Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Just over 5 weeks to go!

Last week with the family here, we took off from trail planning. It was a very welcome break. I didn't wake up in the middle of the night running over my to-do list in my head. Instead I just woke in the middle of the night in a pool of sweat because my parents get a little trigger-happy with the thermostat. Then I woke again at the wee hours of the morning when my nephew was ready to start his day. For the record, he doesn't have an inside voice.

Anyways, back to trail planning and bouts of insomnia due to self-induced anxiety. The next big thing is our yard sale this Saturday. It amazing how much stuff one (or two in our case) can accumulate. We've lived in the same apartment for 3 years, 9 months, which is a record for us. We are way overdue for purging!

In other trail planning news, we did another grocery run for six months of trail supplies (many more to come), bought our flight back up to NH, packed some more and tomorrow I hope to finalize our health insurance. We are starting to say goodbyes and had a few get togethers this week. One of them was with J's Rec Committee, who have really become more than the best volunteers in the world, but our friends and family here in NH. We will miss them, but know we will stay in touch. The cake pictured above was courtesy of them, complete with a real picture of the White Mountains.

Wish us luck to make millions at our yard sale and to get rid of all our furniture!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spring (not really) Vacay

A few months ago, my dad suggested we (us, my parents, my sister's family) take a vacation before J & I hit the trail. So we (I) planned it all out to coincide with the kids' spring break and to take place up in the White Mountains of NH. My sister kept saying, "why can't we go somewhere south and warm?" I assured her that you never know what you're going to get with NH weather ... this time last year, it was in the 70s.

Well, we saw weather of all types this week, except for temps in the 70s. Snow, hail, thunder, lightening, rain, mostly lingering around the 40s all week. I do believe Mother Nature is having a mid-life crisis, but I digress.We stayed at the Mt. Washington Forest Cottage Townhomes and got to enjoy all the amenities at the Mt. Washington Resort. The accommodations were pretty fabulous. I love that hotel and the history behind it. Built in 1902, it was THE hotel back in the day.We did get outside when we could, but given the weather and the off season in NH, we had to get creative in terms of activities.

So we swam a lot (indoor and OUTDOOR - heated of course).We took a safari ride through the mountains.We took a sweet Volvo S60 out for a 50-mile test drive (thanks Volvo for saving us gas to get to dinner!).We ate some top-notch food, drank lots of local beers and overpriced martinis.
We got massages (I could go for one of these every week!).

We hunted for ghosts in the hotel. Room 314 is the Princess's room. She inherited the hotel when her husband died and stayed there for over 40 years. Do you see a ghost in the picture??? I don't, but my nephew sure looks possessed!
We played raquetball, cards and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves overall. I had no doubt we would, but you never know what's going to happen when family shares living space.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Gear, Gear and More Gear!

With 7 weeks until trail time, we are up to our eyeballs in gear for the trail. Buying, sorting and packing. We already owned enough gear to open our own little shop, but of course, we bought more toys for the trail. We got a number of gift cards to REI for Christmas and beyond, so it was fun to shop! We even paid full price for a few items!!! That's so unlike us.
Our biggest purchase was a new tent. We have owned and used the Eureka Zeus 2P backpacking tent since 2004ish. J probably used it over 75 times in Alaska alone. As much as this tent has been stellar, it was time to upgrade. The main factors were weight and having 2 doors/vestibules. We were torn between Big Agnes Copper Spur 2P and Nemo Obi 2P, but Nemo ultimately made it easy for us because they never released the tent in stores near us (even though their manufacturing site is in Nashua), so we couldn't set it up and compare it next to the Copper Spur.

We are now proud owners of the Copper Spur. So I present to you, our home for the next 6 months:If the gear hasn't taken over our home, then the food supplies are trying. We have been buying our backpacker meals, snacks and lunches little by little, to soften the blow of spending so much at one time. Anyways, the other day at soccer, a friend mentioned he might have some "extra" meals lying around. The next day, he gave us 50 backpacker meals! Does anyone know how to say thank you in every language? Because that's the kind of thanks we owe this guy.If that's not enough, he also gave us a Jetboil stove, a few fuel canisters and some other extras. The stove we planned to bring was the Optimus Crux stove. It's the stove we've had since 2004ish and love and cherish. But after trying the Jetboil, we are changed people.

