Everything is exactly the same- but nothing is

There aren't a lot of blog posts dealing with getting off trail.  

I mean there are thousands of blog posts announcing getting off trail, and how sad it is, and how they are proud of themselves for what they did accomplish or that they are #blessed just to have had the opportunity. 

But what about this feeling right now. The "I've been back at my old job for 6 months and I still haven't figured out how to explain what happened" blogs or the "all my friends are summiting and here I am wishing I were there but knowing that getting off was the right thing but gosh it still kind of hurts my soul" blog post or the "my tendonitis still won't go away and I've been stuck on the couch and feel like if I can't hike again soon I might suffocate on my own misery" blog posts. I guess those ones aren't as fun to read. They aren't as fun to write either.  

Maybe I got off trail and continued to have amazing adventures, visiting friends, going camping, starting life over again like a big giant reset button. But a part of it all feels hollow for not finishing.  

I'll be honest, it sucks to see your friends finish. It sucks to see them conquer mountains and celebrate victories. It sucks even knowing the realities of what their day to day life is like, and how challenging it is. It sucks feeling left behind.  

Which is not to say I'm not over the moon happy for them, or any less proud than a mother hen. It's just that twinge of jealousy shades those emotions.

But. I will say this: I'm figuring it out. I'm beyond grateful for the experience I had and became a whole new and improved person from my hike.  

Mans maybe someday I will set out to hike again. Eric has his eyes on the PCT in five years. I think I could see that happening for both of us.  

Off Trail Blues

So if you didn't hear on my Instagram account, I unfortunately had to abandon ship at the Mason-Dixon line. I had a case of tendinitis that I didn't recognize until it was too late, which then got pretty aggravated and forced me to suspend my thru-hike attempt. I'm obviously pretty devastated but moving on with my life and back in the swing of things in California. 

Sorry, just wanted to post a brief update for all my "fans" and let you guys know that I haven't forgotten this site. I'm still processing everything that happened.

I am happy to say that I made it to the Mason-Dixon line at mile 1,064 and completed (nearly) the entire southern half of the trail, which I think is pretty baller. For now I'm going to be settling into my career and focusing on shorter trips, but I promise to keep good content coming. 

Happy Trails, 

Lucky

500 Miles in

Since starting this post I've made it to about 600 miles and temporarily gotten off trail in order to heal some tendonitis! But don't worry, I'm getting back on trail soon!  

It's been a while since I've updated here. Sorry! I have been updating my Instagram regularly and also written a few posts on Appalachian Trials.  

 

 We met the Real Hiking Viking

We met the Real Hiking Viking

So we left the Smokies. We went to Hot Springs. It was a BLAST and I never ever wanted to leave but the trail beckons...

 

 Taking a break on trail with Wook. A real homie

Taking a break on trail with Wook. A real homie

We hiked for about a week with Jingle, Sweets, Legs, Verge, Commando, and Packrat. Climbed a firetower and watched a sweet sunset.  

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These miles of trail were some of the most beautiful so far, and the days continued to get longer leaving us more time for hiking.  

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In the town of Erwin we got off trail for a few days to visit friends in Raleigh, NC. Erwin was a funky little town but Lil' Santa and I both really enjoyed our accommodations at Cantarosso Farm and the food at Hawg-n-Dawg

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Once back on trail t was kind of a bummer because we were suddenly behind all of our friends! It was weird and kind of a bummer for a few days but then you meet new people and your new bubble and it turns out that everyone in this bubble is also awesome! And the miles were starting to come much easier. I ignored the pain in my foot and marched on.   

 

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In Damascus we stayed at Woodchuck Hostel which was a really wonderful hostel. I'm a fan of the hostels that provide you with linens and pillows because it feels more cozy and clean.  

 

 The backyard at Woodchuck Hostel

The backyard at Woodchuck Hostel

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We slack packed down from Whitetop with Doug (who still, at 700 miles has no trail name) and Victory. Unfortunately this would be our lasta y with Victory as she got off the trail due to injury the next day. She'd been fighting though it for a while but at a certain point it gets to be too much. I would come to this point about a week and a half later.  

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Even though we were slack packing Lil Santa filled up his backpack with beers and snacks to pass out to all the uphill hikers. Many of whom were our friends! It was really fun to surprise other hikers with magic mid-trail.  

 Lil Santa and Doug

Lil Santa and Doug

The next day we set out to hit the Grayson highlands, which besides the fact that the pain in my foot was starting to really become intolerable and slowed my pace to a crawl, was still a super fun section of trail.  

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Plus this is where you hit the 500 mile mark and that was super exciting. I'm pretty sure everyone was singing "500 Miles" by the proclaimers all day long.  

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Our next stop was Marion, Va where we did a fast food tour and then celebrated my 25th birthday! I was feeling so grateful for my beautiful trail family to celebrate with me. 

