For Better or Worse

First, we would like to welcome the new followers of the blog, especially those folks from the bus tour trip to Newfound Gap near Gatlinburg.  It was a pleasure to speak with you about our thru-hike!  We sincerely hope you enjoy the posts about our adventure.

Chief and I will celebrate 35 years of wedded bliss this summer.  He has been telling people that for this milestone anniversary he is providing me with a six-month “vacation” in fourteen different states, “eating out” every day and experiencing nature’s scenery up close and personal.  Of course Chief gets a kick out of this hugely exaggerated anniversary description of our Appalachian Trail hike and gets a sarcastic eye-roll from me.  Several folks have wondered how a couple can spend time together 24/7 without conflicts.  Well you can’t.  We thought we should honestly share some of what the first month of our A.T. hike has been like for our relationship.

If you know Chief then you aren’t surprised to learn that he is a planner.  Everything about this hike is researched, scheduled, calculated, and tabulated.  He keeps track of trail elevations, miles hiked per hour and how much down time is used.  My style is a bit different — more along the line of whatever happens today just roll with it.  That style difference has led to some consternation and a suggestion from me such as, “Can’t you just give it a break and let it go for one day?”  Of course there is no right or wrong way–well, I think my way is better but for purposes of this article we will let it drop right there.

We had planned to shuttle fifteen miles from the A.T. into Gatlinburg, Tennessee on Day 23 to resupply and shower.  When we arrived at our pickup destination at Newfound Gap, I called the shuttle service only to be told they cancelled us to take a better fare.  I was incredibly angry and disappointed, but Chief took the lead to find a solution.  Another hiker, Cricket, was dropped off by his Cousin Bill and Aunt Rose from Durham, North Carolina.  Chief asked Bill if he would drive us into Gatlinburg and he agreed to shuttle us and our friend Sunshine, but Bill wouldn’t take any money for doing so.

The next day we had arranged a shuttle back to the trail with a man named Herbert.  Herbert is a colorful local character with a thick Tennessee accent who made us “gis” how old he was.  I “gissed” 60 and Chief added five years, but we both missed Herbert’s actual age of 71.  Herbert could sure tell tales about people he’s driven and he talked the entire drive back to the trail.  We heard that folks in those parts “just want 10-12 acres they can grow some ‘bacca and butcher couple hogs”.  Herbert told us about his wife, Georgia, who “is kin to Dolly Parton — they was third cousins,” he shared.  He and Georgia had been married nearly 50 years, but she had passed away a year ago.  Herbert spoke of her as though she was waiting at home with his lunch lovingly prepared.  It was evident how much he missed her, and it reminded me to be appreciative of the time we have together.  So…

On Day 25, I stabbed Chief with my pocketknife.  You should know that this incident was neither premeditated nor serious.  Not having any other uses for my brand new Leatherman pocket knife, I was using it to cut an apple in half for lunch.  At the same time I handed half the apple toward Chief, he was reaching a hand toward me.  He stuck his finger right into the point of my pocketknife.  Instinctively, Chief yelped, but the wound didn’t even bleed until he forcefully squeezed one tiny drop of blood from the microscopic hole.  Technically this accident could be construed as being his fault but we let it drop right there.

Days 26 and 27 were exhausting as Chief led us to hike for 17.6 miles and 15 miles respectively.  He believes we need to increase our daily miles by pushing our strength and endurance.  I have a slightly different perspective on that type of reasoning and words were exchanged in exuberance.  Nothing positive came from that exchange so we let it drop right there.  Truth is, Chief may be right.  Nevertheless we are hiking on dry trails that are less rocky than Georgia and seeing more green as trees leaf out and the mountain woods spring to vibrant life.

Mothers’ Day is Day 28 so Chief is giving us a day off tomorrow.  We had to hike 12 miles to get to Hot Springs North Carolina, but we enjoyed a hot mineral spa bath and fresh peach apricot smoothie.  Did I mention my husband is amazing?!  I better let any remaining conflict drop right here.

