Monday, May 24, 2010

The Appalachian Trail : Unknown Territory Video Blog - bonus video 2

The bonus fifth installment of the Unknown Territory Video Blog

Check back every Wednesday for a new installment and follow along with the adventures of a lawyer, an Ivy grad, and a city chick.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Trail Update #4

Thanks to everyone who has sent us care packages. You are all trail angels to us!

Below is the most up-to-date list of mail drops:

Harper's Ferry, WV [6/1/10]

Duncannon, PA [6/4/10]

Vernon, NJ [6/18/10]

Dalton, MA [7/1/10]

Here's how you send it:

Recipient Name [e.g., Katherine Imp]
General Delivery
City, State, Zip
Please Hold for Thru-Hiker
Estimated Date of Arrival: xx/xx/10

We eat everything and anything, so if you decide to send something, have fun with it! We love being surprised with letters and food when we hit towns so we will enjoy anything you send!

Sleep Adjustment

Written By: Emily "Lightning" Ginger

At home I have a large bed. I have 5 pillows on that bed; two go under my head at night and the rest just surround me. I find this arrangement very comfortable. Out here, I sleep on a very thin therm-a-rest (sleeping pad) that only accommodates my upper body, so my legs get no cushion. My pillow is my clothes bag which I wrap my rain coat around, with the inside-out because the inside of my jacket is the cleanest surface I can trust for laying my face on (I got a rash from sleeping on a dirty “pillow” for the first few days we were out here). It took about a month for my body to adjust to sleeping on the ground every night while being semi-exposed to the elements (I would wake up feeling groggy or not well-rested after 10 hours of sleep).

About two weeks ago my inflatable sleeping pad sprung a leak in the seam, and I had to send it into the company for repair. This left me sleeping on the hard ground for the past two weeks! Surprisingly, I didn’t really notice; I slept through the night, every night, even when I was sleeping in the shelter on the hard wood floor. I think I was already accustomed to sleeping on nearly nothing anyhow (with such a small pad), and just for kicks, since it’s a funny story, I’ll share how this wasn’t the first time I have slept on the hard ground. When I was younger, my sister and I would fight incessantly. Since we had such a small house where we shared a room, the conflict was loud, consistent, and unavoidable. My dad threatened to use an alternative” form of punishment: if we didn’t stop fighting he was going to take our mattresses away. He probably assumed thought such a threat would do the trick, but it didn’t and of course he followed through with his word. I’m not sure how long it was, but we slept on the hardwood floor for maybe a week; I think we each had a thin blanket and pillow. I don’t even know if it stopped us from fighting but I don’t blame him for trying that method, and I appreciate the experience as it seems to have prepped me for sleeping on anything.

Not only did my pad spring a leak, but my other gear has also decided to break down all at the same time! First it was my backpack; the steel frame that keeps the bag suspended completely ripped off, leaving the weight of my pack to rest on my shoulders and not my hips. The next day it was my camelback, my water “bladder” sprung a leak and saturated my pack. Two days later, one of my trekking poles comes apart and resists being retracted. All the while, the shoes that I bought a month ago have suffered unreasonable “wear and tear” on them. I have invested a lot of money in the gear that I brought out here and I need it to last me! Fortunately, I was able to call up the companies that produce these items; I explained where I am, what I am doing with their gear, and the extent to which I rely on it. Fortunately, all of them kindly agreed to replace their product that was breaking down and they had it shipped out to my next expected post office stop. Thanks Gregory, Montrail, Camelback, and REI for having such great warranties for us hikers, I appreciate your value of the customer! I hope my gear lasts me past this trip so I can use it for future hikes.

My Top 5

Written by: Katherine 'Ringleader' Imp

Last week, the Traveling Circus took their one and only break from the Appalachian Trail. Lightning went to Trail Days, and Monkey and I went to my law school graduation. People asked Monkey and I a whole variety of questions, but my favorite question to answer is always this: What is your favorite memory up to this point?

For those of you that have seen me in the last week, some of this will be repetitious, but if you haven't . . . enjoy!

1. The Bus --- Somewhere in Southern Virginia I saw a yellow school bus in the woods. I didn't know how it got there. I didn't know why it was there. All I knew is that my favorite movie, "Into the Wild," had just become a reality. I dropped my pack, weaved in and out of weeds and piles of cow shit, and jumped in. It was clear that someone had lived there. The bus had a bed, a stove, a table -- it was a home. Emily and Brandon soon joined me and after a look around we decided there was only one thing left to do: play. I pretended to host a dinner party, with Emily and Brandon as my guests. We laughed, and danced, and practiced our Southern accents. Who knew a run-down bus could be so entertaining.

2. The 13-mile sprint into Pearisburg --- We planned to spend a weekend with an old friend of mine in Pearisburg. Unfortunately it took 3 marathon days and a half-marathon sprint to get there by Saturday morning before the post office closed. We'd spent the night before the 13-mile sprint at a hostel called Wood's hole, and somewhere around mile 4 of 'the sprint' I realized I forgot my snack bag at the hostel. With Emily and Brandon nowhere in sight, I had no choice but to just keep going and hope that the Cliff bar at breakfast would get me through the hike. I zoomed through the trees, peering to my right or left every so often to catch a view. Finally I was nearing the end, only a few more miles of downhill to go, when I saw a thru-hiker standing by a road intersecting the trail. It was TP! A female thru-hiker we had hiked with for awhile in the Smokies! I barely had the energy to say hello, but we both gave the "What are you doing here??" look, chatted for a minute, and said farewell. I then ran down the rest of the mountain, stumbled over to the Rendezvous Motel, and collapsed on the grass -- in awe of what my body had just accomplished.

