Sunday, March 31, 2013

Adventures of the last week

We were really happy to hit the Wyoming County Line a couple of days ago, but I wanted to post this picture of Bart in Mingo County.  When we get the trail through Mingo, it will be spectacular.  For now, it is all roadwalk, but a big part of that roadwalk is simply beside a road and not on it.  Expansive views of Kentucky and West Virginia mountains filled the soul, and the occasional car driving past us 20 feet to our left did little to take away from the experience.  Wilderness trail it is not (for now), but it was nevertheless a beautiful experience.  Thanks, King Coal Highway!

Also, to everyone in Mingo County: Thanks for not running us over.  We appreciate it.  We realize that 52 is not made for pedestrians.  Trust us, we tried to find another way.  So, thanks for your help. 

Yesterday we were set to tackle a large portion of trail between R.D. Bailey WMA and Horse Creek Lake.  Bart's mom made us biscuits & gravy to power us over the mountains, his dad drove us to the county line, and we were off!  Thanks, you two, for all you've been doing for us!

It was the nicest day (weather-wise) we've had since . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Tennessee somewhere, I'd say.  I was so excited to revisit some of the trail I'd GPSed last year when I was a VISTA for this project.  I'd only ever hiked this section in the rain, and I wanted to see it in sunshine.  Tim was coming with us to help us not get lost and to tell us stories.  In short, everything was perfect.

Until my foot quit working.

Suddenly, our 13-mile day over unmaintained trail became a complete impossibility for me, and we had just our daypacks, so we couldn't camp out.  Bart's Jeep was 8 miles away at Horse Creek.  When we got to Big Branch (AKA "Burning Car Gap") Tim suggested we try to hitchhike to Horse Creek.  Hitching with 3 can be very difficult, and I was not surprised when no cars were pulling over for us.  (Tim also tried to thumb from an ATVer, who just grinned at us.  Yeah, right!)

All of a sudden, from the other direction, Paul and Ruby, our TuGuNu VP and Treasurer, pulled over!  They just decided to come see if we were out and about, and their timing couldn't have been more perfect.  What are the chances?!  They gave us a lift back to the Jeep.  Can't wait for them to join us on a deathmarch hike soon!   
We took today off to ice my foot.  I went from hobbling to walking normally in just 24 hours.  I think it's my boots doing it to me, and so I will wear my sandals for the next few days.  Sandals in this section is not recommended, but I've done it before, so . . . onward.

R.D. Bailey

Looking over at RD Bailey Lake.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Happy anniversary!

My journey would not be possible without my wonderful parents. They are my life compass.
Happy 45 years together!!!
Love Bart

Wyoming County!

Almost Heaven- me and Jo stare into Mingo County as we stand in my home county of Wyoming.

Justice, WV

Jo and Tim looking off the bridge in Justice WV as anglers fish in the stream, on the bank and off the bridge.

The Charleston Gazette

First Great Eastern Trail hikers halfway article

Thanks to Rick and Larry for making the trip to Matewan!  We had a nice time visiting with them and a great stay in town.  Matewan is the perfect trail town, and we look forward to figuring out the best possible way to route trail across Mingo County!


Picture of the Guyandotte River on our road walk near Justice. 

I think the potential for recreation and fishing is highly overlooked on the Guyandotte River. The locals know and appreciate it greatly!

Gilbert, WV

The crew passing through bustling Gilbert WV.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Goodbye to Kentucky

Same bridge. We are looking across the Tug River from Kentucky into West Virginia near Historic Matewan.

Almost there...

Jo and TuGuNu President Tim by an abandoned train bridge. Matewan is very beautiful and historic.

WV border


Yea! My home state!!!

Walking into WV

Tim McGraw and Paul Kenney joined us today as we walked into West Virginia.  Here is Tim and Jo.

Happy birthday!

Happy happy birthday to my mom!  She's been putting up with me for my whole life, so she deserves major applause.  A few years ago I made her hike some of the Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota.  After Bart and I finish the GET, I hope she'll come hike another section of the SHT with me.  Thanks for everything!

