April 22nd – Farewell and Hello.  Back to Hot Springs

April 22nd – Farewell and Hello.  Back to Hot Springs

We all have had such a great time, but the time has been too short.  We woke up, made breakfast, and had to start packing up again. 🙁

We managed to squeeze all of us into a photo in front of the beautiful fire place.  I think we could have used a week at the cabin, but back to the trail and our real lives we go.  

Ryan drove the truck down the mountain, again through the crazy switch backs.  We made it safely down that wild mountain, and back into Hot Springs. 

After showing my mom around and saying our farewells, we headed down to the Hiker Fest in town. 

We listened to some music, relaxed on some lazy swinging chairs, and watched the boys compete in an ice cream eating contest. 

They didn’t win, but they sure had fun.  After the contest was over, we headed back down to the Hiker Ridge and met Freddie.  He is such a sweet and generous man.  When we asked him why he does what he does, he said, “My one word answer, Jesus.”  He gets something that many don’t.  He simply wants to give what he has to love those who need to be loved.  He has adopted children, he started this little place where hikers can come and simply be loved, with no expectations for anything in return.  It is beautiful.  

He whispered in Zoeys ear, and told her to tell us that dinner was on him if we wanted to go to the Diner for dinner.  His love for Jesus is contagious… just look at the smile on his face and the joy and peace in his eyes.

Maybe one day we will be able to love other hikers the way that he loves!

We headed down to the Diner for dinner… it was so good!!!  Our waitress, whose name I think was Jessica, was so friendly!!! 

We headed back to the Hostel, and joined in on the karaoke, again!

Ryan decided he would rather be a giraffe for a little bit.  Zoey was a backup singer to a Simon and Garfunkle song, Kole sang a duet with Little Foot, Taylor and Zoey sang “Shake It Off” together… Ryan now owes Taylor a travelers guitar, because he sang the song with Zoey… shirtless.  Ryan and I sang a song… and we all had a blast!  

To make the night perfect, we were able to spend some time getting to know Kanga, Roo and Sherpa.  This is a sweet family of three… Roo is 13 months old, traveling the AT in a back carrier on her mommas back.  They have already hiked over 400 miles.  They are such a great little family!!!  We will tell you more about them in our next post. 

We slept in our tents this night… and it was RAINY RAINY!!!  But our tents held up well in the torrential down pour.  We are loving all of the crazy twists and turns of this journey. 

~ Happy Trails, The Thru Crew.

April 20th and 21st – Rest, Relaxation, and a little surprise

April 20th and 21st – Rest, Relaxation, and a little surprise

We woke up in the giant king-sized bed at the Lodge.  We haven’t slept like that since we left home.  It was AMAZING!  

We were expecting Mama Jane to come get us from the Laughing Heart to take us to a cabin over near Asheville, so we packed up all of our packs, and started saying our farewells to our friends. 

Hydro, a fellow hiker, was doing work for stay at the hostel.  He did all of the laundry and was so nice to our kids.  He played cards with the kids for hours. 

Here are some pictures from our stay at the hostel.

Belle was given the ham bone that was left from the Easter lunch the hostel held for hikers. She was in heaven!

When Mama Jane arrived, she told us that we needed to go pick Dr. Bill up from the airport. She told us that his plane had been delayed.  So, off to the Asheville airport we went. 

When we arrived, I went in with Mama Jane, because I needed to use the bathroom. When I came out of the bathroom stall… my mom was standing there!!! Seriously, Mama Jane, had really done it!!! Surprise… I could not believe that my mom was standing there.
After picking up my mom, NOT DR. BILL, we headed to Asheville for some of our favorite pizza at Mellow Mushroom. 

We had a great time, and great food.  We ran a couple of errands, then headed off to the cabin.  Thankfully Ryan is a great driver!  The switch backs on our way up had us holding our breath and gripping the sides of the truck often. 

It was so relaxing!  BUT full of work too.  Zero days are never off days.  There is always so much to be done to get ready to go back to the trail… but amidst the work, we had moments to visit.  It was so nice to be off the trail, and with my mom, and Mama Jane.  

We got everything clean, got all the hairs braided… and watched a stunning sunset from the back porch.

On Friday, we woke up, ate breakfast, and lounged around for a little bit.  After lunch my mom, Ryan, and I, headed into Mars Hill to go to the grocery store, and to get Ryan’s hair cut. 

