The epic journey of a sibling pair as they trek 2,181 miles from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachia Trail.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

North Carolina!

Welcome to North Carolina!!  

One state down, thirteen to go!  Hansel and Gretel crossed their first state boarder today as well as reached the 100 mile mark!  From Rock Gap Shelter they reported their tummies have been struggling a bit.  Clearly, their diets have been quite different.  They aren't sure if it has been the food or the water or perhaps even the excessive exercise that is behind their discomfort, but they are working through it as best they can.  

Today was their longest day as they packed in 19 miles!  Gretel's blisters are still bugging her a little, though she is figuring out how to tend to them.  She got some special blister bandaids which helped a little, but she has found the real secret is to then put duct tape on top of the bandaids!  I guess duct tape really DOES fix everything! 

Until next time, happy trails!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Blueberry Patch

The day following Deep Gap Shelter, Hansel and Gretel awoke early and hiked 3 miles to a road crossing. Here, they hopped on a shuttle that brought them to a hostel called The Blueberry Patch.  This sweet and wonderful place had two houses.  The second house is where the hikers stayed.  THere was a large table, a stove, and three bunks (one was as a double bunk bed with double beds, and two were triple bunks with single beds).  Each was made from thick wooden logs.  Also in the shelter was a collection of food that people had left and was free to anyone who wished to take it.  There was still another box with free gear that people had left behind!

The man running the hostel washed Hansel and Gretel's laundry and they even were able to take a shower!   It is quite possible that this was their first shower since starting the hike a little over a week ago.  Yikes!

The Blueberry Patch sat on a huge piece of property.  The backyard was equipped with large garden in addition to four goats and two mules!

After hanging their wet clothing out to dry, Hansel and Gretel heading into town where they proceeded they found an all-you-can-eat buffet.  As it turned out, neither one of them was able to actually eat very much food.  It seems that after a week on the trail, consuming only small portions of food at a time, they can not hold nearly as much food as they could before starting.  The problem they encountered was that they ate insanely fast!  They filled their plates (fried chicken, creamed corn, sweet potatoes, etc.) and in less than 10 minutes, everything was gone!  By the way, Gretel is still a vegetarian, getting her protein through beans and peanuts and such.  Needless to say, our two favorite hikers were not feeling so stellar after that meal!

Following their feeding frenzy, a trip to Ingles Grocery Store ensued.  Ingles was chock full of great stuff!  Consequently, Hansel and Gretel's packs weighed quite a bit upon leaving the store.

That evening, our favorite hikers slept soundly in comfortable beds; a real treat after a week of sleeping on the hard ground!  The following morning, they went to church with people running the hostel.  It was a Southern Baptist church and it happened to be youth day, so there was plenty of singing to be done!  They all returned to an amazing breakfast or pancakes with blueberry syrup (homemade at the Blueberry Patch, naturally), sausage, cheese biscuits, eggs, orange juice, coffee.  It was excellent!  Then, Hansel and Gretel were driven back to the cross road where they emerged from the woods they day before and continued on their way.

That's all for now.  Until next time, happy trails!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rainy Day Addendum

After posting about Hansel and Gretel's rainy day, I received some additional stories about their experience in Deep Gap Shelter that simply can not be left out.  Therefore, let us return to March 27th.

Deep Gap was a fairly basic shelter.  Three walls.  Roof.  Though the loft made it slightly unique.  This is where Hansel and Gretel draped all of their wet clothing after their full day of torrential down-pour.  They were also able to sleep up in the loft which meant they did not have to pitch their tent somewhere on the ground outside.  That night, the shelter ended up sleeping 9 people all together.  This is where the stories begin.

At some point after Handel and Gretel arrived, they were joined by two rather stinky hikers.  It is certainly not uncommon to have a bit of an odor after hiking a few days on the trail, not showering regularly, and living in the same set of clothes for days on end.  They just isn't enough room in your pack for extra clothing, and as you might imagine, showers stalls are hard to come by in the middle of the woods.  Still, these hikers were a few notches beyond the expected stink.  Perhaps the rain was sort of pulling the ripeness out of them.  We can not be sure.