"She tried to KILL me!" - Mom, after the hike

"PERFECT?! Bang on my chest if you think I'm perfect!" - the Tin Man

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


 Thanks to Jessica Lilly for covering our hike!  She was the first person in the world to pick up on the story, and we'll hopefully get a chance to hike with her for a day as we approach Pipestem State Park.

Check it out: GET hikers gear up for WV terrain -

Hiking in winter

Everything I owned froze solid...

We chose to hike in winter.

We knew ahead of time that things were not always gonna be super easy.  On a long hike, there is always something going wrong: a blister, a wet boot, running out of chocolate . . . it's part of the experience.  When you hike in winter, all those other considerations take a back seat in your mind, and the driving question is, "How is the weather and am I going to freeze to death today?"

We have seen snow in every state, though we got through Georgia and Tennessee without much accumulation.  In Alabama, we had only one snow day, but it was dramatic and dangerous.  In Kentucky, we dealt with snow constantly, but were better prepared for the weather, both in terms of gear and mental preparation.

Hiking in winter can be incredibly rewarding.  The views go on forever.  Although the greens of spring and summer and the fall foliage create wonderful scenic views, the winter and its absence of colors expose itself in a different light.  We haven't had a single mosquito bite or had any problem finding water sources.  We have only been uncomfortably hot a handful of times; you can always add layers on, but you can only take so much off.  We also get a chance to wear our stylish blaze-orange toboggans.  And there's no one else dumb enough to be out there on the trails, so we are isolated and alone.  Also, people feel sorrier for Bart when they see his beard is frosted and are quicker to lend a hand. ;)
We'll miss this someday.

We would definitely not recommend that the next thru-hikers of the Great Eastern Trail begin in January when we did.  Weather has definitely slowed us down: hiking through snow with a 30-pound pack makes a 2MPH pace very difficult and often impossible.  Longer days with fewer miles are taxing on our bodies and our sanity.  However, while we can't recommend beginning in January, we are very happy that we did so.  We are over 700 miles into the hike, with spring (theoretically) around the corner.  We are looking forward to spring wildflowers in West Virginia, the return of colors to a dramatically white world, longer days, more miles, easier hiking, and getting to sleep without wearing every single layer we own. What will that even be like?  I hardly remember what hiking is like when it's not freezing.

It's been a wonderful winter hike with lots of character-building and help from newfound friends.  We feel much richer for these friendships and the experiences we've had have been more meaningful due to often inclement weather.

Tomorrow we walk into West Virginia, our 5th of 9 states.  The halfway mark is just down the trail.  Many more adventures await us, and hopefully some sunshine.

Monday, March 25, 2013

In like a lion, out like a lion!

Hensley Settlement, Kentucky - there's been near-constant snow since then.  Good times.

It is so nice to sleep inside so we can avoid this.  As fun as this looks . . . 
We are waiting out this latest snow storm in Mullens while we plan Mingo County and jump Jo's car, and we will be heading back to the Matewan area on Wednesday.  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Strider's North Country Trail hike

I recently learned about a hiker from my home state of Minnesota who is thruhiking the entire North Country Trail this year, starting next week!  He has many more miles to go than Bart and I have, and he will have a lot of similar challenges to face.

Follow along and learn more at

I am excited to leave him a note at Moss Hill Lean-To in New York, which is where our journeys will overlap.

Go Strider!

Friday, March 22, 2013

photo album

Click below to visit the photo album.  More photos coming soon:

Remembering Alabama

"I am only one, but still I am one, I cannot do everything, but still I can do something."
-Helen Keller

"I cannot do everything, but I can attempt to not die in an Alabama snowstorm." -Jo

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hillabee Creek, Alabama

I took this video back in Alabama, before we knew what challenging fords were in our future.  It would be a better video if Bart had wiped out, but we can't have everything. :)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Friends rock.

