Keppoch Mtn, NS - summit view, enjoying lunch with @hammerhead, complete with hot tea, thanks to our friend and tour guide, Dan.
@hammerhead and I with friends on Keppoch Mountain , NS, Canada. Snow not too deep for hiking boots.
We are coming back from a 4 days trip in the woods, somewhere close to the US Border (actually we could hike to it if we wanted to!). A couple months ago my sister in law and her brother (my husband) went there and in their memory, the cabin was close enough to the trailhead to bring the kids. Of course, why not! Well turned out the walk in was actually 6km ... not the 1.5 km they remembered! Quite a difference. Just so you can picture our caravan: 2 grand-parents, 4 parents, 2 eight years old, 2 three-almost-four years old, and one 9 months old.
Little did we plan that we would get there late afternoon instead of noon as we wanted to. Here we are, its passed 4pm and we realized the length. In the last couple weeks, rain and warmer temperature had made the gravel road usable... so we took advantage of that! Thanks to a volunteer (my husband the hero), we dropped the little ones and the heavier packs directly at the cabin and he drove back to the trailhead before walking back by himself in the dark. We couldn't keep the car there cause 30cm of snow were on the way and the very next morning that same road would be closed. Still, it was a weird start!
But the next days would be just perfect. The cabin had a very efficient wood stove, we had warmth, food, drinks, and gear to keep everyone fed, busy, and comfortable for the length of our stay. The kids played in and out and in and out all day. Uncles, aunties, mammy and pappy rotating on the playing outside shift. My 3 yo could hike to the outhouse by herself and back... even at night...!! We did something right with that one haha.
Two groups were formed for longer hikes while the others stayed back with the kids. The 4 parents managed to get away an early morning to summit Mont Gosford, the trail was magical, with tons of fresh snow and a crispy white mountain top with no view but nonetheless beautiful.
The hardest part of the adventure was coming back. Even if we had treated ourselves with a ski-doo service in and out for the heavier packs (food and bottles of wine mainly), we still had our sleeping bags, clothing and hiking necessities to carry out for everyone. The set of 8yo was not used to hike such distances... 6km on snow is not easy, and the set of 3yo walked a good 100m in total: our sled and snowshoes expedition back became quickly a challenge! We had not well prepared ourselves for the journey back, we could seriously have thought it through a little bit more as the girls got cold early on, in the sleds. This would have been easily solved by adding an insulated pad at the bottom of the sled and left a down sleeping back out for them to snuggle in it... why didn't we think about it? I guess we were overconfident about how long it would take us to hike out and underrated the cold when you are not moving. COME ON, we have been living and experiencing the outdoors out here in the winter forever and we still have not learned that... Anyways, the way back turned out to be a bit over 2 hours. Thanks to extra down jackets, a few hot pads and very motivated parents and grandparents, we made it out safely. The 8yo also got a free ski-doo ride in the last couple kilometers from a passing staff: I am pretty sure that was the highlight of their weekend, one thing for sure is that it was the coolest end to this adventure that they could have hoped for, judging by their enthusiasm!
The happiest hiker award goes to: baby Claire, who sang and slept all the way back, observing over her uncle's shoulders in the carrier backpack, and who enjoyed every second of our stay with a smile.
Today I am on my second zero at the Aquone Lodge, having come off the trail at Burningtown Gap mile 123.8 because of impending cold weather. With a mix of rain and snow and high gusts of wind— it seemed the prudent thing to do. This is straight up deep winter in the mid-teens for temps and most of us are packed for three-seasons. I can do cold weather with my gear but too many days out in the wet conditions makes staying warm difficult.
I have been trying my best to stay off of social media on the trail with the exception of posting a photo to my FB story about once a day to stay in touch. I am very pleased with the new lightweight inexpensive keyboard that I purchased to pair with my IPhone. This has made it feasible to update my trail journal while at hostels off the trail.
On the trail is where I do all my contemplation and when you walk all day without distractions like podcasts, audiobooks, social media, etc.—thinking is your main activity. Living inside your own head and being aware of your thoughts takes more discipline than you might think. It is very much like meditation only with walking added. The struggle of the trail tends to push negative thoughts and emotions out of the way as you concentrate on staying upright with your pack and hiking poles.
Something that I thought a lot about in recent miles on the trail is my ability to listen to others. While I am aware of active listening and have been to various management course; this is an area that bears further development. My passion for certain topics and my sincere desire to help others with my expertise in those topics makes me vulnerable to jumping into a discussion and adding too much to the conversation. So on the trail I have thought about this a lot and hope to try harder when I come across other hikers. In my next post, I want to talk about functional fitness and low carb high fat fueling on the trail. Maybe it is best to write about my ideas here rather than talking so much. One of the hardest things for me to remember is that no matter how much you want to help others—you can help those who don’t want your help! So more listening and more writing for those who are interested.
