March 25

Week one.  It'll be interesting, it always is.  We are hitting the trail this morning in Shenandoah NP.  We are starting off kind of slow for the first week for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost,  we were a little too ambitious in 2008 when we started the trail and were quickly humbled by the immensity of our endeavor.  Second of all, since we will be hiking through the national park we are only allowed to stay in the shelters.  Meaning we can't just camp anywhere we want after doing how many ever miles.  All the shelters except for one in Shenandoah are spaced about 8 to 10 miles apart, so our options are to do 8-10 miles a day or 16-20 miles a day.  Probably needless to say, we are going for the first option, 8-10 miles a day.  In 2008 we learned very quickly in the first week that we weren't going to make the mileages we had planned or hoped for right off the bat.  Therefore, we'll take it slow the first week and try not to hurt ourselves too much!  Hamburger feet will be here sooner or later...that's where your feet literally feel like ground up burger meat!  We are starting out carrying six days worth of food because we won't be able to resupply until next weekend when we exit the park and head into Front Royal, VA.  Andrew's parents dropped us off this weekend and are actually meeting us in Front Royal to hang out for a night next weekend.  During our first trip on the AT they mailed us all of our pre-bought and pre-packaged food drops, but this time they are personally delivering them!  Fun, fun!  Other things in our packs:  tent, rain-fly, poles and stakes (each of us having two of those items), sleeping bag, sleeping pad, clothing (because of the time of year we are planning on hiking in shorts and a t-shirt, but we are carrying a light smartwool long sleeve shirt, synthetic puffy jacket (mainly for sleeping in if the temps drop real low), smartwool long johns, zip-off hiking pants, rain pants, and a rain jacket), light gloves and hat, bandana (mulit-use item), baseball cap, water filter, jetboil stove, fuel, cook pot, mug, utensil, very little toiletries, first aid kit, toilet paper and hand-sanitizer, knife, fire starters and matches, cell phone and ipod with battery charger, water bottle and water bladder, and camp shoes (its so nice to have those at the end of the day).  We haven't weighed our packs, but I'd say they weigh between 35-40 pounds with food but without water.  The temps have been in the 70s and 80s in TN and they dropped to the low 50s today as we entered VA.  Plus, there is a 60% chance of thunderstorms for today as we start this morning.  Good times ahead!

The Long, Green Tunnel...

Finally, after four years, we are going back to the Appalachian Trail.  The Appalachian Trail, known to many as the AT or simply The Trail, is a wilderness footpath traversing the backbone of the Appalachian Mountains that stretches ~2,175 miles through 14 states.  In 2008 we completed 1,008 miles, 800 miles north from Springer Mt., GA, to Shenandoah NP, VA, then we caught a Greyhound Bus to Maine and hiked 200 miles south from Mt. Katahdin.  So, this weekend (March 25) we are starting in Shenandoah NP, where we left off at the southern end, and will hike as far north as we can in four weeks.  Although the AT might literally wind through our roots in TN, it will touch the roots of any human being that gives it the opportunity. John Muir could not have said it better himself, "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike." 

We will be carrying our trusty Spot beacon for fun purposes as well as practical security reasons, so you can check out our location by clicking on the "Find A+J" link in the upper right column of this blog.  And, I will try to post updates here once a week when we stop for showers and to resupply.

St. Patty's Day

It's been a while since we've spent a St.Patty's Day in Tennessee.  And it was great to spend it with the family!  We were in Cookeville with Andrew's parents, and his sister and kids joined us from Lexington.  We started the day with green long johns for breakfast then went down to the hollar to look for wildflowers and Burgess Falls State Park for a picnic lunch.

Crossing the creek with Uncle Andrew
Jackson had a great time playing with rocks and hanging with Grammy and mommy.
Probably needless to say, but Boss had a BLAST!  Sticks and warm water....too much fun!
Rock climbing 101 with Uncle Andrew
Plus a little chill time.

Winter Camping in Denali

After four summers and one winter we finally spent our first night backcountry camping in Denali NP.  We have never been able to in the past because of the Boss dog, which is ok because there are plenty of other places to hike and camp, but it's interesting that our first time was in the winter.  The park road is not plowed in the winter and there are no motorized machines allowed, so the only way to travel is on snowshoes, skis, or by dog team.  The park service still patrols the park by dog team which I think is very cool.  So, after leaving Boss with the cousins for a couple of days we set off on foot with snowshoes and had a humble experience of winter camping in Denali NP.  All went well, even the torturing thigh deep sugar snow, until day two when Andrew turned around and pointed out that one side of my nose was white (the first stage of frostbite!).  We headed back to camp and my nose returned to the normal red color of cold, wind burned skin.  Not long after that we decided the weather wasn't in our favor and hiked back to the car.  Here's a few pictures we took while in the park.

The wind scoured park road that we hiked in on until we came to the drainage that we wanted to follow up to the ridge.

 Stopping for a snack while hiking up a ridge.  The temp was barely below zero with a steady 15 mph wind and gusts up to 30 mph bringing the wind chill to nearly minus thirty degrees!

Me, on the way out coming down the trail we broke up to our campsite.

"The Psycho Machine"

Andrew was recently given a 1985 Tundra snow machine (almost as old as he is) that has been given the nickname "the psycho machine".  The nickname was given to it because the throttle button would occasionally get jammed causing the machine to accelerate when you tried to stop it, but before Andrew adopted it he replaced the old throttle cable with a new one solving the problem.  In order to retrieve the machine we had to make a trip to the very small, remote community of Goldking which was nothing but pure fun for us!  We flew out to Goldking which is on the northwestern edge of the Alaska Range, and rode the snow machine 50 miles out to the highway where our truck and trailer was parked. It is somewhere we have wanted to visit for some time now.  And actually, Andrew passed through there a few weeks ago on his bush trip, but it wasn't until recently that we both got to spend a couple of days in the area.  The good friend of ours that gave Andrew the "psycho machine" has a cabin out there and that's where we stayed for a couple of nights.  Amazingly we did not take any pictures while we were there, only a few videos which are too big for the blog.  But, here they are...Andrew and his "psycho machine!"