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The next day Lil Santa and I zero'd I'm Marion when I went to urgent care and was told.... Nothing. They didn't know what was wrong. They said maybe I had collapsing arches. They gave me a steroid shot in my ass and sent me on my way. Btw if you get a steroid shot in your ass not only does it hurt but I found out later it's pretty much completely useless. So yay.  

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But we carried on. At this point I'd been walking with some level of high pain and stiffness in my foot for about 350 miles. And it was only getting worse every day. But we carried on.  

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Honestly it's hard not to keep hiking. Through the heat and the hills it's beautiful in the long green tunnel and it's something different in your heart and mind than I'd ever experienced. even with this pain, I couldn't imagine ending my hike

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We went back to Damascus for trail days and saw tons of friends we hadn't seen in a while!  

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Oh and Lil Santa won thru-hiker prom king.  

 We finally hit the 1/4 way mark! 

We finally hit the 1/4 way mark! 

 Kaleidoscope and Cheeks! 

Kaleidoscope and Cheeks! 

My favorite night on trail after a day when I started to realize I needed an expended break to heal and figure out wtf was really wrong with my foot: Chestnut Knob Shelter. The most beautiful sunrise of my life.  

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Two days later I was near tears just walking from my tent to where I had hung my food bag. My foot hurt and I couldn't imagine walking one mile much less 15-16. We called my aunt who lives close enough and she picked me up 7 miles later in Bland, VA. I'm pretty sure I cried with every step that day. It hurt so bad, but more than that I was crushed to be leaving the trail, even temporarily. I was crushed to be leaving my boyfriend and partner.  

 I sat crying for about an hour here.  

I sat crying for about an hour here.  

Even now, almost two weeks later and still not "better" I'm feeling crushed and defeated.  

 Hiked McAfee's know as a day hike to test out my foot. It was beautiful but I definitely wasn't ready to be back on trail

Hiked McAfee's know as a day hike to test out my foot. It was beautiful but I definitely wasn't ready to be back on trail

Although Lil Santa says I shouldn't feel that way, and that he's sure I'll be back on trail with him soon it's just feeling very hard to believe that right now. I want to be on trail so badly and I can't stop thinking about if there's something I should have done differently in the early days of the trail. We took it slow but there were a few high mile days to escape bad weather or to replenish toilet paper supplies. I don't know. All I really know is that I would wish this on my worst enemy.  

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I'm lucky there was family nearby to take care of me and spoil me. I'm lucky that my partner isn't going to let me quit and really believes I'll get better. I'm going to be back on trail and if the tendonitis comes back so be it, I'll fight through it as long as I can.  

but still...  

Sorry to end the post on a bit of a sour note. Right now my plan is to rent a car and get up to DC from which I will hopefully meet up with Lil Santa as he heads into the Shenendoahs or from Harper's Ferry depending on how my foot feels. Keep me in your thoughts or prayers.  

-Lucky

The Great Windy Mountains

 Our fist, and only, warm day in the Smokies

Our fist, and only, warm day in the Smokies

It's exciting when you are spending your nights above 5000 feet in early April in the Appalachian Mountains. Wind, Rain, Sleet, Snow, you never know!  

Except... You kind of do. Because we all have Smart Phones you get service at least once a day, and then you can check the weather. (If you're in the know, you're using atweather.org to get your shelter specific forecast) 

What we saw in the forecast was more and worse than what we'd been experiencing. Since it was easy enough to get off the trail and head into Gatlinberg (I'm told it's 'the Reno of Tennessee' if that tells you anything) we did just that. And avoided the half foot of snow that fell on our fellow hikers.

So far, the Smokies have been a constant wind tunnel, and a simple hustle to get to the next shelter in hopes of getting warm for 5 minutes. It's crazy how the wind can wear on you.

 I went full ninja for the first time in the Patagonia R1 hoody. Fairly warm considering what's it's up against.  

I went full ninja for the first time in the Patagonia R1 hoody. Fairly warm considering what's it's up against.  

Added to that is the fact that we pulled a 17.5 mile day our second day in the Smokies and it left my left Achilles tighter than a well tuned guitar string.

So here we are, planning on spending not one but two zero days to rest, and avoid the cold. I can't complain (though, I will say, Gatlinberg... I don't get it. Can someone explain this town to me?)

 Pretty used to not having plumbing, but sometimes, water does still come from a pipe!  Many Water sources have pipes to help with collection of water from otherwise meager flows

Pretty used to not having plumbing, but sometimes, water does still come from a pipe!  Many Water sources have pipes to help with collection of water from otherwise meager flows

Our first night in the Smokies we stayed at Birch Spring Campsite. It's was probably my favorite place we have stayed in the Smokies so far. (Well, we've only spent two nights in the Smokies soooo)

 Birch Spring Campsite around sunrise. I bet when all the tree leaves come in it is an absolutely magical glade! If you look closely you can see Lil Santa

Birch Spring Campsite around sunrise. I bet when all the tree leaves come in it is an absolutely magical glade! If you look closely you can see Lil Santa

Since we had to wait for a package at Fontana Dam we got a late start, so the 6 mile hike in to the campsite was plenty. We thought it would be packed after hearing rumors and horror stories of the Smokies but.... There was only one other hiker at the campsite that night. Plus it wasn't ON a ridge, so we were somewhat protected from the wind. 

