Toad: What I Have Learned

Imagine our surprise to see familiar faces while hiking on the Appalachian Trail in New England.  Hiking toward us were Derek and Shannon who run the Hiker Hostel in Georgia where Chief and I stayed in April before starting our A.T. hike on Day 1.

I specifically remember Day 1 after breakfast when Derek loaded the anxious hikers and our gear into the van. As he drove us to the southern terminus of the trail for our drop off, Derek prophetically said, “Prepare to have your life changed.”  I contemplated what that statement might entail and hoped it would be in a good way.  168 days later, I think I can share…

What I have learned while hiking the Appalachian Trail:

Rattlesnakes don’t always bite but are really scary.

How to hang a bear bag.

What a moldering privy is.

How to bathe in a stream with two inches of running water.

To have a greater appreciation for the blessing of a home – indoor plumbing, a bed, roof over our heads, and a kitchen.

To live more simply, with few possessions.  To be joyful even in difficult circumstances.

To be humbled, since we didn’t often smell very good, yet people graciously helped us.

That people are extremely generous with the fundraising for the “Hike For John”.

To spend quality time with Jesus in prayer and meditation.

To not be such a pain to my husband (still a work in progress).

Greater appreciation for family and friends and the amazing support they provide to me.

To be still and free from worldly distractions and expectations.  To enjoy the moment.

That I miss coffee. 😀

Sincerely, Toad

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Read the post from Chief about what he has learned.





Chief: What I Have Learned

What I have learned while hiking the Appalachian Trail:

It reinforced and I have witnessed that God is alive and helps us daily.

Importance of family and friendships and how much I missed our kids and grandchildren during this absence.

Importance of my wife as my best friend and how it makes it easier to endure difficult situations.

That hiking the Appalachian Trail is the most difficult thing I have done.

The importance of prayer.

Simplicity and living with just the necessities; understanding we just need a few basics in life.

To be grateful for a shower, a bed, and ice-cold pop (it’s “soda” everywhere on the A.T.)

Appreciating the beauty of God’s creation.

That friends help us along life’s way.

There are a lot of good decent people who help in this world.

That 2,189 miles is a LONG way!

Sincerely, Chief

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Toad and I are currently in New York State, having completed 1,979 miles with 210 miles yet to hike.   We hope to finish in Pennsylvania in two weeks. Thank you for your continued support, comments and prayers!


On sunny Day 163 of our Appalachian Trail hike, we are staying at Vanessa’s Salisbury, Connecticut home.  Beautifully restored, this 300-year old house is a respite for hikers and Vanessa is a gracious hostess who opens her home to total strangers.  We relished a hot shower and look forward to sinking into a real bed with pillows.

Chief and I are enjoying our hike through New England and in the past week have walked over one hundred miles.  We climbed Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts and several smaller mountains on our way to Connecticut. We have now completed 1,886 miles and ten states of the A.T. (Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts).  There are 303 miles remaining that, Lord willing, we can finish by mid-October.

There are many heroes along the A.T. and some we met recently. Hendo and Hendo’s Mom passed us in Massachusetts.  Hendo serves in the military and is an Iraq veteran.  Her mother is 66 years old and the pair have been thru-hiking the trail for the past 16 months.   Hendo’s mission is to raise awareness for the issues of post-traumatic stress disorder and veteran suicide.

Another hiker wears prostheses after losing an arm and a foot, plus sight in one eye, while serving in our military. This wounded warrior is attempting a thru-hike of the A.T. and is unquestionably a true hero!

Two section hikers we met over the weekend shared that they had undergone a total of five hip replacements between them. Even with multiple surgeries the pair was out on the trail hiking and enjoying the Massachusetts scenery.

Two women with the combined trail name, “The Meandering Moms” said that this is their 19th year section hiking the Appalachian Trail.  The Moms, clothed in rain gear, were hiking on a chilly wet day determined to achieve this year’s mileage goal so that they are poised to finish the northern most portion of the trail next year.  An older hiker named Beepo is still heading north even though he knows he won’t have enough time to finish before Maine’s bad weather moves in. He says he will come back next year to finish. Their tenacity is admirable.

Meeting these heroes makes us realize that many brave men and women undertake challenging adventures, including hiking 2,189 miles on the Appalachian Trail. They are an inspiration to us.

Others we have recently met on the trail include Hat Man, who hikes sections of the A.T. each year wearing a different hat for each section, and a group of six from New York who each year hike different sections of the trail in Massachusetts.

This hike has given to us countless moments to reach out to others, sharing our story, and listening to the stories of others.  It reiterates the fact that relationships are more important than miles.