My friends Tina and Anna were apparently at Cloudland Canyon when we were.  Tina says, "I totally didn't know that you were there too."  Miss you girls! 

Elkhorn City, KY

I love this part of the world!
In all the busy relaxation of the last week (yes - busy relaxation), I haven't had the time to write about the delightful time we had in Elkhorn City a week ago.

Elkhorn City, KY has a special place in my heart. I went to a workshop there in 2011 with my friend Peggy.  The town has so much good stuff going for it - Breaks Interstate Park, water adventure opportunities, the Pine Mountain Trail, and a theater (not a cinema - a theater!).  Elkhorn City is the first place we've come to where I felt close to Mullens, WV (our mental and emotional halfway point, and Bart's home).  So when we came to the overlook of town, I did a little dance which thankfully no one witnessed.  I was ahead of Bart for once, so not even he saw it.

The rain held off up until the last two miles, when it began sprinkling juuust enough to threaten to actually get us wet.  We made it to the picnic shelter at the trailhead before it started to really rain.  Great timing!

Soon James came to rescue us and whisked us away to Castle James, where we were utterly spoiled and had a grand time telling stories, looking at maps, and NOT being in the rain (again, seriously fantastic timing).  James, thank you so much for your hospitality and letting us pick your brain!  We both really hope to return to the area to explore it further and hopefully we'll see you soon!

Jo, Wooly Nelson, and James at the PMT trailhead in Elkhorn City

Monday, March 18, 2013

Thanks Pine Mountain Outfitters!

Sporting our generous gifts from Pine Mountain Outfitters in Whitesburg KY! One more reason to love KY and the Pine Mountain Trail! This store has anything you need to get hiking.

Bart discovers a hammock

This was in Alabama, and I had a hunch that I should film this.  I like his caw of victory.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sound effects

We had an awesome time at this pond in Tennessee last month.  Turn up the volume and check out the cool sound!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Remembering a bad day

It is not always scenic overlooks and smiles.  On an undisclosed day, in an undisclosed state, we had a bad day.  Bart discusses what went wrong:


It's 9:21 am est and there is where my sun rises from my back porch in Mullens WV over Reinhart Mountain. Yep it takes a while to show up but these hollows are deep and rich as the people it eventually shines on.

at home

It will be hard to get back on the trail and leave mornings like this! Homemade buttermilk biscuits- gravey- bacon- apples and the coldest milk anywhere !

Friday, March 15, 2013


My Dad and Kodak on a covert mission to get us back into WV. Success!!

Brown beans!


Me, Jo and Mom talking about important world changing stuff over my favorite food brown beans and cornbread!! I ate three bowls and a slice of homemade chocolate cake.


Hillbilly Bart's new hobby

He is pretty impressed with himself. :)

Kentucky experiences part 1

It is easier to update from a real computer.  A keyboard feels so strange!

We have had an amazing experience in Kentucky.  Every state so far has exceeded our expectations, provided new friends for us, and given us stories that keep us up at night laughing.

We can see forever from the overlooks on the Pine Mountain Trail!
We want to give a huge shout-out to the Pine Mountain Trail guru Shad and his family for putting us up and putting up with us for a couple of nights while we waited for the weather to improve. The views we were treated to from the Pine Mountain Trail were well worth waiting for, and we really enjoyed hanging out and learning more about the area: we got to check out AppalShop, watch (& taste!) the maple syruping process, and visit the fantastic Pine Mountain Outfitters.  Thanks for having exactly what we needed when we needed it!

Thank you for everything, Letcher County!

Bart and Shad

On the night before we headed out, Shad got a phone call about a group of college kids who were lost and stuck on top of the mountain.  You can read about the incident here.  The following day when Bart and I headed out, we saw the aftermath of the rescue: 37 wet, icy towels on the trail, remnants of fires, discarded clothes, and trampled snow.  The dozens of footprints made our hike actually much easier in the snow.  Thanks to the search and rescue crew who got them all out!  Nice to know that there are folks like you to help out when needed.

