Thursday, January 17, 2013

Virginia photos are up!

There aren't too many photos from the end of our hike (we were only on trail there for a week, after all), but at least you can see what a nice surprise the Virginia terrain was compared to Maine! To get to the photos, click on the slideshow to the right of this page--that gives you access to all of our albums.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

To future adventures!

Well, it's sure been a while since we've posted! I definitely need to apologize for that, since we never posted our last-one-week-attempt-to-restart-before-Andy-rebroke-his-foot photos. So I'll get on that. Virginia in the fall was beautiful, and it still felt like early fall. By jumping forward to the lower part of Virginia, we actually wound up near the lead of southbounders (definitely not where we would have been if we hadn't had to get off the trail in Maine) and would have been on track to finish the trail before Thanksgiving. That's not accounting, of course, for Hurricane Sandy.  Unfortunately many of our fellow hikers ended up having to also leave the trail not long after as the hurricane struck the east coast and, shortly after, winter weather starting setting in.

In any case, I'm actually posting because we're starting up a slightly different site and I'm hoping you'll check it out and give some feedback. It's still about backpacking/hiking/camping, but a little more organized and a little less blog-like. As I've gone back and read through some of our posts, I realized 1) how much we had learned about backpacking that hadn't been mentioned and 2) how difficult it is to find useful information in most blogs without reading through every post (or use a sometimes frustrating search bar). Plus this whole site-making/blogging/sharing-stories-and-photos experience has been so fun that it would be hard to wait until another major hiking adventure to do it all again. And we'll have to wait a while, since winter in the Colorado Rockies (and the mud season that follows) will make many trails difficult to access until sometime in June. Gah, right?

Anyhow, here's the website (extra large so even if you're skimming you can't miss it):

It's very much under construction (most links say 'coming soon'), so bookmark it and be sure to check back for updates! And of course feel free to give us feedback/let us know if links aren't working/etc. Hope you like it! Thanks! :)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Aves and I have been reading The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy lately and I thought that a fitting title to this post. Although, "you can't always get what you want but if you try sometime you just might find, you get what you need," from the Stones would have been pretty fitting too.

This post is coming shortly after we've made the decision to close off our hike. We'll be following this post with more details and some more great pictures but here's the short version:

From Catawba our start was amazing. Joe from the Four Pines Hostel allowed us an easy 6 mile slack pack and a two night stay to get back on our feet. The next day we were under full packs and hiked up and over the Dragon's Tooth, a stone monolith with great views. We spent that night in our new tent (there's also a post coming about gear changes we've made and what we've learned thus far). The next couple of nights we spent in shelters along the way talking with true SoBos about everything they've experienced that we missed.

The 48 miles that we were able to do before getting back off the trail again were spectacular. It felt great to be back on the trail and in the wilderness again. We walked through pastures, over stiles and over some of Virginia's shorter mountains. But then four days ago we hit a couple miles that were pure rocks. It felt like we were back in Maine getting ready to hit Mahoosuc Notch. I was as careful as I could possibly be and it took us over an hour to get past it all. Afterwards though, my foot was complaining loudly. 600mg of Advil later and we made it to the shelter for the night. The next day I was able to make it the 10 miles to the Captain's house. The Captain is an awesome trail legend who lives thirty yards from the trail across a creek. Hikers like us take a zip line to get there, it's pretty awesome.

At this point I was figuring the pain may just be muscular, a product of not using it for a few months. The we took a zero the next day hoping the pain would subside and we could keep going. Then another the next day and another today. The pain isn't subsiding.

Basically it comes down to money and as much as we'd love to say that we could afford a hotel until I'm healed, we can't. Not that and everything else we'd need to afford to rejoin real life after our hike is over.

We really have still had a most excellent adventure. We've learned a lot too. Now that we've done enough of the trail to learn what it is but so little of it overall, we're already planning a true thru hike again in a few years. I have about two years left in my degree so we may be able to get the time again when I graduate. Hard to say for sure. One thing that is for sure is that Jess and I are thru hikers at heart. We know we have the knowledge and desire.

This isn't the end of our blog though. In a few days we'll be back in front of a computer and be able to post the details of the past few days with the last of our pictures, the gear changes that we made since the beginning and some helpful tips for anyone planning a future through hike. For now though we need to get some sleep, we have a long drive back to Wisconsin coming up tomorrow.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Left Hand and Aves are back!

We're here. We've made it back to the trail and seen our first white blazes in over two months. Coming from the middle of heavily populated Long Island to scarcely populated Catawba is inspiring. Almost like we'd lost our way but now have found it again amongst the mountains and the forest.

Our drive down was fantastic. As we headed south along highway 81 we saw signs for Hershey, PA. We didn't pass up the opportunity. I snagged a Hershey Bears hat (my favorite AHL team which used to be affiliated with the Colorado Avalanche) and we headed over to Chocolate World. Smells exactly like you'd think it would. We didn't spend near as much time as we could have there but we did get to hop on the free virtual tour ride and snag a bag of the new pumpkin flavored kisses.

