Letters from Karen
to her “Support Group”
Family and Friends-
Greetings from the trail. Feb. 29th my daughter Chenoa, Mom, brother Wayne, and sister-in-law Judy gave me a special send off from Springer Mt. They claim to be section hikers now that they've done the first .9 of the trail. I recieved my trail names the frist night in the shelter. Oddly I recieved two but they are homophones so they both work. I was sitting there and it hit me-this is not just an overnight backpacking trip. I am on my first night of the AT!! I was just giddy and grabbed my scarf off my hat and danced around the trees in front of the shleter! I just couldn't contain my bliss and so was born "Dances with Scarf". Scarf for short. Then later when I actually DID eat my whole pot of pasta, cheese, and tuna, a gal said "wow, you scarfed down that food" and "Scarf" was dubbed a second time. Thru hikers are wonderful. It truly is like a trail family. Everyone helps everone and shares. I've met a gal named Giggles, Rob and Robin (who I met at the visitors Center weighing our packs) dropped off the second day. We were disappointed they gave up so early. There's 30/30 with a goal of a 30 lb pack and 30 mile days-WOW! Wildcat, Satari (a 19 yr old kid who's mom fixed all his food and dehydrated them and he has such awesome meals-last night was chicken fajita's!) There's 3 guys from GA- all new college graduates having an adventure before reality- no trail names yet for them. They are sweet!! Josh, another 19 yr. old. I met him at Springer . A cutie, but he's been sick the whole time and we're worried about him. I hike alone all day then have an interesting fellowship at night in the shelters. We talk about gear, blisters, the scenery, tomorrow's climb, God, right and wrong, everybody's food, dreams, how nice the privy is, blisters (oh, did I say that already!) The views are great with the leaves not on yet. The weather has been a blessing so far- 50/40's. My third day was a 14 mile rain-all day hike and I was so glad to see that shelter. Wildcat already had hot water going and tea or hot cocoa for all! I'm the oldest so far but hey, I'm hanging in there with the young folks and at night at the shelters, we all seem to share the same aches and pains. I do feel my conditioning paid off. I'm having the time of my life!!
Love to all-
Dances with Scarf
Greetings from the trail!
Day 5 and 6 were oppostie. Day 5 was outstanding- gorgeous views, partly sunny, and I felt good, challenges, but not killers and I saw my fist flower! Then...day 6 felt like the trail was out to maim me. The terrain got very rocky and steep, the weather turned cold, rain and windy and my kees and feet tendons around the back of my upper feet hurt so bad I cried. Then I fell and my self confidence went down and fear went up. I didn't make it to the shelter, so had to set up my tent and cook in the rain on a windy mt. top. So is trail life- the ups and downs of terrain and spirit. Of the 10-12 I started with, 3 have already dropped out. But despite the difficulties, it is all I dreamed of-gorgeous scenery, trail family, neat shelters, challenges and rewards. Day 8 I hiked only 3.5 miles to road crossing where I got a ride to the Blueberry Patch Hostel for a day off to rest my knees, spirits, and feet. It is an organic blueberry farm owned by Gary and Lennie. Gary thru- hiked the AT in 1991 and really knows our needs- great shower, he does you laundry and Lennie makes blueberry pancakes in the morning with a shuttle back to the trailhead. I feel a little guilty for not hiking on a sunny day but felt I needed the break- my first since starting one week ago today. One hiker said to me as I passed a true sentiment on the trail- "may all your rest days be rainy". Oh yes, life is different out here on the Appalachian Trail!
Tomorrow I cross my first state line- North Carolina!!
"Dances with Scarf"
Well, I’ve been on the trail 2 weeks today, covering 134.1 miles. In the mornings, I gaze from the shelter and wonder – well, which mountain will the AT climb today? (The answer by the way is usually the tallest!) It seems when my heart and lungs can’t climb another foot, the crest is reached and then when my knees are screaming I’ve reached the creek or valley and up I go again. Well yeah – scarf – you are in the “mountains.” My trekking poles and I are on first name bases now – so I’ve given them first names – Yin and Yang. They help me keep my balance. Four legs are certainly better than two.
