First Solo– Chattooga River Trail

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Thursday May 26, 2016

I plan to work all day then after work shower, eat dinner and drive 8 hours to South Carolina to the southern end of the Chattooga River Trail. This is where I will leave my car and hike back to this area. Shuttle driver, Taz, will pick me up at 6am to drive me to the northern end of the trail to start my hike. Which is totally insane for me because I have never, in my whole life, driven 8 hours anywhere especially by myself!!!

Friday May 27, 2016 Day 1

It was hard to kiss Jim goodbye. I know he is going to go crazy with worry. I won’t have any cell phone reception once I am on the trail. So I won’t be able to let him know that I am safe  each nigh or call him if I have any problems.I was looking forward to the adventure but I was scared to be going without him too.

I was the only one the road for two hours and I was wondering if I could do this? I still had 6 hours of driving to go. About 10 pm I started to get tired, mostly just feeling like I needed to close my eyes. They felt dry and tired. I found a rest area at 11pm and climbed in the back of the car where I had made a bed to lay down. I instantly felt awake. I could hear all the trucks on the highway and didn’t think I would be able to go to sleep but a half hour later I was out. I set an alarm to get me up by 2am but I awoke on my own at 1:30am, went to the bathroom one more time then I was on the road again.
I did make one wrong turn getting back on the highway after getting gas but the GPS got me back on the right path again. Once I got off the highway I was traveling on some very dark back roads. I hit what I think was a deer in the road. It was already dead and I only caught it with one back tire as I tried to go around it. I felt horrible even though I think it was already dead.

I made a Walmart stop along the way. I realized that I forgot my food container that I re-hydrate my food in. They didn’t have what I was looking for but I found something that would work. Reminder… put this on my check list.
I arrived at the trail head at 5:20 and Taz was picking me up at 6am. I preceded to heat water for breakfast and get everything together. Taz showed up early at 5:40 and we headed out 5 minutes later. He had his dog Charlie with him since he had several shuttles to do today and would be gone from the house for much of the day. Charlie was a mid size dog I believe Taz got from the humane society. I think he was happy to be going along for the ride.
After passing the trail head once we finely found it and Taz dropped me off. I sit down on the ground to eat my breakfast (sweet potato porridge) with shaking hands. I was SCARED!!! I was all alone and about to head down an unmarked trail all by myself. I can’t finish my breakfast. I think my nervous worry is getting to me. Plus on top of everything I started my period this morning. I am an emotional mess.

I have to take Bad Creek Trail to get to the northern end of the Chattooga River Trail. There is no road access to the northern end of the Chattooga River Trail. The trail is narrow and the rhododendrons are hanging low and keep brushing my head as I walk under them and they keep raining water down on me. There are many downed trees on the trail that I have to go under or over. I  wish I had better leg strength for the ones I have to squat low to go under. Time to get back into some weight training, but I keep procrastinating about this.

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Holy smokes there are a lot of cobwebs on the trail!!!  I feel like I have a contrail of little wispy cobwebs floating behind me. The little wispy feeling they cause on my skin drives me nuts. I make a mental note that I want a very light long sleeve shirt to wear when I hike first thing in the morning. I am a very early riser so I think I will be clearing the trail of the cobwebs for most hikers. It makes me miss Jim, he always leads the way clearing the trail of all those pesky webs. I was always envious of him because he had the best view down the trail now I realize the cost of that view. It makes me really appreciate him taking the lead. I already miss him. He is my security blanket. I later discovered that I could tie my bandanna around my face to keep the cobwebs off my face and neck. WOW, what a difference this made. Now I just wish I had long sleeves and I would be set.

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I had only been hiking about an hour when I all of a sudden had to go to the bathroom. I think it is because of my nerves. There is really no place to go. I keep searching but there is a steep incline to the right of me and a steep drop off to my left. I hold it for as long as I can searching for a place to go, but I just can’t anymore. I’m going to have to go on the trail. It makes me think of my friend Kara, who is currently thru hiking the AT and her embarrassing moment. I pray to God no one comes down the trail!!!  I squat as close to the edge of the trail as I can and poop. I use my shovel to toss “it” way down the bank and pack out my toilet paper. I use one of Berkley’s doggie poop bags for the toilet paper, how appropriate.

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Once I finely make it to the Chattooga River Trail I get lost in a camp site with 2 hammock campers that appear to be sleeping still. I try not to stomp around their camp to much and finely find my way. I loose my way again later in the day in a camp site that is large enough to host a concert. It’s like a corn maze. Some of the camp sites that the trail passes through are hard to find your way because there are small paths going everywhere between the sites.

