Dreams create motivation to plan.

This is the scene that caught me today.

I drove along I-40 through Arizona this morning, watching my surroundings slowly come into view below a dark pastel-gradiated sky from the blackness of night above to a rich orange where it met the horizon. The miles flew past. As I left them behind, the more the sky lit up and the warmer the desert sage, sand and distant mountains appeared. I found myself daydreaming about losing myself in that scene – the one right outside my truck window. I’ve worked on lessening my daydreams like this one – not because I want to, because they oftentimes keep me going – but because they can hurt. I mean, to be completely honest with you, it’s literally made me cry at times. Sometimes I want it so bad – to throw a backpack on and just disappear into that sage brush, heading for those mountains – that I’ll just cry. It’s an emotion that’s not really a bad one just because it brings tears to the surface – I feel fortunate to have them. I have them because I’ve had experiences and adventures that have lit that undying spark in me, and now that spark is easily triggered to ignition by, sometimes, a simple, perfect scene. Like this one. It strikes in just the right way. This time I held back the tears, but the feelings were all there. I could smell the sage, feel the sand shift under each step and the cool morning breeze brush against my cheeks. And the best part? The overwhelmingly beautiful sense of freedom that is impossible to describe. It came over me like a wave, but quickly subsided. There’s only one way to hold on to that magic, and that is to get lost and live in a long walk. 

Another Arizona scene through a truck window. Mountains be keepin’ me wantin’.

My current situation is enjoying a team truck driving career with Adam, whittling away at student loan debt and having a fun time not having to live paycheck to paycheck for the first time ever. But this lifestyle doesn’t really lend itself to extravagant, lovely, super-long, amazing thru-hikes. And as much as I miss it, as often as it can hurt to dream about (in such a good way), and how badly I want to run off and just frickin’ do it while ignoring all consequences – it’s just that (for now) – a dream. 

I’ve had dreams before, though. To hike across the country. To run a marathon. To finish the Frozen Otter. To be free of credit card debt. To thru-hike the PCT. And guess what? Dreams create motivation to plan. And those dreams I just listed? They all came to life. So I’ll never stop. They’ll eventually happen if I keep it alive long enough. 

So… Now what, then? Well, a compromise. I can’t run off for six months for a long thru-hike, but I can take time off for a shorter one. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do. All my daydreaming is motivating me to start planning my next backpacking trip. It’ll be this summer. Adam and I will road trip in our PJ2, the Subie, and enjoy our time together. Then I’ll hike for several days and we’ll road trip back home. 

Where? 

The Wonderland Trail. A 93-mile loop that circumnavigates Mt. Ranier in Washington state. This trail has been high on my wish list for years, and the time is now. Adam is going to help me make it happen and be a part of it, too. What else could I ask for!? 

So with a backpacking trip in the works, I can drive past these beautiful mountains, prairies, deserts, and even cross over some long trails (I swear I can feel a pull when I drive past them!), without feeling too much sadness and want. It’s just enough to make me experience that love, that heartbreak, that want – and smile. I think that’s why I was able to hold back the tears today. 

But seriously, I still want to just frickin’ do it! But I won’t. Maybe. 

Went for a run and never came back. But I did. This time.

Tonight I love blueberries. They were the last thing I ate today, and they were amazing. 

Let’s play catch up!

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Bonneville salt flats, Utah. Always beautiful.

I miss you, bloggity blog and faithful readers/friends! I am happy to be back. I don’t know why I go in these streaks where I just don’t write. Busy? Lazy? Bored? I don’t know. But I’m still here and the trucking adventure continues to continue. In between driving, inspecting, backing, loading, unloading, fueling, securing, logging, sleeping, eating, and more driving, other things have been happening, too.

