No Pain, No Rain, No Maine


Today is the last day at home. We’re both feeling better and have decided to keep our start date for Saturday, though it appears it’ll be dreary with some rain. We’re heading out tomorrow to drive to Georgia; my dad and uncle are driving us out. They will drop us off sometime on Saturday morning and we’ll make our way up the 8 mile Approach Trail to the start of the Appalachian Trail on top of Springer Mountain.

I started dreaming about the trail the other night. Somehow it involved a sister species to the roseate spoonbill, a darker red bird that only lived in Maine and along a few other Great Lakes states. Too bad it wasn’t real!

So, there are only a few things that concern me: blisters (though that will work itself out after awhile), my ankle hurting, my knee hurting (both on the same leg! Thanks softball…), rain day in and day out (inevitable at some point), and being snowed in. I think the snowed in part is not very likely to happen, but still, it’s out there looming in my brain.

I am going to have make myself take it day by day, mile by mile and state by state, not jumping ahead and wishing to hurry up to some other state. Just make it from one town to the next and keep on moving.

I’m wondering how crowded it will be this weekend. Some people are writing 20-30 people at the first couple of shelters. Ick. Fun for socializing, not fun for sleeping—too loud.

Today we’re wrapping everything up. The health insurance is still up in the air; they’ve called us twice asking for more information on a few health issues but I think we’ll be approved soon. Our phones are taken care of. If you have our #’s, call Chris’ number (email if you need it) and leave a message. I’ll check my messages some, but we’re taking Chris’. Going through our packs for a shakedown. Mailing another maildrop. (oh, the maildrops are updated and are listed on the top left here on the blog). Giving Samson a bath for his fleas. Go see my grandmother. Upload our mp3’s with cds’. Just make sure it is all done.

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I’ve become “T” to this kid since she can’t say Aunt Misti. Sometimes it comes out Aunt T, which I have a feeling is going to be morphed into Auntie one day and that is what I shall be called. I will miss the heck out of her. Ashleigh is gaining weight, 2lb 8oz; saw her last night where she cried (non vocally because of the tubes) while her diaper was changed. It was heartbreaking to see her cry like that. She’ll be home next time I see her. YAY!

Next time I write I will be somewhere up the trail. It might be awhile between posts. I’m hoping to write in Neels Gap or in Hiawassee.

Thanks for reading and keep us in your thoughts!

On the mend


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Last Thursday we went to the Ft. Worth Botanic Garden for a walk about the garden. I love this garden because it is free to get into and it has a lot of open space for picnicking and lazing about if that is what you are into. Many of the spring bulbs were up and in bloom and I loved these hellebore’s. See–I am trying to learn other plants!

I ended up getting over the sinus infection crap for the most part, but Chris came down with it bad over the weekend. As of now we are still on for the weekend, but we’re taking it day by day to see how Chris feels—we don’t want to start off hiking while sick. I think he’s on the mend and the worst part is over, but it will be two weeks at the end of the week for me being sick and it seems like that is how long it is taking to get over it completely.

Also, we’re reading online to stay up to date on trail conditions and it seems many people who started in February or late January are either getting off the trail for awhile or are stuck just south of the Smokies due to the inclement trail conditions. If we keep our pace up we should be reaching the Smokies at the very end of March and first of April, which I would hope puts the trail conditions to be better. Someone had frost bite and got off the trail and I read at least two people made it halfway through the Smokies only to get off the trail. I just can’t imagine pushing myself like that when there isn’t really a reason to do so. It isn’t Everest, so why make it be like that?

We set up a Trail Phone account so we can call in from time to time with updates instead of blogging if we can’t blog. Look for Ridley & Panther on that page when the time comes.

Also, if you are someone who was interested in sending something to us on the trail these are the stipulations: tell us in advance so we know to pick up a package, make it something small that we can either eat right away or that we can carry, and make it in a smaller section like a 3 or 4 day section, not a longer one. The thing is, we will either have to throw it out or carry it and most likely if it is heavy or bothersome, it will be thrown our or sent home. So, small, edible, and tasty. We have our gear already, so please don’t send any gear unless we specifically ask for something.