He is so handsome, and less hairy!!!  Taylor was devastated that his dad cut his hair.  All of the guys said that they were going to go the whole trail without cutting their hair!?!?!  

We went back to the cabin and made dinner, and spent the rest of the day resting!

We really needed this little respite.  Thank you so much Mama Jane for providing this special treat for all of us.  There are no words to express our gratitude!

“A Day Late, A Dollar Short”

“A Day Late, A Dollar Short”

Taylor and Kole had hiked on ahead of us into Deep Gap.  They found an empty tent site and started a fire.  It isn’t often that we are alone when we set up camp, but this was a spot, perfect for us to have a family talk.  

Ryan asked Taylor where he would choose to live if he had a choice.  He said California.  I asked him why he would choose to live all the way out there.  He had good reasons, but the part that pricked my heart was why he wouldn’t choose to live near New Hampshire.  I completely understand that he is young, that this conversation was hypothetical, that I shouldn’t overreact to such… But all of the sudden I found myself in tears.  Reality set in at that exact moment… time is passing way to fast. 

I know that almost all moms have moments like these, but there are multiple layers to my emotions.  I saw the look in Ryan’s eyes.  He has missed so many moments of Taylors life and the sadness was sweeping over his face at this moment.  After all of the separation our family has experienced, we are finally together, finally whole, finally becoming healthy… and in such a short time, Taylor will leave, and we will likely never be “seven” again.  Change is coming, and it should, but the weight of all that we have lost feels so heavy right now.  It is crushing. 

Furthermore, all of the change in our lives have left our children rather rootless.  Our kids have experienced things in their lives that have left them a little rough around the edges, a little calloused, and often misunderstood.  I want so badly for my kids to have never experienced all that they did, but I cant take back all of those years.  We don’t get do-overs in life.  Like learning to march to the beat of a different drummer, the settled rhythm of life in our small town feels completely foreign to Taylor.  He said, “It is good, but it is a day late and a dollar short.” 

So out here on the trail, I am faced with two choices.  Focus on all the time that we have lost, or focus intently on the time that we have to spend together as a family of seven.  If home is where the heart is… we are going to focus on the heart!  As much as we have lost, there are few who are granted such an extravagant opportunity to spend this much time as a family.  This is the intended purpose of this trip. 

Not all of our conversations are going to be easy to have… like this one, some will be magnifying glasses on things that we have done and regret, but the truth is that with each conversation comes the opportunity to grow and become stronger.  If we are intentional about listening, allowing true and deep feelings to be shared, we are confident that we will look back on these days with little or no regret.  To have this opportunity is a gift worth every uphill step, worth every ache and pain, worth the weight on my back.  

April 19th – A zero day in Hot Springs @ Laughing Heart 

April 19th – A zero day in Hot Springs @ Laughing Heart 

Good morning!!! We had so much fun last night singing karaoke.  We laughed so hard, and truly enjoyed one another.  We are making memories that we could have never dreamt of creating.  

Ryan and I woke up at about 7:15.  The kids were still soundly sleeping.  We went to breakfast together, just the two of us!  There were no open tables, so we ended up joining Aquaman and his wife, Sapphire.  We met on the trail a couple of weeks ago, coming down into NOC.  They are an couple from Hawaii, preparing to restore here on the main land!  We had a great conversation with them, got to know them better, and learned that two of their kids serve in the military.  Sitting with parents of current service members, listening to their thoughts and attempting to answer questions that they had, shed a different light on somethings for us.  Regardless of what we think about the political climate, or even about military involvement in other countries, we really need to remember that there are men and women, who raised their hands to serve our country.  They deserve respect and honor.  They deserve for us at home to think about them, especially when we are making decisions about who should or should not be in office.  Their selflessness demands our remembrance.  We must remember that there are men and women deployed overseas, and that their families and friends are left behind concerned about their well being.  We must not forget!  

After breakfast, we headed to the Dollar General, where we picked up some cereal and some products to do the girls’ hair.  We took everything back to the Hostel.  The kids are breakfast and then we went for a walk through Hot Springs.  

Have you ever seen a live bait vending machine?

This sign hangs in the little hiker ministry house.  Hikers Ridge, is a place where hikers can go to rest, connect to WiFi, enjoy a hot cup of coffee, and a warm cookie.  The ministry is set up with the primary goal of freely meeting the needs of hikers and sharing the love of Christ with them.  It really is pretty neat.

