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

Friday, April 29, 2011

Alive and Well

Hansel and Gretel requested a blog post just to assure everyone that they are still alive after the terrible storms and tornadoes that have been ripping through the country.  They made it through Pearisburg, VA putting them at the 625 mile mark.  The storms actually did not affect them very much.  There was one evening with some rather incredible lightening.  The way Hansel described it, it sounded more like they were at a night club than spending a night in the woods.  The lightening was flashing every 2 seconds for about 15 minutes without cease, as if it was a strobe light.  Interestingly enough, there was no thunder to be heard.  Only the intense flashes.  It was a bazaar storm.

Last night Hansel and Gretel stayed at a hostel called The Woods Hole, which was very beautiful.  The hostel also had a massage business and some other amenities.  Hansel and Gretel were able to take a shower and do their laundry while they were there.  They had access to a refrigerator filled with soda, juice and ice cream, AND they were given a loaf of fresh baked bread before leaving, which they ate for dinner and breakfast!

Right now, Hansel and Gretel are staying at Rice Field Shelter, located at the top of a mountain.  Our hiking friends concluded their day as they witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets from the mountains summit.  When they returned to the shelter, they found that the last group who stayed there left a sleeping bag behind.  With a plan to lay their own sleeping bags on top of it, Hansel and Gretel were looking forward to a little extra padding tonight!

Happy trails, a mountain sunset, and a little extra cushioning!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Magic and Ponies

A few days into the Death March to Dad, Hansel and Gretel are beginning to get a bit stinky as predicted.  They are going on their 5th day without a shower and they are way over due for laundry, but they are trying hard to keep things as hygienic as possible.  For example, Hansel did wash his hair today and they are still cleaning their bodies and teeth daily.  The stinky clothes are the trickiest part and they probably won't get a load in until they meet up with Dad on the 3rd.

In the midst of this smelly business, they are still having a great time as they put one foot in front of the other.  In fact, Gretel claims that her favorite memory so far was a few days ago when they climbed Mt. Rogers.  As they hiked up the mountain, they were greeted by people on horseback.  Better still, once they reached to opposite side, they were greeted by wild ponies!  "They were the coolest thing!"

The other terrific part about Mr. Rogers, was that it was loaded with trail magic!  They found honey buns, followed by two beers, then a Gatorade, then oranges, and then another beer!

The magic continued after the mountain.  Hansel and Gretel were getting pretty hungry.  Not because they didn't eat breakfast, but because they didn't have very much breakfast to eat!  They hadn't bought enough food on their last resupply day in Damascus.  They were just so excited and distracted by their first  "real town" in such a long time, that they didn't restock adequately.  So as they were hiking, they ran into a day hiker whose name, they learned, was Stan.

Upon meeting, the first thing Stan said to them was, "Hey, how are you guys doing on food?"

"Actually, we are kind of hungry.  We didn't get enough in the last town and we have another day before we get to our next resupply," Hansel and Gretel explained honestly.

"Well do you guys like granola bars?"  Stan reached into his bag and pulled out two Chewy granola bars that he handed to our grateful hikers.  "I'll leave you some more trail magic further down.  How about some sandwiches?  Do you guys like Coke-a-Cola?" Sure enough, Stan managed to plant a delicious little lunch for Hansel and Gretel which they found later that day.  Stan's the Man!

In the evening they arrived at Hurricane Mountain Camp Ground where they would be sleeping that night.  Hansel struck up a conversation with a couple also staying at the camp ground.  As it turned out, Barbra and Pete Gregory were the campground hosts.  They volunteer to look after the site, keep it clean, and make sure everyone staying their has everything they need.

"Well, I'm making some soup.  You want some soup?" Barbra asked.  How could Hansel say no?  Not only was there beef soup, Barbra also distributed a platter with fruit and a cream cheese spread.  They also had an interesting assortment of sandwiches.  Tomato mayonaise sandwiches and banana peanut butter sandwiches.  "They sound really weird, but they were the most amazing thing ever at the time," Gretel assures us.  So as you can see, even though it has been a long and strenuous week, Hansel and Gretel are finding joy in all the little things... like ponies and mayo!

Happy Trails!


Wild Ponies!

So cool!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Death March To Dad

"We are going to be killing ourselves!"  Hansel reported.  Until they meet up with Dad on May 2nd, they will be covering 20 plus miles every day!  The reason for this death march is that they are about 8 miles behind schedule and because there was some very ambitions planning for their resupply days.

