AT RunVenture Project Segment no. 4

AT Segment #4 May 11-16 Devils Fork Gap - Massies Gap Miles 311.1-502.2


6/2/202123 min read

It was only a few short days after we got back from our “easy” weekend that we’d step foot back on trail for our highest mileage week. This section took a lot of logistical planning and a lot of kindness from others to even start. Celia and I both knew this week was a stretch, 5.5 days with 192-200 miles and all depending on our resupply, aid and pure luck to a fairly risky percentage. We knew we could fail, we knew we could end up with an emergency call to a town, but we also knew we had each other and common sense. At worst, we’d get partially derailed to resupply in a town and we’d lose time and money, neither of which truly matter to us. So in short, we wouldn’t get hurt or ever be helpless, we were more prepared than that. We were ready to take this on. 

I flew to Atlanta for the last time for this adventure on May 11th and upon arrival Celia and I plugged in the address to Devil’s Fork Gap, NC and we had a long 4+ hour drive ahead. We chatted and planned while I attempted to fit all of my needed gear into my Salomon 12L as it is much more comfy and snug than my 15L. Celia had managed but she had opted to go without her puffy coat and carrying only a true emergency bivy whereas I had my trusty amazon essentials puffy and my Sol emergency bivy which is nearly triple the size of the emergency bivy packed, so getting things to fit was literally a stretch. Despite that, with enough shoving and stretching, it did all fit and I was ready to struggle for the next 5 days with keeping it packed correctly and shoving things in without breaking the seams or zipper.

We arrived at Devil’s Fork Gap and packed up our last items, changed into our running outfits and shoes and placed our packs on our backs around 2pm and once again headed north. It was a pleasant afternoon, warm and sunny but not too hot. Everything was lush and green. We climbed, as usual, then had some very runnable sections as we slowly gained elevation up to Big Bald at mile 326.2, getting back to 5500’ of elevation. The view was breathtaking but the wind was gusting against us. We took a few quick photos and ran down off the top of the bald as quickly as we could. This, in hindsight, was a repetitive theme through this section. Two more balds that evening took us into sunset. We were headed to No Business Knob shelter with lots of hope that there would be room for us on a Tuesday night.  We were officially falling behind the thru-hiker “bubble” so our chances were fairly high.

We arrived sometime after 10pm and there were 2 people in the shelter who were still awake and didn’t seem to mind us getting situated. Unfortunately, we had passed the water pipe about 0.2 miles back on the trail, of course, downhill. So once we were mostly prepped for bed we hiked the extra half mile (to and fro) to the water and filled up for the following morning.  We climbed into our sleeping bags fairly chilly but sort of comfortable and attempted to sleep. 

I fell asleep pretty quickly but woke up cold and ended up adding layers. I was fairly comfortable sleeping on the hardwood slats with my very thin pad so I was okay with the rest I was getting even if it wasn’t beauty sleep. Celia on the other hand was pretty uncomfortable and more than ready to get moving the next morning when we set out at 4am on May 12th. 

Today was fairly exciting. We had Jean who lives in Erwin, loves to hike and recently broke into trail running. Apparently her boyfriend had seen our post and told her about us and she offered to come out twice that day to aid us. I had shipped her a resupply box with more than enough for both of us and supplied a list of requests. We only had a little over 2 hours that morning to reach her at Jones Branch Road. We were excited to have hot coffee! Not to mention the rain had already started and stopped by the time we got to her and her brother at the dark parking lot. We knew there would likely be rain today and we joked after it had stopped that maybe that was it for the day. Looking back, this was a funny and wishful thought.

Jean was amazing! She had everything we asked for and more. I dug into some donut holes and coffee right away. The biggest benefit to us of having 2 stops with Jean was that we could drop most of the weight we were carrying and only carry what we needed for the days’ miles, true slackpacking. This was not going to be as smooth as we planned due to the gas line issue on the coast. Erwin, TN was out of gasoline so Jean,  understandably, offered to meet us a little closer to her home. Essentially, we would see her again in 20 miles instead of 30 miles. This was absolutely fine with us. 

I took everything warm, dry and extra out of my pack. I had poncho and my long sleeve was still on, but I truly thought, (based on my body warmth standing at her car) that I would be fine. This was not my smartest decision, in fact thus far, it is the stupidest thing I’ve done.

