Happiness and contentment in life come from the merging of Opportunity and Talent. My Dad had Talent but no Opportunity so could not find a way to learn to play the Violin. I had Opportunity but no Talent -- I lack the physical ability to complete a Thru Hike of the Appalachian Trail. I failed to learn this lesson even after numerous section hikes, but in the Spring of 2013, after 41.6 miles hiking in MD and PA, I learned the lesson that Dad had in mind when he told me to "hike the Trail." This Blog is now about the Merging of Opportunity and Talent more than it is about hiking the Appalachian Trail, but I still plan to include snippets of the Trail in the Blog. It's about Chasing the Trail of Life. I hope you enjoy my posts.

COMPUTER TRESPASS---RCW 9A.52.110---Computer trespass in the first degree.

(1) A person is guilty of computer trespass in the first degree if the person, without authorization, intentionally gains access to a computer system or electronic database of another; and (a) The access is made with the intent to commit another crime; or (b) The violation involves a computer or database maintained by a government agency.

(2) Computer trespass in the first degree is a class C felony.

This Blog is Dedicated to my Dad. Although he never accomplished his dream of learning to play the Violin, he did construct and play a Dulcimer at an Elderhostel.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

More Christmas Photos

Mom's Tree

Nativity Scene at Our Lady of the Angels Chapel

High Altar at Chapel

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas Eve

Mom's Christmas Tree.

I was invited to the Kennedy Center Handel Messiah Sing-a-long by my brother.  It was lots of fun.  The man sitting next to me was an Architect born in Hungary and living in Munich, Germany.  George barely spoke English but he knew the words to the Hallelujah Chorus (in English)!

Merry Christmas Eve! 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December with Mom

I drove to Baltimore for Mom's 90th birthday in November and am staying through mid-January, weather permitting. 

Here are a few photos 
Mom's birthday flowers (with Flat Mom)

Snow view outside Mom's apartment window.

My homemade gifts - sand and shells from Dauphin Island Beach, AL

Shells and sand top view. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Auburn Football - this never gets old

Some Photos

Me in my cowgirl hat and me in my Barn Crew cap.

Sunshine, a Welsh x American Flaxen Chestnut 2 year old Pony
April, a Registered Quarter Horse 8 year old Palomino
The Barn where I "muck the stalls"
The Pasture where we pick up manure to reduce parasites



And lastly, my living room and my hewn log cabin in the North Georgia Mountains.

Christmas Card

I sent my Blog site info to many people on my Christmas Card list, so I should update somewhat as I can, before people start wondering why I haven't posted anything in a long time. Actually, the reason is because a) I've been busy being "Barn Crew" and b) I'm so happy being busy that I just haven't thought about posting. I shall try to be better at it, as I may have a larger audience as soon as my Christmas Cards are read.  Below is the major part of the Christmas letter I sent, minus personal information.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Christmas has always been a time for remembering, not just what Christ means for us individually and collectively, but also for remembering Christmases past with the joy and anticipation of reading the Christmas story and knowing that once again, we celebrate the Birth of Christ our Savior and King.

In early 2011, I downsized and moved from North Georgia to Daphne, AL. Casey the Wonder Dog died of cancer in September 2011. In May of 2012, I moved to Murfreesboro, TN. I was in Baltimore, MD for my niece's wedding at the end of June 2012, when my Dad was hospitalized and died of a heart attack. Before he died, Dad told me to “hike the Appalachian Trail,” so with the help of cortisone shots in my knees, I made arrangements to hike the Northern half of the AT beginning in May of this year. My 'half a thru hike' turned into 41.6 miles from Dahlgren Backpack Campsite, MD to US Hwy 30 at Caledonia St Pk, PA as my knees could no longer take the pounding on the rocky trail. My brother, Dave, picked me up at Burgundy Lane B&B in Waynesboro, PA and brought me back to Mom's. As it turned out, timing is everything; shortly after returning to Mom's, I got a call from dear friends in North Georgia asking me if I would like to rent their mountain log cabin. The answer was a happy “yes” and I moved in July. I live in a hewn log cabin with a full-length screened porch at the end of a dirt road in the North Georgia mountains and I love it. My friends own a horse and pony and I am the volunteer 'barn crew' learning horse care which includes feeding as well as keeping the stalls and paddock clean. I get to wear cowgirl boots and a cowgirl hat but mostly I wear a cap that says “Barn Crew Carol” and mucking boots. I even have my own manure rake. Dad's advice to hike the AT taught me that when opportunity and talent coincide, happiness results. I had opportunity to hike the AT, but I didn't have talent to be a long distance hiker. I have both opportunity and talent to be “Barn Crew Carol.” I can truthfully state that I am happier than I have been in many years.

