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Annual Appalachian Trail Backpack Trip

We left the gym on Monday, April 5, with 22 TAASC folks in the bus and drove to Watauga Lake in Tennessee.

Around 2 p.m. we began hiking in really hot weather up a steep hill to gain a ridgeline that was 16 miles long! For the next two days we plodded along in the heat ‘til we reached the monument and gravesite for Uncle Nick Grindstaff who died in 1924 and according to the marker, “lived alone, suffered alone, and died alone.”

On Thursday the weather changed to a cold, windy, hard-at-times rain. Over 14 years of AT trips in April the weather continues to always throw us a challenge. In 2000, we had to abort five miles into the trip due to a freak snowstorm that dumped four inches. The cold, challenging weather on Thursday really drove the point home of the importance that ALL TAASC members must do at least one trip per month for the experience and training to deal with serious situations such as the weather we had this year. People were getting cold, wet and tired after nine miles of hiking that day (and a total of 31 miles over four days), so we grabbed the first campsite we could find and got everyone in the tents and into warm, dry sleeping bags.

The next morning, Friday, was our last day and everyone was eager to reach Damascus, VA our final destination. We chugged along the remaining five miles that morning and ran smack into Mike and Karen Ayotte at the edge of town. Karen had baked fresh cookies for all and you’ve never seen cookies consumed so fast. We hiked on into town with visions of pizza and “real food” on our minds.

Congratulations to all the kids who completed the 40 mile trip and especially four amazing Younger members who did a truly awesome job of handling this tough challenge in good style: Zach Ayotte, Connor Brazinski, Luke Carlisle and Spencer Memmel. Thanks to Molly Franklin for planning the trip and being the overall leader and to all the other kids who served as daily leaders.

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