I did it!

My Tahoe Rim Trail journey is complete! I hiked 170+ miles in 20 days, with almost 25,000′ elevation gain.

Hiked close to 18 different lakes, and around one giant one, and saw many more in the distance.

Crossed 38 different streams/creeks.

Encountered 5 thunderstorms.

Spent 5 nights completely on my own (the other 14 were either at lakes where everyone was camping or there was at least one other group that I knew was nearby.)

Experienced countless hours alone (but less than you’d think since there were so many people on the trail).

Watched several spectacular sunsets and wonderful sunrises.

Set up 19 different campsites.

Had 1 blister.

Acquired a trail name.

Interviewed 15 ladies for my Solo Female Thruhiker project video I’ll be putting together for my YouTube channel.

Met up with 6 Instagram/Facebook friends.

Took a million pictures and videos.

Got about 20 mosquito bites.

Saw a bagillion squirrels and chipmunks and birds, 1 coyote, and 5 deer. Zero bears.

Had one amazing adventure!

More stories and pictures to come!


I can do hard things!

I can do hard things!

On the side of Black Mountain 7/12/20

My thru hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail is almost here, and I can’t hardly wrap my brain around the fact that I actually WILL be backpacking for 3 weeks straight!

And if I’m honest, I’m scared. Not of being out there alone or of things that go bump in the night (though I’m sure there will be jitters those first few nights on my own.) No, I’m scared that I’m going to fail. That my bum ankle won’t let me continue, or that other physical problems will crop up that will cut my time short. And while I generally have confidence in my abilities, there is still some fear that it’s too big of a task, that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, that my thru hike attempt will only ever be that, an attempt.

But then I remember the hike Hubs and I did a few weeks ago to the top of Black Mountain out in the wilds of Northern Nevada. That was one major hike. It was the hardest thing I’ve done in a very long time. Hiking straight up an extremely steep, rocky mountain (see the picture at the beginning of this post) is not most people’s idea of fun. When we started out, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to try it (it’s was Hubs’ idea). But I figured I’d give it a shot. And not very far into the hike, my stubbornness kicked in and I decided I WANTED to make it to the top.

And we did! One step at a time. Assessing the safety and feasibility at every turn. Finding the best route and making the best decisions for the situations we found ourselves in. It was a tough scramble. Every so often, I would stop and take stock. How am I feeling? Do I want to keep going? CAN I keep going? Is the outcome of pushing myself worth the possible negative results? (ie, my bad ankle taking a turn for the worse or possibly putting ourselves in a truly dangerous situation resulting in injury.) And here’s the biggie: am I willing to live with my decision if I choose to quit?

I think it takes a lot of introspection and self honesty to be able to fully accept a decision to give up on a goal. And while I never got to the point of truly having to face that question on the side of Black Mountain, I have a feeling I will at some point on my thru hike.

The title of this post is, “I can do hard things!” And it is a two fold statement. On the one hand, I am strong. I am determined (some might say stubborn). I am brave. And I am going to do this monumental task of hiking 170 miles around Lake Tahoe. It’s going to be hard, but I can do hard things! On the other hand, I fully realize that I might have to face something much, much harder than continuing on. And that is making the decision to stop. But I can do hard things! And if it comes down to that, I know I’m prepared. For while I am extremely excited about this hike, I also know it’s not what is most important in my life. Though my pride may rear it’s head at my “failure”, I know that in the end, even an attempted thru hike is an awesome thing, and I will be grateful for the time I DO get to spend out there.

The next time you hear from me, I’ll be back from the Tahoe Rim Trail.

One way or another.

And I’m excited to be able to tell you all about it!

What it means to me

I have been inspired to create a blog post/YouTube video that highlights other female solo thru hikers on the TRT. I made a list of questions I might ask these ladies and one of the questions I have is, “What made you want to do a thru hike, and why do it solo?” I figured I should probably have an answer to that myself.

I’ve been following several stories recently of people who have hiked, or are are currently hiking, the Tahoe Rim Trail. One guy who shows up frequently on the #tahoerimtrail hashtag on Instagram did the whole hike recently in 7 days! He had to hike around 30 miles every day. I can hardly even imagine what that’s like .

And then there’s the ultra trail runners who can complete the thing in less than 2 days! I REALLY can’t imagine that!

But most people take about 10 days to 2 weeks to complete the hike. Doing the math, that’s an average of about 12-17 miles per day.

