Appalachian Trail 4 year anniversary

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Four years ago today we got up early to finish our trek of the AT. The final day of hiking turned out to be another day of climbing rocks as we went up Mt. Katahdin in Maine.

The day was spectacular weather and we saw so many people we had hiked with-especially Midway, who we hadn’t seen for weeks!

Dragonfly and I did it as a team. I know I couldn’t have made it without her! She saved my life during a flash flood in the White Mts. I saved her life in Mahoosuc Notch (the hardest mile). But it was more than that—how we built trust and love and had fun, talking and singing, playing games, how we worked as a team setting up camp, packing it up again, encouraging each other to keep going when it got hard, sharing stories and heartache and dreams. How I knew that we would still love each other when it was all over! Celebrating the simple things like crossing a creek without slipping or falling, the sound of the birds, getting into the tent before it started raining. The challenge of only falling once per state or me not stepping on the snake that Dragonfly didn’t see and stepped right over…..counting the orange newts on the trail. I could go on…

I am still reflecting and processing all that happened, all that I experienced, how it has changed my life. There are many things that have happened since 2013 that have been a challenge, but I’ve hiked the AT, and not much can get me down now!!!

We have struggled to get back the simplicity of hiking, with rare opportunities of succeeding. And now the quest continues with a planned adventure in Spain next year on the El Camino pilgrimage.

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Centennial Trail

The trail markers are different in each part of the trail, designating which governmental agency has care taking responsibility.

The designations are: South Dakota State Park, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Monument and National Park.

Here is a sample of each:

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Bureau of Land Management

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South Dakota State Park

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Wind Cave National Park

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US Forest Service

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Pay attention to which way to go!

We woke up at Dalton Lake Campground. Got a great start to the day.  It was a strenuous hike up, we turned to the left and headed downhill.  We questioned it, but saw trail markers, so kept going.

When we finally saw the campground we had just left, we knew we had gone wrong!!!!!

We hiked back up the mountain, with one of us swearing all the way, until the other one said, “I don’t want to hear that anymore”.

After noon we finally made it to Nemo, the town that my aunt JoAnn and Uncle Roger and cousins live near (like half-way between Dalton Lake and Nemo).  We went into the store bought some lunch and drinks.

As we left town we walked on some roads before getting back to the trail.

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Day 3-how dry I am…

August 22, 2012

I woke up this morning feeling so much better than yesterday.  Dragonfly really saved me, and the trip.  After packing up and eating breakfast, we crossed Highway 34 and made our way towards the Fort Meade National Cemetery.  SAM_0367The grass was so dry.  We saw a big rattlesnake in the distance and stayed away.

When we took a break this morning, I took a picture of Prairie Dog–who is happy to be back in her home surroundings.SAM_0373

The hike through the Fort Meade Recreation Area gave us a great view of Bear Butte.  Mid-afternoon found us at the Alkali Creek Trail Head.  SAM_0376I had spent the summer of 1979 here with the Youth Conservation Corp–bring up lots of wonderful memories.  There was some water flowing in Alkali Creek so we got more water.  Leaving there it was so hot!  Not far from the trail head we saw a cattle trough full of water–not good enough to drink, but it was wet.  So we took our shirts off, soaked them in the water and put them back on.  They were dry within 15 minutes!  We crossed under Interstate 90 and headed into the Black Hills.

We finally make camp.  SAM_0384After dinner some mountain biker go by and we ask them if they can spare some water, one guy gives us a liter.  One of the guys went to school with my brother David and works at the same Bentonite Plant that my dad used to work at-small world.

I am feeling stonger and know that the hike will be a success–if we can get enough water.

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Heat Stroke or How to Survive crossing the prairie during a drought (in 2012).

August 21, 2012

I got sick during the night!  I am sure it was because I didn’t drink enough the day before.  I tend to not drink enough and it has been my downfall on numerous occasions.  Once we broke camp we then had to hike (or hitchhike) back to the Visitor’s Center to continue our through hike of the Centennial Trail.  It was already hot and no one stopped to pick us up!  I wanted to just start out from the campground but Dragonfly thought we should stick to the trail without missing any of it.SAM_0336

We walked through a pasture with buffalo, opening and closing some gates.  By the time we reached the lake again I was wiped out.  Still not drinking enough water.  But by then, when you are already low on fluids, it is really hard to get ahead of it.

We kept going, but out on the open prairie with the sun beating down, I couldn’t go on.  Dragonfly walked ahead, dropped her backpack, came back to carry my backpack and walk with me until we reached where she had dropped her backpack.  We did this all afternoon across the prairie.  Dragonfly promised me all sorts of things to encourage me, she has yet to fulfill some of those promises!  She really was great in knowing what to do, keeping us both safe and moving.  There was no cell phone service and no body was around, so we would have been in a real bind if she hadn’t gotten us through.

By early evening we finally came to Bear Butte Creek which was flowing and had a place to camp.  Dragonfly set up camp and made dinner.  I wasn’t much help.  Because we were next to water, we knew we would be safe.  We were yards away from Highway 34 and a mile from Fort Meade Military Hospital, so we knew we could get medical help.

As the sun went down, we went to bed.  Tomorrow is another day.

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Centennial Trail 2012–Practice through-hike

On August 20, 2012, Dragonfly and I started our first (just the two of us) through-hike. The 110-mile Centennial Trail through the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Back in the 1990’s I had hike most of the trail as a day hikes–driving to the trail head, hiking, getting picked up at the next trail head and then going back to get my car.  Tuffy (my dog) and I had great fun doing it.

So when we (DF and PD) needed to test ourselves as a hiking team, I suggested the Centennial Trail.  Dragonfly agreed.  My parents (Ma and Pa Prairie Dog) were working in the Hills and could be trail support.

August 20, 2012 was a Monday.  Ma and Pa Prairie Dog picked us up at the hotel and drove us to Sturgis, where we bought fuel for our stove.  We then had lunch in a diner and headed up Highway 79 to Bear Butte State Park.

The Trail starts at the top of Bear Butte, so you have to climb up, and then back down to start.  The four of us started out early afternoon.  It was an hard climb and we left Pa Prairie Dog about half way up because of his ankle.

The three of us (Dragonfly, Ma Prairie Dog and me) reached the summit took some pictures and then headed back down.  Once we were back at the Visitor’s Center we signed in and then headed to the Bear Butte Lake Campground, where Dragonfly and I set up camp while Ma and Pa Prairie Dog set out a picnic dinner.  After dinner, M&PPD headed back to their work, and we settled in for the night.

On our final trip to the outhouse, we stopped and stared up at the stars. It was such a clear night and there were a million stars.

 

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