Toothpick

As I have been “Hiking Forward” through retirement I have been enjoying the lack of stress and the freedom to set my own schedule. In these two ways, retirement is quite similar to hiking the long trail. The quiet peacefulness of the path allows the stress factor to melt away. The fantastic air of the summits and the refreshing water from the mountain streams energizes the soul. The hiker is able to set his/her own agenda – establishing goals and changing plans as the weather dictates and the legs demand.

Part of my “Hiking Forward” plan in retirement has been putting down on paper some of my thoughts and ideas. I have not always enjoyed writing (especially all the technical papers of grad school), but I have gained a deeper love for the written word in the last few years. I have written a series of children’s book (The Adventures of Princess Polly and Sir William the Brave), collaborating with my illustrator and older sister, Diane R. Berg. We have just recently released a new Children’s Christmas Book through Amazon called Toothpick: A Christmas Story. If you are looking for a Christmas gift for your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or the special little kiddo in your life, I would love it if you would consider my book. Click on the book cover in this post and it will take you to Amazon to discover more details and an easy ordering process. If you live close by, I would be more than happy to autograph your copy.

Toothpick is a Christmas story. It is not a true story but it a story about true friendships and the true miracle of Christmas. David, a young boy 10 years of age, J.J., the little boy’s calf, and Toothpick, a cedar tree combine to demonstrate good priorities in life and the priceless value of everyone no matter his/her size, or age, or status.

Categories: Christmas, Hike It Forward, Toothpick | Tags: , | Leave a comment

2019 Challenge – Week 14

Springboro – First of November

This past week of walking has been a good one. August 1 was a Wednesday, so my hiking weeks run from Wednesday to Tuesday. This past week, October 31 to November 6, included one bad day of rain (Thursday, November 1: rained all day long) on which I logged zero miles. The other six days I was able to average 8.1 miles per day and ended up with a total of 48.65 miles for the week. My grand total since August 1 is 607.69 miles. I am 64 miles ahead of the pace needed to complete my 2,019 miles in 2019 (Deadline 7/31/19). But winter is coming.

Springboro, Ohio

Most of my miles this week were accumulated around the neighborhood in Springboro, Ohio, but I traveled to Morgantown, West Virginia, on Tuesday (after Rocky and I voted). I have several routes around the hood ranging from 4.1 to 10.3 miles. It is almost exclusively sidewalk territory with very little traffic. My part of Springboro is quiet and calm. The folks are friendly and most everyone provides a wave and a smile as we pass one another. The trees are still showing off their colors, but there are more fallen in my front yard than there are on the branches.

I was able to hike around Morgantown, West Virginia as well. It is my wife’s hometown and I grew up there, moving to West Virginia when I was five. I was able to see some of the sights of the Mountain State and West Virginia University. Rocky’s mom lives still lives in an area of Morgantown called Suncrest and within walking distance of my childhood home and West Virginia University. I was able to see the old homestead on Krepps Street and Suncrest Middle School (it used to be Suncrest Junior High when I attended there back in the 1960s.) Go Seals! It was Tuesday, election day, and the school was a designated voting center.

 

Suncrest Junior High

My Boyhood Home

WVU Stadium

Next week I will be traveling and hope to put in a few miles in three different states: West Virginia, North Carolina, and back home in Ohio.

Categories: 2019 in 2019, Local Hikes, Ohio, West Virginia | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

2019 in 2019

I saw a t-shirt during my vacation this summer in Utah. It simply said 2018 miles in 2018. The idea really caught my imagination and I knew I wanted to take on a challenge like that. So, I came home and started my smartphone calculator humming to figure out the possibilities of such a goal. Of course, it is almost 2019, so that that would be the goal.

My trusted iPhone blinked a weekly goal of 38.83 miles and an average of 5.33 miles every day. I talked long and hard to my legs and to my heart. They had a bit of an argument, rather heated at times until my heart convinced my legs that it would not only be doable, but it would be a great way to get/stay in shape.

