First day back

Davenport Gap to Max Patch Road
15.3 miles
Total miles: 253.4

The first day back on the trail, and I have two awesome hiking companions. Gus and Ryker will be spending a couple days with me. We started where I left off, with the plan to hike into Hot Springs. The total distance would be about 35 miles, so we would camp half way and complete distance on the second day. We soon learned that was over ambitious after two weeks off with no exercise.

Gus, no trail name yet, was a hiking machine (maybe that is his trail name?). He walked with ease both up and down hills, never seeming winded. Me, on the other hand, my nemesis was still the same: those darn uphills. I was out of breath in minutes and having to rest frequently. I coast down but struggle up. The trail runners were the perfect answer for my heals. Never once did they bother me, so I can’t use that as an excuse for my poor performance.

We had gotten a very late start—not on the trail until 12:30—but we made decent time, in spite of the fact that the terrain was mostly ALL uphill. We climbed to 4000 feet elevation with the first mountain and were rewarded with a beautiful grassy bald surrounded by an orchard. I was not sure what type of trees. They had not yet sprouted any leaves or buds, but the view was lovely. Even more lovely for me was the descent that followed. It was short lived, but it did help me get up the next climb where we were greeted by trail magic.

Apple, a gentleman who had been doing this for the last eleven years, greeted us with bottled water, donuts and chips. He had lawn chairs set up—it is so nice to be able to lean back while one sits. We rested about fifteen minutes and then set off again.

A few words on Ryker: first, he loved being out there with the two of us. Second, I would never be able to walk with him alone. He is so full of energy, and so strong, weighing in at just over 100 pounds of what seems like all muscle. In the last six weeks, he has definitely bonded with Gus. He sticks to him like glue and listens to his commands. He always walked just ahead of Gus, but when we reached other hikers, we would leash him. He thinks everyone is as excited to see him as he is them, not necessarily so.

As the afternoon wore on, I began feeling the effects of the day. The weather was beautiful, 70 degrees and sunny, and I tried to stay hydrated. I soon started becoming nauseous and overheated. We were taking frequent breaks, but I began to feel worse and worse. We had miles to go before the camp site and decided to try to push to Max Patch Road and get a shuttle, still another three miles ahead.

We did not have cell service and had not had it since arriving in the area. I turned my phone on and still no service, ugh…we kept walking, and shortly, I heard a message come through on my phone. Amazingly, we were able to call out for a shuttle to meet us in an hour. Just after making the call, we lost service again.

Gus, who had been a rock the entire day, hit a wall in the last mile. He too was dehydrated. It was the longest two miles ever, but we made it just in the nick of time to catch the shuttle. We climbed into the van and Ryker immediately went to sleep on my lap. We were all pretty wiped out physically. Me, mentally also, I did not expect to have such difficulty. In retrospect, it was to much, too fast; inclines and heat combined with too long off of the trail.

I am thankful Gus was with me, ever positive and encouraging, a great companion on the trail and not bad to snuggle up with after the long hard day.


Time to Start Walking

I would like to apologize to all my Pensacola friends. It seems as if winter has followed me down South!  The temperature is supposed to drop into the 40s tonight… I promise I will leave soon, and I am sure the cold weather will follow me back to the trail!

Here is the latest news: Gus will drive me back to the trail on Sunday, and he (and Ryker) will spend a few days with me to make sure that I get off to a good start! I have been chomping at the bit, ready to leave. I had anticipated leaving no later than tomorrow, but life is a compromise, and I have agreed to wait until Sunday, which works much better for Gus.  As much as I hate waiting, in the long run, it will probably be better—more time for my heals to mend and hopefully, more time for the weather to warm up.

