Update from the Trail – Hen, Dulcigal, Peas

Let me provide a quick update on my three remaining thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail that I have been following since day 1 of their adventures: Fat Hen & Rooster Talon (Dano and Beckie from New York), Dulcigal (Karla from Georgia) and the Two Peas: Big Cypress and Animal (Robert and Shawn from Florida).

Fat Hen in the Whites

Fat Hen in the Whites

Hen and Talon, Dano and Beckie last posted on September 13. They do not post very often so it was good to hear from them just last week. They have completed the White Mountains and have crossed into Maine. They shared that the weather through the Whites was almost perfect. With the exception of a little fog, their days were gorgeous and the mountain vistas took their breath away. They seem extremely excited about still being on the trail and having conquered 13 out of the 14 states of the Appalachian Trail adventure.

Dulcigal hiking up Mahoosuc Arm

Dulcigal hiking up Mahoosuc Arm

Dulcigal posted from Monson, Maine on September 14. Kara is making a flip-flop thru-hike, so once she reaches Katahdin, she will go back to Hanover, New Hampshire, and finish walking south to Delaware Water Gap on the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey to complete the journey. She is about to enter the 100 Mile Wilderness. She and several other hikers have arranged a food drop about half way through the wilderness so food should not be a major factor for them. Dulcigal should arrive at Baxter State Park and the brown sign atop Katahdin within a week.

The Two Peas (Big Cypress and his son, Animal) have continued the hiking experience after Moonbeam broke her leg and needed to “retire” from the trail. Shawn has taken his mom spot as the second pea and the two men are booking it through New England. The boys had a tough go of it over Mount Washington. The weather was too severe on the day they reached the summit to continue [dense fog and 85 mph wind with gusts and as high 102 mph], so Moonbeam, who is supporting her men by following the hikers in a truck,

The New Two Peas in Gorham, NH

The New Two Peas in Gorham, NH

drove the scary, foggy road to the top and “rescued” them. After a nail-biting but successful road trip down off the summit, the trio arrived at Gorham, New Hampshire. They zeroed the next day in Gorham and then drove back the following morning to the summit of Mount Washington.  A two-day hike from the summit allowed the two men arrive back at Gorham on September 18th.  The Two Peas are now about a day’s hike away from entering the last state on the trail, and 283 miles of rugged trail in Maine.

The weather forecast for Millinocket, Maine, (the nearest town to Katahdin), seems very good for the next 15 days – mid 60’s during the day and low 40’s at night. This is great news for those trying to finish before winter makes the trek very treacherous.

Categories: 100 Mile Wilderness, Appalachian Trail, Class of 2016, Dulcigal, Fat Hen, Florida, Georgia, Hanover, Hiking, Maine, Mount Katahdin, New Hampshire, Rooster Talon, The Whites, Thru-Hike, Two Peas | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scarfoot – So Close!

Scarfot's Office Space

Scarfot’s Office Space

Scarfoot is a thru-hiker that does not provide his real name in his journal, but his real life before the trail was based in Boston, Massachusetts, where he worked at an investment firm. He decided to exchange his cubical for the canopy of the Appalachian Trail. This choice was not an impulsive decision, but rather one of advanced planning and preparation.

Scarfoot began by losing 50 pounds and addressing several other physical challenges. The Bostonian found himself with major allergies: tree, grass and weed pollen, mold, dust mites, dog and cat – pretty hard to avoid such things on the trail while occasionally staying in hostels/cheap hotels. He also discovered that he was allergic to bees and wasps. So Scarfoot found some allergy treatments – four shots at a time. Scarfoot also struggled with planter fasciitis causing severe heal pain and making hiking very difficult. He attempted to counter this challenge with custom orthotics and Strassburg socks (a sock designed to be worn at night that keeps the plantar fascia in a stretched position, helping to increase flexibility in the morning).