We took off pretty quickly after a photo. We were both moving well now, I was really warm, caffeinated and high on glucose. I was ready to run. I took off ahead a bit but was still waiting on Celia intermittently, I wasn’t ready to space out yet for the day as we had a long 47 mile day (37 left of it) and I hoped we’d spend most of it together. In just a few miles though the rain began to fall. Minutes after stopping to take off my long sleeve from being too warm I had to stop again to add my poncho. At first this was lovely, being a little too warm in plastic with cool rain felt really nice. The rain was warm and I was warm. This didn’t last.

It was only a mile or two later when I realized that my hands were getting very cold. I did have my gloves but I couldn't get them wet, we were headed up a mountain today and would surely need them to sleep tonight. So I hiked harder and faster and started trotting when I could. It was easy since my pack was so light. I kept on climbing and it was pretty runnable terrain. The grade was mild and despite working hard my hands were getting colder by the mile. A lot of the next 15 miles was a blur. I was very very cold or rather my body was comfy in my tank and poncho but my fingers, oh my! The rain got a bit harder and we continued to climb in elevation. I had long since ceased to look back for Celia. I knew she was fairly close and I was starting to feel a little desperate. My fingers ached and throbbed with the lack of blood flow as my Raynaud’s kicked in. I tried to put a hand in my armpit and any other warm part of my body, one at a time to thaw them but it was such temporary heat. I used my pole in an exaggerated forceful way (which I paid for later) to try and get some blood to my hands. Then the mud, the thick slick mud that made a lot of the easy trail quite challenging, especially the descents.

I knew I’d be fine, but also really had to keep moving. At Beauty Spot I remember the cold gusting wind and the view was white clouds and nothing more. I continued to race up to Unaka Mountain and was laughably uncomfortable. I was mostly kicking myself for not having my rain pants and puffy jacket. My hands, well I didn’t have a good answer, at least not until I stopped at Cherry Gap Shelter to rearrange myself and chatted with a few thru hikers. A woman there showed me her neoprene waterproof mittens and I was in awe. (I knew I’d be buying those ASAP) Soon I took off again before I lost my body heat. My skin on my hands was blue and white and hurt, despite my overall body temperature being quite comfortable. I kept on rolling right into Iron Mountain Gap where we’d be meeting Jean again.

Upon arrival at the gap, the parking area, I was alone. I turned on my phone and saw a message from Jean that she had found gas in a neighboring town and could meet us in 3 hrs at the originally planned parking area, but that she would come to Iron Mountain if she didn’t hear from us and would be there around 11:45am. It was currently 11:35am so I attempted to message her. The later stop would have been great if I could feel my hands and if Celia was there to ask, but there was no service so I waited. I cozied up inside my poncho with my body heat and was doing great when a car drove past, stopped  and turned around to come back to me. An older couple stopped and the woman got out and after asking if I was okay and if I had someone coming, to which I explained I was and I did, that they were mere minutes away, but she insisted I take a sweatshirt and she tried to give me a raincoat too. I allowed the sweatshirt gift but I was covered in my poncho and refused the rain jacket. I was in awe of their act of kindness and waited for Jean quite comfortably for the remaining 5 minutes or so. 

Once Jean arrived I hopped in the front seat and got cozy warm while drinking more coffee and chit chatting away. Celia arrived a few minutes later and climbed in the back. She was moving quickly, getting packed and I realized I probably needed to hustle too. I started to eat and repack and add layers to my body. It took us a few to get everything together and eat as much as we could but it wasn’t too long before we were packed up again. We had a great time getting to know Jean and we took some more pictures with her before we headed out for the climb to Roan Mountain, our high point for the day at 6270’.

We talked and hiked and enjoyed a fairly easy section. The rain and cooler temps were not as inviting as the warm sunny afternoon we had had on a number of other days, but we were both doing really well overall, the mud was the toughest now.  Roan Mountain was a long and fun climb. There are 33 or so switchbacks to get up there and despite the now breaking sun through the trees, the air was very crisp and cold. I was certain it was in the 30s. We planned to get a few miles past the peak of Roan Mountain to get a few hundred feet lower. We were both tired but we both knew what the morning would be like in the dark, cold, mud so we continued on almost forcefully-so. 

After Roan mountain there is a beautiful descent and then three wide open, cold, windy gorgeous balds. Round Bald was first. It had a very comfortable ascent, easy in fact. Then, Jane Bald with its steep rocky boulders really made me question my sanity, oh but then, after that descent on a pleasant grassy slope you arrive at another climb, the tallest bald, Grassy Ridge Bald. After this one, you finally begin to descend and this also means, welcome to mud fest! The last 2 miles to Stan Murray shelter were slow and mucky. I was so ready to get there and beg for space at the cold shelter. 

