Dulcigal Back on the Trail

Dulcigal posted an encouraging entry on her online journal last Wednesday, July 6.

Peach tree road raceHer entry on June 29th reviewed her severe case of kidney stones on the trail, two visits to two emergency rooms in two different hospitals, two days in ICU, followed by three more days in the hospital, and finally, a road trip back home for rest. Since then, Dulci has been enjoying some time with her family while getting the much needed rest and relaxation. She met her family at Piedmont Park as her children ran to the finish line of the world’s largest 10k…the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, GA. Running the Peachtree has been one of her favorite yearly events but this year she needed to just sit, cheer, and watch.

The post on July 6th reads, “Every day I am getting stronger, but I still have to take it easy. With that being said, my sons (Jeremiah and Isaac) are bringing me back to the trail this weekend (July 9th/10th). I will be taking it nice and slow, slack packing as well, and seeing how it goes. They will be with me for the week to hike so all is good. I am excited about getting back to the trail.”

Dulcigal.quarter of the wayDulci writes about the real possibility of doing a flip-flop. A flip-flop is a thru-hike that begins down south in Georgia and then at some point leaves the trail, travels to Maine while the weather is still good, and hikes southbound back to the spot of the flip-flop. She shares that she has several options to get to Maine if she needs to change directions.

After a recent visit to her urologist, she found out that her kidneys are full of stones, but they are too small for “invasive treatment”. The doctor prescribed lots of water with lemon juice and a careful eye on what she eats. For a thru-hiker with hiker hunger, a discerning eye on one’s diet will be no small task.

Dulci is so excited to get back on the Appalachian Trail. She and her sons planned to leave this past weekend. She has not posted since but she was headed to Pinnacles Picnic area in the Shenandoah National Park where her kidney stones forced her off trail.

Her excitement to hike again is captured in her last journal entry, I cannot wait to get back to the trail. I needed the rest and recovery and I know that I will be starting slow and will have to rebuild my strength. However, even during this difficult time, I have believed that my journey was not over…at least not yet…that God got me this far and He will continue to carry me until He tells me otherwise.”

I’ll keep you posted as Dulcigal adds to her journal.

Road Race Photo: http://www.ajc.com/news/news/road-closures-2015-ajc-peachtree-road-race/nmp5r/

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Atlanta, Dulcigal, Georgia, Injuries, Journaling, Kidney Stones, Maine, Shenandoah National Park, Thru-Hike, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fat Hen and Talon at the ATC

At the Appalachian Trail Conservancy

At the Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon made it to Harpers Ferry, WV on June 23rd and became part of the traditional photo shot of thru-hikers. Their picture also reflects the hiker number – representing the rank order of thru-hikers that have checked in at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Dan was number 974 and Rebecca was 975. During my 2014 thru-hike, I arrived on June 30 and was hiker number 924. This shows the increase in participation this year – they arrived one week earlier and yet 50 more hikers have passed through the town headed north.

When Dan and Rebecca arrived in Harper’s Ferry, they developed a creative idea of visiting Washington, D.C. There’s a train station in the historic district of Harpers Ferry that goes to Union Station.  Helping to hatch the idea were the lodging options in Harpers – they were limited and expensive.  But they were too late for the last train into D.C. for the day. And then, trail blessing appeared – a man at the ATC, Glen, offered them a ride into D.C. Fat Hen and Rooster Talon were so excited about the possibilities. Their journal entry expressed it so well,

“We are then booking a hotel (which was cheaper than the one in Harpers Ferry) and in a car, on our way to the city. Glen was kind enough not only to bring us to the city but to our hotel as well, with many recommendations and anecdotes along the way. The time in the car flew by with great conversations! We then spent the night with a real shower, Chinese food and, movies.”

After breakfast the next morning they walked all over the capitol city from the White House to the National Archives to the Air & Space Museum to the National Gallery, then to the Natural History Museum, the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. This was not exactly a day off and certainly not a zero day of rest, but it was a great day of adventure. Their reflection:

Fat Hen and Talen Offical Picture“We had a great day off, even though it meant walking just as much as a normal one. It was a nice change of pace to play tourist for a day. Hopped a late train back to Harpers Ferry and we were back at it again. To head back to the wilderness with our backpacks, thinking that just a day before we touched a moon rock, saw the Wright Flyer, gazed upon Leonardo Davinci’s and Raphael’s works, stood before Lincoln and our country’s founding documents.”

