Athletically Challenged?

I’ve never been one to play organized sports. When I was in the third grade, I played softball… sort of. By “played softball”, I mean I hung out in the outfield with my glove on my head and dandelions in my hands. When it was my turn to bat, I rarely actually hit the ball. In my defense, it wasn’t long after my foray into organized sports that I got my first pair of glasses. It’s hard to hit a ball – even one as large as a softball – when you can’t see it!
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Little Me

Because of my lack of success, I never truly considered myself athletic. I highly doubt anyone else did, either. I was gangly & awkward. I was never picked first in PE class, but I don’t think I was picked last. Maybe second to last? As a matter of fact, I know that I failed PE in high school at least once. I hated “dressing out” since there was this one girl (who shall remain nameless… for now) who always made fun of my legs. They were bony little bowed legs, and she teased me mercilessly from about the fourth grade until graduation. She made me hate PE.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that I am not necessarily athletically challenged!! I’m pretty decent in rock climbing gym & dying to transition those skills to the outdoors, improving significantly at mountain biking (not quite ready for anything too extreme but better than someone who doesn’t try), I run when I want to, and I rock at backpacking.

Somewhere around Tray Mountain, I realized that backpacking counts. It’s not a traditional sport because it’s not competing (unless you are trying to break a record or something… which I’m not). It’s really only walking, but it’s slightly more challenging when you add the altitude gains and pack weight.
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Mrs. Dirty being “athletic”

I spent almost 40 years believing I was athletically challenged. At 41, I learned an important lesson. A lesson that I hope to teach to as many kids as I can. Today, I will start spreading the word: labels suck.

You know you’ve heard it – or maybe even said it, “She’s the ______ one.” We add the labels to kids. The pretty one, the smart one, the athletic one, the mature one, the funny one. Guess what? You can be ALL of them at once! You can be pretty, smart, athletic, mature, and funny. Don’t settle for less. Don’t let your kids settle for less.

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I was blessed to hike with this smart, athletic group.

– Mrs. Dirty, a formerly athletically challenged kid.

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Mountain of Youth

Growing up in Florida, I learned in elementary school about how Ponce de Leon explored the Sunshine State in search of the Fountain of Youth. If you watch any daytime television (I’m partial to General Hospital, personally), you will see that – nearly five hundred years later – we are still obsessed with looking, acting, and feeling younger.

Can I get an amen from all of my ladies who use wrinkle creme? How about you guys who use “Just for Men” grey coverage? We fight to hold onto what we’ve got, and some of us don’t have much left (I’m talking to you, Mr. Comb Over).

Over the last two weeks, I was blessed to have met some pretty amazing people who seem to have found Ponce de Leon’ s Fountain of Youth… Only, it’s not a fountain. It’s a MOUNTAIN.

For every 20 something hiker who I met on the trail, I met at least three hikers who were over the age of 50. The older generation brought it to the trail every day, and I never once heard them complain! No matter what the trail or the weather threw at them, they were smiling & having a great time.

I was in awe of these people. Literally.

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(The Motley Crew from Virginia rocked the trail every day!)

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(This is Carol with her grandson, Daniel. I was in awe of  Carol’ s drive and with Daniel’s dedication to Carol.)

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(This is Marvin – trail name Ohio. He is 73 years old. When Mr. Dirty & I were taking a break because we were exhausted, he came strolling up the mountain like it was nothing! He said he walks seven days a week to “fight back the forces of darkness.”)

There is one photo missing. We met a Benton Makaye Trail Maintainer at the Siler Bald Shelter. He was 76 and had multiple bypass surgeries. And. He. Still. Backpacks.

Seriously. Apparently, there is something magical in the mountain air that keeps hikers young. Bottom line? I want to be like them when I grow up!

Want to stay young longer? Start hiking now! It’s never too late to start.

Getting Old….er?

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Two years ago this week, Mr. Dirty returned from a six month deployment to Afghanistan. I try not to be one of “those wives” – the poor me, look how hard we have it military wives. But I’ll be honest with you, that deployment was brutal. We experienced several deaths, emergency room visits, Dirty Diva’s high school graduation – you name it; it happened. When he came home (fit and trim with bad 80’s hair), we needed to refresh & refill our spirits…
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So, we flew to Washington State to visit the not-so-dirty in laws. What better place is there to relax than with family. We were spoiled – with food, love & attention. While we were there, we tried to hike as much as possible in the Olympics.

