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Gear Review: Ahnu Montara Boot

Gear Review: Ahnu Montara Boot

By: Kayla “Clover” McKinney

I love my Ahnu Montaras.

I was immediately attracted to their style and found them feminine yet rugged looking. I got the chocolate chip color, as pictured, but they also come in a variety of other colors. I first got my boots in October of 2014 only two days before embarking on a 3 day, ~30 mile backpacking trip in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.  I was nervous at first as to whether or not the boots would be comfortably broken in before the trip, but to my relief they were very comfortable right away. They have an EVA cushion mid-sole which breaks in easily compared to other hiking boots. If you’re unfamiliar with Shenandoah National Park, it’s a beautiful, mountainous park with peaks rising as high as 4,000 feet along the Appalachian Mountains. So basically, there were a lot of ups and downs on this trip which  made it the perfect place to test out my new boots.

My Montaras were very good to me. They fit securely (I got fitted at RRT before purchasing!), with enough room in the toe box to wiggle my toes, but not so much room that my feet were moving around. I normally wear a woman’s size 6.5, but went up to a size 7 for these boots to allow room for thicker socks and potential swelling from hiking. The Montaras have a narrow cut to them, which works well for me because I have small, narrow feet. My favorite part about the boot’s fit is the ankle support. The Montaras have a flexible, bendable ankle which provides stability without too much rigidity.  After some time, the ankle has become accustomed to my foot and moves perfectly with me when I hike. The boots are also very lightweight, which is perfect for me as I am light on my feet and prefer the bare foot, minimalist running style.

Anyway, back to Shenandoah – it rained the entire time we were there. I mean it rained all day, every day. But this made it great for testing how waterproof my boots really were! With eVent water proofing, my feet remained dry despite days of tromping along a wet trail and some stream crossings as well. The eVent waterproofing is very breathable, which I personally experienced the benefits of when I took my Montaras down and up the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon over spring break this year. The Bright Angel Trail is notoriously hot and finishes with a vertical mile from the center of the Grand Canyon back up to the rim. Definitely not a hike you want to do in just any type of boot and I was glad I had my breathable, comfortable Montaras.

After almost a year and several backpacking and hiking trips with my Montaras, they have held up great and are my go-to boot for most trips I take. I have not experienced any issues or unexpected wear from the boot, but if you do, they do have a one year manufactures’ warranty just in case. Overall, I would say the best aspects of the Ahnu Montara boot are their comfort, durability, breathability and waterproofing. I recommend them as a great all-around boot for women!

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A Gateway to Mountaineering

Ohio to Colorado
by: Kayla “Clover” McKinney

“Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

– John Muir

One often turns to John Muir for inspiration when planning for any mountaineering trip. As an avid explorer and lover of the hills, he paved the way for many, giving new inspiration and wonder for the wild. This blog is an introduction on how to train and outfit you to summit a Colorado fourteener in the winter, from the perspective of someone who lives in Cincinnati, OH. It does not include overnight trips, technical skills, or altitude training, but is meant as an overview for beginners.

Fourteener:  “In mountaineering terminology in the United States, a fourteener is a mountain that meets or exceeds an elevation of 14,000 feet (4,270 m) above mean sea level.”

Fourteen thousand feet is the highest elevation of any summit in the lower 48. Colorado is blessed with 53 fourteeners (though the tallest fourteener is in California) with the tallest mountain in the state being Mt. Elbert at 14,440 ft. To summit one (or more) of these bad boys in the dead of the winter is no easy feat. There’s snow, lots of snow, blizzards, wind, ice, exposed sun, and harsh terrain to consider.

So how does one train for a winter mountaineering expedition, especially when they live only approximately 480 feet above sea level?

As far as physical training goes for one who lives in an Midwestern urban environment like I do, you’ve got to think a little out of the box. We don’t have mountains in Cincinnati; our tallest “peak” in the city is the Rumpke Landfill, aka Mt. Rumpke, at 1,075 feet (328 m). You have to take advantage of your urban environment. While we don’t have mountains , we have miles of stairs, and some of the steepest roads around. Repeated runs of Straight Street, Ravine Street and Vine Street can give your muscles and lungs a taste of the uphill. Run stairs at Carew Tower, Crosley Tower on UC’s campus (there’s 17 flights!), Paul Brown Stadium and  many old stairways on the streets and in the parks of Cincinnati. This interactive map shows all of the stairs throughout the city: http://www.communitywalk.com/cincinnatisteps

In order to train for a mountaineering expedition you need a proper blend of aerobic and anaerobic cardiovascular training, strength training, flexibility training, and skill development in addition to cross training and adequate rest and recovery. Training should be taken with a consistent approach, steadily increasing the regimen, adhering to set goals and maintaining a good diversity. Don’t just run stairs. Do some distance and trail running, yoga, strength training, biking, rock climbing, etc.

For more information about physical conditioning, check out Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, the best book you’ll find for planning and preparing for a mountaineering trip.

1525402_10202364516969571_486418870_n“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing,”
-Alfred Wainwright
 

How do you outfit yourself for sub-freezing temperatures, strong winds and even stronger wind chill, without being overheated and sweaty while essentially working out in the intense cold? You don’t want to carry too much, but you want to have enough to suit your needs. You’ll start your climb in the dark, when it’s the coldest, and be climbing down in the afternoon, with all sorts of possible weather curve balls thrown in between. So what do you bring?

You need above all windproof, waterproof, insulated, and breathable clothing which can be accomplished with multiple layers. The first thing you put on the morning of your expedition is your insulating base layer. You want to go for either wool or synthetic. Absolutely no cotton (“cotton kills” because cotton retains moisture, leeching heat from your body when wet and cold). I personally recommend the Ibex Woolies 150 gram, as they are super insulating, form fitting and odor resistant.

Second, you’ll need warm, insulating mid-layers. This would be a fleece and a down jacket or equivalent.

Third, you need your wind and water protection: your rain shell. You can either go for more breathable, and less insulated, or you can go for more insulated and less breathable. This is all about personal preference and how your body reacts to physical exertion. If you sweat a lot, I would consider going for a lighter shell in order to promote breathability to let out sweat.

Any more layers than this is optional, but realize that the more you wear, the heavier and bulkier you will feel going up the mountain. In summation, layering adds versatility to your outfit and the ability to remove/add on warmth when needed.

There are a variety of additions and preferences to be considered based on what works best for you individually. These could include more/less layers and insulation, synthetic or down insulation, hoods or no hoods, etc. If you don’t know you’re personal preferences, stop by the store and we can help you narrow down the options!

