Sunday, July 20, 2014

Stressed Out...Mission First

Yesterday, Sat 19 July, marks the day my team Tactical HUMINT Team 19 pushed out to Gardez, Afghanistan in 2003 and the day "The White Devil Woman" was born, haha.  Today, 20 July, marks the day that one of the greatest Non-commissioned Officers (NCOs) I have ever known, SFC Christopher Willoughby, was killed in Iraq in 2003.  This got me thinking and analyzing.

As much as one may want to just "wing it" each day out here on the trail, the reality is that planning has to go into each day.  I would say water resupply is the biggest element you have to plan around.  Where you can get water influences how far you can/need to hike and where you end your day.  It really is best to end your day at water so you have plenty for dinner, breakfast the next morning and to start your next day of hiking filled up.  The next big factor is food resupply.  Where is the next place you can get into a town to buy more food determines how much food you need to carry with you at a time.  Once you stock up on food, you need to stick to your planned daily miles to your next resupply so you don't run out of food.  Lastly, is showers and laundry.  You can only shower and do laundry in town or at a hostel, and doing so every 7 days is ideal to maintaining morale.  So again, you have to look ahead and plan.  My experience as a Non-commissioned Officer (NCO) has definitely prepared me to handle such planning.  There isn't much difference between trail planning than mission planning.  And after 20 years in the Army, planning and taking care of people/soldiers is most certainly second nature to me.  So while these skills and attributes are beneficial to me out here on the trail, they have also resulted in my by stressed out.

After we parted ways with our initial slack-packing partner in Damascus, VA, we began slack-packing with three other hikers we had met along the trail.  One of the three went back to full-packing at Mt. Rogers visitor center, with the remaing two slack-packing with us until we parked the car near Bland, VA.  At Bland one of the remaining two hikers quit the trail and went home, the last guy decided he would tag along with mom and I as we returned to full packing.  Slack packing really took a toll on me mentally and emotionally.  I was Team Leader, SSG Henderson, all over again, planning each days hike (where there were parking areas that we could hike between), making sure everyone had food and was happy and content.  One of the biggest reasons I was excited to go back to full pack was the fact that I would only have to worry about me and mom, and that hasn't been stressful.  However, that has not been so.  This remaining guy who has been "tagging" along, has continued to cause me stress, because his opinions have been influencing my daily decisions and I have still been worrying myself with what he wants to do, etc.  Rather than just doing our thing and not worrying about what he wants to do, I have been allowing his input to influence my decisions.  I have allowed this because I have been worried that he will think I am being bossy or mean.  This is something I have and do struggle with a lot, worrying about if people perceive me as being bossy or mean.  Bottom line, me and mom finishing this hike is most important, so from this point forward, I am focusing only on mom and I and our mission, to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.

Those are my thoughts for the day, we miss and love you all.  Feel free to come visit, don't worry I will make sure you are fed, watered and happy while you are here!!!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Day 118-126, 11 July-19 July...Trudging through Virginia

Wifi has been hard to come by, as well as the time to upload our pics onto my google drive and then upload them onto the blog.  Today however, due to the rain we took a zero and I have had wifi all day and able to get completely caught up.  So we didn't make any miles, but hopefully we made you smile!!!

Hiking through Virginia has been a challenge, mainly because of boredom, which has resulted in lagging motivation at times.  It has also been a challenge because of a huge lack of water sources, or more specifically dried up water sources.  So if anyone wants to practice their LRS(Long Range Surveillance) support skills, let us know and you can practice by dropping us some water along the trail at cache sites.  Now mind you, we don't have a gps, nor maps, so you will have to give us landmark, direction and pace count to find the cache, instead of grid coordinates.  But I think we could make it work!!  Well that is about it for now, feel free to pass on our blog and fundraising site links to any and all.  We can use all the support we can get.