There are very few places on Earth that rivals the beauty of the Olympic Mountains. I could wax poetic about the sheer awesomeness, but I would rather show you these pictures:

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See what I mean? Amazing. The most spectacular of these hikes was the Copper Creek Trail.
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Clear mountain streams, abundant flora and fauna…. excruciating knee pain.
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Yup. Knee pain. It sucks the life out of a hiker like nothing else. Through research – yes, I self-diagnosed… don’t judge me – I’ve discovered a possible cause. I believe (only believe because I am not a doctor) that my problem is with my illiotibial band. This God awful pain is on the outside of my left knee and occurs mostly on down hills.
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Down hill used to be fun. I started using hiking poles to take some of the stress off my knees. I’ve decreased my pack weight. I’ve even changed my shoes!! (Suprisingly, certain shoes cause more pain. I can hike pain free in Teva sandals, but Keen shoes make me want to gnaw off my own leg).

Finally, I broke down and went to see the doctor. Aren’t you proud? You should be! You have no idea what a giant step that was for me. (I. Don’t. Like. Doctors.) I’m not a good patient. I admit that without hesitation. Want to know what the doctor said?

He looked me square in the face (and without a smirk or anything!) and said, “You’re getting old.”

Apparently, the look on my face was enough to frighten him just a little because he added, “…er. Older. I mean, it’s not like you are still twenty.”
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(That’s me at twenty. The one on the left.)

You would think that would be enough, but you would be wrong. Apparently, it was also important to let me know that when we get old-er, our bodies start to hurt in new ways.

Thanks, Doc.

Why I Hike

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Borrowed from Pinterest

Pinterest is an addiction. With a click of the little red icon, you can find anything that can be found on the web… in picture form. Like what you see? Then you can follow the link, repin the pin, or *like* the picture. Need a recipe for crockpot beef stroganoff? It’s there. Need to know how to make a cool sprinkler for your kids out of pvc pipe? Yup, there too.

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Borrowed from Pinterest

Looking for a new hiking trail? Bam!! It will literally suck you in for hours. The ladies know this. Dirty Diva got a new phone for Christmas. The first app she downloaded? Pinterest.

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Borrowed from Pinterest

Last week I was down with a sinus infection for a few days. I spent three days on the couch in my pajamas perusing Pinterest. It was wasted time. I could have accomplished so much, but I couldn’t  pry my sick pj clad bottom off the oh so comfy couch. So I dove head first into the world of Pinterest – this wasn’t my first foray into the underworld of pins, just the only one of which I wish to speak.

What does Pinterest have to do with hiking? Not much really, at least not until you venture into the “Outdoor” board or do a search – which I frequently do – for hiking or backpacking. Try it. I’ll wait here while you see what you can find. It’s an amazing word, this Pinterest.

Back? So last week when I was permanently attached to the couch with Pinterest at my finger tips, I stumbled upon this:

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Borrowed from Pinterest

It wasn’t new to me; I had actually pinned it months before, but I had never really thought about it. When I originally pinned it, I just thought it was cute and funny. The last five miles of our AT section hike was completely motivated by the cheeseburgers we would eat at the NOC… so, yeah, hike for cheeseburgers!!

But I’ve been thinking… which is dangerous, I know. Why do I hike? I could get a cheeseburger without hiking. I can get dry clothes from the laundry room. So why do I hike? If you aren’t a backpacker, you will have a hard time understanding how strapping a 20-30 pound pack on your back to trudge up and down trails in the mountains – while wearing the same clothes for days at a time through rain, cold, and heat, sleeping on the ground in the dark with no electricity or running water – could possibly be relaxing. It totally is.

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Borrowed from Pinterest

Hiking has become an essential part of who we, the Dirty Duo, are. We need it. Life gets hectic and jumbled, and we begin to lose site of what is truly important – Faith, family, an  friends.

A good friend once told me that he’d spent too much of his time making a life that he forgot to actually enjoy his life. Are we defined by how much money we make or by the lives that we touch? When we start to lose focus, we head outside.

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Borrowed from Pinterest

The trail is a stress-free zone. No bills, no ringing phones (even if you have your cell with you, you probably won’t have service), no leaky roof, no emails to return, or errands to run. It’s you and the trees, the breeze, the birds, the snakes (yup, even them), and that heavenly scent that no candle company has ever quite captured.

