton is :-)




In case you don't, he's a well-known ultra-marathon runner who's written books about ultra-running.

This was on the AT section in Grayson Highlands National Park, VA.



He signed my hiking pole, too: David Horton "The Runner" 5/20
Very cool!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ellie Update

I talked to her today. She spent a long night in the pouring rain, luckely in a shelter. They're hiking 15-20 miles a day and doin fine. I've changed the map and will add some more pics soon.


Steve




A view from the top.






Ellie & Sally
Ellie

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

FINALLY SOME SUN

May 5

But only some. It cleared up for a while in the morning for a beautiful 6 mile hike into Erwin, TN. I'm staying at Uncle Johnny's Hostel drying out. Uncle Johnny's buddy, CD gave me a penny - he said it's penny #97. of the 500+ hikers to use the hostel this year, he has given these to the hikers he believes are going to make it to Maine. He says he watches attitudes and I've "got it".
More hiking tomorrow. AND more rain. There are flood watches for the area. Oh, goody.

THEN SINGS MY SOUL

May 4

It rained for a while in the morning and then let up. I hiked slowly, savoring the smells, incredibly green greens, and flowers, flowers, flowers. I came to the Trail aware of 3 colors of trilliums: red, white, and painted. Well, I have seen every color but blue and orange. Yellow, pink, mauve, variegated, speckled, freckled. Awesome, thrilling. But then the rain started again, hard. BUT...Bird and I found ramps, gathered some, and sauteed them in olive oil for dinner. Yum!!

STILL MORE RAIN

May 3

Sheesh. I mean, it's POURING. My group of hiking pals set up at a campsite rather than struggle on to a shelter that would probably be full. I got seriously cold helping to build a makeshift shelter. Hands white, heavy shivering. Had to get out of wet clothes and into sleeping bag with a hot water bottle.
The "shelter" was cool - sort of a teepee of sticks covered with leafy branches. Just enough to crouch under while cooking.
Had a great time hiking/talking with Bird, who's 24 - like being with a daughter or young friend. But not really like hiking with a daughter...now THAT would be really great.

RAIN AND MORE RAIN

May 2

But better than yesterday's burning sun, post-rain humidity, and endless climb. Today a lot of the walking was along an old dirt road. But at one point, in cold rain, wind, and fog, I chose a designated Bad Weather Route over the Exposed Ridgetop Trail. I saw smiling, tail-wagging tadpoles in two little puddle ponds. So cute!
Sleeping inside Flint Mountain Shelter tonight, the ground is wet, as is my tent. Shelter is full, 4 girls and 4 guys, more tenting outside.
Miles down: 304.1
Miles to go: 1874.2

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ellie update

(Steve) Since May 1st she has hiked another 228 miles and is doing fine (499 miles so far). I'm sure she has sent Avery some more of her journal which she will post. She hiked into Virginia last week and spent the weekend in Damascus at an AT hikers get-together. Ellie is mailing me a camera card and when she does I will post some pictures. I talk to her daily, but with infrequent stops, and the mail system, her blog updates will be about 2 weeks behind.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

ONE MONTH DONE!

May 1

291.4 miles - 1886.9 to go.
Long, long, long, long climb today. Nearly 1400 ft elevation over 5 miles. Started out rainy but then sunny and sweaty-hot. When a hike-mate comes staggering and tripping into camp, flushed and glassy-eyed, mumbling "Where's water?" it's not a good sign. We all gave him some and he started looking better. I was whipped myself, felt exhausted, shaky and feverish, drank a lot of water and hit the sack at 8:00.
Little Laurel Shelter, water source a nearly dry spring.

NIGHT SOUNDS

4/30/09

A campsite, not a shelter, 5 miles out of Hot Springs, NC. lots of my friends tenting here. The water source is a stagnant pond with a big dead turtle floating in it. Boil before using!!
But...a crackling campfire, good friends, spring peepers, barred owls, whipporwills, and a distant train. It doesn't get much better than this.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Update

(Steve) Avery added some of Ellie's journal. I spoke to her today (Monday) and she's fine. They hiked 18 miles today. Another supply pick-up tomorrow and back on the trail.
I added some pictures I received today and added them to the blog.

STEVE'S BIRTHDAY

April 27

And in the early evening I was able to get signal to call him. Otherwise, the day is too long for anything but a list of events.
miles traveled: 12.7
total so far: 240.7
miles to go: 1.937.6

Sally left early, and I was alone. Happy, though. Spring got greener and greener as I descended out of Great Smoky Mtn. Natn'l Park, which is now behind me. Hiked 10 miles to Standing Bear Hostel. Went with the shuttle bus to get beer and ice cream. Got a few supplies to last till Hot Springs, NC (3 days)
Sally stayed at Standing Bear. I'm short on money and hiked out. staying at a small campsite with Matt and Young Scott. My tent is about 3 feet from the brook and I'll hear it all night. a barred owl is hooting, the boys built a wonderful campfire.