Gretel did most to the grunt work when it came to planning out their entire hike.  She figured out how many miles they should cover per day and where they would be sleeping.  She was correct in assuming that they would be able to handle 20 mile days at this point in the excursion, but it might have been a little much to expect so many miles on a day when they also need to go into town, restock food, get a shower and do laundry.   I wonder if the excellent hygiene of Hansel and Gretel will suffer in these next 10 days?  One good thing about their upcoming challenge: the terrain is not as mountainous which will make it easier, though there is still no denying that 20 miles a day is going to be tough on their feet.

In other news, they will be reaching the 500 mile mark at the top of Pine Mountain tomorrow!  Also, Hansel was able to pick up a new backpack in Damascus since his old pack had a big hole in it.  The unfortunate thing is that the new pack is extremely uncomfortable and really hurts his back on the uphills.  When you are hiking the Trail, your gear is your life, and a comfortable, quality backpack is essential.  But don't worry, there is a plan in the making.  Hansel is going to order a new pack that is the same style as his old one, but in a bigger size.  He'll have it mailed to our home in New Jersey, and then Dad can bring it with him when he meets them at the end of the death march.

Finally, an update on Hansel and Gretel's MS fundraising mission.  So far, all of you have helped them raise $3,365.00!!  More than 50 people have contributed to their cause and we are all so appreciative of your generosity!  If you would still like to make a donation, just visit Hansel and Gretel's page at the MSAA website.  The link is always available in the site bar on the right, or you can just click right here. Thanks so much to everyone for following the story, for your continued support, and for your kind words of encouragement!  It means so much to our terrific Trail travelers!

Happy Trails!

Some pictures from the Virginia/Tennessee State Line:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fantascus Damascus


With three states and over 400 miles behind them, Hansel and Gretel arrived in Damascus, VA, "the friendliest town on the Trail."  A hostel called "The Place" was their first stop, though they quickly determined this was not at all the place to stay.  In Hansel's words, it was a bit sketchy.  Fortunately, in their wanderings they had stumbled across signs posted by Warren Doyle advertising a free bed in exchange for a few hours of work.

So, they called up Warren and he came and picked them up.  Hansel and Gretel soon learned that Warren was nothing short of an Appalachian legend!  This man has hiked the AT 16 times!  "Google him," my siblings said.  Sure enough, Warren is the living legend that they described and he is doing great things for the Appalachian community!  He started the outdoor school at George Mason University, and he routinely leads AT thru-hiking expeditions in large groups (maybe 20 people!).  He sets the rule that if you start the journey, you have to finish.  The only way you can give up on the Trail is if someone in your family dies or you break something.  He's extreme!  I'll include some links to Warren at the bottom of the post.

All these things Hansel and Gretel learned over the course of their Damascus stay, but their good feelings began as soon as they climbed into Warren's car.  The soulful music of John Denver was playing over the speakers, a folk singer who we three siblings grew up with.  As a matter of fact, John Denver was the feature of the very first concert we went to as a family just before he died.  As Hansel and Gretel drove down the road, there may have been a few stray tears that leaked out when "Looking for Space" started playing.  It seemed so appropriate for the life-changing journey Hansel and Gretel were in the midst of completing.  (You can listen to "Looking for Space" if you click here.)

The work that Hansel and Gretel did was to help build Warren's new Appalachian Folk School.  A place dedicated to sharing music making, dancing and hiking.  The school will be able to sleep up to 150 people so conventions can be held and people will be invited to teach in a very open setting.   There will also be homemade quilts and books of interest for sale.

For the most part, Hansel and Gretel moved lumber around the property and carried scraps to the "burn pile."  In exchange for their two or three hours of labor, they were given a free bed, a shower, and they were even able to do their laundry!  It was great to be able to contribute in a small way to such a worthy project!  Thanks Warren and best of luck with your new school!

Happy trails!

As promised, a few links to Warren.  Just click them:
Warren Doyle's Biography
Warren Wisdom Regarding the AT

"Looking For Space"
By John Denver

On the road of experience, I'm trying to find my own way.
Sometimes I wish that I could fly away.
When I think that I'm moving, suddently things stand still,
I'm afraid 'cause I think they always will.

And I'm looking for space,
And to find out who I am.
And I'm looking to know and understand.
It's a sweet, sweet dream.
Sometimes I'm almost there.
Sometimes I fly like an eagle,
And sometimes I'm deep in despair

All alone in the universe, sometimes that's how it seems.
I get lost in the sadness and the screams.
Then I look in the center, suddently everything's clear.
I find myself in the sunshine and my dreams.

