Thursday, May 28, 2009

A trail name at last.....

For those who have been inquiring...we have finally been given a trail name! For a while we were simply being called "The Canadians" but our new good friends Mike and Jarrod, who we met along the trail (there is a picture of them in one of our earlier posts) decided that "The 'eh' Team" was a better fit! Now all we need to do is choose which one of us is going to be Mr. T (I pity the foo)!

Tormented By a Mouse

One of our fellow hikers has been famously tormented by a mouse. First - at a shelter he discovered mouse feces on his SPOON in his dishes bag.

At the next shelter, the sound of a mouse chewing on something above his head drove him from the shelter in the darkness, only to have the sky open up above him and have him, his cell phone, his ipod, and everything in his tent get soaked.

In a picture below you will see a wanted poster that he produced for the mouse.


Rain, Rain, Rain...

Signing back in, now in the town of Franklin - just 10 miles off the trail. We've now passed the 100 mile mark (maybe 107?.... something like that).

The last four days have had more than their fair share of the bad weather part of hiking.

Saturday - Heavy rain. Tent and packs ended up in a puddle and had to be dragged to higher ground.
Sunday - Rain all day. Slept in the shelter. HARD rain throughout the night.
Monday - Rain for much of the day. Slept in the shelter. Good idea because we had two HARD downpours and one particularly loud thunderclap in the night.
Tuesday - Rain most of the day. Hard rain before coming in to camp. Shelter was too small to accomodate everyone there so we tented and it rained HARD all night.

I'm trying not to sound too sour, but four days of being wet will put most people in a slightly "damp" mood so we felt due for a day to dry out.

The great part about the last few days, though, has been the company. We've fallen in with a very fun group of people with a few coming and going all the time. Everyone experiencing the same joys and wet-ships, helping each other along, and laughing together at the end of the day.

Mostly we've hiked with a young couple and a good friend of theirs who are out for several months, like us, and (like us) taking their time and enjoying the hike. They have two dogs along with them which has brightened up camp life - especially for Em. Another couple out for two weeks with their dog has also joined our motley crew of sopping adventurers. As we've hiked we've run into many people going slower than us and many more going faster than us. One couple, a group of "Ultra Lighters" passed through camp one morning trying to AVERAGE 24 miles per day. A ridiculous number, but made easier by their ultra light packs (ultra light means wearing only tights, running shorts, and a T-Shirt and carrying a 15 pound pack!).

Yesterday we decided to take one of the "Cheater's Trails" - a side trail that cuts out some of the AT - and were treated to a wonderful walk down a cascading river. One of the hightlights so far (and made 'more cascading' by all of the recent rain).

Dry now, we are taking a day to rest and then hit the trail again. The weather reports are calling for thunderstorms every day for the next week but we have confidence that weather reporting is a tricky business!

Lots of Love,

-Matt + Em

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Shelter Setup

The AT is an incredibly well maintained trail. Spaced along the trail, all about a days hike apart, are shelters built and maintained by trail volunteers.

We haven't been sleeping in the shelters but it is always nice to camp nearby because of the excellent bear bagging system. A long steel cable is strung between two trees with four bag hooks on pulleys along the cable. Bears can't reach it (I try every night to jump and touch our food... while doing my best bear roar of course) and can't bite or tear through the cables attached to the tree. Very clever indeed!

Mouldering toilets are another great feature. The waste is kept above ground and is composted.

We made it to Bavaria!

Ever notice how it looks like we're wearing the same clothes in every picture? There's a good reason for that. Em is actually down at the local laundromat as I type this, so that we can, at least temporarily, remove the cloud of odour that follows us. We've noticed that we don't smell sweet but you get a fuller appreciation when you've showered of how rank the clothes that you've been sweating in actually were.

We've made it to our first drop box (and rest day) in the lovely town of Helen. A fellow hiker (Barry) asked us, "why are you going to Helen? Do you need a T-Shirt? Helen is, indeed, a tourist trap, but a lovely one at that. It is a faux-bavarian village (south east germany as I learned) with tubing, mini-golf, and shops selling knick-knacks and fudge everywhere. A real bed and a shower felt heavenly, and a day to organize our new supply of food dearly needed.

The woman at the desk in our hotel told us that, "you're the second group of Canadians that I've seen hiking the AT in the past two weeks. The last two just up and quit. Left most of their hiking things in a box and just went home." But fear not! Your brave adventurers are prepared to continue onward and upward! (or downward... depending).

