Pennsylvania (7 states hiked 7 to go)

Pennsylvania also called “Rocksylvania” by many hikers was full of exciting days. We visited state parks, swam in lakes, rivers, creeks, and local pools, climbed many rock scrambles, saw plenty of snakes, and even found a side trail to a ski resort’s bar and grill. All this while making 20 mile days and moving strong. The girls hit their stride.

The girls ran between Caledonia and Pine Grove Furnace State park as they were excited to hit the half way ice cream challenge and the swimming lake at the other end. We were there over Memorial Day weekend and saw the summer crowds start to come out. So great to see so many families out enjoying the trail. In the parks, we had the opportunity to swim in the creeks and the lake. The sand was a welcome sight and the girls had an AT sand castle built as soon as we hit the beach!

20 years ago at the Boiling Springs AT Center, I sat on this swing with Earl Shafer! (The first official thru-hiker). What a treat to now have my whole family here.

Boiling Springs also had their local pool open and we arrived just in time for the last hour of swimming. The girls loved the water slides and hiked on in the evening to dry off!

Yes, the trail was rocky but we also enjoyed some great views and the rock scrambles and climbs (though often exhausting on the feet).

We walk right through towns, cross the roads and freeways sometimes even under the overpassed and over the bridges. Here we are crossing the Juanita River in Duncannon to be followed by three freeways meeting together and a railroad crossing. We had to grab the girls as the train was coming and though they have become very observant of the tiny wonders in nature they forget about the big cars and trains that could run us over. We are safer in the woods 😊.

In Pennsylvania we were hit with some of the crazy storms that have been passing through the country. We were fortunate to be slackpacking on one of the wettest days and missed a tornado by a few miles. We made it into town and sheltered in place at the Hershey’s Factory. There were so many people, it felt like a zoo and definitely overwhelmed us coming from the solidarity of the trail.

In Port Clinton we went swimming in the river. The girls even got a few fellow thru-hikers to take the plunge with them. So much fun after a long day hiking. We also enjoyed a great all you can eat pasta dinner at the firehouse’s annual fundraiser!

Pulpit Rock. Great view with more snakes! The girls saw 2 copperheads and a rattlesnake!

Sister Bunny lost her first tooth! Her sisters spent much time trying to pull it out. The Sparkle Machine finally pulled it on top of The Pinnacle. (We were right next to a rattlesnake and copper head. It was one exciting moment!!!). And the tooth fairy found us. She dusted her in fairy dust, brought a gold coin, and a small bunny to play with on the trail!

We have talked about US history, but there is also the geologic history. Here we are at Wolf Rocks. The southern terminus of the ice age, thus all the rocks of “Rocksylvania”.

Lehigh Gap provided one of the girls favorite rock climb/scrambles. We had to help each other up and over some of the rocks, but the girls ended asking for more and were surprised how fast they passed through all the rocks.

We “skied” down a side slope to the Blue Mountain Resort slope side bar and grill. What a treat!!

Can you read that? Well with great excitement the sign read less than 1000 miles to Katahdin, Maine!! We are on our way.

What a great state line experience… The girls had a blast trying to get all of the trucks and cars to honk and share in their excitement of passing into New Jersey!

… and for the here and now …. this week we did get full packs back on and have hiked into Vermont. Everyone is in good health.😊 …more to come. So grateful for everyone’s support, prayers, and well wishes. Northward now and can you believe the girls have started counting down the days until Maine!

We hike on!!

An update… The here and now, setbacks and accomplishments, and unending logistics…

Due to my delayed posts, I just wanted to send out an update of where we are on the trail and how things are going… I will follow this up with my post of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and entering Massachusetts. Wow! Did you read that?! We passed through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and have entered Massachusetts (and we should make it to Vermont by the end of the week)!!! The girls are unbelievable! They continue to amaze me as they are so motivated and determined to complete this amazing adventure and goal we have set out to achieve (anytime I ask if they are ready to head home they say, “Not until we hit Maine!”. My girls are every bit as stubborn and determined as I am 😊). Through all our challenges over the past couple weeks, the years and months of planning and organizing logistics has proven to be of great benefit.

