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!  John is currently under the care of Hospice and most of those expenses are now covered by insurance.  There are still some other expenses if you feel led to send a gift now that our “Hike For John” is complete.
A penny per mile = $21.80
A nickel per mile = $109.00
A dime per mile = $218.00
A donation of any amount.
100% of your donation will help the Gurney Family and can be delivered one of these ways:

1. P.O. Box: Send a check to John or Jill Gurney at P.O. Box 41, Shelby, OH 44875.

2. Mechanics Bank: Visit any of the 8 Richland County, Ohio locations and make a deposit into the Gurney Health Account.

3. YouCaring: Pay online via paypal, credit or debit. A 2.9% and $.30 fee will be applied by either paypal or the credit/debit card company.

Thank you!!!

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

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

– – –

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

– – –

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