My trail family continues to delight me; there are some really neat and interesting people out here. I continue my pattern of hiking alone at day to meet up with many of the same folks at the shelters. After that lovely weather of the first week, the temps dropped to 20 degrees at night, and I am freezing! Mornings are the worst, the AM chores of packing, breakfast, putting on boots, are very difficult with fingers that won’t work. I can’t close my Ziploc bags! But once I’m moving I warm up quickly. I had 3 inches of snow fall one day, making the trail tricky but so beautiful. The rhododendron tunnels I thought were so cool the days before turned to showering cold snow down my neck as my pack hit the branches. I’m a seven footer now you know.
It was very exciting to cross my first state line, from GA into NC. My knees still hurt on the down hills; my tendons have gotten some better. You just learn to live with the pain. The rewards are far greater.
My appetite has changed. I seem to crave food I never even ate at home: BEEF, junk, milk. I hope I’m getting the calories I need, I just don’t feel like eating during the day hiking, then at camp when it’s cold I just want to hurry and get in my warm bag. The snoring is bad, keeping me awake; I need to invest in ear plugs. The morning symphony of zippers is my wake up call that I have miles to cover. I look forward to my first zero mile days with friends Leslie, Jimmy, and Isabella in the smokies. I miss everyone.
Dances with scarf.
Oh – be sure and check out the website my brother Wayne is doing, Karenonthetrail.com Thanks to Wayne and Ezra (and Chenoa) for keeping me in contact with you.
Greetings and merry spring!
But spring has not sprung in the mountains yet. On Wed., I hiked over Clingman's Dome - 6,643 feet - the tallest peak on the AT in a snow and bitter wind blizzard. It was scary. I can't believe I am already in the smokies! This is a big landmark for me and the trail. I also passed the 200 mile mark! At Fontana Dam - 50% of the thru-hikers for the year had dropped off the trail. I miss some of my friends.
I took my first zero mile day with friends Leslie, Jimmy and Isabella in Gatlinburg. It was a wonderful and restful time - good friends, good food, pillow, bed and hot tub for this tired body. Thanks to all who sent me letters, cards, and emails. Leslie had a brown envelope fill of your encouragement, support and love that meant so very much to me.
Ellen, mail drop person, has been great to make needed changes and adjustments as I find out what works and what doesn't. Jimmy and Leslie helped me "trim" my pack even more (even my whistle and mirror went - HA!) I am down to a wonderful 34 pounds. Jimmy even game me the shirt off his back - it weighed less than mine! What wonderful friends and family I have. I so appreciate you all!
My biggest mileage day was 17.6 in the smokies. I have never been so tired in all my life! The shelter was indeed a welcome sight, with wildcat offering to go get my water because I couldn't walk another step; my trail family never ceases to amaze me!
I have been hiking the last few days with a wonderful woman from Florida - Nails. We have a similar pace and spirit and I am enjoying her company very much. My other family is Wildcat, who I've been staying with since the beginning off and on, Pez, also since Springer, Bear Bad Hanger, his 2nd thru-hike attempt, Harrier - off and on since the 2nd week (his friend Cooker is the section hiker that emailed Wayne those 2 pictures on the website). Others have either gotten out in front of me, or dropped out.
The weather challenges continue to be my greatest difficulty. My legs feel stronger and on the scales yesterday I had GAINED 3 pounds. However could that happen?! I do look forward to spring - warmer nights, longer days and the glorious awakening of the forest plants and animals.
Merry Spring to all!
"Dances with Scarf"
PS In town last night, after a debit card purchase, I started signing the slip - Dances….. Oh my!