Let’s see. A little catch up. I started running again, which has been a great experience, except that I got a little too excited about it and maybe did a little too much a little too soon. I’m currently nursing a sore hip, which I think is a strained IT band – some muscle and tissue that stretches from your hip down the outside of your leg and kind of wraps underneath the bottom of your knee, connecting to the shin bone. I’m no expert, so I may have that screwed up (experts, please correct me if I’m way off on that).

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A run in North Dakota to visit Salem Sue, the world's largest Holstein Cow.

You see, the excitement started with my discovering a friendly Facebook page for truckers that are runners, like me. There are some obvious challenges to being an over-the-road trucker that needs to find places to run that are safe – from traffic and creepers. I mean, I’m not going to run just anywhere because I don’t want to end up in ghetto-ville. Unless I’m carrying my three-pound hammer/tire thumper. And I’m not going to run carrying a three-pound anything. Running is tough enough!

So anyway, this Facebook community has shown me a few routes already that I’ve taken advantage of. There’s a trail in Utah where I can park on a ramp and run up part of a mountain where it smells like juniper trees and fresh air.

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Utah

There’s a park in Evanston that has trails that wind along a river where wild moose are known to roam, and I hope to see sometime I’m out there. And there’s a 1.8-mile trail in that leads to the Arizona Trail, which is an 800-mile long-distance hiking trail that stretches the length of Arizona from north to south. My favorite!

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Can't wait to get back out here again!

So I got excited and I ran as much as I could when I got any opportunity, since they’re hard to come by. Then I did some speed work when I was short on time. Then my hip hurt. Now I’m taking time off and I miss it already. So there’s that. I hope to be back up and literally running soon.

We’ve also had a little time off. In early February we took a weekend so I could join my group of girlfriends for our annual “Big Box Tour,” which is a name we’ve given our girl’s weekend.

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Girls eating yummy paella and drinking wine.

We’re pretty low-key. We hang out, catch up, eat, drink, talk about getting old, act childish, cuss, laugh, shop, play, and just have fun together. This year we went tubing, colored in an adult coloring book of swear words, ate paella, enchiladas, and morning egg-bake, watched TV, compared ourselves to the Golden Girls, and suffered from Poo-pourri poisoning and gut-blasting laughter. I love those girls, and our annual get-together is especially important to me now that I don’t see them as regularly as I did when I worked with most of them.

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Tubing fun!

In March Adam and I took a full week off and rented a very cabin-y cabin in Door County.

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Super cabiny cabin!

Some highlights were wine tasting, having a campfire in the fire pit outside, couples massages, dressing up and going out for a fancy dinner, driving to the tip of Door County and back, getting snowed in for a day and hunkering down, playing lots of cribbage, having our own private basement frat-style party complete with drinking games, enjoying a shower every day, and taking advantage of the kitchen. Adam made tons of delicious french-pressed decaf coffee, omelettes, and even pork egg roll patties – a new favorite of mine. On his birthday I baked him a butter cake in a bundt pan and it actually turned out really freakin’ perfect. It was a great vacation and very relaxing. Door County is pretty quiet in late March and a lot of businesses are closed for the winter season, but we enjoyed the quietness of it all. That place gets nuts in the summer and fall with the touristy seasons. We’d do it the same way again. March is more our speed.

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Adam enjoying some wine tasting.

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The butter cake I baked!

Other than those few things, I’ve gone on a couple of day hikes. One was in January on a snowy, cold, sunny day and the other was a fantastic 20-mile jog/hike a couple of weeks ago. It was cold with hardly any signs of spring yet to be seen, and it even snowed. But it was still great and felt awesome to push myself a little bit. I was surprised to find that I could have easily done more than 20 miles, so I’m looking forward to another long day hike soon to see if I can creep closer to my current limit. Should I go for 25? 30? I dunno!

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January's wintery day hike.

