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!

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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.

Tadpoles

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

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

Hampton to Damascus

Always hard to get out of town but so nice to leave without rain!

New flowers are blooming everyday and the girls are working to learn the plant names and parts.

We are so fortunate to have so many friends and family supporting us. We cannot thank you all enough. It means the world to us and the cards and packages make the girls days. (These are where they get the awesome body stickers and tattoos everyone sees us wearing. My sister and brother in-law sent no bake cookies in one food box for “Sparkle machine” (she loves to bake). What a treat on the trail. Even though they ended up a little soupy😉

Hiking above the clouds!

We also hiked through some controlled burns and Papa Bear got to teach his fire ecology class.

Thunderstorms continue… We rarely stop at shelters so the girls enjoyed lunch in out of the storm and their shelter experience.

Past the Tennessee Virginia border. Into our 4th state!

Baby Bunny’s and wild Jay’s boots are Blown out at the seams and their feet are hurting. New boots are in the van that will arrive at Easter!

For the time being, a day off in Damascus. We got to play at a park, catch up on some homework, eat plenty of good food, and Take a bath!

Hiking on…

Nolichucky River to Hampton

Forgive the delayed posts… We have been busy hiking, connecting to our surroundings and getting in the grove😊 (Thank you to those of you who have checked in and motivated me to keep up)

I will send you some quick updates to get up to speed. You can always check our Instagram (malonefamilyat) which is updated by Papa Bear who is much quicker and efficient with technology. We have hiked on into our 4th state and crossed the 500 mile mark!!! Days are busy and full and towns are catch ups that end unfinished (so true to life on and off the trail)

Journal entry… “what a beautiful morning and day… We slept in a beautiful meadow and the girls were running down the hill and rolling in the grass and climbing trees. They’re having so much fun!”

“Left town in the rain again. We continue to sleep in one tent to stay warm. I left a water bottle outside and it froze … shows how cold it is”

The walk out of Nolichucky was beautiful along the creek with a few small waterfalls, Sabina says “that’s my favorite and I am going to draw it.”

Rain continues, some long days, and working as a family fulfill us as we hike on…

“Beauty spot” with amazing views and rime ice on all the trees and brush. The girls have really enjoyed learning about rime ice. The clouds are freezing as they pass the branches and the water particles instantly freeze on the branches. The ice continues to build on the branch on the side of the branch from which the cloud was traveling! Amazing and beautiful!

Walking in the snow showed us how to carefully follow the blazes!

The girls have taken to finding dragons in the woods to play on! They conquered this one as they sit on its head!!

On Roan Mountain the trail was frozen solid and the girls skated across the ice. “The Sparkle Machine” attempted some of her spins and tricks (she is an ice skater) but was missing her skates.

Up and over Roan mountain and all the balds proved to have amazing views and some open lands. We saw deer and the birds and wildlife are starting to come out.

After traveling back and forth between North Carolina and Tennessee we have left North Carolina for our time on the trail. Heading northward…!

Just monkeys or birds (“Wild Jay”) swinging from the vines!

400 miles!!!

The girls continue to do their schoolwork along the trail. This is “Horse Power’s” Joan of Arc costume and presentation. She carried the parts and pieces for over a week so it was nice to drop the weight.

A number of trail side waterfalls have been among the girls favorite! We try to spend lunch at them so they can soak their tired feet.

Papa Bear said one of his favorite days and parts of the trail was walking down to Laurel Falls and along the river. We ate lunch with our feet in the river.

Thank you Jim and Boots off Hostel. The girls loved the bunkhouse!

Yes we carry the extra weight of the bunny puppet. Baby bunny teaches it all her school lessons and shows it some exciting time on the trail!😊🐰

Northward bound!

Hot Springs to Nolichucky River

We left town in the rain …Rocky tops and cliffs, Rich Mtn. Fire Tower in the clouds, White Rock Cliffs, Big Butt Mountain (the girls loved the name😉), and a couple balds (awesome to see a couple families out for weekend hikes).

Daily we see and hear more birds, buds, wildlife, and wildflowers. Spring is on the way! Horsepower is working on keeping a running log of the birds she identifies.

We past our one month mark on the trail… The girls enjoy being on the trail and love being outside. Their positives range from food, sleep, down hills, being outside in nature and camping and being with the family… Their negatives range from the uphills, lack of food, and missing friends and family… Overall overwhelmingly positive comments from the girls!!!

We have also experienced days full of Trail Magic… so much gratitude to all those out there helping push us along the way with the sweets and treats and well wishes!

Most important… We have Kids just being Kids!!…

We sing;Yes we sing everything you can imagine the abcs, camp songs, repeat after me songs, pop songs, James Taylor, school maritime chants, softball chants-(girls cheer on our family as their team and practice throwing most things round. Missing their softball teams but ready to return to the field next season,) made up songs of all varieties; pretty much anything you can imagine. This week they took their instruments out too (they each have a small instrument). They need some practice😊 but have miles to go so we’ll keep working on it.

We play number games. These often get us up hills. Skip numbers, count by 2s,3s,5s,10s, and more.