 The miles between Birch Springs Campsite and Mollies Ridge Shelter were beautiful, wildflowers, moss covered logs and awesome gentle grades. It was the highlight of the day.  

The miles between Birch Springs Campsite and Mollies Ridge Shelter were beautiful, wildflowers, moss covered logs and awesome gentle grades. It was the highlight of the day.  

But the next day we thought about the forecast and decided we wanted to push through to Gatlinberg as quickly as possible. We hiked 17.5 miles (our longest day) over some of the toughest terrain we've faced, in winds of sustained 25-30 mph with gusts up to 44mph. It was more gnarly than I would have liked, but it was probably worth it in the end. Plus we got to feel badass since we hiked at least 6 miles further than anyone else in the shelter. (Or maybe we felt dumb) 

it was also awesome because we caught up with a bunch of the people we've been seeing every night. Including Miss T! Who we hadn't seen since Hiawassee.  

 A not-so-nasty section of our day between Mollies Ridge Shelter and Derrick's Knob Shelter.  

A not-so-nasty section of our day between Mollies Ridge Shelter and Derrick's Knob Shelter.  

Shelters in the Smokies are interesting. There are more rules than anywhere else on the trail yet, and oddly enough, privies at shelters are the exception and not the rule here. Since all hikers are required to stay at shelters (only thru hikers can camp, and only if there is no space in the shelter) there is a huge concentration of people staying in the same spot night after night all season long. The disposal of human waste is... Sloppy to say the least. Just finding a spot to dig you cat hike that doesn't already have a flower of toilet paper is nearly impossible, not to mention that some people do NOT properly bury their waste. It's nasty. I know that the purpose is to avoid too much human impact, but at a certain point the impact of no privy becomes greater than the impact of having a privy.  

That said, the shelters in the Smokies have fireplaces! And tarps over the open side of the shelters to help dissipate the wind.  I somehow forgot to take any pictures of, in, or around the shelters. I'll try to remember later. Until then, you can always Google...

At Derrick's Knob Shelter Lil Santa and I were lucky enough to get a spot in the shelter and stayed warm and dry even though it poured rain outside all night, and many of our fellow hikers ended up with puddles in their tents. (Due to wind blown rain, or condensation, we don't know)  

 

 Hey! That's tree is sideways! 

Hey! That's tree is sideways! 

We thought about doing another 17+ miles day to get to New Found Gap but we're so beat by the time we got to Clingmans Done that we decided to pull off the trail there.  So we did about 10 miles and hit the 199.5 mile mark. That's right, we are only 0.5 miles away from 200 miles and we pulled off the trail for not one but two zero days. I bet the anticipation is killing you! 

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 But we did make it to the top of Clingman's Dome, the highest point on the Appalachian Trail where it actively was snowing on us!

But we did make it to the top of Clingman's Dome, the highest point on the Appalachian Trail where it actively was snowing on us!

So there you have it. So far, between the two of us, have eaten a salad, a small pizza, a medium pizza, two cheese burgers, two hot dogs, four scoops of ice cream, and four donuts. And it's been less than 24 hours in town.  

 But we earned it

But we earned it

 

Happy Trails! We have a shuttle reservation back to Clingman's Dome on 4/10 assuming the road reopens! (It was closed due to snow this morning, and more snow is expected tonight) 

A Dam Good Time

We made it to Fontana Dam! Kind of. My parents picked us up today at a gap just 7.2ish miles from the dam. They fed us great food and let us wear ~real clothes~ and tomorrow they are going to slack pack us into Fontana! We'll begin hiking into the Smokies on Tuesday!  

 

 The view from Chetoah Bald was rockin, well worth the terribly long climb out from the NOC

The view from Chetoah Bald was rockin, well worth the terribly long climb out from the NOC

We took a zero in Franklin, and then high tailed it to the NOC. We had to figure out how we would meet up with my parents, who are traveling between Atlanta and Roanoke from California for Spring Break!   

 

 Siler Bald's extra 0.2 mile side trail was worth it! Though I wouldn't have done it of my own volition! It was awesome hiking with Lt Dan and Cpt Ahab for a few days! 

Siler Bald's extra 0.2 mile side trail was worth it! Though I wouldn't have done it of my own volition! It was awesome hiking with Lt Dan and Cpt Ahab for a few days! 

So far my favorite moments have been at summits with beautiful views, knowing that I worked hard for it, enjoying it with other hikers!  

 

 Beer-o at the NOC

Beer-o at the NOC

Other favorite moments have been zero days, hanging out with other hikers and drinking beers. We took a "beero" at NOC because we weren't planning on taking a zero but we wanted to hang out and have some drinks with our new friends! Plus our knees hurt after that long decent.  

