I finally got to talk to Michael yesterday. We talked for a long time. He and Branden are still hiking with Hawk, Wiffle Ball, Polaris and Blues Clues. They were spending the night with a relative of Wiffle's. In order to get the free bed and a hot meal they had only hiked 8 miles. They were planning to do 26 miles today. They are only one day behind schedule. The pacing schedule Michael drew up did not allow for zero days or nero (near zero) days. Of course there have been some down days so they are doing well.
They are midway through Virginia. They had just went over the Dragon's Tooth and were heading to McAfee Knob today. He said they are traveling up and down mountains two and three times a day that are the highest, steepest mountains he has ever climbed. They have had lots of rain. They all walked in the rain in the dark other night and had loads of fun. He said they laughed all the way.
Wiffle Ball bought a burgundy sport coat at a Goodwill and starting wearing it everyday on the trail. Michael decided Wiffle looked like a politician so now they have a campaign going...Vote for Wiffle Ball for Mayor of the Appalachian Trail in 2012!!! They are asking other hikers for votes. LOL Hawk is wearing a white tuxedo jacket with tails. He cut the sleeves out of the jacket. These guys are a lot of fun. We all met them when we were in Hot Springs.
He met two ladies on the trail. They are sisters, "Under His Wing and "In His Feathers". They are from Pike County, Kentucky. They have been section hiking the trail for years and are trying to complete Virginia this year. They are 70 and 80 years old!! I had already read about them on Gumpy and Peepers trail journals. When Gumpy and Peeper met up with them the ladies told them they wanted to complete the trail before they die. They said their church supports them but the other parishioners think they are crazy but they don't care because "those people have a hard time going up the church steps and look at us."
Michael said one of them is married to Bernie the Whittler. He whittles while they hike and then passes out his artwork as trail magic. I am amazed at the strength and drive of some of these hikers, especially after hiking a few miles myself. I wish I were as strong willed.
I am going to hike with Michael again next week. My son, Tyler, who lives in Memphis, TN will be coming home and he and I will join them in Waynesboro, Virginia. We plan to hike about a week. Our destination is Front Royal, VA. This section of the trail is 107 miles. I have been excited and not too apprehensive since people have told us Virginia is flat. Michael said now that he has traveled about 230 miles in Virginia he realizes those must have been the same people who said the Earth was flat. Obviously Virginia has it's fair share of mountains. Branden told Amy they had two climbs in one day which were both over 2000 ft elevation gains. Oh, well, I can do it. Just one step in front of the other....."Hike your own hike".
I have received a SPOT message stating "Yo, we're alive!" every day but I haven't actually talked to Michael since last Friday. AT&T has had no cell service in his area.
I went to Owingsville today to watch the May Day parade. Just as the event started Michael called (twice) but I was outside and didn't hear the phone. I hate it so bad. I really miss him. He left a couple of voice mails just to say he had some spotty service and would try to call me later. I have kept my phone in my pocket the rest of the day. Hopefully he will call back tonight.
I called Michael's mother because he usually calls his parents when he calls me. He had called her. He told her he is doing fine and meeting lots of nice people on the trail. He has met a few people from Kentucky. He told her Branden is just figuring out what great physical shape he is in (at the ripe old age of 26 lol) and wants to run like the deer and the antelope. Since Michael doesn't have that speed in him he is waking up and leaving camp earlier than Branden each day and then Branden catches up with him. Michael can do the miles he just has to go at a slower pace. In my opinion Michael is a fast hiker. He can definitely hike faster than I can. He had to slow down some when we met them in North Carolina. Branden laughed and called it the senior citizen's pace. Branden is such a nice young man. He would stay right with me and his Mom even though he would have preferred a much faster pace. The next time we meet them it will be even harder for us to keep up. They realize we can't just jump on the trail and travel at their pace. They have their "trail legs" and have gained strength and stamina. I am reading a book about women who have hiked the trail, thru hikers as well as section hikers. They range in age from teens to 80's.
Amazing! It is very interesting. I admire all of these women so much.
I know I am not brave enough to even think about a thru hike on the AT.
Especially solo. I wish I were. A good quote from this book is "Thru hiking the trail takes 99% heart and 1% of everything else."
That pretty much sums it up.
Hey everyone, I'm at Woods Hole Hostel near Pearisburg VA and had a wonderful overnight stay. I'm walking thru VA and it reminds so much on our own Cumberland Plateau area, everything is just on a smaller scale. I'm walking between 13 to 20 miles per day, depending on weather and terrain.