The driving and working side of things has been going pretty well. I mean, I haven’t had too much to write about simply because things have been fairly smooth. I guess that’s a good thing. We’ve had a couple of interesting weight issues, having to get our freight reworked or cut, and a couple of times we even had to keep our fuel below a certain level to keep our load legal… which is a pain in the butt. But that’s been about it. No blown tires or breakdowns, and we’ve managed to miss or intentionally drive around some pretty major winter storms (mostly Wyoming) – oh! Except for the wind storm! We did end up stuck in Laramie for two days because of 75 mph winds. I forgot about that – I probably should’ve written about that. It was kind of crazy. We’ve never really had to sit somewhere that long, but thankfully we were at a pretty big truck stop, so we had bathrooms, showers and a restaurant to keep us occupied.

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I went for a run in that wind. It was blowing me all over the road!

This was also the first time we missed our deliveries. So we ended up delivering on Monday (instead of Friday), then driving a load to Iowa where we met another driver and switched trailers. He delivered our load and we took his to California to get us back on our regular program. It was an interesting couple of weeks.

So now that I’ve caught y’all up with a super long-winded, boring blog entry, maybe something super-exciting, but good, will happen that I can be long-winded about! Haha! Actually, I’m thinking about doing an entry showing what Adam and I eat on a normal day in the truck, and eventually one that shows some of my workouts and ways I keep active out here. It’s tough, but I’m staying determined to keep it up.

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You might be surprised to see what we normally eat while we're on the road.

Is there anything else any of you would like me to write about? Let me know!

In the meantime, enjoy yourselves, and thanks again for following along with me. I look forward to sharing my next big hiking adventure with you. I have a mini-long-distance trail in the works. It’s a longer trail, but one I only need some vacation time for. But I’ll leave ya’ hanging there! I’ve got more research, planning and decision-making to do before I can even really get too excited about it.

Onward!

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Love from the Grapa Truckers!


Tonight I love comfy beds. Lordy, we need a new, firmer mattress in our truck!

The first day, 10 years ago

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Mom and I on top of the mountains in Colorado on the American Discovery Trail.

Ten years ago today my mom and I hiked our first 21.5 miles together on The American Discovery Trail after dipping our toes in the Atlantic Ocean. We were headed west towards the Pacific Ocean, over 4,600 miles away. On foot. Living out of our backpacks. And guess what? We frickin did it, too!

I can’t believe it’s been ten years since those first steps. Isn’t it crazy how fast time goes by sometimes? I prefer to not really think about it too hard. I start to feel rushed. Overwhelmed. There are so many more things I have yet to do. But for now, I guess, one at a time. Gotta keep sane somehow!

But everything has a start. This one’s a doozy. Years before those first steps I got really, really sick. Aplastic Anemia. Bone marrow failure. Ugly. I kinda almost died and stuff. But then I got better. And know what? I stayed better. Then I decided to do something big. Super big. I decided to go on my first thru hike. With my mom. All the way across America – the long way. First and foremost, to live big. But also to raise awareness for a disease that struck me, for no reason, that at the time hardly anyone had ever even heard of. Well, that had to change.

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I still have this bandana. It's thin and still has mom's on-trail stitches holding it together. One of my favorite things.

On February 4, 2006 my dad, Keith, and husband, Adam, saw us off on a cold morning in Delaware. Our first steps were on sand, then pavement, then trail, dirt, gravel, ice, snow, grass, leaves… We talked to people in small towns, big towns, along country roadways, to newspapers, radio stations, cameras and even Congress. We raised a bunch of research funds. We laughed, we cried, we suffered, we loved, we blistered and burned. We got too hot, too cold, too thirsty, and never got hungry. But only because we ate – a lot. Well, maybe we got hungry for burgers and milkshakes. There were sunrises, sunsets, stars, mountains, prairies, wheat fields, endless roadways, canyon mazes, pine forests, rain, hail, lightning, sun, wind, desert, and everything in between. It was a thru hike. It was my first, it wouldn’t be my last, and it was amazing. And it was the best beginning to more adventure than I could imagine. And still can’t. There’s that much more to come. It’s life, man.