Being the retired educator, I think in terms of school years, so I decided to walk 2, 019 miles during the 2018-2019 school year. I started on August 1 and plotted out a plan to complete my personal challenge by the end of July.

So, “How am I doing?” you might ask. My start was not very good. At the end of the first week, I was already in the hole. I pulled 35 miles during my first seven days, putting me more than three miles behind right out of the gate. By the end of the first month, I was seven miles below what I needed. I knew this was not a positive trend, because August is fantastic walking weather compared to the rain, snow and freezing conditions facing me this fall and winter.

I knew that I needed to pick it up. Even though I had not announced my challenge to very many people, I was not going to abandon the goal too quickly. After all, I knew about the challenge and I really hate to disappoint the Rowdy that lives inside of me.

So, during week five, I took advantage of beautiful weather and nailed 54 miles, flipping a seven-mile deficit into an eight-mile surplus. However, before my inflated ego knew what happened, I flopped the very next week accumulating only 27 miles, putting me back in the hole three and a half-miles.

I “yo-yo”ed the next two weeks going from a personal best of almost 60 miles including two ten-mile days and one 12.6 hike at the state park, down to a mediocre 28-mile total the very next week. Fortunately, my legs finally caught up with my heart on week nine. I have averaged a little over 48 miles each week for the last five weeks.

I have probably rambled on with way too much information, but so far, I am 54 miles ahead of pace to complete my challenge. I am convinced that I will need more a padding than this. I am not looking forward to the Ohio winter as it sends its blistery wind and blankets of snow.

I’ll keep you posted as I “hike it forward” in the coming weeks (just 39 more weeks to go).

Categories: 2019 in 2019, Hiking, Local Hikes, Personal Challenge, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

An Appalachian Trail Adventure

I hope you have enjoyed following the adventures of this year’s thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail as much as I have. Their determination and courage are well worth my applause. Many of them experienced bad weather, painful falls, physical injuries, and emotional stress.

If you liked reading my summaries of their time on the Appalachian Trail, I would invite you to read about my 2104 thru-hike, Hike It Forward:  Hiking the Appalachian Trail: Strong, Safe, and in the Spirit. I had an incredible time making my way through 14 states and almost 2.,200 miles.

 

Hike It Forward is available on Amazon and this link will direct you right to my book. https://www.amazon.com/Hike-Forward-Hiking-Appalachian-Strong-ebook/dp/B019A86KEC

 

Hike It Forward includes my trail journal, but the majority of the book is topical covering aspects like trail names, hiking gear, clothing, trail jargon, times of adversity, moments of blessings, hostel lodging, AT wildlife, trail lessons, and coping with life after the hike. Also included is a chapter on my preparation for the thru-hike and a bonus feature that looks at the highlights, state-by-state, throughout the 14-state adventure. I consider myself a spiritual person, so please know that the book contains references to my faith and the faithfulness of God every day and every step along all 2,186 miles of one of the greatest long-trails in the world.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class of 2014, Hike It Forward, Rowdy, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

That’s a Wrap

RTK on Katahdin

I started following 11 thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail in February. Each of the hikers began their journey early. Most NOBO thru-hikers hit the trail in March and even early April. I wanted to see how the early birds did on the trail. Were they the birds that caught the worm, or did they become so discouraged by the cold, the snow, the slippery trail, and the loneliness that they exited the path for the more comfortable and less extreme?

Statistically, about 25% of all those who attempt a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail complete the journey. Of the 14 thru-hikers that I followed 5 of them crossed the finish line for a success rate of 35.7%!