We all weighed ourselves on the scale in Bluff Mountain Outfitters.  To aquire an accurate weight, you had to do a little wiggle, stand still, and subtract five pounds… Lol!!!  Our maybe it was add five pounds. I don’t remember!  Who cares?

After picking up the few items we needed from town, we got a text message from our friend, Wes.  He’s hiking with Warrior Expeditions, and we hadn’t seen him in awhile.  We were headed to the diner, where he was having dinner with some trail angels.  It was great to see him again, and to hear how all the other warriors were doing. 

We ordered some dinner… Ryan thought he was being really healthy by ordering broccoli bites.  Well, in Hot Springs, NC, these are broccoli bites!

Deep fried cheddar cheese with little tiny bis of broccoli inside!  Not exactly what he was thinking, but they tasted so much better!?!?!

We said farewell to Wes, and finished our dinner, and headed back to the hostel in order for momma to start doing hair.  Ryan even joined in the fun.  Zoey says she’d rather have him detangle her hair, because he doesn’t hurt.  Now that is some funny stuff.  With Ava’s hair completely done and Zoey hair detangled and clean… We said good night to the kids!!!

Someone very graciously gifted the two of us a night at the Lodge.  Since they requested to stay anonymous, we can only hope that they will read this and accept our greatest appreciation for recognizing momma and daddy needed a break! It was amazing!  The bathroom was so spacious and beautiful.  The bed reminded us of ours at home.  The sheets were so soft.  It was quiet… It was just the two of us.  We stayed up talking about our trip for hours.  We didn’t even know how much we needed that time, until we had it.

Each day brings new surprises, new opportunities, new reasons to be grateful!!!  

Today we are grateful for those who make sacrifices each day to keep us safe… Our military, police, and firefighters.  We are thankful it was hair day… We are reminded of the blessing it is to be Ava and Zoey parents.  We are grateful for the love shown to us by Hikers Ridge, breakfast from Aquaman and Sapphire, and a room all our own for the evening.  

April 16th – Easter, Max Patch, and Roaring Forks Shelter

April 16th – Easter, Max Patch, and Roaring Forks Shelter

The morning started at Deep Gap with a text message from Checklist…Trail magic was 3 miles ahead…and there was BACON!!! We packed in record time, and released our children to make it to the gap, where the trail magic was awaiting our tribe of carnivores!  Bacon is an excellent motivator.  The kids hiked 2.8 miles in an hour! 

Unfortunately, the bacon was all gone, but there was still plenty of food for breakfast.  Jeri Lynn enjoyed at least half of a pineapple. 

It is hard to describe how much satisfaction there was in our arrival on the summit of Max Patch. We’ve been hearing about the unique and stunning views that literally surrounded us on every side.  We’ve been hiking through the trees, so our views are often limited.  Max Patch is a huge field on the top of a mountain.  It is absolutely stunning.  Most of us agree that Max Patch has been the most memorable we have experienced thus far.

Upon arriving at the summit, we were surprised at the number of people spending their Easter afternoon there.  We even witnessed a mountain top proposal… it was fun to watch the two as they took in the moment and scenery.  And then there was trail magic!  

Sprawling out on the soft earth, we visited with the trail angels.  They were so kind to think of hikers on Easter.  Knowing our families were gathering together, and missing them, it was nice to be with others.

Ahhhh… Finally! Seriously, can you handle that beauty?  On this Easter Sunday, all of creation was singing His praise! 

After leaving Max Patch, we headed off the mountain. We decided not to go too much further, so we stopped 2 miles further down the trail.  We arrived at Roaring Fork Shelter, and it was empty.  We decided to let the kids sleep in the shelter for the night.  We don’t usually sleep in the shelters, but figured that this would be a special treat of sorts.  Sleeping in the shelter means there was no need to set up tents.  We rolled out our pads onto the wooden floor, and spent the rest of the day playing cards, soaking our feet in the river, making dinner, and relaxing with other hikers. 

Roaring Forks Shelter

Papa G have the kids another Taichi lesson.  He is really so much fun!!! And he is a great teacher!!!

Though we all missed our family and friends, we had a beautiful day.  In our hearts, we celebrated our risen Savior.  He said that he came so that we might have life and have it abundantly… We were blessed to be able to fully enjoy all that God has created out here in the trail, and to be reminded of the redeeming grace he had lavished upon each of us.

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