As 2013 turns into 2014, my prayer for you is that you will recognize the areas in your life where opportunity and talent coincide. May you find joy and happiness throughout the coming year.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Birthday #69

Today I turned 69 years old. I had a fantastic day. First, my daughter sent me a happy birthday text message.  Then after we fed the horse and pony, I spent the day with my neighbors  (BFFs).  We drove to Harrah's in Cherokee NC and stopped for lunch on the way at River's End Restaurant at Nantahala Outdoor Center in Wesser NC. I shared a Greek Pizza.  Then we drove on to Harrah's and spent a couple hours at the slot machines.  I "won" some money and walked out losing only $13.35.  And I have a voucher for next time.  When we got back, we went to Blue Jeans' Restaurant in Blue Ridge GA and shared a Greek Salad and appetizers, including fried pickles.

Mom called to wish me a happy birthday.  My son called and later called back and we had a nice long conversation.  The Toyota dealership where I bought my car called to wish me a happy birthday.  My daughter in law and granddaughters texted me birthday wishes. A dear friend who lives in Mom's building called to extend birthday wishes. And then my niece called and sang Happy Birthday and I spoke with my brother who has a 65th birthday later this month. 

My neighbors gave me my own manure fork which I got to use this morning. 

I also got a "neighing" coffee mug from them and a "barn crew" cap.  My daughter (& family) and brother (& wife) sent cards.  Mom (& Dad - RIP) had already sent me three cards and a monetery gift.  

I had a really wonderful day!  

I've ended it by watching "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."  
"Sometimes when things don't work out as you expect them to, what happens instead is the Good Stuff." 

I'm living the Good Stuff.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

How I've been spending my time

I have not been keeping up with my blog. Since moving to North Georgia, I've been wonderfully distracted by life and the living of it.  I've made new friends, got involved at Church, worked on moving in and buying a few items of furniture and helping out with the horse and in the pasture.  It's so peaceful here. I love it!

Princess April

Moving Princess April's manure

Removing rocks from the other half of the pasture so Princess April won't trip when she's moved there. 

The peaceful mountain cabin. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Why the censorship of certain books about the Appalachian Trail?

In response to a comment by someone about a book entitled "Black Heart on the Appalachian Trail" ... no review was given, this person just didn't like hearing about bad things that can happen on the AT and didn't want anyone else to read the book.  [Turns out the book is a NOVEL and not even factual.]

I wrote: I don't think anyone harmed Geraldine Largay. I think she did what many of us "of a certain age" are prone to do --- let a schedule dictate our lives and rush to meet our deadline, throwing caution to the wind ---

However, the book referenced apparently strikes at the core of the "Mystic Order of the Appalachian Trail" from the brief description [depressing, something 'like this' might happen to Geraldine] and IM(not so)HO should be part of the whole of a hiker's preparation for hiking the Trail, even if it is fiction, as the author of the book clearly notes. A person - male or female - makes decisions in life based on as much Information as she or he can gather - denying a person information, even if it's a "What If" novel, could prove detrimental --- whether we're talking about Whitewater Kayaking which has drowning hazards or Rock Climbing which as falling hazards or Mountain Bike riding in places with grizzly bears and panthers or Canoeing in places where there are alligators --- few would want anyone to go on those adventures not knowing the dangers and learning how to prepare for them --- WHY is it so different when it comes to the Appalachian Trail??   WHAT IF scenarios are often used in preparation for real life, so what's so inherently 'wrong' about reading a novel with a What If story that has an unhappy ending?

An Editorial Aside:
Bill Bryson's fictional and questionable satire work, "A Walk in the Woods." gave the readers a mythical and inaccurate version of Thru Hiking the Appalachian Trail and of the Southern Appalachian Trail States and her people.  It's about as accurate as the novel in question, yet it is available at bookstores in the "Hiking" or "Appalachian Trail" sections and Mr Bryson has been a speaker at a number of venues, from stores that sell hiking equipment to AT hiking clubs and events.  [Some may question my dislike for the Southernphobe Mr Bryson ... in the South, we despise people who mock our disabled and elderly mothers and grandmothers as he did of Mrs. Mull's mother.  If ever there was a book not to read or a person not to support with your American dollars, it is Mr Bryson.] 
Few are frightened out of Whitewater Kayaking, Rock Climbing, Mountain Bike Riding or Canoeing after reading stories of drownings, broken necks, maulings or other injuries or deaths In these activities --- so why the fear that one or a dozen stories which include harrowing experiences or deaths on the Appalachian Trail will deter anyone?

When I watch the made for TV movies about fictionalized real life adventures that "nearly went wrong and could have ended in death but didn't" it does not invoke fear of embarking on a similar adventure. When I read accounts of people who overcome the harrowing odds during an adventure (books about K2 come to mind), it doesn't preclude my risking my life on a similar experience. But I do learn something from those Adventure Books -- they are beneficial. And denying me knowledge of them, be they a string of facts, a woven story, or a fictionalized tale, were I to plan such a Trek, such an exciting Once in a Lifetime Adventure, would be tantamount to blind folding me and telling me to cross 8 lanes of Interstate at rush hour.