As night fell and bed time arrived a few more surprises seemed to scurry their way into the shelter.  It seems some woodland friends decided to join the 9 hikers and the squeaking and pitter-pattering of little mice kept Gretel tucked tight in her sleeping bag, worried that one might decide to join her.  One mouse actually did hop right on top of her sleeping bag in the middle of the night!  Fortunately, he hopped right off rather than sticking around to snuggle.

As if the mouse slumber party wasn't enough to keep Hansel and Gretel tossing and turning, one of their fellow snoozers, Red Fred, started producing the most epic snore ever experience by human ears!  Hansel reports:

"Oh my gosh!  Oh my goodness!!  I don't know how this guy made the sounds that he made!"

Around 10:30, Hansel and Gretel both were startled awake and said to each other, "Oh my gosh.  What the heck IS that?  How is he DOING that?"  Red Fred's snoring was constant and it reverberated the whole shelter!  All night long this big guy made sounds that, even when Hans and Gretel tried to breath their very hardest, they could not even come close to making.  At one point in the night, another hiker that was sleeping next to Red Fred gave up on trying to sleep, turned on his flashlight, and starting reading a book.

Other than the epic snoring and mice visitors, Hansel and Gretel reported the shelter was quite nice and it was great to be able to sleep out of the rain.

Happy trails!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Thank You!

To all of you who have been following Hansel and Gretel on their journey so far and who have been leaving kind words of encouragement and support, I would just like to say "Thank You!"  I have been passing along all of your wonderful comments to the hikers and they are always so excited when they hear that one of their friends is keeping track of them!

I also would like to recognize all of those who have made a donation to the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) to support Hansel and Gretel's efforts.  So far, you have helped them raise $1,370!  That is more than 10% of their goal ($10,000) and they are only a week into their trek!  That is wonderful! Thank you all so much for your generosity!  We all really appreciate it!  If anyone would like to donate, there is a link on the right side of the page under the tab that says "Help Our Cause."  Please feel free to visit it any time even if you just want to check it out and leave a message.

Here are a few pictures to accompany this post:

 A delicious concoction of condensed peanut butter and powered whole milk.  Yum!

Camp for the night. 

Gretel mixing together some Gatorade.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rainy Deep Gap Shelter

After a dreary hike through their first day of rain, Hansel and Gretel arrived at Deep Gap Shelter around 1:30pm.  In the past seven days, they have hiked 64 miles from the top of Springer Mountain!  Although they were a bit soggy, they were right on track for time.  They spent the rest of the day and night drying out, clothes and socks draped over rafters in the shelter.  Hopefully Gretel's blisters didn't suffer too badly from tromping around in wet boots.  

Tomorrow will be what hikers call a "nero day."  They have only to hike 3.5 miles into the next town.  Since they have been averaging closer to 10 miles per day, a mere 3.5 is "not quite zero."  Hence "nero."  At least they will be looking forward to a good meal in town and a real bed to sleep on!

Until next time, happy trails!

Clothes hanging out to dry.

Gretel consulting the book.

Gretel peaking out.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Three cheers for Gretel's* new boots!!

                 Hip Hip


                                     Hip Hi...

Ok, we don't really need to go through the whole thing.  But we can be very excited that Gretel can now hike in comfort!  Apparently her boots were a size too small and she ended up getting some hearty blisters on her toes and heals.  Fortunately, the last time Hansel and Gretel were in civilization, they stopped at an outdoor outfitters that happened to carry Gretel's boots.  She mailed back the old small ones which our parents will hopefully be able to exchange for another of the same pair only in the correct size.  It is important to have a pair of back-up boots ready and waiting incase the current pair need to be replaced.  Yay boots!

Happy trails!

*Hansel and Gretel= Jarrod and Becca's trail names.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pleasant Lodging, Friends, and Lessons Learned

Lodged between two hills, Hansel and Gretel* are spending the night at Low Gap.  Hansel assured me it was an "awesome shelter" because it is really long and spread out and there is a creek that runs down the middle of it.  There are plenty of fallen trees which make for terrific sitting logs.  Plus, there are about 30 other tents set up there!  They had some difficulty finding a really flat spot since the camp is on a slope between the two hills, but they will likely get a good night's sleep after 4 solid days of hiking.

