When I Grow Old

When I grow old…I wanna be like my mama. She turned 79 years old yesterday, and she is still adventuring. She is, obviously, slowing down. But she won’t let that stop her from still living fully, stretching herself occasionally to the limits of her physical abilities, whatever those may be at a given time.

For many years, my mom has looked for an epic adventure to celebrate another year of living. For her 70th birthday, she and I went downhill skiing in Portillo, Chile. Another year, my middle sister took Mom for a hot air balloon ride. Two years ago, Mom learned how to use the old wind-surf board as a stand-up-paddle board. (Don’t ask how many times I fell in the river trying that, okay?!) paddleboard grannyMany years, Mom celebrated her birthday by taking a long canoe ride on the river she lives beside—sometimes solo, sometimes with a friend. She spent a few hours to paddle upriver to a park, had a snack, then paddled home, approximately 14 miles round trip.

Years ago, Mom enjoyed backpacking trips on the Appalachian Trail. Our first time hiking together, we were joined by her sister-in-law and a friend. Later, she took a number of trips to introduce grandkids to backpacking. mom and I, first AT tripAs her strength has declined, Mom has been able to carry less and less gear. For the past few years, my youngest sister and Mom have day-hiked together, meeting at Shenandoah National Park. By staying in a lodge or at a campground and driving to different sections of the park, they have gradually completed most of the 104 miles of the Appalachian Trail located in the park. One more trip should finish their self-imposed challenge.

(photo taken by Joanna Fischer)

(photo taken by Joanna Fischer)

This year, Mom and my middle daughter met my youngest daughter and I near the end of our 5 week section-hike on the Appalachian Trail. Mom joined us for the steep climb beside Crabtree Falls in Virginia. At the top of the falls, she walked back down by herself as daughters and I headed back to the AT for another 5 days of backpacking. crabtree falls VA, hiking grannyThe story of Mom’s continued adventures was told around campfires and passed on from hiker to hiker along the Trail. Everyone applauded her spunk. One southern backpacker said, “I wanna be like Granny when I grow up!” So do I, so do I…

The M&M Test

There is a story frequently told among AT hikers. It explains how to identify the type of hiker (day hiker, section hiker, long distance/thru hiker) using the simple M&M test: When three M&Ms are scattered along the trail, what does the hiker do? M&M Test_the settingThe day hiker walks right past the candy, never noticing it. M&M test 1_day hikerThe short section hiker stops and picks up the candy. Following “Leave No Trace” principles, this hiker puts the M&Ms in her trash sack to carry out of the woods. M&M test 2_section hikerThe long distance hiker, always starving, throws off her pack, grabs the M&Ms and pops them into her mouth. M&M test 3_thru hikerThen that long distance hikers scrambles to find any other candies that might have been dropped! M&M test 4_thru hiker

(Are you wondering which type of hikers we are? If we drop our own candy or trail mix, we pick it up and eat it. After all, we need every calorie we can get! But no, we don’t eat trash candy left by others. Perhaps that is the difference between long-distance section hikers and thru-hikers?!)

(Thanks to daughter Nettie for taking the photos and daughter Andowen for being the model.)

Surviving Epic Tragedy

We tend to think of an “epic adventure” as something life changing; something we dream of for years; something worthy of being included on the “bucket list.” Sometimes, however, the big epic that changes our lives is a tragedy. No matter how prepared we like to think we are, we will never be ready for certain experiences. It is impossible to control every aspect of life and guarantee safety. In the aftermath of epic tragedies, it is often the small things that help us survive.

(Stick with me here…there are fun discoveries at the end of this post!)

Eight years ago, one of our teen sons died unexpectedly. Yes, that rocks one’s world (and not in a good way, of course!) I’ve learned a few coping skills: focus on the next breath, and the next breath, and the next one. Interact with God (or beliefs that are bigger than yourself). Find friends who will sit beside you in silence and let you grieve. Listen to the stories of others who have survived similar losses…and eventually share your own story with the world. (I have most recently written about this HERE and HERE.) James n Jill_the Rock_silly

It is a challenge each year to figure out what we want to do on the anniversary of James’ graduation to heaven. Looking back, it has been different each year. Since our son was full of mischief, loving to tease and make others laugh, we usually choose to pursue small things that bring us pleasure and that will make us smile. We want to focus on his colorful life, not dwell on the agonies of our grief.