Day 118, Fri 11 jul-zero day at woods hole

Yesterday we arrived here at Woods Hole and were greated by the amazing fellow hiker and temp caretaker, Stone Bear.  Stone Bear immediately made us feel welcome and offered we poor raggedy thru-hikers some left-overs, which we accepted with glee.  Today the peace and tranquility has sucked us in and we are taking a zero to enjoy the atmosphere and farm life.
Hendo, Stone Bear and Hendo's Mom

Main house of Woods Hole

Hiker bunkhouse at Woods Hole

Hendo and Sugar B slopping the pigs

Some excitement transpired today when Stone Bear's pet Dachshund, Charlie, wandered into the pig pen and got attacked by the pigs. Working together we were able to get Charlie out.  Charlie is a little shaken, but appears to be ok.

Stone Bear is headed back home to Alabama tomorrow once the owners return, so he asked if we would like to join him for dinner at the Mexican restaurant in Pearisburg, heck yeah!!!  What a great time we had at dinner.  However, when we got back to the hostel Charlie was nowhere to be found.  We have spent the last 2 hours looking for Charlie, but no sign of him.  We are worried he may have sustained some internal injuries from the pig attack and wandered off into the woods to die.  Hopefully, Charlie is just out galivanting for the night and will return in the morning.

Day 119, Sat 12 jul - zero day woods hole

No sign of Charlie this morning at the hostel, but a southbound hiker stopped in and said that Charlie spent the night at the shelter, 3 miles north of Woods Hole, on the AT.  Charlie left the shelter this morning following two northbound hikers to Pearisburg.  Stone Bear asked mom and I if we could keep and eye on the hostel while he went looking for Charlie.  Of course we offered to stay and are taking another zero.

 Stone Bear headed to a road crossing on north while another hiker headed out on the trail northbound.  Eventually Charlie was found 9 miles north of Woods Hole on the AT and safely reunited with Stone Bear.  I helped Stone Bear with the evening chores, feeding the pigs, checking on the Scottish Highland cows.  Hendo will never be a pig farmer, they are too mean, however, I wouldn't mind goats or sheep.

The owners of Woods Hole, Neville and Michael, returned today, wish they would have stayed away.  They are obviously having marital issues and have decided to take it out on us, their paying guests.  We are definitely out of here tomorrow and will be certain to pass the word to avoid Woods Hole.  The husband/co-owner, Michael, is by far the rudest, most self-centered, unappreciative, spoiled brat of a man I have ever met...most certainly the rudest person on the AT.
Day 120, Sun 13 jul

Start Woods hole
End Pearisburg, VA

Since Stone Bear left Woods Hole this morning he offered to shuttle our packs to town, so we slack-packed the 10 miles into Pearisburg.
We found a view today!!!!!!!

We were awarded with delicious Mexican food for dinner.  After dinner we met two guys from Jolly Rovers Trail Crew, Chris and Arty.  These are the crews who work to maintain the AT.  Jolly Rovers specializes in the amazing rock work along the trail, focusing their efforts in the NE.  They were down in Pearisburg, VA giving some training to the local hiking club.  It was a great conversation and we look forward to trying out their handywork on up the trail.
Hendo, Arty, Chris and Hendo's Mom

We got a hotel room for the night, so are enjoying a night in a bed, such an amazing invention beds are!!!

Day 121, mon 14 jul-zero pearisburg, storms

Day 122, tues 15 jul - zero pearisburg, storms

Day 123, Wed 16 Jul

Start pearisburg, va
End Springside campsite

Day 124, Thurs 17 Jul

Start Springside campsite
End Bald black raspberry patch

Part of the reason for the Virginia Blues is the lack of scenery from the trail.  However, today we were rewarded with some beautiful views.  Whoohoo!!!

Hendo's Mom enjoying the view from the top of the bald at Rice Field Shelter

Hendo enjoying the Rice Field view.  This makes climbing a mountain worth it!!

Today, was a short day mileage wise, but still a full day of "work".  We used the "extra" time  at the end of the day to make some needed sewing repairs to our tent and shoes.

A random campsite, with a great view and black raspberries nearby, where we decided to pitch our tent for the night

Our amazing view for the afternoon/evening

Yummy...Mother Nature's trail raspberries!!!!  Hendo's Mom picking berries for breakfast tomorrow.