That’s the way marriage works.  Sometimes you just agree to disagree and let things drop.  The details and opinions are not as important as the relationship.  We know there will be disagreements on this journey, just like in everyday life and we make it work for better or worse.  We have hiked 275 miles so far with 1,905 more to Maine.  That’s a lot of togetherness, but Chief knows that I love him, and now he also knows that I have a very sharp pocketknife.

In Unison, Chief and Toad


How Much Is That Doggie in The Window

Having now been on the Appalachian Trail for three weeks, we have witnessed more than a few spectacles — people and places that attract attention or that are unusual to us.  Sometimes we just stare in wonder or disbelief (depending on the situation)…

On Day 19 we hiked to Fontana Dam in North Carolina.  This large, beautiful lake attracts visitors and sportsmen alike and we were amazed at the clear deep blue water.  The sunlight glistening off this large body of water was visually refreshing even though we were incredibly tired and dirty.  We were blessed to get a room at the Fontana Lodge because they were totally booked due to a Mini Cooper convention that weekend.  Imagine the sight of 700 Mini Cooper cars and their passionate owners who come to drive an 11-mile stretch of North Carolina highway that sports nearly 400 curves.  It ticked off the hikers that all the rooms at the Lodge were booked because the hikers walk more than eleven miles and carry backpacks that are nearly as big as a Mini Cooper (chuckle).  We felt rather guilty that we got a shower and a king-sized bed for the night while other hikers stayed at the “Fontana Hilton”, the sarcastic name for the not-so-nice hiker shelter.  Nevertheless, we laundered clothes and enjoyed an ice cream cone from the General Store in preparation of entering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park the next day.

Day 20 was a gorgeous sunny morning as we began our walk across Fontana Dam and into the Smokies.  We are required to each have a thru-hiker permit that cost $20.  The permit gives us seven days to hike through the Smokies.  We dropped our permits in the lockbox and ascended the first hill. A few minutes later, a ridge runner told us there had been a bear attack the night before.  Evidently two hikers had left their tent for a short time when a bear smelled food and took off with their backpacks–one of which held a new cell phone.  The ridge runner told us to be sure and sleep in the shelter to avoid bears getting close, which we did that night.  Before we tell you about the shelter experience, we met up again with Sunshine, a twenty-something gal from Memphis.  We had met Sunshine our first week hiking but had lost contact with her during the torrential rains.  She is an experienced hiker but is attempting a solo thru-hike of the A.T.  She is looking forward to meeting her husband in a week in Hot Springs N.C. as they haven’t seen each other in three weeks.  This day on the trail we witnessed some hikers who stopped  for lunch but were also smoking a bit more than cigarettes.  We know that some hikers are inclined to the “party-side” of the culture but it is not done discreetly on the trail.  While taking our own break, a hiker came up and asked us about the bear in the tree 50 yards back.  He said we had walked right by it and that it was a spectacle– an estimated 450 lbs!  Later on in the evening, we were hiking with Sunshine and we saw three young deer coming to graze in the clearing in the woods.  We kept hiking and the trail wound around to where the deer were eating.  Two ran away but one just walked on the trail in front of us.  We arrived at the shelter late in the evening and The temperature had already dropped into the 40’s.  Chief talked to a young man that is attempting to hike the entire trail in 60 days.  This young man was a spectacle in his own right, having hiked 180 miles in three days!  The same distance had taken us nearly three weeks.  Most of the sleeping spots in the shelter were taken.  The shelter has two rows of boards so you either sleep on the top or on the bottom row. There is only enough room for each person’s sleeping bag and you sleep right next to a new “friend”.  We were able to finagle two spots together on the bottom row and Sunshine slept on the top row.  I slept next to a girl named Tinkerbell, who didn’t flutter quietly, rather snored like a lumberjack all night long.  On the other side of Chief slept Kristin, a young girl from New Hampshire who started the trail with us in April.  Her phone alarm went off at 4:00 a.m. and nearly everyone in the shelter woke up except Kristin.    After ten minutes, Chief nudged her and she turned it off and slept another four hours.

