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.

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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)

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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.

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.

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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!

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

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.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Guess I’m learning to live in the moment!

Pushing through the tough parts

So I had this whole post about how much I hate shelters. And I do, they are claustrophobic, dark, creepy and then there’s the mice. I’ve been avoiding them, and hoping the Ridge Runners didn’t catch me tenting.

See yesterday was a really long day. It started with me encountering 2 wild boar! I thought they were bears at first till it turned and growled in my direction. I back peddled up the hill so fast ( with a little motivation I can move uphill pretty fast). It kind of had me jumping for the rest of the day. Even jumped when I saw a turkey. After a couple of long climbs in the rain, I was pretty bummed to stay in a shelter. Everyone at the shelter was super nice and a father and son even got me water and hung my bear bag. I was still grumpy.

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In the morning I grab my pack headed out in a huff. When I got to the top of Clingmans Dome it was all fogged in, no view. I wanted to be mad but I didn’t have the energy so I just sat there under the dripping trees. That’s when it hit me, even without a “view” it was so quiet and peaceful…..and perfect. Then why so grumpy?

Lately when people asked me about the PCT I would say how great it was. I guess I’ve kind of been waiting for this to be that. But that’s just silly. The AT is a whole different adventure. The shelters, the climbing, even the scary giant boars are all part of the journey. But this just seems tougher right now.

When I finally hiked down out of the fog I got some great trail magic from a local church group. It really made me feel better. Hopefully after a shower I’ll be able to look at everything differently.

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.

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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!

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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.

Purple Rain

It’s raining, but more on that later…. So made it to Franklin, North Carolina 109 miles on the trail. Stayed at the Muskrat shelter with a fun group Plodding Bison (from Ohio) & Dig Deep (from New Orleans) two great ladies. Another lady told me I was the only person of color shes ever seen on the trail, she was from Jackson, MS…gotta love the south, we had a lovely conversation over dinner.  Met a guy Endless he was on the PCT last year too, he has a great blog, check it out here! He is really moving, wish I could keep up.

With rain in the forecast I set out for my biggest day yet 25 miles, it was a really good hike with a rock scramble up to a fire tower and then it was downhill coast. I made it to the shelter without getting wet but then it poured all night.. In the morning five of us tried hitching to town in the rain. Luckily after an hour a free shuttle came by. Now I’m in town drying out, listening to the sad news about Prince.

Will soon be entering the Smokey Mountains. Don’t really have a resupply plan for that yet, guess I’ll just keep winging it. I’m hoping to get through there in about 5 days. But then ya never know what’s ahead, right?

****Special Note***
I’m dedicating the next 100 miles to my nephew, Jordan Walker Polk! He recently got a heart transplant and is fighting his way back to 100%! Jordan you are in my heart & thoughts every step. I love you, stay strong.

The climb

“There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waitin’ on the other side
It’s the climb”

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What have I been doing? Climbing mountains. The Georgia mountains are no joke. You’re always going up out here unless you’re going down to get water and then you get your water and come back up. Even though the climbs are tough it is very beautiful. It’s warming up  and the flowers are sprouting! But tomorrow I get to head into North Carolina! One state down 13 more to go! Gonna have to step up my mileage if I’m going to make it to Trail Days!

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