Tuesday, October 6, 2009

ATM Virginia Part 2

Please click the link below to see the slideshow: ATM Virginia Part 2 with captions:


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Bear Stand Off

Sonshine saw her first bear in Shenandoah National Park. As she wrote this journal entry she was inside of a privy with all of her belongings waiting for the bear to go away.

The morning she left Luray, VA she was up at 7:30 am and Sonshine and her Mom had the continental breakfast at the motel they were at and packed up to leave. Sonshine wrote some postcards and letters to send off. While Sonshine was packing up she broke her camp spork into three pieces. This was her second spork for the trip, she broke the first spork just before the Smokey Mountains. After they checked out of the motel, they went by the town outfitter to buy another spork.

At the outfitter, the owner said that he did not have any of the sporks Sonshine was looking for, but that he had a truck coming in that day with a package of them. He showed her some metal options and then he went into the back room. When he reappeared from the back room, he had a spork that he used for stirring his coffee and he said he would wash it and give it to Sonshine. Sonshine thanked him and as they talked, she learned that he was originally from Baltimore and that he had been running on the AT that morning. He asked Sonshine if she had seen any bears yet and when she told him no, he warned her to be on the look out for bears because there are so many in the park, (SNP). Little did Sonshine know then that she would see one that day and that she would be stuck waiting a bear out in a privy!

After the outfitters and a trip to the post office, they went to the library to pick up a fellow hiker: GENTLE BEN. Sonshine's Mom dropped off Sonshine were she left off the trail and took Gentle Ben about 25 miles north to a trail head for him to get back on the trail.

Back on the trail, it was up, up, up and away. Many hikers on the AT have said that the AT breaks the old adage that "what goes up, must come down," because the AT seems to continuously ascend without much descending.

Sonshine decided to stop at Pass Mountain Hut for a break and an early dinner. Pass Mountain Hut is known for it's "kissing trees." These two trees are about 20 feet in front of the hut. There were four hikers at the hut when Sonshine arrived; 3 GUYS FROM TEXAS who are thru-hikers and a section hiker named Ben who was hiking south. They all talked for about an hour, then the 3 guys from Texas left, heading 6 miles north to the next wayside grill on Skyline Drive to get Blackberry Milkshakes. Sonshine helped Ben plan his hike for the next several days and then he headed south.

Sonshine was reading through the shelter log, reading about the hikers she knows and how long ago they had been at the shelter. Sonshine had just gotten her journal out and had begun to write about her day, when a bear jumped over a fence that was behind the shelter and landed directly in front of the shelter. This was the first bear that Sonshine had come in contact with. Sonshine stood up and and began yelling and waving her arms wildly, to attempt to scare off the bear. The bear looked at Sonshine, unfazed. Sonshine waited a few minutes and tried to scare the bear again, this time the bear came towards her with his head down. Sonshine grabbed her pack and ran to the privy, which was actually a four-sided structure (the privies are usually three-sided structures) and the bear followed. The bear was outside the privy snarling, banging it's head on the walls of the privy, scratching the walls and pacing around the privy for 18 hours! It was 6:20 pm when Sonshine got into the privy. Sonshine was praying most of the 18 hours, asking God to send another hiker or park ranger to help her scare the bear away. Sonshine was yelling and banging on the sides of the privy, making as much noise as she could to scare the bear away from the privy and campsite. She tried to call 911, to ask them to call the ranger's station but was unable to get cell phone reception. Throughout the night she heard deer coming close to the privy and she prayed that the bear would take an interest in the deer and chase after them, but the bear was fixated on Sonshine and her food. Sonshine was beginning to feel like Jonah, in the belly of the whale! Sonshine was reading her Bible and was able to read 12 chapters of Matthew over a span of a few hours, because the bear seemed agitated when she would turn on her head light for more than 10 to 20 minutes. She was unable to sleep because the bear would take a break for about 20 minutes and then attempt to get in the privy. At day light, about 4:30 am until 6:30 am the bear became more aggressive and agitated. Maybe that was the bear's normal breakfast time? The bear would back up and then run directly towards the privy and stop just short of hitting the wall of the privy.

At 12 noon the next day, after 18 hours inside the privy with the bear actively pursuing Sonshine, she heard a hiker and he started yelling. The two of them yelling back and forth to one another seemed to get the bear's attention. The other hiker came towards the bear with his hiking poles and the bear then ran off. Sonshine was thanking God that she was not claustrophobic and for not allowing the bear to break down the privy and attack her!

Sonshine thanked the other hiker and she hiked south to the nearest ranger station about 2 miles away, to report the unusually aggressive bear activity. Once she reached the ranger's station a ranger took her report and called an environmental biologist to come and talk with her about this incident. After an hour, Sonshine had spoken with several people at the ranger's station about the bear. It was decided that a AT Ridge Runner would go up to the hut and spend the night to see if the bear came back.

Sonshine then hiked on the Front Royal, VA to a hostel called Terrapin Station Hostel to spend the night.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Luray, VA

Sonshine met her Mom in Luray, VA for two days of sightseeing throughout the town. They went and explored the Luray Caverns: http://www.luraycaverns.com looking at the Stalactites and Stalagmites, the beauty and awe of God's creation and the rescued animals at the Luray Zoo: http://www.lurayzoo.com

Sonshine and Sonshine's Mom were able to perform some "trail magic" while they were in town. As they were dropping off some soda and snacks on the trail for hikers to enjoy they met about 10 hikers. One girl named GOZER said that she and her hiking partner FANCY PANTS were going to be going into Luray to resupply, so Sonshine offered to give them a ride. They all stopped and ate at an all you can eat restaurant. Gozer and Fancy Pants were quite famished when they arrived but pleasantly stuffed when they all left the restaurant. Sonshine and Sonshine's Mom dropped them off at the laundry mat in town and went to the Luray Zoo. They gave their phone numbers to Gozer and Fancy Pants, so they could call when they were finished their errands and they would give them a ride up to the trail, 9 miles away. At about 8:30 pm, Sonshine and her Mom were headed out for dinner and they saw the two hikers sitting on the highway trying to get a ride up to the trail, so they picked them up again and took them up to the trail head.