We spent the night at Adena Shelter after walking and occasionally crawling through snow.  We were exhausted, but having a shelter to call home for a night made the day feel a lot easier.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Today marked two months since we embarked on this quest. We have hiked 662.3 miles and well into our 4th state.

We appreciate everyone's interest and enthusiasm as it really helps us get motivated those cold and wet mornings.

Many more miles and states to travel so stay in touch and hope to meet along the journey.
HillBillyBart & Someday!!!

Ice face

Pine Mountain Trail rocks!

Pine Mountain Trail offered some spectacular rock formations along our way!


A cave with a sun roof provided us shelter last night!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Amazing views

Jo enjoying one of the many views along the Pine Mountain Trail.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tuesday & Wednesday

Tues: woke up in the rain, packed up in the rain, hiked 18 miles in the freezing rain but refuge at Black Bear shelter in Kingdom Come State Park.
Wed: woke up in the snow, packed in the snow, hiked 14 miles in the freezing snow but now have refuge at Shads home.
All is good-HillyBillyBart

Monday, March 4, 2013

Thanks PJ!

I want to thank my buddy PJ back home for helping us out and following our hike. Love you man nothin like lifelong hometown friends! See you soon.

Goss Park

The sun saying goodnight to us at Goss Park!

Beautiful KY

Little Shepherd Trail day 1

Thank you Tony for the water cache! It made our 1600ft climb today a lot easier knowing we'd have some water up top.

Today was the kind of day that induced grinning. We were so happy to be moving again that the miles flew by. I Google-mapped this area extensively before leaving and so seeing it all in person is really fun. Also, the weather is amazing. I know it may be short lived, but it felt so good to take a long lunch break in the sun and be warm.

Today's highlight: a lunchtime snowball fight. Probably a bad idea to get wet, but too much fun. I hit Bart in the face. ...oops?

Little Shepherd Trail

Out enjoying KY's Little Shepard Trail!

Catching up to winter

We knew we'd catch up to winter at some point! Thus far in our trip we have had mostly glorious weather. (keep in mind that I am from Minnesota and my definition of "glorious" may differ vastly from Bart's definition.) It has been cold, but with the right gear, cold is not a problem at night and while hiking, it is almost welcome.

We took 2 days off in Harlan, KY. First to rest, then because of snow (and my ankle, which I could hardly walk on 36 hours ago). We don't mind taking days off due to weather (this makes only 3 weather-related days off since we began). It is part of the experience, and we are enjoying it.

Today we awoke to a sunshiney, cold, beautiful morning. My ankle works again, the snow is on the ground and not in the air, and we both feel really ready to get out of town and into the woods.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Thanks Jeremy!

We made it to Harlan County KY without cell service or Internet. Who needs Google when you have a Jeremy!!!

Harlan County!


Our first few days in Kentucky have been an adventure! We officially out-hiked springlike weather and have seen snow every day so far. At Hensley we woke up to 2-3 inches of snow on the ground and many more drifted up around the tent! It was way too hard to motivate ourselves to get out of our toasty warm sleeping bags.

We lost elevation and were happy to hit our 987 roadwalk, but we were even happier when Jeremy tracked us down to deliver maps, candy, and a warm welcome to the area. THANK YOU!

We tried to make it to Martin Fork Lake but our late start made it too difficult. Thanks to the kind folks of Smith who didn't run us out of their park and even brought us food and visited! So many people have offered us help - we so appreciate you all.

Yesterday we made it to Harlan where we are resting and warming up for our next stretch. Lots of great adventures in the next week - can't wait!

Friday, March 1, 2013


Hensley Camp

Well hello Kentucky! The Hensley Camp at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park was beautiful and cold. We were able to get in the tent before dark after leaving Morgan and Adam (from the Knoxville Sentinel ) at the Pinnacle Overlook. It was good hiking and hanging out with them plus a bonus ride for resupply. Look for Morgan Simmons article about us March 8th in the Knoxville Sentinel. Thanks again guys hope to cross paths again!