I think I am going to set up Wordless Wednesday posts for the next few months—you know, so you have something to look at here. So, comment on them, k? Tell me something awesome about your day or how the weather is, or what you ate for lunch. Give me something to read when I have a minute.

Epiphanie Bags


Ok, so normally I hate doing these kind of posts, but I really want a chance to win a Canon 5D camera.

I actually started reading Maile’s blog long before she became part of the Shutter Sisters. She had great blog entries and amazing photos and I’d comment occasionally.

Then she came out with a camera bag line that was to die for. I have a big backpack camera bag that is waterproof on the bottom and is great for hiking but I really wish I had something better for just taking my camera around town. And then Maile came out with Epiphanie bags. And they are beautiful! They aren’t in my budget at the moment but I’m thinking they would make an excellent Christmas present.

Anyway, this whole blog post is because Epiphanie is having a giveaway, a Canon 5d camera or $2500 on Southwest Airlines.

And a Canon 5D is right up my alley.

Trout Lilies at Tandy Hills


When we came back to town I asked my brother and dad where some good places to hike were and one place they mentioned was Tandy Hills. This park is very close to where my parents grew up in E. Ft. Worth and where my grandad still lives and I had no idea this park even existed. It is tucked away in the Meadowbrook subdivision, which is a nicer, historic part of the area (go a few blocks and it might not be so great of an area) and once you get in to the park you don’t realize you are surrounded by the city. Well, except from some trash that you come across.

I went to their website to scout the park out and found out they had trout lilies and the nodding ladies tresses orchid. Very cool! So, yesterday we went off to find the trout lilies since Chris hadn’t gotten to see them fully open. After doing some research the ones we found appear to be Erythronium albidum.

Trout Lily

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There were hundreds of them in the area we found them in.

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Rare prairie in the middle of east ft. worth
This is what the park area looks like…

Ft. Worth from Tandy Hills
and then to the west is downtown Fort Worth.

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Not sure what these red berries are, but they were very pretty.

We went to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden on Thursday…those photos are to come.

Getting Excited


Despite being sick and tied to the couch watching movies all day long, I am getting excited. We had hoped to go hiking at least once while we were in Dallas this week, but I wanted to lay low until I got better.

Chris ventured out today to the Heard Museum a stomping ground of his youth (I’ve been once, way back when we were dating in high school or college) to take some photos. He ended up spotting some trout lilies, flowers we had planned on trying to find while hiking around the DFW metroplex while we were here. We will try to go back next week so I can see them in bloom.

I am constantly checking Whiteblaze.net and Trailjournals.com for updates on the trail, seeing what new snow fall has occurred and if there are new blow downs and trail issues. A lot of people have started this week and it is getting exciting to read everyone’s stories. Only a week and a half and we will be out there, walking to Maine.

There are many things I am trying not to think about, only picturing the end and being on Katahdin. I’m skipping the rain, snow, cold, tired, pain moments—all of which I know will occur. The common mantra that is said is “No Pain, No Rain, No Maine”.

Oh, here you go, a photo of someone who went through it and made to Maine–in the rain of course. That’s the one conundrum, getting a clear, picturesque photo on top of Katahdin and not a dreary, rainy one. I’ve seen mostly rainy ones.

I’ve decided to re-read a few of my favorite journals I read over the past year to see what they did at the beginning.

I’m off to douse myself with some green juices and more medicine. My nose seems to be slowing down a bit, just wishing I could hear out of my ears soon.

Resting


I started coming down with what I thought to be a cold but now think is a sinus infection late last week. It has since knocked me down and I’ve been hibernating in my in-laws movie room watching all sorts of chick flicks and BBC America for Dr. Who.

It isn’t pleasant; I’m sick and officially have no insurance. It ended yesterday. The good part was finding out that the Minute Clinic at CVS is only around $60 for a visit for a cold related type things and if all they are prescribing are antibiotics and cough medicine, then you could escape a doctors visit for under $100.