On Saturday Sonshine was back on the trail. Sonshine's Mom dropped off Sonshine were she left off the trail and took another hiker, GENTLE BEN about 25 miles away to a trail head for him to get back on the trail. Sonshine had a nice relaxing time with her Mom exploring Luray, VA and being "trail angels."

Virginia Part 3 - Shanandoah National Park

After spending the night at the Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church Hostel in Waynesboro, VA, Sonshine was back on the trail. She met several hikers she knew in the town of Waynesboro and on the trail heading out of town. She entered into Shenandoah National Park (SNP), her first day back on the trail.

Shenandoah National Park, (SNP) is the home to Skyline Drive, wild turkey, white tailed deer, black bears and shelter mice. In addition to the AT, the park includes nearly 400 miles of other trails. The AT crosses over Skyline Drive 45 times. There are Wayside Grills that serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Many of the hikers like to stop and eat at the Waysides and not carrying food through the park.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Return to the AT - Waynesboro, VA

Sonshine has returned to the Appalachian Trail. She had an ankle and a knee brace added to her hiking gear. Please pray for her physical, emotional and spiritual health. Pray that she will continue to be salt and light to the hikers, the people of the trail towns and anyone else she encounters.

Time off the trail spent resting and healing

Sonshine followed the doctor's orders and took two weeks off of the Appalachian Trail to rest her right knee and ankle. She was able to spend time with her friends, visit her church and see some family. Sonshine would like to thank all of the people who made her time of rest relaxing and fun.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Fundraising Update

The fundraising goal for the Appalachian Trail Ministry is $8500

As of June 8, 2009 the donations totaled: $ 3835

Are you able to sow seed into this ministry? Please pray about this opportunity and follow as the Lord leads. Tax deductible donations may be sent to:

New Covenant Community Church of God
2530 Conowingo Road
Bel Air, MD 21015

Checks should be made out to NEW COVENANT COMMUNITY CHURCH OF GOD


Thank you in advance for your prayerful consideration.

Slideshow: NEXT Conference

Please click the link below to see the slideshow: NEXT Conference with captions:


NEXT Conference

NEXT 2009 was all about JESUS. The purpose of the conference as sited on the conference's website:

"When was the last time you set aside time for what is most important? For the person who is the most important? Laziness and familiarity can take their toll. Jesus becomes comfortable, a habit, not exciting or awe inspiring. Too often he fades into the background of our busy lives. But Jesus hasn't changed. And he invites us to meet him again.

The same Jesus who spoke the universe into being. The same Jesus who went from heaven's glory to a stable. The same Jesus who took on flesh, walked the earth and took on our sorrows. The same Jesus who suffered, bled, and died on the cross as our substitute, for our sins. The same Jesus who conquered death and rose from the grave. The same Jesus who will one day return.

We gather to worship him, to study his Word, and to rediscover who he is and what he has done."

The group of 14 Sonshine was with made it to the Baltimore Convention Center with a half hour to check into the conference and make their way into the first general session. The schedule of general speakers was as follows:

Christ's Preeminence - Joshua Harris
Christ's Incarnation - D.A. Carson
Christ's Life - Kevin DeYoung
Christ's Death - C.J. Mahaney
Christ's Resurrection - Sinclair Ferguson
Christ's Return - Sinclair Ferguson

All of these messages may be downloaded free of charge at this address: http://www.thisisnext.org/resources

Sonshine would highly recommend that you listen to these messages. She was richly blessed to have this time to reflect, refresh, reconcentrate and refocus on Christ.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Slideshow: Pearisburg, VA

Please click on the link below to see the slideshow of Pearisburg, VA with captions:


Pearisburg, VA 624.0 miles northbound on the AT

Sonshine made it to Pearisburg, VA on a Sunday night and was able to stay at the Holy Family Church Hostel, 2.9 miles off the AT, (see pictures). The hostel is behind the Holy Family Catholic Church, located in a peaceful setting on a hill and offers an exquisite view from the porch. Members of the church dismantled an old barn and reconstructed it as a hostel expressly for backpackers. The hostel has a refrigerator, griddle, microwave, wood stove, shower and loft with sleeping pads. Camping is permitted on the lawn and the gazebo. There is even a side trail from the hostel to Walmart, making it easy for hikers to resupply. When Sonshine arrived at the hostel there was one other hiker there named SNEAKS. Sneaks is from New Jersey and he had been hiking with a group of three other guys for a few weeks, he took a few extra days off in a town and he was trying to catch up with them again. When Sneaks went to Walmart to buy his supplies for the next week and a couple came by the hostel. They were Tim and Donna. Donna had thru hiked the AT in 2007 and had to leave the trail in Pearisburg due to an injury. She and Tim came to Pearisburg for a week of vacation, so that Donna could continue hiking on the AT. Donna's trail name is HIKER NUTT. Tim was going to slack pack Donna for 5 days and one night she would spend in a shelter. What is slack packing? Simply defined, it is hiking a section of a trail without a fully loaded backpack. It gives you the option to carry only what you need for a typical day hike. Tim would drop Donna off on the AT at a road crossing and meet her at the next road she would cross and ask her if she wanted to hike to the next road or call it a day. Here is an example: Tim dropped Donna off at VA 635, Stoney Creek mile 645.7 then Tim met Donna at VA 613, Salt Sulpher Turnpike mile 650.9. Donna then had the choice to keep hiking to USFS 156, Johns Creek Valley mile 656.8 or go back to Pearisburg for dinner and call it a night. Tim and Donna drove to Pearisburg in their Avalanche, which is a conversion truck, so they were able to sleep in the truck at night on an air mattress. They also brought their dog Roscoe, Donna is hoping to make Roscoe a hiking companion, so this was an introduction to the trail. After Tim and Donna stopped by to check out the hostel, they were not able to stay there because there is a strict no animals policy, Sneaks came back from Walmart and Sonshine and he built a fire in the woodstove. After getting the fire going and making dinner, Tim and Donna came back to socialize. The foursome sat around talking and planning out their week ahead. Monday morning Tim and Donna came to the hostel at 6 am and invited Sneaks and Sonshine to breakfast at the local Hardee's. At breakfast Donna aka Hiker Nutt asked Sonshine if she would like to hike with her for the week. She could slack pack during the day and go back to the hostel at night. After breakfast Tim dropped Sneaks off on the AT where he needed to pick up the trail. Then after a trip to the vet for Roscoe, Hiker Nutt, Sonshine and Roscoe were on the trail.

