Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Magic of Magic

**Added photos to this post below.

So I know I've mentioned trail magic before but I'm not sure I've elaborated on the potent joy it brings to a thru-hiker. The last few days have brought a windfall of some serious trail magic.

Right now I'm sitting in a cool air-conditioned kitchen overlooking a 500-acre dairy farm. I kid you not. We're near Buena Vista and Glasgow but more specifically, I don't know where we are. We met this guy Vachon (means tender of cattle in French) on the trail whose wifey poo Mary Lynn has taken a bunch of us in. Vachon is further up on the trail in the Shenandoahs but we're crashed at his pad. Brahma, The Thinker, Freefall, Twinkletoes, Cookie Monster and myself. I'm getting ready to make dinner - tortellini and meat sause - but first I'm eating some of the best homemade potato salad ever and sitting here at this superb residence.

Lately Dustan and I have been hiking with a super cool guy The Thinker. Thinker is from the upper peninsula in Michigan. He is a ski instructor and he actually works on a CSA! The CSA where he works has an artisan apple cider press, a veggie operation, a chicken coop, berries, its own irrigation system, 50 shareholders and it supplies local restaurants and grocery markets with fresh food. Dude, we have tons to talk about. Thinker is awesome.

The heat is ridiculous. Sweat comes out of our pores with little to no effort and we drink water like it's our profession (well, it kinda is our profession). The swimming holes are amazing. Today we came to the James River and jumped off the bridge and lounged in the water. We popped out and found some small trail magic (Trident, a bag of Jelly Bellies, box of Krispy Kreme donuts, Swiss Cake Rolls and 5 tall cans of lukewarm Coors Light) someone had left. That's when Mary Lynn came and picked us up.

I know I'm miserably behind in photos. There are so many photos I want to share. The pic of me when I cut my face (but it's completely healed now), 2 rad butterflies, ponies, our first motel pool experience, Thinker's nosebleed and today's pictures of bridge jumping. I will try to jump back on the computer tonight after the pasta feed and upload pictures.

Just one last story of trail magic. A few days ago Thinker, Brahma and I rolled in to Catawba on the cusp of a deluge with a need for shelter and food and nothing around but a gas station. Fortunately they made burgers (and they were good) but there were no hotels, no cabs, and the nearest towns were Roanoke and Salem. So about 9 of us soggy hikers ate about all of the Little Debbie cakes we could and then decided to start making phone calls to local taxi services. We kept on coming up empty. Finally this woman steps out of her minivan and says "Excuse me, I couldn't help overhearing - are you all looking for a place to stay?" We say yes. Chaco speaks up and says "You could just take us home with you," jokingly and she stands there for a sec with hands on hips and goes "You know what, get in. That's what I'm going to do."

Two shuttles later, we are ALL at Trena's house. She has 2 older kids. She has multiple pull-out beds, a full fridge and more hospitality than she knows what to do with. We all did laundry. We all showered. We ate tons of food and went through pots (plural) of coffee. The next morning she had a dentist appointment so she left the house to us and the keys to the pick-up truck. It was insane. Trail magic.

You have about a week to get mail to this address:
The Balkcoms
Post Office
Waynesboro, VA 22980
Please hold for AT thru-hiker

**Carl and Scottie we will be in Waynesboro by the 16th but we will call you as soon as tonight.**

The next one is Linden, VA 22642.

Ok, I think that is all the time I have now. I have to chop veggies for a salad and get the pasta boiling because Mary Lynn is on her way home from picking up 2 more hikers. Dinnertime in a real house! Sleeping in a real bed! Never ever ever take these simple luxuries for granted. If you need help appreciating them, sleep in your backyard tonight and eat breakfast with the gnats in the morning.

**Photo update:


Overlooking Burke's Garden, "God's thumbprint" - a verdant valley in a peculiar basin.

Wild pony in the Grayson Highlands.

Lily of the valley. This is for the Seasons gang. $8 a stem, right?

A blaze backdropped by a mountain range.

The Grayson Highlands.
Ok, this was my harsh reminder to look up more when wearing a cap. I basically smacked right into this tree, cut my face open and we kept on going.

On the mend.
Action shot.
Sweet! We found a burned piano in front of a spooky old burned hotel.

A deer in the woods that stalked us. She was so meek and sweet. She followed us .04 miles.
Reunited in Pearisburg with our friends, the Canadians Buck and Fleur.

Friends at a hiker feed: Captain, former thru-hiker, The Thinker, Last Minute, Brahma, Rabid and Pick.
Brahma in a stream. This is what you call a lunch break.