A million thanks to all our "trail angels" who either gave us gift cards or hooked us up with gear, discounts and advice. It all makes the journey that much easier.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

You've Got Mail!

Lots of people are asking us, "can I/we send you something on the trail?" The answer is, yes you can, pleaseandthankyou!! We (translation, I) carefully laid out specific towns where we will plan to pick up packages versus towns where we shop and resupply at the local grocer. Here are some guidelines if you plan to send us anything on the trail.

* Let us know if you mail us something. The post offices get a lot of mail for thru hikers and sometimes they will ask how many packages we are expecting and the size to help them weed through.
* Think light, or something we will eat quickly
* Double bag any home-baked goodies … the post offices are not free of critters (just like the shelters!)
* Please don’t send us empty candy wrappers or empty coke bottles. We will only send our dirty socks back to you.
* I will update our approximate arrival date as we go along (my very conservative estimates had us finishing Jan. 10 – YIKES!), but pay attention also to our mileage and how close we are to different mail drops
* Address the packages as follows
Justin or Patrice 
General Delivery
City/State/Zip Code
Please hold for SoBo Thru Hiker
ETA (if you have that info)

Justin or Patrice
c/o Business Name
City/State/Zip Code
Please hold for SoBo Thru Hiker
ETA (if you have that info)



Mail drop to Hostel

Monson, ME

C/O Shaw’s Lodging
PO Box 72
17 Pleasant Street
Monson, ME
Mail drop to Post Office

Caratunk, ME

General Delivery Caratunk, ME
Please hold for SoBo Thru Hiker
Resupply at IGA and outfitter
Rangley, ME
Resupply at WalMart & outfitter
Gorham, NH
Mail drop at Pinkham Notch Visitors Center

Pinkham Notch, NH

AMC Pinkham Notch Visitors Center
C/O Front Desk
N.H. 16
Gorham, NH 03581
Resupply (if needed)
Woodstock/Lincoln, NH
(Friend lives here)
Mail drop at Post Office

Glencliff, NH

General Delivery
Glencliff, NH
Please hold for SoBo Thru Hiker
Paul & Kristen’s House
Lebanon, NH
Resupply at Food Coop, Price Chopper, Hannaford
Rutland, VT
Resupply at EMS, Shaw’s
Manchester Center, VT
Resupply at Big Y or Price Chopper
North Adams, MA
Resupply at Big Y or Price Chopper
Great Barrington, MA
Kent, CT
Mail drop at Post Office; Also, Christine lives a few miles away

Ft. Montgomery, NY

General Delivery
Ft. Montgomery, NY
Please hold for SoBo Thru Hiker
Mail drop to Frankie D’s House (if needed)

Frankie D’s House

Highland Lakes, NJ
Mama & Papa K’s
Landing, NJ – will pick us up at Delaware Water Gap
Mail drop at Post Office (Tim & Jen also live fairly close)

Port Clinton, PA

General Delivery
Port Clinton, PA
Please hold for SoBo Thru Hiker
Resupply at grocery & outfitter
Duncannon, PA
Resupply at grocer
Boiling Springs, PA
Resupply at Food Lion
Blue Ridge Summit/Waynesboro, PA
Mail drop at Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Harpers Ferry, WV

PO Box 807
799 Washington Street
Harpers Ferry, WV
Please hold for SoBo Thru Hiker
Resupply at Food Lion
Front Royal, VA
Resupply at Elkwallow Wayside
Shenandoah National Park
Resupply at Big Meadows Wayside
Resupply at Loft Mountain Wayside
Resupply at Kroger, outfitter
Waynesboro, VA
Resupply at Food Lion
Buena Vista, VA
Resupply at Kroger, outfitter
US 220/I-81 Interchange
Resupply at Food Lion
Pearisburg, VA
Mail drop at restaurant

Atkins, VA

c/o The Barn Restaurant
7412 Lee Highway
Rural Retreat, VA 24368
Please hold for SoBo Thru Hiker
Resupply at outfitters, Food City
Damascus, VA
Resupply at grocer
Kincora Hiking Hostel – Bob Peoples will shuttle into town
Resupply at outfitter
Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky Hostel & Outfitters
Erwin, TN
Resupply at outfitter, pick up GSMNP permit
Hot Springs, NC
Mail drop at hostel

