I will be hiking the Appalachian Trail in the March of 2016. The Appalachian Trail goes through 14 states from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Katahdin, Maine and is 2,180 miles long. I intend to do a North-Bound (NOBO) โ€˜thru-hike,โ€™ which means hiking the whole trail continuously. It takes 5-6 months to complete and only 1 in 4 thru-hikers actually finish the trail. I hope that I will be one of them!

Bud (my husband) is graciously supporting me in my endeavor, and has encouraged me to pursue this dream of mine. He also helped me choose my trail name: Arkansas Traveler. ‘Arkansas Traveler’ is a type of Heirloom tomato that grows well in these parts. I found out that there is a song of the same name that use to be the State Song of Arkansas. It is a fiddle tune, and many of you might know the tune as, “I’m Squishing Up a Baby Bumblebee.”

This blog will eventually be my trail journal when I start my hike, and until then, I’ll use it to write about my preparations for the trip.



I’m off like a herd of turtles…

  I am officially on my way. I sit here jerking back and forth as we fly through turbulence, and though my stomach would disagree, I am completely at peace. I know it is due to all of your prayers.

We left the house at 4:00 a.m. A neighbor offered to let the chickens out for us this morning. Two of our bigger girls, our Buff Orphingtons, have feet problems and I always help them off the roost each morning. Since I would not be there, I went out before we left,Bud holding the flashlight, and took them off early and put them on the floor in the brooder area so they wouldn’t have to jump down.

Finally, after I was dressed, and my buzz cut was sufficiently plastered down, we left in the darkness to make our three hour tour to the Little Rock airport.

About an hour into our trip, we made a stop for coffee and a biscuit and were soon back on our way.

Yesterday was somber. I was quite busy doing last minute things to get ready. Bud helped me a lot! I think the reality of the fact that I will not see Bud for five months was weighing heavily on me.

In case you are wondering, I was able to get together 150 breakfasts and suppers, and enough lunches for those mail drops that are known for not being a good resupply place. I will purchase supplies for lunch each time I go to town to pick up a mail drop box. I also got all of my boxes organized,loaded and packed!

My dear neighbor and friend gave me a duffle bag suitcase that fit my backpack perfectly! It made it through baggage check just fine!

She and two other dear friends came to visit and tell me goodbye. Several days prior, my plain person friend invited me over for one last visit. We have the best neighbors!

Already, so many prayers have been answered. I’m humbled, not only for this, but also the support, excitement for my hike, and well-wishes from neighbors, friends, family, and even the people at the post office. I’m also grateful for my friend, “Raid” (trail name) for offering my first ‘trail magic’ by picking me up from the airport, and letting me stay at her house. It has made the first leg of my journey a lot less scary, and it’s nice to know I will be hiking with a friend for the first section.

Bud and I didn’t talk much on the way to the airport. I was trying to come to terms with the fact that my hike is finally really happening, and also that I will not see Bud for 5 months. I sensed that Bud was sad, too. He offered some last minute advice and encouragement, and telling me how proud of me he is… and also Happy Birthday! I’m 51 years old today!

The airport was not crowded at all. A lady came to the car to carry my luggage. Bud and I said a quick goodbye and kissed several times,  I checked my baggage and Bud was still by the curb. We waved. He drove off slowly, and we waved several more times. I miss you already, Babe, and I love you so much! Thank you for encouraging me in this adventure. Your love and support means the world to me. I hope I can make you proud of me! ๐Ÿ™‚

Security was not the nightmare I was expecting. I went through the naked scanner without complaining. The TSA lady said she was going to have to check my right leg. She actually asked me if I would react to being touched. I steeled myself, said a little prayer, and braced myself in case she was going for more than my leg, but thankfully, she just swiped the outside of my leg and that was it! Thanks to all of you who prayed me through security!

I made the plane change in Dallas with not a minute to spare. There has been quite a bit of turbulence, but other than that, it has been uneventful.

My blog posts most likely will be posted on a purposeful delay. You don’t really want to tell stalkers exactly where you are at in the middle of the woods (if you know what I mean.