We couldn’t wait to leave the shelter and hit the trail on Day 21 even though we planned a 15-mile hike.  The cool morning quickly heated up and we stopped early on to take off coats, hats, and gloves.  A hiker we met yesterday, Honeybee, said she got her name with a surreal incident she had in her tent with a bee.  We wonder if the bee was attracted to the vibrant tattoo sleeve on her left arm or her sweet child-like demeanor.   Anyhow, she said she took a video of the bee and all was well.  Honeybee prefers to hike in a short skirt when the weather gets warm.  Needless to say, she always has a young male hiker following her, for the  witty conversation of course.  The other spectacle of this day was a hiker named Sterling, a good ole boy from Georgia, who interacted with the wild turkeys on top of Siler’s Bald.  We never saw the turkeys but we heard them.

So in three weeks of hiking we have covered nearly 200 miles.  Our feet are terribly sore but we are in good spirits and have even lost a few pounds (that is a positive consequence).  Another milestone came on Day 22 when we reached Clingmans Dome, the highest point on the Appalachian Trail at 6,643′.  The observation deck on Clingmans Dome straddles the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee, as does a bit of the trail for the next hundred miles.  We were sitting by the trail enjoying a snack and watching the many visitors walking up to the observation deck.  One man heard Chief say that he wished there was a Coke machine nearby.  The man, whom we now lovingly refer to as the Good Samaritan,  told Chief he would give him a Coke from his car.  Chief walked down to the parking lot, all the while telling the Good Samaritan about our “Hike for John”.  The Good Samaritan gave to Chief six cans of icy cold drinks and said he would donate to the Gurneys.  God bless him!  During that time I watched several tourists pass the sign for the Appalachian Trail and listened to their comments.

Woman to her boyfriend:  “I could hike this trail if it was more level and not so  rocky.”

Man to his wife:  “This trail goes from Georgia to Pennsylvania.”  (Actually it goes to Maine)

Several people came over to talk to Chief and me asking questions about thru-hiking the trail.  “Do you have a gun?” asked one lady.  I said no (I have one but not with us)   “Where do you get food?”  I answered Wal-Mart, just like you (but I wanted to say that I fired my hiking stick from a crossbow, taking down a large buck that I field dressed before taking it back to the shelter to process.) “Have you seen any bears?”  Not yet (but evidently they are around on the trees and we are too blind or ignorant to see them!)  But the biggest revelation came when a man and woman with six kids came up to us and said, “So OLD people CAN hike the trail.”  It was then that we realized we were the biggest spectacle of all.  Until next stop…

Happy Tales,  Chief and Toad


A Rose By Any Other Name

First, we welcome several new friends from Virginia and thank the many followers of the blog that have sent comments and well wishes our way.  We truly wish we could respond to each of you individually but just know that we eagerly read and GREATLY appreciate your kind words and continued support.

A friend from Ohio, Dale F., asked if we could share some stories about folks we’ve met on the Appalachian Trail and their trail names. We are happy to comply with that request since there are lots of colorful characters you should get to know.

In the last post, we told you about young Jeff whom we just met up with again today. Jeff still doesn’t have a trail name that he likes so we are calling him Doc because he has an extensive first aid kit including a snakebite kit. That kit could have come in handy today as we passed a point on the trail with a handwritten note taped to a log that read, “Rattlesnake 25 ft ahead”. The note was dated yesterday and fortunately we neither saw or heard that slithering threat.

On Day 15 we met Shaggy and Scooby on the A.T.  Shaggy is in his early twenties with long curly hair held back with a colorful buff and he sports a  fairly long beard. He has some very colorful ink on his right lower leg and a goofy laugh that he shares often.  His sidekick, Scooby, is a loveable female German Shepherd that carries her own backpack of food. A few days after we met the pair, Shaggy made a difficult decision to send Scooby home because she was struggling with sore paws and legs. We’ve seen several hikers with dogs but we certainly miss Scooby.  Shaggy is such a kind soul that he wanted to donate to our “Hike for John”, as have several other hikers we’ve met.

On this date, our path surprisingly  intersected with the Bartram Trail, which encompasses about 100 miles in western North Carolina.  Be sure to check out the page on our website about William Bartram to find the significance of the Bartram Trail for Chief.

We are at a point in our hike that we see many of the same hikers every few days. Most of those folks who are serious about a NOBO hike are still on the trail. Let’s pause for some…

Hiker lingo– NOBO – northbound; SOBO – southbound;  YOYO – hiking one direction the entire way then turning around to hike the other way (that’s crazy x2)!