Fontana Dam, NC

c/o The Hike Inn

3204 Fontana Road
Fontana Dam, NC
Please hold for SoBo Thru Hiker
Resupply at NOC

US 19/Nantahala Outdoor Center, NC

Resupply at Walasi-Yi Center

Neels Gap, GA

Springer Mountain

Amicalola Falls State Park - Georgia


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cross Training

We did some major spring cleaning through our belongings this weekend to prepare for the arduous task of packing up our lives and dispersing it to several locations. But, we couldn't let the weekend go by without getting outside and enjoying the sunshine and spring weather (finally).

So we went biking with Paul & Kristen (our Upper Valley friends). Not just a leisurely ride ... 18 miles of up, up, up, up, down, up, up, up, down, up, up, up, then dooooooown. I was definitely bringing up the rear of the group, but it felt so good to be out there.The cool thing was that we passed one of the many spots where the AT crosses in Lebanon/Hanover/Lyme. This will most likely be the spot where Paul and Kristen pick us up for a shower, resupply and day off when we come through the area. Hopefully there will NO snow on the trail when we come through, unlike there is now.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Local Celebrity Status for a Day

The town is talking ... here's an article in our local newspaper about J's departure.

Something I haven't mentioned on the blog is that since J gave his notice, there's talk about changing his position, cutting the hours. J does not want to see that happen. He thought by giving so much notice, they could quickly get a replacement in who could pick up where he left off. But, the town hasn't even posted for his position yet. Boo.

UPDATE: They decided at Monday night's meeting to keep the position at 40 hours. Phew!!

Monday, April 4, 2011


Lots of questions coming in about our big adventure, so I put together a trail FAQ page. It's long, but very informative. I can always add to it, so if there is something that needs explaining, let us know! Enjoy your education!

What are you doing?

We are attempting to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (AT) Southbound (SB). This means we will attempt to hike 2,181 miles from Maine to Georgia in one continuous trip.

Do people really do this?

Nearly 2,000 people set out to thru hike the AT every year. About 200 people end their hike within the first 30 miles. Half stop halfway. And about 25-30% complete the entire thru hike. As of November 2010, 11,000 hikers have completed the trail since 1936.


I can remember J mentioning the AT to me on our second date (almost 9 years ago). We were talking about our big dreams in life and he had mentioned the idea of thru hiking the AT. I have to admit, I had no idea what the AT was and what thru hiking meant. I did know at that time that I wanted to do something big like that in my life. We talked about it on and off over the years and seriously considered doing it as our honeymoon after we got married. But, life just got in the way. For the past 3 years, we have had it in our mind that we would make our dream a reality, so we have worked hard to pay off debt and prepare ourselves financially. When I got laid off in 2010, we re-evaluated and realized we could still move forward. The fact that full-time employment was not coming my way anytime soon really sealed the deal. We want to live life and follow our dreams while we can! So here we are, in 2011, ready to conquer the AT.

I guess the other thing to say is that J and I love being outdoors. Most people would never consider doing the AT simply because they can't stand the idea of sleeping outside for one night, let alone 150 nights. Nor the idea of not showering. Or not watching TV. Etc., etc., etc. On average, Americans only walk 1.3 miles in a week. For us, being in nature is where we are happiest. Here is an opportunity to challenge ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally and grow tremendously, individually and as a couple.

"What a joy it is to feel the soft, springy Earth under my feet once more,

to follow grassy roads that lead to ferny brooks where I can bathe my fingers in a cataract of rippling notes,

or to clamber over a stone wall into green fields that tumble and roll and climb in riotous gladness!"

Helen Keller, 1880-1968

Why Southbound (SoBo)?