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Borrowed from Pinterest

When we are home, we tend to get wrapped up in our own “stuff”. Right now, I’m working on this blog post (having just returned from a mall trip with the Dirty Boy & the Dirty Friend) and Mr. Dirty is doing his winter thing… watching football while reading gear reviews. It’s not always a pretty life. That’s the beauty of the trail. We ditch the gadgets and spend time together…

Why do you hike?

Four out of Four Butts Kicked at Cohutta Mountain

Back in October, the School Schedule Gods gifted us with a glorious and much needed Fall Break. It didn’t come a minute too soon and was very much appreciated. Too often school breaks do not coincide with an empty space on Mr. Dirty’s work calendar; however, on this particular weekend, the planet’s were aligned and a little fun was in order!!

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Mr. Dirty has done quite a bit of reading on the hiking trails buried deep in the Cohutta Mountain Wilderness  of North Georgia (at over 40,000 acres, the Cohutta Mountain Wilderness is the largest wilderness east of the Mississippi) and was eager to explore the area. This area is literally laced with trails – 13 trails for 87 miles of butt-kicking hikes – we had plenty of options. After looking over maps and our schedule, Mr. Dirty chose the 15.5 mile Cohutta Mountain Loop Trail.
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The Cohutta Mountain Loop Trail is comprised of three trails: Hickory Ridge Trail, Jacks River Trail, and Rough Ridge Trail. If you want specifics on how many miles we spent on each trail, I’m sure Mr. Dirty has them available. On most of the websites I have seen, all three trails are described as “moderately difficult to strenuous.” Yup. I think that’s what they say when what they really want to say is, “it’s a real butt kicker.” (I think I have a new rating system: 4 out of 4 butts kicked on this trail).

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On Friday evening, we made it in to Ellijay where we ate overly hyped barbeque and stayed in the skeeviest hotel room in the state of Georgia. Literally. We used duct tape to cover the hole that was once a peep hole in the door. It was the weekend of the Apple Festival so we were fortunate to have the room, even if we were too freaked out to take a shower in that bathroom!!

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Saturday dawned bright and crisp… it was unbelievably cold! The parking lot at the trailhead was completely full, thanks to the pop-up camper that took up three parking spaces, camp chairs taking up a space, and the trailer full of ATVs in another. Apparently, we were in someone’s private campground rather than a US Forest Service parking lot (snarky sarcasm)! As we were passing the “campground” for the trail, the happy campers let us know that they weren’t your average campers…. they were bear hunters! Not only were they bear hunters, but they were bear hunters who left an angry, injured bear in the woods that they had yet to find. Awesome. I suddenly became worried that the “Aue de Waffle House” scent I was sporting could double as bear bait. I’m almost positive a southern black bear could tear up some “Smothered, Covered, Diced, and Capped” hashbrowns. Positive.

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Fortunately, we were never attacked by an angry, hashbrown-craving bear. I’m sure that soothes your troubled minds 😉 Unfortunately, the attack came in a much smaller, much angrier package: yellow jackets!

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I don’t know what it is about the Dirties, but those stinking things love us!! (This past summer, the mister and I wound up with over 20 stings a piece when he disturbed a nest. Thanks, Hon!). This time, it was the boy and me running for our lives. Who knew you could run with a 25 pound pack down the side of a mountain?!

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There are several opportunities *read: you gotta do it* to cross the Jacks River – which I am sure is frigid on a nice summer day. Our river crossings were pretty stinking cold! Dirty Boy, being Dirty Boy, had a minor mishap that involved a gigantic bolder, his foot, and water. Needless to say, we took an extra long break on the opposite shore.

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And THAT is when the most curious thing happened!! Out of absolutely no where (ok, somewhere on the trail) came a virtual stampede of riders on horseback! Literally, at least a dozen horses and three dogs came  beebopping along the trail. It was the most unexpected, bizarre thing I’ve seen on the trail in quite some time. (Unfortunately, these horses did significant damage to the trail in the way of collapsing the trail for several yards in some places).
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On our second day, Mr. Dirty took Dirty Boy and Hiking Ninja to the waterfalls. By their account and the pictures they brought back, it was stunning.

