A Series of Unfortunate Events

6/21/15 – Random Campsite by Train Tracks Outside of Palmerton, PA – 17.5 miles

 I woke to more fog, this seemed to set the mood for the rest of the day…. fantasies of a warm breakfast were broken, the restaurant was closed…. I crossed Knife’s Edge only by the skin of my teeth…our final destination was bogus…. We have no water for the night…. We are facing Leigh High Gap first thing in the morning…. After the Leigh High climb we have a 13-mile stretch with again no water…Roub decided he will be hiking on without us…. I am lost and broken-hearted…. We are sleeping by train tracks; my papaw would be disappointed in me….

6/28/15 – Vernon, NJ – 10 miles – (MIKE AND CARON DAY!)

……Got chased by baby skunks (terrifying!)…. We met Mike and Caron at a hotel and were showered with love, hugs, and food from home…. I am so excited they are here!

6/30/15 – Stealth Spot – 6 miles

After taking a zero with Caron and Mike yesterday they returned to the trail with us…I am feeling better about life…. I am fueled by Donut Bank Cookies, BBQ Grippos and good conversation…we hit the trail starting an immediate 1,000-foot climb up the Stairway to Heaven…. Caron’s foot was starting to really hurt by lunch and was super swollen….We found a stealth spot after six miles and made camp….We made fun of Mike’s coffin tent and giggled by the campfire….

7/1/15 – Campsite by Waterfall – 13 miles

……Backtracked to the nearest road due to Caron’s feet being so swollen and painful…. Mike and Caron are off trail…. We have plans to meet tomorrow…. I am homesick without them and feel guilty for still hiking today…Darwin and I have decided to take another zero with them…I am homesick…I miss Roub…

7/3/15 – Holiday Inn Express – 0 miles

Slept in…. Darwin is not feeling well and has a fever…rotted our brains with TV most of the day…. Drove around West Point with Caron, Mike, and Darwin…. Took Darwin to the ER…Darwin was diagnosed with Ehrlichiosis (a tick borne illness)….

7/5/15 – Random Campsite – 16 miles

….I turned to look back at Mike and Caron but I had hiked out to far, I couldn’t see them…. I wish I could be more like Caron, what a wonderful friend she is…Darwin is feeling a lot better but is sensitive to the sun thanks to his medications…. We passed thru Bear Mountain Museum and Zoo, it was disgusting…

7/7/15 – Random Spot – 18 miles

….I ate a deli sandwich, hiked a few miles in the heat and felt like I could barf….We took a two-hour siesta…I jammed out to Back Street Boys on my IPod….Just before pitching out tent we got stuck in a storm….We just stood in the rain for twenty minutes waiting to pitch the tent…..at a break in the rain we pitched it, dove in, and stripped off our clothes….we sat in the tent naked for almost an hour laughing…..

7/11/15 – Laural Campsite – 21 miles

….I accidentally pooped in someone’s front yard….I slipped going to see a waterfall…I now have a huge ugly bruise on my ass cheek….….I am one with nature….I am living life-like Helen Hoover….

7/12/15 – Jess Treat Homestead – 8 miles

….discovered a Space Privy…..hung out with the great people at Jess’ place….enjoyed good pizza and good conversation….a bit disappointed there is no air-conditioning….mom says mamaw isn’t doing to good but it’s nothing to come home for…..

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The Fog of Foreshadow

6/20/15   –  Allentown Shelter  –  16miles

The trail has turned to serious rockage! We had a two or three-mile stretch of beautiful dirt trail which was a nice break from the current trail littered with rocks and climbs. Every time the trail took a turn I was expecting the rocks to show their ugly edges again until finally they did. We kicked out ten miles by noon, which was impressive for the terrain. I can totally understand why so many people get injured or slow their pace in this section. As much as we wanted to move faster, it was impossible. I really felt like I was in a hamster wheel, moving but never going anywhere.

We stopped for lunch at Echville Shelter, which had drawn our attention due to its description in the trail guide. This shelter had a shower and flushing toilet that I gladly pooped in, and a caretaker. The caretaker had been working on the property since 1992 and was a very interesting fellow to say the least. We thanked him for his years of dedication and moved on.

