January on Mount Washington

HikeItForward-Final-MediumJanuary is over and for the east coast it was filled with cold temperatures and several inches of White Christmas weather. I have grown over the years to tire of winter weather very quickly. After a day of frolicking in the snow and freezing my nose together with every breath, I am ready for spring and the flowers that reflect the renewal of the warmer season.

I have the responsibility in my school system to call off school due to inclement weather and during January my school in Ohio cancelled school twice and operated on a two-hour delay schedule on two additional dates. The wind-chill factor on those days was well below zero. For the protection of the students that have to stand at a bus stop and for teens driving in the darkness of early morning, the hours allow the sun to wake up and provide better visibility and a rise in temperature.

20140826-115040.jpgWhen I step outside and get blasted by a shot of arctic air, my mind almost always runs to Mount Washington and the weather that confronts the Whites in New Hampshire on a daily basis. When I climbed Mount Washington during my thru-hike in 2014 it was a beautiful day with blue skies dotted with white cumulus clouds. The temperature that August 26th day was a low of 49 degrees and a high of 61. The cool breeze that day was only 23 mph with gusts up to 41. I really enjoyed the climb, the view, and the weather.

January is a little different on the summit. The average high this January was 15 degrees and the average low was 0.8 degrees above zero. The hottest day on top of Mount Washington was 35 degrees but the low was a chilly -22 degrees (no wind-chill factor considered). The average wind speed during the month was 44.5 mph and the fastest recorded wind was 127 mph. This makes Ohio seem pretty mild. The total snow and ice for the month was 40.6 inches!

If you think this sounds brutal, the January of 2015 was even more severe: the average high was 11.2 degrees with the hottest day rising to 39 degrees; the average low temperature for the month was -8.9 degrees with the coldest day plummeting to -34 degrees; there was 63 inches of snow and ice; the  wind speed averaged 49.1 mph and the fastest day hit 129 mph.

888Okay, that’s two pretty cold winters in a row. I went back seven years and came to the conclusion that Mount Washington is a place of consistently cold January’s. Over the past seven years (2010 – 2016) the average high temperature was 13.8 degrees; the average low temperature was -2.7 with an average snow and ice fall of 38.9 inches. The wind is always brisk on the summit with the average wind speed during the month of January of 44.8 mph and the fastest day of wind speed averaging 122 mph.

Climbing up the south side of the mountain from the Lake of the Clouds there is a big yellow sign that tries to communicate the sobriety of the dangers ahead. The sign reads, “Stop. The area ahead has the worst weather in America. Many have died there from exposure, even in the summer. Turn back now if the weather is bad.” If the weather is favorable or if you ignore the sign and arrive at the 897summit another sign posted on the side of the weather station states, “The highest wind ever observed by man was recorded here. From 1932 to 1937 the Mt. Washington Observatory was operated in the summit stage office then occupying this site. In a great storm April 12, 1934 the crews instruments measured a wind velocity of 231 miles per hour.”

The next time the temperatures begin to drop or the cold wind stings your face, count your blessings that your house was not built on top of Mount Washington!

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Hiking, Mount Washington, New Hampshire, The Whites, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Rambunny – Part Three – Hostel Owner

RambunnyRambunny and fellow thru-hiker “Aqua” purchased a hostel in Akins, Virginia. The Happy Hiker Hollow Hostel quickly became know as a great place to stay. Having hiked the trail several times Rambunny knew what thru-hikers needed in a hostel. She provided a great experience for those passing by.

In a thru-hiker forum (http://www.whiteblaze.net/) there are a couple of interesting reviews of Rambunny’s hotel. Bessiebreeze posted,

“The ‘Happy Hiker Hollow’, in Atkins, Va., is fairly new, and a fantastic place to stay. The owners, Rambunny and Aqua, are very accomodating, they both have hiked the AT more than once, and their place is about 1 mile from exit 54, interstate 81, in Southern Va. They include breakfast and supper in their price, and have shared and private rooms. I stayed there just recently, and plan to go back. Their house is an old farm house, in a beautiful setting very near the trail.I give the “Happy Hiker Hollow” a five star rating for hiker stays near the AT.

Mango joined in the praise by sharing, “I can’t imagine a better hostess than Rambunny. She even cuts hair (for a reasonable price).”

On the Loose 2Several online trail journals mention the hostel. Thru-hiker, “On the Loose” shared her 2010 AT adventure on trailjournal.com. Her post on Wednesday, April 28, 2010 is a good example of a stay in Rambunny’s hostel in Virginia.