Finally, after a 47 mile day I’d arrived at Stan Murray Shelter and most of the space was being used but 2 of the thru hikers were planning to move to their tents but they were enjoying dinner from their sleeping bags. I waited patiently for them to finish by unpacking and repacking and eating. I added layers and by then Celia was there and we finished packing our food into our bear bag and got ourselves set. This was nearly 7pm and the hikers that were headed to their tents were headed that way now. We got ourselves tucked in.

 I was not warm, not even starting out. With everything I had on, plus hot hands, I was notably cold. I should have put my poncho on but knowing it was still wet made is less than inviting. I should have used my SOL bivy for more heat but I worried about bothering people and I didn’t believe that would help me sleep either but this may have been yet another mistake, I’ll never really know. So I wiggled and shifted for the first two hours. Then I thought if I got my body into more of a ball I’d be warmer so I tried kneeling and sitting upright curling myself up. I was notably warmer but still couldn’t hold these positions and relax in order to sleep. I moved to the back of the shelter to use the back wall for support. I shifted and wiggled the entire night away. It’s nearly impossible to explain the positions I attempted to sleep in. I do think all the hip movement helped keep me mobile for the following day, but otherwise this night crushed my soul and chewed on my confidence. I struggled hard, the only thing I had was knowing it was going to be like this before it came. At least, I had that. It made the suffering easier, plus, I knew it would stop. I’d have to work hard to get moving and be cold for a few more hours, but eventually I would be warm again and I would sleep the following night.

 Around 2am Celia and I chatted about getting up but then we’d be in the dark and cold for so long we opted to stay in our bags a while longer. Sometime after 3am I fell asleep on my face for about 20 minutes. I was surprisingly refreshed and the two of us decided it was time to face the music. 

We climbed out of our bags and packed up, my body shivering and my hands numb, my feet throbbing and fighting the guttural urge to moan to manage the extreme discomfort.  We were louder than we’d like and moved swiftly but struggled to get out of the shelter.  Finally by 4:15am we were moving. I was mentally very low, distraught almost as the cold was beating me down. I had to coach myself through it, afterall the only way to get warm was to keep moving, get down from elevation and get to our next checkpoint, which would be a hostel that evening, 36 miles away.

Thursday May 13th was our easy day. After a long day, 36 miles would lead us to a hostel, warmth and bunks await, but first more freezing. We hiked dreadfully slow until we were warmed up and then found our dark morning pace. We climbed Little Hump which was another wide open bald and when we thought that was it we looked up the trail and what seemed to be straight up and climbed up this gorgeous but dreadfully cold climb with frozen grass in every direction up to Hump mountain. It was breathtaking, the most beautiful view I have ever seen. We both wanted to skip the photo and keep moving but we knew we couldn’t. We had a perfect view of dawn breaking. Then we began to descend across Houston Ridge. Finally, we ended up in some tree cover, the sun was rising and body heat was beginning to feel like warmth. The thick slick mud between the rocks kept our descent to Roan Mountain, TN fairly slow but we were doing well overall. 

After this section, we were in sunny wet meadows as the frost was slowly melting. We each had to stop to remove our rain pants and then in no time I needed to stop to remove my puffy jacket which I then had to fit in my pack. This was not really possible, for whatever reason it just wouldn’t fit, so I gave up and tied it on my waist and there it stayed all day long.

We passed Isaacs Cemetery together and on the following descent discussed our plans for the day. Celia wanted the pressure elicited by my pace to be gone and I wanted to move at my “comfortable”. At some point we talked about how Celia doesn’t like taking breaks because she gets stiff pretty quickly, where I would rather go a bit faster and take five minutes because I feel fresh after a short break. Things like this remain difficult to navigate on the trail together. Neither of us mind moving at our own pace or separating from one another but for me, there is something a bit daunting about the time we will move along alone. Part of this keeps me happily waiting up. Today though, we both felt good about our miles and agreed to see one another at the hostel in a few hours. I started to run and run, and run. The day got warmer, the land got drier and I was loving trying to bring my average pace up over 3.0 mph after such a rough start to the day. The next 15 miles were as beautiful as the forest could be. I was thrilled to be moving so well after our big day. I was growing more confident about our long term goal of hitting 3 x 50 mile days, and I was sure Celia was too. I was sure that despite her fears about day 3, set in motion by the Smokies, that after her confident movement today she would have be more than ready to throw down more miles. 