The summary chart below lists the hiker by his start date, followed by his end date (either the date he came off the trail or the date he summited Mount Katahdin). All the successful thru-hikes were NOBO attempts (Northbound: Hiking from Springer Mountain, GA to Mount Katahdin, Maine). The days on the trail ranged from 14 to 233 – ranging from 2 weeks to 7 and a half months. Those that completed the 14-state hike averaged 195 days. (I count myself so very blessed to have completed my hike in 154 days in 2014.) It is not a race (thank goodness) and my admiration with a loud ovation is lifted high to any individual who can conquer the challenges of the trail.

Hiker Start Date End Date # of Days Miles Miles/Day
Genesis 14-Jan 30-Apr 107 150 1.4
Zin Master 23-Jan 27-Feb 36 128.6 3.6
Hard Knocks 31-Jan 4-Jul 155 1817.9 11.7
Vagabond Jack 1-Feb 22-Jul 172 758.2 4.4
Opa 10-Feb 26-Sep 229 1690.8 7.4
Bamadog * 15-Feb 25-Aug 192 2190 11.4
Class Act 18-Feb 16-Mar 27 189 7.0
Chip Tillson * 20-Feb 10-Oct 233 2190 9.4
Sour Kraut * 21-Feb 25-Aug 186 2190 11.8
Next Step * 24-Feb 20-Aug 178 2190 12.3
RTK * 24-Feb 1-Sep 183 2190 12.0
David Snow 26-Feb 11-Mar 14 118.6 8.5
Hickory 27-Feb 17-Apr 50 731 14.6
Pigweed 27-Feb 25-Aug 180 1148.1 6.4

* Successfully Completed their Thru-hike

Bamadog on the Summit

So why did the hikers have to leave the trail? There were a variety of reasons given by the hikers on their online blogs.  Three of them did not give a reason, but rather just stopped posting their progress. One hiker changed his goal and decided to do a section hike instead. The other five pointed to a physical problem behind their need to exit the Appalachian Trail: one foot, one leg, one severe sickness, one debilitating medical condition, and one stated general fatigue plus his discouragement on his progress.

This year’s hike was filled with lots of rain, snow (for these early starters), and slick rocks/roots. It was a pleasure to follow their adventures and I congratulate each and every one of them. May the Appalachian Trail leave its mark on the heart of each hiker and may the lessons they learned be cemented in the minds for many years to come.

Thanks for joining me as we traveled the AT vicariously with these 14 brave, crazy, and bold adventurers of the class of 2018.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class of 2018, Georgia, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Chip Makes It to the Top

One of My Views of Maine’s 100 Mile Wilderness

Chip Tillson has completed the last stretch of his Appalachian Trail adventure. On September 30th, Chip and his four hiking buddies (The Four Amigos: Bear, Sassy, Easily Forgotten, and Bunny Steps) arrived in Monson, Maine. They were opening the door into the 100 Mile Wilderness and the final 115 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

October 1st was a 10.4-mile journey into the wilderness and Chip found a fairly easy hike filled with meadows and ponds and streams. The group enjoyed lunch beside a waterfall and an inspiring walk along a ridgeline. The threat of rain for Tuesday the 2nd was cause for some concern.

October 2nd did not disappoint as a cold and steady rain fell most of the day depleting energy but not dampening the enthusiasm of the group. They traveled 8.7 miles and stopped at Cloud Pond Lean-to soaked to the bone.

Wednesday, October 3 produced nicer weather and 10.9 miles.  With about 85 miles to go, the group began to make plans for the final climb.

White Cap Mountain

October 4 held the White Cap Mountain, the last major climb until Mount Katahdin. Chip managed to lock himself in a privy when the group stopped for lunch at a shelter and then laughed at himself as he walked into two different trees leaning over the trail during the afternoon. They completed the day at Logan Brook Shelter, sharing the lean-to with two other thru-hikers, putting seven people in a shelter designed for six.

October 5th yielded 15.4 miles including a pre-arranged food drop from Shaw’s Lodging in Monson. The on-trail resupply would provide all the food needed for a successful hike through the 100 Mile Wilderness. The group made camp under that stars and planned to hike 10.4 miles on the 6th in order to stay at White House Landing and enjoy a few hours of downtime.

