AT: Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut

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After a somewhat restful four days at home, Chris was back on the trail and heading north from Harpers Ferry. After a quick jaunt through Maryland, Chris and his son Mike reached Pennsylvania, where in a rocky patch of boulders, Chris sprained his ankle. He rested for a day, hobbled into the next town of Palmerton, where hikers are allowed to sleep in the basement of the jail for free. He rested there, then kept going, even with a badly sprained ankle.
My friend Ann and I were able to visit Chris and Mike near Hamburg, and then they crossed over into New York. Chris saw a bear- on the same day that he could see the NYC skyline from the trail. Pretty cool. Near Bear Mountain, hikers can go through the Trailside Zoo for free, and see lots of animals. And not far from there, hikers can sleep for free at the Graymoor Spiritual Center, a monastery.
Eventually, New York gives way to Connecticut, and Mike went home and I came to visit. Still sore in the ankle, Chris wanted a couple of days off the trail, so we explored a bit of Connecticut and Rhode Island. We went down to Mystic Seaport, ate pizza at Mystic Pizza, and looked at the ships there. Then over to Rhode Island to visit Naragansett for lunch at Iggys Chowder House, and some beach time at Misquamicut Beach. Except the ocean was freezing so we never got in!
But eventually we had to get back on the trail. I camped with Chris at Housatonic Meadows State Park, where I learned that a queen sized air mattress won’t fit in our tent. Sadly.
722 miles to go!
Next post: Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire!

Washington DC

All too often we forget to sightsee in our own town. Lucky for me, I live near our nation’s capital, and so I have been able to sightsee with both sets of parents when they visited, my friend Amber, and now my sister and two of her kids when they visited the week of the Fourth. We had a blast and I got to see some old sights and a few new ones.
I picked them up from Reagan airport just over the river from DC, so we were able to see a few monuments on a quick drive along the lovely Potomac. The kids were tired after traveling all day, so we went back to Reston and grabbed dinner at my favorite little lake, Thoreau, and watched the ducks.
The next day we did all the monuments and statues west of the Washington Monument. Lincoln. Einstein. Martin Luther King, Jr. FDR. Vietnam, Korea, and World War II. And a glimpse of the Jefferson. After being in the sun all day, we were ready for some inside action, so we drove back to Reston and visited the Udvar Hazy Air and Space museum. Very cool stuff, and the kids liked the tie in to the transformers movie.
The next day was DC east. The other
air and space, the botanic gardens and conservatory, and the Capitol building, then a quick look into the library of congress. Yay! Finally a ride on the carousel at the Smithsonian castle. After cooling off at home, we saw Maleficent at the movie theater.
The next day the kids took the metro in, and got to see the Spy Museum, the National Archives, and then the national cemetery. Whew!
And then the last day, we visited Mt Vernon. Amazing house and grounds. Mr Washington was certainly a fascinating person. On the way back to the airport we drove through old town Alexandria.
A cute little place!
Only a week to go and then I’ll be starting my big trip! Next post: Appalachian Trail, Connecticut- Maine. Stay tuned!

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AT: Virginia and West Virginia

Chris has been hiking with his son for the past 140 miles or so.  This week they reached Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, which is just shy of halfway for Chris.  This part of the trail is very close to our house in northern Virginia, so I was able to go pick them up and bring them home so they could each do a few days of administrative tasks.  His son has just been accepted to college so there is lots of paperwork involved in that, and Chris needed to pack up his closet and office in preparation for our big trip coming up in August.  And, happily, I was able to get pictures off both their cameras and post some images from this section of the trail.  Today after work I’ll be driving them back out to Harper’s Ferry, and they will continue their hike.  Mike hopes to get 500 miles in on the trail, and I will meet up with Chris in June after I finish work. ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