Other sports do not get the censorship given to the AT - and most hiking in general - WHY the censorship of a novel about the Appalachian Trail just because someone doesn't like the way it ends?

Another Editorial Aside:
When I responded to the remark about "Black Heart on the Appalachian Trail" I was unaware that it was JUST A NOVEL and not a factual account.  It was a 'what if' tale that apparently has some very accurate descriptions of various places along the Appalachian Trail and the reader got caught up in it ... which is fine.  But to try to censor others from reading it?  Let's censor all the books with unhappy endings or endings which don't suit our fancy of the moment.  ~~ A little sarcasm to end this post.
PS ... I never have read "Lady Chatterley's Lover" ... it was censored when I was in High School.  Maybe I should see if I can find it online and read it.  Or maybe even buy a copy when I buy "Black Heart on the Appalachian Trail."

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A lost hiker on the Appalachian Trail in Maine

In my previous posts about the dangers of the Appalachian Trail, I have tried to educate the reader to understand that being informed is healthier than blithely thinking that hiking is just "putting one foot in front of the other."  It is NOT that simplistic.  

From the article: If not for white blazes on granite, a hiker could clamber off the trail on the way up. On the way down, a missed step could mean a snapped ankle or something worse, like a tumble off the narrow trail.

Please read the entire article.  And pray for the SAR teams and the volunteer searchers and the Rangers and all the others --- because finding a dead body is not easy on any of them.  And those who think that "well, she died doing what she loved" need to reconsider that thought --- sincerely reconsider that thought. 

My conjecture is that it was raining, the rocks were slick, Geraldine was slower than she had planned and was hurrying, she did get to the Carrabassett River, it was high, she slipped on the rocks and her body will be found downstream.  I hope and pray that I'm wrong, but after reading the story, from my experience on the AT, even though it was 'only 41.6 miles,' this is the scenario that comes to mind.

"Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, Please come 'round, there's someone lost who must be found."

Monday, July 29, 2013

It's Not a Walk in the Woods When Someone Gets Hurt or Dies

This is what I have been trying to explain to those planning to hike the Appalachian Trail and to Appalachian Trail hikers. It's NOT a walk in the woods, it's a DANGEROUS endeavor. And it may be 'the last thing you do.'

Searchers Puzzled Why Hiker, Geraldine "inchworm" Largay Vanished

Wardens Narrow Search Area

Read the articles and look at the photos in the second article.

When you hike the AT or any trail, you take your own life in your hands.  YES, I love hiking and backpacking, and YES, I am well aware of the dangers.  Do I want it to be 'the last thing I do in life?'  NO!  One of the many reasons I got off the Trail when I was hurt was so that I would not push myself while in pain and make a regrettable decision.  You may decide to ruin your health over a hike, but I didn't.

Some will comment, if it turns out that this woman has died on the Trail, that she 'died doing what she loved' and I will ask 'REALLY?'  Don't you think she'd have rather died at a later date?  Don't you think she had other things she was planning to do before she died?  What about her husband?  Do you think he wants to remember his wife 'died doing what she wanted to do' rather than their living a long happy life together?  What about her children, grandchildren, family and friends?  Do you not think that ALL of them will be second guessing themselves for the rest of their natural lives for not saying something that might have saved her life?  "Take another day off, you're tired" or "Don't worry about any deadlines" or "If it gets dark, just stop and camp beside the Trail" or "Carry those maps, even if they weigh 6 extra ounces, they may come in handy" or "The AT can be confusing around all those snow-mobile and backwoods and ski trails, be sure to check your maps and blazes often."  And what about the rescuers?  Their time, effort, expense, and then the trauma if they find her dead?   It's not all about that Romanticized Version of Dying on the Trail.

Resign from the Mystic Order of the Appalachian Trail and come live in reality.

What are you going to say to Geraldine's distraught family?  "Well, at least she had fun before she died?"  I doubt that will help them come to closure.  And I personally think it is very unkind and selfish if that's your first thought.

My first thought is ...

Dear God, Geraldine has been missing for over a week, please help the rescuers locate her or her body.  Please be with her family and comfort them.  Please help open the eyes of the hiking community to the reality of the dangers of hiking.  Please help everyone to be more honest and truthful in reporting about their hikes, especially their Appalachian Trail hikes.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Photo from front porch

Mom asked for a clearer photo. 

If you look carefully you can see the barn. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Nostalgia and Peace

Since my last post, a lot has transpired. 

My hike was cut short by my knees and then my camping trip to the Shenandoah Mountains was shortened by a day due to sub 28* weather.  I returned to my Mom's apartment and was there for my Mom exactly when she needed me. The timing was impeccable -- as if orchestrated by an Unseen Force.  My brother spent time sharing with me, which was inspiring and good.  I got to go kayaking on the Monacacy River with him and his family -- trip planner was my niece -- and had a great time. 

