Monday, October 3, 2011

Kathadin, done and done!!!

I PROMISE there will be a better post soon...but for now, all you need to know is that on September 26th, Rachel and I climbed Katahdin - the amazing mountain that sits at the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. After 5 months and 26 days, we (partly reluctantly, partly readily) finished our thru-hike. Along with 10 or 11 other people that day, we became part of the small group of people who have walked from Georgia to Maine (or vice versa, but let's face it, northbound is where it's AT. :) )

Congrats to all the other thru-hikers that have finished this year, or are about to finish in the next couple of weeks. We did it!!!

Pictures coming soon..

Friday, August 12, 2011

New Hampshire!

This is the state of freedom. Of intense mountains, colder weather, and more wilderness than we have seen in the last few hundred miles. We just crossed into New Hampshire in Hanover, where the trail goes right through the Dartmouth Campus. Staying in Dartmouth tonight (and probably tomorrow night as well). More to come on New Hampshire.

As of now, I'm getting ready for girls' night in Hanover with Catalyst, Rocky, and Laugh Track. We've been wanting to have one since Virginia and will all finally be in the same place at the same time tomorrow.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hey guys, still here! In Vermont!

So Petek has posted the last few blogs, so it's about my turn, I suppose. I must admit, the initial necessity of finding a computer as soon as I could on a town stop has become less of a priority the longer I spend in the woods. Sorry about my increasingly luddite ways.. We just got to Vermont and stayed the night in a great hostel in Bennington called the 'Vortex'. Interestingly, as we travel further north, it seems like there are more people opening their homes to hikers (rather than having more business-oriented establishments). It's been really a blessing to connect with so many wonderful, selfless people along the way. The heat wave in New Jersey really brought out the nicest people as well. It seemed like you couldn't hit a road crossing without a few gallons of water or an ice chest with cold sodas left behind. Really made hiking in the 100+ weather possible.

We're getting closer and closer to the excitement of hiking in the Whites. I'm pretty intrigued to see how it will be to hike through an area that I am relatively familiar with. Yippee!

- RD

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


In a day or two, we will have crossed into Massachusetts. That means 10 states done, 4 to go. We're more than 2/3 of the way there!

Stories to follow. At every library, I've been blogging away and doing internet related chores, but this time - THIS time, I will leave you to sit in a corner and read while the thunderstorm passes over.

Monday, July 11, 2011

And the countdown begins...

We're less than 1000 miles away from Katahdin, the northern terminus of the AT in Maine. A lot of huge milestones have been happening recently...including passing the halfway point, and finishing Pennsylvania. That means we've got 7 states left. Most of them are short, so we will blow past at least 4 more states in the next three weeks. It's hard to believe that we've started counting down.

My trail name changed from Bandit to Pair of Aces recently. I'd never really meant to stick with Bandit, but no better name had come along. So here I am at Harper's Ferry, a town that is really significant for thru-hikers because it's close to the halfway point of the trail (and you get your picture taken there as an official thru hiker candidate). Baltimore Jack - a trail legend who's thru-hiked 9 times - suggests that I be called Pair of Aces, since my knees are always wrapped in ace bandages. I really like the name, and since I hear "Oh my God! What happened to your knees!?" just about every day, it seemed to fit my hike better. There, Casey. Happy? :D My knees are fine, by the way - the aces just keep swelling down and are mainly a mental comfort.

Rachel is sticking with Catalyst. At the halfway point, she and 7 other thru hikers that were with us tried the traditional half gallon challenge. That's when you eat a half gallon of ice cream to commemorate the passing of the halfway point. What do you get for it? A tiny wooden spoon stick that says 'Half Gallon Challenge' and a whole lot of stomach pain. My advice to people hiking in that area - stay away from the privy at the next shelter. Rachel was a trooper, but she chose not to get sick by finishing the whole thing. She got a wooden spoon that says 'The I tried club." And no stomach pain. She did eat more ice cream than she's ever eaten in her life. I didn't try the half gallon challenge. I mainly took pictures and watched people put themselves in pain. I did the quarter pint challenge with ice cream. That worked out pretty well.