[Just a quick aside – according to the Mayo Clinic, plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It involves pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. Plantar fasciitis commonly causes stabbing pain that usually occurs with your very first steps in the morning. Once your foot limbers up, the pain of plantar fasciitis normally decreases. It is particularly common in runners, people who are overweight, and those who wear shoes with inadequate support. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/plantar-fasciitis/basics/definition/con-20025664 ]

Scarfoot was also concerned about some emotional issues. He suffered from panic attacks and found that sleeping alone in the woods and major heights caused times of intense angst. This is quite a challenge for those considering a thru-hike of the AT. He purchased custom-fitted ear plugs for sleeping. In addition, Scarfoot is married to Ellie who expressed concern with his adventure. Although supportive of her husband, she worried for his safety. So, Scarfoot took a wilderness first-aid course and purchased SPOT, a Satellite GPS Messenger, used by many hikers to reach emergency responders, check-in with family or friends, share GPS coordinates and track the route of the adventure – all at the push of a button and at the cost of about $150.

Atop Mount Madison

Atop Mount Madison

Scarfoot researched trail gear for three years and was attracted to the ultralight approach to long- distance hiking. He organized and reorganized his summer pack until he reached a backpack weight of only 10 pounds (My pack weight varied but I think my lightest burden was 25 pounds).

Hikes of preparation were also part of Scarfoot’s three-year training program. Year one included a four-day hike in Massachusetts; year two embraced a ten-day hike from the Hudson River, New York to the Massachusetts Turnpike just above Upper Goose Pond (about 145 miles); and during year he three logged a 135-mile, 7-day hike through most of Vermont.

Scarfoot was ready. His last day at work April 6th and he was on the trail on April 10. He hiked the 8.8 mile approach trail from Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia on April 9th and began his actual AT miles from Springer Mountain on Sunday the 10th. All the training and preparation enable Scarfoot to make very good time hiking though the Appalachian Trail.

Then came this surprising post on Day 140 of his adventure, August 27th,

“Well this is it. No summit photo. No finish…. The trail becomes very technical with big boulders above tree line. Very dangerous and not what I signed up for. One more mile of very nasty trail remained then the ‘tablelands’. In the meantime it follows a ridge with shear drops behind and both sides in places. I could do it physically but would have hated every moment of it. I got what I wanted out of this. I was in it for the hike and that last 2.3 miles was mountain climbing to me not hiking. At the hostel met a woman who broke 4 ribs yesterday on Baxter. Seams I made the right choice at least for me.”

With 2.3 miles left to complete the journey, Scarfoot turns around. Over half way up Mount Katahdin, his hike was over. I continue to look for another post that shares a successful return and climb to the brown sign, but nothing appears.

scarfootI personally found the climb out of Palmerton, Pennsylvania a much more technical climb than Katahdin and yet Scarfoot journals (on June 6, 2016), “Rocks getting worse and lasting longer between breaks. Got stuck in the middle of a 40 person Korean hiking club on the rockiest toughest climb yet over the superfund site. Real rock scramble.”

I also wondered what his experience was over the Whites and into the first 100 miles of Maine. I wondered how he responded over Mount Washington, another nice climb on the trail. He simply mentions on August 3, “Was warm, sunny and practically no wind so fantastic weather.” Two days later (August 5), he climbs Mount Madison and descends into Pinkham Notch. His comments: Tough day for 13 miles. Two 2000 foot climbs plus the smaller ones. Very steep. The last down was incredible. Easily the hardest steepest down so far.

I also checked his journal on August 8th, the day he reached Mahoosuc Notch (one of the most difficult miles on the trail). He had completed the Notch and the major climb up Mahoosuc Arm by noon. The notch only took Scarfoot 1 hour and 45 minutes to navigate, compared to my 3 hours and 20 minutes. He noted, “The arm was very steep. Took 9 hours to do 12 miles today.”

I feel so badly for Scarfoot. He was so close and he conquered so much. He made the decision that he felt best and I admire him for his convictions. May he realize that he is indeed a thru-hiker. The sign is not the goal – the journey is the reward. He shared that he walked away from the trail with what he wanted – the true meaning of Hike Your Own Hike (HYOH).