3. The Pearisburg Post Office Parking Lot --- After collecting our care packages from the Pearisburg post office, Emily, Brandon, and I sat down in the parking lot to organize ourselves. Out of nowhere a man comes over on his motorcycle and says, "Would you mind giving me a minute to pray for you?" Of course my first thought was that he was either a Jehovah's Witness or wanted to convert me to whatever religion he was faithful to. Nevertheless I figured a prayer couldn't hurt anyone so I said, "Sure." He then proceeds to pray for our health, our safety on the trail, and our happiness throughout the journey. After he finished, he got back on his motorcycle and drove away . . .

4. Clingman's Dome --- Clingman's Dome is one of the highest peaks on the AT, and the day we planned to hike over it was the day it snowed in the Smokies. We woke up to snow on the ground and in the trees. It was cold and wet . . . and beautiful. The hike was treacherous. Because there was so much snow on the ground, the tree branches were at the same level as our heads. I tried to duck and twist, but no matter where you turned you were bound to get snow in the face. When I got to a fork in the road, I couldn't tell which way Brandon and Emily had gone so I took a left. I couldn't see the white blazes or footprints because of all the snow. I just kept going up until the trees opened up and I saw the Smokies. I was freezing and lost and alone but I've never see anything so beautiful.

5. Dutch Haus B&B --- According to our Thru-Hiker travel companions, there is a B&B in Montebello, VA that gives free lunch to hikers. For all we knew the lunch served was peanut butter & jelly, but it didn't matter . . . it was free. We hiked 13 miles to the top of a mountain and it was here that we were to find a steep downhill path that would bring us to a parking lot at the bottom. From there the owners of the B&B would pick us up. When we got to this intersection it was 12:30, lunch ended at 1pm, and we had no cell reception to call and ask for a pick up. Feeling defeat, we began to pull out our tuna packets. Then, out of nowhere, a truck pulls around the corner of this mountain. Without thinking I jump in front of the truck and ask for a ride to the B&B. Apparently there is an old Appalachian family that lives on the other side of the mountain and twice a month he goes to check on them --- this day being one of those times. We jump in the back of the truck, and when we get to the parking lot we see the owner of the B&B. "We heard you were comin' from some of your fellow thru-hikers," he said. We get out of the first truck, hop into the second truck, and before we could even say thank you we were being hustled into this beautiful wooden home to a table with fresh lemonade, hamburgers, macaroni & cheese, veggies, and vanilla pudding topped with fresh strawberries.


Written by: Brandon "Monkey" Imp

It's something everybody has dealt with in their life - you miss your family and friends. The separation could be for any number of reasons. You went off to college, studied abroad for a semester, went on a long trip, or one of you moved permanent residence. Some identify the feeling as home sickness. Is it still home sickness if you miss people from more than one place? I miss my family and friends in New Jersey, everybody at Cornell, random encounters in Hawaii, my Rome friends who dispersed across the U.S., friends in Buffalo, family in Michigan. I've begun to miss thru-hikers who I have not seen in over a month. This is not home sickness. This is a longing for the familiar.

I can usually build a strong wall to contain these (in my opinion) terrible emotions and feelings. Sure it is selfish; however, when I reconnect with the family or friends via telephone, email, or in person, my gratitude for their friendship is genuine and I believe they understand. Although I am not great at frequently staying in touch, I am so thankful that our sparse communication is enough to maintain a strong friendship.

My wall recently crumbled. The floodgates opened, and it is terrible. I think about friends and family all day long. My heart hurts thinking about our separation, but my memories make me smile.

The floodgates opened because I was caught off guard. We have been hiking with a new group of thru-hikers (our days off for Kate's graduation gave time for others to catch up) and one of them is Breeze. Breeze, myself, and six others were sitting around the shelter and chatting. I gave my general introduction and revealed that I am a Cornell graduate. Breeze said, "I know somebody from Cornell." Now, at a school of 13,000 undergraduates, the, "Do you know ....?" question is usually inapplicable. But she said, "Do you know Carla P?" APEGHOIAMNWPOMAIEG Not only do I know Carla, but I lived with her last semester and she is one of my closest and oldest Cornell friends. It was like a slap in the face. She had seen me in Carla's Facebook profile pictures and finally placed my face. We talked about how Carla was doing, how we met, and how they know each other. My brain would not stop. Images and memories and conversations flooded my mind. Those of Carla connected to those of the other apartment girls and High Rise 5 and Greek Life and biology and theatre and parties. 3.5 years had been released at once and it was overwhelming.

Then, it began. Other thru-hikers began looking like and acting like my friends. Snickers IS my friend Alex. His voice, mannerisms, and energy are the exact same. Sideways D looks like my friend Sarah. They are blonde, have the same body type, laugh loud, and have the same large smile. Inferno reminds me of Molly, a WWOOFer I met in Hawaii. They are blonde, energetic and laugh a whole lot. Megalodon resembles Dan W., someone from my Scout troop. They both laugh with an asthmatic-like hiccup and their face contorts the same when they smile.

