Monthly Archives: February 2018

Which Way and Next Step On the AT

Darrell (Next Step) & Alicia (Which Way) Brimberry began their thru-hike on February 24 from Springer Mountain, Georgia. Next Step enjoyed a 36-year career in the US Army and retired at 55 years-old as a Colonel. They have been living in the nation’s capital until his retirement. As they take the next few months to hike the trail their “stuff” is being housed in Which Way’s parent’s home in Kentucky.

Their first day on the trail brought them to Hawk Mountain Shelter (8.1 miles north of Springer Mountain). The day began with a small entourage (nine people) driving from Atlanta to Amicalola Falls State Park. Which Way and Next Step signed in at the Visitor’s Center and registered as hiker number 294 and 295. They also weighed their backpacks at the center and loaded with four days of food and two liters of water, Which Way’s pack weighed in at 28 pounds and Next Step totaled 35 pounds.

Amicalola Falls

After taking a few pictures at Amicalola, all nine of them piled back into their two vehicles and made the 30-mile, 60-minute drive up the gravel, dirt, and mud service road to a parking lot one mile from Springer Mountain. All nine of the group hiked to the summit of Springer, snapped some historic photos, and walked back to the parking lot. Finally, at 12:15 pm the actual hike began. They hiked most of the afternoon on comfortable terrain through some old growth forest and along several beautiful mountain streams. The warm temperatures brought out many day hikers. They passed by a few thru-hikers, including a blind man and his wife—together they are the Dynamic Duo—from Ohio. I have tried to find out a little more about the Dynamic Duo but without success (yet).

Their second day on the trail ended at Hooch Gap Shelter adding another 7.6 miles on the AT. They woke up to rain, waited until 8:00 to start their trek, and endured the rain until it cleared about 10:00. They were almost to the top of Sassafras Mountain when Next Step took a fall, “About that time, as I was working my way over a slab of wet, moss covered rock, my right foot slipped out from under me. I tried to catch myself and my upper leg buckled up under me and I severely torqued my quad…. Of course, Alicia was worried a bone was sticking out. Fortunately, that was not the case. After a few minutes, I was able to get up and limp for a bit and it finally let up enough for me to hike on…. Just wondering what it’s going to be like tomorrow!” I sure pray this fall does not cause this couple from DC any long-term problems.

They made it to the shelter around 3:00. They made camp, took some time to hang out with other hikers, and enjoyed some supper. A ridge runner, staying at the shelter, counted 14 thru-hikers with them at Hooch Gap. This is a nice bubble but the different paces of the hikers will soon bring separation to the group.

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Hawk Mountain, Springer Mountain, The Fall, Uncategorized, Which Way and Next Step | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Where Is Everyone on the Appalachian Trail?

I am tracking nine thru-hikers on the trail right now with at least four more to join them before the month of over. One, Genesis, started in West Virginia and is hiking north through Pennsylvania. He posts sporadically and as of February 18th, he had hiked about 79 miles. To help give you a visual on the journeys of the rest of the gang, I constructed the following table. The first column is an indicator of the first 200 miles of the AT. The second column is the miles hiked by a particular thru-hiker; the third is the name of the hiker; the fourth is the destination of each hiker on February 22; the last column is the date that each hiker began his adventure. (The last post by Hard Knocks was made on February 20 so he is, most likely, pushing his way through the Smoky Mountains where cell phone coverage is scarce.)

Miles Miles Hiked Hiker Destination Start Date
0 12.3 Sour Kraut Cooper Gap 2/21
  15.8 Chip Tillson Gooch Mt. 2/20
         
  31.7 Class Act Neel Gap 2/18
         
50        
         
  69.9 Bamadog Dick’s Creek 2/15
         
         
100        
  106 Zin Master Rock Gap 1/23
  114 Vagabond Jack Silar Bald 2/1
         
         
150        
         
  164.7 Opa Fontana Dam 2/10
         
         
200 199.1 Hard Knocks Clingman’s Dome 1/31

Four individuals were supposed to begin the hike since my last post. One hiker, Rogue Patriot was delayed waiting on his new tent to arrive in the mail. He hopes to hit the trail this Monday, February 26.  However, three others have officially joined the class of 2018.

