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  • Archive for October, 2010

    ca12
    My sister in law has been doing creative things with Zoe on Tuesday evenings when my brother is in class. This week’s creative thing happened to be making candied apples. We peeled off each wrapper from the caramels after several of us asked if there wasn’t a block of caramel or something along those lines in the store. Isn’t there something easier???

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    To make candied apples, first you have to don your silly hat, in this case the bag from the apples.

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    Then you’ve gotta get together all the things to put on top of the caramel, with a little extra oomph by sticking out your tongue like my mom.

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    *suuuugggarrrrrr*

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    A test bite is good…

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    ca7

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    More strength with the lips….

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    Cooperation in the back, excitement in the front.

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    Uncle Twis doing his part.

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    Melted caramel goodness…

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    A sneaking side glance from Stephanie and mom working the Reese’s

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    The masterpieces!

    z8
    So, a three week absence rendered this kid more talkative, not that she wasn’t talking and talkative, but she’s much more of a conversationalist now. Oh, and she’s bossy.

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    While I was gone mom sent me a video of Zoe swinging on her belly. Chris and I then proceeded to randomly say “I swinging” and “I flying” and “You try, you try” which is everything she said in the video.

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    As for the bossy part it is mostly from things we’ve told her, sit there, stay there, be nice. While we were swinging she told me to “sit down, right there” and would have pushed me down if I’d of let her. I sat down nicely while she swang (swinged?).

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    Then she has her little dreamer moments, which I’m partial to as well, just staring off in space for no reason and zoning out.

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    Really, she’s just too cute. She makes us laugh!

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    She can say some Z words now, zipper and zebra, but she still comes out with Z-Woey. I think she does it because she knows we like it and giggle at it and it will get her some attention. But, I’m kinda like Stephanie in not wanting her to say Zoe to soon because that just means she’s growing up. We’ll probably call her Z-Woey for her whole life.

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    She loves to play bubbles and I snapped her out of a crabby mood by suggesting bubbles. I tried to tell her she had to put it closer to her mouth to get a bubble to come out and of course it went straight to her lips.

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    Success!

    She’s an entertaining kid! I asked Zoe the other day what she was thinking about and I obviously didn’t get an answer, but mom replied that she was wondering the same thing. I bet next year she can tell us what she’s thinking. Probably that we’re idiots for staring at her all the time and making her laugh and do silly things. She tells me, sometimes, “Aunt T silly”.

    Love her!

    I’m a big reader, or at least I used to be. My nose used to be in a book constantly until I went to college and life took a turn for studying and friends and I remember going to the Galveston Public Library for the first time and feeling so out of place but also like I was coming home. Growing up I was always the kid who checked out as many books on her card as she could. I would also generally read every book I checked out.

    Anyway, I always come back to reading when I need a recharge and it will usually last awhile and then I move on to other things because reading will hold you back from doing other things creatively. Julia Cameron mentions this in The Artists way, if you are always reading you won’t be creating. I have a lot of down time at work and on my first training day the guy who trained me said he’d gone through three books already. I thought he was insane, but here it is two weeks later and I’m done with Mansfield Park.

    Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes: This book I actually read on the last leg of the AT. If you’ve seen the movie, the book is completely different for the most part. Sure the basic story of renovating the house and cooking is there, but there is no Italian lover and her pregnant friend (Yang from Grey’s Anatomy) is not coming to live there. The Polish workers are in the story, though. This book made me want to eat and if you are a hungry hiker this is not a good thing. She talked about things as simple as salads with olives to beautiful pastas…oh, this is very dangerous for a hiker eating granola bars for breakfast and tuna packets for lunch. I highly recommend this book; she packs it full with little historical tidbits about her region in Italy, the trials of working with contractors to remodel the land and house, and food….mmm, food!

    Mansfield Park by Jane Austen: A few years ago I decided that watching Jane Austen movies wasn’t going to cut it and set off to read her books. I will admit that I barely read any of the classics in high school and most of the time skimmed or read Cliffs Notes or talked to friends to get by. Classics tend to bore me and only a few caught my attention like Lord of the Flies and Fahrenheit 451. Pride & Prejudice is hard to get through when you have it memorized from the movie, but it is so worth reading; Sense and Sensibility makes you really dislike Lucy Steele (she has a sister in the book that is not in the movie) even more; Emma I listened to on mp3 while on the trail and I would like to read it in print eventually, but Emma was a very naive and immature character and I was not very fond of her; and now Mansfield Park.

