What an amazing trip it was! Raising over $7,000 for an amazing organization was the perfect way to spend 13 straight days and 102 miles.
It is NEVER too late to sponsor a mile (or 10!), please click here!
Day 1: After an amazing night of sleep at the home of our friends and fellow trail enthusiast's, Dennis and Kay, we dropped off the mini van at the trail's end and then hung four separate food drops. Ryan did amazing work with bear proofing the much needed supplies -- everything was vacuum sealed, wrapped, put into a bucket, wired and then hung from a tree. We prepared ourselves for the potential of a bear figuring it out anyway and decided that if that did happen, at least it would make for a good story!
After a LONG drive on the parkway, we found ourselves at the trail head for Compton Gap and prepared for a very short mile long hike to our first campsite.
Day 2: Today we are celebrating Danyelle, Dick Wilson and Gay, Fran, Dennis and Kay, Kate and Garrett, Alyson and Chris, and Erica. Yesterday's first mile was sponsored by our family in honor of all of you and Laurie and Jim and family.
Thank you so much!
As the miles go by, we've been telling stories about how we know you all and what impact you've had in our lives as well as celebrating the generosity of those we have yet to meet!
The weather is beautiful, spirits are high, and we shared campsite with a deer Ayla named peanut butter last night. This is living!
And an ENORMOUS thank you to Dennis for helping us navigate four food drops and the human drop! We couldn't have done it without you!
Here are day 3 and day 4 updates...(day 5 coming later tonight from Ryan as we just now have enough service to send these)...
DAY 3: What an eventful day thus far... out of campsite by 6:30am this morning with motivation in the form of blackberry milkshakes at a wayside trail crossing... then, we loaded up on water and more water and even more water (my pack was likely in the 52+ backpacking pound range!) as we are nowhere near a water source tonight. Felt like I was carrying a swimming pool on my back and have apparently fully locked in the name vending machine!
Weather is a bit dicey but we plowed through our 8 miles today and are as set up as we can be should that afternoon storm roll through...
Our bodies are working out the backpacking kinks...duct tape has come out in full force to address the hip bruising that comes for me every time I put a pack on!
The trail is an amazing teacher about so many life related lessons... perspective is everything and sometimes we still have a mile that hurts!
Ayla has been an absolute trooper!!! Not every mile has been a cake walk but she continually puts one foot in front of the other during the hard moments and puts on a blistering pace during other moments. She is rocking it!
Much, much love to our sponsors for this 8 mile day... Erica, Alyson and Chris, Allison and family, Kay, Josh and family, Bill , Jane , and Pan.
Day 4: 9.1 miles total today! We also had our biggest climb of the hike. Spirits were high, we plowed through and sent well wishes to all of our sponsors. We have met some amazing folks, celebrate at the end of the day with "spa day" foot massages given by yours truly. I figure that if I don't go to the spa for vacation, we may as well bring the spa to us! What might go into a spa day on the trail, you might ask? Cold water, arnica and your choice of essential oil that made the trip cut!
Beautiful views and thank you to the following sponsors of our miles today... Pan , Summer and family, Annie and Eric, Papa John, Lesley , Ginger and family, Carroll and Lily and Riley, Lin, and Girl Scout Troop 13114!
We LOVE you all!
For those who would still like to donate, we would love to share this experience with you! There are about 30 miles left before each mile has two sponsors!
Day 5! What a day it has been. 2.5 miles in, we located out first true food drop... Ryan won, not the bear! As a result, my pack is up to about 50 pounds and everyone's got a bit heavier.... it is a temporary issue as the more we eat, the less weight we carry.
We had views and experiences of "nature's air conditioning" as we walked along the ridge line to our next stop, which is a super big treat tonight and just goes to show how much being out on the trail really increases gratitude for the simple things. We have one night at Skyland to shower, "do laundry" (aka, dr. Bronner's soap, a sink, and a clothesline) and to sleep in a real bed before pitching the tent again. The accommodations would have been labeled super rustic if we were coming from home but when you walk in from a trail, they are exquisite!
Ayla just looked at me and said "Being out on the trail made me realize food, water, shelter, and clothes are really all I need." And we will add lots of love too!