Here is a personal gear list for reference:

layering

Head, Necks & Hands

Warm hat and/or balaclava 
A balaclava can replace the hat.  Balaclavas provide versatility and cover areas of the face that can be susceptible to cold injuries.
 
Sun hat *  
A baseball cap or light hat with a brim can be useful around camp or on warm climb days to protect face and eyes from the intense sun.
 
Sunglasses      
High quality UV protective eye wear is a must.  The sun rays are especially intense at high altitude, especially reflected off the snow.  Glasses must fit sufficiently tight to prevent rays from reflecting under the glasses from the ground.  Ski goggles can be used in lieu of glasses.  They do have the advantage of wind and reflective protection, but can become hot and foggy on a warm climbing day.
 
Liner gloves 
A pair of well fitting liner gloves or light running gloves that fit under your insulated gloves/mittens are essential in preventing cold injuries when removing outer insulated gloves to perform tasks requiring more finger dexterity.
 
Insulated gloves or mittens
Warm hands are key to winter comfort.  Mittens provide greater warmth and are preferable for those that tend to experience cold fingers easily.  Gloves provide greater dexterity, but it can be harder to keep fingers warm.  Either gloves or mittens must provide room to wiggle fingers and be water/wind proof.

 

Upper Body

Mid-weight top
A mid weight wool or synthetic top such as Ibex Woolies or Patagonia Capilene 3 should be used as a base layer in winter.
 
Expedition-weight top   
Keeping the core warm is essential to keeping hands and feet warm.  On cold nights, this can improve warmth in a sleeping bag.  If you tend to be cold while standing in a lift line or waiting for the bus, you should consider adding this to your gear list.
 
Vest *
A vest is a lightweight option to aid in keeping the core warm without adding bulk.  It is good middle ground if you think an expedition-weight top is overkill, but still tend to run cold at the bus stop.
 
Fleece Jacket  
A thick fleece layer that that fits under your weatherproof outer jacket.
 
Down / Synthetic Parka 
The parka should be sized to fit under your weatherproof outer jacket so that warmth can easily be added when hanging around camp or on the summit posing for a pic.
 
Outer Jacket 
Windproof top.  Can be Gore-tex, eVent, Pertex Shield or simply have a DWR finish.  The goal is wind protection and high breathability. Hard shells or soft shells both work based on preference.
 
Sports bra
Women should bring a synthetic or wool sports bra or tank top.
 

1609570_10202364558570611_639271010_nLower Body

Mid-weight bottoms 
A mid weight synthetic or wool bottom such as Ibex/Smartwool/Patagonia Capilene should be used as a base layer in winter.
 
Expedition-weight bottoms *  
Similar to the Expedition-weight top, this layer is best for those that run cold.  Legs generate a ton of heat when climbing often making this layer hot for some even on the coldest days.
 
Outer Pants   
Windproof, soft or hard shell.  Can be Gore-tex, eVent, Pertex Shield or simply have a DWR finish. The goal is wind protection, high breathability and limited snow cling.
 
Underwear 
Guys and gals should bring synthetic underwear. Avoid cotton due to moisture absorption and chaffing.
 

Feet

Liner socks     
Liner socks help to provide rapid moisture transport and reduce blister-causing friction.
 
Insulating socks 
Expedition weight wool or poly socks.  Socks should be long enough to extend well past the tops of boots and overlap with long underwear bottoms.
 
Gaiters   
Expedition style gaiters such as Outdoor Research Crocodiles to keep snow out of boots.
 
Boots 
Boots are perhaps your most critical piece of winter gear.  A poor fitting boot cannot only cause blisters and discomfort, but also cold injuries such as frostbite.  Boots should be plastic style or leather mountaineering with a ridged sole for use with crampons.  Plastic boots can be rented at many quality outfitters.  If you plan to rent, you should determine what boots are available and attempt to get fit for and test the boots locally.  You should have enough room to wiggle toes, but not so much your foot moves around to help keep blood flowing to your feet.  The fit should be slightly roomier than summer hiking boots.
 
Booties*
Camp booties can help to keep your feet warm around camp and in your sleeping bag if your feet tend to run cold.  An extra pair of socks can also do the trick in your sleeping bag.

*indicates optional/weather specific item

 General Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog are from personal experience and research and is based on mountain’s around 14,000ft in the winter and does not apply to all winter excursions. Please do further research before embarking on a winter mountaineering trip. For more information on mountaineering, check out Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills and 14ers.com for more information on Colorado’s fourteeners.

 

 

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Demystifying the Modern Rain Shell

By: Goatman

Autumn hiking: the trees blazing from inside out, the air purified by chilled winds, the campfire smelling like it should. Autumn seems a beautiful time to spend your time wandering around the woods. And then the rains come. Unlike a nice, refreshing summer shower, the rains of fall don’t play nice. They bite and they seep into your bones and set teeth to clacking around. Getting caught in the wrong storm this time of year can be dangerous. Enter the rain shell, an autumn hiker’s best friend. Not to disparage the storms of other seasons, of course.

Much like the shell of our turtle friends from whom we take much advice, a rain shell means protection from harm. Whether it be rain, snow, wind, or cold, modern shells are designed to keep you alive, dry, and moving. There are times when staying in the tent, playing cards, and drinking hot cocoa sounds marvelous. The reality of the situation is that hikers don’t often have that sort of luxury. Hikers gonna hike and, more often than not, moving through a storm means moving to safety. So we throw on a rain shell and move, down the ridge, away from the menacing black clouds and the lightning on the balds.

When you hike (or bike or kayak or whatever you’re doing out in the wild) you sweat. So what’s the use of keeping the rain off if you’re just going to swim in your own slop? So, waterproof, yes, but breathability is also a major issue when choosing a rain shell. The purpose of this blog post is to help you find the right shell for the right purpose. This process can be confusing for a few reasons:

1: “Waterproof” does not mean waterproof. Confused? Good. A little confusion is good for the brain. Makes for good learning. A truly waterproof shell would be a terrible choice for the trail. To be truly waterproof, the material would have to be impermeable, meaning that no water can get in, but no water escapes either. That’s no good. That’s a sweaty plastic sack. So what we’re looking for is more accurately called “highly water resistant” but “waterproof” sounds shorter and sweeter so that’s what they call it. And there are levels to this, of course. To be called waterproof, a material must meet certain criteria. The measure of waterproofing is called Hydrostatic Head, which is fancy talk for how much water they can stack on top of a material before it starts to leak. 1,000 mm = “waterproof”. Will a 1,000 mm rain shell keep me dry if Zeus decides to unleash his fury on poor Goatman for looking crossways at a thunderhead? No. Serious weather rain shells rate more along the lines of 10,000 to 20,000 mm (that impermeable sack we spoke of earlier would be 40,000+). That’s about as technical as this article is going to get. I’ll throw some links down at the bottom for those who want to delve deeper into the science behind it all. What I’m getting at here is that a tag that says “waterproof” on a jacket can mean a variety of different things. Gore-tex vs eVent vs Pertex Shield+ vs H2NO? Here at RRT, we can tell you the difference in waterproofing between our styles of rain shells. Come in and ask. I dare you.