Last night the sibs spent the night in style at Neels Gap.  They actually rented a cabin with 3 other guys, Whoop!, Bat (our legally blind friend from the other evening), and Badger.  It was only $60 for all five of them and once they all were settled in, they feasted on frozen pizza and plenty of pasta that Badger was trying to get rid of!  So far Gretel has been able to stick to her vegetarian diet.

A lesson was learned the next morning, though fortunately not at the expense of Hansel and Gretel's food.  A bear incident occurred during the night and some fellow hikers had their packs rummaged through.  Thus, the importance of bear bags and hanging packs high in trees has been emphasized.  Luckily, Hansel and Gretel's food was all safely stored in their deluxe $60 cabin.

The other reason Neels Gap was a great stop, is because it was a place of purging.  Hansel and Gretel dumped a full 10 pounds of weight which means Hansel is now carrying a 40 lb pack and Gretel is carting 35 lbs.

There is some sad news to report.  Bat sprained his ankle pretty badly two days ago.  It didn't take long for some pretty purples and blues to shine through and he has decided to leave the trail for a while.  There was talk of meeting up again in North Carolina.  In the mean time, we will send Bat some healing thoughts and wish him a speedy recovery!

If we flip back in time one more night, the shelter on the top of Blood Mountain was quite lovely.  Hansel seemed to think it might be the first shelter ever built on the Appalachian Trail.  At the very least, it's a rather old stone structure.

So that is the news from the most recent report.  Pictures have been posted on Flickr and will continue to be posted.  Here is the link but it will also be available on the right side of the page under "Links we think are important."

Until next time, happy trails!

*Hansel and Gretel= Jarrod and Becca's new trail names for those of you who have not yet read the previous post.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Trail Names!

Ladies and Gentlemen!

                The moment you have all been waiting for...

                                                            At long last...

The trail names of the Schlenker Siblings will be revealed!!


      The One (well two)...

              The Only (well technically they were in a fair tale once)...

                 Hansel and Gretel!!!!

Like any true thru-hiking pair, the proper tail names must be given by another hiker.  Thus, the siblings new identities have been provided.  From now on, this blog shall unravel the adventures through the woods of Hansel and Gretel!

Happy trails!

The Grand Beginning!

On Sunday, Jarrod and Becca began their ascent up Springer Mountain.  A steep 4 mile hike to the top that has been enough to deter many a hiker from continuing on to hike the 2,000 plus miles of the Appalachian Trail.  Luckily, Jarrod and Becca were far from scared off and continued another 8 miles until they reached their first stopping point.  It's only the beginning and they have already met a handful of interesting people, all with unique stories and missions, all with the same passion for the great outdoors.   Becca described this new society of backpackers that they were discovering as she and Jarrod made some hot chocolate.  They had just eaten their last packet of freeze-dried magic: vegetarian lasagna which they described as "awesome Spaghetti-O's" and blueberry cobbler for dessert.  It's amazing how the "just add water" meal-in-a-bag tastes positively gourmet out in the woods, but more like something you might consider feeding your dog any other time.  

Jarrod and Becca were sharing their shelter with one of their first thru-hiking friends.  "The Bat" is his trail name which is appropriate considering he is legally blind!  They will most likely end up at the same shelter with him tomorrow as well.  

They report that tomorrow should be an easy day.  Only 7.3-ish miles over Blood Mountain.  Then one more day before they will be replenishing their food supply.  Already they have determined they came with more than enough gear and intend to mail back a pot, two bowls, a spatula, and so extra clothing items.  

Their starting pack weights with water included were:

Jarrod- 44 lbs
Becca- 38 lbs

We'll see how they weigh in once they have shed a few extra pounds!  

Until next time, happy trails!

Blood Mountain Shelter.  Highest peak in GA!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Final Count Down!