This past Friday was a good example. Hubby took the day off work. We knew we couldn’t bear to sit at home and stare at the walls. So we hopped in the car, with youngest daughter in the back seat, and took off for a long, meandering drive. We enjoyed discovering old houses in older towns, relishing those that have been well-cared for, saddened by abandoned, falling-down shells. We cranked the music and sang along. (Gut wrenching but also made me laugh when a song played at son’s funeral unexpectedly came on.) We talked and we rode in silence. We ate fast-food supper, and then started a search for dessert. Oh my! Just LOOK at the wonderful place we found in a small rivertown.

There was a little sign by the side of the highway for Griffith & Feil’s Soda Fountain. We went on a search for it. And found this gem in the historic downtown area of Kenova, KY.  The atmosphere was delightful. The history was intriguing. The staff was friendly. And the treats were “dee-lish.” old-time drugstore_checking out history

old-time drugstore_soda fountain

old-time drugstore_soda fountain2

Old-time Drugstore_historic

We will certainly visit this little treasure again. Now we have happy memories to layer onto this oh-so-difficult day on the calendar. Sometimes it is indeed the small things that move us from survival to thriving again after an epic tragedy.

Be Prepared…Pull Out Your Hiking Gear!

We had a nasty windstorm last weekend. A friend and I enjoyed a late lunch together at a cozy restaurant in town; too busy talking to notice the weather. After she received a text that their barn was damaged by wind, we quickly said our goodbyes and headed to our homes. I should have seen trouble coming when I needed 4WD to keep from being blown off the road. Even the power lines were oscillating in a violent way I had never seen before.

So what does this little stormy tale have to do with hiking? Everything, of course!

When our power went out, hubby and I jumped in the car and headed to town for light and hot food, assuming things would be fixed by the time we got home. But we returned to a dark, cold house. Rather than stumbling around, trying to figure out where to find candles and a lighter, I headed straight upstairs to the storage closet. Voila! In our backpacking bins, I dug out headlamps to set beside the bed for the night. Hiker Gear_Headlamp

We were concerned that both of our cell phones had low batteries. But then I remembered that there was a fully charged “battery brick” in the hiking bin. Problem solved! battery brick_cell phone charger

In the middle of the night, hubby realized the power was still off. Concerned about all the food in the rapidly warming frig/freezer, he moved everything out to the back porch. Below freezing temps would keep things safe til morning. (The food filled a wheelbarrow. I was quite thankful we have no bears in our neighborhood—it was too much food to hang from the rafters in the bearbags!) wheelbarrow_no bear bag_food

I’m used to eating peanut butter and graham crackers for breakfast. Good thing since the power was still off in the morning so we had no way to fix hot food. I was desperately missing my morning mug of hot caffeine however. Then I dug through the gear bins one more time. Ahhh…my jetboil backpacking stove brings water to a boil in an instant! Savoring a mug of tea calmed my nerves and started my morning off right. backpacking gear_jetboil stove

We realized no power meant no hot water (darn all-electric house). We talked about driving to the YMCA to shower, or driving to family on the other side of town, but didn’t really want to bother. I considered using the hiker solution…but decided no one in town was ready to ignore unwashed hair and body odor. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that…

Eventually the power finally came on—15 hours after the storm knocked down wires all over the city. Some neighbors had noisy generators. But I’m glad we were fully prepared to “rough it” in peace and quiet. After all, we own backpacking gear!

Wandering Women

I am a wanderer—sometimes physically, sometimes in imagination. Somedays I wonder where this nomadic, gypsy gene came from. And then I realize my mom has always enjoyed travel—with her family, with her husband, or alone. I guess it is no surprise that the wandering hasn’t stopped with me. My daughters have been well trained and continue the tradition: exploring the world near and far, physically and in imagination.

