Tuesday, June 26, 2012


The fact is.... I excitedly tell just about anyone who will listen about SavageMan. Well, not just any person on the street, but while I was hiking I told several hikers about it and that I was training for it during my "zero" days. The last night I was on the Trail, when I had been disillusioned and unhappy with it for about a hundred and fifty miles, I told a young man I was thinking of ending my hike. In addition to missing my husband, I wasn't going to make it to Maine in time to be home for SavageMan, and I really, really wanted to do SavageMan.

He was from Germany, here on a vacation visa to thru-hike the AT, and here I was saying I wanted to stop because of a triathlon. "Wow," he said. "That must be some triathlon. My dad does Ironmans. I'll have to tell him about this one."

What if I had been talking to him about Jesus?

I told hikers about SavageMan. I didn't tell any about Jesus. In the Berkshires of Massachusetts, I became a regular at the bike shop where I bought the tire after my Greylock-descent blowout. Got a tune-up and some repairs there. I told the owner about SavageMan on the day I bought the tire. Wrote down the URL for him to look it up himself and hopefully tell others. When I piked up my bike after the tune-up I told two separate customers. I was posting on the FB page of the Berkshire Bicycling Association, looking for ride companions and good hilly routes, and told them I was training for SavageMan. I talked it up with the guy I did the "double Greylock" with. (Actually, he told me about a great fundraising ride that he does, as well. He also mentioned his church. I didn't.)

It's like I am all about SavageMan and hope I can turn others on so they will want to see for themselves.

What if I demonstrated that kind of excitement about Jesus? What if I actually felt it?

No one tries to shut me up when I talk about SavageMan. They ask questions. They whistle in amazement when I tell them about the climbs, especially the 31% pitch of the Westernport Wall and how, if you make it up the hill without falling or putting a foot down, you get a brick laid in the road with your name engraved on it.

How about having your name written in the Book of Life?

If you talk about a triathlon, people might not want to do one themselves, but they are curious about what you are saying. They ask if you swim and bike, or what, and how far. They want to know how it works. Some want to know if it's to raise money for something (it is...melanoma. I don't raise money, but maybe someone I preach to will.)  People who already understand triathlon, who are bikers or runners or triathletes, want to know about the race course and course support and the organization.

But if you start talking about the Lord, people don't want to hear it. They write you off as a nut. They say, "Have a nice day."

But there may be the one that does want to hear.

Help me, Lord.

Monday, June 25, 2012


I guess I left everyone dangling after I stopped hiking.

First things first: I have not once wished I were still out there. I did comment to Steve that I miss sleeping outdoors right in the midst of the night sounds, but other than that, I have not for a second regretted my decision to stop being alone and spend the summer with him.

Ed back home (church pastor) said from the pulpit that he had a strong feeling that someone was going to come to know the Lord as a result of my hike. And maybe they already did. And if not, then maybe someone I meet biking or running or camping or in the grocery store or a parking lot or, who knows.

We moved from the campground in PA up to one in the Berkshire Mts. of Massachusetts. We drove around there a lot, and up into Vermont, just to see, and went down to Tanglewood in Lenox, MA, where, back in 1940, my mother, then 19, was a cellist in the summer orchestra under student conductor Leonard Bernstein. She has a "snapshot" of him which she took herself, just a summer photo of a classmate, young guy sitting with his back against a large tree trunk, studying a score of orchestra music spread out on the grass before him, maybe 25 or so years old. Priceless. Leonard Bernstein as a music student!!! Found a picture on the wall of all the musicians there in 1940, huge wide group picture, and found a girl who was probably my mother, as well as a young man who was no doubt Bernstein.

One day I was out running, and took a dirt road I hadn't before, just because it was shady and marked "Dead End" and I wanted to see where it went (pretty much nowhere.) Couple miles later, here comes a car, pretty much with the same agenda. Lady driver, about the age of one or another of my children. She mentioned God. We talked. Something I'm concerned about came up. She prayed. Right there, out loud. And since then, I've been praying more. She said she'd never taken that road either and had no reason to again. Chance meeting? Call it that if you want.

So in the Berkshires I ran some and biked a lot. Up and down Mt. Greylock, the highest mountain in MA. Our campground was almost at the foot of the south route up. I went up that (1.5 hours for 9 mile ride), and down the north road (20 minutes, about 7.5 miles) then across MA Rte. 2 and down Rte. 7 and home, about 38 miles. Ran over something and had a blowout on the way down at 35mph. Yikes!!! Steered over to the side, braked and stopped without wiping out. The guy at the bike shop where I bought a new tire said I did well to have handled that at that speed. I was pleased.