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I notice pretty early on that my shoes are slipping all over the place on the tree roots. The trail is wet from a recent rain. Some how I have managed to loose my favorite trail runners in the 3 weeks since our last hike. Jim thinks he remembers seeing them in the car on the way home from our last hike, but we couldn’t find them anywhere. I am wearing an old pair of hiking shoes that are a whole size to small for me and they don’t do well on slippery terrain… Hopefully I will be fine for the 38 miles with these, but no such luck.

By 8am I am covered in cobwebs, by 8:30 I am pooping on the trail, by 9 I get lost in a campsite and by 9:30 I am muddy and bloody…I slipped on a rock slab and go down. I have 3 bloody knuckles. I clean them off the best I can by washing them in the river. I apply some neosporin and bandage them up. I wish I had some alcohol wipes to clean them better, but oh well. ~I realize the next day that I have hand sanitizer and never thought to use it.~

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Things pick up from there the trail starts to dry out and there are less roots to slip on, less cobwebs and less downed trees that I am crawling under or climbing over. The trail is better maintained and easier. I am making my way and feeling pretty good and thinking how grateful I am just to be out here hiking. Grateful just to be able to walk.

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I arrive at a road crossing and I’m not sure which way to go. There is a trail directly across the road but it is blazed green and I haven’t seen any green blazes yet. I’m thinking its a different trail. The trail map looks like it follows the road so that is what I do and after a little confusion I am on the right trail. I was much calmer in this situation than I was this morning. I am making my way and feeling good about it.

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These are the water crossing that I don’t particularly care for. Luckily for me there was a tree limb to hang on to while trying to maintain my balance on this fallen tree trunk without getting my feet wet and falling in.
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Since Jim isn’t with me I’m able to do all the side trails I want. He doesn’t like to add any extra mileage to the trips. I took this side trip to see Spoonauger Falls.

I did about 15 miles today only because I over shot a camp site that I wanted to stay at and had to keep going but I have an awesome camp site for the night and arrived at 4:15 with plenty of time to do my chores.

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View up river from my campsite.

I would guess it got into the low 80’s today. I did work up a sweat and was glad to take a bandana bath in the river.

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I slept in my one man tent for the first time on the trail. It uses my tracking poles to support it and I don’t think I have them lengthened enough because currently I don’t have as much head room as the night I tried it out in the back yard. I make mental note to extend the poles more tomorrow night. I go to bed thinking how worried Jim must be not knowing how I am doing and I want so much to let him know I am fine but I don’t have any cell service.

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Saturday May 28, 2016  Day 2

I wake up at 3:15am and see a flash through the screen of my tent. Oh NO! Is that lightening I think to myself, no I see more flashes, lots of them. I’m guessing its fireflies and a hundred of them…how awesome. I have never seen so many at once. It looks like twinkling stars. I think this is one of the most amazing thing I have ever seen.

I realize I woke up because I have to pee but I don’t want to get up and go. I drift in and out of sleep watching the fireflies out side the tent until about 6 am. It is light enough now to go to the bathroom with out needing a flashlight so I get up.

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I relax and eat breakfast down by the water. This morning’s breakfast is oatmeal with cherries and nuts. This is one of my favorite times of day when everything is waking up. I am a morning person and always feel best early. I borrowed  Jim’s altimeter watch and it is about 66 degrees in the tent when I woke up. Good temperature for hiking. I head out at 7:30am enjoying the cooler weather.

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Some of these bridges are a little freaky…they bounce as you are walking across them.

 

I had to stop and tape a couple of toes today. My big toes started to feel they were getting hot spots. I really wish I had my trail runners. The toe box is larger allowing more room for my toes. I am thankful that my feet aren’t aching, my toes just need more room.

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I got a little turned around today when I came to the GA 28 road crossing, the maps are not very clear and there was no signage telling me which way to go. I had to walk down the road a ways and cross a bridge to pick up the trail. The road crossing is the start of  Section 2 which follows the Bartram Trial for 9.5 miles. This section has yellow blazes  and is very easy to follow. I am now in Ga with both North and South Carolina sections finished.

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Warwomen Creek.

I was thinking as I was hiking today that I could have left a note on a car parked at the last road crossing or given a day hiker Jim’s number so they could message him when they got service that I was doing well. I wished I had thought of that earlier, but I am a pretty slow thinker.

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Bridge crossing Warwoman Creek.