I wanted to give everybody a heads up on two great events that UCP have put into motion to coincide with my “walk to Maine.” The first thing is the office challenge: for $15, you get a pedometer and t-shirt, and you compete to match my steps per state! You can form teams by department, challenge each other or different companies. The sky is the limit! It is a great way to support United Cerebral Palsy of Northwest Florida, have fun and encourage exercise!!  For more information go to UCP facebook:

The next event is “Take a Hike Pensacola”. The event will take place on May 17th at UWF Nature Trails. It should be a lot of fun and is a great event for the entire family. The hike will be at your own pace, there will be different trails marked, and you can choose the one that fits you best!  You can sign up  on Active

or print the registration from the facebook page!


Next post will be from the trail!!

Reflections from Home

It has been a week off the trail. My heels look so much better. I have layers of new skin and am almost ready to put on shoes!

When Paul and I had learned that the Smokies were still covered in snow, I mailed my trail runners ahead to a hostel in Hot Springs. They have forwarded them back to me. Hopefully, they will arrive today and I can try them out. I am ready to get these feet back on the trail soon.

Until then, I wanted to share a few thoughts that I have pondered in my downtime.

I have enjoyed the convenience of home; one of my favorite things has been the ease of getting up for a middle of the night bathroom trip! No struggling out of the sleeping bag, hunting for my headlamp, shoes and jacket before braving the cold night air!  One really learns to appreciate the little things in life. In fact, one of the most important commodities on the trail is toilet paper.

Privies and privacy (or lack thereof) are also important aspects of trail life. I can hike for hours and never see another hiker, but all I have to do is duck behind a tree and you can bet that another hiker will round the bend the moment I assume a compromising position! It is like magic, and nearly guaranteed!

Quite a few of the shelters have privies. The first time Paul went into one he came out and said, “Mom, you did not actually sit down in there did you?”  It is not exactly what we are accustomed to back here in “civilization”. There is no running water, just a hole with toilet seat. Hikers are only supposed to use it for one’s “main business,” and supposed to pee in the woods. (This can take some practice)  Once business is complete, there is a bucket of leaves or wood chips and each person is supposed to throw in a handful per deposit! There are also earthworms in the mix and this smoldering privy is really just a big compost pile!

This may not sound exciting, but the alternative is to dig a cathole, so most hikers are excited to see a privy!  Shelters that do not privy’s normally have a nice large shovel for community use with a sign pointing to the correct “bathroom” area! Anyway, this is all to say: I’m very thankful for the little things off the trail!

Time at home has been productive, for both my soles and my soul. Yesterday, I met with UCP of NWF, and I am excited to say they have received $35,000 to date. The goal is to raise $125,000, so we still have a ways to go, but I have another 1,950 miles to walk—so we have time. I can use all the help I can get, so please spread the word about this cause, and if you feel able, please click here to donate!

A Post from Momma’s Boy

My experience of section hiking in the Smoky Mountains was pretty much one of an outsider that got to be part of something for a few days—like a teenager that goes to live with and shadow a college student on campus for a week. You get to experience everything as if you were actually a student—but both you and the other students know that you aren’t really a student there.

I was a hiker and did everything that the hikers were doing, but I wasn’t a thru-hiker and it was very evident (in many ways) that I was just there to shadow. So here is my story about shadowing my thru-hiker mother.

Mom went through a phase about a decade ago where she decided she wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. She started reading all the books. We all said, “Okay mom, that’ll be great”…but I don’t think any of us ever expected her to do it. It caught most of us off-guard about 6 months ago when she decided to do it—and, as the kicker, she was going to do it as a fundraiser for UCP.  Not only was there no talking her out of it, but there was no way she could back out of it either.

Once it was official, I knew right away that I wanted to join her at some point.  After hearing that it was the hardest part, I boldly claimed that I’d walk the last 100 miles with her if and when she made it up to Maine.  Days later I figured I had better hike a section of the trail before then so I wouldn’t kill myself hiking when she actually made it to Maine.

We decided that the section toward the end of the Smoky Mountains was where I would meet her.

Once there, it was hard not to be slightly miserable for most of the time.  I’m sure that, years from now, I will look back on it and romanticize everything about it; but the majority of the time, it was not very fun. To be fair, it was amazingly beautiful, and it was great spending quality time with my mom.  But it was cold, wet, and difficult.  The parts that weren’t difficult were cold and wet and the parts that weren’t cold and wet were difficult. And sometimes there was a difficult part that was also cold and wet.