“When you come through Atkins, VA, you MUST stay at the Happy Hiker Hollow! This place is amazing! We got to the Shell station at VA11 and I-81 early in the afternoon. I called Rambunny at the hostel, and Aqua was there to pick us up in less than 5 minutes. We settled into our room at the hostel, and it immediately felt like home. There are real beds, books and movies galore, tons of toiletries for our use, games, foot baths, internet, and a phone with free long distance. There was a closet of clean clothes for us to put on after our showers while Rambunny did our laundry. In the afternoon, Aqua took us to a grocery store in Marion. Around 6, Rambunny called us down to an absolutely incredible homecooked dinner…. There were dishes galore of chicken, mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, green bean casserole, baked beans, candied carrots, rolls, and corn pudding. There was delicious lemonade and incredible pineapple upsidedown cake. Two hours later, I am still stuffed! I understand that we have a similarly amazing breakfast ahead of us tomorrow. At $40 per person, the rate sounded steep before we took into consideration all that included. Here’s the take-home message: it is absolutely, 100% worth it! Postscript, April 28, 2011: There are a lot of great hostels out there, but I think Happy Hiker Hollow officially gets my vote for Best Hostel on the Trail.”

However, not all was well at the Happy Hiker Hollow Hostel. I have not been able to discover the details of its closing but by September of 2010 the hostel was temporarily shut down, Rambunny posted this announcement on a hiker discussion board:

Happy Hiker Hollow Hostel

Happy Hiker Hollow Hostel

“We are sorry to announce that we are closed for renovations until 2012-Please send your boxes to The Barn restaurant (see guide books for info). Also good place to park. As soon as we were able to move into this 1842 farm house we were helping hikers-and our list of things we need to do got longer & longer. And YES bad hiker behavior did play into this decision. We hope to re-open with new guidelines that will both please the hiker & us. Our shuttle driver is still going strong from as far as Johnson City to Pearisburg & beyond- home-276-7833604 cell- 276-2438149 His name is Skip-wife’s name Linda. Have a great hike!!!!!”

It is so sad to hear that hiker misbehavior was part of the reason for the closing.  So many of the hikers that I met along the way were kind and considerate and took their adventure seriously. But it only takes a few to spoil the name of thru-hikers, to turn the taste to bitter among trail towns and to cause merchants to redirect their energies.

Runbunny posted a second announcement in October two years later (2012), “Sorry this took so long, Aqua is in stage 5 kidney failure, since April our world has been turned upside down. He is handling it way better than I sometimes but we are fighting the good fight-it’s not cancer, it could be worse. We trust God things will work out. We hope to be helping hikers in the future still. Happy Trails.”

HikeItForward-Final-MediumThe most recent update on Carole came seven months ago via this posting on gofundme.com regarding Rambunny posted by a friend, Frank Armstrong: “Last week she [Carole] fell from a ladder and shattered her tibia at the knee. It has been surgically repaired and she is home and doing well. Her companion ‘Aqua 2002’ has been on dialysis for the last 4 years. He goes in 3 times a week and is on a long waiting list for a kidney. This accident has put her out of work (1 full-time and 2 part-time jobs), for at least 12 weeks.”

A follow-up to this posting by Frank came a month later, “Bunny is doing well but getting antsy. She wouldn’t be her if she wasn’t :) Aqua is amazing ! He is un-relenting in caring for her. This strong pair are inspiring.”

Carole has a Facebook page and I have requested to be her friend on this social media spot. I have received no response but I would love to make connection with this amazing lady of the trail. I will keep you posted if I am able to add a little more “present tense” to this story of Rambunny.


Hostel Photo: http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=494178&back=1

“On the Loose”s Journal and photo:  http://www.trailjournals.comp/entry.cfm?id=309548 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Hostel, Rambunny, Thru-Hike, Virginia | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

“Hike It Forward” Reviews

Book Cover 2I’ve never had the opportunity to author a book before self publishing became so easy. It is so exciting to see my adventure in print. I check my book sales on Amazon every day. Thank you one and all for supporting this effort.

I only have six reviews so far but I look forward to receiving some more feedback. I thought I would periodically share some comments others have made about Hike It Forward. Here are two – feel free to check all the others at Amazon.com.