And I'm looking for space,
And to find out who I am,
And I'm looking to know and understand.
It's a sweet, sweet dream,
Sometimes I'm almost there.
Sometimes I fly like an eagle,
And sometimes I'm deep in despair.

On the road of experience, 

Join in the living day.
If there's an answer, 
It's just that it's just that way.

When you're looking for space,
And to find out who you are,
When you're looking to try and reach the stars.
It's a sweet, sweet sweet dream.
Sometimes I'm almost there.
Sometimes I fly like an eagle.
But sometimes I'm deep in despair.
Sometimes I fly like an eagle,
like an eagle
I go flying high.

Hansel working in the yard.

A glimpse of the school.

Munching in town.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Adventures in Hampton: Theresa's Grill

News of an all-day breakfast place met the ears of Hansel and Gretel and Theresa's Grill instantly became an essential destination.  When they entered this dive of a building claiming to be Theresa's, the first thing they saw was an old woman, silently sitting in a folding chair, giving them the death stare.

"Ahhh, hi!  Can we eat here?" They asked.  Nothing.  Just more staring.  Not knowing what to do, Hansel and Gretel just stood there and waited while Folding Chair Lady drilled holes through their foreheads with her eyes.  Finally, another woman came out from a back room.

"Y'all can eat.  Sit down.  What d'y'all want?"  She said dryly.  She tells them they can't have biscuits and gravy because they are out of biscuits and gravy, which was interesting because some other guy came into the restaurant five minutes later, ordered biscuits and gravy and got biscuits and gravy, but let's not get hung up on biscuits and gravy.  The entire menu, consisting of about five items, was written up on a white board.  They ordered their meal, and for only $10, they ended up with a giant breakfast... which, needless to say, did not include biscuits and gravy.

Hansel and Gretel thought they should visit the restroom before heading out, but it's possible that they might have been better off saving it for the woods.  The toilet was basically a seat on top of a wooden platform.  Not only was there no toilet paper, there wasn't even a place to put the TP if the bathroom had been fully equipped.  It seems like Hampton's bathing accommodations are universally lacking.  This was the town where Hansel and Gretel couldn't find an adequate shower and ended up bathing in the bathroom of a gas station.

They both agreed that the best part of their Hampton day was going to Subway, buying sandwiches, putting them in their packs and then eating them for dinner once they got to their camp site.  Soooo good!

Happy trails!

Adventures in Hampton: The Trip into Town

The last resupply down in Tennessee happened to be Hampton.  Their experience in this town began when they picked up an "awesome hitch" (meaning they hitch hiked into town) from a great guy named Dan who had a fantastic southern accent.  Hansel and Gretel climbed into Dan's car and they took off down the road.  They learned that Dan is a dairy farmer and raises cows.  About five minutes into the drive, Dan pulled over and said in his heavy southern drawl,

"Aww darn.  I'm bein' stupid.  Y'all wanted to go to Hampton.  That's the uther di-rection!"

A quick U-turn and they were back on track.  Dan asked Hansel and Gretel where they were from and was shocked to learn that they had grown up in New Jersey.  He was expecting at least some hint of a Jersey accent.  He said, 

"I mean, I know I speak hill-billy.  Y'all got no accent!"

When they reached Hampton, Dan bid Hansel and Gretel goodbye.  He gave them his card and asked if they would call him sometime with an update on how they were doing.  He was even so kind as to see if they needed any money.  Hansel and Gretel assured him they had enough, thanked him for his kind help, and headed for the town McDonalds where they ate plenty of satisfying junk food (McGriddle sandwich, delicious cinnamon roll things, and McFlurries).

Happy trails!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Trail Hygiene

As you might imagine, bathrooms, showers, and sinks are in limited supply on the Trail.  Actually, it's more like zero supply.  And if you have ever sniffed a thru-hiker, you know that these characters can get to be pretty ripe.  Keeping this in mind, I am pleased to report that Hansel and Gretel are by far the cleanest thru-hikers you will ever stumble upon and they have developed a nice little system to keep themselves "fresh."

For one thing, most thru-hikers never wash their clothes.  Hansel and Gretel, typically wash their shirts every 2-3 days.  They do laundry whenever they are in a town on their resupply days.

They brush their teeth every day.  Hansel is even hiking with a roll of floss.  There were only three occasions that they decided to skip a teeth brushing because it was so freezing cold.

Hansel washes his hair every 2-3 days.  If they aren't in a town, he uses stream water to clean up.  Gretel tends to save her hair washing days for when they are in towns.  She just keeps her hair in tight braids so any existing trail grime is well contained.  It would be too much primping to wash and re-do her braids every 2 days.  Who has time for these things when you need to cover 20 miles before the sun sets?

