New Trail Angels Page

20 12 2008

Check out the new Trail Angels tab to see what is probably an incomplete list of all those who provided us magic along the way.  We love you all and can’t thank you enough!


We did it!!

19 12 2008
(top) Bookworm, One Gallon, Default, Beef, D-wreck, EKG, Flamebo; (bottom) Mountain Goat, Timber, Bearwalker [photo courtesy of Bookworm]

SOBOs on Springer: (top) Bookworm, One Gallon, Default, Beef, D-wreck, EKG, Flamebo; (bottom) Mountain Goat, Timber, Bearwalker [photo courtesy of Bookworm]

In case you hadn’t heard, the Vermont Mafia reached the summit of Springer Mountain in Georgia on Monday, December 15th, completing their southbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. That means we walked 2,176 miles over a period of five and a half months. And what an adventure it was…

I will apologize on behalf of all of us for being the worst team of bloggers ever – we have so many things to say that the task of a thorough update was often too daunting for our limited computer time. We do want to share our stories, though, and hopefully this blog will continue to fill with all the tales that never made it to print the first time around.

For now, you’ll have to be content to know that our journey has ended happily, and thanks to all those who contributed to the amazing mountaintop festivities on Springer! Once again, the magic of trail angels has been at the heart of what makes the AT experience all that it is. I’m still in shock that it’s over, but I feel SO blessed to have taken this little walk.

PHOTO UPDATE: Check our usual photo page for a few more Virginia Part 2 pictures and maybe additional captions if I ever get around to it. We ran out of space there, though, so the final album is here: Check it out!

Let it Snow, Let it Snow??!

23 11 2008

Hey friends,

It’s Default here checking in from our trail friend Doc’s house in Lenoir, NC.   That’s right, we’re in North Carolina now!!   It’s pretty exciting.   We now swing back and forth between Tennessee and North Carolina on a minute-by-minute basis, with one foot literally in each state.

The big news around here is (well, you guessed it):  SNOW.   Lots of it.   On the mountaintops there is at least a foot, and we have encountered thigh-to-waist high drifts.   It’s pretty crazy!   We have heard that it has not snowed this much here at this time of year in several decades.  It has also regularly been in the 0 to 10 degree range at night, and not above 30 during the day.  We have decided that 2008 is trying to become a year for the record books in terms of weather on the AT.

We had a scary day yesterday after a night spent in the shelter on top on Roan Mountain.   It’s over 6000 feet up there and it snowed all night, both outside and inside the shelter.    We were our own human snow machines, with the warmth and moisture from our breath going up to the tin roof, freezing, and snowing back down upon us.   We headed out into a near blizzard in our frozen shoes and didn’t make it more than 3 miles before we reached a road and realized we needed to get off the trail.   It was no longer safe for us to hike, especially since several of us were having some serious issues with freezing toes.

We got rescued by a family of complete strangers a few miles down the mountain road, people who we now consider great friends and the world’s best trail angels.   I’ll let one of my compadres tell yuns (that’s what they say down here) about them, but to sum it up, they saved our lives, and our toes!

Today we hiked a half day and then got picked up by Doc and headed to Boone to buy lots of waterproof shoes and new socks and gaiters.  Our toes are very thankful.

We’ve gotten a bit off schedule with the weather, but we’ll make the time up and should be in Hot Springs, North Carolina for a little Thanksgiving fiesta on Thursday.   Join us in praying for a heat wave- we are expecting more snow on Monday and Tuesday.

much love, and warm feet,


holla from the hollows

15 11 2008

Okay, so I was elected to write something “eloquent,” but instead I’m staring like a zombie at the computer screen.  It’s WAY past my bedtime.  Here’s the deal, no eloquence:

-Calendar and photos have been updated!  If you are planning on sending a package, keep checking the calendar as we adjust our town dates.  Our finish date is now officially fixed as December 15th!

-Today we finished Virginia.  We have less than 500 miles left!

