This last week the trail was not as tough as the previous two weeks, but the weather made it equally tough. We entered Shenandoah National Park on Father's Day and hoped to be out on Friday. Unfortunately, we lost two days to cold weather, 60-mile hour winds, several inches of rain, and several fallen trees. It has rained for the past eight days, making Shenandoah not such a fun experience. We were happy to leave the park today. We hit 900 miles earlier in the week, and we'll hit 1000 miles on Tuesday.
It was awesome to get to the 700-mile mark. I the past few days the guys have had some tough hiking but, were able to get 100 miles done in less than a week. We all took a moment to visit the Audie Murphy plane crash site Monument. He was the most decorated soldier in US history, an author, movie star, and singer songwriter. If you don't know who he is, please take a few seconds to look him up.
Tom, Harper and Dustin made it to mile 600 today. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of rain the past few days, but they are staying positive and still getting some great miles in.
Tom had an awesome week. He hit the 500-mile mark, and also the one-quarter of the way to Maine mark. He has been hiking with two really great dudes, Long Beard and Harper. Tom and the guys are hiking over 100 miles a week.
Progress is being made! Tom has been putting on so many miles. Today he is doing 17. The weather is beautiful and I have no regrets making the change to not hike the whole trail. I have realized that I was really slowing him down and we would not have a chance to reach the end in time.
Last weekend was Trail Days in Damascus, Va. Oh yes, we are finally out of North Carolina and Tennessee. Trail Days was a great time and we met many new and old hikers. We were able to catch up with some hikers that we haven’t seen in some time. Some are ahead of us and some are behind us on the trail. There were many vendors with hiker products, food, and music.
Tom has hit big mile markers 400 and 500 since we made the change. He is almost doing 100 miles a week now. Some days Stella and I hike with him either when I drop him off or pick him up. He has been able to sleep in the teardrop all but one night. I have been able to continue my Dental Hygiene education and see a lot more of states that we are traveling through. There are so many beautiful old cabins and barns along the way. Often times there will be a steam or river that is along the roads that I travel.
Four days ago, we camped at and hiked through Highland Grayson State Park. There they have wild ponies grazing. To say the least, it has been one of the highlights of the trip. There were two different herds that we saw. One herd had three babies. When I have WiFi service, I would like to learn more about why the ponies are there.
Since the Highland Grayson area, Tom and I have connected with two other through hikers. They have now been traveling with us and slack packing. Their trail names are Long Beard and Harper. Not sure how long they will hang with us, but they sure are enjoying breakfast and dinner each day and not carrying their full pack weight. Harper is from is from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and Long Beard is from Branson, Missouri.
I have been staying the night with the teardrop in a combination of places. We have stayed in mountain gaps, a hostel (Harvest Host), a Boondockers Welcome, and several campgrounds. The Boondockers Welcome was in Shady Valley, TN and the people were so kind, so we stayed a few more days. So far, I really like the teardrop. I would like it to be more organized though, and I am sure that could not truly happen with the limited space. There are some modifications I would like to make in the future. In the “kitchen” area there is very little storage. I would like to put in drawers, move the cookstove and eventually get a powered cooler. The sleeping area is comfortable. Before we picked up the camper, I ordered a better mattress so we would be more comfortable. Now I am in search of curtains. Unfortunately, these mountain areas don’t have an Amazon drop box so I have to be patient. It would also be nice to add solar at some point.
Tom knocked out his longest day so far, 21.5 miles. Completed another state, happy to be done with Tennessee, 3 down and 11 to go. Also, I was able to hike into Damascus Virginia as trail days are starting.
I have lost track of weeks…
On April 17, we left Hot Springs, NC with high hopes that our new shoes would make all the difference. I taped my feet and knee up with KT tapes and had high hopes that I could do it. The view of the river as we walked back up the mountain was amazing.
On our travels north we have run into wonderful trail magic. On the trail north there was a beautiful cabin with a wonderful grandma that calls herself the “Southern Cookie Lady”. There was a sign on the trail offering homemade cookies, fresh water and a trash can. In such a negative world theses day, it is so wonderful to see that there is much more kindness around us.