    After reading the book I Googled more about the book and found out I was not alone in despising this book. Fanny is so undeveloped, or maybe she is developed but she doesn’t seem fit for the story at all. When she returns to Portsmouth and realizes all that she misses about Mansfield Park, because it offers up a world of niceties versus the roughness of poverty, she talks like everyone was her very best friend at Mansfield Park and that her aunts are the best in the world. Her aunts are little beyotches. Maybe Lady Bertram might like her a bit, but there is no way Aunt Norris is attached to her. And she talks of her friends being Miss Crawford and her sister, I can’t help but want to scream. It’s like saying her friends are Caroline and Louisa Bingley. It’s all false pretenses to me. And to be in love with someone who really loves another….ah the ending with her and Edmund is so forced. I watched a few clips of some movies of Mansfield Park and I’ve found that the romance between them is so contrived, and changing Fanny’s attitude. The Fanny of the book would not be running through the halls or running across the meadow like she is shown in the movies.

    Can you tell that I thought this book was weak?

    The Gentle Art of Domesticity by Jane Brocket: I had wanted this book when it originally came out a few years ago but never bought it. We walked past the bargain bin at Brookshires the other night and I saw it there marked down to $7 from $35. Then I saw a sign that it was reduced even further to $1.75 and it was a done deal, the book went home with me. This is such a pretty little book, something to flip through and think about. It made me miss my quiet weekends back in Florida when I would stay home while Chris went hiking or fishing and I’d stay home to work on a project and rest up. Here are a few photos of what this book makes me feel and miss:

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    okra

    Cookies before they are cooked.

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    The Pink Banana

    Ahhh….I miss having a space of my own!

    Up next on the reading is Persuasion by Jane Austen and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. While we’re talking animals, there is an interesting TED talk on how many products come from a pig. How very difficult it must be to be a vegan…Eliana are you able to avoid some of these products? I mean, like sand paper? Seriously? Who would think of that! On the other hand, I suppose it is good that it seems to be they are using the whole of the animal.

    We’re on break for four days so yesterday was relaxing with a nap, a trip to the bookstore, watching chick flicks. Today we’re meeting Chris’ dad for lunch and doing some photography at an Audubon sanctuary and then heading over to my parents house for a few nights before we head back to work.

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    -I get annoyed when people don’t seem to appreciate the Fall that we have in the south. Sure, it isn’t as glorious with color as the northeast, but you have to take the subtle hints of Fall and run with them. The wonderful Fall blooms are still lingering, goldenrod, sunflowers, crotons (not the tropical, hideous ones)….they are there, you just have to look for them.

    treepano
    -I miss liberal Florida. The political ads out here in ArkLaTex are very much anti-Obama and Obama isn’t even running for anything at the moment. If any Democrat or incumbent has done anything remotely in favor of Obama the ad is completely negative. They aren’t even talking about how good the proposed candidate would be, it’s just guilty by association. But, I can’t say this isn’t competely new, I am sure that two years ago there were similar ads for those who were too close to Bush. It just gets old. I’m forseeing some sort of third party coming in strong soon because the middle voters are going to get sick and tired of the very vocal right and left.

    lilypads
    -Not sure what we will be doing when this job is over. It is potentially up sometime in mid-November. We’re talking about running out to the Guadalupe Mountain or Big Bend National Park for a few days to hike and take photographs. We’re off for four days very soon so I will be searching harder for jobs and probably putting my nose to the grind on looking into teaching.

    forestpano
    -Coming up with prices for my portrait photography is difficult. I think I have finally decided to only offer 4×6 sized resolution images on cd for folks to share on Facebook, blogs etc, instead of selling any full resolution cds to be printed anywhere. I went back and forth on this and there seems to be either a split on this on the internet, but I think I am making the right decision. As for the rest of the prices, I am almost done and hope to finish the webpage soon.

    yellowaster
    -On my way home I took a different route and found a really awesome pond with cypress and yellow flowers (turned out to be some type of sunflower) but it was on private property. Chris suggested I just go up and ask if I can take photos so I did. An elderly man with a hearing aid answered, told me that it was no problem asked who I was with and then told me I couldn’t sell them. Damn. I almost didn’t bother after that, but I went over and took some anyway. I went online to see about the legalities of it and its true, but it seems you can blur it, too. The photo is mine, the property is his, why couldn’t I sell the photo? Anyway, I’m not going to bother at the present time with it. I’ll stick to public places and shooting from the roadway!

    Heading for a four day weekend soon and will be taking care of a few things we left hanging at home, spending time with family and the cats and sleeping in at least one day.

    rg1
    I was about to put flagging tape on this sapling when I saw this snake! I’d seen his relative a few miles away earlier in the day and was surprised to see another one. I think it is a rough green, Opheodrys aestivus. I only had my point and shoot for work, not my good one so it was a bit difficult to get a good shot.

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    rg2

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    I haven’t had any luck identifying this hornworm, but it was a fat, cute and squishy and needed its photo taken.

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    The Mr. and Mrs. getting ready for dinner. The Mr. is the smaller one, by the way.