Tomorrow, refreshed, we'll hit the trail again:)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

May 18-20

Woke up at Woods Hole shelter after a VERY cold night. I was warm enough but Em didn't sleep well because of the cold. Mice are a big problem at the shelters (we tented away from the shelter so no problem for us) and the four hikers sleeping in the shelter were kept up by the little guys running around looking for food. In the morning we saw the cutest little mouse trying to climb up the edge of the shelter to safety. Two of the hikers that we stayed with are young guys about our age from Cininatti named Mike and Jarred. They were sleeping on tiny foam mats to keep pack weight down and were very jealous of our Big Agnes sleeping mats. They dubbed us "The 'Eh' Team" so now we officially have trail names.

Most people here are not good at building fires. My (Matt's) merely-competent fire making skills make me look like a professional arsonist compared to many. Most will just gather some wet needles and leaves and are quite impressed with things like blowing on the coals or finding a dead-standing-not-rotten tree. Those hiking trips that Dad took me on years ago are really paying off now.

Ran into a series of warm sunny days that coincided with some great views. I can't post pics on this computer but perhaps tomorrow. Saw a small bear that high-tailed it away from me as fast as possible. They are scared of humans but love campers food. A few campers that stayed at a shelter without cable bear hangers had the clever ursines break the ropes holding their bear bags and make off with their food. YUM!!

Knees hurting less... that's good right?

Hi Folks:)

We've been going up and down hills like crazy but the pain at the end of the day is starting to turn into the good kind of sore instead of the just-painful-kind.

Em's left knee (same leg that has the bad ankle) has been bothering her a lot on downhills but she's been feeling a little better each day. Also, the top of my calves are no longer feeling like they are always in a vice. We are going to be so buff when we get back.

I've got 9 days worth of facial hair which translates into a pretty wicked neck beard and some patchy face hair too. Happily for me I don't need to look at it:) (Em is not so lucky).

Strangely enough it has been COLD here. 12-20 degrees each day with a pretty good wind chill on the hill tops. Each night at the shelters we have been wearing our fleeces and wishing that we hadn't shipped our jackets ahead. The views, however, have been everything as advertised and more. Standing on top of a hilltop and gazing out at the green rolling hills below (many of which we have walked) is deeply satisfying. Each agonizing footstep up and knee-twinge down becomes well worth it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

4 Days Down...

Hi folks:)

We're finally back at a computer after four days on the trail. Oddly enough, we're back at the hiker hostel that we used as our staging point to begin the the journey. Not a bad thing; it just so happens that if you follow the trail you come very close to it!

A few stories:

We got into Atlanta just fine and were clearing customs with lots of time before we both realized that we'd left our "bounce ahead box" (a mailed ahead resupply box) on the baggage conveyor belt. Thankfully we had the help of some very kind airport personell and got everything through. We stayed our first night in the Hiker Hostel (where I write this) and after a night of trimming our pack weight down and a hearty morning breakfast including gravy and sausage bits over biscuits (a normal breakfast food here in Georgia) we were off.

Since then we've made decent time hiking but paid for our lack of being-in-shapedness. Em's ankle injury kept us (her) from doing training before going so our legs and backs have been paying for it. The first day was a little tough, the second day much harder, and the third more gruelling still but we have been walking through beautiful forest and and finding a lot of joy in not being at work:) On this part of the trail it is usual to stay in regularly spaced shelters and so we got to spend several evenings with many of the same folks. The trail brings all types. We got a lot of great advice from Barry (trail name Bare-Bear), a trail vet who through hiked in 2006 and has spent lots of time before and since on the trail. His best advice, "take time and enjoy what you're seeing". Also we stayed with a young guy, just out of law school who had brought his dog on the trail so we felt like we had a pseudo-pet for a few days (of course, the dog carried his own pack).

Some of the highlights so far: The enormous trees! We've seen bigger trees than I've seen since in the BC old growth forests. The Big Agnes! (which have been like sleeping on clouds! Thanks B and M) The totally different ecology (Em has been loving, figuring out what everything is). Em accidentally flinging some kind of poo into the back of her shoe, and me making fun of her... until discovering that my shoe was also covered:(

All things considered, we are tired and sore but getting stronger and fitter. The hiking has been beautiful and we're ready to hit the trail again tomorrow:)

I'll try to post pics but it may not work. If not now we'll happily show them later:)

Love, Matt and Em

Friday, May 1, 2009

Our Route

Here is a map showing our proposed route!