Class Act

Class Act (Alan Conlon) began his adventure on February 18 and has hiked about 32 miles on the AT. He is a retired physician but is not a stranger to the trail. He took a leave of absence in 2014 (I did not meet him on the trail) to attempt a thru-hike. He completed 554 miles before an injury ended his hike. He is beginning his 2018 hike by utilizing a timeshare in Helen, GA. His wife is helping him slackpack along the way. He hiked 8.1 miles on day one; 7.6 on day two; and then 4.8 on day three having trekked over both the Sassafras and Justus Mountains and then meeting his wife at Woody Gap. They spent a zero-day together on the 21st in Dahlonega and then he hiked to Neel Gap on Thursday before his wife picked him up about 5:30.

Chip Tillson

On February 20, 2018, Chip Tillson (no trail, yet) hiked the approach trail from Amicalola Falls (8.1 miles to Springer Mountain) Unfortunately this mileage is on an approach trail and does not count as AT miles. Day two lead him 7.6 miles to Hawk Mountain Shelter. Day Three ended a Gooch Mountain after another 7+ mile day. I don’t know much about Chip background (hometown, age, or vocation) He mentions a special girl, Joyce, that I am assuming is his wife and his initial picture has a young man on his shoulders which looks like a son or a maybe a grandson.

Sour Kraut

Sour Kraut (Tim Pfeiffer) is the newest member of the cohort who started this past Wednesday, February 21. Sour Kraut hiked the approach trail as well so day one was only 0.3 miles on the AT. On day two he met a 70-year-old hiker, Dane, aka OG- old guy. He motivated Sour Kraut to hike up and over Sassafras Mountain and log in a 12-mile day. He ran into his first taste of trail blessing provided by “Snap” who offered fresh veggies and hummus. Sour Kraut is well on his way.

Zin Master

To quickly update the adventures of the others let me just give an insight from each. The chart above will tell you where they are. Zin Master, who was off-trail for over 2 weeks with blisters was hiked over 12 miles on two different days in the past week. He shares in his journal, “my feet have remained blister free now for 57 miles since I restarted…. If possible during the day I stop, change into dry socks and make any necessary adjustments to my taping. I’ve noticed the new boots becoming more and more comfortable as time goes on and hope the break in period is about over.”

Hard Knocks (still no photo), who started on January 31, is hiking very strong. He is somewhere in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It has been several days since a post but on February 20, he was at Clingman’s Dome and the 200-mile mark of the trail.

Vagabond Jack

Vagabond Jack, continues to make progress. He is logging less than 10 miles per day, but he seems to be enjoying his adventure. On Thursday, Jack got a late start (11:30) and only covered 4.6 miles. But he also experienced part of the power of the trail, “As the trail passes near Siler Bald [his destination for the day], it enters what appears to be a pasture. A side trail to the left climbs to the top of the Bald, where camping is allowed. It’s a rather steep climb to the top; similar to walking up a ski slope. But the climb is more than worth it. I’m so glad I decided to make the journey, arriving about 4:00. I was blown away by the views from the top. Finally, I was on a mountain without it being covered in fog!”

­

Four Horsemen -Opa on far left

Opa is putting in some nice mileage each day. He has found three other hiking buddies (Night Train, Jeep, and Captain Blackbeard) and they are calling themselves the four horsemen. “Each of us (the Four Horsemen) hikes at our own pace so we are scattered during the course of the day while hiking, but we have an agreed upon end of day destination.” They are taking a zero-day at Fontana Dam getting ready for the hike through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Bamadog

Bamadog is making good progress although his journal is rather sketchy and short. He seems to enjoy finding stealth (unmarked) campsites so it is not easy to discern where he is along the trail He stayed at a hostel (Top of Georgia) on February 21 just a few miles from Dick’s Creek Gap. He shares, “Took a nero. It was a good chance to dry out wet gear and get a good meal.I will be in North Carolina tomorrow God willing!”