While at my Mom's my Best Friend from North Georgia called. Her tenant had moved out and her Cabin in the Mountains was available if I wanted to rent it.  I said I do!  

So on July first, I got a second chance to live in the North Georgia Mountains. Not everyone gets an opportunity to return to a pleasant place to live.  I'm sitting on the porch as I write this -- night noises, crickets, rain dripping from trees, sky mellowing into night, lightening bugs.  Earlier, BFF's dh [dear husband] brought me a handful of fresh blueberries from the garden beside the cabin.  I'll put them in my oatmeal in the morning. There are apples ripening on the tree beside the blueberry bush.  

I'm surrounded by pines and hardwoods.   The horse pasture is just beyond the trees and the barn has faded from sight  and blended in with the trees beyond it. 

Hymns are playing on my CD player. 

I opened one of my AT Hike Maildrop boxes [I have 5 more to open] and put the food in the cupboard. It was the Port Clinton, PA, box -- I expected to be there on May 23.  That seems like a lifetime ago. And in a sense, it was. Do I regret salvaging my knee and getting off the Trail? Honestly -- no.  I've had plenty of time to search my heart -- I have looked at my answers to Zach Davis' questions [Appalachian Trials - see previous posts] -- I've reflected, I've pondered, I've prayed -- and I have no regrets.  I believe I have learned what Dad wanted me to know when he told me to hike the Trail.  And I am still learning.  

Tonight, I am in that place of peace and contentment.  Everything is not "perfect" in my life, by any means.  I wax nostalgic about my kids and grand kids and great grandson -- I wonder how they are. 

Ah, the music has stopped and the rain has started -- perfect timing to bid the reader a gentle goodnight for now. 

Porch in the daytime. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Photos of my Hike

Photo album from my Hike in May with comments on the photos.

Doesn't seem possible that my hike is now 'on hold' but that's the way things happen.

In the long run, it's turned out to be good because a mountain cabin has become available and I'll be moving from TN back to GA in July.

Thank you to everyone who has followed this blog.  There will be more adventures this summer.  How many will include backpacking is currently not known, but I am hoping my knee will heal enough for me to get back on the Appalachian Trail and the Benton MacKaye Trail.

I will be hammock hanging this time, though.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

July 18, 2004: Unprepared Hikers Burden Baxter Park Staff

This is only one article from 9 years ago (there are many more current articles) and it does not describe the complete incident.  Surviving to tell the story turns a life-threatening event into an exciting adventure.  I wonder how the "adventure" would have been described if, during the 32 hour ordeal, one or more participants had died?  

Turning a near tragedy into an exciting hike is an example of what I now call: "The Mystic Order of the Appalachian Trail" -- whose sole members are those Appalachian Trail hikers who survive life-threatening and risky experiences while hiking the Trail which get translated in their telling into an "heroic and challenging adventure" merely because none of the participants succumbed to any of the many dangerous situations they and the Trail placed them in and who have sworn themselves never to reveal the true dangers and their near-fatal instances while hiking the Trail. 

Someone will want to comment that "you could die in your bed or on the Trail; I choose the Trail." Fine and good, but please be considerate of others and do not place your rescuers in danger. If you have a Trail Death Wish, do not carry a "Spot" or satellite phone and do not use your cell-phone when you place yourself in a life-threatening situation or when you injure yourself because you chose to place yourself in harm's way.  Calling for help to get yourself out of a predicament on the Appalachian Trail which you chose to place yourself in is the height of Trail Hypocrisy! Take responsibility for hiking the Trail and do not expect others to bail you out because of your lack of adequate gear, planning, preparation, or physical health or ability. 

Just because the Trail is "there" and you think you have a "right" to hike it, does not give you permission to take risks and then expect others to rescue you because you choose to "die on the Trail rather than at home." No, you do NOT choose to "die on the Trail!" You choose to have someone, Park Employee, Ranger, Volunteer, Rescue Unit, another hiker, come save you so you can "die at home."  Be honest -- or refuse to call for rescue -- do not be a hypocrite! 

Quote: The park doesn’t require reimbursement by those rescued. Caverly suggested to the trustees that they might consider it in the future to apply to individuals "who say they have a right to go" hiking in hazardous weather conditions. End Quote. 

By Phyllis Austin, Maine Environmental News (www.meepi.org). 10/25/04

On the night of July 18, 2004, rain and fog shrouded Katahdin, and three women – one of them 81 years old – hovered in the dark on the mountain’s high plateau.

Loretta Copeland of Ocala, Florida, was so tired from the 5.2-mile hike up the Hunt trail to the 5,267-foot summit that she couldn’t make it back down. Her 65-year-old companions, Nancy Keegan of West Palmetto, Florida, and Patty Faith from Altoona, Pennsylvania, were not able to leave her. A lone hiker who happened to come across the trio, decided to stay with them for support.