My oldest daughter recently sent me this poem. It describes our family well…

Among Women By Marie Ponsot

What women wander? Not many. All. A few. Most would, now & then, & no wonder. Some, and I’m one, Wander sitting still.

My small grandmother Bought from every peddler Less for the ribbons and lace Than for their scent Of sleep where you will, Walk out when you want, choose Your bread and your company.

She warned me, “Have nothing to lose.”

She looked fragile but had High blood, runner’s ankles, Could endure, endure. She loved her rooted garden, her Grand children, her once Wild once young man. Women wander…As best they can.

(source: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/245898)

Here are some photos of the wandering women in my family:

My mom backpacking with her grandson, Summer 2000

My mom backpacking with her grandson, Summer 2000

My mom backpacking with me, a decade ago

My mom backpacking with me, a decade ago

My mom continues to dayhike on the Appalachian Trail with my sister (photo by Jo Fischer)

My mom (in her 70s now) continues to dayhike on the Appalachian Trail with my sister (photo by Jo Fischer)

I've been in Europe with each of my daughters.

I’ve been in Europe with each of my daughters.

My oldest daughter has lived and worked in Central Asia and has wandered in Europe.

My oldest daughter has lived and worked in Central Asia and has wandered in Europe.

My middle daughter has wandered Europe and parts of Asia.

My middle daughter has wandered Europe and parts of Asia.

And as you know, my youngest daughter and I have been adventuring on the Appalachian Trail!

And as you know, my youngest daughter and I have been adventuring on the Appalachian Trail!

Happy Hobbies! (Combining Hiking and Scrapbooking)

It is a happy serendipity when two hobbies can be combined. I relax by being outdoors or by making time for creating vibrant art. Gradually, I’m figuring out ways to combine these two hobbies. (Sometimes I work at the dining room table. More often I head to a coffee shop or to my favorite fireside seat at the local library.) AT_place to craft_Northwest Library

Taking hundreds of photos on our backpacking adventure on the Appalachian Trail this past fall felt reasonable at the time. However, every time I looked at those files on my computer, I was overwhelmed with how to best organize and use this many photos. For the first time ever, I used a scrapbooking “recipe” to streamline the process. (This means I used one basic layout, with different papers and colors and occasional variation in the orientation of the design.) Here are the pages I made to summarize our trip:

These first two spreads highlight the beauty found along the Appalachian Trail:

Title: “Walk in Beauty: for the one who has eyes to see…LET her SEE!AT_walk in beauty_scrapbooking_leftAT_walk in beauty_scrapbooking_rightJournaling: We both enjoyed being surrounded by beauty and pointing out new discoveries to each other. Whether it was miles of mountain views, jumbled boulders, a dancing stream or tiny wonders, it all became scope for imagination. When we quit noticing nature’s beauty, it was time to get off the trail!

Title: “all of nature is AFLAME: Be fearless in the pursuit of what Sets Your Soul on Fire!AT_nature aflame_scrapbooking_leftAT_nature aflame_scrapbooking_rightJournaling: We loved the peace and tranquility of hiking in the cool, green woods. But the surprising “pop” of bright oranges, reds and yellows made our hearts sing with joy at the brilliant, flaming colors. Quote: “Give me a spark o’ Nature’s fire, That’s a’ the learning I desire.” (Robert Burns)

Whenever possible, daughter and I chose to stay in shelters. That was less work, we met more people, and it kept us dry in bad weather. However, we also enjoyed the times we camped in solitude at official camping places or in the woods between shelters too far apart for us to reach in one day of hiking.

Title: “SHELTER: [shel’ ter] something below, behind, or within which a person is protected from adverse conditionsAT_shelter_scrapbooking_leftAT_shelter_scrapbooking_rightJournaling: There are more than 250 Backcountry Shelters along the A.T. for use by hikers. Most have only 3 walls, come in a variety of sizes & styles, have a privy, and are near a water source. Accent: “Haven, Hideaway, Protection, Refuge, Sanctuary: No matter what you call it, it’s a WELCOME SIGHT at the end of the day!”