-Default’s parents came and rescued us from the trail.  We are staying at a gorgeous cabin on a lake in Tennessee, eating amazing food, slack-packing, and chilling in the hot tub.  Needless to say, life is good, and we feel very, very loved.

-The end is in sight! And so is the end of my consciousness…

Headin’ down south to Roanoke

1 11 2008

Hello faithful blog readers!  This is Beef, reporting from Roanoke, VA- somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of the way. The Vermont Mafia is alive and well, currently asleep after eating copious amounts of amazing food at The Homeplace– the best restaurant on the AT.  We were met yesterday by Cousin Jim (another one of my NH cousins) at McAfee Knob, the incredibly photogenic ledge just north of Roanoke.  We enjoyed blueberry muffins and blueberry pie which he had baked, driven from NH and then hiked in.  Yes, some people love us that much.  He took us home to of one of his lifelong friends who happens to live just 15 miles from the trail.  The house is completely gorgeous and luxurious, complete with heated toilet seats!!  We even got to go through the haunted house in their garage that their son puts together.  Good thing we were holding hands.  We will use this as a slack-packing base for the next few days.  Ah the glories of being in the mafia…

So, that is where we are currently.  Now to sum up the last 500 miles…

The Shenendoahs were completely beautiful, just as everyone said they would be.  For us, they were also very social; it seemed we had visitors meeting us every other time we crossed Skyline drive.  Default’s brother, Musicman (SOBO ’07) joined us at Harper’s Ferry and we enjoyed his musical stylings and good company.  He taught us the SOBO ’07 theme-song “Wagon Wheel” from which the title of this post is taken.  Boo Boo, another ’07, had organized an ’07 SOBO reunion which we also got to be a part of- including s’mores, hot dogs roasted over an open fire and other wonders.  Boo Boo also met us on two other occasions to provide awesome trail magic.  During this stretch we felt like we were hiking in a pack of SOBOs.  There were eight of us (VT Mafia, D-Wreck, Cardshark, Honey and Duster) at the same shelter one night.  I think that is the most we’ve seen together since Maine.

After bidding farewell to the ’07 crowd we were joined by our Texan friends, Sam and Liv, Default’s housemates, who took us to visit delightful friends, Ryan and Janie, living in Harrisonburg, VA.  They were smart enough to take us directly to all-you-can-eat Ethiopian food.  WOW!  We loved hearing about Ryan’s graduate work in conflict reconciliation and visited their very awesome Mennonite church on the Eastern Mennonite University campus.  It was an especially well-timed break for me, as I was about half covered in poison ivy at this point.  Never have I appreciated a shower more!

We hit the trail as a group of six, joined by Liv and Anne.  Anne is Default’s friend who had a week off during her third year at medical school in Kansas.  It honestly felt like a party, hiking in a relatively big group through such a beautiful park with generally easy and very rewarding trails.  Having friends along was even more fun that I expected.  They were totally able to keep up with us and were full of that initial excitement, which kept our spirits high.  It was also fun to share our trail knowledge and culture with them.

We bid farewell to the Texans, Boo Boo and Shenendoah National Park at a totally awesome restaurant called The Purple Foot in Waynesboro, VA.  Anne kept on trekking with us and put in some long, tough days over The Priest, including a 22-mile day.  We were very impressed!  They didn’t nickname her “hoss” at Philmont for nothing.

Our next stop was Buena Vista, which for all its other charms, will forever be remembered as the place where we ate 1300 french fries.  If you are curious, that is 16 biggie fries at Burger King, which created something of a stir in this small town and even attracted an unsolicited donation to our cause!  I admit the idea was mine, building off our tradition of marking each 100-mile increment with a picture and our tendency to constantly think and talk about food.  The 1300 fries were not all that difficult to consume between six people (VT Mafia plus Anne and D-Wreck) although there is some debate over whether this challenge was more or less difficult than the half-gallon of ice cream.  I certainly preferred the fries myself.

