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What next?

11 Sep

Seeing as this blog is “Thrutrailchicks” and not “ATchicks” it is time to look forward to our next trail adventures!  Planning is already in the works for PCT 2014 (start date at the end of April in Campos, CA) and coming up even sooner the TRT!  The TRT is the Tahoe Rim Trail, a 165-mile trail that loops around Lake Tahoe in eastern California.  Our current start date is mid-October, which promises to be cold but hopefully not snowy.  About 55 miles of the Tahoe Rim trail is part of the Pacific Crest Trail, which will give us a nice taste of what is to come next spring.    It is also a good opportunity to remind our bodies what it feels like to carry packs and climb mountains. 

As much as we would love to say we are keeping in amazing shape and hiking 24/7, that would be… a stretch.  More like working our butts off at the hospital and then enjoying our wine and down time at home.  Most thru-hikers can commiserate about how difficult it is to keep the motivation up post-hike, and we are no exception.  We are hoping to do at least 2-3 of these 2+ week hikes over the next 6 months to keep ourselves on track and ready to do big days come April.  If anyone has any ideas of hikes that fall into this category and are doable winter/spring please let us know! 

 

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Photo Highlights!

30 Jun

Here is a bunch of photo highlights from the whole trail I was finally able to pull off my nicer camera.  Enjoy!

And…Done!

23 Jun

Emily and I both promise longer post-trail posts soon, but we just wanted to let everyone know that we completed the Appalachian Trail on June 22, 2013 at 11:00am surrounded by our families and friends. It was emotional and wonderful and maybe a little bit sad too. Here are a few pics (to be followed by many more!)

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Smokies? Check.

9 Jun

It has been a long, wet week for Lucky and I in Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP/Smokies). We had been anticipating this 72-mile section of trail for many states as Northbounders had recounted their tales of difficulties in the Smokies. Cold temperatures, snow, endless wet days, and lots of climbing combined with the park’s “No Dog” policy made us dread what was coming. So after dropping Georgy off with Lida from Loving Care Kennels (who picked him up at the trail side before entering the park), we headed up into GSMNP. We stayed the first night at Davenport Gap Shelter, which stood out as the only shelter in the park that is still caged. This is suppose to prevent bears from entering the shelter, but ends up just making us humans feels like we are on display in the zoo.

Day 2 we hiked 14.8 miles to Tri-Corner Knob Shelter, the most remote shelter in the park. We enjoyed our only day of sunshine of the week and made it to the full shelter before the evening rains began (which would continue every night the rest of the week). We made our current favorite dinner (Thai peanut pasta) and bedded down in the spacious shelter as our sheltermates kept the fire going in the shelter’s fireplace.

Day 3 was our shortest day of the week, 12.6 miles to the most popular shelter in the park- Icewater Spring Shelter. Being forced to walk shelter to shelter was one of the other frustrating rules of the park. Everyone has to stay at shelters each night and must have a permit for each specific shelter (luckily thru-hikers are exempt from the second part). Since we had a shorter day we decided to “grease the groove”, which involved doing push-ups and planks every hour on the hour to improve our fitness. Though it was tough, it really broke up the day! At Icewater we got to meet some great folks, including a couple of married nurses who gave great career advice. We also met some of the coolest kids ever! Amelia (10 years old), her brother Brody (8 years old) and their friend Porter (also 10 years old) were on a camping trip with their dad’s Jason and Adam. The 5 of them were hiking the 72 miles of the AT in the park and were doing the same mileage as us. These kids were doing 15 miles a day with few complaints and an awesome attitude. They were definitely the most hard-core (as well as the most fun and well-behaved) kids we have met on the trail!

Day 4 we knocked out 15.5 miles, crossing our first two big milestone of the smokies- climbing Clingman’s Dome (the highest point of the AT at 6,643 feet) and having less than 200 miles left! Both were exciting and we were also able to sneak into the shelter minutes before the evening’s deluge of rain began.

Day 5 was our longest day in the park, 17.5 miles to Mollie’s Ridge Shelter. We enjoyed our final lunch with the awesome kids and dads before climbing to the top of Rocky Top and a HUGE milestone- 2,000 miles completed! A photo shoot ensued, along with calls and texts home to share our accomplishment. As usual, the trail made sure we knew our place and rewarded us with an incredible lightening storm and 4 inches of rain in under an hour. Needless to stay we looked like wet rats when we entered the full shelter too late. Thankfully everyone welcomed us to set up our tent in the cooking area and we were able to have a dry night despite the endless rain.

Today was day 6, and we exited the park with glee. We finished the last 10 miles in under 4 hours, leap frogging with a group of Sierra Club members who had been very sweet to us, providing us with morning coffee and even hanging our bear bag in the rain! The kindness of strangers never fails to warm our hearts and every moment of trail magic means a lot to us. The final amazing moment of the week came when Lida returned my gorgeous boy to us- a happy Bear, groomed for the summer. Now all three of us can continue a Smoky-free adventure for the last 165 miles!