Around 3pm I was getting a little antsy. You see, the miles don’t simply make you tired physically but the simple act of doing the same thing without end, does start to wear on you and interestingly enough, it's those same times of day as society has trained us to. Late morning gets a bit long, but then you have more fire until mid afternoon. This lasts until you hit a mid afternoon low which then gives you one more high until “quittin’ time” around dinner time. I find in ultra races that that too passes when the sun sets and you get another new sense of fresh energy, but since we’re stopping in the evenings, we instead get anxious to get to the “finish line” and so I was anxious to stop for the day. At mile 420.1 you come to a road and about 0.2mile up the road there is Kincora Hostel. (I managed to wander around a bit before I found it but it really was right there.)

Kincora Hostel, owned and run by Bob, long time caretaker of the AT, hiker, veteran, etc… (a pretty great well rounded guy) was outstanding. I believe I could dedicate an entire chapter to our short stay. I rolled in and told Bob (who’s white hair gives him away as the kind older gentleman described on the Guthook app posts) my name and Celia’s and grabbed our Resupply box. I opened it and started eating while talking and listening to the folks on the porch. There were two other hikers, Seven Eleven and a woman in her 70s whose name I regret I did not get. Both were staying the night. I eventually mustered the guts to ask about wifi, which I felt made me look like a young internet hungry millennial but our contact for aid, Eileen, I had only spoken to via facebook messenger and email so I had no other way to contact her. Bob said we could go to town for dinner and I would have service there, after that, I was able to relax. Bob showed me around the hostel and it was perfect. The hostel had many bunks upstairs, a kitchen with a stove, sink, microwave, refrigerator and coffee pot. There was also a hot shower and laundry. Everything that we needed and more.

Celia arrived and we showered and charged things before heading to town. I got service and messaged all the folks I needed to, mainly my husband and Eileen, the woman who had so kindly agreed to help us in the morning and then at the end of our week to drive me north to Roanoke, VA.

In town we stopped at a small grocery store and bought plenty of food. As soon as we were back to the hostel I cooked and ate my pizza hot pockets and then chatted with Bob and Seven Eleven while Seven Eleven cooked sausages, sauerkraut and peppers. I don’t eat things like that often but I was still pretty hungry and ended up enjoying an entire serving, which should have put me close to a 3000 kcal dinner!

That night in talking with Bob, he’d agreed to carry our sleep systems to Damascus for us, where we’d be covering 50 miles to get to tomorrow. The decrease of 5ish pounds each was a blessing we didn’t expect, a luxury we hadn’t afforded ourselves for the entire day. We got to bed early, before the sun and we both slept well. The hostel cat had decided that curled up with me was their bed for the night and I fully accepted the cuddles.

 At 3:55am my watch alarm went off and I woke up in the dark totally lost. I remembered I was in the hostel but orienting myself was a momentary struggle. I figured it out and woke Celia up. We went downstairs and we packed up, drinking hot coffee (Celia’s black, mine with heavy whipping cream and actual whipped cream for the comic relief and calories). We took our time this morning as Eileen was meeting us in an easy 13 miles and she was bringing her kids, who she was a bit hesitant to force out of bed too early to meet us an hour from her home at 7:30am, so we purposefully didn’t start until almost 5am so she would be able to relax a bit as we wouldn’t get to her until 8:30am. 

We set out on a dry cool morning on May 14th with 50 miles to get to Damascus. I was anxious to get moving but “faster” wouldn’t help the plan so I hiked comfortably all the way to Wilbur Dam rd. There we met Eileen and her two, quiet, perhaps sleepy boys. I pigged out on an egg, cheese and bacon on a bagel and a donut and of course more coffee with cream. I felt awesome and so ready for those “easy 30 miles” to Damascus we’d heard so much about. Celia made it a point to not stop too long, she didn’t want to get stiff, cold or stressed about making the days’ mileage. I planned to hang back and chit chat. Here I met another section hiker, named Mouse who also enjoyed some of the excess of the goodies Eileen had brought. I left Eileen a few minutes later with plans to see her at mile 200 in a couple of days.