This is crazy. My family and friends are great, but they need to stay out of my head. That wall needs to be rebuilt. I still have 2.5 months left on the trail and cannot have my emotions pulling me twenty different ways.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Appalachian Trail : Unknown Territory Video Blog - part 4

The fourth installment of the Unknown Territory Video Blog.

Check back every Wednesday for a new installment and follow along with the adventures of a lawyer, an Ivy grad, and a city chick.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I am woman, hear me roar!

Written by: Emily "Lightning" Ginger

I wouldn't feel right if I didn't start this entry with a shout out to the person who has shaped me into the woman I am today: My mother. As a little girl I told my mother I wanted to be a teacher. She (being a teacher) told me that I couldn't become one because there are already too many female teachers, and she wanted her daughters to pursue more male dominated professions. Along the same lines, when I was 12 years old I asked my mom if she would sign me up for cheer leading because I wanted to be a cheerleader. She responded to that with "No, my daughters do not stand on the sidelines cheering on the men, my daughters play the sport." Hearing her tell me I couldn't become a teacher or be a cheerleader was upsetting at the time, but I look back now and appreciate having had those moments. Since a young age my mother made sure I was aware of and thinking about gender stereotypes or inequalities. At the age of 18, while I was in the midst of "finding myself" and discovering who I am/ want to be, my mother handed me five posters to hang on my apartment walls- they were all posters of women who have had a significant and admirable impact on society: Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Emma Goldman, and Jane Addams. These women have adorned my walls for years now, and I feel empowered every time I look at them. So, thanks mom, you did a great job of raising two independent and strong-minded women. I love you!

On Mother's Day I was walking out of Dalevile, VA when I came upon a woman heading towards me, hiking in the opposite direction. This woman was dressed how I envision myself dressing when I am in my 40's or 50's (the sun hat, the jewelery, the sweater, the un-dyed grey hair, etc- she looked like she'd be shopping at Whole Foods in Berkeley, CA). We both said "hello" and just passed each other at first but then she stopped, turned around, and shouted "how far are you headed?" I shouted back to her "to Maine." She chuckled at my confident and ambitious answer, then replied with a heart-felt "I sure hope you make it to Maine, do it for me!" That woman has no idea how profound of an impact those few words had on me then, and probably will for the rest of my life. Though I know nothing about this lady, I felt an immediate connection and could sense that I was in the presence of a like-minded individual. Thus hearing a fellow strong-willed woman ask me to accomplish my goal was inspiring and empowering. I feel the need to hike all the way to Maine for that woman, and for any other woman who wishes she had the moxy, time, money, or confidence to take-off and hike the AT, or to pursue another dream or aspiration of theirs. I feel especially determined, empowered, and proud to be out here and representing the small percentage of women who thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Why are there so few women who thru-hike the AT?

Though I think my generation has come a long way in gender equality compared to my parents and grand-parents' generations, I think we still have a long way to go. Today's society is still casting women and men into their "separate" gender roles, detouring women from being strong, independent-minded, and out-spoken while we are pressuring men into being more "powerful" and muscular. For instance, when we give a little girl a princess outfit for her birthday, we are giving her the message that she can gain our respect and attention through her looks because we all ooh and ahh at how pretty she looks in her dress and fake plastic heels. However, when we give a little boy a set of lego's and then we all ooh and ahh over what he creates from those lego's, we are sending him the message that he can receive attention and "approval" through producing or creating something through the exercise of thought and application of his mind. In our society, muscularity and aggression are used to define masculinity, detouring women from wanting to partake in activities that might cause them to be viewed as aggressive or muscular. It's crazy to see all the advertisements displaying women who are too skinny, have their face "painted" with make-up, and wearing impractical clothing. When I look at "women" in the media, they look awfully bounded to me. These images are sending subliminal messages to women and girls that they should look good and act fragile in order to be accepted. Therefore we have a society comprised of women using razors, moisturizers, beauty products galore, while painting their faces, and walking around on stilts- a lot of them unaware that they have a choice in the matter. While we encourage women to look and act in a certain way, we are perhaps preventing them from pursuing a number of activities that might make someone all dirty or more sturdy. I have personally experienced the brunt of these societal expectations. Since a young age, my physique has been muscular and athletic looking. Over the years I have been put-down and made fun of by others, a countless number of times for having this genetically muscular body-type that doesn't fit into our "womanly mold."

I applaud organizations such as "Girls on the Run" who provide encouragement and opportunity for women to be physically active. I think that having a goal to work towards, being part of a team, and just feeling physically strong can really increase one's confidence in their capabilities. I know I wouldn't be the strong and confident person that I am today had I not been exposed to the sense of power, achievement, accomplishment, and success that I got from being an athlete my whole life. Also, without the focus on athletics in high school, I'm sure I would have had less self-confidence and been more troublesome for my parents by seeking out "attention" in other ways.

I think we need to throw this idea that muscularity means masculinity out the window (for the sake of both men and women) and "free" women from their passive high heels and dress wearing expectancies (please don't take the dress wearing literally, I actually longboard in skirts and dresses- they just aren't conducive to physical activity). Our society needs to encourage girls to get outside and be more active for the sake of their physical and mental health! I think a little dirt can look just as good as a little make-up! Plus I think a woman with a curvaceous, athletic figure looks a lot better and healthier in a dress than the "coat rack" body figures I see modeling clothes in magazines. I want to see more women with both a strong mind AND body- let us roar!

