The Big Epic

Connect with Nature - One Adventure at a Time

Tag: Blessings (page 2 of 2)

“Oh, the People You Meet…” — Helper Version

Many folks assume that spending weeks backpacking the Appalachian Trail will be a solitary experience. That might be true on the Pacific Crest Trail or the Continental Divide Trail. However, during our six weeks on the AT, we were passed by multiple hikers every day. In addition, the only way to experience a solitary night is to camp away from shelters. There was only one night that daughter and I had a shelter completely to ourselves.

As extroverts, we delighted in this level of social interaction. Time alone while hiking balanced nicely with social time. I introduced you to some of our favorite hikers HERE. In today’s post, I want to introduce you to some of the non-hikers we met along the way.

Some folks who help hikers have been thru-hikers themselves. After completing his epic hike (along with his college age son) a few years ago, Scott began searching for a property that he and his wife could turn into a hostel for hikers. They bought a historic home with outbuildings near Front Royal, Virginia. The property had been abandoned for more than a decade. Many would have ignored it as a ruin. Scott and his wife saw the possibilities and are pouring energy and money into restoring the home to its former glory. The hostel is already up and running—a cozy brick cottage which sleeps up to 8 hikers. The big house will eventually hold living quarters for Scott and his wife plus 3 fancy bed & breakfast rooms. Scott is passionate about history and has uncovered many fascinating stories about the lives of those who lived here over the years. (If you are a hiker, definitely stay at the hostel. If you are looking for a B&B, keep an eye for when those rooms open sometime next year! Facebook link HERE ) Mountain Home "Cabbin"

Mountain Home B&B

Storyteller Scott

Some folks have little or no hiking experience but enjoy meeting and helping AT hikers. In two different towns, we paid for someone to shuttle us to another part of the trail. (Phone numbers for these folks are found in trail guides or on lists at visitor centers in towns along the trail.) Debbie saved our trip by letting me avoid a very steep 6 miles of hiking with a broken toe. Sharon drove us to a Walmart on the far side of town to resupply fuel and buy some warm gloves. On a gray rainy day, Shellie took us to a parking area that was a hop, skip, and jump away from a shelter for the night. This also meant we could carry a fellow hiker’s gear so she could “slackpack” a long day of hiking. And then Shellie rescued us the next day and came back to evacuate us to town to more easily meet my sister for a few days off trail during bad storms. (See post HERE)

Other folks are “Trail Angels.” (I explained about “Trail Magic” HERE) In the Shenandoah National Park, we discovered that the campground where we were hoping to spend a zero day was full for the second night. We decided to try to catch a ride and get there a day earlier. Lori talked with us at a picnic area and agreed to give us a lift to the campgrounds. She is from Victoria Island, British Columbia and is traveling with her little trailer for 4 months of exploring the US. She asked a zillion questions which we happily answered. She took our photo to add to her memories of interesting people she meets along the way. We took her photo to remember some of the Trail Angels who helped our trip be easier. helper Lori

Many folks are easily forgotten—the ones who move to the other side of the street when we are walking in town, the ones who ignore us in park campgrounds, the ones who are unfriendly or unhelpful. The folks who are Hiker Helpers will be remembered for a very long time!

(Note: We finished our hiking for this year on Oct. 21. We continue to share photos and posts from our adventure for the next few weeks.)

A Touch of Home

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere.”—Miriam Adeney

As I have said before, I thrive on adventure, on the next big “epic” in life. It truly is exciting to go new places, meet new people, and try new things. No matter how much I love these new experiences, reality soon sets in. I begin to miss home: friends and family, pets, and “normal” routines. My heart is pulled in many directions at the same time!

As we started our epic adventure of a long-distance backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail, we happily said goodbye to friends and family at home. It was harder to say goodbye to husband/daddy when we reached the trail. We wouldn’t see him again for a few months…

saying goodbye

Along the way we discovered that many fellow hikers were surprised that we were fully supported and encouraged by hubby/dad to pursue this dream. When we paid attention, we realized most females on the trail were either hiking with their fellow or were single. Wow! What a gift we had been given! (Read more about how hubby and I support and encourage each other to pursue individual passions HERE.)