Celebrating Heroes on Life’s Path, Chief and Toad

Seasons of Change

Yellow leaves drifted softly to the ground at the top of Bromley Mountain in Vermont.  As Chief and I quietly hiked the Appalachian Trail, it dawned on me that autumn is nearly upon us.  The fall season will mark our third of this A.T. adventure, having begun our hike last spring on April 13th.

If you have followed our journey you know that we hiked the Appalachian Trail NOBO (northbound) from Georgia to the middle of Pennsylvania, then at the end of July flipped up to Maine to hike the remainder of the trail SOBO back to PA.  Currently, we have completed 1,734 miles with 455 miles yet to hike to complete the entire Appalachian Trail in one year.

Flipping has proven to be a good decision for us.  We recently heard a statistic that the A.T. in Maine and New Hampshire accounts for 20 percent of the trail length but takes 80 percent of a hiker’s effort. I don’t know if that is true but it could explain why Chief and I were so utterly exhausted after our trek through those two states.   We are, thankfully, reinvigorated and making good time as we continue SOBO.  Other hikers tell us that the hardest part is over and “It’s all downhill from here.”  We can validate that the trail is smoother, the mountains are not as high, and the temperatures are cooler.

The number of NOBO hikers that are passing us is dwindling. We did see Rocket and Timber the other day – two young ladies we knew from hiking in Virginia.  They remain determined and spirited in their thru-hiking efforts. NOBOs have about 500 miles to reach Katahdin in Maine before the weather gets too brutal and their hiking season is over for this year.

Interestingly, we have met several SOBOs who began their thru-hike in Maine during June/July and are planning to finish in Georgia sometime before Christmas.  McGhee and Frisbee are a young couple on such an adventure that have been hiking the same area as we are for the past several days.  Their hike may include a bit of winter season where we anticipate a season with a long hibernation!

Last week, we camped at the home of Stash and Scooter who for years have allowed hikers to pitch tents in their yard.  Stash and Scooter have a beautiful vegetable garden brimming with tomatoes, peppers, green beans, and herbs.  The limbs of their mature apple trees are heavy with ripe fruit that Stash plans to use for cider.  Chief and I were given free access to all of the seasonal vegetables and fruits.  What a delicious treat!  Also, a special thanks goes to Trail Angels in Vermont who gave rides to us – Super Kate and Nancy.

Chief and I ask that you please pray for John and the Gurney family. John was recently in the hospital and, although now at home, is struggling with a serious infection and new medications.  Thanks to the many contributors who have already donated or who have pledged money for the “Hike For John”.   It is greatly appreciated!  John’s faith and trust in the Lord is a continual inspiration to us.

“He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.”   Psalm 1:3

Embracing the Season, Chief and Toad


Trail Angels in Abundance

We have no doubt that God puts people in our path of life just when we need them.  Trail Angels on the Appalachian Trail throughout New Hampshire have been plentiful and greatly appreciated.

As I write this post, Chief and I are spending the evening at the lovely home of Karen and Jon in Hanover, New Hampshire.  These Trail Angels kindly open their home each year for many hikers by offering food, showers, laundry, a bedroom, and use of the pool.  We called, and with no questions asked Karen came to pick us up on the trail. Taking no money, she only asks that we pay it forward and help someone else in the future.

Yesterday, two Trail Angels that we called the Hot Dog Folks, provided grilled hot dogs, chips, and sodas to thru-hikers where the A.T. crossed Goose Pond Road in southern New Hampshire.  What a treat that was to us, not only for the food, but also a pleasant conversation to hear about their hikes over 47 of the 48 mountains at 4,000′ elevation. The Hot Dog Folks inspired us!

One Trail Angel is a bit of a legend on the A.T.  Bill opens his porch to hikers for conversation and free ice cream. We enjoyed an orangesicle and ate lunch at Bill’s house. We heard that Bill’s son once hiked the A.T. and encouraged his father to take care of the hikers.

A Trail Angel we met on a day hike gave to us Oreo cookies one afternoon.  Her trail name is GoMo (Go Mom) and she thru-hiked the A.T. a couple of years ago.  She told us that her grandchildren now call her by her trail name.

Our other Trail Angel was a young man named Brett who came to the rescue when we were at a grocery store and needed a ride to a hostel about four miles up the road. A local taxi service charged $20 for the trip, so we saw Brett coming out of the grocery and asked if he could give us a ride.  He kindly obliged and went out of his way to help.

Chief and I found the trail in New Hampshire to be quite challenging; however, the residents have been incredibly gracious and kind!