Once on the trail I caught up to Mouse quickly and then we hiked together for about 20 minutes and enjoyed one another’s company, but soon she fell back and I was now chasing Celia from 20+ minutes behind. I wanted to catch up to her but not too quickly. For once, she was ahead and I thought maybe she’d enjoy that, but of course my need to “catch up” and move fast for the day pushed me onward. I took my time at a water crossing and few photo opportunities. I spent a few minutes fixing my pack and cinching it down. It took me a bit over two hours to make up the gap between Celia and I. Then we hung together until our day’s halfway point. Around mile 25 we agreed to meet in Damascus. Separate but together we hiked and ran our way to Virginia. 

These 25 miles were easier for Celia than I. Physically I felt great, I had done such a good job with calories and electrolytes through the day that everything was ticking along nicely. My average pace continued to climb slowly and I was loving the mental game. I loved the rolling hills. Nothing was wrong but as I approached the 10-11 hour mark for the day I suddenly felt very out of it. I had trouble remembering when I last ate or when I last got water. I think all the mental games with pace and run time vs clock time had me disoriented. It wasn’t very concerning but just a very weird headspace to be in. Not long after though at McQueen Gap rd there was a Taco Bar trail magic and it was basically a full aid station. They were so kind and supportive of what Celia and I are doing. I grabbed some walking tacos and continued on to Damascus, 11 more miles away. 

Those last 11 miles were easy running, but I was more and more out of it. I managed to break a pole, I wasn’t using it when it broke but I guess the stress of the cold weather pounding I’d put on it was more than they were made for and it finally gave out.

 I felt torn between getting to Damascus and slowing down to stay on the trail longer. The trail was beautiful and peaceful and sunset was hours away and Damascus would be full of people and hustle and bustle. I was excited to get to Trail Days because I wanted to meet Warren Doyle in person. His kindness has already helped us out more than once. So I just stuck to the game, watching my average pace approach 3.7mph for the day. I enjoyed the trail and let my phone stay on for video and photos and enjoyed not stressing about being able to charge it, afterall, another perk of Damascus was the kindness of another person, Stacey, who would be letting us spend the night in an actual house, with heat and everything else that a house has. 

Finally, the TN/ VA state line and then Damascus! I had arrived and I was hungry. I walked straight into the crowd to the food truck and bought an overpriced giant slice of pizza and salad and sat down and ate them both. Then I tried to figure out where I was and how to find Warren Doyle and how to find the house we would sleep in. 

Celia wasn’t far behind and I had figured out the rest by the time she’d arrived, or nearly, I was still working on a ride to the house. Here we met Liz (Mercury) Anjos, the current NoBo AT FKT holder, in english the current Northbound Appalachian Trail Fastest Known Time record holder. She was almost as excited to talk to us as we were to her. We are doing something very different from what she accomplished but interesting to any adventuring soul. She offered us the ride we needed and we didn’t hesitate. The ride,  chit chatting about adventures, was wonderful. Liz was kind enough to ask us if we needed a ride back in the morning and we sure did and again, didn’t hesitate. 

At the house, we showered and wrapped ourselves in cozy blankets and ate what we could find. We tucked ourselves in around 10pm knowing we’d be sleeping in before heading to Trail Days to enjoy a tourist morning before we set out on the trail for a truly relaxing 16 mile day. 

That next morning I was awake at 5:30am, so much for sleeping in! Celia hadn’t slept well despite the comfy bed and location. She tried to snooze while I hung out. Around 10am Liz picked us up and we three walked Trail Days together talking about running and adventures. Bob ended up walking right by Celia and we got back all of our things we’d left at the hostel, sleeping bags, sleeping pad, etc…

 I ate a ginormous cinnamon roll with icing, syrup and nuts and one too many cups of coffee. Eileen was bringing her boys to Trail Days so she brought Celia another baked sweet potato which Celia thoroughly enjoyed. Soon though, we’d seen what we wanted to see and it was time to leave town.

Right around noon we took off on foot across town and hiked a very comfortable and relaxing 16 miles to Lost Mountain shelter. Here we had great company, between Special and Red Beauty: a mom duo who come out to section hike together twice a year, every year for the last 10 years or so, Billy who has thru hiked more than once, 506 and woman called Amethyst with purple hair, skort, shirt etc... . 

The random hiking banter was fun. Amethyst told her story of being head butted by a bear running out of shelter. Apparently, after other hikers had scared the bear off it ran right into her hammock and its head smacked hers hard enough to tear a hole through all her layers and leave her with a solid bruise. The stories in the evening and getting to connect with people is one of the best parts of the trail and we feel very lucky to get to share some of it.

