A change is gonna come

Hey everyone!! I know it has been awhile since my last post. I finally got back home to California and needed to get a job ASAP. I have a very long to do list, car registration, place to live, find 2nd job and still maintain a social life. Don’t even get me started on the CDT to do list, so-many-details. So I’ve been busy with life.

I have written a couple of posts, they are hanging out in drafts….I keep changing my mind, I’m wishy washy like that. I’ve been wrestling with the idea of writing a post on race & diversity. I just don’t know, one must choose their words carefully when dealing with said topic. That and everyone is hypersensitive right now. People have asked about being a solo black female on the trail. With almost 4000 miles of hiking under my shoes, I have to say race has not been an issue.

My whole life I’ve participated in activities that were mostly white. That’s just my life. From hockey cheer-leading (yes we cheered on the ice, I get that question so often)to skiing to road biking. I’ve never let participants race determine if I was gonna give something a try or deter me.

Of course I’d love for more African Americans to experience the joys of being in nature. It’s good for both mental and physical health…and just plain fun. I’d also love to see more representation in ads and magazines. But until that happens. Make A Plan and go for it! (I’m talking to you people of color) Every camp out doesn’t have to be a epic adventure, maybe just an over night. Represent! Take a buddy with you. Please don’t wait until you see someone who looks like you before decide to go. Just go. You can do it. African American clothing designers, how about some hiking gear! I enjoy answering backpacking/hiking/camping questions, lay them on me.  I’ve had this blog since what, 2014  and still people are like ‘I couldn’t find any African American hikers’. I was inspired to thru hike by just reading some blogs by some tough ladies who tackled many a trails. They were all white btw.

On the PCT I hiked with some great…. people (yes mostly white people). We hiked and talked about our families, hopes, dreams and silly things. We all want the same things, but most importantly we talked, that’s where it starts. See when it comes to race on the trail…..let me put it this way. When you are cold, got miles to go, scared, and trying not to slide off the side of a snowy mountain; your trail buddies skin color isn’t really important. You just make it happen….together.

 

Where’s my motivation

For those of you keeping track….I’m now in Massachusetts! If there was a sign for CT to MA I missed it, guess I was enjoying the scenery and sweating. Man is it toasty, making the green tunnel (the trail is pretty much always under tree cover) nice. But the bugs have kicked it up a notch. Not a fan of insect repellent but the itching is maddening.

image

Seriously, I’m getting to the point in the trail where i just want to hurry up and be done. Some days i feel like I’m just trudging through the woods, trying to get to the next camp site. Just trying to stay motivated and positive becomes work. I forgot how much your feet hurt at this point. (Forgive me feet) Did have a great night hangin with the boys last night. Being around other hikers certainly helps morale. I’ve been hiking daily alone. Somehow my slower pace has put me in between the packs. Climbing up then having to pick my way slowly down steep jagged rocks is taxing. (Ankle concerns make me move more cautiously)

image

With only about 600+ miles to go things are gonna start getting more challenging. Guess it’s time to dig deep. A thru hike is never all rainbows and butterflies, I know that. However being dirty, tired, in pain and stuck in your own head for hours is well draining. And yes I’m a tad bit home sick, which is unusual for me.

Must keep focused on the light (or mountain) at the end of the tunnel. One step, one mile, one day at a time. It’s all part of the experience. I’m coming Kathadin….albeit slowly, with all the gusto I can muster.

Trail challenges

The last couple of days have been, well, great! The sun has been shining and the Pennsylvania rocks haven’t been that bad (knock on wood). Plus got trail magic …..Gatorade floating in a stream! Great for a hot hike day!

image
Trail magic

Made it to the midpoint, well not my midpoint but still the trail halfway. Still momentus with my PCT mileage and AT miles I have hike over 3000 miles! Woohoo, yeah me.

image
Mid point

At this point in Pine Grove Furnace there is a half gallon ice cream eating challenge. Um, yea I passed on that. But these guys did not!

image

There is also a challenge out on the trail called the “four state challenge” and it consists of crossing from Virginia into West Virginia, West Virginia into Maryland, then Maryland into Pennsylvania within twenty-four hours. I passed on that too due to crappy weather. Oh well I’ll have to come up with my own challenge!