To update you on NOBO (northbound) hikers we knew from the south– In the past few days, we have passed T.M.I., Dancer, Buckle, Rick & Monica (aka Pace & Mack) from Hawaii, Shaggy, Sterling from Georgia, Zen from Brooklyn, Max from Germany (his buddy Kurt went back to Germany after reaching Harpers Ferry), and T-Storm.  All are on schedule to reach the northern terminus of Mt. Katahdin by mid-October. Hikers that flipped up to Katahdin and are SOBO — Walkie Talkie from Virginia is also in Hanover (we see each other every few days) and Young Jeff from Connecticut is in the White Mountains a few days behind us.

A side note — we saw two moose AND a bear yesterday!  Very cool!

Tomorrow marks Day 148 of our adventure and we plan to hike into Vermont. Chief has fallen a few more times and is a bit battered and bruised. Let’s hope he keeps his face and knees off the ground as we hike. We have now completed 1,639 miles on the Appalachian Trail and have 550 miles to get back to Pennsylvania.  Hopefully,  there will continue to be Trail Angels when we need them.  We are…

Truly Blessed, Chief and Toad

They Are Leaving the Trail

She knew the moment that her foot slipped off the rock that it was bad. She tried to tell herself that it might only be a bad sprain but the pop she heard was undeniable.  Thankfully there was cell service so she quickly called 911. It took rangers four hours to get her off the trail and to the hospital. Unfortunately, a broken leg is sending thru-hiker Box Turtle home to Pittsburgh.

Rolo, whom we first met in Virginia and saw again in New Hampshire is headed back to UMass for the fall semester of his Junior year.

A young woman from Vermont that we saw several times in the south passed us yesterday.  She had contracted Lyme disease and is skipping some of the A.T. due to fatigue.  Her hiking partner is from Germany and is leaving because his 6-month visa is expiring.

Another hiker we met from Germany is skipping some of the trail due to time constraints on her visa.  She wants to hop up to Maine and complete Katahdin before leaving.

Chief and I are still hiking SOBO and hanging in.  We are hoping that once we get into Vermont that the trail may get less challenging and the mountains not as high.  We have completed 1,569 miles and have 620 yet to hike.  We stopped in Lincoln, NH last night to resupply.  Chief is working on weight gain by eating 4 chocolate eclairs and 5 berry pastries.  If he can continue hiking after that gluttony we are…

Still On The Trail, Chief and Toad

A Presidential Bid

Chief and I have continued our Appalachian Trail hike into the White Mountains in New Hampshire.  Thank you for the words of encouragement and the prayers for our safety. Each day, and with every step, we feel God’s protection and provision.

The Presidential Range of the White Mountains is the highest in NH, most of which is above treeline.  Our first climb was up Mt. Madison where we were greeted with 60 mph winds, rain and chilly temps at an elevation of 5,366′.  Then we hiked around Mt. Adams and Mt. Jefferson.  The following day our hike to Mt. Washington was much warmer and ironically we passed on the summit NOBOs Tiger Mike and Recalc, with whom we hiked in the south.  We hiked another mile to the Lake of the Clouds Hut and obtained a work for stay. There are several hiker huts in the mountains that cost up to $133 per person for a bunk, dinner and breakfast.  There are no showers or flush toilets.  Thru-hikers can work at a hut in exchange for sleeping on the floor.  Chief and I ate leftovers of cold chicken and pasta after the guests ate dinner. We then washed dishes for an hour and slept on the dining room floor.  There were five NOBO thru-hikers who worked for stay, including Home Fry.  The next morning Chief and I left by 6:30 and hiked five miles to the Mizpah Hut where we ate cold leftover oatmeal and cornbread.  Beggars can’t be choosy.

Our bid to conquer the Presidential range continued with hiking around Mt. Monroe, Mt. Jackson and Mt. Eisenhower (at least these are the current names of the mountains…)  When we descended the Presidential range and crossed a road we were greeted by a Trail Angel named Stitches, a 1999 thru-hiker from Boston, who provided root beer, cookies and Cheetos.

On Day 140 of this hike, we headed to Mt. Garfield ridge and stopped at Zealand Hut for leftover pancakes and brownies.  Day 141 brought high winds on Mt. Lafayette but it mostly dissipated by the time we reached Mt.  Lincoln and hiked off the mountain.

On a side note, we crossed paths with a NOBO thru-hiker named Stretch who lives in Jeromesville, OH just a few miles from our house. Stretch is a retired teacher and is probably now in Maine.

We are currently heading out for a bid up Kinsman Mountain as we continue our campaign in New Hampshire.

We Are, Chief and Toad, and we approved this message.