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Hiking > Lonestar Hiking Trail 2014

Solo Thru Hike of the Lonestar Hiking Trail - December 28, 2014 - January 2, 2015

After all the backpacking trips and adventures I have done, I can finally claim to have thru-hiked something! Please don’t misunderstand me..It is great section hiking and hiking half or part of something if that is what the call of the wild is for you at that season in your life but to start at the beginning of a trail, wide eyed, full of excitement as to what the boots will travel over, and take that last step of a trail now hopefully more wise and maybe a little more physically weary than when you more alive spiritually and emotionally, is really just plain cool….feeling the emotions of the ebb and flow of the pathway set before you as each mile passes. 

Below are my journal entries of this trip. Please understand that some thoughts are completely random and I do digress…after 6 days essentially completely alone in the woods, I think some random thoughts are pretty normal. Ha! These entries represent where I was at the time of writing them on this journey and I feel it is important to share with other folks interested in doing something like this or for those that for some reason think they can’t. If I can do it, so can you if you have the desire! Thank you for going on this journey with me. 

Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.” JM (1888) 


Journal Entry #1: Saturday, December 27, 2014

Travel Day: - Bulverde to Richards, Texas - Sam Houston National Forest. (4 hrs, 200 miles)

Weather: Thunderstorms, 41 degrees

The day has arrived and today is the day for new beginnings!!! The plan is to make the 4 hour drive to the Sam Houston National Forest, get checked into our campsite at Stubblefield Campground, drive approx. 100 miles on backcountry county roads through the forest strategically placing my water caches and then eventually leaving my truck at Winters Bayou Trailhead #15 at the end of the Lonestar Hiking Trail. Brian and i are driving separate vehicles so that we can leave my truck at the end and he can drop Josh and me at the beginning tomorrow. Josh is doing the first 20 miles of the hike with me so he can satisfy that requirement for his Hiking Merit badge for Boy Scouts so I am excited about having him with me for the first day. 

My family has been amazing at making this trip happen as just the planning alone has taken over 3 months to work out all the fine details. My mom agreed to come Saturday afternoon to tend to all the chickens/goats and our basset hound and spend the night so she could wake early to then again tend to the chickens and goats. Not to mention that Brian has to drive all the way there and for his back this is a long and uncomfortable drive. He also has agreed to camp Saturday night which hasn’t happened in years so that Josh can wake up and hike with me. I am so grateful for all the coordination and help that has gone into allowing this crazy mom take 5 days away from her family so she can go walk into the unknown to take a cleansing breathe and rediscover her focus for the next season she is embarking on. 

So, why go on this journey? My answers are the same as when I wrote about my Appalachian Trail adventure: Peace, Clarity, Quiet, Step into the Unknown, Adventure, Encounter the Unexpected, Challenge, Desire to be Pushed to Limit (emotionally, physically, spiritually), Undistracted Time with the Lord, and to show our boys Not To Be Afraid of the Unknown...and I may be a glutton for a little pain as well! Ha! Life circumstances have changed since i wrote this in 2011 but it is all still 100% true for this trip.

This morning began at 6am since everything was loaded last night. I left Brian and the boys to pack for themselves since they are camping too so hope they didn’t forget anything! I figure Josh has camped enough by now with me that he should be able to help his dad pack to camp one night, right? All that was left for me to do this morning was to take a deep breathe, clear my mind to make room for new thoughts for the day, get the family up and moving and tend to the animals with a goal of driving out by 7:15am. Sounds easy enough right? As I mentioned already, todays goal was to check in at Stubblefield Campground, praying that it wasn’t full with all the hunters in the local area. We would set up camp, then starting driving to hide my water and then leave the truck…this was the plan in my head….funny how things never work out that way. :-) Now this is how it really happened….

We left the house at 7:45am in a major downpour with thunderstorms pelting our cars as we drove down 46 towards New Braunfels(see video above!). Before we left I discovered one of our chickens was egg bound…again.. but i couldn’t stay to help her through it like i normally do so i had to leave her laying on the floor of the coop unable to walk or move. About broke my heart but prayed over her and left her circumstance up to the Great Healer and wished her the best. The cold front that was expected to arrive Saturday afternoon when mom was to arrive at the house for the evening of course came early and arrived as we left so poor Crockett watched shivering as we drove away in the cold. It rained 4 straight hours all the way to the campground, which was completely deserted when we got there…wonder why? Ha! The weather was awful that day but i was confident that sunshine was on its way…boy was I naive that day as who would have guessed the weather forecast for the next 7 days! Hahaha! As i pulled into campground there was no one sitting around the campfires, no children chasing each other around tents, no one unhitching their trailers….it was dead empty. I had the thought at the moment as we pulled in how miserable my family would be that day and night there, especially since my husband is not a camper and the weather was less than ideal. Had I been alone, I would have set up camp rain or shine and moved on…but something told me that something in my plans for the day was about to change. As I got out of the truck, Brian followed me to the camp bathroom that had an overhang, we stood there looking at the rain already pooling within the tent pads at each site and he looked at me and said we are going to Hunstville to get a hotel for the night. I started to argue as this was not what I had planned and we were on a tight time schedule to get my water in place and drop the truck, but he was not going to camp and that was that. I seem to always need to work on not being so controlling so reluctantly agreed and got back in the truck and followed him to the Huntsville La Quinta. The boys were excited to stay in a hotel and I realized it might not be so bad getting one good dry warm nights sleep before my long week plus I knew Brian would be more comfortable there which would make things run more smoothly. With all the metal he has in his back, sleeping on the ground is not like sleeping in our sleep number bed for sure.

Once checked in, we got into our separate cars, me rocking to the Sweet Home Alabama while Brian insisted on keeping the boys with him so I could focus on my week and so he rocked to the noise of sweet boys for the next 4 hours that it took to find all the water drop spots marked on my maps and drive the back roads to get there. Some spots were easy to find where the trail crossed the main roads, other locations were harder to find along muddy, dirt, hole ridden back roads. I was fine driving all the roads in my truck and actually had fun going muddin’, but as I looked in my rear view mirror, I could only imagine the choice words coming out of Brian’s mouth as he drove extremely slow in his new Honda Accord through those muddy, dirt, hole ridden back roads. He was a great sport about it and didn’t complain once to me about it…He was even smiling as we had to pull alongside each other to coordinate the next drop plan.

So 2 concerns with placing food or water caches for a hike include 1) the hider needs to remember where the items are hidden (you would be surprised at how all the pine trees at each trailhead or road crossing look just alike) and 2) that someone finds your cache and steals it which could be detrimental to your hike if you were counting on those items to be there. But for me, this is where faith came in and all I could do was pray that they would be there when I needed them and if they weren’t, that just meant there was another adventure awaiting me along this journey. With all the rain we were experiencing currently I did feel kinda silly hiding water, but all the data books said that water could be very scarce on the trail so I just didn’t want to take a chance with my 17, 19 and 20 mile days ahead of me. That would be nothing more of a bummer than getting to camp and having no water to cook with to have a hot meal, especially if this cold weather didn’t clear out. I had a gut feeling the creeks would be nicely swollen with good water flow…I just didn’t know how right I was about that one!

