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  • Archive for the ‘Appalachian Trail 2010’ Category

    I often write in my head and many things never make it out into the internet. However, I have had a few backpacking and long distance trail thoughts building up over the summer that I think about and then forget, but I think I’ve got enough of them now to do a random list-style post. Here we go…

    • Last fall Geraldine Largay’s, trail name Inchworm, body was found after having been missing for over two years after getting lost on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. When news broke in 2013 the she was lost it was easy to suspect foul play based on all of the circumstances. At the very least, maybe there was just some freak accident that occurred. When her body was found not very far from the AT on military land, of course there were even more theories. And then there was nothing, no information until this past May when it was made known that she survived for 26 days, lost, based on information in her journal. The more that I read about that situation the more it baffled me and others. Sure, the north woods are dense and terrain is rough, but wow, 26 days of survival and how come no one found her? How come she didn’t do this or that….all of the questions. I can pretty clearly remember the stretch of trail from where she went missing, not every detail of course, but the general terrain and some of the landmarks especially because I remember the day we hiked from Poplar Ridge Lean-To, had lunch at Spaulding Mountain, and Merf, Chris and I hung out for the afternoon at the Carrabasset River before heading up to the Crocker Cirque tentsite. I have a good memory of this section of trail.

      Nevertheless, all of the unknowns and the sad fact she was prepared enough to survive so long really bothered me. I kind of put it to the back of my mind this summer until Patches wrote Lost and Alone: A Solo Thru-Hiker’s Perspective last week. In it there were graphics that I hadn’t seen. The snail trail map of the tracks that search and rescuers used to search for her is haunting because of how close they came to her final location. It’s also haunting in how much other areas were searched versus her final resting location. Patches touched on this, how knowledge and tips on where Inchworm may or may not have last been seen played a part in the confusing search area.

      Read Patches’ post, it is well worth the time. I have a lot more thoughts but she wrote them all succintly and you’ll be better off reading from her than my rambling mess!

    • On the same subject of the Appalachian Trail, in the last two years it has become very evident that the trail is facing some over-use, or at least perceived over-use. I haven’t been able to figure that one out because I only see what I read online and am not out on the trail to experience thru-hiker seasons as a hiker or volunteer. I’m very glad that we hiked just on the cusp of full-on social media and smart phones being prevalent on the trail. I suspect it is a very different trail just in this aspect than it was in 2010. And I’m sure people in 2000 would say the same about us in 2010…etc, etc. Which is why I wonder about the actual versus perceived. It definitely seems as if there is a huge explosion in trail and outside ‘lifestyle’ and I wonder at what the AT will become in the coming years. With the push for alternative thru-hikes (flip-flops, alternative starting locations) I do wonder how long this will sustain itself. Not only that, the increased use of other trails, especially the PCT thanks to Wild. I don’t know what I’m going for here, I guess I just wonder what kind of trail experience it will be in the coming years.

      Kind of in this same vein was this post from Appalachian Trials that irritated me to no end. Part of me hopes it was just a mid-hiking-I’m-hungry-and-tired rant but part of me thinks it is also a narrow minded, entitled viewpoint that believes the trail should cater to the hiker. While I/we had our own beefs with some aspects of the Whites, I found this write-up demanding and shallow. And, come on, you’ve known for hundreds of miles, and probably as you planned your hike, just what New Hampshire and Maine had in store for you. This isn’t 1975. And this post makes me think that *this* is what is fueling the over-use frustrations. Entitlement.

    • The final little tidbit is about the Florida Trail. I had a backlog of magazines to read and one of them was the Winter Issue of Footprint. I was flipping through it on a road trip to DFW this weekend and was stunned to see a write-up about last year’s contest for grant money to repair a boardwalk on the trail in St. Marks. The FT was in the lead and doing superbly when all of a sudden after month one a lot of our votes were taken away and a new voting system was put in place. First off, changing the votes and rules mid-contest was crap. Anyway, as you see on pg 36 of the issue in that link up there, there is more information than I had on hand, but information I had suspected. The Florida Trail definitely gets a negative rap from people who have limited definitions of thru-hiking and backpacking but probably also from perpetuated myths and bad experiences of other hikers. I had suspected that that negativity had infiltrated the voting process and had been an influence but I didn’t want to think that. And by the sounds of that article that’s just what happened. I suppose there’s likely another side of the story and if there is, please inform me. It was good to see that funding was found and the boardwalk was able to be built. That contest left a bad taste in my mouth for any other future trail building funding opportunities in this manner.

    And that’s my short rant on long trails for today!