The trail runs from Georgia to Maine and the majority of people hike Northbound (NB). In 2009, 1,425 set out to hike from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Katahdin, Maine. A total of 708 made it halfway and 367 finished (26%). In contrast, 252 people set out to hike from Katahdin, Maine, to Springer Mountain, Georgia. A total of 124 made it halfway and 56 finished (22%). Clearly, the NB route is more popular. But back in 2005, when we bought and watched a 7-hour documentary "How to hike the Appalachian Trail," I couldn't tell why. You can argue both ways. All I know is I really loathed the idea of starting among 1,000 other people. Plus, I always liked being different. And J will go along with just about anything, so it was easy to convince him.

What will you eat?

I think the question is what won't we eat? Food will be the thing we think, talk and dream about the most. We will need to eat between 5,000 to 6,000 calories daily to replenish the calories lost from all the hiking. That is equivalent to 26+ snickers, 2.5 jars of peanut butter and 12 Big Macs. Get in my belly!!!!

Of course, we can only carry certain foods. No steaks. No fresh fruit. Also think lightweight. We will probably carry between 4 and 10 days of food, depending on when we will reach our next resupply town. We will pick up in towns along the way and mail ourselves packages of food supplies (like backpacker meals). I've mentioned that we are a big fan of those freeze-dried backpacker meals. So many calories and they weigh 12-15 ounces. In comparison, a single jar of peanut butter, which is another great source of protein and calories, weighs 1 pound.

The backpacker meals will mostly be for dinner every night, with a few ramen thrown in there. There are several varieties, although J can't eat rice, so we steer clear of those. Breakfast will be a combination of mini bagels (when we come fresh off a resupply), the dreaded and boring oatmeal, and granola/energy bars. Lunch will be peanut butter, tuna, pepperoni, cheese, all with tortillas when we can. And tons of snacks through the day! Some suggested ways to increase calories have been to add precooked bacon, pepperoni, sausage & olive oil to any meals when possible. I guess we'll see as we go along.

Where will you shower?

Running water? What's that? Hahaha. I think it's fair to say we'll probably shower once a week, but it could be more or less, depending of when we get to a town or pass a modern camp.

Where will you, umm, use the bathroom?

Dig a hole, drop a load.

There are actually outhouses more than you would think. But it's best to use those for #2. When using the wilderness, leave no trace principles ask that you pee on a rock and deposit human waste 6 inches deep, and of course away from water sources, camp and trails.

Where will you sleep?

The AT has a number of shelters along the route. While they are great, the downfalls to the shelters include mice, crowds from other hikers and a lack of privacy. But some people rely on shelters for their whole journey and that is fine. We will definitely stay in shelters here and there, but will be carrying a 2-person tent. And, we will stay in hostels/hotels occasionally, as well as friends houses along the way.

Are you carrying a gun?


#1 It's too much weight

#2 It's illegal to carry a weapon in national parks (we go through 2 NPs) and some states also have strict regulations.

#3 The trail is relatively safe. There have been less than 2 violent crimes every 10 years. Yes, there have been a few murders. And as for bears, if you practice good wilderness safety, you should be okay.

Have you read Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods?"

Yes, we both read it years ago ... and pretty much hated it. We agree Bill Bryson is a very good writer and offers a comedic look at the AT. But, it bothers us both that he set out to hike and was so unprepared and of course didn't finish it. There are FAR better AT books out there, in our opinion. If you want to get a glimpse of trail life, read Jeff Alt's "A Walk for Sunshine," "Blind Courage" by Bill Irwin, or "Barefoot Sisters: Southbound" or "Barefoot Sisters Walking Home," by Susan and Lucy Letcher.

Will you keep up the blog?

For schnizels! It was my whole purpose in getting an iPhone. I'm a writer by nature, so there's no way we could go on an adventure like this and not write about it. And I've been sharing our whole life with all of you via the blog for the past 3.5 years, so why stop now?!

How can we help you?

Beside prayers for our health, safety and sanity, we would love to hear from you! Thanks to the iPhone and towns with public computers, we will have pretty good communication (for being in the wilderness). Whether it's an occasional voice mail, e-mail message or comment on the blog. Of course, we may not be able to get back to you, or at least not for awhile, but communication will be much appreciated. Remember, we will be spending every waking (and sleeping) moment together for 5-6 months, need I say more ... Additionally, you can certainly send us goodies on the trail. Please check the mail drop page for more info on that! But don't feel obligated to do any of this; occasional thoughts and prayers are enough.

