earthtrekblog

Adventures of Life


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The truth of the trail

The trail is a physical strain and a mental game.  In the past three weeks more than 7 people I know have left the trail.  The heat is increasing, the miles are getting longer and the people are getting fewer.  Each time someone leaves it makes you question your own intentions.
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The past couple days on trail have been the most difficult for many reasons; the terrain although different is no “easier” despite the chant given by prior thru hikers that “Virginia is flat and easy”, the heat and humidity has been off the charts, and my hiking group has dispersed.  Now all of these have simple solutions, or so it may seem from the outside. 
But trail time is different, as is the perspective of hiking day in and day out as miles pass beneath your soles.  The truth about Virginia is not that it’s any easier but your strength as a hiker has increased.  Hike around the heat and humidity, start early, siesta and hike into the night, but that only works if you don’t have an unfounded fear of the dark.  Find a new group and redesign your “trail family”, and then hike into the night with someone you just met.
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With so many thoughts coursing through my mind I felt it pertinent to share some of the wonders of my trail time.  Every day is not always filled with smiles, I have cried more times than I know, both from physical pain and the mental games of the trail.  Despite those moments I find extreme joy and happiness in the world and people surrounding me.
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And after two fails of uploading pictures I believe you’ll have to enjoy only a glimpse of my journey for today.

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Hypothermia was real...

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Thank you Top of Georgia

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Slack pack day

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Dog on a log!

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Comfort is a necessary.

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Human connection

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Max Patch sunrise.

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Hump Mountain

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Hump Mountain

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What has become a common theme...

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Jones Falls

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McAfee knob

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Tails from the trail: Part 2

National Forest Service gets reports of mysterious tree deaths:

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Deforestation seen along the trail

My trail family has started deeming my ability to get “trail magic” the ‘Bookie  Effect’.  This came about after our stay in Hot Springs, NC, where I was hooked up with farm fresh cheese, a car for the day, and a birthday dinner.  It seemed my bright smile, innocent demeanor, and love for life was contagious with the town folks. The group encouraged me to use this strength whenever they deemed it might be beneficial to themselves, or me.
After a couple weeks of good laughs regarding how this worked, or didn’t, it started to morph.  Our group had just returned to the AT from Trail Days and we were regaining our trail legs.  I had taken the lead, typically I hold a good even pace, and the other three, Rikki Tikki, Scribe, and Older Dog, were strung out behind me.  Well as things go, I was a little gassy, and I happened to crop dust the group, unexpectedly of course.  I didn’t think much of it as it was such a small escapee. 

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Brave souls willing to risk the "Bookie Effect"

The sudden accusation of crop dusting from the crew 20 feet behind me had me blushing, giggling, and blaming No Shame (my dog) for what was apparently a foul odor wafting around behind us.  Being a kind soul, who was extremely embarrased, I dropped to the back of the group so as to not subject them to this experience again.
Throughout the following day there was much laughter, teasing and flatulation within our group.  It was a long day of hiking , especially after 6 days without a full pack on.  We covered more than 10 miles and had over a 4000 foot elevation gain.  Despite the climb, our views were limited and with only a quarter mile to go Roan High Shelter awaited us, the highest shelter on the AT.  Again being the sweet soul I am I had dropped to the back of the group, I also didn’t want a repeat of the prior day.  I was more than 50 feet behind Rikki Tikki, who had just ducked off the main trail up to the shelter, when I heard the gasping, sputtering, and laughter rolling through the trees. 
Apparently the wind was blowing in just the right direction to send the noxious fumes through the trees and almost drop Rikki Tikki to his knees.  Scribe ten feet behind him had the pleasure of watching Rikki go through a myriad of facial expressions while stumbling to keep his feet beneath himself. 

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Roan High Shelter

Over the course of the evening I was the brunt of the jokes.  No one would sit near me for fear of the sudden death of their meal, or just residual effects.  While setting up my tent I was aware of wind direction and possible fall out if it was a rough night.  Don’t get me wrong when Rikki Tikki called me out during a wind change I pretended not to hear him, I’m not a complete angel.
Come morning, traveling down the same trail I was reminded that just 12 hours prior this used to be a beautiful trail, the trees were green and the birds were singing, and Rikki Tikki was able to breath.  But there was this new thing travelling north along the AT and the National Forest Service was calling it the ‘Bookie Effect’.