Water drop #1 was placed at the Parking Lot #7 at the I-45 junction of the trail. I took a picture of where I hid it in order to help me remember as one bundle of pine straw looked the same as a bundle across the same trail. It was great to be at that particular drop location because I got to see the 2.5 miles of road walking I had to do on the access road of I45 and PR40 before entering the woods again. I hate road walking with a passion, one because I am obviously clearly visible as a solo female hiker on the road to passerbys that may not have such great intentions and second because road walking kills the neuroma in my foot. (I have battled a nueroma since I was about 20 and I hiked through soo much pain while on the Appalachian Trail, I truly thought I had killed the nerve when it all of the sudden stopped hurting completely on day 9 on that hike. Unfortunately, I think it just went into shock from all the trauma but it is back in full swing now. Boo!) So at least seeing where I would be walking, I could mentally be prepared for it knowing it was coming up with all the truckers that were zooming by at a high rate of speed. I have never had this advantage on previous hikes…to kind of scout out some of the my route ahead of time. Then that same day, not too much later, i would have another 3.4 miles of a country road walk along Four Notch Road, so lots of road time on that day. I left water drop #2 at the intersection of FM2296 and Four Notch Rd. Drop #3 was across FM206 at the trail crossing. My 4th water refill would actually be at the Evergreen Baptist Church as they had agreed to allow thru hikers access to their water hose to replenish their water according to my trail guide so that was great. As we drove by the church, I made visual with the hose so was confident I was taken care of at that location. The 5th and last water cache would be at the Parking Lot #14. All drops were in place and ready to be found over the next week. I felt like a weight had been lifted when we finished as I was now one more step closer to beginning this adventure. It was exciting to see all the LSHT white blazes along the roads and at the trail crossings as the last time i followed white blazes was on the AT so I have fond memories of white blazes. 

So we headed to the last parking lot and nestle my truck under the tall pines and I say a prayer that the truck is still there/isn’t vandalized when I finish on January 2nd. As I glanced at the point where the trail opens to the parking lot, I wondered for a moment what I would be thinking as I came through the woods and crossed the hiker gate there and made that first visual with the truck at the end. Would I be smiling after an easy hike? Would I be crawling to the truck due to foot pain? Would I even make it through that hiker gate and instead have to get off the trail early due to injury or an emergency? Well, those questions are all the things that made this trip exciting…only God knows what will happen…I am just here to walk out the script that He already has written.

With a full day done, we head to grab a big dinner at Olive Garden to celebrate and get some carbs in me before the long next day. Brian and Sam decided while Josh and I were hiking that they would head to the Huntsville prison museum so they had their day planned. I hoped Josh and I would be done with our day at 4pm, but Josh didn’t train at all so just not sure how slow or fast he will hike. Not to mention rain was expected all day on Sunday for Day 1 which will slow us down a little. My excitement to hike this first leg with my son was overflowing as I knew how special that was even if he was doing it for his hiking merit badge primarily and not to hang with his mom. Ha! I am grateful for that quiet time with him, have him experience a piece of what I was about to encounter and teach him some things I knew about backpacking and trail life along the way. 

Well, we are all in bed and I am tired so will sign off for this long day…can’t wait to see what lies ahead…

"Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days, inciting at once to work and rest! Days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God. Nevermore, however weary, should one faint by the way who gains the blessings of one mountain day; whatever his fate, long life, short life, stormy or calm, he is rich forever.” JM (1911)


Journal Entry #2: Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hike Plan #1: - Parking Lot #1 to Stubblefield Campground - 20.3 miles

Weather: Thunderstorms, 35 degrees

What a crazy wonderful day! I am proud of Josh beyond words. He successfully completed his 20 mile hike with me today…he experienced hunger, freezing wet temps the whole time, pain in his ankles that brought tears to his eyes but he finished. I kept reminding him of something that has gotten me through the coldest of times backpacking in the Northern Sierras and when I was so fatigued on the AT….”Pain, cold, being uncomfortable and walking in the woods is temporary….the pain will end, the cold will end, the rain will stop…so push through my dear…you are stronger than you know.” Boy have I said that to myself a few thousand times since I was 14 years old…but it got me through a stress fracture in my foot on a long distance hike where i couldn’t quit, through a stress fracture in my hip while I was in the finals of a singles tennis tournament in 2010 (Which I won)…most challenges are 80% mental and 20% physical I believe….so if we can remember that everything is temporary, it is amazing how much you can push your body beyond limits you have predetermined for yourself…we are our worst enemies. 

With a starting temp of 35 degrees this morning and pouring down rain at our 8am hike start, he was a trooper. I loved looking up and seeing him with his pack and trekking poles ahead of me watching for the next blaze as I told him I was following his lead today…it was a dream come true for me. It rained 8 out of the 8.5 hours of our hike and the temps never got above 40 degrees….talk about muddy, wet and cold! I have to admit it was kinda miserable but don’t tell Josh I thought that. LOL. He was fine until his feet started to hurt at mile 15 then the tears came at mile 16. My heart broke for him but it was also part of the experience..maybe had he trained even a little, the pain may have been less or maybe he needed to go through this so he could see how strong he was. Either way, I let him be frustrated and upset and just continued to encourage him with my ‘This is temporary’ mindset. We saw no wildlife along the way which was a bummer as there is a section by Conroe Lake we walked alongside where the Eagles nest and when I did a 40 mile hike here in 2011, a dozen eagles soared above my head. But with the rain, I guess they were all bundled into their nests. We were the silly animals out in the rain. It was a sweet sight as we reached the end of the trail at the campground as we were about 20 minutes later than I had planned to finish. Brian had started to worry a little so he decided to walk a little down the trail towards us. When Josh looked up from his feet and saw his dad walking toward him, he was overcome with emotion. It was a sweet moment. Then Brian jumped into action getting Josh’s warm clothes out, getting food in him and getting his boots off of him. This day was a team effort for sure. :-) 

Once Josh was settled, I sat in the car for a minute as I was shivering uncontrollably as the temp was already down to 31 and I was soaked to the core. They were about to leave to head home so I changed into dry clothes and got the point I could speak without chattering my teeth. I charged my phone to ensure 100% before they left and Brian surprised me with another mini battery charger to help keep my cell charged which was a great gift. I of course always carry my Spot Unit and My Delorme personal GPS to communicate with the outside world, but I always feel more secure with a cell phone as well. 

It was now time to say goodbye to my family. I gave hugs, ensured all my gear was on the picnic table and we said our goodbyes. I headed for the bathroom to use the hand drier to try and dry my socks and pants I had on previously so they wouldn’t be quite as wet for the next day. As I was doing that, my family came into the bathroom, yes the women’s bathroom (but remember there wasn’t anyone in the whole aground but the park hosts), as they said they wanted to pray for me before they left! How blessed I am! It was new for me to have such family involvement in these type trips as normally I do all the planning, the coordination and the execution of the details, so it was nice to have my family there and involved. 

The park host came over when the family left and said I could put my tent up under the pavilion for the night if I wanted to in order to stay dry for the night. She said two hikers did that the night before, so I graciously accepted the offer as I am no dummy and would look back at the last dry night with yearning later on in the week. The forecast called for dry weather Mon-Wed but storms and rain on Thursday and Friday so we would see how that would actually turn out for me. Ha! As I climbed into my tent that night, I felt physically strong…20 miles and I didn’t even feel fatigued or sore…but my right foot was a little unhappy with me already, causing me to limp slightly which I hid from Brian while he was there as I didn’t want to worry him…pain is temporary I reminded myself and come Friday, whatever pain I had would end as I drove home in a warm dry truck. It really sucks that my body can be fit and ready for challenges and it is always this stupid foot that is the only thing that causes me to take pause with pain. I guess it would be boring if nothing hurt to make the hike a little more challenging. 