 

 Lil Santa took a spill, my first reaction was to snap a pic

Lil Santa took a spill, my first reaction was to snap a pic

Speaking of the decent into the NOC... That was by far the hardest day for me so far. We did 16.5 miles, which made it our longest day by about 0.3 but the terrain was much more difficult and it was pouring rain for much of the day, which made the trail slippery and a bit terrifying at times. We both fell down. It happens, we're fine. I'm sure it will happen many more times. 

 

 And he falls again  and I take another photo

And he falls again  and I take another photo

The climb out of the NOC was hard too, especially with the memory of a lazy day drinking beer and hanging out by the river fresh on my mind. Luckily, the sky was clear and beautiful and the view made the climb totally worth it!  

 

 I guess this makes it worth it! 

I guess this makes it worth it! 

Anyway, I'm still figuring out how much and often to share on the blog. Mostly, I'm enjoying myself and feeling great. I got my first blister! I slide about 15 feet down the trail in the pouring rain! Everything smells terrible! I am starting to feel like a long distance backpacker!  

 We love snack breaks! 

We love snack breaks! 

We are starting to take longer lunches and relax. We decided we want to do about 10-13 miles and make sure we get plenty of rest! can't wait to slack pack tomorrow and get on with the Smokies. 

100 Miles

This morning, we hit our first 100 mile milestone on the Appalachian Trail.  

I can't believe it! These last 10ish days have been unlike anything I expected in the best way.  

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We have had the most amazing days and some hard days too, but we are healthy and ready to do it again 21 more times!  

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The foggy days are harder, the sunny days are easier. We are finding our groove and our "trail legs"  

 Hitting our first state border was AWESOME! 

Hitting our first state border was AWESOME! 

 

We've been blessed by trail magic beyond belief. to all that have fed us, given us a ride, or offered a smile, thank you. Thank you thank you thank you. 

 

 The Pre-trail magic trail magic of Easter was unparalleled. Super shout out to the omlettes angels! 

The Pre-trail magic trail magic of Easter was unparalleled. Super shout out to the omlettes angels! 

It's hard to write a lot on the phone keyboard, but know that we are doing well and safely holed up in a hotel for a zero day tomorrow!  

I'm A Lucky One

Eric and I are currently taking a zero day at the Top of Georgia Hostel. We came in yesterday in the early afternoon from Unicoi Gap. We've made it 52.9 miles and taken about 6 days to do so  setting no land speed records, but we are feeling really good and enjoying ourselves.  

I'm still having problems getting photos to upload via the ap I'm using, but I'm trying. 

 Low Gap Shelter was windy, but we missed the snow the night before

Low Gap Shelter was windy, but we missed the snow the night before

Eric and I also got our trail names! Eric is Lil' Santa because he was gifted cookies on top of Springer and of course, he's very jolly. I'm Lucky because I wanted a hot dog really bad and then there happened to be hot dog trail magic at the next gap! Plus I feel super lucky to be out here, of course! 

 You can see some light snow dust on the peak ahead! 

You can see some light snow dust on the peak ahead! 

The first stretch

Springer Mountain to Neel's Gap

I feel all tingly and alive. To think that I get to wake up tomorrow and hike through the cold and wind (and maybe even snow!) is setting my heart on fire.  

I don't think I've ever been happier, or thought more positive thoughts. 

I can't seem to get the pictures to work out right now so check out my Instagram @redwroots!  

Georgia on my mind

I've been in Georgia since Thursday, and we will start hiking this Thursday. We only have a few days left. today we went to REI and bought last minute items like fuel for our stove and an extra pair of socks. 

 

 Our first meal in Georgia: breakfast at a Waffle House.  

Our first meal in Georgia: breakfast at a Waffle House.  

Ok I've seriously eaten so much that Eric is going to have to roll me down the trail. Seriously so much food.

And it's all been good but on top of all the extra food I ate at home "because I'll walk it off anyway" I'm feeling a little sorry for my joints. Hopefully I'll lose some weight quickly.

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 Our first hike in Georgia was a short 1.1 miles to the top of Kennesaw Mountain, a historic civil war battlefield

Our first hike in Georgia was a short 1.1 miles to the top of Kennesaw Mountain, a historic civil war battlefield

But it hasn't all been food and fat. We got to see Kennesaw Mountain (this counts as a mountain out here? Huh...) we visited the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and we got to spend some amazing time with my family!  

 

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We also visited the historic Oakland Cemetary. Lots of famous Georgians are buried there. We also visited Jon Bennet's grave, but that wasn't in Oakland Cemetary, and we just drive by as my grandma pointed out the window.  

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And breakfast has been pretty amazing on the screened porch! It's gonna be rough to go to the trail after being so spoiled!  

Thornley for Prez

Holy Shit. I just left my house, said good bye to my family, and we are in the car driving to SLO. Did I cry? Yes. Yes I did. Which was immediately followed my yelling/singing along to one of my favorite songs and trying to stick my head out the window.  

