I’m so behind giving updates this week. Last week on Tuesday, I drove from Ohio to Asheville, North Carolina to visit my fellas after them being away on trail for a month. It was a much needed visit where it was great just to have a little R&R and spend some time together. I brought our newest fur-baby, Piper; she’s an 8 month old pit bull that we added to our family last October. Dennis and Aaron have bonded with her for the last many months and definitely were missing her while on trail. I’m pretty sure she has wondered where her human play-mates went! They were worried about her not recognizing them–but she peed in absolute excitement when they reunited and got to get a bunch of play time in. 😀 The trip was also great for Piper, as we plan to do a ton of travelling, and she will be coming along. She did great on her first LONG car ride. Here’s a few photos of our visit last week.
The hubby and kid are doing absolutely awesome and are trucking along–the visit last week did slow them down as they took a 3-day hiatus to visit with me after they reached Hot Springs; which in all honestly a few days rest from the trail absolutely had to do their body good. However, hubby did have a little bit of anxiety after a couple days away from the trail about the miles they were getting ‘behind’ on–but he did say my visit was worth it! Heck yeah it was! lol I dropped them back off in Hot Springs last Friday and they have had a little bit of some WET weather, but they’ve made it to mile 344!!
While I miss my guys, I’m so happy for them that they’re doing this adventure and are making memories together. I have 3 1/2 more weeks left in this semester of nursing school and then I get the WHOLE SUMMER OFF! I can’t wait. Honestly, it goes without saying, I cannot wait to be done with school altogether. I was set on my career in therapy as an occupational therapy assistant; and our goal was to eventually start traveling when our kids are grown/stable and doing well enough for us to be able to sell all, buy an RV and work on the road. I was planning on getting my masters degree and become an occupational therapist, but for various reasons I decided to switch over to nursing. I feel like I want to have more of an impact on my patient’s care and nursing will allow me to do that, as well as have even better job prospects to go where I please when we are travelling. So many people want to travel and do this and that and they wait until retirement–Often times, what happens is life and they lose that chance before they ever get to. I want to travel while I’m young and see the world while I can enjoy it. I want my work to have purposeful meaning, but yet, my job needs to work for me and my ambitions at the same time. Life is what you make it and it should be enjoyable and beautiful. If you don’t love where you’re at, change it! You’ll never work a day in your life if you enjoy what you do.
Oh my goodness have I been a bit busy at home. My spring break was very nice from nursing school and it gave me time to recover from a surgery that I had. (Hiatal hernia repair). Let me just say that the surgery itself was fine but the recovery diet was just not fun! My surgery was 6 weeks ago and I’m finally allowed to have normal food without restrictions. Anyway enough about that…
I am EXCITED as I am going to Asheville next week to meet my husband and my kid and visit for a few days with them. Hubby’s cousin is going to pick them up in Hot Springs. Yesterday they made it to Clingmans Dome, which is about 200 miles in! They are without signal, which they warned me about and I know from personal experience, there’s not good cell signal in the smokies. But they are chugging along! Many more miles to go, but I do believe they have their trail legs broke in as it appears they are starting to get more mileage in per day. Unfortunately Bear Box, my hubby’s co worker ended up having to leave the trail with a knee injury at Fontana Dam and it’s not going heal correctly unless he’s off of it for a good 6 weeks. Definitely can’t be hiking long distance on a bum knee; not only do you risk further damage but its just down right dangerous to be in the middle of Appalachia injured.
So next week after I take my midterm exam I’ll be driving to go relax with my guys and I am going to be bringing our pit puppy to see them. Which she is going to lose it! We got a decent hotel with a hot tub and pool and I am looking forward to total relaxation for a few days and I am sure my fellas will welcome the R&R! We have family in the Asheville area as well which is going to be great to visit with them also!
Here’s a video that I am late posting and a few photos that I’ve been sent! Enjoy!
So while my household is a very outdoorsy hiking family; I, myself have only been on one big hike. (Big for me anyway) I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve done plenty of day hikes in my life. Those didn’t require any major supplies or preparation—nor was I carrying a heavy pack on my back. My Red River Gorge hike was about 2 ½ years ago and I can’t believe it took me so long to divulge all about that experience. Better late than never?!