Almost into Shenandoah National Park where folks still keep saying “Oh it gets easier then!” I’m sure its all lies, too. Virginia has been challenging but very interesting. I’ve walked along knife-edge rock cliff ridges down into pastoral settings and across rivers. I took a silly fall, after a day of rock scrambling, 1/4 mile from the shelter tripping over a pine needle or something. It left me with a 3 day headache from the knock on the head on a root and a messed up knee to try to avoid hitting on things again. But I was grateful the fall didn’t occur on the “Dragon’s Tooth” The days are much hotter, adding an additional risk of heat exhaustion and dehydration. Water sure weighs more than what I saved trading winter to summer bag! I sweat so much my eyes burn from the salt and my hands slip around on the trekking poles. A creek to splash my face in and soak my scarf in is a blessed sight. I celebrated my birthday on the trail, camping amidst a forest floor covered with millions of trilliums. That evening I had a snickers birthday cake, shared into 5 pieces with shelter mates. Thank you to all who sent me birthday greetings in my last mail drop; how special those made me feel.
Well today was “trail days” in Damascus. I rode back down here from northern Virginia to attend. We had a hiker parade that was hilarious! It is tradition for the spectators to throw water balloons or hose us from their yards, so I got really wet. (I don’t know if it is to cool us off or clean us up –HAHA!) Even the Damascus Fire Department hosed us from their trucks. Many hikers had silly costumes on – it was really fun. Equipment vendors were there, fixing, repairing, and selling hiking stuff. Tomorrow it is back north and on the trail going through Shenandoah.
Love and peace to all,
One of the lessons I've learned in my life is that if your heart is not fully engaged in an activity, then it has little or no meaning. Based on this, I have made the decision to end this leg of my AT journey at the Maryland state line - 1009.1 miles from my beginning in Georgia. My daughter is home from college for the summer. I want to spend that priceless time with her. The AT will always be there; summers with my adult child at home will not.
Someone asked me if I felt like I had "failed" not reaching Maine. Failed?! I just walked 1000 miles! I experienced the natural world continuously for 3 months by sight, sound, smell and touch - wintry woods coming alive with spring, new growth changing to deep summer forest. I met new lifelong friends with the deep bond that a shared experience such as this creates. I've felt and seen the true goodness of the human nature. I have drawn closer to God than I ever thought possible. Infinite aspects of "real life" are more deeply appreciated now. I lived a life long dream. No, I don't feel like I failed; I feel incredibly enriched and blessed through my journey on the AT. And when the rest of the AT trail beckons? I plan still on completing it to Mt. Katahdin as a section hiker when I want and can. So my dream continues. Yeah!!!!!!!!!
I want to (and encourage you all to also) extend a huge thank you to my brother Wayne for keeping us all connected through this incredible web site!
My deep hearted appreciation goes out to all of you who encouraged me, sent prayers, cards, goodies and shared my dream with me. Thank you....you can never know how you each lifted my spirit (and feet).
Blessings and love to you all,
Karen Emaryn "Dances with Scarf"
Yep! Dances with Scarf is back on the trail again! I get on the AT Oct 31 where I left off on the Maryland state line and plan on hiking till Thanksgiving, weather permitting. That should put me through Maryland, Pennsylvania and some of New Jersey, hopefully.
I am excited!!!!!! My brother, Wayne, will update the wonderful web site if you'd like to watch my progress - karenonthetrail.com. Happy trails!!!! Karen Emaryn "Scarf"
July & August 2005
Hello family and friends!!!
Yipee - back on the trail again AND with my dear sister/friend and hiking buddy extraordinaire - Nails! After my broken toe and spirit last May it felt really good to continue this life long dream.
I skipped a big section of the mid Atlantic States (which I , of course, will go back and do) to join Nails in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The classic line on the trail last year whenever there was an especially difficult section was "good practice for the Whites!", so it just seemed fitting that we do that section together.