The first comment (actually one of the last chronologically) was made on January 25. This book reader only gave my book three out of five stars, but I thought the review was outstanding and so encouraging. This customer wrote,

Great pics, very good story telling, the state by state was good information.

Good informational read, Not for the atheist lots of nods to God the all powerful , I enjoyed the journal entries.”

I loved the strengths that the reader pointed out – photos, story-telling and trail information. This touches on three of my major goals in publishing my insights concerning the Appalachian Trail. And the reader’s criticism (Not for the atheist, lots of nods to God, the all powerful) highlighted my primary goal – to honor God and to show His character and faithful provision of grace throughout my hike. I attempted to forewarn the reader a little bit with my subtitle, Hiking Strong, Safe, and in the Spirit. It is a spiritual book and is meant to be so. I will take this criticism as a compliment and yet pray that I do not overly offend anyone. My hope is that my book reflects my relationship with the Creator without trying to force my beliefs on others.

Book Cover 2On January 18 I received a five star rating from “Rather Be Hiking.” I was truly humbled by this reader’s comments. Before hiking the trail I engulfed over 20 books  attempting to understand the trail before stepping foot on the path. Rather Be Hiking shared,

“Loved it! I’ve read 25 or so Appalachian Trail journals and this rates in the top 3! Felt like I was hiking along side the author. I especially liked his informative preparations for the journey and his honest sharing of his post Katahdin feelings. A great read. Thanks.”

This reviewBook Cover 2 brought tears to my eyes because the reader seems to have engaged and identified with my journey. It was a thrill for me to write the book as I found myself reliving the thrill of the AT, but I did not know if others would be able to “catch it.” For the reader to say that he/she felt like he/she was hiking alongside me, made this writer’s spirit soar.

I would love for you to read about my life-changing thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail and I would greatly appreciate your honest feedback. If you provide a rating, watch for your comments to show up on this blog. The book is only available as an ebook and must be downloaded on a digital device. If you don’t have a Kindle tablet, you can download a free Kindle app and read it on any tablet (iPad works well) For a quick link to my Amazon site just click on any of the book photos in this post.


Categories: Appalachian Trail, Book, Hike It Forward, Hiking, Mount Katahdin, Thru-Hike, Trail | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

Rambunny – Part 2 – The 2004 thru-hike

RambunnyI discovered one of Rambunny’s trail journals on line at trailjournal.com. It was written in 2004 as she attempted yet another thru-hike (http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=69015). This hike was a SOBO attempt that began on Katahdin, Maine on July 15, 2004 but ended 464 miles later at Fahnestock State Park, New York on September 29, 2004. I was curious to discover the why of Rambunny’s decision to walk off the trail. I doubted that it was her determination, or her physical ability to meet the challenges, or a sense of homesickness since she had hiked the hike three times before this 2004 journey.

Carole’s hike was tough from the beginning. She attempted to climb Mount Katahdin on July 15, but a major thunderstorm forced her back down after a 3 mile climb. The next day (July 16) the weather still dictated an impossible ascent to the brown sign. So on July 17 she got a ride to Abol Bridge, 15 miles from Katahdin, and began her SOBO adventure. That same day, she tripped going over a rocky area and bruised her ribs. She writes in her journal on July 18 the she thinks her rib is probably cracked and she is in quite a bit of pain. Five days later (July 23), the rib is causing a great deal of discomfort, so she take a zero day in Monson, Maine to evaluate. Carole concludes that she needs some time off trail to heal, so she makes arrangement to stay and help Honey and Bear, owners of the hostel, The Cabin. She stays at the Cabin for 29 days (July 25 to August 22) allowing the ribs to recuperate.

Rambunny 2Carole decides to skip the Whites and jump back on the trail in southern New Hampshire, about 45 miles from the Vermont state line. The trail adventure goes well until August 22nd when she takes a faceplant, literally on her face. Her glasses bruised the bridge of her nose with a resulting major nose bleed. The next day Rambunny describes herself looking like a raccoon. With the soreness, she concludes that she might have broken her nose. On September 24 she records “I feel like someone has punched me in the upper chest. The purple and yellow are traveling down my left eye and I’m purple ½ way across each eyelid and across the bridge of my nose. The chest hurts not the face. Thankfully if you have to do a face plant I did it well.”Then on September 26 she writes, “At the end of the day yesterday I realized the fall has definitely re-injured the muscle around the broken rib. No big deal but ouch! Going to keep ibuprofen close.”