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I stayed in camp to read the biography of Alison Arngrim, otherwise known as Nellie Olson. It was riveting! Truly. You should read it.
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ANYHOW. After they returned from the falls, we started out in an attempt to make it to the campsite at Crooked Dogwood Gap. It. Was. All. Up. Hill. Yeah. Remember I said it was a real butt kicker?!  We hiked until dark and still didn’t find the elusive campsite! Seeing as we were all hammocking – with the exception of the Dirty Boy who was in an OR bug bivy, we set up camp on the side of the trail in the middle of nowhere. We were THAT desperate for rest.
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As I set up my hammock in a growth of briars and poison ivy, all I could think about was snakes. I didn’t see any, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there. I was positive they were hanging out with the Waffle House bear just waiting to eat me. I think I did a decent job of keeping my fears well hidden – even when I had to go deeper into the dark woods to poop. I just knew I was going to get jumped!

As I’m sure you’ve surmised, mainly because I’m able to write this today, neither bear nor snake had me for dinner while I was pooping or sleeping in my taffeta  cocoon. Surprisingly, I had the best night of my life…. which could be due to exhaustion. In the morning, we hiked about a quarter of a mile (during which I saw an honest to God rattlesnake. Good thing that was AFTER I slept) only to find THE campsite. And it was glorious. Huge water supply, private poop corner, lots of poison-ivy-free trees. We found it when it was too late to enjoy it. But we still found it!!

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The hike out was long and arduous. We rested, we hiked, we rested some more. It was amazing to see the difference in the fall colors over just a few days. Simply gorgeous.
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Four out of four butts were kicked, but four out of four butts had a great time!!

Trials and Tribulations of Trail Transportation

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When I, Mrs. Dirty, was sixteen, I received my driver’s license and the keys to my very own 1970 something Mustang II. It wasn’t shiny and new, but it was transportation! My bestie, BJ, and I drove that little car all over Panama City & Panama City Beach. Transportation provided us with the one thing we craved most: freedom! Of course, within a month of receiving my license, I received a speeding ticket & was in a slight fender bender. I guess I got carried away with the freedom.

As much as I love hiking, getting to and from the trail can sometimes be a challenge. Will your vehicle be safe at the trailhead for days? Weeks? Do you need one vehicle at the starting point and one at your ending point? (It’s for that reason that Mr. Dirty likes hiking loop trails.)

The Appalachian Trail hiking community has pretty much established a solid transportation framework that consists to shuttles – usually run by hostel owners (which means a ride, bed, food, and a shower!). These shuttles can be slightly expensive, thanks to those rising gas prices that I’m not even going to get into! If you came here looking for shuttle information, hold on. I’m getting there!

no fancy sports cars here

no fancy sports cars here

Most trailheads, at least the ones that are the most fun, are found within a maze of forestry service roads (read: dirty, gravel roads that are so washed out that you can’t really see the gravel). The type of vehicle you take (and how you baby it) is as important as having a map to the trail. When you survey the parking lot at the trailhead – especially the trailhead found on one of those long, winding forestry service roads – you don’t see many Mercedes or BMWs. Our outdoor adventures are the main reasons Mr. Dirty drives a truck, and I drive a Subaru (even though my friend Shawn says only hippies drive Subarus…. don’t even get me started on what the boss says about Subies!)

Mr. Dirty and I have had some rather unusual trail transportation trials (I’m sure that simply shocks you, right?). We can never do something the easy way; that would be, well, too easy. Are you ready for the Top 5 Fantastic Failures in Trail Transportation?!

#5: Leave Your Valuables at Home

Mr.B

Mr. B

When you are going to be leaving your vehicle unattended for days or weeks at a time, it makes no sense whatsoever to leave valuable electronics (or wallets, purses, etc.) in the car. On our AT adventure, we prepositioned vehicles at strategic locations along the trail (my Subie at Springer, Hinky Di-Di’s car at Nantahala, and Mr. Dirty’s truck at Fontana). As we were dropping the Subie at Springer, Mr. Dirty’s (autocorrect keeps changing Mr. Dirty to Mr. Society. Ha!!) friend, Mr. B – who we were transporting to Fontana for a section hike through the Smokies – decided to do a “walk around” to make sure the car wasn’t appealing to thieves… for any reason other than it’s an awesome Subie.

