Monthly Archives: April 2012

Hot dogs, rain, and Birthdays…

After enjoying a wonderful zero day in Sylva, Gail dropped us off at NOC and we started our 6.9 mile acent to the next shelter. As soon as we started out on the trail, it started to rain and preceeded to rain ALL day. wahoo. Needless to say, it wasn’t a good day for either of us. Once we got to the shelter, we were all grumpy, tired, wet, and cold. Reaper started a fire to roast our hotdogs but was unable to keep it going in the downpour. So instead we had boiled hotdogs. yumm protein! Because it was so cold, we got into our sleeping bags by 8pm. Everyone else in the shelter was already sleeping by this time! We played go-fish until 9 since Yahtzee would have been too loud. 🙂

The next day was Alison’s birthday (Apr 22nd)! We didn’t stay in the shelter long since it was cold, at least while we were hiking we were warm! At lunch time, we were greeted with some trail angles. A lady named Jessica came up to us, noticed how cold we were and offered to take us to McDonald’s to warm up. Her Dad (Bob) usually does a lot of trail magic (bringing snacks and pop for hikers) at this gap and could bring us back to the trail. We jumped at the chance to get warm and have a cheeseburger and ice cream! Especially since we had a guarenteed ride both ways.  God bless trail angels! Once we got back on the trail we decided that 15 miles was not going to happen so we opted for the nearest shelter about 4 miles in. We had heard of a phenomenon dubbed “Jacob’s Ladder” but wasn’t really sure what it was. Well, it ended up being about a mile of crazy steep trail. Renee’s heel got a blister and Alison had to stop every 2 min to catch her breath. Not fun. The shelter was a welcome site for sure! Since it was Sunday, we went down to the water source and had a church service. Reaper had written out a service complete with hymns, a sermon and everything for an Army chapel he was in charge of. Nice!  The other hikers said they could hear us singing. All in all, not a bad birthday on the trail.



The Best Trail Angels

Thanks to Donna Slack we made contact with Gail and Jay Gibson who lives in Sylva which is about 45 minutes from NOC where we got off the trail. She drove all the way to get us and gave us showers and a pork chop/baked potato dinner. It was amazing! We had gone 6 days without a shower and it was high time! We stopped at Walmart before showering and people looked at us kinda funny. Renee’s shirt has seen better days. Maybe white shirts might not be the best color to wear on the trail? It has been pretty muddy on the trail the last few days, so things are a bit grimy.

We zeroed on Friday and Renee was able to play the Gibson’s guitar. It was so nice to have a house to come to and relax in. We hit the all you can eat at Ryan’s with fried fish, mac and cheese, salads, fresh fruit and of course ice cream! We made a huge salad with all the fixin’s. Yeah for fresh fruits and veggies!

The Gibsons were kind enough to let us do laundry, borrow paracord, ziplock bags and razor, and let us sprawl out all our stuff everywhere. We did dishes in their sink and they fed us 2 wonderful meals! The Gibson’s had some friends over that have hiked some of the trail. Over a smoked pork supper we discussed marathoning and hiking, blisters and the health care system. We had 4 medically trained people at the table. After supper Kim and Dickie said that between them and Jay and Gail they would be willing to bring our next mail drop too us at Gatlinburg. That will save us a 15 mile trip each way to resupply. These people are amazing!

Even when we have been treating Alison’s blisters and walking in the rain we have been bolstered by God. Then we meet people like the Woodards and Gibsons and we are blessed beyond measure. Our God is so good! I am just overwhelmed by the generosity, amazed by God’s faithfulness to take care of His people.

Cool story: Reaper was saying that he could really go for some fried chicken, pork chops and macaroni and cheese. When I called Gail she said there was an all you can eat place that had fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. Then I said we could eat before she came an got us, but she said she had pork chops to use up. Wow God! Then the Woodards come over for supper and offer to hold our package for us. So blown away. Do us a favor and thank God for us. We are doing much of that too. And finding a Christian to walk the trail with in Reaper. We are blessed. I can’t wait to see what other ways He will provide.

It will be awhile before we can update again. Take care all!

Hiking…the ups…the downs…


It seems that there are not many flat places on the trail. We are either going up or down, or slightly up or slightly down, some sideways and some 90 degree angles.

Albert Mountain

Albert Mountain was one such place where we had to scramble up. Not friendly for people with backpacks. There were stairs and then a big rock and you had to figure out how to get your leg up that high to make a step. Hiking poles are super helpful in these situations. The views were pretty awesome at the top however. Renee thought the scrambling was kind of fun, but Alison had other ideas. Alison maintains that she didn’t sign up for bouldering, but Renee said it was in the fine print of the contract.

We have seen some amazing water falls. Sometimes we have to walk through them and trip over them, but they are beautiful.