COSBY KNOB SHELTER



Cosby Knob shelter & My spot inside.
April 26

Boy, is this beautiful. Green, green. White trillium blooming on the hill below; wild blackberry canes leafing out.
Hiking-wise, the day was sort of routine, if that's possible. Some up, some down, long but not extreme. Mountains, trees, flowers.
A spruce or fir tree had seeded itself in a hole in an oak tree and had grown to about 3 feet high.
In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, tent camping is not permitted unless the shelter is full, and then you must tent within the shelter-yard perimeter. This means your daily mileage is determined by how many shelters you're willing to pass before stopping. They're typically 7-12 miles apart, so hikers have to keep moving right along. This policy is partyl to minimize bear activity and offer protection to hikers, and partly to minimize environmental impact, restricting heavy use to specified areas.
Day/overnight hikers and section hikers must have reservations to use the shelters. three spots are reserved for the thru-hikers. Whether more than three thru-hikers can sleep in the shelter depends on how many campers with reservations there are. If the shelter is full and a "transient" hiker with a reservation shows up, a thru-hiker has to move out and set up a tent, no matter what the hour or weather.
Hasn't happened to me or any of my new friends yet, though.

THIS IS THE DAY THE LORD HAS MADE

April 25

And how beautiful it has been. Warm, sunny. filled with birdsong and wildflowers. Gorgeous Smoky Mountain views for miles and miles. It looks like the ocean- but the waves are mountains. all around, an endless sea of mountains.
I met an 86 year old man, "Cimarron" hiking out after injuring his knee. He was attempting a thru-hike and got about 215 miles.
Hiked partly with friends and partly alone. Both were good. Calamity Kate liked my idea for my future photography business: Name it "My Father's World" and the categories "Rocks and Trees" "Skies and Seas" "The Morning Light" "The Lily White", all phrases from the hymn.
"Bird" a wildlife management grad, showed me how to distinguish firs from spruces from hemlocks.
And when I was alone, I gazed at the trees, alive and dead, and the flowers and rocks and the path and said "Lord, this is magnificent. It's no wonder you wanted me to see this.
Hokey as it sounds, I sang "The Hills Are Alive With The Sound of Music". And I meant every word.

Mild thunderstorms rolled in just after I reached the shelter: Peck's Corner Shelter. Sally AKA "Arriba" is here, and Calamity Kate and her partner Jen AKA "Skipper" , N-Da-Wind, Bird, Young Scott, Sailor J, Scarecrow, Steve (a section hiker), Kismet, others whose names I don't know. The shelter is full. Three tents outside, and Scarecrow's hammock. Somebody started it with "Goodnight, Yard Sale..." I answered "Goodnight, Jim-Bob" and others joined in, "Goodnight, John-boy, goodnight Mary Ellen," And then we all started humming The waltons' theme music. Life is good.

miles done: 215.1
miles to go: 1,963.2
marathons done: 8.1
marathons to go: 75.2

I TALK TOO MUCH

April 22-24

Three people now on the Trail have called to my attention that I talk all the time. I have always known I talk a lot. I just plain think out loud.
I have never been told it's annoying. I've never been told others can't get a word in.
Now I've been told. so I'm learning to keep quiet unless I have something to say. Fifty-seven years old and I never knew this. Looking back I can see clues I should have picked up on but I guess I was talking to fast to notice them.
So now I know. Every thought I have clutters up the space around me like a non-categorized yard sale.
Set a watch before my mouth, O Lord, keep the door of my lips.

THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS

April 21

miles today: 11
miles so far: 175
miles to go: 2003.3

Tomorrow....tomorrow we get a new FIRST digit.

Yesterday Sally and I took a zero day - guess I told you that. I didn't sleep well in the motel. got up around midnight and took a chill pill even though I wasn't anxious. Still woke up a lot. Up for the day around 6:30. so not much sleep and none of it good.
Into the Smoky Mtns. finally! It's so beautiful. cold, though. 20's tonight. There were snow flurries today. I watched snowflakes fall and melt on the trillium and trout lilies.
I am so tired today. It's always hard the day after a resupply....full/heavy food bag. I got some stuff out of the "hiker box" at the motel, too...nice pair of pink Crocs. Anyway, today my pack was back up to 30#. But my own body weight is down SEVEN as of this morning. I ate more today.
I am very tired. I'm going to bed.
We're in a luxurious shelter, old stone building with a fireplace. Big tarp across the open side of the shelter. Double decker sleep space sleeps 12. It's divided up with 1/2" x 2" slats so you don't migrate into another person's space or try to squeeze in extra people.
Some day I'll catch up on all the stories. Not tonight.
Sleeping at Mollie's Ridge Shelter. It has an indoor fireplace, and Firebug built a fire. It looks cozy and takes the chill off somewhat.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Still plugging along


(Steve) Ellie just left Erwin, TN and is doing great. Sally is two days behind nursing a sore toe. She's hiking with a group of through hikers who meet each night and plan the next days hike, mileage and where they will meet the next evening. They all hike their own pace, but have the same destination. Sounds like a good plan. All Katadin bound.

Friday, May 01, 2009


(Steve) Picture taken recently at the GA/NC boarder.
I think she looks good.
BTW, I've added a few pictures to some older posts.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

(from Ellie's journal, April 20)


Resting at the Hike Inn in Fontana dam, NC. rest, recuperate, refuel, rehydrate, resupply, reorganize. We're groaning that with the new 4-day food supply our packs are up to 30#.
I need to eat more. I have lost 7 pounds in 20 days. Gack, that means carrying more food, more weight in my pack. Well, it's 7# less on my body to lug, so it evens out, I guess.