Thank God for Mr. B, because Frodo the dirty footed Hobbit had left his iPad, a backpack, and money on the back seat! If the hike would have gone as planned, George (that’s my Subie’s name) would have been sitting at the trailhead for SIXTEEN days. Not everyone who passes through trailhead parking lots are honest people. It is so common for cars to be broken into at trailhead that the Washington Trails Association regularly posts this blog: Keeping Your Car Safe at the Trailhead. Luckily, we had Mr. B along for the ride. George still has all of his Windows, and Frodo still has his iPad (hence the reason this is #5 and not #1).

#4: Shuttles Save Lives!
So. I told you we prepositioned those vehicles strategically along the trail. IF the hike had gone as planned, it would have been fabulous. So much thought and planning went into prepositioning those vehicles. Here is how it was supposed to work: Mr. Dirty would drop us at Fontana then pick up Hinky Di-Di and the Ninja Lumberjack at Nantahala. Together, we would hike the thirty miles from Fontana back to the NOC. The Ninja Lumberjack would shuttle Mr. Dirty back to Fontana to get his truck. Hinky Di-Di & I would continue hiking to George where he was waiting at Springer Mountain. Yeah, right.

We were running slightly behind schedule – which totally freaked out Mr. Dirty. The soldier inside doesn’t like for a schedule to NOT be adhered to. Schedules are made for a reason, right? At around 5am on the third day of hiking, Mr. Dirty scratched on the mosquito netting of my hammock to tell me he was hiking out ahead of us. He wanted to get to the NOC and take a shuttle back to Fontana to get his truck. His goal was to be waiting when we came off the trail at the NOC so that he could hit the highway.

When he reached the NOC, he arranged a shuttle through Jeff Hoch at The Hike Inn. Mr. Dirty has nothing but good stuff to say about Jeff – who, according to Mr. Dirty, knows everyone on the AT and has great stories to share. If you are in need of a shuttle in the Fontana Dam or Nantahala area, give Jeff & Nancy a call at (828-479-3677). Shuttles Save Lives,right? Jeff is probably unaware of the role he played in helping us get Hinky Di-Di off the trail safely!

Oblivious to the day’s drama (if you are unaware of the drama, read Dirty Disappointment), Mr. Dirty sent me a text to inform me that he was at his truck and heading back to Nantahala. According to my little pocket map, we were about two miles to Wright Gap. Luckily, I had purchased the AT Trail1 iPhone app. I highly recommended this app. It has a GPS that shows you where you are on the trail. The mileage wasn’t always correct, and it didn’t always have sufficient signal signal strength to update your location. It WAS only $1. The map on this app showed that there was a road crossing at Wright Gap. This, by the way, wasn’t on my little pocket map (you know, the one that I paid $19.99 for on Amazon).

We were able arrange for Mr. Dirty to meet us at the road crossing in order to get Hinky Di-Di safely off the trail. See? Shuttles Save Lives.

#3: Lead the Way… Don’t LEAVE!

Dirty George after Springer Mt.

Dirty George after Springer Mt.

Our little AT adventure wouldn’t end until we went back to Springer Mountain to rescue a stranded George – the beloved Subie. First, let me say that DRIVING to get George wasn’t part of my plan so it made me a little sad. Mr. Dirty grew up in Washington and is pretty skilled at driving those mountain roads. So skilled that as we drove to the trailhead to get George, I rode with my eyes closed. He was whipping around those twists and flying over those wash outs. Needless to say, I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the way we got to the trail. Problem? Nah, I planned to follow Mr. Dirty home. Right? Wrong.

The drive down the mountain was good for a few minutes; those were the few minutes minutes when I could actually see Mr. Dirty’s dust trail. The dust trail didn’t last long, and before long, nothing looked familiar. Nothing. If you’ve been on the forestry service road to Springer, you know that there is a place in the road where you can turn one of four ways. Yeah, I took the wrong one. Smartly, I figured this out, turned around, and took another way. Yup, it was wrong, too. Mr. Dirty, of course, wasn’t answering his cell phone. When I finally reached Frodo, I was a bit hysterical. The boy’s eventually found me sitting at the crossroads acting like a blubbering fool.

Remember, if you are leading the way… don’t leave the way!!