Speaking of love, much of that goes to today's mile sponsors who hosted some eventful steps! Thank you to Girl Scout Troop 13114, Evelyn and family in honor of Ayla Crawley!, Cassie and Ryan and family, Nancy, Judy and Burt, and Sally and Roger.
You guys have helped to give to others all of the things Ayla just identified really needing in life!
We love you all!
Day 6, 7, and 8! LONG post and lots of crazy stories below!
It has been a while since cell service and so much excitement since then....
Day 6: A special thank you to Burt and Judy, Sally and Roger, Marshall, Carrie, Jody and Matt and Zadie and Lars, Margaret and Del, Amy, and Mary and Ray for hosting our miles on Day 6! We had an 8 mile day, landing in Big Meadows Campground. As a child, I remember spending a weekend at Big Meadows in a lodge and wondering why there wasn't a TV in my room and why on earth I had to do all this hiking... how different for Ayla, who chooses to sleep in a tent and totally understands the value of a good walk in thr wilderness.... we attended a ranger talk and learned about the unsung super heroes of the Shenandoahs-- the opposum, skunks, and vultures. Did you know that the vultures main defense is to vomit when it is approached by predators? And that their stomach acid helps keep us alive by breaking down bacteria fromthr dead things they eat? Yep. Pretty fascinating. We were super excited to be there but also super excited to head out of thr more populated campground and back into thr woods the next morning where....
DAY 7: WE SAW A RATTLESNAKE! Yep. Right smack on the trail. Coiled up and just relaxing
Yeehaw. When you see Ayla again, ask for her rendition of the story. It is priceless. The short version is that she and I got very far away and clung to each other for dear life while Ryan decided to take a step closer to video tape it before coaxing it via a gentle nudge towards the woods. Ayla and I named it Shivers as though it never rattled at us, it sent shivers to our legs every time we thought about it. We also hiked an 11.5 mile day today (it was supposed to be 8- a story for another time) AND got to do thr 51.1 MILE HALFWAY SHAKEDOWN BOOGIE! Yep, we are well over out halfway point now too!
Thank you to our amazing sponsors for this crazy day.... Holly and family, Bobby and Emily (who sponsored our whole day!), Patty Robins, Dwight and Sandra, Maria , Sarah and Justin, Doug, Ashley and Allison and family, & Amber and John and family! You guys rock!!!
We thought perhaps nothing might top the excitement of the days thus far... but today alone, we slept in until a whopping 6:15am after a night of deer sniffing right outside out tent! If I didn't know better, I would have thought they just curled into thr double decker hammocks Ryan and Ayla put up and had a little relaxing time. We hike for 2.5 miles and had out 2nd formal food drop complete with thr added bonus of PAPA John!!! He drove for 3 hours each way just to hang out at the little roadside place where our food drop was located (score so far, by the way, is Ryan- 4, Bears-0! Everything is intact!)
It was the most amazing visit.... not only did Papa bring his own good cheer and positive vibes, he loaded us up with all sorts of yummy surprises including Klondike bars! What would YOU do for a Klondike bar?! Yep... they made the 3 hour ride too. It was such a wonderful boost of spirit!
We finished the day out and are on top of yet another mountain tonight... had to hunker down in the tent as rain is blowing in and out thus evening. We've met some amazing folks out here and have a hiking buddy that is along the same track as us. The trail, being out here is amazing, Y'all!
Please know that you are all joining us every step of the way and our hearts are bursting. A huge thank you to put mile sponsors today.... Denisa and Scott and family, Amber and John and family, Lisa and David , Tina, Ben, Sydney, Arlo, Noah, Kasey and Patrick, Richard and Grandma Amma Lauri!
We love love love you all so much!
Over 75 miles DONE!