2: But can we tell you about breathability? If you liked the slightly complicated nature of waterproofing, you’re going to love the absurdly complicated nature of breathability! At least in this case, breathable means just that: allowing the passage of air and moisture. You hike, you sweat. Best case scenario, your sweat evaporates and, water vapor being smaller than raindrops, escapes from your rain shell through the tiny holes in the “waterproof” fabric. So there must be some way to test how much water vapor escapes from the material. Of course there is. There are a few ways actually and not one standardized test across the industry. Different companies, different materials, different tests. Do different tests test the same thing? Sort of. They all tell you how much water vapor passes through material. Do any of them simulate wilderness conditions in which you are bouncing off of trees and rubbing bellies with granite and sweating at different rates, in different humidity, on a different mountain, in a different country? No. Nature isn’t a controlled laboratory (thank goodness). So we leave the lab and go out in it and let our skin do the testing. And the companies would agree. They all have their labs but they also have their athletes out in the bush, getting it done.

As I mentioned before, we carry a variety of rain shells at RRT. Below, I will break down the differences, similarities, and various uses of each shell. Remember: these are words on the Internet. If you really want to experience the thing itself, come in and talk to one of us, try on a couple of styles, and see what is going to work for what you want to do.

rab-latokCompany: Rab Style: Latok Alpine

Waterproofing: eVent   Layers: 3   Weight: 18 oz.

 We’ll start with the big boy: Rab’s Latok Alpine, store favorite for keeping you dry in the worst conditions. Designed, as the name suggests, for protecting you on exposed alpine climbs, the Latok Alpine is serious protection. It boasts the highest breathability and is rugged to boot. Going on a mountain-climbing trek where you’re guaranteed to get dumped on for days and want a shell that won’t give out on you, no matter how much punishment you put it through? This is it. At 18 oz., this is also the heaviest shell we carry. Perhaps overkill for an afternoon hike with 50% chance of rain.

 

rab-xiomCompany: Rab   Style: Xiom

Waterproofing: Pertex Shield +   Layers: 3   Weight: 15 oz.

We go lighter from there with Rab’s Xiom. Great jacket to throw in your pack on a long backpacking trip. It’s still Rab and still 3 layers, so the durability is there, but at less than a pound the Xiom won’t weigh down your pack when the sun comes out. Added pit zips make this a highly waterproof and breathable design. Pertex Shield + is Pertex’s highest end fabric for weight and performance.

 

 

 

bergenCompany: Rab   Style: Bergen

Waterproofing: eVent   Layers: 3   Weight: 19.6 oz.

Think of the Bergen as the Latok Alpine’s big brother. It weighs more because it’s bigger and more roomy for more fully fleshed out individuals. If you find the athletic cut of modern rain shells restrictive, fear not! The Bergen is here. All of the advantages of breathability and waterproofing of the eVent liner are still apparent in this jacket. For a couple of ounces more, you simply have more room to be comfortable.

 

 

 

 

zetaCompany: Arc’teryx   Style: Zeta LT

Waterproofing: Gore-tex   Layers: 3   Weight: 11.8 oz.

Arc’teryx doesn’t mess around. A three layer shell at less than 12 ounces, cut to fit the body in motion, with heavy duty Gore-tex lining. Arc-teryx construction is unmatched in the business and, despite its low weight, this shell can take a beating. Though not as breathable as eVent or Pertex Shield, this shell is still a contender for lightweight backpacking in any condition you can throw at it. If you’ve never tried on an Arc’teryx piece, do yourself a favor. These guys know exactly what they’re doing and they do it very well.

 

 

 

or-forayCompany: Outdoor Research   Style: Foray

Waterproofing: Gore-tex   Layers: 2.5   Weight: 16.3 oz.

OR makes some great gear and the Foray is no exception. Gore-tex is big papa when it comes to waterproofing. They were there first and they still do it like they mean it. Sheds water as well as the Latok Alpine and, while losing a bit of breathability, also loses a few ounces. Any advantages to that? Sure. A bit warmer of a jacket can be a good thing in the cold. This is another shell meant to handle whatever you throw at it. They add two way pit zips to compensate for the loss in fabric breathability.

 

or-aspireCompany: Outdoor Research   Style: Aspire

Waterproofing: Gore-tex   Layers: 2.5   Weight: 13.7

The Aspire is the women’s specific OR shell that is much like the Foray for men, but fit specifically to a women’s curves. Gore-tex knows not gender, so you’re still getting a heavy-duty severe weather jacket with the Aspire.

 

 

 

 

or-heliumhdCompany: Outdoor Research   Style: Helium HD

Waterproofing: Pertex Shield +   Layers: 2.5   Weight: 9.1 oz.

We are dropping ounces here. The Helium series from OR, much like the noble gas for which it is named, floats compared to the beefy shells we’ve been learning about. This is a long-distance backpackers’ jacket, truly: extremely breathable, lightweight, and immensely packable. Able to shrug off all but the most extreme rains, this is the sort of jacket you throw on when you’re in for the long-haul, need to keep moving rain or shine, but can then forget about on the nice days. While not the jacket I would choose for alpine excursions or deep winter treks.

 

 

or-helium2Company: Outdoor Research   Style: Helium II

Waterproofing: Pertex Shield +   Layers: 2.5   Weight: 6.4 oz.

I have eaten candy bars that weigh more than the Helium II. A stripped down little brother in the Helium series, this is a minimalists dream. Ultra-light, ultra-breathable, ultra-packable. If you’re the type of backpacker that cuts your toothbrush in half, removes your zipper pulls, and doesn’t bother cooking food on the trail, here you go. Also a great shell for trail-running, mountain biking, or any other high-intensity outdoor activity where you might run into unwelcome rain.

 

 

patagonia-torrentCompany: Patagonia   Style: Torrentshell

Waterproofing: H2NO   Layers: 2.5   Weight: 12.2 oz.

The stylish choice, Patagonia’s Torrentshell is not as waterproof as eVent or Gore-tex and not as breathable as Pertex Shield +, this one lands right in the middle on every scale. Great for everyday wear, in town or on the trail, the Torrentshell will keep you dry as you go about your business. Not an alpinists shell and a bit heavier than our lightweight options, this one is a good all-around jacket with Patagonia backing it up, so you know it is greener than grass (in the environmental sense).