The picture of this young couple on the porch of the ATC revealed some information that I did not know. Dano is Daniel Gottshall and Becky is Rebecca Savaria. They are both from Dundee, NY. Not on the picture but from Wikipedia: Dundee is a village in Yates County, New York, USA. The population was 1,725 at the 2010 census. The name was taken from Dundee, the city in Scotland with a population of 160,000. The Village of Dundee is in the Town of Starkey, New York. I bet this small town is very proud of these two young adventurers.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Fat Hen, Harpers Ferry, Hiking, Journaling, Rooster Talon, Thru-Hike, Trail, Trail Name, Washington. DC | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

RoadRunner and Will

RR and WillSandra and Larry Tyler (trail names RoadRunner and Will) make their home in Arizona but decided to travel to Georgia and attempt a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail during 2016. Will has recently retired from the medical field and Road Runner works as an ultrasound technician. They have one grandson, William, and one Black Lab, Jedi.

The couple is not new to the long distance hiking adventure. They have been involved in long trail experiences since 2005. The hiked the John Muir Trail in 2005, The PCT in 2006 and 2013, The Arizona Trail in 2011, the Colorado Trail in 2012 and the Great Divide Trail in 2015. As they contemplated the AT in 2016, they were only able to commit to a four month window to accomplish it, from March 1 to July 1. This is a very aggressive agenda, but Team Tyler had the experience to understand the mileage needed and the physical ability to hike long distances.

I was rather surprised and disappointed for this Arizonan couple to see them pull off the trail at the 2,000 mile point just 190 miles short of Katahdin. It was day 112 of their adventure, June 18, 2016. Looking back over their journal, it was evident that RoadRunner had a rough go of it from the beginning. She broke out with poison ivy, contracted cellulitis, experienced a pulled calf muscle, took multiple falls, and on day 96 fell directly on her right knee. Despite a hefty pain killer and a regular dose of Vitamin I (Ibuprofen), her constant leg pain brought serious limping and discouraging progress.

Road Runner on the ATRoadRunner and Will stopped in Rangely, Maine, on June 14 to buy some new shoes for Sandra. The new shoes were a big help but RoadRunner was still moving at half speed and it became evident that the couple was not able to make it to Katahdin before their deadline. Their last journal entry was written from Stratton, Maine. RoadRunner pens these sad words describing their decision to end their attempted thru-hike:

When Will woke up I had to break the news. You can imagine I was weeping as I did so. To be within 190 miles of finishing and then to have to abruptly end your hike is agonizing.   We tried to think of ways that he could continue and finish. We were out of spare days. The chipmunks cheeks were empty so we couldn’t just lay low and see if the knee would get better. If he went forward and I couldn’t hike, that left me hanging out at Shaws for somewhere for like 9 days which he was not willing to do…. He was a bit shell shocked by my announcement, and then a bit down. But he rallied and took care of getting our flights home and researching getting us to the airport. ”

Team Tyler are great veteran hikers with a ton of determination and grit. Maybe another season will permit a return trip to the east and a completion of the 200 miles left in Maine.

Photo on Saddleback Mountain: http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=1040124

Photo in woods: http://www.alexperkinsshoots.com/the-appalachian-trail-high-in-the-smokies/

Categories: Adversity, Appalachian Trail, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Pacific Crest Trail, RoadRunner and Will, Saddleback Mountain, Thru-Hike, Trail Name | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stacey Kozel – A Life-Changing Story

stacey kozel 5Stacey Kozel has been getting national attention in the last few weeks from the likes of Today, Washington Post, Popular Mechanics, and The Weather Channel. And well she should be. Stacey has a life-changing story to tell.

Stacey, a 41-year-old hiker from Medina, Ohio, is in the midst of a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, the 2,186 mile trek from Maine to Georgia. And she’s doing it alone. This, however, is not national news nor is it an unusual story for this blog site. What is unusual is that Kozel is paralyzed from the waist down.

When she was 19, Stacey was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage many parts of the body. Lupus often times leaves it impact on an individual during flare-up episodes. She became paralyzed in her legs after one particular flare-up of the disease in March 2014. Stacey told the Washington Post, “It was my worst flare-up. I kind of stumbled into the hospital. … Within a couple of days, I lost all mobility. I couldn’t sit up. I couldn’t lift my head. It took three people to hold me up, because my body was dead weight, just stiff.”