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    A spiny oakworm caterpillar, Anisota stigma. I found a good website for identifying caterpillars, a key of sorts, Discoverlife.org key.

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    An imperial moth larvae, Eacles imperialis, but it was dead. Chris got the green phase of this moth here.

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    Not an animal, but pretty cool, paw paw fruit/seeds. Not sure on the particular species.

    I’ve seen a few deer lately and armadillo but that’s it in the way of animals.

    What can I say about Maryland? It is short and sweet and I really enjoyed it. Only 41 miles of the trail go through Maryland from the C&O towpath to the Mason Dixon line in Pennsylvania.

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    Along the C&O towpath; a very nice walk along the Potomac on one side and the towpath on the other. There is no camping along the river, but I’m sure that doesn’t stop some stealthy hikers.

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    After we left Harpers Ferry we went about 10 miles to the Crampton Gap shelter. It was easy terrain so we stopped at the Ed Garvey shelter to check out the pretty sweet shelter design, a double decker loft type shelter. The late afternoon sun was peeking through the forest from the west and we kept on hiking to Gathland State Park where we stopped to refill our water because it was rumored that water was not good at the Crampton Gap Shelter. There were also coke machines but they were eating money instead of giving anything and we stopped for a nice bathroom break, too. Once we got to the shelter no one else was there but that wasn’t for long when Apollo and Major Chafage showed up. MC as he became to be known, was a bit of a legend in the log books. I honestly imagined an older guy, but he was our age and sported a 70’s-esque mustache. We could hear people in houses or on a lake down below; we weren’t quite sure what we were located next to.


    The mountain laurel was blooming profusely in Maryland and in southern PA which made it so beautiful to walk through. I think that also helped in my esteem of Maryland. We had a relatively easy walk the following day of 21 miles. We passed by the Dahlgren Backpackers Campground where you can get a shower and kept on going for the Washington Monument.

    Original Washington Monument
    What? You were envisioning the tall white monument in D.C.? Nope, this one is even older than that one and probably a little more unique.

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    We climbed to the top of the monument and talked to a southbound section hiker about what was coming up.

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    The rest of the day was pretty easy. We took an extended lunch at Pine Knob shelter and talked to a hiker named Hobbit who was attempting the 4 state challenge. (Va, West Va, Maryland, PA in 24 hours. It’s something like 50 miles or so). He was taking a long nap and was hoping to finish the challenge later that night. We did eventually find out he stopped about five miles short because of exhaustion.

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    After Pine Knob shelter our goal was the Free State Hiker Hostel so we could order pizza for dinner. I have to say I was very impressed with this hostel. The walk down the road was a bit hairy; a two lane road with no shoulder to walk on. When we arrived we followed the signs asking hikers to walk around the rather large house to the back entrance which led to a separate section of the house just for hikers. The place was immaculate and housed a lot of bunks, a computer, sodas, and a phone to all the owners of the hostel to let them know you were there. We were able to order up our pizzas, check our email, probably could’ve taken a shower if we’d wanted and flipped through some of the postcards and thank you notes from previous hikers. Two section hikers came in later and we chatted with them for awhile. Cornpatch, another thru-hiker ended up order pizza here as well. My recommendation for thru-hikers is to stay at the Bears Den south of Harpers Ferry, jet in and out of Harpers Ferry and then stop at the Free State Hikers hostel and then go all the way to Duncannon, PA after that (or, well, there’s another stop in between, but more on that later).

    After filling up on grub we went to the Ensign Cowell shelter which was .2 off the road. MC, Merf, Cornpatch, Apollo and a few other hikers were there, including some very strange southbound hikers. Apparently the three of them, two hiking together and one was alone, had started the northern section the previous fall and were trying to wrap up a thru-hike in a year. I say they were strange because, well, they were. One of them was carrying a blow gun and was ex-Army. Someone told us he killed someones pet rabbit with it. The woman and her brother also were strange, telling all sorts of warning stories about Pennsylvania, an anti-pitbull rant, smoking up a storm with no regard for where the smoke was going and generally just obnoxious and loud. I slept horribly in the shelter that night because the ex-Army guy kept waking up, turning his headlamp on, making noises, and I swear I smelled pot. It was pretty miserable. MC got up in the night and set up his tent, I think because of how bad the noise was.

    Unknown groundcover flower
    The next morning we got up and had 9.8 miles to go to hit the Pennsylvania border and the Mason Dixon line. We had a bit of a rocky climb up around Devils Racecourse and High Rock, but not as bad as we were expecting for being so close to Pennsylvania. After having lunch at Pen Mar County Park (soda machines…!) and watching MC Yogi* food from some senior citizens having a picnic, we mosyed over to the Mason Dixon line and officially left the south.