 

finderCompany: Mountain Hardwear   Style: Finder Jacket

Waterproofing: Dry Q Core   Layers: 2   Weight: 14.3 oz.

The most affordable jacket in our line up, Mountain Hardwear’s Finder Jacket is a great starter shell. Though a bit heavier than our lightweight options, this jacket will breathe better than some of the sturdier Gore-tex options, though will not take quite the soaking. Great jacket for layering or to shrug off quick storm, not as useful in serious weather when staying dry is crucial. For the price, however, the Finder is a good all-around jacket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helpful, technical links for your perusal:

www.evo.com/waterproof-ratings-and-breathability-guide.aspx

www.ellis-brigham.com/advice-inspiration/guides-and-advice/buying-guides/waterproof-fabrics-buying-guide

 

Links to the companies mentioned above:

www.patagonia.com

www.outdoorresearch.com

www.mountainhardwear.com

www.us.rab.uk.com

 

Technology Links:

http://www.gore-tex.com/remote/Satellite/content/our-fabrics

http://pertex.com/fabrics/shield-plus/

http://eventfabrics.com/technology/

 

RRT’s Live Inventory now on Locally.com

 

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Southbound: episode 20

  February 17th 2007
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

This journal entry is going to be a little different than usual. I am short on computer time, and this will be our last entry until we make it back to Cincinnati in a week. We will post another from Cincinnati to sum up the trip from here to Springer. We also hope that you will follow post-hike entries that will follow the Make-A-Wish events.

Since leaving Erwin, we have had a lot of different weather, good and bad. However, the most consistent part of it all is that we have so many spectacular views. The Smokey Mountains were amazing. We hit Clingman’s Dome just after sunset, still a beautiful sight. Clingman’s Dome is the highest point on the A.T. at 6,643 feet! It’s the second highest peak of the East. We stayed with 3 North-bounders while in the park, great group of guys. They even led us in prayer before setting out in the morning. I have faith in these guys. The trail presented challenges as usual, cold nights and iceberg-covered trails. The Smokys were one of the big milestones for us and we’re glad to have them at our backs.429

After leaving the Smokys we dropped down onto Fontana Dam. The visitor center was closed, but we still roamed the Dam grounds waiting for our shuttle to town. We stayed at the Hiker Inn, the nice people there took us to town to resupply and get dinner. We went to town with a northbounder, Tom. He’s a great guy and it was fun to get to know him and help him with any uncertainties. We are on the other end of things now.

We have stuck to a pretty hard schedule, eager to get home, we have averaged about 20 miles a day recently. It all feels good though, we set our final day at the 23rd, and even more specifically, reaching the end by noon! Our minds race with all the people we’ll see at home and the life that awaits. We are in Franklin NC now, our last town! We got lucky at the road; a police officer gave us a ride to town after just a few minutes. In town we caught another break meeting “Just Jim”, a veteran thru-hiker. The Inn was all filled up, but he offered to share his room. The trail continues to share its magic and we continue Ice Man at Lovers Leap over Hot Springsto count our blessings. At this point we have 6 days and 6 nights left to go, it’s hard to imagine. Also, a congratulations to our friend “Early Bird”, who finished his thru-hike just a few days ago.

This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

It is amazing that the trail goes from “endless” to “over too quick” and you don’t even see the transition coming.  I really feel that we were fighting everyday to get through and make this trail happen, to experience the whole thing, and to complete all 2,175 miles. Then, all of a sudden a few big days and the miles start dropping. 500 turns to 200 and 200 to 100. From Franklin we have less than 110 miles remaining at this point!  I can tell you the next 6 days went even faster.  The final two weeks I guess is when it really seemed to be ending. The final states, miles, weeks, and towns just passed us by. I can say that no other two weeks went by even half as fast. If we compare it all to the first two weeks it would seem like another lifetime all together.

 We are also at the point where there is a transition of confidence and power from being the veterans on the trail. We are starting to pass Northbounders and now we are the ones that can help guide them and answer questions. It was weird to switch positions, but nice to feel like you could help someone on their hike.

The miles all seem pretty easy at this point. I wouldn’t typically say the Smoky Mountains are easy but when you are hiking strong for over 5 months you get conditioned to it. The Park has some of the more strenuous hiking on the trail, at least in the southern section. Being close to Cincinnati it warrants semi-frequent visits.

Southbound: episode 19

February 4th 2007
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

Our first night out of Damascus brought us into Tennessee, the 12th state of the trail. We didn’t leave town till 2 in the afternoon, but we made sure we left with full stomachs. Our first impression of the trail in Tennessee was awesome, very smooth nice hiking. The following day was a nice 22 mile ridge walk with a lot of amazing views of snow capped ridges in the distance. There wasn’t enough snow on the ground to pose a problem, but the snow bothered us later on. The shelter was too wide to hang our tarp over the opening, so the wind kept blowing snow onto everything.378

We cleaned the snow off all our gear and hit the trail. It was a cold and snowy morning, but it cleared up as the day went on. We could look down on Watauga Lake as we climbed down to the dam. It was a beautiful walk around the massive lake. On the way down to Laurel Fork Gorge, I slipped and busted my left knee. Nothing too serious, just a little blood and a mild limp. Laurel Fork Gorge and Falls were incredible. Probably the most spectacular falls of the trip. Just a little ways farther and we made it to Kincora Hostel nestled between the mountains. The hostel is run by Bob Peoples and his wife. He has pretty much dedicated his life to helping hikers and volunteering on the trail. Since he started taking in hikers over a decade ago, 13,000 hikers had stayed at his place. He is a very inspirational man. The walls and ceiling of the hostel were covered in pictures from hikers that finished the trail. Once we send him our picture, we will be the first of 2007 to go up.   380
In the morning, he ran us into town to resupply and pick up our package from the post office. “Sky Watcher” met us at the hostel to join us for a few more days. Luckily, his brother was able to drop him off on his way to the coast. He was excited to break in his new boots. The climb out of Kincora gave us our first glimpse of Roan Mtn and the surrounding highlands. Sky Watcher’s 2nd day was a long 18 miler over some nice terrain. We also passed by the highest falls on the AT, Jones Falls. There wasn’t much water gushing over the falls, but there was a lot of ice built up all over it.

