Hiking with Kids

>> August 2, 2010

The Barbarian Utopia - 2010Here is yet another example of taking your kids on a hike up the eastern US along the Appalachian Trail.

Venado - Barbarian Utopia is an 8 year old who is currently hiking the AT with his Dad. We can't think of a better learning experience for our daughter than to teach her about nature up close and in the moment. As Maya gets older and begins to leave the picture books behind we'll break out our AT journals and begin to gauge her interests in hiking the trail. We recorded nearly every moment from our experience in a series of 8 journals and we've been waiting for the perfect opportunity to revisit them and relive our journey.

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Mt Greylock Reflection

>> March 12, 2010


Too bad we hadn't entered the digital age when we hiked the trail back in 2002. It would have been a lot easier than carrying around all of that film. And, we could have submitted this as an entry to the 2012 AT Calendar

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A Wildflower Symphony

>> January 15, 2008

video

A tribute to the many wildflowers we discovered along the AT and to DeTour's Grandmother who introduced her to both the AT and the world of flowers.

ps...I made the mistake of saying 13 states. I need to remake the video but just haven't found the time.

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In the Face of Adversity

>> December 19, 2007

Written by HeMan & DeTour - April 2002

Life is riddled with adversity through events that are meant to teach us and at the same time allow us to grow stronger in that when it strikes again we know how to face it. One of the most incredible facets that we have gained from our three years in the Peace Corps was how to handle adversity and how to control the rush of emotions that overwhelm us when events stray form the norm. Adverse events always seem to take place when least expected and out here on the trail the risk is increased and may strike at the most trying times. How we face these adverse events depends on the severity of the problem and how remote we may be at that time. Learning to gain knowledge and experience from these events helps us in continuing our journey without interruption and added stress.

Over the course of the
past seventy-two days on the trail we have had to face certain situations that have arisen unexpectedly. Some have made us laugh, others have made us panic, while a few have made us furious and outraged. But, none have made us weaker in that thoughts of leaving the trail have not entered our minds. We have learned some very valuable lessons here in the field, ones that will stay with us for the remainder of our lives. Here are a few of the events that have taken place.

On April 9th we descended into the valley of Erwin, TN for a nig
ht at the Nolichucky Hostel. We were tired, wet, hungry and ready for a rest upon finding the hostel located only 60 feet from the AT. We had previously sent ourselves a box of re-supply food to the hostel so as not to spend money at the local grocery store for supplies. The owner at the hostel accepts packages for hikers and holds them until they arrive. Well, our package had not shown up so we were forced to buy food from the owner and the local grocery store. We had asked the owner to forward our package to Damascus and we would give him the six dollars for postage. He agreed and I proceeded to shop for our food in his store. I asked him for several things that were not on the shelves and he said that he might have some in the back. Now what I am about to speculate is not proven, it’s merely speculation, but a damn good one at that. I think and rumor has it that the owner, a trembling drunk have you, opens people’s packages and sells the items to other thru-hikers. Well, some of the items that he went into the back room for were very similar to the type meals that we had in our box. Needless to say, we did not receive our package in Damascus and when I called the owner to confront him, he quickly hung up the phone. I might also mention that I gave our fuel bottle to him to fill up and within 2 minutes he returned with the bottle. It was that night that we realized he did not fill up the bottle but he did manage to charge us two dollars. I know that what I lost in this overnight stay at the hostel is very little in monetary value but it’s the principle of the matter. Lessons learned...how to cook two meals a day in the woods for five days on three ounces of fuel and not to trust a trembling sweet talker.

Unfortunately we w
ere faced with the same event in Atkins, VA when we arrived at the Village Motel. We had a food re-supply box sent here as well and that too was stolen from us. This time we are not sure who opened the package and took the items inside but we did have what evidence we found printed and turned it over to the criminal investigators. Whoever it was, opened our package, took a few food items, a pair of pants and a monocular and left the rest in a hiker box. Hiker boxes are boxes full of items other hikers get rid of for weight or whatever purposes and are free for the taking. Luckily we retrieved enough of our food from the hiker box that we were able to continue to the next town. We understand that the chances of finding the thief is very slim but again it’s the principle of the matter. What goes around comes around and if it was a thru-hiker then they might get what they deserve, not from myself or the law, but through bad karma like tripping and breaking a leg with Kathadin in sight. Lesson learned...send all packages to Post Offices where they check ID.