AT: Pearisburg, VA

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After another beautiful drive (this time in my convertible, to enjoy the spring air and the bright colors even more), I met up with Chris to take a zero day off the trail together.  He was at mile 620, just short of Pearisburg VA.  I met him at Wood’s Hole Hostel, which is a magical place and one that I am so glad I found.  A 2-story cabin in the woods, plus a hiker bunkhouse, great food, and lots of community spirit.  It’s a bit off the grid so we didn’t have to worry about emails or phone calls all weekend.  The owners, Neville and Michael, have run the place for the last 10 years or so, after inheriting the hostel from her grandparents, who ran the place from the 1940’s on.  Each morning we had a huge, filling breakfast, with three helpers volunteering to help cook the meal, three more serving, and three more cleaning up.  Peach oatmeal crisp, eggs with bacon, and fresh bread with applebutter.  Throughout the day there was yoga, meditation, hiking, and generally lazing about, until it was time for dinner prep- the first night we had tortillas, rice, beans, corn, ground beef, salsa, sour cream, salad, and fresh bread.  Again, three helpers made feeding an army of 22 hikers that much easier.  Luckily I had booked ahead so Chris and I had a private room in the main cabin- no hiker bunkhouse for me!  We had a lot to celebrate, so I brought a bottle of wine and we toasted Chris’s birthday, our wedding anniversary, and him finishing almost 1/3 of the trail.  Overall the weekend was amazing and I hope one day to go back to Wood’s Hole Hostel- but maybe next time, I’ll go when it’s not hiking season!

Hot springs North Carolina

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A lovely drive through the southern Virginia countryside, with the mountains in the background. The trees down here are bursting with spring colors; white, yellow, pink, green, even red and purple blooms. And I love the random clusters of daffodils along the highway, reminding me of the bluebonnets in Texas.

I arrived in Hot Springs, North Carolina, around 2 pm. I knew Chris had camped the night before at mile 253, so he’d have to hike 20 miles to get to Hot Springs. I figured he’d get in around 5. So that gave me a couple of hours to walk around town, check out the Trailfest Weekend going on in town, and explore the crazy 170 year old inn we were staying at. It’s a beautiful house with crazy rooms, sweeping staircases, slanting floors, and wrap around porches on both floors. Owned by a 3-time thru-hiker, it’s $20 a night for hikers. What a deal.
The inn, built in 1840, was later used during World War I as a boarding house for wives of the German officers who were being held as prisoners of war across town (three blocks away) at the Mountain Park Hotel, next to the mineral springs. Later, the house was a boardinghouse for teachers who worked at the Dorland-Bell Institute, a school for Appalachian girls.

Chris came limping into town at 5:20 and after showering and changing, we walked through the town. He was so happy to grab a beer, some salad greens, and hot wings and sit on the patio of the Quarter House Tavern, overlooking the French Broad River. He told me about his hike- some rain, some wind, ice chunks and heavy frost, but no snow. One bear north of Clingmans Dome and some cool birds, two deer, and lots of hikers. In town we ran into Indiana, Rhode Island Red, and Admiral Caboose, all thru-hikers he had met on the trail in the past two weeks. After dinner a band played on the patio and it was a very relaxing evening.
On Sunday we walked around Hot Springs, had a yummy pancake breakfast with a bunch of hikers, and visited the Hot Springs spa. On the banks of the French Broad River, the spa has a dozen outdoor hot tubs, enclosed on 3 sides by a gazebo, fed by the hot mineral springs themselves. The open side looks out over the river and it was a lovely long soak and a pleasant way to spend an hour. In fact, we enjoyed it so much we went back the next day for another. After a “Hungry Hiker skillet” breakfast and a long soak, Chris got back on the AT to make his way 120 miles to Elk Park NC, where I will see him next Sunday.

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Hiking the Appalachian Trail

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My dear sweetheart is hiking the Appalachian Trail for the next few months. For the past month he’s been reading all about the trail and what to pack and what food to buy. He’s a pretty experienced camper and hiker already, so he pretty much knows what to do. Last week he purchased all his food for the first month and got it all measured out and packed away. And finally this weekend we drove down to Georgia to get him started.

We stayed at Amicalola Falls State Park lodge, one of the two main places that people start the trail. The AT actually starts at Springer Mountain, GA, but there is an 8 mile approach trail that leads from Amicalola Falls to the trailhead. While we were at Amicalola, of course, we visited the waterfall, a bit of a tradition with us (no arrests this time!). Long story, from our travels in Africa.

On Saturday morning we drove to Springer Mountain and parked. From the parking lot, it is .9 miles to the southern terminus, so I hiked that part with him. He signed in at the registry, put on his pack, and off he went. I drove back to Virginia, stopped at Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina, to deliver his first resupply package, and I also drove through Hot Springs NC, where I hope to see him in two weeks.

A little trail history: the trail officially began in 1935, after the US government purchases bits and pieces of land to make one long continuous trail/park. About 2,000 people try to hike the whole thing each year. About 17% succeed. The trail is 2, 108.5 miles long.