We thought the following day would be simple, only doing 8 miles, but we were wrong. The deep snow slowed us down and the -10 degree wind chill over the balds cut right through us. To top it off, the shelter was a nightmare. It is an old barn that was given to the trail to use as a shelter, it sleeps like 40 people, the views are great, and its well ventilated. Basically, it is perfect for summertime, not during a wind and snowstorm. The snow blew in from every direction and every crack. We tried hanging both of our tarps to block the snow, but it didn’t help. We ended up wrapping ourselves in the sleeping bags with the tarp, but the snow still managed to pile on our faces. Needless to say, we didn’t sleep to well. The thermometer read zero degrees when we crawled out of bed. It was hard to get moving.397

We climbed up to the Roan Mtn highlands and were greeted with spectacular 360 degree views. We haven’t seen such breathtaking views since the White Mtns. When we crossed over Carvers Gap, we met up with Ice Man’s cousin Karma and the wonderful Miss Janet who was nice enough to shuttle her up to the trail. Since our sleeping bags got wet the night before, Miss Janet threw them in her car and cranked up the heat to dry them out. We are so lucky. After a nice lunch break, we finished the climb up to Roan Mtn Shelter, the highest shelter on the AT over 6000ft. The trail was like an endless white alley all the way to the top. We were fortunate to have a fully enclosed shelter with no wind finding its way in.AT Winter Hike
It still got really cold inside and Karma had a rough night’s sleep. She woke up with a bad headache and a sore neck, so instead of pushing out big miles, it was smarter just to climb back down to Carver’s Gap and head into Erwin to rest up. We continued on in the deep snow, half-skiing down the mountains. We met Karma at the next road crossing and she took us back to Miss Janet’s hostel in Erwin. While we cleaned up, Karma spoiled us by cooking an excellent dinner. In the morning, we had a great big breakfast and bid farewell to Sky Watcher once again. Since we had Karma’s car, a day off, and a need for warm weather, we drove down to Savannah, GA to visit a friend from back home. We were lucky to see both the moonrise and sunrise over the ocean. It was an amazing feeling to be at sea level just hours after being at 5000 ft covered in snow. We didn’t stay long, but we wish we could have. When we made it back to Tennessee, three of my brothers came down to visit. We got to enjoy the company while playing cards, eating pizza, and sitting down to watch a movie before bed.

The following morning Karma bid us good luck and headed home. The rest of us boys drove up to Carver’s Gap and hiked up onto Roan Mtn Highlands where we had been just a few days before. The views were just as immaculate as they were when we first crossed over the highlands. I was glad we were able to take my brothers up to see the things that keep us moving. That night Ice Man and my brother cooked a huge Mexican style feast. It was awesome. When they headed home in the morning, we picked up from where we left off. We brought Miss Janet’s dog, Fabian, with us on our hike since she was going to meet us at another road in 19 miles. He was fun to hike with. Supposedly he has over 5000 miles under his collar.Joe with AT Dog Fabian
Today Miss Janet dropped us off at another point and we hiked 25 miles back to town again. We came across a couple more balds with views on all sides as well as some great overlooks near the Nolichucky River. It was a real workout to hike through the deep snow, but once we dropped in elevation it cleared up quite a bit. After 9 hours of straight hiking, we were ready for a foot long sandwich, a shower, and a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we will be at the hostel working off our stay for the past few days. We were lucky enough that Miss Janet opened her doors to use since she isn’t open for another 10 days.

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Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

Today the memories and impressions left from this section of trail are as loud as ever and present in everyday life. Through our second hike with Sky Watcher we got to know him a little better and would go on to have amazing Alaskan adventures with him years later. We instilled a sense of adventure in Joe’s brother Vince who came to visit and now has over 700 AT miles under his belt.  Miss Janet has become one of the most infamous of Trail Angels and helped us not just with hiking the trail but also with supporting our lives away from the trail. It was Miss Janet’s hospitality that really provided the space needed for a bigger relationship to spark.

I won’t get into a sappy love story on you, but Karma (my cousin) and TW hit it off pretty well. Soon after the trail they found themselves married and years later from then we all three found ourselves opening RRT.  I can tell you that I didn’t and couldn’t of ever seen all of this coming.  That is the magic of the trail to spawn long lasting and meaningful relationships and life lessons.

The trail itself was beautiful in this entire section from Damascus to Kincora. The balds that we passed and ridge walking leaves plenty of room for views along the way. The weather turned on us a little bit but that’s what we signed up for.  I will give you a fair warning, the barn shelter is not good for winter hikes and snow storms.  Joe and I had wrapped our tarp around our bags trying to keep them “dry” but it wasn’t going to work. To date it may be the worst sleep I got on trail as I shivered the majority of the night. There are plenty of road intersections here and this area would be perfect if you are looking for a 3+ day trip on the AT.

The morning after the barn was the day we were meeting Emily (Karma) at the road. I hustled and covered 3 miles in sometimes deep snow in little more than an hour. I was part excited, part cold, and in part just didn’t want to leave her alone roadside wondering where the heck she was.  The whole time with family members and the side trip to Savannah really didn’t set us off pace and all happened fast. However, it was really rejuvenating especially for Joe who couldn’t think of much else.

Southbound: episode 18

  January 23rd 2007
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

Our first day out of Pearisburg wasn’t too bad. We started going through the “green tunnel”, which is where the trail passes through dense rhododendron thickets. I love it when the stream flows next to the tunnel and its all misty. It makes me feel like we are in the rain forest at the zoo. The tunnel continued the following day, which led us down a side trail to Dismal Falls. They were so sweet, but we couldn’t stay there forever. We were pushing out 26 miles to meet up with my friend Marc. We only had to hike 30 minutes into the night, but we were worn out. The last mile was along the road, and as we were hiking, two hound dogs came out of the woods and stayed by our side until we met with Marc. It was fun, but we had to keep yelling at them to get out of traffic.Rhododenderan Forest

We stayed in town with Marc that night and we went over the plans for while he was here. He brought us our mail drop and some new trekking poles to try out. It was tough to switch out our sticks for the trekking poles, but they ended up working really well. The hitch out of town the next day took forever. It wasn’t until we just started walking back to the trail, when someone picked us up. The first half of the day went smooth, a good break in for “sky watcher”. It didn’t last though. We had problems crossing rivers and bush whacking back to the trail. The second half of the day was miserable. To top it off, I had a mouse run across my face that night. It was gross.