Here is a portion of her journal dating Tuesday, September 28, 2004:[brackets contain my commentary/information]

“Sometime before morning the backlash of another hurricane came in pouring all night. My chest hurt whenever I turned. It woke me up with an ouch. Then I put my glasses on my hurt nose. Ouch!…..There’s a shelter 9 miles from here then none for 20 some miles. I hate setting up tent in the rain especially with a wet dog trying to help…..This is the first time in over 7,000 miles I’ve thought about quitting. Since I skipped some earlier, this is a section hike. Just got the feel sorry for myself pity party going on. Hope it and the rain let up soon. Going to try to hike in the camp shoes. 9 miles it is. Yes, I’m a wimpy hiker.

Financially it’s not looking good either. Maybe hiking in the rain will help my attitude. I hope so. Carrying 5 to 6 days of food at time isn’t helping. I’m way over 25lbs with that dog food [Sobo is an Autralian shepherd making the journey with Rambunny] and cold weather stuff. Financially though it doesn’t make sense to stop and buy food between mail drops. Whine. Whine. Whine. Do I serve cheese and crackers with this whine?

Set out in the pouring rain. Couldn’t see 5 feet in front of you. Sobo kept shaking and looking at us like we’re nuts. We are….Fell flat on my butt twice. No injuries though, just splashed water and mud all over me and the bottom of my pack. All day I had fantasies of getting off trail renting a car seeing what I want to see and going home. I’m going to give it to Delaware Water Gap [135 more miles] and if it continues I will.

Aqua made hot raspberry tea. Yum! I do love the trail and all about it. I think I’m just tired of hurting. We got the pizza. All 3 of us appreciated it. Sobo’s still grumpy though.”

Then Wednesday, September 29, 2004: “Cobweb, Aqua and Sobo are still trying to sleep as the sun is just now waking up. Torch is making breakfast and I’m sitting here looking at another wet day with everything wet. Oh boy. Six miles later with the trail a pond in most places I confessed to Aqua my feelings. I’m done this year. Went through a week of weighing it out and I’m fine with it. I did a 455.3 mile section hike, enjoyed every minute of it and learned a lot. Sobo too. I’ll add my other three section hikes to it and continued filling in the blanks over the years to have a 4th End to End hike. Eventually I want own or run a hostel on the trail. It is my passion in life. [This is accomplished via the Hiker Hollow Hostel in Adkins, VA.] We got off and walked a mile to Fahnestock State Park to the Ranger’s Station. She called us a taxi that took us to Cold Springs, NY Countryside Motel. Nice little place.”

HikeItForward-Final-MediumAt least on virtual paper Rambunny writes with a positive flare reflecting a lot of grit and dogged determination. How does a three-time thru-hiker deal with an injury-filled attempt and having to walk away after a valiant display of diligence and determination? Often with guilt, and disappointment. Rambunny is no different but notice her ability to see the big picture and put the hike in a proper perspective.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

“Ok. I’ve walked 7,332 miles on the AT. I can release the failure feelings.”


Photo on porch: https://sites.google.com/site/sedentarysteve/may24.(continued2)

Photo on the phone: https://www.gofundme.com/yiaqk

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Hiking, Maine, Mount Katahdin, New Hampshire, New York, The Whites, Thru-Hike, Trail, Vermont, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Baby, It’s Cold Out There!

AT WinterAccording to an online article written by Robert Sutherland on 20th January 2016, the weather in Georgia was throwing red flags high in the air to all thru-hikers considering a January start in the Peach State. On Tuesday evening, January 19, the governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, declared a state of emergency as the state prepared for icy, cold, and snowy weather on the Appalachian Trail. The predicted weather arrived with a vengeance causing more than a dozen school districts in North Georgia to cancel classes. The residents of fifteen counties found themselves under a winter storm warning as the winter blast sounded loudly in the north Georgia mountains.

Southerland’s advice: “Hunker down, take a few zeroes, risk it or slow down.  Please don’t do anything stupid that might put those who must come to your rescue in danger.” Good, sound, discerning advice from the wise writer of Appalachian Trail.com.

snow-hiker-hostel-16-01-20-300x225Unfortunately, not all hikers took the advice of this trail sage. A hiker was rescued Friday, January 22, near Albert Mountain on the Appalachian Trail in nearly two feet of snow. According to Macon County Emergency Services, 21-year-old Michael Gelfeld of Takoma Park, Maryland, called 911 at noon on Friday requesting help due to exposure to the severe weather near Coweeta Gap and Albert Mountain.

