What is this blog about?

My name is Lori. In August, 2014, I plan to hike the Camino de Santiago trail. Feel free to join me on my adventure by following me on this blog.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

This isn't going to be my usual type of blog post. I have debated for several days about this post. I was planning to keep one particular story to myself until I am finished with my hike. However, one experience that I have had has seemed to make me some kind of "trail celebrity". My loved ones are bound to find out about it eventually from another hikers blogs.  Hearing the story first hand from me is probably best. 

As I hiked to the Woods Hole Hostel, rain pouring on me from what it seemed every direction, my wet clothing clinging to my frame, my feet slosh in my wet boots as I walk through a river which this section of trail has become. One word comes to mind. ADVERSITY.  This word seems to play a theme for the last week of hiking. This trail is very difficult. Even when it's easy, it is difficult, it seems. There are a lot of conditions that make each days hike more or less difficult. We deal with weather, steep climbs and descents, slippery, wet terrain, sharp rocks, unsteady rocks, ankle rolling, knee jarring rocks, biting flies, mosquitoes, ticks, poisonous plants, curious animals, and so on. Someone (actually a lot of people) told me, "as soon as you get out of Georgia, the trail gets so much easier. It really didn't. It had some different elements, some easier, some more difficult. I also heard the same thing about Virginia. I am going to tell you now, the trail never gets easy. We have walked through several fields and pastures since we got to Virginia. Yes, these hill aren't as steep, but guess what? It still offers up some other aspects. Poison ivy and oak are everywhere! In the woods, the trail is a little better defined, in a field, the grass is longer, and so is the poison living in it. I am very cautious with where I step, but still have managed to get itchy poison spots on my foot, hand, leg, and get this...rear end! It's not much different than dealing with the dozens of itchy bug bites I have though. 
The rainy, gloomy weather seems to get me down while hiking. Though staying on the trail is still a huge physical battle, it seems to be turning into quite the mental battle too. Some days, I think to myself, "gosh, this is really miserable. Do I really want to continue?", and then I think of the places I haven't seen yet that are in close reach. Then I think, "okay,  that's my next goal, then I will reassess how I feel" seems there is always something else within reach... I better keep hiking. 

Last week, I had one day in particular that really made me question staying on the trail. It was a nice morning, and we started hiking around 7:30. The guide book made it look like a pretty easy day with the exception of one really long climb. The climb was within the first 9 miles, so  we decided we could handle a 19 mile day. The climb went by fairly quickly, and we had a nice lunch break atop Chestnut Knob. The remainder of the day appeared easy, when looking at the guidebook. It was not. A series of short, steep up/downs full of rocks we had to scramble over for 10 miles. It was after 6 o'clock when we arrived at Jenkins shelter, our destination. I was exhausted! My knees and ankles were hurting from pivoting and balancing over rocks for 5 hours. I had good company at camp. Chronic, Juggler, and I tented, and Subway, Scooter, and Aimster were in hammocks. Voltron kept going because he needed to get to town early the next day. We had dinner, and enjoyed some roasted marshmallows before bed. I was awoken just before midnight. My tent was collapsed on top of me, I was startled, and confused. Did a branch just fall on me? It took me a moment to come to consciousness and start to move. I fumbled to unzip myself from my mummy bag so I could move my arms. Then suddenly, my tent pops back up, and there is no longer any weight on top of me. Still confused at what had just happened, I hear something walking by my tent. I had a hard time finding my head lamp as it had been nocked out of the pocket I keep it in, on the side of my tent. I finally find it, unzip my tent, and lean out for a look. It is so dark outside. I can't see anything, but hear steps still behind my tent, where my light does not reach. I zip my tent up again and wonder what to do. Soon, I hear a loud thud and a holler from where Subway is. "are you okay?", I say. No answer. By now, I see that everyone else is flashing around their lights too. Juggler is nearest to me, and he has a tarp tent that he can see under. I ask him if he saw an animal, but he didn't. He heard something walking for quite some time though. Finally, Chronic pipes up and said, "it was a bear! He slashed right through my tent!" (I'm leaving out a few explicits here. Let's just say he wanted the bear to come back so he could teach it a lesson). Okay, so here is where my panic sets in. I just had a bear on top of me! Why would it do that? I still don't know why. He slashed Chronic's tent first, and Chronic thinks when he yelled at it, he sent it running my way. Then, it headed to Subways hammock, where it swiped at his backpack which was hanging on the end. Turns out he didn't answer me when I asked if he was okay, because the bear was standing right next to him. Once we all were awake and talking, the bear went away. Luckily it never came back. Chronic, Juggles, and I all got out of our tents and huddled close together in the shelter for what would be a sleepless night for me. 
In the morning, I examined Chronic's tent and cringed at the three slash marks. It wasn't a small paw that made those marks. Then I went to my tent. I realized then that my tent was slashed as well. My rain fly is ruined, but my tent body, and more importantly, my physical body is unharmed. All of us are unharmed. 
We still don't understand exactly why the bear did what he did. By all records and studies, black bears stay away from people. We didn't have food in our tents. Our food bags were hung in trees, and the bear made no attempt at them. 
I keep telling myself that if the bear intended on hurting me, I would be hurt. However, it did hurt my spirit. I can't say that I have felt much comfort at night in the woods since then. I contemplated leaving the trail, but was given some good advise to "get back on the horse", so that a fear would not fester in my mind.  The news of the event spread quickly, and the other hikers have been very supportive and caring. Needless to say, it was too dark, and I am still yet to SEE a bear. However, my desire to see one has quickly dwindled. 
Tonight, I am spending my second night at Woods Hole hostel. It has been the perfect place for me to be right now. Today, I enjoyed a wonderful massage after breakfast (which I helped prepare the night before. I now know how to make creme brûlée French toast), yoga in the afternoon, and meditation after dinner (which I also helped prepare). Tomorrow I will head back on the trail. I have some anxiety about it, but I'm going to give it a shot. After two days hiking, I am getting off the trail with a bunch of fellow hikers for a couple days. I am joining a group who has rented a car and a house in Damascus for the trail days celebration. This is convenient, because a rep from Big Agnes (my tent manufacturer) will be there with a new rain fly for me. They will also be able to repair my tent poles that got slightly bent. it's a good time for me to take a break from the trail and get my head back into a good place. 

