A Million Flying Bugs

This weekend in Pearisburg, VA we found a beautiful area called Whitt-Riverbend Park. It featured a large, fast-flowing river, open grassy spaces, and a train that ran just above the water. What a scene! So picturesque, so scenic, that it makes a girl want to pack a bag and hike the Appalachian Trail.

Except. There were these little gnats EVERYWHERE. When you stopped long enough to smile for a picture, there they were, trying to settle down on your eyelashes and dive into your ears. I was in shock by how relentless these little buggies were (nature, how could you turn on me like this?!), but Will just said “welcome to my world.” I don’t think I’d do well in his world.

Now that the weather is warm, the animals – and tiny flying bugs – are making their appearance at every turn. Will has seen a bear and three snakes in the past week!


In other news: last week Will got food poisoning and it slowed him down a bit. He’s back to 100% and has started this week strong. There is only one problem – his shoes (or clodhoppers, as my grandpa calls them). The Hokas are not holding up well – in fact, they are falling apart after less than 200 miles. For comparison, the Brooks Cascadias lasted a solid 500 miles on the trail, and Will had them for a year before he even started his hike. So the Hokas are a huge disappointment.


Will contacted the company and explained the situation; they said he could send the shoes in for an evaluation and they may be able to send him a replacement. His plan is to buy a new pair of shoes in Troutville, VA this weekend and stick the Hokas in the mail. They don’t make clodhoppers like they used to.

Speaking of Troutville (aren’t the names of these places the best?)… Will is on his way there! I’ll meet him in Troutville – only 20 minutes from Roanoke, VA – on Saturday. This will probably be the last time I will see him for a while. If everything goes according to plan (when has that ever happened?), this is Will’s schedule for the next month:

4/30 – Troutville, VA (near Roanoke) – mile 729
5/7 – Crabtree Falls campground, VA (north of Lynchburg)
5/14 – Skyland Resort in Shanendoah National Park, VA (north of Harrisonburg)
5/21 – Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia (considered the “psychological midway point” on the AT!)
5/28 – Boiling Springs, PA (south of Harrisburg)


Talk to you soon! Don’t forget to check out more photos on our Instagram page, @thetreelogs.

-Meridith

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No Words Necessary (But I’ve Included a Few)

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Vast expanses, dense forests, waterfalls, sunsets, soft snow, and all the shades of blue in the Blue Ridge Mountains. As I filed through Will’s photos to “curate” this gallery of images, I was amazed at the diversity of scenery – wild and unfiltered – as seen through his eyes. These photos tell the story of his journey in a way that words cannot.

And now for a brief update: last weekend included Will’s parents and nephew, Christopher, a log cabin on the river, and lots of duck-watching. Damascus, VA has our hearts, now more than ever.

Tomorrow Will hits mile 547 – the 1/4 mark on his 2,188-mile journey! This is great, big, HUGE news! See jumping photo above!

Thank you for sticking with us – all of you, in all of the various ways you have stuck with us through your words and tangible expressions of love (I could, and will, write an entire post just on that). That’s all for now!

-Meridith
(@thetreelogs)

Visting Small Towns Makes Me Think…

…but before we get to that, let me start with something else. Because this is not a regular Wednesday.

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Today, March 30th, is Will’s 30th birthday! Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy gooooolden birthday, happy birthday to you! It is a special day, and many of you helped us make it more special by showering Will with birthday gifts for the “Trail Fund” I set up. We raised $440 which is far beyond what I thought possible. Will was floored when I showed him. We’ll keep the fund open until Saturday in case there is anyone else who wants to join in (I couldn’t share on here earlier since the whole situation was very hush-hush).

Thank you – thank you so much – for your kind gifts and words. Will is so excited. We’ll keep you posted with how he puts the Trail Fund to use!

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Now, for our trail town escapades. Erwin, TN was a delight last weekend, just a real delight. I mean, look at how perfectly this goose posed for my photo.

Weekends are for rest and resupply. We stayed in the Super 8 motel, ate lunch at Pal’s, went grocery shopping and laundry washing, and lounged and laughed a lot. We walked along the Erwin Linear Trail which was quiet and beautiful and a stone’s throw from all the fast food joints which meant you’d come across a styrofoam cup or paper bag every now and then. That part reminded me of Pawnee, Indiana which made me want to pull a Leslie Knope and lead a riverside trash pick-up to dispose of the litter from the local Paunch Burger.

But really I adored Erwin- the nice Super 8 owners who offer a discount for thru-hikers and let us check out late because we didn’t have anywhere else to go, the Mexican restaurant beside the Wal-Mart where everybody clearly knew each other, the laundromat with its huge, bright windows and beat-up chairs. I love exploring big cities, but when you visit Nashville or San Francisco or New York City it’s a lot of striving – to get the full experience, to avoid chain restaurants at all costs, to fit everything in and check everything off. You hunt down the places that Yelp or your friends or your cousin who lives there tell you to find, and then you breathe it all in and let it fill you up (while emptying your wallet). Ahh, the beauty of new experiences.

When you visit Franklin or Robbinsville, NC, or Erwin, TN, it’s different. The people you come across in big cities are often recent transplants, or maybe even visiting for the weekend like you are. The people you encounter in Erwin, TN live there. They were born there. You’re not just experiencing a new place, you’re experiencing people’s real lives . I felt that strongly in Erwin – almost like we were spying on them, like aliens beamed in to quietly observe (and as the say on the AT, “leave no trace”). When there are no museums or Broadway shows or street performers or fine culinary experiences to distract you, you don’t think of traveling as a way to experience things but as a way to experience people.

You notice and contemplate different details; like the couple sitting side by side at the lake (do they do that every weekend?), the little girl shrieking as her bike starts heading downhill on the trail (stick with it, the hill will seem smaller next year when you’re bigger!), or the high school baseball team dining at the Mexican restaurant (are they all best friends? will they still be when they move away to college next year?).

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A heartfelt “thank you” to the people of Franklin, Robbinsville, and Erwin for letting us drop in and experience life on your doorstep for a weekend. And thanks to the AT for leading us there.

Also: Will is flying. Today he hiked 21.8 miles. This weekend I’ll meet him in Hampton, TN near the 400 mile mark. Wha-wha-whaaat? How is he almost 20% finished with the entire trail?

A lot happens between my weekly posts here, so check out Instagram, too. Thanks to everyone who is reading this, near and far. I’d love to hear from you!

-Meridith