Tomorrow I head into the woods alone finally…as I write this, the hunters are shooting their guns trying to get their last trophies before hunting season is over and I am soo grateful for David Marrs who has lent me his orange gear to try and keep me from being mistaken for a buck! Goodnight all! 

"Fresh beauty opens one's eyes wherever it is really seen, but the very abundance and completeness of the common beauty that besets our steps prevents its being absorbed and appreciated. It is a good thing, therefore, to make short excursions now and then to the bottom of the sea among dulse and coral, or up among the clouds on mountain-tops, or in balloons, or even to creep like worms into dark holes and caverns underground, not only to learn something of what is going on in those out-of-the-way places, but to see better what the sun sees on our return to common everyday beauty.” - JM (1894) 


Journal Entry #3: Monday, December 29, 2014

Hike Plan #2: - Stubblefield Campground to Phelps Hiker Camp- 18.73 miles

Weather: Overcast with drizzle, 41 degrees

What an exciting day!!!! Can you see how the blazes direct hikers to turn right in the picture above? Kinda cool! Anyways, after many creek crossings with no bridges or logs to use to help cross, I also had to cross a lake spillway in a private neighborhood that the LSHT passes through. Now as you can see from the picture above, this spillway is fed from a lake that then dumps below into about 10 feet of rushing water. The guide book warns hikers of this crossing that it is very very mossy and slippery so to be careful. Temp showed to be 39 degrees so taking off my boots/socks and rolling up my pants just didn’t sound appealing but I had to get across so I did what I had to do….took my pack off (a great relief for a second) and removed my boots and socks, tied them to my pack and then grabbed my trekking poles, got my pack back on and made the slow crossing…I knew looking that if I fell and slid into the water below, my hike would probably be over as everything would be soaked and could take days to dry. As I began to cross, I notice a home owner standing at his patio door watching me. The guide book also says that hikers are not encouraged to linger there or hang out for any extended length of time so I wasn’t sure if this guy was watching to make sure that I wasn’t going to hang for a while or maybe he wanted to see me fall in, etc…he never came out to say hi so I guessed he was watching to see if i would fall in face or feet first…maybe even taking bets with his wife also in the house. Ha! Well, in your face sir, I made it and even sat and ate my gorp and a snickers bar for a minute after I got my boots on just in spite! But I guess the last laugh was on me as it took the next 3 miles for my feet to unfreeze after walking through that crazy cold slimy water. A positive of this fact was since I don’t get a shower for 6 days, at least my feet got a bath. Hahaha! 

I saw a hiker today at mile 36, the first person I have seen on the trail as of yet. He said he started on Thursday hiking but he only had a tiny day pack so not sure if he is slap packing or doing it assisted. If my projection was correct then, he would be done tomorrow afternoon if he was doing my mileage which puts him doing the same routes and day loads I was doing. I have to admit his small day pack looked very appealing, but with the drizzle we didn’t chat much except he asked if there was any good water ahead for filtering. The conversation lasted all of 3 minutes….knowing what I know now, I would have asked him a lot more questions about what he had experienced thus far….oh well! I would find out for myself soon enough! :-) Honestly, some of the things coming up that I didn’t know about was probably for the best anyways as they would have just made me anxious. I do know I brought too many pieces of clothes. 2 pair of zip off pants was fine but one clean shirt per day was too much and I should have known better as you can wear shirts for 2-3 days easy especially hiking solo (no one to smell you and complain). Plus with the cool temps, it wasn’t like I was sweating profusely in them… if anything they were getting washed by the rain…I should have remembered this point. 

(The picture above is at the beginning of the I45 road walk.) As I entered camp at mile marker 38.3, I started to doubt myself thinking maybe 20 miles back to back was too much out of the shoot with a full pack as I wasn’t eating much so my food load wasn’t reducing as fast I thought it would be. Nothing was more beautiful today than as I turned the corner and saw the blaze with a blue tent sketched on it indicating a primitive camp was there! Phelps Hiker Camp…no frills, no luxuries, just a semi flat place to put my tent in a bed of wet pine needles and leaves. But the great thing about camping in the pines is that they provide an extra soft padding under your tent, wet or not. The first thing I always do is get my shelter up, then worry about food. In this case that was a good thing as the drizzle continued but at least my gear and tent was put up before it came down too hard…again. I love that moment when the tent is up, I have gone to the bathroom and it is time to make food…sitting in the quiet with the only sound of my stove heating water….something so powerful in having fire in the backcountry…having everything you need to survive on your back and knowing that you are doing it. Then as I was eating my dehydrated chicken and noodles with my 2 tortillas, my quiet ended for a brief moment as 3 shots rang out through the forest and birds scattered in the trees….ahhh! Thats right, I am amidst hunters. I had almost forgotten. I wasn’t bothered and even felt kinda reassured somehow hearing the shots. 

Brian had his temporary spinal cord stimulator put in yesterday so checked on him quickly on text as he seems to like to have minor surgeries when I am out of town, but mom came to watch the boys and his dad took him to the hospital. He sounded ok and pain seem to be under control. I continuously pray his pain will only be a memory…so far God has other plans for Brian and his pain that i know nothing about it seems. We just keep moving forward I guess…

As for tomorrow, according to my data book, there is a washed out bridge at mile 48 that if the creek is flowing too strongly, I may not be able to cross and may have to turn least that is what the book says…but the author doesn’t know me well then. I won’t hike 48 miles just to turn around…so with all this rain, we will just see what it looks like and pray that I get a brilliant idea as to what to do when I get there. I usually work well under pressure. On that note, time for bed….tomorrow is only 13 miles so hopefully a nice day with warm sun shining on my face and easy walking….of course that sounds kinda boring, huh so maybe not! 

"When one is alone at night in the depths of these woods, the stillness is at once awful and sublime. Every leaf seems to speak.” JM


Journal Entry #4: Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hike Plan #3: - Phelps Hiker Camp to East Four Notch Primitive Camp - 14.09 miles

Weather: Overcast with drizzle, 45 degrees

Well well, I decided to take a full dose of Motrin this morning and needed another full dose today when I got to Four Notch camp this afternoon. The pain in my stupid foot was actually making me nauseous today and because I was unconsciously babying it as I stepped, my knee started to tweek…I really need to look into a surgery to either kill the nerve or remove it as I have no time or patience for foot pain anymore….something to add to my 2015 to do list before my next bigger hike happens I suppose. But my physical training for this hike was right on…no soreness in my legs, thighs, calves, nothing… so that tells me physically I am fit for this hike which makes me happy happy happy! Those 5am interval mornings and 3 workouts a day have paid off. :-) 

Not to divert from the pattern of previous nights at camp, I am the only one here tonight…no hunters camping in the hiker camps so that anxiety has been unfounded thus far. Like the author mentioned in the guide book, the mile markers say 13 miles were to be hiked today but it came out at 14 miles and my fit bit confirmed that so was grateful to arrive at a undisturbed and quiet camp, plus it was nice to get to camp early at 2:30pm. I got camp set up and was able to get off my feet for a while before I had to make dinner rather than getting settled and making dinner when it was starting to get dark. I was greeted by yet another large owl hooting a welcoming song while I got settled…makes my heart burst to hear that sound.