Hiker Nutt and Roscoe waited for Sonshine at the Bailey Gap Shelter and they all took a break and ate lunch. After lunch they agreed to meet at the next road. While climbing 1650 feet up the trail, there was a section of the trail that was rocky for about two hours. Sonshine twisted her right ankle and knee several times throughout this section. It was a struggle for Sonshine to push on to meet Hiker Nutt and Tim at the road. On the ride back to town, they passed a large hotel and resort called Mountain Lake Hotel. Once they were back in Pearisburg they ate dinner at a pizza place. They asked their waitress about the hotel and she told them that the movie Dirty Dancing was filmed there. This is the website for the hotel if you want to check it out: http://www.mountainlakehotel.com/ After dinner Tim and Hiker Nutt dropped Sonshine off at the Holy Family Hostel for the night. There were 4 hikers at the hostel on Monday night. Tuesday morning Sonshine woke up and her right ankle and knee were both swollen, each time she stepped down pain would shoot up her leg from her knee. Sonshine decided to try hiking and see how she felt that day to see if she should go to a doctor and have her leg checked. Tim and Hiker Nutt came to the hostel early again and picked up Sonshine. They all went to Hardee's for breakfast. At Hardee's Sonshine saw SHERLOCK AND CIRCUIT RIDER again, they are the two preachers from Michigan who have hiked the trail for several years, more information about them can be found at http://www.heartbeatat.com/ Sonshine was able to talk with these two men and they were a great encouragement to her. After breakfast at Hardee's, Hiker Nutt, Tim and Sonshine were headed for the trail. On the way to the drop off point, they stopped by the Mountain Lake Hotel and drove around. They were able to confirm that what the waitress had told them the night before about Dirty Dancing having been filmed there. They found the gift shop and it advertised that the film was filmed at this location but it was not open yet, so they did not go in.

While starting the hiking for the day, Tim and Sonshine met a hiker named ALMOND JOY. Almond Joy is a young man from Israel who has been hiking the AT, (see pictures). Tim offered to slack Almond Joy's pack for him but he declined. While getting Roscoe ready to hike, Hiker Nutt found a tick attached to his ear. Hiker Nutt was able to get the entire tick off of Roscoe and put alcohol on his ear. This was an important reminder to everyone to be diligent about putting on bug repellent and to check themselves for all ticks and other insects regularly.

Sonshine set off hiking for about an hour, while she was ascending a 600 foot climb, she decided to turn around and head back to the truck where she knew Tim was waiting. Sonshine thought maybe a day of rest would help her ankle and knee.

Once she met up with Tim, they waited at a road crossing for Hiker Nutt and Roscoe. They met several hikers while waiting: FLY BY, WHISHY WASHY, SNAG, MUDDD, GIDDY UP, ALMOND JOY and others. The first hiker to come by was Almond Joy whom they had met earlier in the day. Almond Joy was surprised to see these two again and this time he stopped and chatted with them. They again asked him if he wanted to slack pack and this time he asked what that meant. After explaining to Almond Joy what slack packing was and sharing some water and food with him he was able to load up a small day backpack with the supplies he needed for the day and let Tim slack his pack to the next road. Almond Joy was so excited to accept the help and be free of the complete weight of his pack that he skipped off down the trail!

When Hiker Nutt came to the road, she was happy to give Roscoe a break after they had hiked 5 miles. Hiker Nutt was training Roscoe to be a hiker dog and she said that he had a rough morning. He constantly was pulling and wanting to run after each and every smell and sound. This made hiking that much harder for Hiker Nutt. Roscoe was happy for a break and went right to sleep once he was in his crate.

When Tim and Sonshine left the road they met Hiker Nutt at, Tim had 6 packs on the back of the truck that he was slacking for hikers. Once at the next road crossing, after finding some shade to park the truck in, they waited for the people who's packs they had on the truck. Tim picked up packs from GEEZA, TOP SHELF and GOOSE to drive to the next road a mile away. Tim was also able to talk to some hikers he had met earlier in the week. Tim enjoys slack packing Hiker Nutt, because he is able to meet and help many hikers while waiting at road crossings.

Once Tim had 9 packs on the back of his truck, they traveled over to the next road crossings a mile away. Tim unpacked the packs and lined them up along the AT for the hikers to pick up, (see pictures). As the hikers were picking up their packs, some stopped to take a break and to take pictures.