    *Yogi: as in Yogi the Bear, begging food from people, giving puppy dog eyes, intentionally sitting next to people and talking about being a hiker and being hungry in order to get awesome food. Urban Dictionary reference

    Relevent posts:

    Alive and Well on the Rollercoaster of Love…..hell really
    Harpers Ferry
    West Virginia


    Shenandoah National Park is known on the trail as the point in which you can really speed up. Some refer to it as the Appalachian Highway. It isn’t ‘flat’, but the terrain is very smooth and there are lots of flatter, easier, miles. After signing in at the kiosk just outside of the national park boundary we set off for five days through the park. The first day was mostly non-eventful, a few mist showers but that was it. The park has mile markers very frequently especially at roadways and trail intersections so it is very easy to figure out where you are and how far you have to go.

    Our first night in the park we stayed at Blackrock Hut (called huts instead of shelters in the park, but not like the huts in the Whites) and it was packed. We thought we’d have to tent but the tent sites were full so we ended up staying in the crowded shelter. Buckwheat and Peace-o-Cake were at this shelter. We hadn’t seen them since Fontana Dam. They’d take a week off to go their son’s graduation and had just got back on the trail. Also, we met Sideways D and Moonshine for the first time after having followed their journal entries for awhile.

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    After winding our way around Blackrock (no view because of fog) we crossed mp 84.3 and looked to our right and found a bear on the road! Little did we know we’d see a ton of bears in the park, 13 to be exact. The Shenandoah’s have Waysides and campstores that are fairly close to the trail. This offers up ample opportunities to fill up on sodas and candy along the way. We stopped in at the Loft Mountain store to eat some ice cream and drink soda before heading to the Pinefield Shelter for lunch.

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    Pinefield Hut; taking a break from a quick rain shower.

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    After a 21 mile day we rolled into Hightop Hut after seeing another bear on our way up Little Roundtop Mountain. We met Tup, a hiker from Scotland, here, someone else we’d been seeing in the journal registers.

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    Tup, Sideways D and Moonshine and other hikers at the Hightop Hut.

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    Hanging your food!

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    Ah, another type of trail angel, trail maintainers! There would have been a lot of spring growth to wade through if it wasn’t for some of these guys out there working to maintain the trail for us.

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    Somewhere near the South River Picnic Grounds is the 900 mile mark!

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    In a little over two months we’d walked 900 miles! It was starting to feel more real at this point, something more attainable.

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    We saw a plethora of deer in the Shennies, most likely because there is no hunting in national parks. We would walk for weeks sometimes and not see deer anywhere else.

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    A stop at the Lewis Mountain campground store for some grub! Right before coming up to the campground we ran into a momma bear with some cubs. We were able to ease on by without any issues, but it was fun to see the little babies scurrying up the tree. Momma didn’t seem to care, just eyed us a bit and kept on foraging.

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    Hippity hoppity! After a climb up Hazeltop and some nice cruising afterward we pulled into the Big Meadows Wayside at 3pm, wrapping up 20 miles.

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    Big Meadows Wayside

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    We had an early dinner with Tup and resupplied a bit for the next few days. I think it was mostly to supplement what we had coming out of Waynesboro.

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    We left the wayside and went 4.5 more miles to the Rock Spring Hut.

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    Sunset at the Rockspring Hut. Walk down to the cabin a few hundred yards passed the shelter for this view.

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    Section hikers around the campfire at Rockspring Hut.

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    The next morning we stopped by the Crescent Rock overlook before bypassing the Skyland hotel for breakfast which some hikers stop in for. Our goal for the day was to make 23 miles by dinner to have food from the Elkwallow Wayside.

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    Another bear sighting! We stealthed somewhere in the middle of a tick field passed Elkwallow Gap and saw a bear on the way so we were sure to hang our food!

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    On our last day in Shenandoah we did about 20 miles of mostly non-eventful hiking. It became cloudy and a bit drizzly and there weren’t any views. After a brief stop at the Tom Floyd Wayside, a big misnomer by the way, it isn’t a wayside it’s a shelter, we powered on and stealthed about a half mile from U.S. 522. Houses were on the east side of us and a big, fenced field was to our west. It was thundering and lightning on our way down from the wayside so we booked it and the storm ended up fizzling out.

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    The next morning we were anticipating some trail magic from fellow hikers, The Traveling Circus at the Jim and Molly Denton Shelter, but we were a bit early and they hadn’t started cooking anything yet so we ate bagels, drank orange juice and hung out for about an hour until we decided that if we were going to make it 24ish miles to the Rod Hollow Shelter that we had better get booking it.

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    The walk along this route was historic and very beautiful. Several Civil War battles were fought around this area.

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    A resident copperhead at the Manasses Gap shelter. Everyone wrote about it in the logbook and sure enough there it was hiding out in the rocks. I am very glad we didn’t stay there!

