(First all you can eat chinese buffet)
Monthly Archives: May 2014
Days 84-91: 116.2 miles
Favorite State: Still Tennessee
Favorite food: Bananas (we started carrying them out of town)
Favorite Hostel: Four Pines Hostel
Favorite Mile: Tinker Cliffs
Favorite creature: Sheila the mountain goat dog
Least Favorite food: Anything that’s typical trail food
Least Favorite Part of the trail: Roan Mountain (we are biased though since we were in an oncoming winter storm)
Least Favorite creature: Whip-poor-will, the car alarm bird
(Icicle) We are currently making our way very slowly through the Shenandoahs. We had planned on flying through them because of the easy terrain, but something odd happened. We have been feeling much more stable and content mentally since we have truly embraced the lesson we last learned, that fretting over what you cannot control leads to discontent. However, without the recent challenges of 5 mile climbs up mountains and the now mellow terrain, well, we’ve realized just how exhausted we are. Its almost like the easier terrain allows you the space to truly feel yourself physically. We’ve crossed the 900 mile mark and also the 3 month mark here. Browsing through pictures from our first week, its amazing to see the physical changes that seem to be the outward manifestation of mental changes. We feel stronger, content, and now have a love for moving that will never go away.
We are at a point now where we are not sure what we want to do next. We know we want to hike into Harpers Ferry, but after that, its blank for us right now. We’ve contemplated what we want to do with our last two months off. We’ve hiked A LOT and the idea of saving the rest of the trail to do as section hikers over our life sounds kind of awesome. So does going home to Connecticut for a few days to visit family before galavanting in the woods with my brother who will hike a section of the AT with us in June. We are really excited to share a part of our journey with him. We’ve contemplated canoeing around Maine and hanging out in a primitive cabin for a couple weeks, after our hike with Josh, to have time to decompress and process this experience. Nothing is set in stone, but these are our thoughts right now.
The reality is after hiking almost 1,000 miles, we are getting bored and ancy to reenter life at home. We loved our life that we left, which is a big difference between us and some folks out here. We hear a lot of, “Well, at least this is better than life before the trail” or “what would I do at home?” at this point in the hike when the mystique has worn off. Then there are people who are genuinely happy to be out here every single day and that’s motivation enough. Well, we don’t fall into either of these camps. ‘Things being better on the trail’ is not a motivating factor for us since we are in love with our life in the before times and are lucky enough to have fulfilling jobs/school to return too. And we don’t love being out here every day like some folks hiking. So this leaves us currently searching for what our motivation is right now. It used to be having a backpacking adventure, but that’s been fulfilled. Holy cow has this been an amazing adventure.
This trek has also given us the space and time to contemplate our desire for a family. The luxury of time to truly process this has been precious for us. We have gone through doubts together out here. Can we be good parents? Are we ready? Do we want one child or a gazillion of them? We allowed ourselves to feel EVERY SINGLE EMOTION about this. Cheez-It and Ramen Shaman were witness to some of our more humorous talks regarding reproducing. What’s amazing though, is that after all that processing, nervousness, excitement, love, and even fright, we have emerged confident that we want a family together. And we aren’t worried in the details either. We have more trust in ourselves to just let it be and not worry too much anymore about knowing every single thing first. Those who know me well will know this is important and significant. I have not been someone who always imagined a family as part of my life and love researching things until every last spec of sand has been investigated. But with this, we both just trust in it and in our love and desire for a family.
Overall, we definitely have acquired a new love for backpacking and are really excited to use our newfound outdoor skills all around the world and in the United States on much shorter trips, like one or two week trips. Quailman already knows he will be training for his first marathon when we return and I plan on training for longer distance triathlons. We both are very interested in very long distance athletic endeavors too, like 50 mile trail runs.
For now, we still have about 60 miles until we reach Harpers Ferry. Then, we will know what makes sense for us. If we find a motivation, we will keep on keepn’ on. If not, we’ll enact some of those thoughts shared earlier.
First Bear: (Icicle) We hadn’t seen a bear yet and were becoming a little dissapointed. Everyone promised us we would see one in the Shenandoahs, but we were skeptical. Well, we are hiking along during our second day there and are about to cross skyline drive for the billionth time. A big, very black furry thing bolts across the road in front of a braking car and scampers into the forest! We were excited to see the bear and were surprised by the smaller but chubby size of it and just how dark the fur was.
Eating wild onion: (Icicle) We’ve learned a little out here about edible plants. Its unbelievably rewarding to be able to recognize and then eat what you find along the trail. Cheez-It tipped us off to this plant. We were hiking along and noticed the wild onions were starting to become mature enough to eat. We snacked as we hiked, munching on them quite happily. Wild onions taste like a blend of garlic and onion to us. We can also identify morel mushrooms and plantain (not the banana type fruit, a green leafed plant). These are all very easy to find and identify once you know what to look for.