Kozel.DamascusAfter this 2014 traumatic flare, Stacey recovered most of the control of her arms and upper body, but her legs never responded. She found herself restricted to an electric wheelchair, but she began a personal search for anything that could help. She finally discovered the Ottobock C-Brace. The brace actually functions more like a mechanical exoskeleton. The large black brace cups around the foot and extends up the thigh. Its bendable knee joints and sensors that monitor ankle pressure enable great mobility for the user. These microprocessors adjust the hydraulic system (located at the knee) that actually moves the leg. It allows someone with paralyzed legs to walk again because, in essence, it does the walking for you.

Kozel shared, “It’s kind of like a car. The car has hydraulics and when you go over bumps, they kind of give. That’s what these braces do — when walking over holes and terrain, you don’t really feel it.” Kozel was so excited about these braces until she saw a price tag: $75,000….each! She couldn’t afford these new legs. But through great perseverance and diligence, she convinced an insurance company to approve her need.

C-BraceThe C-Braces are pretty incredible but they’re not perfect. First, when she faces boulders and steep inclines or embankments, she has to throw her backpack ahead. Then she sits and pulls herself up backwards, scooting along. This will continue to be a challenge especially over the White Mountains in New Hampshire and wilderness of southern Maine. Second, the braces cannot get wet. Rain, therefore, can be problematic, since it sometimes forces her to remain in her tent to wait until the storm passes by. The Appalachian Trail presents many days of rain. Third, they require a new charge every two days. During most of the trail, a charge every two days will possible, although inconvenient. But I think a few of the stretches, like the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine, will create a substantial challenge.

Kozel.Harpers FerryThe June 23 online issue of TODAY stated that Stacey has hiked over 905 miles of the trail since starting her journey on March 24. She’s hoping to reach the halfway mark by July 4. In this article, Stacey shared, “I didn’t start out doing this because I thought it was going to be easy. It’s not going to be pretty and it’s not going to be fast, but I’ll get there. I’ve always wanted to hike, but just I felt like I was trapped in my wheelchair. I was just dying to get outside.”

She made it! Check out her picture from Harpers Ferry complete with her trail name, “Ironwill.” The ATC is not the geographic half-way point (which is another 70 miles away), but Harpers Ferry, WV, certainly is the emotional/psychological half-way spot for thru-hikers.

http://www.today.com/health/woman-who-paralyzed-hikes-appalachian-trail-alone-t99811

http://www.popularmechanics.com/adventure/outdoors/a21585/high-tech-leg-braces-gets-this-paralyzed-woman-hiking/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/07/01/the-incredible-technology-thats-helping-this-paralyzed-woman-hike-the-appalachian-trail/

Stacey Kozel updates the world on her adventure on a public Facebook page.

Photo of Stacey  http://www.nwcn.com/news/health/high-tech-braces-aid-handicapped-hiker/262010477

Photo at Damascus http://www.littlethings.com/stacey-kozel-hikes-appalachian-trail/

Photo of C-Brace http://www.popularmechanics.com/adventure/outdoors/a21585/high-tech-leg-braces-gets-this-paralyzed-woman-hiking/

Categories: Adversity, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, C-Brace, Courage, Harpers Ferry, Hiking, Stacey Kozel, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

AT Class of 2016 – On the Move

ThruhikersI began the 2016 hiking season for the Appalachian Trail by picking a few trail journals to read. I tuned-in to trailjournals.com and selected a few special individuals to follow. Then the researcher in me began to take over and I became intrigued by the website. I decided to see how many Appalachian Trail journals were active on the site and before I knew it was charting the progress of all the thru-hikers on their 14-state adventure.

There are a total of 321 individual journals created by hikers to record their trek on the AT. Of those 321 journals, 19 hikers were making a section hike of a portion of the trail and not attempting a thru-hike. A large number of the diaries (81 to be exact) posted some preliminary entries but never journaled from the trail. They may or may not be hiking the AT, but without a journal, there is Thruhikers2no opportunity for me to trace their paths. Six other journals announced that the authors were going to record their trek on other blog sites and abandoned this webpage. Seven more listings have not begun the hike, leaving in July and August.

So of the 321 listings, only 208 online journals are active records of hikers attempting a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. My accounting, as of July 3, has 106 hikers still on the trail moving toward their final destination, while 102 hikers are off trail. Charting the hikers by the month they started their adventure, one can see the success rate continues to decrease the longer the hikers have been on the trail.