After a long day, Tim, Hiker Nutt and Sonshine went back to the town of Pearisburg. They went to the hostel and picked up a friend of Tim and Hiker Nutt's - DARTMAN, who had just come into town that day. The four of them along with SON DANCER went to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant and enjoyed a delicious dinner!

On Wednesday, Sonshine walked to the local doctor's office to get her right knee and ankle checked. After arriving at the doctor's office at 9 am, Sonshine made an appointment for 1:15 pm and decided to stay at the office to wait for her appointment. After being seen, the prognosis was severe tendonitis in both her right knee and ankle. She was advised to take two weeks off, wear braces and to elevate and ice her leg as much as possible.

Once Sonshine was back at the hostel, a hiker named FEED BAG limped into the hostel. Feed Bag is from Nashville, TN and he and Sonshine were able to talk about what they both enjoy about Nashville. Feed Bag is hiking the AT to raise awareness about World Vision. He worked for World Vision before hiking, touring to share the message of World Vision and to attempt to get 2,200 children sponsored through World Vision. He has a website that you can visit to find out more: http://www.2200miles.com/ Feed Bag had hurt his ankle a few weeks prior and had been nursing it since then. He felt as though he needed to take some time off the trail to properly rest his ankle. As God would have it, Feed Bag's young adult group from church would be heading up to Baltimore for a convention for the weekend. From Nashville they would have to take 81 to get to Baltimore and therefore would be passing by the hikers. Feed Bag offered this to Sonshine as an option for getting a ride to Baltimore to take some time off.

Thursday, Tim came back to the hostel to pick up Sonshine after dropping Hiker Nutt and some other hikers off on the trail. Tim and Sonshine were able to perform some more trail magic while waiting for a hiker named SLED DOG that Tim had slack packed to arrive at the road crossing. Sonshine was able to rest her leg and explore the trail at a more leisurely pace, along the way meeting T-SUDS, MAVERICK, NIGHT FIGHT, HAPPY and a few day hikers. While resting her leg, Tim and Sonshine talked about Environmental, Health and Safety issues from both their respective work places. Tim works for a large carpet manufacturer and is a key player in the facilities department. Sonshine was able to witness to Tim and learn more about his and Hiker Nutt's life in GA.

While waiting to pick up Sled Dog after her 27.1 mile day of hiking, Tim and Sonshine hiked up to Wind Rock, (see pictures). Tim took Sonshine, Sled Dog and Rehab back to the hostel for the night. Tim found a place to camp for the night and Hiker Nutt spent the night in a shelter to break up 22 miles of hiking into 2 days.

When they had all returned to the hostel, it was brimming with hikers: TRAIL BAIL and STARBUCKS are brothers hiking a section of the trail for a month, REHAB is a father from PA out completing the trail from a hike he began last year, WOMPUS CAT is a recent graduate of Penn State University and is hiking as far as she can before starting grad school, FASTACY FEET is a man who has walked up and down the trail for a few years, along with Sled Dog, Rehab, Almond Joy, Goose, Geeza, Top Shelf, Feed Bag and Sonshine. Wompus Cat, Trail Bail, Starbucks and Sonshine played rummy as the sun was setting, (see pictures). This was the best sunset on the trail yet! Once the sun had set, Trail Bail and Starbucks made a delicious dinner of quinoa and stir fried veggies to share. This was the first time many of the hikers had ever had quinoa and they found it very tasty. Quinoa has a light, fluffy texture when cooked, and its mild, slightly nutty flavor makes it an alternative to rice or couscous. After dinner everyone cleaned up and called it a night.

Friday, Sonshine talked to Feed Bag about the trip up to Baltimore on Saturday. Feed Bag said that there was room for them to ride up with his church group. Feed Bag also told Sonshine about the NEXT conference and asked if she would like to attend that with his church group. After Sonshine read about the conference online (http://www.thisisnext.org) and prayed about it she accepted the invitation but instead of staying in a hotel with the group, she and another girl from the group would stay at her Mom's house in Harford County to be spared the expense of the 3 night hotel stay. Sonshine stayed around the hostel elevating her leg and cleaning the hostel during the day. She was able to have a lengthy conversation with Fantasy Feet about the Lord Jesus Christ and why He came to earth to save the world through his death and resurrection. Fantasy Feet was very open to hearing about Christ and the plan of Salvation. Please keep him in your prayers.

Friday evening while the hikers were sitting outside talking and enjoying the view, Father Prinelli came over to check on the hostel. He sat and talked with everyone for an hour or so and asked for some help taking towels over the church to be laundered. He was a very animated story teller and a funny guy. He invited Sonshine and Feed Bag over for tea and coffee the next morning and they accepted.

Saturday morning after packing their bags and tiding up the hostel, Feed Bag and Sonshine headed over to the church to fellowship with Father Prinelli. Feed Bag was able to play a few hymns on the piano and Father Prinelli sang along. Father Prinelli also convinced Feed Bag to try to play the organ, Father Prinelli said in his 31 years at the church he never had any members of his parish that knew how to play. After tea, coffee and fresh fruit with the Father, Sonshine and Feed Bag met a man who is a shuttle driver that they had arranged to pick them up and drive them the 20 miles to interstate 81 to meet Feed Bag's church. The driver took them to Denny's and dropped them off. They ate lunch and waited for Feed Bag's church to arrive.