Mmmm..Neopolitan. Catalyst, Poncho, and Pebbles (CCW) at the half gallon challenge.

Pair of Aces

Halfway marker. More than halfway!

Soul Slosher at the half gallon challenge. Before

Soul Slosher at the halfway challenge. After. The look on his face was priceless.

There was a strip club. It's directly on the AT. Those white things on the side of the marquee sign are blazes.

Aqua blaze!

There is a section of the Appalachian Trail between Waynesboro, VA and Front Royal, VA, that somewhat parallels the Shenandoah River. Many a thru-hiker chooses to do a multi-day canoe/kayak trip down the river as a part of the adventure. Since you end up skipping some AT miles, this is called aqua-blazing. We chose to start aqua from the town of Luray. That's a little more than halfway through the Shenandoah National Park, so first we got to see the park and take ample advantage of the waysides that sell blackberry milkshakes. Then we got picked up by the river outfitter in Luray and took a 3 day vacation from the AT!

We got to carry a lot more food than usual, including a coconut and a pineapple. Basically we just floated down the river for three days, which was pure awesomeness. The highlight was when Rachel and I saw two bald eagles, simultaneously. One was behind me and the other behind we were both pointing, at a loss for words, and trying to get the other one to look. Rachel wins though. Apparently the one behind me swooped down to the river and caught a fish.

Here are some pictures - mostly of Rachel, since they're from my camera.

Playing bumper kayaks on the river. The HMS Coconut, agressively attacking the HMS Pineapple. The captain of the HMS Pineapple does not look too concerned.

The HMS Pineapple, reporting for..duty?

Camping on the river

Scalin' some rapids. That's how we do. Yeah, they're Class 1. So what?

The impurists are born

There's a set of thru hikers called 'purists.' Purists basically feel that for a thru hike of the AT, you need to walk past every white blaze while carrying your full pack. At some point after Trail Days (Damascus) and before the Shenandoahs, we decided to not worry about the blazes anymore. Our hiking philosophy morphed into what we've started calling the 'impurist' way of thinking.

We're still hiking more than 2000 miles, but somewhere along the way, we realized purists don't get to see some of the coolest things near the AT - simply because they have to walk past white blazes. For example, a lot of times there will be some other trail that junctions with the AT in two places a few miles apart. Usually these trails are called blue blazes. The blue blazed trail will be a side trail with waterfalls and beautiful scenery, while the AT section in between the junctions will usually be the usual green tunnel/woods. You have three choices as an AT hiker - 1) take the side trail and bypass a short section of the AT, thereby seeing the cool stuff 2) stay on the AT and not see anything but chipmunks and trees, or 3) go down the side trail, see the cool stuff, then come back and hike the AT. Otherwise known as 1) the impurist way 2) the purist way, and 3) the crazy purist way

To sum it up - we are of the opinion now that we don't have to walk past every blaze. As long as there's a good reason (like gorgeous waterfalls and swimming holes), once in a while a blue-blaze is better than walking on the AT simply because the AT has white blazes. Sure, we might do 2100 miles instead of 2180...but hey...(2180-2100) << 2100.

Next up: the impurists aquablaze the Shenandoah River!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


So, Rachel and I have birthdays that are 2 days apart - June 9th and 11th (Rachel is the 11th). Which meant that we were going to have to celebrate in style. And we did. For a week and a half.

We stayed in Waynesboro, VA on the 8th That's where the Shenandoah National Park begins, and it was also where the festivities began. 

On the 9th we got a ride 20 miles up north and slackpacked (hiked with virtually nothing) south back into Waynesboro. 

On the 10th we got a ride back up 20 miles, this time to hike north from the same spot.  But this wasn't an ordinary day -  Catalyst kept the festivities going by arranging with the shuttle guy to leave us trail magic that she got us - a cooler full of sodas, juice, and other choice beverages. 