It got pretty hot today and I had decided that I was going to get to camp early and take a dip in the river to cool off and wash some of the stink out of my clothes. I decided to stop for the day at Dicks Creek Falls. Mom and I have been here before on one of our day hikes and the falls are amazing. When I arrived at the falls there were some kayakers checking out the best way to go down the rapids. I watched them go down the rapids then looked for a place to camp. I arrived at camp at 3:30 after 14 miles for the day.

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I slowly walked into the water since it was pretty cold but much warmer than three weeks ago when Jim and I were in the area. I washed up as best as I could and felt much better. I lounged on the bank for a while drying in the sun before setting up the tent and making dinner.

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My view from camp tonight.

I have decided that I don’t like hanging a bear bag. It is very time consuming finding a tree to use, if you can even find one. Then there is the trouble if getting the rope over the tree limb. Then the thin line is a little rough on the hands when trying to heft up the food bag. This nights hang is not a perfect as last nights, but its up and away from my camp. I am going to look into a Ursack. It a bag that you just tie to a tree trunk and is suppose to be bear proof.  It just seems hard to believe that a bear couldn’t tear into it.

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Me, laying down in the tent with my taped toes.

I clean and retape my fingers and toes before going to bed. I debate about taping a couple of other toes that were starting to get a little uncomfortable, but I am out of my toe tape and only have kinesiotape left and I worry it will be too uncomfortable so I will see how things go tomorrow. I only have about 11 miles to go to finish the trail. Hopefully it will go well.
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Sunday May 29, 2016  Day 3
I slept good last night. I didn’t wake up with a full bladder during the night. I did see some fireflies but not like last night. Last night they looked like twinkling stars. I was up at 6am and packing up. I decided to hike for a bit before stopping for breakfast.

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I found a great spot to stop along the river for breakfast. I had homemade Paleo Granola with coconut milk. I loved it!!! It is the first time I have had it on the trail.

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I come along a spot on the river where I can see rafts being loaded up with people to go whitewater rafting. I watch for a while while the guides went over paddling instruction.  I have only been whitewater rafting once in my life, as a teenager, and think I would like to do it again.

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My little toe on my left foot starts to bother me as well as a toe on my right foot, but there aren’t any great spot to stop and take a rest. I tough it out much longer than I should have and when I finely stop I actually have 2 blisters. This is the first time I have ever gotten blisters. God! I wish I had my other shoes. I hope I will be able to find another pair like them online. I got them from Outdoor 76 in North Carolina. I lance the blisters with a dirty razor blade and tape the toes. It hurts when I start walking but gets a little better as I continue to walk. I think I only have a couple of miles to go to finish the trail.
This section of trail seemed to be the least traveled I only saw one group camping all day. The other two days I saw a large number of people.

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This little area was tricky. I am lucky to have long legs.
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I finish the hike with a 70 stair climb to the parking lot where I have left my car.

Afterthoughts on my hike…

I truly had more warm weather gear than I needed. I didn’t wear my heavy long sleeve hoody or hiking pants. I also didn’t wear my long sleeve sleep shirt. They all could have been left at home. The weather was pretty warm.

I did wish I had more Hypafix tape for my toes. That stuff is awesome.

I also wish I had some way to communicate with Jim. Just to let him know that I was safe and making good progress.

I used an alcohol stove for the first time on this trip. It was ok. I don’t think I would wish to use it on a longer trip. When it was sunny out it was hard to tell if the stove was lit. It was also more unstable with my pot on top of it.

You can check out my gear list to see what I bought with me. My total pack weight was about 22 lbs.

20 thoughts on “First Solo– Chattooga River Trail

  1. Loved it! Love that you are following Kara too! I love her blog so much. Sounds like you had a pretty good time over all. I know I will be scared the first time I go solo. Have you thought about getting a inReach or a Spot so that you can still contact people without a cell phone? I know I’m going to have one on my thru hike. Also just a little thing that I keep in the back of my mind when it comes to how to dress. I am a runner and just like with hiking you get warmer as you get going. So I always dress according to adding 20 degrees to whatever the temp is. So if it’s 60, dress likes its 80. Are you going to go out again anytime soon? So excited for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah as soon as I got back from my hike my husband said he was getting me a satellite phone. I have been looking into them and the inReach and the inReach seems the best way to go. We still need to talk about so no decision has been made yet.
      Yes I am thinking of going on another solo on 4th of July weekend since I have another long weekend. Not sure where yet. I was thinking of somewhere along the AT in the mountains. Wanna join me?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh I would love to but I’m in Texas! Yeah the inReach seems to be the better of the two. I’m hoping something like that will make my parents feel better about my hike too!

