From a bog on Fourth Mountain in Maine.

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Pitcher plants everywhere!

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The plants fill with water and have tiny hairs that prevent insects from climbing out.  See there is a bug in there!

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And the pitcher plants were blooming!

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Here is a closeup of the flower.  I couldn’t get closer because I had to stay on the puncheon trail.

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Not sure if this is a smaller pitcher plant or what…but it sure looks carnivorous.

 

 

 

All trails lead to Damascus (or something like that).

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My favorite part of the trail so far is in Tennessee. Because…

 

 

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 Rhododendrons are blooming.

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You get to walk through hemlock forests.

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Sunlight streams through the green , green, green woods.

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Not sure what these beauties are.

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Lots of cool, old trees on the AT.

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You meet such nice people all along the trail.  This family gave us Gatorade, Little Debbies, trash bags, and lots of encouragement at the Roan Mountain parking area.

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An old chimney.  I wonder what was here before.  A home?

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Did I mention how much I love Bluets?  They make me smile whenever I see them.  I think they may be the happiest flowers on the planet.

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I think you need another look.  See, don’t they make you happy just looking at them.

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Great textures.

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I love the balds.  Sorry I can’t remember the name of them and I threw away the pages in my guidebook to save on weight so I can’t look them up to tell you.

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Love the balds…

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…and the bluets…

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“Look up at the mountain, that I have to climb, oh yeah, to reach there”  . A little Cat Stevens for you.

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It’s just so pretty. And soul soothing.

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And the trees are so inviting.

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Sometimes I take a little time to do a little watercolor painting using my Dollar Store paints.  This is a view from Overmountain Shelter, a converted barn. 

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There’s the barn!

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The weather on the bald (a different one and I still don’t remember which…Big Hump?) and the bald reminds me of being on the Yorkshire Moors.

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Where we’ve been…

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Patches of sunlight interspersed with groans of thunder.

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And we leave North Carolina  for good.  Until this point, we have been straddling the NC and TN line.

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You can buy ramps at your local grocery store!

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I love my Dirty Girls gaiters.  Garnet Turtle loves hers too.

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Garnet Turtle, Yogi Bear and I slack-packed from Mountain Harbour hostel/ B and B.  They dropped us off 14 miles up the trail and we walked back to the hostel with very light packs.  (Then the next day they dropped us off at the same place and we continued North with our regular packs).Yogi Bear very kindly took my pack so that I could do some trail running for the first 4 miles or so.  AND we passed the 400 mile mark!

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A lovely little waterfall in the woods.

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You could say it’s a little humid here.  Everything is constantly damp.  BUT I haven’t used my lip balm ONCE.

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Here is a nice black snake, hanging out on the wet trail.

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Laurel Creek Falls.

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Baby spiders.

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Flame -red azalea.

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And the orange sort.  Saw some yellow azalea too, but I didn’t take a photo of it.

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Lake Watagua, a TVA lake from a dam built in the 40s.  We swam, got some trail magic from a family celebrating birthdays (hot dogs off the grill,mmmmmmmmmmmmmm), AND…

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…To make a long story short, Birdy saw her bears !!!!!!!   Ok, just envision the scene I am about to describe because, well, as you can see, this photo shows nothing.   We’d hung our bags in the trees, and I used the PCT method, AND a mama bear comes ambling in and starts hauling on the line that hangs down with her paws and teeth, and her two cubs are hanging out nearby just lolling around and looking cute.  Mama HISSES at us, she is busy, stay away, she has food to get down out of the tree, we let her do her thing as we hang out at our campfire enthralled at her incredible intelligence and quietness.  I was thinking, well, if the worse came to worse and she got my food and dragged off my pot and stove (which I’d hung also, because they smell like food) I’d hitchhike into town and get some more food and buy a new stove in Damascus a few days later.  It was so so  SO wonderful to watch her and her cubs.  I’d actually seen her and one cub earlier when I was out in the woods catching fireflies…well, that stump wasn’t there before was it?  Shine my headlamp on the stump and the stump ran the other way…  The next day I saw a male (I think–he was bigger) bear run off the trail and down the hill.  I LOVE bears!!!! (Another hiker, Sandwich, came through, and she taught me to loop my dangling string and hang it high in a tree branch using a trekking pole.  That way, the bear has at least another step before she can haul on the string!)

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An early evening hike into camp nets us a sunset looking down a powerline cut.

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Do you love toads or what?  I played with a toad for a little while during a fierce rainstorm.  Also, cleared out waterbars with my shoes so the river running down the trail could go off the side.  It was fun.