Shortly after and a big rock climb, we hit our 300-mile point. That night we slept in a small meadow in the forest. It must have been the tastiest in all the lands because the deer hung out with us all night. They were so close to the tent that I could hear them chewing the grass and breathing. It is amazing how large a deer sounds in the middle of the night…We also learned what a screak owl sounds like.
I have been enjoying taking pictures and identifying many of the plants along the trail.
We stopped in Erwin to try to give my feet a rest and wait for Christal, Claire and Erika to arrive. With them we hiked from Sam’s Gap back to Erwin. The hike was only three days because we all agreed that we didn’t want to hike in the cold and rain. The first night they were with us, the nighttime temperature was 22 degrees.
Since they had a car and they weren’t ready to go home, they drove us to Asheville, NC. We had excellent food. Claire got to check out a nursery that she has been following on social media. We even tried out a few wineries. Claire introduced us to rock climbing.
We had to say goodbye to them and since it was still raining, they dropped us off in Johnson City. We stayed there a few more days watching the forecast. When we saw that the rain was not going to let up and snow was now in the forecast, we decided to head back to Wisconsin and regroup.
Because my feet are not improving and Tom has some aches and pains, we decided to change up our hike. We bought a Bushwhacker teardrop camper to pull behind the jeep. Now I can drop Tom off at a spot and pick him up at another. This way he will not have to carry as many pounds in his pack and I can still day hike.
He took off hiking from Erwin, Tn and I met him for the night at Beauty Spot. The next morning, he took off for a 19 miles hike where I picked him up from Hughes Gap. Last night he camped out and today I will pick him up at Hwy 19 in North Carolina. Tonight, we will camp at The Station on 19E hostel.
Just a reminder that we still have the fundraisers going. Please consider donating.
Week four started at Fontana Dam. Mom and dad came to pick up Stella so that we could hike the Smokie Mountains. Through the Smokies we only slept in the shelters, which are beautiful stone structures with fireplaces. One night we had a campfire so Tom could grill his spam. We climbed the highest mountain on the Appalachian Trail, which is Clingman's Dome at 6,643 feet. At Clingman's Dome we hit our 200 mile point. Unfortunately, it was raining so we didn't get an amazing view. Tom and I are planning to come back to this area next year to do some trail magic, so we will have to check it out then.
Since it was rainy and cold, we took a few days off in Gatlinburg, TN. We were happy to get out of town and back into the trail. It is a nice town, but too many people for us. Also, they didn't have many dry wines at the tasting rooms.
We were so happy with our discussion to not hike the rainy days, because the views were amazing when the skies cleared. We were able to finish the Smokies a few days later. Mom and dad dropped Stella back off at Standing Bear Hostel where we did a resupply. Now they are on their way down to Florida to visit family.
We are spending time in Hot Springs right now, which means we have hiked 274.9 miles on the trail. We are both having troubles with our feet. Tom changed out his shoes in Gatlinburg and they are not working out. I found a new pair here in Hot Spring and I hope they will help me. On the way into town, I was ready to throw in the towel. I have been having knee and foot pain. While we are here, we are getting a massage and going to the hot springs. We found a cute little cottage on the edge of town. Hopefully we will be good as new when we leave. The rain should stop Sunday night, so we plan to hit the trail again Monday.
In a week, Christal, Claire and Erika will join us. They plan to backpack with us for about a week. I can't wait to see them!
Week three is starting out slow. We are in Franklin, NC. Still waiting for Stella's package. We shipped some stuff home that we are not using, chatted with the grandkids, Katie’s class, and tried our first live chat. I think it went pretty well. We have done a good job at tried the local beer and food. We have both eaten to much and gotten belly aches. Amazing how quickly the trail has affected us. We are itching to get back onto the trail.
The start up the trail was slow. We had to wait for the controlled burns to finish. That day we were able to hike about 6.5 miles to get to camp.
\\n\\nFrom there we have a lot of ups and down. Not only the mountains, which have been very steep, but also our attitudes and the weather.
This week has been alot of challenges. I have certainly thought about quitting more than once. Thank goodness everyone is cheering on!
Week two, we have hiked through rain and mud. Two days ago, we took a nero (near zero miles on the trail) in Hiawassee, GA. We had dinner at the Hiawassee Brew. On our hike before town, we met two yoyo (hiked to Maine and turned around and hiked back) hikers, Timber and DaVinci, with really positive vibes.