I spent the last few minutes of the evening chatting with Billy about gear and what not while Celia tried to catch up on sleep. She was exhausted from not having slept well the night before. This night, I was comfy and managed a few solid hours, but once I was restless Celia shared with me that she wasn’t sleeping well again. We agreed to wait a bit, but we still got up a 2am.

We had 25 miles to get by 12pm. I was certain we could do it, we’d done every day so far with time to spare. Celia was not sure, she was tired and had lost a contact. We moved nice and slow until sun up, which is about where we realized we missed a turn 1.5 mi back, which having seen it, I’m sure many people have made this same mistake and taken off on Deep Gap trail. We got back on track and saw a few ponies on our way. I was still confident we could make up the difference but Celia was not feeling my positivity as a hopeful feeling but as more of a shove. I felt that she was being really negative and after feeling like I spent the last few days watching her say she probably wouldn’t/ couldn’t do something and then do it- amazingly well… well, I was frustrated and took off running. I just needed to cry, run, breathe.

I stopped a few minutes up the trail to get out my poncho as it was starting to sprinkle and I waited there for over 5 minutes and there was no sign of Celia. I couldn’t believe it. In my frustration, this was frustrating too, I mean, we could make up the time, but we’d have to try... Where was she?

I didn’t know, and it was Not my place to speak for her or to assume anything. I knew I was feeling worn emotionally and that was my own problem, so I kept it to myself. I was sad that I couldn’t help her more somehow. I got a shelter and texted our rides to let them know we’d be stopping early. Everyone confirmed. I had now come to terms with the reality that a very reachable goal was now just out of reach and then Celia came powering by (I didn’t know this, but Celia had gotten lost, pulled out Guthook and discovered she was off trail heading SoBo--this obviously added time). 

I told her I fixed our rides and we’d be done at Massies Gap. She said she had just gotten herself ready to push hard to get to the next road crossing where we’d hit 200 miles for the week. I explained that her ride, George (yet another kind soul in this story) could not wait past 12pm as he had to get back home himself. Celia then did the one thing I knew she would that I just couldn’t handle right then, she told me to go on and finish at 511 instead of 502, since my ride could wait. She spent the next mile explaining it and reworking it and I just hiked behind and cried tears of frustration. I had no interest in doing that, my emotional tank was empty, I was no longer having fun and I wanted to get done and get home to my boys.

We passed the 500 mile marker on the AT and then climbed through Grayson Highlands where the wild ponies came up to me and started licking me and nudging me hopeful for treats. It was cute and odd, it helped my mood. Then we had a few more boulders, which on any other day would have been really fun but today they stood between me and getting off trail. 

There we were in the parking lot of Massies Gap at 9:30am, 195 miles done in 5.5 days. We both knew we’d had our first relationship blow out, neither of us really understood why. I think it was mostly on me, which I explained to Celia later was a combination of things. I wanted to be able to help, to inspire, to fix something for Celia everytime she says she “can’t” but it’s not my place. In turn, Celia shared with me that she says those things to me to “dampen” my expectations of her, as a self protection from disappointing me.  She also explained that going “slow” isn’t a negative to her and often she really doesn’t know how the day will go or how long it will take her to arrive at our stopping point. Relationships are tricky. It’s not my place to fix Celia and it isn’t hers to try and control my expectations… but we’re human. We are committed to each other, this project, and learning more about ourselves and how we fit together on this amazing journey.

Here, I should note, once off trail Eileen was there for us within a few minutes and we sat and waited for George who was also there, no issues or complications. Celia jumped in with George and headed south to her car and home and Eileen and I took off toward Roanoke. We talked and chatted about our children and growing them into the outdoor world and building communities. We talked about adventures. It was a nice ride, long but nice. Next, we met my husband’s Aunt Judy at a coffee shop and she drove me the rest of the way to MD, to her home. Here my friend Richard picked me up and drove me home to my family where I immediately ran upstairs and helped with bedtime and tucked my kids in. It was great to be home, and it took a small army to get me there.

This was a Big section! I forgot some names and great people, but we could not have had such a pleasant experience without Jean, Eileen and her boys, George, Judy, Richard, Stacey, Keith, Bob, Liz and Warren Doyle too. We are continually amazed by people's kindness and hope we can pay it back and/or forwards. Thank you!