Hiking Big Bald from Sam’s Gap to Spivey Gap

Hello all! My apologies for not posting an update lately. Life has been a wee bit nutty and busy lately. We have been asked to be the sponsorship chair for DogFest Charlotte and that has been a journey in and of itself learning the ropes on how to seek sponsorships. If you know of anyone that would be interested in sponsoring our event fundraiser and/or Canine Companions for Independence – please let me know!

Meanwhile, a few weeks ago Whoopi and I were able to join a few friends on a training hike and hiked a section of trail from Sam’s Gap to Spivey’s Gap between NC and TN. It was a short overnight section but a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of the crazy, busy world. Whoopi and I were able to further test out our gear as I tried out my inijiji toe socks with my new pair of Solomon trail runners, while Whoopi tried out her new leash and bed system.

The hike from Sam’s gap was a gradual incline up to Big Bald for about 5 miles or so with the fantastic panoramic views. The gnarliest part of the trail was right before getting to the meadow heading up to Big Bald. Up top – we took a much needed rest and enjoyed the view and the breeze. We hiked on for a couple more miles to camp just in time for dinnertime. One word of advice – if you have easy access to a stream while you’re heading to camp – get your water there! A water source that is on a blue blaze trail 0.1 miles away from camp is ALWAYS further than you think it is going to be at the end of the day… Also if you have to take a blue blaze trail – bring the trekking poles along as it is guaranteed that the water source is going to be at the bottom of a steep and slippery hill.

Day 2 dawned grey and misty while we ate breakfast and began breaking camp. Just as I was starting to break down my tent – the rain came pouring down. It was a cold drenching rain and I quickly threw the stuff that needed to keep dry into my pack, and tried to cover up Whoopi with her raincoat. Poor Whoopi sat there under the trees with her head drooping looking a miserable drowned rat. Poor pup! I wish I had a picture of it for you guys but alas I do not have a waterproof case for the phone yet.

We finally finished breaking camp and trekked on through the rain. I have discovered that my trail runners did quite well despite the rain. I do like the idea of the trail runners compared to boots as the trail runners are much lighter and so much quicker to dry out. My legs and feet are also not nearly as tired at the end of the day. I did not do any preventative care to my feet and ended up with only one blister – which for me is a miracle. Will continue testing this combination out as I think it will be the best one for me. By the time we finished the hike on day 2 – we were all starving and ready to get to town to stop for pizza and beer. Ahhhhh… it’s the best thing ever after a hike!

We are planning a week long hike for the fall so will be posting about that trip in the coming weeks. In the meantime – we will be posting a raffle for dog toys by the weekend! A $5 dollar donation will you enter you into the raffle for $50 worth of dog toys. Pictures and more information to come soon so please check back soon. Our DogFest page is located here if you would like to check it out. In the meantime thank you for reading and paws up!

Iron Mtn Gap Hike with my Hearing Dog Whoopi

This weekend we were able to go on an overnight trip with a few friends from a local hiking group. This weekend was much needed to get our feet wet again! We were able to try out Whoopi’s new sleeping bag and pad which she seemed to love. Found that we both need to work on training as we were a bit slow moving at times.

Also was able to officially use Whoopi’s new leash (Ruffwear Roamer I think) for which it was intended for and it worked great for us. It allowed us the space when we needed it and was quite comfortable to use. We were also able to use our newly activated SPOT 3 GPS tracker that makes the family and spouse super happy ;).

All in all – it was a successful trip! Whoopster and I are looking forward to the next one!

Here are a few pics from the trip:

Some New Gear for my Hearing Dog Whoopi

It is finally spring time and Whoopi and I are working on our gear and training for the Appalachian trail hike next year. With the generous help from a family friend’s mom – Whoopi now has a “new” sleeping bag of her own for times we are on the trail in early spring or the fall! The bag is modified from an old synthetic mummy bag that I had in the closet and weighs in now at 32 oz or 2 lb. It’s on the heavy side but for the time being it will work for the cold nights on the trail and when Whoopi needs the extra warmth.