The rangers at Katahdin Stream campground were notified by returning hikers that Loretta Copeland needed help. Searchers proceeded up the trail for two-and-a-half hours. At 11 p.m., they still hadn’t found the women and turned back because the weather made it too risky to continue.

Rangers were enroute again by 7 a.m. When they finally located the women, they placed Copeland on a stretcher. The evacuation off the mountain took six hours. Copeland was transported by ambulance to the Millinocket hospital and kept overnight for observation.


The search and rescue efforts were highlighted by park director Buzz Caverly at the October 15 [2004],meeting of the Park Authority because "it was amazing" to have people in that age category on Katahdin. "Older people decided it was time to conquer Katahdin, without realizing you don’t conquer the mountain," he observed.

Dan Martin, one of the authority’s three members and head of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, responded that his agency is "seeing the same thing" with search and rescue of more older people outdoors. "These are people in their 70s, 80s, early 90s," he said. "They give out . . . are ill-prepared." 


"People look at Katahdin as a piece of cake [to climb]," Caverly told the park trustees at the fall meeting at Kidney Pond. But the mountain is formidable, and hikers of all ages should take it seriously and follow "good Boy Scout rules," he said.

( I contend that it is "The Mystic Order of the Appalachian Trail" and the books and Trail Journals and web-blogs which are at least partly responsible for this false and dangerous assumption that Katahdin is "fun" and a "challenge" rather than a more accurate description: formidable and life-endangering, even for healthy and prepared hikers. Hiking the Appalachian Trail is not a "walk in the woods" but is a physical and mental undertaking. Everyone who dreams of becoming a "2000-Miler" or Thru Hiker is encouraged to take an honest inventory of his/her skills, abilities, health and age. Hike Your Own Hike and, as Francis Tapon wrote: find out what that phrase means in your life. )

Read more about the difficulty and dangers of hiking Katahdin and the Whites here: http://www.meepi.org/files04/pa102504.htm

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Coosa Converts

This is my new Hennessy Hammock Backpacker Asym.  Found the "sweet spot" and slept well. 

I can't believe I converted from Bivy to Hammock!

I'm at Big Meadows Campground on Skyline Drive. Tonight I'm eating at the Lodge --- wanted a steak, ended up with Roosevelt's Fried Chicken dinner. If you don't know the story of how he reniged on the Government promise (both President Coolidge and President Hoover decreed it in writing!) to allow the residents of the Shenandoah National Park to remain on their land --- read up on it! Broke my heart --- 450 (or more) families had the property they bought and paid for stolen from them by the Government of Franklin Delano Roosevelt!  The Federal Government thanked them for their "sacrifice" --- that's what they call it when they victimize citizens I guess. 

PS -- Spotswood Dining Lodge --- 2 or 3 stars --- burned chicken and cold sweet potato fries. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Definition of a Successful Hike

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is hard.  And I've only hiked 41.6 Maryland and Pennsylvania miles of it.

It's hard work.  It is fun, too.  I enjoyed hiking in the rain and seeing how beautiful the shades of green are, how mysterious and other-worldly the woods are, how peaceful it is to be alone with rain-drops falling all around.  It's hard to be walking and slipping up a hill, switchback or not, in the driving rain with 30 pounds on your back, gravity trying to pull you down the hill while you're trying to go up.  It's scary trying to balance your weight and that of your pack on uneven rocks that want to twist your knees and strain your ankles while at the same time, you're thankful that it's not raining yet, because the sky is threatening and you're worried you'll be caught trying to walk on wet slippery rocks.

It's so peaceful to be the only one hiking on the Trail, climbing up a hill, false summit after false summit, stopping to look around at all the downed trees, the piles of rocks, the rocky ridge, the leaves, the hint of Spring, the first wild azalea in bloom.  It's frustrating to be hiking along at a good clip, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, only to find that the 'Trail planners' have decided to take you off the old logging road Trail and send the Trail up a steep incline to the rocky ridge line in order to create a Trail through a maze of boulders the size of 'smart cars' and 'baby elephants' through which you must attempt to locate the next white blaze and then after a quarter mile, descend on a jumble of boulders and rocks back down to that same old logging road Trail until the 'Trail planners' decide to repeat the process.

The Trail is sometimes a river, sometimes a mucky mess, sometimes puddles, and often cold wet feet.  The Trail is a staircase going up and coming down, only the steps have risers as high as two feet.  The Trail is soft leaves and hard rocks.  The Trail is occasionally flat and often cupped.  In one section the cupping was about 2 feet deep, fortunately it was not pouring rain when I walked through that.

You've seen my photos of the rocks.  Those photos do not do reality any justice.  "You have to be there."

