The Alabama Tour: Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament

This was not on my original itinerary. I simply saw a sign on the road and followed it–about 20 miles off the main highway. I make it a rule when on a roadtrip: If I see something interesting, I just pull over. Besides, I had the extreme luxury of an open schedule and no rush. The compound is huge and nestled in the farmlands of central Alabama. The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament was nearly deserted, but arriving at dusk gave me some lovely photos.Though all the information indicates it is open to all faiths, it is clearly for all Christian faiths. Roadside Attractions says:

The Most Blessed Sacrament is a large Catholic shrine in the middle of the Alabama countryside. Newly built to model much older churches in Europe, the shrine is beautiful but tends to feel like a religious Epcot. Also has a Shroud of Turin exhibit, a replica of the Lourdes grotto in France, and a gift shop inside a castle.

It begins! And it’s a rough start

The marker at the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, Springer Mountain.
The marker at the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, Springer Mountain.

For those just joining us, I’m about to hike the Appalachian Trail–Georgia to Maine, almost 2,200 miles.

Standing on top of Springer Mountain is awe inspiring…. and a bit humbling. Facing north is an unbroken footpath stretching all the way to Maine. It’s like being 8 years old, standing on top of a long slope after the first snowfall, a blanket of white stretching beyond, unsullied by a single footprint. Like a calendar without a single day crossed off.

For the next six months, time will be measured, not in minutes and hours, but in steps. The day’s difficulties will be rated by the mountain peaks I need to ascend, not the mountains of paperwork I have to turn in. While I have backpacked before, I know this will be new. This will be different. This is adventure. It will be difficult. It will be a privilege.

A fire the first night at Stover Creek Shelter was a pleasant surprise.
A fire the first night at Hawk Mountain Shelter was a pleasant surprise.

March 1: I had imagined what this day would be like. But it wasn’t like that. It was just another day. No hoopla, no feeling of grandness. It was good, but it doesn’t quite feel real. Yet. It was after 2p before my dear friend Michael and I we were at the top of Springer and I signed in at the resister. Michael drove me to the trail and hiked the first mile with me. Thank goddess for friends!

I started the day with one less toenail. An injury over a month ago didn’t seem so bad at the time. But putting on my socks this morning, Pop! Off it came.

I passed several day hikers going in the opposite direction, they looked at me oddly. I imagined that they were a bit in awe, as if it were obvious that this lone woman was starting a momentous thru hike. Only later did I realize that the right side of my face was smeared with the glaze from the donut holes I’d cramed into my mouth as I left Michael at the Springer parking lot. I only walked as far as Stover Creek shelter, mile marker 2.7. There are a dozen thru hikers here. My favorite is Rambo (who did 1,400 miles in 2012) and his partner Tim (who I’ve tried to call The One They Call Tim, after a Monty Python movie). They must be around 20, very laid back young men. There’s also Pack Rat who seems odd. He says this is his 3rd thru hike attempt and that he’s done all but the last 500 miles. But his gear is all new–he’s never even set up the hammock before and he claims his pack is 70+pounds. I am skeptical, but he’s told stories of running all the downhills, night hiking, falling snakes and taking 2 months of zero days. It’s hard to believe, but I’m in no position to call him a liar.

Cold, probably only 40 degrees F today and cloudy. Will drop well below freezing tonight. Adding layers to sleep in.

March 2: From Stover Creek shelter (2.8) to Hawk Mountain shelter (8.1).

Stover Creek shelter
Stover Creek shelter

The start of things is often messy. This hike is truly showing me my limitations. Today did not go well. I was up early enough, but had trouble with my stove and drank my tea lukewarm. Then when I went to pack up the tent I barely had time to take a step to the side when I threw up. Five times! I felt fine after, but knew I didn’t have enough liquid for the day in my system. Yet I was afraid to do more than sip water. I did fine hiking until I hit an uphill patch, when I moved pitifully slow. I got to Hawk Mountain shelter and decided to cook my big meal and take a rest. After an hour and a half, I felt better and decided to put in 2 more miles. But I wasn’t paying attention coming out of the shelter. The AT turns, but I followed an unmarked trail straight up a huge hill. I went a mile before I realized it, walked around trying to find the trail. Finally gave up and retraced my steps. Energy and self esteem depleted, I decided to stay put for the night. This is a rough start. I was sick last week, but hoped it was only nerves. Today it seems like more than that. No energy. Can’t eat or drink much at one time. Must go slow. Good thing I have an extra month to hike.

Decided to take a nap. Sipping water, but can’t eat. Must be 3 dozen hikers here. Dinosaur is from Germany. A NC couple are Columbus and Queen. I have mild diarrhea overnight, fortunately before the rain started.

March 3: Hawk Mountain Shelter (8.1) to Horse Gap.