We met Re-calc on sunny Day 16 as we left Wayah Bald Lookout.  Wayah is the Cherokee word for wolf and we have heard the howling on the chilly mountain nights.  In his mid-sixties, Re-calc hails from a small town near Kansas City and is retired from the pharmaceutical field.  Re-calc said he got his trail name from getting lost and climbing the wrong mountain, not once, but twice.  While training for his hike, Re-calc said he couldn’t find a bag of sand to weigh down his backpack so he used a bag of manure (really!?!?). He said this day he needed some company and hiked with us for the day, helping to push us to a record 16-mile day.  Obviously he is fast but not too good with directions.  Re-calc said that he saw the two bear cubs on the day we went through that area but didn’t get a photo because he was running for safety.   A section hiker we met the next day, Driver, was able to obtain a coveted photo of the twin cubs.  Driver is from Medina, Ohio and on a two week hike before he returns to his truck driving position.  Re-calc asked Driver if he was a Michigan State fan.  To an Ohio State fan that is a blasphemous question!  Like we shared, Re-calc isn’t too good with directions.

Section Hiker – someone who hikes portions of the trail for weeks or months over a period of time/years.

Imagine our surprise to discover another Chief on the Appalachian Trail.  For purposes of clarification we will call him Chief 2 Feathers as he has been given variations of the trail name as he section hiked for several years.  Chief 2F is age 59 and retired as an EMT/Fire chief.  He hails from Virginia but spent most of his life in Connecticut as evidenced by a thick New England accent.  What we find most remarkable is that Chief 2F had open heart surgery last September and has been training in rehab with his backpack since January.  He was released by his cardiologist to hike a large portion of the trail and he hasn’t looked back.  He scales the mountain trails and skims over treacherous rock paths faster than we can follow.  Chief 2F’s goal is to complete all sections of the A.T. within a ten year span.  In addition to all the normal gear, Chief 2F also carries a guitar in his backpack and he joyfully shares his repertoire of Christian and folk songs at night in camp.

On day 18, we were hiking toward a stretch of North Carolina road where we noticed a quaint picnic area.  Chief said he wished there was a Coke machine because it would have been a perfect venue to enjoy a refreshing drink.  Not five minutes passed when a car pulled up and two trail angels, Mouse and Georgia, got out with some trail magic.

Trail Magic – unexpected food and drinks shared with any hiker passing by, typically that which is most craved but not available to hikers.

Mouse and Georgia are a young couple from Atlanta who just completed a six-week section hike.  They came back to share trail magic with other hikers and supplied a cooler of soft drinks (Yes, Chief got his icy cold Coke), chips, PB&J sandwiches, apples, oranges, and homemade chocolate covered peanuts.  May God bless them and all of our new friends on the A.T.  There is no pretense or positions on the trail.  Each person can be exactly the person God created them to be and enjoy the sweetness of the name of their choosing.

Talk With You Soon,  Chief and Toad







“Baby Bears Ahead”

That is what the handwritten note said that was attached to a tree we encountered as we walked along a sunlit portion of the Appalachian Trail on Day 9. The rain had stopped and we were enjoying a carefree moment until we saw the note. It said baby bears had been spotted the previous day and hikers should walk in groups and make lots of noise. “It’s not the baby bears I’m worried about,” said Chief. If you know Chief he always states the obvious. “It’s the hungry protective mother bear that will get us.”  (Not funny). We waited several minutes for Jeff who had stopped a while back to try a phone call but he didn’t show up so we tentatively proceeded along. We had met Jeff earlier that morning on the shuttle ride from the Best Western back to the trail. Jeff, age 23, is from Connecticut and shared that he is hiking to get in better physical shape so he can become a police officer. Again, if you know Chief, he had lots to share with young Jeff. The two hiked together for several hours earlier and talked cop shop.  I kept a safe distance behind happily engaged in my own thoughts.

