Going Home Part III: What I Discovered In Virginia

We woke in the morning to a beautiful surprise a partially frozen stream and undisturbed, glittering white snow. We broke the winter scene after coffee and breakfast heading to Mt. Roger’s and Adventure Damascus Outfitters. After spending some time in town we left for a new destination. A place that we were long overdue to visit and at times never thought we would actually see again, Roub’s house in Blue Ridge, Virginia.

“Roub” is another member of our original tramily and basically the glue that kept and continues to keep us all (the tramily) connected. Roub, as all of my trail sisters would say, is our “Southern Gentleman”. Darwin and I met him our first night on trail at Hawk Mountain Shelter and hiked with him every day for probably about 1300 miles after. Just like other members of our tramily, we shared moments of pain, exhaustion, hunger, and elation together. Roub being 60 when he started his thru-hike was also somewhat of a father figure to all of us; caring and giving as any parent is with their children.

He and his wife (fondly named Mama Roub), were a saving grace to our tramily in more ways than I could ever explain. They opened their home for a week to a group of us and Mama specifically helped me through a deep homesickness for my own mom and family. All this pleasantness came to a halt one foul night on trail in Pennsylvania. Exhaustion, heat, and thirst got the best of us the three of us leaving odious words lingering in the humid night air and others left unsaid. We would hike separately from that night on. Darwin and I didn’t know it but our time on trail was coming to an end and the three of us would never regroup. We watched Roub summit in 2015 without us along with the rest of our tramily and fellow hikers. That my readers is a pain I wish on no hiker.

We had spoken with Roub since that night but not in person. Roub, however, was there with us a year later in spirit when Darwin and I returned to the AT in 2016. He sent us a care package in Hanover, NH with his specific notes and helpful hints he wrote the year before. I read his notes every day thinking of him often and we called him after we finally summited Katahdin. After all of this, I can’t describe to you what it was like to finally see Roub and Mama in person. To embrace them both, a moment that was long overdue.

Just like with Cider the day before, it was like no time had ever passed. We talked about everything…summiting, life after trail, hikers, our time on trail together and so much more. Roub told of our other fellow hikers and tramily that had visited before us and about those we have never met. We had been away out West so long…

Over the next few days Roub, Darwin and I rediscovered sections of the Appalachian Trail together. What was practically the backyard for Roub was again like coming home for Darwin and I. The White Blazes were again welcoming our return as we hiked up to Dragon’s Tooth seeing the shadows of Uncle Tornado Tim The Lizard King of Detroit and Cruise Control. We fell into our paces just like we did before, Darwin ahead, me in the middle, and Roub slightly behind me until a rock scramble or decent (he’s always faster than me then). We laughed a lot but also felt comfortable when silence fell between us.

We arrived at Dragon’s Tooth the rock monolith on the top of Cove Mountain (this is found at the end of a .3 Blue Blaze Trail off the AT). I didn’t climb the giant tooth last time I was there but I went over half way up this time. I listened as Roub pointed out the mountains in the distance that surrounded us. I forgot how clear you could hear the bovine moo from below. We talked about the few nights before this section, sleeping in the church graveyard and the shelter infested with what surely were Tarantulas. The cold nipped my nose and burned my cheeks but yet I was content and happy, lost in another time as I stared off into the mountains around me. Something about that place….

The next day Roub took us to the Peaks of Otter a place we could only faintly see from Dragon’s Tooth the day before. We drove on The Blueridge Parkway passing the AT in several places. I nodded to the memories of Supermoon, Cruise Control, and Uncle Tornado Tim as we drove past, a part of us all still there. Roub had brought along a hiking buddy Matt for this hike and it was fun to listen to stories of their backpacking trips together or misadventures if you will. I found the hike up the peaks refreshing and somewhat challenging. I was still adjusting to the steep terrain of the East. I felt revived. The cold air was filling my lungs. My muscles were working, and I was sharing a trail with my husband and friends both old and new. This is life. We arrived at the cabin on Sharp Top hiking between large boulders and then a little further for an amazing view of Jefferson National Forest. We listened while Roub explained the history that surrounded us, a characteristic of his that I have always appreciated.

We left Sharp Top and drove further down the parkway to jump on the AT heading South. The four of us hiked the short distance to the Guillotine and admired this iconic spot before moving on to the summit of Apple Mountain. The weather and miles on your feet can make a big difference on your perspective of a place. A bittersweet reminder of what it means to hike a long-distance trail.