Soon we will be landing! ..and I need to put my seat and tray in upright and locked position!

Stay tuned….

Trials and Tribulations

  I have been having some trouble with my phone. I haven’t had cell service in most of the places I’ve been, but the battery on my phone has been running out quickly.

I’d had hopes of being able to blog about every day, but with being worried with my phone charge, I can’t even read on my I-phone. I’ve struggled to keep enough charge to take pictures with it.

Bud told me that there were lots of Birthday wishes on my Facebook, but I could not get the Newsfeed to load, last I checked. So thank you for each and every one of them. 

Also, the WordPress App will not allow me to post pictures. Bummer! I’ve tried everything I can think of to work it out.

The airlines lost my luggage, so I had no backpack when my plane touchd down. Raid and I were able to find each other (with my phone charge barely hanging on, it was getting scary.) They ended up delivering my backpack after midnight that night.

Raid’s husband took us to Amacalola Falls bright and early the next morning. I officially registered as an AT Thru-Hiker. I felt like I was in shock. I felt numb. Raid said it was like a solider who had been in basic training and was finally being thrown into the battle.

My pack (with food and water) weighed in at 33 pounds. I had decided not to hike the approach trail, so we drove up to Springer Mountain. The start of the trail is actually a mile from the parking lot. We said goodbye to Raid’s husband, and left our packs in the parking lot. Sqid Billy was there taking an informal count of thru-hikers that were arriving and he watched the numerous packs that were left there.

Raid and I went to the start of the trail. It was foggy and sprinkling. We had put on our rain gear in the parking lot. The trail was easy up to the top. We took some pictures, and I signed the register with my real name. Coincidentally, I signed right after another Kara.

When we got back down to the parking lot, we put on our packs and headed down the trail on the other side of the parking lot. Still, I felt in a fog (literally and figuratively). I couldn’t believe I was actually on the trail and thru-hiking.

It began to rain, but it was not a cold day, and true to the tales I’ve heard, we began to get hot and sweaty. So the choice was to be hot and get wet from sweat, or take of the jacket and get wet from the rain. We opted to take of the jackets and keep the rain skirts on. The fog hung on, too. At times we could see the clouds/fog blow past us. We couldn’t see any kind of a view at all.

We felt good, but the weather deteriorated. The wind started gusting. We soon met a guy coming down the trail who told us that there was a new campground up the way…Hawk Mountain Campsite.He told us that the shelter was already full (which we had expected anyway.) 

We had done 7.4 fairly easy miles and decided to call it a day and headed down the hill, into the campground. We actually felt really blessed, because this place had a bear box, and a privy.

They had made tent pads, and we chose two spots that were next to each other. They had some puddles, but beggars can’t be choosers! 

As it would turn out, there were only about 2 or 3 other tents at the camp site.

We set about setting up our tents in the steady rain. I had anticipated this, so I just kept telling myself that this was part of the deal. Everything was muddy, and that was the frustrating part. I’d had to set my backpack next to the tree while I set up my tent.

We finally got our tents set up, but both of us had water in our tent floors. We didn’t know if it was from the water coming in before we got the rain fly on, or if it was coming from the bottom.

I had a chamois with me, and I started soaking up the water and ringing it out. I finally got the puddles out, but the floor of the tent was wet. I blew up my air mattress and quickly put my quilt on to top of it.

Raid and I sat side by side on a log as we cooked our evening meal. We sat there in our rain gear watching our pots boil, as the rain pinged against our pots. We both had tea as our food was rehydrating. Raid gave me some ‘hot lips’ which is a plastic attachment that goes onto the pot so you can drink directly from the pot.  The hot liquid was just what we needed. We ate on the log in the rain.

I’d had a bad headache that day, and I was starting to shiver. I went into my tent and changed into my dry sleep clothes and got inside my quilt. It took a long time to get warm.

Soon, the rain stopped. It was still light outside, but my head was pounding, and I was still cold. Raid had gone outside, and had noticed that my tent was not staked tight enough, so I went outside and she helped me move my tent to a better position to get the rain fly staked out tighter. I was glad she did because later that night we had a deluge!