IMG_4144_lo resIMG_4116

We also have new leash from Ruffwear called a “Roamer” leash. This particular leash Is one that can be worn around the wrist or around the waist. It has a stretchy/expandable section that allows the leash to lengthen from about 7ft to 10ft. We will be giving this leash a try to see how it does for us. The hope is that it will allow some space for Whoopi to walk comfortably in front of me on the trail and also allowing her the length needed when we go over technical sections on the trail where we may need more distance. The other nice thing that I’m looking forward to is the very nice and easily used leash clip. It’s very easy use while having gloves on and is very strong and sturdy. We will keep you posted on how it does for us on and off the trail!

IMG_4160_lo resIMG_4159_lo res

We have a few more things that we have been working on to get our gear list settled in and will write about it in our next post. In the meantime – Whoopi and I will continue our preparations to raise awareness and funds for Canine Companions for Independence!

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

A bit of information on The Appalachian Trail

Map of the AT going through all 14 states. (Source: Wikipedia)

My hearing dog Whoopi and I are endeavoring to hike the 2,183+ mile trail next year to raise funds for Canine Companions for Independence. I’m sure that some would like a little bit of history about the Appalachian Trail (also known as the A.T.), so here goes!

(Source: TheAThiker.com)

The AT is one of the longest continuous footpaths in the world, and was conceived and started in the 1920’s by Benton MacKaye. It was completed by Myron Avery and the Civilian Conservation Corp by 1937. Today, the trail starts on Springer Mountain in Georgia and travels nearly 2,200 miles along the Appalachian mountains through 14 states to Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trail is marked by a single white 6 inch by 2″ white blaze that is painted at intervals all along the trail on trees, posts, and rocks.

It is estimated that over 2 million people hike the AT each year. Of the 2 million plus hikers on the trail – there are those who choose to backpack on the trail. Backpackers are those hikers who bring their gear in backpacks in order to be able to live on the trail for a few days up to months on the trail. There are 2 types of backpackers on the trail and they are section hikers and thru-hikers. Section hikers hike the trail in small sections at the pace of the hiker, but it can take many years to complete the entire trail. This allows the hiker to do sections of the trail in the optimal season and weather, and also when they are able to due to work and family obligations. Thru-hikers are backpackers who hike the entire trail in one season from Georgia to Maine (known as Nobos) or from Maine to Georgia (known as Sobos). Thru-hikers usually take between 5 to 7 months to hike the entire trail. In any season – the trail is usually always too cold, too wet, too hot, too windy, too muddy, too humid, too buggy, etc. Backpackers however live for those moments though where they come out of the forest on a mountain top where the air clears, the bugs recede, the light shines softly on the landscape, and there is a sense of peace as we look out over the valley below. Those are our spiritual moments that renews our soul and invigorates us.

Approximately 2,000 people attempt to thru-hike the trail each year but it is estimated that 25% of hikers actually make it all the way to Mount Katahdin in Maine or to Springer Mountain in Georgia. Hikers get off the trail for many obvious reasons and most are due to poor planning, the trail wasn’t what they expected, injuries, homesickness, lack of funds, and so on. Those hikers however that make it through to Katahdin or Springer Mountain find themselves changed. They are confident, bold, ambitious, goal oriented, and are ready to take on the world.

Whoopi and I are training and pre-paring this year in order to thru-hike northbound the 2,183+ miles from Springer Mountain to Katahdin starting next spring. It will be hard – there moments of frustration and sadness, but there will also be moments of pure joy and happiness as well. We hope that you will continue to follow us in our journey as we raise awareness and funds for Canine Companions for Independence. Thanks for reading!

(Sources: Wikipedia, TheAppalachianTrail.org, TheAThiker.com)

What a Hearing Dog Does…

Whoopi is my hearing dog and is a 4 year old golden retriever/labrador retriever cross bred and trained by the fantastic volunteers and trainers from Canine Companions for Independence. All dogs that enter in to the CCI advanced training program originally start out training as a service dog (dogs who assist those with mobility issues) and through their first phase of training is when trainers will determine what type of service they are best suited for. CCI trains four different types of dogs and they are service dogs, assistance dogs (which is where hearing dogs fall under), skilled companion dogs, and facility dogs.