By the time I post this, I will already be on trail. I don't have service at the hostel, so it will have to wait until I can phone my parents for a little per warning. 

Sorry for the unpleasant post, I know it will worry some people I love. To make up for it, here is a photo of the massage/meditation room in the hostel

The hostel is run by Micheal and Neville, with help from Evan. They have a phenomenal organic farm, and are wonderful hosts. I recommend a visit to this place!


  1. I have been following your blog and updates since April, and have certainly been enjoying your reports. I hope to do the AT sometime down the road.

    But, HOLY COW! I can't believe that happened! Glad you are ok. And I hope you continue on the trail and make it to Khatadin. And, just think, with every mile you walk, it's another mile AWAY from that crazy bear.

    Take care. And good luck.

  2. Listen Mr Bear!!! Don't make me come out there!!! You won't like this mean Mother Bear of the Human Kind! I have friends with guns!!

    Lori, so glad you came through with only a scarred up tent! And a huge story to tell! You need to write a book!!

    I love you more than words can say! I pray every day for you!

    Love Ya Tons!

    1. Poor Mama! You have a strong baby, though.
      Lori's friend Heather

  3. Yikes! Well if you don't have a gun already... get one! Keep going Lori. There is adversity in everything. You don't grow where there is no opposition. Keep it up!


  4. That is so scary, and I can see why you wouldn't want to post about it. But I am glad you did, because it means that you are still around to post! :) I love to hear about your experiences, good and bad. It helps me to prepare my prayers for you.

    So glad you are ok! And Mama O, Nate has plenty of guns too, and we will get that bear!

  5. Well, you've seen paw prints, tents slashed, and even handily survived a literal run-in with a big bear...I wouldn't worry about not seeing one yet!! You're our hero just for what you've done so far! I'm told a thru-hike is mental, "everything else" is just a walk. You're doing great. I'll send some Florida Sunshine your way.

  6. I'm so glad you posted this story. It will mean a lot to many people. Mostly of your courage to keep going when the going gets tough. This is NOT girls camp! But talk about an adventure that will be admired by generations to come! I hope by the time you read this your spirits have been lifted and that you will continue your journey. You aspiring to all of us that will never have the guts to do what you are doing! and I just have to add that all of us that have been praying for your safety...our prayers have been answered and we will continue to pray for your sucess! Kristen in WJ

  7. Lori, I pray for your safety every day. I hope and pray that you are safe. I admire your courage and tenacity . You are the bravest girl I know. You hang in there...I know you want this so much, and I really believe the hardest part is behind you. If anyone can do this...you can. I will be waiting for you with the biggest hug ever. Love, K. (aka Work Momma)

  8. Wow, my heart was pounding just reading that post! I'm glad you took the time for a massage and yoga. Taking care of yourself is such a good idea. Oh the stories you will tell!! One foot in front of the other.....you'll be fine. Have you run into Bob and Suzie from Sarasota? Bobby's mother thinks you guys are around the same area. Be well and think positive thoughts.
    xo Susan

  9. You have incredible stories and tell them so well. You don't want us to worry about you but how can we help not worrying. I am glad you are hiking with a group and not alone. I know you are having the time of your life so stay safe, dry and healthy. Thanks for posting your adventures and pictures. You are well on your way. Vicki

  10. Lori, I hope all your friends on the trail continue to encourage you. I applaud your courage and strength! That is one horrendous story! I think the bear just needed to rest his butt while he contemplated his next move, then got up and moved! Amazing! I would have changed MY underwear, I'm tellin ya!!!!!

  11. Aahhh, the Appalachian Trail. This is what the trail is all about. Lori, guess what....there will be many more of these adventures and stories and when you finish, they won't happen again and you'll miss it ~ so be careful but enjoy.

    Way to go girl. Tell all on the trail me - ( trail name peakseeker ) says hello.

    Maine is just over that next Hill.....

  12. As I look at your latest pic, I realized why the bear didn't attack you. Dang girl, you are all skin and bones! To him, you'd be just a snack! Hahahahaha! Kidding aside, I'm glad you are doing so well. Stay safe. Hike on!

    Mike B.
    Riverview, FL

  13. Keep the courage Lori!

    -Andrew B.
    Columbus, Ohio

  14. Hope things are looking up after your little rest Lori. You are an amazing gal, and you can do anything you set your mind to. Keep up the good work!

  15. When you get to NY (near Bear Mountain) I will come see you in Harriman State Park! Keep up the great trekking... you write beautifully and I'm enjoying the pictures! Safe Journeys Passion, stay well and while moving along on Memorial Day, remember those who helped to make what you do possible.
    God Bless

    1. Yay, something to look forward to in NY! :)