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So, yup. The adventure of a lifetime. What a way to start. I still think about some part of that first hike every single day. There will be no way to ever repeat such a perfect experience, even though I oftentimes find myself wishing that were possible. I’ve come away with some pretty great memories and bring them up often. It will live on forever.

So, I guess, mission accomplished.

Happy trailversary to me and mom!

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Below is a link to my first journal entry from our first day. From there, if you want, you can read daily entries from the entire 9-month journey! Get comfy and grab some popcorn! Or wait for the book of stories that I swear WILL happen. Eventually!

February 4, 2006 – Day 1 on the ADT.

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Yes. This.

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Me, Hickory and mom above the clouds. Hickory was a hiking friend that joined us for a couple of weeks. Such fun memories!

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Sometimes you take what shade you can get. Life can be as simple as a culvert making you happy and comfortable.

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At the Pacific Ocean. We finished on October 28, 2006.

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Cheating? Nah...

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Tonight I love adventure. And whatever is next.

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

The Knobstone Trail, part two. The hike, day 4.

Part two
The hike

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Day 4
Saturday, 10/10/15
5.5 miles

I awoke in the middle of the night to a pack of coyotes yipping and howling not too far from me – but just far enough that I wasn’t concerned. It was very a cool thing to listen to. Ahhh, nature. And then someone’s dog started to bark in reply. And another. Soon after they quieted down I was back asleep. This went on throughout the night. At midnight I woke up, enjoying the late-night wildlife serenade once again, but this time I wasn’t able to fall back asleep. I actually contemplated getting up and making a small campfire just for something to do. I think I finally fell back asleep around 2am. I woke up feeling rested, though. I think I get my best sleep on the trail. And as it turns out, even alone in the tent. I wasn’t freaked out at all any of the nights I was out there. This makes me so happy. Or maybe I’m just so tired by the time I get to camp that it doesn’t matter what’s going on outside my tent. It’s a strategy that works if you’re afraid of the creatures of the night!

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For breakfast I had the same oatmeal sludge as the past two mornings. About halfway in I started to struggle with it. I used to eat oatmeal every single morning for years when I worked in the office, and I loved it. I looked forward to it every day. Then I hiked the PCT in 2013 and towards the end I just couldn’t stomach the stuff no matter what I added to it. Even chocolate didn’t work! It was a sad day when I realized I just couldn’t eat oatmeal anymore. But since then, I’ve had it here and there and it’s been pretty good. I guess it’s good until day three. This trip confirmed that two days in a row is my new oatmeal limit. I finished it, but it was tough. I needed the energy for my last stretch, and I was just about out of food. I guess I planned well! All I had left were a couple of true lemon flavor packets, two honey packets, a piece of fruit leather, and my emergency Ramen. Perfecto.

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Oatmeal sludge a third morning in a row. Blecht. So sad.

The first few miles were flat, wide trail, and I actually made good time for once! The trail was too wide for spiders and their webs, so that helps! The sun was shining, the tree’s leaves were turned all kinds of vibrant yellows, oranges and reds, and the sky popped through in its vivid, lively blue. It was a perfect day.

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Wide, pretty, nearly spider-free trail. For just a few glorious miles.

Just a couple of miles from the end, I popped out on the shore of Spurgeon Hollow Lake. I stood in awe for a few moments just taking it in. First of all, it was water on an otherwise super-dry trail. I didn’t need any to drink, but it almost felt like my skin was soaking in the moisture. It was nice to see. The water was like a mirror, reflecting a rainbow of fall foliage and was covered in a thin layer of fog rolling across it’s surface. It was the perfect scene to finish up my autumn backpacking trip on the Knobstone Trail.

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Spurgeon Hollow Lake.

I arrived at the trailhead at 9:50am, just as Adam was pulling up in the jeep. He scooped me up, brought me to a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone followed by lunch. I was craving fish. So weird. Not a burger, not a steak, not even a beer! I got a brewed decaf coffee and a delicious swordfish steak with steamed broccoli and some french fries. Post-hike meals. Yep. Maybe the real reason I love to hike is because… well, food.