It thundered and the sky was lit up with lightening. My phone kept buzzing, but since I had no service, I couldn’t figure out why. It was apparently some kind of weather alert.  We later learned that a tornado had gone through the area.

In the morning, I heard the sound of Raid’s voice telling me it was 7:30. I couldn’t believe I had slept that long. It was still drizzly. I put on my wet and cold hiking clothes (that’s the way we do it, because we carry on set of clothes on our backs, and one set of clothes that are always dry.) We took down our tents in the drizzle, and then ate a cold breakfast and we were soon on our way.

(To be continued…)

Hawk Mountain Campground to Justus Creek Campground

We left camp at around 10:00 a.m. It had taken us a long time to break camp. Everything was wet and muddy, and we had to put wet tents into our pack. It was amazing how much heavier our packs were with the weight of the water on our tents. 

We had a big hiking day ahead of us with two big mountains to climb. Raid and I did really well together, though. There were lots of hikers on the trail. Some were thru-hikers, but a lot were either day hikers or section hikers. 

The day was overcast, but we did not have rain. There were lots of millipedes on the trail. There were two birds I kept hearing that we don’t have in Arkansas. One had a song that I’m calling a ‘whale song’. It sang lots of random glissandos, both up and down. I called it the ‘Whale Bird.’ The other, I called the ‘Beethoven Bird.’ It’s song sounded almost exactly like the opening motif of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with a glissando going up at the end. I really wish I knew the true name of these birds.

I was proud of how we hiked over the two mountains. They were tough, but we are still getting our trail legs.

We stopped fairly early at Justus Creek Campground, making 7 miles for that day. It was a really nice campground with nice flat pads for the tents. At that time, we were the only ones there. We’ve heard that the shelters are really full, so we’ve been trying to avoid them.

There weren’t many good trees to hang a bear bag. Most of the trees did not have limbs low enough. Raid and I both lost our bear bag equipment by getting them stuck around limbs. We tied them up as best we could with the rope that was hanging down.

Since we got to camp early, we were able to set up our tents and let them dry out. Raid and I ate our supper together, and soon, more people began to roll in and start setting up camp. 

Everyone sort of chit chats as they do their evening chores. We met a woman who was retired from the military, and was on a section hike with her 68 year old aunt. 

There was another ex-military guy on the pad above me. I did not get to talk to him much. 

Later, a very loud character rolled in and pitched his tent beside mine. I was in my tent already, but could hear him talking to everyone else in the campground. He was bemoaning the fact that there were so many women on the trail. Apparently, a group of ladies had given him the trail name of ‘Walmart,’ because he had bought all of his equipment from Walmart. 

It sprinkled during the night a bit, but nothing like the night before, and it had stopped by the time I got up.

I was on my knees rolling up my sleeping pad in my tent, and when I stood up and turned around, there was Walmart sitting on the edge of the tent pad with cup in hand watching me. I said, “Good Morning!” And he said, “I hope it’s a good morning!”

We made polite chitchat. I found out that he is 68 years old, retired, and is planning to go 200 miles, and then decide if he wants to continue…that he had until October to complete his hike.

Raid was packed and ready to go, and since her pace is a little slower than mine, she knew I would catch up and started ahead of me. My convo with Walmart and the retired military lady had set me back, but I was soon on my way.

(To Be Continued….)

Justus Creek to Lance Creek

I soon caught up to Raid. We had. More tough climbs for our unintiated trail legs. It was Saturday and the trail was packed with hikers. I was surprised at how many were day hikers.

We met our first Trail Angels. It was a man and a woman who were hiking the trail and giving out ziplock a full of candy bars and snacks. They were from a nearby Baptist church, and inside the ziplock a was the man’s testimony and what the Lord had done in his life, including bringing him through bypass surgery. His name was Dr. Pepper, and he had taught something in the prison system to the prisoners (he never said what he taught.) They took our picture, and we were on our way.

