Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ming Garden Buffet

We don't eat the typical things a thru hiker eats. Things like Pop Tarts, candy bars, ice cream by the pint, and Mountain Dew. So it should not surprise me when we eat at a highly recommended restaurant we will be disappointed. The kids said they will never eat at a Chinese Buffet again. Not all the food was bad, the pears were good, and the stir fry green beans (the first time) were good too. But overall a disappointment.

The bright spot was when Mystery Man and Pack Man came in. They were at The Priest Shelter with us last night. They hitched a ride to town, but before they got the ride a funny thing happened. As they are waiting by the road a car stops, they run up thinking they are getting a ride. The guy rolls down his window and points, saying "I saw a bear in the trees". He then drives off leaving them behind.

Mau-Har Trail Shortcut

This is my guidebook for today noting the section we skipped by using the Mar-Har Trail. At one point this was the main AT because we saw faded white blazes. You can also see my 600 mile notation at mile 841 from Springer.

We did about 590 total trail miles this summer.

Hours of Waiting

This is how we spent our time waiting for Harvey to see a doctor. It was so boring but the kids were mostly good about it. Sydney asked for paper and an envelope to send a letter to one of her friends. When we are waiting like this she tries to make good use of the time. In the picture she is the only one smiling.

Waynesboro, VA

8/5 Last day on the trail
Started at The Priest Shelter
Ended at Reed Gap
11.4 miles

Harvey has been complaining about a sore ear and it was not getting better so I decided to get off the trail and end our AT Summer vacation one day sooner. We are just shy of 600 miles, and we really wanted 600, but yesterday Harvey was laughing and heard a pop in his ear and had a hard time sleeping. I really wanted to get his ear looked at, so at the first major road I decided we would try get a ride to town. This is how our day went.

The tradition at The Priest Shelter is to confess in the journal. Many people have a confession that is funny, but some actually put in real things (and some things are just creepy). Sydney put her own confession in the journal and I also got a picture of the confession from Mystery Man.

Once hiking we made good time and came to some great views. Overall today was a bit slower because of the steep and rocky downhill. The last thing I wanted was someone to fall. However, Pete tripped and super-manned down a step, hit the 2nd step on his side and flipped over onto the 3rd step for a spectacular crash. Being 7 he yelled for a hug and then was fine, with only a scratched knee. I packed band aids, but hugs seem to work just as well.

Today we cut the trail for the first time ever (using the Mau-Har Trail). In the name of safety I decided to take the shortcut. It saved us 4 miles and was not that difficult. The hardest part of the Mau-Har trail was not stopping at all the awesome swimming spots along the creek.

We were aiming for Reed Gap because it was next to the Blue Ridge Parkway and had a parking lot. I figured we could hitchhike if needed. A couple offered us a ride but we could not fit our gear and all the gear they had into the car. I had the kids sit next to the road and wait while I talked to the couple, maybe someone would drive by and see them and ask if we needed help.

A Park Ranger drove past and kept going, but then turned around and asked the kids if they needed help! We love the park service. The kids asked for a ride as I quickly walked over to explain the situation (and also ask for a ride). He called to see if a Trail Angel could come get us, but not finding one offered us a ride to town. His son struggles with ear issues so he was sympathetic to our problem.

Mary-j made a car reservation for us at Hertz, but it was for tomorrow. We went to Hertz anyway. He dropped us at the door, what great service. We got the car and went to see a doctor.

After a 3 hour wait we saw the doctor and Harvey does have an ear infection. He has 10 more days of medicine, but we will have access to a fridge so he can have the liquid and not pills. Harvey does not like swallowing the pills.

Next we ate at Ming Garden and then drove to my Aunt and Uncles in Maryland. The kids and I were very sad as we drove north along the highway. Looking to our right we saw the mountains in the distance and knew the AT (and the many friends we made) was up on the ridges and down in the valleys. Pete asked if we could start at Reeds Gap next year and head north. Harvey wants to start at Harpers Ferry in West Virginia, and Sydney thinks we should start at Springer Mtn in Georgia.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Priest Shelter

Started at US 60
Ended at The Priest Shelter
20.9 miles

Battery really low so the summary is:

Kids continue to tell make believe stories. Today they talked about going to restaurants and what they would order. It was funny when I had to say "stop arguing over make believe donuts".

The trail was very flat with very few rocks. We made very fast time. Lots of open areas and at one spot we saw tractors mowing to keep trees from growing up.