Another day I went up the south side again, down the south side, then turned around and went back up the north side and back down the south side home. Had a buddy that day, a guy from the Berkshire Cycling Association FB page.  Our abilities were well-matched and we had a great time. Rode through a thunderstorm on the way back down.....  freezing cold!!! Took a long hot shower followed by warm clothes and wool socks to restore the ci

Wednesday, June 06, 2012


4 miles

I woke up early, 5am, to the sound of rain absolutely hammering on the tarp over my hammock. I was nice and dry but..... oh, man, I do not want to hike in this rain. It's wet and it's going to be slippery and it's cold. I lay dozing for about an hour until the rain eased up a little, then put up my umbrella and went to get my food out of the bear box. All the NJ shelters have bear boxes. Incredibly, NJ has the highest bear population of any of the 14 states on the trail, at one per square mile.

Euro and the two who had come in late were still asleep. I made coffee and mixed a protein shake and ate a breakfast bar. I heard a sigh that told me one of the newcomers was a girl. Euro woke up and told me he'd stayed with them the night before in Delaware Water Gap, so they had also hiked 25 miles yesterday. More power to 'em, these are young kids. I won't be doing any 25-mile days. But a couple nights ago I did some math and realized I'd need to pull steady 18-milers to get to Maine. It's not going to happen.

Euro packed up and moved north. I would be hiking alone again. I could never keep up with him anyway. It was raining again. I wondered if Knitting Bull could give me a bad-weather bail today. If not..... I'd stay in the shelter and wait it out. I did not have what it took to hike alone all day in pouring rain. It's one thing with friends, and I did a lot of it between Georgia and Maryland. But I don't want to be alone now.

I had phone signal and Knitting Bull said she'd be happy to come get me.  I figured the 4 miles to PA 206 would take me a little more than 2 hours. It was raining less, but the trees were dripping so much it might as well have been pouring. I was cold. I was wearing my tights, but they were wet; my rain jacket keeps me dry but isn't very warm. I hiked on covered with goose bumps. I thought about this trip and my feelings. Hiking alone.... no fun. Heat wave, little water..... no fun. Cold rain.... no fun. I have not been really happy since the first week. I have been struggling, physically and mentally. It's hard to admit I'm not into it, but I feel I really don't want to be here.

When I had signal again I called Steve and told him I'm ready to stop. My voice broke. I was crying. I don't want to stop but I don't want to keep going. I'm ready to stop. As soon as I really decided, I felt better, as if maybe this isn't really so bad after all, but I realized it was a mood boost from having decided on something that would make me happier.... being with my husband.

The trail down to the gap to the road was treacherous, small round stones that rolled and could land you on your backside, but I didn't land on mine. I've gotten a lot more sure-footed, that's one thing Pennsylvania did for me. I reached the gap and the road, and there was Knitting Bull. She had a fleece jacket for me, and dry wool socks, and fleece-lined slippers, and hot coffee. What a good friend.... could I have met her only 2 days ago?  I was shocked to find she'd actually driven over 50 miles to get me. I had no idea it was that far.

At her house, I put my wet clothes in the dryer and she and Tony fed me a lunch that was more like Thanksgiving dinner: rotisserie chicken and steamed beans and carrots. I probably ate half the chicken. Steve came and we visited some more. Knitting Bull found a rainproof pack cover she doesn't use that fit my pack and asked me to take it. Steve and I got into the truck and drove back to his campground. And I felt as if I could go to bed for the night at 2pm.

June 3, More New Jersey

15 miles
Sun --> clouds --> rain

While I was eating at my picnic table last night, a couple came past and set up 2 large tents at the site past mine. After I went to bed, in came half a dozen teenagers: the Drum and Bugle Corps, who had been practicing all day and luckily were ready for bed themselves. They talked and laughed some but overall were nice and quiet. The moon was full; I could see it between my tarp and hammock. I guess it would be full; I started my hike exactly 4 weeks ago. None of it is what I expected. It doesn't begin to resemble the block party moving north from Georgia 3 years ago. The celebration, the camaraderie, the "we're all in this together" is missing; it's still somewhere in Virginia and I am out here largely on my own.

But... Knitting Bull met me at the lodge, eager to do a short hike. We were to meet her husband at a crossing 3 miles along, then she'd ride with him to the next crossing, where they'd hike in to meet me and hike back out to their car. Fun!! People! Pals!

Knitting Bull and I hiked well together. She actually pushed me to go a little faster, and I realized I've been going too slowly and carefully like some old woman. I can do better than that! Very soon we met her husband and they went on in their car and I started the next 4 miles. I was moving much faster than I have until now and made the 4 miles in under 2 hours, even though I stopped to take pictures and play with a dog.