The emotions are crazy. I'm kind of glad that saying goodbye to my parents happens in this state. If they were dropping me off at Springer, I might not ever start.  

 

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I might be 24 years old but my parents are still totally my best friends and the best roommates I've ever had. Nothing about this trip would have been possible without them. For letting me live in my childhood bedroom to save money, for teaching me to love the outdoors, for teaching me to totally believe in myself, and for not letting me know how totally insane they thought this idea was.  

 

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Man, I am so lucky. I love them so much! I'm gonna miss them so much!  

 

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And who's gonna keep my dad in line during this election year?  

Keeping Up on the Trail

I really enjoy creating my blog and sharing my life on this site. You may be aware that I'm a blogger at Appalachian Trials - a website voted to be the #1 rated outdoor blog by a 2015 USA Today survey! How neat is that. 

Both that site, and this blog will be great places to keep up with me while I hike the Appalachian Trail. You can also follow my instagram for really beautiful updates (if I do say so myself)


Well, if you need/want more ways to keep up with our lives, Eric started a blog as well. I so enjoy his unique insights and special voice that carries through his posts. I think you might too. 

Plus he's got a cute face. 

Check out his blog I doubt you'll regret it. 



The Trail Provides

Has anyone out there read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho? Considering it's a universally renowned best-seller and has been translated into more languages than most Europeans speak my guess is you have. If you haven't, you really probably should. It's like... really short, and incredibly beautiful. 

The thematic elements of The Alchemist are pretty relevant to some things I'm going through on the trail right now, or I wouldn't have brought it up. 

And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
— Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

There have been a few obstacles that have popped up in the past two weeks that could have been really detrimental.

I totalled my beloved Honda Element in a car accident. (I'm fine). It wasn't clear at first if the car was going to be totalled or not, and if it hadn't been I would have been not only on the hook for the $500 deductible, but for the insurance increase, and the car payments on top of all that, and all for a car I wasn't going to be driving for a few months anyway. Yikes. You know what they say about carefully laid plans? I saw my financial plans crumbling before my eyes. 

But then, my car was totaled. And my insurance company paid off my car loan with some to spare, so I'll have money for a down payment when I return and need a car again. I got to end my car insurance, since I obviously won't be needing it while I'm hiking, and I'm an "excluded driver" on my parent's car insurance which means that when I get back, there won't be a gap in my insurance coverage, and I can start over with a new-to-me car. That worked out. (RIP Salina, the first car I ever owned.)

Well once that all got sorted out, Eric managed to lose his sleeping bag. The week before we are supposed to start our adventure by traveling to Georgia and my boyfriend doesn't have a sleeping bag. Well, I felt like it was all going to work out, but it still was a scary few days, ordering new equipment, in the week before you leave, without knowing if it would arrive in time? Yikes! But then, the cleaning crew at the condo where Eric was vacationing found the sleeping bag last night. Crisis averted. Her will return the new bag once it arrives, and the old bag should meet us in San Luis Obispo. 

So it seems, to me, that things are coming together as gentle nudges from the universe to carry on with courage. Some say that half the battle is getting to the starting line. We're almost there! 

Pre-Launch Checklist

Well it's Monday, February 29, 2016 which means it is my last Monday. My last Monday before the days of the week stop mattering so much, the last Monday in Santa Cruz, the last Monday before my last Friday. 

Well that's not weird or terrifying at all.  

This Saturday we are having a send off BBQ at my parents house and then on Sunday we are driving to SLO to spend a few days with Eric's family. On the 9th of March we fly to Georgia and spend a few days with my Grandparents.  

Then the dream becomes very, very real.  

Spring has most definitely sprung in California but over in the Appalachian mountains there is still frost and snow on the ground. Brr.  

 

 Taking in Spring-y vibes in Santa Cruz for as long as I can.  

Taking in Spring-y vibes in Santa Cruz for as long as I can.  

And wow I'm going to miss Santa Cruz and my family so much. It's crazy how supportive they've been. How well they've loved us. How little they have mentioned how absolutely batshit crazy we might be.  

There are only a few things left to be done. So I made a checklist.  

  • Pack a bag of "street clothes" for SLO and GA
  • renew my drivers lisence
  • make spice kits
  • finish this report at work I have had on my desk for way too long.  
  • Buy some over the counter medication that seems like it could be good to have a few pills of.  
  • Teach my mom how to send mail drops  
  • find Eric's sleeping bag or he needs a new one (seriously babe I can't believe you lost that the week before liftoff) 
  • treat trail clothes with permethrin
  • get bag ready for the airplane
  • repair collar button on my quilt.  
  • Eric has to move out of his place, I need to clean my room
  • I need to call my insurance company and see where things stand, do I need to be insured? (Car insurance) 

Way too many things for just 5 days! Here we go!  

 

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So Close

It's really getting close. I can tell you that I'm 32 days away from Springer. I'm also 21 days away from my last day of work. Things are starting to go too fast and somehow not fast enough.  