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Fontana Dam, Georgia, Gooch Mountain, GSMNP, Hiking, North Carolina, Thru-Hike, Trail Blessing | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Early Hikers Continue to Hit the AT

January Start – I have mentioned the first six hikers listed below and thought I would give you an update on their progress.

Genesis

January 14, 2018 Genesis (Rick Miller) lives in Pennsylvania and has begun his hike at Harpers Ferry West Virginia. He is currently (2/18/18) camped at Caledonia State Park, PA, having trekked about 59 miles of the AT. He shares about his trail name: when I start in 2018 I will have just retired which will be a new beginning of life for me. Also a great name after one of the greatest rock bands of the 70s and 80s.

Zin Master

January 23, 2018 Zin Master (Ken Nieland) from Colorado developed blisters on the trail and ended up taking a 17 days break from the trail to get new boots, new trekking poles, and healing/rest for the sore feet. He is back on the trail and is staying (2/18/18) at Top of Georgia Hostel at Dick’s Creek Gap.

Mattman

January 23, 2018 Mattman (Matt Dilly) from Lancaster, Pennsylvania quickly decided that the AT adventure was not for him. He found great discouragement in the wintry weather and the loneliness of the trail He decided to leave the trail on January 27, 2018.

January 31, 2018 Hard Knocks (Patrick Knox) is keeping his hometown hidden from his reader so far. He caught a bus from New Orleans on the way to Atlanta, but I am not sure if that is “home” or not.  He has not posted a picture of himself either. I don’t think he is a criminal on the run, but he is hiking at a good pace. He spent the night (2/17/18) in Fontana Dam just south of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

February Start

Vagabond Jack

February 1, 2018: Vagabond Jack (Jack Masters) from Kansas has been hiking slow but steady since his first day on the trail. He is staying at Cater Gap on 2/18/18 which is about 93 miles into his adventure.

Opa

February 10, 2018: Opa (Reinhard Gsellmeier) is a retired engineer from Rochester, NY. He has been making big strides during his first week on the trail. He took his first zero-day on February 18th in Franklin, NC about 110 miles along the AT.

Bamadog

February 15, 2108: Bamadog (Marty Dockins), 61-years-old, retired last March. He had the pleasure of hiking with his son, Cory, for the first day of the hike. He has covered 44 miles in his first four days on the trail. He is camping on the 18th of February at a stealth camp 13+ miles north of Neel Gap.

Here is a list of those that plan to start the trail in later in February. I will attempt to track these brave folks and keep you posted on their progress.

Coming Up:

February 18, 2018       Class Act (Alan Conlon). He has not posted his first trail entry yet.

February 19, 2018       Rogue Patriot (Jamie Crowley)

February 20, 2018       Chip Tillson (Chip Tillson)

February 21, 2018       Sour Kraut (Tim Pfeiffer)

February 24, 2018       Which Way and Next Step (Darrell & Alicia Brimberry)

February 25, 2018       RTK (Bruce Matson). RTK is a friend of mine that was a trail angel to me in 2014. I look forward to tracking his progress!

February 26, 2018       Pigweed (Lee Richards)

February 27, 2018       Hickory (real name not shared)

Potentials

There are several others who have a start date in February but have not posted a blog entry in quite a while. I am doubtful that they are truly going to make the hike, but I will check and let you know for sure.