October 6th was a crisp and clear day making the 10.4 miles hike to White House Landing very manageable. The group experienced trail magic along the way as Pegamoose, who completed his NOBO thru-hike two weeks ago, drove into the wilderness and provided soda, candy, and apples beside the trail.

View of Katahdin from a distance

After breakfast at the Landing, the group continued their journey on October 7th with 45.6 miles to the finish line. The morning was windy and cold, but by noon the sun appeared and brightened the chilly day. Before the day was over the group had hiked 15.5 miles arriving at the Rainbow Stream Lean-to.

October 8 brought the group out of the 100 Mile Wilderness as they arrived at Abol Bridge Campground. The 15.1-mile hike took Chip into some deep reflection regarding the adventure: “At the end of the day the trail crossed Abol Bridge where the view of Mt Katahdin filled the horizon – after 231 days the finish line is just a couple more one-day hikes away. So much has gone right to get me here. There’s a saying – “The Trail Provdes” – and it’s true. Every time I neared the end of my rope; hungry, frustrated, lonely, hurt, etc. someone would be there with excactly what I needed. When I was hungry Magic trail side food would be there. When I needed rest and healing friends and relatives welcomed me into their homes. When I was homesick friends came to visit me where I was. When the trail got really tough and loneliness was taking its toll 4 Amigos appeared and saved me.” 

October 9th involved a relatively easy hike from Abol Bridge to Katahdin Stream Campground, the base camp to the great mountain with the big brown sign. The Four Amigos and Chip went to the ranger station to sign in and receive their official thru-hiker number, Chip was the 1,214th NOBO hiker to make the climb.

Chip – Day One

October 10th – Summit Day! The strenuous climb up Katahdin is a very steep 5.2 miles. It was an exhausting day for Chip and one he described as one of the most difficult days of the whole hike. The night before Chip made the finish line, he wrote, “Some years ago, as her health began to fade, my Grandmother Tillson made me promise that I wouldn’t wait too long in life to travel, see the world, and do the things I wanted to do. Promise kept. Thanks, Grandma, tomorrow is for you.” After the descent off the mountain, the group traveled to Millinocket and rested at a hotel.

My heartiest congratulations to Chip Tillson! The weather cooperated, the snow held off, and his joints were strong enough to complete this incredible journey. Unfortunately, Chip did not post any photos in his blog, so I have no victory picture with you. Maybe he will post a final photo in the next few days. If so, I will be sure to pass it along.

My final post of this AT season should be submitted in the next few days. I will summaries the hikes that I followed and provide some statistics on the brave adventures of the 11 hikers that I tracked in the class of 2018.

Photo of White Cap Mountian, Maine found @ https://mainebyfoot.com/whitecap-mountain-rumford/
Categories: 100 Mile Wilderness, Abol Bridge, Appalachian Trail, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Maine, Monson, ME, Mount Katahdin, Thru-Hike, White Cap Mountain, White House Landing | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

And Then There Was One

Ferry Service Kennebec River

Last February, I started following 14 thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail via their online journals. Three have completed the trail (Which Way, Bamadog, and RTK), another has reported climbed Katahdin, but has not reported doing so on his blog, eight have come up short of their adventure and two remain on the trail. One, Opa, returned to the trail on August 29th, after some major physical problems and several weeks at home. He is hiking SOBO (southbound) after traveling to Maine and moving back toward Vernon, New Jersey, where he left the trail in May. The other, Chip continues to hike NOBO (northbound) racing against time and the coming winter in Maine.

My last update was September 9. Chip was in Gorham, New Hampshire with 300 miles to go while Opa was in Stratton Maine having hiked 188 miles in 12 days including the 100 Mile Wilderness and the Bigelow Mountains.