The pounding on your feet and knees while hiking on the rocks is unending.  Whether you're a younger person or have more meniscus in your knees, the constant battering will eventually take its toll.  Maybe you're young enough not to feel it immediately, maybe you are able to ignore it, maybe a good night's sleep heals it, and maybe not.  Maybe your feet have good padding or you have thick soles on your boots or thick insoles in your shoes and your feet don't start tingling for a while. Maybe a good night's sleep stops the tingling.  Maybe the second day off the Trail they hurt worse than they did the first day.

The moments of pure beauty are memorable.  The pain and injury are physical.  Zach Davis and others will state that Thru Hiking is 20% physical and 80% mental.  I'm going to suggest that the 20% when injured on the Trail can over power the 80% in a heart beat.

I enjoyed staying at the Shelters and had no problem with Shelter Mice ... Pine Knob Shelter and Ensign Cowall Shelter and Raven Rock Shelter and Deer Lick Shelters and Antietam Shelter and Tumbling Run Shelters ... and I enjoyed meeting the hikers ...
Cheap Chardonnay [who is very generous]
Breeze [Fletcher] and Olympia
Mountain Goat
Johnny Blaze
Foot Machine
Cupcake and ??? 
Skippy and Marsha
Lefty and Hush [newly weds]
Squirrel who changed her name to Tree Rat
Bull [Alex from Raleigh who graduated with all A's and took his ROTC physical only to learn he was 35% deaf and a year later another physical revealed he is now 70% deaf.  He shared the words that helped him hike his first 150 miles in 30 days "Small Steps: Big Achievements" -- He's one inspiring young man!]
Mark and Keith
Slow Step and Short Step
Prairie Dog [Patrick] and his Katrina Rescue Dog, Georgia
Punchy and Long Body
Patricia [and the group from South New Jersey]
The Overseers for Tumbling Run Shelter and their dog, Mocha
[There were other hikers whose names I failed to notate.]

Staying at Free State Hostel in MD and meeting Jenelle and her precious children was a good experience.  Staying at Burgundy Lane B&B in Waynesboro, PA was a total delight.  [Can't brag on David and Margaret enough!]

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not planning to get off the Trail or to quit Backpacking.  I am re-examining my physical abilities including those I think/thought I had and those I actually have.

I had good conversation with a hiker over dinner one night.  I learned from her perspective more about what the Appalachian Trail is really like and how many Sections are much more difficult than most hikers are at first aware of. Some Sections are best hiked 'in season' -- like Connecticut in the Fall and Massachusetts [bugs and bogs] when it's not too wet. There's the account of the middle aged hiking couple who got to the Kinsmans and hiked part way up before they realized the difficulty was beyond their abilities and had to hike back down. They decided then that they would not be able to complete a Section Hike or become "2000-Milers," so they now hike the Sections they enjoy each year and take pleasure in that. I learned that many Hikers who attempt to climb out of Crawford Notch with a full backpack are unable to do so and have to turn around.

I heard accounts about the many AT Hikers who get to Katahdin Stream Campground through the very difficult 100-Mile Wilderness and start their climb up the Hunt Trail to Katahdin only to be disappointed in their efforts because of how difficult Mile 4 is.  They end up having to turn back without summiting.  [See quote from Francis Tapon below.]

The facts are that many many Appalachian Trail Hikers fail to complete a Thru Hike or Section Hike to the summit Katahdin and that most Hikers, most Appalachian Trail Hikers, appear to be unaware of this. We hear about the successes, yet most of those successful Hikers do not clearly describe the difficult Sections of the Trail. I had previously heard about the rebars on Mile 4 of the Hunt Trail to the summit of Katahdin but I had not heard 'the rest of the story.'  The Journals I have read  seem to indicate that Thru Hiking and Section Hiking the Appalachian Trail is 'fun' and 'a challenge' and that all it takes is 'will' and 'anyone who wants to Thru Hike can do it.'  Really?  Or is this the popular perception which disguises the difficult truth?  
Here are descriptions of the hike up Katahdin from three Thru Hikers I found on their blogs:  
I 'googled' "rebar on Katahdin" and the only photos of the rebar were found in this set from a 2011 Hike.  And the Hiker who took the photos did not make it all the way to the Summit.
Where are the descriptive stories from the hikers who were unable to summit Katahdin?  Are they out there?  Do they post online or on Trail Journals?  And if they do, please comment and give me their websites.  Are they members of the Hiking Community?  Or if they were members before their hikes, did they drop out because they were unable to complete their Thru Hikes?  Is there such shame in being unable to complete a Thru Hike or become a "2000-Miler" or summit Katahdin that it causes an AT Hiker to fade away into oblivion?   Is there some kind of unspoken rule that AT Hikers are not to describe the difficult sections of the Trail with an honest appraisal?  And if they did describe the difficult and fear inducing Sections, would anyone listen?  Would I listen?  Is this experience something that each of us must encounter on our own and then make a choice, a decision, a re-evaluation?  Or is this information which AT Hikers need to know before they set out to hike?   Would it make a difference in your hike?   Would it make a difference in mine?

