Sunday, April 22, 2012


On our way out of town this morning, we weighed our packs.....both of us are at 29 pounds with four days or food and our water!!! Not quite "ultralight" yet but we feel like real long-distance hikers now.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


View from atop Mt. Albert. Worth the climb!

The past six days, we've been taking it slow and focusing on my knee recovery - with some success! Yesterday, we hiked 11 miles without too much pain, and we plan to build up from there. Georgia and North Carolina are both infamously tough on the joints with their big elevation changes, so we are hoping to get through the Smokies and crank up the mileage once we get to Virginia, where the trail is much flatter. It has been a personal struggle for me to slow down and stop pushing the knee to go until it can't, but thankfully Brian has been patient and firm on holding me to our "knee schedule".

We started our six day run with Mt. Albert - we didn't have to push our packs, but we did have to stow our trekking poles and use all four limbs. There was a fire tower at the top with amazing 360 degree views. The knee schedule only had us do 2.2 miles that day - pretty much up Albert and back down.

We had more rainy weather, enduring 16 straight hours of pelting rain one night. Everything we have was wet and covered in mud by morning. With another rainy forecast the following night, we sucked it up and spent our first night in a shelter (we typically hike to a shelter for the water source, bear bag cables, and privy, and then camp nearby). The shelters themselves are three-sided wooden structures that sleep 4 - 12 and usually have a picnic table for cooking dinner. They are notoriously rodent-ridden, which is the reason for our avoidance, but that night we didn't wake up to any squeaking or scratching. Either way, we've decided that in a thunderstorm, shelters are the way to go.

Rain often turns the trail into a stream.

In and around the shelters, we usually eat and relax around a campfire with other hikers. We've met a lot of great folks and come across some creative trail names - some of our favorite names include Squid Belly, Ten Minutes, Impulse, and Captain Guts. It is a weird experience to get to know someone and never learn their real name.

Tonight we are at a white water rafting outpost near Bryson City, NC to resupply - in three to four days, we'll be entering the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the most visited national park in the country and home to 400 - 600 black bears. The Smokies will take us about a week and usher us across our second state line - Tennessee! Our next visit with civilization will likely be Gatlinburg....until then, we miss you all!

- Bearcub

Monday, April 16, 2012

Goodbye Georgia, Hello North Carolina

North Carolina is much prettier than Georgia.
A few days ago, we kissed Georgia goodbye and crossed our first state line into North Carolina. It feels pretty good to have one state under our belts, and to be only a couple of miles away from the 100 mile mark. However, we've been taking it pretty slow lately due to the fact that Bearcub has been having knee problems. It's not uncommon for people on the trail to have all sorts of leg problems in the first couple weeks of the hike, mostly due to the incessant pounding on the joints when going down steep, rocky declines. We're hoping to keep the knee healthy by taking it slow until we get to Virginia where the trail flattens out a bit and we can start putting in some big mileage days.

Over the past week, the weather and the scenery has been absolutely beautiful. As for wildlife, we haven't seen a whole lot aside from birds and bugs. Lots of bugs. The only two notable sightings were a snake and a mole. Both were right in the middle of the trail and nearly squashed by Bearcub's mighty boot. We didn't bother hanging around the snake to take a picture, but Bearcub's eyes lit up when we saw the cute little mole. Therefore, we were obligated to snap a photo, and I was obligated to pick it up and remove it from the trail so that it wouldn't get stepped on. Don't worry, I scooped it up with a pile of leaves and sanitized my hands immediately afterwards. I'm just hoping this crazy rash on my hands goes away soon. That's a joke, Mom and Dad.

Who's this little guy?
Right now, we're sitting in a Microtel in lovely Franklin, NC waiting for Larry's Taxi Service to come pick us up and take us back to the trail. Within the first few miles back on the trail today, we'll have to tackle the notorious Albert Mountain. Rumor has it that people have had to put away their hiking poles and climb up the mountain with their hands, pushing or pulling their packs up alongside of them. We've noticed that people on the trail tend to exaggerate, and some other notorious mountains proved to be not too big of a challenge. Besides, nothing named Albert can be that tough. That's almost as bad as Guy Line.

- Albert Guy Line

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Holiday Inn-firmary

Daniel's Steakhouse - our first all you can eat buffet along the trail!
After one week and 70 miles of hiking on Georgia's relentless up and down terrain, we decided it was about time for our first zero day (trail speak for a zero mile day). We decided to spend a couple of nights in Hiawassee at a Holiday Inn Express to rest our aching joints.

Our jaunt in town included an obligatory all you can eat buffet, trip to the grocery store, and burgers and beer at a local bar and grill. Here the townsfolk serve newcomers slices of delicious blueberry pie alongside demoralizing bar trivia defeats. Despite the loss, we had a great time. Everyone we've met both in town and on the trail has been extremely kind.

