The Two Peas Reach Harpers Ferry and Beyond

Two Peas .1000 milesKristin and Robert (Moonbeam and Big Cypress) began their hike of the Appalachian Trail on February 13. Their post on May 13 came from Harpers Ferry, WV, the psychological half-way point of the AT. It is about 72 miles short of the actual lineal half-way point. But Harpers Ferry houses the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters and all thru-hikers get their picture taken in front of the building and their mug shot is included in the official photo-log kept by the conservancy. Emotionally, for the hikers, this is a really big deal and a huge milestone.

We last saw the Two Peas on May 10 in Front Royal, Virginia. They had three excellent hiking days (averaging over 19 miles per day) making their way into West Virginia. Around the 1000 mile marker there is an excellent hostel called the Bears Den. The two Peas arrived on May 12:

We arrived at Bears Den at 5:30 pm. It’s a castle like stone lodge and boy oh boy do we love it!! For $30pp we get a bunk, shower, laundry with soap, sheets and blankets, pizza, soda and pint of fancy ice cream or gelato AND pancakes in the morning!! AND the accommodations are CLEAN!! Even the shower!! We are in hiker heaven!!

Two Peas at Harpers FerryOn May 13, the couple arrived in Harpers Ferry and got their photo taken for posterity in front of the ATC Headquarters. Notice the assigned hiker number they are given when they sign in. I was hiker number 924 during my thru-hiker to give you a perspective.

Big Cypress had 3 falls today, although he said only 2; since one his rear was close to a rock anyway and when he lost footing, he just “sat down”. One spill was a fall into a good tree, causing elbow & forearm scrape! The other fall was on a slick rock, serious enough that it could have been hike ending!! After evaluating body parts were all ok, he was insistent that we press on and not make a big deal over it. We got our picture taken and logged in as Thru Hikers 159 & 160. At Springer GA we were 64 & 65.

Half Gallon Challenge

They spent three days in Harpers Ferry visiting with family and then pushed for 7 days, hiking through the state of Maryland and into Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania. They reached my favorite trail town (Boiling Springs, PA) on day 100 of their adventure (May 21) and decided to take another zero day in this incredibly quaint community. They have hiked over 1115 miles, celebrating the true half-way point on day 98. As for the tradition of the half-gallon challenge……….

I couldn’t do the half gallon challenge (eat a half gallon of ice cream) and after our buffalo chicken wrap and hiker burger with fries and Amish apple pie, Big Cypress was too full to attempt it!!

I love following this couple and I am so encouraged by their progress, but no ice cream?? really??

The next thirty miles of hiking will be filled with great terrain and easy paths. Then comes the rocks! They will be very close to the top of my prayer list as they begin to experience the challenges of Pennsylvania.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Bears Den Hostl, Boiling Springs, Half Gallon Challenge, Harpers Ferry, Two Peas | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Rooster Lives!

The Pony at Grayson Highlands

The Pony at Grayson Highlands

My last touch with Fat Hen and Rooster Talon was April 26. That journal post left me with grave concerns about this young couple and their Appalachian Trail adventure. Rooster Talon (Becky) was struggling with a chronic problem of ingrown toenails to the point that hiking long miles was become very painful. She and Fat Hen (Dan) opted for some backcountry surgery thru-hiker style, so they literally took the problem into their own hands. Using some mini-scissors, and tweezers their AT surgery went well. The toe, bandaged and lathered in antibiotic ointment (the healing balm of any successful thru-hike), cooperated in carrying the Rooster into Erwin, Tennessee.

With no news for almost a month, I was beginning to assume that the forest operating room resulted in a more sterile OR and a ticket home for the rest of the hiking season. But, no! The Rooster Talon is proving to be one tough bird.

The journal come back to life on May 15, finding the young team in Marion, Virginia. Having traveled through 50 miles of the state of Virginia, Becky and Dan seem to be hiking well. They took several photos along the way including the one posted here with one of the ponies at Grayson Highlands (a highlight for almost every thru-hiker).