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Mahoosuc Notch, Massachusetts, Mount Katahdin, Mount Madison, Mount Washington, Scarfoot, The Whites, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Class of 2106 Continues to Hike

20140924-194204.jpg

Rowdy in 2014

I’d like to share an up-date on the thru-hiking class of 2016 as they attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail. I have been following the online journals of thru-hikers posted on trailjournals.com. There are now 214 thru-hikes that I have been able to loosely monitor throughout this hiking season. I have included in my personal research those who started their journey between January and July 2016.

Of the 214 attempts, 142 hikers have ended their hikes short of the goal of completion (66%). There are many specific reasons for ending the journey but I tried to categorize them into general trends. Unfortunately, 62 of the 142 just stopped journaling without any reason for the absence. If a hiker has not submitted an entry for eight weeks, I have taken them off my active list. Prior to the end of the season, I will double check to see if someone just went silent for two months and then resurfaced as an active hiker. Thirty-nine hikes ended for physical reasons (ankles, knees, illness) and thirty-two hikers came off the trail for mental and emotional reason (homesick, tired of the trail, discouragement). Three hikers ran out of the time that they had available to accomplish the trek and six others posted a good-bye entry without giving a specific reason for ending their attempt.

Cheryl and Kelly July, 2016

Cheryl and Kelly July, 2016

On the other side of the coin, 21 hikers have reached Mount Katahdin in Maine and have raised their hands in victory atop the Brown sign on the norther terminus of the AT (10%). The average journey has taken 158 days. The longest trek logged in at 209 days (Slip Knot – Matt McCoy from Vermont) and the fastest journey took just 114 days (Coach – Ken Durham from San Diego, California). Of those that have completed the trail so far, one started in January, five began in February, twelve stepped out in March and three initiated their thru-hikes in April.

Currently, there are still 51 hikers maintaining an online journal. Some are very close to completion other still lack significant mileage. Weather will soon become a major factor for those headed NOBO (northbound). Katahdin will begin to experience major winter weather around the middle of October. Several of the 51 remaining hikers are SOBO hikers (those who started in Maine and are hiking south bound) or those who have decided to make a flip-flop attempt (they have interrupted a NOBO hike, traveled to Maine and are now heading back as SOBO hikers to their point of departure). These hikers have more time for completion before the weather becomes a major detergent.

Rooster Talon and Fat Hen

Rooster Talon and Fat Hen

I have been closely following several thru-hikers: The Two Peas, Dulcigal, and Fat Hen & Rooster Talon. All of them are still on the trail and putting in miles. I will blog about their progress later this week. I will also share, in the next couple of days, a story of a thru-hiker that came up 5 miles short of completing the hike.

Statistically over the years, about 25% of those who start a thru-hike complete the journey. I am anxious to see where this group of online journalists falls in this overall statistic. If all 51 current hikers reach the finish line, they will enable the group to reach the 33.6% level. For all who hike the Appalachian Trail, their lives are touched forever; for all those who will learn from the experience, their adversity turns into adventure and their lives are transformed by the power of God’s creation.

Check Out My Book

Check Out My Book

If you like my blog, and I hope you do, check out my book, Hike It Forward, on Amazon.com. Click on the book cover and it will take you to my adventure on the AT.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Dulcigal, Fat Hen, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Thru-Hike, Two Peas | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Update on the 2016 Thru-Hikers

Wow, how the start of a new school year takes time. I have been so focused on the start of school with teacher orientation, student schedules, and administrative details that my blog had to take second place for a bit.

Let me catch you up on some of the thru-hikers still active on the Appalachian Trail. Fat Hen and Rooster Talon are in Vermont; Dulcigal has flip flopped and has just completed the White Mountains in New Hampshire; and Big Cypress (of the Two Peas) is back on the trail with his youngest son at his side and Moonbeam providing trail support.

fat hen in Vermont Cabin

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon – Dan and Beckie reported in on August 22 from the Yellow Deli Hostel in Rutland, Vermont. They posted on their 5 month anniversary on the trail. Beckie’s parents met them on the trail for a gear exchange, sending home the summer gear and loading up for the colder weather in the Whites and the wilderness of Maine. Cold weather gear adds weight to the pack but it is imperative for a comfortable hike through the northern states. In addition to the needed gear, they enjoyed some good food, a Chinese buffet, a gift of banana bread and chocolate cookies from home. They were headed out in high spirits to enter New Hampshire and the challenges of the White Mountains, including ever changing weather atop Mount Washington. Today on the summit of Mount Washington – 52 degrees, 30 mph winds, fog with 100% humidity, visibility 1/16 of a mile.