We took a lunch break on the edge of some cliffs on top of Garden Mountain. The views were great, but it was a little windy. When I started to get cold, I reached for my jacket and it had been blown off the cliff. I couldn’t believe it. Luckily, it didn’t land in a tree because I was able to find a way to climb down. The weather started to turn that afternoon and night. We stayed in a sweet fully enclosed shelter on top of Chestnut Ridge. The following morning there was snow on the ground and ice on all the grass in the fields. It was cold, but a pretty sight. That night was a long one. It got down to 15 degrees. We had to sleep with everything. It was colder than what we were expecting to get.Silhouettes on the AT

We stayed in Atkins the next night to get warm and dry out. On the way in, we watched the sunset over the fields. The shelter was the most exciting part of the following day. It sat behind the Mt. Rogers Visitors Center and we could have pizza delivered to the parking lot and buy sodas for the vending machine. It was suppose to be in the 20s overnight, but the enclosed loft of the shelter kept us above freezing. It makes such a difference. In the morning, we were sad to see sky watcher calling for a ride to get back to his car. We completely understand his reasons and know now the weather didn’t get any better.

The hike to the next shelter was nothing to scream about, but we were in for a treat. It was a stone shelter with a fireplace between the bunks and someone had stocked up the shelter with dry firewood. We hung a tarp over the front of the shelter to block the wind and built a fire. We kept it going all night and it kept us really warm. Even though it was 17 outside, it was 40 inside, perfect. We pushed 25 miles over Pine Mountain and the Highlands around Mt. Rogers. We were mostly exposed above 5000ft for most of the hike, so the views were incredible. We got to see lots of wild ponies on the Highlands. Its amazing they can withstand the winters up there. The night hike took forever, but that’s mostly because I couldn’t stop looking at the moon and stars.Pony on Mt. Rogers

We woke up to a dusting of snow and freezing rain. Within a few minutes crossing the open fields, we were covered in ice and so was the trail. Luckily, those silly trekking poles have a removable boot with a spike underneath to help in icy conditions. Once we were below tree line, the winds weren’t so bad, but the trail kept going out into open fields. For the first 8 miles we were fighting 60 mph winds, freezing rain and an icy trail. With windchill, it was below zero easy in those exposed areas. We just kept pushing for treeline and lower elevations. We finally climbed down to 3000ft and the trail improved, but ice chunks kept raining from tree branches. We were able to remove the sheets of ice from our packs and clothing. We cut the day short when we made it to the shelter.

Yesterday morning wasn’t so bad getting into town. Most of it was hiking along on old railroad bed that followed a stream all the way into town. The trail goes right through town. Subway was only a few hundred feet away. We stayed at the Lazy Fox Inn last night, and gorged on some pizza. Mrs. Adams, an 82 yr old woman takes care of the place, and she made us a humongous breakfast this morning. There was eggs, grits, hash browns, apple turnovers, pancakes, bacon, sausage, cinnamon apple slices, and fruit plate. We had to lay down for 2 hours afterwards. Now were are finishing up here at the library and in a little while, we will be crossing over into Tennessee, the 12th state. We are getting so close.

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Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

Between some severe weather and blistered feet Marc had to take a break but we’ll meet up with him later on again. This section is my absolute favorite section of the southern half. I’ve been back to Mt. Rogers area now several times to hike with the ponies. Marc’s surprise gift of trekking poles was an awesome one and our wood sticks had convinced us enough of their purpose. That was the real moment when we realized the difference and appreciated how much a trekking pole helps, especially on with a handle, metal tip, sized height, and durable build.

Leaving the shelter on Mt. Rogers and backpacking some of the balds in the area was probably the closest we had come to white out conditions. as always this made things exciting for us but challenging as well. The snow covered trail and blazes meant that we really needed to have that second sense about where we were going.  There was but one mistake, and of course Joe didn’t mention it in the above post. Along one of the balds we had lost the path and it seemed nearly any direction could work.  We begin to descend and Joe pointed me down a steeper trench. He didn’t follow too close and I noticed that when I was about 20 feet down the mountain side he was staying up top. I turned back and had him help pull me back up concluding that that was for sure not the trail we were looking for. I’m not convinced that he wasn’t trying to kill me…

We revisit Damascus, one of the more notorious trail towns, often for trail days; an AT celebration. The town is fantastic and of course hiker friendly. That was to date still the largest and best breakfast ever!

Southbound: episode 17

January 11th 2007
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

We made it to Pearisburg, VA, about 100 miles farther. The weather has been all over the place. Its been hot, cold, rainy, snowy, and windy. The first day out of Daleville wasn’t much to scream about. The rain wasn’t too bad, it was the dense fog that gave us problems. We spent more than a half hour going back and forth on the trail trying to find the shelter. When we finally found it, we were surprised to find Early Bird all snug in his sleeping bag. You may remember us writing about hiking with him back in Connecticut and New York around veteran’s day. Well, he caught up to us and now he is actually a day in front of us. I’m sure we’ll meet again.Dragons Tooth on the AT

The following day was absolutely gorgeous and we took advantage of it. When we came across Tinker Cliffs and McAfee Knob, we took our time to soak in the views. The numerous mountains and ridges just fill the landscape, its amazing. Next, was a climb up to Dragon’s Tooth. It was a tough climb with little room for error, but I sure am glad we didn’t have to climb down it or in the rain. The rain hit us that night, but no bother really. We stayed dry, but it did start cooling down.

The day before last, we were hit with wind and snow storm. It wasn’t bad in the valley, but when we climbed up on the ridge, it was bitter. There was probably 3 or 4 inches of snow, just enough to completely hide the trail. We had to push on 3 hours into the night to make it to the shelter and what an experience that was. Most of the white blazes on the trees were disguised by a dusting of snow, so we had to pay close attention to everything. The wind was terrible and it kept blowing snow into the shelter. We ate our dinner and drank our hot cider and didn’t get out of the sleeping bags until the next morning. So, yesterday, we pushed out 24 miles into town, so we could dry out the gear overnight. It was rough, but much of the snow was starting to melt along the trail and the wind died off. We made it in sometime around 8 or so last night, just in time to hear the presidential address and all of the critics. Its nice not to have to always hear about the news while on the trail, but then again, we have to remember that we can’t always block out what’s happening in the world.

We are heading out in a few hours, and moving south towards Tennessee. It looks like it is going to warm up a little the next couple days, but after that who knows. We will work with what we get and hope for the best. In just a few days, Marc, a former scout leader and friend of mine, will be joining us on the trail for 2 weeks. We are very excited to have him join us.Bryan at Tinker Cliffs

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Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

Planning mileage and days around the weather started to come all too natural, suddenly it seemed as if things just didn’t bother us as much. This section had me feeling in good health, including my foot that had the previous pains while hiking. I was still feeling energized by the duo getting back together too. We had a second sense on the trail now more than ever. That kinda of thing happens gradually I suppose. Same as starting a new job; you pick up some skills as you go, but mostly confidence for that which you already knew.  This section has plenty of highlights and postcard picture moments.  The one I’m surprised we did not mention is the Audie Murphy Memorial, the most decorated war veteran has a memorial along the trail.

