Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Man, things are a whirlwind right now. I closed out my last ticket at work today. I'm only a few emails away from Inbox:0 (which is good, because it will be Inbox:closed here shortly). I've been having 'last lunches' with friends, and there are a couple going away parties planned over the next few days. If I seem distracted, it's because I've also been spending every last waking moment over the past month studying for a certification exam I'm supposed to take on Monday. (Nice timing, right?).

My food drops aren't ready yet (they are in process...but not in the nicely organized and labeled boxes as I had imagined). The house isn't spotless, as I had imagined it would be. I have only made a half assed attempt at cleaning out my office. Just typing this, I realize that I had "imagined" my last few days in town as being...something that they are definitely not.

On the other hand, the weather forecast for the first few days now looks to be sunny and cold. Just the way I like it.

Monday, February 25, 2013

10 day forecast

The 10 day forecast now includes our start date, with a 60% chance of rain. I was hoping for a glorious first day of sun (or at rain), but it looks like the trail is going to screw with us from the very beginning. Ah well. Nothing we can do but roll with it.

Have I ever told you about when OWL and I first went on the trail, way back in 2004? We had been on a couple backpacking trips, and had decided to give the AT a try. We decided that the first week of November would be an awesome time for a snow. So the morning after a friend's wedding, AWE & A. (no nickname yet) dropped us off at the forest service road by Springer. The plan was to pick us up in a week, "somewhere down the trail". I brought along a disposable camera to take some pictures (it was way before the age of the iPhone). We snapped a few photos and took off. 

We made it 2.8 miles the first night, to the Stover Creek Shelter. I don't even want to think about how heavy our packs were. We both knew enough to pack extra clothes, and extra food. I brought along an entire quart bag full of dried milk (I actually can't STAND the taste of dried milk, but I thought it might be ... useful or something). There was an "incident" at the privy (use your imagination; the real story is much worse). That was pretty much the beginning of the end. The second day, we hiked the 5 miles to Hawk Mountain in the pouring rain. We got way off-trail and ended up in a field, 500 yards away from the trail. I had a red thick (heavy) poncho that didn't really work very well, except to make me sweaty and miserable. It was super foggy, so I could only see a few feet in front of me. (Most of the photos I took on this trip were of trees in fog). We were hiking up the mountain and down the mountain, up the mountain and down the mountain, with zero visibility. The third day, we hiked to Gooch Shelter, same conditions. Everything was sopping wet and I was pretty miserable. On top of everything else, I checked my voicemail on a ridgetop and found out that George W. Bush had just won his second term in office.

That was the last straw. After a very short conference on top of the mountain, OWL and I decided to see if we could catch a ride home.

OWL called A, who despite being a very lovely individual in all other circumstances, basically told us we were out of luck. So I called AWE, and she said she'd come get us after work. I really don't remember exactly how it worked out, but somehow we kept walking until we reached Woody Gap. We ate a "last backpacking meal" of lentils & tomatoes, and I scraped the army of ticks off my leg with a knife blade.

We set off down the highway for Suches, with ever-increasing amounts of fog. Our expectation was to get to a general store that was in the ancient (probably hardback) guidebook we had. Found the general had been boarded up for years. Kept walking and found the Two Wheels Only Motorcycle Resort*, hallelujah. The office was in a big red barn. Only problem: it was very much closed as the owners were on vacation. 

Upon further inspection we found a note on the door inviting any weary travelers to stay the night in the campground, and use the shower facilities as needed. Boy did we ever need shower facilities. (In all seriousness - that was one of the best showers of my life). My cell phone didn't get very good reception, so I called AWE from the pay phone on the barn porch. She got the address of the place we were, printed out MapQuest directions, and started on her way. We unpacked our sleeping bags and took a nap on the covered porch. It was so luxurious!

About six hours later, OWL heard something on the road. The fog was too thick to see the barn from the road, and so AWE had rolled down her window and was shouting through the fog, hoping we would hear her. We did, and with that we left the little mountain town of Suches, unincorporated, but the Trail left its hooks in us. Inexplicably, we have been talking about going back to finish ever since. 

I think this time we are a little more prepared for what lies ahead.
*Sadly, the motorcycle resort closed in 2011.

Friday, February 8, 2013


I am so incredibly excited for the hike. But I am truly sad to be leaving. Leaving my extremely supportive & all-around lovely partner. Leaving our two aging cats. Leaving our incredible apartment and comfortable bed in exchange for a tent and a sleeping bag. Leaving a job I truly enjoy and co-workers I will miss. Leaving my ipad. Leaving before the finale of the Breaking Bad series. Leaving the internet. Leaving hot water and air conditioning and indoor plumbing. And for what?

To chase a dream.

I have been dreaming of thru hiking the Appalachian Trail for a long time – basically since I found out what the Appalachian Trail was. At every transition period in my life it has been something I’ve thought about. Between high school and college it seemed an unreachable goal. After college, I didn’t have money or time before starting grad school. After I left grad school I needed to start working right away (see again: no money), and knew I couldn’t start working and then quit a few months later to go hike.

OWL (my hiking buddy here in town) and I have talked for years – ever since we have known each other – about hiking the AT. It was always a goal for “when we retire”. But last year we started talking about maybe hiking in 2013. And as it worked out, the stars have aligned so that I am able to chase that dream. We have money in the bank. I was able to get on Emily’s insurance. Work will always be work.

Am I nervous? You bet I am. But I know that this will be the adventure of a lifetime. Whether you are the praying kind or the meditating kind or just the kind kind, please send positive and good thoughts our way. You can follow our adventures here.

There will be days I don’t know if I can hike the Appalachian Trail. There will be a lifetime knowing that I have.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

It's official

I put in my notice on Tuesday. "This is extremely bad news", my new boss said, and he was right. I do feel genuinely bad for leaving my co-workers short staffed, and I am sad to be leaving a job that I love. But - I am SO EXCITED to be a step closer to my dream of thru hiking.

It is also a huge relief to have announced the big news. I'm not very good at keeping secrets.

Reaction to the news has been overwhelmingly positive. One co-worker said "you can't go *hike* for six isn't a tv can't just take off whenever you want!" - sort of joking but also sort of serious. I'm like - why not? I am not shirking responsibility  This isn't a mid-life crisis (my life is really truly awesome!). If my employer offered a 7 month personal leave of absence, I might have thought about taking it instead of quitting. But they didn't, and so I am left with the responsibility of deciding my own fate. I have a super supportive partner, we have money in the bank, and I have time to chase my dream. And so I will take my own leap of faith, thank you very much.

I've also had a couple people say they want to come hike with us - which would be pretty great - and found out someone I know has a house in Virginia they will let us stay at...and they may even be there around the time we'll be there. Which is awesome!

I am a little nervous about keeping pace with OWL. But she knows I am slow - and she is also one of the most patient people I know (except in traffic) - so I am not too worried about it, just nervous (if that makes sense).

I am a dehydrating fool.