I told my husband that I wanted to get started hiking some small hikes and that I wanted to get set up to be able to tag along with him in the future. He obliged happily and we saved up for me to get a nice lite pack, sleep set up, and custom hammock. We planned to go to Red River Gorge which is so darn beautiful; if you’ve never been there and are looking for a gorgeous place—it definitely didn’t disappoint with its views. Whether you just go for a day or a few, the place is massive and so beautiful! Originally it was just supposed to be my hubby and I to hike at a comfortable pace for me. I had only set up my hammock once with the help of my husband. I was just learning all my gear and equipment. I was no where near readiness on my own. The purpose of the hike was so I could do a little shake down and learn how to do things for future hikes.
Now, first off let me say this hike definitely was no cake walk and if I sound like I was a little bit grumpy about the experience, I definitely was—momentarily. It didn’t stick. My husband did do a video on the whole experience which I’m glad because it really documents much of the beauty and skill level required to handle such a trek. I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world even if it didn’t turn out how I expected. He thinks I hated the hike altogether. Which, I absolutely did not..it was just a rough trail to be doing for a first hike.
What made me grumpy? Originally as I said, it was supposed to be my shake down and we planned on doing it over Thanksgiving around our work schedules and that is when we went. My husband told me that his buddy Brad was thinking of coming along. No biggie, I didn’t mind. Then our cousin Chris also decided to come along. Brad and Chris are great guys and hopefully they didn’t take any of my frustrations during this hike the wrong way. So as the four of us were driving to Kentucky, the guys decided to change the hiking trail plan and wanted to tackle a trail that Dennis and Chris had been trying to complete for a long while. They called it the turkey trail. I don’t know if that’s what THEY named it, or if that is what its actually called; but it’s a trail in the shape of a turkey. They failed to complete it twice because of not being in shape the first time, wrong gear, and my husband got soaked falling into some frigid water another time during cold season so they had to cut it short.
So here the 4 of us were, on THANKSGIVING DAY aka TURKEY Day and they were all like, “Dude! We should hike the TURKEY TRAIL!” on the way up. Already I knew at that point, it wasn’t gonna look good for me. My husband was planning an entirely different trail for he and I, one that wasn’t as challenging and at my beginners pace. You see where this is going?
We started from the Swift Camp Creek Trail into the Cliftys, to the Osbourne Bend Loop to the Lost Branch Trail, to the Sheltowee Trace to the road up to the Osborne Trail Head. Somewhere in there I hiked up the Indian Staircase. My heiney hiked over 30 miles in just a bit over 2 days. Go me! I didn’t do terrible. I wasn’t as fast as the guys, but honestly there are parts of this route you just can’t go fast and it seemed like we were ALWAYS climbing or teetering on a cliff. So I feel that I kept up just fine in that aspect. My one regret was that I didn’t get to take in the views for as long as I would have liked to because I had to keep up with the fellas. My goal for the hike was to just be able to take it all in, enjoy the sites, learn about my set up –and yea, my shake down.
The Indian Staircase. Let me just tell you, OMG. People climb up and down that thing all the time like it’s nothin! It is definitely not nothin. I had a panic attack when we reached the bottom of that limestone rock, when they told me I had to climb up it. I bawled like a little baby, I was positive I was gonna die if I didn’t go back the way I came! 😂 My husband then tells me, “it’s ok baby, our boys managed to climb down this just fine!” (they would have been maybe 8-10 or so…they were LITTLE). It was at that point that I almost strangled my husband for having my babies on that death trap. 😝 I think THE MOST petrifying moment to me, was having a 25 pound pack on my back—and in the photos, from a distance it appears as if the Indian Staircase is this nice, flat, gradual little climb. Oh no it isn’t! When I was searching and reaching for the ONE nook to place my hand and the other only cranny to find my foothold, it literally felt like my backpack was pulling me backwards. It felt like if I had one wrong hand or foot placement, I was falling. So I’m hugging this damn rock for dear life. I can’t even describe the volcanic eruption of trembling that was happening on the insides of my body. I was a MESS! Lmao But look at me, I lived to tell the tale! I can laugh about it now. haha
Honestly as petrified as I was, I am glad I did it. When you are able to push yourself to an insane limit like that and go “WOW! HOLY SHIT, I DID IT!”, it really is an indescribable feeling.