A couple more from the last day:

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Another shot of Spurgeon Hollow Lake.

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One last look up through the golden treetops. It doesn't take money to be rich.

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Delaney Lake, at the northern end of the Knobstone Trail.

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Another boring, ugly shot of the trail and that annoying bright sun. ;)

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And later in the evening, when I felt like drinking a beer? I got this nut brown. And yes, I bought it partly because of the design. It was really good, too!

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Happy Toots! Now if only I could keep hiking! Forever!


Tonight I love the Knobstone Trail. Minus the spiders in the trail.

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

The Knobstone Trail, part two. The hike, day 3.

Part two
The hike

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One of the things I love most about the midwest is the forests. Especially in the fall.

Day 3
Friday, 10/9/15
15 miles

I woke up at 5:30am to the pitch black and started my day. I was feeling great! It was really windy, so I had to be careful taking my tent down so it didn’t blow off the knob I was camped on. For breakfast I made the same oatmeal sludge as the day before, and it was still pretty good. I guess. The hot decaf coffee felt like a treat.

Since I was up so early, I was ready to hike while it was still dark, but I wasn’t really comfortable with that, knowing how tough the trail can be to find at times, so I sat on a log and waited about 10 minutes. By then it was just getting light and I was able to navigate fine with my headlamp. I was hiking by 7:15am.

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Gigantic tree goiter

There weren’t as many spiders in the morning, and I quietly celebrated to myself. It was a good thing, too, because the hills were crazy for the first half of the day. Some were so steep I could’ve glissaded down on my butt if I didn’t mind a little gravel-rash. I chose to just hike it. I thought about coming back in the winter with a sled, though! Oh, and I missed a turn, hiked up a huge hill for a quarter mile, then realized my mistake and hiked back down. Oh, you silly knobstone trail!

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A double blaze. These indicate a sharp turn in the trail or sometimes just a tricky junction. Keep your eyes peeled!

When I got close to Elk Creek Lake, I started fantasizing about it. “I know there’s a boat landing. Maybe there’s a beach. Maybe I can yogi a cold soda off of a fisherman. Ooh, I’m going to make beef stroganoff for lunch! And drink cold coffee! And swim. I hope there’s a beach.”

Just like many forested backpacking lakes in the midwest, it was green, silty, and mostly made for fishing. And there was a boat ramp, but no beach. And no people. I sat in the grass along the edge of the parking lot and made my stroganoff and cold coffee while I waited for my green, silty water treatment to do its thing. Then I stepped into the cold water up to my knees, washed off my filthy, awesome hiker legs and let my eyes roll back in my head from the natural healing affect of cold water on tired feet. What a total morale booster!

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Breaktime pack explosion at Elk Creek Lake.

Just before I left, a DNR truck pulled up to the boat ramp and dumped a tank full of what I assumed were little minnows of some sort. Thankfully I got my water before that. Or had they been there once already that morning? They could’ve been. That water tasted so dirty… I mean like actual dirt, and had a bit of a gritty texture. I don’t know why, but it still surprises me when a stagnant puddle of water tastes better than water from a big lake. I added about three flavor packets and topped it off with an Emergen-C. That’ll fix it, right?

When I arrived at the Oxley memorial trailhead, I was anticipating a road walk of about 2 miles due to timber harvesting, but when I arrived, the pink ribbons and detour signs were all taken down! Great! And in a mile I had my second jug of drinking water that I’d cached. I dumped out my Elk Creek Lake water and refilled my bladder and bottles with the good stuff. Then I moved on.

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An undisturbed water cache. Thankful for the clear, delicious water!

And then I got tired. Man, I was pooped! I took a break and just rested my bones. I ate a Pro-bar and threw a few jelly beans into my mouth, and I could almost feel the sugar coursing through my veins. Yes! Let’s hike!

