Sunday, May 17, 2015

Appalachian Trail-Maryland Days 2 and 3

I have literally no pictures of day 2. 

The reason I have no pictures of day 2 is that we were cold, and tired, and sore, and then it started raining. Still, we met some really cool people at the shelter the night before and were ready to go our requisite 8 miles to the next shelter that day.

It started out beautifully. Lovely, easy hiking. And then we went up a huge hill that was covered in boulders top to bottom. It was really hard. The 2nd half of the trail that day was much nicer, but that's when the rain started. 

The boys did great. Really and truly great. Lilyanna did great, too, but with significantly more whining. The boys took off ahead of us at some point with the instructions to find the shelter and get set up and then head back to help with their sister. While it was just Lilyanna and I, we took A LOT of breaks. Breaks seem like a nice idea except when you're wearing a really heavy backpack. And my pack was heavier that day because I had lightened some of Benjamin's load from the day before.  

Also, while I'm sure nobody wants to hear about this, I was also dealing with some major feminine hygiene issues throughout the whole thing. Basically, I learned in great detail what NOT to do. 

Anyway, around mile 6 that day and in the rain sat down and refused to go another step. Just refused. There was weeping and wailing and howling and gnashing of teeth. I finally asked if she wanted to go home the next day. She jumped up said, "Yes, Mommy, thank you!" and practically ran the remaining miles to the shelter for that night. 


When we arrived, we found quite the crowd of friendly people already set up, but they made room for us and helped us get our dinner together quickly before it got too dark.  Lilyanna made friends with the only other girl there (she was in her late 20s, but Lilyanna was feeling desperate for some girl time.  The AT was a little too male-centric for her tastes.) She also announced to anyone who would listen, "Hi! I'm Lilyanna! We're backpacking, but I hate it! I just want to go back to the cheap motel and watch Food Network. I don't ever want to go backpacking again!" She said it all so cheerfully, though. Poor traumatized child. 

It was at this point that Benjamin was suddenly super in to the whole idea of backpacking since he'd been talking shop with the fellow backpackers at the shelter. Nothing like war stories and comeraderie to inspire a surly teenager. ;)

When we woke in the morning, we took our time with breakfast, gave food away to those who would still be continuing on for a few more days. Gave information to the ones who were heading north where we'd already traveled, and called for the shuttle to come pick us up. We filled up our water bottles at the spring and hiked an easy mile to the highway to get picked up.

The weather was glorious. And we were sore, but everyone was in good spirits.

I reminded myself that I wasn't a total failure. The dream of hiking the whole state was mine, not my children's, and we'd accomplished quite a bit. We were also better prepared for next time. Though my kids swear there won't be a next time, I'd like to go down to finish the state of MD and WV, perhaps in the fall. I'll take whomever wants to come with me. 

My 5 year old hiked 18 miles in 2 days. She rocks. (Even if there was lots of whining while she did it.)

Lilyanna crawled into her sleeping bag as soon as we arrived at the shelter on day 2. She ate both dinner and breakfast in "bed".

Waiting for the shuttle at the trail head. Everybody feeling very chill knowing that they were "supposed" to be walking 10 miles that day.
Favorite game? Wait until Nathaniel is sitting down. When he asks for food, throw it just out of reach and watch him flail a lot trying to grab it without taking off the pack or standing again. (Seriously. I wish I had video. It was hysterical!)

This is the only photographic evidence that I was even on this hike. 1 picture.

A little historical site-seeing was in order on our way home. Except every time we got out of the van, there was a chorus of "ooo, ow, oh, ow". We were a little stiff and sore.
Benjamin somehow forgot the belt for his hiking pants, so this is what I fashioned for him so he would stop mooning us while hiking up hills. ;) Bungee cords should be kept on hand for all backpacking emergencies.
We took our extremely stinky selves to Cracker Barrel for a meal that didn't need to be reconstituted first. And then we headed home, where were able to have a few relaxing days left of spring break.