February 14, 2018       Kwai – No journal entry since October 31, 2017 (Jeffery Ruth)

February 17, 2018       Jamie Wilson – No journal entry since August 24, 2017 (Jamie Wilson)

February 18, 2018       Nomad – No journal entry since September 19, 2017 (Chip Ringo)

February 19, 2018       Dave and Abbie – No journal entry since September 25, 2017 (David Rouner)

February 28, 2018       Muffin No journal entry since January 30, 2017 (David Quinones)

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Fontana Dam, Georgia, GSMNP, Harpers Ferry, Hiking, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Opa’s Adventure 2/12-2/16

We last saw Opa, the retired engineer from Rochester, NY, at Woods Hole Shelter on February 12th, just short of 30 miles on the Appalachian Trail. He was tent camping and a light rain was being to fall. As he woke, he found the light rain was still overhead. The rain was not an issue during the day’s hike but the weather remained overcast and foggy all day. Any mountain summit views were obscured by the fog. He hiked 15 miles today and conquered five summits: Blood Mountain (a major milestone for early thru-hikers), Levelland Mountain, Cowrock Mountain, Wildcat Mountain (this was absolutely beautiful when I passed by in 2014 – so sorry it was foggy), and Poor Mountain.

Along the way, he stopped at Neel Gap for some tasty food (a couple of pepperoni Hot Pockets and thee Twinkies – oh the hiker’s diet!) and a quick shower at Mountain Crossings Outfitter. After a nice break, He hiked on and ended the day at Low Gap Shelter. He set up his tent and looked forward to a good night’s sleep.

Wednesday brought another day of rain, but Opa legged out another 15+ mile hike. He arrived at Tray Mountain Shelter 2:00, so he took advantage of some time to air dry his sleeping bag and tent. There were nine hikers camping in or around the shelter, all wet, all hoping for sunshine tomorrow. On a positive note, Opa notes that there is plenty of good mountain stream water available.

Thursday, 2/15/18, was an 11-mile day that started in the dark. After a wet and windy night, Opa was hiking at 4:30 am by headlamp. He was motivated to get to Dick’s Creek Gap and the Top of Georgia Hostel. His plan was to rest as much of the day as possible before moving on Friday morning. He arrived at the hostel at 9:30. Opa had a delightful day at the hostel meeting Sir Packs’o’Lot who runs the place. He is a triple crowner – one who has thru-hiked the AT, the Pacific Crest Trail (Mexico to Canada), and the Continental Divide Trail (another north/south trail that follows the Rocky Mountains through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico).

Several hikers staying at Top of Georgia caught a shuttle into Hiawassee to eat at Daniel’s Steak House an AYCE buffet for $8.00. Opa makes a short list of NOBO thru-hikers that he has met so far along the trail: Jeep, Captain Blackbeard, Vagabond Jack, Reese, Weeds and Zin Master. Notice two others that I am following on trailjournals.com: Vagabond Jack and Zin Master. I cross-referenced Vagabond Jack’s blog and he was one of the group that went to Daniel’s Steak House. Vagabond Jack mentioned meeting Opa and noted that Opa was hiking much faster than he was so they might not see one another again.

Friday, brought another rainy hike, but Opa maintained a good attitude. He hit the big milestone of crossing the Georgia/North Carolina border, he logged 16.7 miles (for a total of 85 miles so far on the AT), and he saw a large black snake. He has been hiking with three other hikers for the last three days. They scatter during the day but rendezvous at night. They are calling themselves the four horsemen.

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Hiawassee, Neel Gap, Opa | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Zin Master 2/13-2/16

Zin Master (Ken Nieland) – after 17 days off the trail, healing from blisters and waiting on some new equipment, is back on the Appalachian Trail.

His first day back on the path was Tuesday, February 13. He was dropped off at the trailhead at Hogpen Gap and hiked south back to Neel Gap (6.9 miles). The next day he was shuttled back to Hogpen Gap and hiked 4.6 miles north to Low Gap Shelter. His mileage is purposely low as he breaks in some new boots and evaluates potential blisters. The boots are working well, and Zin is using some KT tape ( Kinesiology Therapeutic Tape) and applying foot glide (anti-blister balm) hoping to avoid the painful blisters that can ruin a hike.