Tent City at Trail Days

Tent City at Trail Days

The couple made a decision to delay their NOBO adventure and returned to Damascus, Virginia for Trail Days. Dulcigal made the same choice although neither journal mentions a connection between the hikers. That is not a big surprise because (Fat Hen notes) Damascus, a town whose population is about 850, sees 20,000 to 30,000 visitors to this festival. Most of those visitors are not thru-hiking the trail, so Dan and Becky decided to opt out of tent city (a place with lots of late night celebration and loud parties). They rented a tent site on the yard of a church for $5.00 per night. They were very happy with their choice.

Trails Days was a boat load (maybe that should be a backpack full) of fun. Neither hiker won any free gear, but the AYCE pizza dinner and AYCE pancake breakfast made the journey memorable. The highlight for Dan was some disparate repairs on his backpack. The maker of his backpack was not represented in the Damascus event but he took his sick pack to the Osprey booth. They did a wonder repair and charged him nothing. Dan was overwhelmed with the quality of work and the trail angel spirit of the company. I think Dan’s next pack will have the Osprey decal printed on the back.

It is so good to see this couple alive and well on the trail. They are not making great time but they are on the move. My prayers are with them. The weather should turn in their favor and miles should begin to increase.

Photo of tent city: http://www.appalachianjosh.com/2015/11/days-149-151.html

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Damascus, Dulcigal, Fat Hen, Grayson Highlands, Marion, Rooster Talon, Tent City, Thru-Hike, Trail Days, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dulcigal Travels to Trail Days

Dulci on Blood MtDulcigal arrived in Marion, Virginia on May 10 (Day 59 of her thru-hike), having hiked over 530 miles of the Appalachian Trail. The weather, during the first two weeks of May, was rather unpredictable. One night during the trek to Marion, Dulcigal encounted freezing temperatures and 4-6 inches of snow. After warming up in Marion, a group of hikers, including Dulcigal, hatched a plan to rent cars and return to Damascus, Virginia. The plan to go backward had a purpose: Trail Days. Trail Days is the premier hiker festival along the AT and this year it was celebrated on May 13-15.

Dulci had a great time at the festival raving about gear discounts, give-a-ways and the three basic needs of all thru-hikers: food, showers, and laundry. One of the traditions of Trail Days is the Thru-Hiker parade down through Main Street lined on both sides with the locals, who shoot the hikers with water guns. Quite a strange “gauntlet-like” custom but everyone seems to enjoy the event accompanied with grand laughter and cheers. There is a hiker talent show one evening where the hikers are able to demonstrate their gifts that are often hidden by their beards, backpacks, and trekking garb.

Dulcigal gave the festival high marks and felt the trip was well worth the time. She picked up a lighter backpack (this will provide benefits for days ahead) and was able to obtain some repairs on her trail runners.

In her May 19 post, Dulcigal journaled from Adkins, Virginia. She continues to experience foot pain and is resting for a day or two. She is frustrated trying to balance a longing desire to be hiking the trail with the patience needed for the body to heal itself. Her hope is to be back on the trail in a day or two.

I am a bit concerned for Dulcigal. She has averaged about 8 miles per day during her first 68 days on the trail. I did not stay in Adkins but I passed by the community on day 38 of my adventure. At the current pace, her journey will demand 274 days and a projected end date of December 11. She will be forced to do a flip flop (at some point traveling to Maine to climb Katahdin and hike across the Presidential Mountains in New Hampshire before winter) and finish the hike moving south bound to the spot of her flip flop.

My hope is that she will be able to pick up her pace and increase her daily mileage. If she could increase her daily pace to 12 miles per day for the rest of the journey, she could finish on October 3 (very close to the closing down of Katahdin for the winter). This is still very possible. My cheers and prayers are with Dulci as she attempts to reach this major accomplishment in her life.

Dulcigal - Photo approching Pearsiburg

Dulcigal – Photo approaching Pearsiburg

Update: Dulcigal posted just a few days ago and had arrived at Pearisburg, Virginia – about 634 miles on the AT (an average of 8.45 miles per day). The good news – she is feeling stronger physically and seems to be in excellent spirits. Let me share a little of her most recent posting:

“My knee is great…my feet are better… and life has been good. These past days I’ve been able to stop and enjoy the views, take pictures, think, meditate, pray, and still complete the miles I’ve needed to complete. I’m at 634 miles in Pearisburg, VA. More of God’s creatures are being seen as the weather gets warmer. Unfortunately, the annoying bugs are coming out as well. We’ve had LOTS of rain over the past week or two. Even the locals in the trail towns are complaining about the rain. We’ve been slipping and sliding a lot on the trail. I do want to say, that in spite of the rain, I LOVE VIRGINIA!!!!!!! This is such a beautiful state. I really love the contour of the mountains, the trail, etc. It is just beautiful. God’s handiwork is very much present.”