Health insurance was our one sticking point for the trip. Well, not a sticking point, but a big question mark if you will. The fact is, health insurance isn’t cheap and the health care bill never got passed, so we’re stuck trying to find health insurance we can afford.

I received my COBRA information before I even left Florida and it was laughable. Over $600 a month for one person. Seriously ridiculous. We did this for a few months when Chris was in between jobs a few years ago and we could afford it because we were working, but that would quickly eat through our savings if we did it this time around. So, today Chris got online and dug around for an emergency insurance, something that would cover a catastrophic problem like being laid up in an a hospital for days on end. *crossing fingers that won’t happen and knocking on wood*. Once they review our application, hopefully we will be paying $100 a month for both of us for a catastrophic plan that would help us out in a pinch.

So, if I come down with a cough or cold I’ll be paying out of pocket for a doctors visit somewhere along the AT.

Aside from being sick, we did venture out for awhile to REI and to have lunch with Chris’ dad and step-mom. At REI we picked up a bunch of MSR fuel for our stove to put in our maildrops as well as a ton of tiny bottles of Dr. Bronner’s soap. The soap is a biodegradable soap that can be used to clean dishes and to wash yourself, so it is perfect for the trail. Some people even try to brush their teeth with it, but once some of it leaked in the bag we had our toothbrushes in and well, it doesn’t taste good.

Robin had a few questions:
Sorry if you answered this already, but for the food drops, how does that work?
We pack them into boxes and take them to the post office so they can be shipped to the points we want to pick them up at.

Do you stop off at various points along the trail and give the boxes of food to someone to keep?
Most of the boxes will be shipped to post offices and stored there until we pick them up. We will ship them about two weeks ahead of time with a tracking number. Some get shipped to private companies that can be picked up 7 days a week.

Or do you stash it somewhere?
Only if I want a bear to find it!!!

How long will it take to drop all that off? And I take it it will be done beforehand, right?
No dropping off! Just mail ’em out two weeks prior to our scheduled arrival in that town so that we can pick them up. The mail drops are meant to supplement at a town that doesn’t have a good grocery store or maybe the town is a little spread out and we want to avoid running around town for hours on end.

We have a few other things to take care of for the trail like sealing the seams on our rain fly and figuring out our phone. We still haven’t made a final decision with that. We got our car insurance taken care of and will be doing comprehensive only for six months while it is in storage, greatly reducing our monthly bill.

I’ve already started thinking of ways to cut my weight at the beginning. I’m thinking of ditching a second sports bra, a pair of shorts and an extra shirt until we get through the Smokies. Hauling 11 days worth of food is going to bite. I have light-pack envy after seeing someone’s total weight of 18lbs on Trailjournals.com. That’s total weight of all gear plus food and water. I’m not interested in carrying more than 30 lbs of weight, which I think could happen in the Smokies. Some people carry 40+ lbs, until they get to Mountain Crossings at Neels Gap and get someone to help them drop their pack weight.

Two weeks from now we’ll be toasty in our sleeping bags somewhere in Georgia.

Preparing Maildrops


Well, one thing we learned with mail drops is that lunches are the hardest part of the planning process. And we bought slightly too much food.

For Christmas we received money to go towards buying dehydrated food for our mail drops. Chris went online and scoped out deals and found a lot of food for good prices from a variety of vendors like Mountain House and Backpackers Pantry. We put them all in a box and brought them home.

For breakfast and lunches we hit Sam’s Club, Walmart, Whole Foods and Tom Thumb to pick up all the things that we thought we’d want. I am pickier about lunch than Chris; he can survive on trail mix and I’m not a big fan of trail mix. I would prefer to have things like pouches of chicken and tuna, peanut butter or pepperoni. So, we walked the aisles of these stores to pick up the items we wanted. We bought mostly dried fruit at Whole Foods because I think they have better quality and choices. We bought about six or seven drops of pepperoni and my parents will have to get more for us later because we bought the pepperoni out at Tom Thumb.