Thursday brought a 9.7-mile hike with good results. The trail started with a gradual climb for five miles along an old logging road, then the rocks began to make the path difficult. Zin states that one internet site ranks the North Georgia section as the fifth hardest on the AT. I would not agree with this assessment, although it might feel like it to the thru-hiker just getting started without the strength and power of toned legs and without the experience provided by the challenge the Great Smokey Mountains, by the rocks of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and by the trail above-line in New Hampshire and Maine.

Zin Master’s plan for the day was to stay at Blue Mountain Shelter (7.3 miles). He arrived, took off his boots and started getting ready for the evening. Two other thru-hikers arrived (Big Load and Ghost) at the shelter along with two day-hikers. Zin received a text message from his wife and wanted to return the call but the cell phone coverage was not very good at the shelter (a common disappointment along the AT). Zin asked the day-hikers if they could give him a ride to Hiawassee, they agreed, he joined them on a 2.5-mile hike down into Unicoi Gap, and enjoyed finding a spot at the Budget Inn.

In his journal entry for Thursday (2/15/18), Zin Master provides some insight into his hiking strategy:  This first section of my restart was critical. I was hoping to hold it together for 7.3 miles, and I ended up going 9.7 without any problems. Today was the first time I started to feel confident that the bigger miles will come. I’m going to continue to keep my mileage conservative for a while, but I’m planning a 12+ sometime next week if everything continues to go well.

Zin took another zero-day in Hiawassee on Friday with plans to return to the trail on Saturday with a goal of hiking six miles. The weather report is projecting rain (no real surprise there) so he hopes to get an early start (8:00) and make it to the shelter by mid-day to dry off, warm up, and recover physically.

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Hiawassee, Thru-Hike, Zin Master | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Who is Pat on the Appalachian Trail?

Pats ID Photo

I really don’t know much. There is not even a good picture of him yet. His name is Patrick Knox and he has been given the trail name Hard Knocks (Knox). He began his adventure on January 30. He began his hike at a modest pace reaching Neel Gap in five days, including the challenging hike over Sassafras Mountain, (approximately 8 miles per day). He took a zero-day on Day Six in Neel Gap to wait out the predicted cold, icy rain. The weight of his backpack was bothering him early in the hike (40 pounds), so he took advantage of a free service at Mountain Crossing to evaluate the contents of one’s backpack called a shakedown. He was able to eliminate 12 pounds!! He removed some un-necessary tools (scissors, Leatherman, small hammer/axe) and some heavy unneeded clothes (blue jeans and cotton shirts).

The Icy Rains on the AT

He increased his distance for the next two days (averaging 10 miles per day) and arrived at Unicoi Gap on February 6. The weather forecast called for two inches of icy rain so Hard Knox, Bob and AJ rented a B&B in Hiawassee and they enjoyed a zero-day on the 7th. Reflecting on his eight days on the trail Pat provided his readers with one warning and one piece of advice: let me add a warning to future hikers. This a serious, strenuous undertaking and not just a walk in the woods. One other bit of advice. Buy quality trekking poles and know how to use them. I would echo this wisdom from the woods.

Hard Knocks increased his output again for the next four hiking days to average 13 miles each day. On February 9th, he conquered Georgia and entered in the state of North Carolina. He experienced two days of constant rain (2/10 & 2/11). He made a statement in his journal after the first day of ten hours of rain walking that so resonates with my philosophy. He wrote: I am not complaining mind you. I find that when people recount their experiences it is always adversity that makes for the best stories. Rocky and I often look at one another on our hikes and sat “No Adversity, No Adventure!”

The rain made his hike and rock scramble over Albert Mountain slick and edgy but he found it to be lots of fun. Then on February 12th, after 4 inches of rain in three days, he and Bob (now Bobcat) walked 3.7 miles to Winding Stair Gap and then hitched a ride into Franklin, North Carolina to dry out, eat and resupply at the Gooder Grove Hostel. Hard Knocks decided to purchase a new backpack in Franklin. His first pack was causing issues for his hipbones.