When rescue crews arrived, they were not able to find Michael. After successfully calling his cellphone and using coordinates put out by an emergency location beacon, Gelfeld was located off the trail near Bear Pen Creek at around midnight. According to reports, Michael Gelfeld was an experienced hiker and was prepared for the winter adventure, but simply became disoriented in the winter weather and failed to stay on the trail. Gelfeld was evaluated by Macon County EMS and, although being exposed to the cold and severe weather for an extended time, he was uninjured.

HikeItForward-Final-MediumSearch crews from local fire and rescue departments, the U.S. Forest Service, and the county emergency services used utility vehicles and snowmobiles to access the remote area. This very cold hiker was found at an elevation over 5,000 feet, which had received approximately 24 inches of snow.

Winter hiking can be lots of fun – but preparation and planning is essential. Enjoy the snow but be careful and stay warm.


AT Winter Photo: http://appalachiantrials.com/my-appalachian-trail-winter-thru-hike-gear-list/

Snow in Georgia: found at http://appalachiantrail.com/20160120/snow-in-georgia-heading-up-the-appalachian-trail/

http://appalachiantrail.com/20160120/snow-in-georgia-heading-up-the-appalachian-trail/ http://wspa.com/2016/01/23/hiker-rescued-from-appalachian-trail-in-macon-co/



Categories: Albert Mountain, Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Hiking, Rescue, Snow, Thru-Hike, Trail | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Rambunny – A Powerful Woman Hiker of the Appalachian Trail

RambunnyThis is the first of three posts regarding an amazing lady of the trail. Carole “Rambunny” Barnes was the first woman to complete three consecutive thru-hikes of the Appalachian Trail. Her thru-hikes took place in 2000-01 and 2002.

In my research into Rambunny’s accomplishments I found a great interview conducted by Stephen S. Fehr on May 24 of 2002 during Carole’s journey on the trail. For a deeper dive check it out at the following link: https://sites.google.com/site/sedentarysteve/may24.(continued2)

When asked about the back story for her trail name, Rambunny responded, “I’m named after Aries and I go like the energizer bunny.” The name was quite appropriate as her energy had carried her over thousands of miles on the trail. She hoped to follow in the footsteps of Dorothy Laker and accomplish a YOYO, hiking from Georgia to Maine, touching the brown sign on top of Katahdin, turning around and hiking back to Georgia. According to Rambunny, Dorothy was the first woman to complete a YOYO back in the 1960s.

Mr Fehr asked, “I usually ask about your age and when you departed Springer.”
Rambunny smiles and answers, “I’m in my forties, and I started Springer March 3rd. I’m from Indianapolis.” She continued. “I grew up hiking with the Girl Scouts and wanted to do the AT since 4th grade. I also did the Grand Canyon Trail and a lot of trails in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Missouri.”

The interview added a little of Carole’s backstory and attitude toward the trail when she shared, “My marriage fell apart and the kids were almost grown. I paid off all my debts and was free!  No trepidation’s whatsoever. I did a happy dance in Georgia.”

HikeItForward-Final-MediumHer favorite aspect of the trail reflected her outgoing spirit and appreciation for the people of the trail, “Being outdoors and the volunteerism on the trail, not just the hikers but the hostel owners, the workers and trail angels.” Both the people and the wildlife of the AT seem to be the highlights of her trek. She related about a bear encounter, “last year, twenty miles north of here I had a bear encounter with a very nice bear. We just stared at each other for awhile.”

Rambunny was a fairly light hiker, “I travel light; just 20 to 25 pounds. I use a beer can stove. For supper, I mix Ramen noodles and mashed potatoes, or stuffing and I also make rice dishes such as rice and beans. I stop once a week in towns and carefully plan mail drops to towns that do not have grocery stores.”  And when asked about the expense of the hike, Carole provided a conservative figure (remember these are 2002 dollars), “It costs almost $2,000 to hike the AT. I expect to spend $3,500 to do a YOYO.” Rambunny’s approach to finances often included some work at a hostel for a week or so when her funds run low.

Rambunny is a great trail story. My second post about Carole [to be published yet this week] focuses on another of her thru-hikes – this time in 2004.