The rest of our visit with Roub and Mama was spent in good conversation, those feelings from Pennsylvania long forgiven and repaired. Darwin and I left with a strong sense of home. The Appalachian Trail is just that, a trail. It’s the people who make the journey worth traveling. It’s the people around it and on it, that really keeps bringing us back. Those people are our home.



Top Pics: Shelter Life (Roub, Cider, Me) & New Dos! (Cider, Roub, Me

Bottom Pics: Pizza Delivered To The Woods! (Darwin, Me, Roub)

                                             Charlies Bunion (Roub, Me Cider, Cruise Control)

                                             First Tramily Portrait (Roub, Cider, Hot Sauce, Me, Darwin)

Things To Expect In Up Coming Blog Posts & Other Stuffs:

Read Roub’s Last Trail Journal Here. Fair Warning, It’s Lovely.

Review Coming Soon! A Device Allowing Me To Pee Standing Up

Cool Thingys:

Our Etsy Store: TravelandTrail – NEW BATCH OF ITEMS COMING SOON!

This Is Me On Instagram: The_snuggle_diaries

Other Older Posts From The AT You May Enjoy:

The Fog of Foreshadow

A Series of Unfortunate Events


Going Home Part II: Travel Time, Tramily and Trail Towns

Somehow unbeknownst to us, we have started a journey to revisit places and people from our time on the Appalachian Trail. This was unplanned and we didn’t realize we were even really doing it until we were on our way out from Gatlinburg, TN. Just pondering our past hiking venture, we discovered how very close places are when you don’t have to walk there. Places that took us several days to hike to now would only take us a few hours, if that driving. With time to burn and in efforts to really get Darwin in the “thru-hiking mode”, we began making our way to Hot Springs, NC.

The rain was a lingering feature throughout the day as we drove up and down winding mountain roads weaving in and out of the fog. Everything outside smelled rich and earthy a characteristic of the East that the Wild West will never know. We arrived in Hot Springs via a road that popped us out into the middle of town. We immediately were thrown back into the year 2015.

“Remember this was where we….” Member when….” “There’s that restaurant! They had great pizza!”

We drove down Bridge Street remembering when the white blazes we were following turned into trail signs in the sidewalk. We parked the Clydesdale across from Bluff Mountain Outfitters and were immediately surrounded by Appalachian Trail EVERYTHING upon crossing the threshold. I saw our old selves and tramily, milling around the store, looking for items we needed and things we didn’t. I actually picked up a new headlamp here, those few years ago. Everything looked exactly the same. Even the box distributing individual zipper bags for sale, a sure sign hikers frequent the area.

After bumming around town for a while we hit the road again for another famous trail town Damascus, VA. While Darwin and I were rehashing the past, we figured we might as well visit Damascus plus we had arranged a dinner date with a member of our original tramily, Apple Cider. Upon arriving in Damascus we found everything closed and not just closed because it was past five o’clock, but closed for the season. The city was basically empty of people except for The Damascus Brewery and that’s where we met up with Apple Cider.

Apple Cider was given her trail name on the first night out on trail having packed out a glass bottle of homemade hard “Apple Cider” (a gift from a family member). Answering to the shortened version of her trail name “Cider”, she started out as a solo hiker and was the first lady friend I made on the trail. As soon as all the hugging was over the three of us started talking, picking up almost where we left off in 2015, like no time had passed. We talked about our time together on the trail, experiences on sections where we hiked apart, and life now off trail. It was a rekindling of hiker spirit Darwin and I haven’t felt since our final summit in 2016. No one out West really knows about the Appalachian Trail and I can’t explain how it feels to reconnect with a person you have shared months on a trail with. When you’ve been with that person during their most raw state, hungry, cold, wet, and exhausted and them with you,  you know a most human side that others will not. Life had happened to all of us but yet being together, woke up those same hikers we were before: anxious, excited, hungry, full of energy, feeling strong but yet naive to trail life and clean….very, very, clean.
After a few hours, our time came to an end and we turned back down our separate trails. Darwin and I found a secluded spot to park for the night. Damascus was now still and silent in the off-season but our minds were still moving with hikers and events of the past.


         (Cider & I Enjoying Some Trail Magic; Cider, Me, & Darwin Reunion)

Things To Expect In Up Coming Blog Posts & Other Stuffs: 

I Read An AMAZING Trail Journal Written By Another Dear Tramily Member “Roub”. Roub Gives A Very Beautiful Perspective On What A Thru-Hike Is And What It Does To The Hiker After. You Can Check It Out Here.

Review Coming Soon! A Device Allowing Me To Pee Standing Up (I’m finally trying….)