By the way, any help given on the trail is fondly called "trail magic" and the people who administer it "trail angels."

Hey, I think I live near this AT, do you think we can meet up?

Definitely! Remember what I said about having other human contact besides each other?? We go through many towns and we may very well walk right by your house! The caveat is that it will be very difficult to predict when we will be somewhere. Plans could change in a matter of a day. So if you are flexible and want to try to visit us on the trail, follow the blog and get in touch.

We already have lots of people who live near the trail and are planning to meet up and are so excited. This includes our friends in NH, Christine in NY, Janice & kids in CT, Frankie D in NJ, Todd S in NJ, my parents in NJ, Tim & Jen in PA, Pat & Bri on VA state line, Kayt & Chris on VA state line and the Bengtsons in VA/NC. Anyone else?

Who will pay your bills and how can you afford to pay for this?

We are taking applications for friends/family who want to pay our bills while we are on the trail ... JUST KIDDING! We have it all planned out. The 5-6 months on the trail will actually only cost between $2,000-$6,000 for supplies, lodging, etc. But we have been planning for a long time to build a savings to cover our bills, pay for the trip and still have a nest egg for when we return to reality and are jobless. Although most of our bills are automated, we have elected Mama F to handle anything that comes up.

Overall, we are not worried about our financial recovery post-trail. We are young and we will survive. Maybe the economy will be better, maybe it won't. The fact of the matter is there will be no social security when we get old and gray, so we will be working until the day we die. Might as well live life to the fullest now!

What will you do with all your stuff?

Anyone need anything? We are selling most of our furniture (yes Beth, we are finally getting rid of your couches!) and big items. We are selling our little car, but keeping our SUV. But the rest of our stuff will be stored in various locations, mostly in Danville, VA, where we still own a house. Post-trail plans are still up in the air, but we do know Danville will be our "base camp."

Don't you have a cat?

We strongly considered the possibility of having Mr. McKinley be the first cat to thru hike the AT, but we couldn't teach him how to dig a hole to drop his load and with pack in, pack out principles, there's no way we're carrying his poop. Instead, my parents have graciously accepted our demand that they adopt him temporarily. He may come back wired on caffeine and 10 lbs heavier, but we know he will be loved and won't even miss us. We will definitely miss McKinley the most on the trail!


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Test blog from iPhone

Feed me!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Saturday, April 2, 2011

9 Weeks until the AT!

I am switching up these weekly posts from week 43 of unemployment to 9 weeks until the AT because the focus has now shifted! Holy cannoli, 9 weeks to go!!!!

What a big week.

As I said, J gave his notice, which was both sad, exciting and scary.

We are (translation, I am) making progress on trail plans. Misti has helped me tremendously on the mail drops, which has been the bane of my existence the last few weeks. I will be getting that information up on the blog soon enough. The next step will be to buy all the food and fill them, but we probably won't do that until the end of April.

I purchased my iPhone! I mentioned awhile ago that I was waiting until Verizon got the iPhone and when they did, I started saving up my freelancing money for it. I am not a gadget person. J is DEFINITELY not a gadget person (in fact, last time he upgraded his phone, he asked for a phone that would just make phone calls. They make one of those). But anyways, I wanted the iPhone for blogging on the trail. Now if I could just figure out what the hell an app is and how to use my phone ... please refrain from calling me during the next few days, or weeks.

We had our first of two yard sales today (indoors) in an effort to pare down our belongings. It was through J's work and there were about 50 people standing outside the doors waiting for it to open. We did VERY well! Our outdoor yard sale is April 30.

I finally got a rejection letter from the place I interviewed twice. I was not bothered about it; I didn't want to get an offer that I would turn down. It's a great company and I did try my best in the interviews, but I was hoping fate would do its job. And it did. Who knows what the future will bring with this company?

I am still waiting to hear back from that Medicare writing contract job. They called on Monday to ask a few more questions and made it sound like I had it in the bag. I e-mailed them yesterday to check in and didn't hear back, so now I'm not so sure. I still have my other mini work projects that keep me busy from week to week, but I still want this for the experience and new connection.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mother Nature's April Fool's Joke

Here is our backyard on Thursday.
Here is our backyard on Friday.It is spring!