[Photo found at  https://sites.google.com/site/sedentarysteve/may24.(continued2)]

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Adventure Summit

adventure_summit_logo_mI am not sure what your plans might be for February 12-13 but if you live close to Dayton, Ohio I would like to share an opportunity. It’s free and it features some outstanding speakers on various topics of outdoor life and the adventures that go with them. It is called The Adventure Summit and the event is co-sponsored by Five Rivers MetroParks and Wright State University. All the workshops and presentations will take place at the Student Union at Wright State University.

Amy PurdyThere are several speakers that I would like to highlight on this blog but I would encourage you to check out their website (http://theadventuresummit.com/)  for a complete list of presenters and schedule for the two-day event. The first speaker that I am very interested in hearing is Amy Purdy. She seems to be an amazing woman, a world class snow boarder, a Dancing with the Stars finalist, an actress, model and clothing designer. She is also a double amputee having lost both legs below the knee. Although eliminated fairly early in the series, Amy was a contestant on the Amazing Race in 2012. She has communicated some of her thoughts on a 2011 TED talk (check it out at https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_purdy_living_beyond_limits/transcript?language=enHer) and has authored a book, On My Own Two Feet: From Losing My Legs to Learning the Dance of Life. Her presentation will be Friday, February 12, at 7:00 in the Apollo Room.

Luke Jordan.StriderThe second speaker that proves to be a draw is Luke “Strider” Jordan. With a trail name like “Strider” you would expect this speaker to be a thru-hiker. And you would not be disappointed. He took on the North Country Trail hiking from Sakakawea State Park in North Dakota to Crown Point State Park at the New York/Vermont border. It is one of our country’s longest scenic hiking trails – 4,600 miles. In comparison, the Appalachian Trail is 2,186 miles. His 191 day journey began with many weeks trekking in snowshoes. His thru-hike of the trail in 2013 might have been just the fourth complete thru-hike on record. Hear “Strider” on Saturday afternoon at 12:30.

Jeff Alt 2The third speaker of interest for me is Jeff Alt. He is an Ohio resident who wrote a best selling book, A Walk for Sunshine that served as a motivation for my adventure. Having heard him two years ago at the summit, I look forward to listening to his inspiring story once again. He possesses a great sense of humor and provides insights into the trail that will make you laugh and inspire you at the same time. Jeff made his original thru-hike of the AT to raise money for Sunshine House in Cincinnati, the home where his brother with cerebral palsy lives. His hike inspired me to hike for my school and raise money for student scholarships. He shares at 3:00 on Saturday afternoon. Check out his website: http://jeffalt.com

I have also been given the opportunity to tell my story at the event. I speak at 11:15 on Saturday morning. I am humbled to share my presentation, Hike It Forward, highlighting my AT thru-hike in 2014. Hope to see you ther

Adventure Summit Logo from http://theadventuresummit.com/

Book Photo found at http://amypurdy.com/

Photo of Luke Jordan by Gail DeBoer @ www.walermn.com

Photo of Jeff Alt found at http://jeffalt.com/

Categories: Amy Purdy, Appalachian Trail, Hiking, Jeff Alt, Luke Strider Jordan, North Country Trail, Snow Boarding, The Adventure Summit, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Simplicity Still Demands Strategy

HikeItForward-Final-MediumIt might seem like hiking the Appalachian Trail is simply getting up in the morning, putting on your backpack, hike until break time, snack, hike until lunch, eat, hike until afternoon break, snack, hike until dinner, eat, find a spot to camp, set up the tent, enjoy a few hours rest, climb into the tent, sleep until morning and start all over again. In one sense, this is precisely the routine. However, the journey is not that simple. The strategy for each day’s journey is critical for success.

Let me provide an actual example. I got sick on the trail just south of Marion, Virginia and took two days off the trail in Marion to recover from an intestinal virus. Getting back on the trail I knew I had 123.2 miles to Pearisburg, Virginia where my sister planned to meet me for some home cooked food and a comfortable bed. I needed a strategy for hiking this mileage.

First, I needed to estimate the number of days for the journey. If at all possible I wanted to reach my sister’s company in a week. If I wanted a seven-day trip, I would need to trek 17.6 miles each day. To reach Pearisburg in 6 days I would have to average 20.53 miles per day. And if I wanted to try to arrive in 5 days, I would need to maintain a pace of 2
4.64 miles every twenty-four hours. I quickly eliminated the 5-day trip not thinking that I could not  hike that far for five consecutive days especially after being sick for two days.

