7 days without hiking makes 1 weak

Thirty days from now, I’ll be on my way up Springer Mountain in Georgia to begin hiking the Appalachian trail. 30 days. Part of me thinks I should be doing more to prepare. But all of the exercise related activities I should be doing are too far away from my cozy pile of blankets to tempt me into braving another bleak Bucharest day. Tomorrow for sure, I’ll go for a run. Yup. For sure. Besides, in 30 days I’ll have plenty of opportunities to start getting rid of my winter insulation.


Somewhere in southern Virginia, nearly two years ago, I was perfecting this underappreciated faculty for “pacing” myself. The mornings that I woke freshly showered, with a belly full of cooked food and several days of rugged trail in front of me were the worst. Fortunately, I met an equally talented “pacer” to hike with. His trail name was Paul Bunion. Together we sucked the marrow out of sections of the Appalachian Trail that runs through Tennessee, North Carolina, and southern Virginia. (You may be thinking of the tireless lumberjack Paul Bunyan, but the Paul Bunion I sketched in the image above had feet that looked like the knobby exposed roots of trees lining the trail). I’m fairly certain we were the first Trail Tourists (or at least the most dedicated). No town was too small to bypass, and we made it a point to enjoy all the comforts that town life had to offer, even if it required spending an extra day (or two). The quantity of miles we covered each hiking day weren’t nearly as important as the quality.


There were detours (for cultural reasons of course). Most were interesting hostels or scenic views within hiking distance of the Trail, but on one memorable occasion, Mr. Bunion introduced me to Bluegrass at an outdoor festival near Blacksburg, VA.

Chantilly Farm Festival

The life of a Trail Tourist wasn’t just casual strolls and sightseeing. There were quite a few of those freshly showered/full-bellied conversations about taking one more day to rest. We had a coin that we would flip – heads we stay, tails we hike. I argued that 2-out-of-3 was a more scientific means of determining our plans, but Paul was an unyielding enforcer. His resolve was impressive considering the foot pain he endured after long hiking days.

Paul Bunion


I can still see Paul Bunion resolutely shouldering his pack as I sit on the edge of my bed explaining that it might rain. I miss that.


Ahhhh… I better go for a run. I get to hike the Trail in 30 days!


(Thanks Paul for letting me share a bit of our 2014 AT hike)


  • Reply Paul Bunion March 17, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    Hello friend, great to hear your voice again, and read through all the posts (so far), and signed up for more. Give my best to Monica… maybe if you make it as far as Boston she can fly here and the two of you can spend some time in the area using Casa Bunion for a ‘home’ (we’re close to a Taco Bell).

    Jeff aka Paul Bunion

    • Reply Kaylena July 21, 2016 at 4:42 pm

      Paul Bunion! My boyfriend just recently gave you a ride to a bar in Pennsylvania that was your ending stop. He had a great time with you when you got a few drinks and told he me your amazing story! He really enjoyed his time with you and we both would love to talk to you again!

  • Reply Gabriel Burkhardt March 18, 2016 at 3:23 am

    Thanks for the invitation! No fair using Taco Bell as bait. Besides, you had me at “Casa Bunion.” It sounds magical and magnificent and memorable and mmmmmmm (OK- now I’m just thinking about Taco Bell)

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