Great news from today! Not only did I make it past the halfway point with 50 miles down and 50 miles to go (Whoo hoo!) and thankfully I have no signs of blisters or unusual wear and tear on my feet even after walking in wet socks for the past 3 days BUT I was also able to cross Boswell Creek! It was muddy and a little hairy but after some strategically exciting and heart pumping twists, turns and jumps, I made it across without any major catastrophes! :-) I also got to talk to a human being today as well….although not a very stimulating conversation to say the least but a conversation nonetheless. I was doing a 1 mile road walk and this hunter pulls up in his truck and rolls down the window with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and he looks me up and down and brilliantly asks me if i was hikin’? I had to laugh because seriously? You see a girl with a huge pack on, with an orange vest strapped to the back walking with trekking poles in the freezing rain and the only question you can ask if whether I am hiking or not? Hmmmm….anyways, I swallowed my smart alec answer i wanted to give him and instead smiled sweetly and politely answered “Yes sir”. He shook his head and simply gave the warning, “Be careful out there, them woods gots hunters in them.” I thanked him for the heads up and kept walking…guess he thought the orange vest on my pack was a fashion statement although orange has never been my color honestly. LOL! I am sure he was a great guy…just didn’t seem like all the lights were on at that moment. About 20 minutes later as I came up a hunters camp, I ran into some guys that were definitely camped for the long haul, 5 guys and a kid all set up to stay for at least a few weeks or more.…I asked if they had seen if the creek ahead was washed out and they no, that it was completely passable with a bridge…As I thanked them for the information, my heart quickly sank as I realized that they had hunted the Four notch trail loop and not the main Lonestar trail so I left talking to them with no more information than I had before. Except as I was about to walk away, one of the hunters told me to be careful as they had spotted a mountain lion that morning. Ugh…ok, so not much spooks me…I don’t mind bears, snakes, scorpions, sleeping in the woods solo for weeks on end, not showering for 6 days, bobcats, etc. but mountain lions cause my nerves to rattle a little…I was tracked by one in the Northern Sierras for about 5 miles before I realized he was there and the only reason i knew he was is that i happen to decide to turn around and take another trail during one of my solo Outward Bound hikes and saw these huge tracks walking to the immediate left of where my boot tracks were in the snow. At that moment, I realized that they see you wayyyy before you see them and that in this majestic place, I am not at the top of the food chain. So, granted the mountain lion size in Texas is much smaller than those in the Sierras, but with that information, I made darn sure my stun gun was on my hip from that point on just in case it was the plan for me to see just how big or small he was that day. I knew my pack was a huge advantage as you want to make yourself look as big as possible if confronted by a mountain lion and with my pack and my poles, that would help but the noise from the stun gun would only add to help confuse the lion. I would be as ready as I could be for him should he make his appearance and the rest of the story would be played out the way it was meant to be. I always remind my friends when they sometimes make comments about how they worry about me doing these adventures that I would rather die in the woods at the hands of nature where my heart resides than die in a car crash driving to Walmart to buy a loaf of bread confined in a metal moving man made box. So, with the news of the lion, I take a deep breathe and re-enter the woods as free and happy as I was before I got the news. 

Can you see one of my hidden caches in the left picture above? Ha! Tomorrow is New Years Eve which I will spend alone in my tent…no fireworks, no spread of excess of food to fill my belly with, not surrounded by sweet family or friends and yet it seems natural that this year this is where I will be. I have a feeling some hunters will be lighting up the sky for me if I can stay up late enough to see the sun set. Amazing how my family supports my gyspy type passion of a lifestyle, traveling from here to there…never knowing what is down the trail or who. When I think about those unknowns, it is exciting to me and awakens parts of my brain and body that aren’t active at any other time in my normal homeschooling, house wife day. Is it normal to be someone that needs so much time alone, constantly wanting to see new places, meet new people, be challenged to the point of almost breaking? I don’t know if it is….but I do know that spending time dwelling on if it is normal is futile…it is just who I am and those that know me either love that about me or think i am totally wacko. New people, new places, new conversations and the unknown are what stretch me, make me question the reality that I think is where I am supposed to be….if we never get out of our box, if we talk to the same people every day, those that we surround ourselves with are the ones that we become like. Their views become our views, their complacencies become our complacencies and of course their strengths can become our strengths because that is all we become to know, but how do we know there are other shapes to try fit into and whether we even want to fit into a shape at all? Some people find comfort in conforming…me? I feel stuck and cornered trying to conform to others expectations…I never have been one to go with the crowd. How boring is that? When all my friends became Judson High cheerleaders, I decided to compete in Triathlons and play varsity tennis instead…when my friends all went to A&M and UT for college, I decided to cross the country and go to the University of Montana never even having visited the campus in person….(Please don’t mistake my comments as bashing cheerleading or UT/A&M, all great ventures of course, i am strictly speaking as to what was right for me only). College and hobby choices aside, isn’t it more stimulating and provocative to talk to someone that has done things that are out of the norm, gone against the grain of societal expectations or that think more abstractly with a greater purpose than what is immediately in front of them? Don’t you leave after talking to someone like that with questions bouncing in your head that you had never pondered before or maybe they left you angry or frustrated by what they said because they think or see things differently than you do? I certainly do and I thoroughly enjoy spending time with people that do the uncommon, that have taken the harder routes in life, the riskier routes that others chose to turn away from for their own reasons…not necessarily physically but mentally, spiritually or emotionally….where they have taken risks in life and not sat by watching it pass by complaining that they wished things were different. My life has become richer because of the time spent with these people and I am grateful for them….they are continually shaping me into who I am becoming and I can’t wait to meet those that will still cross my path before I die…. My literary hero, John Muir, is one of those people that I so wish I could have sat and had a conversation with over a campfire on one of his treks…oh how I wish I could have been his student like Mr. Young on his adventures seeking the glaciers in Alaska. 

Speaking of sweet friends that we cherish, Carol Woodward, our awesome realtor and sweet friend has been texting me inspiring messages along the trail so I check my phone when I can and I have just really pulled from her strength and prayers thus far. How wonderful that has been! She even declared a challenge on Facebook to friends to walk/run 5 miles a day while I am gone using that time to pray and reflect on their own lives…pretty cool if you ask me! I totally want to be her when I grow up! :-) Thank you Carol for your love and support. If you are in need of a realtor, either in Texas or not, please contact her. She and her sister are amazing God breathing servants and they will help to get you into your next home or sell your current home. They have blessed our family with more than selling and buying a home as now have have lifelong friends in Carol and her sister! And please remember, they are never too busy for your referrals!! Check them out here: Http://

Rain is picking up pain, cold and being wet are all temporary….Goodnight sweet owl that his hooting me to sleep. Until tomorrow….

"Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods. Here grow the wallflower and the violet. The squirrel will come and sit upon your knee, the logcock will wake you in the morning. Sleep in forgetfulness of all ill. Of all the upness accessible to mortals, there is no upness comparable to the mountains. “ JM


Journal Entry #5: Wednesday, December 31, 2014 (New Years Eve!!!)