Shout out

When I went to take the Wilderness Basics Course two years ago my friend Pat told me I’d meet some great hiking friends. He was so right. I met Betsy and Liz. They have been both supportive and encouraging as I’ve tackled both the PCT & AT. Liz snapped me up for dinner/sleepover and kept me from sleeping in the rain. Thanks Liz for everything …..hope to see you in New Hampshire!

liz

Thanks to Stan the realtor who hauled me and two other hikers around Waynesboro. He was super kind to drive us to the store, our motel, then back to the trail the next morning!

image

Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall 

“Through the rainstorm came sanctuary
And I felt my spirit fly”

Spent two days traveling back to the trail, it was sunshine and blue skies. The day I stepped on the trail rain! Seriously I am still over the rain. I know I should stop complaining about it, but that’s not going to happen. I left Harper’s Ferry and was wet for 2 days. It’s not that your just wet, but there are all these really slippery rocks. So of course I had to go and fall. Busted my knee open. Not to worry I have a first aid kit, with a needle. I  stiched that right up! Kidding! It’s all good.

So I hiked with two very fast young guys, Scooby and Renaissance. Even though I couldn’t keep up for long i loved their enthusiasm for the trail. It was their first thru hike and they were enjoying it.

Got busted singing yesterday. When I haven’t seen anyone for miles I crank up my tunes and sing! I guy came up behind me out of nowhere and says ‘coming round ya, great singing’! Too funny..by the way I was singing Seal’s Love’s Divine….with feeling.

Next rain day I hiked a bit with an older guy Kans…from Erwin, TN! We walked an extra mile in the pouring rain for….batteries, I think we were rain delirious. Luckily a local offered us a ride back to the trailhead. She didn’t even mind our dirty, wet packs on her nice seat covers.

image
Ensign Cowell Shelter

Stayed in the Ensign Shelter, you can order pizza there! There was a lively bunch of hikers there. One older dude has been ‘on the trail’ for six years. Boy, did he have some stories, and a cool AT poem he wrote. When I went to sleep he was still talking.
Then……….
There was SUN!!
At least until 4pm……..when it started raining again. Doh!
Here’s me at High Rock, my moment in the sun!

image

Did I mention I made it to Pennsylvania!!?? I did.

Breakerfall

A break is when you stop doing whatever you’re doing and take just a little bit of time for yourself to relax.

Yes, It’s been a bit since my last post, because I’ve been off trail.

The fun fearless chardonnay was last seen in Erwin, TN; in dire need of a mental health break. Physically I’ve been great, the usual aches and why does that hurt, but good. Mentally the AT had been wearing me down. I needed a couple days to regain my focus. So I popped home to Michigan.

My niece was graduating and my nephew is starting rehab for his new heart, plus nothing like a little crazy time with family to make you long for the simplicity of the woods.

So after a short break I’m BACK ON TRAIL!! For the first time I’m trying a flip/flop, this should be interesting! Starting in Harper’s Ferry headed north….then I’ll flip back and head south.

Yes, the logistics are a little tricky and no I haven’t got a solid plan. But it’s an adventure right?!

I can’t thank everyone enough for your continued support,  encouraging words and comments. I’ve read about “unplugging” from social media and the like while in the trail. But I love/need to stay connected to my family, friends, and community! Hearing about everyone’s activities, adventures, and life stuff is great and a partial key to my sanity!

Anyway, having had enough of Michigan May snow (yea that happened) and mom has fattened me up. So I got miles to cover and Kathadin is waiting.

****Shout out to Marie “J-walker” and Tom “10-k” with Hiker Shuttles for getting me where I needed to go. Thanks for the kind words and trail advice.

Hot Springing it to Erwin, TN

Hiked through an area that was recently closed due to fire. It’s like a sad walk through a camp fire.

image

The weather turned colder as the day continued. By the time I got near the shelter, camp sites were few and rain had begun. Thanks to my tent and my super sleeping bag I was dry and warm all night. But the morning pack up was, well so cold. Once I started hiking I was warm, but I didn’t dare stop for long.

This was the just the beginning of multiple chilly days. Glad I had stove for some morning tea.