Cool Thingys:

Our Etsy Store: TravelandTrail – NEW BATCH OF ITEMS COMING SOON!

This Is Me On Instagram: The_snuggle_diaries

Other Older Posts From The AT You May Enjoy:

3/25/15 The NOC

Random Musings Of A Zero Day



Going Home

We decided to go back home. From California, we made our back to Albuquerque, NM our HOME BASE. We had some business there and after one full day, we left heading even further East. We drove straight thru to Evansville, Indiana our HOMETOWN. We visited our family and a few old friends. It had been almost two years since we have seen any of them. We left within a few days and headed South to Gatlinburg, TN to reunite with our HOME, the Appalachian Trail.

We hadn’t seen any of the AT since 2016 when we summited Katahdin. We hadn’t actually seen this Southern Section of the trail since 2015. Gatlinburg, TN, and the Smoky Mountains were a special place for Darwin and I even before we starting hiking, so we were glad to be back in the area. We arrived late in the evening leaving us with only one logical thing to do…stuff ourselves hiker style with pizza!

The next morning we woke early and drove up towards Newfound Gap. As we climbed in elevation, the weather changed. I forgot just how much power these mountains have; they truly make their own weather. When we arrived at the Gap the wind was strong and pushy, the soft sprinkle of rain we left in town was now harsh stinging pellets. As we rolled out of the Clydesdale, it occurred to me that I didn’t have a pack cover or anything else to keep my gear dry. How stupid! I have spent way too much time in the desert! Luckily a few Wal-Mart bags and an old zippy bag stuffed away in the van for just such an occasion, did the trick.

As we started our trek North on the AT, I was struck by a wave of emotions and memories. These were my first steps in this section of trail since ’15. The last time we were here, we were fueled by pizza and an anxious rush of energy after the 20 Question Hitch experience we had trying to get back up the mountain. The mountains were dusted with snow then; the Rhododendron still waiting to bloom. I touched the first blaze I came to. The tree’s bark was cold and wet. The White of the blaze almost illuminating the trail in the gray fog we now hiked in.

I quickly felt winded as I ascended the man-made steps up the trail. I could still somewhat eat like a thru-hiker but my body quickly reminded me that it could not perform like a thru-hiker. I was out of shape. That old familiar feeling of fear as we navigated our way over thick sheets of ice that covered the trail, returned. I paused only a second.  A brief frozen fear…I could slip and fall. I acknowledged the fear and cautiously pushed passed both it and the ice. The trail like an old friend, once again calling me North.

We took in the damp smells around us as the rain continued, The AT was welcoming us back in true fashion, a wet and cold day. I was already soaked, my feet specifically meeting up with every freezing cold puddle just like before. We arrived at Icewater Spring Shelter, this is where we stayed on our thru-hike. A bunch of us packed out pizza and took in an amazing view of the Blue Ridge, our laughter filling the night. Now the shelter was empty, the only sounds were the tarp slapping at us in the wind, the view now shrouded by fog.

Darwin and I breathed in the smell of dirt, fire, and sweat and let it fill our lungs. I had forgotten about that smell; a shelter perfume that only a long distance hiker would know and appreciate. I felt the wooden planks I sat on. Smoothed down by air mattresses, boots, and the sweaty bodies of hikers who have stayed here. The walls and floors all scarred up with shelter graffiti. I felt names and dates, with my fingers on the planks surrounding me; reading them without looking like Braille.

A few minutes more and it was time to go. We were too wet and cold to stay much longer. In hiker fashion, we had to “hike to stay warm”. We trudged back into the wind and mist and just a few steps off from the shelter I met an actual thru-hiker. She was easy to pick out by the size of her pack and the yellow “AT Tag” that hung from it. “Hello!” I somewhat shouted to her in the wind. “Are you a thru-hiker?” “Yes,” she replied. We exchanged a few other brief words but I felt her urgency; the trail was calling her, she still had miles to tackle before nightfall. She disappeared into the wilderness at a pace I remember but no longer possessed.


(A Section Of Trail In The Smoky Mountains in ’15; Rocky Top Summit Picture ’15) 

Things To Expect In Up Coming Blog Posts & Other Stuffs: 

Our Etsy Store: TravelandTrail

This Is Me On Instagram: The_snuggle_diaries

Cool Thingys:

I Told The Story Of The 20 Question Hitch (mentioned above) As A Hiker Tale over at Between The Blazes! Check It Out!

Other AT Related Posts You May Enjoy:

A typical day on the AT

Entering The 100 Miles