Hike Plan #4: - Four Notch Primitive Camp to Primitive Campsite #2- 17.81 miles

Weather: Overcast again…sporadic drizzle with heavier downpours; 39 degrees

Weeks of being slightly anxious about this day is done. Remember, I breathe a sigh of relief when I am in the woods not around a ton of people. Out of the 17.3 miles today hiked, almost 7 miles of it was road walking! This is 2.5 hours on roads plus I was in camp by 3pm which is a record for me so my speed is increasing and my trail legs are kicking in nicely…The first 9 miles I completed in just under 3 hours and that is with my pack, so I was pretty happy about that as lingering the roads is not something I like to do. No pain today! Just strength and speed…my thighs are tight and leaning out and my legs remember what to do without me thinking about it…walk, step, jump…whatever the terrain under my boots require, they do now without me having to have a split second thought as to what my next step should be….that is a great place to finally get to when long distance hiking. That feeling is what backpacking is all about, where your body begins to become one with its environment…almost feeling it independently to move effortlessly without thinking about it. Awesome!!! It took 5 days on the AT for me to reach this point so almost the same amount of time….hard to explain but it is almost like my movements and reaction time become in sync with the ebb and flow of the terrain beneath my feet. Harmony!

When TX150 became visible from the trail, I headed left to Evergreen Baptist Church, the awesome church that offers up their hose for water resupply according to my guide book. Funny thing…followed the hose I had seen a few days back along to where the spigot came out of the building and guess what? No water! Great! Now what? I didn’t do a water cache because I knew I could get it here. So I walked around the church and finally found a spigot in the back and the precious nectar I needed came flowing out. Guess they didn’t specify which spigot had the water. Haha! At this point in the hike I had almost 3 miles of the 7 miles of road walk ahead of me along the busy CR945. It was rough..there was no shoulder to walk on, cars flew towards me barely moving over…so much unlike when I did my section hike on the AT as people were so used to hikers, that they naturally moved over, slowed down, stopped and offered me rides, food, whatever i needed, etc. as they approached me. Thankfully I did only have one guy in a truck stop and ask if I wanted a ride as he said it looked like I was carrying a heavy load. Ha! I sweetly said no thank you as my stop was just ahead but that i appreciated it. He asked if I was sure, and I said yes and he took off shaking his head. 

As I passed 2 cemeteries along that road walk and with my trail name being Owl (Given to me by my oldest son Joshua many years ago for his favorite Greek goddess Athena, Goddess of wisdom and military war), I thought it was kinda funny that the first headstone in view, the family name is Hoot! Plus every night an owl has made its presence known before sleep came to me in the woods. I love that and believe that hearing them was no accident. I also learned a lot about people that drive along CR945 walking that long on the road….their favorite beer is Busch Light, their favorite wine is the individual white bottles of Sutter Home and that they dispose of their dead dogs still in their dog houses in the ditches along the road…saw 2 like that. :-( Funny the things you notice when you spend time seeing what people throw out their windows. I even came across a 4 pack of seemingly not opened Sutter Home white wine bottles and thought for a split second about how nice that would be to enjoy one when I got the camp for New Years…then I quickly realized that might not be wine in those bottles. Hahahaha! So decided to leave them in the ditch for the next hiker to contemplate whether to indulge or not. I wasn’t that desperate for a drink to find out if it was wine or other liquids less savory.

Even though observing and thinking about all the items I was seeing along the ditches of local roads was entertaining, I was glad to finally see the trailhead on the left…I really was beginning to think that it wasn’t going to show itself. A slight limp was coming on due to “the foot” but seeing the Magnolia Trailhead was a beautiful site. Whew! Then it was back into the woods for 1.5 miles before campsite #2 showed itself. Funny thing about being in the woods alone for days on end…you WILL begin to talking to yourself and very much out loud because you realize in a solitary situation where people are extremely scarce, why think your thoughts quietly when you can just belt them out? I was just talking to myself out loud as I saw the blue tent painted on the white blaze indicating camp. (In order to protect the innocent, name and details will be omitted from this story but I would be happy to give full details to anyone that wants to know more in person). As I turn the corner to head into camp, I look up and see a guy walking towards me. He introduced himself and I immediately noticed he had no wedding ring on. He claimed that I was the first person he had seen in that campsite in years which I thought was strange as folks do hike this trail pretty regularly, maybe just in a drier season is all. He asked me my name and I said Owl…he wanted my real name and I told him I don’t share that when hiking. He said he lived nearby within a dozen or so miles and asked if I wanted a warm meal and a hot bath. I politely said no thank you and explained that eating the food I brought lightens my pack and is part of my training and not showering for 6 days was also part of my training…By this time my tent was almost set up and I was sitting in its opening taking off my boots. I moved my stun gun onto my lap in clear view so I could make sure his eyes would see it. He asked me where I was from, I quickly responded Austin, Texas (not true), he asked what I did for a living and I responded that I teach concealed handgun license courses (not true)…at that moment his eyes fell to the stun gun and his questions became a little shorter as he asked about my training, my family, clearly intrigued with the fact that I was alone. I told him about my emergency beacon I carry and then I then grabbed my cell phone and told him I was going to text my husband and let him know that I just met this nice guy that offered to make me dinner. Hahaha! I then said my husband is currently in Cleveland (less than 10 miles away) with my family (not true) and were meeting me the next day on the trail. He then looked at me abruptly and said, “Well, looks like you know what you are doing and you got this. It is very interesting that you are doing this alone though. You do know it is New years Eve right? Well, have fun!”, and he quickly disappeared on a side trail behind my tent almost as quickly as he came into view when I first got there. I am sure he was a nice guy, but I never can let my guard down or take chances being a solo female hiker. I was asked when I got back if I was scared at that moment…I am never scared in situations like that…cautious and on alert yes, but with my .38 strapped to the front of me, the stun gun on my lap and my fixed blade Sog knife out of its sheath hidden under my left leg, I was as prepared as I could be at that moment to protect myself should the need arise. And if I wasn’t fast enough and something bad happened, then there would be nothing more I could have done and the plan was already set in motion anyways. These are the experiences I crave…not in the comfort zone of my “normal” life.

The rest of the night has been pretty uneventful…lots of fireworks going off and some gun shots, but they didn’t bother me…again kind of soothing to hear society continuing without me while I was in the dark quietly enjoying the thought that those folks don’t know what they were missing where I was. Like a silent bystander relishing in a secret that I had that they didn’t. My 2015 New Years dinner consisted of hot Mountain House Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, 2 tortillas and a 3 vienna fingers. I hope the family is having a nice night as I have never been away from the boys for New Years. They are supposed to be a friends house for the evening celebrating but not sure if they made it or not with Brian’s surgery being just 2 days ago. Either way, wherever they and all our friends are tonight, I hope that they are enjoying their time together. I know many are camping themselves, many are out of state celebrating…so blessed to know all of you. 

So, I do have to say something…folks often times reflect on their lives and things on New Years, right? Well, then I won’t be any different. :-) If you don’t want to really know what happens to your body when you backpack and don’t want the less glamorous details…then skip to tomorrows journal entry at this point. I always smile when I meet people that say they hike because it is just so much fun and refreshing. Now, don’t get me wrong…it is fun and refreshing, but there are aspects of backpacking that people don’t talk about….the not so fun aspects and the parts that make you want to go home. :-) My journals have always been real and honest so why stop now plus now I have even more friends that have done long distance hikes like the whole AT that can smile as they relate. Fun so far on this hike as been hobbling into camp after 3-20 mile days but I wouldn’t change a thing and will be soon planning the next adventure upon my arrival at home I am sure. 