We soon came to Woody Gap, and there was a very nice privy there, a place to unload our trash, and there was also a large camper set up in the parking lot there. Another trail angel. He was serving soup and hot tea, as the day was kind of chilly and windy. Raid and I wanted to lighten our pack, so we are the lunch we had packed at a nearby picnic table. We did have some hot tea, since everyone was raving about it. It was green tea with honey and milk, and it was just the right sweetness. Apparently, they sell the tea, and also own some hostels. I have his card, but it is packed away in my backpack somewhere.

We finally came to the campground, again, fairly early. There is a section of the trail that cannot be camped on, unless you have a bear canister. Apparently there are lots of bears in the area, so they have put this rule in place. Consequently, there would be many campers at this campground that night since it was the last stop before the restriction.

When we got there, even though it was early, it was filling up. There were only a few tent spaces. We found a really nice one down the way.

I have really enjoyed getting to camp early and having time to leisurely set up our campsite, and enjoy supper together.

Later, hikers started rolling in. There were no more spaces. People started setting up on the trail to the campsites. At least one person set up their tent on the steep hillside. It must have been at a 45 degree angle.

After we had gotten into our tents (because it was really starting to cool down), a man and his son started setting up their tent beside ours. This was the first time that Raid and I had our tents set up close enough together that we could talk to one another while we were in our tents. Not only were we talking to each other, but we were talking to the guy and his son. It was kind of weird because we had no idea what they looked looked like, or vice versa.

There had been such a wind on this day, and it only got worse. During the night, the wind was blowing furiously high up. I have never heard anything like that in my life! It was like the mighty rushing wind, and it was constant. It sounded like a huge waterfall, and it was constant…no ebbing or waning. It continued like that all night. I could feel the wind circulating through my tent, though it wasn’t too bad where we were at.
I hardly slept at all. First of all, my bladder was going overtime. I’d had a tea bag that the trail angel had given to us. Plus, it was COLD. I mean really, really cold…especially toward morning.

(I decided to try adding pics again and it worked, so I’m going to go back and add a few pics to my previous blog posts. You’ll have to go back to them to see them.)


Lance Creek to Neel’s Gap

(My battery ran out on my phone, so I was not able to get many pics.)

The wind was still blowing hard and it was freezing. I put my clothes in my sleeping quilt about an hour before I got up. 

I finally got out of my tent and started taking down camp. At one point, I turned around, and there were the man and his son who had arrived after we had gotten in our tents, and they were standing side by side with masks over their nose and mouths. I think they were trying to be funny. We talked a bit as I took down my camp. They were extremely nice. The teenage son was a Boy Scout, and was a really nice kid.

By the time we were ready to leave, my feet and hands were numb. Raid let me borrow her gloves. Mine were still wet from our first day. I had stuffed them in an outside pocket of my backpack and forgot about them. It must have taken a good 30 minutes to an hour to warm up.

This was a rough hiking day. We had several medium sized hills to climb and then the infamous Blood Mountain. There was a privy there when we almost reached the top. It seemed out of place. When we finally reached the top, there was a shelter there. I signed the register. The view from the top was absolutely gorgeous. There were quite a few hikers taking a break in the sun, enjoying the view. Raid and I decided to take a break and have our lunch there, too. It was finally starting to warm up.

Going down Blood Mountain was murder (no pun intended.) It was harder going down than it was going up it. We passed many hikers this day on the trail. Nearing the bottom of the trail, we passed a couple of ladies who were asking questions about what the trail was like up there. We talked to them for a while and somehow got on the topic of Feminine Urinary Devices. Raid and I enlightened them. Women out there need to know about these things! It makes life on the trail so much more easy.

We finally reached the famous Neel’s Gap. They offer free shakedowns there, and I took advantage of it. I’m sending a few things home. I bought an alcohol stove to replace my MSR Pocket Rocket.

Raid’s husband was there to pick us up. Raid had graciously offered to let me come home with her again. She still had a few days off work. I felt I needed to go to REI to get a ground cloth for my tent. It will allow me to set up the rain fly, and then set up the tent underneath in order to prevent rain from getting in. It will also protect the bottom of the tent, and hopefully , keep my tent floor dry next time it rains.

Raid shuttled me to REI and many other places to get things that will make my life on the trail easier. She will take me back to Neel’s Gap so that I can continue my journey.