I’m planning on taking 3 weeks to hike it. That’s approximately 9 miles per day, with 2 “zero days” built in.

You see, my thru hike is not about doing it quickly, or being the first or the best. It’s not even about proving that I can do it. I KNOW I can. Heck, I’m building a house for goodness sake! If I can learn to do that from scratch, I can walk around a lake! And hiking is one of my absolute favorite activities. Who wouldn’t want to spend three weeks doing what they absolutely love to do?

No, for me, it’s much more introspective. I would not want to be away from my family for the amount of time it would take to hike the longer trails like the Pacific Crest Trail, but I am one of those people that do need some time on their own. This dream of mine was born in a time of turmoil for our family and I felt somewhat trapped in my life. I dreamed of being free to drop everything and hit the trail for months on end. Even when our circumstances changed for the better, the dream did not leave. Even though I do not feel the intense need to get away as I did 6 years ago, I know I still need some alone time to really think and ruminate over life. Backpacking for 3 weeks is a great way to get that alone time. I want to know what will surface when the normal everyday distractions of life are gone for a while. No cell phones (except for the occasional check-in – and for pictures, of course). No TV. No internet. No one to talk to.

I’m not even planning on taking a book to read, or podcasts or music to listen to. I don’t want the distractions. I just want to be.

To be really alone for a while. What a blissful thought!

So that’s why I chose to go solo, but why the thru hike and not, say, a section of the PCT? Well, to actually hike a trail in its entirety, to know that you completed it, (ie, a “thru hike”) is a very satisfying goal.

And the TRT is nearly in my back yard, and is the right length to give me a good amount of that solo time I am looking for, while still being easy enough that the average hiker can actually do it. In fact, I probably could hike it faster. But I don’t want to. I want to take my time. To savor the experience. To spend time in creation with the Creator. To be able to journal and sketch and really process what I’m going through, both on the trail and in real life.

So at the end of this thru hike, I hope to come home mentally refreshed, feeling closer to God, with a better understanding of who I am in the world, and with a great sense of accomplishment.

Oh, and fun. It’s gonna be a blast!

T – 5 weeks

“5 weeks”

“Next month”

It’s gettin’ real, folks! Though it still doesn’t seem real to me. Am I really, really going to be walking around Tahoe for 3 weeks?

Yes, yes I am.

Well…most likely. There’s still the possibility that something might come up. A resurgence of Covid that closes down trails, injuring myself, family emergency, etc. But if it’s God’s will, then in just over 5 weeks I’ll be starting out on my epic journey.

And speaking of injuring myself, I actually did that about 3 weeks ago. I had worked up to a 7½ mile day-hike with my big pack. I did so awesome that day. I felt strong. I had energy.

5.5 miles into the hike and still feeling great!

Miles in the backcountry.

And I injured my foot. I had pushed too far, too fast, and with too much weight. I strained some ligaments in my foot that are STILL not completely healed, despite the fact that I’ve done very little hiking since then.

I did go on one fairly long hike (5.5 miles) a few days after my injury and had to tape my ankle half way through and was limping pretty badly by the time I got back to the car.

3 days post injury – decided not to carry the big pack – lots of pain.

The foot did really well on a recent 5 mile hike (2½ weeks past injury) and my hopes rose.

5 mile hike and no pain.

And a small 2-mile hike just the other day and no pain. I thought I was in the clear.

2 mile hike – 3 weeks post injury – no pain

But then, today I climbed around on some rocks at Lake Tahoe and felt the pain come back.

Jumping from rock to rock and climbing around flared up the injury.

I’m just a bit worried. Not that it won’t heal in the next 5 weeks, but that it won’t heal fast enough for me to do more training between now and then. That I’ll get on trail and it will flare up again and force me to quit.

So for now, I’m still moving forward, I’m still training and hiking when I can. I’m working with a physical therapist and doing what I can. The rest is in God’s hands.

Lord willing, in just over 5 weeks I’ll be setting out on my of my life’s greatest adventures!

New Record, New Goals

Lord willing, in just 3 months, I’ll be several days into my thru hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail.

Three months! Gah! It’s coming up so fast! (Really hoping and praying that Covid-19 will be under control by then!)

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that after my Havasu Falls hike – yeah I’m still planning a blog post for that – I took about a 3 week break from hiking. And then I realized my TRT hike was creeping up on me and I got back to it. But I wasn’t very consistent.