Jeff eventually caught up with us and was moving at a fast pace so we guessed he had also seen the handwritten warning about the baby bears.   Thankfully, we never saw a bear that day and the three of us camped at Sassafras Gap that night with one other hiker from Salt Lake City.  We have noticed in this second week that our stamina has improved and we are able to hike a couple more miles each day. Although we are popping Ibuprofen like skittles, these old bodies seem to rebound the next day with renewed energy. It also helped that Jeff gave to us a tube of Pain-a-Trate, a cream that saved my aching Achilles. Old Jack from Walasi had told us to slow down and give ourselves 2-3 weeks to get “trail legs”. He said most novice hikers try to do too many miles early on and that causes the body to overwork and shut down. Maybe hiking in the sunshine just felt better, nevertheless our packs seemed less heavy and we felt stronger.  I am enjoying the time with my thoughts as I hike.  It is hard to find quiet time to think in our world.  There is so much “noise” and distraction, constant media and such.  The devotion on the Jesus Calling app read, “The mind is the most restless, unruly part of mankind.  Long after you have learned the discipline of holding your tongue, your thoughts defy your will… When the Holy Spirit controls your mind, you are filled with Life and Peace.”  I can relate to needing a more disciplined thought life.

We awoke to another gorgeous day on Day 10, even though a little groggy from awaking several times during the night due to coyotes.  We’ve found it takes about an hour to pack up our backpacks and tent and get ready for another day of hiking. We both think there has to be a more efficient way to do this task but so far it has escaped us. During our hike that afternoon I heard a faint growling sound in the brush above the trail. Chief stopped in his tracks and looked back at me so I knew he had heard it too.  “That sounded like a baby something,” he said.  “Definitely a baby something,” I echoed.  We quickened our pace down the trail and about 15 minutes later we heard a hiker let out a scream presumably to frighten off that something. A hiker that evening at the shelter talked about several bear sightings he had experienced in the last few days.

Day 11 brought our first milestone as we hiked from Georgia into North Carolina at Mile 78.  That’s one state down and thirteen states to go.  We have found that the A.T. attracts many foreign hikers.  We met Max and his friend from Germany who recently finished the equivalent of high school and have a six month visa to finish the trail. Their biggest challenge is calculating miles into kilometers.  We have also met hikers from Australia and the United Kingdom.  The majority of hikers overall are very young and men. We have only seen a few “senior hikers” and women.  One woman came up behind me and startled me so badly that I almost fell over the hillside.  She asked how I was doing and I replied, “Fine.”  (But in my mind I screamed — How do you think I am doing since you snuck up behind me and scared the crap out of me almost causing me to be killed falling off this mountain!?!?!?). I really need to work on those thoughts.

Day 12 started off with a bang as Chief was walking to the privy (without his glasses) and ran head first into a large tree branch.  The force of the blow knocked him to the ground where he sat stunned and dazed.  Again, if you know Chief you are not surprised by this incident and I shouldn’t be thinking my thoughts…  Unfortunately, I wasn’t trained in concussion protocol, which might have come in handy that morning.  Either way he wasn’t getting out of hiking that day.

On Day 13 we hiked up Albert Mountain, one of the highest peaks on North Carolina’s A.T.  The rocky ascent was wet from last night’s thunderstorms and the dense fog prohibited us from seeing what is reported to be an amazing view.  We hiked far enough to catch a shuttle into Franklin, North Carolina on Day 14.  After six days in the wilderness we were in DESPERATE need of a shower and clean clothes.  It also allows us Internet access to keep you updated on our adventure.  In our first two weeks, by the grace of God, we have hiked 107  miles and Chief still puts up with me.  Now I just need to work on my thoughts…

Until Next Stop,  Chief and Toad


Where’s That Ark When You Need One

Greetings!  First we want to thank the many friends and followers of our Appalachian Trail hike. Hundreds have visited this website and written comments and many have text or emailed words that encourage us daily. Thank you for your prayers and support –they are needed–and for your support of the Hike for John.  Together we can show our love and support for the Gurney Family!