As you can see in previous pictures, Hansel is clearly letting himself go on the facial hair front.  This is probably the closest he will ever get to growing a beard.  (He's always been a bit patchy.)  Gretel, on the other hand, has been avoiding the hippy-pit look at all costs.  As a matter of fact, when they were in Hampton, TN, they could not find a shower anywhere so they used a gas station bathroom to clean up which was complete with an underarm shave.  "Yup. That happened," Gretel added over the phone.

Another thing that makes Hansel and Gretel unique is that they actually wash their pots and cups between uses.  Apparently other hikers just eat on top of old food.  Sounds a little nasty to me!

So as you can see, Hansel and Gretel are keeping things sanitary out in the woods.  They actually asked an employee at one AT outfitter how they compared to other thru-hikers.  The employee confirmed that they were some of the best smelling hikers he had ever encountered!  Three cheers for deodorant!

Happy Trails!

And some random pictures for your viewing pleasure:

Beautiful Waterfall

Little Debbie Love

As you may have figured out, food is a huge topic of discussion for Hansel and Gretel.  Nearly every time they call to check in, they always have something to say about some meal they ate.

Most recently, they discovered the magic of Little Debbie.  More specifically, Star Crunch: made from a rice cereal, caramel and coated in chocolate.

"Best Thing Ever!"

Happy trails and happy munching!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Little Hump Mountain

Right after leaving Overmountain Shelter, Hansel and Gretel arrived at "the balds." Little Hump Mountain and Hump Mountain reach about 5,600 feet, which is pretty high, though not the highest they have hiked thus far.  The thing that made these mountains tricky was that the siblings climbed these tree-less, shelter-less mountains in wind gust up to 60 miles per hour!  

"We literally could not walk in a straight line," Hansel reported.  The wind would pick up so they marched hard into it, and then it would suddenly drop off, making you fall over.  Gretel was getting quite frustrated by this!  It was also quite chilly to boot!  Somewhere between 20 and 30 degrees.  

Hansel battles the gusts on Hump Mountain

Forest Friend or Foe?

Naked mountain top decorated by a few spindly dead trees

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Overmountain and Other Updates

Hansel and Gretel spent the night at Overmountain Shelter, an old red barn that has been converted into a shelter for hikers.  It sleeps over 20 people and it was once used as backdrop for the movie "Winter People."  They hiked their longest day yesterday.  22.5 miles putting them now 379 miles from their start. They have been slowly building up their daily distance.  In the beginning they hiked 10-15 miles a day, but now they are able to pack in 17-20!  Their next big stop will be Hampton, TN followed by Damasus, VA.

Until next time, happy trails!

Overmountain Shelter

It snowed over night so the trail looked very pretty.


Another non-Trail related update!  Law school news steals the show once again!  A few weeks ago we were all celebrating Gretel's acceptance and scholarship to UConn Law, and now we have even MORE to congratulate her for!  Quinnipiac University (also in Connecticut) has offered her a FULL SCHOLARSHIP to attend their law school!!!  Woohoo!  Go Gretel!  That being said, I am pleased to share with all of you, that Gretel is very excited to begin law school at Quinnipiac this fall!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Don't Stick Your Nose Where It Doesn't Belong

It is AT Terms time again!*

White Blaze: following the "official" Appalachian Trail as marked from start to finish. i.e. what Hansel and Gretel are doing.

Blue Blaze: hiking parts of the official AT but also taking some side trails, short cuts, or alternative routes.

Pink Blaze: hiking the trail in the romantic pursuit of the cute girl ahead of you.

Ladies and Gentleman, Gretel officially has a pink blazer!  (But honestly, who could blame the guy?  She's a good catch!) This pink blazer fellow does have a known name, but for the interest of this blog, we will just refer to him as "Pinky."  Hansel and Gretel met Pinky on Hell Day (the previous post).  He followed them into the town of Erwin, TN (340 miles from their start at Springer Mountain), and then followed them out.  He stuck with them for a few days, all the while making passes at Gretel who dodged him time after time while slipping in "my boyfriend" at every opportunity.

One day on the Trail, Gretel arrived at the designated break spot in the middle of the day.  Hansel was already there and snacking along with another group of male hikers (Pinky included) who made Gretel feel "uncomfortable as a woman," so she blazed through without stopping.  It wasn't long before Gretel heard someone hiking behind her, undoubtably Pinky.  She started running to keep a distance between her and him until she came to a stream.