Backpacking is not for everyone and that is what I worry about with the popularity of books and movies like Wild…search and rescue reported last month that they have been called more in the last 3 months along the PCT than they have in over 5 years because people see this inspiring story and awesome female hiker and want to do what she did thinking that it is as easy as the movie makes it seem to be. They think they can spend a couple grand, get the best and newest gear and head to the woods. Forget about conditioning your body, actually using and learning how to use your equipment before you leave and goodness forbid if we actually get maps and study routes/terrain in detail almost to the point of memorizing routes before you leave! Be prepared people!!! Backpacking is 20% romantic and 80% pushing yourself, being smart and thus adding another notch in the experience belt. Am I saying that I have/will never get lost, get hurt, do something stupid or even die on the trail due to some type of unpreparedness? No, of course not, but I can tell you that that first step is never taken on the trail unless I feel my body is 100% ready for that challenge ahead. My gear has been checked and tested before departure and routes/weather/terrain have been painfully reviewed, highlighted, and memorized beforehand. 

Remember how I mentioned that there are some points of backpacking that folks just don’t talk about? As I lay in my tent and shift my weight from one hip to the other, I have been reminded of things I had forgotten from my AT, Sierra, Cascades hikes. Like the beginning of hemorrhoids just from the pressure of carrying 40 pounds on your hips, the natural odor of not showering for 6 days, the bruises that show up on your hips, shoulders from the pack and the bruises on your inner arms from throwing your backpack onto your back, first hitting your shoulder before it finds it place on your back and then carrying it up and down revines and inclines for 8 hours a day, the imbalance you feel when you get to camp and finally get that pack off and try to walk as your body has become one with your pack and so trying to walk without it seems unnatural, the bloody scratches on your legs and arms that you don’t even know how they got there during the day, the ticks that climb into your most private places to find refuge, the falls you take as you try to climb over fallen tree trunks/limbs that have decided to lay right over the trail you need to cross, the wet tent that you had to put up and then lay in as it drips on your face…this is backpacking ya’ll. It is awesome!! It is not giving up to the blockages in the trail with seemingly no way around or getting grossed out by pulling ticks from under your armpits or submitting to the pain that is crying out to defeat you…a backpacker is someone that can pull the ticks off, keep throwing the pack onto their back just so that it can hit the same bruises that keep getting bigger by the day just so our eyes can see new country, meet new people and experience yet another log that will ultimately cause us to be off balance and cause us to stumble. I can tell you one thing…backpacking is for this girl and I have such a passion for it, that words can’t even describe adequately in this journal. I love rubbing my quads and feeling their strength after long days, looking at my feet beaten up from hours in wet boots but knowing that they are being strengthened for another day and feeling my aerobic stamina dead on for what the challenge is. Backpacking has pushed me to the point of wanting to quit…I am never pushed in my daily life to the point of wanting to truly physically quit something…but you can’t quit out here because you are 28, 39, or 88 miles from your car. The only option is to overcome your whining, pulling something fierce from deep inside your core. Backpacking reminds me of who I am, who I am becoming, what I am here for and who I am here for…God is using me and preparing me for something big that requires me to hurt, stretch, and be uncomfortable. I am up for the challenge and am excited to see what is in store in the future. 

"I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” - JM


Journal Entry #6: Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hike Plan #5: - Primitive Campsite #2 to Tarkington Camp - 15.24 miles

Weather: Raining, 55 degrees

Happy New Year all! Another year is a memory and another year is ahead of us to tackle and make the most of! I am excited for 2015! As has been the atmosphere of this adventure, it began raining after midnight and rained all night and continued to rain until I reached my camp this afternoon. I have kinda forgotten what it feels like to be dry and warm which is a good thing…everything has just gone numb which I am grateful for. The only thing that isn’t as forgiving are my hands…they have been ice all day but cold is temporary, right? I am done tomorrow, so warmth will be here soon enough. 

Today was only 15 miles but felt like 20. Funny how each day has its own challenges. I actually contemplated surprising the boys and doing the 28 miles left today and drive home tonight arriving around midnight but with the rain and wear and tear the muddy trail has taken on my ankles and foot, 28 miles is just too much today. Boo! I am not that strong yet I guess. Plus the surprise I encountered on the trail took a little of the umph out of me today. What surprise you might be asking? Well, at mile 71.1, I knew that I would encounter the San Jacinto River and knew that there was a chance that the bridge was still washed out, but wishful thinking wouldn’t let me dwell on what that truly would mean for me when I got there. Even the guy that came into camp last night told me to look for the log across it and I could easily cross. Well, crap guess what? I walked up to no log that spanned the distance across, pouring rain and temps has fallen during the day to below 40 degrees…I quickly had the realization that I would have to forge it. I desperately looked up and down river praying I would see a saving log or even a mirage of a bridge to help me, but there was nothing….I was on one side and I saw the blazes across the river heading up the steep bank on the other side and needed to get to those blazes. Those are the defining moments where courage and fear collide. I quickly contemplated what the dangers were: 1) River was deeper than my chest 2) I wasn’t sure of the current and undertow if there was one with all the rain we had received this week 3) Risk of hypothermia once I reached the other side as all wood for a fire in the area was wet after days of rain so starting a fire to warm up would be difficult 4) Losing my footing while in it or getting caught underneath while crossing….the list went on and on….My biggest concern was keeping my boots and pack dry as they were my lifeline for the next 48 hours. So, I did the only thing I could do and began to take off my boots on the banks of the San Jacinto and prayed that if crossing was the plan, then a safe crossing would be done. The rain pelted my pack as I tried to balance myself and get my boots off while putting my weight on my trekking poles as I didn’t want to take my pack off and I was standing on a steep bank with water running into the river. As I stepped my first naked foot into the gooey mud, the craziness of what was being done was real. My foot began slipping towards the river without traction under foot. I carefully tucked my socks and gators into my boots and then looked at the steep bank into the water. I rolled my pants up to my upper thigh. Now I had to get in down there without tumbling in as there was no shallow entrance. I sat back and slid my way in as close to the bank as I could as I hoped that would be the shallowest point so I could see what I was up against. Boots held high above my head with my trekking poles next to them, I felt the freezing water go over my ankles, calves, thighs….then I felt the muddy bottom…the breathe had been taken out of me as my body was submerged into the freezing water. Ok, thigh high, I can handle this…my pack should be ok and kept dry. But as I ventured into the middle it got deeper and deeper. I took one step and the bottom dropped about a 1/2 foot and down I went, my boots went fully under, the bottom of my pack went I was in up to my waist… and when I realized what was happening, I booked out of that river as quickly as possible to the other side of the muddy bank. So much for dry underwear, rolled up pants and previously dry boots. Steam was coming from my breathe, my feet were submerged in mud and my pants and pack were dripping wet. Then my eyes diverted to my boots hanging dripping in my hands…I turned them upside down and water poured from them. That was the first point in 71 miles I wanted to sit down and just cry if only for a minute. I was overwhelmed with emotion…grateful I made it across as I know God’s hand was in that crossing, shocked I had just crossed the river, shivering uncontrollably from being soaking wet as the rain was relentless even at that moment…I felt tired for the first time on the hike. Standing at the river bottom and looking up for the first time at what still needed to be done, I threw my water logged boots up to the top of the bank and I dug my poles into the mud, digging my toes into the bank anywhere they would get in enough to have a foot hold as I climbed trying to lean as forward as I could so I wouldn’t fall backward back into the river…30 something pounds pulling you backwards is significant! (Side note: Once again I can’t rave enough about the importance of hiking with trekking poles..they were my saving grace getting up that bank.) Once at the top, I glance at my feet not sure how to now clean them to get them back into my wet socks as there were poison ivy leaves and pieces of bark all over them…great things to help encourage blisters with the miles still ahead of me for the day. So, using the cleansing beautiful rain coming down and my gators to wipe them off as much as possible, liner socks and wool sock were slipped over each frozen foot…brrr!!!! I knew feeling the uncontrollable shivering I was now experiencing needed to stop and that I had to get moving…this was fun and all but now it was time to walk and keep going and leave that fear I experienced in that river. This challenge was over, it was conquered and time to prepare mentally for the next one coming up. This crossing was only 3 miles into this 15 mile day. As the next hour resulted in slow muddy hiking, my clothes were still dripping and the rain came down harder. I cried out to God asking for the rain to just stop for a little while…the more I asked, the rain came down harder…I guess God didn’t want to hear my order of a burger, fries, strawberry shake and SUN!!!!! Where the heck am I hiking this week? Portland???? He wasn’t done with me yet and He must have felt that I needed to be pushed harder to remember that He is control of everything and that I am not. The desire to sit and take a short cry was quickly replaced with the conviction that I was going to finish this wet amazon of a trail and finish it with grace. So shut up, suck it up and dig deep…wet, cold, pain are all temporary….