Travel as a Group, Hike by Yourself

Written by: Brandon "Monkey" Imp

Ringleader and I travelled to her Law School graduation this past weekend while Lightning ran around at Trail Days. Dozens of people approached the two of us to talk about the trail - classmates, professors, deans, the works. One fact was widely unrecognized: we travel as a group but hike alone.

Traveling as a group has its perks. We share and balance our pack weight. We share two tents, a pot, a stove, a water pump, medical equipment, and food. By doing so, we save overall weight on our backs (after all, ounces equal pounds!) Without the 10+ pounds of camera equipment, we would be ultralight backpackers and average 18-24 pounds (there is a variation on any given day due to water and food weight). However, since we are making a documentary, our packs are much heavier. I cannot imagine making a movie on your own while hiking the trail - your pack would just not be big enough to carry everything.

The mental and emotional trials that envelop "loneliness" can be overcome as a group. We are essentially cut off from the world and therefore have no new information. It's hard to gossip, learn from current events, or progress towards a career. It may be hard to believe, but this absence of information leads to a spiral of depression and feeling of worthlessness (see: 24% completion rate of Northbound thru-hikers). As a group, we can wallow in these feelings together, talk about them, and get over them. If you stay in your head, you are doomed.

Post-hiking enjoyment of the trail is heightened when you complete the trail as a group. This is something I have learned from my travels throughout the U.S. and the world. No matter how excellent your trip was or how excited your family/friends are for you to have gone on an adventure, they will only want to hear bits of it. You may return home from a trip and have 100 pictures. You start going through them with your parents - the first 10 are great, the next 20 a little slow, until you just speed through the final 70 because you see their eyes have glazed over. This statement does not attack anyone - it's the truth and I admit I have been a culprit as well. However, if you go about this adventure with someone else, they will love to talk about it over and over and over for years to come. If they are not hiking in the woods, they are just a phone call away.

All that being said, we still hike alone. A phrase that all hikers say is, "Hike your own hike." The phrase can be interpreted multiple ways. One interpretation is to walk your own pace. Lightning is fast compared to Ringleader and I. Ringleader often stops to film throughout the day. So, no matter who leaves first in the morning or at lunch, Lightning arrives to our camping destination first, I arrive second, and Ringleader arrives third. Those of you not hiking may think, "Why don't you all just figure something out and hike together?" That is a GREAT question. We have tried. The fact is that we hike ten hours a day. We all come to a point where someone is going too slow, someone is going too fast, or we do not want to wait around because we are "in the zone." Also, you cannot regulate when you need to stop for a bathroom or snack break. All of these seemingly trivial factors add up to the point of frustration. So, we hike alone.

There are exceptions to hiking alone. If we have a 20+ mile day, Lightning may hike behind me. She knows I hike a consistent pace that will leave me enough energy to get through the day, so she tags along so she will not burn out. Ringleader and I will hike together when it's beautiful and I know filming will be done. The three of us hike together when we have a common goal that is not too far away (a few miles to a town, a landmark, or a shelter). These exceptions are not found on an everyday basis. Also, the exceptions rarely last an entire day.

We travel as a group but hike alone. Hiking alone creates an entirely unique experience for each hiker. For this reason, most groups that start off together do not finish together. We will break that generalization. The three of us will climb Katahdin together because we are bound by our film and gear, just like married couples are bound by law and love.

The Female Invasion

Written by: Katherine "Ringleader" Imp

In 2002 I met a woman that changed my life.

She wasn't particularly attractive. Her teeth were crooked, her hair was a mess, and for the 2 weeks I knew her, she never once changed her clothes. She didn't have much of an academic education, nor did she plan to seek one out. She was a wanderer, one of those 'hippie folk' who defy societal norms not out of hate but rather out of a strong love for life.

The second I met her I was hooked. I wanted to know everything about her. I was inspired, I was intrigued -- I wanted her to be my mentor forever.

For 2 weeks Claire shared her story with me. She told me about her time as a white water rafting guide. She told me about Outward Bound and her time as a wilderness instructor. She told me about her dreams. She was 23.

I've come a long way since meeting Claire. I grew up. I threw myself into a hole of debt bigger than the Grand Canyon. I got a full-time job. But I never forgot her adventurous spirit. And I never forgot the most important thing she taught me: one voice can make a difference.


Many people have asked me what it's like to be a woman on the Appalachian Trail, and while I cannot speak for everyone, I can share my story from the perspective of an urban lawyer fresh out of law school.

So here is my take:

There are VERY FEW women on the Appalachian Trail. Emily and I have been told over and over again that there are plenty of women that hike the AT; however, the fact still stands that we've been out here for over 2 months and have seen hundreds of men but only a handful of women.

For someone like me, who is used to spending her time with loud, independent, female lawyers (hello Champaign crew!) . . . the lack of women on the trail is infuriating. Where are all the women? Are there stereotypes about the Appalachian Trail that prevent women from coming out here? Or is the gender imbalance due to the fact that the story of the Appalachian Trail is generally told from the white male perspective?

There is one book by Beverly 'Maine Rose' Hugo that provides practical advice to female thru-hikers. []

From the white female perspective, I think the following stereotypes can be debunked:

1. The trail is not safe for women.

False. The real world is far more dangerous for women than the Appalachian Trail. In the real world, women have to protect their drinks at the bar, watch their back when walking home at night, and continually defend themselves from men that show disrespect. If anything, the women are more safe on the trail than the men because when there are so few, many of the male thru-hikers become protective. Should I ever want a big brother, I've probably got about 30 that would come to my rescue.