And a beautiful sunset to mark the end of the day!!

Day 125, Fri 18 Jul

Start Bald black raspberry patch
End "The Captain's"

Today was a good day of hiking, except for the lack of water.  We have been facing stretches of 10 miles plus without any water sources.  We made it to water finally though, after 7 miles and "cameled" up.  We ended our day at "The Captain's", the home of a former thru-hiker who allows hikers to camp on his property, and his backporch if it is raining.  The Captain also has a fridge full of complimentary cold sodas.  The only catch to all of this is that you have to ride a zipline across the creek to get to his property from the AT.  I guess it is more of a treat than a catch.  Mom and I enjoyed our rides.  Mom crossed, then I sent over our packs and then I crossed.

Hendo's Mom ziplining to The Captain's

Hendo zipling to The Captain's, pulling herself in the last few feet.

Day 126, Sat 19 Jul-zero day at Captain's due to rain

It rained all night last night, was raining when we woke up this morning and has rained all day.  We just couldn't find the motivation to pack up a wet tent, hike in the mud and rain or leave the dry comfort of The Captain's backporch.  Therefore, we have spent the day here at The Captain's and I have been productive and completely updated our blog...ENJOY!!!!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Day 111-117, 4 July - 10 July....we have passed 600 mile mark!!!!!!

Soooooo....we are doing good and are still headed north, we just haven't had a good internet signal in a while, so haven't been able to update as usual.   I am not able to upload pics tonight, will do so as soon as I can.

***got a good signal, pictures are added

So we picked up mom's car when we were in Erwin, TN and have been using it to shuttle our gear and hike with a day pack only.  This has allowed us to keep hiking and making miles north, but giving our bodies and feet a break from the weight of our full packs.  However, all the planning and coordinating required to slackpack was really starting to get to me.  The final straw was when we woke up to a flat tire on the car and I had to start my day changing a tire.
Hendo starting the day changing a tire.

  Then 30 minutes later a second tire went flat and we had to get the car towed to a repair shop and a whole day of hiking was lost.  I called some CVMA (Combat Veteran Motorcycle Association) brothers and sisters and was able to find someone nearby who would let us park mom's car at their house and drop us back off on the trail.  So Thursday night we returned to full packing and I couldn't be happier.  Our feet are feeling great and we are heading north!!

There is always talk of "The Virginia Blues" in any book you read about the AT.  Boy is everyone right, you will and we are, battling through the blues right now.  Southwest VA is an amazing beautiful part of the country.  However, you dont get to see much of that beauty from the AT.  So far the AT through VA has been dense forest with lots of stinging nettle, poison ivy and rhododendrun...over and over and over again.  You climb up a big mountain, only to see absolutely nothing, but more dense forest.  Your only moments of respite are when you are walking through cow pastures and then you have to climb up over numerous fence stiles and dodge cow patties.  Needless to say, we are trying to get through VA as quickly as possible.  If anyone wants to come visit, now would be a great time, the terrain is rather moderate and we would love the company to break up the monotony.

Day 111, Fri 4 Jul,
Start VA 623
End Laurel Creek

A good way to spend the 4th of July is hiking the AT.  It is good to be back to full packing.  We have come to Ft. Bastian, a holtel run by TruBrit, a former British SAS member.
Yes, this is an actual privy at one of the shelters, a true throne.

Showing our 4th of July spirit!!

Our tent needed some minor sewing looking like Betsy Ross on the 4th.

Day 112, Sat 5 Jul, zero day
Well, we have been sucked into the vortex of Ft. Bastian for one day.  Today we showered, did some laundry and played tourists when we visited Big Walker Mountain and climbed the observation tower.  TruBrit has a great place here at ft. Bastian, the quentisential SAS firebase in the middle of the mountains of Virginia.  Ft Bastian is still in the stages of being built, but has everything one needs and will be even more amazing when finished.