We left Glencliff, NH. on July 28. Our first mountain above treeline was Mt. Moosilauke (4802'), followed by Kinsman (4358), Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Lafayette (5249),Mt Garfield (4488) and Mt. Guyot (4560) with of course many "insignificant" ( none feel insignificant when you are trudging up and down them with 35 pounds on your back ) peaks in between. The alpine is a very special world; I felt very priviledged to walk among such fragile but hardy plants. The sign upon entering this zone encouraging peoples care of this sensitive environment touched my heart with its appeal - "It's a tough place to grow." The climbs were very, very steep and rocky, requiring scrambling, pulling ourselves over rocks and roots and careful footing always. But the rewarding views on top were stupendous!
There are funny words up north - lakes are ponds, gaps are notches. The AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) hut system was very different from the rustic and rough built shelters of the AT - hot meals, bunks, $75 a night, tables and lots of people up for a weekend ( they were so much cleaner than us!). We stayed at one of them just for the experience but camped or sheltered the rest of the time. If you time it just right though, AT hikers can partake of leftover pancakes from breakfast as you pass by the huts and at lunch leftover soup and bread for a small donation. YUM!
We had a great surprise around the bend of the trail - Bear Bag - from last year. He was doing some section hiking. The AT community continues to intrigue me - the comradery, closeness, connectiveness, continuity - such a unique bond we have. We also saw a few other hikers from last year - Stump Knocker - doing a southbound hike (last year he completed a northbound hike), others working on the trail as shelter caretakers or in the huts.
Franconia Ridge, hiking all above treeline - left me awestruck! The 360 degree views, alpine, rocky trail snaking along the very crest ot the mountain ridges was just incredible!! The 2400 mile round trip car drive to NH. and all the preparation was worth it just to hike these few miles. I truly wish every one of you all could have been there with me and seen the beauty God has blessed us with to enjoy...
Well 63.3 more miles under my boots for my total now of 1326.3 miles, with 847.8 miles more to go! As of now I plan on returning in November to Wind Gap, Pa. (where I bailed out last spring when I broke my toe) and hike for 2-3 weeks, weather depending.
Thanks again for all your support, prayers and interest in my adventures on the AT. Happy trails to each of you in your own journeys in life.
Peace, joy and love, Dances With Scarf
Hi friends and family -
Yep I am back on the trail again !!!!!!!!!!
I will meet dearest Nails there and our plan is to finish New Hampshire and the Whites and into MAINE!!!!!!!!!! Maine - I can hardly believe it - 1829 miles completed; I will be entering my 14th and final state of my hike of the Appalachian Trail. After this trek I will have less than 300 miles left to hike! What an incredible adventure it is!
It will be so wonderful to hike again with Nails! A hiking buddy will especially be welcoming after my challenging trek alone this April.
Brother Wayne will update the website as he can ( he is enjoying his retirement!). Beforehand and as always, thank you all so much for your interest, support, prayers and love.
Happy "Trails" to all,
Karen Emaryn "Dances with Scarf"
(The famous "scarf" is getting a bit ragged but is going with me of course!)
Well - the Presidential Range of the White Mountains- Webster,Jackson, Clinton, Eisenhower, Franklin, Monroe, Washington, Clay, Jefferson, Madison - really kicked our butts!!!!! Speaking of butts, yes we did adhere to the AT hiking tradition and mooned the Cog Train going up Mt Washington! Hey it's tradition!!! Then we had Wildcats Mts. E, D, C, B & A, Mt Hight, South Carter Mt., Middle Carter Mt. and yep you guessed it , North Carter Mt. Hey what names would want to follow all those presidents? All these mountains had very steep ascents and descents making for very hard hiking in this section, but with rewarding and awe-inspiring views making the climbs well worth the grunt.
We had some challenging weather conditions - one afternoon of 2.9 inches of hard rain making the trail a stream. You just keep your head down and slush along. Nails said it was liberating after awhile to just splash in the water because our feet could not get any wetter. Our greatest feat was peaking Mt Madison and its ridgeline walk in 60 MPH winds! I was pushed over once and left some skin and blood on the rocks there! It was incredible to try to hike with the wind pushing your backpack all around!