The NOC

Tuesday, the 13th brought a no rain day!! Pat and Bob logged in 11 miles of strenuous trail with lots of elevation as they made their camp at Wayah Bald Shelter. Hard Knocks’ new pack seemed to be more comfortable, but the goal of 17 miles on the 14th would provide better insights. The 14th was rain free as well, but the trail maintained their sloppy almost swampy challenge. Pat’s new pack is causing hipbone discomfort like his old one, so his plan was to check at the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) for some advice the next day.

The expert at the NOC made some significant adjustments to Hard Knocks’ pack which made significant improvement to his hike. Because of the late start, Bobcat and Pat only made 6.9 miles, but with the pain-free strides and the trails that are drying up and the beautiful views, Hard Knocks declared the day a good day. He is looking forward to the Smokies, 21 miles further north.

I like the attitude of Hard Knocks that flows from his journal. I firmly believe that emotional balance and spiritual stability are essentials for a successful thru-hike. Distance will increase, legs will get stronger, but within an inner joy and desire to be on the Appalachian Trail the chances of seeing Mount Katahdin greatly decrease. I’ll continue to keep you posted on Pat, Hard Knocks

Categories: Albert Mountain, Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Hard Knocks, Nantahala Outdoor Center, Neel Gap, North Carolina, Thru-Hike, Trekking Poles | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Class of 2018 – January Brave-Hearts

My approach this year to following thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail in 2018 is to focus on those leaving early in the season. I have identified 20 journals that have indicated a January or February start. Some of these individuals might not follow through with their plans and their journals will be empty after their start date. There are four individuals that started their adventures in Jtodayanuary and sixteen are hoping to hit the trail in February. Let me share today about the brave January guys.

1. Rich Miller, Genesis, and his sister (Maxine) started their thru-hikes on January 14. A pre-hike post on January 13 presented their plan.

Since we live close to the AT in PA my sister and I are starting our hike tomorrow. We will cover the trail from Harper’s Ferry to Pine Grove Furance over the next week. Do to the weather this coming week we will be doing some slack packing and overnights. I will come home and retire and then hike farther north until the end of February. I have a doctors appointment at the end of February.  Then my sister will take me to Springer Mountain hoping to beat the rush.

Rich has made one other post (1/26/18): …with the temperatures ranging from 12 degrees to 28 degrees and winds and snow we worked out a plan to slack pack the entire section [from Harpers Ferry to Pine Grove Forest].  The last 2 days we hiked in 3 – 4 inches of snow in northern MD and southern PA. … I have a cabin about 3 miles south of Pine Grove Furnace and about .5 miles from the AT so that will be my base for several hikes until I get north of Boiling Springs.  I have several appointments in February so that is the delay to Springer Mountain.

I have not heard from him since then, so I am not sure what is happening. His strategy seems rather complicated to follow so I will follow his progress the best I can.

Zin Master

2, Ken Nieland, Zin Master, started on the 22nd of January and I have reported on his progress several times. He is back on the trail after a 17-day rest with his in-laws in Tennessee.

Mattman

3. Matt Dilley, Mattman, began his adventure on 1/23/18. He was only able to persevere for four days and three nights. He quickly realized that he had started too early in the season. He was cold and lonely on the trail. He did not indicate that he would return when the weather warms but that he would consider section hikes in the future.

Pat’s ID Photo

4. Pat, Patrick Knox, stepped out on January 31. In a pre-hike post, he shared,

Yes, I know it is January and yes, I know I will be hiking in the cold. One of my main reasons for leaving so early is that I want to beat the rush and not have to compete for trail/shelter space. Also, I plan on taking my time and getting to Katahdin while the weather is still nice there. I hope to keep this journal going as completely as I can. But in the interest of full disclosure, I will sometimes forward information to my brother who will then post it here for me so my info will sometimes be running a little behind. Happy trails.

His post on January 31 was short and sweet: A good day to hike.

