In 2014 my husband, three kids ages 15, 13 and 11, and myself hiked the Appalachian Trail. Our hike took us 175 days.
To share the story of our family thru-hike and to help us fund it, we produced a video series while hiking called: Beyond our Boundaries: A Family Adventure on the Appalachian Trail.
At the beginning of August, in Vermont, I got off the trail with a foot injury that I hoped would heal with a couple weeks of rest. It didn't and I got off the trail permanently in the middle of August at Glencliff, NH. My family continued without me and I supported them with our vehicle.
Our family thru-hike changed our family is ways we could not anticipate. The intensity of our adventure, emotionally and physically, revealed both positive and negatives in our individual characters and family culture.
It was an experience of contrasts, so beautiful and painful. Days of joy and days of suffering, experiencing deep connection and loneliness, excitement and boredom.
This is a personal journal of that adventure.
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Day 75 - Petites Gap to Saltlog Gap
Left camp at 7:30, ready to hike.
It was a pleasant morning, no rain, but coolish.
Ate breakfast at Marble Spring, the trail ran along the side of the mountain with a view back to Apple Orchard Mountain, which we hiked yesterday. Took a late lunch break at Matts Creek Shelter, took some good video footage on the way there. Saw Strawberry again.
The entire family was fairly cheery through the morning and early afternoon. Walked along James River and then across the James River footbridge. Met a thru-hiker "jumper" on the bridge, going for a swim in a warm afternoon.
The climb after Johns Hollow Shelter was hard. It was mid-afternoon and we still had 2,300 feet elevation to climb before our plans to make camp at Saltlog Gap. (What a name.)
There were some beautiful views back to the James River after we climbed Big Rocky Row mountain.
Saw a new purple, bell-shaped flower today and lots of wild roses on the top of Big Rocky Row, the warm air was heady with their fragrance.
We arrived at Saltlog Gap, which is a swath of 2 foot high nettle, at 6:00pm tired and thirsty as we had finished most of our water by this time. The AT Guide shows water being .5 miles west of the trail, so while Damien started getting supper stuff unpacked I went to get water. Except that I couldn't find water. The trail leading west was overgrown with nettles and I couldn't find a water source anywhere.
I came back to camp a little frazzled and @toesalad set out looking for water. While he looked we finished setting up camp. He spent about an hour looking, both east and west from the gap.
No water. After a day of hiking over 17 miles, and climbing 2,300 feet late in the day, we arrived at camp with only 1/2 litre left between the five of us.
At this point it was past 7:30. One option was to take down camp and hike another 3.1 miles up and over Bluff Mountain to the next water source at Punchbowl Shelter, another 1.5 hours or so of hiking. But we're already really tired and we've experienced three nights of thunderstorms now. We do not want to be on the summit of a mountain in anything like the evening weather we've experienced the past few days.
So, we've decided to stay. But without water we can't cook, which means we can't eat supper, our food bags are getting low on snacks, we'll need those for tomorrow and we don't want to eat any salty snacks, it will only make us more thirsty. For supper, we ate the only non-salty food in our bag, Lindt chocolate balls.
Tonight we go to bed hungry and thirsty and we'll hike out first thing in the morning. With no cooking and no cleaning we were in bed by 8pm, the sweat of the day's exertion dried to our skin.
We are expecting rain tonight after the weather of the past few nights so we've set out all our cooking pots and titanium mugs to catch anything that falls. If it doesn't rain we'll be fine. We're only 3.1 miles from water.
The kids are in remarkable spirits considering they're going to bed hungry. Padawan is singing in our tent and sharing a video game with Tenacious Bling, the most connecting she's done with Tenacious Bling for days. Coming together in adversity?
Day 74 - Bryant Ridge Shelter to Petites Gap
Enjoyed a good chat with Strawberry this morning at the shelter. A woman of similar experience and life calling as my own, a mother and homemaker. It was nice to connect with her.
Today was about climbing. We started the day at approximately 1,200 feet, went up to the summit of Apple Orchard Mountain at 4,100 feet, and down again to about 2,300 feet elevation where we're camping tonight at the Petites Gap Trailhead.
The elevation profile reminded me of being in the Smokies.
Today's weather was downpour, fog and mist.
Met another student group, just before USFS 812 (Parkers Gap Road). This cohort was studying salamanders. Perfect conditions for it, with all the moisture in the air. We enjoyed an interesting conversation with them.
Other than that, the day was uneventful, and I was in a good mood, which is somewhat remarkable given the weather.
We had some good family conversations today, especially with Padawan about her future. She's excited that this hike is starting her own adventurous adulthood, and that was gratifying to hear. We had more talks with Tenacious Bling, trying to get her out of her slump, encouraging her to invest her time on the trail in activities beyond pining for fashion; ideas like photography, creativity, and evening reading. To have things she can look forward to throughout the day.
Hiked through thickets of jewelweed, nettle and salmon petaled columbine this afternoon.
Ate mashed potatoes and salami with vegetables for supper.
The area we traversed today - Thunder Ridge Wilderness, Thunder Hill Shelter, and Thunder Ridge Overlook were aptly named. A thunderstorm hit this evening between 9 and 10 pm. It was the most intense thunderstorm I've experienced, non-stop thunder and lightning that seemed to circle around us, like we were in a vortex. We weren't in an unsafe spot and so at least tonight we could safely stay in our tent. But it got pretty stuffy, all zipped up from the rain. The storm has finally passed now and I can go to sleep.