So I gave myself a challenge. I did not publicize the challenge or talk about it much other than with my immediate family. But I challenged myself to go for a walk/hike every day in the month of April.




No matter what.

Hiking on our property with the kiddos 4/1/20
Solo hike in the canyon below our house 4/30/20

I am proud to say that I was (for the most part) successful. There were 2 days when for one reason or another I just didn’t get a hike in. But that means that I went for 28 hikes in the month of April! Now, many of them were only a mile long. And I didn’t even start carrying a day pack until half way through, but I was out there (in the canyon behind my house – mostly on my own property because #socialdistancing and #stayinghome and #quarentine), and I was training. And here’s the thing. It may not seem like a mile a day is much, but I’ve learned that it does help. Today I went for a 2.25 mile hike with 630′ elevation gain. Just a couple weeks ago, that would have been a lot harder on me than it was today (nearly all the elevation gain/loss was in the first and last quarter mile!).

Steep and rugged descent! 4/30/20

And you know what else happened? I set a new personal record for the number of miles I’ve hiked in a single month! My previous best was 27.05 miles. As of today, April 30th, I am wrapping up the month with 37.35 miles – a full 10.3 miles more! And that’s by doing baby steps.

So where do we go from here? Well, I definitely know I do better when I have a challenge the meet. So I’m setting a new one: 40 miles in the month of May. #40mileMay #MoreMilesInMay

Exploring the canyon below our house 4/30/20

April’s challenge was about frequency, May’s is just about getting in the miles no matter how. In fact, I need to start going on longer hikes, but I don’t have time to hike higher miles every day. That’s the main reason why many of my hikes in April were only 1-1.5 miles. I am so busy. Yes, even during quarentine. We are a homesteading, homeschooling family and we’re building our own house. We are busy! So by doing more miles on fewer days, I can have more days to devote solely to projects around the house. And I get in those much needed longer hikes.

So yes, more miles in the month of May. Including some longer hikes. And loading up the big pack once more and taking it out on the trail.

And I gotta get the family hiking more, too. They are going with me for the first several days of my thru hike. They need to get in shape, too! And we have plans to go camping on our property to test out all our gear once the weather warms up a bit more.

On a family hike on our property 4/18/20
Solo hike in the hills above my house 4/24/20

Oh, and I’m still continuing with the 52 Hike Challenge. I only count my daily hikes toward that challenge if they feel like a real hike, not just a walk in the “neighborhood”. Usually that means more than an hour of hiking, taking my pack, and doing a bit of exploring, etc. Today’s hike was #23. With my new goal for May, I’m sure I’ll be logging in quite a few more “official” hikes. So far, I’ve gone on 23 official hikes and logged 69+ official miles since November 12, 2019.

Oh! And speaking of miles logged, I recently surpassed 100 miles for the year! That’s right, as of today, I have hiked 103.65 daily/training miles since January 1st! I totally didn’t realize it on the day I hit 100 miles or I would have taken a celebratory picture. All I got were some pretty wildflowers.

It’s good to have goals. It’s good to achieve them. It’s good to feel accomplished. And it’s good to set new ones, to always have something to be striving toward.

Backpacking food prep

I’ve never been one to count calories. I believe our bodies treat calories differently depending on where they come from. It’s more than just the calories that count. The 680 calories from a Costco muffin is much different for your body than the 680 calories from an 8oz steak. So, I’m one to look at the carb count long before I even glance at the largest print number on the nutritional panel (the calories).

But in its simplest terms, calories are what your body burns for energy. So lately, as I’m starting to wrap my head around three weeks of meal planning for the Tahoe Rim Trail, I’ve been paying more attention to the calories in the foods I may (or may not) be consuming on the trail. Specifically, their weight to calorie ratio.

According to www.backcountryfoodie.com a good goal is around 130-150 calories per ounce for ultralight food (calculated at approximately 2lbs of food at roughly 4000 calories per day for a thru hiker). Basically, the higher the calories per ounce, the lower the weight can be, or the more calories you can have for the same amount of weight.

