We’re back! After 10 days off the trail, we are back on the AT for the first time this year! Happy Belated New Year everyone! We unfortunately had some horrible weather blow through at the same time a family emergency occurred. Both of these factors were the cause of our time off, but we are super stoked to be back and moving forward. If there is one thing the trail keeps showing us over and over its to be so incredibly thankful for the family and friends around you who help you get through when life doesn’t quite go as planned.
So after 10 full, completely unexpected days off the trail, we are back to running around grocery shopping, doing laundry and getting ready to head back to the trail. Oh, we are also picking up Bill Donahue from Backpacker Magazine who will be hiking for the next four days with us! We are so incredibly excited and thankful that although we weren’t able to hike the last few days, and have him with us while we finish, that we are still able to do the interview and have Buddy’s story in Backpacker. We are over the moon with pride for what Buddy has accomplished and are really thrilled that so many other people will get to read about his unbelievable accomplishments this year in the magazine. We picked Bill up from the Staunton trail station around 3, then headed to the hotel we were going to all stay and get our stuff together to get back on the trail the next morning. We left mid-morning to head right back to Blackrock parking area, where we left off from 11 days earlier. The weather wasn’t great, in fact it was actually raining sideways when we first got to the parking area. But without a word of fuss, Buddy got ready, put on a rain poncho and hopped out of the Jeep, excited about getting to hike with someone new. He kept asking Bill how many miles he could do, wanting to make sure that Bill would be with him all day. Buddy is just soaking up every moment of getting to hike with Bill. He loves that Bill is asking him so many fantastic questions that allow Buddy to show him how much he knows about the trail and his experiences. By mid day the weather cleared up and although it was still really foggy, it was pretty warm and great hiking weather. We ended the first day back at Pinefield Hut after hiking 12.1 miles. This was a great Hut, super clean and close to the road, which was great, because Bill’s camping equipment is really warm, but not ideal for backpacking as his sleeping bag alone takes up his whole backpack. Not a problem at all when the shelter is only .3 from the road though! We all enjoyed hanging out, playing Uno and getting to continue to talk to Bill. Bill has covered some really interesting stories and we just love hearing about all of them. Yesterday the weather was great, a little bit windy, but not too bad! Bill took turns hiking with Buddy and Dion and then driving around with me for a little bit. It’s so refreshing to hike with such an experienced journalist who has great, thought proving, tough questions. Of course he’s asked us all the basic questions, but some of the topics and points he’s asked about are things that we haven’t ever been asked which we love. It allows us to go back and really think about things that have happened along the way that we didn’t give too much thought to before or have forgotten about. He has informed us that the article wont come out for a few months because he has to write it up, then they are probably going to be sending out a photographer in a month or so, and so it will probably end up coming out in March or April, when the thru hiking season begins again. We ended a 14.7 mile day yesterday by stealth camping ¼ of a mile from the South River Picnic Area. It was pretty late when we got to that spot last night and had some fun putting together the mammoth of a tent Bill brought with him in the dark. Having only put it up once before and being that it’s a tent we haven’t ever seen before, it took a little while, but once it was all set up we realized it was a pretty awesome heavy duty winter tent. We ate, we slept, we woke. Today the weather is even better than yesterday; it’s sunny, warm and absolutely the perfect temperature. Today will be the last full day that they will get to hike with Bill, he has an early afternoon flight out tomorrow. We have thoroughly enjoyed getting to meet him, hike with him and talk with him. Bill has a very calm and easy going personality that makes talking with him seem like you’ve known him for a long time. I hope that I get to spend some time with him later this afternoon interviewing him, I want to get to know a little bit more about him before he leaves. He’s such a nice guy. They will do exactly 13 miles today and we will find another stealth spot around Big Meadows to spend the night.
Now that we are back on track and moving forward, we have decided that we will be finishing on the 19th which is next Sunday. That’s less than a week which makes me pretty sad to know that our journey is over. But incredibly excited that we will finally be able to call Buddy Backpacker a thru hiker! We will also be able to seriously begin planning our next adventure, which is really exciting. If you will be around the area on Sunday we are planning on finishing about 4pm at the ATC office in Harpers Ferry. Hope to see you all there to congratulate Buddy on being the youngest person to ever hike every single mile of the entire AT in one year, a thru hike.