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Section Hike #1 of the Appalachian Trail - May 18 - June 5, 2011

I can't believe it. Almost a full year's planning has finally been seen through. The goal was set and the goal was reached. 13 days hiking solo on the Appalachaian Trail, beginning just before the DeHart Resevoir in Pennsylvania on PA325 heading South and ending at the beautiful Bears Den Hostel on Blueridge Mountain Road in Northern Virginia. Many lessons learned, many revelations shown and God was all over this trip and i am forever in awe of his Glory, his Protective arms and his just plain and raw love! Below are my journal entries from my trip. Enjoy!

Journal Entry #1: Wednesday, May 18, 2011

  • Travel Day: - San Antonio to Washington DC International Airport, then Amtrak to Harpers Ferry, WVA.
  • Weather: Flood Watch, raining and 72 degrees.

    This is the beginning: In Houston, waiting to board the plane to DC. It is almost show time and i can't believe that it is really happening! I have left my husband, my parents, my friends and my beautiful children to go on this journey that i truly believe that God is calling me to go on. I am watching the weather here at the airport and it is showing a flood watch in effect for PA, MD, WVA and VA (Funny, those are all the states i am hiking through). I can backpack in the rain and storms, that is a battle that i have encountered many times before in Baja Mexico and in the Cascades on previous expeditions and with God by my side to carry me, it will be even easier to do it this time. Show time Owl! Time to Board!

    So, why go on this journey? Peace, Clarity, Quiet, the Unknown, Adventure, Unexpected, Challenge, Desire to be Pushed to Limit (emotionally, physically, spiritually) and see the Reaction, Undistracted Time with the Lord, and to show our boys Not To Be Afraid of the Unknown...and maybe a glutton for pain as well! Ha!

    The flight was easy but my heart almost stopped when my pack wasn't in baggage claim...all I could do was just watch all the people that were on my flight hug their families that were waiting and grab their bags and leave. I was in DC International, had no idea where the metro-Amtrak connection station was, which direction I was to go and it was honesty thrilling! My heart was pounding in my bag's absence...everything I needed was in that duffle…my life lines for the next 3 weeks: stove, first 5 days of food, clothes that had been selected and researched to be just perfect, amazingly light sleeping bag that stuffs to the size of 1.5 soda cans and weighs nothing, etc. As I tried hard not to freak out and started coming up with a back-up plan, I begin to walk to the Continental office and I see my duffle! Praise God! I was told that because I had knives in my pack, they had treated it a little more carefully and wanted to make sure that the correct owner with the correct claim ticket came to get it. Whew! The first possible hiccup diverted. I was soo relieved to unzip that duffle while curious onlookers watched the transformation of that black bag into a full backcountry pack that I threw on like it was made for me. Everyday mom, wife, daughter…now a loner, a seeker, unscheduled and full of questions. My pack and belongings on my back felt comfortable, normal and always has since the earliest expeditions in the Cascade Mountains and Sierra's. The "Call of the Wilderness' flows through our veins, there's no denying that.

    You know how it is said that God chose YOU to be your child’s mother or father for a reason we may not understand? Well, I have to believe that there is a higher calling for why I am soo pulled to do these things and drag my family along on some of the adventures…maybe missionary work outside the US? Maybe mentoring to troubled teens by taking them into the wilderness so they too can lose the noise and distractions and deal with their demons and turn their eyes and hearts to God…I don’t know why, but I do know that I am not just leaving my family to go walk in the woods for no reason, to be selfish or to be self centered. My heart is telling me that this experience is just one more piece of the puzzle to completing my life, married life and the boys lives. Seems like a lot of pressure for this trip, but I am not afraid. There should be alot of pressure as deep sacrifice has gone into making this trip a reality from Brian, the children and our family’s part so I am grateful that there is a bit of pressure.