 Countdown to Springer

Countdown to Springer

 Countdown to my last day at work

Countdown to my last day at work

But geese there is still so much to do, and it isn't exactly made any easier by the fact that Eric works on weekends and I work on weekdays and it's just HARD to coordinate our schedules.  

Anyway, I'm getting really amped up and it's NUTSO that I only have 3 weeks left at work. I'm super excited to follow and read the blogs of the people who are starting earlier but I have to say, with as cold as it's been, I AM glad we aren't out there yet! 

 

 On the shores of Lake Tahoe

On the shores of Lake Tahoe

Eric and I also just celebrated our two year anniversary! We went to Tahoe and he attempted to teach me to snowboard which I'm still terrible at but I got better and it was a lot of fun! (I think I bruised my ribs though).  

It was the first time I had experienced below freezing weather since I went to MN in December 2014 so it was nice to be reminded that maybe the cold isn't so terrifying after all, as long as you have the right equipment. We experienced the below freezing weather at 1am when the fire alarm in our hotel forced everyone to evacuate. I think the getting out of bed at 1am was worse than the temperature. 

Hopefully we can get some real prep done this upcoming week.... Who knows! Maybe it will all wait until the day before we leave! (If we do, I will likely blame Eric as not packing ahead of time is a distinctly Eric trait that I have learned to love and live with.)

How to Support Us on the Trail -How to Craft a Thru-Hiker Care Package

First of all, thank you for even opening this post. We appreciate the support of our family and friends that is given freely and out of love! 

I've been overwhelmed by the support we've been given, words of encouragement, family members offering us places to sleep and shower, offers to send us food and care packages, even unsolicited financial contributions! I've been blown away. 

It really shows me the fantastic community of loved ones that we have grown. 

A lot of the recommendations in the article are based on stores we know and love in Santa Cruz, so if you can't find a specific item, please know that we will be so freaking touched by the fact that you cared to send us anything at all! We just wanted to give some suggestions about the kinds of things we know we will miss. 

Many of you have asked us how you can help, where to send us packages, etc. 

First of all, I'd like to talk about what to put in the packages. 

  • Food - especially food that might be hard to get in backwater East Coast towns.  Anything special to you  that will help nourish us. There is a list of some of our favorites below. Keep in mind that what we are sent we will have to carry up and over every hill we come across. Until we eat it. Which honestly might be right away. 
  • Notes of encouragement - This more than anything would be so appreciated. Knowing that people back home are rooting for us and want us to succeed will be so important on days when It's rained 9 days in a row and we are muddy up to our knees and so hungry we are thinking about eating the next bear that we come across. Little doodles are a plus!
  • Nothing valuable - As I mentioned, we are going to have to carry what we are sent, and things could easily get lost or damaged on the trail. Along with this, please don't send us physical books. We both have kindles though and would love to get recommendations! 
  • Cash! We can use this to buy ourselves pizza, entries to all you can eat buffets, and other calorie dense warm meals that we might otherwise have to pass by. Cash can also go towards stays in hostels, shower fees, and shuttles if we are having a hard time hitch hiking to and from town. Many towns along the way are so "backwater" that there are places that don't take cards, so we will need to have cash on us. 
  • Post Cards - If you send us one, we might send you one! :P
  • Sample Sized Soaps - If you see little single use soaps, shampoos, conditioners, etc.... We'll take them. We are going to smell seriously foul, and everything helps! If you stop by the New Leaf on Fair in Santa Cruz they often have a basket of samples in their body care section, with things like Shampoo and Conditioner and other delights!
  • Chap Stick - Eric's favorite is Elemental Herbs brand. I like pretty much anything!
  • Travel Size Weleda Salt Toothpastes - Eric's request! (They sell these at New Leaf on Fair St, and I'm pretty sure the one downtown... I'm not sure where else)

Food We'd like

Here's a list of food items that we would LOVE to get in care packages. The quotation marks are brands, if there is a preference. I tried to be specific, but please know that we will eat and enjoy pretty much any food you send us. I tried to include things that we are unlikely to be able to get while we are on the trail, but love to eat. I will also try to update this post as we hike, and make new posts if we are craving anything specific.