Now the #1 rule of thru-hiking is to take care of your feet and keep them dry.  Wet feet lead to all kinds of discomfort, blisters, etc.  Any body of water should be handled with care and any other day, Gretel would have taken her sweet time to cross this stream.  However, today her only thought was to move as quickly as possible.

You can guess where this is going.  In no time flat, Gretel slipped and fell in the stream, soaking her shoes and socks all the way through with Pinky right on her tail.  As she scrambled to get out of the stream she realized that, not only did she have soggy feet, she also managed to fall so that a thin stick shot its way right up her nose!

"I didn't know you could get anything that far up there... I was seriously gushing blood," she said, and it seems Pinky saw it all.  But strong-willed Gretel was still completely set on avoiding any and all contacts with this dude.  She refused to stop, blood or no blood, and forged ahead wiping her nose franticly as she walked.  Pinky called after her, offering his concern, his help, a bandade, but Gretel wanted none of it.

"I'm fine!" She yelled back.  He asked her if she was bleeding, but she was so flustered that she couldn't think of anything to tell him except, "A stick went up my nose."  She tilted her head back and kept on trekking.  Pinky kept on her tail and Gretel continued to reject his help.   When they reached a flat spot in the trail he charged ahead of her while accusing her of being a P.I.T.A. (Pain In The A**).

Glad to have finally shaken Pinky, Gretel continued to the shelter in her own happy, bloody, soggy solitude.  She reached the shelter with a massive headache to find Hansel waiting for her, grinning from ear to ear.

"What did you say to that guy?" He wanted to know.  She told him that she didn't say anything, she just didn't stop for his help.  Apparently, Pinky had angrily told Hansel that Gretel was the most stubborn person and continued onward.  At least Gretel had successfully rid herself of her first Pink Blazer.  It's just too bad her nose didn't fare better.

The moral of the story: don't run from Pink Blazers.  We have not yet identified a preferred approach, but if you run, you will surely end up with a stick in your nose.

Happy trails!

*Other info on the various types of blazing can be found in this discussion.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Day from Hell

Hansel and Gretel are learning that there are days when the Trail Magic is flowing and then there are days when it definitely is not.  Directly following the scrumptious visit with Hercules and Fal, Hansel and Gretel set out on a day that was supposed to be 60 degrees and sunny.  WRONG!  By the time they arrived at camp it was 30 degrees and they had spent the entire day hiking through sleet, freezing rain, hail... pretty much everything except snow.  (I had to consult Wikipedia to distinguish the difference between these forms of precipitation.  Feel free to follow the links if you also need a refresher corse.)

On this day, they had planned to hike 21 miles.  There was one shelter about 10 miles in where they could meet up and break for lunch.  Lately, Hansel and Gretel spend most of their day hiking independent of one another.  Gretel is an early bird and usually hits the trail first while Hansel takes his time before leaving camp.  Gretel is faster on the downhills, while Hansel is speedy on the ups.  When they stop for breaks, Gretel often is the first to return to the trail and it usually takes Hansel about 30 minutes before he catches up with her again.

10 miles into their hike, the siblings met at the shelter as planned.  They had a snack and Gretel took off while Hansel finished up.  30 minutes into his hike, Hansel had not yet caught up with Gretel.  Then an hour passed.  Then two hours.  No Gretel.  When he finally arrived at the shelter late in the day, it was freezing cold and no one had seen or heard from Gretel.  Frantic to find his sister, Hansel was on the verge of sending out a search party when Gretel emerged from the woods, exhausted and very cold.  As it turned out, when Gretel left the first shelter, she accidentally started her hike back south-ward instead of north.  Luckily she recognized her mistake before hiking too far in the wrong direction, turned around and continued behind Hansel.

Relieved that Gretel was safe, it was now time to set up camp.  Unfortunately, this mishap meant that the siblings had a very late start at staking their spot, and by the time they were ready to settle in, the shelter was completely packed.  On this freezing night, the best they could do was to lay a tarp below the floor of the shelter where they might be safe and dry.  The three feet of head room made for a very uncomfortable night's sleep, which was interrupted several times by dreams that resulted in jolting up and slamming their heads into the shelter floor.  To make this sleeping experience even more appealing (note the sarcasm), the shelter was built on the slanted forest floor so all night long, Hansel was rolling down the hill into Gretel.

When they awoke the next morning, it was clear that the last 24 hours had been an extreme test of will power.  Miserable from start to finish.  This was undoubtably the sort of day where one either decides to quit the trail outright, throw in the towel and head back to civilization.  OR.  One concludes that one can make it through anything.  After a restless, freezing, most uncomfortable night, Hansel and Gretel set out for another full day, their wills of iron driving them onward!