So I learned, no one gets to pick their trail name….it picks you. As I was preparing for my first hike, I was worried about pottying in the woods of course. I was worried more about #1 than #2 as far as technique. I grew up camping with my family and around woods and farm country. All my life I have never been graceful with trying to pop-a-squat to pee in the wilderness. So after a lot of research on technique (hahaha) I ended up getting a ‘she-wee’ contraption so that when I had to pee, I could just pee like the guys, standing up and it not turn into an ordeal. LOL I had a little mesh bag to keep it in, that I hooked on the outside of my pack and bought a kula cloth antimicrobial wipe. Ewwe right?! As I’d be trailing along, my little bag with my pee-cup was just swinging happily back and forth….and it resembled a tea-cup…so it came SUPER easy for the guys to spoof my trail name off of that free raw material I gave them; AND THAT is how I became “Tea Cup”. 😂
So when we finally got to camp that first night it was pitch black. We hiked the entire day. Once we got to camp, we set up and cooked a literal Thanksgiving dinner. That was pretty awesome I have to tell ya! We had some things prepared before hand and did carry the little bit of extra weight. We had turkey, mashed taters, gravy, sweet potato casserole, and I think we had pumpkin rolls. The guys were messing with me hardcore because as we were eating, they told me to be careful not to splatter or drop food because we didn’t want to attract the bears. So of course with my clumsiness I spilt something. Go figure! Lol It ended up being just fine. We didn’t get mauled by bears. You bet I went around my eating spot and cleaned the ground of my sloppy eating that had me noided out though!
That first night I didn’t sleep the greatest—it wasn’t that I wasn’t tired. I was exhausted. I have always struggled with insomnia. My hammock was comfortable, but honestly, I think after all that money we spent on my custom hammock, I probably would have been more comfortable in a tent on a sleeping pad all stretched out. I was a little bit chilly as well. We ragged on my husband the next morning because he was supposed to help me get all settled and tucked in all warm and he did not. We did happen to get it on video for “I hate Denny day”. It was in good fun!
The second day, which was the Indian Staircase day; we found a camp site not far from the top of the staircase after we went up it. In the middle of the night/next morning, the sky opened up and just absolutely POURED rain on us and it wasn’t supposed to quit for quite some time.
It was a super chilly November rain and we were no doubt gonna have a wet cold miserable day. The guys planned out that we were gonna have to call it quits and get back to the car. Boy was I glad for that! Chris ended up packing up lightning quick and made a break to go get the car while we made our way out for him to get us. It was either going to be him or my hubby as they knew the ins/outs and quickest loops and short cuts to cut out in a hurry to get to the car. We hiked out a different way for my benefit as I told them I was not hiking down the staircase haha! I had PRAYED that Chris would get picked up quick by a passing car so that we’d get out of the weather faster. It was freaking cold! We had rain gear to keep us as dry as possible. One piece of simple cheap gear that I wished I would have had in the wet cold moment was some simple disposable rubber gloves. My gloves that I had were water resistant, but not waterproof. Cold hands SUCK when you’re hiking in cold rain. A couple pairs of simple rubber gloves would have been a great asset.
So yeah, that was my first ever full hiking experience. Like I said, in the midst of it I did get a little bit grumpy and I even sound like a super salty pirate after we climbed up one of many super straight up climbs and made it to a road. They got me on video griping. I was complaining that “this was supposed to be “my hike.” Lol I sound like a bit of a witch….Boy did these fellas kick my butt!! I think I was a friggen TROOPER going on my first hike with these crazy boys!
I did enjoy my first major hike though despite my complaints. I am looking forward to another hike, at my own pace and I will no doubt do it any other way.
