Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dreamer and Charlie reunite.... Visitors from Home- Appalachian Trail

Last week was a major highlight for Dreamer since returning to the trail, some six weeks ago. Our son Jesse (Tex) and our nephew, Adam (Opie) went to meet up with Tom and hike a 36 mile section from Bland to Wood's Hole Hostel. Of course, Charlie went to see Dad and get some time back on the trail.
The boys got to experience weather changes, varied terrain and experience, first hand, the importance of limiting the weight in your pack. 

Both guys have done considerable types of backpacking from Mt. Robson in British Columbia to canoeing with packs through the Boundary Waters of Canada, so these are not newbies to hiking and backpacking.

We have been talking to the kids and our videos have been very clear about the strenuousness of the terrain, the difficulties with pack weight and wear and tear on knees and the never-ending weather obstacles, so none of this should have been a surprise.... But, they were clearly caught off guard. Tex was carrying twice the weight he should have, bringing enough food to feed the entire over-stuffed shelter on night #1. Opie, unfortunantely suffered a debilitating knee injury on day two, which he suffered with till the very end. They were cooked and dehydrated on day #1. Day #2, drenched with a mountain cloudburst that lasted all day and day #3 provided the nicest day of all and landed them in the cabable and loving hands of the owners of Wood's Hole Hostel, Michael and Neville, who showed them mountain hospitality. 

Opie recaps their trip for us here:

My thoughts after 36 miles on the trail with Dreamer.

"Tex and I met up with Dreamer Friday morning for what I thought wasgoing to be a fun 3 day hike on the Appalachian trail. The trail had other thoughts in mind and I was humbled very quickly. To say I was grossly unprepared for the way the trail tests you mentally,physically and emotionally would be a fair statement.  We met up in Bland with dreamer to begin our hike which started with a short mile walk down a road and across a highway overpass. But as soon as our feet met the soft Virginian mud and we started our first ascent we met the trail for the first time. The sheer beauty of the surroundings were breathtaking as the rhododendron groves enveloped us. But the steep grade and narrow trail soon required all of our attention. It was almost as if it was saying "I will determine what you see as beautiful".

That first 10 miles were grueling. We had packed entirely too much food and not nearly enough water. Nothing could be prettier than coming to the first stream after carrying dry water bottles for the past 3 miles in the hot spring day. I was elated and felt that now I was prepared to tackle the trail...and then the downpour started.We finished the last 2 miles of day one in the rain and arrived soaking wet at the shelter for the night. We were met by other hikers who had battled the trail that day. Everyone was bruised and broken yet optimistic and resilient. They all seemed to acknowledge that there had been a battle and they may have been defeated but they didn't mind, this is a war and they are determined to prevail. We spent the evening huddled in the shelter out of the rain with quiet laughs and short stories in a similar fashion to how I imagine soldiers interact after a long battle. For the first time I realized how significant the resolve of a thru-hiker really is.

On day two after a quick breakfast we hit the trail in the cool morning air on a trail that was soggy from the nights rain. Our 14mile route for the day took us on a long downhill followed by a steep uphill and then "flat" ground for the last 6 miles. We had lightened our loads the night before at the shelter and despite some sore muscles we were in high spirits.Shortly after beginning the big downhill section the trail struck me with a lightning bolt of humility as I slipped on a rock and "tweaked" my knee. It's been years since I've sustained an injury and I figured this was no different and I could just walk it off. The trail had other plans though and as the steep downhill miles wore on they became increasingly more painful and at points unbearable. I found two sticks from beside the trail to help bear some of my weight but the pain kept growing. I felt broken and disheartened as Dreamer increasingly had to wait for me. It was a stark realization of the pain and heartbreak that Socks had experienced just a month before. My goal of 36 miles was a drop in the bucket compared to her goal of thru-hiking but was my trip over too? Could I struggle through this? Am I jeopardizing the goals of Dreamer and Tex? Am I selfish for needing their help? The questions raced through my mind. We stopped at the bottom of the hill for lunch and with tape and an ace bandage from Tex I wrapped my knee up and we started from the road uphill. This was my test. If I could make it to the top I could go on. If I couldn't make it I would have to back track to the road for a shuttle. Thankfully the bandage helped and even though there was still pain I was able to push past it and continue with Dreamer and Tex
Charlie was thrilled to be back with Dad on the trail!
For the last 4 miles on day two we were once again caught in a rainstorm and again got to the shelter soaking wet. Again we were met with friendly faces and embraced the feeling of shared suffering.On the third day we woke up to a glorious day. The clouds and rain had given way to a cool spring day with sunshine radiating through the trees. It seemed the trail had smiled upon us for the remaining 7 miles of our hike. We set out on the trail and my knee was feeling tolerable and the trail was great. We looked at the 4000 ft peak in front of us and smiled. We climbed with vigor as we charged the peak, carefully placing one foot in front of the other marching onward.There was no retreat available, surrender was not an option, we had to conquer this mountain. Do or do not, there was no try. The trail had changed us."

Communal campfire at Wood's Hole Hostel

Almost 40 pizzas were build for the hiker guests that night at Wood's Hole

These boys had hiked for a short three days and felt changed. This trail WILL change you. Good or Bad, this trail will leave you different than you arrived. Our son, Jesse (Tex), keeps saying, "It's life changing." Yes, my son, it is and I am even more determined to return!!
You can learn more about Tex and Opie and their company, "First Light Gear" at: Opie has a bit more to share on their blog!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Team TNT+C Making Progress- Appalachian Trail Hike 2013

The Appalachian Trail never fails to deliver. Weather (the worst in trail history), terrain/ PUDs (pointless ups and downs), and mental challenges (chronic depression due to the previous two items). In all seriousness, this has been a challenging time for Team TNT+C. Dreamer has continued to endure the continuous crappy weather, rain, freezing temps and even hail this past couple weeks. When will spring EVER come to the Appalachians?

He's produced a couple of new videos with more interviews with random hikers, but he's also tried to show more of 'real life' on trail.... the weather, the deplorable living conditions and some of the mental challenges of doing this hike long term, in these conditions and then add, being separated from the rest of the Team TNT. He's had some rough days...mentally and physically and it's hard on both of us. We are both learning much about ourselves, our relationship and communicating. I know how much we'll enjoy being back together again and being able to lean on each other mentally, physically and emotionally.

I (Socks) had surgery on April 22, to repair the two meniscus' in my left knee and removal of several chunks of roaming cartilage. Today, stitches were removed and I was given the 'go-ahead' to start physical therapy with the goal of being back on trail by June 17th!! I'll be working with a therapist who knows about our trip, knows the physical demands that await me and will customize my therapy and conditioning to accomplish that goal...building the strength back up in that leg and working to increase my endurance again. (I've gotten a bit like a couch potato since surgery, so I'm a little weak in the legs!)

Charlie is Charlie. He pretty much goes with the flow and puts up with most things, so relax or play, he's two paws up! I'm sure he'll be very anxious for the walks we'll start to take over at Rose Lake to start building stamina and then begin to carry a little weight in a pack. We'll go slow, but we are very anxious to be back on the BIG trail with Dreamer again!!