Chip Pre-hike

Fast-forward to September 26 and Chip is in Caratunk, Maine, having crossed over the Kennebec River (where hikers are shuttled over in canoes as the official part of the trail, including a white blaze in the canoe). He has 152 miles to Katahdin. This portion of the trail took me ten days to complete. If he can duplicate my pace (which should not be that difficult to accomplish) he should summit Katahdin on October 6.

Chip has had some chronic physical injuries throughout his hike including difficulties with his left shoulder due to a fall and knees that have taken a toll over the rugged terrain. He provides some interesting insights into the physical problems still facing him as he progresses toward the finish line.

…..injuries, here’s the current report: I’m hiking with my arm in a “sling” again because of my shoulder re-re-injury. I had a minor fall on the other arm and now my right shoulder hurts too. My knees are screaming for time off (at least I’m not limping because they BOTH hurt). I’m also beginning to get a chest cold accompanied by a nasty cough. I have some antibiotics left over from my mid-hike root canal that I’m taking for that, it seems to be working.”

Opa’s Viiew at Mahoosuc Notch

Opa appeared to be going at a strong pace through Maine averaging 14.8 miles per day. On September 17th he hiked 12 miles including the Mahoosuc Arm and the Mahoosuc Notch, two of the most strenuous obstacles on the trail. Then came the concerning news in his September 18th post,

Looks like I’ve contracted Giardia, which comes from a parasite in untreated water. I make it a point to always treat my water, but I have recently had a couple of instances where I was careless. A few days ago I do recall mixing up water bottles, and not being certain which one had been treated. One bottle may have gotten a double dose of AquaMira, and the other no dose. Also, you are supposed to let Parts A and B mix and sit for 5 minutes before adding to the water. 5 minutes can be an eternity when treating 3 bottles, I maybe gave it a minute. Stupid on my part. I started having a bout of mild diarrhea along with an upset stomach a few days ago and didn’t think anything of it, but last nite….. I was up about 6 times trotting to the privy, and when I woke this AM around 8 (very late for me) I was an exhausted wreck. At one point during the day, I literally laid down right on the trail and took a 30-minute nap I was so exhausted. I didn’t eat anything all day, except for a cup of hot chicken broth tonite for dinner. Every step was a struggle. Not to mention that about every 20 minutes I had to go trotting into the woods….. Of course, the trail had no sympathy, on a couple sections, I thought I was back in the Mahoosuc Notch. I kept thinking of bailout options, how to get to a road, but nothing. On the last climb of the day up Mt. Success, I felt so wasted that I was contemplating calling 911 for help. Lo and behold on that climb I ran into a couple of NOBOs, who turned out to be my salvation.

Opa

Turns out that one was a nurse, and he asked Opa a lot of good questions concluding that he most likely Giardia. He offered some good advice. The other hiker gave Opa some electrolyte pills and some Flagyl pills, which is a prescription drug used to treat Giardia. Opa was able to hike 13 miles the next day and made it into Gorham, NH. He was able to see a doctor who gave hi a prescription for Flagyl and recommended rest for a few days. After zero-days on September 20 and 21, Opa was off again. His next three days averaged 8.7 miles per day, which is not bad through the Whites.

Then on September 26, Opa was hiking over Mount Hight and into Zita Pass in New Hampshire.

Opa and the Brown Sign

“The day started so promising today, I felt pretty good  – except for that incessant C Diff diarrhea which won’t seem to go away and is a real annoyance while on the trail…. Then all of a sudden at Zeta Pass I got very dizzy/lightheaded to the point that I thought I might faint. This happened to me once before since I’ve been on the meds for my C Diff, although not as severe. Anyway, today I tried to regroup and regain my strength, and started up the trail towards the next peak, but there was just no way – I was a wreck. My hike was over, my body was trying to tell me something. Fortunately, there was a 3.6-mile bailout trail at Zeta Pass that took me down to the road. I stumbled on down that trail, going ever so slowly so that I wouldn’t fall (as it was I fell once), then hitched a ride back to the hostel. I have no regrets, I gave it my absolute best shot, but my thru-hike attempt is over. I am very comfortable with my decision. I always told my family, and myself, that I wouldn’t do anything stupid and press on with my hike if that entailed compromising my health. The time has come to get off the trail. 