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    The Dick’s Dome Shelter, a very interesting and tight design. Tup stopped here for the day and we kept going, passing through Sky Meadows State Park. I loved this park and am sad I do not have photos of the park. It was open and beautiful walking through the park. We stopped for the night at the Rod Hollow Shelter and it happened to be packed. I chose to go to this shelter because The Rollercoaster started after this. The Rollercoaster is a series of 13 straight up and straight down climbs over 13.5 or so miles. We heard from the weekend hikers that it was pretty rough. These same hikers also shared some hot dogs with us so we greatly enjoyed the trail magic even though the shelter and camping spots around it were packed. This shelter is also the only time we ran into a homeless person, or at least the only one we knew of. He got his checks in Front Royal and came on to the trail and went shelter to shelter. Once he realized it was packed for the night he moved on.

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    A blurry photo of the sign and me about The Rollercoaster. It’s a warning sign of sorts, half joking/half real.

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    Somewhere along the way we started carrying dog treats, mostly for the trail dogs who were with their thru-hiker owners, but eventually it became for the weekend dogs. Most people were very nice and let their dogs have treats, but sometimes you’d run into an owner who didn’t want their dog to have a treat! Poor pup!

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    A little more than halfway through The Rollercoaster is the Bears Den Hostel. We were there for lunch, too early to stay over, but if you get the chance this is a super awesome hostel to stay at. We were greeted by an intern who stays at the hostel and gave us some homemade soup. We used the internet for free, free phone calls, you can watch a movie, take a shower with a donation, they have sodas for donation; it’s an oasis in the middle of 13 ups and downs.

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    Finally, we were leaving Virginia and entering West Virginia!

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    Goodbye Virginia Blues!

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    We noticed this mark on a tree near Wilson Gap. We determined that was probably the 1000 mile mark. 1,000 miles walked! Almost half the trail was walked and it was so exciting to see in that later afternoon glow in the woods.

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    We stopped at the Blackburn Trail Center, which is a shelter/trail center run by the Potomac ATC. We’d heard that they often have dinner for hikers but that night we happened to arrive when everyone was elsewhere for another dinner. A trail volunteer was there later on to answer questions and to chat about the trail.

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    Catching up on the outside world by reading a magazine. You are also supposed to be able to see the Washington Monument from the trail center but it was much too hazy for us to see anything. I remember listening to NPR that night in the shelter, and Parliament was having their opening session. It was hilarious to listen to how raucous they get, quite entertaining to go to sleep by.

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    With only 13 miles to go to reach Harpers Ferry we were very excited and quick paced that morning. I remember there were some rocks covering the path, foreboding of Pennsylvania, and it frustrated me because I wanted to go faster to get to Harpers Ferry so we could meet Meghan and Jesse, our friends from college.

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    Coming down into the Shenandoah River valley I started crying a bit. They were happy tears, tears of amazement that I’d made it to Harpers freakin’ Ferry! 1,000 miles of trail had been walked.

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    We took the blue blaze into town to get to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy offices so we could get our photos taken and our official number.

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    #’s 153 and 154. It was fun flipping through to see who was ahead of us and by how much.

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    For being such a talked about town, Harpers Ferry isn’t as hiker friendly as one might think. Hostels and affordable hotels are lacking and there is not a grocery store in town. You can take a bus to the next town to get to Walmart, but if you want to pass in and out, shipping yourself a drop box to the ATC is a must. There are a few outfitters there which are worthwhile and the town itself is pretty cool and full of history.

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    Gig ’em!

    Harpers Ferry, VA
    We stayed at the Townes Inn which has a hostel section, but we upgraded a bit and got a private room upstairs. They were very friendly and if you need to stay in town, they are worth checking out.

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    We stayed in town late the next day, leaving well after lunch in order to spend time online and to rest up a bit. And this is where we met Merf for the first time as she came in to resupply, check email and get her photo taken with the ATC.

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    And we walked passed the Jefferson Rock, across the Potomac River and into Maryland.

    Relavent posts:

    Angel Ashleigh
    Cypripedium
    What I think about
    Quick Update

    There are really two parts to leaving Pearisburg, a part one and a part two. The first part involved my dad coming to Pearisburg to hike with us to Catawba. We left out of Pearisburg late in the afternoon with a goal of seven miles and to hit Rice Field Shelter.

    Large Black Snake in Trail
    On our way to the ridge we passed a large black snake and several slipper orchids. My dad was the one to spot them so we we were quite excited to see our first orchids on the trail. Dad had a bit of a hard time not being in the trail shape we were, but we took lots of breaks and made it to the top in plenty of time.

    Rick @ his Tent
    The Rice Field Shelter is situated just inside the trees and right out front is a spacious grass field that offers up a beautiful view of West Virginia to the northwest and a nice sunset back to the west.