The most shocking, is that Sister Bunny was in urgent care twice, and unable to be helped. Ultimately, she ended up in the hospital. With amazing nurses and doctors by her side she is up and at it again. Her sisters brought her cards and bunnies into her hospital room and the nurses and doctors were all sure that our strong Sister Bunny would have no problem making it to Maine! As for now she’s hiking shorter days, being carried some😊, and loving to hike in her pink dress (as we have the van near by).

While she was still lethargic and slow to respond she lifted her head and said “I’m ready to hike again mama”… then her first day back she said,”This is much better than being in the hospital.” She is one determined girl and we will all help her accomplish this goal. We continue to work as a team and are only ever as strong as our weakest link. We plan to set out with full packs again by the end of the week (when we are sure she is back to full health and strength).

Logistical notes… Before we left we were sure to upgrade our health insurance plan and have our family doctor on board. (How lucky we are to still have a family doctor in Sebastopol! We are so incredibly grateful!). We know this has paid off and just hope the bills reflect😉. Also all the planning and logistics, that seem never ending with the van close at hand, have proven beneficial. With the van for the past couple weeks we have been able to hike without our gear in our packs, help carry Sister Bunny and continue to make miles to stick with our plan.

We have had to hike some of us north bound and some south bound (meeting in the middle) to reach roads and continue to move the car around but it has worked so everyone can make the miles. We have been able to make some bigger mile days but the girls do miss all of us hiking together,singing and playing trail games as a complete family. Our van, Dragonfly, has served us well.

We also jumped around a bit… We had a week at a timeshare in Delaware Water Gap, so when we reached there a week before our reservations, we moved up north to complete New York, Connecticut, and some of Massachusetts. We then came back south and completed New Jersey into New York, while staying at the Delaware Water Gap, before bouncing back to MA. Only northward here to Maine! The logistics can be exhausting but I think the advance planning of breaking things up for the girls has worked well for us. Also with the illnesses it has been a blessing in disguise.

Finally, an update on our fundraising… it’s amazing, whenever we are at a low, a donation will come in that will re-inspire and motivate us to keep moving forward. We are so grateful for your donations. This week we will be sending out checks to each of the girls charities in the amount of $216.25 from recent GoFund me donations and PayPal donations. We will be changing the GoFund me website such that all the donations made there will be divided equally among the charities. We will leave the Paypal donations with a percentage to hike logistics and the rest divided among the charities. You can also still donate directly to the organizations from the support page here on the blog. (If there are any other issues with the b-rad donations link please go to their home page and the support button is at the bottom of the page). Please remember to include Awaking-Dreams attached to all your donations so the girls can keep track. Their original goals were $2000 for each girls charity(es) for the 2000+ miles they will hike. Let’s help them get there!

Sorry for the lengthy update. The next one will be the photos and trail updates of the states. Thanks for all your support!!

(High Point Monument State Park overlook in New Jersey)

Happy Trails! And here’s to good health and happy hiking for the rest of our adventure.

Front Royal through Harpers Ferry and onto the official halfway point!

Oh my goodness! We have made it to the halfway point!! I am overwhelmed with pride and excitement for my family. It’s amazing what we have already accomplished and set out to do. They also amazed me by completing the half-gallon ice cream challenge at the halfway mark. (This made me sick in 1999 so I was hesitant but they seemed to take down all the ice cream -a half gallon per person- with no problem😄)

I will update their funding goals at our next day off. Their goal was at minimum $2000 for the 2000 miles they hike for each of their charities. I know they are close to 1/2 way with these goals as well. You can continue to donate on our support page.

From Front Royal,VA to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia we received blood test results that one of us had contracted Lymes disease. Still motivated to move forward, we called in plan B. Our van was nearby with family so we were able to use it and slackpack for a few days. This gave us the opportunity to keep moving forward, make miles, and not have the weight of our packs. We have tended not to slackpack as we prefer to have our large packs and gear giving us the flexibility they provide with stopping anywhere we decide and having all we need on our backs. However, we also realized the benefits of this way of hiking the trail. Each hiker hikes their own hike, and we have found that there are now many different ways to thru-hike. (Especially since my ’99 thru-hike when we didn’t even have cell phones and I hand wrote and copied letters to all those who supported me. Wow. How much things have changed!). We were excited to get our packs back on in Harpers Ferry and so grateful to those who have helped us move the van so we can continue to complete all the miles. As an update we are now clear of lymes, the antibiotic worked and we continue hiking north taking all preventative measures we can.