For the first few weeks, we had strong cell phone reception and internet access. We could talk to family back home and could keep up with friends online. The encouragement and support we received was significant in helping us persevere, especially on difficult days. At one resupply stop, there was an unexpected note waiting for us. Yay! That little card kept me from calling it quits when I questioned the wisdom of continuing to hike with a painful, broken toe.

notes from home

We always enjoyed the new places and new people we encountered. We soaked up the natural beauty surrounding us each day. But…we missed hubby/dad more and more each week. One afternoon, we were sitting on a bench at a shelter, feet propped up, watching the access trail for other hikers to stop for the night. Here came a fellow…but wait! He had no pack…and he looked familiar… Hurrah! Daddy/Husband surprised us, found us by our itinerary, and joined us on the trail for a few days! Unbelievable!

surprise visitor

(We discovered later that stories of this visit were passed up and down the trail along the thru-hiker grapevine. It really was considered an unusual, very big deal!)

Eventually, we reached a long section of trail where we had only limited opportunity to connect with family and friends. It felt like we were miles away and unreachable. Oh how that made us miss home! Eventually we reached another TOWN DAY. As I explained in a previous post, it’s not the same as “home” but each visit to a town includes delights such as a soft bed, yummy food, and good internet/phone connections. On this particular stop, we were greeted by a special package at the post office. One filled with things to make us smile: silly toys, little treats, tiny luxuries, sweet chocolate, survival gear for the trail, and more. But best of all, it was filled with LOVE from friends across the country.

trail mail

Ahhh…the best way to enjoy adventures is to regularly receive a touch of home!

(Note: We finished our hiking on October 21st. We will continue to share photos and posts about our adventures in the upcoming weeks.)

(Read HERE about things we have learned to say goodbye to before heading to the trail…)

Music Therapy

Home-grown music is a significant part of our hiking adventure. Here’s a taste of what we can be heard singing as we walk along…

On misty, foggy mornings, daughter often starts with this song from Lord of the Rings: Edge of Night

Misty trees

We sing this song back and forth when we are having fun and hiking with lots of energy: Hallelu, Hallelu

Happy hikers

We sing this one when we are intimidated–facing shifting rocks and clambering over boulders on a trail that is not clearly marked: Psalms 56:3-4, When I Am Afraid  

Rock jumble

Sometimes I am just DONE and it feels like I can’t possibly take another step. This is when I ask daughter to sing for me. Somehow this song keeps me going: Overcomer

It's a long trail

When the footing is hard or we are getting tired, daughter likes to sing this song, and sometimes she changes the lyrics to fit our adventure: Brother

Stream crossing

One hostel we stayed in had a piano available for hikers to play. Daughter played a few songs she knows. Then I sat down and played through a book of folk songs. Ahhhh, a wonderful way to relax after a long day of hiking!

Playing piano

In addition to making our own music, there have been a few times that our spirits have been lightened by music by others. One morning I was having a “gray day”–feeling like I was in a fog, with no energy to hike, but having to keep putting one foot in front of the other. We got to the shelter early and found “Hillbilly” settled in for the night. He hesitantly asked if it was okay to play guitar for awhile. He had written wonderful folk songs about growing up in Appalachia. As he sang, I got teary…and eventually the gray lifted and all was right with the world again. Thanks for the music therapy, Hillbilly!

Hillbilly

What is your favorite music to get you through tough times or to give you energy?  We would love suggestions in the comments for us to check out!

(Note: we finished our adventure on Oct 21, but still have plenty of photos and blog posts to share with you about our epic adventure!)

(See photo illustrations to a Psalm/Song of David HERE.)

The Zen of Cold Water

Why, yes, we DO have running water while hiking in the woods. It pours out of natural springs (sometimes with a pipe installed) and ripples down streams. Oh, that’s not what you meant? You’re right, we only find faucets in “civilization.” 

