Push for the Pups & Reflections

Yesterday we started the day with the pups but unfortunately didn’t end it with them. They got picked up by their babysitter for the next 5 or 6 days while we’re in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We already miss them and it has just been less than 24 hours! It will be so weird on the trail and at night without them- now I will be forced to talk to Alexis! Haha. We did just buy a deck of cards though, so that will help provide some entertainment when not hiking.
But here’s a little rundown from the last week or so while we air out all our stuff…
20130412-232255.jpg•Still eating well. Our food dehydrator was a wise purchase! Breakfast is the only meal we’re struggling with- oatmeal gets old. We both miss breakfast burritos. But I must say my good, strong coffee is a good way to start the day (Alexis agrees- she turned down coffee at the NOC because it wasn’t as good as mine).
•Meeting all kinds of unique people and enjoy hearing about all their stories. Age groups go from fresh out of high school to retired men and women (personally I enjoy hearing from the older crowd).
•My body is finally coming around to being close to 100%! Alexis is close behind too I think (her knee and shin still bother her from time to time.)
•We both like hiking uphill rather than downhill which all other hikers probably think we’re crazy. I feel it’s easier on our bodies going uphill… Although many times I’ll look back and Alexis face won’t exactly show “I’m enjoying this!”
•Had a little weather the other night but nothing major. Just some heavy rain, thunder, and lightning. I did all the necessary precautions- told Alexis to run to the top of the open part of the mountain and hold the tent poles. Haha I’m kidding of course! Overall we’ve had pretty good weather so far besides the ice storm that we were welcomed into North Carolina with and the good old fashioned thunder storm.
•I am proud to report that I have used a finger nail clipper twice in the last week or so. I’ve had the bad habit of chewing my finger nails my whole life and told both my mom and dad that was something I was going to try and break because both suggested I bust the habit now. My finger nails aren’t the cleanest on the trail as you can imagine!
•Foods we both crave on the trail are Snickers (Alexis), Skittles (Me), salad, any greens/veggies, apples/oranges, biscuits (Alexis), and spicy foods!
•Things we’ve concluded about Jack and Lewis after more than two weeks on the trail together:
Jack is not done growing – we think he’s gaining more on Lewis each day. Both boys are getting better on the trail and learning new commands – one we’re impressed by is simply saying “I lead” and the two reposition themselves on the trail like soldiers behind us in a matter of moments. Jack has more puppy in him than Lewis. Lewis has his sights on Mt Katahdin (we call him MVP because he’s leading the way all the time). Finally, as much more work as they may be on the trail, it’s totally worth every curse word and penny to have them along.
20130413-073907.jpg•We both took 2 showers yesterday and never cleaned ourselves so thoroughly. Guess some dirt builds up when not showering in 9 days. It felt amazing.

So here we are ready to hit the Smoky’s! Both of us are excited for them but even more excited to get through them and back to the dogs. We’re both a little frustrated they can’t be with us for them as I’m sure you can tell! But we’ll enjoy the scenery and hike regardless (just might do it quicker than usual). We will cross the highest peak of the entire AT, so thats something to look forward to along the GSMNP stretch. I might go take another shower now just because I can! Happy trails as usual!
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Nothing good about this goodbye…

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Hiked through fog and drizzle today after a stormy night. We were grateful that the rain, lightening, and thunder lasted only for the duration of the hours spent in our tent. The time to say goodbye to the boys came at the end of the trail today. Brent & I are already talking about sprinting through the Great Smokies to get back to them! See Lewis’ face in the picture? He’s either annoyed Mama is taking another picture or sad he has to leave us today.

The Only Way Out of the NOC is Up!