On the 11th, Eric (who had been hiking with us for a week) had his last night with us. His dad, Keith, came to pick him up - but not before giving us a ride to a nearby food stand where we got birthday milkshakes. This is about the time that Team Impurist was born, and more will come on that in another post.

But that's not all...a couple of days later, we decided to have a real birthday party - on the beach. We rented a car in Luray, which is a town located near the northern Shenandoah. We drove back into the Shenandoah National Park in the car to pick up thru-hikers that we saw, telling them that we were whisking them away to the beach and would bring them back the next day. This plan worked out surprisingly well. About 10 of us piled into a minivan + car and went to the beach at Lake Anna for the night. Feast, beach, debauchery, and friends...hmmm, this AT hiking thing (instead of going to the beach all the time) is hard now. :D 

PS. We just made it to Harper's Ferry! That's more than 1000 miles aaaah!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Photo Update

Hey guys,

We're in Troutville, VA and I just put a bunch of photos on Facebook:

Holy moly it is HOT HOT. Sweaty and HOT. I am sending anything remotely like cold weather gear home, stat.

- RD

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

55 days since...

We've slept in the same place twice...
We've walked less than 2 miles a day...
We haven't seen at least 100 trees...
We haven't been above 1000 feet at least some part of the day...
We have smelled good for more than a few hours...
Our names have been Bandit and Catalyst...

and the list goes on. Long story short, we're still having a great time and have done over 620 miles now! More scintillating blog posts (complete with pictures and stories) coming this weekend, when we meet up with my parents again. Yay.


Monday, April 25, 2011

270+ miles and counting..

We acquired the lovely miss peach (a.k.a. Tuck) about halfway through the Smokies and now we have exited those hills and will travel along the TN-NC border for a few hundred miles. We arrived in Hot Springs and are staying at this ridiculously awesome place - an old Victorian house that you wish you lived in - antiques, tons of books, music room, etc. but its main clientele this time of year appears to be hikers, so you don't feel bad about being quite so vagrant-ey (yes that's totally a word). The last couple of days have been really amazing. We ran into a group of trail angels that goes to this particular gap in the middle of _nowhere_ annually and then proceeds to ply all hikers passing thru with fabulous food and great company. We got there around lunchtime and ended up hanging for dinner as well - steaks, etc. And fruit. And Girl Scout cookies, of all things. And some great live music too. We still wanted to make it to the top of Max Patch (a 'bald' - 360 deg view on top) to see the sky, it was a clear night after all, so we night hiked up to the top (only about an hour and a half for those last 4 miles) and got a great starry sky with very little light pollution. And, even better, Tuck managed to wake up spontaneously before the sunrise and got us up to see as well. Thus we enjoyed one of the most amazing sunrises I've ever seen. I'll post a pic of that soon.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Smoky Mountain Hop!

Hey guys, we're in NC just shy of 200 miles along the way!

The weather has been pretty nice up to now, a couple of cold nights, but nothing really serious in terms of temperature. We have been taunting the weather a bit, so perhaps fate will smack us down soon enough..

Petek is very cold. Look, see there is some ice on her head and on the ground! Oh no, so cold!!!
Well, actually, there was that one big hailstorm, but it wasn't that long..

 We hit Fontana Dam a couple of days ago...
 And now we're happy to be in the Smokies!!


