The Journey of the Snail Brethren

Snail Brethren? 

That would be us…a mom and teenage son duo in the midst of planning an upcoming 2017 AT thru-hike.


The Founding members of the Snail Brethren

Our motto on the trail is slow and steady and enjoy every second.  I’m Jen, the mom of the duo team, and I have always been addicted to the outdoors.  I seem to be at my happiest when I am out in the middle of nowhere in my kayak,  breathing in mountain air or exploring outside with my camera…being outdoors to me is like food for the soul.


My happy place…Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The most adventurous trip I have been on was a journey down the Grand Canyon in wooden Dory boats.  I will never forget sleeping out under the stars on the banks of the canyon every night.  Gabe, my teenage son counterpart was introduced to the outdoors at a pretty early age.


Alum Cave Bluff Trail

One hysterical family outdoor memory was our family of 3 deciding a few hours before sunset on New Year’s eve to hike out into a wilderness area and camp to celebrate the new year.  We learned the lesson of BEING PREPARED because we left in such a hurry that we forgot any form of flashlight and realized that a 3 man tent really means 2. Arriving to a camp-spot after a mile hike with no light as the sun is going down was to say the least…interesting.  But, I don’t think any of us will ever forget the non-stop giggles as the 3 of us smashed into a small tent and took a selfie in the dark at midnight.


A three man tent does not really mean THREE man

Ya know… happens

I discovered the writings of John Muir in high-school and after reading his amazing essays and stories, it led me to want to read more about outdoor adventures which is when I discovered the AT.


I read everything I could get my hands on about the AT. I was determined that I wanted to tackle a thru-hike and begged my father to allow me to go when I was in my late teens…the answer was no…I of course was a girl and it was “too dangerous”.  I decided that when I graduated college, I would finally set off.  When that time came, I realized being a poor, recently graduated college student who was just offered a teaching position, probably shouldn’t pass up a paying job in leu of tromping through the woods.  Then of course came life…my job…bills….marriage…a child…and the AT kept getting pushed back into my “wish I could” list.

It’s time

Through the years, we would take Gabe up to the Smokies to camp and hike parts of the AT.


Camping at Elkmont in the Smokies – every morning we would sit on the rocks and just “be”

When he was 7, I remember him telling me that he wanted to hike the entire AT when he turned 9.  I of course did the happy dance – like mother, like son.


Where shall we go exploring today?

After our bookcase started to get filled up with travel and AT thru-hiker books and the common “I wish” statements to my husband, he looked at me one day and said “it’s time”.  It was never a question that it would be Gabe and I setting off on this adventure.


The path is made in the walking of it ~ Zhuangzi

Our son is 13, and he will be getting his license, discovering girls, and enjoying freedom in the next few years…so why not now?  I think I was in shock when it finally hit me that this was going to happen.  My biggest obstacle was losing some weight.  I had some medical issues after childbirth and put on a pretty big load of extra blubber. I told myself that this hike will not happen unless I lose the weight. I started to focus on weight loss and to date have lost 50 pounds and I would like to see another 10 gone before we start our adventure. 


45 pounds down

Hail the Snail!

As a mom, the thought of being able to share something so special that has been on my mind for over 20 years with my teenage son is hard to put into words.  We have a pretty close bond. 


Cloudland Canyon State Park in Georgia ~ an amazing place for an adventure

Because he is an out-of-the-box kid, I left teaching and 8 years ago, we chose to start homeschooling him and so we have had the opportunity to have many adventures together.


Not all those who wander are lost ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

  This will just be the grand-daddy of all adventures. I want to teach my son that it doesn’t matter how old you are, how difficult a dream appears to be- you always need to follow your heart.  Life is just too short to be spent saying, “what if” or “some day”.  We know that we will get on each other’s nerves and being together for 4-6 months will be quite interesting but I will cherish every second of it.  As Gabe puts it,  “Hail the Snail” – no matter your age or ability -stop sitting around and get outside!


Become a member of the Snail Brethren…plan your own adventure, meander through the woods, take your time to savor every smell, sound, sight…Hail the Snail!

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Comments 4

  • Avatar
    Kelly Moutsatsos : Sep 11th

    We are so excited for you and Gabe, Jennifer! The kids and I have been virtually “watching” you prepare for your journey. We look forward to continuing to watch it all unfold. It is no small task to plan and organize such a big trip, then, to take on loosing weight too, you are a true inspiration. Life IS very short, you go girl (and son). Kelly, Sophie, Sea

    • Avatar
      Jennifer Cenker : Sep 12th

      Thanks so much Kelly! I can’t believe we have been planning for over a year and we are now finally down below the 6 month mark. We are both so excited!!

  • Avatar
    Heidi : Sep 12th

    You will rule! Good luck but not Godspeed. HAIL THE SNAIL! my kids and I left Amicalola falls on Mother’s Day of 2016. We made it 160 miles and had to give in and come off the trail. We are planning a re-do as well and we will follow you as you make your journey! It is life changing. And by the way, don’t worry about the weight… It will come right off! I lost 15 lbs in 5 weeks of walking. It was the BEST time I’ve ever had with my children. We will never forget it!

    • Avatar
      Jennifer Cenker : Sep 12th

      SO awesome to know another mom who adventured the AT with children!! We have no clue how far we are going to make it but we sure are going to enjoy every single second of it together. You are one awesome mom!!!


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