After leaving the shelter we had around six or seven miles to go depending on where we camped. These last miles were super rocky and forced me to cuss frequently and sing the Fresh Prince Theme Song over and over. We finally made it to the shelter just in time for my toes to shoot off my feet.

Although I felt like I was never moving, we did make it to the shelter pretty early and it was amazingly empty. The weather is supposed to turn pretty sour tonight so we decided to play it safe and not pitch. Darwin and Roub have taken over the two single bunks so the floor is left all to the spiders and me.

Darwin and I had cell service so we called Caron and Mike to discuss our future rendezvous with them in the a week. I am so excited to have them come out and visit us but also nervous. We are planning on taking a zero with them and then hiking a few small days. This will put us a little behind a few of our fellow hikers especially Roub. I’m worried I’ll have a relapse and want to go home with them. What happens if we lose Roub and can’t catch up? Ugggg!

As I lay here on my bag the air is getting cooler and the fog is rolling in. I’ve never noticed fog as much as I do out on the trail. It can really effect your mood and your miles. Sigh….This imposing weather may make it interesting for the first day of summer tomorrow. It is also “Naked Hiking Day” which I feel is a pretty risky task in this section. Wonder if I’ll see anything swinging in the wind tomorrow?

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Harper’s Ferry

6/5/15  –  Harper’s Ferry  –  8 miles (Nero Day)

We fell asleep in rain, woke to rain and started hiking in rain. Although we were still feeling pretty crappy from the day before (I had seriously considered quitting) the three of us (Roub, Darwin, and I) kept our focus on getting to the ATC Headquarters. We cruised along the trail with Oz and before we knew it we were crossing the bridge into Harper’s Ferry. My excitement was growing with every step. We hit the .6 Blue Blaze Trail that would take us to the ATC Headquarters and I let out a big “whoop!” After walking a little ways thru town, we turned a corner and BAM! There it was, the ATC Headquarters!

We stared in amazement for a few minutes then dropped our packs and entered. We were immediately welcomed by loads of volunteers. I gazed at all the AT themed items surrounding us pictures, maps, patches, jewelry, etc. and felt like I earned everything. This was a place meant for me, for us, thru-hikers. A volunteer then lead us to the Hiker Room that was loaded with food, drinks and a huge hiker box. Once we were given the full tour we had our official picture taken and our numbers were assigned. As of June 5th 2015 we are hikers 431 and 432 forever and always in the catlolog of thru hikers for the year. Darwin and I were both very excited for this huge milestone in our journey.

Our arrival at the headquarters became even more surreal when we found the Four Horsemen’s picture in one of the catalogs. Their documentary “Trek” was one of the ways I first heard about the AT. I remember when Darwin and I first watched it. I very vividly remember how much I was horrified by the thought of doing a thru-hike. I would have never guessed two years later I would be doing that “horrific” thing. We continued to flip thru the catalogs and were awed by the amount of hikers that had arrived at this same point in their hike. We dug into our mail drops we received from our family and congratulated our fellow hikers as they arrived to the headquarters. We then waited for Mamma Roub to come and take us away to showers and soft beds.

We previously decided to take a full zero tomorrow in order to celebrate reaching our mental halfway point and our upcoming wedding anniversary. This will also be the last time Roub would see Mamma before summiting Katahdin. This whole experience however was a very different one for our new friend Oz. She was just hitting her first 100 miles having started mid Shannies. We all had something to celebrate today.

After lunch we dropped Oz off at a hostel then Darwin, Roub, Mamma Roub and I headed for the hotel. Once we arrived we immediately took showers and did laundry. I got to visit with Mamma just her and me, which always helps with my homesickness. It was so good to see her and have a girl talk. She bestowed upon me a silver necklace with a compass and AT charm. She told me it was to help me find my way back to Roub and her after the trail. Life after trail? What will happen to me? What will become of my tramily? I hadn’t thought this far ahead and it scared to do so now. Going North is all I know right now. Life on trail is so simple. I pushed these thoughts aside and cherished the moments with Mamma. I ached knowing I wouldn’t see her again for a couple months and that’s only if Roub stayed with us.