#2: Battery Blunders, aka We’ll leave a light on for ya’

Summer 2004 - Panther Creek

Summer 2004 – Panther Creek

Summer 2012 - Panther Creek

Summer 2012 – Panther Creek

Over Spring Break, we took Frodo to Panther Creek to do a little hiking. We love Panther Creek, because it is such an amazingly beautiful place. It’s a 3.5 mile hike from the parking lot o one of the most breathtaking waterfalls in the state of Georgia. The hike can be nerve racking in spots and the water is frigid… but is so worth it!

Panther Creek Falls

Mr. Dirty at Panther Creek Falls

Mr. Dirty at Panther Creek Falls

On this particular trip, we drove George. The truck is great, because you can load lots of gear in the bed. My Subaru gets much better gas mileage. Much better. George just happens to be an Outback – which means he has a roomy cargo area. This cargo area is large enough to hold at least four fully loaded 65 liter backpacks (3 of which are from the Osprey family, just saying) and is well lit by an over head dome light. This little dome light has one of those nifty little sliding switches that has three settings: on, off, door. The on and off are pretty self-explanatory, right? Door means that the light only comes on when the door is open. Genius. This is where I like to keep it. This is where it makes sense for it to be. Right?

As we were unloading our gear, one of the fully loaded 65 liter bags (probably the non-Osprey variety) brushed against that little sliding switch, putting it into the ON position. For three days. Upon returning from our wonderfully fabulous hike, the key fob wouldn’t open the door. Whatever could be amiss? Hmmmm, why won’t the car start?

If I haven’t mentioned it yet, Panther Creek is a very popular hiking destination in Georgia. The parking lot was packed! Every parking spot as full, and cars were parked along the side of the road. That is typical or this trailhead. That’s what happens and. The destination is that amazing. It makes it rather difficult when trying to jumpstart a dead battery, unless the car parked in front of you happens to have the driver close by…. which was not the case in our situation, of course.

The Dirty Friend, Frodo, and Mr. Dirty at Panther Creek Falls

The Dirty Friend, Frodo, and Mr. Dirty at Panther Creek Falls

We were lucky to have have two very willing young ladies who were eager to exchange a jumpstart for our parking spot, but we had to first push George backwards out of his resting place. Normally, you would put the car in neutral and push. Right? Have you tried this lately? The stinking thing wouldn’t go into neutral. A quick perusal of the Owner’s Manual led to an answer: there is this little circle cover just North of the gear shift that that you have to remove and insert the Subaru screwdriver (which was, thankfully, in my glove box) in order to put the car in neutral. I’m certain this is some kind of safety feature. Mainly because I once had a friend whose son knocked her car into neutral, and it does through the neighbor’s front door.

We, eventually, pushed George to a position where he could get some juice from another vehicle, and we were on our merry way. A lesson was learned: always check to make sure all lights – both interior and exterior – are turned off before leaving the trailhead!

#1: Who Has the Keys??
Yeah, it’s happened… twice.
Our first key trouble was last summer at Panther Creek (our luck tends to not be so good there). We like to mountain bike as well as hike; therefore, I have a handy dandy bike rack attached to the rear of my Subie. It’s the kind that drops down to allow entrance to the roomie cargo area. As we were unloading our gear, someone – I really can’t remember who – sat the keys on top of the bike rack… which has an open, hollow tube that is about three feet long.

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The keys, of course, slid all the way to the bottom of the tube – inside of the bike rack. It took some scientific genius to use a magnet attached to the end of a hiking pole to retrieve the keys. Grrrrrr.

The second key incident was entirely Mr. Dirty’s fault. Really! Mr. Dirty and Frodo went for an overnight hike with our friend Brat and his son, the Ham Man. They prepositioned vehicles: Brat’s truck at Springer and Mr. Dirty’s truck at Three Forks (at least I think it was Three Forks). They set off hiking north in the rain, because it always rains on the AT. When they made it to where Mr.Dirty’s truck was waiting, he realized that his keys were… in Brat’s truck. Oh, Mr. Dirty, you rock.

Frodo, being an adventurous young lad, volunteered to run – literally – back to Springer to retrieve the keys. Along the Way (for some reason autocorrect insists that Way be capital… I guess it’s the Way it’s done), he met some kind hearted folks who shared some snacks with him. Thanks, kind hearted folks, whoever you were.