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Damascus, Dulcigal, Hiking, Marion, Thru-Hike, Trail, Trail Days, Virginia | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Update from the Trail

Cypress and Moonbeam 1

Two Peas – Big Cypress and Moonbeam

Of the many thru-hikers that I selected to follow this season, only three remain on the trail: Two Peas from Florida, Dulcigal from Georgia, and Fat Hen & Rooster Talon from New York. Let me give you an update on these brave hikers.

I have heard nothing from Fat Hen and Rooster Talon since April 26 when they arrived in Erwin, Tennessee. Rooster Talon (Becky) was experiencing some hiking difficulties with a very sore in-grown toenail. The two of them conducted some backwoods surgery on the toe prior to hiking into Erwin. I am anxiously awaiting a revitalization of their online journal.

Both Dulci and the Two Peas updated their journals on May 10. It was great to hear from both of them. Both are still plowing ahead and making northern progress toward Maine.

The Two Peas took a nero (near zero) day entering the town of Waynesboro, VA. They then remained in Waynesboro for three zero days: resupplying, refreshing, and healing from the demands of the trail. Mrs. Pea (Moonbeam, aka, Kristin) had been fighting a UTI and a few days off trail appeared to be needed. Once they left Waynesboro, they hiked 9 days in a row averaging 11.4 miles per day. The last post (May 10) found them on day 88 of their journey and at the northern end of the Shenandoah National Park – over 960 miles of the AT behind them. They took advantage of the wayside restaurants along the Skyline Drive. I stopped at every one on my thru-hike and enjoyed the food immensely.

Moonbeam continues to struggle a bit physically on the trail. She is walking with painful shin splints. I am amazed that she continues to put in the miles every day. It is obvious that she has very little quit in her spirit. She picked up new boots in Waynesboro and thinks that the sore shins might be related to the boots.

Ducigal and the Wild Ponies

Dulcigal and the Wild Ponies

Dulci also posted on May 10, her 59th day on the Appalachian Trail. She has arrived at Marion, Virginia having hiked five days out of Damascus. She is “hoofing it” at an average pace of 12.5 miles per day. Her journal describes her excitement at Grayson Highlands enjoying the wild ponies. She also shared that she was greeted one morning this past week with 4-6 inches of snow and freezing temperatures. Fortunately she had not sent home her winter clothing yet.

Marion, Virginia is about 530 miles north of Springer Mountain. I remember very clearly having to stay in Marion. I got norovirus just outside of Marion (the only time I got sick during my journey) and ended up taking 2 days off the trail throwing-up and inspecting the bathroom every half hour. My cheap hotel had fairly nice facilities.

To provide a little idea of pace on the trail. The Two Peas arrived at the 530 mile marker on Day 51 of their journey while Dulci arrived on Day 59. After my two days off in Marion I hiked out of the town on Day 38. Everyone hikes at a different pace and the total mileage logged in any given day can vary greatly. Fortunately a thru-hike is not a race against man. It might be a race against the seasons, a race against one’s personal budget, a race against the available days to spend on the hike; but, all things said and done, the finish line only greets winners – 64 days (world record pace) or 200 days doesn’t really matter.

I am rooting and cheering for the Two Peas from Florida and Dulcigal from Jackson, Georgia. Hike your own hike (HYOH) and keep Katahdin in your sights.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Damascus, Dulcigal, Erwin, Fat Hen, Florida, Georgia, Grayson Highlands, Hiking, Journaling, Maine, Mount Katahdin, New York, Rooster Talon, Shenandoah National Park, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Two Peas, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Thru-hike: Not Everyone Makes It!

I am still waiting for an update from Two Peas, Dulcigal and Fat Hen/Rooster Talon: the AT thru-hikers that I am following this year. I decided to explore some of the other online journals. There are still several hikers that are scheduled to hit the trail later this month, but there are 174 active journals on trailjournals.com.