Happy trails... please let there be happy trails!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Trail Angels and Trail Magic

Not to keep you from the story of Hansel and Gretel any longer, but I think it is important that we define a few Appalachian Trail Terms (ATT) first.  

Trail Magic: these are miraculous occurrences that happen to thru-hikers on the trail.  i.e. a giant cooler filled with beer and coke is left in the middle of the road with a note that says "drink me." 

Trail Angels: amazing people.  these are the individuals that make the trail magic happen.  

Hansel and Gretel have had several bouts with Magic and Angels in recent days.  

Bruce who also may be referred to as "Grits" periodically spends a week in a giant tent which he sets up just off the trail.  There he grills hambergers and makes pancakes for all the hikers that come through.  

Another time, Hansel was taking a snack break just before heading out to a very exposed part of the trail where there were very little trees to break the extremely cold gusty wind that was blowing.  While snacking, he started chatting with another hiker that was also taking a break there.  "How's it going?" asked the hiker.  Hansel said it had been pretty well so far.  The only stinky thing was that he had lost one of my gloves and was expecting that his hand would get a bit cold on this next stretch.  Without hesitation, this friendly stranger took off his own gloves and handed them the Hansel.  

The most amazing Trail Angels that Hansel and Gretel have stumbled upon so far would have to be Hercules and Fal(these are their trail names).  They thru-hiked the AT about 7 years ago and about 5 years back they decided to buy a house right off the trail where they could feed and minister to other thru-hikes as they passed by.  As Hansel and Gretel approached a street that intersected the trail, they noticed a sign posted to a tree that said a three course dinner was waiting for them.  350 yards later, Hansel and Gretel entered the gorgeous home of Hercules and Fal.  

A belly busting meal of Belgium waffels, beef stew for Hansel an, black beans with hickory smoked barbecue sauce and chipotle peppers over rice with melted cheese for Gretel.  They drank root beer and juice out of frosted mugs.  The desert choices, prepare yourself for this Trail Magic, included ice cream sundaes (3 scoops!), browny sundaes, something called caramel decadence, banana splits, and 3 berry cobbler pound cake! 

During the dinner, Hercules and Fal opened up one of the most non-invasive conversations about Christianity that Hansel and Gretel have ever been engaged in. During the talk, they were all asked to think about their lives and what they believe.  Having grown up in a Lutheran family with parents who, on many occasions, introduced conversations about faith, and God, and spirituality, the discussion with Hercules and Fal was warm and welcome.  They did not try to force any of their own beliefs and were open to everything Hansel and Gretel had to share.  

At the end of their talk, before it was time for Hansel and Gretel to head back to the trail, Hercules and Fal brought out piles of books which they dumped out on the table.  "Take as many as you want to carry," they said.  "They are our gifts to you."  Hansel selected Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and Gretel chose The Lotus and The Cross: Jesus talks with Buddha by Ravi Zacharias.  Both books seem to be quite enjoyable so far!

Happy trails and happy reading!

Ice Cream!


Hercules and Fal

Sorry for the absence!

To all of you who have been following the adventures of Hansel and Gretel, I am so sorry for the extended absence.  I am actually writing this on April 24th but back dating so I can bring you some really great stories that I have been collecting, but unable to post these last two weeks.  I had an accident and managed to do a fancy job on my ankle.  One plate and ten screws later I am back to typing, though very disappointed that I will not be able to do any hiking with my brother and sister for any part of this adventure.  The prognosis is great though, and in a few months I'll be back to full activity.  Just bad timing for any Jabeccawalk involvement.  So, without any more delay... let's get back to the Adventures of Hansel and Gretel!

Happy trails and strong ankles!

Humor in the Hospital

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Max Patch

Greetings from Max Patch!  This lovely little spot was originally covered with trees, but it was cleared long ago so that sheep and cattle could graze.  At one point, it was also a place where small planes could land, but became a part of the Appalachian Trail in 1982.  Controlled burnings keep it's summit bald, and when you are standing on top of it, there is a complete panoramic view of the Smoky Mountains.  Apparently, even the snakes come up to take a gander at the Smokies!

Elevation: 4,629 ft above sea level
Distance Traveled: 252.0 miles!

Happy Trails!

*Note: Based on when I get phone calls or emails, I often end up posting retrospectively so don't forget to look back to make sure you haven't missed anything.

*Double Note: Sincere apologies for any typos and misspellings.  I often write these late at night and don't always catch the errors!  Hopefully it does not distract you too much from the story!

