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Congratulations are in order. My friend Eric Gjonnes and his daughter Reed have completed hiking the second leg of what is considered the Triple Crown of hiking; the Appalachian Trail. Along with this congratulations I wanted to pass on one of their many great stories of life on the trail.

Last year Eric and Reed, known as Balls and Sunshine on the trail, completed hiking the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail that starts at the Mexico border and travels through California, Oregon and Washington before ending at the Canadian border.  The Appalachian Trail is 2,184 miles long. Hiking starts in Georgia and ends on Katahdin Mountain in Maine.


They both write an excellent trail journal that reads like an adventure book. At this point they have had over a quarter million visits.  You can find journals for both trips here:

The following comes from Eric and is a great example, not to mention a great story, of life on the trail.

Ok, remember yesterday’s story about the angry little critter in camp?  You’re going to love this one!  That crazy thing kept me up literally all night.  I hardly got a wink of sleep.  Every time I fell asleep, or was about to, it started running towards me in the bushes.  I’d have to turn on the light and shoo it away.  I remember thinking ” what’s this little guy’s problem, doesn’t he ever sleep?”

While we were packing up at first light, I recognized it as a red squirrel.  It then ran up the tree above us and deliberately chewed several pine cones off the branches and tried to drop them on us while squealing wildly.  Later in the day while telling this bizarre story to Teresa, I noticed a Red Squirrel carrying leaves down a hole in the ground.  Then it hit me… I was sleeping on it’s home!  I made the poor little fella stay outside all night, oops. No wonder he was so irate. I don’t blame him.  I thought squirrels lived in trees.

The trail was great today, but I was so tired.  That last 2.5 miles seemed like it would never end.  We went for a refreshing swim in the afternoon to keep me awake.  I was dizzy and nauseous most of the day.  Now imagine feeling like that while trying to keep a 3 mph pace for 12 hours.  I have to go to bed.  Tomorrow is the last 27 miles of hiking before our early Monday morning ascent of Katahdin.

Eric and I first went backpacking together in, I believe, 2002. I had backpacked as a teen and wanted to do that again. Eric, coming off back surgery to repair damage suffered during his military service, felt he was ready to give it a try as well.  The trip we planned was derailed by a forest fire two days before our start date. I quickly looked around and we decided on a trip along 32 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. We took three days, toting 40 lb. packs.  A real learning experience for me and a new learning experience for Eric.

The next year, learning our lesson, we dropped about 15 lbs. of pack weight and executed a 100 mile trip ending at the Oregon-Washington border.  This is the trip where I hurt my knee.  I wrote about that experience here.

By this time Eric was hooked. Eric is a loyal guy but being he was 13 years my junior with a long stride, I was only holding him back. Around dinner one night on the trail we talked about the idea of backpacking the full Pacific Crest Trail. I told him not to wait for me. If he had dreams of doing the whole trail, he should go for it.  He did. And in the process he found that he and his daughter made a perfect hiking team.

I was glad to teach Eric what I knew that first couple of years. His backpacking expertise has long surpassed mine and he has had incredible opportunities to share his knowledge with others. I’m glad for the couple of trips we have taken together since. Most of all I’m glad to see, and share, his example of someone who is living their dream.

Check out their story on the Washington Post website.