Trail Angels in Bastian, VA

After Trail Days in Damascus, Sonshine and her Mom headed north to Bastian, VA to drop Sonshine back on the trail. Sonshine and her Mom wanted to leave some "trail magic" for other hikers, so they purchased some water, soda, and snacks for the hikers to enjoy. (see pictures) Trail Angels: n. A person who leaves food and performs other acts of kindness for hikers. Angels can help in many ways: leaving treats at road crossings for hikers to find, giving rides into town, generally finding ways to make a hiker's day brighter.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Appalachian Trail Days Festival May 15-18, 2009

Damascus, Va is called the friendliest town on the AT and is the home of the Appalachian Trail Days Festival. Trail Days was first held in 1987 as a commemorative event for the 50th anniversary of the AT, the festival activities and crowds have grown ever since. Activities include a hiker reunion and talent show, hiking related exhibits, arts and crafts exhibits, a trout rodeo, street dances, live music and the popular hiker parade through downtown.

The First Baptist Church of Damascus has developed a mission outreach team exclusively for the festival and has been blessed by help from 4 other churches from around America. This year the church offered use of the sanctuary for seminars, set up a free internet cafe for hikers, fed hungry hikers for free, held a coffee house with free food for hikers and an open mike, had a mobile laboratory for health screening; including blood pressure, cholesterol, blood screening to check for nutrition deficiencies, feet washing and several podiatrists on hand to exam tired feet and handed out hygiene, first aide, food and supplies for hikers, free showers, hiker worship service, free shuttles back to the AT, free eating contest and much more . Everyone helping was sharing the love of Christ Jesus by working and openly sharing the gospel. They had many pamphlets, booklets, New Testaments and tracks to offer as well. There was definitely a lot of effort and organization put into the support offered by the church! This is the churches website: http://reachdamascusfbc.org/

Hikers filled into Damascus for the celebration as early as a week before the event. Some stayed in Bed and Breakfasts, Inns or Hotels, while most camped in an open field known as Tent City. Sonshine's Mom came down for the festival and they stayed in a town about 30 minutes away called Marion, VA. They were able to check out the vendors, attend some seminars on hiking the AT and other popular trails and watch some slide shows. Sonshine enjoyed meeting two guys she started the trail with on day 1, then called The Two Erics, their trail names are now: BROWN COW and BROWN CHICKEN from a joke someone once told Eric. They both are still hiking together and loving the AT!

While watching a slideshow on the Continental Divide Trail, Sonshine and her Mom sat next to a hiker named SONDANCER and his wife. Sondancer and his wife are from Hereford, MD and they were excited to meet some other Marylanders. Sondancer's name means "One Who Dances For His Father," (both his earthly and heavenly Father (God)). Sondancer is hiking to raise awareness for the Alzheimer’s Association because his Dad has Alzheimer’s disease. He and his wife stayed in a bed and breakfast during the festival and he was sharing his reason for hiking and the owners asked if they could pray for him. They asked Sondancer if he was afraid of having Alzheimer’s disease one day as well and he said that was a big fear of his. The owners prayed for Sondancer's health, that God would allow for this disease to pass over him and also for God to keep him safe on the trail. Sondancer also had a table set up about Alzheimer’s awareness at the festival and he was able to raise some support.

Sonshine and her Mom attended the annual hiker parade, (see pictures) learned about Contra dancing which is the same as square dancing and fellowshipped with other hikers. After 3 days of the festival it was time for Sonshine to get back on the trail.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Slideshow: AT Trail Days Festival Pictures May 15-17, 2009

Click on the link below to see the slideshow: Appalachian Trail Days Festival May 15-17, 2009, in Damascus, VA with captions:


Friday, May 29, 2009

Bill Irwin

Sonshine has been hearing about a blind hiker who hiked the entire Appalachian Trail about 15 years ago named Bill Irwin.  Bill was the first blind man to hike the entire trail in 9 months with his seeing eye dog, Orient.  Bill wrote a book called Blind Courage about his experience.  Bill now does inspirational, motivational and keynote speaking.  Here is Bill's website if you would like to learn more about him, his incredible journey or his book: http://www.billirwin.com

Hot Springs, NC

Sonshine met up with Bama at Standing Bear Farm and they started hiking together.  Bama had planned to hike to Damascus, VA for the Trail Days Festival.  Bama is from Alabama and she thru-hiked the AT in 2006.  Each spring and fall Bama goes back to the AT and hikes for about a month.  

Sonshine and Bama made it to Hot Springs, NC.  The AT passes right through the middle of town on Bridge Street.  Hot Springs is the first town that the AT goes directly through, (see pictures for the AT blazes down the street.)  They stayed at the Sunnybank Hostel aka Elmer's.  This is a 180 year old house that has been a hostel for over 30 years.  Hikers can buy dinner and breakfast, which is 100% organic gourmet vegetarian food.  After running errands in town, Sonshine and Bama joined Elmer and the other hikers for a delicious dinner of creamed broccoli soup, greek salad, beans and rice and cheese cake.  

Bama and Sonshine were packed and out of the hostel by 7:30 am.  They had breakfast at the Smokey Mountain Diner, a favorite place on the trail for Bama.

They were on the AT by 8:30 am, hiking up Lover's Leap.  About a mile into the hike, Sonshine suddenly had diarrhea without warning and had to go back into town to clean up.  Sonshine came upon a bath house used by rafters on the French Broad River.  The bath house was unlocked, so Sonshine went inside to clean up.  While inside a man yelled in and asked if anyone was inside.  Sonshine replied "yes," but the man must not have heard her because when she was finished cleaning up she tried to leave but found that she was pad locked inside.  After over an hour of banging on the door and shouting a girl came and was able to free her from the bath house.  Sonshine then went back to town and Captain Clewis from the Salvation Army (www.salvationarmyusa.org) was able to help her get a cabin for two nights.  After the days events, Sonshine was left feeling discouraged and wanting to give up and go home.  Sonshine asks for pray for mental strength as many people leave the trail because they allow their mind to think negatively about whether they will be able to physically make it to Maine.