I am planning on meeting up with my hubby and son on the AT soon! I figure I’ll be able to meet up with them at least 3 times. The first visit, I’ll be glamping with them in a hotel; as soon as I finish up this semester in May, I plan on jumping on trail with them for a few days—and i’m excited for that. I for sure will hike with them at the end as they summit Katahdin to be there to support them.
Here is the FULL video of my Red River Gorge Hike! Hope ya’ll enjoy it! Drop me your comments! ❤
I have so many thoughts on my brain, it’s hard to put it down into words. I call it my ADHD brain! I’m gonna put myself out there with my vulnerability for a second, which is not something that is easy for me, so I hope any feedback I get is nice. 😊
How did I become a trail support at home? That is such a loaded question that I have to look back on because I’ve grown so much as a person. I’ve been supporting my husband and children on their adventures for quite some time. Truth is, I used to, at times, be completely bitter and probably a little bit jealous of my husband’s hobbies.
So, if you’re now just joining and reading my blog—I have been with my husband for the last 22 years and we’ve got 2 great sons we’ve raised/are still raising. Raising kids and marriage is a lot of work. We’ve had our fair share of ups-downs like any family. Early on when our kid’s were small my husband always would go out hunting every hunting season and I supported him with that; I got used to not seeing much of him every hunting season. I think for me, any time I would get annoyed with his outdoorsy activities, it had more to do with just being exhausted at home taking care of babies alone. I did always try and have a good attitude, but sometimes I did not. Hind site is ALWAYS 20/20. I really didn’t make time for myself and let me tell you, self care is so important—especially when you’re an exhausted momma. At the time, early on with our family, I had very lasered tunnel vision of just being a mom and wife, taking care of the house, laundry, shopping, cooking, kids sports/extracurriculars etc. I never focused much on myself, having a social life or even a hobby. Sitting with other moms on the sideline of a soccer field was about the extent of my social calendar. (honestly though, I don’t take any of that for granted.) I have had some wonderful times with those soccer moms and building relationships.
In my intro, I talked about my husband and how he has been desensitizing and building me up to his shenanigans for a long time. Anyone who knows my husband, knows that anything he does is “balls to the wall, or not at all”. He is a nut! He dives into everything with full force and ZERO brakes; sometimes zero thinking haha (j/k hunny!). I have the type of personality that I hate not being in control. I admit it. I like everything to be perfect or as close to perfect as can be. I didn’t like the unexpected and generally still don’t. So unrealistic, but it’s a personality flaw I’ve been working on for a long time. So when my husband starting to get into BIGGER adventures…..even dangerous ones—my anxiety was awful. He would spend money here and there on this gear, that gear. Don’t get me wrong, if we didn’t have it to spend, he put our house first. But man, I’d hate to actually see an itemized list of all his gear and the total money spent over the years lol! We are your typical blue collar family; your general paycheck to paycheck livers. So when he’d be like, “Oh my God, such and such is having the BIGGEST sale on “name your piece of gear”, and It’s 50% off!”, I’d either have to talk him down or give in. Usually it would be the latter. We went to Cabela’s one time when we went out of town for just a chill weekend getaway and he was eyeballing this very expensive rod and reel setup and I could see it on his face how bad he wanted it. He didn’t even ask for it that day—but he was talking about all the things he was going to do, to get that setup. He walked out with it that day. ❤ I always rag on him now though, because I bought it with love and he lost it in a lake either that same year or the next. It fell out of his rod holder on his kayak. He’s really good at losing stuff. I am rambling now. My husband and I kind of balance each other out. He’s the ying to my yang. He’s got the personality that you only live once—and I’ve learned to embrace that about him. My bitterness and jealousy of his adventures quieted eventually. I realized that I wasn’t living out mybest life. I wasn’t putting myself first. I was used to sacrificing just about everything for everyone else. It wasn’t like I was forced to do so. As a mom, you go without so your kids can have x, y, z. You get used to doing that without a second thought.