I'm learning that there is no way to train for this thru hike, you can't adjust a treadmill to constantly changing grades, rocks, rain, cold wind, uneven steps over rocks and around roots and trees and over streams. It is without a doubt the most challenging thing I've ever done. I hope everyone of you are doing well and I am grateful to all of you for your thoughts and attention to Sheila while I am away. I am meeting some of the most amazing people, all kinds of stories, backgrounds and reasons for being here.
I'm in the minority age wise, most are 25 range. I am not at all interested in trying to keep up their speed but I can do the miles. I've walked through forests which can't be described, too wonderful, sometimes I just stop and raise my arms and breathe in everything and wonder how it is that we all lost sight of what is real and truly important in life. No one will remember our wins, losses, our competence, our ambitiousness, our authority, our wealth...what matters is how we touch and help each other and pass forward what kindness, generosity and love we have to offer...
that is all that will live on. What we give to each other is what is eternal, not what we get from our own ambitions, not what we gather from our own greed. Its the good will we build by loving each other and all living things that will pass beyond our lives that really counts. I am doing well out here and finding parts of myself which have been lost for a long, long time. Peace to all of you. P.S. I've already gone swimming in five rivers/creeks and love the cold water running over me.
Michael aka All Smiles
I really don't have any news. I have received a SPOT message each day.
They are alive!!! As I have said I can't really pinpoint their location. It looks to me like they are on Dismal Creek Road getting close to Pearisburg, Virginia, which is 630 miles into the trip. The pacing schedule has them at Pearisburg on 05/09/12. As of Friday they were one day off schedule. Amy talked to Branden today. He said a severe thunderstorm sent them seeking shelter. I have received 3 boxes of "unnecessary" items in the past few days. The winter gear is slowly but surely returning. Hopefully they will be able to move to the lightweight summer gear soon. Although backpacking is harder in hot weather.
I am forwarding the email I received from Michael yesterday. I talked
to him last night and again today. They were in the hotel last night.
They have eaten well, slept well, and Michael said he has taken 2
showers and a bath since he got there yesterday. He also said town
makes him soft. He eats too much and rests too much. I guess he also
thinks he is too clean. lol
Today he was on top of a mountain with Wiffle and Hawk. They were
waiting on Branden, Polaris and Jaybird to catch up since they had
dropped behind about a mile and a half. I'm glad Michael was waiting.
It was starting to storm but since we talked quite a while Branden
should have been arriving any minute.
I didn't find out about the new shoes he would be getting from the
Salomon company until after I had already mailed new shoes I bought
yesterday. I'm sure he will be mailing a pair back home. I frequently
receive boxes of items they have both decided are too heavy or
unnecessary. Before they left they even cut the tags out of their
clothing and off their sleeping bags. They also cut their toothbrushes
in half. Every ounce counts when you are carrying it 2180 miles.
eMail from Michael -
I am using the computer in a Comfort Inn in Atkins VA.
I love you. I got your mail drop in Atkins today and got your note. Its now almost two weeks old. I am one day off the pacing schedule so you can see that its just a guess.
I am with Wiffle, Hawk, Polaris and Jaybird, and of course, Skeeter.
We are past Damascus and into a different kind of terrain. Nothing
easy about it but its not 1,500 ft. climbs followed by 800 ft.
climbs, and so on. We are entering farm land now. Today I walked past
a one room school house "museum" and the door was open and the
schoolhouse was full of kids. They looked out the door at me so I
waived and moved on.
I'm doing 15- 20 mile days but I'm feeling tired sometimes.
I am not losing weight. I am sleeping well. I haven't
seen a bear. I have started swimming in creeks and sitting in
waterfalls to cool off.
I am sending more stuff home to lighten my pack.
I don't think I'll see much more extremely cold weather but I'm
keeping a pair of long johns and a down jacket just in case.
I crossed the Grayson Highlands the other night, the night I called, and
a terrible black and green cloud came upn the valley toward us and
hail fell on the shelter like crazy. Maybe Wiffle's blog shows it.
People are facebooking stuff, wiffle and others so maybe you can find
stuff there on the facebook.
A couple that we hike with sometimes, Hungus and Pace, hunkered down cause they got caught up in the rocks in the highlands during the lightning and they were using a huge rock for shelter and lightning struck close to them. Hungus' leg was
against the rock and she was leaning on him and they both got juiced
but nothing bad. Just scary.