Our next adverse event took place near Angel’s rest outside of Pearisburg, VA on May 2nd. We left Woods Hole Hostel around 12 noon with dark skies and strong winds on our way into Pearisburg, VA for a night in town. We were 10.5 miles out and figured it would take close to four hours to get there. We first had to climb about 1,000 feet to reach the ridge then walk the ridgeline before a steep descent into town. Upon starting the climb we heard a crack of thunder several times off in the distance but, straight above us everything looked good and so we believed w
e might be spared and continued on. As everything around us started getting darker and the wind ripped through we knew we would get hit by the storm but we just could not gauge when and how hard it would come. We decided to stop and put on our rain jackets and as soon as we did we felt our first drop of rain followed by a bolt of lightening and a crash of thunder. Within seconds the storm was right over us bending trees to the ground and dumping a solid sheet of rain. Not one second later came another bolt of lightening and the loudest crack of thunder imaginable and before we had a chance to consult our options, we were under the thickest rhododendron bush we could find. It was then that the skies really opened up dropping pea-sized balls of hail that seemed to find every hole in our cover and pelt us in the head. There was nothing we could do mainly because in the woods on top of the mountain there is basically nowhere to hide. More frightening I guess was what was running through our heads. Just two weeks ago we passed a live Oak tree that had been split down the middle by a bolt of lightening. It was so powerful that 25 to 50 pound splinters were thrown 50 yards from the tree and were easily 5 feet in the ground. After waiting nearly an hour for the storm to pass we gathered our thoughts and restored our senses and decided to move on.

The skies cleared and we knew that we needed to get going and get off the mountain. Right then the trail took a sharp turn right and went straight up to the top of the ridge, the least desirable place to be in a severe storm. We had about a three-mile ridge walk before the descent so we turned on the after burners and got moving. About 2 miles into the ridge walk the skies cleared, the winds stopped and everything fell silent and became very eerie. Tia turned to me and explained that in her days of life guarding before storms hit the skies usually clear, almost allowing everyone a chance to seek cover. I refused to believe her, knowing I shouldn’t but it just seemed that it was over. Just then a bolt of lightening hit right behind us and the rains again fell in sheets. The wind picked up speed and more hail started to fall, this time they were the size of golf balls. As the wind threw hail at us in a sideways direction, bolts of lightening struck followed by crashing thunder. This time we knew we were in trouble as there was no where to hide and no where to go but continue on in hopes of reaching the descent and getting off the mountain before
we were electrocuted or beat to death by the sideways falling hail.

Finally we reached the descent where the trail would bring us down off the mountain into the realm of safety or so we thought. With the torrential rains came a steep descent of mud where Tia continuously fell but miraculously made it to the bottom narrowly escaping injury. Upon making it to the bottom we took off running towards town in hopes of reaching the Post Office before it closed so that we could snack on Mom’s brownies.
Everything worked out as we said our thanks for surviving storms of tornados and hail that reeked havoc on the east coast.
Lessons learned...seek cover and stay off ridges in storms of this magnitude.


The last story that we will share is one that made our hearts sink to our stomachs but in
the end made us all cry with laughter. Now that we are in Virginia the trail is starting to get a little easier as we are sometimes walking along flat ridges and lowlands. We are crossing from ridge to ridge very often and the only way to do so is by crossing through fields or pastures on private lands. When crossing through these pastures we must share the trail with the landowners’ livestock, which are mainly cattle with the occasional aggressive bull. Well, just a few days back we were crossing through a field as the trail wound its way on the edge of the pasture next to a wooded lot. We continued on our way just as we heard a horrifying crash through the woods. I stopped and turned to Tia who was 20 yards behind and we both looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders in bewilderment. The crashing became louder as it grew closer and Tia turned with an expression on her face as though she had seen a ghost and yelled, “Bears, Bears! Oh, my gosh Bears!” I froze solid as my legs shook uncontrollably and knew from the sound they were headed right for us. I began to take off my back pack in hopes of making myself appear bigger than I was and it was then that I saw the rather large black objects emerge from the forest and come to a halt. Before I had time to say my prayers I realized what we were up against. It was then that Tia turned to me and said, “Oh, they’re not bears, they’re cows! Big black cows!” Upon further inspection we saw 3 black cows standing at the edge of the woods starring us down like a blade of grass. We gathered ourselves and continued laughing at our reaction to such an event. Lesson learned...make sure Tia has her glasses on when she yells bear. Note: Tia did spot a bear cub (glasses were on) outside of Damascus VA but the cub took off before we could get a closer look.