Wild Iris

They weren't at the crossing yet. I waited. Was this the right road? Yes, it had to be. Then, there they came.... on foot. Looking whupped. Turns out, the road was closed from a washout and they'd road-hiked uphill for 2 miles to reach me. They were ready for a rest, so we sat on some rocks and ate lunch. Knitting Bull had brought me a bottle of cold tea and it was glorious. Delicious! I drank it in about 4 swallows. I think I don't drink enough while hiking. I take half a dozen swallows every half hour to stay more or less hydrated without having to pee all the time. The tea made me feel like one of those neglected dogs on Animal Planet when someone finally gives them water. I need to drink more.

The stone-protector rubber toes on my shoes are coming unglued. Knitting Bull and I had been talking earlier about using Shoe Goo or silicone caulk to seal them back on. So we're eating lunch on the rocks, and I look down, and there is something someone dropped, a tube of rubber/plastic/vinyl cement. Sitting right there. This is what I call true Trail Magic. It's happened before. One other time, in Tennessee, I needed a tent guyline. I looked down and found one, right there. Amazing.
Knitting Bull and Tony (sorry it's blurred.... my camera does that sometimes, don't know what's wrong with it)

Knitting Bull and me

I was about halfway to the shelter I was aiming for, 7+ miles down, 7+ to go. There was a climb that made me wonder if I'd slid back to Pennsylvania, but it was up, and it was short, and it was actually sort of fun. I heard thunder. Knitting Bull had told me to call her if the weather got bad, and she'd come get me. It started to rain. I put up my umbrella. The rain stopped but the trail was wet, my shoes were wet, the brush against my legs was wet. So what's new?

A turn down a dirt road brought me to the Brant Road Shelter. The road went past the shelter. I didn't know where it went, but it seemed this shelter was lonely and isolated but at the same time easily accessible from off the Trail. There were  no other hikers there. I did not like this. I felt vulnerable, for the first time since I've started. I didn't want to stay in this shelter. Anyone could come in looking for who-knows-what. I looked around for a hammock site out of view from the road and the shelter. It took a long time to find one that was suitable. I finally got it rigged and went back to the shelter to eat, and found.... I could see my hammock from the shelter. Darn. Well, it was raining again; maybe predators don't like to come out in the rain.

I heard a voice and jumped out of my skin. A young fellow -- a hiker, not an outsider. He'd hiked 25 miles from Delaware Water Gap (which took me 2 days.) He's from Germany. He's here just to hike the Appalachian Trail. His trail name is Euro. We talked for quite a while. He's nice.

After I went up to my hammock, I heard voices and laughter and greetings. More hikers had come in. I was not alone anymore.


9.3 miles -- 202 total!
Sunny, partly cloudy; cool & breezy

Back to Delaware Water Gap with my lighter pack. In fact, it was so much lighter that after a couple hundred yards I took it off and checked to be sure I'd brought my food. It felt that different.

While I was "home" I got an email from a friend I hadn't met yet, "Knitting Bull," who lives near DWG and offered to day-hike with me and do anything she could to help me. I'm planning 9 days without Steve this trip, so I need a food drop. She agreed gladly, so she met us at DWG and I gave her a bag of 5 days' worth of food, to bring me at a designated road crossing on Wednesday (today is Saturday.) This is great. THANK YOU, KNITTING BULL!!

The hike out of the Gap was long but not nearly as steep as hikes out of gaps in PA. The vicious rocks disappeared almost immediately. A few stones but mostly easy walking, even uphill, even downhill! Astonishing. I met up with a man about my age who was avoiding cleaning his garage by going out for a dayhike. It is always so good to hike with someone, to have someone to talk to, someone to share the time. I keep thinking how different this hike is from my GA-MD trek 3 years ago, at the peak of thru-hiker season, with throngs of hiking partners and easy-to-find friends. I am alone so much now. Most thru-hikers are still in Virginia, and those who have come this far quickly pass me; that's how they got this far already.

We hiked together to Sunfish Pond, a landmark I'd been looking forward to reaching. We ate lunch sitting on rocks; I brushed off yet another tick. A man and boy were fishing on another rock. It was quiet and peaceful.

My companion headed back and I continued north. I found blueberries! Lots of them! Bushes full of them! I spent about 5 minutes picking and eating. Delicious! Bushes full of berries are something to look forward to.

My feet feel better. I got cheap knee-hi nylons to wear as sock liners, and they feel good. Happy feet.

I met a young couple southbound with a lot of gear. They were headed out just overnight, "My first overnight!" she exclaimed excitedly. "That's great!" I said. "Where are you headed?" They answered, "The shelter." Hmmm.... what shelter? I was a good 6 miles from the Gap and there was no shelter. "Kirkridge," they said. Gadzooks. That's 14 miles away. It's 1:30p.m. They say they started an hour ago. So they've probably come a couple miles. There's no way in the world they're going to get to the Kirkridge Shelter by tonight. The last 7 miles are straight uphill out of Delaware Water Gap. They've got an awakening coming. But I encouraged them, said to look for my entry in the shelter register there, where I said I was leaving to reassess, but guess what, hikers, I'm back! We all went on our ways and I hope they have the sense to spend the night in the Gap rather than try to reach the shelter.