As I have reviewed the journals (yes, I got carried away and checked them all), 44 of those thru-hikers have dropped off the trail. That is approximately 25% of those who began the trail and who are keeping a journal through this particular website. This is just a fraction of the total hikers on the AT, but it is an interesting cross-section of the hiking community. Those 44 hikers averaged 23 days on the trail and completed an average of 114.8 miles.

SandiAmong the 44, the shortest distance traveled on the AT was 0.2 miles by Just Plain Sandi. She began her adventure at the 8.8 mile approach trail in Amicalola Falls, Georgia. The first day she hiked 1.1 miles to the AT Shelter. Day two was a trek of 3.7 miles to Frosty Mountain. The third day of the adventure involved 2.5 miles to Black Gap Shelter where she took a zero day on day four. Day five concluded with 1.7 miles and the summit of Springer Mountain. The night was spent at Springer Mounter Shelter (0.2 miles on the AT itself). Just Plain Sandi fell off a ladder in the shelter and injured both wrists, an elbow and her shoulder. This difficult beginning and her desire to be home with an aging father caused Just Plain Sandi to walk off the trail and head for home.

WoofieThe shortest hike in number of days belongs to Woofie and Wooly Booly whose trek ended after the first day. The couple had walked 8.4 miles when Woofie (Gwen Minturn) twisted her knee ending their 2016 hiking journey. The day after the injury they write “Woofie’s knee and ankle had swollen and become more painful. With both injuries being on the left side, she was almost totally immobilized, making simply getting out of the tent extremely difficult. We knew that our hike was over, and that we had to get off the trail and get medical attention.” Five days later their final post included the following: “Although none of the hardware in her knee implant was damaged in her fall, she did suffer a hairline fracture of the patella (knee cap). She’ll have to keep the leg brace on for another 4-6 weeks.”

The longest distance traveled by a hiker, so far, that has decided to leave the trail was 590.6 miles, involving 59 days. Aleve (Carl Graves), a retired air traffic controller and a runner of marathons and some ultra-marathons, started on February 17 and hiked until April 9. He took some time off trail, resting for 11 days and then returned, hopping back on the trail at Harpers Ferry, WV. His second hike lasted six days and then Aleve’s Aleveknee communicated that it was not going to carry him any further. Eighteen miles into Pennsylvania, Aleve journals, “My knees really hate rocky trails. I fell today while hiking through a bouldering section between Rocky Mountain Shelters and US 30, the type of fall where your foot is lodged between two rocks while your body continues to pivot. Torqued the bad knee.” Injury claims another journey. Of the 44 hikers that have chosen to end their dream of a thru-hike, 19 hikers point to a physical injury that ended their attempt. Sixteen individuals explain their decision to walk off the trail as a logical/emotional conclusion or an inability to cope with the weather and demands of the trail. One hiker points to a major family health concern that took him off the trail. And eight journals just abruptly ended without explanation. With no updates for over a month, I have concluded that the hiker is no longer on the trail. This might be incorrect and they may be out there piling up the miles, and just tired of posting to the journal. I hope this is the case, but I seriously doubt it.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is not an easy journey. It is filled with potential dangers that can physically end the adventure with one misstep. It is filled with harsh weather that can test the resolve of a bull moose. It comes complete with the stress of booking long miles into the hiker log, with the emotional pull to travel back home to comfort and friends, and with the nagging question echoing daily in the mind of some walkers, “Why am I doing this? Is this what I want to do for five solid months?”

HIF Cover PublishedA thru-hike is not for everyone. However, I have rarely found a hiker that has not been greatly impacted by their adventure. Whether it is 0.2 miles of 590 miles, whether it lasts one day or two months, the hiker is changed by the experience. Just about every hiker that has to walk off the trail feels like a failure. Of course, they are not. They have entered the world of the Appalachian Trail, breathed the forest air, drank from mountain streams, felt the fatigue of walking all day long, tasted the food of the trail, and lived to tell about it. The only failures are those that dream about the trail but never encounter it. Those that plan but never execute. Those with a list that stays in the bucket. My cheers go out to all those who have strapped on the backpack, followed the white blazes, and sought out an adventure.