Mental health is so important. This is something that I have struggled with my whole life. I also had post-partum depression, which, I had no idea that I was suffering with it when I was suffering with it. I just pushed along and dealt with it; and to this day, I do not know how I did it. I also dealt with severe social anxiety after I had my babies. The thing with social anxiety is that, it’s a subtle beast. A demon if I were to have to describe it. When our first born came into the world and then his brother, they were my whole world. I stayed at home happily and had no idea how terrible that was for my mental health. I don’t regret being a stay at home mom what-so-ever. I’m not saying that being a stay at home mom is bad in any way. It’s a beautiful thing. What’s bad is isolating yourself without even knowing it. When I realized I had severe social anxiety, I was in the grocery store and I was absolutely petrified one day, so much so, that I would play out in my head how I was going to be able to have simple conversation with the cashier before approaching checking out. My insides would tremble. I’d have these internal panic attacks. My only interaction and conversations with adults, was at home with my husband, various family gatherings or talking to my parents or family on the phone. It was like my brain forgot HOW to interact with anyone. Going to the grocery store was the only interaction I had most of the time outside the house. I remember one day, soon after I realized I had social anxiety and agoraphobia, I sat my husband down and had to tell him. When he saw how bad I was trembling just to verbalize it, he was so understanding and he knew it was real. Saying it out loud to my partner made it to where I knew what I had to do. I didn’t go see a shrink. I just realized that the only way to beat this was to expose myself to life outside my home and other people. I decided to go back to work with odds and end part time jobs over the years. Sometimes I worked. Sometimes I didn’t. The important thing that I got out of working was just re-interacting with the world and people again. I also went back to college. I also think too, that any bitterness or jealousy I ever had with my husbands hobbies and adventures had to do with me being home. Alone. I dealt with my social anxiety and I don’t even really think I struggle with it now—but I was still always about my home and family while our kids were going through adolescence and their teen years. (teen years are a killer folks!) So even though I wasn’t anxious about people or social situations, I still buried myself at home, and I still didn’t really even put myself first. I share this part of my mental health, only in hopes that someone else might be helped by it.
I eventually re-found my love for the outdoors. I always have loved nature. I grew up in Ohio and Western New York. Much of my childhood in New York was very isolated to farm country and forestry. I have so many fond memories of just being in the woods, playing in the crick, or sledding down the hill of the farm we lived next to. I think, the point I reached, when I stopped being irritated and jealous of my husbands’ adventures, was when I got involved and joined him. I began living again! It wasn’t that I couldn’t have joined him sooner. I didn’t realize I wanted to honestly and he never has stopped me from tagging along or doing anything. We spent the money on a kayak for me; The boys had kayaks; later on my husband helped me get set up ultralight to get me broke in to the hiking world. I have only done ONE major hike and it was a big one for me. I will write about that experience completely separate from this lengthy post, as I still have yet to really share what that experience was like. If I still have your attention, thanks for following along! ❤
So how did I go from being on the complete opposite end of the spectrum to now being a fully supportive Appalachian Trail wife? Nature has so much to offer the soul. If you let it. I have read so many great stories of folks going on trail, or going into nature to sort out their thoughts, mental health, life, life situations, problems….it’s inspiring. I have talked about raising our boys, marriage, motherhood, and all that it brings. As you go through life knowing you’re responsible for these little human beings and what they become—it can get heavy. I know I am biased, but, my boys were the absolutely freaking cutest babies! They were so easy, well rounded, and mostly behaved (as much as little boys could be)…but MAN….when those teen years hit. OMG. If you’re lucky enough to have perfect teenagers—I solute you! I’m not going to embarrass my boys and tell all about the stress they have caused during their hell years. (maybe later 😉 j/k) All I can say is this; I think the hardest thing for a parent, is watching your child struggle with unfair situations, raw deals that hurt the soul or just circumstances that really crush their dreams or expectations. My oldest had a rough junior and senior year. It really wasn’t fair. Some things were in his control. Some things not so much. When I finally relented to my husband hiking the whole Appalachian Trail, it had to do with a couple things; one—this is a trip of a lifetime and my husband is in good health and I didn’t want to crush this ambition and put it off; two—I truly believe that starting the trail–the process—all the way to the end of the trail is something that is lifechanging and offers a truly unique perspective; seeing my son grow into a young man—dealing with his own things and getting excited about something again—its truly priceless. I have no doubt that when he comes off trail, he will be much different, in a positive way. He’s 18 years old and this trip, he’ll remember forever and I know he will learn so much. He’s a great kid already and I know this will be a unique experience of finding himself. ❤
As for me; I know I’ve said that I’m a nursing student already—aside from studying all the time; I plan on taking these months to really focus on myself. I do have to watch myself as I am prone to depression—I hate admitting that. This being alone is not my strong suit! Again, I share my mental health to help others. I will be making sure I do for myself, make time to go to lunch with a friend, or go visit family or what have you. I am looking forward to visiting my hiking hobos (ha) on the trail in a few weeks. I’m also so excited to get together some TRAIL MAGIC to bring with me for the hikers I meet on my visit.