TruBrit (owner/operator of Ft Bastian),Hendo's Mom, Old Skool, Hendo, Hump (TruBrit's cohort)

Main gathering tent with firepit...too awesome

Shower, rudimentary but works great

View while in the shower!!


Day 113, Sun 6 July, 589.7 miles
Start Laurel Creek
End Helvey Mills Shelter


Day 114, Mon 7 Jul, 599.5 miles

Start Helvey Mills Shelter
End Jenny Knob Shelter

We wanted to make it further today, but trying to refill our water at Jenny knob shelter put an end to that, so we made camp here tonight.  There has been talk that water is becoming difficult to find along the trail here in this part of VA.  And today was quite the water hunting adventure, we followed the blue blazes to the supposed water source/creek, but there was no water.  So we walked further down the creek hoping to find some water, but to no avail.  We ended up in a cow pasture and saw a blacktop road ahead with cars going by, so we walked to the blacktop and saw houses.  We ended up walking to a house and asking for water.  The residents were quite nice and gladly let us fill up and gave us a ride back to the trailhead, so we didn't have to trek back through the pasture.
New trail friends we met at Jenny Knob Shelter
Hendo's Mom, Hendo, Moxie, Songbird


Day 115, Tues 8 Jul, 607.8 miles

Start Jenny Knob Shelter
End Dismal Falls

600 mile mark

Cool suspension bridge over Kimberling Creek

Side view of Kimberling Creek suspension bridge

Dismal Falls

Hendo Rinsing off a layer of grime and rinsing out clothes in Dismal Falls

Day 116, Wed 9 Jul, 613.7 miles

Start Dismal Falls
End Wapiti Shelter

- rain
- stopped at shelter to dry out, started raining again, stayed

We met Banana Hammock and Sugar B at Dismal Falls, and spent the following 3 nights with them along the trail!

-two thru hikers came in tonight, Underdog and Sheltowee

Day 117, Thur 10 Jul

Start Wapiti Shelter
End Sugar Run Gap, Woods Hole Hostel

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Day 91-108, 14 Jun-1 July, Damascus, VA to Bland, VA

Day 91, Sat 14 Jun - Zero Day, Woodchuck Hostel, Damascus, VA

Day 92, Sun 15 Jun- 481.5 miles

Day 93, Mon 16 Jun- 491.1 miles
Hendo & Hendo's Mom on Buzzard Rock

Day 94, Tues 17 Jun- 508.1 miles-Grayson-Highland's State Park

Cool tree growing out of/around huge boulder

Hendo & Hendo's mom on top of rock mountain

Wild ponies

Hendo's Mom in Fatman Squeeze

500 MILES!!!!!

Longhorn Cattle Bull

Day 95-99, Wed 18 Jun- Sun 22 Jun- Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association National Convention, Gettysburg, PA

Day 100, Mon 23 Jun- 516.6 miles

Day 101, Tues 24 Jun - 527.3 miles

Day 102, Wed 25 Jun - Zero Day

Day 103, Thurs 26 Jun - 540 miles

1800s School House

The trail went under some large powerlines that were loudly humming

Day 104, Fri 27 Jun - 554.4 miles
Hendo headed north through a meadow

Hendo picking black raspberries, yummy!!!

Beautiful view at black raspberry patch, one of the few views in Virginia

Wooden plank walkway through swampy area of trail.

This is 90% of virginia, dense trees, poison ivy and stinging nettle...the green tunnel

Today was an obstacle course day, fence stile after fence stile...Hendo was not happy at the end of the day.

Day 105, Sat 28 Jun - 561.3 miles
An amazing homemade water slide into a pond!!

Day 106-107, Sun 29 Jun-Tues 1 Jul-Zero Days
While driving through the little town of Burkes Garden we passed these cute signs which tells you direction and distance to each family and businesses.

Ingenious way to keep termites out...put a galvanized tub over the piling, between piling and framing.

Doing hiker the bathtub, a zero day activity

Goodbye dinner for "New Huites" on far right, he was helping us slackpack.
(Old Skool, Hendo, Hendo's Mom, New Huites)