Time to ship out!  Jarrod and Becca will be hopping on a plane with our parents and heading down to Georgia so that they can hit the Appalachian Trail on March 21st, 2011!  (That is 3-21-11.  Easy enough to remember, huh?)  Their bags are packed and their coarse is set.  I have a list of all their mail drop spots from Georgia to Maine and when they expect to hit those sites.  If anyone is interested in sending them some love via snail mail (which will probably have to be overnighted to the mail drop), I would be happy to share those addresses and dates.

Additionally, we have created a special email account just for the hike.  This can be used to connect with Jarrod, Becca, and me on all things hike-related.  That email is  

Here are a few pictures of Jarrod and Becca's final days in civilization!

                                                          Final bites of "real" food!

                        Loading up in the hotel room.  Last time in a real bed for the next 4 months!

                                                     Becca's practice run to set up the tent.

                                   There were some difficulties in lighting the Pocket Rocket stove...
                but I'm sure Jarrod will have all the kinks worked out by the time they are on the trail.

                                                              Becca loads her pack!

       Dad, Becca, Jarrod, and Mom together once more before the kids turn into mountain children!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spreading the Word

As the final days at home in Cranford NJ dwindle away, Jarrod and Becca are making every last effort to spread word about their adventure and about their goals to raise $10,000 for multiple sclerosis (MS).  Countless emails have been sent to friends, family, school mates, colleagues, and potentially interested acquaintances.  Both Seton Hall Prep School (Jarrod's high school) and Brown University (Jarrod's college) have kindly posted information about the adventure on their web pages!  

Jarrod and Becca have also sent several days meandering through the streets of town, in and out of public buildings, down the aisle of our very own church on a Sunday morning, through the line at the frozen yogurt shop, and on the treadmills at the gym wearing their 35 pound packs and dressed for the trail.  They figured no one would miss them if they were decked out in their complete backpacking ensamble.  They chatted with anyone one who expressed an interest and distributed slips of paper with links to the MS donation page and to this very blog. 

Wednesday afternoon was their excursion to the gym which is a few miles away from our house.  They loaded their packs with everything except food and set out at about 3:30pm.   Each packed weighed about 28 pounds.  Once their food is added, they are expecting their packs to weigh between 35 and 40 lbs, which is exactly what they were shooting for.  

Feeling good, they walked all the way into the center of town.  As they were going, some awesome guy on a bike named Jim yells out to them and asks, “Where you guys goin’?”  

So they yelled back, “To the Appalachian Trail!”

After a short chat, they continued to hike over to Style Street, the place our entire family has been going to get our hair cut since 1991.  Mr. J's, the best sandwich shop in town, was the next stop.  They talked with the owner for a bit who promises to hook them up with some sloppy joe sandwiches before they leave for the trail.  For anyone not from New Jersey, a "sloppy joe" is a three layered sandwich with meat, swiss, coleslaw, and dressing between rye bread.  This is definitely NOT the ground beef mess that comes on a hamberger bun.  Oh no!  And you better believe Jarrod and Becca will be stopping by Mr. J's once more for that oh-so-delicious sandwich!  

Once Jarrod and Becca made it to Gold Metal Fitness, they spent a few minutes speaking with owner Gary Patti. Shortly after, they hopped on the treadmill, walking at a 20-minute mile pace on a mild incline.  They found out that they would likely be burning about 100 calories for every mile they walked.  If we do a little math, we can conclude that if they hike 20 miles a day (which is their goal), they will be burning 2,000 calories per day!  This means that in order to sustain their energy, they are going to have to eat about 4,000 calories per day!  Talk about a diet plan!  Yikes!  

All of the people who saw them in the gym were very excited to hear about their upcoming journey and many offered suggestions and little pearls of wisdom to help them as they hike.  There were even suggestions of packing a shot gun and a machete!  

That's all for now!  Happy trails!  

ps. Jarrod and Becca have sent me more pictures than I can fit into this blog so I will attach a link to a separate flickr account where you can see all of their pictures as they send them to me.  The link can also be found on the right side of the page under "Links we think are important."