3 BooksSecond, I pulled out my AT Guidebook and began to map out shelters, campsites, and towns as potential places to stay each night. Unfortunately, there was not a shelter every 17.6 miles. I decided to plot a trail of no more than 18.5 miles a day. With that restriction, I found shelter at 16.7 miles for day one; 17.9 for day two, 15.1 for day three; 17.9 for day four; then only 14.0 on day five (the next shelter would have demanded a 23.8 mile day) 18.4 on day six; 15 miles on day seven; and 8.2 miles on day eight. This seemed very doable. There was a resupply town at the end of day two (Atkins, VA), but I would still have to buy and carry enough food to last me five and half days to reach Pearisburg. But this would be my conservative itinerary.

IMG_0875Third, I developed a more aggressive agenda and plotted a map to arrive in six days (averaging about 21 miles each day. Even the first day presented a dilemma. I could hike 16.7 miles to a campsite or push another 6.3 miles to a shelter. Still being queasy from the stomach bug, I plotted the 16.7 miles knowing I would have to make up the mileage during the next five days. Day two would demand 21 miles to Davis Path Camp. The third day would require a 19.9 mile trek to Chestnut Knob Shelter. Day four would have to be a 21.9 mile hike to Bland, VA. The fifth day was going to be a challenging 23.9 miles to Dismal Creek campsite. Day six into Pearisburg was another long hike of 19.8 miles.

Fourth, I committed myself to a flexible mindset and an adaptable agenda. Rain could determine pace, sickness could delay my hike again, a fall could always demand a change of plans, and the possibility of taking a wrong turn and spending hours getting back on the AT was not out of the question. So I decided to hike the first day and then evaluate the itinerary for day two.

Fifth, I was still not 100% on day one, but I did not want to delay my adventure, so I returned to Fox Creek, Virginia and started up the trail. I had five viable camping options depending on my health. There was a shelter just 3.3 miles up the trail; a trail (0.7 miles) to a campsite at mile marker 6.5; a town at 8.5 miles (not including the 2.6 mile hitch into Troutdale); another shelter at 12.4 miles; a tent site at 16.7 (my prime target); and a third shelter at 23.0 miles. I decided to hike until my body said stop and adjust my plans from there.

This planning was a typical and important aspect of my hike. Plotting out places for resupply was critical as well. Water was plentiful most of the time, but the plan for each day included the best spot to stop for water and the careful rationing of water along the way.

Life on the Appalachian Trail is a simple one and the routine is much the same each day. Walking in creation and enjoying the fresh air of the trail was the order of the day. But this simplicity demanded strategy and planning. Life after the Appalachian Trail is often too complex but even when I am able to simplify the agenda, planning and strategic thinking are still vital to effectiveness.

By the way, I was able to fulfill my more aggressive agenda and arrived in Pearisburg in six days. There were some other aggressive agendas that I did not fulfill, but God was always faithful to provide the strength and the direction along the way.

In case you want to read more – check out my ebook (Hike It Forward) at Amazon.com.


Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Hike It Forward, Hiking, Simplicity, Strategy, The A.T. Guide, Thru-Hike, Trail, Uncategorized, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Thru-hiking: Solitude Intensifies Relationships

086Reflecting back on my 2014 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, I have had opportunity to replay some of the deeper lessons learned along the way. I love to laugh and even poke fun at myself as I look back on my ignorance and the humorous lessons provided by the hiking experience. For instance, it was not long into the hot days of summer that I realized the mosquitoes actually like DEET. It was shortly after my arrival in Maine, the last state on the hike, that I came to the conclusion that moose only visit the ponds in New Hampshire for 10 minutes a day at 3:30 am.

But on a more serious note, I discovered some significant insights walking 2,185 miles in the woods. For example, I discovered that my solitude intensified my relationships. This might sound a bit paradoxical that solitude intensifies relationships but let me elaborate what I mean.

Walking alone on a trail for hours each day provides many opportunities to think and reflect. I purposely did not take any electronic music or books to listen during my thru-hike. I found myself in long periods of introspection, meditation and worship. For me, one of the greatest benefits of experiencing this walk in creation was an awareness of the absence of important relationships in my life.

The old saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” began to emotionally resonate with me as I spent time repainting mental pictures of family and friends that were living life hundreds of miles from my narrow path through the forest. The smile on my wife’s face that still makes my heart skip from across the room; the way one of my sons plays his guitar; the special talks that I enjoy with my daughter; the laugh-splitting ability my eldest son possesses when story telling; or the uncanny similarities between my youngest son and I; all these pictures and many more began to flood my mind and there was a deepening of my appreciation and admiration for those closest to me. I prayed for them; I wept tears of joy and gratitude because of them; I walked back in time with them reliving decades of memories. Isolation intensified the horizontal relationships of life.