    It’s hard to believe our thru-hike of the AT ended 5 years ago! As I went back through and put together this video I was sad to see we did not take nearly the amount of videos I thought we had. Times are different technologically than they were 5 years ago. It almost seems like leaps and bounds different, though it really isn’t.

    Anyway, the video is really long. I only cut down or removed a few videos that were multiples, such as the timber rattlesnake and the beaver, and an epically long video at the bird feeder at the hostel in Vermont. But for the most part I kept all the long walking videos through the Green Tunnel. It’ll probably bore some people to tears but I put it together for us. I decided to share it here anyway. Feel free to skip around and watch different parts of it. The first part has more talking than the latter 3/4. I ended up putting a lot more music as a background to those areas. Some things I forgot about in my baby haze this year, like the completion of Make Time’s thru-hike in Dalton, Mass. It was really fun to see that when it came up in the putting together of thise video. Also, I know we have a lot of pictures from our Katahdin summit but I was really disappointed to see we did not take many videos!

    I relived a lot of good memories putting it together! I also remembered all of the blisters, the hiker hobble, and the days when I wondered if we were ever going to get to camp.

    Happy Hiking!

    Misti with Springer Mt. Register

    AT Approach Trail Start

    1st Blaze on the AT

    Five years ago today Chris and I turned into Panther and Ridley. We climbed out of my dad’s car at Amicalola Falls State Park, weighed our backpacks and signed the register at the gift shop, then ducked under the stone arch just outside and embarked on a side trail called the Approach Trail that would take us to Springer Mountain and the official start of the Appalachian Trail.

    It was chilly down in the lower elevations and threatening to rain. Weather conditions only worsened as we climbed in elevation that day and I wondered why on Earth I had thought up this harebrained idea the year before. By the time we’d finished the Approach Trail and reached the summit of Springer Mountain we’d already hiked in sleet and had donned our rain gear. It was foggy with zero visibility at the top of Springer which made the summit and official start of the trail feel a little less monumental than I thought it would.

    Seeing our first white blazes, we headed down the trail to the Springer Mountain shelter thinking we might stay there for the night, only we found it packed and still rather early in the day. The ridge runner, getting an approximate count of hopeful thru-hikers, highly suggested we mosey down the trail—mostly downhill he said—to the next shelter 2.8 miles away. It was just the first in a series of times we’d adjust our expectations for hiking goals for the day, sometimes making our original goal, other times falling short or making it further than intended.

    That night as we huddled around the picnic tables of the Stover Creek shelter, the rest of our fellow thru-hikers looking as wide-eyed as we did, as we made dinner. Excited, but nervous. We went to bed at an unreasonably early hour, before the sun even set, as it was too cold and it was starting to sleet once again. I had no idea what we were in for.

    I miss the trail often. I miss it more now that I’m not in adventure/get outdoors mode and instead am in take-care-of-a-baby-human mode. That day we did our hike in Sam Houston National Forest on Valentine’s Day weekend…I felt some of my hiking memories coming back. When we finished hiking I was happy with how smelly I was. Yes, I know to most people this sounds gross but to me it meant I had done something exciting with my day. It was a glimpse of hiker stench. Even the tingles of a blister wanting to form on my feet were a teensy bit exciting. Sometimes I miss the thick calloused feet I had post-trail. They were badass feet that could carry me for miles and miles.

    I’m so glad Chris listened to me that day six year ago when I brought up the idea to hike the trail. I somehow laid it all out, my plans that we could indeed hike the trail with some planning and saving. I’m so glad our parents were understanding—even though I know they thought we were insane—for wanting to go do something that appeared to be so hedonistic but in the end realizing what an adventure it really would be for us.

    One thing I learned while on the trail is that so many people are living their lives with their nose to the ground and not actually embarking on any of their goals and dreams. Sometimes there are responsibilities that limit what we can and can’t do and not everyone is capable of dropping everything to go run off to hike a trail or *insert whatever dream of yours here*. However, I think most people with average means and few responsibilities can probably find a way to work themselves into the position of living out a goal or two before they reach *someday*. Someday might never actually come if you keep waiting. Many people say they will do something big in their life when they retire—but when you retire are you going to be physically capable and in good enough health to do some of these things? Why not insert some of these things throughout your lifespan instead of waiting until the end of your life?

    The moral of the story? Make your own adventure and go and live it! I’m so glad we followed those white blazes from Springer to Katahdin and later the orange blazes the length of Florida. If I have my way there will be more long trails in our future, hopefully with a little ragamuffin in alongside us.