Leaving Buena Vista and Anne, we headed into a surprisingly difficult and cold section of trail.  We found ourselves exhuasted after just 18-mile days and the freezing winds and snow didn’t help.  We had our first “breakfast in bed”, meaning cooking and eating breakfast while still in our sleeping bags.  This weather has been unseasonably cold, but it has provided us with a preview of what we should expect later on down the trail and spurred those of us without winter bags to get those sent. 

D-Wreck, aka the Mayor of Manville, once again fell into step with the Mafia and we have begun a new read-aloud book together, Twilight.  It is a true gem of literature, well, at least of the teenage vampire romance genre.  We are all, embarrassingly enough, hooked on it.  What can I say?  We were also excited to meet and briefly hike with Foxtrot, an accomplished hiker, or as he calls himself “complete hiker trash”  who has thru-hiked the AT twice as well as the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and spent the last eight summers in the Brooks Range in Alaska.  His fond descriptions of the PCT encouraged some of us to add it to our “to-do lists”.  D-Wreck has certainly got PCT fever and is already thinking seriously about an ’09 hike.  I am also very intrigued, but think I might have to take a year off or so before doing it.  We’ll see.

We stopped in for a quick resupply and overnight in Daleville, VA.  We got our fill our political analysis and all-you-can-eat breakfast and stayed up late to watch Obama on the Jon Stewart show and then talk politics (again!).  We spent the next night in a mice-infested shelter.  It was the first time I actually saw a mouse in a shelter, although we’ve seen evidence of them earlier.  Luckily the handy mouse-deflecting hanging devices (string with an upside-down can rigged up), which are common to all shelters, work remarkably well at protecting food from hungry rodents. 

Well, Cousin Jim is now awake here and starting to whip up some blueberry pancakes and sausage.  He bought us twelve quarts of frozen berries along with the various baked goods, so we will be rich in anti-oxidants by the time we leave here.  Mmmmm.  Much love!

3 Days 3 Challenges

11 10 2008

A quick shout out from Renee’s apartment in DC whom we’re visiting while our packs await in Harper’s Ferry, WV.

We are here after accomplishing some traditional hiker “challenges”

1. The Dollar Menu Challenge – The goal: to eat every item on the McDonalds dollar menu. These nine items include: a double cheeseburger, a chicken crisp burger, small fry, small soda, two apple pies, yogurt parfait, icecream sundae, apple dippers, and a side salad. The result: Flamebo kicked our butts because she’s a wicked fast eater. In a close second was D-Wreck, our hiker buddy, then EKG with the bronze. Beef and Default ate it all, but at their own paces.

2. Quad State Challenge = The goal: to hike into four states in one day: Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia. We began our journey at 12:45 AM in our lovely Village People costumes (EKG – cowboy, Default – hippie, Beef – native american, Flamebo – construction worker, D-Wreck – Motorcycle enthusiast), and hiked through the dark and night into dawn and through Maryland. 44 miles brought us to our destination, (no thanks to any state sign markers, but we’re trusting our guidebook). We successfully arrived on top of the hill where the WV-VA border supposedly lies at 8 pm on Thursday, Oct 9. Our feet were burning, our bodies and brains sleep deprived and busted, but our spirits bright and encouraged at the accomplishment.

3. The Half Gallon Challenge: The goal = to eat a complete half gallon of icecream by yourself. We succeeded yesterday in Harpers Ferry. D-Wreck killed us all in 24 minutes. Flamebo came in second with 29 min, then EKG with 30, then later Beef made it around 34 min, and Default, thankfully, only ate a little around a pint, due to semi-lactose intolerance.

And now, Default’s brother, MusicMan has arrived to pick us up and we need to go. Apologies for the brevity and run on sentence nature of this update, but it’s better than nothing. We’re all healthy and happy and making good miles each day. Next stop should be this coming Saturday in Harrisonburg, VA staying with some of Default’s friends.

BYE and love to all!


Pictures Updated

30 09 2008

check it out: