Despite the picture…

Despite the evidence to the contrary in the picture

Dragon’s Tooth is a lofty Appalachian Trail perch reached after scrambling over boulders.

Jeff is on the downhill side of this leg of his hike! The picture above is of Dragon’s Tooth Ridge, Roanoke, VA. He called at 1:30 p.m. to tell me that he was at mile 691 of the AT and was starting the Dragon’s Tooth Ridge climb. This leg of the hike is 719.1 miles, so he has just over 28 miles to go!! Praise be! He’ll be home soon!!!

PS: Although Jeff has not been taking pictures (a situation we WILL rectify before next hike), here is a link to show you some of the trail that he has been covering recently:
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On the Downhill Side…

Talked with Jeff tonight…he has hooked up with some crazy guys who have pushed him to no not one!! He and three other guys hiked 25.6 miles today and will hike another 22 miles tomorrow!!  It seems they talked him into “slack packing” to cover lots of miles. They’re hiking with light packs and taking shuttles to different locations…not sure how it all works, but they’re covering some ground. Jeff said it reminded him of the really good times of Rebecca’s bout with AML…there were some major struggles and hardships and then she’d be in remission and things would go so well and lots of progress would be made…much like these two days on the trail. The trail is truly a lot like Rebecca’s journey…lots of ups and downs with some beautiful smooth sailing in between.

We’re coming up on the downhill side of this leg of Jeff’s journey. Please continue to pray for him and lend your support in any way you are able. Please share Jeff’s story with anyone you know.

By the way, when I went to Hot Springs with Greg and Wendy, Greg went to video Jeff on the trail, in all his gear, and interview him for The Tarheel Traveler spot on Wral-TV. It is my understanding that the spot will be aired on WRAL-TV on Monday, May 9, at 5:30 p.m. Be sure to tune in!!

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Thoughts Along the Trail

So many sounds rush to one’s ears while walking the AT: the sound of your heart beating to keep up with your steps, the wind dancing through the trees, and the plod, plod of your feet on the rocks and leaves and mud are a few of them. You’ll hear a rustle to your left and it’s a chipmunk dashing for the safety of a hole under a fallen tree. Several successive splashes of the forest floor reveal a deer you walked up on cruising to a safer distance. There’s the occasional squirrel – you have to really be tuned in for this one – tip-toeing across logs and branches as it sneaks around.

And the birds: Many songs and styles that run the gamut of classical to country to pop…maybe even to gospel! One of those days as I was treated to all of this, I noticed something particular about the birds: Some days you’ll hear more singing than others. Note that this observation may or may not be scientifically based, but its impact on me is none the less huge! On the really blustery, rainy, cold, weather-in-your-face days, the songs are few, if any. Oh, you’ll see the birds scratching leaves and dirt liooking for an unsuspecting insect or seed of some sort. They’re usually “hunkered down” and all puffed up – fluffed up – against the elements. The countenance of their faces seem to me to reflect a sort of seriousness and focus on getting the basics of life done. Again, very little, if any singing – just the basics.

But, oh boy, when they detect the weather changing – and when it chages – the symphony and chorus of songs fill the forest! So much so even, that all of the other sounds can be lost or seem to flee to the backgrond: The songs are bright and varied and run all over each other. It’s a joyful combination of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Carnegie Hall and all of the performers at the Grammy’s – all rehearsing at the same time!

So what’s so particular about all of this? As I’ve walked on the same days with the same weather as they have experienced, a simple fact flies in my face: their song is always in them. Oh, yes, some days, they don’t sing as  much – if at all – becuase of the conditions and what they must focus on. Life is life to all of God’s creatures. But for them, conditions change, life changes – the sun in all of its glory shines one day, one morn. And their song rises to the top and they cut loose with their songs and do what they do with the voices that God gave them.

God put a song in all of us, too. There are those cold, blustery days when we don’t feel like singing; like those when we – where I – am mourning the loss of Rebecca and the dreams that died with her; they are real and “hunkering down” is all you – or I – can do. But there is a song…somewhere.

Trusting God that things will change – that the sun and all of its glory will shine one day – this may be a lesson you and I can learn from the birds. I think Rebecca had all of this figured out. Her song – yours and mine, too – isn’t gone because of the conitions life deals us.

I’m writing this on Easter week-end. Saturday. As she knew, and as you and I are to be reminded of tomorrow, the Son and all of His glry shines one day – again – one morning.

That song, that sound beats them all. Our songs are meant to be a part of that chorus. Rebecca, you and me; we’re all part of the chorus.

Sing. You and I need to find our song. He’s earned it.

Jeff (Steadfast)

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On the Trail to Damascus

Sorry for not updating sooner, but it’s been a busy few days with very little time to sit down, much less blog. So, here’s my latest from Jeff: After I left Jeff at Hot Springs, he spent the afternoon doing laundry (praise be!!) and resting (as I requested) so that he could give the antibiotics a chance to do their work and he would be ready for the trail on Monday.  Bobby or Tommy, from the Smoky Mountain Diner took him to the trail on Monday around 10:00 a.m. and he’s been hiking ever since. He did come off the trail in Erwin, TN on Thursday the 14th. (As a reference, Erwin, TN is about a 40-minute drive from Hot Springs, NC. It took Jeff 3 and a half days…trail sure does meander!!) He stayed overnight there and re-provisioned, and made sure he ate some real food while he was there (KFC, Huddle House)! From Erwin he hiked again, and called me around 10:30 a.m. to let me know that he was halfway through his 1st leg of his hike! He was standing on the trail near Unicoa, TN at Iron Mountain Gap @ TN 107 and NC 226. It was an emotional moment for both of us as we realized just what he is accomplishing – 360 miles since March 4…overwhelming as a whole, but with steadfast, little steps attainable…much like fighting cancer… Jeff stayed at the Greasy Creek Friendly, which is a hostel operated by a delightful lady who provides wonderful meals and was kind enough to provide transportation to the trail. The weather there was horrendous…the storms that came through Raleigh over the past week-end, were beginning to arrive in Tennessee then. Since it would be dangerous for him to hike with a full pack continuing on the trail northward, Jeff decided to take a slack pack (water and snacks) and have his hostess take him up the road where he picked up the trail and hiked back so that he got in some miles, covered the trail, kept his rhythm and didn’t lose anymore time. It was a decision not made lightly, but when you think about it, he adapted, just like Rebecca did to situations she didn’t like…just like other cancer patients do…you make it work and you deal with the setbacks, whatever they may be.

From Greasy Creek Friendly, on Sunday 4/17, Jeff hiked to Hughes Gap – a 19.6 mile trek – which is at Highway 19E. If you turn right at 19E you go into Elk Park, NC which is where he ended his hike 3 years ago. If you turn left and go .3 miles west, you’re at the Mountain Harbor Hostel and Roan Mountain:

He hiked up Roan Mountain yesterday, covered 18.7 miles and sheltered at Moreland Gap last night. He was hiking with “Turtle” and they hiked 6.5 miles to the Elizabethton, TN area where Turtle had left a car. He hitched a ride with Turtle into Elizabethton and the Kincora Hostel at Dennis Cove Rd where he was able to do some more laundry (:o) and get some “real” food. Just got a call from him saying he was on his way again. He plans to be in Damascus, VA Friday afternoon or Saturday (4/22-23).

I wish I had pictures to post for you to see what Jeff is seeing. I do have this picture of the AT that you might enjoy seeing:

I think it’s probably one of the smoother trails you’ll encounter on the AT! Some of the steps that access the trail from the road look like they go straight up without any angle to them at all…almost like a ladder!! Anyway, we’re going to figure out a camera system for next year’s hike so you can see the beautiful places he’s walking. In the meantime, I thought you’d be interested in checking out the interactive map that is in the link below. It shows many of the places I’ve mentioned here:

Blessings to you all and thank you for your interest in following Jeff’s journey.


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Hot Springs, NC – A Little Slice of Heaven

Emmaline here: I was able to meet Jeff in Hot Springs, NC thanks to the thoughtfulness and generosity of Wendy and Greg and their family who suggested a “road trip” since they had never been to Hot Springs and why not go meet up with Jeff there to check on him?
Soooooooo…off we went to Hot Springs, NC! What a quaint, lovely little township! There is no stoplight in this four block town, just a flashing yellow light warning truckers that if their rig is over 30’ they won’t be able to traverse the road ahead, find an alternate route. As Jeff said, the only red traffic signal in town is the flashing red light of the railroad barricades at the railroad crossing when the train comes through town!! Back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Hot Springs was a well-known, very fashionable resort to which folks traveled to enjoy the hot springs mineral baths (hence the name, “Hot Springs”). There was a very elegant hotel there and a bathhouse where one spent an hour or so in the waters…much like our hot tub experiences today. The elegant hotel has since been destroyed by fire and the bathhouse is a ruin of wall and pool, but you can still schedule a time at the resort to experience the beauty of idyllic surroundings and the warmth and comfort of the hot springs. While there is no longer a hotel on site, there is a spa for massages and facials and along the banks of the French Broad River are private Jacuzzi tubs that overlook the river and are filled with the 102 degree water from the springs. One can spend an hour in the tubs listening to the songs of the birds and the rapids of the river, enjoying a view of mountains and meadow. There’s no television, no sports, no radio blaring…just the music of God’s creation which is sufficient in and of itself to bring peace and comfort.
We found Jeff waiting for us at the Iron Horse Station Hotel which faces the railroad and, as the name would indicate, is styled after the railroad. The rooms are Pullmans – one bed, 2 chairs, a small table and a bathroom – much like you would find in a Pullman railroad car. We also found him sick…he had been sick since he arrived in Hot Springs earlier that week when he met with Judith, a friend of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, who had expressed an interest in meeting Jeff and talking about his hike and its purpose and to provide a meal. It ended up, she not only provided a meal, she provided shelter while he fought his illness – seems he didn’t pay attention to the water like he should have – and finally succumbed to Judith’s and my nagging and went to the medical center in Hot Springs. He got better from the water related issue, but succumbed to sinusitis from all the pollen and wood smoke. Sooo, being the nagging wife that I am, I marched him BACK to the clinic on Saturday where Kylie prescribed some antibiotics and sinus and allergy medications that helped with all the symptoms. When we left Hot Springs on Sunday, Jeff was much better.
I met the folks Jeff had been learning to know over the last week. What delightful, interesting people they are. I know that the hikers are a major source of revenue for the town and are appreciated for that alone, but there’s more. There is truly an interest in the hikers themselves…are they faring well? Do they need assistance with anything? May I pray for you? Good, caring people. Thankfully, they were there when Jeff needed comfort and succor. I hope I have similar opportunities along the trails of my life…
Wendy and I found a wonderful gallery full of artisans’ work that was so creative, unique, and beautiful. If the guys couldn’t find us anywhere else, they came back to the gallery to look for us! Usually, that’s where they found us.
We left Jeff on Sunday. He was feeling much better, planning to spend the day doing laundry (thank goodness!!! Phew!), resting and preparing to leave Monday morning for the next leg of his hike. I heard from him last night that he had reached the shelter in good time and was feeling well and was pleased with his stamina after having been off the trail for so long. He is about a week behind his planned schedule, but will probably be able to make up some of that time.
Thank you for your continued interest, support and encouragement.
Jeff sent these thoughts to me for me to post. Enjoy:
“There are many thoughts that cross one’s mind traveling down this remote highway called the AT. A person can ponder in great or small detail, all of them. The past few days have added to the litany of revelations that, so far, I have experienced in my brief time of travel. Today, as it happens, is Sunday – the Lord’s Day – and it is very appropriate to note the value and necessity of friends – nothing really earth shattering or significantly religious – just friends.
We all need friends. Most of us, alas, spend our whole lives accumulating what we think are friends and the quantities of same which we number in the hundreds. For a few of us, that may be the case. I think, though, that most of us are fortunate – blessed is a better description – to find just a few along the way. There isn’t the time or space here to deliberate the definition of or just what qualifies as a friend. For this weary and often lonely foot traveler, I would offer one possible suggestion: During our lives, acquaintances come and go. Brief encounters, moments of joy and support, comfortable exchanges of time and conversation are the typical parameters for what qualifies as “friend” moments. There are also those encounters which last months or years and are deeper, more soul-enriching relationships. They both serve their purposes don’t they – the brief and the long friendships?
My revelation and the point of this thought is not to debate which is better. What is important – at least to me as I’ve pondered – and experienced in the last few days especially – is the source of those relationships. The brief and deep are both gifts, I believe, from God. Whatever path or paths we find ourselves on, He seems to know just who or what and how we need these relationships and for how long.
Like all gifts, it really isn’t the size or the value of the gift that should matter; it’s the thought. Whether a friend or an acquaintance, it’s the thought – His thought that counts. It’s nice to be thought of, isn’t it?
(Dedicated to Bobby, Genia, Judith, Greg, Wendy, Kylie, Jared, Megan, and Tommy – Thank you.)”