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This is a "I'm tired and stopping right here in the middle of the trail" kind of break.

A few miles from camp, I was stopped by another spider web. Only bigger. And the spider was different, too. He was quarter-sized. His large, globular butt was bright yellow with black specks and his legs and the rest of his body a bright orange. He was kind of pretty, but those creepy legs! I did not want them on me. I saw one other just like this another mile down the trail, but that was it. Thankfully. The good thing about these being so big and bright, I usually could see them coming, at least. Unlike the other more camouflage guys. Blecht.

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A new variety of spider. Mr. Orange.

I passed up a small campsite under some tall Pines because it was low and felt damp and creepy. I’m glad I did, because I climbed yet another steep hill and found a cute little site at the top, just before a dirt road crossing.

I got set up and put on my nanopuff jacket. My sweat wasn’t totally dry and the temperature had dropped just enough to give me a bit of a chill. Hot decaf was again a really nice treat. Dinner was loaded mashed potatoes with a bacon Epic bar (so delicious!) chopped up in it. I threw in some cheddar cheese, Frank’s hot sauce and threw more potatoes on there in the form of my crushed-up chips. That was the last of ’em. Best trail food ever. We’ll, it’s all good. Most of it. For dessert I had three pieces of Dove dark chocolate with almond butter. So good!

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Camp, night three.

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Mashed potatoes before I dressed them up with meat and cheese.

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Apparently I thought dessert deserved a photo.

I was in bed early again, glad to be resting and reflecting on my journey so far. I only had 5.5 miles to go in the morning. I was excited to see Adam, but fantasized that he’d pick me and take me to eat a big dinner, get some ice cream, sleep in a bed, then I’d resupply my food bag, he’d drop me back off on the trail, and I’d keep on hiking.

It doesn’t matter how long a hike is… It’s never long enough.

A few more photos from the day:

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Morning map reading and journal jotting.

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Makes kind of a cool photo, but also makes me kinda sad. So unnecessary.

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Check out this dude's eyes! So cool!

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Spider check after a big climb. So sweaty, too!

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So many camo critters on this trail!

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A leafy rainbow. Never gets old.

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Stickbug love. I haven't seen a stickbug since I was a kid. Neato!

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I'm really no good at the duck lips, and it's not my kinda thing, anyway... but this tree sure has it down!


Tonight I love food. Especially during a hike.

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

The Knobstone Trail, part two. The hike, day 2.

Part two
The hike

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Too late for most wildflowers, but these little asters were still hanging around.

Day 2
Thursday, 10/8/15
14 miles

I woke up in the dark and crawled out of my tent with my headlamp illuminated, and found a spot to squat for a pee. While I relieved my full bladder, I spotted a really pretty purple-blue, sparkling dew drop on a tree. Or so I thought. After I was done with my pee I walked over and took a closer look. It wasn’t a dew drop. Know what it was? A giant, hairy spider. The “dew drop” was his glowing eyeball! And he was devouring a daddy long leg spider as the poor thing’s long legs twitched around him. I stared, disgusted. His freakin eyes glowed! Like a deer! Like a large, furry mammal! And you know what’s terrifying? When I slowly turned my head and scanned the forest floor with my headlamp, these special little “dew drops” were everywhere! Hundreds. Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t mind spiders – as long as they aren’t on me. In fact, as long as I can safely observe them off of my body, I’m quite intrigued by them. But this new discovery, in addition to the little greasy brown and white guys that lived in the middle of the trail, I was feeling pretty crawly. Too many. Too many spiders!

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One of the big furry guys with the glowing eyeballs. Eek!

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These were the most common spiders I saw. These were the ones I was constantly running into on the trail and having to pick off of me.

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In fact, selfies had a new purpose. Spider check. Here there's one tucked into my braid.