Today we covered 10 miles and climbed over 3,000 feet of elevation. After hiking into the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) yesterday & indulging in dinner and breakfast cooked by someone other than ourselves it was time to face the climb.
We had resupply boxes to pick up at the NOC, which was incredibly convenient because the AT passes right through the complex by bridge. We used our afternoon to do a load of laundry, reorganize our packs, and rest our feet/paws in the river while watching kayakers pass. We opted against the $2 shower that was available to us (see photo of Alexis below for proof that was a bad idea). Dinner was the famous “Hiker Burger” which totaled one pound of meat plus all the toppings. We must be eating too well on the trail cause the two of us split one and could barely finish the entire thing.
They serve up that much protein for a reason we soon found out. We started our ascent in the heat of midday – temps reaching the 80’s combined with trees that haven’t even begun to bud their summer canopy was a brutal combination. Additionally, a controlled burn was happening in the area, filling all our senses with smoke. Lewis and Jack came back to life at every water source we reached. Brent carried their packs from time to time, already sweating and shirtless himself (and he says I’m the softie when it comes to them!) This we know is only the beginning of hot and sticky days to come, although we can rest assured there will be more leaf coverage down the trail to provide some relief.
Tonight we made it to our goal for the day and were welcomed by some fellow hikers already settling in for the night. Some familiar faces we seem to have been playing leap frog with on the trail, and some new faces yet. The boys were welcomed by all, and they enjoyed getting their good share of attention around the fire before bed. We’re truly sleeping under the stars- a full clear sky of them – without our tent’s rain cover tonight. Unfortunately, the forecast for our final stretch before we reach Great Smokies National Park looks wet and stormy. Here’s to hoping it holds off til later tomorrow!

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Trail Magical Day

We were blessed with some trail magic twice today! One section-hikers finish was our gain. He restocked our food supply & Lex got the hot chocolate she was craving! Second came at the end of the day when a former southbound thru-hiker had two beers waiting for us at the top of our final climb of the day, Wayah Bald. Pure bliss after our longest (distance speaking) day of hiking yet. If that didn’t explain what trail magic is, it is basically when something unexpected but wonderful happens to a hiker. More often than not, it’s food related!

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Georgia Top Ten

As we move through the 14 states that the Appalachian Trail passes through we thought it best to reflect on the highlights of each as best we can. No particular order, and highlight doesn’t necessarily mean positive, just memorable.

1. ‘Speedbump’
Thank you for making the walking stick we carry with us and entrusting us to take it all the way to Katahdin!
2. Mole skin, Bengay, and Aleve
You’ve kept parts of our bodies moving long after they were ready to quit.
3. Long Creek Falls
Thanks for being one of the prettiest pit stops we made in our first miles, it just sparked the curiosity of the beauty that lay ahead.
4. Blood Mountain
You were way worse going down than coming up, but your views sure made up for it.
5. Mr. Know-It-All & The Annoying Girl
Thank you for pairing up at Neels Gap so when we pass you we know we’re putting both of you behind us.
6. ‘Solo’
You made our rainy Easter so much better by welcoming us with beer, peeps, and chocolate at Unicoi Gap. Thank you for supporting your fellow Thru-Hikers, we hope to do the same once we’re alumni!
7. Old Tent/New Tent
The first time I used my old tent was when Brent & I drove up to Northern Minnesota the summer before I left for college. So, when our first night of rain on the AT hit, both of us were disappointed to wake up damp. It was time to retire it, or perhaps just repair, but the AT keeps calling so replaced for now it is! We miss it, our new digs are even cozier than before…
8. Hiawassee Budget Inn
You guys have it all figured out and are a thru-hikers best bet. Free shuttle, laundry, pharmacy, restaurants nearby, and a gear store on site. All at the right price too!
9. $7.95 All-You-Can-Eat in Hiawassee
Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits, chocolate pudding, and a salad bar with FRESH vegetables. Need I say more? Believe it or not, the salad bar is equally as satisfying as everything else. They have yet to pack lettuce into a hiker-friendly meal.
10. Actually Hiking the AT
After weeks of planning and talking about hiking the Appalachian Trail, we’re doing it. We’ve set a goal and chosen a way of life for the next couple months and we’re reminded everyday. Happily reminded.

