Week 8


We finished our last 100 miles in the South! We realized we were going to make it to the wedding in PLENTY of time, so we slowed down a tad bit and absorbed the time more. The weather was much better this week as well, so we had more sunshine time 🙂 Even though we could take it easy, we still had great trail legs and the terrain was simply a piece of cake at this point. So we still were able to put in 15-18 mile days easily. The trail has settled down a good bit because we’re through the NOBO bubble.



We crossed the NC/GA border. Two states officially down! It feels weird that this section of the trail is over. We are now 1/3 of the way through. The next time on the trail is Maine- a totally different experience! We took 3 full weeks off between finishing in GA and flipping up to ME to attend some family functions and spend time with friends and family.


Goodbye South! Hello Northeast!!


Week 7


500 miles at the beginning of this week! Here were the highlights of the week:

1) Rain
2) More rain
3) Fontana Dam… in the rain
4) Our friend, Kelli, rescuing us from the NOC when there were no rooms available
5) Our other friend, Will, rescuing us from Franklin, NC when there was more rain
6) Our last zero day
7) Our fastest 100 miles- 7 days! 600 miles by the end of this week!


The terrain has significantly gotten easier… or our hiking legs are in full force. Either way, it feels easier!


Dealing with so much rain has been extremely difficult with Ellie. We don’t stop at shelters due to the norovirus, and it’s no fun sitting in the rain. The solution? Putting up the tent at every break! It’s actually worked really well. She gets to crawl around in the tent, we get to relax out of the rain for a bit, and our tent takes less than 5 minutes to set up and take down. I’d say it’s a win!


Week 6

Hot Springs is a vortex. We kept thinking about leaving and just couldn’t go! What was supposed to be one nero day turned int 2 zero days due to rain. It was down pouring and most of the thru hikers were’t getting back on the trail, so we figured if they weren’t getting back on without a baby, the family with the baby should probably wait a bit as well. Once we finally left, we thought it was all clear. Then the heavens flooded again. More days of rain, cold and fog.

At some point between Erwin and Hot Springs, we met a fellow SOBO(southbound) hiker. His name was Dice and he was finishing up a thru hike from last year. We ended up hiking about the same pace all the way to the end with him. Anyway, so we wanted to catch up with Dice. We knew he was heading into the Smokies and we wanted to camp with him to hang out. This meant doing a LONG day to get there. I was hesitant because it meant hiking a little in the dark, but Derrick committed to getting there. So we passed a few awesome camp spots before entering the Smokies but pressed on to the first shelter- Davenport Gap Shelter. When we arrived, a HUGE bubble of NOBO hiker greeted us wanting to play with Ellie. It was late, so we didn’t have long, but they were incredibly friendly.


And then it all went down hill from here. We anticipated just about every trail obstacle we could think of. But didn’t consider people obstacles, such as the incredibly contagious norovirus- aka the stomach bug. Within 12 hours we saw 2 people violently ill. This set me into a major panic attack, and I’ve never had a panic attack before! All day long I was nervous about Ellie getting sick. She had been interacting with all the hikers, playing with them, and I was just positive she was going to get it and be medically evacuated. The Lord protected all of us and none of us got sick. Unfortunately it made me too paranoid to enjoy the Smokies. We stopped hanging out with many hikers, stopped going to hostels and shelters, and we were hygiene freaks. I’ve never been a germaphobe in my entire life!


At the end of this week, mom and dad Nienke came and swept us away into Gatlinburg to rest and recover. It was the most needed break yet. Emotionally and physically, we were just spent. By the time they dropped us off back at Clingman’s Dome, we felt refreshed and ready to continue.




Week 5



This week started with Easter and a nero day (taking half or more of the day off from hiking). We woke up before the sun came up to hike to Beauty Spot to watch the sunrise. It was the most beautiful sunrise with fellow thru hikers to enjoy the view beside us. From here we went into Erwin, TN and rested. This was much needed! When we arrived at the Nolichucky Campground where we were staying, we were just going to eat one of our trail dinners for Easter since town was really far away. The campground host brought us a giant feast of every possible pot luck dish you can think of! Then to top the night off, Derrick’s sister coordinated with a friend to come pick us up and take us to town to get some resupply needs that we forgot. And she brought a car seat! That’s been one difficult part of the trail- town shuttles. We don’t feel comfortable having Ellie in the car without a car seat, so we are especially thankful when we can all 3 go into town together. Two major blessings on Easter this year!


As we were leaning Erwin we stopped by Uncle Johnny’s hostel- an AT classic. We weighed our packs here and mine was at 35 lbs. and Derrick’s was at 45 lbs. This was including water, food, and the baby 🙂


We raced from Erwin to Hot Springs, NC to get out of the rain. It rained a lot this spring. Plus we had lots of friends meeting us in Hot Springs and we were looking forward to seeing them! Mile 400 greeted us as we walked down the Main street of town. We were feeling good and ready to take a day off!