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New measures being taken to try and reduce impact


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Stories from the trail part 1

There are things which happen so quickly that you forget they occurred.  Days pass by and suddenly your memory is triggered and you find yourself alone on a trail giggling or maybe making a side comment to your crew, setting the whole campsite off on wave after wave of laughter.

Awesome hiker problems!

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Proper hammock setup:
The other night our small group had rolled into camp and were getting set up.  Two of us, me and Scribe, had tents and were struggling to find a flat space, fighting gravity all night is never fun after a long hike.  Older Dog was looking for a good hammock set up.  As we assembled our tents we were startled by a sudden “crack!”  There had been no report for bad weather.  I looked up just in time to see a hiker picking himself up off the ground, a look of utter shock on his face.  One of the trees he’d strung his hammock from was leaning forward, the roots pulled out of the ground.  Older Dog felt it best to find some trees which weren’t so close to this hiker. Note to self: when picking hammock trees locate live ones with more than a 5 inch diameter.

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Vestibule space:
Going back into the early weeks of my trip, I had just started hiking with some new folks, Rikki Tikki, Moonlight, and Rhythm.  Our pace on the trail was well matched and the good natured humor within the group much appreciated.  Our days started out with Rikki Tikki sitting down and playing a beautiful wooden flute. 

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We would group up and head out.  On our third day Rhythm was talking about foot issues he was having, on the trail there is a limited number of topics covered; food, feet, privys, gear, and sex, usually in that order.  I offered to hook Rhythm up with a blister pad, my favorite cure for foot ailments, but it would have to wait until camp as it was buried at the bottom of my bag.  We’d all settled in and were getting ready for dinner when I remembered the blister pad.  I dragged it out of my pack and walked over to Rhythms tent, which was zipped up completely.  Without thought I reached my hand up under the vestibule, offering up the blister pad.  The screech that came from the tent seemed inhuman, especially coming from a grown man. 
“I’M NAAKID!”
It took everything I had not to die laughing, instead without pause I shook the blister pad and said “That’s great, here’s the pad you asked for.” 
Without out fail throughout the week you will hear the screech “I’m naakid!” from someone in our group.

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Is this my tent?:
Trail Days were a very interesting affair.  I don’t dare say they represent the general population of thru hikers as it seems the loudest people are the ones who are most easily heard (surprise, surprise). Unfortunately this was the case late night and early morning.  On our first night in “tent city” our small fellowship defined our camping area.  We placed our tents throughout a clearing, made ourselves at home, fended off the drunk next door who claimed trail magic filled with lots of cursing and yelling, and headed off to dinner. 

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We wandered the grounds familiarizing ourselves with the event.  After a little time sitting around the campfire we headed to bed.  At about 3 am the voices from across the fire grew louder and more obnoxious, it was 3 am after all.  I quietly unzipped my tent and called over quietly, “there are about ten folks trying to sleep over here.”  The voices quieted and the group opted to move along with quiet apologies.  This was bearable.
Night number two.  There is a giant fire which burns early into the morning.  Folks gather around the drum circle, singing, dancing, drinking.  Again we called it a bit of an early night.  And again about 2:30am we were disrupted but the drunks.
“This is our spot, I know it is!” One of them slurred. 
“No, I don’t think it is.” His more coherent drunk friend replied
“No.  This is my tent!” The first drunk announces as he fumbles with the zipper to Scribe’s tent.
“No, this is not your tent!” Comes the quietly controlled voice of Scribe.
“It has to be my tent.  It’s talking to me!!”
With repeted attempts to enter Scribe’s tent his friend finally came to fetch him.
He redirected his attention and headed off across the site into the dried creek bed 15 feet away.  With a loud crash we hear the scream “I’m stuck in the creek, help me!”
This poor guy must have been having one hell of a night if tents were talking to him and empty stream beds held rushing water.

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Sometimes you need to be willing to squeeze in to get where you want to go!