Drunk Shuttle driver: (Quailman) We’ve been told that “people do thing differently here in the mountains” before. We’ve definitley noticed some major cultural differences throughout our journey, but we were abruptly and suddenly introduced to perhaps one of the most severe recently. We were along the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, about 15 miles out of Waynesboro. Severe thunderstorms were predicted to roll in the next day and we were also having some issues with some new gear we had purchased in Daleville, so we decided to take a shuttle into town. After taking a look at the guide, we found that there was only one shuttle driver listed, so we gave him a call. It was around 7pm. He told us no problem, and that he would see us in 45 minutes.
On his arrival, he said a few odd things (“I don’t care about your names or your trail names, just tell me where you’re from and what you do” and “talk to me softly while I drive down this mountain”) that made us believe he was a bit of an eccentric person. It wasn’t until he told us, “You caught me in the middle of a gin and ginger ale” and took a sip from a clear plastic cup he had in the cupholder that we realized he was, in fact, drinking and driving. I don’t mean I-had-a-beer-while-I-drove-on-this-back-road kind of drinking. He was hammered. If we had been pulled over, he would have been arrested without needing a sobriety check. It was about the third or forth swerve on the yellow line, and just after the dense fog rolled in that we started to fear for our lives a bit. Not knowing what kind of drunk he was, we answered his questions as best we could and paid his fee, which changed a couple times. After getting out of the truck and into the motel room, we had to take a while to process what had happened. I’m pretty unhappy about it. Maybe “unhappy” is wrong. It’s more like furious. The man did not care for our well being in the slightest, despite his claimed “trail angel” status. He knew full well when we called what his inebriation level was and didn’t have the courtesy to tell us. Instead, to make a buck, he put our lives in danger and others on the road because he didn’t care about us at all. He literally told us, “Your just another tick in my book”. It made us miss our friends and family even more, since we know they do care. It also made us understand on a deeper level why family is so important. They care when most of the world does not. So to all of you, thanks for being awesome and in our lives. We appreciate you.
Crazy hot days: (Quailman) Imagine climbing a mountain. It’s long and steep, and there are rocks to climb over and trees to skirt around. The path twists and turns through shrubbery and boulders as flowers bloom on either side of you. You reach the top, tired but happy to be outside and are rewarded with a view of countless miles of countryside and rolling hills. A stream flows beside you and the birds sing. It’s beautiful. Now imagine all of that, but in a pizza oven. Instead of a stream is a cloud of brown dust. Instead of birds a cloud of tiny infuriating flies that find your eyeballs delicious flying around you. That’s a crazy hot day and we are getting them. 91 degrees with 70% humidity is enough to turn the best outlook into a skillet for your boots. It’s sweaty and hot and impossible to sleep. You can change your clothes, but the new ones are instantly covered in a layer of sweat. Esspecially if you’re like me and sweat pours out of you like a marble fountain. That said, I am glad we expirenced the hot weather. First, you can’t freeze to death in hot weather. A plus. Second, there is something regarding about having been uncomfortable in all the was possible. Up until this point we had expirenced being uncomfortable due to cold, wet, and exhaustion. Now, we have completed the circle, and it honest to god feels good. Not when it was happening, but afterwards the sense of accomplishment is certainly there. It’s a sense of pride garnered from withstanding the elements, and we’re happy to have done it.
Day 73: zero at Four Pines Hostel
Day 74: VA 42 to stealth camp near Craig Creek, 11.9 miles
Day 75: Craig Creek to VA 624, 14.9 miles
Day 76: VA 624 to Lambert Meadow Campsite, 16.6 miles
Day 77: Lambert Meadow Campsite to Howard Johnson in Daleville, 9.1 miles
Day 78: Daleville to stealth campsite around mile 730, 6 miles
Day 79: stealth campsite to stealth campsite after Bearwallow Gap, 16 miles
Day 80: stealth campsite to Cornelius creek shelter, 14.9 miles
Day 81: Cornelius Creek Shelter to Marble Spring Campsite, 12.2 miles
Day 82: marble spring campsite to US 501 (Buena Vista Budget Inn), 7.7 miles
Day 83: US 501 to Johns Hollow Shelter, 1.7 miles
First things first, we have done a third of the trail having crossed every white blaze. We feel pretty cool at this point, having walked from the deep south to nearly the Mason-Dixon line. Also, its very encouraging to be able to say we walked more than one third of the trail and are now nearing the halfway point.
Now, lets talk about what are undoutably the strangest things we hear on the trail: birds.
When we used to think of bird calls in “The Before Times”, we had a variety in mind. We thought of the singing of the spring birds, or the caw-ing of crows, or even the gobble-ing of turkeys. We were not prepared. Let’s talk about the utterly absurd and totally unexpected kinds of noises our winged friends make.