Title: “Happy Campers on the Appalachian Trail: “inTENTS” adventure in the WOODS” AT_tent camping_scrapbooking_leftAT_tent camping_scrapbooking_rightJournaling: We enjoyed the social aspects of staying in shelters. Chatting around a dancing campfire was a bonus…but there was something special about being alone in our little tent, all cozy and comfy, away from everyone!”

The next pair of spreads celebrates the partnership between my daughter and I on our hiking adventure. As I have commented in other posts, I wasn’t sure how well this would work. However, we learned to use our strengths to balance the other’s weaknesses. I was frustrated that when we took selfies, I couldn’t figure out how to turn off “beauty face” so edges were all blurry. But I like how it became illustrations for a dreamin’ page!

Title: “Hiking Partners: my mini meAT_hiking partners_scrapbooking_leftAT_hiking partners_scrapbooking_rightJournaling: We are well matched. We both love to be outdoors. We find beauty—and whimsy—around us. We enjoy meeting other hikers at the shelters. Daughter has more physical strength & agility. I have more mental determination. She sang songs to life me up. I made her smile when she was grumpy. good partners Accent: “Storyseeker (53) and Andowen (13): 1st AT adventure 9-7 to 10-21-16”

Title: “dreaming of the Trail: Nothing stops the Dreamers: fairytale funAT_Dreaming_scrapbooking_leftAT_Dreaming_scrapbooking_rightJournaling: Obstacles or Opportunities 1-meandering trail, 2-beware the “roller coaster,” 3-singing in the rain, 4-fern “fairy crowns,” 5-mountaintop exhilaration Accent: “wandering in the woods: fall 2015”

The final two spreads focus on my experience and my daughter’s experience of this adventure. For me, this trip was a way of expressing that I am moving from a focus on family to making time for me and my dreams. For my daughter, our adventure became her favorite imagination-land come to life! (She is a huge fan of Lord of the Rings and other fantasy books and movies.)

Title: “it’s time for ME! the middle passage: …if you can’t leave ‘em behind…BRING ‘em with YOU!…AT_ME time_scrapbooking_leftAT_ME time_scrapbooking_rightJournaling: Time for DREAMS to Come True I’m tired of waiting. I’m ready to reach for dreams—long backpacking trips, making art, writing stories. With just one child still at home, she can join my epic adventures! Accents: “finally finding my own way,” “go into the world, explore, LIVE,” and “free yourself”

Title: “nature girl—wild child—forest fairy: andowenAT_Nature Girl_Wild Child_scrapbooking_leftAT_Nature Girl_Wild Child_scrapbooking_rightJournaling: Anna has always loved being outdoors. 6 weeks of backpacking on the Appalachian Trail took this to a whole new level! As an equal to everyone out there, she gained confidence & had FUN! Accent: “Explore”

What are YOUR favorite hobbies? And how can you combine those interests with adventures you pursue?

Running Away to Middle Earth!

It is midwinter in the Heartland—gray, dismal, cold, and rainy. It is definitely time to ESCAPE! A warm, sunny beach sounds lovely, but we are longing to return to the woods. In consideration of Daughter’s recent birthday, we have decided to make a brief trip to Middle Earth. 2016_0208_middle earth_SAM_8388_whitebalance_webWhat? You didn’t think that was a real place? I assure you, if you listened in on conversations around our house, you might change your mind. Daughter certainly talks as if it were true.

2016_0208_middle earth_20150917_175002_webDaughter’s trail name while backpacking the Appalachian Trail last fall was “Andowen,” based on an elven name from Middle Earth. When hearing the explanation of her name, fellow hikers told her about a “Hobbit House” for rent at a nearby campground. Andowen was immediately certain that we haaaaaaadddd to go stay overnight. She was very disappointed that I wasn’t interested in checking out the rumors. My arguments that we already had non-refundable reservations in nearby Harpers Ferry didn’t sway her. Neither did the fact that there was full resupply available in Harpers Ferry but only convenience stores near the campground. I’ll spare you the details of the whining, the begging, and the tears which failed to change my mind.