Hawk Mountain Shelter.
Hawk Mountain Shelter.

This has not been my best day ever. Heavy rain last night and by mistake I left 2 shirts outside in my vestibule So it was wet clothes and a wet tent to pack up this morning. Rained until noon and then the temps dropped. It was heavy fog, so nothing was getting dry. Still not able to eat or drink much at one time. Moving very slowly. But I threw in the towel at Horse gap when my pack broke. I was able to call for a shuttle to the outfitters and hostel at Mountain Crossing. Time to re-assess my gear and replace the pack. It’s been painful and ill-fitting.

A young man named Will helped me pick out a new, better fitting pack and went through all my gear. I’m sending home about 3 pounds of stuff! Did not need to resupply because I’ve barely eaten anything, but did order a pizza, take a shower and did laundry. It’s the little things that bring joy!

If I were a purist I would take a shuttle back to Horse Gap tomorrow. But I’m not going to. I’ve done this section lots of times, the last time in November. Gonna skip it. As slowly as I’m moving I could use the extra time.

I’ve been sick. I’ve had to replace gear. It’s colder and wetter than I’d expected (mostly because I planned to star a month later). I know this sounds like a very bad beginning, but I’m not daunted. I’ll make the adjustments I need and keep moving forward! I believe I can go all the way to Maine. The only way to know is to try.


My adventure starts Saturday, come to my send off!

1924589_10151877739427377_580472203_nJust a reminder that I plan to start my thru hike of the Appalachian Trail on Saturday March 1. The forecast looks fair, so keep your fingers crossed for a mild March, weather-wise. It will take about six months and when I finish, I hope to teach English as a way to travel the world. Please follow along on my website, WanderForLife.

If you are in the Atlanta metro, please come wish me off Friday, February 28 at Square Pub in downtown Decatur (address below). I’ll be there from 5p until 8p. Nothing fancy planned. Grab a beer. Get dinner. Or just drop in for a minute to wish me well.  I’d love to see as many people as possible before I start walking in the woods for six months. Some of you have already wished me well and let me know that you can’t make it, but for the rest, I hope to see you.

It’s also my birthday, but no presents. I have gotten rid of almost everything I own and my backpack is too full already.

Square Pub

115 Sycamore St.
Decatur, GA 30030


Snapping photos as I walk

You never know what you will see when you walk along. I’m training to hike the Appalachian Trail, so I spend a lot of time simply walking. Here’s a few photos I captured along the way.

This is in the cemetery in Decatur. It’s my favorite headstone. Anyone know the story behind it?
Also in Decatur. I just love that someone left them a cup of coffee!
I love murals. This one is along the Atlanta Beltline, on one of the walls that make up part of the Skate Park in Old Fourth Ward, facing the walkway and very near the Freedom Parkway overpass.
Sorry I will miss this. I’ll be hiking…..


Gwinnett Technical College students offer lunch


The Culinary Arts Program at Gwinnett Technical College in Lawrenceville is proud to present a new year of exciting lunches with an international flair. Lunches will now be held on select Wednesday’s and begin January 22, 2014 and the cost is still an unbeatable $10.

*Reservations Required*

Please join us for lunch at 12:15 p.m.
Building 700, George Busbee Center Lobby, Gwinnett Technical College, Lawrenceville.

22nd: African
29th: Spanish & Iberian Peninsula

5th: Asian
19th: Greek/Middle Eastern
26th: Russian

26th: Caribbean/Central South American

2nd: Italian
9th: French

Meals Include:

  • 1st Course Choice of Appetizer
  • 2nd Course A Soup or Salad of the Day
  • 3rd Course Choice of Entrees
  • 4th Course Choice of Dessert
  • Featured Table Bread of the Week

Please remember — the lunches are to provide students a hands-on learning experience in preparing and serving food.

Reservations Required: To make reservations for the Spring Semester lunches, send a request, via email, to: You will receive a confirmation that your reservation has been made.

The cost is still an unbeatable $10.00. Cash or Check only, paid at the end of the meal. No credit cards. All lunches start at 12:15 p.m. in Building 700 George Busbee Center Lobby. Allow extra time for parking.

NOTE: Our service goal is one hour; but, due to the learning-teaching environment, it may take longer. Please be prepared to stay and enjoy the food, as well as, provide feedback to the students. Sorry, we cannot accommodate “To Go” orders.

Directions from Atlanta:

Our address is 5150 Sugarloaf Parkway, Lawrenceville, GA 30043

Our campus is located approximately 25 miles northeast of Atlanta, at the corner of Highway 316 and Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville. For those driving to campus, there is student parking available, but allow extra time to find a spot. If you prefer public transportation, you can reach Gwinnett Tech by taking Gwinnett County Transit’s Route 40.