The Car Alarm (Whipoorwill):
Exactly like it sounds. This bird makes a steady beeping noise that can be heard for 7 million square miles from its origination point. The origination point is a bird that clearly was created by Soviet scientists during the Cold War to keep the entire United States from sleeping. A single one of these birds started beeping one night at a place called Knot Maul Shelter. We rarely sleep in the actual shelter, but we often tent near them. Once it began it continued until approximately 4am taking exactly zero breaks, apparently not requiring any oxygen. It was so rythmatic and obnoxious that most of us in the shelter believed that it was someone’s car alarm going off in the distance. We still believed that as none us of slept and considered hiking out to the sound and smashing whatever the source was.
Yet, to our dismay, we have met several more of these birds at various campsites along the trail. When we discovered it was, in fact, a bird and not a wailing machine of human creation, we were shocked. We wondered at the marvel of mother nature as The Ramen Shaman and I took turns hurling wharever large objects we could find at various branches around the creature, hoping to scare the bird to a further perch. This only seemed to amuse the sadistic avians that then flew to another, sometimes closer branch. We have since learned to sleep to the smooth melodies of incessant honking.
The Screamer (we think a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron):
This one freaked us out in Georgia before we realized what it was. The best way to describe this Bird’s call is to imagine peaceful, contemplative silence being suddenly broken by the ear-shattering sound of a dozen five year olds seeing Mickey Mouse for the first time at Disney World. It’s unnerving at first, but then quickly we begun to laugh. After the 500th time hearing it, it became just annoying. Icicle posed the question, “What, in thousands of years of evolution, drove this bird to have such a call? What purpose could a sudden, random yell have?” The only response we got was a squawk that could have broken glass.
The Whooper (Barred Owl):
We have a pre-trail post about Icicle and I being scared witless in the middle of the night by a couple of Barred Owls. So obviously we love them, and there are plenty of them on the trail. Everywhere. At all times of the day. Apparently Barred Owls missed the memo explaining that owls are supposed to be nocturnal. Its ok though, because we like the cute little guys. Assuming they aren’t on the tree above your tent. If they are, the hoot sounds more like a Transformer powering up, which has the tendancy to startle you when you awake suddenly and are in the woods.
That said, I like owls a lot. We think we will pick up bird watching when we finish the trail, and think it would be a really fun thing to add to our backpacking trips. One of the reasons, for me, would be so I could identify owl calls and owls. I’ve liked them since I was a child, so being more knowledgable about them would be very cool. Something about a nocturnal (supposedly), predator bird seems very cool to me. They’re like Batman, but cooler.
The Terraformer (The Grouse):
The grouse looks like a weird chicken and sounds like a subterranean mining facility. We have determined that the grouse are extraterrestrial beings that have come to Earth to terraform our planet to match their own. This animal has by far the most absurd and unrecognizable bird call of any we have heard. The first time we experienced the grouse call, we legitimatley believed we were on a mountain that was being mined via dynamite. It starts slow with deep thudding sounds, the kind that cause you to feel vibrations. The sound slowly picks up tempo until its a cacophony of thuds that strikes fear in the hearts of anyone nearby, imitating the sound of a helicopter starting two inches from your face.
It was shocking that a bird could even make this noise. It sounds absolutely like a machine or even a falling tree. Spread the word. The Earth is being terraformed.
Hi folks! We have really, really appreciated all the help and support we’ve gotten along the way so far. It’s been really helpful practically and motivating mentally to receive care packages from our loved ones along the way. So thanks again! As requested, here are the drop locations for us for the next few weeks:
We should be hitting Waynesboro around May 15th (which is also my birthday). Waynesboro is right before the Shenandoah National Park!
Kristin and Eric Ingellis
C/O Rockfish Gap Outfitters
1461 E. Main St
Waynesboro, VA 22980
Please hold for AT thru-hikersg
ETA May 15th
After we get through the Shenandoahs the next town we’ll be hitting is Harper’s Ferry, the spiritual half way point of the trail!
If you are sending via USPS:
Kristin and Eric Ingellis
C/O Appalachian Trail Conservancy HQ
PO Box 807
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425
Please hold for AT thru-hikers
ETA May 26th
If you are sending via FedEx or UPS:
Kristin and Eric Ingellis
C/O Appalachian Trail Conservancy HQ
799 Washington St.
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425
Please hold for AT thru-hikers
ETA May 26th
We can still use anything we posted from our last post (since food is always awesome):
-homemade brownies, cookies, bread, other homemade delicious things!
-dark chocolate covered almonds
-dried veggies we can put in our meals ( https://www.harmonyhousefoods.com/mobile/home.asp?cat=19&#page-78)
-pictures, notes, letters, inspirational quotes
We’ve been asked if checks are sometimes better and the answer is yes. With all the love we get, sometimes it’s hard to pack four boxes of cookies into a backpack after packing all our meals. A blend of both is the most helpful. We have an app on our tab that lets us deposit checks into our account which allows us to spend it on exactly what we need at that moment. Like an extra trail dinner or a hostel stay during a thunderstorm. Or more cookies. Or more cookies during a hostel stay in a thunderstorm.
Thanks again for all your support. It means a lot to us.
Icicle and Quailman