Week 4


The week started great and rough at the same time. We hiked our longest day this week at 22 miles in order to get to amazing breakfast at Mountain Crossings hostel which was awesome! We felt super great and we just hiked a lot faster so Ellie wouldn’t have to stay in the pack any longer than usual. The problem was that this majorly affected my milk supply. My body wasn’t quite ready for the abrupt 5 mile increase and I produced no milk at bed time when Ellie wants it the most. I felt horrible and guilty for pushing myself too hard, but learned my lesson and won’t let than happen again. The next morning I still had no milk, but we ate a massive breakfast at the hostel and my supply returned. These are the things that we’re learning as we go along.


Speaking of sleeping, if you’re wondering how Ellie sleeps, she sleeps just as good with us in the tent as she did at home! Snuggled between mom and dad 🙂


Mile 300 greeted us this week! We ‘re averaging 100 miles every 8 days. From Virginia to Georgia we’re on a bit of a time crunch in order to make it to a wedding on time, and we’ll be able to take it slower starting in Maine.


Then came the most beautiful place so far on the AT- Roan Highlands. Nobody talks about this magnificent place! You can go there on a day hike, or go backpacking through the highlands. It’s miles of bald mountains with gorgeous 360 degree views surrounding you. We were blown away by the beauty.


Derrick’s sister and her family brought us our resupply and celebrated mile 300 with us! They brought us an Easter basket and dinner and we devoured it all like we hadn’t eaten in days!


Week 3

Week 3

We had to hop off the trail the last couple of days last week due to snow, 70 mph winds, and temps in the teens in Grayson Highlands State Park in Damascus, VA. We got off for 2 days and went home since we were only a couple of hours away. Momma Nienke picked us up and we were certainly happy to have our first zero days to relax after 2 weeks on the trail!


When we got back on the trail, Kanga’s friend, Kelli, joined on the trail. It was awesome having the extra company and extra hands to help with Ellie. While Ellie is mostly easy, it’s still difficult and extra help is always appreciated. She crossed the VA/TN line with us! Goodbye VA! See you at the end! The weather has finally warmed up and we are enjoying sitting in the sun getting vitamin D each day.


The hiker hunger is setting in like crazy. We eat and eat and eat… and our bodies always want more food! Thankfully, Ellie doesn’t get hiker hunger, too! We’ve entered into the NOBO bubble of hikers and it’s been really fun meeting them. We’ll get to pass them all again when we flip up to Maine in June.


We hit 200 miles this week and we’re feeling super positive. The sunshine always helps!


Week 2

Week 2

I discovered I’m not that great at thru hiking with a baby and keeping up a blog. I mean seriously. I’ve been receiving emails asking if we are okay or if we got off the trail for good. We haven’t had the time like we thought we would to do the thru hiking blog! But Derrick and I decided to fully commit to one blog post per week. We feel like that’s a lot more reasonable of a goal than 1 per day! Our goal is to be helpful for other families who are setting out to do their own adventures, so we definitely WANT to update the blog! So let’s go back… quite a way back… and highlight our adventure up to the current point!IMG_4399.JPG


This is the week our hiking legs started to set in. We felt more comfortable doing more miles and we were less sore. Some highlights this week have been:
1) reaching mile 100!
2) getting tons of rain
3) trail angels picking us up in Bland, VA to host us for an evening indoors
4) our first 15 mile long day
5) family visiting us on the trail to bring us a resupply
6) arriving at our first buffet in Adkins
7) a family rescued us off the trail in torrential rain and cold and hosted us for the evening! IMG_4388



Ellie has been adjusting to the new routine which goes a little something like this:

7 am- wake up. Ellie plays in the tent while dad cooks breakfast and mom starts to pack up things in the tent. We eat breakfast together, finish packing up and get on the trail by 8:30 am.

9 am- Ellie falls back asleep for a morning nap that lasts about an hour. Perfect timing for a break.

10 am- snack break and play break. Ellie usually eats her breakfast around this time. She nurses first thing when she wakes up in the morning(and a lot at night) so she’s not usually hungry when we eat.

10:30 am- back to hiking. Ellie stays awake, looks around, babbles, and we sing a lot of songs!

12 pm- lunch and a long break. Ellie likes to play with sticks, leaves, and dirt. If there’s a mud puddle close by, she’s claiming it!

1 pm- back in the pack to hike. Ellie will take an afternoon nap during this stretch for about 2 hours.

3 pm- Snack break and play break.

3:30 pm- back to hiking. Ellie stays awake and Derrick usually makes up an afternoon story.

4:30- another beak!

6:00 pm- We better be at camp or getting close to camp because Ellie’s just about done for the day and so are we! Derrick will set up the tent while Ellie and I cook dinner. Then we all snuggle in the tent together and prepare for the next day while Ellie crawls around the tent and plays with “toys”- aka the little pieces of gear!

8:00 pm- we’re usually all laying down to begin to go to sleep. Ellie will fall asleep first then Derrick and I will sometimes stay up talking or looking at the map. We’re all asleep by 9!


The days are getting longer as the our clocks moved forward. Another hour of sunlight makes a mighty big difference for hiking!IMG_4195