Dulci on Mt Washingtom

Dulci on Mt Washingtom

Dulcigal – Karla decided to flip flop her thru-hike attempt. She left Delaware Water Gap, a small community located on the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey on August 11. She took a bus ride to New York City and then transferred buses for a five hour ride to New Hampshire. Her last post, August 27, finds her almost completing the White Mountains and looking forward to the grand state of Maine. She experienced the thrill and the adversity of the Whites. Here is a portion of her August 25th journal,

“I started off from Crawford Notch getting into Webster Cliffs and Mt. Webster. It was a beautiful morning with some winds but nothing serious. As I was climbing, the weather began to turn for the worse. When I reached the cliffs, I was faced with 70+ mph winds, dark clouds, and rain. The wind was blowing me into the mountain and not off the mountain, which was good! I was having to stay low to the trail to keep from being blown away. I was not properly dressed either. My hands and body were frozen. I finally made it down the mountain to the Mizpah Hut. The caregiver was kind enough to allow me to stay there for the night as a work-for-stay…I was very thankful to be inside out of the cold and wind! I found out after getting there that I somehow missed the “memo” about a storm coming through the area. I wondered why I didn’t see many hikers that day.”

Moonbeam and Big Cypress

Moonbeam and Big Cypress

Big Cypress – The Two Peas (Big Cypress and Moonbeam) began their thru-hike on February 14. Unfortunately, on June 27 Moonbeam experienced a serious fall resulting in a broken femur. They had just entered the state of Vermont when the accident occurred. Moonbeam had to be air lifted to a hospital in Albany, New York and surgery was performed to correct the severe break. After these many weeks off, Big Cypress has decided to complete the hike. On August 26, he arrived back on the trail with his youngest son, Shawn. Moonbeam will be providing trail support as her boys make their way north toward Katahdin. I am so glad to see the return of the Two Peas in just a slightly different pod. I will keep your posted as the hike continues.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Dulcigal, Fat Hen, Hiking, Maine, Mount Washington, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rooster Talon, The Whites, Thru-Hike, Two Peas, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GA-ME: SlipKnot – Matt McCoy

SlipKnot – Matt McCoy

January 8, 2016 Started at Springer Mountain

August 3, 2016 Climbed the Summit of Mount Katahdin

Total Days of Adventure – 209

Slip KnotOf the pilgrims that I am following on trailjournals.com, the latest hiker to summit Katahdin after a successful thru-hike from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Maine is Matt McCoy from Vermont. His trail name is SlipKnot and he is the only hiker that started his online journal in January that made it to Maine. Thus far his 209 days on the trail is the longest thru-hike that I have traced.  I am happy for him as he joins the Appalachian Trail Thru-hiker Class of 2016!

SlipKnot purposely selected early January in his thru-hike strategy because he was genuinely excited about experiencing some winter-hiking. He was not disappointed as the snow caused him to initially skip the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in the later part of January. Again, in the middle of February, a winter storm forced him to skip over the forty-five miles of trail between Erwin and Roan Mountain in the state of Tennessee. He faithfully traveled back to these two areas in early March to hike these high-elevation areas.

His most compelling reason for starting in January was simply to provide the maximum amount of time to reach Katahdin. Matt is retired from an electric company in Vermont so he used his lack of employment responsibilities to slow the pace of his hike and provide some breaks along the way. He averaged 10.5 miles a day. He did put in some SlipKnot.January snowlong days, trekking somewhere between 19 to 21 miles per day on fifteen occasions. His longest day of 21.1 miles on June 4 while hiking in Massachusetts. He took two rather extended breaks from the trail (about a week each time) to visit family and enjoy a much needed respite in the comfort of home, sweet home.