I wish we could go on with our stories but they will have to wait until there is more time. As you may know, we have many of them to share, both of overcoming adversity and of adventures of our daily life. All of these events have taught us something new and very important about how to conduct ourselves out here. We have not altered our journey in search of a thief that we may never find, nor have we stopped hiking every time it rains. We have though, looked twice when we think we hear a bear. But nevertheless, we are stronger both mentally and physically and we are prepared for whatever we may face on our pilgrimage.


Picture 1: DeTour filtering water
Picture 2: Digging through a mail drop in Hot Springs, NC looking for something good to eat.
Picture 3: 25 to 50lb splinters from a bolt of lightning. Now you know why you should hide from thunder and lightning!

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Appalachian Trail - Georgia To Maine

>> December 18, 2007

Written by HeMan and DeTour and Hemlock & Tamarack at The Place, Damascus, VA - April 19, 2002

Appalachian Trail - Georgia To Maine

Appalachian Pilgrims Passing Along Lands Amongst Colorful Hues In Another Niche

Taking Routine Away Into Landscapes

Growing Everyday Our Real Goal Is Accomplishing

Together Our

Many Aspirations In New Endeavors

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Primavera Thoughts

Written by HeMan & DeTour - April 16, 2002




Well we have finally succumb to some bug that has left us nauseated, thus the reason for stopping today’s hike early and finding time to write this little note. We climbed 7 miles up and out of Watagua Lake to Vanderventer Shelter where we have set up our tent for the evening on a rock cliff overlooking the lake some 2,000 feet below. As we are writing to you the woodpeckers are pecking, the bugs are buzzing and the hawks are circling above. Spring has finally busted its bud as the trees are filling in the canopy and the forest floor changes from seas of dead brown leaves to brightly colored wildflowers. Everything in our little world is starting to come alive now that the days are growing longer and becoming warmer. I had said that we wanted to experience 4 seasons on the trail and by far the neatest thing we have seen is the awakening of the forest as it changes daily from winter to spring. Weeks ago the trees were nothing but giant poles of bark and twigs with no signs of life to be seen. Slowly they formed little buds that soon broke free exposing a new set of leaves. We have also been fortunate enough to experience a similar beginning of life in the various wildflowers we have been studying. We have purchased a wildflower book and have started identifying and studying each flower we see. The enjoyment that we have found lies in daily observation throughout the past 46 days of the entire growth cycle of both the trees and the flowers. Most people can only view the changing of seasons on a weekend outing or by watching a plant on the windowsill, so we have taken every opportunity of learning something new each day and we feel very fortunate in doing so.

It seems as though even the animals have finally shed their winter attire and are starting to show their lovely faces. Like for instance the 6 foot copperhead that Brad walked right by within a distance of 2 feet and made Tia freeze solid standing only 3 feet from the snake staring it right in the face. Needless to say, we were very fortunate that day. We have also encountered a king snake of similar size winding around a tree some 4 feet off the ground. We have seen 4 other snakes but were very small in size. Our most colorful find was a bright orange newt with red spots sitting perched on a rock alongside a stream. Mammals have been scarce in that we have only seen 1 deer and 1 rabbit. However, last night we awoke to a beaver slapping his tail on the water for a good 2 hours. Our favorite but yet least favorite bird was the whip-o-will that for the first 5 minutes at 5:30 am chirped a beautiful song, but for the last 45 minutes, well lets just say it is lucky to still be alive. It perched 5 ft from the shelter consistently singing thinking its echo was a beautiful female somewhere nearby. So, no bears yet but we are anxiously awaiting!

We can’t even begin to express how beautiful this spot we have found is. Below us lies Watagua Lake that due to a man-made disturbance winds its way through wooded valleys and gorges. To our right lies Roan Mountain, a 6,200-foot large rock covered with Red Spruce and the dying Frasier Furs. Roan Mountain was the last of our 6,000- foot climbs until we enter the Presidentials and climb the ever-dangerous Mount Washington in the Whites. Directly in front of us lay the ridges of Appalachian Beauty. The sun is setting behind us and we will most definitely set our clocks to witness yet another beautiful sunrise. Like this spot we have stopped on three other balds just for the views and sunsets.

