We Are Finished! Let The Light Shine!

It was October 11, 2015, Day 182 of our Appalachian Trail hike, and we awoke to the sound of rippling water in a nearby stream.  It was still dark outside on this chilly fall morning but the thought of finishing our hike today was more than enough to quicken the pace of packing up the tent and gear.  We were only five miles away from completion.

Six months ago, the very thought of hiking 2,189.2 miles from Georgia to Maine was incomprehensible.  How do two retired people who have never backpacked or climbed a mountain expect to undertake such an escapade?  We didn’t know what to expect but set out step by step, mile by mile.  Our first phase was hiking the A.T. northbound from Georgia to central Pennsylvania.  At the end of July, we “flip-flopped” by flying up to Maine to the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail and then hiked the remainder of the trail southbound.  The more we hiked, the better our bodies adapted to the trail.  Our finish line was at Bethel, PA Route 501, anticlimactic for most, but for us the location wasn’t as important as the approaching achievement.

By now the reality of leaving the woods and the spectacular mountain views and returning to society was setting in.  We have come to enjoy the tranquility and simplicity of the daily hike.  Trail life was uncomplicated.  We hiked.  We ate.  We slept.  Not much else.  So what would “normal life” look like for us when we returned home to Ohio?

If you have followed this blog, you know that we have on occasion shared devotions from the Jesus Calling app that have spoken to us.  A recent devotion was quite pertinent and read, “Be willing to follow wherever I lead.  Follow Me wholeheartedly, with glad anticipation quickening your pace.  Though you don’t know what lies ahead, I know; and that is enough…Sometimes I lead you up a high mountain with only My hand to support you.  The higher you climb, the more spectacular the view becomes; also, the more keenly you sense your separation from the world with all its problems.  This frees you to experience exuberantly the joyous reality of My Presence… I will eventually lead you down the mountain, back into community with others.  Let My Light continue to shine within you as you walk among people again.”

We believe that God has given to us this wonderful hiking adventure for personal growth and to share His glory, but also to raise funds for our dear friend, John Gurney, who is battling cancer.  Many of you have already fulfilled a “pennies per mile” pledge and sent a donation to the Gurney family for John’s out-of-pocket medical expenses.  Your gift is greatly appreciated!

We are currently preparing to head home for some rest and recuperation.  Whatever is in store for us next, we hope to always be…

Shining God’s Light, Chief and Toad


How’d You Get the Name “Toad”?

I have been asked this question numerous times during the past six months while hiking on the Appalachian Trail. All hikers have a story about their trail name, whether given to them or self-selected.  Chief’s trail name is obvious to anyone who knows he retired as a Chief of Police. He has carried that title for over sixteen years so it seemed logical to use for his trail name.

So how did I become “Toad”?  You decide:

Scenario 1 – Our grandson couldn’t say Grandma Tina, instead calling me GrammaToad.

Scenario 2 – Instead is crawling as a baby I sort of hopped along.  Mom has called me Toad since I was small(er).

Scenario 3 – One of my favorite movie lines is from O Brother Where Art Thou – “We thought you was a toad!”

Scenario 4 – I thought about just using T. but figured it might be interpreted as Tee or Tea.  I then picked something in the woods that started with that letter.  Turtle sounded too slow so Toad was it.

Scenario 5 – Favorite lines from Stephen Crane:

“Think as I think,” said a man,
“Or you are abominably wicked;
You are a toad.”

And after I had thought of it,
I said, “I will, then, be a toad.”

Which scenario is true?  Thanks to hiker Firecracker for sharing Crane’s words with me; however, Scenario 4 is the actual unimpressive explanation for how I chose the hiker name of “Toad”. And now you know the rest of the story.


We just hiked into Pennsylvania – 2,089 miles done and exactly 100 miles to finish at Bethel PA Route 501.  Lord willing we should complete our journey on Sunday.  Watch for our “We Are Finished!” post…

Down the Homestretch,  Chief and Toad

Hiker Hazards

Today Chief and I hiked into New Jersey as we continue southbound on our Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Imagine our surprise to hear that Gov. Christie has declared a state of emergency for New Jersey as Hurricane Joaquin approaches.  Heavy rainfall and high winds may hit the state beginning tomorrow night.

Chief says, “No problem. We can continue hiking if the weather isn’t too bad.”  So what IS the definition of “too bad”?  With only 163 miles to finish this hike, we don’t want to lose any time; however, a vision of us clinging to a pine tree spitting rain water isn’t appealing either.

We have already investigated that there are three shelters in the next twenty miles of the trail where we can hunker down if necessary.  We have a five-day supply of food and rain gear but never fathomed dealing with a hurricane while on the A.T.

If a hurricane wasn’t hazard enough, it is now bow season for deer hunting in New Jersey. Hikers are encouraged to take extra caution and wear blaze orange. I wasn’t aware of this when Chief stuck some branches in my cap and suggested I wear the brown shirt and white handkerchief.  Not funny, Chief!

The weirdest hazard we just encountered on the trail were two very large snapping turtles.  Their shells looked similar to the large rocks covering the trail so it wasn’t until the turtles moved that we noticed what they were!  Chief nearly stepped on one.  Wouldn’t that have been funny if it bit his toe?!

In Risky Business, Chief and Toad