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How did they KNOW how much I love Little Debbie Swiss Rolls?  Such a nice trail magic treat!  Sodas, Little Debbies, First Aid, all in a metal, bear-proof box.  They asked us to sign their register.  Last year they had 45 different states and 11 countries represented!

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We are in Virginia our 4th state!   This is Gepetto, a section hiker who we’d been hiking with for a few days.  He gave us some snacks so that we could make it the last 10 miles into Damascus.  Note to self…pack WAY more snacks!!!  🙂

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I’m so excited that I have to buy new socks!  (I’d worn these every day for 468 miles!)

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Damascus!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Critters and others in Tennessee. (smallish critters, mostly–no bears)

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While filtering my water, this little guy came along.

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I can’t believe I haven’t posted a rhododendron tunnel yet.  These are magical places!

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It’s Rocky Bottom!!!!  He and his two friends named me!  (Birdy).  They were section hiking and got off at Neel’s Gap, but here comes Rocky Bottom, going on a weeekned hike with a friend.  What a wonderful surprise.  I love this trail!

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A waterfall for Preston, my nephew.

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A shelter journal entry that I made.

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So bizarre, coming upon an Interstate highway.  We crossed under to get to the other side.

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Said False Solomon’s Seal.

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Lovely fungi type stuff.

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Father and daughter section hiking on top of Big Bald.

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Butterfly keeping me company.

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On top of Big Bald.

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You can see the trail as it goes across the balds.

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Nice chairs, conveniently located at the top of a mountain.

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Yogi Bear traveling down the trail.

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I made up a new term:  Log blazing.  This is when you skip sections of the trail in order to walk on logs near by.  I guess I am no longer a purist….sigh…

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Another waterfall for Preston.

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I’m lichen this place.

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Lizardy tree.

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Mountain laurel.

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Sweet canada geese.  (The parents were nearby).

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Lunch in Erwin!

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People and businesses and everyone are so very friendly everywhere I’ve been  on and off the trail.  What a joy this is!

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The proprietor reading the paper in front of his store.

 

 

From Standing Bear to seagull directions.

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This azalea is for you, Mom.

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Beautiful trees, beautiful day.

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Chickens at Standing Bear Farm.

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Flowers border the trail. Trilliums to be exact.

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Hendo and Hendo’s Mom.  Hendo is a vet from Iraq and Afgahnistan and was inspired by Earl Schaeffer to walk of the war by hiking the trail.  She has some stories to tell, including being wanted by the Taliban and having a war lord offer 150 camels for her!  Check out her website  Postwarhike.blogspot.com.  Inspiring couple of women, to be sure!

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On Max Patch, I found a birdy friend.

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My tent during the sunset on top of Max Patch.  I was happy to have Hendo and Hendo’s mom nearby for company.

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Another sunset photo.  I slept through the sunrise.  I woke up about 5 and decided to sleep a little longer….oh well. !  🙂

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Morning view from Max Patch (minus the sunrise).

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What a wonderful day to hike!  (They all are, really).

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Remember when I said I was crabby and  was going to get some icecream?  Turtle decided he needed some ice cream too. 

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The hardships of hiking…   Turtle, Yogi Bear, and I  (Birdy) take in the mineral springs at Hot Springs.

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I almost got kidnapped by Ray Dioshack and Hashtag and taken to Trail Days…but the lure of the hot springs was too great.  It was sure a wonderful surprise to see them though!

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” How is this seagull poop supposed to direct us to the trail?”  (We couldn’t find the trail for awhile after crossing over a busy road…)

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Mom’s daughter-in-law sold microwavable cheeseburgers, hot coffee, and Little Debbies, among other treats.  mmmmmmmmmmm good.

Looks like I still have time on the computers in the library.  I’ll see if I can post a few more photos, but will go ahead and publish this first.  cheers!

 

Finally a few photos for you!

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Amicocloalaoocaallla (  I never figured out how to pronounce it let alone spell it) Falls, on the Approach Trail to the Appalachian Train in Georgia.

Amicocloalaoocaallla ( I never figured out how to pronounce it let alone spell it) Falls, on the Approach Trail to the Appalachian Train in Georgia.

 

Made it to Springer Mountain where it all begins!

Made it to Springer Mountain where it all begins!

 

Rainy day in a graveyard not too far from the beginning of the trail.

Rainy day in a graveyard not too far from the beginning of the trail.

Sunrise view from my tarp. (Before I got my tent).

Sunrise view from my tarp. (Before I got my tent).

Raindrops on dogwood.

Raindrops on dogwood.

ViewMaster plays 12th century tunes on a 20 dollar guitar.  Welcome respite from the cold and rain.

ViewMaster plays 12th century tunes on a 20 dollar guitar. Welcome respite from the cold and rain.

Lady slippers!  How gorgeous!