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    1. I did think about it when I was first thinking about hiking the AT, but haven’t given it any thought since. There is also an online class that Liz Thompson teaches that is I believe $200 and no travel expenses.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Amy, I got your blog information from Ashley. I read a previous post where you were thinking of making some tights with a hole in the crotch. There is a company called Andies Panties that does that very thing with their tights, capri’s, etc. Amy is a runner, maybe she can shed some light on what she does? Also, Kara has been using the InReach and says it is great for her to communicate with her husband at night. I believe they just text, but you could ask her. Planning for my thru in 2017. Ashley and I have been communicating a bit.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Amy, Cheri. Cheri, Amy! So glad you got to reading Amy’s blog! Amy was thinking about doing a section in the smokies over 4th of July, maybe you guys could do it together? I would love to join you both but can’t swing the airfare right now.

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    2. Hey Cheri,
      I just looked up Andies undies…what an ingenious idea. Thank you.
      I have looked into the inReach and have pretty much decided on it. just looking for the best deal now.
      When do you plan to start your hike? Are you hiking north or doing something else? Do you have a blog? Would you also be Raid?

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  3. Amy, yes I am Raid. LOL I have to get used to using that name. I work at a hospital so will probably end up working 4th of July. I don’t believe I will have a hike scheduled until fall when my husband would like to go, probably just part of Georgia AT though. We will also be going to the Shenandoah National Park in the fall, but will be “roughing” it in a hotel. My plan is to get some day hikes in while we are there and at least get a feel for that part of the trail. I can let you all know what I find out at that time.

    This last January, InReach had a deal, 50% off with a one year contract. I wish I would have taken up that offer. I do not have any idea how often they run something like that. I have learned a lot from Kara about how it works with tracking, etc. We were up in the air about using the SPOT or InReach and have decided we want two way communication so will pay the extra money for the InReach. We have also decided it would be good just to use for day hikes as one never knows when an emergency will occur.

    Amy, Ashley, are either of you planning on taking a fleece and a down/synthetic jacket during the early part of the hike?

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    1. Oh Raid it is good to chat with you. I have read about you in Kara’s blog. You seem to have so much knowledge about hiking. Have you been hiking long? Your “roughing” it in the Shenandoah’s sounds awesome. My parents have traveled the area but I haven’t. I bet it will be beautiful especially in the fall. I can’t wait to hear about it.

      Are you an RN? My Mom was an RN before she retired a few years ago. She was always working holidays so I understand about having to work. My husband is a self employed fishing charter captain and usually works on holidays also. I am a dental hygienist and usually have holidays off so rather than sitting around I have broken out of my shell and decided to do some solo hiking.

      My husband has a friend who works for Garmin and he was going to call him to see if he could get us a deal on an inReach. I believe Garmin owns Delorme. That 50% off deal was incredible! I plan to purchase it this month so I can become familiar with it before my July trip. Provided all works out for the July trip. I still need to find someone to cover for me at work. I found one on amazon for $235. I was looking into the inReach SE, not the Explore. I’m not sure which one Kara has.

      On each trip I’ve taken I find that I learn more and more about what I need and don’t need plus what I can endure and what I can’t. I will definitely be taking a jacket with me on my AT hike mostly likely my down jacket because it has a hood. My synthetic jacket doesn’t.

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      1. Amy, one more thing, how do you like the Solplex? Do you feel it is big enough? Do you ever wish for two doors? Could you give us a little review of what you think and how it has functioned for you?

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Amy, I used to backpack, not so much in the last years, so I feel that I do not have much experience, equipment and philosophy’s have evolved, but I had a great teacher and mentor when I first started out (back in middle school.) My husband and I have done some hiking in the Rockies when we lived in Colorado, years ago. I have had time to get out in the last year since we live close to the AT and Bartram Trail. Last fall, I was able to do one overnighter on the Bartram. Now that is a trail that doesn’t get much use and can be a bit spooky. Did you feel that way at all? During the night I had something “grazing” outside my tent, my friend kept hearing things digging, my friend later told me the area has lots of wild pigs. I have no idea if they are dangerous, I just know I would not want to experience them. I was in a tent, my friend in a tarp. For some silly reason, I felt the “walls” of my tent would protect me better than her open air tarp, so I fell back to sleep, only to be woken to “It’s digging again!” The next day, it was all quite comical.

    I am not an RN, I am not clinical at all. I work in registration but we are open so someone has to be there. My husband works at a bank, so he doesn’t work holidays but has lots of long days anyway. Do you get a chance to fish with your husband? That is such an out of the ordinary job, it must be pretty interesting.