Fast forward to our upcoming trip to visit friends on the East Coast for a few days. A quick phone call to the campground and a look at the bank balance confirmed that an overnight stay at the Hobbit House is feasible. The forecast says it will be cold and cloudy. But we won’t notice. We will be surrounded by woods and will be basking in legend.  2016_0208_TreehouseCamp_HobbitHouse

Don’t worry if we disappear for a while—

Middle Earth is calling and we must go!

(Photos of Hobbit House from website for Treehouse Camp–check it out HERE)

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Just like the main character in Judith Viorst’s classic children’s book, we had a day where everything was frustrating and we just wanted to quit. On this particular day, we were attempting a longer than usual distance for us which made it even more challenging to continue putting one foot in front of the other. In talking with other hikers, these are common feelings during the first few weeks of a long distance hike until one’s mind and body both strengthen…

I went to sleep in the Ed Garvey Shelter but the owls were so noisy I didn’t sleep all night. When I got out of my sleeping bag this morning it was really cold and by mistake I slipped on the fancy stairs and hurt my broken toe and I could tell it was going to be a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. steep steps

At breakfast my daughter had her favorite breakfast drink and another hiker fixed an omelet rehydrated meal that smelled yummy but my breakfast bars had been crushed to crumbs so small they couldn’t hold the peanut butter. I think I’m gonna quit hiking and go on vacation in Tahiti.

When it was time to leave, one hiker was already packed up and saying good byes and my daughter was still slowly sipping her hot chocolate. I said, “I could use some help.” I said, “this stuff won’t possibly all fit back in my pack.” I said, “we are always the last to leave.” No one even answered. I could tell it was going to be a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

When we finally got on the trail, my daughter hurried ahead and took the lead. When I wanted a break, she said I walked too slow. When I looked at the map, she said I was ignoring the side trail to an interesting overlook. Who needs overlooks? I could tell it was going to be a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. trail

I could tell because when we finally took a break and got our snacks out of our packs, I dropped my bag and the M&Ms fell on the ground and my daughter said I was obviously not a long-distance hiker because I didn’t choose to eat dirt-covered M&Ms. I said, “I hope the next time you open your pack your Snickers bar falls out and lands on the beach in Tahiti.”

She still had dried mandarins in her fruit mix and pop tarts in her snack bag and a day hiker gave her a bottle of flavored water. I had only peanuts and crumbly granola bars left for snacks and plain spring water that wasn’t even cold anymore. It was a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. break

That’s what it was because I was already exhausted and we weren’t even halfway through the downhill climb. My daughter was still full of energy and we met a trail-maintainer going the other way who climbed up the rocks like a mountain goat. “The ‘Roller-Coaster’ is a few days from here and it’s even harder than this,” he said. “Next week,” I said, “I’m going to Tahiti.”

On the way down the steep mountainside, I was afraid I was going to slide off the edge of the trail and there were so many rocks that even the tree roots had to wrap around them and the path kept going down and down forever. My knees started aching and my broken toe hurt so bad even ibuprofen didn’t help. I started crying and then that squirrel up in the tree laughed at me so hard he dropped the nut he was carrying and it almost hit me on the head. rocks

I am having a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day I announced. No one even answered.

When we finally got to where the Appalachian Trail follows the flat C&O Canal towpath, it was boring. The trees all looked the same and my pack was so heavy I couldn’t skip and I was tired of walking. My daughter thought the turtles sunning themselves on logs were cute but all I noticed was how disgusting the scummy water smelled. turtle She said the whitewater rapids of the Potomac River were beautiful but the glinting sun hurt my eyes. Potomac River I tried calling my husband when we took a break but the reception was bad. I think I called Tahiti by mistake. When I finally got through, it was so static-y that my husband suggested I try again later when there was better coverage in town.