We signed in t
he register at Amicalola Falls that we are out here to see what we can see and that is what we have stuck to. We are taking our time out here and enjoying the peaceful serenity of the mountains. We are out here to experience a journey full of white blazes where behind each white blaze lies something new and exciting. Around every corner is a new sight, a new thought and a new adventure. There are many people that are out here for a social outing. They hike as fast as they can just to get to the next town where they will take 3 or more days off. We had overheard of someone hiking 45 miles in one day just to get to Damascus! If that is possible I’m not sure, but why? The herd of thru-hikers is slowly thinning out so my question is this; What will these social hikers do when they suddenly happen upon a town or a shelter where there is no sign of a social gathering and they discover themselves all alone? Don’t get us wrong, we have found many new friends and we understand that everybody has the right to hike their own hike but, there is more to discover on a journey like this than a group of new friends and a pat on the back just for reaching Kathadin.



Picture 1: Max Patch, NC
Picture 2: A rare 4-leafed Purple Trillium. Tri is Latin for trio therefore all members of the species have three leaves, petals, cells etc...
Picture 3: Feral Ponies on Mt Rogers, VA
Picture 4: A tasty Morel mushroom, an expensive delicacy. We prefer it with a tad of butter and garlic!
Picture 6: Fiddle Head Ferns, another tasty treat!
Picture 7: Lucky Shot!

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Existence

Written by HeMan & DeTour - March 31, 2002



When asked by most people what it is that we enjoy the most about being out in the woods and hiking the trail, our first answer is always the passion and freedom that we receive from being in the wilderness. David Brill said it best when he wrote this about being on the A.T, "I believe I have finally found my niche, and it’s here in the woods. I thrive here. I feel so right here. And I’ve begun to realize that I have become a resident of the wilderness. I no longer leave society to visit the woods. Rather, I leave the woods to visit society. When I’m in town, I feel uprooted and often suffer pangs of separation. I constantly wonder what I am missing." So, yes we really do enjoy the wilderness aspect of this journey but now its time to talk about those fellow hikers who have become part of our lives. We had first said before starting the trail that we were not interested in interacting with everyone for several reasons. However, we have found that the new friends we have met and will continue to meet brighten our spirits in many ways. They break up the monotony of everyday by sharing their own stories and experiences from their lives as well as providing support and giving us yet another reason to continue northward.

Some days it feels like we are on a tread mill walking and walking, making our way to Maine. Each day when walking along the trail we come to a shelter where we will stay for the night and find new hikers to meet or ones that we know from previous encounters, and the night turns into a campfire chat. We are all out there on the trail together hiking in the same direction. We may take a day off and a hiker that we met 30 miles back may catch up or they may take a day off and we may catch up to them. It is when we meet new hikers that we have realized that stereotyping and first impressions really color our views. We must give everyone a chance and really talk to them before we judge them. When walking the streets of downtown we, as hikers, get stared at, people lean out of their car windows and snap photos,and still others just think we are street bums. We say, don’t judge a book by it’s cover!! In our little world on the A.T. we have heard rumors about people being rude or grumpy, or just plain ole’ mean. Needless to say, the chain of gossip floods the trail about people on the trail or in towns. These are all judgments, but remember we are all humans, and need to give one another a chance! We interact with many different people each day and are blessed to have met so many wonderful individuals by giving them the time of day and in turn we have learned valuable lessons of life from them.

The world is full of interesting people everywhere but the only way to fully understand this is to have the opportunity to meet and interact with different individuals every day. We have found that everyone along the trail has at least one piece of wisdom that we did not have before hand and in just the five weeks that we have been on the trail we have created new ideals for ourselves. Ideals that may have never had the chance to cross our paths. Stories are shared and life lessons are learned everyday that we set another foot towards Katahdin.


Existence

We all exist day to day,
Meeting new folks along the way.
First impressions and stereotypes color our view,
Learning new life lessons, we feel anew.
Don’t judge a book by its cover,
You may learn a lot if you just discover.

On the trail we have become a family of sorts,
Good friends thrown together from all different ports,
During the hike or in office life don’t ever underestimate the power of a glance,
We all must live together, and meet by chance.



Picture 1: Cooking lunch
Picture 2: HeMan and Wu-Li at NOC
Picture 3: A young buck at Spence Field Shelter in the Smokies
Picture 4: An above ground moldering privy (a composting system used to help break down human waste).

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