My personal goal is about 3000 calories per day. No real scientific reason, just that I put together what I thought was a good menu for my upcoming trip to Havasu Falls, then started adding up the calories. A high mileage thru hiker may need upwards of 5000 calories to fuel them in a day. But I won’t be hiking that far or that fast. I usually eat 1500-2000 calories per day in my normal life, so I figured 3000 calories per day would be a good starting point. I added up the calories in the foods I had laid out and realized I needed to add more calories someway, somewhere. So I added cream powder to the oatmeal, and cheese powder to the fajita bowl, and an oil packet to the scrambled eggs, etc. I also added in a few more snacks, and voila, my calorie count is up around 3000 each day. And then I weighed each day. My heaviest day’s worth of food is 1.75 lbs. The rest are under 1.5lbs. Winning!

Another consideration is how much protein is in the food. Protein is needed to build and repair muscles. My personal goal is about 100g of protein per day. I’m happy to say I met that goal, too!

Recipe creation and testing. Hard work, but someone’s gotta do it!

Since I’m trying to keep my pack as light as possible, I want to get as big of a bang for my buck (pound?) as I can. It’s a lot of calculations, but in the end, I think it will be worth it to get the nutrition and energy I need for as little weight as possible.

How about you? How do you determine what kind of food you’ll need on the trail?

Oh, and that bear canister? No, there are no bears in the Grand Canyon, but there are raccoons, squirels, mice, etc. There are other options to use at Havasu Falls to keep your food away from the critters, but the official recommendation is a bear canister, and I will need one for the Tahoe Rim Trail anyway, so figured I’d give it a trial run.

I fit 4 days worth of food in it, with room to spare – enough for another day of food I think.

I will need to package the food differently for my Tahoe Rim Trail thru hike this summer in order to be able to fit more days of food. I wouldn’t use the bags to separate the individual days (seen in the first pic) since they create pockets of unused space. But Havasu Falls is only 4 days, so no problem. And for the TRT, I think I’ll be able to fit all my food in there for the stretches between resupplies (6ish days – I think – more research needed.)

2019 year-end hiking review

Last hike of 2019
12/31/19 Hike 9 of 52
2 miles
Total miles so far: 24.3 since starting the 52 Hike Challenge on 11/12/19

I wasn’t consistent at all with my 2019 training hikes during the summer, so I didn’t log nearly as many miles as I thought I would, but I’m pretty pleased with what I did accomplish – especially considering that I only hiked somewhat consistently during 6 months (Jan-Apr & Nov-Dec), and I didn’t go on very many longer hikes as I had hoped.

2019 # of days logged on trail: 82
Average mile/hike: 1.8
Total 2019 miles hiked: 145.1

But it is now 2020, and time for some new goals. Obviously with my thru-hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail coming up this year, I will log more miles than last year. But I need to up my miles long before then! I need to start getting in 5-10 mile hikes on a weekly basis. My plan for the TRT is 8-12 miles per day (depending on water sources). The longest daily hike I’ve done in recent years was 6 miles, and that was back in November. Gotta do better!

Here’s to the start of more training!

Discovery Beauty: an unexpected benefit of my training

In my last post, I mentioned that a couple of the hikes I have been on recently were on an urban trail in the outskirts of town.

I had been avoiding that trail for a long time because it is “urban”. By looking at the trail on satellite photos and reading descriptions, I always cued into the fact that the trail is essentially lined with houses. When I go hiking, I like to be out away from town and civilization. It also looked rather barren and boring since there wouldn’t be much of a view seeing that it was down in a ravine. Some of the descriptions mentioned trees and it being a pretty trail, but I didn’t have very high hopes. But in trying to find a trail which I hadn’t been on that wasn’t already covered in snow, I finally decided to check it out. And was very pleasantly surprised.

The creek is rather substantial, and is lined with aspens, cottonwood, willow bushes, and wild roses.

Yes, the rim of the creek ravine is lined with the back yards of the neighborhood houses, but the burbling of the creek easily shut out the noises of town, and the beauty of the creek and the trees eclipsed the fact that there was no view to speak of.

It is a beautiful little gem, and so accessible.

But I wasn’t really expecting much from the next trail I decided to explore. I knew from the descriptions that the only trees along the route were at the very end (the turn around point), but that the attraction at the end (a man-made irrigation canal that comes straight out of the side of the hillside) is pretty cool.

Again, I was very pleasantly surprised.

So, on December 28, I decided to explore this trail that had intrigued me since I first heard about it.

A slightly overcast sky lent a beautiful light to the rolling hills around me.

Up near the irrigation canal, the hills level off a bit and you can see for miles.

At the very end of the trail, there is a small stand of trees, which after miles of nothing but sagebrush, seems magical.

The canal exit from the hillside is not nearly as awesome as described when there’s no water rushing from it.