After the miles of Virginia, we were excited to pass through West Virginia, Maryland, and into Pennsylvania all within 4 days! With good health and food in our bellies we upped the pace and now average 15-20 miles per day.

Yes that’s me, Sunshine, 20 years ago. The Appalachian Trail Conference has all the past thru-hikers on file! The girls said “wow mom you look so young” 😉. Maybe the girls will go back and see their photo in 20 years too!

All of us loved visiting the tribute garden at the ATC. So great to see our brick honoring my brother and seeing that he continues to motivate and inspire us all. “Hike on Family”

Slackpacking also provides us the opportunity to challenge ourselves with other obstacles and games. The girls had a great time leading each other on blind trust walks.

Crossing the bridge over the Potomac River out of West Virginia and into Maryland!!!

This is the first shelter we actually stayed in. There was a second floor and not a single hiker there! We decided to stay for the night and were so happy to be joined by another thru-hiker. The girls love the social aspect of the trail and had a great time visiting and making a new friend.

Crossing another state line!!! The Mason /Dixon line (Maryland Pennsylvania state line, named after the survey team) is so powerful and represents such an important time in our nations history. Walking this part of the trail we encouraged the girls to look, listen and hike through the lives of those who were trying to free themselves from slavery or escape their situation in the woods where we were now traveling. You could almost hear the stories of the past whispering to us on the trails crossing through the area. The girls enjoyed sharing stories from books they have read and lessons from classes as well.

Can you believe another play ground right on the trail. Just meant to be. The girls had to throw down their packs and run to play. Such a welcome sight and a nice break to play.

We continue to walk through history! What an amazing, educational, and eye opening experience for all of us. This is the original Washington Monument (now under construction). It was well documented with facts of Washington’s life every 10ft up the approach trail to the monument. We have been hiking through numerous battlefields and walked through the history of the civil war! Now we continue north for more Revolutionary War history.

Heading north happy, healthy, and motivated!

Daleville to north of the Shenandoah National Park

(Finally in the sunshine on Mother’s Day!! It made Sunshine’s day!)

Virginia holds more trail miles than any other state (about 550 miles). I think our advance planning of slack-packing the Shenandoah over Easter with family worked out to our advantage as it broke up some of the miles of VA. I remember Virginia being a challenge during my 1999 thru-hike

The trail is tough and the girls are truly rocking it!!! We met a man on the trail from England who said he had watched plenty of YouTube videos and followed blogs and thought the AT should be “doable” by anyone. When we met him, he couldn’t believe how hard it was and he was struggling to stay on the trail. The trail becomes a mental game once you are physically in shape and have overcome the initial shock to the body. As with everything in life we have a good days and bad days but as the trail stretches long, hunger sets in, and miles are repetitive. We get exhausted and question our mission. The girls have stayed strong and motivated with the goal at hand. Their charities continue to encourage them and be an additional motivation. (Go to the support page to donate). It’s nice to be on the trail as a family and share in the challenges, triumphs and the every day wonders you find on the trail. I remember at times in 1999 thinking I must be crazy to do this; of course these same thoughts return as I must be crazy to have my whole family out here. But then we are met with a new day full of excitement and I know the benefits of lessons learned and amazing experiences they’re having far outweigh anything we could ever provide our children elsewhere. I am so proud of all of us as we hike on northward.

We are so blessed and fortunate to have so many wonderful family and friends supporting and helping us along the way. Returning to the Shenandoah brought us back to family and our van. We were able to continue slackpacking and finish a few of the miles that we had not completed during Easter week and move onward.

Trail side camp

Rhododendrons are finally in bloom and we are loving the tunnels covered in flowers.

Road crossing

Camping and playing in fog and trees

Rainy days continue

Saving a salamander from the middle of trail. We often pause to make sure the little creatures in the middle of the trail are not hit by our feet or the feet that follow. We pass on cautions for the little ones in the middle of the trail to those behind us in the line (these are usually millipedes 😊)

Playing on the James River. The pirates in a canoe passed soon after. ☠️ The girls had so much fun rock hopping, singing and dancing for the passerby’s.

Moths and small critters make our day. The girls eyes have become so in tune with nature as they observe all the tiny wonders we encounter.

James River bridge on Mother’s Day. Another rainy day … but we were treated with some sunshine as we summited the hill.