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Dulcigal, Fat Hen, Georgia, Hiking, Journaling, Pennsylvania, Rooster Talon, Shelter, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Trail, Two Peas, White Blaze | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Update on Thru-Hikers 2016

I have been following several thru-hikers that decided to attempt the epic adventure during the 2016 season. Let me share an update on each hike. Unfortunately, each journal is not current with the last of April, but let’s take a look at the last entry and get a picture of these trail heroes.

I selected six hikes to follow.

  1. MarkHolmgren_19877Mark Homgren, a retired man from the Hershey Company in Pennsylvania, started the AT on February 21. Mark hiked into Fontana Dam, just south of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, on day 15 of his attempt. He left the trail due to a family health matter. Total miles: 164.7

 

  1. Possumhead and CarrotThe Coopers from Jacksonville, Florida stepped onto the trail on March 13. The father (Carrot Stick) and daughter (Possumhead) team made it to Fontana Dam on March 30 seventeen days into their journey, averaging a little over 9 miles per day. They continued into the Great Smoky Mountains and took a rest in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. They took three additional days in Gatlinburg but the rest was not sufficient to restore aching joints and Carrot Stick’s left knee. They left the trail on April 2nd – total miles: 206.8.

 

  1. Two Peas. Blood MtTwo Peas (Kristen and Robert), a married couple from Florida introduce themselves as Moonbeam and Big Cypress. They began their journey on February 13 and the most recent online post is dated April 23 (day 71 of their hike). They have traveled 791 miles and camped on April 23 at Punchbowl Shelter about ten miles south of Buena Vista, VA. Moonbeam has been sick for a few days – a little dehydrated but also struggling with UTI. They have averaged almost 17 miles each day for the past four days, but the journal entries reflect fatigue and frustration with the sickness. Moonbeam simply writes on their April 23 post, “Tough day for the Two Peas.” As they made camp that night they were greeted with the deep chirping sounds of the frogs in the pond near their shelter (I hope they can get some sleep). I am praying that the Two Peas can make it into Buena Vista and get some rest and relief.

 

  1. Dulci on Blood MtDulcigal, Founder of Crosspoint Counseling Center in Jackson, Georgia, left Springer Mountain on March 13. She arrived at Fontana Dam on April 1 (day 20), hiked through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and arrived at Hot Springs, North Carolina (the first trail town) on day 35 of her hike. Her last online post, April 20 and day 39, finds her in Erwin, Tennessee having trekked 341.5 miles. She recently fell, going uphill, and injured her knee. She reports that she feels stronger each day and the climbs seem easier as she adjusts to the trail and the weight of the pack. She is content mentally and is enjoying a daily spiritual walk along the path.

 

  1. Fat Hen and Rooster Talon 5Fat Hen (Dan) and Rooster Talon (Becky) began the approach trail on March 19 and their last online post was dated 4/26/16, day 39 of the trip. They arrived in Ervin, Tennessee after running into some very cold and uncomfortable rain. They were chilled to the bone a few days before arriving at Erwin. Becky has problems with a recurring ingrown toenail and it decided to flare up out in the middle of nowhere. The couple decided to attempt some “backwoods” surgery to address the infected toe. They removed the nail, cleaned and bandaged the toe. They made it to Erwin and Becky’s toe, according to their post was doing quite well. In Erwin, they camped along the Nolichucky River and were able to observe a bald eagle fly-by and a successful grab of a fish right from the river.

 

  1. Mustard Seed 3Mustard Seed (Michelle Mayne), a middle school teacher at Central Christian School in Sharpsburg, Georgia, began her journey with her dad (Negotiator – Michael Williams) on April 1. Her last post was April 27 from Erwin, Tennessee. She and her dad hiked the first 27 days with only one zero day in Hot Springs. They had to take a 15-mile ride from Hot Springs (mile 273.9) to Allen Gap (mile 288.7) because of the forest fires blazing along the trail right now. Mustard Seed was averaging over 13 miles a day. However, she posted on April 26th that the physical demands of the trail were taking their toll. Up at 5:30, hiking all day, and setting up camp at 7:00 every day was sapping her energy and robbing her of her anticipated spiritual/peaceful experience. She and her dad decided to walk off the trail on April 27 have a last hike from Spivey Gap down into Erwin – a 10.7 mile hike. I was cheering for her and was saddened to see her have to walk away.

