I have traveled over the Blue Rigdge range and am now into the Shennendoah National Park (Skyline Drive). This is a 108 mile section and it is a very popular tourist (motor) destination. Memorial weekend, tourists, picnic baskets, and stinky thru-hikers...should be an interesting combination. I'm meeting Gumpy today for breakfast. He's a doc from NH and is very familiar with the Whites and we walked with Gump and his daughter Peeper for several days back in April. He's going to move ahead today and it will be great to see him. The trail is very physically demanding. The physical demands do not come close to the pshycological demands. People are dropping and the pack is thinning. Some people are getting rides ahead and skipping hard sections. I am walking with a good group of guys who all seem comitted to summiting Katahdin. They don't skip. Aches, pains, infections, and so on are discussed as if they are inanimate objects. For instance, one fellow, Hawk, has a problem with his foot. He thinks the best thing to do is cut it off. Skeeter thinks we should all throw rocks at the foot. I have now been in at least a dozen creeks rivers or waterfalls. The water in the mountains is ice cold and very refreshing...and numbing. I am seeing myself very differently now. I am being asked by "civilians" along the way..."why are you walking the trail, what do you expect to get out of it?" At one point in time, before I started, I thought I knew the answer. Now I just very honestly tell them..."I don't know." I am out there now, walking is just a way of staying out there. Emotionally, I climb just as high as I do on the summits of mountains, and the same goes for the valleys. It is amazing to actually be alive and experience this state of mind and body.
Tyler and I are leaving Tuesday morning to join Michael and the other
guys in Nellysford, VA. Polaris' parents own a large house in
Wintergreen Resorts. His parents picked them all up tonight and
starting tomorrow they will slackpack them for a few days. Tyler and I
are more than happy to slackpack and stay indoors instead of pack and
stay outdoors all week. We will hike north with them toward Waynesboro
and a little past before we have to return home. A slightly different
plan but I am sure it will be just as much fun. I will let you know how
many miles we get in plus recap our entire adventure when we return.
Just got off the phone with Michael and Branden. I hadn't heard from
them in a couple of days because AT&T cell service is terrible. They
called from Wiffle Ball's phone. They are all doing well. They were
laughing and giggling like little school girls.
They are at mile marker 760, Black Rock. They intend to hike 20 miles
today and end up near Big Island, VA. Their pacing schedule shows them
3 days behind. Remember though the pacing schedule doesn't allow for
zero or nero days so we knew from the beginning there was no way to stay
exactly on track with that schedule. We will now have to improvise on
our original plan, which was made back in March. Tyler and I were to
meet them tomorrow in Waynesboro, VA and hike to Front Royal, VA. We
planned to hike with them for 6 days and leave them on Monday, Memorial
Day. As it turns out they are 96 miles from Waynesboro right now.
If they can hike 20 plus miles each day they may make Waynesboro Wednesday
evening. Possibly Thursday. The problem is mine and Tyler's jobs. Of
course work always gets in the way of fun. I have to be back at Kroger
on Wednesday, the 30th, and Tyler has to be at work in Memphis no later
than Thursday, the 31st. He has an 8 hour drive back to Memphis. We
will have at least a 6 hour drive home from Virginia. We must leave
Virginia on Tuesday, the 29th. That will only give us 4-5 days of
hiking. We won't be able to make Front Royal. Tyler may be glad we
aren't hiking 107 miles. lol I'm a little disappointed although I
totally understand. It will still be fun and I am very excited about
seeing Tyler (he should be here today) and Michael and Branden.
I hope you were all able to view the picture of the crew. A few people
have commented on Michael's beard and Branden's muscles. That age
difference comes into play yet again. lol
I will keep you posted.
I received this picture from Diane, the lady related to Wiffle.
Although Wiffle had only met them one time. These guys spent the night with Diane and her husband. I hope you all can open this picture. I will list their names so you can put names with faces. Pictured left to right: Blues Clues, Skeeter (Branden), Polaris, Diane, All Smiles (Michael), Wiffle Ball, Hawk (check out his hair).