I checked his journal for several days and there were no updates. I figured that either he was off the trail or his brother was having difficulties posting. On February 15th I re-check his blog and it had exploded with updates. I am in the process of reading his journal and will make my initial background post about this thru-hiker in the next few days. I’ll also do a quick sketch of the hikers starting in February.

 

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

Zin and the Vagabond

Zin Master (Ken Nieland) after hiking for three days and developing blisters, has been off the Appalachian Trail for 17 consecutive days. He has been staying with his in-laws in Tennessee. His hope is to return to the trail on Tuesday, February 13. He is planning on leaving Tennessee at 4:00 am in order to drop off his rental car in Blairsville, Georgia when Enterprise opens at 8:00. He has arranged for a shuttle driver (Pretzel) to take him to the trailhead at Tesnatee Gap. From there Zin will hike 6 miles southbound (SOBO) – back to Neel Gap while Pretzel takes most of his supplies with him. (This is called slackpacking – someone takes for heavy stuff like your tent, sleeping bag, etc. and meets you down the trail while you hike with just the needed supplies for the day.) Zin will stay at Blood Mountain Cabins or Mountain Crossing on Tuesday night. Pretzel will pick him up on Wednesday morning and shuttle him again to Tesnatee Gap and Zin will continue his NOBO hike from there.

Sounds complicated? I let you know how it all turns out when he posts in his journal in the next few days.

Vagabond Jack (Jack Masters) began his thru-hike on Appalachian Trail on February 1 with a 5.2-mile hike from Springer Mountain to Long Creek Falls. Day Two found him helping another hiker in distress to find refuge in Hightower for a hike of only 3.4 miles. Vagabond took two zero-days in Dahlonega, Georgia to avoid some winter weather. He returned on February 5th and hiked 7.2 miles from Hightower to Gooch Mountain. His longest trek so far was on February 6th from Gooch Mountain to Woods Hole Shelter (12.1 miles). He took a short day on the 7th with a 3.5-mile hike into Neel Gap and then a ride into Blairsville, followed by a 0 day on February 8.

Vagabond Jack returned to Neel Gap on the 9th and hiked 11.5 miles to Low Gap. The next day he managed 7.3-miles from Low Gap to Blue Mountain Shelter. He then hiked into Unicoi Gap (2.4 miles) and took a shuttle into Hiawassee, Georgia. He zeroed in Hiawassee on the February 12th. Vagabond Jack plans to return to the trail on the 13th and hike from Unicoi Gap to Tray Mountain (about 5.7 miles).

I am hoping that the warmer weather coming in the next few weeks will allow Jack to up his mileage. Less than 4.5 miles per day does not spell a successful thru-hike. I can tell by his journal that he is becoming discouraged and fighting for some determination to continue. He shares in his 2/12/18 post from Hiawassee:

“It’s said that about 25% of all people who start out as thru-hikers quit at Neel Gap, about 32 miles into the 2200-mile trek. I can see why. It’s not easy! It is not a walk in the woods. It is constantly climbing up and going down. In some sections, the trail is nothing but rocks, and each step has the potential to twist an ankle or worse. It’s taking 10 steps up a slope, then stopping for 10 seconds to catch your breath, then repeating that process for an hour. It’s taking even longer going down the other side of that mountain because you have to carefully consider every step. It’s sleeping on a hard platform in a shelter, side by side with strangers who snore, fart, and toss and turn. It’s your nose getting cold in the middle of the night, but knowing you can’t sleep with your head in your sleeping bag or you’ll wake up with a wet bag from the condensation from your breath. It’s eating crappy food, filtering water when your hands are numb from the cold…”

My prayers go out to both these hiker. They have both had a difficult, discouraging start.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Blood Mountain, Georgia, Hiawassee, Neel Gap, Thru-Hike, Vagabond Jack, Zin Master | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Opa’s Thru-hike

Opa, Reinhard Gsellmeier, lives in Rochester, NY.  He is a 66-year-old retired engineer. Opa is happily married to his wife, Kayanne, and they have a wonderful family including two children/spouses and five grandchildren. His grandchildren call him Opa and his wife Oma – thus his trail. Opa has done a fair amount of backpacking/ hiking/ snowshoeing in the northeast. He has most of his experience in the Adirondacks but also has had adventures in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.