 

Just to give you an idea of the similarities and differences in these thru-hikes, let’s look at a comparison.

Two Peas       Dulcigal           Fat Hen           Mustard Seed              Rowdy

Start               Feb 13        March 13       March 19             April 1                    April 26

Fontana         Day 22       Day 20           Day 19                 Day 13                     Day 12

Hot Springs  Day 31        Day 35           Day 32                 Day 22                     Day 19

Erwin             Day 37        Day 39           Day 39                 Day 27                     Day 24

I share this information to show the variance in the pace and speed of the hikers. I also think it interesting to look at the impact of spring weather (those leaving later) has on the hiker experience and ability to log greater distances on drier paths and in warmer temperatures (just my theory).

 

Photos of hikers taken from their online journals – trailjournals.com

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Dulcigal, Fat Hen, Fontana Dam, Georgia, GSMNP, Hot Springs, Mark Holmgren, Mustard Seed, Springer Mountain, Tennessee, The Coopers, Thru-Hike, Tn, Trail Name, Two Peas, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Anniversary Time!

20140426-140033.jpgThis is a week of anniversaries for me, as Rowdy on the AT. On Friday morning, April 25, 2014, my wife, Cathy, and I loaded up our Honda and began the drive to the state of Georgia and my first step ever on the Appalachian Trail. I had walked 2,200 miles in training, I had read over twenty books about the AT, I had purchased some nice camping/hiking gear, but I had never actually seen the trail before. My eldest son, Ben, lives just north of Atlanta, Georgia, the perfect spot for an overnight before the adventure and a wonderful drive to the trail head.

006April 26, 2014 was my first day on the Appalachian Trail. Ben and Cathy drove me to the parking lot, one mile from Springer Mountain, Georgia. Many thru-hikers begin at Amicalola Falls and hike up a pretty grueling 8.8 mile approach trail. Some hikers, with Maine on the minds, don’t make it past this initial hike. The brutal reality of the mountain climb, similar to many in northern Georgia, quickly transforms the dreams of the hopefuls to a rude awakening to the demands of the path.

Looking back on my adventure, I am so glad that I by-passed the approach trail and opted for the ride to the parking lot on top of Springer. Ben, Cathy and I hiked together for the mile up to the summit of Springer, took some pictures of a very nervous Rowdy, hiked back to the car, said a rather quick good-bye with long hugs that needed to last several months, and then I left my wife and son at Springer as I hiked down the trail looking for white blazes.

859Reflecting on the journey, which I do every day, there are times when I cannot believe I completed the thru-hike. Rocky (my wife’s trail name) and I hiked 13 miles recently and I wasn’t sure if I could make the distance. I realized that I averaged more mileage than that every day for 152 days. The people that I met, the incredible views that filled my summits, and the times of both hunger and gluttony only bring smiles to my face in 2016. A 30 pound pack, a dozen bears, four moose, a couple of face plants, the thrill of climbing the fire-towers, my fantastic Chaco sandals, and the relaxation of zero days paste a surreal experience in my mind.

HIF Cover PublishedThanks to all of you who have read my ebook, Hike It Forward (if you have not got your copy, just click on the book icon and it will take you to my Amazon listing). I have received many kind and encouraging shout outs from many of you. Please continue to pass the word among your friends. I would love to hear your comments and feedback (especially if you like it). Please let me know, as well, if you have any questions about the hike, or if you know of an opportunity for me to share the adventure. I am always looking for a chance to speak about the AT.

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Book, Chaco Sandals, Fire-tower, Georgia, Hike It Forward, Hiking, Maine, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Trail, Trail Name, White Blaze | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Journey is the Reward

Mount Katahdin fogI remember lying in bed before I began my thru-hike adventure of the Appalachian Trail trying to image the journey and what I would see, the experiences that I might encounter, the people that I would meet, and the animals that would cross my path. I remember my mind going to the topic of sleep as I felt so comfortable in my own bed. Would I be able to get to sleep, would I get enough sound sleep to feel rested in the morning, would I find good spots for my tent or would I be sleeping on rocks and roots that would prohibit a peaceful slumber in the woods? I tried to think of climbing Mount Katahdin (a mountain that I had never seen before) and arriving at the famous brown sign that graces the northern terminus of the AT. My mind’s eye could never focus in on that picture – I just could not see myself on the summit.