When we finally got to Harper’s Ferry, the outfitter didn’t have the small fuel canister I wanted and the meal my daughter ordered at the café tasted better than mine. I thought I knew the way to the hostel but we missed the trail and had to turn around. (Who puts the white blazes used to mark the way on lampposts and walls?!) I was so tired I thought I was dead. But someone said I couldn’t be dead because I was still walking. food

It was a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Nobody told me the hiker hostel was a zillion miles up the hill from the historic town. When we got there I was excited that there was frozen food available to purchase for supper (no further walking needed). But there were no pepperoni pizzas left and I hate plain cheese pizza. There was a choice between vanilla or cookies-n-cream ice cream and I hate both of them. The shower at the hostel was too hot, I got soap in my eyes, I slipped on the wet bathroom floor and all the other hikers had used the thick towels. I hate thin, scritchy towels.

When I went to bed, the mattress was too soft for me to get comfortable and my headlamp batteries had run down so I couldn’t read and somebody was already snoring so loud I couldn’t get to sleep. It has been a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. My daughter says some days are like that. Even in Tahiti. soft bed

If you want to read the original book by Judith Viorst, you can find it at your local library or you can buy it HERE. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

(Note: We finished this year’s epic hike–filled with good days and a few terrible ones–on October 21. We will continue to post photos and stories for a few more weeks.)

It’s a Nutty World!

Backpacking the Appalachian Trail in the fall means beautiful views and bright colored leaves. No one warns you it also means NUTS: walnuts, hickory nuts, chestnuts, and acorns. The leaves are certainly lovely…but the nuts are maddening!

At first the nuts are fascinating. “Oh look, there’s a walnut!” “Awww, that acorn is so tiny it’s cute!” “Oh look, I’ve never seen an acorn that huuuuuge!” Then irritation mounts, as individual nuts cause problems. “Yuck!”—walnut husks leave big black stains on whatever they touch. Stepping on a nut startles the hiker with a loud “crack!” or could leave a bruise, even through heavy boots. Eventually, those innocent looking nuts become dangerous. When the trail is filled with fallen acorns, walking over them becomes an exercise in keeping ones balance on a slippery, rolling, sliding surface. This is similar to trying to keep a 2 liter bottle of soda upright on the metal rollers at a grocery store checkout lane—easier said than done. innocent acorns

Staying in shelters in wooded areas along the trail has its own challenges in the fall. When a nut falls off an overhanging tree onto the metal roof, it lands with a crack like a rifle shot. At first, the hiker sits up in terror each time, heart pounding with a rush of adrenaline. A windy night sends many nuts onto the roof at the same time, sounding more like machine-gun fire. Yikes! The good news is that after a few nights of interrupted sleep, the exhausted hiker eventually learns to ignore the explosions.

In one area of the trail in Virginia, daughter and I kept seeing spiny green balls. We couldn’t figure out what they were. (We knew our initial impression of lime green baby hedgehogs was unlikely to be correct. HA!) Eventually, we found out these were chestnuts. Yes, nuts from genuine American Chestnut trees which were wiped out by blight more than 100 years ago. Apparently some sturdy roots continue to put out new shoots that grow to as much as 20 feet tall and drop nuts before eventually succumbing once again to the blight. lime green baby hedgehogs!

chestnutThe combination of critters and nuts is another challenge in the fall. One night daughter and I were woken up by weird noises. It was not the usual able-to-be-ignored “BAM!” followed by “shhhhhhhhh…plop!” as the fallen nut hit the roof then slid down and fell to the ground. This time we heard a “clicking, clacking, skritch, scratch” sound. Suddenly there was an unexpected explosion immediately above our heads! Daughter jumped up and turned on her headlamp. There was an acorn on the top wooden bunk platform. A mouse popped through a hole in the roof, scurried down from the ceiling, grabbed the nut, and climbed back up. It then tried to shove the nut back out through a hole. That didn’t work well as the acorn fell out of its mouth, “BAM!” back onto the platform. Daughter grabbed the nut and threw it outdoors. Whew! We were able to sleep in peace for the rest of the night.