Day 9: Wow. Time does such strange things out here. We think back to our first night on the trail and it feels like it was both a lifetime ago and just yesterday. I am realizing there is a sense of bittersweetness to the last portion of the journey.... we are both celebrating and grieving in a way as well. The time away from all of the modern conveniences and hustle and bustle has been invaluable. We walk into a small resupply store and easily get overwhelmed by the sounds, the energy and intensity that is sometimes present. Out here, we have become a well oiled machine- up at 5:30 and hiking by 6:30am... we laugh and goof off and tell story after story after story. The hiking games are endless, the uninterrupted time together priceless. The mountains are smooth and forgiving during some moments, intense and unpredictable at others. We have hiked for several days with another hiker who has become a good friend in the way that can happen only on the trail.
Day 9 was just under 9 miles for us... we got to our stop and secured a campsite just moments before two large groups joined us. Perched up on the hill, we feasted on vegetarian meatloaf trail style (yep, a yours truly concoction) and sipped hot chocolate before heading down to reach out to our neighbors. The day was beautiful after a night of downpour-style rain and we are entirely grateful to the sun for giving us the chance to completely dry out our tents and gear once we got to campsite. A HUGE thank you to Lisa and David and Grandma Amma Lauri for sponsoring ten miles each of this trip and day! Wow. You have made a difference in lives at the hospitality house! And an equally huge thank you to our other sponsors for today: Carrie and Jeff and The Old Store at Grassy Creek, one of our local business sponsors for this trip!
You guys are awesome!
How did we get to day 10 already?! Today marked the 75% (or nearly that) completion of our hike! We spent some up close and personal time with rabbits, deer, inch worms and even got woken up by an owl last night. We have been keeping our eyes peeled for a bear... we really would love to see just one... but think we are likely having way too much chitter chatter along the trail for that! Imagine the Crawley family talking too much for the bear sighting.
Today also marked the first truly official stream crossing (complete with a two foot trickling waterfall!). Last years foothills trail was covered in waterfalls and it was SO exciting to finally experience water again...it might not have been much, but we danced anyway!
Over the past two days, Ayla has made up a catchy song entitled: "It's the little things in life that keep me happy..."
We are SO grateful to our mile sponsors today for showing some love on this sunny but cool day and marching us 7 miles down the trail: Angel and Todd, Linda, Andrea, Laurie , Ginny , Sharon, the Old Store at Grassy Creek, and to ALL of those who purchased Givers of Hope Shirts and stickers as these miles are also sponsored by those proceeds (Pan, Ginger, Ginger and family , Allison and family , Danyelle , Kristen , Melanie , Amber , Carol , Gina, Stacey, Sharon, Laurie , Bobbie Willard, Kayt , and Alyson )!
ONE FINAL REQUEST! Tomorrow, we are hiking one short day (around 7 miles) before strapping on the boots and packs for our longest section yet - 12.6 miles. We have to get through that section because there is no water at all on that portion of the trail. Please send us well wishes and lots of motivating thoughts on Wednesday! We may not be able to post anything again until we are off the trail as service is dicey and we take what we can.
We will update as soon as we are able and until then, we just can't tell you enough how much each and everyone of you mean to us! If you haven't seen your name come up for miles sponsored yet, you are the ones pushing us through these last few days so be on the lookout!
Happiest of trails, wherever your trail takes you today!
WE DID IT!!!
Ayla's hike to end homelessness wrapped up this morning at around 11:30am with an 8 mile jaunt to Rockfish Gap.
The short story in numbers: 102 miles, 13 days, 25,000 feet of elevation gain (just shy of climbing to the top of Mount Everest), around 340,000 steps each, over $6,000 raised in an effort to end homelessness... and immeasurable love from each of you!
It was an amazing last few days... we totally felt your spirit and support as we climbed the last mountains, blazed through the 12.6 mile day, and finished strong. There are generally moments early on in the trail where you realize how fragile a journey like this can be.... how it can only take one ankle sprain, stress fracture, or bite by the wrong kind of tick to bring the whole experience to a screeching halt. There was a day early on when Ayla mentioned her ankle on more than one occasion and we all picked ticks off of us just hoping they weren't carrying lyme disease... I quieted the worries in my mind the best I could and reminded myself that whatever happens, it is meant to be...
As the days continued, the strength and spirit of our family, the people we met along the way who encouraged us, and all of you guys washed any sort of doubt or concern away. This world is SO full of love, y'all.
We are so honored and so full of gratitude for this experience we have been able to share with each of you!