We headed back to the trail at Dicks Creek Gap after our stay in town and hiked 11.8 miles. We crossed the state line into North Carolina and camped at Muskrat Creek Shelter. We have climbed our first 5000+ foot mountain. Some of the trail was an old road beds. We wondered how in the world they got those old trucks up and down the switchbacks. Slept a night at Carter Gap shelter. Lots of blow downs here and lots of dead trees standing. We had at least 50mph wind gusts and rain and our tent got wrecked just before 6am. Because of our good planning, we were able to repair if for now.
The next day we hiked 8.7 miles to another camp. The tent stayed together and the camp was nice and quiet next to a beautiful stream. We hiked to Winging Stair Gap to shuttle to Franklin, NC to resupply and pick up Stella’s dehydrated food package.
Going into the second week, we are still feeling positive. We have had rain, 17 degree nights, and high winds. I love it when the sun comes up and it warms us through the day.
We started at Amicola Falls and hiked the approach trail to Springer Mountain. Springer Mountain is the official start of the Applalatian Trail. Tom and I are hiker number 1145 and 1146. On day four, we hiked the tallest mountain in Georgia. Blood Mountain is 4,461 feet high. We have seen a few squirrels, a grouse, and some birds. The plants are slowly coming alive. I have seen two different types of violets, trilliums, and mountain laurel.
Day three was rainy. Lucky for us our friends were close enough to save us. We were able to shower, wash our clothes, drink wine and have corned beef and cabbage. A great way to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. It couldn't get any better than that.
The views on the trail have been amazing. The pictures do not do it any justice. A high point was the rime frost on the trees at the top of Blood Mountain. It was fun to see all the shoes hanging in the trees at Neels Gap. We have literally walked in the clouds.
Stella is doing great. Of course, she is making friends at every turn. She has been an amazing help to keep us warm at night. The rainy days have been a little rough on her, so we have been able to get off trail to dry her out.
We have just over 40 miles to get into North Carolina.
Well, that was fun!
First off, thank you everyone for sharing our posts and inviting people to our blog. We want to have many followers to spread the word of our charities so we can raise funds for them. Just to let you know, all of the funds go straight to those charities. The links are on the fundraiser info page.
February was a blur of friends and family coming in for my birthday month. My friend Cheryl came to visit from Idaho with her brother and sister-in-law. Then Courtney from Wisconsin flew in to Mobile. They both drove with us to New Orleans. From there Cheryl flew out and my siter Christal and her husband Mike joined us from Wisconsin. That when the party really got going.
We spent 5 days in New Orleans at the French Quarter RV Resort. If you are going to this magical town with a RV, this is the place to stay. We were 2 blocks from the French Quarter where we went to a parade, walked, ate, listened to music, and best of all, watched people. We even got on to a porch to throw some beads.
So many people thought we were crazy to go during Mardi Gras and told us how dangerous the city is. It may be, but from the first wrong turn down an alley with the RV to the day we left, we saw nothing but kindness. Everybody we ran into were friendly, helpful and kind. It is a beautiful melting pot of people from all walks of life.
While there we tried to experience the food. All of it was so good. Of course, we stopped for a muffaletta at Central Grocery. Unfortunately, it was closed for repairs, but the store next café door still sold the sandwiches. Let’s not forget the beignets. Oh, they are so good! We tried them from Café Du Monde and Café Beignet. As a group our favorites were from Café Beignet. One of our lunches was at Coop’s Place. I had to try the highly recommended rabbit and sausages jambalaya. It was so worth it. Needless to say, we did not have a bad meal.
We took a drive one of the days to see what it looked like outside of the city and visit Oak Alley Plantation. Defiantly worth the drive.
I would like to go back to New Orleans again when Mardi Gras is not happening so we can take some of the historical tours, see cemeteries, take a swamp tour and Tom wants to see the World War II Museum.
Now we are on our way back to Wisconsin to drop off the RV, take care of some appointments, see friends and family. On March 13 we fly to Georgia to start our AT thru-hike.
Show kindness, receive kindness!