I am very grateful for the time I had on the trail: I met some great people, was the beneficiary of the kindness shown me by others, got to see parts of the country that I had not seen before, and had the time of my life. I have memories to last a lifetime. The good Lord watched over me for 1700 miles, I am grateful and thankful for the many blessings he has bestowed on me.” 

I am very sorry to see Opa have to leave the trail again. He was a warrior and should be very proud of his efforts.

Kennebec River Photo from https://appalachiantrail.com/20150827/hikers-fording-kennebec-river-on-foot-ignore-danger/
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Maine, Mount Katahdin, New Hampshire, Opa, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Opa is BACK!

Boardwalk near Vernon, NJ.

Occasionally, I check the journals of those thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail that have gotten off the trail to see if they have updated their online blogs with additional information. Most of the time the journals are absent of an update, but a recent check on Opa revealed that he has returned to the trail. He has traveled to Maine, climbed Mount Katahdin, and is now hiking SOBO (southbound) back toward New Jersey.

Opa went off the trail on May 21, 2018, after developing a painful inflammation in the area of the arch on his right foot. He was in Vernon, New Jersey, and was able to get a ride from his son Eric who lives in nearby Westwood, NJ. After getting some X-rays, it was determined that Opa had a stress fracture on the fifth metatarsal. He was anticipating a fitted boot to help support the foot during the healing process. In addition to the foot, Opa was scheduled for hernia surgery in late June followed by some personal commitments during the summer months. He talked about returning to the trail, but honestly, I thought he would not return during this hiking season.

Opa and the Brown Sign

Opa, Reinhard Gsellmeier from Rochester, NY, was one of the strongest hikers I followed this year. He consistently put in high mileage and I thought he would be the first to complete the adventure. I was saddened to hear of his injury that took him from the trail, and I am excited that he has returned. He has about 833 miles to hike to complete his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

On August 22nd Opa posted, “I’ve been thinking about the trail every single day since I had to get off way back on May 21st, so I am raring to go! Instead of being a NOBO I will become a flipflopper as I resume my hike by starting at Katahdin and hiking south. My preference would have been to continue as a NOBO, but I was concerned that with my end of August restart I would simply run out of time and not make it to Katahdin by the time they close the mountain in mid-October.”  

He climbed Mount Katahdin on August 30th, and immediately started his SOBO adventure. In the two weeks since his return to the trail, Opa has hiked 188.2 miles. He has trekked through the 100-Mile Wilderness, across the iconic Kennebec River, over the Bigelow Mountains, and into the trail town of Stratton, Maine averaging almost 14.5 miles a day. However, on September 10th, Opa recorded, “I think my trail legs are back, but as fate would have it my plantar fasciitis has reared its ugly head once again. My left heel is starting to become inflamed, but so far it is not impeding my progress.

On Avery Peak – Bigelow Mountains

Opa has not taken a zero-day since his return although the nero-day into Stratton was only 5.1 miles leaving him with some needed rest time to recuperate from his aggressive pace. While resting in Stratton, his journal reflected his need for some R/R.  “I decided to take an unplanned NERO in Stratton, in part to give my left heel a little relief with a short mileage day, and in part to get cleaned up and dry out my gear. Am staying in a bunk room at the Stratton Motel and Hostel. Stratton is a small town, but has everything I need within a short walk of the hostel. Laundromat, grocery store and a place to get pizza. Ahhhh, pizza!  Guess what I had for dinner!

My plantar fasciitis and the inflammation in my left heel remains a concern, but as long as it doesn’t get much worse it is tolerable. My spirits remain high and I am as determined as ever to finish this thing!”