Woodland Friend

Max Patch with the Smokies in the background.

Hansel with open arms on top of Max Patch

Gretel brushed her teeth in the hail that hit them that evening. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Man Down!

It was bound to happen sooner or later.  On his way across a slippery rock, Hansel slipped to the ground resulting a dramatic tear up the bottom of his pant leg.

The good news: he accomplished this potentially catastrophic fall without acquiring a scratch!

"I'm a champion at falling," he joked, which makes sense considering he spent his last four years as a Division I soccer goal keeper at Brown.

Additional endurance, physical and equipment updates:

Gretel's blisters are no longer an issue.  Hansel has been experiencing some strange numbness in his toes.  They both have been having an easier time with the longer hikes (15+ miles).  Hansel's pack is getting a hole in it because he has so much equipment and food shoved into it.  This is a problem that might need attention sooner rather than later.  The pack was new so they are hoping they can replace it at one of the next outfitters they come to.  They used their new water filter for the first time and it seems to be working well.  They haven't needed it until now because the water south of Virginia often comes right out of the mountain and is not likely to be polluted or contaminated.

Finally, you might remember our friend Badger.  He is still with Hansel and Gretel and was, in fact, the very first person to wish Gretel a Happy Birthday.  He too has been keeping a blog of his adventures and if you have an interest in following his story, you can find it at

Happy Trails!

Charlie's Bunion

Gretel making breakfast

More on Charlie's Bunion

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Gatlinburg Getaway!


        Terry, a kind and hospitable (not to mention talented!) stained glass artist


       Randy, a friendly, skilled woodturner with a knack for making the most savory milkshake a thru hiker could ever want!

Hansel and Gretel met this lovely couple at the very beginning of their journey and Terry and Randy have been following them ever since, making sure to connect with me so as to coordinate a pick up for when the siblings arrived into their hometown of Gatlinburg.  I am sure Terry was quite surprised to see that they made it.  I received about four worried emails from her about the weather and distance Hansel and Gretel would have to overcome in order to make it to Gatlinburg by the 6th.  But they did it!

After being picked up at the trail head, Hans and Gretel inquired about cheap places they might be able to spend the night.

"Yeah, our house!" Could there have been a more wonderful response?

Terry and Randy took such wonderful care of our hikers!  Not only did they drive them around town to run all their errands, they also took Hansel and Gretel to the old fashioned soda fountain where Randy works part time.  Gretel had been craving a milkshake and you better believe Randy was happy to oblige!  One mint chip and one turtle tracks milk shake, coming right up!  Hans also downed a sarsaparilla for good measure.

At the post office, Hansel and Gretel picked up a package of love from home.  Inside was a collection of "trail games" conceived by Mommo (that is what we sometimes call our mother), a lighthearted poem or two, some fancy and fun trail food, brownies (because everyone needs some sort of cake on their birthday), and last but certainly not least, a box of candles wishing Gretel a very Happy... Retirement??? Hmmm, I think someone did not read the box right before making that purchase!  Oooops!

The whole crew had a delicious lunch in town.  Terry later commented to me over the phone in her endearing southern accent, "I have never seen such darn skinny people eat so much food in my life!"  Hansel and Gretel have reported that they are hungry most of the time that they are on the trail.  One hour after they eat they are already talking about when they are going to eat the next meal.  The really long hikes are tough since their diet mainly consists of high calorie bars, beef jerky, GORP (good old raisins and peanuts), dried fruit, and fig newtons.

At night, the four of them sat and chatted over popcorn.  Thursday morning, Terry and Randy took our hikers to the Cracker Barrel for a hearty breakfast where they had the most delicious granola pancakes!  For the first time in her life, Gretel actually finished off Hansel's plate!  Not only were their bellies happily full, the sun was shining and it was about 75 degrees as they hiked back into the woods.  Good bye snow!

Terry called me after sending them off to let me know they were back on the Trail.  Before hanging up the phone, Terry said to me, "You have some very special siblings," and I couldn't agree more!

We are all so thankful for the selfless kindness that Terry and Randy showed to Hansel and Gretel this week.  Their hospitality was more than anyone could have hoped for.  People with compassion like Terry and Randy make this world a better place!

By the way, you can see Terry and Randy's art at their website:  Their work is truly beautiful!  What a talented couple!

Some pictures of the Gatlinburg adventure:

Milk Shakes at Randy's Old Fashion Soda Fountain

Picking up packages from home!

Terry and Randy's beautiful guest room!