A blessing for Sonshine was to be able to attend bible study  at the First Baptist Church in Hot Springs after such a long and daunting day.  The study was on Hebrews 8:1-5.  They bible study was been studying about Christ as our High Priest.  In Hebrews 8:3 it shows the purpose of our High Priest, the purpose seen in His ordination and in His offerings.  To understand that Christ could not be our High Priest without His offering= Christ Jesus sacrificing His life at Calvary.  Sonshine was reminded of how thankful she is of Christ's sacrifice that she might have life.  She is also thankful for the opportunity to share Christ with others!

The next day Sonshine was able to take advantage of a free hour long soak in a hot tub with mineral water, (see pictures for the view from the hot tub.)  Hot Springs gets it's name from the natural mineral springs that naturally stay at 105 degrees, year round.  The hot tubs are surrounded by a fence on 3 sides and open to the French Broad River.  It was nice for her to relax and watch the river.

Sonshine met two brothers hiking the AT: CHAINSAW and STEVE.  Chainsaw broke his leg while night hiking 2 weeks into his thru-hike.  He had to hike about 5 miles to make it into town and then waited for 4 days before going to the Emergency Room to find that he had broken his leg!  He rested for 3 weeks and was going to attempt to hike the trail again the next day.  He has his leg in a stabilization brace, (see pictures) and will have to wear the brace for the remainder of his hike.  Please pray for Chainsaw and Steve as they hike.  Pray that Chainsaw will listen to his body and if he needs to rest or take more time off that he will listen.

Sonshine saw LOBO in town, a man she has seen many times along the trail.  He had an appointment to see the doctor in town about his ankle which had been seriously hurting him for 17 straight days.  He was afraid that he may have broken something and may need to go home for a few weeks to rest and let his ankle heal.  Please pray for Lobo as he decides what to do about his ankle.

Sonshine was able to talk with WRATH and BAM BAM about God again around the camp fire.  Wrath continues to be rejecting of the idea of God.  Some other hikers have said that they think that Wrath may be schizophrenic due to his believing that he is from another universe and thinks that he lives in an alternate reality.  Please pray for Wrath, for both his mental stability and his salvation.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Completing the Smokey's

Sonshine made it back to the Smokey's. She felt a bit cheated on the views in the Smokey Mountains because of the rain and fog. The shelters in the Smokey's fill up fast because of the many day, weekend and section hikers. Everyone has to obtain a permit to stay in the shelters. Due to the bear population only thru-hikers are allowed to camp around the shelters in the Smokey's. In recent years the Smokey Mountains National Park (SMNP) has hosted more than nine million visitors annually. Another way to experience the Smokey Mountains is to rent horses and ride through. Sonshine will be putting this on her list of activities she would like to go back and do at another time. The SMNP is home to the most diverse forest in North America, the park includes more than 100 species of trees, 1,570 species of flowering plants, 60 species of mammals, more than 25 different species of salamanders and 2,000 varieties of mushrooms. Sonshine would highly recommend that you take a trip to the Smokey's once the weather gets warmer to check out the wonders that it has to offer.

Upon completion of the 72 miles in the Smokey Mountains National Park, there is a hostel about 2 miles outside of the park called Standing Bear Hostel. The hostel is a 100 + year old farm that the owners Curtis and Maria have turned into a hostel. The fire at the hostel was very nice and relaxing after a week without fires. Sonshine met many new hikers here, some had been at the hostel for a few days, working in exchange for staying there. Sonshine was told that Curtis and Maria were planning to host their First Annual Standing Bear Farm Hiker Party for the next day.

Sonshine decided to stay the next day to enjoy the party at the hostel. Curtis and some other hikers roasted a whole pig over a fire most of the day and Maria, who also owns a restaurant in town with her Mother prepared the fixings to go with the pork. There was a local band that came to play and the rain held off long enough for them to get set up on the porch of Curtis and Maria's house. (See pictures for photos from the party.) There were about 100 people who came to the party: current hikers, past thru-hikers and people from town. After an hour or two, the party turned into more drinking than eating, so Sonshine went to bed.

It is very unsettling to witness all of the drug use that goes on near towns. Many hikers will go into town to get drunk or carry out alcohol with them to the first shelter on the trail. Many hikers smoke cigarettes as well as abuse other legal and illegal drugs. Sonshine sees more and mores, why the Lord lead her to the mission field of the Appalachian Trail!

Half way through the Smokey Mountains

Sonshine has hiked half way through the Smokey Mountains. It has been raining during the day and cold at night. She made it to the highest point along the AT, Clingmans Dome at 6643 feet. Sonshine was there early in the morning and was not able to climb up the observation tower due to the ice. From this point in the Smokey's some hikers go into the town of Gatlinburg, TN and Sonshine made the journey. She was given a ride into town by a former thru-hiker named Bama and he husband Bill. Bama thru-hiked the AT in 2006 and each year in the spring and fall she gets "Springer Fever" - the urge to go and hike the trail. Bama was going to hike for a month from the middle of the Smokey's to Damascus, VA where the Appalachian Trail Days festival is held. She is planning to meet her husband there and they will stay for the festival.