    Rice Field Shelter AT Panorama
    This shelter also happened to have one of the better privies with a view, as in there was only one wall behind you to block your view from the shelter. The only problem with this was that the path down to the water was right by the privy so you’d better hope no one would be coming up from the opposite direction!

    Misti and her Dad @ Rice Field Shelter
    A super awesome sunset!

    Misti and her Dad - Sunset @ Rice Field Shelter

    AT Panorama
    We left out the following morning intending to do 12 miles to Pine Swamp Branch Shelter for the night. It was a beautiful morning and we took our time going up and down the ridge.

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    And then somewhere between Dickinson Gap and Peters Mountain we heard the phone ring. That wasn’t normal because we didn’t leave our phone on during the hike. Chris had left it on by accident while getting water in the morning and when it rang I knew something was up.

    Prior to leaving for our hike we’d found out that my brother and sister in law were going to have their second child. It was anticipated to be born in late April and we were going to miss the birth of who we would later find out to be Ashleigh. Well, God and Ashleigh changed their minds and she arrived early in late January instead and spent 104 days in the NICU until she left us that evening before during that beautiful sunset over Rice Field. The post above titled Angel Ashleigh chronicles some of how we got off the trail that day. We all flew home that evening and Chris and I spent five days at home. It was incredibly hard to leave to get back on the trail again. My brother even asked me to stay, but I couldn’t and I think he knew that.

    Up until this moment quitting the trail was an option in my head. I know it wasn’t for Chris, but for me, it was. It was long, it was hard and I missed the hell out of everyone. But, going home I realized that I had to finish.

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    While I was home I went wild and dyed my hair pink!

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    We got back on the trail around lunch time five days later and thought we’d only do three miles and go to sleep since we had an early morning, but we kept on going and did 12 miles to War Spur Shelter for the night.

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    Remember the Captain’s place in the previous post? Well, we found his place and Chris zip lined across the stream and got some sodas for us.

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    Bailey Gap Shelter

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    Azaleas

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    At War Spur Shelter we slept in until a very late 9am and this ended up being lucky for us. Oh, I should mention when we got back on the trail Trail Days was going on and the place was quiet. Everyone we knew was ahead of us by a week and we were planning on meeting completely new people. We stayed in the shelter at War Spur with one other person and he was gone when we woke up. By lingering long enough that morning we met Moose & Tetherball, our first April starters. Initially I thought they were a couple, but found out they were old highschool friends who’d just graduated college and were out doing something awesome before they began ‘real life’.

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    We leap frogged Moose & Tetherball that day, dropped by the Keffer Oak for a hug….

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    and Chris posed with the Eastern Continental Divide sign. We got some rain on a very rocky ridge and were glad it wasn’t too slick. We ended up staying with Moose & Tetherball at the Niday Shelter that night.

    Our third day back on the trail we had to climb up 1500′ to the Audie Murphy monument. I remember we took a break on a switchback not realizing how close we were to the top and to a bench. Yes a bench. It’s really annoying to climb mountains that have roads on them. Sometimes you feel cheated knowing others can just drive on up a mountain and you walked your butt up it.

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    We were rewarded after coming down from the mountain that at Va. 620 and Trout Creek was some trail magic! Ahhh, yes!

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    The biggest thing looming was Dragon’s Tooth. I’d heard it was steep and slick and a bit scary. Since it was cloudy with off and on rain that day I was even more nervous, but the climb up from Pickle Branch Shelter was not too bad. We knew we’d arrived at Dragon’s Tooth when we saw it crawling with Virginia Tech students. They were bouncing all around like it was no big deal and wearing random clothes not particularly suited for the weather or terrain. Chris went out to the Dragon’s Tooth but I didn’t and we didn’t get any photos from it. I think if there had been a view I’d of taken the opportunity.

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    Coming off of Dragon’s Tooth. Little did I know that this was a mini-preview for the Whites.

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    We ended up stealth camping somewhere after Va. 624 near a creek as per what was recommended in Moose & Tetherball’s guide book. They kept going and since they were much faster than us I thought I’d never see them again. Little did I know that the trail has a way of bringing people back around to each other.

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    We had a plan the next morning to get into Catawba where we had a mail drop at the general store. It was a mile downhill to the store and we spent twenty minutes trying to hitch to no avail so we walked. Catawba hosts a restaurant called The Homeplace, which is renowned for being the AT hikers best buffet. We were bad hikers and did not go, instead we stayed and ate lunch at the general store. While at the store we met several long distance bicyclists who were coming from Pennsylvania to Oregon. Apparently there are trails all over the US for long distances bikers. We had no luck hitching out of Catawba, so it was another mile walk back up hill to the trail. 2 bonus miles, yes!!

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    On our way up to hiker renowned McAfee Knob, we stopped in at the two shelters prior to the knob and found chocolate at the Catawba Mountain shelter. More trail magic!