    Short fir trees, rocks…must be a mountain in the north woods. New Hampshire to be precise and getting into the White Mountains. I wish Chris had left the video on as we came out of the trees and into the open mountain top so you can see the full effect of getting to the top of a mountain. I loved how it flattened out, there are the end, time to speed up after several miles of a steady ‘up’.

    New Jersey, Appalachian Trail

    Some songs that are reminding me of summer, particularly of walking along the mid-Atlantic and New England states three summers ago.

    This feels like it will be a very enjoyable, full summer. I feel like I didn’t get a summer last year with the move to the house—the unpacking, the flooding, the constant barrage of things to do. Now I’m just trying to keep up with the garden and yard every evening, sweating through my shirt before I work fifteen minutes. The frogs on the pond get so loud sometimes I can hear them inside the house. It’s almost like camping.

    Once again I’m digging out some videos from the AT that I never uploaded. This one is of the area at Lehigh Gap in Palmerton where the superfund site is located from the decades of zinc smelting that polluted the mountain top. As you can see it is quite a different landscape that one would expect from hiking in the Green Tunnel.

    You can read more about our antics in Pennsylvania here. The storm clouds show you what kind of climb and day it was—-wet. And hot.

    This guy gives a good perspective on the climb out of the gap.

    The Appalachian Trail Plaque

    “To walk; to see and to see what you see. ”
    –Benton MacKaye, on the ultimate purpose for hiking on the Appalachian Trail, 1971

    Sometimes it seems like yesterday, and some days it seems like it never happened at all.

    Beauty Beneath the Dirt – Official Trailer from Jason Furrer on Vimeo.

    Let me introduce to you three people that Chris and I met in 2010 on the Appalachian Trail during our thru-hike. Ringleader (Kate), Monkey (Brandon), and Lightning (Emily). While for the most part we only hiked around this group not with them or necessarily hanging out with them, I knew we would still want to see this documentary they made while hiking in 2010.

    There was a bit of controversy surrounding them, particularly in the beginning of the trail, in regards to their filming and that is touched on a bit in the movie (I think in the extras) with Monkey telling the naysayers to bleep off. I think as time went on it was just known that they were The Traveling Circus (for short The Circus) and that was that and I feel that at least the hikers that knew them/of them the contentiousness was dropped to some extent as time went on, at least from my perspective.

    I’d heard a vaguely of The Circus sometime when we were just getting into North Carolina, but even after meeting Lightning as she came out of nowhere on Wayah Bald one day, we didn’t really understand who or what the group was for many more miles. Lightning, she’d puff smokes and still be this crazy fast hiker that I wouldn’t dream of being able to keep up with. It may have been Damascus, Virginia before we saw the other two members of The Circus. I remember Ringleader asking the folks at the Mt. Rogers Outfitters something in regards to her down jacket as bits of down were coming out, but that was really it. I think we leap-frogged around them between Damascus and Atkins where we saw them a few times during our nearo in Atkins.

    I believe all of us left Atkins the same morning and that was the first time we really hiked around them for any length of time. I remember Ringleader taking her camera out several times to film the pastures the trail went through in that area, and chatting with them a little at a few shelters during breaks. Somehow I recall them pulling a 20+ miler in order to get somewhere to meet friends. At that time 20+ miles seemed like a far fetched dream! And after that day I don’t remember really seeing them all that much as it wasn’t but a week later that we got off the trail to return home for my niece’s funeral. When we returned to the AT after the funeral Trail Days was going on and Lightning was down there while Ringleader and Monkey were at Ringleader’s law school graduation. We gained some days ahead of them and I think the next time we saw them was sometime in Pennsylvania—definitely on the day we stayed under the bridge the day it rained—they came through dripping wet on a slack pack but were headed to a hotel or someones house, lucky them! For the next while they were around for awhile. I recall a very interesting encounter with them in New Jersey as they were recuperating from a night in town. Their recuperation was occurring in the middle of the trail as they slept off their drinks from the night before (don’t worry, no photos y’all!). Later on we actually got to talk to them a bit at the RPH Shelter in New York, which is where Chris took the photo of Ringleader that is on the spine of the DVD.

    I don’t know when it was that we last saw them as somehow we ended up in front of them by the time we finished the trail. The three of them, though split up at that time, finished a few days after us in August. Then of course comes Facebook and social media and the ability to be ‘friends’ through those avenues so it has been nice to actually get to know Ringleader a little bit more than I did on the trail.

    The Movie
    I admit, I was a bit skeptical as to if the movie would come to fruition. Kate/Ringleader went on to be a lawyer, Monkey went to med school and I’m not sure what Lightning is up to, but I’m sure she’s living her life too. And then last year the movie came out. They started off by doing some showings in Chicago and a few areas where they lived and then Monkey and Ringleader did showings up and down the AT in various towns, festivals, and hostels.