We find heart rocks (the girls note all the love in nature and state there are actually more heart rocks than you would have ever thought)

We play the alphabet game with roots (how many letters can you find in the roots, can you make a word, or find the abc’s as you hike?)

We climb trees (any tree hanging low over the trail needs a monkey swing in) and who wouldn’t stop to roll down a grassy hills. Taking backpacks off at grassy pastures to get in a kart wheel or two.

We are hiking on….

Happy Trails!!!!

Davenport Gap to Hot Springs

Leaving town is always hard,but this time we were leaving family and the van again. We heard the first serious, “I miss homes”. It took a couple days to get back up to speed and then we were greeted with the snow. Wild Jay loved it and jumped out of the tent to throw snow ball at us all. Each had the opportunity to make snow angels the next day as well. Sunshine And Papa Bear are ready for the spring.

We made it up and over Max Patch a beautiful Bald that was windy and slushy. We thought Baby Bunny would fly away but all were safe. “How far until Hot Springs?” The next town was on the girls mind and they made up the miles we were behind from the snow and cold. Trail angels and fellow hikers singing and socializing with the girls helped too.

We got into Hot Springs early and were able to get some good meals, showers, and school work organized and in the mail before leaving town the next day.

The girls charities continue to be a huge motivator and they enjoy all the locals and hikers asking about them and why they choose them. Please remember to donate to our go fund me page (where funds are divided among all the charities and hike logistics) https://www.gofundme.com/awaking-dreams?sharetype=teams&member=1077126&rcid=r01-155402995828-def65669e59f4854&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_mor directly to the organizations on our support page at awaking-dreams.com

We still have T-shirts for sale (see website). My sister (who hiked some with me in 1999 as “Sister Equine”) has offered to organize them and mail them out. Many of the dri-fit are sold out so contact her first. There are plenty of all 3 colors of cotton – blue and green in kids sizes only, plus brown in adult sizes. Cotton $15, Dri-fit $24 short sleeve$30 long sleeve-$10 shipping. Contact: cmd82@hotmail.com. Put Awaking Dreams t-shirts in the subject line.

These are the shirts you see us in daily on the trail

Our logo was deigned and drawn by the girls and Sunshine… The story of the logo… “Awaking Dreams” was originally chosen as the name of our efforts with the goals that my brother Kyle would awake from his comatose state and we would help the greater community in helping someone else’s dreams come true through our fundraising efforts (Previous fundraising efforts were for The National Brain Injury Association and Casa Colina Rehabilitation Hospital). Kyles name is in the eagle flying close to the sun (he passed away in 2017). The sun is for my given trail name during my 1999 thru-hike “Sunshine”. The girls liked to take Kyle fishing (one of his favorite pastimes), so they drew them pushing him to a fishing hole. There are the 6 of us backpacking up the hill, wildlife all around for the support of the wildlife rescues (and of course Baby Bunny’s bunny in the middle), there are horses for CARMA and Horsepower’s effort to support the rehoming of horses off the track, the garden for the Foodbank, the water for our love of the water and our past adventure thru-paddling the Connecticut River, and finally the rocks for our love of climbing and the local charity B-Rad that gets underserved populations into nature and organizes many beach cleanups. We hope you consider purchasing one.

To Fontana Dam and into the Great Smoky Mountains

A change of pace and mode of travel has kept us all on our toes.

We had carried seven days of food into the NOC and only three days of food out so the lighter packs were a welcome weight. The girls also hiked up out of the NOC with a great pace, full bellies from NOC and Fontana Dam in there foresight. Their pace was faster than usual over the 4000 feet elevation gain. The girls enjoyed hiking in a cloud and learned more about what makes a cloud. We slept at the top of Cheoah Bald. Highwinds and downpours made us feel like the tent was going to cave and someone was throwing buckets of water at us. We fared well in the morning and headed out in the rain, and ended the day with beautiful sunshine.

Fontana Dam was a great sight but took us forever to get down to the dam. We met our euro van “Dragonfly” at the visitor center where we had left it about three weeks earlier.

We planned to do the front range of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park so the girls could do the JuniorRanger Packets, experience and gain a feeling and understanding of why it is a National Park. (When I hiked the trail years ago I felt like I missed out on the importance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We will do the same for the girls in the Shenandoah National Park.) So, we slack packed some of the National Park and met up with some fellow thru-hikers and were able to do a little trail magic. This made the girls day! Our second day in the Great Smoky Mountains we took a trail ride, where the girls were able to spend some long-awaited time on horseback. They also completed their Junior Ranger packets and have been working on field guides of 4 to 6 chosen species of the trail and Great Smoky Mountains. We visited a few other miles of the AT in the Smokies, Elkmont campground, the Cades Cove loop and historic sites, some amazing waterfalls and river hikes and views before heading out to drop our van with a cousin in Asheville. Today we head north from the Smoky Mtn National Park boundary.

A few of my favorite quotes…

During a rainy day The Sparkle Machine said with great excitement, “This is living!”

As we reach the top of a bald with amazing views Wild Jay said, “People are missing out!”

Daily, Baby Bunny says, “I need another candy!”

Horsepower is our writer, who daydreams while she waits for us to catch up. I’ll attach one of my favorite of her journal entries.