Slip Knot on KatahdinHis trail name? Matt explains his trail name, SlipKnot, as reflecting three significant meanings for him. First, it’s characteristic of how he ties a bowline. Second, before the AT hike experience, Matt had never slipped while hiking. And third, SlipKnot is a fan of the heavy metal band of the same name. The second aspect of his name (never slipping) only lasted 15 days into the adventure when a trip root brought him to his knees. The Appalachian Trail seems pretty zealous to provide some humility for hikers along the way.

SlipKnot summited Mount Katahdin with his youngest daughter. In his last post he was careful to thank his supportive wife and two older daughters for their encouragement throughout the seven months process. Congratulations to SlipKnot on his amazing accomplishment!

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Erwin, GSMNP, Maine, Massachusetts, Mount Katahdin, Slip Knot, Snow, Springer Mountain, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

NOWA on the Summit

NOWA  -Doug Bonacum 

Started in Georgia March 14, 2016

Summited Katahdin in Maine on July 23, 2016

Total Days of the Adventure – 132

NOWA.SummitDoug Bonacum is a highly educated man with a background in chemical engineering, graduating from the University of New Hampshire in 1983. After having served in the US Submarine Force for eight years (where he was responsible for ship and weapons’ safety and nuclear power plant operations) and then in the health care industry for over 22 years with Kaiser Permanente, Doug Bonacum is now making a career change to teaching middle school math in the fall. He plans to begin a teaching credential program in September, 2016, at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California.

On Friday March 11, NOWA retired from his position as Kaiser Permanente’s vice president of quality, safety and resource stewardship. On Sunday, March 13, he kissed his wife, Kim, goodbye. And on Monday March, 14, Doug began his attempt of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail needing to complete the trail before beginning his schooling in the fall.

NOWA at GA/NC boarder

NOWA at GA/NC boarder

Doug Bonacum took on an acronym as his trail name. NOWA stands for No One Walks Alone, the name of his fund-raising team to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s research. Doug’s father, Jim, died of complications from the illness in 2014. While he dedicated this entire journey to those with Alzheimer’s and those caring for them, on June 20, 2016 (the summer solstice), NOWA participated in the Alzheimer’s Association ‘”The Longest Day.”  The Longest Day is an event to honor the strength, passion and endurance of those facing Alzheimer’s disease.  From sunrise to sunset, NOWA hiked to raise an understanding for the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association.

NOWA entered his Appalachian Trail venture with little previous hiking experience. “My longest overnight trip is one night, and I probably hiked about 6 miles in the process,” Bonacum told an East Bay California Newspaper, “It was around Lake Chabot.” However, Doug instituted an intense physical routine as he prepared for his thru-hike.  Inside the Ordway Building (aka, One Kaiser Plaza), it was easy to catch a glimpse of NOWA in the stairwells as he took a page from his Navy “running drills.” Toting a 40-pound backpack, he hiked his way from the third to the 23rd floor and back numerous times per week. He also worked out six to seven days a week in a local gym. And my, did that preparation pay off when he hit the trail.

NOWA 7.23.16For additional inspiration, NOWA looked no further than to his wife, Kim, and their four children, Kyle, Alex, Grace and Liam. On June 20, Kim and Doug’s sister, Beth, joined him on the trail for The Longest Day event. He carried some special photos of his dad provided by another sister, Leslie. In his journal post for this day he shares a bit of his perspective for this effort to address Alzheimer’s,

“It’s an honor everyday to carry the list of names I have [been] given of people who are currently living with Alzheimer’s or who have died from it. But today was particularly special. I wish the best to anyone reading this who has or had a loved one with Alzheimer’s. May you find joy in the memories of that person and peace in the present.”

NOWA’s family joined him on the Saturday morning of the Mount Katahdin climb to make the 4200 foot ascent up the mountain. The last 5 miles of trail was celebrated together and the picture on the summit reflects the team effort needed to accomplish a successful thru-hike. No one walks alone… even on a solo, 2,186 mile thru-hike.

http://www.eastbaytimes.com/bay-area-news/ci_29617356/retiring-kaiser-vp-hike-2-200-mile-appalachian

Photos and journal quotes from http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=522545

Categories: Alzheimer's, Appalachian Trail, California, Georgia, Kaiser Permanente, Maine, Mount Katahdin, NOWA, Thru-Hike, US Submarine Force | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