Wanted to share this with you. The 'fresh and energetic' AT group. You each ROCK!! Was a pleasure to meet you. Thanks for sharing your wonderful stories, I hope I didn't make you crazy with all my questions. I have lots more pictures, let me know if you want them.
I had a few minutes last night to get on the computer and look at the Ky Heartwood site...you guys have done a really great job. I had the rest of the guys look at the site and we got a kick out of the picture. We got a good laugh.
Today we leave Daleville and head toward the SNP thru the Blue Ridge range. Resupply is limited in this area and the weather is heating up. We have been treated like royalty here by Joe and Dianne and all we could do was mow the yard for them and pick some mulberries. Dianne is cooking breakfast right now and we are getting stuff together to leave. I guess we'll do about 20 miles today and same tomorrow. I loved this area and look forward to the next section. I hope that the word gets out about the fund raising aspect of this walk. I'd love to see some heightened interest in the constant battle for protecting these areas. The AT is a traverse thru such a variety of landscapes and we can consider ourselves lucky to have 2,000 miles of trail which passes through these eastern forests. I can see the evidence of damage though. We often see the world outside the linear path of the AT and it serves as a reminder that we have so much more to do. I love you all and am now being reminded by all of the fellows who I am traveling with that if funds are raised, and if the amount is substantial, they expect a cut. I think they are kidding but we'll have to see how much is raised first.
Its 5/16 and I have just finished mowing the yard and picking mulberries for the family that picked us up in the storm 2 days ago. The lady is related to one of the fellows I'm hiking with (Wiffle Ball) but he had only met her once before. She and her husband have been super great to us feeding us and providing shuttles for a 27 mile day hike and letting us use their home as a base in the Macafee Knob area. We are near Roanoke VA and the terrain is beautiful. Uplifted and tilted rock cliffs with views for miles. This is the beginning of the Blue Ridge range and we will be leaving our special hosts today. I was told by an experienced thru-hiker, Baltimore Jack, at the beginning of this journey that before it was over I would be staying in someone's home I had never met before. It is just over 700 miles into the trip and that is now happening.
Dianne, our hostess, was reading her daily journal, a sort of spiritual daily thoughts book, and yesterday, the day we met and stayed with her, the book said that people often enter our lives from what appears to be coincidence but they are there for a reason and we must accept their presence and exchange kindness...I'm convinced there is no such thing as coincidence. There are choices and consequences but not coincidence and fate and destiny.
My hike is probably, in the eyes of most of my peers, the wrong thing to be doing. For me it is the only thing to be doing and if it were wrong I would have already felt that by now. It is counter to the common path, true, but it is correct for me and I am growing stronger from this experience. I hope everyone who supports me and depends on me can trust this choice. This is difficult. This is not just walking, it is walking straight up, then straight down, in rain, wind, thunderstorms, and over very rugged terrain.
I was told by someone before I left that parts of the AT were "gross". I'm sorry, I haven't seen more that just a few miles of trail I wouldn't hike again tomorrow. I have to recommend, the Roan Highlands, Grayson Highlands, and the section from Catawba, Va to Daleville, Va. to all who like to hike. I am learning a new language out here also. Things aren't "cool" or "nice" they are AWESOME or ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.
I am walking with a group of hikers who have a great sense of humor. Since everyone has trail names and signs in at registers I really don't know most of the thru hikers, only that they are a unique subsection of society, each person being out here with a different perspective and motivation. For me, my motivation seems to be the trail itself. I can't explain it any other way that to say that the trail shows me something different, either about my culture, environment, or myself...everyday. I have nothing to prove to anyone, I am not engaging in an athletic endeavor, and I don't consider this a test of any sort...I am learning and it is becoming my "job". I will see all of you on the other side of this thing.
Michael sent us an email. I talked to him and Branden this morning.
Michael said Branden is possibly the faster hiker on the trail. He
said, "If I had just turned him loose he would have already made it to
The weather is getting a lot hotter so Michael says he won't be able to
hike 20 plus miles every day.
I received a SPOT today, also.
I am looking forward to joining them next week.
I will keep you posted.
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
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.