While contemplating these questions, I found this interesting article online.

Hike Your Own Hike On The Appalachian Trail And In Life by Francis Tapon
In many cases, hiking your own hike may mean quitting the hike. Over 70 percent of the hikers who intend to hike the entire Appalachian Trail in one season quit. Some of them return the next season(s) to complete the sections they missed; thus, they become Section Hikers. However, many who quit never return because the hike wasn’t fun for them. After all, digging a hole in the dirt and squatting can get old after a while.  
Whether you quit after 20 miles or you go the entire distance, the Appalachian Trail teaches you the same lesson: hike your own hike. Hikers ultimately focus on having fun.
And what about Dad's last words to me?  "I want you to hike the Trail."  What did he mean by that, exactly?  What lesson did I need to learn?  My Dad wanted to play the violin but he never had the opportunity although he surely had the talent.  I wanted to Thru Hike the Appalachian Trail but I realize I don't have the physical ability [the talent] even though I have the opportunity.  Dad made a Dulcimer at an Elderhostel, learned to play a song on it, and played in a concert.  What will I do?  Maybe that's the lesson I have to learn.  Dad is teaching me a lesson about opportunities and abilities, about taking the talents I have and using them.  The questions I ask myself are "What talents do I have?"  "What can I do with them?"  "How will I use them to learn my song?"    

As for the "fun" part of hiking -- it IS fun to be on the Appalachian Trail, pained feet and all [however, it is not fun with knee pain].  I want to go back to the Trail and will as soon as my knee is better.  I'll re-evaluate where and when.   I do not plan to be one of the "many who quit never return" group.

I want to imitate the couple who came back down the Kinsmans and decided to hike the enjoyable Sections and take pleasure and joy in those hikes.   Yeah, that's what a SUCCESSFUL hike is all about, isn't it?

"It's not about the miles, it's all about the smiles" according to Winton Porter of Mountain Crossings at Neel Gap, GA.

I went to the Doctor today and he would not give me another Cortisone shot in my knee so soon after my last one.  However, I did receive a methylprednisolone tablet Dosepak to take with meals for the next six days.  I plan to be camping out in the Shenandoah Mountains for a week while taking this medication.  And I'll be learning how to Hammock Hang.  I'm hoping that in a week I can start making my plans to get back on the Appalachian Trail ... only this time, headed South into the rolling hills of Virginia for about a month.  And I still plan to attend a famous 4th of July Parade in Massachusetts. 

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. 

Proverbs 16:9 In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

Proverbs 4:26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Hike Interrupted - To Be Continued -

Total AT Miles: 41.6 
9 Nights
7 in Shelters
1 in Hostel
1 in B&B 

2 Additional Nights in B&B before leaving Trail 

My Appalachian Trail hike has been temporarily suspended due to knee injury. 

Should you hike in the Pen Mar - Caledonia and surrounding area, I recommend Burgundy Lane B&B for overnights and slack packing.

To be continued ... 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Rocky Appalachian Trail

I climbed and scooted over those rocks. 

That IS the Appalachian Trail? 

There's the White Blaze and the challenge is to get there ... Because I won't see the next White Blaze until I do! 

Going down the Appalachian Rock Trail. 

You hear about the Pennsylvania rocks on the Northern section of the Trail. These are just a few photos of the rocky Trail between Rocky Mountain Shelter blue blaze (Shelter was .3 miles downhill and I decided not to spend the night there) and to hike on to to US 30 at Fayetteville PA after calling Burgundy Lane B&B and reserving a night there. 

Isaiah 26:4  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day, Mom

Appalachian River or Stairs?

I've walked both.

The only way is through it.

The only way is up it.  

Small Steps; Big Accomplishments! 

Psalm 37:23 The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; 24 though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Day Four of NoBo AT Hike

Miles Hiked: 4.6
Total AT Miles: 24.6
Additional Miles: (guess .4)

What a day it was. First of all, I got "going the wrong way (South)" out of the way so I'll be more observant. It was beneficial because I was able to inform the SoBo Section Hiking couple to call the Free State Hostel while the had Verizon Service. I got back to the Shelter blue blaze at 9:08 AM headed NorthBound (NoBo). 

Then, the Trail toward High Rocks was "like everyone thinks the Appalachian Trail is like." 

See Previous Post for a small dose of reality. 

I did not take the blue blaze trail to High Rocks. That was where my Trail Angel rescued me in 2009 after my frightening event at "Devil's Race Course Shelter."  

Then Rocks and Rocks and Rocks.  But it was not raining ... yet. 