 

Southbound: episode 16

January 4th 2007
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

   Its been 2 weeks since we left Waynesboro and we have been having an awesome time. It so nice to be back in the mountains. The views have been absolutely amazing. The day after leaving Waynesboro , we spent an entire day hanging out in the shelter because it rained for like 30 hours straight. During the cold rainstorm, we entertained ourselves with Yahtzee and Uno. The following day wasn’t much to scream about, it was a clear and cold day. However, we did share the shelter/camp with an older couple and two goats that packed her gear, it made for an interesting conversation.

In the morning, we hiked over the Three Ridges, the sun was out and it was near sixty degrees! It was all too grand, the continuous views captured our attention and we all agreed to go about half the distance planned. We hiked over to “Chimney Rocks” where we sat for the rest of the afternoon admiring the view, watching vultures fly over their domain.Backpacking the AT

So then it was Christmas. It could of been better to be honest. We hiked up and over “The Priest”, our first 4000 foot mountain since New Hampshire ! The cold rain kept us from enjoying it though. We cut the day short to avoid getting sick, as we were all drenched and shivering. We built a Christmas tree out of water bottles and just enjoyed getting warm and dry. The following day we decided to treat each other to a Christmas present. We hiked a few miles to a old dirt road, and just another mile and a half down to Montebello and the Dutch Haus Bed and Breakfast. We were pampered with great meals, showers, a warm fire, and The Chipmunks Great Adventure on VHS.

Our weather improved for a few days, and we sure did enjoy it! Great view from the grassy top of Cold Mountain , Bluff Mountain , and on down to the James River . We hitched into the small town of Glasgow for resupply, it took a while to get in, but the town was friendly and it was quick getting out. Then we crossed the James River footbridge, the longest on the AT, at 642 feet. From there it was just a quick creek side walk to the shelter. Most of the shelters in Virginia have had mice, some an army of mice. This shelter however had a rat, he lived in the privy (outhouse).River along the trail

Happy New Years! Like every other holiday, it rained New Years Eve. It was not as cold so we still pushed out our planned thirteen miles. At the shelter that night we finally enjoyed the two heavy bottles of wine Ice Man was carrying. It was only Arbor Mist, but the celebration was priceless! The next morning we played Uno until the rain stopped, and the most beautiful blue skies followed. We crossed Apple Orchard Mountain , a gorgeous grassy bald, the way down kept our attention with cliff side views and short trails to overlooks.

The next few days would have us following and crossing the Blueridge Parkway . It was nice cause they had the trail cross at overlooks. We went later into the night a few times, but enjoyed the sunsets, and the light of the full moon. We stopped at one point to admire the moon framed between the forest limbs and the mountain horizon behind. We feel so fortunate to capture whats “behind the scenes”. The night before last, our shelter was perched above the city lights of Roanoke , magnificent.Balds

We hiked into Daleville yesterday morning, where we met Ginger Snap’s brother and close friend. They spent the night with us at a hotel just off the trail. They were nice enough to shuttle us around for food and resupply. We shared many laughs and we decided Chinese buffets should have microwaves too. Oh, and coconut ice cream is disgusting. The three of them are leaving today to road trip down along the Gulf Coast and Texas . We wish we could tag along, but that just wouldn’t be right.Hiking the AT

This exert was originally published on atwishhikers.com. It’s content has not been edited from the original post.

 

Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

This section brings back some great trail hiking and remains one of my favorite areas.  Between the ridge walking and the balds we had some incredible views.  If we had been on this section with bad weather it may be a different story seeing as we were exposed quite often. The bad weather did come back around but in the worst way. The temperatures dropped to high 30s while we dropped to the valley and then started climbing the Priest.  I think all together I went up the mountain relativity fast but it didn’t seem that way. I found my self stopping often trying to keep with the group a little more. At one point I stopped for what seemed like a half hour and still didn’t see anyone coming up the trail.

This was only bad because I consequently lost most of my heat. for the rest of the day I struggled to feel good about the hiking and was constantly cold. Now i really wanted to meet up with TW and Ginger so we can make a group decision to maybe stop at the next shelter.  By the time I got to the top my body and mentality was shot and I wanted nothing more than to jump in my sleeping bag. After a few false summits I made it to the side trail. I made a little arrow on the ground using sticks to mark my detour for the rest of the group. Not long after getting in the shelter I stripped off my wet clothes and hurried into my bag. The constant rain had soaked through most everything and it took a good hour of shivering in my zero degree bag until I felt normal again. At that point the rain turned to ice and seemed to come down pretty hard making me concerned for TW and Ginger. If I was trucking up the mountain and didn’t stay warm how were they doing?

They arrived soon after and were definitely happy to stop for the night.  Merry Christmas to us! This was for sure the closest I’ve come to having  hypothermia.  Our New Years was also the most effort I’ve ever put into having a midnight toast.  By the end of it all it was back to just TW and I, which I think we were both ready for.  It was time to get back to our old pace.

Southbound: episode 15

December 21st 2006
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

The roller coaster wasn’t much to scream about, nor was it long enough to wear us out. We should have been more tired after 23 miles. The next morning, we went into Linden to pick up our maildrop and food. We were so excited to be sleeping less than a mile from the beginning of the Shenadoah National Park . In the morning, we registered for our permit for camping in the park and started strolling down some of the nicest trails we have seen yet. The weather was beautiful and so were the views. The views were better than any since Vermont and Massachusetts . It is nice being above 3000ft again.

After 23 miles, all we wanted was a good nights sleep, but there were a couple of mice that kept us up most of the night. In the morning, we hitched into Luray for mail, resupply, and a bucket of chicken from KFC. We were told that it was illegal to hitch in Virginia , but so far its been the easiest place to get a ride in and out of town. The rest of the day was still filled with great views and nice trails. We stayed the night with a couple out for the weekend. The one guy was in the Navy at Norfolk , and he was planning a thru-hike once he finishes his service. We shared a lot of stories from different adventures we have had as the campfire slowly burnt out.Hogback Overlook

The following day we hiked 21 miles until we hit rt33, which passes through the park, so we could be picked up by a trail angel named Melanie. Before we made it there, we bumped into a thru-hiker named “super dave” and he was also from Cincinnati . He started in WV and hiked north to Maine , then went to Georgia and was on his way to WV. We were all so excited to meet each other, because we had met his friend in New Hampshire and we were told to look out for him. He actually knew who we were before we introduced ourselves. He should be finishing up his journey in the next couple of days. Congrats Super Dave and we wish you the best.Shenandoah

We finally made it to the road and Melanie picked us up and took us in for the night. We met her in Harpers Ferry at the trail club dinner, its funny how everything falls together. She cooked us dinner, let us shower, and do laundry. She had an awesome music collection. In the morning, she took us to the store to pick up enough food to get us to Waynesboro and then back to the trail. Thanks Melanie.