Sonshine went to the post office to pick up her mail drop with her next week's supply of food inside. Sonshine's mail drop was not there but she was surprised to have received two cards. One was an Easter card from her Mom and another was an encouraging card from a friend at her church in Bowie, MD. Both of these cards were very thoughtful and encouraging for Sonshine! About the food box, Sonshine took the trolley into the nearest grocery store the next day to buy her food for the next week. The trip to the grocery store took about 5 hours round trip. Sonshine did get to enjoy the town and the tourists along the way. The motel that she stayed in was very hiker friendly. She especially enjoyed talking with the managers one who is from India and his wife who is from Trinidad.

Sonshine also was able to talk with some of her hiker friend's : TWO - PACKS, IZZY, SHAMELESS BLUE BLAZER, TOM, HOUDINI, BLINK and BLESSED.

Heading in to the Smokey's

Faithful Sonshine Readers -

My apologies for taking so long to give you the update on journal entries that I had last received from Sonshine at the end of April. I have not received any updates since then, though Sonshine has blessed us with uploads of her pictures. :) YAY! :)

As of mid-April...the AT Hikers had found themselves in the midst of sleet, snow, rain and hail with drifts that were as high as Sonshine's calves! However, she was able to spend a 3-day weekend with her Uncle over Easter which was a major praise! One of her mail-drops was somehow delivered to a popular hiker location - but that meant that she and her uncle had to backtrack to find it. But praise - her food for the week was located! There were tornado warnings for the area where her Uncle lives for about 6 hours when they got to his house, praise God, He kept them safe from harm.

After the 3 day weekend with her uncle, Sonshine was back on the trail. She stayed at what is known as the best shelter on the trail: Fontana Dam Shelter also known as the Fontana Hilton, (see pictures). This shelter sleeps 24 people, has cement picnic tables, showers and indoor plumbing. Sonshine was glad to reconnect with familiar hikers.

Sonshine asks that you pray for a hiker named WRATH. They had a long conversation about God, Jesus and Christianity. Wrath believes that he is from an alternate universe and he has been trying to beam back for about 5 years. He seems to be a heavy drug user and mixed up in the occult. Please pray for his salvation.

Sonshine also talked with TWO-SHOES about Christianity. He is currently reading through the Bible, but he feels as though all religions are aimed towards peace, a happy family and living a good life. He sees all religion's as serving the same God. Please pray that Two-Shoes continues to read the Bible and that He would meet the True and Living God! Please also pray that the Lord would allow these conversations to continue.

Sonshine meet a fellow hiker named BLESSED. Blessed is also a believer in Christ Jesus. It was refreshing for the Sonshine and Blessed to talk about God's wonderful creation and the unique way they are getting to enjoy it.

Sonshine also asks for you to pray for protection against insects and animals while she hikes. She has seen some poisonous spiders and has been through the Smokey Mountains, which are the home to some 1,000 - 1,400 bears.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Slideshow: Springer Mountain, GA to Hot Springs, NC

Click on the link below to see the slideshow: Springer Mountain, GA to Hot Springs, NC with captions:


Click on Slideshow and enjoy.

Sonshine *Matthew 5:16*

Saturday, April 25, 2009

240 Miles In....

Well - it's been a little while since hearing from Sonshine about her trail adventures!  Now it's time for the long awaited update! :)

Since last hearing from Sonshine - she seems to have had the opportunity to meet with various ministries on the trail and the people involved.  One of the new people she met with were Stephanie Strong who, along with Keith Ivey, lead up the North Georgia Resort Ministry (check it out at www.gmrm.org).  They were actually working with the Appalachian Trail Servants at Neel's Gap to help with feeding the hikers for 21 days.  It seems a little discouraging to hear that many hikers, while open to the services they are offering for free food, are not open to hearing about the Word.  In many cases, hikers have said to her that they will go so far as to refuse the help if they know that Christianity is involved.  Keep praying that the hearts of people will be open to God and His love!

From here she moved on - looking forward to reaching the Blueberry Patch hostel that was mentioned in the last post.  Unfortunately again, many hikers seem unwilling to take advantage of the services these stewards of Christ are offering because they do not want to be preached at.  It is discouraging to hear that people are so opposed to hearing about the Word or even accepting help from others just because they are Christians!

Eventually Sonshine made it to the Blueberry Patch Hostel which is run on donations by Gary and Linnie Poteat.  The hostel is actually their garage converted into a bunkhouse that can hold ~10 people.  They have several animals at the hostel - all with Biblical names which is pretty neat.  They have 2 donkeys they use as their main witnessing tool because of the cross that the donkeys have on their back.  While she was there, Gary took a few of them to town where she had the opportunity to connect with the world again using the Internet and eating at an all-you-can-eat restaurant.  Once she got back to the hostel, a few of them talked and planned the next few days of hiking together.  To her surprise, a hiker name Bones arrived at the hostel.  Bones had previously stated he wouldn't stay there because it was a Christian run place.  Sonshine asks for prayer for Bones and his salvation and for God to break his chains of addiction.  

Now hiking on...she's made it through Georgia and has entered North Carolina territory! :)  The NC entry is a little daunting and instead of a switchback trail - it went straight up about 2000 feet!  Talk about a hike! :-P  That night she actually spent at a motel in town.  Here she met a woman who is unfortunately getting a divorce after 63 years of marriage.  Sonshine asks for prayer for her as she is lonely and been through a life of abuse.  Sonshine was able to witness to her and share Christ's love with her.  She is currently looking for a home church to become a part of but is first planning on moving to FL.  