Ass for actual on the trail stuff—let me explain the photo. Trail magic is this amazing thing that members of the trail community do for those of us out here on the trail. We call them “trail angels” and we are truly blessed by their generosity both in time and kindness . At Rock Gap, a former thru hiker “Circus” and several of his friends brought us many goodies and cooked hamburgers and hot dogs on a grill! They had to carry all the food, the grill, coolers and all sorts of things up the trail to us. Then they even brought tents and spent the night with us. One of us had to return to Franklin to pick up gear and then even drove her to town the next day. The trail community is really a karma-based community. It reminds me so much of my mother who used to say, “ you never miss anything you give away; it comes back to you double.” On the trail, we say “the Trail provides” and we have found that to be true. We share food, gear and support and somehow it all works out.
Signing off for now. In case you are interested, go over to my GoFundMe where I am raising funds for a project to filter water in Liberia. We hikers know how hard it is to carry all your water everyday! It’s a daily reality for many families in rural Liberia. Even if you don’t donate I would be so pleased to have you just read about the project for its interest. GoFundMe.com/cleanwaterforliberia
Pleased to announce that I passed the 100 mile mark a few days ago. Then I headed into the trail town of Franklin, NC. This is a little like walking home as our mountain home in WNC is only one hour’s drive away.
One of the thoughts that occurred to me on the trail was the contemplation of transformation. Many hikers find the thru hike to be transformative. I’m sure that physically that will be true. Also , you will certainly acclimate to much tougher external conditions.
For me, it seems different. Instead of feeling a process of transformation, I feel that the culture and environment of the trail has simply made it possible to be the self I have always been. The trail culture is accepting of your external differences. We are creating direct bonds of interdependence that our small towns and rural communities used to have. We share food, clothing and advice freely -helping each other to succeed. We are working on dropping the chains of competivieness and picking up the habits of collaboration.
Right now I am waiting on a package at the Top of Georgia Hostel in Hiawassee. I was planning to just get out of the rain and take a zero day here and dry off. That first night indoors and a shower makes you feel so good! The next day I catch up on email business and rest up, have a hot meal. If you are in GA or NC--the best restaurant is the Ingles grocery store. Be sure to get a rewards card at the first one you come across-- you will save bucks. One of my favorite features of TOG is that the bunkhouse has a full kitchen and I can cook real food! TOG does a shuttle to the nearby trail town of Hiawassee and I love to just stock up on some real food that I can cook myself.
Walking down the trail gives one a lot of time to reflect; something we seem to have lost in our daily lives. The bright spot over my shoulder in the photo reminds me that I carry my mother's spirit with me everywhere I go. She was an adventurous spirit and an inspiration for all she touched. There are a couple of stories I remember from my childhood that are really resonating with me. There is a good reason why we read "The Little Engine that Could" to our young pups. I have been saying "I think I can, I think I can" all along the trail! the other instructive nursery tale that comes to mind over and over is "The Tortoise and the Hare." My favorite trail maxim is that-- you can do anything if you take enough breaks!"
I just learned that the package I am waiting for is never coming because I sent it to the wrong address. Sad face and it's late for me to start out on the trail. So I will shuttle into town again and get my coconut oil fuel there.
I look forward to your comments and thanks for all your support.
I've made it to the 50 mile mark (even a little more) and stepped off for a zero day at Unicoi Gap. The support of the trail community is amazing near these trail towns. In the parking lot, I asked a nice couple looking at maps in their car for the correct direction to hitch to Helen, GA where I planned to take my break. Turns out they were veteran hikers--the driver was Mother Nature. A kind 76-year old lady who is still section hiking strong. She and her husband carried me into Helen and we drove around to several places to find room at the inn, so to speak. Turns out Helen is a jumping place on a Saturday and their was a car show in town. Finally, we found a spot at the Quality Inn and I crashed out.
The trail truly does provide. When I stepped off the trail at Woody Gap at mile 20.5 last week--I got a ride there in the parking lot! That time I zeroed at Barefoot Hills Hostel.
Trail thoughts: Solitude is not the same as being alone. On the trail I am relearning true solitude. My commitment is to embrace the silence without and listen to my own thoughts only. I'm frequently alone back home, but there are distractions-internet, podcasts, music, books... however, on the trail I'm not using earbuds at all. You may pass me talking to myself! There are so many things to just think about. Freud invented the "talking cure" but for many I think this is the "walking cure!"