North Star on Katahdin

North Star – Alan Kamman

Started from Springer Mountain, Georgia, on March 2, 2016

Summited Mountain Katahdin, Maine, on July 24, 2016

Total Number of Days on the Trail – 145 days

Northstar 7.24.16

North Star On Katahdin

Alan Kamman, known as North Star on the Appalachian Trail, began his attempted thru-hike on March 2, 2016. Alan lives in Lincoln, Vermont. He was granted a leave of absence as a high school guidance counselor at Mt. Abraham Union Middle/High School in Bristol, Vermont. Mt. Abraham is a 7-12 public Middle/High School that serves the five-town district comprised of Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton, New Haven, and Starksboro.

Alan considers himself an avid outdoorsman. He enjoys hiking, alpine skiing, hunting, fishing, and backpacking. He also likes bushwhacking with the goal of finding antler drops (sheds) from moose and deer. He explains in his pre-hike journal, “These [antlers] are best found in the early. I have learned a great deal about moose and seen quite a few just by wandering around their home turf. Once I got run off a hill top by a cow moose. That was an unnerving experience but a good reminder. I have been in close proximity to many moose including some sizeable bulls. While I love seeing large wildlife up close, I have no interest in snakes or ticks!  I think this insight reflects a pretty good perspective of an avid outdoorsman.

Northstar PromoPrior to stepping out on the Appalachian Trail, Alan shared in his online journal his passion and drive to hike this 2,186 mile, 14-state path from Georgia to Maine: “When I was thirteen years old, all I wanted to do in the world was hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. It consumed much of my thought through reading and actual hiking. Over the years, circumstance led me away from that goal. Work, marriage, and family have brought me to my 53rd year happy and healthy, but with that lifelong dream un-fulfilled. My desire to hike the A.T. has never waned and in fact, watching my close colleague and two of my students successfully make this hike, it has grown into a bit of an obsession.”

Northstar 3.2.16

North Star at Springer Mountain, GA

North Star’s comfort with outdoor experiences goes much deeper than the two “practice” hikes. He has completed the Long Trail in Vermont and also hiked to the summit of all the 4000 foot peaks in New Hampshire (48) and Vermont (5). He also spent four summers and two fall/winters working within the Appalachian Mountain Club hut system in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Alan has the background and expertise from someone you would expect to put together a successful thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. And he did!

Cheryl (Wonder) and Kelly (Santa), previously featured in one of my posts as part of the class of 2016, met North Star along their adventure and noted how fast and competent he was on the trail. They shared in their journal that North Star’s daughter had a wedding date in mid-August so Alan seemed highly motivated to conclude his adventure in July. He accomplished this goal rather nicely. My congratulations to North Star with blessings on his daughter’s marriage.

Categories: Alan Kamman, Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Maine, Moose, Mount Katahdin, North Star, Snakes, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thru-Hikers at Katahdin

Several thru-hikers that I have been following are arriving at Mount Katahdin, Maine, the northern terminus, of the Appalachian Trail. I’d like to take some blog space from time to time to congratulate these brave adventurers and to share some of the variety of people who make up this strange breed of individuals called thru-hikers: the class of 2016. Here is the first installment.

Cheryl and Kelly 7.26.16

Cheryl (Wonder) and Kelly (Santa)

Cheryl (Wonder) and Kelly (Santa)

Started in Georgia on February 26, 2016

Summited Mount Katahdin on July 26, 2016

Total Days for the Journey – 152

This husband and wife team from Massachusetts are in their 50’s and have three grown children. Both Santa and Wonder are teachers – Santa teaches high school mathematics and Wonder ministers in a Kindergarten classroom. Kelly was able to take a leave of absence from his school at the end of February and Cheryl took the entire year off. They chose to leave at the end of February in order to complete the thru-hike by the beginning/middle of August and be back home for the start of the new school year. Wow, what lessons they will bring into their classrooms!

While hiking the Appalachian Trail they left their lives in Massachusetts in the hands of their two oldest children. The oldest loves spreadsheets and numbers so she was put in charge of the hiker mail drop schedule; the middle child was responsible for the house and actually mailing the resupply packages to mom and dad on the trail. The youngest is a junior in college and focused on the academics at hand.