Like mom had said in a previous post, it was so crazy how the consistency of the terrain would change depending on the mountain. One side would have two feet of snow while the other would look like spring. But in between, and for the majority of the hike, it was like walking on daiquiri’s.

I’ve never walked through anything like that slushy, muddy snow.  It was the culprit for her and everyone else’s wet shoes and socks, which was obviously the main cause of her blisters.  Somehow, I managed to avoid wet feet the entire hike. I attribute that to both luck and the pair of boots I had chosen because they were marked down 50%.

I consider myself in very good shape, although I am not a runner and generally dislike any type of workout that might be considered monotonous.  I am horrible at “turning my brain off” in order to run long distances, etc., and therefore, if I’m doing those types of exercises, I can generally only think about how much I dislike doing it. I think it is the reason I enjoy doing jiu jitsu so much. My brain has too many other things to worry about while training/fighting.  This hike reminded me of these particular deficiencies, especially when the exhaustion set in.  It was a weird kind of exhaustion.  My breathing and heart-rate never really elevated above resting except on the harder climbs – but my legs were sending signals of defeat after the first day, particularly my outside-groin/hip-flexor area.

Most of the actual hike was spent trying to keep my mind off of it.  We were hiking together but, besides knowing someone is with you, keeping pace with each other, and exchanging a few words every half hour, it wasn’t much different than hiking by yourself.

It was too hard to talk the whole time as the leader is obviously facing away from the other person and its hard to hear what they are saying if they start speaking.  So it was a lot of silence and thinking.  I would find myself spotting a tree or landmark in the distance and then guessing how many steps it would take me to reach it.  I got pretty good at that. Then when I wanted to see how “fast” we were going I would check the time and count off 1800 steps, which, I figured, would be about a mile.  It was generally about half an hour of counting which meant we were going 2 miles an hour.  And counting was at least something to do besides thinking about walking.

During that 2 mph pace, the mountains would play tricks on you. Or really, your perception of the mountain would do the tricking.  After what seemed to be an endless uphill with a light at the end of the tunnel, you would turn the corner and see that it wasn’t anywhere near over. I think that was the worst part.  I was glad I was in front on the uphill portions because I let a few profanities slip every time I turned a corner like that.  I would always turn around at this point and wait on mom and, as she would get closer, she would have a “finished with the uphill?” look on her face.  Then I would say something like “not yet but its around the next corner!” with a smile that we both knew was fake but pretended anyway.

After several hours of strenuous hiking, I, like everyone else, was ready to make it to the shelter. I didn’t get to experience sleeping in my tent, since everyone is required to sleep in the shelters in the Smokies (unless they are full).

On the first night, I got a crash course in Shelter 101. We arrived to a full shelter hours after everyone else and as the sun was setting (as mom already relayed in her blog).  I felt like Forrest Gump on the bus scene: “can’t sit here, seats taken”.  I really wanted to just set up the tent and forget about trying to make the already-over-packed shelter make room.  And I would have definitely done that if I were by myself.  But mom was adamant.  “Listen everyone.  I’m Mountain Mama, and we need to sleep in here tonight so everyone go ahead and please make room”.  I swear that is what she said.  And they all started scooting over and made room for two more sardines.  A few of them even said “Oh…Mountain Mama…I’ve heard of you”.

After pulling out my sleeping bag and finally getting set for bed, I realized that while carrying 40 pounds for miles on my back didn’t hurt my back at all, lying on the boards in a cocoon bag did. In my mind, the shelter was going to be a fun campsite to rest and relax and get your mind off of the trail.  In reality, I started to want to be back on the trail and out of the shelter as much as I had wanted to be in the shelter and off of the trail.  I think that had mostly to do with the overcrowding and the slushy/muddy conditions.  But the shelters did offer the best opportunity to meet and catch up with fellow hikers.