A lone pine tree sits along the canal.

As I traveled back along the canal on my way toward the car, I saw another trail that headed down through a little rolling valley. I quickly checked the GPS map on my phone and saw that I could take that trail back toward the trailhead.

As beautiful as it was in early Winter, I just couldn’t help imagining what it would be like in the Spring. Crystal clear blue skies, warm sun, green grass covering those hills, dotted with wildflowers.

Yeah, you can bet we’ll be headed back there in, say, April or May!

Or even having a picnic under these trees in the summer. Or playing in the creek.

This trail ended up being just over 3 miles and it took me 1½ hours.

If I hadn’t started training for my thru hike and if I hadn’t joined the 52 Hike Challenge, I might not have been looking for new trails to hike. My experiences in hiking these new trails has taught me to not discount any trails in the area. There is always beauty on any trail you might be hiking, and more often than not, it won’t even be that hard to find.

Kinda like life, I think.

So enjoy the trail you’re on and look for the beauty. It’s there.

Training re-start

Wow, I totally fell off the blogging bandwagon. To be honest, in about May of this year (2019) I fell off the whole training wagon as well. Probably why I didn’t blog anything except for our trip on the Appalachian Trail. I have posted a few videos on my YouTube channel, and kept up pretty good with Instagram, but this blog has suffered. I’m making a commitment to change that.

Hey, look at that, not even New Year’s yet, and already making resolutions.😆

So, while training went out the window this past summer in lieu of other things in life, I did go on several fun little hikes besides the overnighter on the Appalachian Trail. (Working on getting videos made of those hikes.)

An impromptu 2 mile hike in between errands in June (video made).

A short hike (1ish mile) at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon while on family vacation in July.

Overnight hike on the Appalachian Trail in July (video made).

Had a couple hours free so me and the youngest had a nice little hike in August (video made).

Another little 2 mile hike in the hills around Lake Tahoe during a retreat weekend in October.

And then I was invited by a friend to go backpacking with her in February! There had been some talk of her asking me to go. And she finally made it official.


But, oy! a 30 mile hike (round trip) coming up in only a couple months and I hadn’t been training in 5 months! Time to start!

Even when it’s freakin’ cold outside (19°F!)

And especially when it’s a beautiful day (57°F).

By the end of October, I was back into a good routine of daily hikes and walks mainly just in the hills behind my house.

And then I learned about the 52 Hike Challenge. You can learn all about it through their website, but basically it is a challenge to go hiking 52 times within a one year period. There are various challenge types that you can participate in. I chose to do the original Challenge, which is just 52 hikes of at least a mile each. That’s the only requirement. I signed up on November 11th, 2019. I suppose I could have waited until January 1st to “start” the challenge, but I’m not a fan of delaying once I’ve made a decision. So, my first official hike of my 52 Hike Challenge was on November 12th.

November 12, 2019 – Hike 1 – 1.2 miles – in the canyon behind my house.

November 15, 2019 – Hike 2 – 6 miles – Mt Rose Wilderness above Lake Tahoe (my first “moderate” hike and the longest one I’ve gone on since starting training earlier this year).

November 26 and December 4, 2019 – Hikes 3 & 4 – 1.5 miles each – In the hills behind my house.

December 9, 2019 – Hike 5 – 3.1 miles – Sierra Nevada foothills

December 10, 2019 – Hike 6 – 2.1 miles – Urban trail on the outskirts of town.

December 17, 2019 – Hike 7 – 3.5 miles – Urban trail on the outskirts of town.

And that brings us up to the present. Today is December 27 and with all he holiday hulibaloo, I haven’t had a chance to go hiking in the past 10 days. But, Christmas is over and we are still on break for another week (both from school and from our house construction), and I have no major plans or preparations to do for the next week. During that time, I want to make some videos out of the footage I got on several of those hikes, and I plan to blog in more detail if I find the time. And of course go on at least one or more hikes during that time as well. Hopefully I can get it all done!

I also used Christmas money and gift cards to order the last of the equipment I’ll need for the trip to Havasu Falls. So when that comes in I’m going to do a couple videos and blog posts about my equipment. That trip will be a pretty good shakedown run for my Tahoe Rim Trail thru-hike coming up in just 7 months.

SEVEN months!?!?

Oh. My. Goodness!

Gah! I’ve still got a lot of training to do! Time to get to it!

Overnighter on the Appalachian Trail

I did it!