 

Month         Total Hikers    Current Hikers  Hikers Off-Trail      % Still Hiking      % Off-Trail

January                   4                       1                       3                   25%                             75%

February                21                      8                     13                    38%                            62%

March                   103                   50                     53                    49%                            51%

April                        53                   26                      25                    53%                            47%

May                         18                   12                        6                     67%                            33%

June                          9                    7                         2                    78%                            22%

I am always interested in the reason that a thru-hike has to be abandoned. Every hike is unique and every reason is legitimate. In recording the reason stated in the hiker’s journals, I have classified them into one of four categories: Physical Reasons, Mental/Emotional Reasons, No Reason Stated, and Stopped Posting. This last category represents those hikers that have just stopped adding to their journals. After two months of silence I place a hiker in this category. They may still be out there making progress but probably not. I will continue to check their journals, but for my research I have “ruled” them inactive.

Here are my categories and the number of hikers that fit into each:

Mental Reasons               25 hikers              24.5% of the total reasons

Physical Reasons              39 hikers              38% of the total reasons

No Posts in 2 months     36 hikers              35.5% of the total reasons

Unstated Reasons           2 hikers                2% of the total reasons

Those that needed to end their hike for physical reasons shared a variety of body parts that shut them down. The most vulnerable were the knee (12 hikers), the leg (11 hikers), and the ankle/foot (8 hikers). Other physical injuries included the back, the arm, the neck, the hip, the toe, and a hernia. The Appalachian Trail will test every physical joint on the human body with sprains, twists, and even breaks. 2,186 miles will take its toll on hiker in a variety of ways.

Four Thru-hikers Photo: http://www.thethriveproject.com/2185-miles-on-the-appalachian-trail-an-epic-walk-in-the-woods/
Hikers in front of house: http://appalachiantrail.com/2015-appalachian-trail-stories/ 
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class of 2016, Injuries, Success Rate, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Bismarck Before A Judge

Bismark with Beard

Bismark with Beard

One of the thru-hikers I met during my 2014 adventure on the Appalachian Trail was Bismarck. I met him in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and then again at The Cabin, a hostel in Maine.  Little did I know at the time that Bismarck was James Hammes, a wanted man for the embezzlement of millions of dollars from a Pepsi-Cola bottling company in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In reality, Bismarck had been on the run from the FBI for 6 years. He had used the Appalachian Trail as his hide-out and his Trail Name as his cover. He grew the typical thru-hiker beard and blended into the hiking community. He was friendly and helpful along the trail allowing him to be well hidden. Then one day a 2014 thru-hiker, while watching a re-run of the series American Greed, recognized Bismarck as James Hammes. The fellow hiker notified the FBI.

Bismarck was arrested by federal agents in May of 2015 at Trail Days, a major thru-hiker festival held in Damascus, Virginia each year. James Hammes, 54, formerly of Lexington, Kentucky, pleaded guilty last October to one count of wire fraud. Officials said he agreed to pay nearly $7.7 million in restitution: $6.7 million to G & J Pepsi-Cola Bottlers, Inc. and $1 million to Cincinnati Insurance Company.

Recently US District Judge, Susan Dlott sentenced James Hammes to eight (8) years in prison. Her decision also included the mandate that Hammes continue to make financial restitution for his embezzlement and added on a three year probation after his release. The judge substantiated her decision by reviewing the high amount of money involved in Hammes’ misappropriation of funds, his long-term flight to avoid prosecution, and the collateral damage to his family. Hammes’ attorney indicated an appeal will be made.

James T Hemmes

James T Hammes

James T. Hammes was employed as a controller for the Cincinnati-based bottling company. He was responsible for all financial accounting and internal controls for his division, including the oversight of accounts payable to vendors for services provided to the company’s division. The FBI said Hammes created a sham vendor account, wrote checks to it, then moved the deposits into his own accounts. He was questioned by the company about some unusual financial transactions in February 2009, at which time he fled and began his six-year hiking along the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.

Zenaida Lockard, an assistant public defender in Cincinnati representing Hammes, and Federal Public Defender Deborah L. Williams submitted a statement seeking a lighter sentence. The request stated, “He [Hammes] sought refuge in the foothills and mountains of the Trail, in an attempt to sort through a sordid past…. Each day spent out in Mother Nature shed light on Jim’s dark past; and as he began to understand the flaws of his character, he moved one step closer to personal redemption.”