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Hiawassee Hiatus & First Week Reflections

We are currently feasting at a cafe in Hiawassee, GA and having no troubles joining the clean plate club. The first of our resupply box shipments is what initially brought us off the trail at Dicks Creek Gap, with intentions of getting right back on. We sent dog food and meals for ourselves ahead to locations that hold them for Thru-Hikers, estimating about every 8 days, that being the amount of food the dogs can hold with full packs. So, when we arrived to our first resupply stop with 2.5 days worth of dog food yet to be eaten and a tent in need of replacement/repair, we decided it best to come into town. We found the most affordable dog/hiker friendly place in town that even picks you up & takes you back the 7 miles to the trail so hitch hiking wasn’t necessary.

I’ll let Brent take over from here – he’s more of a bullet point kinda guy.

Here is a list of what we’ve learned, witnessed, and decided after our first days of hiking:

  • There is a whole lot more to Georgia than Atlanta. Our 2 hour ride north with Ron showed us quickly how beautiful this part of the country really is.

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  • We have been quite fortunate with weather. Talking to other hikers that started a day or two before us it sounds like we just missed the cold and snow. We only saw snow and cold for the first few hours of hiking is all. Two days of rain, which our tent didn’t do the best in, but other than that no complaints.

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  • Proud to report we’ve cranked out 70 miles in 6 days in some tough terrain. Steep climbs and descents are one after another for the entire stretch of Georgia’s portion of the AT.
  • Overall we’re feeling good, but like most, it’s about this point in the hike our bodies are really feeling the rigorous work we’ve been doing day after day. Both of our heels have taken a hit, and mole skin is helping, but nothing is as good as rest at this point. Alexis has been a trooper dealing, in addition to her worn heels, with a stubborn cold from the beginning (voiceless the first two days, which was kinda nice…haha), and also a sore/swollen knee. I give her props for keeping up with us boys who like to set the world on fire, but I don’t want it going to her head either.
  • Dogs are doing so great besides being a bit too vocal towards select hikers. We’re slowly getting them off the leash more and they certainly keep our pace moving, and having been staying on trail surprisingly well. Health wise both are great except Lewis got a couple sores from his pack rubbing, so Jack & Momma took his load yesterday to let him heal. Sure enough, after every hard day of hiking when we get to camp, take off their packs, they usually have another hour of running and playing left in them. This has been stick heaven for Lewis and its his life mission to have Jack chase him in pursuit of the perfect stick. It has become obvious that we’re hiking with puppies who haven’t quite matured into dogs they’ll become. Can’t learn any younger and 2000+ miles of training lay ahead, right? Once in the tent they have no trouble settling in for the night, except when Jack is busy keeping the bears away with a bark here and there. It’s funny after raising them separately their first year how they’ve swapped loyalty – Lewis is now my shadow and Jack won’t let Alexis out of his sight.

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  • Hanging the ‘bear bags’ in the evening has become my entertainment and by end I’ll be pro. We have to hang two separate ropes because of the dog food, making it extra challenging.
  • Lex doesn’t like what I call all the locations we pass. ‘Cheese Factory Site’ obviously is the same as ‘Cheesecake Factory’ I say, but she thinks I’m stupid when I say that in front of others.

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Tomorrow, when we pick up on the trail where we left off we’ll be a mere 9 miles from the North Carolina border. That has us both thinking ahead about having to leave these boys while we pass through The Great Smokies National Park. (Dogs aren’t permitted in the park so they’ll be staying at a nice place on the north end of the park for the 8 days it will take us to pass through.) It’s tough to say who will miss each other more!

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And finally, from us both – thank you for reading and cheering us on. We appreciate all the emails and comments greatly. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, share advice, or tell us how crazy we are – we welcome it all!

Happy Trails!

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