I wasn’t sure there for a little while if I’d be able to. But I did it, and honestly, don’t feel too worse for wear physically because of it. And mentally, I feel awesome!

What did I do?

I hiked an overnighter on the Appalachian Trail.

Yes, THAT Appalachian Trail. The one that stretches from Georgia to Maine.

In 2012 the dream was born. We were visiting Tennessee and took a trip into Great Smokey Mountains National Park. We passed the Appalachian Trail on our walk up to Clingman’s Dome, the highest point on the AT.


I took a picture of one of my brothers on the trail and dreamed of one day coming back to hike at least a portion of that iconic pathway.

That picture stayed with me for years. And then we planned a family reunion in Gatlinburg, TN, right at the foot of the Smokies, and just 45 minutes from Clingman’s Dome.

I knew what I just had to do.

January 2019 – I make a plan of getting in shape. I start hiking around our property.

February 2019 – I’m out for the count with a broken rib.

March & April 2019 – back in training mode. 3-4 mile hikes in the hills behind our house happen several times a week.

May & June 2019 – we start a busy time on our house build and I basically stop all hikes as it’s too tiring and takes too much time.

And that’s when I started to doubt if I’d be able to do the hike I had chosen.I decided that we were going to start at Clingman’s Dome, the highest point on the AT since that was the easiest access from where we were staying in Gatlinburg. We would be dropped off at the parking lot and hike approximately 5 miles to one of the huts in the afternoon, then back to the parking lot for pickup the next morning. I had even purchased our reservation (required in the national park).

But would I be able to do 5 miles with a pack? And then 5 miles again the next day, mostly up hill? That was way more than I’d done since starting training, and I hadn’t been training for 2 months. And what about my 6 year old daughter? And my sister-in-law who’d never been backpacking before? I swallowed my fears and kept moving forward with our plans.

As we packed for our two week family vacation, I tried to figure out if I could pack everything we would need into our packs, that way we wouldn’t need extra luggage. Turns out I could.

When we got to our cabin in Gatlinburg, I took out everything I wasn’t taking on the hiking trip and repacked my bag.

Complete load out, including food and water – weighed 27lbs

And we started paying closer attention to the weather forecast. Something about rain and thunderstorms. Great.

Most everyone encouraged us to stay with the rest of the family. My 13 year old daughter actually opted out.

But I had already purchased the permits, and I was still really excited to give it a go. I had that itch and it needed to be scratched.

My sister-in-law and my 6year old were also still excited to go.And so we went.

It was chilly up there at 6,600′, in the rain and the fog. But we were prepared.

And so we kissed our family goodbye, and we were off. It was 4:00pm and we had roughly 5 miles to hike.

These Nevadan gals loved the warm rain and fog and spooky, mystical look of the woods.

Quick rest stop

Always the mom

We marveled at all the flowers and mushrooms, and especially the bees and wasps taking shelter from the rain.

The beauty in God’s creation is hard to miss in that part of the world.

We were just loving it!

And I was so excited to be following the white blazes on a trail I’ve heard and read and studied and watched so much about.

Around mile 3, Baby Bird started getting very tired. I was worried about making it to camp before dark and did not let us rest very often. But her Auntie came to the rescue and started a game of 20 questions. I’m not sure exactly how many rounds we played that evening as we hiked, but I’m sure the questions numbered in the hundreds!

Right at sunset, the skies cleared just enough to get some beautiful views of the Great Smokey Mountains.

But we were still a ways from camp and the light was fading fast.

And suddenly it was dark, and we were still a ¼ mile from the hut. We broke out a head lamp for the kiddo, but the Sis and I could still see a bit and didn’t want to take the time to dig out our headlamps. Probably not the wisest decision. But I’m happy to say we made it into camp without any injuries from tripping on roots or falling off rocks we could not see in the trail.

When we pulled into Siler’s Bald hut at 9:15pm, there were a couple guys making their dinner and they quietly let us know that there were people already asleep in the shelter. The next 30 minutes or so was taken up with quietly stuffing food in our mouths and setting out our bed rolls on the upper “bunk” of the shelter.

I’m proud to say that none of our sleeping bags got wet in the rain, and that we managed to keep the kiddo quiet while we set up. Definitely a first for that trip! (Probably helped that she was dead tired.)