We love Hammer Nutrition products. Today we fueled primarily with Hammer and I noticed at the end of the day we all had more energy than when we are not fueling with Hammer. I think Sydney notices the difference because she wants Hammer at our breaks.

Met Pac Man and Mystery Man on the last mile to the shelter. The 6 of us are the only ones in the shelter.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

US 60; roadside camping

Started at Big Rocky Row
Ended at US 60
17 miles

Battery low so summary for today is:

Swam in a creek for a bit. Lots of flat walking and few rocks, made for fast hiking.

Kids on day 3 of a make believe adventure about a castle that Obla lives in and the trips to Hawaii and Grand Cayman that they take. Sometimes by plane, sometimes boat. They go out to eat and use credit cards to pay. Ice cream and candy are favorite fantasy foods. They play a game to see how many flavors of ice cream they can name. They also have make believe phones and talk about the games they have on them (Sombrero Man is a favorite).

S'mores the dog was with us all day. When we got to US 60 we found some picnic tables and while we were sitting a truck pulled up and the guy starts calling him. He said a lot of people dump dogs and he got the dog into his truck and put a collar on him. He said we could camp on a grassy spot across the road from the picnic tables, it belonged to a friend of his.

Passed another gravestone on the trail, this time for a 4 year old that wondered off and went 7 miles in the woods before he died.

Friday, August 2, 2013


This is S'mores, he is white and brown. The kids said he looked like a gram-cracker and that is how he got his name. Never barks and stayed with us for about 5 miles (he may still be with us, I'm not sure). When we had food breaks he kept a respectable distance but then looked for anything we may have left.

Big Rocky Row Tent Site

This is our spot for the night, awesome and really a blessing after our big uphill climb.

James River Footbridge

Today we crossed the James River Footbridge. It is the longest foot traffic only bridge on the AT. It is a very nice bridge. Before we made it to the bridge we saw Kansas City and Seabiscit crossing. The kids were really excited to see them and took off running. We spent a few minutes with them in the parking lot next to the bridge. Ken dropped off two boxes and an Amazon order for me. Great guy, helps hikers for the fun of it and would only take $5 from me (and I offered him &10).

Big Rocky Row

Started at Marble Spring
Ended at Big Rocky Row (tenting)
12.5 miles

No alarm clock today so we slept till 7:30. We still had to meet Ken (who had our drop boxes), but I told him 12:30 so we had plenty of time and the trail was downhill. Harvey was so tired yesterday he fell asleep before dinner was ready, so I thought the extra rest in the morning was needed.

The trail was a gradual downhill with very few rocky sections so we made good time. About an hour from the road we met two Southbound hikers who said Ken was going to read his book and wait, so we could take our time. Ken had shuttled them to the trailhead by the James River bridge.

We walked along Matt's Creek for a mile and the kids really wanted to swim. I had to say no so we wouldn't keep Ken waiting, but the creek looked so inviting! We met Ken at the bridge and he gave me my boxes, then he gave Kansas City and Seabiscit a ride to town. I paid him and unpacked while he took the guys to town, and he was back before I even had the second box empty. It was awesome to open the box and see a carton of soy milk and granola cereal. We ate that on the spot, and since Ken was taking our garbage I didn't worry about the trash.

Once we were packed two woman walked past and recommended a swim spot up the trail. See the picture of the boys. It was great and we swam a long time. Then it was a long, steady, uphill climb to our camp spot. The extra food made my pack feel really heavy. We got some great views along the way and could just see the foot bridge very small in the valley below.

Along the way we picked up a new friend we called S'mores. He had no collar but wasn't totally wild. He didn't approach, but kept close and hasn't barked the entire day. After dinner I saw him looking for scraps in the spot we ate.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Marble Spring tent camping

Started at Bryant Ridge Shelter
Ended at Marble Spring (tenting)
17.2 miles

Out of shelter late because kids socializing instead of pumping water. They love talking with the other hikers but it can delay us.

Harvey didn't want his oatmeal so I knew he was not feeling good. He was slow and tired all day so I took his pack for the last 4 miles.

Picture of Sydney is at Black Rock.

The aircraft radar picture is on top of Apple Orchard Mountain. Sadly no apples to be found.

Stopped at Thunder Hill Shelter for a hot lunch, Harvey slept an hour before we left. Had to move quick to make up the time. Passed by Kansas City and Seabiscut while at the shelter, Benadryl made it to the shelter but had to stay because his tent pole is broken. Passed Blue Line on an uphill and never saw him again.

Breezy weather kept us cool.

Passed a group of flowers that had about 30 butterflies. We see many butterflies along the trail, but this spot was really cool.