  • "Alive and Radiant Foods" Kale Chips - The Trader Joe's Brand is also excellent. Eric also specifically requested Kale chips be included on this list. 
  • Home baked cookies. (my favorites are oatmeal chocolate chip, Eric's favorites are Peanut Butter chocolate chip). Eric also suggested Banana Bread and "other baked goods" for the list. 
  • "Go Raw" 'cookies' - my favorite flavor is Lemon Pie, Eric's is Chai. The Carrot Cake Flavor is also very good. I know that they sell these at New Leaf in Santa Cruz, and probably many other health food stores.
  • "Go Raw" Coconut Crisps (Tangy Lime Flavor, Eric doesn't really like these but I could probably happily eat 3 bags in a sitting). The Salt and Vinegar flavor is kind of trash, though when we are low on electrolytes I might like that one better. I should point out that we both love coconut, and it's full of healthy fats and other things that our bodies will be needing, so please send us coconutty things! 
  • "Wonderfully Raw" Cocoroons-favorites include the brownie and lemon pie flavors (ok, I love lemon flavored sweets.)
  • "Cocohydro" dehydrated coconut water. The Original and pineapple flavors are both excellent
  • "Mount Hagen" Single Serve Instant Coffee - I included a link, but they also sell these at New Leaf in Santa Cruz, so there's a good bet they would be at other health food stores as well. These are cheaper and better than Starbucks Via, but Eric likes Starbucks Via too, so that certainly wouldn't go to waste. Just please don't get decaff. seriously. 
  • Larabars - We purchased Costco Packs of the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Cashew Cookie, and Apple pie flavors, so any flavors other than those would be great!
  • ProBars- All the varieties are great! Meal, protein, bolt, etc!
  • Cliff Bars- White Chocolate Macadamia Nut is a Kira favorite. 
  • Clif "Shot Blocks" - Eric thinks the margarita flavor is weird but I like 'em! The fruity flavors are probably best though. The Jelly Belly Sports Beans are also amazing! 
  • "Tanka" Beef Jerky - I love the cranberry buffalo jerky. I'll take literally any kind of beef jerky though
  • "Carnation" Breakfast Essentials Milk Chocolate Powder
  • Dried Mango/other dried fruits
  • Salami
  • "Various Trader Joes Treats" - like speculoos, Almond Butter, and chocolate. 
  • Single Serving packets of Olive Oil and Coconut Oil - The coconut oil ones can be found at health stores, olive oil may need to be sourced from the internet
  • Nuun Hydration Tablets - readily available at REI and I've seen them at health food stores as well. I like the ones with caffeine in them. 
  • EmergenC - let's avoid scurvy yes?
  • Digestive Enzymes/Chlorella Tablets - help our poor oil/carb filled digestive systems out.... 

 


Where to send them?

First of all, contacting my Mom will be the best bet for determining where to send a package. She is managing our regular mail drops, so she will have our next destination most of the time. If you need contact information please let Eric or myself know.  (Eric's mom should also have this information, because... moms...) You can also contact us, but since we will be out of cell service and with our phones on airplane mode, you might not have enough warning to get a package to our next stop in time. We will try to give our moms the next two or so stops we are planning to make. They can also help coordinate so we don't get 9 packages to the same stop. We'll also try to keep the blog fairly up to date, but no promises there.

It's important you don't "surprise" us with a package

because we might make a last minute decision not to stop in a town, and we won't go to a post office unless we are expecting a package. If we miss your package, it can be forwarded to the next stop easily and free of cost, as long as we know that we need to coordinate that!

You will most likely be sending things to:

General Deliver

Appalachian Trail Hiker: Kira Thornley/Eric Duarte

Town, Zip Code

General delivery holds packages for up to 30 days. Please use our real names, and not our trail names, since we will have to present ID to pick up general delivery packages and my ID doesn't have a trail name on it! 

 

Joyful Yogi-ing

On the trail, to "Yogi" someone is to strongly hint at a favor needed. Normally it is used in the following context "I yogi-ed a ride into town" or "I am going to yogi those day hikers and see if I can get some food."

But in Santa Cruz, in preparation for my hike I've been doing an entirely different type of "yogi-ing." Which is to say I've been practicing yoga for the first time in two years. I am trying to "loosen up" my muscles before the AT.

But man does it feel good to get back on the mat. My hamstrings are so tight, but I'm happy to report that my hips are as open as ever... I'm also starting to gain back shoulder strength that I definitely lost. I can actually do a kind-of chataranga again. It's very satisfying to reclaim lost strength. 

At the class I was at last night we started by picking a mantra we would repeat to ourselves as we practiced our breath. I picked "Joy."


Joy is kind of my thing; I feel a deep and personal connection to joy on many levels. I had a  very important Grandmother named Joy. My middle name is joy. I lead a joy filled life. Sometimes I feel like I'm overflowing. So I lay on the ground in that yoga class an said joy to myself over and over again.

You know how words can lose their meaning when you say them too many times? This didn't happen. I felt filled. 

I'm looking forward to my hike. There will be really truly miserable days. Days when my feet are pruny and painful, days where the mosquitoes cannot be escaped, days when my legs are so sore they feel as though they may fall off. I hope to face it all with joy.

Joy will be my mantra for this adventure, because that is the kind of person I want to be. So I shall be.  

A Rainy Training Hike

Today we went on an 8.2 mile hike in the rain! It's was delightful, though my feet were pruney by the end. we both wore our packs. Though mine was loaded with 8 days of food and Eric's wasn't. Mine was about 30 lbs and Eric's was about 14 with food/water. 

 Ready to hike! 

Ready to hike! 

Eric is astonishingly good at spotting mushrooms! It was super fun to see so many varieties.  

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 Eric was skipping through the forest gleefully all day. It was adorable.  

Eric was skipping through the forest gleefully all day. It was adorable.  