We have so much to share from the past few days.  Days 4 & 5 we continued hiking in the rain and camped at Lance Creek that night in preparation of a climb of Georgia’s A.T. highest mountain the next day.  That 4,461′ ascent was challenging and took several hours.  Every time we thought we cleared the summit, there was another bend of the trail revealing a higher plane.  At one point we heard church chimes, which was odd because the only things we typically heard were pelting rain drops and an occasional bird singing.  The chimes were playing, “The Old Rugged Cross”.  Interestingly, the name of the mountain we were climbing was Blood Mountain.  How symbolic!  There is an old stone shelter atop Blood Mountain (see photo page) that contains a journal for hikers to sign.  We jokingly referred to it as a clue for CSI in case we didn’t make it down.  The rock face descent was so treacherous our fate was questionable.  Of course we made it down the mountain to Neels Gap before nightfall and spent the night at Walasi-Yi Center.  This historic stone building is well known in the hiker community with its quaint store to resupply and a bunkhouse for thru-hikers.  It is also the only place on the entire A.T. where the trail actually goes through a building.  We met an old hiker named Jack who likes to hang out at Walasi and tell stories.  Jack is a throwback with long gray hair and hippie necklaces and says he thru-hiked the A.T. nine times (seven of which were in consecutive years).  Jack and the Walasi staff were very helpful and even did a shakedown on some of the hikers.  We pause here to share…

Hiker lingo–  Shakedown:  when an experienced thru-hiker goes through the contents of your backpack and tells you what to discard to lighten pack weight.

Out in front of the Walasi-Yi building is a large tree with hundreds of pairs of hiking boots and shoes hanging in its branches.  Legend says it is the tree of shame.  Hikers who come down off Blood Mountain and quit the trail throw their boots into the tree.  Committed to continuing, we spent the night at Walasi for $17pp which got us a towel, shower, and a bunk in the basement bunkroom with seventeen  other rain-soaked hikers.  As you can imagine the hiker funk was off the chart.

Hiker funk:  a smell resulting from the combination of sweat, mildew and foot rot that typically takes multiple cleanings to eliminate.  It may garner you private seating in many restaurants.

Moving on… the hikers were treated to a hot dog and hamburger cookout that night by members of a local church who brought enough food and desserts for a small army.  Talk about a ministry!  It also opened up opportunities for conversation with hikers about their worldviews. Chief talked to three hikers, one of which is an atheist and two recovering addicts, trail names Detour and Machinegun, who have struggled with faith and religion.  We continue to pray for them and see two on the trail.  Detour sprained an ankle and is heading home to Pennsylvania.

Day 6 brought a few hours of sunshine and lifted the fog long enough to catch our first sights of the beautiful Georgia mountains and valleys.  The views were breathtaking as we looked from a mountain top over the many other mountains and green gaps in between.  Several  dogwoods in white bloom dotted the landscape.  The rain returned by afternoon and the wind kicked up so there was a definite chill in the air.  We experienced our first trail magic in the late afternoon when we hiked down a mountain and across the road.  A man named Bob was serving piping hot vegetable beef soup and sandwiches out of the back of his truck to hikers.  We were sharing with Bob about our Hike for John and he prayed for John and for the success of our endeavor.  We then hiked to the top of another mountain and dealing with pure exhaustion we pitched the tent in a remote clearing while the rain continued.  The continuous rain drops on the tent has become a familiar sound at night but something unfamiliar caused us to awake during this night.  The sound of footsteps on the leaves surrounding the tent conjured up all sorts of unwelcome thoughts.  We know there are deer, bear, raccoon and other wildlife in the area and we follow protocol with tying up all food in a bear proof bag.  The steps stopped close to the tent and then thankfully went off in the opposite direction.

We awoke the next morning to even harder rain!  How could that be?!  Good thing we were atop a mountain because we may have needed an ark.  Packing up the tent and backpacks in the downpour resulted in heavier packs due to the saturation of practically everything we carry.  We had a long hike planned this Day 7 to get to Blue Mountain shelter about 9 miles away.  We first had to get drinking water at a nearby stream, which in hindsight  was silly due to the numerous waterfalls we encountered the entire day.  The torrential rains continued all day.  The trail, once muddy, turned into small ponds and we couldn’t avoid the soaking sloshing feeling with every step.  The fierce winds kicked up around each bend and blew our packs with gale force.  Think Lieutenant Dan on the boat during the hurricane scene in the Forrest Gump movie.  That is how we felt!  Even with all our rain gear we were chilled to the core.  The only way to keep warm was to hike faster so we started at 9:00 a.m. and didn’t stop until 5:30 p.m. covering about 11 miles over jagged rocks and trail ponds.  When we got to the road at Unicoi Gap we were given a ride into the town of Helen, Georgia by a nice lady who rescues cats.  She didn’t understand why we were out hiking and kept asking us where our car was parked — LOL.  She dropped us off at the Best Western  motel that has rooms for $55 for hikers.  Finally this was our ark!  Thank God for the protection of a dry hotel room!