The Appalachian Trail is indeed a peaceful place and the solitude of the hike brings great introspection, but I think it is a rather weak argument in a court of law. On the other hand, I sure hope it is true. Even though Bismarck will be incarcerated for eight years, I pray that his personal redemption continues to lead to a true spiritual transformation.

Quote from Hammes’ legal counsel:  http://www.wlwt.com/news/lawyers-appalachian-trail-was-clients-road-to-redemption/39883150

Photo of Bismack with beard http://www.sj-r.com/article/20150521/NEWS/150529846

Photo of Hemmes: http://www.atlanticbb.net/news/read/category/us/article/the_associated_press-feds_seek_7year_term_for_appalachian_trailhiking_f-ap

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Dulcigal: Down But Not Out

A View in the Shenandoah National Park

A View in the Shenandoah National Park

Dulcigal updated her journal on June 29th. She really enjoyed her hike halfway through the Shenandoah National Park. The mountain terrain was easier, the views were different, and lots of camp stores along the way made food options more appealing. She began to pick up the pace, averaging from 18 to 22 miles a day, She especially loved the wildlife including deer and bears.

Unfortunately, the hike took a different turn at 4:00 Sunday morning, June 19th. Dulci was safely tenting near the Pinnacles Picnic Area (around mile 936 on the Appalachian Trail) when she began to feel very ill. In her journal she write:

“I was awakened by a horrible pain in my back. Fortunately nearby, another hiker was tenting who had a car. He took me to Page Memorial Hospital ER in Luray, VA – the closest hospital. The doctor confirmed it was a kidney stone, prescribed pain medicine and I was on my way to hiking again. I took Sunday off and rested at a local hotel. By Tuesday, June 21st, my conditioned worsened and was shuttled back to the ER. The stone had blocked my kidney causing kidney and liver failure and septic shock. Page Memorial sent me via ambulance to Sentara Rockingham Memorial Hospital (45 minutes away to Harrisburg, VA). I was in ICU for 2 days and then a med/surge floor for 3 days. I was one very sick hiker. Family was able to come and be with me during those difficult days.”

Dulcigal.HinkerDulcigal was discharged from the hospital and has made her way back to her home in Georgia. She seems to be in such good spirits, reflecting a positive response to the trauma on the trail. She concludes her post with a perspective of hope and faith.

“It was a long 2 day ride back to GA after being discharged on Sunday, June 26th. I am slowly recovering, but daily getting stronger. I met with my Doctor today, who is an avid hiker and plans to hike the PCT some day, who believes I can finish the hike…but only after 2 to 3 weeks of proper rest and recovery. The CAT scan shows I have 2 kidneys full of stones, so I will have to be careful, but life goes on and with God’s blessings, the hike will continue. Thank you to all of you who have been praying.

Throughout the entire ordeal, I could feel God’s presence and knew that I was in His care. The fervent prayers of the Saints…God is so good. ….. I will keep you all posted as to when, where and how the hike will continue!!!”

As Dulci continues to post in her online journal, I will keep you abreast of her decision making. Meanwhile, join me in praying for her complete recovery and a time of reflection with her friends and family.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Dulcigal, Shenandoah National Park, Thru-Hike, Virginia | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Two Peas – Latest Update

Moonbeam and Big Cypress

Moonbeam and Big Cypress

The Two Peas (Moonbeam and Big Cypress) put in some good mileage over the past several days. They averaged 17. 6 miles per day from June 18-23, then they took a Nero Day (3.0 miles) into Dalton, Massachusetts. They have hiked through Connecticut and walked past the 1500 mile spot at Brassie Broke Shelter on June 19. Moonbeam posted their latest journal entry on the 23rd of June – 65 miles later in the trail town of Dalton. They are staying at the Shamrock Inn – my choice of sleeping arrangements when I visited this quaint little town in 2014.

Moonbeam commented on the beauty of the Housatonic River during their last day’s walk through Connecticut on Saturday, June 18. Massachusetts, on June 19, brought a 12 hour day of hiking resulting in 17.6 miles and several lessons along the way. She mentions lessons on communication, positive speech, and trust in God. It sounds like a long day but one filled with insight and truth.