On my second cold day out it started snowing just after this sign:

image

I took the exposed ridge route even though with the fog and snow there would be no view. But I came upon something else on that ridge. Just at the top of the rock scramble I met up with Daddy Long Leggs. He asked if I’d snap his pic with this pair of boots. Wait! What? It was the boots I had heard about Paul’s boots.

image

What a great community to be apart of! That sure did make my chilly day!

Trail connections

So today I was already to pack up and hit the trail. But my new English friend Allister told me I needed chill and enjoy the experience more. He really does and convinced me I should. (Besides i was not to excited about hiking in the rain, again.) So I stayed another day in Hot Springs much to my enjoyment. I spent the afternoon and the evening getting to know my fellow hikers. Sometimes i get so focused on the miles I forget to socialize, sad but true.

The thing about thru-hiking is you get to meet people that you typically wouldn’t. People from other states, all around the world, from different walks of life. We are all on the same trail but all on different journeys, just as in life. (Basically, we’re all crazy enough to think we should walk to Maine) However, once connections are made it’s hard to part ways when you know you may never see each other again.

What I’ve come to learn is that each person that enters our lives brings something special, embrace it, no matter how big or how small. From this point on many people will be leaving the trail for many reasons, speeding up, slowin down. My wish is for everyone in our hodgepodge group is for everyone to get as far as they need to or want to. I know it’s cliche, but yeah HYOH!

image

Thank you ( Kid,  Pops, Chicken Little, Heather, Orange Crush, Alistair, Mosey, Jersey Boy,  Nilla, Captain, Lee, Aaron, the Ambercrombie & Fitch models) for being a part of my journey. Happy trails, stay safe, till we meet again.

image

Trail therapy

You really can’t be out here and not learn some stuff. Like it or not the trail is gonna school you. Trail decided I was gonna slow down and enjoy in moment. So what you don’t like shelters, what are you gonna do quit? Nope.

I kept going and my last days in the national park were good ones, once I surrendered to it. Back on the trail I was cruising along and ran right into a ……bear. Not one that ran away either. He just kept walking up the trail towards me. So I kept backing up giving him space. I kept backing up til I ran into the father and son I talked about before (trail names Kid, and I named the dad Leo becuz he did not fear the bear). So as the bear kept approaching Leo whips out his phone for pics and his so starts taking video. So there we were bear, Leo, Kid, then me. No lie I thought, I only have to out run one you if the bear turns on us. Ha!! The bear finally left the trail an we zipped on by to the shelter.

The Ridge runner at the shelter told us the no fear bear was not good. I have to say my last night in the shelter was a good one. There was a good crowd.

image
Shelter

Met an English chap (Allister aka BBC) who was a hoot to chat with. He is happily carrying a 48 pound pack! It’s full of Mtn house meals, coffee in a tin, a kindle, cigars and usually Scotch. He likes a cocktail and a cigar when he gets to camp! While I sometimes pack out chardonnay, he says prefers red wine as it pairs well with the Mtn house meals! Luv it!

Last trail day in the Smokey’s was a lovely down hill stretch, my fav! Made it to Standing Bear farm just as the thunder and rain started! Yes I was soaked but I got the last bunk!

image

Guess I’m learning to live in the moment!

Makin miles & a name

Fontana Dam, gateway to the Smokey Mountains. I’ve increased my mileage so I should make it through the Smokeys in about 3 days, if the weather cooperates!

Seems I’ve already made a name for myself. People keep going “oh, your chardonnay, we heard about you.” I guess being the only black girl around for miles and pushing 20+ miles gets you noticed and talked about. Also the fact I’ve done the PCT too.

A guy called me fast, ha!! Not even, I’m totally slow crawlin up these hills. I do scrambled down pretty quickly to make up time. But I’m only doing 20+ days because I hike ALL day.

image

I had a fun time at the NOC, watched some kayaking and had some beers with other hikers. I didn’t want to stay in the bunkhouse (tight budget), so I hiked out all tipsy! Made the climb outta there interesting. By 9pm I still wasn’t at the shelter. So I just camped at the first spot I could find. Turns out I was only like 2 miles away! But I woke to a beautiful sunrise!

image

Shout out to Eagle!  He is 69 and thru hiked the AT in 2012. He is back on the trail section hiking Springer to Hot Springs, NC.