I have chosen, somewhat randomly, a few potential thru-hikers to follow during their adventures on the Appalachian Trail. I have already shared about three hikers that stepped out from Springer Mountain in February. A husband and wife team (Big Cypress and Moonbeam) are making good time and are well into Virginia. Mark Holmgren, from Pennsylvania, had to get off the trail after about 15 days due to family health concerns.
I selected three thru-hikers to follow that began their journeys in March. Two started on March 13 and one started on my birthday, March 19 (this third hiker will be the topic of my next blog). The two adventures that began on March 13 belong to the Coopers (father and daughter) and a single hiker, Dulcigal. Let me share some background and the current status of each.
The Coopers are a father and his oldest daughter from Jacksonville, Florida. They were both given trail names while on the AT. The Dad is called “Carrot Stick” because he wears lots of orange. His daughter, Ariel, has been dubbed “Possumhead” because of the short buzz cut she adopted for the hiking adventure (I love this trail name). They signed in at Amicalola Falls and received hiker numbers 597 and 598 as they began their thru-hike. I love the idea of a father/daughter bonding experience and I was intrigued by their philosophical statement made at the end of each post, “It feels good to be lost in the right direction.”
They began on March 13 from Springer Mountain and hiked 8.5 miles of the AT ending their first night at Hawk Mountain Shelter. Neel Gap (mile 31.7) was reached on day four and on Day 10 of the hike they had hiked to Muskrat Creek Shelter and mile marker 81.4, for an average of 8.14 miles per day. The Coopers stayed at the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) on day 15 increasing their daily average to 9.1 miles per day.
They made it to Fontana Dam on March 30 maintaining a little over a 9 mile per day pace. They took three days at Fontana to rest and refuel before stepping out into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The fourth day into GSMNP they arrived at Newfound Gap (39 miles into the 71 mile trek through the park) and decided to rest some aching joints in Gatlinburg, TN. They took three additional days in Gatlinburg and decided to abandon their thru-hike experience.
Their final post ended with a sad note, “Well we tried getting back on the trail but the swollen knees didn’t seem to want to cooperate. So after taking another few days off we have decided to end our journey. Both of us are very sad with this decision. We wanted to go much farther up the trail. However, we don’t want to jeopardize permanent damage to either of us. As I had said earlier this was going to be a test to my left knee. The knee has failed the test.” http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?trailname=20146 Sometimes a physical injury prohibits any more advancement and your body tells you to walk away. Wisdom says to obey what your body is saying. Walk away in order to walk again someday.
My second potential thru-hiker leaving on March 13 is Dulcigal from Jackson, Georgia. She is 53 years old and her real name is Karla Redman. She is the founder and CEO of Crosspoint Counseling Center in Jackson and has been a mental health provider for 25 years. Dulcigal earned her MS from University of Texas, her Masters from Liberty University and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. She took her trail name with her on the AT and it reflects her love for Appalachian music and her skill as a dulcimer player. Her name has been shortened by fellow hiker to “Dulci,” which she seems to have embraced with pleasure.
Dulci does not keep a consistent journal so it is not easy to track her progress but I have discerned some major landmarks in her quest so far. She began on March 13 from Springer Mountain and arrived at Neel Gap on day five, March 17, averaging 6.34 miles per day. She hiked to Dick’s Gap by day 10 by maintaining the same basic daily mileage. She stopped in Franklin, NC for a zero day, arriving there on day 13 and increasing her daily mileage to 8.5. Dulci made it to Fontana Dam and mile marker 165.8 on day 20 before taking on the GSMNP. Like the Coopers, she made it to Newfound Gap. She met one of her cousins on April 8th at Newfound Gap and they took a break from the trail in Gatlinburg, TN.
Cooper Photos: http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=1006792
Head Photo of Karla: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karla-redman-a720a246?authType=name&authToken=Ox0y&trk=prof-sb-browse_map-photo
Dulci at Springer: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=527167