I think the people that you meet along the way account for the majority of your experience and memories. Mom’s blog up to this point is evidence of that for her hike as well, and I was looking forward to meeting the people with whom she shared the trail.

My first observations were that there is not a lot of diversity on the trail as far as race, ethnicity, or even age.  Almost everyone you meet is a white, young adult between the ages of 20-30, although it did seem like a pretty even gender split. From the conversations or jokes overheard to the types of books they were reading at the shelter, you could also tell that pretty much everyone was higher education material.

The age is what really surprised me, though.  Of the dozens of thru-hikers that I met or came across, I think there were only five people that were older than me, and only two older than mom.

Nearly everyone I met was super friendly, and the great thing about it was that no matter how little you actually have in common with these people in the real world, you share this huge common goal with them and therefore have so much to talk about with each other: the conditions today, the weather coming up, trail food, their gear, zero days, etc, etc. This is where most of the conversations centered, although the longer that you were around people the more you discovered about their personal lives.

I found it funny that there are a lot of things on the trail that are “socially acceptable” that wouldn’t be in the real world. There are the obvious things like going around the tree to pee or everyone being totally unshaven and dirty.  But then there were things like the way everyone would gorge on food.  It was almost laughable to watch a 100-pound, twenty-year-old girl eat a whole jar of peanut butter with a spoon and no one blink an eye.  Everyone knows how many calories they are burning and that they need to sustain their energy levels, so it was amazing to watch them eat.  The other thing “normal” to the trail is the high volumes of sleep.  Twelve hours of sleep is the norm because, if you think about it, what else are you going to do when you’re exhausted, it’s dark, and there is no electricity?  Everyone went to bed at about 7:30pm and got up when the sun came up about 12 hours later.

In daily life, I think everyone has had the moment when they wake up and check their clock hoping that it isn’t time to get up so that they can go back to sleep. That is one of my favorite tiny life joys.  Well, I found myself waking up fully rested at 3am and wishing it was 7am because I wanted to get out of that bag!   Who ever complained about 4 extra hours of sleep?!

The sun would finally come up, and we’d join everyone else in repacking everything and heading back out on the trail.

In the past when anyone would ask me about mom’s safety on the trail, they would usually first think about it in regards to bears or wild animals.  I was always more afraid of other people who might find a female hiker as a target (which is why I had mom take the women’s self defense jiu jitsu classes at Downtown Gracie).  But after being on the trail for those few days with her, I didn’t meet or cross paths with one person who gave me a bad vibe or that made me think “Man, I’m glad I’m here with her”.

Really, the more people I met, the more I felt like she was in a safe environment as far as other hikers were concerned. The biggest safety factor was the conditions on the trail, and the realization that, if anything happens to you—a broken ankle or hypothermia —you are miles away from any roads/emergency access.

I did have the thought at one of my more exhausted moments after rounding the never ending mountains that if I slipped and fell down the cliff, at least a helicopter would probably come get me.  And maybe we could show the pilot mom’s heels and they’d take her too.

I have no idea how she hiked the 15 miles on the last day.  That picture of her heels is what they looked like that morning before the hike.  If my heels had looked like that I would have insisted on taking a day off at camp.  But she hiked it and never even mentioned the pain except matter of factly when I would ask every few hours.  I think that last day shows her determination for the entire hike and the mindset that she must and does have.  She knew she really needed to get off the trail that day and so she hiked the 15 miles with raw heels.  And, once she gets better, she knows she told herself that she would make it to Maine – so that’s exactly what she’s going to do.

But maybe she will forget I said I’d do that part with her…

Time to Heal

Paul and I were able to get a shuttle into Gatlinburg. We wanted to get cleaned up and then get my heels looked at by a physician. I went from hiking out of the Smokies hours before to hobbling into the urgent care center. Here I received the news that I really already knew (but didn’t want to believe), I would need to get off the trail for a short time to allow my heels to heal.