I had to ask one of the gentlemen where the bear cables were since I could not find them in the dark. The national park requires that everyone hang their packs on the bear cables. Good thing I had watched videos about how to use them so I didn’t have to study everyone else’s bags in the dark to figure it out.

And then I crawled into my sleeping bag and went to sleep.






Ahhh, that’s funny. In a sarcastic and sadistic sort of way.

Sleep. Yeeeeaaaahhh. I don’t think I got more than about an hour of sleep that night. Let’s just say that before I go backpacking again, I’ll be getting a new sleeping pad. I feel bad for the other people in the shelter who had to listen to me toss and turn all night.

That’s what you get when you’re 40 years old, haven’t slept on the hard ground in years, and have arthritic hips. I finally had to get up around 2:30am to lower my pack off the cables and dig out some ibuprofen. I should have taken it before bed, but forgot.

And finally it was morning.We met the other people sharing our temporary home, and shared some of our trail experiences.

I made us some hot water for coffee and hot chocolate. We stuffed some food in our faces again and packed everything back into our packs.

Baby Bird was not feeling it though. She was not looking forward to the hike back. Her shoes and pants were still wet from the day before, her mosquito bites from the other day were bugging her again, and she was tired.

But, like a trooper, she put her pack back on and we took off…45 minutes later than I wanted to.

It had taken us just over 5 hours the day before to get to the hut. And that was mostly downhill.We had a plan to meet up with the family at the Clingman’s Dome parking lot at noon. I wanted to leave the hut at 7am.

*Sigh* well, it is what it is, and I knew from checking my phone periodically the day before where I could expect to have service, so I could keep my hubby updated.

And I was shocked. As we headed out, we actually made better time going back up the trail than we did coming down the day before. Part of that, though, is that Baby Bird just wanted to be done.

Just take a look at that face. 😟

My Sis and I had taken a bit of the weight out of her pack, so that is another reason she was able to hike faster, but, really, she was just ready to be not hiking and knew the faster she got there, the sooner she could be done.

And then an amazing thing happened.We made it back to Double Springs Gap hut that we had passed the night before. There were a couple ladies there and they just raved over B and how awesome she was doing, and how amazed they were. I literally saw her straighten up and, after a short break there, when we took off again, she had a new confidence. And suddenly her attitude was 100% better.

From then on out, she slowed down a bit, but she was happily finding centipedes (we called them huffle-pedes because they are the colors of the Hufflepuff house from Harry Potter 😉), mushrooms (“fairy umbrellas and pools”) and other magical sites and creatures.

I was looking at my watch, tempted to tell her to hurry. But I knew I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t take away that little bit of joy that she was finding in the midst of a hard trial.

Can you find the centipede?

And the sun started to peak out a bit more that morning.

For my part, I was amazed at how well my knees and hips were actually doing, even with a heavier pack this second day (from taking on B’s sleeping bag).

Laying in bed the night before, worrying about not sleeping and how long the hike out would take that next day, I just kept remembering all those steps we had come down the evening before. All those steps that I would then have to go up with already tired and hurting legs. I envisioned stopping at each one, barely able to haul myself up it. But while I was tired, I was hiking very well. Even up all those steps.

And then we caught up with one of the ladies from the hut. She had overtaken us a while ago, but then kept stopping on the ridges to try to get cell service to contact her husband. After we caught up to her, she gave up on trying to get service and we hiked together for a while. That helped to pass the time admirably as we chatted, getting to know each other.

She took this picture for us since the Sis was on up ahead on the trail.

And then, finally, we were done!

My hubby was waiting for us at the very end of the trail. We were 45 minutes late, the exact amount of time we were late in leaving the hut earlier that morning.

But it was a God thing, because of we had left on time, we would not have gotten to hike and become fast friends with our hiking companion.

And we would not have been able to give her a ride down into Gatlinburg, which I loved being able to do.

And just like that, our trip was officially over.

I will never forget this trip. It has definitely been a highlight of this family vacation.

I learned a lot on this trip. Some things were good (my new pack and sleeping bag rocked!) and some not so good (I don’t think I would have been able to go much faster even without the 6 year old with me – which means a measly mile an hour hiking speed! And, my sleeping pad does not work at all for my particular body issues.)

Overall though, it was a very successful, and to me, enjoyable trip.

We got to see some amazing views, awesome vistas, and magical scenes, and that was without getting to see very much of the actual Smokies.

I thank God for an amazingly beautiful and wonderful, and safe trip. And I can’t wait to go backpacking again!