Piped spring

Stream

So how do we get clean water that’s safe to drink? We carry a filter with us that turns any water we find into yummy, drinkable water. The biggest challenge is walking to the spring at the end of a tiring day of hiking. Here is the process:

  • Carry empty water containers to water source (ideally a level walk near shelter…but sometimes a steep, long walk awayWater pipe in spring
  • Fill collection bags with “dirty” water "Dirty" water bags
  • Screw on filter and squeeze clean water into containers for use Filtering water
  • Carry water back to camp (reservoirs for drinking while hiking, bottles to pour into pot for cooking, extra in collection bags to filter for later use) Remember, water is HEAVY so only carry what is really needed! Water containers

Because we use a small, lightweight “squeeze” filter, it takes awhile to fill all of our water containers. At first this frustrated me. But eventually I decided to consider this time as “zen time” to relax and simply enjoy the moments. Usually the water locations are scenic, with colorful leaves, rustling trees, and gurgling water. Water zen

Next time you turn on your faucet at home, take a moment to be grateful for instant, clean, safe water…uncommon in much of the world! 

(Read about our updated water gear HERE. Read about my frustration with hiking in a drought in this post HERE.)

“Trail Magic”

Wreaths and brownies and apples. You never know what magic will be found in the woods!

Trail Magic is any unexpected good thing that happens while you are hiking the Appalachian Trail. Anytime they occur, these gifts add a bit of happy to the day. On difficult, never-ending days, however, these seemingly tiny things can be a HUGE encouragement!

So far, daughter’s favorite gift was from a southbound thru-hiker who thought she “needed” a fern crown as an elf-in-the-woods. A close runner up was a southbound thru-hiker who shared some of the feathers he had found along the way–an excellent start for a new collection on daughter’s hiking staff. MAGIC!

Elven queen

Our first day on the trail, daughter’s water reservoir leaked, making us short of water. Unfortunately, the shelter we were camping beside had no nearby water. (It was .3 steep miles down a rocky side trail, then back up lugging heavy water.) We were exhausted and dreaded the thought of having to haul water to fix dinner. But…a local couple who were camping overnight shared extra water plus invited us to their campfire. MAGIC!

We stayed one night at a bunkhouse along the trail. A number of thru-hikers were camping on the grounds as well. Shared dinner conversation is always energizing. But then the caretakers brought out a pan of brownies, still hot from the oven. MAGIC!

Hot brownies

We hiked a longer than expected day to get to a hostel and town-day in Harpers Ferry. It was a grueling day of unrelenting inclines. When we reached the ATC headquarters, one of the workers asked how we were doing. I replied, “I’m dead!” She laughed, and said, “Of course you aren’t dead, you are still on your feet and still managing to joke!” Then when we got to the hostel, there was a note from a friend waiting for us. I decided I wasn’t going to quit this crazy adventure after all. MAGIC!

On a hot day with steep climbs and treacherous descents, we were passed by a zillion day hikers. Oh how we envied their light day-packs (or no packs)! We chatted with a few, telling our story, hearing theirs. One dad and sons gave us a variety of yummy snacks. Another couple gave each of us an apple–a luxury we can’t usually afford weight-wise. MAGIC!

Fresh fruit

In your day today–look for someone who could use a bit of encouragement and give them a smile or a wee-small giftie. You never know when such little things might be received as MAGIC!

(For more stories of “helpers” on the trail, click HERE.)

Benches Are Blessings

We have discovered another simple thing that most of us either take for granted or never notice in daily life: benches!

When carrying a heavy pack over uneven terrain, sooner or later one’s joints begin to ache. (Yes, even for teens…it just takes longer for them than for us old ones!) Finding a place to take off the backpack and sit for a few minutes takes on immense significance on a tiring day.

Any stump, log,  or stone will do…but it is better if there is a back to lean against, as with these stone chairs at one campsite.

Stone chair

Even better is a seat that is long enough to turn sideways and prop up one’s feet as with this triple-wide Adirondack style chair at one shelter.

Adirondack bench

A picnic table loses points for having no back to lean against. At shelters with tables, cooking gets done here, but lounging is more often done against the shelter walls. On the other hand, when found at a parking area along the trail, picnic tables get high points for being the perfect height to easily get back into the pack when rest time is over.

Picnic table

But the luxury of luxuries? Check out this treasure found at the David Lesser Memorial Shelter in Virginia:

Forest swing

We will let you know if we find more gems like this. In the mean time, what’s YOUR favorite place to lounge and recover from a tough day? I’d love to read your response in the comments below!
(Some of these comforts and luxuries are lauded in this post about the wonders of Town Days…found HERE.)

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