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Quick Update

Quick update: Jeff is through the Smokies and headed to Hot Springs, NC. Seems to be cold…will be meeting an LLS patient there and has asked me to send clean jeans, warm socks, tennis shoes…I’m going to meet him in Hot Springs, so I imagine I’ll be bringing everything back…ya think?

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Talked to Jeff yesterday and today…he was in Gatlinburg, TN washing clothes…said even he couldn’t stand himself any longer!! Spent most of Monday with laundry, checking e-mail and responding and making arrangements for the next part of the hike. His next stop in the next several days when I will be able to be in touch with him is Hot Springs, NC. He’s going to be able to meet a cancer patient there and is really looking forward to meeting her.  Today is Jeff’s 58th birthday. I think it’s fitting that he’s out on the trail experiencing the ups and downs of his journey on his birthday much like most of the kids he’s hiking for celebrate their birthdays in the midst of the ups and downs of their journeys. I know that we celebrated every birthday the year Rebecca was diagnosed in her hospital room. I have memories of yellow cake with chocolate icing for 4 different birthday parties…all at UNC Children’s Hospital. Those children have a remarkable ability to make lemonade out of lemons…most of us would be whining about having to be in the hospital on our birthdays. Those kids celebrate the joy of being alive and having another birthday, no matter where they were experiencing it. Maybe we need to look at life a bit more simplistically and celebrate the privilege of life…

Enough soap box! Here’s what Jeff had to say:

3/27/11:  1/2 way thru the smokies. snow in the forecast at higher elevations for tues, wed, thur. only minor foot and knee issues. HAD to stop in gatlinburg to do laundry; even i couldn’t stand it any longer. unbelievable scenery. wish you were here. pray for the kids i’m hiking for and their families. 

think of your worst day or hardest day… at home, at the office… the dog got loose, the dishwasher broke, the pipe you thought you’d fixed, isn’t or perhaps a co-worker did something quality stupid, your computer crashed, a vendor messed up your account or someone close to you at home or work left their brain and heart disengaged before they spoke. these and more could describe a really bad or hard day. i’ve had several on the hike so far. rain, snow,steep climbs that know no end, poor visibility and/ or footing or all the above. yep, plenty of  tough days to go all around. during one of my pity parties on one of those hard days it occured to me: compared to the kind of days those folks i’m hiking for have- and  have often- whatever i have as a tough day is really only a stroll through the woods for me. and for you as well if you’re honest.  – steadfast aka little steps (1/2 way thru the smokies)

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