Last night we stayed in Winchester, VA, about three hours further down the road. I just want to rant-NEVER EVER EVER use Travelocity for anything! They didn't get our reservation to the hotel we were staying at and when we tried to cancel told us that we would be charged the full amount for canceling the day of our reservation. I spent the next hour arguing with an awful "customer service" rep who eventually agreed to just refund our money but couldn't send me a verification email that this is happening. I hope she was telling me the truth but I still have a feeling that the battle isn't over. Meanwhile the guy at the Red Roof Inn took awesome care of us and gave us a discount on our stay even though he had nothing to do with what had happened. So all in all still a good night, but boycott Travelocity whatever you do.

Now we're at Four Pines hiker hostel with the owner Joe who picked us up in Salem after returning our rental car. We're lucky again, to come back to the trail and find out that fall hasn't come yet. Some trees have started to turn but for the most part everything is still green. Seeing fall happen was on our most wanted list and it looks like we're still going to get it.

So here we sit. The night before returning to the trail and it's calm and beautiful. Minus the sounds of Joe's son's ATV it's completely still. Tomorrow we begin anew and are we ever ready!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Tale of Two Beginnings

Life. Sometimes it happens. Like crazy awesome trash drummers in the middle of NYC.

After leaving Maine, and Boston (Thanks again and again everyone!!! We couldn't be here without you!) we since have been on Long Island, NY. A different adventure all together, excellent all the same. Most of my family is here and my grandmother was very happy to let us stay while my foot mended itself. We weren't able to explore as much as we could have (say, without a broken foot) but we got as many mini adventures in as we could squeeze.

This was my first trip to NY without a real time limit and it was great getting to spend some good time with my grandma and some of my cousins. Oh and some family friends from England that just so happened to be there at the same time. Funny the way things have been working out.

We were able to go to both a Mets game (vs. the Colorado Rockies no less), and the 9/11 memorial. The baseball game was fulfilling as we got Jess her first hot dog at a baseball game in NY and the 9/11 memorial was breath taking. It costs 6 million dollars a year to keep it running and in my opinion is worth every penny. A memorial is meant to honor and to remember and there's no way any dishonor or forgetting will be happening while those fountains exist. There is even the "Survivor Tree" that was saved from the wreckage and nursed back to health off-site, then returned to the new ground next to the footprints of the towers. Also can't forget the new world trade buildings. Stunning, even now while they're only just over 50% complete.
Nathan's, the best!

The metal plate the rose is lying  on wraps around both fountains, and has an engraving of every person lost in the attacks.

One of the two "infinity pools" or footprints of the original twin towers, backed by the 9/11 museum which should open soon.
Other New York highlights include hanging out with my cousin Michelle who took us to her husband's band's show on Fire Island, out to the end of Long Island to shop at Montauk and see the lighthouse, to check out incredibly lifelike dinosaur statues and to a number of their favorite places to eat. I've got to say I am now completely hooked on Bubba's Burritos. It's kind of like Chipotle, only bigger and unsurpassedly tastier.

Midst all the fun, we also journeyed out past Lady Liberty to Ellis Island. Absolutely inspiring. My great grandmother came through there from Germany, and to learn about everything she went through was incredibly moving. The journey all those people took to make a better life for themselves... reminds me somewhat of our hike. I understand that the two are incomparable but there is something I understand in the want for travel. The inkling that there's something better just a little bit further. There are spots inside the museum where the curators have removed some of the plaster to show the graffiti that the immigrants left behind. Similar to that left behind on the walls and ceilings of our lean to's.

Ellis Island's Great Hall

Some of the graffiti

And, since my grandma kindly let us borrow her car whenever we wanted, we also got to see the three new tiger cubs at the Bronx Zoo, just put out for public viewing a week before we saw them.

The three cubs and their momma
I could write all night about everything we've done and everyone who did so much for us and with us while we were out here, but it's late. Right now, it's 3:15 in the morning and I need to get to sleep. But there's a reason I'm still typing and a reason I titled this post the way I did:
WE ARE LEAVING TOMORROW MORNING TO GET BACK ON THE TRAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I've recently had my foot looked at by a physical therapist (thanks Frank!) who referred me to a sports podiatrist and given me the official go ahead to start hiking once again. I've also ordered custom insoles that should prevent this from happening again and give me a better hiking experience overall. I learned that I'm quite flat-footed, which I never knew. 

Due to our time off the trail, being out of shape and still wanting to be done by Thanksgiving, we are skipping some major mileage. We will be picking up the trail in Catawba, Virginia on Saturday. It is our hope that we will be able to return and hit this portion that we've skipped either next year or the year after. For now, though, we still have over 500 miles left this year and are extremely eager to get started. 

With all that out of my system, I'm headed to bed. Ready to begin anew! Next time you hear from Jess and I we'll be in Virginia and will once again have made the transformation into Left Hand and Aves!