We are over 500 trail miles!! Hard to believe it.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bryant Ridge Shelter (sleeps 20!)

Started at Wilson Creek Shelter
Ended at Bryant Ridge Shelter
20.6 miles

Conserving battery still so the quick recap is:

Boys rolled a lot last night and I didn't get a good night sleep. Had good breakfast but slept in so left shelter late.

Benadryl hiked with us during the morning. Passed giant wall made from huge rock blocks, looked like castle. Blackberries on side of trail.

Hiking along the Blue Ridge Parkway for most of the day. They had garbage cans at the overlooks and I was excited to throw our garbage away; 4 people generate a lot of waste.

Swam in Jennings Creek.

Hiked with Seabiscuit (like the horse) after swimming. He was with us for 3 miles, really helped keep us moving.

Tonights shelter is awesome, sleeps 20, 3 levels, covered picnic table.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Wilson Creek Shelter

Started at Howard Johnson in Daleville, VA
Ended at Wilson Creek Shelter
11.2 miles

Kids swam at pool before we left.

Went to get new pack from outfitter. Didn't like it at first but with luck I will figure out a way to make it work better.

Stopped at Krogers for almond butter packets to go with our apples, paid lady $1 to mail letters since we couldn't get postage (they only sell by the book).

Mailed broken REI pack back at UPS. Also sent box home with camera since I mostly use my phone.

Hiked loud trail by highway, but got to first shelter really fast so moved on to next shelter, since our Stillwater neighbors were named Wilson I thought we should stay at this shelter.

Met 2 southbound hikers, Pablo and Benadryl.

Long time till I see an outlet for my phone so conserving battery.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Zero in Daleville

Started and ended at the Howard Johnson in Daleville, VA
0 miles

The hotel offers a free hot breakfast, so after sleeping in till 8:00 I went to check it out. Good thing the kids stayed in the room because it was sugary cereal, donuts, soggy eggs, and not one fruit related item (except maybe the jelly packets that may have had a fruit like flavor). We had the granola I bought last night with bananas and blueberries.

Goodwill is down the street so I bought a few books to keep the kids busy. I didn't know they would spend the day swimming, but at 50 cents each I don't feel like I wasted money. Before bed Pete and I read "The Other Side Of The Bridge."

After Goodwill it was off to Kroger and Outdoor Trails. On the way we saw Benadryl who was getting food. After saying hi we went to Outdoor Trails and got Pete new shoes. He had the biggest feet and could fit in a 7 woman's, the smallest size the store carried. His new shoes do not look like woman's, so you would never know. In the picture of the store I am sitting on the floor in a shirt I got out of the hiker box at the hotel. I might send it home I like it so much. At the store we also saw Snail Pace and Haystack, two Graybeards hiking the trail.

After getting food we saw Jesus (Hey Zus) who is about to join a friend off trail for a few days. We should see him when he gets back on the trail. While I was loading up my backpack with the food we bought a guy stopped to talk. A family in his neighborhood had hiked the AT. Turns out the guy visited all 50 states before he was 25 and is also a world traveler, speaking more German than French but lived in both countries. As a kid he lived in Paris, taking field trips to all the cultural spots.

Then we swam, a lot. Now we are reading and winding down our day. Hiker midnight is 9:00 so we will be asleep soon.

Howard Johnson Swimming Pool

We spent a lot of time at the pool today. Usually the kids get bored, but today a bunch of other kids were in the pool and that made it very fun. Pete is jumping into the pool and Harvey is flipping.

Howard Johnson Super Heroes

The kids love Howard Johnson towels, not for drying off after the pool but because they can tie them on and run around like superman.

Daleville, VA

Started at Lambert Meadow Shelter
Ended at Howard Johnson in Daleville, VA
9.4 Miles

Started the day with a recap of the night. Reed moved from the shelter to the picnic table and then back when it started to rain. Sydney went to the bathroom, got disoriented while getting in her sleeping bag, and ended up sleeping sideways. The boys slept straight, two guys snored, and an owl was heard.

Patches of blue were spotted during breakfast so we were all optimistic the sun might show up. As we hiked the ridge, patches of valley emerged. At a Hammer gel break I got a picture of the group with some valley in the background.

As the day progressed the sun shone more and more till it finally broke out from behind the clouds. We hit a lot of rocks and tons of good bouldering. On one huge rock Reed and I climbed up and had a great view of the lake.