Upon our return to the trail today, we realized that we missed it and were ready to press on. And I personally was reminded that I'm not out here solely to make it to Maine, but to enjoy nature and embrace life at its simplest. Have I become truly enlightened and one with nature yet? No, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.
- Guy Line (trail name given for my tendency to trip over the guy lines on the tent. Pretty tough trail name, right? "Don't mess with Guy Line or he'll totally trip on a bunch of stuff. I once saw him trip on like 8 things at the same time with one hand tied behind his back."

PS - Kelly forgot to thank Zach in her last post for the light weight board game.

PSS - We apologize for the poor formatting of our blog posts. We're still getting the hang of blogging from a phone. 

PSSS - I hope our readers have seen a Holiday Inn Express commercial before, otherwise the end of my post is going to sound pretty strange.

Friday, April 6, 2012

"We're walking. Get on board with our business."

Beautiful sunset view from our campsite
Apparently (according to Anne Marshall), the night before we started our hike, I talked in my sleep. Most of it was gibberish, but she did make out one statement that she texted herself so she would remember it in the morning: "We're walking. Get on board with our business." Which made the task of coming up with a title for our first blog post way too easy.

So a quick update on "our business" four days in. First things first - we haven't quit yet, and aren't even planning on it. After Anne dropped us off, we hiked to the top of Springer Mountain to start our hike, and were feeling pretty good about life. About five minutes after we started following the white blazes that mark the trail, it started sprinkling, and we pulled over to put on or rain gear after some discussion on whether or not it was necessary, and soon after, it started pouring (pictures to come once we get computer access). Since then, we've had one beautiful day, three rainy days, and about 20 minutes of pea sized hail (ouch!). We also learned the hard way that my "rain jacket" isn't waterproof, and I have a bag of clothes you can literally wring out to prove it.

The good news is, today we climbed the highest peak on the AT in Georgia, Blood Mountain, although we couldn't catch the views through the rain and fog. We've hiked between 8 and 9 miles a day (right on pace with our plan) and not an hour goes by when we don't look up and say, "Wow, this is really beautiful". Today we ended at Neels Gap, where there is an outfitter famous for "shakedowns" where they weigh your pack, dump the contents out, and coach you on what to chuck and what to buy a lighter version of. We went in there for a new raincoat, some food resupply, and a rope, since I lost ours in an unfortunate tangle 30 feet off the ground in our first attempt at bear-bagging (and you know what? I learned something that morning!). They asked us what our packs weigh (mine around 32 and Brian's around 38 with four days of food) and they said we seem "pretty dialed in" on pack weight, which made us happy.

At Neels Gap, there are three options for lodging: camping, a hostel, or cabins. Camping was out of the question given how cold and wet we were, and were trying to decide where to stay when we happened upon some trail magic. Trail magic is a random act of kindness from a stranger, or trail angels, that happens frequently on the AT. It often comes in the form of a cooler of cold Gatorade on a hot day, a free ride into town, or a hot meal somewhere you weren't expecting it. Today, it came in the form of Finn (fellow hiker) putting our cabin on his tab. So here we are, in a cabin eating frozen pizzas with a roaring fire (almost, Brian is working on it), showered and dry and very grateful for it. Thank you Finn!

We've actually been fortunate to receive quite a bit of trail magic, even before our hike began. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has helped us get here. To name a few:
Jacob – for gear advice, dropboxing me 600 songs, and lower body workouts
Robin and Sonali – for sending me off in style FRHG team – for the total domination base layer and taking care of business for the next 1.5 months
TZ – for a ride to the airport!
Anne/the Marshalls – for sharing their home, an amazing last steak supper, and a personal send-off Chicago crew – for all the support and the an amazing last weekend goodbye party full of all the things we love Parents – for accepting this, helping us move, and making a trip to Chicago to say goodbye
Jenna – for all of the support and sending ridiculous childhood photos to Robin
Adam and Grace – for gear advice and coaching!
Rachel, Tom, and Luke – for the books and the bear mace. We just passed our first "bear canister required" country safely!
Nate – for headlamps, water bladders, and hopefully companionship in Maine in September!
Tiffany, Robin, Sonali, and Jacob – for picking up my workload and dominating the last month of FRHG without me
Karen, Rachel, and Brandon – for coming over at 9 pm, straight from the airport, with a cold/flu, to say goodbye!

And thanks to everyone else who we didn't name. We feel so lucky that we have the support to do something like this.

- Bearcub (Kelly's trail name after "hibernating" 10 - 12 hours every night and wearing head to toe black rain gear for three days)