We sat down last Monday and went through all of the guidebooks and consulted Whiteblaze.net to determine the best places for mail drops. People either seem to be very into mail drop or very anti-mail drops. And some are very vehement about it. We initially had 12 drops, re-evaluated it and dropped one and rearranged some and added a few more town stops to break up some 70+ mile hikes between towns.

Here is what we ended up with Google Doc spreadsheet. The dates are more or less where we will be at and we may add more town stops as we find out more on the trail by those in the know.

To put together our mail drops we bought 11 12x12x12 boxes and then after packing we found that two boxes had too much in them to even close so we bought two 15x12x10, for the 100+ mile sections through the Smokies and the 100 miles wilderness and one 14x14x14 for a 7 day section. We’ve chosen not to go to Gatlinburg in the middle of the Smokies because of the distance (15 miles) and the hassle of it, so we are going to just carry a lot of food to get us from Fontana Dam to Hot Springs. It seems about 50/50 do this.

Anyway, we laid everything out in the living room and broke it out by how many days we were going to carry and had to count it all out. Lunches were much more of a pain, they will be made up of various items including bars like Powerbars for Chris, Larabars, Cliff and Odwalla bars for me. We put in mini Goldbond powders at each drop, hand sanitizer, AA batteries, and a change of toothbrushes in the middle. I’m sure we will had some other things we think of and we will keep them open for my parents to add things as we ask.

We did a short time-lapse video of us putting the whole thing together:

Patrice had a few more questions:
What are you putting in your bounce box? I know you mentioned on the video putting in your camelbak cleaner, but what else? I’ve heard of people putting in chargers and clean clothes, so I was just curious.
-I think we’ve decided not to have a bounce box since we won’t need much and we will just put the camelbak cleaner in one of the drops and send it back home after we are done with it. I suppose we could bounce it from there. We’ll see. No clean clothes, we’ll just wear our rain gear while we wash laundry or borrow some of the clothes that many hostels have for those who want to change out of their clothes for the day. As for chargers we are carrying a USB charger for our mp3 player and will charge it at computers, and we bought a little charger at AT&T that takes AA batteries for our phone.

What degree sleeping bag are you guys starting with? Do you think you’ll switch it come summer?
We are using a 15* Marmot Helium sleeping bag for each of us for the entire trip. We wanted to save money and didn’t buy a summer bag. If it is too hot we just won’t use it or will use it for padding to sleep on.

I’m sure it will change, but what do you guys plan to eat for meals? Always looking for new ideas/options.
Breakfasts are typically going to oatmeal or cream of wheat, a bar like the Natures Valley oat bar or the Cliff bars etc. I’m sure we’ll come up with ideas on the trail.

Lunches will be pepperoni on tortilla, pb with English muffins or pita, chicken packs with tortilla or pita, or whatever we can come up with. In towns we can buy string cheese and it will keep for several days so we will do that some. If we have enough fuel maybe we’ll cook some meals for lunch. We just wanted to save fuel.

Dinners will vary from dehydrated meals in our drops to packs of chicken and tuna with Lipton/Knorr rice and noodles, to ramen, mac and cheese, soups, and whatever else we find. I’m sure we will come up with interesting ideas!

I’m battling a cold now and am hoping to get over it in the next few days so that we can do some hiking next weekend. Only two weeks until we’re at Springer!

Snow Day


It feels like forever since I’ve written here. I better get used to it—you too—because after looking at our proposed stops it appears I might only be on once a week or even a bit longer than that.

After leaving the Dallas side of the family on Tuesday morning we drove to East Texas, near Tyler, to see one of my bff’s Michelle at her house. We left early in order to beat the snow that was moving from the west across the DFW metroplex. We made it to Terrell, just east of Dallas on I-30, when the snow started. It snowed the entire day and melted as it hit the ground, that is until about 4pm when it decided to start sticking. Then, my friend, it was snowball fight time!