Here is IMG_6143an image of Whoopi and I during the first two weeks into the start of our journey together when we were at CCI’s Team Training in Santa Rosa, California nearly two years ago! The image shows me sitting in a chair with a timer in my hand that’s going off and Whoopi is enthusiastically trying to get my attention by nudging me in the leg with her nose. Her nudging me with her nose is the indicator that the timer is sounding off. She does this for all alerts and then once she has my attention – I ask her “What?” and she will take me to or indicate the source of the sound.

Whoopi alerts me to several ringtones on my phone, my tile key fob to let me know where my keys are, my alarm clock, my watch timer, the oven timer, my keys being dropped, my name being called from the other room, the doorbell, and smoke alarm. Every morning the alarm goes off and Whoopi comes and alerts me even when I am burrowed under the covers. Her favorite thing that she loves to alert to is the “Go get Megan” command when my spouse or family needs me. When we are home, at work, or out and about – I am also able to watch her reactions to our surroundings to help determine what may be going on around me. Whoopi is my constant companion and goes with me nearly wherever I go. With her by my side – others have a visual cue that I am different and there may be a reason why I may not respond to them if they say something.

The work that CCI (Canine Companions for Independence) to help people like me further our independence is amazing. I am proud to be a CCI graduate and I am honored to have Whoopi in my life. I look forward to our journey together next year on the trail, and I hope we are able to raise as much money as possible for CCI so that others can experience the independence and companionship that I get to experience everyday.

Whoopi’s Gear for the Trail

Following the advice of one Trevor Thomas (a sponsored blind hiker who now hikes with guide dog Tennille), I have tweaked Whoopi’s gear list that she carries on the trail. One of the biggest things Trevor shared that I need to consider when taking Whoopi on the trail is how much gear is she going to carry on the trail. Typically dogs can carry up to 30% of their weight, but since she’s an assistance dog – it’s important for me to consider her health and comfort to keep her hiking and working as long as possible. Once I am able to weigh everything – I’ll include the weight values in ounces of her gear.

Whoopi will be carrying the following on the trail this year as we iron things out;

  • Ruffwear Palisades pack (17 oz) and harness (9 oz), and saddlebag cover (4 oz) (total 30 oz)
  • Ruffwear booties (attached to her pack)
  • 1 Serving of food (1 to 2 cups)
  • Ruffwear raincoat
  • 1 Small elk bone
  • Small first aid kit (includes vitamins/supplements for duration of trip or section)
  • Leash & collar stays on at all times except when in tent, and vest stays packed away in backpack until we’re back in town.
  • 1 collapsible dog bowl
  • 1 roll of poop bags or enough for 3 poop bags per day of trip

I plan on carrying;

  • (Once completed) Whoopi’s modified sleeping bag stuffed with my sleeping bag or her Ruffwear Highlands bed.
  • Food bag carried in opsak odorproof bag within stuff sack (2 to 4 cups of food per day for trip or section)
  • Sleeping pad (Thermarest Z-rest pad that is also functioning as my trail seat

As you can tell – I am a big fan of the Ruffwear gear line for Whoopi as they make quality products and they stand behind it. I hope to be able to acquire a few more things this year to try out before thru-hiking the AT. I’ll update the blog if the gear list changes! Thank you to you all!

Whoopi saying come on already!
Whoopi saying come on already!

Getting antsy for the trail!

Hello guys and gals! This is my first blog posting ever so please bear with me. My name is Megan and I am starting this blog to share my adventures hiking and raising funds for Canine Companions for Independence with my hearing dog, Whoopi. Just to share a little bit of my back story – I am originally from the Tarheel state of North Carolina. I was born hearing impaired and have moderate to severe hearing loss in both ears. I grew up a tomboy and love the outdoors. Anyhoo – this is just a quick blog just get me started and I’ll be back with more thoughts and plans about the adventures that my dog HD Whoopi and I get into! Thank you for reading! Contour and Whoopi