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Top Ten Essentials

9 Jun

In outdoor stores across the country they provide a list of 10 “essentials” for an outdoor adventure. These usually include a compass, map, sunscreen, etc. After 2,000 miles we have decided to create our own list- Carrot and Lucky’s 10 Thru-Hiker Essentials. Here it is:

1) Ear plugs- After many a sleepless night in the shelters with snoring hikers and loud early morning risers, We realized the importance of ear plugs. Lucky and I pop them in early and enjoy the blissful peace of muffled noises we can’t quite decipher. Our quality of sleep in shelters went through the roof.

2) Eye mask- This one closely follows #1, this time allowing us to get to sleep before sunset and stay asleep after sunrise. I use a bandana and Lucky uses a Buff.

3) Fruit snacks- We eat these constantly throughout the day. They provide quick bursts of energy while our bodies digest the protein bars, and they are delicious. Also, they have 100% of your vitamin C-bonus!

4) Visor- This one provides a duel purpose- it not only protects from the sun (so you can send expensive sunglasses home), but keeps the rain out of your eyes as well. Love it.

5) Benedryl/melatonin- These have become begrudging essentials to our trail life. While we would love to be able to sleep well without them, after years of nightshift it just isn’t possible. The extra help these sleep aids provide is priceless!

6) Thermarest Neoair- This is the last sleep essential, but a huge one. It is expensive ($160) and worth every single penny. It provides warmth and an incredible 2+ inch barrier from the ground. We have slept the whole night on huge roots and not even noticed!

7) Platypus- While the name brand isn’t necessarily important, Platypus is making a great hydration bladder with a zip closure. Having a straw available with water at all times makes hydration a lot simpler when you are hiking all day long.

8) Drink mixes/Coffee- While we try to drink as much water as we can, eventually we need some extra energy or electrolytes. I have tried to go caffeine free in the backcountry in the past and it was not worth it. Instant coffee in the morning and caffeinated energy drinks in the afternoon improve our quality of life tremendously!

9) Compactor bag- After many weeks of rain, keeping the inside of our backpacks dry has become key. We line our packs with heavy duty trash/compactor bags and it keeps everything inside completely dry. Amazing!

10) Dry sleep clothes- This one goes along with #9. After being soaked to the bone for 8-12 hours in the rain, putting on dry clothes to sleep at night makes all the difference. Essential!!!

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2,000 Miles Down!

7 Jun

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Erwin to Hot Springs

30 May

This week has been an incredibly tough, but rewarding, week. After hiking 26.2 miles last Saturday into Erwin, TN we spent the night at Uncle Johnny’s campground where we had sent our resupply box. We ate a hardy breakfast at Huddle House (including sausage for Bear) and set out on the 68 mile section to Hot Springs, NC. As we have learned over the past 1,900 miles, each town stop ends with an uphill climb back into the mountains. This was no different. With full packs, full bellies and brand new shoes we had shipped ourselves we were struggling. It has become a seemingly impossible task to make ourselves hike more than 10 miles out of town, and Sunday was no different. We got 9.5 miles before finding a beautiful stream to camp by and enjoying some cheddar broccoli pasta for dinner.

Monday we fared better, hiking 17.5 miles including lots of climbing over Little Bald and Big Bald, which included incredible 360 degree views. We even got to enjoy some southbound company in the form of two section hikers, Sarah and Tammy. It has been a little isolating to be the only hikers going our direction and over the next three days we got to enjoy the comradery of leap frogging with other folks and sharing food (mainly them sharing with us beggars thru hikers!). Tuesday we did 14.7 miles from Hogback Ridge Shelter to Jerry Cabin Shelter, including breaks to dry our tent out in the sun after a spontaneous rainstorm soaked everything the night before. Unfortunately, by this time it had become very obvious that Emily’s new shoes were too big and the little “hot spot” that had started Sunday had become a full-blown blister. Morning wound care was soon introduced and became TID (3x a day) by the next day. Huge props to her for not letting it slow her down one bit and continuing to knock out the miles!

Wednesday started off with 5 miles of beautiful cliffs and some more technical terrain over to Camp Creek Bald, before we descended 6.5 miles into Allen Gap. There we enjoyed some sodas from Mom’s Store while chatting with Sarah, Tammy and some bikers touring from Florida to Canada. Then we proceeded to climb the last 7 miles of the day before camping on Rich Mountain and enjoying some dehydrated meals including a ridiculously good chicken, potatoes and dressing with breadcrumbs. Yum!

This morning we got up at 8am (our usual wake up time) and had tea and pastries before knocking out the last 8.2 miles into town. We hadn’t been able to find a dog-friendly place to stay and were getting stressed out about possibly being unable to “zero” tomorrow. Luckily, we walked right into Iron Horse Inn and they welcomed Bear along with us for two nights. Again – the trail provides! Now we are off to nap (and time off our feet for blister healing) before heading out to enjoy some beers by the river and then a long night’s rest!

Here are some photos including some views from Big Bald, our “yard sale” drying method for our gear, and Bear and I cuddling up. Also included is one of Emily’s blister- not for the feint of heart!

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