My prayers are with Opa as he attempts to complete his hike in 2018.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class of 2018, Flip Flop, Maine, Mount Katahdin, New Jersey, Opa, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

RTK Reaches Katahdin

RTK on Katahdin

Bruce Matson, RTK, completed his thru-hike of the Appalachian trail on September 1, 2018. Of the fourteen hikers that I followed this hiking season, RTK is only the third person to complete the journey. He left Springer Mountain, Georgia on February 25 and stood beside the big brown sign in Maine on September 1 – 189 days later. Quite a journey through mud, snow, rain, sunshine, incredible vistas, steep descents, rocks, roots, highs and lows. My heartiest congratulations to RTK who officially joins the class of 2018.

Since entering Maine, RTK had been hiking with Gbolt and Recon. Recon needed to exit the trail due to an injury on August 1, but Gbolt and RTK buddied all the way to Katahdin. I found out that Gbolt is a hiker from the Dayton area. He left for his AT adventure the middle of March, on his 58th birthday.

Let to Right: Recon, Gbolt and RTK

RKT and Gbolt left Monson, Maine, on August 25 and entered the 100-Mile Wilderness. It took them six days to traverse the wilderness and arrive at Abol Bridge. On August 31 they hiked from Abol Bridge to The Birches Campsite in Baxter State Park at the foot of Mount Katahdin. Bruce’s wife, Cheryl, met them at Katahdin Stream Campground about 7:00 in the morning on September 1 and the three of them began their summit at 7:30.

I have taken excerpts from RTK’s journal to capture his thinking on the last day of his AT thru-hike:

“The hike started on smooth trail with modest incline for a little over a mile until we reached Katahdin Falls (beautiful).  The severity of the climb and the rocks increased as we hiked, but we were excited, and the climb did not seem too difficult.  After about three miles the trail breaks out of the tree line just as the severity of the climb becomes intense.

For almost a mile exactly we had little other than climbing up, over, around and through rocks, boulders, ledges and every formation or type of rock – mostly granite.  The climb was not technical, but vertical and difficult with some scary maneuvers.  We often had to help one another.

Gbolt, Cheryl and RTK at the Sign

Around noon we reached the “Gateway,” – the start of the (relatively flat) tableland.  We could see a congregation of stick figures a mile away at the Katahdin sign.  After a half mile we stopped for lunch on some rocks.  Then we climb the remaining hill to the summit….. It was 2:00 p.m. and we had to get back down the mountain.  We knew that the descent would be more difficult – and therefore would take longer.  

Eventually, finally, after spending a lot of time on our backsides working down rock slabs we got below tree line.  From there it was steep and rocky, but not the intensity of the rocks above the tree line.

With less than a mile to go, we lost most light and had to use headlamps and flashlights for the last 20 minutes. We were all thankful and elevated to return safely to the parking lot – having finished the toughest day, yet final day, on the trail.  We gathered and gave thanks – and then Cheryl drove us to Millinocket.  We dropped Gbolt at the AT Lodge and headed to our motel.

The journey was over.”

Congratulations RTK (and Gbolt) on a successful thru-hike!!!

Only 25 out of 100 make the complete journey GA/ME. Of my 14 selected hikers, three have finished the trail, with three more still plugging away. Twenty-five percent of 14 is 3.5 so my 14 brave early starters have an opportunity to be better than average in success rate.

Categories: Abol Bridge, Appalachian Trail, Class of 2018, Maine, Mount Katahdin, RTK, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

September 9th Update from the AT

The AT in Maine

The last time I shared an update on the thru-hikers that I am tracking on the Appalachian Trail, two hikers had successfully completed their journey (Next Step and Bamadog), nine were off the trail having to abandon their thru-hike, and three were still on the trail (RTK, Sour Kraut and Chip Tillson) making their way north to Maine.