    Sorry, I digress...Then the trek to the metro began. DC suits and skirts were staring at me as I manuevered underground through the tunnels to find the correct train that would take me to Amtrak station. Feeling a little out of place but yet not unsettled about it. I accidently got on the Red line and went West rather than East without realizing it. Easy fix with time to spare, just got off at the next stop and got on the same line going East, but i had to chuckle to myself that if i can't get on the right train going the right direction, how was i going to walk over mountains in the fog and rain in a foreign land? Ha! Entering Union Station was just breathtaking! Soo cool! One more step towards laying eyes on the first white blaze. Here I began to see a few thru hikers as they are easy to pick out as the guys all have really cool beards and the girls all have boots that look like they have been through war. Plus, the ones i made eye contact with in the station were not super friendly. I didn't fully understand why at that moment, but i would soon understand completely why as my own journey, exhaustion and pain would set in after long miles and lonely days. I met my first thru-hiker on Amtrak. Cologne started at the beginning of the Appalachian Trail (AT) in Springer Mountain, GA about 1800 miles ago, on March 15th and he already made it to Harpers Ferry. He was from Germany and was all legs! He was taking 2 zero days (zero days are days when you don't hike on a designated trail on your journey) touring DC to get a break and is now heading back to the trail to begin the last half of his journey. Because I am beginning North and heading South, I may meet up with him on my way back down through HF and his way up towards PA. That would be neat to see him again! A welcomed friendly face!

    Harper's Ferry Towns Inn

    After arriving about 1.5 hr late on Amtrak into Harpers Ferry, WVA, I am now checked into the Harpers Ferry Towns Inn. I sure hope the train isn't late on the way out of HF in June as i will definitely miss my plane at that point. Ugh! I won't worry about it. God always makes a path even if it isn't the path that we choose or that is comfortable. We just have to have faith that if we are doing what He wills us to do, then he will take care of us! So, i will hand that concern upwards. Anyways, this Inn is a really great old 1800's building in a very historic town! I opted for a private room before i start my journey rather than staying in the bunk house with other hikers because I felt that they would only intimidate me since the thru hikers that are coming through HF now are the top 5% fastest hikers of the season and in the lead of the thru hikers that began in Springer Mtn, GA. Plus, I don't have any stories or experience to share so i know they would just look at me like a section hiker and nothing more. Not to mention, i look as green and fresh as any tourist with my clean clothes, no BO, shaven legs and arm pits and a little more to grab on my tummy than a thru hiker has. So, i will stay in this private room overlooking the river and the rain for the next 2 nights and try to settle my nerves with prayer and relaxation. I kinda wish I did have someone to talk to about the upcoming days, but I ultimately don't mind being alone when on the trail. My best thinking and connection with God happens then.

    Where the swollen Shenandoah River meets the Potomac River.

    Massive flooding of the 2 rivers has caused the AT to be closed across on this footbridge leaving many hikers stranded and having to catch rides to either side.

    This view is of the C&O Towpath at the end of the footbridge and yes, it is underwater and the cause of the stranding of hikers not able to continue their AT journey at this time going this way!

    Check out more photos on YouTube of the flooding that was happening the day after I arrived in Harpers Ferry. Floods on May 19th, 2011

    Tomorrow the plan is to hike around Harpers Ferry and tour all the museums and historic buildings and even step foot on the trail just for fun as the trail comes right through town! I will get the supplies that i couldn't fly with like lighter, matches, my stove fuel and some new gaiters cause i forgot my in the garage this morning (BooHoo) at the HF Outfitters next door. Very convienent location being right next door! Then on Friday, the Inn's owner is supposed to drive me to my drop off point, about a 3.5 hour drive from the Inn, so very generous and i am grateful for her doing this. There is a slight chance that her assistant/helper might take me instead if she isn't available at the last minute. Feel a little on guard, being across the country, alone and about to embark on the largest solo trek ever done in my life. Can't wait until trail stories flow when this is all over and done, especially how God worked His magic.

    The distraction level should be way down and I expect senses will be sharper as being in tune with the surroundings should come naturally as i listen for bootsteps coming up or down the trail, the rattling of disgruntled snakes and the rumbling of distant thunder promising a wet night. I just got goosebumps thinking about how God has already made this trip happen. From having a husband that is the most supportive man on this earth that encourages his wife to follow her dreams knowing that he then has to be super dad for the next 3 weeks, even in his pain and struggles with his health to having the YMCA after care open up their program to my boys so that they could have a place to safely go after school just for the last 2 weeks of school so Brian won't have to get off work earlier than normal and even still having family step in and help care for our kids while I am gone. Simply awesome! God is good!!

    Cell coverage is spotty but did get to let Brian and the kids know I got here ok and tell them how much I love and miss them. Not sure how much I will be able to talk to them in the coming days, but can text using the Delorme GPS/Spot combo which is nice. Awesome device! Time for bed in clean sheets, a dry room and not being woken up by hikers trying to get out of the shelter at the crack of dawn! Ha! Not for long!

    "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul". -- John Muir