I took down my tent and found a spot that was spider-free to sit and make my breakfast. I mixed a hearty oatmeal with granola, Nido instant whole milk, peanut butter protein powder, hemp seed, flax and cinnamon. It was really good! Maybe I loved oatmeal again! Maybe…

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Cranked up oatmeal. Yum! I think!

At 7:30am it was light enough out that I could turn off my headlamp and get ready to hike. I reached into my pack for my toothbrush and went to brush my teeth. When I returned, I realized I stupidly leaned my pack on my hydration bladder’s mouthpiece, draining the last of my water into my hip belt padding and the leaves below. Awwww, shoot. I had 6 miles to hike these crazy hills with no water. This was when I decided I’m over the bladder thing. Bottles for this girl. Not only did the thing have a slow leak, apparently there’s too much room for user error, too. At least for me. What a demoralizing way to start my day!

Thankfully about a mile into my hike I found a small, clear pool of water to treat. I was surprised how good it tasted, considering it was a calm pool with its floor covered in leaves. What a life-saver! Thanks for providing, trail!

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Clear and floaty-free! From a puddle!

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I mixed up my new favorite drink, too. Plain old chia seeds in water. So plain, but so yum!

At 2pm I stopped to take my shoes off to give my feet a little air and was really happy with how well they were doing in my new Altras. No blisters, although to be fair, I don’t blister that often… You know, because my feet were made for this! Obviously. Hah! I did have some foot fatigue, though, and that actually comforts me. I love that my feet get sore from hiking lots of miles. It reminds me that I’m alive and all that good, deep, sappy stuff. But really… I learned from my two long walks that there is comfort in the discomfort of backpacking, and as much as it can suck at times, I really do love it.

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I love these feet so much. They are good to me, considering what I put them through!

I had tuna with mayo and cheese again for lunch, and I really enjoyed the break – from the stupid spiders, mostly. They were making me crazy-mad just before I stopped. I mean, I was actually getting grumpy! I felt so much better after eating and resting, though, that I chalked the grumpies up to just needing food and rest. There were still spiders the rest of the day, but I was dealing with them with much more patience. Oh, and I stopped for a poo. That might have helped, too.

I found my perfect little campsite – furry spiders and all – on a tall, breezy knob at 5:30. Once the sun went down, the stars came out and it cooled off. I made a mexican rice dinner with Sriracha and Taco sauce, cojack cheese, and potato chips, of course. It was pretty delicious. I did wish I had my tortillas for this one, but it was good out of a bowl, too.

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Camp, night two.

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Dinner. Mexican rice, taco sauce, and cheese. Nom!

I was in my tent at 7:15, feeling content laying horizontal in the dark, listening to the wind through the tall oak trees above me. It was a recipe for a great night’s sleep. And it was.

A few more photos from the day:

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This was one of two abandoned campsites I saw along the trail. They did know tents aren't disposable one-time use items... Right? So weird.

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Just a pretty, leafy trail.

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Drying sweaty clothes. A nightly ritual.

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Chillaxin' time!

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Weirdest bug ever!

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One of several large river beds you cross on the Knobstone Trail. Bone dry. All of them!

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Spot the critter!

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There were quite a few spots that could've used a little maintenance. Blowdowns can be tough to get over or under.

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The most adorable little mushrooms ever!


Tonight I love my feet. Because they’re awesome and so tough!

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)

The Knobstone Trail, part two. The hike, day 1.

Part two
The hike

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The start of the trail, take one.

Day 1
Wednesday, 10/7/15
11 miles

It started with a wrong turn. What a great way to start. Each new trail I hike usually takes a bit to get the hang of. How are the blazes spaced, how well-maintained is the route, how often does it turn sharply, and where would it most-likely go if it’s not well-marked? I sure got a good feel for the trail after the first two miles, because I went the wrong way. You sure learn a lot going the wrong way! The trailhead at the start is a temporary trailhead that looks quite permanent. The trail starts by following a horse trail for a little bit, and there’s a warning sign at the trailhead that reads, “KT not well-marked. Be careful.”