We are still in Spanish Fort, AL. Staying at Blakely State Park and putting on hiking miles to prepare ourselves for our thru-hike.
We have been coming to Blakely State Park since we arrived in Alabama to use the parks trail system for training. We were driving a half hour to the park from our RV resort to hike, so in early January we moved to this park. It definitely was worth it, because they offer big lots with a lot of pine trees, so the neighbors are not right next to us.
The Park has a lot of amazing history. From ancient Native American, Spanish, French, British and a civil war battlefield. The battle took place right at the end of the war, known as the battle Fort Blakley. The small town of Blakley, which was bigger than Mobile in the early 1820’s, The fort had a three-mile trench and gun redoubts system that encompassed the town of Blakley. It’s kind of surreal and interesting to be hike through the wood and see the old trenches and cannon positions. The park is located on the northeast end of Mobile Bay on the Tensaw River. Which lead to a naval battle between the Union and Confederate navys.
The Blakeley Park is more convenient for us just a few miles out of Spanish Fort and 15 minutes away from downtown Mobile. Cheri, Stella and I took a ferry from Gulf Shores to Dolphin Island and check out Fort Gains then drove up to Mobile had some amazing food and Cheri was able to get her favorite local drink a bushwhacker.
We celebrated my birthday with friends of our that had moved from Wisconsin to Florida six years ago. All by luck, they were renting a cabin here at the park, neither of us know the other was here. We just ran into them on our hike. Small World! After the headed back we met up with friends of ours from Wisconsin that are full-time RVing as well. It was fun check out the breweries in historic Mobile, a wine tasting. We also saw a replica ship of the Pinta in Gulf Shores and went to a gumbo festival with live music in Foley.
As many of you already know, Tom, Stella, and I are planning to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail starting in Georgia March 2023 and ending in Maine around September 2023. Our hike will be just under 2,200 miles.
In preparation, I have booked our flight and gotten most of our gear. We have recently moved to Blakeley State Park in Alabama to ramp up our trail miles on their many trails through historic battlefields.
The other thing I have been working on is finding multiple charities that we can walk for. I thought it would be the extra motivation to keep us going. Tom chose to hike for Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.). C.O.P.S. provides resources to help families rebuild their shattered lives. (www.concernsofpolicesurvivors.org)
Stella will be hiking for Pawsitism which is a nonprofit in the Sheboygan, Wisconsin that is training Autism Assistance Service Dogs for children with autism. This group partner with the client’s family to train, educate, and fundraise money to help provide a dog to help with their child needs. They work with Golden Retrievers, Goldendoodles and now Bernedoodles. (pawsitism.org)
I will be hiking for Mental Health America Mental Health America (MHA). MHA's work is driven by its commitment to promote mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, including prevention services for all; early identification and intervention for those at risk; integrated care, services, and supports for those who need them; with recovery as the goal. (mhanational.org)
I will put the link on the site when I have everything put together. All of these charities mean a lot to us, and we hope to raise a lot of money for them. Please spread the word.
Hello from Alabama!
We made our way from Wisconsin to Riverside RV Resort outside Robertsdale, AL. On our way we visited Mammoth Caves National Park. This national park brings our count to 11 national parks for the year. We also spent a little time in Nashville before moving on the Chattanooga, TN. Tom was excited to spend some looking at battlefields.
Since we have settled in AL, we have met up with Jerry, Scott and Joy. We met Jerry when we stayed in CO. He showed us all around the area and we hope to get together with him again to do some more hiking. We went on a dolphin watch with Scott and Joy. They are friends of ours from WI. They also started their full time RV journey last year. They are enjoying it as much as we are.
Since we have been in AL we have checked out several forts along the gulf. We also went to see the USS Alabama in Mobile.
On our way down we stayed the night:
Who knows how but, I somehow lost my blog posts from 2022 (not that there were many.) We left Wisconsin December 2021 to start our fulltime RV journey. Boy has it been awesome. Our goal is to see all of the national parks and in the process, we want to go see place that are the Johnny Cash song "I've been everywhere." (https://youtu.be/bptJVsYu0_E) Unfortunately, we haven't gotten to many of them yet. This is our list so far (some from previous trips):
There are definitely no regrets. This is an amazing way to live!
Happy New Year 2023!!!