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    Finally, we were at McAfee Knob!

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    It was a very easy hike up and we spent a good while on top snacking, making phone calls, and getting more trail magic from a day hiker and his dog. If you see that ridge in the back there, that is the ridge we walked on after McAfee Knob in order to get to Tinker Cliffs. Unfortunately we got to Tinker Cliffs and a lightning storm was coming and we wanted to get off the cliffs before it got closer so we raced down to the Lamberts Meadow Shelter which ended up being a packed house. It was also a miserable nights sleep because of noseeums and it was too hot to be completely covered up in our sleeping bags, but that’s what we had to do. I think everyone tossed and turned that night.

    We headed 10 miles the next morning to Daleville, Virginia where we got a motel room for the night. A few miles outside of town we ran into TinTin and Fredo, two people we hadn’t seen since the Smokies. In town we caught back up to Moose & Tetherball at the outfitter as they were heading out of town. We lazed about the town eating Mexican, bar-b-que and resupplying at the grocery store before we left town the next morning. We were about to start paralleling the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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    After a brief stop at the Fullhardt Knob Shelter to check out the weird water cistern system that the shelter hosts, we stopped at somewhere near Curry Creek for lunch. We stopped for the day at Bobblets Gap Shelter where a few section hikers were staying but also our friends Moose & Tetherball who had done shorter miles because Tetherball had caught some stomach bug. We got to chat and catch up on the past few days and then it started to rain where it rained most of the night. The next morning along the Blue Ridge Parkway was cloudy, drizzly and foggy for most of the day.

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    At the Bryant Ridge Shelter for lunch we’d already done 14 miles. It was a bit chilly and we took some time to heat a hot lunch. We met Angela and Sweet Tooth at this shelter. I originally thought they were brother and sister but found out they were actually married. I guess people do sorta resemble each other after awhile! This shelter is a triple decker and sleep 20. The section hikers we were with the night before chose to stay here, but we were glad we were moving on because we passed two groups of an Outward Bound type group.

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    A little down time reading at the Cornelius Creek Shelter. Oh, I will say that the Natural Bridge Trail Club has built some really nice privies in this section, privies large enough to move around in and change clothes and with a lot of light from the outside. Some of the best ones on the trail, I think.

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    Apple Orchard Mountain

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    The next day we went up Apple Orchard Mountain, we stopped to take photos at the Guillotine.

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    It was a pretty cloudy day, but luckily no real rain as we came down into the James River near Glasgow, VA.

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    Before descending into the valley we met up with Angela and Sweet Tooth again and talked about splitting a shuttle to Glasgow for our resupply. We called the shuttle listed in the book and split a ride into town. We found out that it was a very tiny place and a small grocery store and Dollar General would be our resupply. Dinner was also going to consist of a gas station burger, which does well when you are hungry. Luckily we only had 1.5 miles after dinner and resupply to walk to the Johns Hollow Shelter.

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    We saw a bear very near the shelter when leaving the next morning. It is very wise to keep hanging your food and not get complacent about bears in the area.

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    Punchbowl Shelter, where apparently the ghost of Ottie Powell, a kid who got lost on Bluff Mountain in 1890 and perished, haunts.

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    Sunning ourselves on Cold Mountain after staying at Brown Mountain Creek the previous night. This section involved a fun 3,000′ climb from the creek up to Bald Knob and Cold Mountain. It was a gorgeous day so we didn’t mind too much.

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    Seeley-Woodworth Shelter, well, where we camped there!

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    After leaving the Seeley Woodworth Shelter our next goal was to go up Main Top Mountain and The Priest. At the Priest Shelter the log book becomes a confessional sort of book, with people ‘confessing’ their trail sins. Some were funny, some were anti-Catholic, some were just regular old logs. Luckily we got to go down the Priest into the Tye River valley instead of up it, but we got ours on the other side climbing up Three Ridges.

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    Tye River; fun fishing for Chris.

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    On our way up Three Ridge we weren’t sure we were on the trail at times because the blazing was pretty terrible. On top we met a hiker who was staying on top for the night and told us he’d just left a mental hospital for depression and was out here to recuperate a bit.

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    We pulled our longest day thus far, almost 23 miles, to the Maupin Field Shelter which was completely packed with section hikers and weekenders. We noticed a great increase on the trail in popular areas during the weekend.