Lady slippers! How gorgeous!

Entering the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  Huge milestone for me.

Entering the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Huge milestone for me.

Fontana Dam from the distance.

Fontana Dam from the distance.

Sweet warm (ish) night.

Sweet warm (ish) night.

The ricketiest fire tower ever.  Shuckstack Mountain.  Rotten plywood flooring--good times!

The ricketiest fire tower ever. Shuckstack Mountain. Rotten plywood flooring–good times!

 

View of other hikers on top of Rocky Top.  Yes, I sang several verses.

View of other hikers on top of Rocky Top. Yes, I sang several verses.

It is an absolute GIFT to be here.

It is an absolute GIFT to be here.

Still no bears--cute 'lil squirrel will have to do.

Still no bears–cute ‘lil squirrel will have to do.

Walking barefoot for a mile or two does wonders for the soul.

Walking barefoot for a mile or two does wonders for the soul.

I love love love the Appalachian Trail.

I love love love the Appalachian Trail.

A beautiful day to hike!

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I took my fully loaded pack and went up Bear Butte today.  4 miles round trip and I got some elevation in.  I thought about going back and walking up the 100 stairs 6 times (to practice for the approach trail at Amicalola, but decided to go home and get lunch instead.
It is SOOOOOOOOOOO nice to have warm weather!!!  I really was tired of the below zero temps.  It was about 55 today!
I haven’t been doing much hiking this past month and will take it slow and easy the first few weeks on the Trail.  But  after two days of hiking in a row, I’m not too sore!  And I even wore my wet socks and shoes for two days in a row to practice! (When it rains on the Trail, I’ll have to keep wearing my wet socks and shoes.  I’ll have one dry pair that I can wear at night to keep my feet warm).

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Prayer ties in front of Bear Butte.

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Rethinking my plan for plain ole’ boring hiking pants.

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Some of the steps.

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The High Plains is gorgeous.  It seems to still be wild in it’s countenance.

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You can see the trail ahead.

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View to the east.

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More prayer ties on the summit.

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Bison bison enjoying hay at the base of the butte.

Dear Fourteeners, This is Our Year–Finally!!!

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img026Back in the late 80s  when I was still in college, a  friend and I drove from Vermont to Maine in order to do some ice climbing on Mt. Katahdin.  Conditions were terrible so we hiked up instead.  I snapped this photo.  My friend asked if I wanted to be in the picture too and I said, “No, not until I have actually hiked it.”  And now, this year…my dream begins!!!  Less than 100 days until I start my hike!!!

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“Dear Fourteeners–

This is OUR YEAR! Finally!

This is why we’ve been obsessing over base weight.
This is why we’ve been getting strange looks for wearing a full backpack at the local park.
This is why we’ve been working overtime at a sucky job.
This is why we go to the gym at 5:00 am.
This is why our REI dividends have been so big.
This is why we own a kitchen scale but have never weighed any food with it.
This is why we pay $17 for a pair of socks.
This is why we post silly questions on White Blaze.
This is why we read nothing but Trail Journals all day.
This is why we eat Mountain House meals for dinner after cooking them on an alcohol stove on the kitchen counter. “Just to try it out”
This is why we can talk about bodily functions with complete strangers.
This is why my den looks like garage sale day at REI
This is why we hope and pray that we have an easier time of it than the Class of 2013 did.
This is why we spend hours and hours making plans and schedules that go out the window before we’ve walked the first 30 miles.
This is why we go to sleep dreaming about places like Max Patch, McCaffee’s Knob, Franconia Ridge, and Mt, Katahdin.
This is why we worry about blisters, Norovirus, Lyme Disease, and if we’ll be able to get a wifi signal.

This is when we’ll finally get to meet Ron Haven, Miss Janet, and Bob Peoples.
This is when we’ll finally get to play croquet with the Ice Cream Man.
This is when we finally find out if Pennsylvania is as miserable as everyone says, and if the White Mountains are as tough as advertised.
This is when WE are the main attraction at Trail Days.
This is when we find out if we can eat a half gallon of ice cream.
This is when nobody cares if we shack up in a seedy motel with somebody we just met.
This is when we grow epic beards and eat candy like an unsupervised six-year-old.
This is when we get a Polaroid taken in Harpers Ferry.
This is when we finally figure out how to hang a bear bag.

This is when all these names become faces, and faces become lifelong friends.

This is our year.

This is what we’ve been waiting for and obsessing over for so long.

Let’s do this.

Cheers to the Class of 2014, and Happy New Year. This is gonna be the best one ever.

Blueberry”

~~~~~I was given permission to repost this letter here–thanks Blueberry aka Mikey Boegh!~~~~~