We set outside to enjoy some pizza and a few adult beverages for dinner; still relishing our accomplishment. The hotel manager who was new to the area came out and visited us while we ate. He was the most polite and interesting person to talk to with. He asked us tons of questions about the trail and was proud to show us his newly made hiker box, which we so gladly pillaged. Our bellies full and our bodies clean, Darwin and I fell asleep to the sound of an Ed Sullivan infomercial and the hum of the air conditioner.  A zero day was on the horizon.

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Darwin’s 2016 AT Gear List

Pack

Osprey Atmos 65 – http://amzn.to/2psy50N

Sleep System

EE Revelation 20 Quilt – http://enlightenedequipment.com/revelation/

ThermaRest Neo Air X lite – http://amzn.to/2nOaOkA

Sea to Summit Aeros UL Pillow – http://amzn.to/2pBDfH7

Shelter

Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 – http://amzn.to/2psHq99

Cook System

Sea to Summit Spork – http://amzn.to/2nqpICn

SnowPeak 700 Ti Mug – http://amzn.to/2ocjLHW

SnowPeak LiteMax Stove – http://amzn.to/2p9uIsN

ZPacks Blast Food Bag – http://zpacks.com/accessories/bear_bag.shtml

Water Filtration

Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter – http://amzn.to/2oN683m

2 Smart Water Bottles

Platypus 2.0L Dirty Gravity Bag – http://amzn.to/2p2lv4C

Electronics

Black Diamond Spot Headlamp – http://amzn.to/2oNhiFD

GoPro Session 5 – http://amzn.to/2oco7yL

PowerAdd Slim 2 Charger – http://amzn.to/2oPVicC

StickPic – http://www.thestickpic.com

iPod Shuffle – http://amzn.to/2nqtwn6

Clothes

OR Helium 2 Rain Jacket – http://amzn.to/2oN6WoU

Mt. Hardware Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket – http://amzn.to/2nVVH9P

OR Trancsendent Down Beenie – http://amzn.to/2oNgjVB

Nike Pro Combat T-Shirt – http://amzn.to/2oNgekR

Nike Pro Combat Thermal Tights – http://amzn.to/2nW7N2u

Darn Tough Socks – http://amzn.to/2oj9ESc

Buff – http://amzn.to/2oc9yLM

Merrell Moab Ventilators – http://amzn.to/2psvcNu

Dirty Girl Gaiters – dirtygirlgaiters.com

Other

Komperdell Trekking Poles – http://amzn.to/2oDPPlU

ThermaRest Z Seat (ass pad) – http://amzn.to/2nVVNOM

ZPacks Cuben Stuff Sacks – http://zpacks.com/accessories/dry_bags.shtml

 

 

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The Wavy One…

5/30/15  –  Big Meadows Campground (still in the Shannies)   –  20 miles

We made our 900 mile-marker yesterday so we left camp at 5:30am this morning pumped and ready to tackle more miles. The three of us Roub Darwin and myself, stayed close most of the morning and enjoyed good conversation. The trail in the Shannies is so smooth it has really allowed me to pick my pace up and 10am we were already thirteen miles in. At one point during our day we stumbled upon a campground with a camp store. At the store, I split a big bag of Doritos with Darwin and sucked down a root beer with a pop-tart for desert. After getting high on food for about thirty minutes, we continued on.

About six or seven miles later, Roub and I found a note from Darwin who had hiked ahead, informing us of a side trail that would take us to our day’s final destination. Roub and I followed the side trail to a Wayside but we were unable to find Darwin so we enjoyed a few snacks and waited for him to appear. Just about the time I popped my boots off, a truck pulled up and Darwin jumped out. Darwin then started to tell us about the driver and our campsite neighbor, Wavy Dave.

While we devoured burgers and blackberry shakes at the Wayside Darwin attempted to explain more about his brief encounter with Wavy Dave. Apparently Wavy Dave was shocked that we had done a twenty-mile day and couldn’t believe we had been hiking since March. In payment for the ride to the Wayside, Darwin promised he would bring Dave beer and introduce us. Roub and I were both less than excited about this but Darwin on the other hand was ecstatic.