2. A thru-hike requires you to get 'dirty', and most women hate that.

False on so many levels. First off, I know a lot of men that would prefer to eat rotten eggs than ever set foot in the woods. Second, the Appalachian Trail is not the Himalayas -- you hit town every few days and most people stop for a bed and shower (both men and women). Third, just because you're in the woods, doesn't mean you have to throw your looks and personal hygiene out the window. Our wardrobes may be smaller, but that doesn't mean you can't wear fun clothes (from Prana!) and brush your teeth.

3. Women's bodies aren't made to endure a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

Ridiculous. Men play football, women have babies. Only one of those activities is broadcasted on television, but both clearly indicate the human body's ability to endure hardship. On the AT, men tend to lose their upper body strength and finish the trail looking scrawny and malnourished. The women just look fit and fabulous.

Know your body's weaknesses before coming out here; I've had shin stress fractures in the past, so I ice and stretch them as much as I can. I also take an extra calcium pill (outside of my daily vitamin), but even that is really more for 'peace of mind' than anything else.

4. The AT is a frat house where women are made to feel like outsiders.

Rarely. There have been a few occasions where Emily and I have felt like outsiders, but I'm going to chalk it up to 'group mentality' rather than disrespectful men. If you have 10 men sitting at a table, it's doubtful that any of them will open up and tell you their story. That wouldn't happen in real life, so I don't expect it to happen out here. But most nights you are only with a few thru-hikers and those are the nights that I cherish. People open up, tell you their story, and remind you how amazing the Appalachian Trail community can be.


I met Claire through an organization called Landmark Volunteers. She was my Team Leader for a trail maintenance trip I did in Acadia National Park. In 2007 I was hired by Landmark to lead the very trip that had changed my life 5 years prior. I was 'Claire', and I saw the full circle take effect.

No matter how crazy my professional life has been or will become, I'll never forget those words from Claire. One voice can make a difference. People have a variety of reasons for following our blog, and I respect that. But for those women out there that want to hike the Appalachian Trail, but whose fears have prevented them from doing so, I hope my story finds its way to you...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Appalachian Trail : Unknown Territory Video Blog - part 3

The third installment of the Unknown Territory Video Blog.

Check back every Wednesday for a new installment and follow along with the adventures of a lawyer, an Ivy grad, and a city chick.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Trail Update #3

A few updates:

1. Next town we will hit: Lexington, VA

2. Miles hiked: approximately 720

3. Video Blog: up and running! Click here.

4. Facebook Page: going strong. Click here.

5. Whiteblaze Gossip: very entertaining read

What happens when you put a lawyer, an ivy grad, and a city chick on the AT? Click here.

We've been talked about, written about, and now the video blog is here . . . Click here.


Thank you Chateau Morrisette for the opportunity to taste your wines and learn about the history of one of the largest vineyards I've ever seen. Despite our rugged looks, the people of Chateau Morrisette welcomed us in and gave us one of the best 'zero days' we could've asked for.

To the people that work for Ellen --- We love your show, and it has inspired us to find time each day to dance, laugh, and play --- whether it be on top of a mountain or inside our tents at night. Sometimes, if you just dance . . . it can completely change the day. So get ready for your inbox to be overloaded with emails because the Traveling Circus intends to come dance on your show . . .

As for the Blacksburg crew --- you guys are awesome! Thank you Sean for introducing us to some really great people in the Blacksburg/Virginia Tech area! Best barbeque ever.

7. Mail Drops

We will be delayed in getting to our Waynesboro (5/11/2010) mail drop spot due to Trail Days/Champaign graduation, but if you have sent us a care package they will keep it there until we arrive!

Thanks again to all of you who have sent us care packages and personal messages. It's hard to describe in words how much your support means to us, so I will just say thank you and enjoy the blog!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Appalachian Trail : Unknown Territory Video Blog - part 1

The first installment of the Unknown Territory Video Blog.

Check back every Wednesday for a new installment and follow along with the adventures of a lawyer, an Ivy grad, and a city chick.

Beauty Beneath the Dirt

Written by: Katherine "Ringleader" Imp

"You know there have already been documentaries made about the Appalachian Trail."

"You carry that camera in your pack? It looks really heavy."

"You didn't go to film school and you're making a film?"

No matter where you are -- on the Appalachian Trail, in a big city, or in a small town, people are going to question your actions. Why? Who knows. Maybe because they are curious, maybe because they want to help, or maybe they just want something to gossip about. The real question is this:

How far are you willing to go to make your dreams come true?

Last week we did marathons over mountains. Everything hurt. The bugs were out. My body was drained. But during those days I saw more than the dirt beneath my feet. I saw farm land, and rivers, and wild ponies. I received trail magic. I met people that made me laugh. I saw the beauty that America has to offer. Do I stop to film these things, knowing that I still have miles to go, knowing that Emily and Brandon will move farther away from me, knowing that I'll likely have to finish the hike in the dark? How far would you go? Is it worth it?

To me, the answer is yes. Some people may question us. And some days may be harder than others. But I promised you all a film that would entertain, inspire, and show people the beauty of the Appalachian Trail. And thanks to our editor, Jason Furrer, and the rest of the Traveling Circus, Emily and Brandon, this film is well on its way to fulfilling that promise.