RTK’s photo of the Shaw’s Hostel in Monson

Bamadog reported seeing Sour Kraut on the summit of Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, but Sour Kraut has not updated his journal since August 22nd. I am still awaiting his victory picture, although he might forget to complete his diary even though he has completed his journey. RTK has recorded his progress a week in arrears from the very beginning of his trek. His last post, August 24th, found him in Monson, Maine about to enter the 100-Mile Wilderness. He has had 15 days to hike 114 miles, so unless he has experienced an injury, he has completed his hike as well. Why RTK has not posted his photo from Katahdin, I don’t know, but I will let you know when he does.

Chip before the hike

I was scanning over some of the journals of those who have had to exit the trail before completing their goal and I discovered that Opa is back on the trail. I will post his story soon, but today’s update is on Chip Tillson. Chip crossed over the Vermont/New Hampshire border on August 22nd and since then he has hiked 142 miles to Gorham leaving only 17 more miles to the border of Maine. His pace has been rather slow, averaging 8.9 miles per day, but the terrain in New Hampshire is some of the most strenuous on the AT. (Chip does not post photos so I cannot give you a visual of his adventure.)

Chip has 298 miles to go and at the current pace, he will be hiking for another 34 days. Finishing a thru-hike during the first 10 days of October is risky because Mount Katahdin often receives a winter’s blast with a generous snowfall before mid-October. Freezing winds and ice can make a climb to the mountain’s summit impossible.

Chip is experiencing sore knees and has considered doing a flip by traveling to Katahdin, climbing the mountain before the snow comes, turning around, and hiking back toward New Hampshire. Chip’s journal post on September 2 reflects his thinking but he continues to hike NOBO (northbound), “This morning at a road crossing I got some great Magic from Stitches (NOBO class of 1999). She had soda, doughnuts, and a bag of baby carrots (I so miss baby carrots). She also shared info on conditions ahead and suggested I consider flipping up to Katahdan soon and hiking south to finish up. I’m glad she brought it up as it’s something I’ve got to consider.”

Most recent pic of Chip – Day One

Chip made it to Mount Washington on September 3 but found minimal visibility and crowds of tourist, “At noon I arrived at the top of Mt. Washington. Visibility was less than 100ft and the place was mobbed with tourists who had driven or taken the train up. It was bizarre being amongst so many people so suddenly. There was a line of perhaps 50 people waiting to take a picture in front of a sign right outside the gift shop marking the summit. I went to the cafeteria for pizza and chili ….Then I headed back out into the fog, took some pictures, and wandered around looking for the trail: it was behind the gift shop and I had to cut through the picture line to continue my journey. Then just like that I was alone again in the cloud.”

September 4 brought a strenuous hike over Mt Madison and a rocky descent into Pinkham Notch leaving Chip with sore knees.  The soreness continued for the next several days. September 5: “My sore knees want to take another zero but I cant loose momentum right now so I’ll cut the miles down for a few days instead. The views back towards Mt. Washington as I climbed out of Pinkham Notch were awesome. I can’t believe I was just walking around way up there.” September 6: “Another knee wrecking day of scrambling over and through the steep, wet, and rocky terrain. Thunderstorms rolled through before noon and the mountains were enveloped in clouds the rest of the day.  September 7: “It was cold this morning, a reminder that pleasant hiking days are numbered. The mountains have me pretty beat up and I reluctantly concluded that a zero is necessary – just had to coax my sore knees over one more set of peaks then down to the Rattle River Hostel, right on the trail, for food and rest. …..Tomorrow I’ll rest, take inventory, then catch another shuttle to Walmart to buy food for the next leg.” 

September 8 marks day 201 for Chip on his thru-hike adventure having started his trek on February 20th. I pray he uses wisdom in his decision-making concerning his knees and the weather ahead. I will continue to check his journal daily and keep you posted as he completes his hike.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Mount Madison, Mount Washington, New Hampshire, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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