Having family in the area is such a treat! We were able to see some wonderful sites in Virginia and especially Charlottesville that we would not have seen from the trail. Crabtree Falls is one of the highest falls in Virginia and a favorite of ours. It’s too bad the trail does not actually pass the falls, but the couple mile side trip was definitely worth it!

Hiking with kids- Pearisburg to Daleville

From Pearisburg to Daleville we began to pick up the pace. We passed some of the most photographed and beautiful views in Virginia within a few days. This section also brought me back to some of my favorite spots from my 1999 thru-hike.

We woke before sunrise to hike to McAfee Knob. We arrived just after sunrise and spent the day enjoying views.

McAfee Knob

Centipedes and Millipedes – one of our questions of the day… Why are there more millipedes on the trail now? Do they come out in the spring with warmer weather? For the past few weeks we had only seen centipedes.


Monkeying around over the creek

The innate curiosity of the child is amazing! And it’s always so fun to jump into their world. The two keywords I’ve come to tell those interested in taking their children on the trail are: patience and flexibility. (Yes, these are probably the keywords in all parenting but they especially ring true on the trail)

Very seldom does any noise, centipede, millipede, salamander, newt, slug, butterfly, you name it goes unnoticed. It’s important to take the time to stop and investigate these creatures and wonders of nature. Also every fallen log needs to be a balance beam and sometimes we even stop to calculate the angles of trees to see in what direction they may fall. This takes patience and means a slower pace and often changing the schedule. However, It’s important to us to take the time to honor these curiosities and fun exciting moments. We constantly evaluate the schedule, miles, and timing we have set out to accomplish, as we want to finish in time for the girls to start back to school with their classes.

In Daleville we were so fortunate to meet up and be treated to lunch by a family who hopes to thru- hike with their five-year-old in a couple years. They are advance planning as we did and we know they will accomplish their goal. Way to go families on a mission who are committed to “putting the time in!” On that same note I know we never would have been able to accomplish this if we hadn’t been planning for so many years.

We passed the 700 mile marker! When adding the Shenandoah miles we have made 800+!!

We stopped to get a maildrop in Catawba, and had to hit the all you can eat “Homeplace” restaurant. Everyone loved it and hiked back into the woods with full bellies. Thanks for the hospitality and ride back to the trail.

Tinker cliffs – one of my favorite places in 1999 provided for a great snack and resting spot as we moved along the ridges and views.

Taking time to climb.- Of course it’s hard to pass up the opportunity to take packs off and climb around a bit. These stops are so important and make the girls’days!

We did have our first big fall … Sister Bunny was carrying her stick over her head and looking up at the clouds. So glad we were headed to town and it cleared up within a couple days. Falls happen all the time, and everyone is good at getting back up but we get nervous when they are bigger falls. We were so happy that family back home reminded us of all our childhood falls.

Here we go with many more memories, curiosities, and adventures to come!!!

Happy trails!

We’ve been on the trail for 2 months! and Bland to Pearisburg

Two Months on the Appalachian Trail- wow it’s hard to believe we have been out on the trail for 2 months. The girls are doing amazing. I (Sunshine) am definitely the slowest hiker now. Everyone is fit and seems prepared to handle whatever challenge, terrain or weather, the trail sends our way. The girls are happy and loving all the experiences. Whenever we offer them an “out” they respond like we must be crazy as they are “headed to Maine” (Although Baby Bunny often asks if Maine is just another few weeks away).

It is amazing to me how observant they have become. There is not a centipede, millipede, toad, heart shaped leaf, letter shaped stick, sprouting moss, mushroom, and so so much more left unnoticed.

I’ll give you some of their comments from the month and lessons learned….

I have learned I really only need what’s on my back and how to adjust my pack. I have learned to go into things with a positive mindset or it’s going to be harder. I have learned to not carry things I don’t need. I’ve learned it’s easy to meditate and daydream. Life is easier when you use things to your advantage. I have learned if you’re hungry you should drink water first because sometimes you’re just bored. I have learned that if you think about something good you can keep hiking. If your feet hurt you can still push yourself. I have learned that sometimes it’s better to think of the big picture and sometimes it’s better to think of the small picture. Things we miss range from family and friends to flushing toilets and bathrooms. So many life lessons and more to come ….