In places my heels are open to the subcutaneous tissue, dangerously close to muscle. The chance of infection is great and the only way to allow this to heal is to stop walking! It is hard not to get discouraged by this—another delay! My hopes were that I would be able to get back after a day or two, but in reality, it will be more like a week or two. I received treatment and prescriptions, and then limped out to take time to ponder my options.

I could stay here, in Gatlinburg, but that would be expensive. Paul could drive me back to Atlanta to stay with Katie and Kyle or back to Pensacola to heal at home. Everyone weighed in, Gus and each of the kids, and then the final decision was mine.

Gus told me that he would drive me back to the trail as soon as I was approved to get back, so I decided that I would rather recuperate at home. After a good night’s sleep, Paul and I started the long drive home. I am trying hard not to be down about this, hikers must leave the trail frequently for illnesses, major family events and various other things, some planned and some not. I know this is the best solution, in no time I will be back.

When we reached Birmingham, Paul said to me, “Mom, do you realize that from here to home is how far you have walked so far?” Wow! I know I have walked almost 250 miles but that put it into perspective.

There is always a positive, and mine is that I get to see Gus, my mom and yes, my dog. I will be able to talk with my kids and sisters by just picking up the phone—I will always have service. I do plan to keep blogging this week. I will keep you updated on my progress and also share a few more tales from the trails. So this old girl may be down for a few days, but I am not out…stay tuned!!


Escape from the Smokies!!!

Tri-Corner Shelter to Davenport Gap
15.7 miles
Total miles: 238.1

We awoke to the promise of another beautiful day. It would be over 6000 feet elevation for a few more miles with two significant climbs before the next shelter, which was seven miles away. After that, there would be only one more climb before beginning a final descent from the Smokies. The northern boundary of the park was 15.7 miles away. After evaluating the shape of my heels, I knew that I MUST make it out today.

My boots and socks were dry. I did my usual routine of blister pads and mole skin, but then Paul and I wrapped my heel with athletic tape as well. With any luck, the ice and snow would be melted and I could stay dry.

Just before heading out, we said our good-byes to our shelter buddies. It is so difficult to explain. I have known Purple Blaze and DiVinci for less than 12 hours, and inside, I am mourning losing them. I do not know if we will meet them again. Purple Blaze told me the trail is like a caterpillar, it expands and contracts as you move, and the ends will meet again. I hope she is right, because it is my loss if I do not meet these two again.

Mama’s Boy and I set out early feeling rejuvenated. The trail had improved, there were lingering patches of ice and snow, but nothing too treacherous. We made good time until, yes, the dreaded uphills. One day, I know I will be better at these, but for now, I suck.

Paul and I have a system, he takes the lead on the ascents and waits for me at the top. I take the lead on the downhills. Many hikers have trouble with knee impact and have to tread slowly downhill. For me, that is where I do the best. Paul would ask me on occasion how my heels were, and I would reply, I still have them. But in reality, I knew, they were bad news.

Each uphill step was painful. I just would not let myself think about it. I knew I had to make it out today, so it did not matter how bad they hurt. I just needed to keep moving. We reached the first shelter by noon, where we stopped for lunch and enjoyed the company of Moose and three other hikers. After a brief break, we were off to tackle the second half of our day.

Only one more climb…..I could do this! We met DiVinci and Purple Blaze, a brief, fun, reunion. They stopped for pics, and we trudged on. It was a wonderful moment when we crested that final hill. I knew that we had only six miles left of a 3500 foot descent. I could do this! We met DiVinci again, she told us she had just had a very close call. She showed us her trekking pole, and it was completely BENT. It had saved her from going over the side of the mountain!! Scary!

The grade of the mountain was wonderful. It was a section of a horse trail, as evidenced by the droppings. The snow disappeared; the trail was dry; birds were chirping. Oh my goodness, it felt like, dare I say it, SPRING! Paul and I were unstoppable. It felt much better on my heels going downhill, though I did begin to feel my toes. (Oh dear).

We rounded a bend and the Smokies spit us out!! Three days of misery, finished!! The feeling: indescribable. We sat down on large rocks next to the road and savored the moment.

