Damascus to the Alpacas and Bland

We left town and the rain held out. It was a beautiful day (We have a record of leaving town in the rain or with a threat of rain.). During this section we put in bigger mile days in a row to make up for the days we were behind on our schedule and even had our first night hike under a full moon. (We had the mission of meeting family for Easter).

Lunch by a river or creek is always the best. The girls do some rock hopping and feet soaking. This will be so appreciated on warmer days to come!

As we climbed to the top of Buzzards Rock we ran into a lot of familiar faces and got to hear the “purple couple” play their instruments on top. The girls enjoyed the music and continued to sing one of their songs down the trail. The people you meet on the trail become your “trail family”. The social interaction is great for the girls, especially as we generally avoid shelters and larger tent camping areas. We are grateful for the kind, amazing, and supportive people we have met on the trail.

“The Squeeze”

We finally made it to Rhododendron Gap and to Grayson Highlands (Land if the wild ponies!). The girls had been waiting since we started the trail in Georgia to see the wild horses and it was a huge motivation. We passed the 500 mile mark! Which was an excitement but still no horses. It was rainy and we walked through the clouds. We passed the stiles and fencing and were in and out of the state parks and protected land, yet we did not see a single wild horse. I had seen many years ago and everyone kept telling us we were going to see them anytime. The weather was so bad we figured they were smart and were hiding out, but this did not make for happy campers. We had a bunch of long faces and disappointment. We considered going back and waiting for the weather to clear. As we approach the Scales, the end of wild horse territory, and were about to leave, miraculously we came upon seven wild ponies! It was the greatest feeling. Such an amazing day. One of the best with its highs and lows!! Sometimes we need the lows to know how great the highs are! Everyone walked on with a great feeling (even with the threat of terrible storms to come).

Yes the rain and high winds continued. We heard many talk of finding a town to go to yet we stayed put (well seasoned from the ice storms and snow and freezing temps in Georgia and North Carolina). We sheltered in the tent, had a nice evening and the snow came in the night. We woke to a winter wonder land once again. Temperature changes are drastic morning to night and the day ended with plenty of sun.

One of our biggest challenges on the trail continues to be learning to work as a family. We are all learning so much about ourselves but also how to work and function as a close knit family unit. Especially as we continue to reside in one 4 man tent to stay warm and drop weight out of our packs. Although this continues to be what we work on now, it will also ultimately be the biggest reward! It is so great to watch the girls help each other out when needed and grow together.

The wildflowers are blooming and cover the trail. Baby bunny says the trail has been kissed by the fairies.

We stopped to resupply at the Alpacca farm. What a treat. We loved it there and the girls got to spend time with animal and pets that they miss back home. Again we are so grateful for the family and friends taking care of our animals back home. You are helping make this amazing adventure possible!!!

Walking through pastures up and over stiles is new element.

This is the 1/4 way marker!! Can you believe it. We have hiked 1/4 of the way to Maine. Hiking north we will see you down the trail!

Bunny hops into all the trees and bunny homes she finds along the trail just to test them out.

A couple other highlights of this section were seeing other kids and families out backpacking. Spending time in nature and the elements provides an unmatched connection to nature and our world. I am constantly in awe of how many things the girls explore, notice, evaluate, question, process and think about the more they are out here and connected to the land. We send our encouragement to all families to make time to spend outdoors.

The girls also enjoyed the Mount Rodgers visitors center with the exhibits and field guides.

And we can’t go without mentioning a gratitude to all the trail angles and trail magic along the way. (These are the people who stop and help or leave a soda,candy or meal along the trail). We were amazing by the one room school house with snacks,drinks,and supplies enough to outfit an army. You all are amazing. Thank you for keeping us motivated and moving.

Happy Trails

Author: Jamie “Sunshine”

To awaken to a beautiful dream one day become reality is the day millions of us wait and hope for. Setting goals and pushing ourselves to the limit, we have all challenged ourselves and our systems of life to see our goals in action. In March of 2019, waking a long envisioned dream, our family of 6 will set out on the 2000+ mile Appalachian Trail (AT). The trail covers 14 states and will take 6 months to complete. This dream began over 20 years ago, in 1999 when I set up the Awaking Dreams Fund with the National Brain Injury Association in my brother, Kyle’s name. I raised over $10,000 and set out and completed a thru-hike of the AT. Five years after that my husband, sister and I set out on a thru-paddle of the Connecticut River and raised money for Casa Colinas, a rehabilitation hospital that facilitated outdoor adventures for their patients. My brother, Kyle fought his battle for 20 years and passed away in February of 2017. We will continue to hike in his honor and his name attempting to complete the trail on his birthday. However, this adventure will be of a different caliber, as Chris and I will set out with our four daughters ages 5, 7, 10 &12. I have envisioned this hike since my thru-hike in 1999 when I traveled with a father and his two sons for a few days. The boys were ages 9 & 11. They were adventurous, excited, connected to nature and so curious and educated about the natural world around us. I have long hoped for such an amazing experience for my girls. We have done a great deal of planning, preparing, and talking . . Now is the Time!

One thought on “Damascus to the Alpacas and Bland”

  1. How wonderful! I live near Grayson Highlands was hoping to be hiking up there when you all came thru.. what a wonderful adventure your family will never forget.. happy hiking and prayers for your continued safe travels


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