My broken hip belt finally ripped all the way off, but I tied it back on and what a huge relief. My shoulders were getting really sore from taking the bulk of the weight. Harvey and Pete both complained about foot problems. It looks like the new shoes are rubbing the ankle. A zero day in town should help, along with some dry weather, but I may need to look into different shoes for them.

We had Big Sur Bars and wanted to share them with Andy and Reed. We split the bars in half whole sitting by the train tracks. If you look close at Pete you can see lots of mud from when he slipped and fell, landing in the mud. He used his shirt to clean the mud from his face so he is shirtless in the picture.

We had a choice between the Howard Johnson and Super 8. As we walked toward them (they are across the street from each other) the HJ had a sign saying pool, so that made the choice an easy one. The also have breakfast and laundry, everything a hiker needs. At the checkin counter was a sign saying the Mexican restaurant across the street gave a 10% discount for hotel guests. We had to cross a 4 lane road, and suddenly descending huge boulders with backpacks seemed a safe pastime. We safely crossed the road and had a great lunch.

Next on the agenda was getting clean and dry. We take everything out of the packs to dry and did laundry. The kids got to swim during this and the sun came out making it a great afternoon.

Dinner was from our hiker food, but Sydney wanted yogurt (it helps her take her medicine). Kroger was down the street so we walked (ha, ha, hiker joke since we walk everywhere). Harvey was feeling sick, and he didn't go crazy at the Mexican restaurant so I was a little concerned.

The Kroger store was big and had a natural foods area. We got the yogurt and a few extra things too. On our way back to the hotel Sydney wanted to hitchhike. I said no, but at the stoplight exiting the shopping plaza a woman rolled her window down and asked if we needed a ride. Sydney got her request and we made it back safely.

Once back at the hotel Harvey puked.

Rancho Viejo Mexican Restaurant


Lunch was in town, so we had Mexican. The kids love chips and salsa, and we also got a cheese dipping sauce that Harvey and Pete loved. Sydney and I had guacamole. Harvey had the burger and fries, Pete refused to order so I got him a chicken burrito with rice and beans and said it was for me. I got the California Burrito, purely for the name! Sydney wanted shrimp (no surprise) and Reed helped her pick out a shrimp chimichanga. When the food came I had the waiter put the chicken burrito in front of Pete. It didn't take long before he asked for a bite, and then kept eating it.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Burritos for Dinner

Loved em, Harvey enjoying a bite.

McAfee Knob

Very cloudy. We stayed almost an hour as the boys built dams and then broke the dams. It was a rain free zone for a few minutes before starting again.

Andy said the rock in the picture is one of the most photographed spots on the AT.

McAfee Knob

Started on ridge before Va 311
Ended at Lamberts Meadow Shelter
11.9 miles

Today was a mix of high and low points. It started with the tent. It was raining and had just slowed before we were about to pack up. We rushed to take advantage of it and everyone worked great as a team. The rain fly was off quickly and I put it on the ground, then the kids took the poles out and folded them while Sydney and I put the tent body away. Next I grabbed the rainfly, and it was covered in dirt from laying on the ground. It was really dirty, but other than that it was a big success.

At the road someone had left water (Trail Magic!). We were completely out and everyone was so thirsty we drank. About 10 min later Andy and Reed show up with yogurt, bananas, and more water! We filled all our water and even had a Recoverite. The yogurt and bananas really hit the spot.

Stomachs and water bottles full we started our hike up McAfee Knob. It was only a few miles and the kids were so excited to see Reed they could have run up it. Reed's girlfriend was taking a cruise ship in the Mediterranean so he was free for the hike. At the shelters we wrote in the journal and Reed got the trail name "Bearded Elf". They drew some creative Elf pictures, including the Bearded Elf himself. .

Things are still really good (except for the dirty rainfly), but a break in the rain was not materializing. We spent all but about 10 minutes with great views of the inside of a cloud. It is very white for anyone who has not been in a cloud.

The last 2.5 miles to the shelter took forever: kids had to go to the bathroom, we took a few 20 min breaks, Andy slipped and bent his pole, my backpack belt broke, and Harvey was getting a blister from his new shoes. It was not fun. Finally I had to stop digging holes for the boys to poo in and said hike to the shelter.

We got to the shelter and two others were also staying, but we could fit 6 easy, and squeezed in one more when Benadryl arrived. It stopped raining and the boys had a privy so things for me had gotten positive very fast.

We had a great dinner: Trader Joes wraps with Mexican meal in a bag. Very good and the wraps were easy to roll. The kids snacked like vultures on whatever scraps they could beg from Andy. We have plenty of food, they just like other people's food more.