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It was so beautiful to watch it start accumulating. We were at Michelle’s mom and dad’s house, which is five minutes from hers, and they have a huge picture window in their living room. They get a ton of birds in the yard, cardinals and bluebirds and others, and seeing them playing in the snow was magical.

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Chris and Michelle started a snowball war…

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snowball

It started sticking more and we went back to Michelle’s house because her husband John Paul was home. It was more snow fun over there:

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John Paul…

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Kylen, their daughter, throwing her own mini-snowball. She wanted to join in the fun!

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Michelle made a really large one to try to get back at Chris; he was throwing some doozies!

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This is one of my favorite photos I took of Kylen because she was so interested in the camera and her cute little face makes me smile. She’s a sweet little girl.

It was a fun overnight trip, one I really wish I could do more often. We drove all sorts of backroads through there, looking for birds. The bluebirds were really cool, and I don’t recall seeing them before. However, we both talked about how much we see that we didn’t ‘see’ before when we were here. Like, how many red tail hawks are around or the roadrunners, too. We even saw a merlin on the interstate on the ride home.

It’s been a busy week here. We spent a lot of time and money yesterday buying food for our maildrops. We’re putting them together today; we ended up with 11. We started buying at Sam’s Club, then Walmart, Whole Foods and Tom Thumb because each place didn’t have everything we needed. We’re doing a time lapse of putting it all together so we’ll show that soon.

Two weeks until we leave!

Trail Thoughts


As we wind down our first week here in Texas, time is inching closer to when we leave for Georgia for the Trail. We’ve tentatively set the date for starting for the weekend of the 13th of March. With all of the snow that has fallen this month and in January, it appears the trail conditions are fairly bad, especially in the higher elevations of North Carolina and up the trail.

We experienced the blow-downs here and there are a lot of them on the AT in GA and NC right now, though local trail associations are clearing them out as they can.

I think we’ve convinced my uncle and my dad to drive us out there to start. We’ll be paying for gas, of course, but it seemed to be the most feasible way to do things. We’d originally thought to fly out and then find a ride from the Atlanta airport to Amicalola Falls State Park, but the ease of being driven to the approach trail at the park sounds much better.

I also like the idea of having my dad out there to see us off. He can take photos and assure my mom we’re going to be alright.

After doing some hiking around here the past few days I already know that the hike up the approach trail is going to kick our butts. We are going to be craving some straight sections and downhills after awhile, but eventually our quads, calves and shins will get used to the abuse and carry us through.

So far we’ve either had people think we’re insane or they’ve been a bit jealous that we’re going. Sometimes I think we’re insane, but mostly I’m looking forward to being out in the woods. After downgrading everything we have in our life I’m finding some of the consumerism around here overwhelming. And I want to go in every store and buy something. HA! It’s a strange combination, feeling like there is just too much ‘stuff’ but then also craving to buy something. I could have bought out REI, or at least the womens clothing section. I think most of it is a novelty of seeing all of these places I haven’t seen in so long as Florida doesn’t have the urban sprawl that Texas has. Don’t get me wrong, Florida has sprawl, but it also has a limited amount of space to build. There is just store after store here and oh, Mexican food on every corner.

As for seeing Mexican on every corner, it is kinda nice to see things written in Spanish, too. I had gotten used to seeing Pollo Tropical restaurants and then billboards written in Spanish and Spanish on just about everything in Miami, but Spanish is finally becoming more prevalent in North Texas, too. I kinda miss the cultural diversity. It is much more separate here, particular parts of town and not everyone mixed into one big lump of a county.

I was on Whiteblaze.net earlier and found a cool site called Trail Phone where people call in and give trail reports. It is really awesome! I don’t know if we’ll use it or not, but I like the idea of calling in and giving a minute report on what’s going on.

I guess I’m about done with my rambling for today. We’re spending all day tomorrow doing our mail drop planning since we’ll have some quiet time. We may end up buying food for the drops as well if we have the time. It’s supposed to snow or ice on Tuesday or Wednesday and we’d planned to go to East Texas to visit my friend Michelle so hopefully we don’t get snowed out.

Where is the 70*?

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