I decided to follow several thru-hikers this year in order to trace their journeys from Georgia to Maine. I selected two thru-hikers that started in February, three hikers that had March start dates and I hope to pick up a few more that will leave Springer Mountain in April.
Let me fill in some background information on the hikers that have started their adventure in February. The portrait of these hikers is very limited and sketchy because they typically do not share much online, so I am just pasting together what I can glean.
My first selection was a couple hailing from Florida. They call themselves Two Peas. They have separate trail names: Mrs. Pea (I don’t know real last names) is Kristin who goes by the trail name of “Moonbeam.” Mr. Pea is Robert, dubbed “Big Cypress” on the AT. They have a son, Patrick and a daughter-in-law, Amanda. Amanda updates the journal occasionally when cell-phone coverage makes it impossible for the Two Peas to connect. They have one wonderful grandson Emmett, who seems to be a big motivator for the Two Peas. This is the first long distance hike for either of the Floridians. I picked these two for two reasons. One, they are grandparents, like Rocky and me, and two, they sign off each blog post with Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” I greatly identify with this couple and pray that God will encourage them and teach them like He did this grandfather in 2014.
They began their journey on February 13, 2016 from Springer Mountain, GA. It took them five days to reach Neel Gap averaging about 6.3 miles each day. On March 1, day 18 of the adventure, they arrived at the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) completing 137.3 miles of the trail increasing their average to 7.6 miles per day. They hit the streets of Hot Springs, NC, the first trail town moving northbound, on March 14 having logged in 273.9 trail miles of the Appalachian Trail – pulling the average daily hike up to 8.6 miles.
Sixteen days later they walked into Damascus, Virginia. This 48th day of their hike marked a milestone that every thru-hiker remembers. Damascus is a key spot of accomplishment. It is located 476.8 miles into the journey and, more importantly, it resides in the state of Virginia. The Two Peas arrived in this iconic trail town having boosted their average daily hike up to 9.9 miles.
They reached the 600 mile marker on day 57 as they arrived at Trent’s Grocery and a ride to Woods Hole Hostel on April 9, 2016. This wonderful hostel brings great refreshment to the body and the spirit. They arrived having averaged 10.6 miles of hiking per day. They continue to gain strength and boost their daily treks. On the 11th of April they hiked 17.1 miles and the 12th of April yielded 15 miles! Their journal is a delightful read as Moonbeam records the details of their adventure. They are well on their way to a successful thru-hike. My prayers are with them. I will keep you posted.
My second selection to follow was Mark Holmgren. Mark had a 35+ year career at the Hershey Company in Pennsylvania. I cannot find out much more about him, but I was drawn to him because of his home state (the state where I was born) and his retirement from Hershey (I remember my boyhood visit to this town and loving the giant Hershey Kisses as street lights.
Mark left Springer Mountain on February 21 and spent his first night at Hawk Mountain Shelter (about 8.1 miles from the southern terminus). Mark does not keep a disciplined daily journal like Moonbeam so it is a little more difficult to track his progress. It appears as if he made it to Low Gap (mile 43.2) on day five and Fontana Dam on March 6, day 15 of the journey. Fontana Dam is at the 164.7 mile marker reflecting an daily average of 11-miles of hiking for Mark. His journal on Sunday, the 6th of March, reflects a special meeting that took place along the trail from his daughter, Sarah. She drove four hours after work on Friday to meet him. They hiked eight miles together on Saturday and arrived at Fontana Dam. However, his post on March 10 finds him at home having decided to leave the trail for a family health matter. I hope and pray that all is well with his family and maybe another year will provide his successful thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.
Two Peas Photo: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?trailname=19145
Mark Holmgren Photo: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=522841