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 The final destination and turn around point, Berry Creek Falls

The final destination and turn around point, Berry Creek Falls

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 Eric said to me "don't fall down this hill" I said "I'm gonna!" He said "well I guess I'll try to save you then" 

Eric said to me "don't fall down this hill" I said "I'm gonna!" He said "well I guess I'll try to save you then" 

 Nice and muddy shoes at the end of the hike. A day well spent! 

Nice and muddy shoes at the end of the hike. A day well spent! 

 We stopped for a sandwich on our way home. We were hungry!!!! 

We stopped for a sandwich on our way home. We were hungry!!!! 

So my biggest take away is that wet feet get sensitive! After asking around on the internet I got the suggestion to soak them until they are pruny and then let them dry often until we leave, since his will "toughen them up"  

I'm sore but feeling good! What a great way to spend the day.  Can't wait for next time!

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60 Days - The Waiting Struggle is Real

Today we are 60 days away from standing on top of Springer and looking North. That's 2 months. That's unreal. When I first dreamed up this adventure in fall 2014 I never thought I would make it even this far. 

I was reading Wild. It wasn't the first time I'd heard of the PCT. I'd met a few PCT hikers on the trail, and looked at them with a mix of awe and pity. I didn't understand why someone would choose to undertake something so huge, and seemingly insurmountable. Reading Wild was the first time I'd heard of the Appalachian Trail though. 

I started googling, and something grabbed a hold of me. I wanted so desperately to be the kind of person who did that. But I didn't feel like that kind of person at all. I thought about all the reasons I couldn't hike the trail. 

Then I realized, the only thing stopping me from being that kind of person, was the fact that I was telling myself I couldn't. So I told myself I could. And I would. Eric asked if I would be ok with him joining me on my hike a few months later. Obviously, I was thrilled. Though just for the record guys, I was totally capable of doing it by myself. I mean I taught HIM to backpack for Pete's sake.

Now I'm here, 60 days away from the beginning, and I'm freaking out in the best way possible. I'm hitting the gym, for real, taking on training hikes and finalizing my gear list. It feels like a fabulous dream. I can't freakin' wait! I'm starting to feel very impatient. I will appreciate these last two months at work and at home. I'm going to miss my family and friends immensely, though one of the best women in my life is going to move to North Carolina around the same time we start hiking, so maybe I'll see her then... I hope? Daniella? 

Driving Across America - Not Meant to Be

We started on February 29, 2016. The first stage of our trip to the Appalachian Trail was a cross country road trip that we planned to last us 11 days. We budgeted about $700 each for the trip to include gas, lodging, food, and all other purchases for the road trip. That's each. One way. 

But it's not meant to be. I was doing some spur of the moment research today and realized we could fly from Atlanta for only $150. We could fly first class for less than $300. So Eric and I are shelving the cross country road trip for now. It makes more sense logistically and financially. I'm a little heart broken that I will have to wait to see the Grand Canyon, but ultimately I feel at ease. I've been worried that the amount of money I have saved isn't enough, based on my detailed budgeting spreadsheets and this will blow through those worries. I won't have to find a place to leave my car, or worry that my car isn't going to start when we get back. I get to put off thoughts of breaking down in the middle of the desert. All in all I feel at peace with this decision, with only a twinge of regret. It just makes more sense this way. It leaves space for our big adventure to be the focus of our whole hearts. It will save us money, and allow me to work an extra week, if they'll have me, or have an extra week of breathing room if not. I feel good about this. Very good.

Do I sound like I'm trying to convince myself? In part, I am. I put a lot of energy into thinking about this road trip, and it's hard to let go of that. But I'm glad that the decision was made, and now I can focus my energy. Woah. I'm a little bit in mourning, a little grief stricken, but a lot relieved.  

Here is the playlist I made for crossing the desert. We won't use it now, but I hope you can still enjoy it!

All the Prep that's fit to see

So where are we on the preparation side of things.  

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We bought what seems like a million backpacker meals for food drops. We decided we don't want to do a lot of food drops in order to maintain the freedom and flexibility we are looking for on the trail, but there also apperently some places where resupplying is ~hard~  

so we turned out piles of food into neatly organized bags of food which still need to be boxed and labeled for whichever parent gets stuck being our mail sender.  

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Otherwise I am cruising forward. I canceled my gym membership, so I won't be paying for that once I leave. And I've committed to going 3x a week until we leave. I monitor my finances daily with growing trepidation, and a lot of trust in the universe that things will somehow work out. (They will)  

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We also are in the midst of finalizing our plans for our cross country road trip to reach the Appalachian trial!  So far I have definitive reservations for the Grand Canyon and have planned out the rest. It's going to be an amazing start to our adventure! I wrote a post about that on my Appalachian Trials page so make sure you're following us there as well. 

I'm also working on a post to explain the best way for you people to support us on our hike! (What food we would love to be sent, and how to know where to send it, and other ways of helping us out! Like what not to say to us, etc.) 

 

until then, much love! And we can't wait!!!