When asked the question, “Why do you want to do this?” Wonder has many thoughts to share. I thought several were quite interesting:

“When I was little my dad had a book with pictures of the AT and I thought it was “cool”.

“My husband and I have hiked many sections of the AT and then I got obsessed (this happens to me). We hiked a section from Mount Greylock in Mass to Hanover, NH and he got the “backpacking bug.”

“I want to know if I am capable of doing this hike end to end.”

“Can I physically hike 2000+ miles? Am I mentally capable of being challenged, bored, uncomfortable?’Cheryl and Kelly Mason Dixon Line

“Can I stay (happily) married while hiking 2000+ miles with my husband?”

Trail names: Santa got his because he has a big white beard and his rotund belly when he started the hike (Kelly lost over 30 pounds during the adventure). According to their profile, Kelly wants to be a mall Santa when he grows up. Based on his picture, he would have no problem getting the job.

Wonder was given her name during a section hike from Mount Greylock (the highest point in Massachusetts) to Hanover, New Hampshire. She had taken a class on “wondering” – how to engage the natural, innate curiosity of young children and use that inner desire for discovery to help them learn. Because of her own curiosity, Cheryl tends to start a lot of her sentences with “I wonder…” and so the trail name Wonder just seemed to fit her personality and disposition.

Photos/details gleaned for their online journal – http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=518667.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Maine, Mason-Dixon Line, Massachusetts, Mount Katahdin, Mt Greylock, New Hampshire, Thru-Hike, Trail Name, Wonder and Santa | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Dulcigal Into Pennsylvania

Dulcigal and dulcimer

Dulcigal and dulcimer

Dulcigal, Karla Redman from Jackson. Georgia, is attempting a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Stepping out from the southern terminus, Springer Mountain, Georgia on March 13, Dulcigal made solid progress through Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. As she entered Virginia (the state with the most miles on the AT), she faced 550 miles of trail before reaching West Virginia. She entered the Shenandoah Nation Park and had conquered 469 miles of Virginia and then, it happened…. On June 19 (day 99 of the adventure) at 4:00 in the morning, Dulcigal woke up with intense pain from kidney stones – it was a debilitating case of kidney stones that resulted in an emergency room visit, two days in ICU, and a trip back home for recuperation.

Honestly, I did not think she would return to the trail, but her resolve is more than incredible. Less than a month after the episode, she is back on the path. On July 12, she returned to mile marker 932 and the trail head at Pinnacles Picnic Area with her two sons to continue the quest for Maine, Mount Katahdin, and the brown sign marking the northern terminus of this very long trail.

Dulicgal has posted several times since resuming her trek. The entry dated July 13 records that her hike through the Shenandoah Mountains was complete. She loved this part of the hike (as did I) with the beauty and freshness of the mountain canopy, but she was pretty excited, anticipating her arrival at Harpers Ferry, WV – only 54 miles away. During her time away from the trail, she lost some of the endurance and strength gained from hiking 930 miles, but she posted that each day was bringing more energy.

Dulci at the ATC

Dulci at the ATC

July 18 found Dulci at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry, WV. She got the traditional photograph taken and entered into the historical record of thru-hikers of 2016. When I arrived here in 2014, the date was June 30 and I was hiker number 924 – Dulci’s official number was 1,436. There are definitely lots of hikers on the trail this year.

Her sons (Jeremiah and Isaac) were able to hike with their mom all week to help her get a safe start back on the path. They returned home when the trio arrived at Harpers Ferry, but Dulcigal decided to stay in West Virginia a couple of days to allow a pulled muscle to recover. She had hiked 87 miles in 5 days but it was the 13.5 mile “Roller Coaster” (endless ups and downs), climaxing the end of the hike through Virginia, that tested her trail legs.