    I cannot remember which DeLorme Kara has, I am looking at the SE based on this article: http://andrewskurka.com/2015/delorme-inreach-se-explorer-how-to-choose-differences-recommendations/

    Really, I just need to be able to get rescued if needed, have a pizza helicoptered in every now and then, and my husband wants to be able to get in touch with me when he needs. I didn’t really want to carry it but when I found out about the details of Inchworm and how tragic that was, we decided just for a peace of mind (more for my husband) that I should carry it. Since I am going to carry it, a friend is going to see if their daughter’s teachers would like to follow along for a class project.

    I have been told over and over to take both the fleece and the down for the spring, and I understand why. I have also let Kara know why she might want both to start. However, it is extra weight and bulk. My dear Kara sent home her fleece and jacket. That woman is made of steel, I swear. I would be cold without one or the other.

    Nice to “meet” you.

    Raid

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow hiking in the Rockies that had to be spectacular!!! I hope to do the Colorado Trail someday. There was about 10 miles of the Bartram trail on my Chattooga River trail hike and it was a little over grown. But I had great campsites at night and neither one was really spooky at all. They were both along the river and the river noises drowned out any sounds of critters.

      My husband loves to fish so it’s the perfect job for him. I used to fish with him quite a bit but not so much anymore. It get so hot down here in Florida and he likes to stay out all day and just gets too much for me.

      Thank you for the article on the inreach it helps to finalize my decision for me. I was thinking of going with the SE and I definitely am now.

      I can give you too much review on the soloplex. I’ve only slept in it a few times and once was in the backyard. When I slept in it in the backyard I had my dog with me and he generates quite a bit of heat and we had a good bit of condensation in the morning on the inside of the tent. The first night I slept in it on the trail I didn’t have my trekking poles long enough so the height of the tent was pretty low and my head would brush the top of it. The second night was much better I had it positioned higher and I had enough room from my head when I went to sit up at the center of the tent. I am 5 foot 7. I didn’t have condensation either night. I do wish that it had doors on both sides. Or at least a way to unzip the back screen of the tent just to store a little bit of gear under the rain fly there. On nights when it’s dry I have plenty of room. I do keep my back inside the tent with me I just throw it under my sleeping pad under my feet and it’ll elevate my feet a little bit. I’m just not sure how it will do when it’s raining when I’m trying to set up the tent in the rain get all my stuff in there as well as air up my sleeping pad while I’m in there too. Time will tell. I just wanted something really light since I’m going to have to carry it almost 2200 miles.

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  5. I wonder if you contacted Zpacks if they would consider putting a zipper in on the back side so you can use it as a vestibule? It would not hurt to ask. Do you worry about your sleeping pad getting a hole in it from the pack? I love the idea of elevating my feet but I am paranoid that something on my pack will puncture my pad. What would puncture it, I have no idea. Do you have a scheduled time of when you are leaving for your thru?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have thought about contacting a z-pack and asking them if they could do that for me. It just never made it to my to do list and since my to-do list was sitting right next to me when I read your email I put it on my list.
      There is really nothing on the outside of my pack that would puncture my pad so I never really worried about it.
      I have a tentative date of April 3rd just because I didn’t think I’d be able to wait much longer in the month to start the hike because of excitement, but I’m a little nervous about the cold weather starting so early. I haven’t completely decided if I was starting at Springer or starting somewhere in the middle and Hiking North to avoid the crowds.

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      1. I am planning on starting at Springer but will be playing my leave date by ear. I am tentatively thinking mid to late March. Going NOBO. What will the weather be like near mid point at the beginning of April? Because we live in GA I can move my start date around a bit so I can watch the weather, but only for here in GA. Once I start, there isn’t much I can change. Do you have any idea how many may be starting mid way then going NOBO? I had not entertained that idea simply because I don’t want to hike completely alone and thought there would not be many hikers doing that. Maybe with the crowds, more people are doing that? I met with two young hikers who live near me, they hiked SOBO last year, starting sometime in May. They felt they missed the bad weather and really enjoyed their hike. They are a couple so even though there were times they were not with other hikers, they had each other. His favorite part of the trail was the 100 mile wilderness. He wished he had 3 weeks to spend there. They had great weather during that time of the hike. After talking with them, I decided that SOBO was not for me, I would be too lonely.

        If you would rather communicate via email we can. I don’t want to take up your blog space. It’s “ordahlc@gmail.com” Ashley has my email too, maybe we can keep all 3 of us in the same loop.

        Cheri

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