Shortly after Frodo took off for Springer, the always persuasive smooth talking Brat used his lawyerly skills to CONvince a young couple who were driving a small Yugo-ish vehicle to drive him to the trailhead. Apparently, and I’m going off hearsay on this, the young woman rode in the hatchback with her large dog so that Brat could have her seat. Yes, he’s that persuasive.

When Frodo finally made it to the parking lot to get the keys, Brat was waiting in the warm, dry cab of the truck for him. Now, every trip we take, Frodo carries a spare key to the vehicles. He doesn’t trust his parents to keep the keys!!

Dirty Disappointment

In 2009, Colt McCoy became the winningest quarterback in NCAA history with 45 collegiate wins. That year, Colt led the University of Texas Longhorns to the BCS national championship against the University of Alabama. Can you imagine? The national championship! He had to have been preparing himself for that game since he first held a football!

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Unfortunately – for Colt & UT fans – he was injured in the FIRST offensive play of the FIRST quarter. He got a taste of the lights, the crowds, the glory… but just a taste. He spent the remainder of the game watching from the sidelines as a freshman quarterback stepped in to fill his shoes.

I don’t know Colt McCoy, personally; however, I can imagine what was going through his head as he went from participant to spectator. Would he have done anything differently? Would Texas have won the game if he weren’t injured? Was his future with the NFL trashed along with his shoulder? The down right suckiness of the situation has stayed with me since watching that game. How do you come back from that kind of disappointment?

Last week, I got a little taste of how it must have felt for Colt McCoy. I’ve been dreaming of hiking the Appalachian Trail for years. It’s always been more of a fantasy than reality until this past Thanksgiving. The weekend before, I made a decision to hike from Fontana to Springer – even if I had to go alone. Over turkey and pie, it was decided that my cousin, the Ninja Lumberjack, and his wife Hinky Di-Di would join me for the trip.

The plan for our Appalachian Trail adventure was for Mr. Dirty, the Ninja Lumberjack, the Dirty Boy (who earned the trail name Frodo by hiking in his bare Hobbit feet), and the Hiking Ninja, to hike with Hinky Di-Di & I from Fontana Dam to Nantahala Outdoor Center. Hinky Di-Di and I were to continue hiking south to Springer Mountain. At least, that was the plan.

The Gang at Cable Gap Shelter
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” – Robert Burns

On the third day, Hinky Di-Di began having some medical struggles. It was a scary afternoon, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I worry about what would have happened had her medical crisis occurred after the guys left the trail. Would I have had the mental clarity to successfully get her the help she needed? Would I have had the physical strength necessary to get her off the mountain?

I thank God that I didn’t have to find out the hard way. I like to think that I would have responded so well in the crisis that they would have given me an honorary Wilderness First Aid certificate. I’m grateful that Hinky Di-Di is going to be okay and that she didn’t have to rely solely on my abilities. I WILL be signing up for a wilderness first aid course so that I can be more confident in my ability to render first aid on the trail. During my time in the Air Force, I took Self Aid & Buddy Care. I’ve been hiking and backpacking for years, but I have never taken one of these courses. Now, I see just how important it is.

If you are someone who enjoys hiking – I assume there are some of you out there reading this, consider signing up for one of these courses. We really have no idea if or when someone will need us to step in and provide emergency care. It’s frightening to be on the side of a mountain with someone who is in medical distress and NOT be able to help. Wilderness First Aid Course Schedule

“When you find your path, you must not be afraid. You need to have sufficient courage to make mistakes. Disappointment, defeat, and despair are the tools God uses to show us the way.” – Paul Coelho

This last week has been pretty rough. I’ve felt a lot like how I assume Colt McCoy felt in 2010. I’ve questioned every decision I made. I’ve sat at home watching General Hospital mourning the fact that I wasn’t on the trail where I really wanted to be. I cried as I drove my car away from Springer Mountain; I never envisioned being driven to get my car… at least not driven by anything other than an intense desire & passion for the trail.

“Burning desire to be or do something gives us staying power – a reason to get up every morning or to pick ourselves up and start again after a disappointment.” – Marsha Sinetar

Cheoah Bald
The passion that I have for hiking the Appalachian Trail hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s still there, pulling me back to the trailhead. As I type this, Mr. Dirty is repacking his pack and planning a section tor us to hike in early July. There are changes that we will make to our packing lists, because with experience comes wisdom.

In honor of those who have suffered disappointment with dignity & climbed back on the horse – especially Colt McCoy…..