Dulci’s journal on July 20 relates a special story of receiving and carrying a dulcimer along the trail. She got the instrument in Waynesboro and began playing it some during her hike in the Shenandoahs. She shared that she played it every day in Harpers Ferry. I just love this part of her entry, “After the boys left, I carried the dulcimer with me when I went into town in case an opportunity arose to play. One of those times I came across an elderly lady sitting at a park picnic table. She was waiting on her son and his wife to finish a day hike. It didn’t take me long to realize she had some dementia and was struggling with general conversation. When I played her music on the dulcimer, her entire countenance changed. It was a blessing to me to see her enjoy such a simple gift.”

Dulcigal at Midway Point

Dulcigal at Midway Point

July 26 is the date of her most current post. She is in Boiling Springs (one of my favorite trail towns along the AT), having passed by the true half-way point of the AT in Pine Grove Furnace State Park and having walked over 1100 trail miles. She continues to gain strength and to make adjustments to the physical demands of the adventure. On the down side, the past week has been quite tough mentally. The hiking community she knew before leaving the trail is now 300 miles ahead of her. She is really missing her children after spending 3 weeks with them during recovery. And the heat, humidity, and bugs have made the recent days rather difficult.

She writes, “Now I understand the mental challenge piece of the hike. Getting to the halfway point sign at 1094 miles was not exciting to me. I’m ONLY HALFWAY!!! I still have 1094 miles to go!!!! That’s what was going through my mind.”

She began to reflect back on her excitement about returning to the trail. She experienced several deep conversations with herself and with God to sort through the distracting mental struggles and frustrations. She found strength in the ordeal with the kidney stones and being convinced that her journey was not over. She concludes her past journal entry with this insight: “We may not always understand the hills and the valleys in our lives, but we must still go on.”

Keep on hiking on, Dulci!

All photos are from Dulcigal’s online journal at http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=523064
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Boiling Springs, Class of 2016, Dulcigal, Georgia, Kidney Stones, Pennsylvania, Roller Coaster, Shenandoah National Park, Thru-Hike, Virginia, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon: Pennsylvania and Beyond

The last journal entry posted by Fat Hen and Rooster was made on June 20 from Pine Grove Furnace State Park, Pennsylvania, but they have submitted several photographs dated July 9 reflecting the major climb out of Palmerton, PA. While I wait for an update from them, let me share a few of their pictures and their encounter with some ice cream.

Pine Grove StoreOn June 20, the young couple from the state of New York arrived at the convenience store at Pine Grove Furnace. This legendary country store is home to the half-gallon challenge. Located very close to the actual half-way point of the Appalachian Trail, the store encourages thru-hikers to take a symbolic challenge of eating a half-gallon of ice cream to celebrate the half-way marker. To the victor goes the right to sign the store register and receive the coveted, commemorative, wooden spoon.

Dan and Becky had no problem conquering the frozen dairy challenge laughing in the face of the obstacle. To be sure of the undisputed victory they added an additional pint of ice cream to make up for the now 1.5 containers passed off as half-gallons by stores across America. Their choices from the dairy case were rather surprising to me.

Half Gallon Spoon -1024x765Becky selected chocolate/vanilla with caramel swirl plus a pint of peach. Dan combined his 1.5 quarts of banana marshmallow swirl with vanilla wafers with a pint of blueberry cheesecake. I love ice cream but these flavors seem to defy mixing well in the digestive juices of one’s stomach. The cost of the two wooden spoons was $20 worth of frozen desserts. To reflect their thru-hiker spirit and AT attitude, Rooster shares that they had trouble talking themselves out of another ½ gallon to celebrate the ½ gallon victory!

They walked away from Pine Grove Furnace with smiles on their faces, full bellies, and wooden prizes along with their names in the book of legends.

Here are a few photos that they have posted since their ice cream adventure. The pictures posted on July 9 document their arrival at Palmerton, PA and their climb out of Lehigh Gap, one of the most difficult rock climbs on the trail. The pictures were posted on July 9 but I am not sure when they actually passed through the area. The distance from Pine Grove Furnace to Palmerton is 156 miles, leaving only 36 miles left of Rocksylvania. I anxiously await their next update.

Fat Hen.Palmerton Fat Hen Rocks of PA Fat Hen. Palmerton Climb

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Fat Hen, Half Gallon Challenge, Palmerton, Pennsylvania, Pine Grove Furnace, Rooster Talon, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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