Archive for the ‘Appalachian Trail 2010’ Category
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.
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…
This is the first shelter into North Carolina (going north) on the Appalachian Trail. We’d left Hiawasee that morning with sunny skies, however by evening it had started clouding over. I remember thinking it was pretty hard to leave town as it was our first town stop along the way. The next morning it started snowing and we walked up a snow covered Standing Indian Mountain. It was a long day but eventually we made it to Carter Gap Shelter for the night.
I need a few nights in a tent soon.
Blue Mountain Shelter was a fairly nice shelter, but I mostly remember it being pretty busy that night and morning. Yes, that is a dog in the sleeping bag. The girl leaning up against the shelter was its owner, and she was doing a short section, I think just Georgia. I remember her most that she picked up a slightly bruised if not half eaten banana from the parking area from the gap below and ate it. The mother and son there making breakfast over their stove were from Germany. I believe they ended up getting off trail because of her father’s ill health. I never heard anything more after North Carolina about them.
I think I’m eating peanut butter crackers too….mmm, healthy breakfast!
A couple of weeks ago Patrice, aka Steadee, said she was writing an article on the AT in New Hampshire for a magazine. She asked if I had any photos that I might share and if I had anything to say about the trail in the area. Though I had uploaded some photos to Flickr I decided to check our hard drive for anything that I didn’t upload. There I found a lot of photos but also videos we never uploaded. They instantly brought up old memories of the trail and remembering bits of the trail that I’d forgotten about.
Like this video…here we are coming up on Blood Mountain and for the majority of the video I am trying to place us along the trail. It isn’t until the end of the video when I see the large rock on the side of the video that I remember where this was. It wasn’t too far after the Woods Hole Shelter and I was getting hungry and cranky for dinner. The rock reminded me of this because shortly after the video ended is when I threw my “I’m hungry and I’m not walking anymore until we eat” tantrum that comes sometimes at the end of the day. Chris likes to look and look and look for a good place to sit, but me, I will pull up a spot just about anywhere and I was pretty much done with hiking that day.
Everyone else had pulled off the trail at the Woods Hole Shelter and we were the only ones going up to Blood Mountain. The day had been nice up until the last couple of miles with the weather turning and getting a bit nasty, hence a bit of my crankiness.
I’m hoping to keep this little series up for the next few weeks/months and relive a bit of our hike—3 years later!
As I drive down the road during my lunch hour, heading home or back to work, the light is just right currently, and the pine trees and sandy soils around the area remind me a lot of Florida. It makes me think a lot about the pine sandhills and geocaching, though we haven’t geocached in ages. Of course then I think about the Florida Trail which results into the Appalachian Trail…and that is a vicious little cycle which leads to a rabbit hole of wishful thinking.
Our two year summit of Katahdin came and went (August 12th). I had planned on writing something before we left for WA but I sat at the computer several times unable to come up with words. As all of my fellow AT friends post their yearly summit anniversary photos on Facebook I get nostalgic and reminisce every time.
To be honest, I can’t believe it has been two years since we were out there hiking our way to Maine. It feels like yesterday and yet a lifetime ago. It doesn’t take much for me to think about one tiny instance on the trail—it could be the moment that we hit 500 miles, just north of the Grayson Highlands, a non-descript spot in the middle of the trail as we were descending a mountain mid-morning—or it could be evening at any one of the shelters, making meals, reading shelter-logs, and talking with the rest of our thru-hiker comrades.
One of the things that I loved about our trip to Washington was the eau de hiker that comes with a few days without a shower. Yes, I know, this is the weirdest thing ever, but it smelled of enjoyment and happiness if that makes any sense. A backpacking trip quickly brings back the appreciation for the smallest things during the hike and after when you are back in civilization—time to lounge and read a book (during), glorious sunsets (during), water you don’t have to treat (oh, public water treatment systems…!), hot water in the shower….
I’m envious of every single person out there hiking and being adventurous. And at the same time I’m thankful and happy that we’ve bought a house and I get to finally grow my own garden and call a place ‘mine’. Every month or so when the A.T. Journeys magazine comes I wish we lived somewhere within driving distance of the A.T. so we could hike on weekends or volunteer. I’m definitely envious of Deal and Steadee who get to walk less than a quarter of a mile, and could turn right or left and walk to Georgia or Maine if they wanted. (They run Bears Den hostel now.)