As for my own camping place, I was headed for the Mohican Outdoor Center, which has cabins and tentsites, free to thru-hikers, which I still consider myself. When I got there, the young man at the desk asked if I'm a member. Um.... I'm a member of ATC (Appalachian Trail Conservancy.) He asked, "Are you a member of AMC?" Egads, the Appalachian Money, er Mountain Club! This is their joint? I didn't know that! They charge an arm and a leg for huts up in the White Mountains of NH, where rich vacationers in clean new outdoorsy clothes can dayhike from hut to hut and enjoy a rustic lodge with a wooden floor and long wooden tables and eat big meals prepared by the hut "croo" (crew) and then retire to wooden bunks with mattresses and drift to sleep happily reminiscing about their lovely wilderness experience. Thru-hikers may stay if they work, although there are usually only places for two or three. They get to eat after the paying dayhikers are finished, and they do not get bunks, they sleep on the floor or the tables.

Anyway, this was an AMC joint, and they did me the favor of exacting only the "members' " price, $9 rather than $11, when I had thought it would be free. I was miffed. They had to "see if they had a site," many were reserved. They found one. Then another man asked me, since I'd mentioned hanging a hammock, to please hang it within the confines of my own campsite, not on just any trees in the area. Excuse me, sir, I've hiked a few miles and I know the ropes. Sheesh.

But, all in all.... it was a nice campsite. I had my own picnic table and my own "bear box," a metal box with a trick latch that bears can't open. There was a nice, clean, airy privy that didn't even smell, and if I wanted a flush toilet and running water, I only had to walk to the lodge (where paying customers were dining politely after their appetite-whetting day in the great outdoors.) I sat in a cushioned chair in front of a fireplace (not burning) and read and charged my phone.  Then I went back to my site, got my sleeping bag out of my hammock, and wrapped it around me while I read at the picnic table. It was quite chilly. When I went to bed I was wearing my hiking shirt and skirt, tights, socks, pullover sweater, and wool balaclava (one-piece head and neck wear.) I played hymns on my Irish whistle. Sleep came easily.

Friday, June 01, 2012


Granddaughter Abbie, 9, with her bronze Special Olympics medal today after the 100m racewalk. Look at that sweat!


I never imagined a fungus this beautiful. I'm going to get as big a print of it as I can. Please don't anyone copy or forward this without asking me first!

The "Knife Edge." White blaze just to right of center on top edge of a rock. This rock-crossing really scared me.   

Moth on White Blaze


I've been with Steve the last few days, taking a rest and doing a little biking and running. I'm going to be doing more of that, even if it means doing less hiking, even if it means..... I don't get to Katahdin.

The reasons are:
  • I really, really want to do the SavageMan Triathlon (link for info) back home in mid-September. So, I need to make sure I can bike and run the distances (swimming, well, I'll just sort of relax through that part.) There's never been a 60-yr-old female competing before. I've done this race before but not at age 60. Even so, I still hold the course record as the oldest female ever. 
  • I'm losing weight too fast. I'm down 10 pounds after 200 miles. Ten pounds every 200 miles would be.... 50 pounds???? I'll settle for 25-30. New Jersey and New York are not as hard as PA, but NH and ME are rough. I need to back off on the hiking in order to be able to continue to hike.
  • I miss my husband a lot.
Taking more days off the Trail for biking and running will keep me more rested, more fit, and better nourished. It will complicate the logistics for Steve and me.... he can't keep running me back and forth to the Trail when one or the other of us gets farther away. I may have to skip parts, and section-hike.

I was extremely discouraged the last few days I hiked. My pack was too heavy, there wasn't enough water, I felt sick, I was lonesome, I wanted my husband. Now that I've been with him a few days, rested up and rehydrated and eaten more, and gone biking and running, I feel I can go out there and hike again. I weeded out some things from my pack:
  • rain pants (used once, don't like)
  •  headnet for bugs (used once, don't like)
  •  surplus ropes and straps (useless to carry things that "might come in handy")
  •  switched to lighter rope and less of it for hanging my food bag
  •  carrying less writing paper
  •  switched from individual-serving Spam (4oz. each) to beef jerky for lunches 
 It all added up to several pounds. My base weight (everything except food and water) is now 17 pounds. Add 5 days of food and we're up to 23; a liter of water at a time = 25. (I had carried 3-4 liters on those hot, scarce-water days.)

Out again tomorrow!