Monday, June 17, 2013

Grim Determination

"Not very many people have traveled as much as you have. Why do you do it?"

"Well, I don't know. I suppose some people are cave-dwellers. Some people live in houses. Others prefer loose-footing. I'm a ramblin' man."


On Saturday Dumptruck, Whistle and I hiked 44 miles in 18 hours. FORTY FOUR MILES. IN 18 HOURS.

Grim hiked 53. 

This is one of those tales that may need rewriting in the future, as I think it is a goldmine of adventure and idiocy- the perfect recipe for a good story. However, due to the aforementioned 44 miles in 18 hours, my literary capacity is not at 100%. Thus I present to you a barely fleshed-out skeleton outline of the day. 

All four of us had set out together to do the quad-state challenge, which is one of the many invented mini-quests within the AT. There is nothing official about it. I believe that someone somewhere was looking at the map and decided that the terrain looked manageable enough that he could walk from Virginia, through West Virginia, through Maryland and into Pennsylvania in one day. Not to be outdone, a few hikers every year since then decide to take on this personal challenge. I did it for four reasons:

1. Idiocy
2. Bragging rights
3. When else in my life will I be in the sort of physical shape that this could even be entertained? I should try.
4. So I can finally justify the pair of truck-nutz on my pickup truck.

Here are the things that happened, starting Friday night and ending with Saturday night:

- Whistle, Dumptruck, Grim and I plan to get out to the trail at Keys Gap by 6pm so we can hike the 3 miles to the VA-WV border, and be asleep by 7 or 8.

- We arrive at pickup spot at 6pm.


- Due to an unfortunate and accidental vaudevillian show of events with our ride, we do not arrive at Keys Gap until 10pm.

- We had planned to get up at 3am, so deciding that sleep was more important than 3 miles, we collectively agree that if we can hike 44 miles, we can hike 47.

- A large black widow spider crawls over Whistle's tent. We do not take this as a bad omen. We should have.

- We are in our tents by 10:30pm, camping at Keys Gap.

- Because my brain takes sick delight in torturing me, I sleep like a colicky baby. I get maybe 3 hours of sleep.

- 3am: alarm

- No reaction

- 3:30am: alarm

- No reaction 

- 4:20am: "GuuUUUuuyyyss...??" 

- Groaning. 

- Encouragement for movement.

- Rebuttal.

- Questioning of manliness.

- Begruding movement.

- Consumption of caffeine.

- Hiking by 5am.

- Arrival in Harper's Ferry (7.5miles) at 7am.

- High-Fives!

- Cross the river to the C&O Towpath

- Great speed! Happiness! Good feeling!

- 3 miles on the path. Over 10 miles done for the day!

- Pause...

- Confusion regarding lack of White Blazes

- Close consultation of map.

- After the bridge we had needed to go to the East.

- We had walked 3 miles West.

- Moment of silence.

- Explosion of noise!

- General flailing and gnashing of teeth.

- No one blames anyone, as we all 4 didn't look close enough at the map, so no one is angry at anyone but themselves.

- Realization that now we will have to hike the 3 miles back (6 miles total out of the way). Added to the 47 miles, in order to get to the Pennsylvania border, we will need to hike a total of 53 miles. FIFTY THREE MILES. That's over two marathons.

- Decision to try anyway.

- Whistle and Grim pull ahead in speed, and Dumptruck and I continue not far behind.

- Accomplishment of 25 miles before noon (7 hours of hiking). 28 miles left.

- DT and I find Grim and Whistle at noon. Trail magic at Civil War memorial- picnic food and drinks from a thru-hiker (Wolfe)'s family!

- Grim and Whistle hike on, DT and I eat lunch.

- Hiking

- 26.2 miles. Passing of first marathon.

- DT has no iPod (he put it through the laundry 3 weeks into the trail), so I play music from my iPod speakers all day. We blaze through the forest with a soundtrack.

- Whistle found a shower. There was also a puppy to play with for 15 minutes.

- Things get a little blurry at this point.

- Sun starts to go down. 39 miles completed. 15 miles left.

- DT and I find Whistle. Grim is far ahead, because he is an incredible specimen of a human. GOD HOW DID YOU MAKE THAT MAN?!

- DT's left foot is hurting him. We take and inventory. Between the 3 of us we have taken: 25 caffeinated beverages, 35 advil, and 3 sudafed. I feel okay, but fatigued. Whistle's hands are shaking from caffeine. We decide to keep going.

- The sun has gone down. It is pitch-dark, and I can see nothing but the back of Whistle's feet in the pool of light from my headlamp.

- Rocks. So many rocks. Foot stress exponentially increasing.

- Still going fast- We hike 5 miles in 90 minutes. 

