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, 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.

Photos and journal quotes from

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 –

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
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

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:

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:

Photo in woods:

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.

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

Photo of Stacey

Photo at Damascus

Photo of C-Brace

Categories: Adversity, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, C-Brace, Courage, Harpers Ferry, Hiking, Stacey Kozel, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

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