We took lots of pictures. Speaking of water we walked our first full day in the rain on Wednesday. It was cold and wet and we were glad to have a space in the shelter that night. The night before it actually hailed, the rain on the roof of the shelter blocked out the snoring, so that was good. 🙂

As we were walking down the trail and all of the sudden we come across a sign saying ‘chunky gal trail’. Umm, is that a skirt around the summit?

Our 3rd shelter stay was an interesting one. It had rained all day and then we had 8 people in a 6 person shelter. one person was in a hammock on the porch. We almost had to turn in unison. Reaper actually slept half in a hole in the floor of the shelter that night. We try to stay in a shelter when it’s raining so that we don’t have to pack up a wet tent in the morning. We had tossed a bag of peaches out of the shelter because we forgot to hang it in the bear bag. In the morning we got the bag. It had a hole in it and 1/2 a pound of dried peaches was eaten out of there! We pity the mouse that ate all those peaches!!

This week (on Saturday) we moved from Georgia into North Carolina. We camped shortly after the border. This is where we met Tigger and Mousey. The next morning we climbed a ‘welcome to NC’ hill. It was awful! Not so sure we like North Carolina. 🙂 That morning we had biscuits and gravy with corn chips. Yumm! Salty!


Chunky Gal Trail

bisuits and gravy with corn chips

State Line


We have met some interesting people along the trail. It’s a whole different culutre. Here are some that we have met so far.

Tigger – she is walking with Z-Coil shoes, the ones with the springs in the back. She kind of bounds down the trail.

Mousey – she walks about 5 miles a day and started March 26th or so. She just got into North Carolina 3 days ago. She had a very heavy food bag and the cord that was holding it up catastrophically failed. Ooops. Someone had extra cord to give her.

Suds – he is from England, but working in Mexico City as an english teacher. He is called Sudss because he has packed in a beer for every day. He is an funny guy.

Squid Billy – a former Navy guy he actually hiked a trail in Alabama to get to the AT. He is tiny and has a pony tail. He was an interesting character.


Airman – A sweet older man that was section hiking.

Fozzie – named because of a brown fleece he had, had a great sense of humor and was clausterphobic, but welcomed us to the shelter anyway.

Texas Pete and Wishbone – A son and mother hiking together (not sure our mom would like to hike this!). He is carrying a Mandolin and plays in the evening. Renee missed her guitar. Maybe she should get a backpacking guitar. 🙂


Atlas – former army, had a bad back, but still carried a heavy pack. He snored and talked in his sleep all night. We got no sleep that night!







Reaper – his trail name, instead of a menacing meaning, actually has something to do with reaping souls – sharing the gospel along the trail. It’s pretty cool. We have kind of looked out for eachother on the trail. In some ways he has become a brother, and somtimes our sherpa. He hangs our bear bag and protects us (being ex-army) and we feed him from our left-overs. He isn’t too impressed with Alison’s baking skills however. She says it’s the recipes and not the baker, but he eats it anyway. His hiker hunger has definitely kicked in. He keeps us entertained with all his endless information. He is from PA and married.


When we got to Dick’s Creek Gap there was a guy that was dropping off several other hikers. AWESOME! So, he gave us a ride the 11 miles to Hiawassee. He dropped us off at the grocery store (Ingles) and we bought some provisions including mole skin, tortillas and a nail clipper.

the budget inn

Our accommodations were the Hiawassee Budget Inn. It was amazing. 2 king sized beds, kitchenette with a 60’s stove and below the sink was an old cooler, a fridge that didn’t work, but lots of room to spread out and a TV. We couldn’t ask for more! It is amazing what feels delux after being on the trail.

We did laundry and because it cost money to dry too, we just hung everything out around the room. We washed our dishes in the sink and aired everything out. There was internet at the hotel, so we used that to check what is going on over Facebook and email. Good times.

Dairy Queen was the choice for supper for 2 reasons: Alison wanted some beef and it wasn’t far to walk. We of course got ice cream as well.

During our zero day we walked to the library and spent 2 hours updating this blog. Boy, it takes a while.

We met up with Reaper at the library and we all hitched to the Blueberry Patch. We got a ride with a Gideon member. How cool! The Blueberry Patch is a hostel that is run by Gary and Lennie Poteat.

Blueberry Patch hostel

They are doing this as a Christian ministry and they are touching countless lives for the Lord by sharing the gospel in subtle ways like praying over breakfast and having a Bible in a prominent place on a table. They are some of the nicest people around and so generous. The 4 of us that were staying there even had a little impromtu Bible study. Cool stuff.  We went back into Hiawassee for Daniel’s Steakhouse all you can eat buffet and then hitched back with a guy that wasn’t excited about doing a renovation project on his house. He drove very fast down the mountain road, much faster than the 1.5 mile an hour that we were walking! Reaper almost flew out the back of the pick up.