- RD

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Day 1: Atlanta
Strangely cosmopolitain compared to what I had expected. We got here pretty early and had a few hours to kill. Petek had looked up the location of an REI before we left so that we could get any last minute things and pick up some fuel. We easily found the right bus and took a gorgeous walk in a heavily planted and southern looking neighborhood, guided by the old smarty phone, which led us straight to the address of.. some person's lovely house just past an odd little industrial area. Aaaand adventure #1. So then we booked it over to the train station so we could catch our train out to Gainesville. Petek had arranged through couchsurfing to stay at the house of some lovely people that turned out to be AWESOME. They fed us and we chatted a long while (they had traveled all around europe for months so had all sorts of fascinating stories) and we took our last showers for a while.
Day 2: Approach Trail
So we got a ride from our hosts to the greyhound station to pick up our shuttle to the trail from 'hot rock', a nice hiker guy who travels around and shuttles around hikers and was full of great advice. At the amicalola falls building there were some pretty special outdoors dioramas with all the creatures you might meet along the trail in a little menagerie of zombified fur and feathers. Very cute. Also a bunch of live snake displays, I guess to show people what a rattlesnake looks like vs. a rat snake. We headed out of here in high spirits that we'd somehow managed to not have ridiculously heavy packs, despite not really shaving off too many luxuries (39# for me, 31# for petek).
Day 3+: The day(s) we stopped paying attention to what day it is/was/willbe
Well, we appear to be moving along pretty well, hopefully we'll hit the GA-NC border tomorrow. Met all sorts of interesting people along the way - tons of people that appear to make this trail their entire life, and sometimes they look it. We've been lucky enough to get great weather thus far - clear skies and relative warmness except for one crazy thunderstorm that we viewed from the dry comfort of a shelter on the trail. Wow time flies when you have like 20 minutes to write stuff in the library...

Happy (late) April Fools Day!

There have been several April Fools moments since last week, so that seemed appropriate. Heck, that's how our trip started off - with me playing a joke on ourselves.

We flew into Atlanta on 3/30. I'd done some research on the logistics before we left. Google told me there was an REI (outdoor retail store) right near the Amtrak Station. Our plan was to go from the airport to REI to pick up some white gas for the store before taking a train to Gainesville for the night.

We took the subway to the Amtrak/REI stop when we got to Atlanta. I set my phone to REI's address and we started walking the 1 mile that we had. As we kept walking and the area got more and more residential, we kept our faith that we would find an REI soon. My phone told us to turn onto a street that appeared to have only houses on it, but we kept our faith. We walked right up to a house with the exact address that was listed for Rei, Inc. That's when we lost our faith. Guess I should have used the REI website and not Google for locations. :) It was an interesting introduction to our adventure, anyway..

At Gainesville that night, we stayed with our couchsurfing hosts Eric and Jenny. They were the definition of southern hospitality. Not only did they have some really good stories from their recent 6 month journey in Europe, but they made us dinner - and cookies - and muffins - to boot! I couldn't stop staring at the spectacular photographs on their walls, and I was really surprised to learn that they were all pictures from their travels. Eric is very talented.

We were picked up in Gainesville by Hotrock, a former thru who have us our last bits of advice on the way to the approach trail. And then, we were off! We were happy as clams. Giddy, giggly clams.

We've made many a mile since we started off on April Fools' Day and are slowly transforming into thru-hikers (smelly, hungry, hardened hiking machines). Georgia weather has been mighty kind to us, as well as the hills and mountains.

My favorite moment on the trail so far came a few nights ago, when we stayed at Low Gap Shelter. That day I had had a tough time. I'd been hiking slowly and it was hot. Rachel was hiking ahead of me and got to the shelter before I did. We hadn't stayed at a shelter yet, especially since they tend to be noisy and crowded. That night though, when Rachel got to the shelter, she decided we should stay in it and claimed our spots. And a good thing she did, too.

A couple hours after sunset, the skies just opened up and let loose. For what seemed like several hours during the night, it rained buckets. Lightning was flashing around us and the thunder was as loud as I had ever heard it. The storm passed directly over us, and it was exhilarating to be outside - right underneath it! That's the beauty of a shelter - you can enjoy watching a storm, since it's only 3 walls and a roof. But you enjoy it while staying dry.

The skies have been sunny the whole trip except for the storm of doom and awesomeness. We've been hearing stories about bears stealing food, and have largely avoided the problem areas. Today we are at our second hostel of the trip. Freshly showered and laundered, I'm ready to go eat some ice cream! (and salad, and steak, and...)

-Bandit (Petek)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The madness begins.

Or the complete sanity, depending on how you look at it. Here is a helpful link for everyone who wants to know what an Appalachian Trail thru-hike entails:


Our flight to Atlanta is today, after which we will be starting our journey in a jiffy. Come back for funny stories/tales of adventure soon.