On DAY 11, we had a 7 mile day. While the miles may have been short, they were powerful! We reached the most amazing vista of the whole trip. A short detour up a huge rock tallace field gave us a 360° view and also the chance to reflect on what nature has to offer. It was spectacular and we soaked it up with everything we had. A special and heartfelt thank you to our mile sponsors: Simone , Eleanor and Simon and family, Susan , Jenny Carson and B and family, and Jaco and family as well as Uncle Chris and Won who sponsored miles in honor of my grandmother and Ayla's great grandmother Joan. Her spirit was guiding us through those uphill for sure!
Day 12: Day 12 was one for the books! We had 12.6 miles to complete... there were 5 major climbs and not one of them had a view at the top! We motivated ourselves by sharing countless stories, reflecting on your well wishes and keeping a consistent pace. It paid off as we actually got to campsite by 1:30pm that afternoon! The Alexa and Jaco family carried us through the morning miles and we continued to honor Grandma Joan through the sponsorship from Chris and Won. A special and heartfelt thank you to Luke and his family who sponsored miles in honor of his brother in law "Flash" (2003 AT thru hiker) and mother in law "Sash" (current section hiker with just 150 miles left. Go Sash!), Gina and Mike, Paul and Tara and family, Mimi and family, Valerie, Sonya , Regan and family, a sponsorship in honor of Valle Crucis Conference Center, Beck, Savannah, and Rebekah (who continues to sponsor us right on into....
Wow. We went to bed last night giggling at silly family jokes and woke up this morning to clear skies and 8 miles of trail between us and the end of our 102 mile section. Within the last few miles, we scrambled over bouldering rocks, passed communication towers (!) and reflected on our favorite and most memorable parts of the trip. Each of us had a strong part wanting to continue south and just hike back to Boone... but then there is also the calling of Simba and Nala and getting to see each of you... and yes, to be completely honest, we couldn't wait to get a hold of a hot pizza and ice cream!
Bringing us home today were sponsorships from Rebekah , Jesse (your hill was straight up!), Elizabeth , Ariel (your hills were super sweet, like you!), Minna and Bill, Laurie and Jim and family, Mary and Jody , Stephanie , Amy and Michael and family, Kim, and Gary and Fuchsia and family. Finally, a huge thank you to Jane who sponsored the last mile in honor of her father, Ryan's Grandfather and Ayla's great grandfather who section hiked the entire Appalachian trail, John "Big Al". What a way to bring it home!
If you would still like to donate, please do! We are just a few dollars shy of the second goal and would love to surpass it! Click on hosphouse.org/giversofhope . Thank you!
To all of our dear friends and family and supporters that we have yet to meet... may the path always lead you exactly where you need to be. Happiest of trails, wherever your feet take you! We love you all.
Over the past several weeks, we have been in full force... any free time is currently used to get creative with meal preparation, check over our gear, work on fundraising efforts for the Hospitality House of Northwest NC, and physically train for this 102 mile trek.
Each and every moment is entirely worth it and through the process, we have been incredibly humbled and honored by the immense amount of support for this trip. From sponsoring miles to sending well wishes to simple encouragement, we are feeling the love!
A huge highlight came when we obtained sponsorship from OSPREY packs! We LOVE our Osprey packs and a huge thank you to them as they have not only outfitted us for this trip but are also donating several pack to be auctioned off on behalf of the Hospitality House. WOW!
Additionally, a HUGE thank you goes out to The Old Store at Grassy Creek for supporting 5 miles of our hike! If you are ever in the Western NC area, check out this amazing project that speaks directly to the history of this area.
Girl Scout Troop 13114, it brought tears to our eyes to see that you decided to donate $102 to the Hospitality House on behalf of the 102 miles we will be hiking. You ARE our leaders of today!
And finally, a truly heart felt thank you to each of you who have already sponsored a mile... or 10! We are blown away by the support and because of each of you, we are now on our second round of mile sponsorship! The LOVE that is in this world is amazing. Let us never forget that!
Thank you, OSPREY, for sponsoring the Givers of Hope 2021 Hike to End Homelessness!
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