About a week ago someone posted a link to this photo gallery of A.T. hikers requesting anyone to identify themselves or others they knew. I thought I recognized one person from 2010 but wasn’t sure and the rest I didn’t think I knew. Not to say that I hadn’t run across them at one point, but what made me think a little bit more was that while we were in Maine, or whatever state, there was a group of people several days or a week, even weeks, behind or ahead of us that I didn’t know. I wondered about their trail experiences—did they have good days going over exciting mountains like we did or did they go through it in bad weather? How they experienced the trail in one part of Virginia might have been completely different for us—spring was just beginning there when we started through Virginia, maybe it was nearly summer when they walked through or perhaps it was fall if they were walking south.
Yes, strange thoughts, but it piques my interest—seeing the trail in many aspects and varying time frames. How different it all would be. Maybe that’s my problem…I know the A.T., but I don’t get to know it in ways that people who live near it get to know it if they wanted.
Right now I’m thinking…about the dreadfully long 24 mile day where we crossed from New Jersey to New York. The day started out rather pleasant but with twelve miles done by lunch and another twelve to go after, the afternoon tarried too long as we heard the sounds of boats on the lake below the ridge we were on. Instead of playing in the water, washing away the piles of sweat and grime, we were baking under the mid-day sun as it reflected off the rocks on the ridge. Thankfully we made it to a road crossing where we detoured to an ice cream shop for a pre-dinner snack before heading to the next shelter where we caught up with Merf, Snack Attack, Speaker, Spark and Caboose, and a group of AMC hikers. There was instant pudding for dessert thanks to the AMC group leaders…yeah the simple things that make you happy, things like instant pudding.
And so I will keep trying to remember the little bits of memories that fly into my brain in the middle of the day and be thankful that we had such an grand adventure.
This trail—-is so flat! I did not think it at the time! Only miles will tell you that.
Two years. Two years ago since we went to Georgia and started our Appalachian Trail thru-hike. I’ve always wanted to use the blog title ‘The Two’. Why? Because I am a huge Alias fan and the first episode of Season 3 is titled The Two. It is about Sydney’s return to the CIA after two years, two years she has lost and her life is completely different.
I haven’t lost two years, but it sometimes seems like that. Two years ago I couldn’t have fathomed I’d be where I am today. Not that I am anywhere special, but a lot has happened in two years. I would have told myself two years ago to not be so panicky and homesick, to have enjoyed the first 1,000 miles more. That those five months would be with me for the rest of my life and I will always wish I could spend some more time on the trail, that I’d turn to the AT calendar at my desk at work and wish I was wherever that month’s photo was taken.
I often wonder how other people feel as the distance and years grow between their thru-hike start and end dates. All I can say it that you should do something big and interesting with your life, something that is meaningful to you and will make you remember it forever.
And the pink hair? I’ve wanted pink hair ever since I saw the pilot episode Truth Be Told. It was a good time to try that kind of hijinks, but sometimes I want to do it again in ‘real’ life.
So, with Springer Fever arriving, I’ll read some Trail Journals and ‘walk’ north with this years incoming hikers and enjoy the trail all over again.
I will wax poetic for years to come about August 11, 2010.
A year ago if you’d asked me where I would be today I wouldn’t have had a clue. And now, looking back a year later I would have told myself to stay another week or two in Maine and slow the heck down. We had a good pace, in fact, I loved our pace, but I would’ve like to have enjoyed Maine a bit more. Then again, I wouldn’t take back our summit day, the rare Class I day with a perfect sunrise and summitting Katahdin with some of our favorite people: Cubbie, Dilly Dally and Blue Rooster….and no one else.
A year later, though I’ve written more comprehensive blog posts about the hike, I still ruminate writing a book on the experience and on our Florida Trail hike. I debate on how to set it apart from every other AT hiking book there is out there. Maybe it will be published for all to read, maybe not. At least I could get it out of my head.