The documentary is not just about the Appalachian Trail. It's about our experience on the trail -- the highs, the lows, the laughs, the sorrows. Most importantly, it is about the unique social community that the trail has to offer. Starting next week, Jason will be posting video clips on the blog. We hope these clips will add to your enjoyment of the blog as we continue our journey on the Appalachian Trail.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Three and a half marathons, three and a half days

Written by: Emily Ginger "Lightning"

It was Monday evening and it had been raining all day. We had just arrived at the shelter (three walls and a roof made of logs) where we were planning to stop for the night. At most shelters there is a notebook we call a "register" where hikers write a quote, tell a story about their day, or just jost something like "stopped here for the night on April 22," or "in for lunch and water, heading 12 more miles today." The shelter register allows us to keep track of how far ahead or behind a fellow hiker might be. We got to the shelter and immediately checked on the register to see which of our friends had passed through. There was an entry from our friends Yianni and Prophet inviting us to hike 4.5 more miles to Atkins, VA where they had rented a motel room.

We flew through those cold, wet miles and eventually came to a road with a motel across the street. At first I couldn't see the motel (just the sign) because it shares a small parking lot with, and sits behind a dilapidating restaurant that looks as though it were abandoned at least 30 years ago. I spotted our friends' door which was ajar, and located right next to the room where it was apparent that people were renting not just staying the night. This was evident from the house plants in the window, the motorcycle covered by a tarp, and the various other personal belongings being stored on the front stoop of their motel door. Though it wasn't ideal, we had gratefully arrived at a warm, smelly, and moldy motel room where we could share some beds and a floor for the night. We got some burgers, chicken, and pecan pie at the gas station down the street (the food was actually really good), then enjoyed some steamy showers in the mildew covered bathroom afterwards. We were living large for the night!

On Tuesday morning we woke up and it was still raining, we stepped outside and the weather had gotten colder. We didn't want to hike, so we didn't. We decided to stay another night at the motel, and agreed that we would make up for our "zero" day by pulling some big mileage over the next couple of days that we hiked. We were trying to make it to the next town (Pearisburg, VA) by Saturday at noon when the post office closes. Also, one of Kate's friends from high school lives not too far from Pearisburg so we wanted to be able to hook-up with him over the weekend when he is not working.

On Wednesday morning the sky was blue and the sun was shining! We set out to hike 24 miles. Kate left first, and I asked Brandon if I could follow behind him for the day. When I am faced with the task of walking 24 miles I get so overwhelmed that it's hard to keep myself motivated. Walking 24 miles requires a lot of physical energy, so I wanted to save myself the mental expenditure it would take for me to keep myself motivated for such a long time period. Brandon and I walked in a pair all day, apparently it also helps him to stay motivated knowing that I'm right behind him. The hike out of Atkins, VA was beautiful. We walked over hilly pastures, meadows, and farmland all day. We came across a completely intact deer skeleton, turned a corner into a herd of cows grazing on the trail, got some "Trail Magic" in the form of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, sodas, and honey buns (left in a cooler near a trailhead, by a former thru-hiker who had attached a note and some pamphlets saying "how to find heaven from the Appalachian Trail"), and we then finished off the day with a four mile trek uphill on a beautiful mountain bald as the sun was colorfully setting on the distant mountain ridges. It was a perfect day! We continued a couple miles off the top of the bald, pumped some water, started a fire, threw up our tents, and cooked some dinner. There was a big full moon on the rise through the trees as we crawled into our tents that night.

Considering we planned to walk 26 miles on Thursday, we wanted to wake up early and get a nice start on the day. For some reason we have a really hard time getting up-and-going in the morning, so of course we slept through our alarms and didn't get hiking until 9:30 am, but we were still committed to hitting the mileage we had set for ourselves- we wanted to hike a marathon! With such a high mileage quota again, I followed behind Brandon for the majority of the day. Around 7:00 pm we still had about 5 miles left to hike when we came to a road where a couple was handing out some sodas-what a needed boost! We had walked 21 miles, had 5 miles left to walk, we were tired, and it was getting darker by the minute. The marathon was calling our names. We set out to hike the last 4 miles of it together, and Brandon set an alarm so we would know when we could stop walking. We were running on adrenaline, and looking for a flat spot to throw our tents. When the alarm went off we stopped walking, and much to our luck there was a campsite right there with a fire ring. WE DID IT! A MARATHON! We set-up camp and for the rest of the night our joints were stiff!

Friday: 26 miles. We finished 14 miles by 1:30pm so we took a long two-hour lunch break, napping in the sun along a river. For the entire second half of our day we were crossing over rivers or streams at least once every mile but when we finished our hike at 9:30pm, there wasn't a water source where there was supposed to be one and we had no water. Though exhausted and surrounded by darkness, we pushed on another mile and a half to "Wood's Hole Hostel" which was the next closest place that we could get water. The sky was covered in stars and that last 1.5 miles was utterly beautiful. The hostel was a well maintained bunkhouse on the property of a large rustic home which was casting a warm and welcoming beam of light through the trees. We ran into a lot of hiker friends we haven't seen in 2 weeks who were staying at the hostel that night (our big mileage days had allowed us to catch up with some friends). We were definitely happy to see our friends but after having hiked over 77 miles in three days, we were hungry and too tired to socialize. We just wanted food and sleep. We hit the sack around midnight.