Dust caught a black snake.

Me on Dragon's Tooth. Here's the infamous Trena in her garage. Brahma, Sweet Potato, Trena, Johnny Thunder, The Thinker, her son Ian, Wack-a-pack and Chaco. Once again: uh.mazing.

The Thinker in his class "Thinker" pose on top of McAfee's Knob. Most photographed spot on the AT.

There's my tank of a husband on the same spot. Just looking at this picture causes me to wince.
I prefer the safer pose.

Once up there we realized we'd hit a milestone. 700 miles!
The pool in Daleville was our rich reward. How many times did I long to revisit this spot just hours later as we trudged up a sweltering climb, literally soaked in sweat?
Dustan's pack on the way out of town. You can always tell by the produce.

And I'm trying to air-dry my skirt and skivvies. Worked great in the heat.

History in the making. Ugh. Back to the woods.

Hikers crossing. That means keep it between the mayo and the mustard people, because you almost took my nose off. The Thinker and The Honeybee.
The butterfly and its kin, the backpack.
Ladyslipper. Another shout out to Seasons. Why it's tempting to do everything inside a tent nowadays. Why, if I were a guy, I would employ the chamber pot. Because insects are unrelenting from here on out.

Flat walking baby!
And last, one of my favorite places we've camped so far. Right in the middle of a cow pasture overlooking an amazing sunset.

Our bombproof MSR Hubba Hubba tent has taken us through every kind of weather possible and comes out on the other side with a gleaming 5-star review.



Anonymous said...

i love your updates. i spent several weeks in the foothills of kenya/uganda with no comforts of home, least of all electricity! sleeping in a bed after that was like a nap in heaven. :)

love, carrie

Toni Jill said...

I love the new posts and pictures. You all are on such an awesome adventure and I am totally envious - at times....Ha ha! Remember that I am so proud of you and praying every step (literally) of the way! ~Love, Toni Jill

Anonymous said...

Hi, Guys! Thanks for sharing your AT Experience. We are living vicariously through you, lol. If you ever feel the urge to change 5000 diapers and drive a mini-van you can live vicariously through us. (Unless you decide to have four kids of your own then we'll figure out something else.) Happy hiking! May the sites be more beautiful than yesterday! And may the cool gentle breeze blow through your hair! Keep those pictures coming!

The Trent Tribe (Brian, Amanda, Katie, Gracie, Emrie and Judah)

Bethany said...

Wow!!! What incredible photos. And how kind of Trena to take you all in! Good times! So what day are you hoping to hit Linden?

Nicole said...

Hey! I randomly found your blog by hitting "next blog" and think that you guys are awesome! I had never heard of walking the Appalachian Trail before, and it sounds really neat. Hard.. and Weather weathering I'm sure, but fun!

So good luck! :)


Anonymous said...

Hey Dustan and Betsy!!! We are just LOVING these updates. what an exciting wonderful adventure you're on!!! These pictures and stories were just great.... keep them coming when you can! Appreciate these moments of not only fun togetherness but intimate moments with the Creator of all you live in day in and day out!!!

Pamie and Greg Hurley

Kevin Doll aka StinkyKD said...

LOVE the new photo's - and nice cut there Sweet P. Sounds like you came back with a vegence! Just checked in at Harpers Ferry yesterday and taking a zero today. Heat and Bugs REALLY suck. thanks for giving a shout out to my blog - though I'm a Missouri kid - not Kansas. : )
miss you guys.

Anonymous said...

Hey Guys! awesome pictures! I know for sure I wouldn't survive out there for more than a couple days-- max. I think about you all often and miss you tons!!!!! I'm due with Baby Eden in 8 weeks. Any chance you'll move back to the Burg?? ...


Kelly said...

Betsy and Dustin!! It's Kelly Bailey and Morgan from Wmsbg.!! You guys ROCK!! We are so proud, excited and happy for you two. What an amazing adventure. I totally understand the hot cofffee warm bed thing though. We live in Boulder now so you are welcome to stay anytime!! I'm just so thrilled and honored to know you both. The TIDE continues to rock, but now we listen to KBCO here in CO. Betsy you actually look even pretier with dirt on your face and no shower after all of this hiking!!?? How is that possible? You look just radiant! Love the huge beard Dustin! Congrats again on a life long adventure.
Kelly and Morgan

Anonymous said...

I'm proud of you guys to see the country the way it was, back to nature. Hope that you both have a healthy and happy NEW YEAR...yeah 2009....now what are you going to do to TOP that? Reality....WORK?
Your Friend
Vivian Getting