So when I started out from Wilson Switch Road, I kept my eyes open, looking for the white trail blazes. When I saw one, I veered off and started following the overgrown trail. I assumed this is what the sign meant. It was marked, but so hard to follow! So I trudged on. I had to hike blaze to blaze for an hour, sometimes walking a few different directions looking for the next blaze. When I came out to a road, surprised to already be at my first road crossing, I turned airplane mode off on my phone and Google maps showed me on Wilson Switch Road – the same road where I started – only I was .6 miles down the road from the temporary trailhead and the nice sign saying to be careful. I guess I was at the original trailhead, which is no longer used, and this explains the horribly unmaintained trail and old, faded blazes. Duh! So I laughed at myself and started walking down the road back to the new trailhead to start over. I’m happy to say I got it right the the second time around! I just hadn’t gone far enough. The trail was still kind of hard to spot, but I made sure it was heading north the second time around.

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The start of the trail, take two.

It was a cool morning with the sun shining through the colorful trees in beams. It was an absolutely gorgeous way to start out. It was looking like it was going to be a perfect autumn hike.

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One of my favorite photos from the hike and one of the first I took.

At noon I realized I forgot to pack my tortillas, so I spent some time as I walked thinking of creative ways to eat my tuna, peanut butter and rice that I packed to eat with them.

There had been a lot of huge spider webs spread across the trail at face-level right from the start, and every single one had a live spider in its center. I realized after a few hours that this was going to be a regular thing. And it was. This continued for the rest of the hike, and at times was very frustrating, even putting a little damper on the hike. I can handle a web here and a web there, but I was stopping every 15 seconds (literally) at times to frantically pull the web off of my face, out of my eyebrows, eyelashes and mouth – while looking for, finding, and brushing the poor newly homeless spider off of me. There were just. So. Many. Spiders. It was crazy. And there would be more at night when it got dark. But these were of a different variety, which I discovered the morning of day two.

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So. Many. Spiders.

At my lunch break I mixed my tuna and mayo in a ziplock container (because no tortilla), and it worked out just fine. I topped it with cheese and crushed potato chips. While I was finishing up my meal, a critter came wobbling down the trail towards me. I’m not sure what he was, but he was cute! He looked kind of like a marmot, but I’m pretty sure southern Indiana doesn’t have marmots! He stood on his hind legs all cute and prarie-dog-like (he was too big to be a prarie dog), and after about a one-minute stare-off, he slowly got back down on to all fours and waddled away. This felt like a bonus for being solo. Apparently I hadn’t started talking to myself out loud yet!

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Hiker-toughened briar-scratched legs.

With a sweat-soaked shirt and scratched legs from green briars that dominate the trail in places, I arrived at camp at 5:30 pm. It was a tiny little site on a high ridge, which I hoped would keep the nightly condensation down, which it did. The valleys I hiked down into throughout the day felt damp and dark, so I was happy to be perched up on top of a bright, airy ridge for my first night.

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Camp on night one. Complete with sweaty clothes hanging to dry.

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Mmmm, Mac-n-cheese dinner! It was the heaviest, so it went first.

Dinner was mac-n-cheese with Sriracha sauce, cheese and potato chips. When else can you eat mac-n-cheese guilt-free, and topped with chips? I really love backpacking!

More photos from day one:

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It's definitely autumn!

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I made a friend on the trail! I nearly stepped on him!

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Incredibly camouflage insect!

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That Hill doesn't look big, but it is! I dominated it.

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Ginormous!

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A different, larger variety of trail spider.

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Because I just posted a photo of a spider, here's a pretty butterfly.

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Makin' dinner in my cool tights.

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Cool KT trail marker.

Tonight I love Mac-n-cheese. I know it’s bad for me, but it’s such a delicious trail dinner!

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!

With love,
Toots Magoots
(Robin Grapa)