Monday, May 28, 2012

By The Numbers: An AT Quiz

We thought it might be fun for our readers to participate in a little quiz about our AT journey. Match the question numbers to the letter of the correct answer, and submit your answers by commenting on this post. We'll reveal the answers and the winner later. The grand prize will be pride and a brief distraction from your work day.

1) Roughly how many white blazes mark the AT from Georgia to Maine?
2) How many miles have we hiked on the AT at the time of this post?
3) How many states have we hiked in at the time of this post?
4) How many items have we accidentally dropped over the side of a mountain?
5) How many bobcats have we seen?
6) How many snakes have we seen?
7) How many snakes have we seen in the process of eating something alive?
8) How many wild boar have we seen?
9) How many days did it take to complete the fastest through hike on record? The real answer includes a decimal, but we rounded to the nearest day.
10) How many states does the AT go through?
11) How many times between the two of us have we fallen while hiking? Only complete falls count. If we catch ourselves with our hands and our butts don't touch the ground then that doesn't count. Still embarrassing, but it doesn't count.
12) What's the highest elevation on the AT? Hint: We've been there and done that.
13) What is the weight in pounds of 1 liter of water?
14) How many liters of water do we carry combined?
15) How many bear ropes have gone through either by misplacing or destroying them? This includes the bear rope we're currently using.
16) How many combined pounds of body weight have we lost since the start of our hike?
17) At the time of this post, how many days have we been hiking?

A) 0
B) 4
C) 6,543
D) 56
E) 1
F) 13
G) 14
H) 3
I) 4
J) 1
K) 531
L) 3
M) 2
N) 2.2
O) 165,000
P) 47
Q) 10

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Day in Pictures

View climbing Little Hump Mountain

Snack break at Jones Falls

We really enjoyed the several miles where the trail followed the river

View from our lunch spot

The sky cleared coming down Roan Mountain

We met some fun guys!

Just a couple of soaking wet hikers

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Stench of Guy Line

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy keeps records of the percentage of thru-hikers that drop off the trail by certain points. For example, about 50% of north-bounders drop off by Harpers Ferry, WV about 1,000 miles into the trail. If the ATC kept similar statistics on A.T. blog readership, I'm guessing that most blogs would lose at least 50% of readers at the first post that spends an entire paragraph describing body odor.

Body odor and less than stellar hygiene are inevitable parts of the trail, but they can become a real issue when hiking with a partner. I was not fully aware of the gravity of the issue until Bearcub subtly broached the subject with her comment, "You smell like a Burger King." Close, but not quite. Days later she got more accurate with "You smell like an onion." Very close, but still not quite. Let's put it this way, if scientists genetically engineered a giant onion that could live and work among humans, and if that onion were to work a 12 hour shift in a Burger King kitchen on the hottest day in August with no air conditioning, him and I may be in the same range of stink.

To those of you that are still reading, there's no need to worry. I took Bearcub's constructive criticism to heart and greatly improved my trail hygiene. It's a miracle what a baby wipe bath and some baby powder can do. The only bad part is now that I'm stench-free, I can smell how bad every other hiker smells. If only they had a Bearcub of their own to tell them what's what.

- Guy Line

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Holiday Inn-firmary 2: The Revenge of the A.T.

Well, the good news is that Bearcub's knees haven't been bothering her much at all these days. The bad news is that she got some sort of a bug on the trail and got pretty sick a few days ago. We took a zero day at a shelter on the trail so that she could recover a bit, but we concluded after one day off that we still needed more recovery time. Not only was Bearcub still recuperating, but I was starting to feel a little under the weather myself. We thought it would be best to spend some additional recovery time in a nice hotel room watching trashy television, so here we are again at another Holiday Inn Express. This time in Erwin, TN.

Can't nobody hold Bearcub down.
After two days doing as little as possible, and more episodes of Sex and the City and What Not To Wear than I care to admit to, it seems Bearcub is getting back to her old self. We are heading back to the trail today. Again, I have to give Bearcub props for her patience and guts. It's absolutely no fun to be that sick when you're outside in the middle of the woods, and she was a trooper as usual.

As we've mentioned in prior posts, we've been incredibly impressed with the kindness of strangers on the trail, and the interesting people that we've met. Many hikers stopped by the shelter that we "zeroed" at and asked if there was anything they could do to help us. They offered medicine, asked if they could fetch us more water, and a hiker named Bumpo made Bearcub some tea. Bumpo will be completing his final section of the trail this year, which is quite an accomplishment. As it turns out, he's also a published author. I was struck by the fact that a guy who spends his time consulting for boards of executives of some of the world's largest companies, was sitting here sharing a cup of tea with someone he didn't even know in the middle of the woods. It's amazing to meet so many different people from all different walks of life sharing a common experience, and doing whatever they can to help each other.