I decided it was time to take off my boots. Ughhh! Not good. Bloody socks were the first sign. I see a trip to urgent care in my future, but more on that tomorrow!



Snow. Ice. Slush…oh my.

Peck’s Corner Shelter to Tri-Corner Shelter
5.2 miles
Total miles: 222.4

We were all up with the sun, and the shelter was full of moans and groans as hikers put on their already wet socks and saturated boots. A few that actually had dry socks slipped on plastic bags over their socks in hopes of warding off the inevitable.

The Smokies combined with this weather was kicking everybody’s butts. One of the young men who had slept in the shelter made the decision that he had had enough. He had decided to turn around, hike back to Gatlinburg, and get off the trail for good. It was sobering—a dream ending.
I tried to protect my heels as much as possible. I doubled the blister pads, covered them with mole skin, slipped on my not quite dry socks, and laced up my soaking wet boots. Paul and I hiked out of the shelter the half mile to the trail and started back with high hopes for the day. We started out saying the goal was 12 miles to the second shelter.

It was soon obvious that would not happen. It is difficult to explain how a day that was so incredibly beautiful could have such difficult hiking conditions. We were hiking up the mountain on the trail that had water running down it as if it were a stream because the snow was melting so fast in places. We would then turn a corner, and the path would suddenly be heavily shaded. We would begin slipping on ice unexpectedly. The worst places were the parts that looked like they were solid ice, and you step and sink into water or mud. Hiking was slow.

Paul and I were both trying to be optimistic but finally I said, “I think the wise decision is to stop at the first shelter today.” It’s amazing how that decision changed our outlook. We could see a light at the end of the tunnel.

We arrived at Tri-Corner Shelter at 1:00 p.m., and already someone else had stopped for the night. The shelter had a great water source and was in an open enough area that the sun was bright. We all took off our boots to allow them to dry. Raven, the first hiker in, had strung a line between trees, and I was able to wring my socks out and hang them to dry.

We ate a good lunch and were able to relax. Hikers began pulling in early, one after the other. Everyone was excited to be off the trail. We met DiVinci, Purple Blaze and Moose—all open and friendly, and in a matter of moments I felt like we were old friends. The shelter filled quickly, and the mood was upbeat. Laughter rang out through-out the evening.

On a more serious note, my heels were looking pretty nasty. I knew I had to make it out of the park tomorrow or risk getting an infection. But for now, I will enjoy the evening and deal with tomorrow, tomorrow.

Post Script: Today was a hard day, but then I remember one of the driving factors behind my trip. Click here to Donate to UCP.

A Stubborn Winter

Newfound Gap to Pecks Corner
10.4 miles
Total miles: 217.2

Paul picked me up in Atlanta, and we were off to conquer the Smokies. Our goal was to tackle the second half.

When we arrived at Newfound Gap, we were met with the news that there was another six inches of fresh snow from the night before…so much for waiting for the weather to clear.

We got a late start in order to review Paul’s gear and make changes where needed. At 12:30, the shuttle dropped us off. Mountain Mama and Mama’s Boy (that is the name Paul has chosen for himself in my honor) started up the trail. paul and mom

We were immediately met with snow and ice. Winter will not go away. The day was beautiful, and the sun was shining, but the elevations were high enough that the snow and ice remained. In places our boots sank calf high into the snow. In others, we skated over ice. Where the sun had begun thawing, we trudged through slush. It was a slow and difficult day.

After making the decision to bypass the first shelter (as it was only three miles in), we enjoyed a brief stop at Charles Bunion overlook. The day was so clear that visibility was estimated at 200 miles. The views were incredible. Here I made the decision that I should change my socks because they were wet, and I could feel hot spots starting on my heels.

When I did I was dismayed to find that the friction from the wet socks and boots had already broken the skin on my heels. I put on blister pads and moleskin, along with sock liners and new socks. We had miles to go to reach the next shelter, and we wanted to get there before it was too late.