Had a great camp a couple of nights ago
in a little spot off the trail and down by the spring. Perfect.
I'm guessing that you are letting people know what we are doing so tell
them about me during the first lightning storm...it was about 45
minutes before the storm that got Hungus and Pace. I was up and high
in the rocks and saw three storms moving in different directions,
never had seen that before but don't usually stand in the open at
5,000 plus feet. Figured that wasn't a good sign so I took off trail
down into a swail and put my hiking pole on the trail, covered my pack
(with metal stuff in it) and grabbed my foam sleeping pad and a rain
coat and started into as low a place as I could get. I squatted on
the pad and got hailed on and rained on but not struck by lightning.
It works. Stay away from ridges, big rocks, big trees and put
something to insulate yourself between you and the ground. I
floated down a cold creek yesterday on the same old sleeping pad so
there's a dual use right there.
Wildflowers not as abundant now, the soil is different, rocky, and the trees are fully leafed out. It was 89 yesterday. I'm finished with one fourth of the trip.
I'm treating VA as if it were six states because the trail is so long here and the
terrain changes six different times. I will be looking forward to
meeting you in Waynesboro. I got new shoes for free, Wiffle showed me
how so don't worry about all we talked about with Woody and such.
Saloman is sending them to me at the same outfitter's store your are
sending the next drop to. I think its Daleville, but Im not sure.
Make sure to tell my Mom and Dad that I'm doing o.k.
I love you and I'll see you soon.
The email I received from Michael this past Saturday was the last update I sent out. He called me Sunday morning with the same report you read in the email. Bad weather (snow, ice freezing in his beard, 50 mph winds, etc., etc.). Of course he is still enjoying himself. lol
You read that they started out at 3AM to hike 27 miles. Michael said he realized his headlamp was not very good when he almost ran into a cow. Needless to say he has purchased a new headlamp.
He called again Monday night. He was upset because he and Branden had gotten separated. They had walked all day with four other guys.
Michael, Wiffle and Hawk were ahead of Branden, Jaybird and Polaris.
Jaybird has binoculars and the three of them were bird watching.
Michael and his two companions reached a shelter before dark. Branden had not shown up at dark so Michael got worried that something was wrong. He called me to find out if I had heard from Branden. Luckily I had received a SPOT about an hour earlier. After I assured Michael the SPOT message was "Yo, we're alive" instead of "Help" he felt much better. I am not very good at pinpointing the exact location from the SPOT signal but I was able to tell Michael that Branden was near Mt.
Rogers. He was relieved to learn Branden was only a few miles behind him. I called our friend, Kyle, who can pinpoint the exact location of the SPOT signal. I told him Michael's location, Wise Shelter. He knew Branden was .25 mile past Thomas Knob Shelter, which was 5.25 miles behind Michael. I did not know until today why Branden hadn't caught up with Michael since he is a much faster (younger) hiker. As it turns out Michael was very proud of Branden for "doing all the right things".
Branden and the other two guys fell behind and when they started to move on and head up a mountain a lightning storm moved in. Michael always tells Branden to never climb a mountain during a storm so they did the smart thing and pitched camp. Branden was also smart by sending a SPOT signal. They are back together now and I told them they better stay together or I am going to make them both come home and go to their rooms. lol I couldn't send out an update until I knew Branden was okay.
After their 27 mile day they hiked 24 miles the next day and then 20 miles the next day. Michael said he is going to have to slow it down or he is afraid his hips won't make it. His arthritis is acting up a little. A day of rest will help.
Michael said he has swam in a river and sat in a creek the past two days. The weather is great now. It's about time.
They are staying at Partnership Shelter tonight. They will be in Atkins, VA tomorrow evening, which is 542 miles into the trip.
I will keep you posted.
Many of these posts are by Shelia Campbell, Michael's wife <3
Bath County, Kentucky resident, Michael Campbell, is hiking the entire Appalachian Trail to raise funds for the not-for-profit group dedicated to protecting Kentucky’s native forests, Kentucky Heartwood. Michael, a long-time member of Kentucky Heartwood, began his hike on March 22 at Springer Mountain, Georgia. By the first of September, after covering 2,181 miles of trail by foot, Michael will reach Katadhin Mountain in Maine and complete the entire trail.