    I didn’t really have many people to ask to find out what it was like but what I heard was negative; apparently there was a lot of cussing. Ooook. But then I also saw good reviews from AT hikers on the trail last year who wrote about it on their blog so I began to really wonder and knew that seeing it for myself was really the way to go.

    And? Yes, there were many f-bombs but you know what? Half of them had me and Chris laughing our heads off, particularly the ones coming from Monkey when he went off in a confessional about group infighting. And some of the f-bombs were just courtesy of the moments on the trail. I mean, I had my moments. There were a string of curse words coming from my mouth when I slipped on a wood plank in Vermont. You are living, eating, breathing the trail and then little crap moments happen and it seems the world is ending.

    But then again, I’m not really averse to cussing when used properly. Would the movie have had the effect it did without the cussing or if Monkey had said something more gentle instead? Probably not. Not only that, substituting something else just wouldn’t have been them and would instead of have been a farce.

    Which brings me to why I think some people might have had a problem with the movie. This isn’t a shiny, sparkly movie about the Appalachian Trail (don’t get me wrong, there are beautiful shots in the movie!). Instead, it’s a movie about three people who hiked the trail and their experiences. Every single person who hikes out there comes to the trail with a different background and story, their dynamic and story along the trail evolves differently due to their experiences, and they emerge at the end someone different (maybe) than everyone else.

    In the extras (which I haven’t finished all the way yet) Ringleader talks with the other producer and editor of the movie about what the focus was of the film. They had captured hours upon hours of the hike on film and when they went to review they had to come up with a story. Along the way they did interviews of some of the other hikers and I know they shot scenes in so many other areas but they had to figure out what was going to make a movie. Their answer was ‘group dynamic’.

    And it was so true. The three of them with different backgrounds, despite two of them being related, all coming to the trail for different reasons, and their interactions along the trail is what made the story. I won’t give away much but we had heard that The Circus had broken up somewhere in Maine. That story is told in the movie.

    I will say, I think part of the problems that came up could have been resolved pre-hike or within the first few weeks. Ringleader mentioned multiple times feeling like she was never hiking with Lightning. I saw this same thing happen with others hiking as couples and even with us on our second day on the trail. The whole fastest person in front thing does not work especially if the slowest person in the group is unhappy about it. We worked it out that I hiked in front consistently except for a couple of times when Chris had a blister or had hurt his ankle (snow in the Smokeys) and that’s pretty much how we hike now unless we’re dayhiking and doing something leisurely.

    Communication is very much key when hiking or backpacking with a group. If some kind of resolution had been solved early on then maybe the problems The Circus faced would have been resolved—-but then maybe there wouldn’t have been the movie that we saw either!

    In all, I think this movie should be in any collection for the Appalachian Trail. It is one story among thousands from the trail and I think worth watching especially for anyone who hiked in 2010 as you may see familiar faces. If you don’t want to buy the DVD, at least rent it online for a night and watch it. It is a great movie, not worth the criticism I’ve heard in my opinion, and is well made for what equipment they were using and the fact they were doing it themselves. If you want to watch something different and not your standard RedBox fare, check it out.

    There’s one moment with Lightning stirring a pot of something over her stove, a beautiful sunset in the background and she’s lamenting that she really wants a cheeseburger. I totally understand.

    Once the AT reaches Shenandoah National park it really becomes the ‘Appalachian Highway’. The trail smooths out and the climbs aren’t nearly as difficult. It’s pretty nice until you reach the north end of Pennsylvania and other than the rocks it is really not all that mountainous until Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts. So you set your cruise control and head on through the green tunnel, listening to the sound of the birds along the way.

    It really is that noisy at times with the birds. It wasn’t until we met Merf that we began figuring out what some of them were. She’d learned some of them from another hiker. “Here I am, Where are you?”

    This week we’re going to jump ahead to north-central Virginia and just go for a nice walk in the woods. We’d just left Paul C. Wolfe shelter after holing up there for the afternoon and evening the day before while it rained. We’d come nearly 16 miles from the Maupin Field shelter that morning and had made good time, arriving mid-afternoon to the Wolfe shelter. Had it not been raining I think we’d have gone straight into Waynesboro that evening instead. However, the next morning dawned clear and bright, and we booked it for Rockfish Gap where we called for a shuttle into Waynesboro. Our destination—and what I know I was thinking about in that video—was Weasie’s Kitchen. After filling up on food (and finding out a very generous trail angel bought our meal) we got a hotel for the night, did laundry, and milled about town for the day.

    Just a walk in the woods…

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