Saturday morning challenge: Post office closes at noon, and there were 12 miles between us and it. Brandon miraculously woke up when his alarm went off at 6 am. He shook my feet and said "get up." We hit the trail at the earliest time yet- 7:30 am. I honestly didn't expect to be able to walk, let alone run after three marathon days, but I ran the whole way to Pearisburg. I think I was still going on adrenaline. The first thing I did when I came up to the road was stumble over to the motel across the street and buy a soda, then I stumbled to the grass and laid there to wait for Kate and Bran. We hitched a ride and made it to the post office in time. Much to our surprise we received a lot of wonderful care packages! Kate's friend Sean came and scooped us up to feed us, give us hot showers, and a bed to sleep on. Almost three and a half marathons in three and a half days... it was worth the challenge for the experience! I never thought I would ever do one marathon, let alone three with 30 lbs on my back! Our bodies are sore so we've rested and pumped them full of calories. I look forward to getting back on the trail tomorrow morning!

Introducing the 2010 Thru-Hikers

Written by: Brandon "Monkey" Imp

We are one week away from our 2 month trail anniversary, and I've decided the time has come to introduce our thru-hiker friends! There are major drop-out points that we have already passed (Neels Gap, Franklin, the Smokies, Damascus). The last one is the state of Virginia in its entirety - it takes over a month to hike the 500 miles through the state, so hikers sometimes get the Virginia Blues and drop off the trail. After Virginia, though, the surviving hikers will probably make it all the way to Maine if a physical injury does not take them off the trail. Since we have passed many of the drop-out points, it is time to introduce the solid group that we have come to know and love on the trail.

Below is a list and description of thru-hikers that are in our "group" or have been "stand outs". This certainly does not include all of the friends we have made, only a select group. (If you are a thru-hiker and are not on the list, don't fret! We still love you! Catch up! *cough Kashmir and All Good cough*) Some of the thru-hikers keep a blog/journal as well. Go to and search for their trail name.

Without further ado and in no particular order, I present 2010 thru-hikers:

Nobody - male, mid-thirties, New Orleans. Nobody is the man. A bar owner from New Orleans (check out Flanagan's Pub when you visit!), he is covered in tattoos. He had a head of hair and a full beard when we first met weeks ago, but they have since been shaved due to reveal underlying tattoos. As you may suspect, Nobody is not your typical thru-hiker. He is not an outdoors man and read no literature on the AT before he began hiking. His open, friendly, and huge personality makes him very likable and one of our closest friends on the AT. He is now taking a 9-day hiatus to visit New Orleans - Nobody, you better come back to the trail!

Prophet - male, 26, southern Indiana. We have been traveling with Prophet for the majority of our hike. Prophet is kind-hearted and always carries a positive attitude. The backstory of Prophet's life is pretty unique and interesting - he was a dancer, lived in Germany for a large portion of his childhood, and cut off part of his finger in December making a jewelry box for a girl. Prophet is in no rush to complete the trail. With such a positive attitude, I'm sure he will complete the AT.

Yianni - male, 19, outside of Boston. Yianni is another constant in our AT life. While only 19, he is mature and well-traveled for his age. Emily and Yianni are like long-lost brother and sister - they entertain each other and push each other to enjoy their AT-experience. Yianni goes by his real name - it is so unique that he preferred not to adopt a trail name. After this academic year break, he will enter as a freshman in Skidmore College in upstate New York.

Cowgirl and Kelly - female, 21, Wyoming. Kelly is Cowgirl's 2-year-old dog. Cowgirl and Kelly are the perfect pair. This will begin to sound redundant, but Cowgirl is good-natured. Her dog Kelly is probably the most well behaved dog I have ever met (and loves the attention thru-hikers give her). Cowgirl was named for her undying love of horses. Grayson Highlands is a VA park that has wild ponies - Cowgirl was in absolute heaven there. She captured a great video of a baby pony. Cowgirl was sitting on the ground filming the baby when the pony decided it wanted to ran over to Cowgirl and jumped on her lap. Absolutely adorable!

Young One - male, 21, Indiana. Young One started on March 10 in the late afternoon - since the others starting that afternoon were older (Nobody, Little Brown, Moonpie, and others), they immediately gave him the name Young One. Young One is a great guy to have around. He is social and believes the three of us are hilarious/crazy. He keeps a fast pace, so we never know when we will run into him. Some of my best memories of Young One come from the Fontana Dam shelter. We all went onto the dam to watch the sunset (was not good), and ended up dancing on top of the dam for our documentary. And, when I say dance, it was like disco moves and leap frog. Later that night, a rat got caught in the shelter's mouse trap. Everybody was screaming because the rat was huge and running in circles, so Young One grabbed a boot and killed it - in his underwear.

Walking Man - male, 40's, California. Walking Man is an absolute roller coaster, and I love it! He is behind us on the trail and one of the "stand out" hikers. He is an experienced hiker, having already thru-hiked the AT and Pacific Crest Trail. He was hiking a couple hundred miles of the AT this year to train for the Continental Divide Trail (the third trail to complete the Triple Crown), but I believe he will just finish the AT again. Walking Man is a great guy to talk with - his life story is absolutely incredible. He has served in the military, gotten Masters degrees from Columbia, lived the "good life" in HI and CA, and is knowledgeable of a wide assortment of topics. We re-met in Hampton, TN. It was Emily's birthday and Kate had just passed the bar, so he showed up at the restaurant with a cake for each. Then, he took the necklace from around his neck and gave it to Emily saying, "When you make it to Katahdin, please wear this for me."

