Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!  I hope you have all been blessed with family and friends this holiday season.
Although I didn't spend Christmas with Hillbilly Bart, he sent me a surprise in the mail: a new mascot!  

A lot of long-distance hikers hike with a mascot.  Before I left on my first really long hike (the Appalachian Trail), my coworker Dennis made me a pomegranate monster, who I creatively named "Pomegranate Monster." He even hiked the southern half twice!

 When I went to finish the Long Trail, my friend Gabe took me to the northern terminus to begin my hike, but not before we found a LEGO guy on the ground in Burlington.  I carried LokiTron the LEGO guy throughout the Long Trail.

Last month on the Benton MacKaye Trail, I carried my nephew Ben's Flat Stanley "Flatsta."  I learned that one round of lamination is not enough for a paper dude.

And now, I introduce . . . KATNISS EVERDEEN.  She will be making at least part of the journey with us.  Someone threw bread at her.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

On his way

Hillbilly Bart is on his way!

Although I won't be meeting him down south until January 4th, he has all of his gear and supplies ready for our hike at his brother's house in Georgia.  From there, we will get a ride with one of his lovely relatives to Alabama.  He won't see his hometown of Mullens again until he and I have hiked over 800 miles.
Mullens, WV
Our mental halfway point

I am looking forward to spending the next ten days with family and friends.  I am not looking forward to catching the bus to Georgia on January 3rd.  Nothin' like 28 hours on a Greyhound bus to make me SUPER DUPER ready to hit the woods. We both feel as ready as we're going to get, so we're excited to hit the trail!

Merry Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Maildrop preparation

My task today was to find travel-sized supplies.  My timing could have been better, but at least I was not trampled to death by a horde of consumption-driven Christmas procrastinators with their glowing life-sized stuffed puppies that actually wee and the clearance-rack camo-colored ShakeWeights. 

I felt like a dork when I was checking out.  The cashier must have thought that I buy everything in travel-size containers due being obsessive-compulsive or that I give the world's lamest Christmas gifts EVER.  Hopefully neither of those assumptions is true.
My Christmas gift to myself.
Ho ho ho.

Backpack weight is the enemy of every hiker.  Keeping that weight down is priority #2, and it helps significantly with priority #1, which is "don't die in the woods."

Sometimes Hillbilly Bart and I will arrange to have a supply box sent to us at points along the way so we can get new supplies. We can't avoid maildrops, primarily because of maps.

Maps weigh a lot.  

 I have accumulated piles to help us through the trail.  Some piles weigh over a pound. There's no overall guidebook, no one place to access everything needed to hike the Great Eastern Trail.  It has been a delightful journey to find all the resources we need to make this hike a reality.

We begin the trip carrying the maps for Alabama and Georgia.  This keeps the weight down and will keep us from getting overwhelmed.  Tackling the trail in chunks is necessary for sanity.  In Georgia we will pick up Tennessee information and in Tennessee we will get Kentucky maps, and so on.  Along with maps, our maildrops will include travel-sized toiletries, new journals, socks, and so on.  These are things that I have had problems finding in towns during my previous hikes, so I am buying them now.

Some hikers along the Pacific Crest and other long-distance trails mail food to themselves along the way.  Bart and I are not doing this.  First of all, we think we can reasonably figure out ways to resupply from the Great Eastern Trail.  We may not always have the food we want, but we can likely get by, as neither of us is very picky.  Secondly, we are both very passionate about the economic impact that this trail will have in small towns such as Mullens and Pineville, West Virginia.   Trails can mean big business for small towns, and we want to model that by buying groceries locally.

We'd love to get mail along the way.  Email may be difficult to access, and letters can really brighten up a day.  If you send mail to Jo's parents' house, they will include it in the next upcoming mail drop.  Contact Jo for their address.  Thanks to Mom and Dad Swanson for rocking the maildrop situation yet again!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Thank you!

Last week, beloved friends of Hillbilly Bart gathered together at Calacino's Pizzeria in Beckley, WV to send him off in style.  We are both overwhelmed with the support and love we have received from friends and family.  Thanks to the folks who came out that evening!  Your financial support will allow us to stay warm and dry on nights of terrible weather, to eat a hot meal, and to replace gear we destroy along the way.  A special thank you to Calacino's Pizzeria for hosting the event!

Thank you to all who were able to give at this event.  If we have omitted anyone, please let us know.  For a full list of our sponsors, see our sponsors page. 

Thanks to everyone who had to deal with Hillbilly Bart.
He just had his wisdom teeth out and was probably more
incoherent than usual.
  • Gerald Hayden and David Hart of Hayden and Hart, PLLC Attorneys at Law (Beckley, WV)  
  • Butch and Patty Miles of PCM Contracting Services, LLC (Sophia, WV) 
  • Dr. Anthony Flaim D.O. 
  • Jerry Zaferatos and Staff of Calacino's 
  • Clint and Andrea Houck 
  • Todd Houck, Attorney at Law (Mullens, WV) 
  • All who want to remain anonymous in their support

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

West Virginia Public Broadcasting interview

Check out a news story about our hike!  A big thank you to Jessica Lilly for her time and effort that it took to make this story happen! 

If you're in southern West Virginia and want to get involved with TuGuNu Hiking Club, drop the club an email by clicking this link!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Jo's warm-up hike

Fiskars and Someday atop Springer Mountain
I just returned from a 26-day hike from Davenport Gap in the Smokies to Springer Mountain, Georgia on the Benton MacKaye Trail.  My friend Fiskars went with me and completed her first long-distance hike.  She rocked! 

We started on November 6th, and encountered some a lot of Sandy's snow.  Luckily, the Benton MacKaye Trail maintains generally lower elevations throughout the Smokies compared to the Appalachian Trail, so after a few days the snow had melted.

It was great to get out and back into the hiking groove, making sure all my gear will work for a long trip.  On night two, we learned that my tent's rainfly was no longer waterproof.  At all.  I called the company and was able to purchase a replacement and have it shipped to our next resupply point. I'm glad I learned that before hiking the Great Eastern Trail.  Logistics on the GET will be difficult enough without having to deal with gear issues.

The Benton MacKaye Trail was absolutely fantastic and I highly recommend it.  It was nice to hike a trail and need a map; my other hiking experiences have been in places where a person would really have to try to get lost.  It was very good practice for the GET, which in some places doesn't quite exist yet.

On my way back to Minnesota I stopped in West Virginia to go over some plans with Hillbilly Bart.  I leave Minnesota in less than a month, so I am busy planning maildrops, mapping out some roadwalks, and accumulating maps.

Thank you to everyone who helped us out during the Benton MacKaye Trail trip: Hillbilly Bart for driving us to the Smokies, Mom for the roadtrip home,  Mad Dog, Ali, Jen, and Brandon for visiting (and treats!), Mike for being brave enough to pick up two stinky hitchhikers, The Hike Inn for being wonderful people, the Fish Hatchery for going above and beyond, the Green Cove Motel for my favorite zero day on the trail, Mike and company at the Ducktown Copper Inn for being sweethearts, and the Iron Bridge Cafe and Hostel for being exactly what we needed.  Oh, and thanks Sgt. Rock!