While in town she met with Craig and Suzy Miles who were offering breakfast at their church for hikers through the AT Servants organization.  They actually took Sonshine out for lunch where she was able to share with them the ministry that had brought her to AT and they further shared the ministry of ATservants.  Here she also met two other missionary hikers, Circuit Rider and Sherlock.  It is actually their 8th time hiking the trail!  You can check our their website at www.heartbeatat.com.  They are from Michigan and their church sends them to AT every year and were able to offer Sonshine some encouragement.  Here she also was led to pick up a book, Jesus Among Other Gods - The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message by Ravi Zacharias.  Here's the amazing part...later after lunch she met with a man, Larry, who was checking into the same motel and planning on staying in town for 6 months prospecting for gold.  Turns out - Larry was a Southern Baptist Minister who had converted to Muslim!  While talking with Larry, he tried to persuade her to believe they were both serving the same God and then Sonshine knew why she had picked up the book!  She offered the book to Larry and Sonshine is now praying that God will lead him to read it and would show Himself real to Larry!

The next 2 days of hiking Sonshine encountered severe thunderstorms, fog, freezing night, and crazy winds! Finally - one day they were blessed with their first sunny and dry day!  Prayer request - Sonshine's right ankle has been "acting up" - she had broken it back in 1991 but she still has some problems with it occasionally.  She asks that we pray for her physical strength.  

And here I see the first drawn "smile :) " in Sonshine's journal...she was able to attend Life Fellowship Baptist Church!  She was most blessed being able to worship with other believers!  Another praise is that Sonshine has met a hiking partner from Alabama!  They have been hiking together and will continue until Bama leaves the trail in VA.  God is Good....All The Time! :)

Keep praying for Sonshine as she continues hiking and meeting new people on the trail.  Don't forgot to check back for updates! :)

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks....

Sonshine's blogger

Saturday, April 4, 2009

It begins...the first days...

Hello to all Sonshine followers. :)

I recently received our favorite hiker's first few journal entries. :)  It's amazing all the things that can happen in such a short period of time.  To start off...her first few days of hiking have been a challenge with the weather being full of rain and hiking up some strenuous mountains!  But our hiker endures and is pressing forward!   Here's a summary of what she wrote:

Sonshine's first night at Stover Creek Shelter was in the company of 7 other hikers ranging from Israel to Michigan, New Hampshire to Roanoke, VA.  It was a great time to get to know each other and stumble through finding water sources, locating bathrooms and decoding how bear cables work. ;)  After a fitful night of sleep, she was on the trail by 0930 the following morning.  The weather for the day was dominated by rain.  Apparently many hikers are finding that their rain gear and pack covers are not exactly water proof!  But praise God - her equipment is holding up well!  Most of the people she's passed on the trail are heading north as she is.  But there is the occasional family who are hiking for the day.  Everyone has been most friendly and eager to share their story...why they are on the trail and where they are headed.  

The second shelter she stayed at had considerably more people - a total of 30 between those in the shelter and those sleeping in their own tents...many of whom she had seen/met on the trail during the day.  Some of the groups are friends or family who are helping another hiker start off by hiking with them for the first week or two.  Most of them will be heading home while the main hiker will continue on.  At this shelter - she met a group who were complete strangers that decided to hike the trail together through a thru-hiker website!  What a way to get to know someone *real* quick! :)  She also met a group of 3 guys from Finland who are hiking the AT for a animal rights fundraising group and have already raised $15k for the cause!  

The nights seem to be perfect opportunities for her to spend lots of time in prayer over the trip.  Praying for other hikers and thanking God for His many promises!  It's good to hear Sonshine is remaining positive and praying everything with thanksgiving. ;) 

The next day of hiking was the most challenging so far...hiking up two mountains that were "ok."  Followed by Sassafrass Mtn...which took her 2 hrs to get up and over it! But after such a rough day - she spent her first night in a hostel.  God wanted her to rest well after such a hard day! :)  It's owned by a husband and wife, Josh and Leigh, who themselves have thru-hiked AT back in 2000.  They make themselves available to the hikers and offer shuttles to and from the trail, Walmart, grocery stores, outfitting stores, airports, etc.  Their hostel is a beautiful log cabin with a few rooms, bathrooms, laundry facilities, kitchen, computer (w/ internet!), tv's and games.  There were 22 people at the hostel that night and she spent the night on an air mattress but was happy to be able to use facilities!! :)  They even offered a hot breakfast full of fresh honey collected on the premises and eggs from their own chickens!   One person she met there was from Michigan and he was hiking the AT as a fundraiser for a non-profit he started to bring fresh water to Guatemala.  He went to Guatemala to take the first filter systems over a few months ago and has been raising funds since.   Incredible!  

Finally - Sonshine picked up her first mail drop!!  She sends her thanks to the Wibles! :)  While at the post office - she got to meet with some people who let her know about other ministries on AT!  The first she heard about is Appalachian Trail Servants who are serving meals for 21 days in Neels Gap to hikers.  She met with a pastor of AT Servants and got to hear about the challenge he felt from God to serve the hikers.  Also - she heard about a hostel called Blueberry Patch that is run by a Christian couple.  She is most eager to stop by when she gets there! :)

(** The following not specified by Sonshine but deduced from her entries **)
Prayer Requests:
* For the people she meets along the trail and the opportunity to share God's love.
* Sleeping - she's had a rough time sleeping at nights...sleeping for 10-15 minutes at a time and being awake for 20-30 minutes.
* Physical strength and endurance! :)
* Good weather

* All the people she's met so far and hearing about their stories and reasons for hiking AT.
* Hearing about the other ministries on AT.
* Having good rain gear. :)
* Experiencing God in His greatest creations. 

Also:  I looked to see what I could find on the ministries she heard about.  I couldn't find any websites on Blueberry Patch.  But if you want to know more about AT Servants...check out their website at www.atservants.org.  

Keep checking back for more updates!
~ Sonshine's blogger