- Guy Line

PS - Just in case you feel like these posts are too touchy feely and you want to hear more about the gritty details of the trail, stay tuned for an entire post dedicated to how bad I smell.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Trail Magical Day

On our way back to the trail out of Gatlinburg, TN, we experienced some very special trail magic that we thought deserved its own post.  So many people have shown us random acts of kindness by taking time out of their schedules and money out of their pockets.  The culture on the trail is truly amazing and we are both inspired to pay it forward.

It all started at the top of Clingman's Dome, the highest point on the AT, where we planned to get a shuttle into Gatlinburg to resupply.  Unfortunately, the shuttle was a trail rumor and a ranger at Clingman's let us know that if we needed a ride, he'd get us to Gatlinburg when his shift ended at 5 (a few hours away).  We were feeling hot, tired, and hungry, when Keith and Sandra popped into the conversation and offered us a ride into Gatlinburg out of the goodness of their hearts.  They dropped us off with a gift card for dinner and requested that we read Romans 16:16 and call them from Katahdin, ME when we finish.  Keith and Sandra - we read Romans 16:16 and we have your number saved for Maine. 

The next day at breakfast in the hotel (free tiny, lightweight packets of jelly.....score huge for hikers!), we ran into Ten Minutes (now goes by "Minutes"), who had some interesting news.  A few weeks ago after our shakedown, Brian mailed a package to his parents with some of the things we wanted to cut from our packs, including his Kindle.  I'm not sure what was going on at UPS that day, but the package never made it to Brian's parents, and after several phone calls, Tony learned that UPS had used a duplicate tracking number and didn't know where the package was, but just that it had been signed for somewhere in Baltimore!  But two weeks later at breakfast, Minutes tells us that someone named Angel found our package and has been looking for us in an AT Facebook group to get us the package back.  Now, thanks to a complete stranger, we have our package waiting for us in Erwin, Tennessee, about a week's hike away.  It may be a blessing in disguise, because Brian has decided he might want that Kindle along after all.

Noah's Ark Widow's Ministry - trail magicians!
Thanks to Woody and Audrey, we made it halfway up the mountian to get back on the trail . There, we found the Noah's Ark Widow's Ministry camped out in the Newfound Gap parking lot with lunch, cold drinks, comfortable chairs, and hiking food to give thru hikers a boost before heading back up into the Smokies.  We sat and enjoyed lunch with them for about an hour, which completely made our day.  And Woody and Audrey, you should definitely hike the AT one day.  You smoked us with your 14 miles, I think you would make it look easy. 

Then, thanks to the couple from Dauphin Island, Alabama (sorry, we didn't catch your names!), we made it back to Clingman's dome where we left off.  We had been on the trail for about 20 seconds when we ran into Peggy, and the first words out of her mouth were literally, "Are you two thru hikers?  Here, have a soda and a snickers."  So, we embraced our day of gluttony and sat down for a snack.  Talking to Peggy, she mentioned a hiker named Toby Keith who we've been hiking with for a few weeks.  Toby Keith lost his namesake cowboy hat a few weeks ago and has been lamenting it since (we just ran into him the night before in Gatlinburg, and after a few free tastings of moonshine, the talked turned to his lost cowboy hat).  But here's the kicker - Peggy had heard Toby Keith mention losing his hat at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (the NOC) a week earlier, and had found it on the trail day hiking - SHE HAD THE HAT!!  We let her know where Toby Keith was staying in Gatlinburg, and sure enough, a few days later, there he was with his cowboy hat that made its way 70 miles up the trail to find him.  Pretty incredible. 

So, there is such a thing as a free lunch, and there are a lot of people in this world who are open and kind to the strangers they meet.  Once you experience trail magic, you can't help but want to pass it on, which we both plan to.

- Bearcub

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bearcub saw a bearcub!

And no, she wasn't just looking in the mirror. We each saw a real live bearcub in the Smokies, although I must confess that I just saw a black blur and claimed to have seen a bearcub. It was kind of far away and we couldn't get a good picture, but we swear we saw it so just leave us alone already.

We have completed the Smoky Mountain portion of the trail and escaped without experiencing too harsh of weather (aside from a painful hailstorm). The Smokies were absolutely beautiful and we were lucky to have enough clear days to take in the incredible views. We're both holding up pretty well and put in our first big mileage day yesterday (over 19 miles). Bearcub has patiently fought her way through the knee problems like the tough cookie she is, and we're hoping to keep trucking along the NC/TN border for the next couple hundred miles and make our way into Virginia soon.

Beautiful view from Fontana Dam right before the Smokies.
We're hoping to arrive in Damascus, VA in time for a festival called Trail Days which is basically a huge weekend long party in celebration of the trail and hikers. In order to do that we have to stay on a pretty rigorous schedule, but we think we're up for the challenge. We've been out here for exactly 4 weeks and we're starting to get our "trail legs".

There's probably much more we could write about, so hopefully we will start updating the blog more often with highlights from the trip. As for now, we've got 13 miles to hike today so we're off. Our next stop is in Hot Springs, NC so hopefully you'll hear from us in a couple of days. We know you'll be on the edge of your seats until then.

- Guy Line