Tuesday, June 30, 2009



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.



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.



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

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.



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.



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


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:
That day I signed

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.



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.



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.

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




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.



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.



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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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!


(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!


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.