The trail on June 20 provided an amazing view from Mount Bushnell. The concern for the day, however, was water. Many streams are dry making hydration difficult. Moonbeam describes the situation as “brutal.” During the night, God sent some water in the form of severe thunderstorms. The weather brought bright lightning and cracks of thunder very close to their campsite, then heavy rain but just for a short amount of time. It was sunny in the morning but their tent was wet for the morning commute.

Upper Goose Pond Cabin

Upper Goose Pond Cabin

The Two Peas made it to a very popular spot along the trail on June 21 as they stayed at the Upper Goose Pond Cabin. The sleep was refreshing, the pancakes in the morning were marvelous, and Big Cypress got to take a swim in the pond – an experience he was hoping to dive into. The next day provided another long day of hiking and another 17+ mile trek. They stopped at the Cookie Lady’s house but she was not there. They filled up with water at her spigot and moved on. I am so sorry they missed this angel of the trail. I thought she was such a special lady.

Moonbeam and Big Cypress camped at the Kay Wood Shelter before hiking into Dalton on June 23. By the way, Kay Wood was a long-time volunteer with the Massachusetts Appalachian Trail Management Committee. She was involved in the shelter design used in Massachusetts and the first shelter of this design, built in 1980, was named after her. Kay was an accomplished hiker and completed a successful thru-hike in 1989 at the age of 70.

The 3 mile hike into the town allowed the Two Peas to spend the day in Dalton resting, enjoying some good food, and planning their next week of hiking.

Oh my, I just checked the Two Peas’ journal before posting this and here is their last post:

“Moonbeam broke her femur today and was air lifted after rescue crew pulled her off the trail she is now at Albany NY hospital having a rod surgically placed the length of her thy [thigh] bone she will update later thanks for all your prayers and support.”

Please join me in praying for this special couple, far from their home in Florida.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Connecticut, Kay Wood Shelter, Massachusettes, Thru-Hike, Upper Goose Pond Cabin | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon Hike Over 1000 Miles

1000 Mile Marker

1000 Mile Marker

After a couple of weeks of silence, Fat Hen and Rooster Talon have posted to their journal. On June 21, they posted with the excitement of reaching the 1000 mile marker. It is only a small sign nailed to a tree but it is such a motivating sight when you are on the trail. To walk 1000 miles is quite an accomplishment and something to celebrate. This young couple have been on the trail for 95 days and are staying at the Blackburn AT Center about a dozen miles south of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters. In Harpers Ferry each of them will get his/her picture taken and receive a thru-hiker number, putting Dan and Becky into the annals of trail history.

Fat Hen GlasgowTheir June 3rd post was from Daleville, Virginia. Several days of hiking and 56 miles later, they arrived at Glasgow, Virginia, a town about 5.9 miles off trail. Catching a ride into town brought back three-year-old memories of a visit the couple made to the town while driving through the area. They remembered the fiberglass dinosaur that graces one of the town’s major intersections and the incredible fried chicken the purchased from the Natural Bridge Country Store. The also remembered giving a thru-hiker a ride into town – what a change of roles this time around. On this return visit, they took a photo with Dino and purchased a 16 piece bucket of chicken, a 2 liter of Dr. Pepper and a half gallon of ice cream from the country store. They enjoyed their stay in Glasgow at a town shelter with electricity and a hot shower.

After leaving the town with the dinosaur, they made their way north past Waynesboro, Virginia and into the Shenandoah National Park. Their hike through the SNP was filled with a menagerie of wildlife and lots of good food. During a four-day period in the park, Dan and Becky saw 12 bears, 2 rattlesnakes and 1 copperhead. They did not share the details of these animal encounters but I can image that they have some exciting stories to tell. They also enjoyed the Waysides along the trail – these are great car-stops along the Skyline Drive that are easy walking from the AT. Th389ey serve some great ice cream as well as some good food. Fat Hen and Rooster Talon specifically commented on the blackberry milkshakes!

After their journey through the national park and a quick stay in Front Royal, Virginia, they hiked through the brutal Roller Coaster (13.5 miles of tightly packed ascents and descents) that will test the calves and shins of any hiker. They safely arrived at Blackburn AT Center and now have their sights on Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Stay tuned for a picture in front of the ACT Headquarters. My hiker number was 924 when I arrived on June 30, 2014 – I am curious to see how their numbers compare.