The best hosts on the AT!  Randy and Terry pictured between our hikers.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Weather you like it or not...

... Hansel and Gretel are coming through!  Snow?  's'no problem!  Ice?  I smell determination!  Wind?  Windows of hope around every bend in the trail!

The courageous siblings hit a patch of terrible weather at the start of their third week.  A ridiculous thunder storm greeted them Monday morning.  Along with it came wind, snow and hail!  The following morning they awoke to 2 inches of snow and 20 miles of trail to cover in order to get to Gatlinburg, TN by Gretel's Birthday on the 6th.  This trail would take them over Clingmans Dome; the highest point on the entire Appalachian Trail reaching 6,643 feet above sea level.

Meanwhile, Terry and Randy, a kind couple Hansel and Gretel met at the start of the Trail, waited anxiously at their home in Gatlinburg, ready to welcome the travelers into their home the moment they arrived.  An icy 4 mile hike on Wednesday morning carried Hans and Gretel the last stretch into Gatlinburg, where they were greeted with such selfless kindness!

Here are some pictures of their extreme weather!

Happy Trails!

Clingmans Dome: elevation 6,643 ft above sea level

"Whose woods are these I think I know."

HaPpY BiRtHdAy GrEtEl!!

We wish you a happy birthday,
A joyous and celebrated birthday,
To you dear Gretel,
We wish you a long, long life!

This 22nd birthday celebration is bound to be a memorable one!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fontana Dam and the Smokies

The Smoky Mountains began at the North side of Fontana Dam.  Naturally, Hansel needed to welcome the Smokies by catapulting into the Little Tennessee River.  In the email that they sent with their pictures, they signed "Live you" instead of "Love you."  A rather simple typo to make when typing on a cell phone.  Even though I'm pretty sure it was a mistake, I think the imperative statement "Live you!" is perfect considering their current adventure!  It is exactly what they are doing!  Flying off cliffs into the cold river bellow, they are LIVING!

Happy Trails!

Friday, April 1, 2011

New Gear and Chilly Nights

A black lab barked it's greeting as Hansel and Gretel rolled into their shelter at 8:30pm tonight.  They spent the day resupplying and refreshing in town.  For $2 they were able to wash their clothes and another $2 bought them a shower.  They also were able to upgrade some of their gear.  Both have been lining their sleeping bags with what is called a "mummy sack."  It's just a thin liner that helps keep their sleeping bags cleaner.  When Gretel pulled her mummy sack out of the drier, it was pretty clear that mom and dad's old moth-eaten, whole-ridden sleeping bag liner need to be replaced.  They also purchased a new filter for their water.  On the trail, water often comes from creeks and streams, so it is important to filter it properly so as not to ingest bacteria and other germs that might be floating around in the water. Their old fiter was extremely slow, so even though this new filter coast a pretty penny, it's nice to finish the job a bit quicker.

Before heading back to camp, Hansel and Gretel squeezed in another savory meal.  Hansel had the Boat House Burger and Gretel, a vegan burger.  After their last mistake of inhaling their meal at the all-you-can-eat-buffet, they practiced pacing themselves and coaching each other through the meal so as not to destroy their bellies yet again.  

"Ok, put down the burger.  Take a sip of water.  Chat.  Pick up the burger.  Chew."  It took will power and team work, but this new consumption strategy was so effective, they even had enough room to split a home made blackberry cobbler desert!  

As the night was coming to a close, Gretel said she was hoping for a warmer night tonight.  Yesterday the temperature dropped down to 15 degrees and when they woke up, there was snow on the ground!  Tomorrow will be a very steep hike.  10 miles straight up hill.  Good luck! 

Sleep well and happy trails!

First attempt at hitch hiking lead to a successful trip to the grocery store!

Most ladies carry a smaller purse to the store. 

Congrats to Gretel!

We interrupt your regularly scheduled AT program to bring you some AWESOME news!  

Last night before turning off her flash light for the night, Gretel checked her email on the smart phone and was thrilled to discover an email from the University of Connecticut Law School!  In addition to accepting her, they just offered her a substantial scholarship!  For those of you who don't know, both Hansel and Gretel will be attending law school after they resurface from the woods this coming fall.  Hansel will be attending Catholic University in Washington, D.C. and now it looks like Gretel will be strutting her stuff at UCONN!  As she put the phone away and settled into her sleeping bag, mystery cheers of congratulations echoed from other tents in their little tent community.  "Way to go Gretel!" "Congratulations!" "Hip hip Hooray!"

Congratulations Gretel!  We are all so proud of you!!

Happy Trails!