(drawing by Andowen)

(drawing by Andowen)

The next morning, we hustled through our usual morning routine, in a hurry to get back on the trail. Everything was finally packed. I slid off my camp shoes and tied them to my pack. I put on my first boot and tied it tightly. I shoved my foot into the second boot…oops! Someone left me a gift during the night! (Or else that critter somehow thought my smelly boots made a good pantry for his winter food supply…) That hickory nut soon followed the night-time acorn into the woods.critter pantry

It’s a nutty world in the fall on the Appalachian Trail. However, as my parents discovered when they left a car parked for a number of weeks in their suburban driveway, it can be just as nutty in the city…

(photo by Bob Fischer)

(photo by Bob Fischer)

(Note: we finished this year’s hike on October 21. We continue to post photos and stories from our adventure…)

“Oh, the People You Meet…” — Helper Version

Many folks assume that spending weeks backpacking the Appalachian Trail will be a solitary experience. That might be true on the Pacific Crest Trail or the Continental Divide Trail. However, during our six weeks on the AT, we were passed by multiple hikers every day. In addition, the only way to experience a solitary night is to camp away from shelters. There was only one night that daughter and I had a shelter completely to ourselves.

As extroverts, we delighted in this level of social interaction. Time alone while hiking balanced nicely with social time. I introduced you to some of our favorite hikers HERE. In today’s post, I want to introduce you to some of the non-hikers we met along the way.

Some folks who help hikers have been thru-hikers themselves. After completing his epic hike (along with his college age son) a few years ago, Scott began searching for a property that he and his wife could turn into a hostel for hikers. They bought a historic home with outbuildings near Front Royal, Virginia. The property had been abandoned for more than a decade. Many would have ignored it as a ruin. Scott and his wife saw the possibilities and are pouring energy and money into restoring the home to its former glory. The hostel is already up and running—a cozy brick cottage which sleeps up to 8 hikers. The big house will eventually hold living quarters for Scott and his wife plus 3 fancy bed & breakfast rooms. Scott is passionate about history and has uncovered many fascinating stories about the lives of those who lived here over the years. (If you are a hiker, definitely stay at the hostel. If you are looking for a B&B, keep an eye for when those rooms open sometime next year! Facebook link HERE ) Mountain Home "Cabbin"

Mountain Home B&B

Storyteller Scott

Some folks have little or no hiking experience but enjoy meeting and helping AT hikers. In two different towns, we paid for someone to shuttle us to another part of the trail. (Phone numbers for these folks are found in trail guides or on lists at visitor centers in towns along the trail.) Debbie saved our trip by letting me avoid a very steep 6 miles of hiking with a broken toe. Sharon drove us to a Walmart on the far side of town to resupply fuel and buy some warm gloves. On a gray rainy day, Shellie took us to a parking area that was a hop, skip, and jump away from a shelter for the night. This also meant we could carry a fellow hiker’s gear so she could “slackpack” a long day of hiking. And then Shellie rescued us the next day and came back to evacuate us to town to more easily meet my sister for a few days off trail during bad storms. (See post HERE)

Other folks are “Trail Angels.” (I explained about “Trail Magic” HERE) In the Shenandoah National Park, we discovered that the campground where we were hoping to spend a zero day was full for the second night. We decided to try to catch a ride and get there a day earlier. Lori talked with us at a picnic area and agreed to give us a lift to the campgrounds. She is from Victoria Island, British Columbia and is traveling with her little trailer for 4 months of exploring the US. She asked a zillion questions which we happily answered. She took our photo to add to her memories of interesting people she meets along the way. We took her photo to remember some of the Trail Angels who helped our trip be easier. helper Lori

Many folks are easily forgotten—the ones who move to the other side of the street when we are walking in town, the ones who ignore us in park campgrounds, the ones who are unfriendly or unhelpful. The folks who are Hiker Helpers will be remembered for a very long time!

(Note: We finished our hiking for this year on Oct. 21. We continue to share photos and posts from our adventure for the next few weeks.)