April 25th

Well, we just completed another successful Appalachian Trail hike.....376 miles this time from northern Virginia through West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania to the New Jersey line!  Only 700 miles left to complete the 2,184 (currently) miles of the AT.

Everybody always asks, "What's your favorite part?"  And it's always hard to find the answer because it's all great.  So, our new answer that we came up with during the last week on the trail is "right now."  Because it's all so wonderful, every part is our favorite....the knife-edge ridgelines, the flat single track trail, the straight ups and downs, rhododendrons and mountain laurel, passing through towns, crossing state lines, meeting other hikers whether they are out for a few hours or a few months, connecting with people in town, trying to out run the storms, walking in the rain, the numerous panoramic vistas, the fog, the sunny days, the hot days and chilly mornings, the sunrises and sunsets, the blisters, the sore muscles, the calluses, the poison ivy (ok maybe not that so much), the flowers, the trees, the critters, the springs and creeks, the most pure drinking water ever ingested, the dirt, the dirty everything, the silence, the often seemingly endless time to think and ponder things, the conversations around the campfires and picnic tables, feeling amazingly strong and most of all the repetitive daily walking while carrying everything you need to survive on your back!  What the act of walking everyday, all day, does for your soul is indescribable.  I know why people walk this trail and other similar trails more than once and why it seems to change lives.   People that have done it crave it, the lifestyle, and the feeling it brings, and they dream about it until they can make it happen again.

We met some wonderful people on the trail over the last month.  All of us come from such different lives but we all share one common past time....hiking.  We met teachers, painters, a windmill technician, a semi-professional skier, retired folks, families, and many more people that we never inquired about their occupations.  We had a couple of experiences that blew us away. 

One day we met this lady and her chocolate lab on the trail.   We enjoyed great conversation with her and had an awesome time playing with the coolest dog we met on the trail.  After a half hour or more of hanging out on the trail we hiked off in opposite directions.  A few hours later, we were greatly surprised when we ran into her again!  She came back for a picture of us and handed us a notecard when instructions to open it later at camp.  Later finally came and she had written us the sweetest note and gave us some cash to buy burgers in town the next day on her and Grizz, the dog!  What an amazing surprise!  So, of course, we did just that the very next day in Duncannon, PA.  When we got to the famous burger place in town, the Doyle Hotel, we decided to stay the night because it was about 5:30 when we finally sat down to eat after doing laundry.  While enjoying the burgers we met and chatted with another local couple about our experiences on the trail.  Without knowing it, when the couple left they made a little donation towards our tab also which almost covered our room! The magic of human beings and the trail and so humbling.  I have thought a lot about why people do those types of things and have come to the conclusion that they too want to be a part of the journey somehow and to help make the memories.  Well, they sure have and we are so blown away by their generosity that I can't wait to pass it along and do the same thing for someone else.

The other gift of trail magic that we received during the month started about two weeks ago.  We met a fellow hiker named Gus at a shelter one night.  There was a family there as well and we all had a great time hanging out and chatting.  Gus told us the next morning that if we did indeed make it to the Delaware Water Gap at the end of the month to call him and he would take us to get a rental car for getting back to TN.  So, a few days before our month's hike came to an end, we called Gus, and sure enough he was going to be able to give us a ride.  Well, he did way more than give us a ride.  He took us back to his parent's house and they fed us the most wonderful meal!  It was like Thanksgiving....his mom roasted a whole chicken, fixed mashed potatoes and gravy, carrots and biscuits!  Then, ice cream for dessert!  We were able to take showers there, which were fantastic after spending the last day walking in the rain, and we had a real bed to sleep in that night.  Gus' dad found us a place ten minutes away to rent a car, then they loaded us up with drinks, fruit, sandwiches, and homemade mac-n-cheese for the long ride back to TN.  I thought you only found hospitality like that in the south!  It was a real treat meeting Gus and his family and we hope to be able to re-pay the hospitality in Alaska someday.  Well, we can do everything but the shower part!