After that 1/2 to 3/4 mile of boulders that took 2 hours to descend. I took a photo and drank the last of my water ... 12:30 PM. It spattered rain on the rocky muddy trail until I arrived at Pen Mar County Park.  

I called Mom and told her I was going to 

Burgundy Lane B&Bin Waynesboro PA.  I called and David picked me up. 

I recommend Burgundy Lane B&B to Thru Hikers and Section Hikers. The Hosts provide shuttle to & from the Trail, to restaurants, and a truly gourmet breakfast. The house was built in 1897 (iirc) and added to in 1910. It was a Doctor's Office and home. The rooms are tastefully decorated in different Themes. I stayed in the Out of Africa room with the porch. 

Flat Dad enjoyed his stay, too.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

There are rocks and then there are ROCKS

First photo ... Looking down the Appalachian Trail Northbound just past High Rocks in Maryland.

Second photo ... Looking back up. 

And there was more! Three Quarters of a Mile more ... and it took me 2 hours to get down to more "level" aka rocks with some earth among them "ground." The AT white blaze  is placed about 10 feet high on a tree in the direction the Trail is to go and it is up to the hiker to maneuver the maze of jumbled rocks to get to that blaze before the AT reveals the next white blaze on a tree in the direction the hiker must travel in order to find the next white blaze. For 3/4 of a mile. 

Although I did not fall, I did scare myself a few times and nearly "face-planted" so many times I lost count. My ankles are wobbly. With the "turtle" (pack) on my back, my balance is easily thrown off.  (Gravity has always been my nemesis.)  I had to turn around and back down many times getting through the rocks. 

But ... I did and the pouring rain didn't start until I did! 

This photo was graffiti on rocks ... I thought the message poignant.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Day Three of NoBo AT Hike

Miles Hiked: 5.1 
Total AT Miles: 20

Additional Miles: .3 

Road walking back up to the AT was hard. I was loaded down with food and water and had 32 pounds on my back. I tried to think of a way to cut weight, but I needed everything I had ... well, maybe not all that turkey jerky.  I bought a Snickers candy bar for a treat and didn't realize what a treat it would become.

Headed up the AT passed the Ensign Cowall shelter and passed a couple of power line rights of way. It started drizzling and then let loose with a full fledged rain storm.  I crossed a couple of farm fields ... My Kind Of Appalachian Trail in the pouring rain.  Then crossed a road and once into the woods, I decided it was time for my Snickers Bar. My pruned cold fingers slipped and the partially opened wrapper and bar fell to the ground. I instinctively looked at my watch to see when the "three second rule" began and it read "12:03:57" ... My birth time with 3 seconds left.  I snatched up the bar, wiped off the dirt and took a bite. That was the best Snickers bar I have ever tasted. 

The rain never let up. It poured and I gave up trying to keep my feet dry. I waded across Warner Gap Stream, walked the 2-plank bridge across the main part and then had to "rock hop" across Little Antietam Creek. After that, the AT crosses Raven Rock Rd (MD 491) and climbs nearly 600 feet up switchbacks to Raven Rock Shelter. 

In the rain. 

Forever. Brutal. I left at 10:10 AM and arrived at 4:30 PM. Six hours twenty minutes to travel 5.4 miles with 32 pounds on my back in the pouring rain.

I quickly ate and climbed into my dry clothes and sleeping bag. 

First Photo - Stream I waded through in the pouring rain. 

Second Photo - Little Antietam Creek where I rock hopped across in the pouring rain. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Day Two of Hike

Miles hiked: 9.2
Total AT Miles: 14.9

Additional Miles: .6

Maryland has rocks! See last post.

Spent the day snoozing until Cheap Chardonnay and his friend Foot Machine arrived with Trail Magic and the Double Meat Roast Beef All The Way extra mayo and olive oil hot peppers on the side on whole grain bun Subway showed up. Ate 1/2 of it. Drank 1/2 the Pepsi. And a grocery store bag of Resupply ... I'm good for 5 more days!

Thank you!

We had great Trail Talk and then Cheap Chardonnay hiked on and Foot Machine went home.

Just as I was finishing packing up ... Olympia and Fletcher arrived at Ensign Cowall shelter for the "rainy & cold" night.

I hiked back to MD 17 and down to the Free State Hiker Hostel. Shower, laundry, ate the second half of my Subway. Met Nancy who is finishing her last AT section!

Congratulations Nancy!

Met owner of hostel and all the kids (husband didn't make it upstairs). 4 boys, 1 girl in the middle, home schooled. 10 yrs to 2 months! Beautiful family.

If you're reading this and have read about the potato bugs (or for the Quayles "potatoe" -- that surely ages me & some of you are asking Quayle? Misspelled Quail??? and who are these people?)
Yes, but 99% are dead & they won't kill you! The Free State Hiker Hostel gets 5-Stars! Trust me, you won't be disappointed!