Not much longer after the forging of the lovely San Jacinto river, I was crossing one of the many small bridges that the beloved Boy Scouts or trail volunteers have made and do you know what happens when a wooden sloping foot bridge gets constant rain? Yep! They present another great opportunity to see how boots have different traction depending on the grain of the wood. I was excited as I approached each foot bridge, extremely grateful for its presence. They do get slippery and with one weak step on this latest bridge, down I went. After crossing about 20 of them by this point, you would think I would know better, but fatigue had begun to set in and I wasn’t paying attention to the green moss on the bridge. A side note, normally when I long distance hike, I do 5 days on trail with a rest day following and I could tell my body was ready for a rest day with the miles being done. Well, using my beloved trekking poles, I pulled myself up, said a choice word and then kept walking. There is at least one point in each adventure when yelling out of frustration just seems appropriate and this was it. There isn’t a pine tree within 10 miles that cares and will rebuke me for it. Ha! Feels good to just let it out and yell. We can’t do that in our jobs, marriages or in school when we are frustrated but in the woods, it is perfectly acceptable. Can you imagine being upset at your boss and you just let out a primal “Ahhhhhhh!” deep from your gut? Ya, not going to happen or if it does, you will be quickly escorted out the door. In the woods we aren’t in control…we may think we control our kids, spouses, job situations but out here as I lie in a wet tent dripping on my hair, in a wet sleeping bag and hearing the rain still pelting the landscape near me, mother nature doesn’t give a crap about what we want folks. Our manipulation, our influence, our job titles, our cuteness doesn’t work out here. I think that is why it is a challenge to spend 6 days in a new environment, just to see if we can hang being thrown situations that we don’t control. It is smoking mirrors to think we control things anyways…God is in control folks. Do we squat and hug our knees when things get tough or do we find comfort in hearing those night sounds from the owl, the red fox or just from the silence? Can I hang? Can you hang? Those are the million dollar questions.

When Mile Marker 74 was passed, I had to do a double take because my brain was saying that there was a guy walking towards me about my age with a hiker beard that I have come to be soo fond of after hiking the AT. I haven’t seen anyone in 30 miles. We stopped and chatted for a minute as the rain came down but both happy to see someone else even for a minute. He was hiking for only 3 days and so when he asked where I started and I answered trailhead #1, he smiled and said how cool to be a thru hiker! Then his face dropped for a minute and asked how I crossed the San Jacinto River. hahaha! I smiled and said with a smirk that I forged it. He said “No frickin way!!” He said everyone that he has met has turned around at that point since the bridge washed away. I told him after that many miles there was no way I was ready to call it quits. He thought that was cool. :-) I really wanted to talk more, but had a long day and wanted to get to camp. He had stayed at the campsite where I was headed to the night before and said it was a nice clean site, so i was excited to get there. Once at camp I got to read his entry in the campsite log so was fun. I love being alone on the trail but I also love talking to the guys on the trail doing and enduring…hikers have a bond that exists only on the trail that no one else has… experiencing moments that are shared with no one else and that no one else would get except for those doing it. I loved that the AT had 3 sided shelters for us to sleep in on the floors because at the end of the day, you would walk into camp exhausted and someone may have made a fire, some were already snoring away in their bags, while others scooted over and made room for you to put your bag in between them. We slept like sardines and talked about the day, what we had seen…what sucked… what was great and what was coming up and down the trail still. I missed that on this trail… That camaraderie. This trip has been a true solo hike which is what I asked for so decided quickly not to dwell on what I thought I missed. 

After picking up the last water drop at Trailhead #13, I entered the woods again to walk the last mile to camp. That was strangely the longest mile on this hike let me tell you. I even stopped at the trailhead to wring out my socks and made a video about it, but even though my socks weren’t sloshing anymore, fatigue had officially set in today. Then like soo many nights before, I eventually saw the white blaze with a blue tent on it pointing to the left. Yay! The good news was that it was only 3pm, so there was plenty of time to get the wet tent up, try to get dry and rest my body before it got dark. If you have never put up a already dripping wet tent up in the rain, throwing your wet pack inside that wet tent as fast as you can, then just to sit your wet butt inside that wet tent next to your wet pack, you should try it someday. Ha! It is truly an awaking at how much you are not in control and I felt fatigued tonight but alive!!! How wonderful to endure! Thankfully though this will be the last soppy wet night on this trail as I head home tomorrow!!! Then back to the warm dry world of conveniences where I tend to have a harder time figuring out how I fit in than I do the woods. Society is much harder to live in with soo many gray lines of expectations. In the woods, things are black and white…you need to walk forward to get to where you want to go, there’s a river in front of you, you cross it. In the real world, if you need to move forward and there is something blocking your path, you try and figure out who you need to talk to about it to make the obstacle go away, then doubt yourself if you were too forward or too passive or should you have said anything at all. It is exhausting really in a different way living in the “real” world. I guess the seemingly unforgiving woods are truly forgiving as long as you play by its rules and don’t make the white or blank lines grey. The woods are part of who I am and I have to go visit like a long lost relative when those gray lines become too hard to follow.

As I lie here, reflection on my past 6 long distance hikes have begun as to how each one offered their own unique challenges and those moments of glory that made me want to endure it all again and to conquer the next one. 

2014 - Lonestar Hiking Trail (LSHT) (6 days)

- Glory - Solo thru hiking the states longest continuously marked and maintained trail.

- Challenge - Being under tree cover literally the whole time…No ridge walks, views, or peak climbs; Miles and miles of road walking required; Raining and cold weather every day. 

2011 - AT Section Hike (PA to VA)

- Glory - First long distance hike solo (10 trail days, 13 days total)

- Challenge - The Unknowns - (People I would meet in the shelters, hostiles or on the trail; where I sleep each night and with whom in the lean-too; Wondering if my mail drops made it to the post offices along the way; Being so far away from home).

1995 - 3 Month Semester Pacific Crest Outward bound Course

1. Baja Mexico - Kayaking island to island. 1 Month. 

+ Glory - Landing on Death Beach right side up in single kayak after 2 weeks of practicing for it as the swells were over 7 feet tall. Scared to death.

+ Challenge - Being restricted from moving to the next island due to wind variations…being at the mercy of nature sometimes for days.