In the morning the Poteats treated us to an amazing breakfast! Pancakes with homemade blueberry syrup, sausage patties, eggs, hasbrowns, cheese biscuits and beverages. Yumm! The Poteats do this all for a donation. They don’t even ask outright, but leave an envelope on the table after breakfast. Neat people. They also have a couple of goats: Mesha and Schadra, 2 donkeys – glory be and praise be and blueberries all around. They even shuttled us back to the trail head. While we were on our way we came across a place where Clint Eastwood was going to film a movie. A hiker we met later said he had to walk from Hiawassee (11 miles) just to get to the trail head because of blocked traffic. The first few miles of hiking were tough because of full stomachs and every time you come out of a town it’s uphill. YES!!

Making Friends

Al, Ashley and us.

Because we didn’t want to walk the 1.2 miles from the trail into Whitley Gap Shelter on April 9th we decided to stealth camp at Hogpen Gap. We thought we would be by ourselves, but then around 6pm a couple of guys came and joined us. We liked them immediately. They have the same sense of humor that we do. We became fast friends. 🙂 And, these guys are in their fourties and one is married and has kids. We know all your imaginations were starting to run wild…

We ended up staying with them for 3 nights and we even played Yahtzee with them the last night. Alison won.

We played leap frog with Gimpy one day. He’s a nice guy. We hope he does well on the trail. His knee is basically without cartilage. It was fun to see one hiker multiple times during the day.

Some people went into Helen for pizza, but we decided not too. There will be time for that when our hiker hunger comes full force. We find that we are still forcing ourselves to eat, and we have a lot of food!

Blisters and downhill seem to be getting the better of us. Alison’s feet are feeling poor and the downhill is not helping.

Blue Mountain Shelter had us meeting up with new people including: Butcher, Reaper, Ryno and 2 Germans. Don’t worry, we still feel safe out here. 🙂 The guys are actually pretty nice. We haven’t met up with Meandering Snail recently, so that’s a good thing. He was a little strange, but I’m sure even we could out-hike him. It got down to low 30s for the night and Alison was cold. We also hiked in some rain and wind that day. Nasty. but, we could set up our tent in relatively nice weather.

We stayed at Tray Mountain Shelter with basically the same crew and it got into the mid 20s at night. Wow. Renee is glad for her zero degree bag. Alison wishes she had one. But, it should be getting warmer with the lows in the 50s this week.

We have been getting up anywhere between 6:45am and 7:30am and seem to get going around 9 each morning. We did make it out on the trail by 8:23 because it was too cold to stay in camp at Tray Mt. Shelter.

One sad thing is we saw The Professor (one of the Maryland guys) walking the wrong direction down the hill. He fell and hurt his knee. We hope he gets better fast.

We now have trail names: Renee is Kleenex – because she is constantly blowing snot rockets and she didn’t want to be called ‘snot’. Alison is 3 step cause she takes 3 steps when she could be taking 2.

We stayed the night in Hiawasee and we are taking a zero day. (April 13th) These posts will be a little behind. We only get to a computer about once a week.

I see we’re at 7% of our fundraising and we’ve gone 77 miles of the trail and the next time you hear from us we’ll be in North Carolina! Thanks for all the prayers and support!


trail through the store

On Easter Monday we hiked 7.4 miles, but we hiked up and back down Blood Mountain. Up wasn’t too bad, but the way down was made up huge slightly downward slanted, smooth rocks. It was killer on the knees and feet. So, about 1 mile from Neel Gap we sat on a log feeling pretty down. We just wanted to get somewhere with a shower and a place to sit. Good thing the Walasi-Yi was there! The trail actually goes through an archway of the store/hostel. We decided to stay there for a $15 per person with supper and breakfast being donations. We stayed with about 12 guys, awesome. We haven’t seen too many girls out here, especially 2 girls hiking together by themselves. We showered, did laundry and got advice from the store employees on everything from blister care to canister stoves. They were really helpful. After our showers we were stylin’ in our rain suits cause our town clothes are more summery than spring-like. We sent off some text messages and called home. Mom was relieved to hear our voices.

Pirate made us a supper of grilled chicken, beans and strawberry cake. Nice. Pirate it


the caretaker of the hostel and actually lives in a room off to the side. He was a little gruff, but a good cook. The hostel itself looks like it is stuck int he 70’s with a taste of Hawaii and Halloween. There are pictures of thru-hikers on the walls, a TV with old movies and a couch with a head on the side with an arm coming out of the bottom. They also have a tree that is full of boots. These are boots people have left there.

Shoes in the tree

There was a plug in board where we could charge our batteries, phones and camera. A pretty neat set up. We both had top bunks and the matteresses didn’t quite fit, but we slept okay. There wasn’t too much snoring.