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    Chicken of the Woods

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    We had a rainy day from Maupin Field Shelter to the Paul C. Wolfe Shelter starting at the Humpback Rock area along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We made a quick lunch somewhere near Humpback Rocks just prior to the rain and we walked pretty quickly the rest of the way down to the shelter. On our way we passed a group of Mennonite women wearing full ponchos and full dresses with tennis shoes. They were doing a section hike south. We arrived at the shelter fairly early with plenty of time to stake out a place in the shelter and lounge around the whole afternoon. Somewhere around Three Ridge the previous day we met Big Fork and Little Spoon. They were hiking with another older guy and apparently along the Blue Ridge Parkway they made a sign saying Hungry Hikers and basically asked for food. They came away with some good stuff ranging from crackers and yogurt to shrimp and other good stuff. They ended up sharing some food with us and the other hikers in the shelter….hooray for hungry hikers! Sometimes you felt like a bottomless pit and nothing could satisfy you.

    The photo above was from Waynesboro where we ended up spending a very nearo day. We arrived at the visitor center at Rockfish Gap along the Blue Ridge Parkway and called for a shuttle. A shuttle list is on the back of the visitors center so you can call a list of Trail Angels to pick you up and take you to town. When our shuttle arrived he was dropping off Moose & Tetherball! Our first stop for the day was to Weasie’s Kitchen for breakfast. While there we talked to a lady next to us for awhile about the trail and we paid up and left. We had to walk up the road to the hotel since the hostel was closed on Sunday (a church). On our way to the hotel a customer from the restaurant came to flag us down to tell us that the women we’d been talking with had paid for our meal and for us to go back and get a refund for double paying! Wow! That was so nice! Since our room wasn’t ready we just walked back down to the kitchen and then across the street to do some laundry. We had a relaxing stay in Waynesboro, ate at the wonderful Ming Garden Chinese buffet and overall had a great trail town experience in Waynesboro.

    The next day after picking up a new pair of boots at the post office we left for the Shenandoah’s.

    Stay tuned!

    log2

    funguslog

    Brittain Creek Sabine National Forest

    I know, going a bit large today. You’ve gotta be able to see the whole panorama.

    This topic has been on my mind a bit lately but it was a post by a friend (that I’ve never met but know through my friends Marc & Eliana), Chel, yesterday that really got me going even more on it.

    Hiking on the Appalachian Trail for five months will really set your priorities straight. There is tons of time to think and well, when your Google Reader backs up and you cannot possibly keep up, hitting “Mark All Read” is the thing to do. And it didn’t hurt. It actually let me realize that many of the blogs I were reading had slowly gotten off track from either their original intent or my original intent for reading them. Why? Sometimes I felt like there was too much creative drama, the “woe is me, I am never going to make money at my art, or what should I do, how do I get started, I want to do this and this and this but don’t have time”. And honestly, when one person gets started it seems to spread throughout the internet. It just became too much.

    Part of it stems from a comparison of yourself creatively to someone else you want to emulate or has a hobby/profession you wish to have. These are the people who seem to have it all, either the 2.5 kids, dog, nice house, perfectly cozy working at home, or the single gal who lives it up and landed a cool gig working for a super awesome creative company (be it scrapbooking, art, crochet, photography, just pick a company and insert it here). And here you are working a 9-5 job in a company you may or may not like and can only work on projects on the weekend, but boy do you want to bake this, sew that, write handy dandy thank you cards to everyone for all the gifts you get at holidays….and it becomes stressful.

    It also seemed in the blogging world if you were to be anybody creative and in the know you had to either start some sort of e-book or online workshop. There are many success stories with both of these and I applaud everyone who can do it, but why must we (or me?) feel like that should be our goal at the end of the day too? How could we all possibly keep up with doing our creative outlet and meanwhile somehow manage a workshop or an e-book or eww, the dreaded blog that decides to take up sponsors. Really? I do not want to read about your giveaways or more about the sponsors on your site. Sure, it might be a creative sponsor but it’s still advertising and I don’t want to see it. I have dropped many famous creative bloggers because of this, sometimes a bit guiltily because they were such good writers in the beginning.

    So, what am I trying to get at? You can’t do everything and be successful at each thing. I know, I’ve tried. I still have half made crochet socks that I was going to have done for Fall. I might be lucky to finish them by Christmas. That’s ok. I am not going to be the crochet guru I thought I might be a few years ago when I took up crochet. Scrapbooking? Out the window. I might play with paper again one day for some small project, but gone are the days that I thought maybe I’d ‘make it’ in the scrapbooking world. Art? This one is something still on the burner, simmering in the background. It’s something I will be doing for myself and for family and perhaps one day my art will be known, but it doesn’t matter to me right now. But, photography, oh photography. That has become my passion and I think Chris and I are on the right track for sharing our work with the world. Will we get rich? Probably not unless Oprah tells the world how awesome we are. But, we’ll have fun and enjoy doing it and getting better at our craft.

    I guess the overall point is, stop taking creativity so seriously and just go ‘be’. Stop thinking about it so hard and go after what you really want and give the smaller things up for a rainy day or when you are actually in the right path for it.

    That’s my very rambling message today.

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