2. Joshua Tree, California - Desert backpacking and Rock Climbing. 1 Month.

+ Glory - Getting over my fear of heights and trusting my belayers below me. Not being in control.

+ Challenge - Desert backpacking in 110 degree temps during the day to 30’s at night from climb site to the next climb site.; Scorpions the size of dogs. 

3. High Sierras, California - Winter/Snow backpacking. 1 Month.

+ Glory - learning ice picking, using crampons to stop from sliding down a mountain; Waking up on top of a ridge, looking down at a far distance snow covered valley. Seeing what John Muir saw.

+ Challenge - Extreme cold, putting on frozen boots each morning and sleeping with frozen socks next to my bare skin in the hopes they would be somewhat warm by morning; Wet/Cold the whole month.

1990- Leadership Outward Bound Course - Cascade Mountains, Washington (3 Weeks)

- Glory - Daily views and walking through mountain passes filled with wild flowers; being weeks away from society. 

- Challenge - Immature people Iwas with; lots of drama; had to learn how to work together with spoiled kids that didn’t want to be there.

So this reflection was kinda fun to do and realize that each adventure took me to new places internally and physically, stretching me in ways that could never have been done at home. In the woods when you are alone, you really have to like yourself a little bit at least or your trek will be a long one…maybe even ending your hike a truly different person than who you were at the beginning. I think that is why backpacking is soo romantic to soo many and is even still romantic to me…you take that first step as one person and take that last step as a hopefully wiser, better and different person. 

"None of Nature's landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild.” - JM (1901)


Journal Entry #7: Friday, January 2, 2015

Hike Plan #6: - Tarkington Camp to Winter’s Bayou Parking Lot (FINISH!) - 13.22 miles

Weather: Overcast, drizzly, 43 degrees

I am finished! Yippee! Just when I think each day has more challenges than the last, guess what? Today was the most challenging day yet and the one that almost broke me emotionally and physically. I woke after only getting 2 hours of sleep as it poured down and my tent was dripping into the inside….only soo much seal a tent can have when it never dries out when you put it up and the rain just keeps coming. LOL! I awoke also to ankle pain which was new for me so it was a restless night to say the least. I think the excitement of having the end near had a big part too to my restlessness. I wasn’t even hungry last night so didn’t even make dinner so I knew the end was near. My body is in a groove now and it is utilizing the nutrition it is receiving it adequately so I wasn’t worried when the thought of eating just wasn’t appealing. Also every time I turned from hip to hip, I felt the soreness from small bruises developing on my hips from the rubbing and weight of my pack with the skin being constantly wet. So at 5:30am the call of sleep was abandoned and packing up was the new priority. If boots can hit the trail by 7:30am, then arrival at the truck should be at the truck by 1pm. I am now not naive anymore to think that this last stretch wouldn’t have something up its sleeve to make it more exciting though. I am confident there will be something unexpected happening today that may cause a delay. Half a bar for breakfast and having become quite proficient in packing up quickly, I was on the trail at 7:31am. Good thing too as had I known was was coming up trail, I might have tried to leave at 6:30am and maybe I would have taken a small bottle of that Sutter Home I saw in the ditch that may or may not have been wine. Ha!

The day started out uneventful, normal crazy wet trail under a thick dark canopy of pine, no sun, drizzling. That ankle was bothering me a little but I just reminded myself that pain is temporary, this trail is temporary, so suck it up and walk gal. No one cares here about your pain or so onward Watson! I come to a trail sign that says 5.6 miles to Winters Bayou trailhead #15. Keep in mind that I have already stopped at trailhead #14 and wrung out my socks due to the extremely wet trails and the immense amount of water that has seeped through my gaiters and boots. I made a silly video about my wet socks and how backpacking isn’t always glamorous or sexy, drank water and then hit the trail excited to almost be at the truck! The end was almost where I could touch it.

Ok, so had my brain being fully engaged at this point, it should have hit me that the section I was in was Winter’s Bayou and that Bayou means what???? SWAMP…what happens in a swamp when it rains straight for 5.5 days? The swamp gets deeper and with it being lowland, there isn’t much elevation to allow for high points along the trail. The last 5.6 miles of trail was now under ankle deep water and the i couldn’t disseminate between where the trail and the swamp were divided. Had it not been raining, I would have taken a picture of this exact observation. Thanks to the great blazes high on the trees that lead me from point A to point B all the way to my truck as the trail path was gone. I tried the first few miles to step carefully, stepping on rotten logs that might keep my feet out of the water as much as possible, but after an hour of that, I pretty much said screw it and just walked straight through the water….it was pointless to wring out my socks at the last trailhead as I was up to water to my calves and ankles now…I was wading not hiking. A huge benefit of it being cold was that I didn’t see one water moccasin or snake in the areas I know they normally resided. I was slightly grateful for this as that could have made my adventure even more adventurous. Ha!

All the sudden, I begin to walk out of the swamp and onto drier pine straw…hmmm, could I be getting closer to the end? I turn a corner and guess what i see? I had to laugh because I see this beautiful huge bridge crossing the 2nd passing of the San Jacinto River…! That bridge back at mile 71.1 could have made a huge difference, but then again…there would be no story to tell the boys right? As I slowly walk across the bridge relishing in the fact that this bridge meant I was close to the end, I pause and close my eyes also realizing that coming to the end of the trail also means the end to the silence that I enjoy soo much. It is always bitter sweet to end a long distance hike…excited to be back with family/friends, warm, cold, being home and also having the satisfaction of knowing that I finished solo but also that means having to come back into society and pick up where I left off with anxieties, apprehensions, loneliness, expectations to be a great mom, wife, daughter, etc. whatever the emotions may be on any given day. These emotions are all self inflicted and I know this. God never intends for us to carry such heavy burdens, so my journey will continue, my seeking will continue as I come back to this society refreshed and ready to face whatever needs to be dealt with. I will be back soon to head into the real world of the wilderness to breathe, reevaluate priorities, be convicted of things that I need to work on and also be reminded of strength and resilience God has given me to get through the storms but also will continue to love on others during my own storm…what a gift that is when we can learn to focus on others when deep inside we too are struggling and seeking. 

Winter’s Bayou trailhead comes into site and so does my little truck…waiting there patiently like a best friend waiting to give you a warm hug! She looks no worse for the wear, no vandalism so this is it. Emotion overcomes me, exhaustion, gratitude, pain, elation…It takes 15 minutes to compose myself before I was ready to call Brian to let him know I was done. I had to laugh because normally I am very organized and had prepped everything for the end of the hike. I had a clean shirt, pants, socks, underwear, bra, a brush, deodorant, water and food waiting for me. Guess what I forgot? Shoes! There was no way I could keep those boots on any longer not to mention they were disgusting after all the swamp trekking I just completed. So, I got to drive home from Houston in my socks with very swollen feet pushing on the pedals…just praying I wouldn’t have to get out to get gas or use the bathroom as I had no shoes to wear! Hahahah! See, this girl is normally prepared but in that case, I failed miserably. Thankfully it was just shoes at the end of the hike! 

Thank you so much to friends, family and God for giving me this opportunity to experience yet another adventure and for having a part in stretching me to be a better person through it all. Your prayers, love and encouragement are what made this trip happen and helped me through rain. :-) Each one of you have become part of my heart, my spirit and my journey. I am blessed.

(** If you want more information about the Lonestar Hiking Trail, please visit The Lonestar Hiking Club website:

"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

By: Jaime Adams