We hitched to the campground with a Park Ranger and there was no denying which site was Wavy Dave’s; it looked like a compound and throbbed with punk rock music.

After setting up camp we wondered over to Wavy Dave’s compound as Darwin promised. Wavy Dave was a loud, tall man wearing a black Joy Division Shirt, flowy pants and Flip Flops. His outfit was completed with a blue bandanna (that he constantly was retying on his head) and dark sunglasses adding to his mystique.

He instantly welcomed us, introduced us to his “friend” Gigi who was camping with him, and offered us beer and seaweed rice cakes. He quizzed us on our day (making sure Darwin had not lied to him) and rattled on about the random doings of himself and Gigi. Dave was a 50-year-old owner of a landscaping business, artist, and shucker of oysters. Gigi was Dave’s occasional employee and friend who had moved to the states a few years ago. Gigi stayed quite throughout most of this conversation so I assumed her silence was confirmation of everything Dave said. I must also note that while The Wavy One was weaving his tales, he would occasionally interject with his opinions of the government and to inform us that we were beautiful. Throughout the entirety of our visit he was also snapping pictures of us and asking us to strike random poses. Our visit with Wavy Dave lasted almost an hour. Feeling like one would after listening to a motivational speaker combined with televangelist, we were exhausted and ready to hit the showers.

Throughout the rest of the evening, the three of us could not help but notice the giggles and occasional shrieks coming from Wavy Dave’s compound.

We indulged in more food at the lodge near the showers and enjoyed conversation with a few hikers we had seen earlier in the day named Papillon and a blond girl who had just got on the AT in the Shannies. We discussed gear, mileage, and of course Wavy Dave.

We returned to our campsite for the evening and stopped by the compound again to thank the Wavy One and Gigi for their hospitality knowing we would never see them again. They wished us luck and we said our good nights. I feel a little sad sitting here in the tent listening to Wavy Dave’s tunes. What an impression Dave made on me in our visit. Although I judged him a little hard at first, he is just a dude out with a friend trying to have a good time and enjoying life. He seems so comfortable in his own skin; I hope to one day be like that.

****Note: We would see Wavy Dave again in the early morning on his way to the bathroom looking a little less “wavy” then before.

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Merrell All Out Blaze Mid WP

Full Review

Reviewed By: Darwin

There seems to be no break in time with the Merrell All Out Blaze, which makes them comfortable right out of the box. The toe box is nice and roomy with a wider fit that accommodates for thicker socks and/or layering. The All Out Blaze has a sewn in sock liner giving it more room through out the entire boot. At first the boot seemed to breathe well but over time during longer hikes, I found the All Out Blaze to not breathe as well as other waterproof boots that I have tested.

The overall stability of the All Out Blaze is good without being overwhelming. The ankle support is there when you need it but disappears when you don’t. The traction of the All Out Blaze is great when dealing with slippery conditions thanks to the Vibram Tc5+ outsole.

With features that range from a waterproof leather upper to its rugged Vibram outsole, the Merrell All Out Blaze was able to handle any type of terrain and will last for many hikes to come. There was a little bit of delamination along the sole of the boots, but overall the boot stayed intact after multiple hikes in rough terrain.

The molded TPU external heel counter, rugged toe bumper, and a bellowed tongue (to keep out trail debris), are all great features that make the overall protection of this boot excellent.

Off trail, The Merrell All Out Blaze was soft due to its “UniFly midsole”, making them fall short when edging up steep ascents or crossing skree fields.

Altogether, I found the Merrell All Out Blaze to be a very roomy, lightweight and full featured mid hiking boot that is comfortable to wear straight from the box. It’s perfect for warm weather hiking and lightweight backpacking.

 

 


 

Product Specifications

Price: Usually around $150

Weight: 2lb 2oz for the Pair

Check Them Out Here: Merrell All Out Blaze Ventilator Mid WP


 

How I tested them

These boots were tested over a series of long day hikes & lightweight overnight backpacking trips in the Jamez & Manzano Mountains of New Mexico. They were tested on a variety of trail conditions including muddy, rocky, sandy, & hard pack trails.