Lndwlkr/General Lee - male, 30's, Florida. Lndwlkr was one of the first friends we made on the AT. Since then, he has changed his trail name to General Lee. Lndwlkr looks like a bearded mountain man. In fact, his image was the stereotypical thru-hiker I envisioned before I came out here. Social yet soft-spoken, he keeps a fast pace and is a week ahead of us. We would run into him throughout the first few weeks, and his positive support definitely helped us keep going. We always check the shelter journals to see how he is doing, and sometimes he writes to us to say "Keep it real." We will!

iTrod aka The Doctor - male, 50's, Pennsylvania. iTrod is his trail name, but we refer to him as the Doctor. The Doctor recently retired from family practice and has been planning his AT hike for two years. The Doctor was one of our earliest friends; we keep a faster pace than him, but we hear that he is only a few days behind. He was also a great person to have around in the beginning - he is probably the most informed hiker out here. He has read all of the books and watched all of the films. He was curious about our documentary, so naturally he forced us to analyze the direction of our film.

Sonic - male, 20, Seattle. Sonic is already a success story. The largest guy out here at 6'5", he eats more than anybody else and is the fastest hiker we know (Emily hiked with him one day and they kept a similar speed - he is like a Yetti and climbed up the mountain fast, while Emily flew down the mountain and caught up). Sonic is a success story because of his openness about his prior drug and alcohol problems. He has gone to rehab involuntarily and voluntarily, and has been clean since. Because of these problems in the past, he claims that he never made a plan and followed through with it in his life - until the AT. Stepping onto Springer Mountain in Georgia was a great accomplishment for him, and he is always imagining the triumphant feeling he will have when he reaches Katahdin. If you hear yelling in the mountains, it's probably him. He often yells because he is so happy and feels so good. Sonic will definitely finish the thru-hike. If he doesn't, the world will probably end.

Little Buddha - male, 30's, home?. We met Little Buddha once. We don't expect him to remember us. Every year there seems to be one thru-hiker who sets "the pace" because they fly down the trail. This year, it is Little Buddha. We met him our first night at Springer Mountain Shelter. We told him we were beginning our thru-hike. He said we would finish. Always good to start on a positive note. Little Buddha is one of the "stand out" hikers for us.

Little Brown - male, 50's, Oregon. Little Brown has been hiking around us for the majority of our trip. He is married with kids, and decided to try his luck at completing an AT thru-hike. Like the rest of our friends out here, he is sociable, kind, and full of positive energy. He is always under the impression that the three of us will fly ahead, so he always tells us "good luck" with the hike and documentary; then, we see him again two days later. He is also very tall and a few have referred to him as a Yetti.

Moonpie - male, 40's, Virginia. Moonpie has a quick wit and we love it. His personality is laid-back and friendly, so we must constantly remind ourselves that we should not take him seriously...ever. For example, I passed Little Brown and Moonpie the morning of Grayson Highlands. I asked, "Have you seen any ponies yet?" Moonpie immediately replied, "Nope, just to jackasses." He began in the same group as Little Brown, Nobody, and Young One, so we have been seeing him the entire trail.

SofaKing - male, 30's, everywhere. SofaKing is a riot. Another guy with a huge personality, he is always thinking of a prank to pull or some way to entertain other thru-hikers. The other day he left a fake money clip in the corner of the Partnership Shelter to mess with thru-hiker heads - he called it Sofa money. He also leaves entries in shelter journals of fake interviews with celebrities; they are usually incriminating for the celebrity and a fun pick-me-up in the day. SofaKing also has a pretty wild and diverse history with relationships and jobs, so he is a good guy to have a conversation with.

Big Dipper - male, 20's, Maine. Big Dipper has been hiking around us for the past 2-3 weeks. While we do not know him as well as some other thru-hikers, I must mention him. He reminds EVERYBODY of somebody they know. He is friendly, blonde, and has legs like tree trunks. To me, he would be a perfect fit with my NJ neighbors the Dolans. To Emily, he reminds her of her younger brother Luke. He is home-bound to Maine and very fit, so I am sure he will complete the AT.

TP (Traipsing Platypus) - female, 19, Maine. We love TP. She is a young, strong, and independent woman and will be going places in her life. The Appalachian Trail has been a challenge she's wanted to overcome her entire life, so she is taking time before college to hike it. We hiked with her for quite some time until she flew ahead to meet a friend in Damascus. She is now hiking with her (Bright Eyes), who we have not met. However, Kate ran into TP the other day in town, so I think we will be reunited soon. Our meeting will probably end up like this: *screaming* WHAT???!!!?? *running tackle hug*. TP is very good natured and a wonderful person to know. I am confident she will complete the thru-hike.

Tornado - male, 19, New York. Tornado is another favorite of ours. He is young, energetic, and has a large Jew-fro. We first met when we were getting back on the trail out of Hiawassee. The three of us just acquired our trail names so I was eagerly telling him the backstories of them. He said, "My name is Tornado because I frequently lose things." Tornado hitched a ride into town. True to his character, he left his trekking poles leaning against a tree. (He got them later.) We hiked together for a while thereafter, but split after Hot Springs. Unfortunately, we have since heard that he has left the trail.