At this point I want to take a break from the bullet list because I want to dedicate some time to the hilarious mental degradation of Whistle. Her brain was breaking down with the speed of halflife of radioactive material. She suddenly started cursing the trail, hurling insults into the darkness. When that wasn't enough, every 5 minutes she would pick up a baseball-sized rock and throw it down the trail as hard as she could (when we weren't near any shelters or campers, I promise). She would laugh like a hyena being tickled, and then spit curses and punch at the air. I narrated her movements out loud as a way to keep my own self sane. I was starting to have visual hallucinations, and the place where my achilles tendon attaches to my bone was shrieking in pain.

We made it to a road, and had officially walked 44 miles. We knew that if we went to sleep, we were absolutely not hiking the next day, and wanted/needed the ability to get into town. There were no other roads until past the border. So it was 44 or 53. 

Grim was texting us, telling us he was a few miles to the end but was moving like a snail (after hours of a 4 mph pace). Grim is an incredible hiker, and also doesn't complain. His ankles had been swollen when we last saw him, looking like there were gobstoppers under his skin. And yet he hiked on. 

The other 3 of us knew we couldn't go on. I made eye contact with Dumptruck as we sat for a bit, tears starting to swell in my eyes from the pain of tendonitis. Whistle rolled on the ground, feet in the air, clutching her stomach and laughing uproariously. We knew if we kept going we'd get seriously injured. 

We had hiked 44 miles, in 18 hours, on 3-4 hours of sleep, with full packs on, over beautiful (but very rocky in sections) terrain.

We didn't make it to Pennsylvania, but we consider that we successfully completed the 4-state-challenge, as the challenge is 44 miles in 24 hours. If we had been able to start at the actual border of WV-VA, and hadn't gotten lost, 44 miles of hiking would have put us over the border. But we added 9 miles, and hobbled ourselves.

Once we started to set the tent up, I couldn't stand up from the pain of my ankles. Dumptruck set up the whole tent and helped me into it, being a hero once again. 

After a few minutes in her tent, Whistle's dementia faded and her pain set in, but she didn't complain. She had led us through the darkness, and didn't slow down or lose hope. She's a gentleman and a scholar. Also I love her.

I now want to take a moment and acknowledge that Grim ACTUALLY FINISHED IT. We all met up in Waynesboro, PA, on Sunday morning. DT, Whistle and I got a hitch into town from a fantastically kind lady named Rachel. Grim had an insane journey, and barely even had the energy for a hug. We 3 didn't like being separated that night from him, because even though he's amazing, what we were doing was still stupid and scary. We were worried, but also knew that we'd made the right choice because if the terrain at the end was kicking his butt, it would have killed us. But he crossed the Mason-Dixon line that night. 


Champions all around.

And now we will hike an average of 10 miles a day until we are back to normal. 

Clever Girl

This is the photo that Grim took as he passed the Mason-Dixon line at 1am. HERCULES.


  1. Awesome! By the way, if you ask a thesaurus (the world's smartest dinosaur) for synonyms for "awesome" you get a wide mix of things, including: alarming, astonishing, awe-inspiring, awful, beautiful, breathtaking, daunting, dreadful, exalted, fearful, fearsome, formidable, frantic, frightening, grand...and that's just up to the "G's" (we should add "geez"!) This eclectic mix describes what you have done perfectly! Way to push yourselves, and way to realize when it was time to opt out. 44 miles with full packs in the summer is something a Marine would complain about. We are very proud of you! Take it slow for the next few days and reflect on your awesomeness (and all those other related words). Love and kisses, Mom and Dad

  2. You guys are the most lovable, accomplished, entertaining fools that I know:-)

    Mama Whistle

    1. This is, without a doubt, the greatest compliment I have ever received. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Love!

  3. My southern pride is offended by your lack of political correctness...can we please say "brass Balls" in place of "truck-nuts"?..gaaahhhhh...ha!...keep on keepin on!

    Go Dawgs!

    1. Haha! I'll make sure to remember that :)

  4. We echo your special shout out to Grim for his 53 miles...double marathon. Awesome, indeed! Love, Mom and Dad

  5. Hi Clever Girl! I'm interested in hiking the AT after I graduate college in two years and stumbled onto your blog a few weeks ago. It's a hilarious, sometimes heart-wrenching, marvelous read. Thanks for capturing it so well! You've stirred some adventurous spirit in me.

    Congratulations on your crazytown undertaking!

    1. Hello Alys!
      Thanks so much for following! You definitely should hike it, it has been a marvelous experience. When you start prepping for it, reach out to me! I'd be happy to answer any questions or help out :)

  6. Hi Clever Girl,
    Last summer, my husband, Daddy Long Legs, and I hiked from Harpers Ferry to Pinkham Notch. This year, we will be starting at Pinkham Notch and finish at Katahdin. We'll be out on the trail July 27th. Your blog is one of the most amazing blogs I've read and I'm really hoping we cross paths in Maine. Have fun and keep safe. Flicka

    1. Hey Flicka! I'm adding your blog to my google reader right now, and I hope we are able to connect in Maine. Thanks for reaching out!