In the Shenadoah National Park , skyline drives runs parallel to the AT and follows the ridgline all the way, so the mileage is pretty much the same. We had to hike along the road for both that day and the following, about 45 miles. The reason: Around thanksgiving, the southern section of the park was hit with a devastating ice storm leaving the trail and road covered with trees, branches, and tree tops. The AT was closed and was recommended to skip, but we instead walked the closed skyline drive.

The road walk hurt and it seem to go on forever. There were a few good things though. We could listen to our transistor radio while we walked, we still had great overlooks, and we didn’t have to stare at our feet to make sure we weren’t going to trip. Our last shelter in the park had a big rat living there that was rumored to eat holes in backpacks. We hung our food and packs outside the shelter, but we still caught a glimpse of the nasty beast. The last 20 miles out of the park was miserable. We were hurting so bad and we looked funny as we were limping along. We made it though, and we were fortunate to know another trail angel that picked us up and dropped us off at the Quality Inn.

Some of my family came down that night and stayed with us. We ate some Papa John’s pizza while watching our first Bengals game. It was a depressing game though. The next morning 8 of our friends from home dropped in to visit. The rest of my family came down later in the evening. By the end of the night, there was 18 of us, it was like being at home. We spent the day tossing Frisbee and football. They even brought down the corn hole set. That night we all went down to the bowling ally, what a great time. The fun lasted until 3 or 4 in the morning, way past our bedtime.Shenandoah Sunset

Yesterday, they all went home after we all went out to lunch together. It was sad to see them go, but it was a reminder of all the great people we can’t wait to get home and see once again. Someone did get left behind though, by choice, her name is Ginger Snap, formerly known as Barbara. She is going to hike with us for a week and a half or so. Last night we just kicked back and relaxed and tried to re-cooperate. Today we are just doing the usual in town resupply and journal update before we hit the trail. We will hike out of town here in a little bit to the first shelter 5 miles away. We hope to be about 135 miles farther in about 8-10 days where we can update you once again. Thank you to all of those that came to visit. Merry Christmas to everyone. We miss and love you all.

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Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

This was a big post, both in time, miles, and events. Like most of our other posts the most interesting moments are not about the physical trail but more about the characters that help shape it.  We introduced and met back up with several new characters in this post.  The first was Melanie; we first met Melanie back in Harpers Ferry at the Potomac Trail Clubs Christmas Party.  She offered us a place to stay down the road and we were happy to make the call.  Melanie refueled us for our adventure and I’d like to think that we fueled her adventurous spirit too. After dinner Joe and I helped her start planning an epic trip around the country. Not long after finishing the trail we would meet her again in Cincinnati; a detour on her epic life changing adventure!! I think this is a good time to maybe reconnect again.

Hiking into Waynesboro was hard for me too enjoy. Some things were in our favor, we had an easy road walk due to the trail shattering ice storm and amazing views, however the anticipation of meeting family and friends seemed to draw things out a while. To make matters worse I secretly was feeling the worse I had felt yet. The top of my right foot had a stinging pain with each step. I found my self stopping often trying to readjust my boot to no avail. I think the road walking, although flat, was also rough on my feet and put a lot of stress on them. I hobbled into town and put ice on the slightly swollen foot. I didn’t want to blow it out of proportion and especially worry any of our friends that had traveled so far to see us, but secretly I was concerned that it would not heal.

One car load at a time our friends and family piled in. As you can imagine this was a great few days enjoying every creature comfort you could want and laughing again with those you miss.  It meant so much to us that they all came down and I will forever be grateful to each one of them for taking the journey. As all good things do, the time went all too fast, the cornhole boards, cards, Frisbee, beer, and pizza was packed up and drove away making it home hundreds of miles away in the time it takes us to travel less than a half dozen miles. The one who stayed behind, Ginger Snap, was Joe’s friend from Alaska who was going to hike with us a while.

I was excited to have someone else around for a while at this point (but that did not last). When we hiked out I found that my foot had still not healed and the miles were slow. Despite the miles moving slow, I was still way out in front of the two of them and suddenly felt very alone. Ginger snap had a tough go at the first few miles despite being a backpacker (The AT has that affect on people) and we stopped 5 miles in. I took a few “Vitamin I” (Ibuprofen)  pills and just wanted to go back asleep. Tundra, or as I called him, “TW” and Ginger played games and I just wrote and slept. The next day I still wasn’t feeling well and it started to become quite concerning, luckily my partners in crime were fine staying in so we did another shelter zero (5 miles from a real town I may add!). My best guess was that it was a stress fracture and I needed to stay off it.  At least we packed out some Beef and Cheddars.

Southbound: episode 14

December 11 2006
Written by: Bryan Wolf and Joe White

In order to do the trail, you have to accept that things don’t always go as planned. It’s not that what happened is bad, it’s actually kind of funny that its the opposite of what we wanted to do. We are at the Bear’s Den Hostel, just 20 miles south of Harpers Ferry which is the funny part. We made it to Harpers Ferry 3 days ago, granted one day was an off day, but what we did in one day last week, we did in 2 days. The terrain is not to blame, nor the weather. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club has been very hospitable. We bumped into the trail club in Hapers Ferry and the invited us over for dinner both Friday and Saturday night. It was a great time and we really enjoyed hanging out with all the people that are not just building and maintaining the trail, but also working to protect the wilderness around it.Roller coaster

They talked us into stopping by the Blackburn Trail Center last night, which is just off the trail, to stay the night and have dinner with the caretakers. We also celebrated the caretakers birthday with cake and ice cream. Of course, we still had to stop by here to do laundry and grab some more food to get us to the next town. Pizza, ice cream, internet, electric, hot shower, and a bed? OK, we’ll stay, but tomorrow we are doing 23 miles. Tomorrow we hit what they call the “roller coaster”, a long series of quick ups and downs, sounds like fun.

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Epilogue:
by: Bryan Wolf

To be clear, we were laughing at the fact that immediately following a 26 mile day we managed just 20 miles in the three days to follow. We speed up and slow down over and over again on the trail; each time for a different reason.  At the Blackburn Center was our first time considering a later life move to the trail and looking into a lifestyle of support and trail work on the AT.  The young couple that were caretakers there at the time were amazing and seemed to have fun doing it.  Even after getting home we would talk about running a hostel or trail crew. More than a year after the trail we called the Blackburn Center to check on job details and availability. It is all proof of the lasting impact that the trail had and the desire to pass it forward and live more of a life surrounded by the trail.