The views from the alpine areas were just breathtaking - what a glorious world God has made! Hiking again with Nails was pure joy!! We did 47 miles in 5 days - it was very difficult hiking, rather rock climbing I would call it, so it was slow going. So at the road crossing in Gorham, where we would have had a committment of 31 miles to do in 2 1/2 days before the next road off, we made the decision to stop our hike there and head to the Maine coast and eat lobster. Great decision - delightful and made for a good balance of "work" and play for the trip.
So my total AT trek now is 1876.2 miles with 297.0 miles left to do!!!!! Thanks again for all your prayers and interest. Happy trails to all!!!!!!
Greetings family and friends!!!!
The Appalachian Trail and a 40 year dream is completed. Nails and I summited on September 18; it was a Class I weather day meaning gorgeous blue sky, warm, no wind - perfect! (see the pictures). First off I want to thank every one of you who supported me in your own unique way on this epic journey; I could never have made a single step without you all.
Now Maine - ( which by the way I have renamed the state to "Maim" because that is what she did to me!). I was not in the state even 15 minutes before I ripped the whole back of my pants out on a rock scramble! Since I was passing many "southbounders" ( hikers that start in late summer at Mt. Katahdin and hike south to Georgia), I had to repeatedly apologize to folks for the extra "view" they were getting. A few days later I was in a shelter with a group of college kids out for a few days and offered to buy anyone’s "spare" pair of shorts. Yes! So I wore those under my hiking pants until I could get to a town that had an outfitters.
Southern Maine was hard - the most difficult hiking I have done in my life. I threatened to get off the trail at the next road crossing more times than I can count. What a fickle lover I am! But the views from the mountain summits were astonishing! Mahoosic Notch was actually fun - a lot like wild caving with crawling over and through boulders. It took me 3 1/2 hours to go that one mile. I loved the ponds (that is what they call lakes in Maine) with their magical mists and evergreen shores. At night when the loons would call I couldn't sleep for the pure joy of their song.
The first view I got of Mt. Katahdin she was 170 trail miles away - just a gray unreachable shape in the distance. Then we entered the 100 mile wilderness, with its bogs and ponds and Tolkien-like landscape, and lost sight of her for miles. One day, on the side of the trail, was a little sign pointing to a view of Mt. Katahdin down a short side trail. At the end I looked one direction and thought none of those are big enough, then turning around BAM! she was right there! I cried; I could see her flanks personally. She was real. I had been walking towards her for over 2000 miles, but I think until that moment she was some magical mountain that would always be "beyond" the next bend. Now she was there; I could almost touch her. Nails and were giddy and practiced our "summit poses" in front of her. We now could allow ourselves to believe we were going to make it....
Our summit day was perfect as I said earlier. We started the 5.1 mile climb at 6:00 AM and reached the top at noon. Together Nails and I approached the sign and just fell against it. We had made it; we were done. To say we were quite emotional is an understatement. We took our summit pictures and just sat around up there for an hour or so just talking quietly to other hikers and soaking in the magic of the moment and the day.
Many folks ask me what was my greatest challenge. There were so many but in respect of that question and interest I will try to answer. Weather - hot, dry, wet, cold - was a challenge and in certain situations life-threatening. A close second, for me personally, was the technical rock climbing in some sections. I was way out of my comfort zone and skill level there. I was NOT having fun then.
People also ask me what was my greatest reward. Oh my that will take a book.
Here is a partial list though: time with and dependency on God, meeting my now lifelong friend and sister, Nails, other bonds of friendship made with other trail "family", the beauty of nature, experiencing the changing of the seasons, the goodness of strangers, lessons of simplicity and being grateful for the tiniest of gifts such as good water, a privy, shelter from the rain, a warm sleeping bag, a cold stream to splash my face or feet in, a birdsong at the end of the day... see I told you...
This journey of hiking the Appalachain Trail has changed me forever; it has made me a better person.
Happy Trail To You!
Dances With Scarf