Photos or Dan and Becky: http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?trailname=20168

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Fat Hen, Glasgow, Harpers Ferry, Roller Coaster, Rooster Talon, Shenandoah National Park, Thru-Hike, Virginia, Waynesboro, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lighterknot – God’s Provision

Book Cover 2I recently received a review on my book, Hike It Forward, that was rather critical of my experiences. The reader noted that I was very quick to see God in the good times – the missed rain storm, the surprise trail blessings, the finding of needed water, etc. – but I was rather silent in sharing God’s presence in the adversities of the hike. I am very disappointed in myself, if this is true. Honestly, I was more aware of God’s faithfulness to me in the midst of difficulties than in the warm, sunny days under the canopy. I thought I would take this post to remember a series of coincidences that revealed God’s sovereignty of provision and protection.

Sons of Encouragement

Archangel, Motown and Rowdy

God’s faithfulness began as I left Damascus, Virginia. I was planning to hike out of town with two great young men that I called my Sons of Encouragement (Motown and Archangel), but Motown got very ill in Damascus and needed to stay to recover before moving on. I hiked out alone. I decided to stop just out of town at Subway for a quick breakfast. I got to the restaurant 5 minutes before opening so I sat outside the place to wait for my anticipated egg delight. Another hiker came along willing to wait, so we began the normal thru-hiker introductions and chit-chat. His trail name was Lighterknot and we enjoyed some kindred-spirit time. We ended up eating breakfast together but hiked out of town at different paces. Soon we were out of sight of one another and I doubted that we would see one another again.

213

The Ponies of Grayson Highlands

I hiked 20.2 miles that day without seeing another thru-hiker and pitched my tent at a campsite near Whitetop Mountain Road. The next day I crossed over Mount Rogers and experienced the wild ponies of Grayson Highlands. It was a hard hiking day with lots of hot sun and without lots of tree cover. After making it through the rugged terrain of Grayson, I decided to set up my chair and have a nice snack at Wise Shelter. It began to sprinkle and then came the downpour. I moved my chair into the shelter and was soon joined by eight other hikers seeking shelter from the storm. Among the refugees from the trail was Lighterknot.

As we all sat in the shelter swapping our trail names and our stories of adventure, the rain danced on the metal roof of the shelter. After about an hour, Lighterknot announced that he was meeting his wife the next day at Fox Creek and they were going to zero day in Marion, Virginia. He would have room in the car for two or three others if anyone wanted a ride. I quickly dismissed the announcement as I had just zeroed in Damascus a few days earlier. The rain delay lasted two hours and then God moved the clouds and filled the sky with the sunshine of His grace.

I folded up my tent, flopped my backpack in place, and headed down the trail. A few hours later I found a stealth campsite and nestled in for a good night’s sleep. All was good until dark-thirty am. I woke up to a very distressed stomach. I did not realize what was going on until I knew I had 20 seconds before I was going to throw up all over myself. I barely had time to unzip my tent, bail out of my sleeping bag, and stick my head outside, before my dinner and half my intestines came flying out of my mouth. That first dreadful experience was followed by a second round. I ended up in a dripping sweat and with the taste of warmed over death in my mouth. I had eaten some dried vegetables before going to bed and even the thought of them now makes me ill.

Lighterknot

Lighterknot

As I made my way back to bed and got some control of my thinking, I knew I needed to get off the trail. Lighterknot’s invitation came flying back into my mind and I was hoping that the morning and God’s sovereignty would allow me time to walk the four miles down to Fox Creek before Mrs. Lighterknot (Deb) arrived. The morning brought stomach cramps and dizziness. I was up and packed by 7:30. I arrived at Fox Creek at 9:30 feeling nauseous but elated to see Lighterknot and Gizmo sitting on a log waiting for the limo to arrive. I asked if there was still room. A spot was indeed available. God’s hand was evident and my Father was faithful in the midst of adversity.

I made it to Marion. Mr. and Mrs. Lighterknot dropped Gizmo and me off at a cheap but appropriate hotel. My wife, Cathy, who had come to Damascus to see me, was still in North Carolina visiting our daughter and her family. She drove over to Marion, so I had her counsel and special nursing ability to help me through the 48-hour bug. Cathy drove Gizmo and me back to the trailhead at Fox Creek and I was able to continue on the AT knowing that God was truly in charge of the details of my thru-hike.

Photo of Lighterknot: https://lighterknot.wordpress.com/2014/05/

Categories: Adversity, Appalachian Trail, Archangel, Damascus, Grayson Highlands, Lighterknot, Marion, Motown, Thru-Hike, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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