The next day we packed our food from our mail drop and weighed our packs again. This time Alison’s was 35 and mine was 41. Much better! We also sent home 5.6 pounds of gear. Later we realized we needed some of that stuff. Oops. We met Crooked Sticks today. He’s a nice guy and we hope to see more of him. It was an interesting first stay in a hostel.

Amicalola to Neel Gap

We know you have been waiting very patiently for a post from us as we are on the trail. Wel, here it is!

Our trip to GA was fairly uneventful except for nearly getting into a car crash when someone was going 25mph on the freeway in front of Renee at one point. Good thing for anti-lock breaks! We also visited Russ and Christina Dyck at Jubilee Partners in Comer. That was a fun time reconnecting and aclimatizing to the GA weather. Sticky and warm. Super.

On April 4 we drove from Dahlonega to Amicalola Falls State Park over very windy roads. Once there we registered as thru-hikers and weighed our packs. Alison’s was 46lbs and Renee’s came in at a whopping 49lbs. Ouch. We decided we needed to eat all the way up the mountain in order for us to make it. Unfortunatley we weren’t very hungry. 😦 After settling in we stepped under the archway, took pictures, gave hugs and then shed a few tears. Are we really doing this?! Dad would have taken us up to Springer Mountain if we would have said the word. (yes, you can drive there too. seems unfair)

425 steps!!

The first part of the climb was nice and easy…and then came the steps. There was a sign that said 175 steps. We thought: ‘okay, we can do that’. We stopped at nearly every platform. We were feeling pretty good about ourselves when we read another sign…425 steps. WHAT?? You mean 425 MORE steps? As we stepped up every last one of those steps we could see the falls. It was so gorgeous we decided maybe the steps were worth it. We used the real restroom for the last time for awhile and met some section hikers. A mother and daughter.

Amicalola Falls

At 7.3 miles we came to our shelter – Black Gap Shelter. It was a welcome sight. We ended up staying in our tent and several other hikers stayed at the same place, but we didn’t really talk with anyone. The trail to the water source was steep, but we needed water to make supper and breakfast. We have found that filling our 4 liter plastic water tank along with our bottles gets us through the breakfast the next morning and we have some to start the day. We feasted on Knepp noodles that we brought from Schmeckfest. To spice it up we put a power gel in it. Mmm!

The white blazes

The next day we had 1.5 miles to the official start of the AT on Springer Mountain. At the top we took pictures and met some other hikers. Now we will see the white blazes!! (on the approach trail the blazes were blue) Now instead of just up the mountain we were doing some down too. Kinda nice. We stayed in the Hawk Mountain Shelter with about 12 other people. We had a nice chat with Jerry and met John from Australia. So cool. Alison started getting blisters this day. Every toe has it’s own blister. We’re all about equal opportunity here.


The next night we stayed in Gooch Shelter with about 15 people. Included were 3 from New Hampshire. They worked at one of the huts in NH that we will be possibly staying at when we get there. They led hikes last year for youth. They are really nice people. There were about 3 from Maryland we think. They left their frisbee in a parking lot and were missing it at the shelter. We had some food envy as we made our turkey trail dinner for supper. This is also where we discovered that we don’t really like deydrated eggs. That’s too bad cause we have a lot of them! We told mom to take them out of our mail drops.

Because we don’t have a bear canister (basically a bear proof container, not a canister to keep a bear in) we camped short of our goal for the next night. Lance Creek had tent platforms (a raised sandy platform) for us to pitch our tent. We stayed with the same people we were with the night before. It’s amazing how once you stay with people for 2 nights you’re like family. We were so ready to get there, that we collapsed on our tent platform for a few minutes before getting situated for the night. We even had a visit from the Easter Bunny in the morning. We had hoped to get to a service on Easter, but some chocolate from a lady with bunny ears was a pretty close second. 🙂 We did read the crucifixion and Easter stories from the Bible while snuggled in our sleeping bags though.


The last 2 days have been full of driving and we watched as the landscape changed from plains, to a few trees, to lots of trees and green to hills and trees. So, there were trees. It really is gorgeous out here! We spent a lovely evening with Becca Friesen yesterday and she was so nice to let us crash at her place and feed us. Renee knows Becca from camper days.

Today we will meet with Christina and Russ in Comer and then get ready to start hiking tomorrow. TOMORROW?!?

Thanks for all your prayers and support. We are now at 7% of our fundraising goal. Keep it coming! 🙂

In our previous post we talked about sending us real letters instead of facebook messages or emails. Here is the address you can send them to:

Renee and Alison Neufeld
44760 283rd St
Hurley, SD 57036

Mom will send us the letters as she has room in our maildrops. Or you can send it to one of our 6 mail drops that are posted on our maildrops page. We look forward to hearing from you!

On to Neel’s Gap!

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