Not every day, but on some mornings, my time of prayer expanded into an incredible time of worship, praise and thanksgiving. It was not unusual to begin praying for my family, friends, and colleagues and find myself almost overwhelmed with thoughts and images of theirBook Cover 2 significance in my life. One day I looked at my watch after enjoying a refreshing time of praying out loud for my mental prayer list to find that I had been praying for over three hours!

Isolation also intensified my vertical relationship with the Creator. There was something special about praying audibly as I hiked the trail. I typically pray silently because, obviously, God does not need to hear my voice as He knows my thoughts. But I found it meaningful for me to speak out loud the thoughts that formulated in my head. There were times when I felt like Jesus and I were walking side by side or, even better, that I was walking in His footsteps as I followed Him through the canopy. Occasionally I would shout and sing at the top of my lungs as I thanked Him for His goodness, faithfulness and presence with me.

Interested in knowing more about my hike? Check out my ebook (Hike it Forward) on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=hike+it+forward)

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Deet, Hiking, Maine, Moose, Mosquitoes, New Hampshire, Prayer, Solitude, Thru-Hike, Trail, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Happy Hiking in 2016 – AT Records Made in 2015

Record Number of Hikers in 2015

ATC HQHappy New Year! As we hang up our new calendars it is always significant to review the previous twelve months. 2015 was a popular and productive year on the Appalachian Trail. In addition to speed records being set for both an assisted thru-hike (Scott Jurek: 46 days, 8 hours, 8 minutes) and an unassisted thru-hike (Heather Anderson: 54 days, 7 hours, 48 minutes), The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) has communicated a record-breaking number of hikers who passed through its Visitor Center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, considered the psychological midpoint of the 2,185-mile long footpath. The ATC is a special place that not only greets thru-hikers but also takes their pictures, records their hiker information, and archives their journey photo to be housed at the conservancy.

When a thru-hiker arrives at the headquarters, they register as a NOBO hiker (going NOrthBOund from Georgia to Maine), or a SOBO hiker (hiking SOuthBOund from Mt. Katahdin, Maine toward Springer Mountain, Georgia), or an Alternate Route hiker (for example: Georgia to West Virginia then travel to Maine and hike SOBO back to West Virginia)  According to the ATC’s records as of this December, 1,385 northbound thru-hikers passed through Harpers Ferry: an increase of 9 percent over last year’s data. The number of southbound thru-hikers increased by 14 percent totaling 192 hikers. The number of those who choose to thru-hike the A.T. in an alternative, non-contiguous way increased dramatically, with 291 choosing that method, that’s an increase of 139 percent! If my math is correct, that’s a total of 1,768 hikers reporting in at the ATC as potential thru-hikers.

A-Walk-in-the-Woods-bookThe ATC attributes some of this growth to the recent film releases of “A Walk in the Woods,” (based on Bill Bryson’s best-seller on the Appalachian Trail) and “Wild,” (portraying Cheryl Stray’s book about the Pacific Crest Trail). These two major motion pictures depict attempted thru-hikes on long-distance trails.

The ATC was also pleased to announce that for fiscal year 2015, a record-breaking 6,827 volunteers reported approximately 272,477 hours to maintaining and protecting the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) for hikers to use. I find this truly amazing. During my thru-hike I encountered several trail work teams, maintaining and improving the trail. From repainting the white blazes to creating rock steps on treacherous terrain to clearing the trail of recent blow-downs, the crews were hard at work.  The record number of both volunteers and hours reveals a loyal army commitment to the AT. Volunteers donated time equivalent to what is completed by 137 full-time workers working 40 hour weeks for 50 weeks during the year. These heroes of the trail contributed to a wide variety of projects, including maintaining the A.T. corridor.

Since the ATC began collecting reports in 1983, individuals have contributed more than 5 million hours to the A.T. – it is estimated that it takes 5 million steps to thru-hike the trail, so volunteers have donated an hour for every step along a thru-hike of the AT. It is no wonder why this volunteer network that is recognized worldwide.


Categories: A Walk in the Woods, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Harpers Ferry, Heather Anderson, Mount Katahdin, NOBO, Scott Jurek, SOBO, Springer Mountain, West Virginia, Wild | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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