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.

100+ miles and Our First State Line!

We hiked out of Neels Gap in a downpour… As hikers watched, they have been asking about us down the road. The night was hit with below freezing temperatures around 15° and we woke to frozen boots (the trail had been a river of water during the storm) and clothes and an amazing winter wonderland. It took a long time to break down camp and dethaw the girls boots to get them on their feet. We took off down the trail a few miles and got off to warm hands and feet in town for the night. A great lesson learned!

Trucking along we continue slow and steady…. We are so grateful to the many trail friends we have met and all of our support back home (family and friends) and new supporters off the trail. I am new to blogging, it is hard to know what to hit as we have already in a short time on the trail encountered, learned, and experienced so much!

I continue to relate to the girls experiences and life lessons I learned 20 years ago on the trail; however, reality is life on the trail with our family is so different. I love having people to share the experiences with and the kids to point out so many wonders that they see around each corner. The hidden hedgehog in the roots of the tree or was it just the roots? Is that jelly on the tree or are they eggs and of what insect?

Challenges and Triumphs

We crossed the first state line from Georgia into North Carolina. The girls continue to sing James Taylor’s “Carolina In My Mind”. Harper, (The Sparkle Machine) hikes steady and keeps us moving by starting many songs,chants and rhymes. Her voice is always a motivation and other hikers say they hear us through the forest singing. One hiker even did a podcast of the girls singing. (MightyBlueontheAT.com episode 3/11 and 3/14?) They sang for him “Better Place”, which they sang at Kyle’s funeral. A great reminder of Kyle’s continued impact in this world.

We reach the top of Albert Mountain, 100 miles on the AT!. Maya (Horse Power) carried a giant stick to the top in remembrance of carrying gifts and burdens along with us. She used it to show us the importance of making a goal and keeping it, as she didn’t know the rock scrambling that was in front of her to the summit of Albert Mountain. The fire tower was a welcome sight and offered amazing views! Sabina (Baby Bunny) pulled out her journal and wanted to sit at the information sign for an hour to take notes and draw the views. We have also passed a stone tower, that the girls called their castle, and a platform tower… All with amazing views of the mountains we have climbed and so many more to go.

“Hike on!”we say with plenty of sore feet. We continue to doctor blisters, sore ankles and feet as soon as possible to prevent any further injury. Josie (Wild Jay) is constantly checking in with all of us and helps keep us together and taking care of one another.

Flexibility is key! We continue to be flexible with the weather and get off schedule and work to get back on. We seem to be in a pattern of rain every couple of days. We are excited to see new growth on the floor of the forest and know that spring is just around the corner. I remember writing 20 years ago how the rain had soaked my soul and see how it affects the girls mood as well.

One night the girls were all bickering in the tent, Papa Bear and I were exhausted. I stopped them and said you know we don’t have to do this. They stopped and looked at me like I was crazy, “We are hiking to Maine!” they said with conviction. Girls will bicker wherever they are… at home, in the woods or in the tent or in the car. I’m glad they are so excited about their goal at hand.

Education

Wow. Such a testament to nature and experiential education. It is already so much of what I hoped for. The girls senses are opened and they are curious engaged and connected. They have decided on a mystery or question of the day. Why is the fungi purple on one side of the decomposing tree and yellow on the other? What are rime ice, ice needles, and ice flowers? Is it dead or alive; it’s decomposing yet there’s so much life within it. Who has been eating this rhododendron leaf? Who is Benton McKay and why is that trail named after him and what did he discover?

Of course the girls also continue to try to keep up with their education back home, and they are reading their school books, working math problems and studying their spelling lists. Everything is enhanced and supplemented with their time on the trail. One of my daughters struggles with spelling,yet seems to be doing great as she recites her words down the trail. Why did I not think of walking and studying spelling lists before?

Service

We are so grateful for the many people that continue to donate to the nonprofit organizations we have chosen to support. When Maya (Horse Power) heard another hiker talking about their charities the other day she was so glad that people would know the importance of rehoming and relocating horses off the racetrack. They are a huge part of her world and she’s glad that so many are learning about this important issue. Sabina (Baby Bunny) is excited that people are supporting the food bank and says she can’t wait to take her whole class to visit and package food like she has done in the past. Josie and Harper are grateful that their organizations are continuing to be supported as well. Our family is grateful for the support of B-Rad and are excited to continue to support them and work with them as they get so many people outdoors in life impacting and altering experiences such as ours… With much gratitude to all these organizations for all they do we are excited to continue to support them and reach our goals. The other night in the tent, Horse Power said, mom $2000 is your goal… I immediately wondered if I had set this up and she didn’t have ownership (I spent a lot of time with the girls having them choose organizations and set up their goals, so this worried me) and I asked her to tell me more. She said our goal is to raise as much as we can and help. I was so excited to see her investment and dedication to the cause. Their service continues to be a great motivation!

You can continue to donate to each of the nonprofit organizations directly on our support page by clicking on their link. (Please make sure to note “Awaking Dreams” so we can keep track of the money raised through our AT thru-hike). Or you can make a general donation through PayPal our GoFund me, also on our support page. All donations through PayPal and GoFund me will be divided among the organizations and our adventure unless specified.

We also still have T-shirts for sale… I will give you more information about our logo and how to get them in our next post…

For now we are headed upward and onward out of NOC to Fontana Dam. We will do the front country of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as the girls complete their Junior Ranger packets. We will slackpack up to the trail and the girls will have an opportunity to see why the Great Smoky Mountains are so important and protected by our country .