I love getting new photos from the husband and kid from the trail! They’ve been starting out slower to build up their trail legs and not hurt themselves, and good thing too. Not sure about anywhere else, but here in Ohio there’s been a stomach bug going rampid. Both my sons had it 2 weeks apart and then Dennis started feeling funky about 2 weeks after Aaron had it…just as they started traveling to Georgia. He was holding up well until he started not being able to keep anything down. I have NOT gotten it yet and pray that it skips me entirely. 🤞
When they got to Neels Gap today they decided to get off trail and hunker down at a hotel. They are taking a zero day tomorrow. So hopefully some good R&R will do them all well.
Here’s some photos that made me smile today! My kid looks so happy!
So the guys have been on the trail since Sunday. Some of the most common questions my family get from non-hikers and non-outdoorsy folks is questions about their food and shelter. My husband Dennis is a hammock sleeper and purchased a custom hammock from Dream Hammock; my son is using a Duplex tent from Z-packs, as he likes to be more grounded. Pretty sure it’s more of a phobia of being a neatly packed human burrito for the bears. 😀 I too have a custom Dream Hammock that I used when I hiked in Red River Gorge. It was my first hike, but I feel like I would prefer a tent like my son for the extra room with a sleeping pad. I have some lower back issues and after a long hike, I like to be stretched out and no matter how we get my hammock hung, I feel like my spine is succumed to being curved instead of allowing me to stretch out all straight.
As far as food goes, it’s definitely not gourmet! The least complicated the better, which is usually dehydrated meals consisting of potatoes, pasta, rice, easy mac, ramen noodles, electrolyte packets to add to water, Mountain House dehydrated meals (which end up getting pricey); weight matters. Everything the guys are carrying; their food, clothing, shelter, sleep gear, water being carried on their backs is the lightest of light and their overall carrying weight with their bags all packed probably amounts to around 24-28 pounds on the heavy side. My sons bag weight before they left, without water was 24 pounds.
Here is their set up from their first camp on the trail to give you an idea of what their set up looks like!
Also hiking with my husband and son, is Brad, who is a good friend & coworker of my hubbys. As with the dynamics of any trip, this took a ton of planning. I was going to drive them down to Georgia, but we decided against it (mostly me lol). Instead, we decided to book a one way flight for the guys and found a FANTASTIC deal on hopper. The one way tickets to Atlanta was under $80 a piece. They were set to fly out Saturday, March 12th at 7am from Cleveland. Brad ended up going up to Cleveland a day early and booked a room and invited Dennis and Aaron to stay if they wanted since their flight was early. The weather was not planning on being too cooperative with the snow Friday into Saturday morning, so I drove them up Friday. Their flight ended up getting canceled at 1 am.
No biggie! We decided to look at car rentals and just book a car. Did you know that debit cards are not accepted to rent a car (because it must be different money than credit card money)? Apparently you have to have a credit card. Money you don’t actually have is better to them than the money you do have in your checking. My husband had a credit card, but it had my name on it so they wouldn’t let him rent a car. To remedy this, I drove all the way back up to Cleveland on Saturday morning to walk inside to swipe my credit card. What a headache.
They got into Atlanta Saturday evening late; booked a room. Finally on Sunday, after rental car return, they jumped on a train and then were shuttled from REI to Amicalola Falls were they began their journey to Springer Mountain!