When I arrived at the Tableland, the gateway to the summit, with a distance of just 1.6 miles to the iconic sign, the reality began to set in that I was going to make it. With one mile to go I walked past Thoreau Spring (just a trickle on September 24, 2014) and began the final climb to the summit. Then I saw the sign in the distance and realized that many hikers were at the top celebrating their victory and the climax of months of hiking.

The Celebration

During this last mile of the hike, a principle that I had incorporated in my life during my doctoral studies came crashing into my mind. Katahdin was not the reward. The fantastic sign at the summit filled with celebration, high-fives, hugs, and voices of congratulations was not the reward. The journey was the reward. The sign marked the end of the journal, the last page of the recorded adventure, the final entry documenting the walk of 2,186 miles. It was the period after the title, Thru-hiker. It was a crowning experience to stand atop the sign and shout a victory cry of joy.

But the real reward was the journey. The 5 million steps counted one at a time. The sunny days and the rain storms, the sweltering hot July days in Pennsylvania and the cold nights in September in the wilderness of Maine provided the weather that defined the journey. The special friends and bonds of brotherhood that were crafted along the path formed the relationships of the reward. 20140603-185040.jpg 20140524-141412.jpg 20140505-084828.jpg Each campsite, shelter, hostel, and hotel brings a memory of the reward of the hobo lifestyle and independent uniqueness of the thru-hike. No two thru-hikes are the same and part of the reward is working through the personal struggles, victories, joys, and tears that make up the walk.

On the last day of the hike, the brown sign was a great reward. But reflecting back on the journey and this life-changing experience, the sign plays a pretty small part. Mount Katahdin was amazing, but so was Blood Mountain in Georgia, Mount Albert in North Carolina, Thunderhead Mountain in Tennessee, McAfee Knob in Virginia, Mount Lafayette in New Hampshire, and about twenty other absolutely incredible vistas experienced along the trail.

The reward is reading my journal and reflecting on the faithfulness of God – everyday, in every state, every night, and in every need – always protecting, always guiding, always providing. The journey was the reward.

 

Photo – Dream of Katahdin –  https://www.tripadvisor.ie/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g40744-d145958-i122917743-Mount_Katahdin-Millinocket_Maine.html

All Other Photos from my Thru-hike 2014

Categories: Albert Mountain, Appalachian Trail, Blood Mountain, Maine, McAfee Knob, Mount Katahdin, Mount Lafayette, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tableland, Tennessee, Thoreau Spring, Thru-Hike, Thunderhead Mountain, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Hike Around the Creek

IMG_1099Saturday morning (April 16), Rocky and I watched our four grandchildren. We had a great time with iPads, tea parties, and a treasure hunt for fruit snacks. The kids came over to “Mimi and Poppy’s” house around 8:15 and their mom picked them up about 10:45. It is enjoyable to spend time with them and see them grow up right before our eyes.

After the visit, Rocky and I decided to throw a backpack filled with hiking essentials (water, first aid kit, a couple of snacks, and sunglasses) into the trunk along with our trekking poles and to head out for a two hour hike in the woods. We wanted to catch some of the early spring wildflowers and the day was absolutely perfect – warm temperatures without a cloud in the bright blue skies.

We headed for Caesar Creek, one of my favorite local hiking spots. We arrived at the state park at noon feeling energized and excited about our adventure on such a beautiful day. With our lunch safely stored on my back, I remembered a special picnic table down by the lake that I thought would be a great place to pause and enjoy the breeze off the lake.

IMG_1109What I failed to remember was the distance and time involved to reach that picnic table. It took about two hours of pretty rugged hiking to reach the table on the beach. It was a great spot but the thought of turning around and hiking back the way we came did not appeal to either of us. Rocky asked how far it was to complete the loop trail and not retrace our path. We quickly did some math and figured that we were close to the 5 mile marker and the loop was 12.7 miles.