I have been treated like royalty by this trail angel and her husband. I’ve never had such hospitality as they’ve shown me. I met her on the Internet, and now I feel like I have a friend for life. I have learned so much from her, and it definitely made my first days on the trail easier. I’m going to miss her so much! She is a true angel.

Mile:45.3 Neel’s Gap to Just Past Poplar Stamp Gap (13.6 miles)

 Raid and her husband took me back to the trail head at Neel’s Gap bright and early. We arrived at around 7:00-7:30 a.m. It was so hard to say goodbye to Her. We had become very close in a very short time. The trail has a way of doing that. I can’t tell you how very special people these trail angels are.
It had not been very cold when we left Raid’s house, but when I opened the car door to get out, the wind was fierce! The cold was biting. I had to put on my fleece jacket and gloves. Raid and her husband walked me to the trail head, we hugged, and said a quick goodbye.

It felt strange and kind of scary to be heading off down the trail by myself, but this is ultimately what I wanted. I wanted to prove that I can do this, make my own decisions and take care of myself.

I was up the trail a bit, and became worried I had taken a wrong turn. I went all the way back down to Mountain Crossings to double check the sign, and decided to go to the bathroom one more time. I asked a lady there about the direction of the trail, and she pointed in the direction I had come from. I headed up the trail again, but I still did not see a white blaze, indicating that I was on the AT. I had a cell signal, so I decided to call Raid. She confirmed that I was indeed on the trail, and that the first blaze would be quite a way down the trail. I also decided to call Bud one more time, since I had a signal.  

  I was feeling really insecure and lonely. It stayed cold for a really long time, but eventually I took off my fleece jacket. One thing about hiking is that you almost always warm up as long as you keep moving.

I climbed Levelland, Cowrock, Wildcat, and Poor Mountains. These mountains are so tough to climb, but you get to the top and all you want to do is say, ‘Thank you, Lord, for the beautiful things You’ve made!’

There were not as many people on the trail as there were when Raid and I were hiking together. I met Dozer, Cruiser and Catfish and Hotsauce, the Newlyweds. I would leapfrog with them for several days.

I also met a man called ‘Speed Bump’ (because he always slows people down.) He is a Trail Angel. He makes hiking sticks from trees on his land, then hikes the trail and gives them away to thru-hikers. He was distracted several times as we were talking and whipped up his binoculars so I asked him if he was a birdwatcher. I asked him about the ‘Whale’ and ‘Beethoven’ birds, but he recognized them more by sight than song, and I have yet to see either of these birds.

There were several tough climbs and my feet and legs were hurting. I had intended to stop at a designated campsite, but somehow I missed it. There was a beautiful spring cascading down the rocks, so I filtered water. I began to get very tired. I happened upon a site where people had camped before that was not listed in the guidebook. It had no water source, but since I had just stopped for water, I had plenty. It was a beautiful spot.

(My bear bag)

As I was setting up my tent, Rem and Taylor, a couple who were in their early 60’s or early 70’s passed by. They had a dog they were thru-hiking with. We talked for a bit and I learned they were from Maine, and were hiking home. I also learned that they only carried a pint of water for each of them and ‘guzzled’ water at each water source in order to keep their pack weight at 27 pounds. They hiked on. I would end up being the only person to tent at this spot.

I cooked supper on my new alcohol stove. I really like it a lot. I also got a Really small Snow Peak Cook pot, and the combination works really well together. Already, I’m beginning to understand the ‘lightweight’ mentality and giving up comforts or what you really want in an effort to capture the ever elusive light pack weight. I had gotten the MSR Pocket Rocket and large pot with fry pan lid in case I ever wanted to cook some eggs and bacon, or boil some eggs. Now I say,’LOL!’ Hain’t no way I’m going to take that time to cook that in the morning, nor am I going to pack that heavy food out to cook it! Not to mention the time involved. Who wants to do all that when you have to take down a tent every morning? All I can think about in the morning is hitting the trail so I can start generating some heat!

I missed Raid today. After I hung my bear bag, I got into my tent early feeling very lonely.