Up bright and early, ready to hit the mountain. 

We slept so well at Doe River Hikers Rest!  We rarely get to eat cereal for breakfast, so that is just what we decided to eat.  


After breakfast, we went over to the main house to get a cup of hot coffee and visit.


After packing our lunch, we bundled up for what we knew would be a chilly day of hiking, jumped in the truck and made our way to Carvers Gap.


When we arrived, at the top of the mountain, it felt a little “other worldly”, like strepping through the woredrobe into Narnia.  Though the storm had been fierce, it’s aftermath seemed peaceful and still.


The moisture in the air had frozen to the surface of everything that stood in the winds way. 

It took us several hours to hike through this mysterious place… everything was so captivating.  Nature beckoned us to slow down and take it in, so that is exactly what we did.  


There are some whose goal is to simply hike as far and as fast as they can.  When we were contemplating the name of our website, and our motto as a family, we decided that we were going to go far together.  Only yesterday, hikers were struggling to make it through this terrain.  There were no views to be taken in.  Clouds surrounded this mountain, and the winds battered the hikers, sometimes dropping them to their knees.  It was not our plan to take another zero yesterday, but the reward for our patience was grand.  


We may simply be following one white blaze at a time, but really it is like connecting dots.  We have no idea what the picture will be at the end, but with each blaze passed, a more beautiful picture is coming to life.  

We have overcome so many obstacles in the past couple of years.  Our story was never this beautiful fairytale where the young prince falls in love with the princess, they marry and ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after… but here we are defined as overcomers, choosing still to fight for the good.  It is funny how much we look back, but the reality is that we are learning that though the past has brought us here, it is where we are moving that matters most.  Like following these white blazes.  We don’t look backwards at the miles at the blazes we have passed but continue toward the next one and then the next… Every day has its challenges, but with each challenge another opportunity to reach farther, become stronger, and rise victorious.  


With each letting go, we become more and more free, and in this freedom we are healing and coming back to life.  And what a wonderful journey to life this has been. 


Can you see our kids down there… preparing to climb that mountain.  We are letting them go ahead more and more.  They know what to do, they know where to go.  Train them up in the way that they should go… ahhh… how much this trail is preparing them for the journey that is before them.  Teach them, when you rise and when you lie down, when you walk along the way… how much more easily this is done when the distractions of life are not present.  

We were told by many that this journey would be too difficult for them.  We were cautioned that our choice to do this was to put them in danger.  Even more now, we are convinced that this is the safest place that they have ever been, and that this journey is preparing them for the road that lies ahead of them in ways that simply could not be done anywhere else.  It might not be best for all, but it is best for them.


This little sign marked the way to the trail, continue ahead and the trail leads to another bald… a beautiful view, a nice trail, but not the AT.  Well, our kids were ahead of us, and they didn’t see this little marker.  They ended up hiking an additional 2 miles because they all went down the other path.  Notice that I didn’t say wrong path.  They had an adventure of their own.  They stuck together, they figured it out, they enjoyed the view, and they eventually found themselves at the shelter where we were supposed to meet.  I cant fully say that I wasn’t a little concerned, but Ryan reminded me that they take care of eachother, and that if we just stayed put, they would find us, and they did. 

We ate a little snack and then continued on our way.  We were told that we could not miss “The Barn”.  A huge shelter called Overmountain Shelter.  It was once a barn, now it is a part of the trail.  As we made our way down to the shelter, we were greeted by a student from the Savannah College of Art and Design.  She presented us with a menu and asked us to make a selection for lunch.  It was by far the craziest trail magic ever.  We truly thought that we had walked into the twilight zone.  Our choices were either salmon steaks or gnocchi with a choice of either pesto or bolognese sauce.  We all chose the gnocchi.  We were told to look around the shelter for a bit, and when they were ready they would call us to be served. 


Can you imagine the floor of this barn filled wall to wall with hikers?  Well, night after night it is.  And for the past couple of nights it has truly been a refuge for so many!

Here the chefs are preparing a meal for us.  These students carried all of the food and water necessary to prepare these meals up the mountain on their backs.  Even this stand that holds their stoves was made by them from raw materials.  Once the meals were prepared, they led us to tables that were set up overlooking the mountains, and brought us salads to start. 


The students designed the entire experience and chose to call it the “Appalachian Pine Mixer”.  It was a one of a kind experience that will most definitely not be forgotten, and a trail magic experience that will be hard to top.  The food was excellent… we enjoyed the freshness of the salad, and the gnocchi was excellent.  Riley, who doesn’t even usually like potatoes, was pleased when Zoey felt she couldn’t finish hers.  He gladly helped her out.  They even served dessert.  We had the choice of brownies and ice cream, or berries and cream.  Amazing!


Ava’s birthday was only 2 days away.  We thought to ourselves how cool that it was that she was having this experience so close to her special day.  The students really when above and beyond… they brought Ava her very own desert, and they all came parading out together to sing her “Happy Birthday”.  It was a beautiful moment to see her hesitate at first to receive this blessing, but then to fully embrace it as meant for her.  


As her birthday is so quickly approaching, our wish for her is that she will simply receive.  I love the picture above, it shows her authentic and beautiful smile… and a glimmer of hope twinkling in her eyes!   Thank you so much to this amazing group of students who became as much a part of our story, as we did theirs. 

After we finished our meal, the students asked if they could interview our family.  It was the least that we could do.  Everyone participated in the interview… and then we said our thank you’s and farewells, and got going again.  We had several miles left before us. 


Farewell Overmountain Shelter… may many hikers find refuge within your walls for many years to come. 

We hiked 9 miles in less than 4 hours.  Which is both a great thing, and well, not such a great thing.  I was trying to get down the mountain as fast as I could, and I ended up rolling my ankle on a rock with three miles left to go.  It didn’t hurt really really bad at first.  I sent Ryan ahead to catch the kids, and with about 1.5 miles left to go, my ankle began to throb, then my shin started burning, then the pain was traveling into my knee and hip.  I was a mess.  I tried so hard to just blow it off and stay focused but each step hurt more than the last.  By the time I got to the end of the trail, where Ryan was with David and the kids, I was a snotty mess… I couldn’t help but to cry.  Through the tears, using my poles as a cane/crutch, I made my way down.  When Ryan approached me, I just sobbed.  I knew that it was really hurt… and I was mad.  

David drove us to the store where we gathered a few things to make dinner, and then he drove us to the hostel, delivering me to the front door.  Ryan got an ice pack for my leg.  I took some ibuprofen and fell fast asleep.  I didn’t even eat dinner… but I hear it was really nice to have grilled cheese and tomato soup again.  Kinda hard to make grilled cheese on the trail.  

It was an outstanding day!  

Thank you for patiently waiting for our updates, and continuing to follow our journey. 

Happy Trails ~ The Thru Crew

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