IMG_1111After discussing the pro and cons, we decided to continue on and do the loop! At 5:30 we arrived back at the parking lot, exhausted and elated. Our feet hurt but our spirits soared. We were glad that the circle was completed but celebrated with high fives and fist bumps. Rocky and Rowdy setting some records. Longest hike this year…. a loop trail without getting lost…. both of us making it from the garage to the living room without a leg cramp after sitting in the car for the 25 minute ride home from the park. As we chowed down on delicious food for dinner, neither of us had a solid conviction that we would be able to successfully stand up the following morning.

IMG_1104With all the background story aside, the hike was glorious. The occasional breezes coming off the lake made the trek quite comfortable. The natural air-conditioning helped to clear the mind and remove stress. The blue skies lifted our spirits heavenward and the wildflowers dotted the trail with life and spring and color. By the end our feet hurt but smiles ruled the day. We plopped into our Civic but breathed the air of accomplishment. Our senses were filled with God’s creation and our emotions were packed with peace and joy. It was a good day!

Categories: Backpack, Caesar Creek, Hiking, Local Hikes, Ohio, Rocky, Trail | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Fat Hen, Rooster Talon, and Mustard Seed

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon encounter some snow and ice

I am following several potential thru-hikers during the 2016 hiking season. In addition to Dulci and the Two Peas, who are still on the trail, I selected a young couple because they left on my birthday (March 19). I know almost nothing about them. Their real names are Dan and Becky but their trail names are Fat Hen (Dan) and Rooster Talon (Becky).

So far they are posting more pictures than written journal entries. I have posted several of their photographs in this blog and offer only this spotty itinerary to demonstrate their progress. They began with the demanding 8.8 mile approach trail from Amicalola Falls, Georgia on the 19th. Ten days later they arrived at Bly Gap just over the Georgia/North Carolina border (mile marker 78.6) averaging 7.9 miles per day. They hiked to the

Rooster Talon Camped In Snow/Ice

Rooster Talon Camped In Snow/Ice

NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) in North Carolina by day 16 boosting their per day mileage up to 8.5 miles and on to Fontana Dam, North Carolina on day 19 increasing the daily mileage to 8.73 miles. They entered the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and camped at the Mollies Ridge Shelter on day 21 at mile marker 176.8.  They have been experiencing some ice and snow along the way. On day 22 of their hike they arrived at Newfound Gap with frigid temperatures. They caught a ride into Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for a resupply with a plan to continue the next day. They have not posted since then (April 9). I remember having no cell phone coverage through the Smoky Mountains, so they may be trucking through the national park without being able to journal online. I am awaiting the end of their radio silence as they approach civilization.

Mustard Christian School

Mustard Seed with Students

I decided to follow at least one more thru-hiker this season. Her trail name is Mustard Seed. That name immediately caught my eye because of the possible biblical reference to faith. A little investigation led me to Central Christian School in Sharpsburg, Georgia where Michelle (Mustard Seed) teaches middle school Math and Bible. Michelle Mayne (what a great last name for a hike to Katahdin, Maine), was born in Alabama but now lives in Georgia with her husband Bill and two sons, Zak and Michael. Mustard Seed is hiking the AT with her father, Michael Williams aka, Negotiator. They began their adventure on April 1 heading NOBO toward the wilderness of Maine.

Mustard First Day

Mustard Seed and Dad, Negotiator

Mustard Seed and Negotiator appear to have done some nice physical preparation for the journey because they have averaged 12.7 miles during the first thirteen days of the hike including an 18.3 mile trek on day four. Their last post was from Fontana Dam, NC, on April 13. They were staying at the resort in order to rest up before entering the Smoky Mountains. If they left according to plan, they may be walking a part of the Appalachian Trail that makes contact with the outside world rather sporadic. They are making excellent progress but they have not taken a zero day in the first thirteen days of the adventure. I think they will soon discover the need for an extended rest.

I am interested to see if Dulci, Fat Hen & Rooster Talon, and Mustard Seed connect along the trail. Each started several days apart (March 13, March 19 and April 1) but they are all hiking through GSMNP at very different paces. I am interested to see who makes it out of the park first and who makes first contact via their online journals.

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon Photos: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=524129

Mustard Seed Photos: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=527226

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Fat Hen, Fontana Dam, Georgia, GSMNP, Hiking, Mustard Seed, NOBO, North Carolina, Rooster Talon, Snow, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Trail Name | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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