Day 8– We are taking a zero day at the Best Western.  There are lovely people here and they serve a mean southern breakfast for FREE!

Zero day:  when a hiker takes a day with no miles due to injury, bad weather, utter exhaustion, or to enter the sanctuary of the ark.

Until next time,  Chief and Toad


Go Into the Rain

Dear Friends:

We began our A.T. hike three days ago at Springer Mountain, Georgia. Torrential rains and cold weather have made for muddy trails and less than ideal conditions. Day 1 was a rough climb over a mix of slippery rocky terrain and mud which caused Toad to slip and fall not once but twice. Chief had a mishap by missing a trail blaze after a creek crossing causing us both to hike a quarter mile on the wrong trail before discovering the error. By the end of the day we were cold, wet and exhausted and wondering WHY we were out in these elements with aching muscles and pruny feet.  We met several hikers who also planned to go to Maine but several have dropped out already.  We were told that 20% of hikers quit within the first thirty miles.

Day 2 was not only a hike up and down one mountain but TWO mountains. The going up was a killer cardiovascularly, but the decents wreaked havoc on these old knees. The view would have been amazing if there wasn’t so much fog.  Nevertheless, we enjoyed the woods carpeted with last fall’s brown and red leaves and the young green plants of spring popping through.  Wild violets were a welcome sight of color and a reminder to find joy in the small things.

So it’s Day 3 and the rain was so penetrating today that we finished mile 21 and got a ride to the Hiker Hostel to dry out ourselves and our gear.  It has been hard to focus on anything but our discomfort.

Before we left, I downloaded the Jesus Calling app on my iPhone. Today’s devotion read, “When you are shaken out of your comfortable routines, grip My hand tightly and look for growth opportunities. Instead of bemoaning the loss of your comfort accept the challenge of something new. “. Ok, God we get it. We need to embrace the opportunities you provide starting on Day 4…

Chief and Toad

Anticipation for the Journey

“Let me recommend the best medicine in the world: a long journey, at a mild season, through a pleasant country, in easy stages.” –James Madison

We are excited that our Appalachian Trail journey finally begins April 13th at Springer Mountain, Georgia. The weather forecasts show rain the first five days of our hike, (at least it isn’t snow, right?). A recent correspondence from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy stated the trail length this year is 2,189.2 miles. That is 9.2 miles more than we expected. Oh, well — merely a drop in the bucket at that point and a bit more beauty in nature to enjoy!

Much thanks to Erin at the Shelby Daily Globe for a wonderful article on the Hike for John in last Saturday’s edition. Mark from the Mansfield News Journal and Curt from Richland Source are writing articles for this week. Thanks to both! We will provide these fine reporters with updates and photos during our hike that they can share with their readers. So many folks are following our adventure and praying for us. What a wonderful community of friends! Words cannot express our appreciation and the support shown for the Gurney Family.

Our next post will be from Georgia after we step foot on the AT.
With Great Anticipation,  Chief and Toad

Hike for John

We have had many visitors to the Chief and Toad blog, as well as those who plan to follow our progress on the Appalachian Trail.  Please check out the “Hike for John” page on the menu.  This is a fundraising opportunity to help  a very close friend of ours, John Gurney, who is fighting melanoma.

Right now, we are packing our backpacks and getting ready to head to Georgia in April.  We are following online other thru-hikers who have started hiking the trail and the weather conditions they have encountered.  It is still rather cool in the south, especially in the higher elevations.  Hopefully, we experience more mild temperatures when we begin.

More details to follow soon…