Remember the blown out boots we spoke of a post or two ago. Well the van that traveled with Fairy Godmother and G-Bear also brought the girls second pair of boots and warmer weather clothes. (We have 2-3 pairs of boots for each girl in the van prepared for when they wear out of the ones they are wearing.) The new gear was a welcome change.

We returned back south to Bland,VA to start hiking back north in the rain (typical to us leaving town). It will take us 2 1/2 to 3 weeks to hike back north to the Shenandoah. So hard to leave family after such a great visit but also a great excitement to get back on the trail and work our way north.

We made a side trip to Dismal Creek Falls We enjoyed the falls and it was fun to sit by and play in the river. We also got a ride down the road to Trent’s Grocery where we were able to eat a warm meal and return to our tent. (At this point any extra food is always welcome😊)

Hiking along. Singing a song. Spring has finally sprung!

All the girls took the plunge into the pond! The sun has arrived and the water is so welcoming, that the girls took a lunchtime dip in the water before hiking on for the day. These spontaneous moments make us feel so alive.

Yay!! The 600 mile marker (we are close to 700 miles with the miles we completed in the Shenandoah National Park). These have become welcome trail markers now that we are moving a little faster.

Baby Bunny turned 6! This is with great excitement on many levels. First she has now changed her name from “Baby Bunny” to “Sister Bunny” and second this means she is now old enough to summit Katahdin (the final mountain on the AT in Maine). They have an age limit of 6 to complete the climb to the summit.

We woke up, had a birthday breakfast and hiked over Angels Rest lookout and down into the town of Pearisburg. We had prearranged a stay at the Angels Rest Hikers Haven and were more than surprised by the amazing birthday they put together for Sister Bunny. We arrived to balloons, gifts, and the best slip and slide the girls could ask for!!! What a treat. So grateful to all the staff and the hikers that passed before us leaving birthday wishes for Bunny!

Hiking northward …

Happy Trails

Easter week in the Shenandoah National Park

Hello All! We miss you and the many comforts of home as we are learning and gaining so many life lessons. With this, we are so grateful to all of you for your support and keeping us motivated and moving.

The adventure continues….

First a quick note that we are safe and the sad tragedy on the trail last week was well behind us. I will send a few quick updates to get us back on track …

As you know from past post, the trail began for me with and about family. My brother’s strength in fighting to survive his brain injury often gave me the strength and determination to hike on and strive to make a difference in the world. To accomplish and complete this adventure the support of family and friends is so important. (Please continue to donate to the charities we are supporting on our support page. We hope to be 1/2 way to our goal of $2000 for each organization by the time we reach the 1/2 way mile marker)

My parents appropriately named on the trail,G-Bear and Fairy Godmother flew in to hike the Shenandoah National Park with us for Easter week. This was a welcome few days without heavy packs and covering miles with fresh eyes and ears.

Everyone enjoyed hiking pack free, often running the trail, and sharing the many excitements of their journey. The girls caught up on some good food and much needed rest. The Shenandoah are known for their blackberry milkshakes and ice cream pie which we all devoured.

The girls each completed their Junior Ranger Packets and learned about how both the Smoky Mountain National Park and the Shenandoah National Park hold so much national human history, as the land was acquired from families, as well as the natural history.

Yes, the Easter bunny made it to the trail!! Eggs were colored and found all over and many goodies were consumed.

The forests are waking up, flowers are blooming and wildlife big and small are appearing everywhere. Coming a couple 100 miles north brought green canopies to the forests and many new and exciting plants to identify (including encounters with poison oak and ivy).

We did not see the Bear the Shenandoah are famous for but we did find evidence that it had been on the trail.

The Shenandoah hikes were beautiful with amazing views. It is so wonderful to share this time.

We are often asked if our family has always spent our time backpacking. We love the outdoors and have spent a great deal of time preparing for this adventure and setting the girls up for success in the quest to complete the trail and make a difference in the world through their service efforts. However, each girl has her own passion and sport interests. Having family visit provided them the opportunity to spend at least a few hours back in the saddle and on the ice with the sports they are most passionate about. A huge thank you to Sister Equine for funding this and Fairy Godmother and G-Bear for getting us there. My parents feet by the brick honoring my brother at the Appalachian Trail Conference’s Tribute Garden in Harpers Ferry, the 1/2 way point on the trail.

Happy Trails