The shadows lengthened as we tried to hurry through the snow, ice and muck. With each step, I realized I was causing more damage. I tried to be careful, but I set a new record for slips and falls—nine for the day. I know this sounds ridiculous, but I was not the only one falling. It was almost impossible to stay upright.

We reached the shelter just before dark. It was a half mile off the trail, one of the longest half miles of my life. It was such a feeling of relief when we finally got there, but it was very short lived. The shelter was full!

The Smokies require everyone to stay inside the shelter unless it is full. In which case, thru hikers are supposed to tent next to the shelter. The unspoken rule of thru-hikers is that when the weather is bad, there is always room for one more. So here is where I probably embarrassed my son. He said, “ Come on Mom, we will set up tents outside.” And I responded, “no, there is over a foot of snow out there. I am sleeping in this shelter. They can squeeze together and make room.” After much to do, they did just that. I hated to do that but I knew I was in bad shape and did not need to tent.

It was not the best first day or best first shelter experience for Paul. He was a good sport about it all and did not complain. In the end, there were 19 people in a 14 person shelter. It was warm and cozy and one really gets to know ones neighbors. I crawled in my sleeping bag to tried to eat. Thankful to be out of the snow, I drifted off to the soft snores of near by hikers.

Back to the Trail

Newfound Gap to …. Newfound Gap??
5 miles ( 2.5 north & 2.5 south)
Total miles: 206.8

I was up early and ready to get started. There is nothing more difficult than idleness. I ate a quick breakfast and then caught a ride to the hotel where the majority of the hikers were staying.

I felt like it would be easier to share a shuttle from there. It was not long before I made arrangements with Reset, Big Gulp and Pretty Bird, and we were soon on our way. We arrived at the gap and Reset, true to form, wasted no time. He hit the trail before the rest of us got our packs on. I followed shortly, but he was no longer in sight.

As always, after a few days of,f I start with a case of nerves, but they quickly dissipated. The trail was beautiful. The snow remained on the ground, and the mountain looked like a winter wonderland. The climb was not too strenuous, and I warmed quickly to a comfortable walking temperature.

As the elevation increased, so did the amount of ice; at first, just caution and good placement of my poles kept me on my feet. Soon, I was doing more slipping and sliding then walking. Somewhere between the two and two and a half mile mark, I began doubting my sanity. My goal is to make it to Maine, safely! Hiking on ice, without crampons, seemed like a sure way to ensure that I would not succeed.

I reached a rocky area, slick with ice, and attempted to find a safe way to climb it. I would slide one way, then the next, until finally I conceded. I am not super women. I am no longer 25 years old and infallible.

I made the decision to retrace my steps down the mountain and, gasp, take ANOTHER ZERO! As I walked down, I met Zach. He and the young man he was hiking with stopped and tried to convince me to continue. They said they would stay with me, but I need to hike my hike and they need to hike theirs, not babysit me!!

I cannot say enough good things about the young men and women I have met on the trail. My eyes are opened, and I see a generation that may at times look a bit different; some with dreads, gauges, piercings and a skull tattoo or two, but their hearts are huge and I feel blessed to have crossed paths with them.

So I retraced my steps, slipping and sliding, and made it back to Newfound Gap. Then hitched a ride to town. (Gasp again!). The forecast for the next two days is dismal— thunder and lightning storms! I made a decision, rather than wait out the thunderstorms in Gatlinburg, I would drive to Katie & Kyle’s (my daughter and son-in-laws) and wait for the weather to clear. My son, Paul, is going to hike with me for five days, so he can drive me back to Gatlinburg, and we can finish the Smokies together!


As I drove south, I was amazed by all the signs of spring. Trees were coming alive with color. At one point, white flakes drifted across the road. My first reaction was more snow, and then I realized it was the wind blowing the blossoms from the trees. This morning I had left the trail because of winters icy grasp and this afternoon the promise of Spring was all around me.

Part of me wishes I was still on the trail, putting in the miles. But this is not a race, and I must make good decisions to make sure I finish.