All in all, I'm really glad we did it. We have some really fun memories and stories, and my kids know that they can do hard things. I'll force them into doing it again sometime soon, but I'll let them forget a little bit more first. ;)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Appalachian Trail-Maryland section Prep and Day 1

I think we are now sufficiently recovered from our hike to talk about it. 
I have long wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. I would REALLY like to take a few months and do the whole thing, but alas, it is not in the cards right now. Perhaps someday, I'll do it all on my own. 

Before Lilyanna was born, I'd come up with a plan to take the boys "in a few years" and do big sections of the trail. One state at a time.  Then I got pregnant. And the timeline shifted a little bit. 

Last year, though, I read an article by some hardcore backpacker who discussed backpacking with his 5 year old son, and I realized that Lilyanna was about to be 5 and maybe we COULD do it! I did crazy amounts of research to make sure that while we would have lightweight, yet economical items. Outfitting 5 backpackers could easily have broken the bank, so I took 6 months to purchase all necessary items to help spread out the cost.

I also researched which state we would be able to complete in the 5 days we had during spring break AND that would be easy enough for my 5 year old. The Maryland section of the trail seemed to fit the bill, so that made it easier for me to narrow my research for the trip and make plans for that specific section.

The day before we left, I assembled all the food we would need for our 5 days. I will say, we probably could have gotten away with less. Even though we were hungry, we were more tired than anything else. However, it did make it so I was able to easily share with fellow hikers without worrying that we wouldn't have enough.

 We drove down to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia right after church on Sunday and checked into the a local motel to get our last night of "comfortable" sleep. Family tradition dictates that The Food Network must be watched when we stay in any hotel/motel. This we did.  After the kids went to sleep, I stayed up and went over everything again, one last time.

 And that is when I started to panic. For nearly a year, I'd been telling everyone that our trip would be fine! That there was nothing to worry about! And then all of a sudden the night before I realized that I had no bear bags or even rope with which to tie food up in a tree. Also, I noticed that right before we got there, ALL the shelters in MD had been closed for tree trimming near the shelters. This was particularly problematic because we didn't have tents. In an effort to cut our weight, and since on the MD section of the trail, you're required to sleep at shelter areas only, we didn't bring any. Because we were so early in the season, I was counting on the shelters being available. After about 30 minutes of research, I was finally able to determine that shelters had reopened the day before, so we were fine.

Still, it was a mini-panic attack in the making.

The next morning, we got dressed in our outfits, ate breakfast and did the final prep on our packs. We drove to Harpers Ferry where a shuttle picked us up and drove us to the PA/MD border about 45 miles north.  He dropped us off on the PA side, so we were able to hike 1 mile and then hit the Mason-Dixon line.
 Caleb LOVED all the rocks! There was lots of marble all over the place that made it slightly less terrible to climb over all the rocks and boulders.
 We stopped for a little trail mix and a rest, and Nathaniel fell over. Rather than put down the trail mix, and right himself, he decided it would be easier to keep lying there eating until it was time to get up and go. This is so typical Nathaniel....

 There are many pictures from the first few miles of the first day, because we were still fresh and the big nasty hills and rocks and hadn't started yet. It got so much worse so fast.

Notable things from day 1:
1.We had to cross a swollen stream about midway through the hike, which required some creativity on my part to first get my pack across and then my daughter. 

2. We hiked 10 miles the first day. The last 2 in the dark. I don't recommend it. 

3. We arrived at the shelter after dark, and were too tired to eat, so we all just went immediately to sleep.

4. I was reduced to tears only once that first day when all of the kids expressed their extreme dislike of my plans for our spring break AND then I banged my head hard on a rafter in the shelter. The rafter put me over the edge.

5. Our gear choices were excellent, and I was very pleased with how all of that turned out, specifically our clothing. 

6. Our maps did not seem to accurately reflect the mileage. It's possible we went further than 10 miles. If it was only 10 miles, it was the longest 10 miles EVER.

7. Fellow hikers of the AT are generally good people who are happy to chat, and swap stories. There's a real sense of community among the trail hikers.