Opa’s plan for his AT thru-hike will consist of 2-parts.  He began on the 10th of February and part one will run through the beginning of June (he hopes to be somewhere in New Hampshire). He will then get off the trail for family reasons and resume the thru-hike in early September.

In a pre-hike journal entry, Opa listed several reasons for making his hike of the AT. Two of them touched my heart and made me an instant fan:

Opa and one of his grandsons

Reason No. 2:  I want to complete the AT for my wonderful grandkids. Maybe someday, at a time in each of their lives when they are faced with their own challenge, they’ll be inspired by their old Opa.  Maybe they’ll say to themselves that Hey, if Opa can hike the AT, then I can overcome my challenge as well. Who knows, maybe they’ll someday even be inspired to undertake their own AT thru-hike – now wouldn’t that be grand!

Reason No.4: It is my understanding that there are just over 500 people 60 or older that have completed an AT thru-hike. That’s a relatively small number. I’d like to add my name to that list!

The Adventure Begins: February 10, 2018

Opa’s adventure began with an Amtrak ride from Rochester, NY to Gainesville, GA. The bad news was Amtrak was about 2 hours late pulling into Gainesville, but the good news: the shuttle driver, Ron Brown, was ready to go as soon as Opa got off the train. Opa was on the approach trail of the AT in Amicalola Falls State Park at 10:30 in the morning. He registered at Amicalola as hiker number 62. The approach trail is 8.8 miles to the summit. These miles obviously don’t count, so Opa’s total AT mileage was only 0.2 miles. It did rain all afternoon, but it was a vertical rain and not blowing in his face and the temperatures were mild. The trail ended up being wet and muddy, but the rain provided a good shakedown of his rain gear. Opa ratings: “all systems are a go.” He spent the first night in the Springer Mt. Shelter with Greg and Big Load.

Hawk Mountain Shelter

February 11, 2018: 7.9 miles of hiking (total 8.1 miles)

Opa was so glad he spent the night in the shelter because it poured down the rain most of the night. The heavy rain didn’t let up till about 10:00 so Opa got a rather late start. Once he, Big Load and Greg began hiking they found the trail in decent shape despite all the rain. Somewhere along the way, Greg dropped behind. The heavy rain started in again about 3:00 and the radar indicated more rain to come (flash flood warnings), so Opa and Big Load elected to stay at Hawk Mt. Shelter for the night.

February 12, 2018: 19.4 miles!! (total 27.5 miles)

Tent at Woods Hole Shelter

Monday was a long day but a delightful one. Opa and Big Load got a 6 AM start, hiking by headlamps. There was no rain for a change but the weather was misty and foggy all morning. The sun broke through in the afternoon turning the day into a sunny but cool one – it ended up being a perfect afternoon for hiking, enabling Opa to pound out some long mileage. He decided to sleep in his tent, as opposed to the shelter, to avoid the annoying mice. Opa was the only one at Woods Hole Shelter. He was not sure where Big Load was along the trail, although Opa hoped that he will show up at their rendezvous point before nightfall.

What a good start for the retired engineer from New York State.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Georgia, New York, Opa, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vagabond Jack Headed North

View from Sassafras Mt.

After hiking on the Appalachian Trail for two days and covering 8.6 miles of the trail, Vagabond Jack took two zero days (rest days – not hiking at all) in Dahlonega, Georgia, avoiding some wintry weather. On Monday, 2/5/18, Jack got back on the trail where he left off at Hightower Gap. The shuttle driver dropped Vagabond Jack about 9:15 on this cold and windy day. He climbed up and over Sassafras Mountain, a nice introduction to the climbs in northern Georgia. He was not surprised by the challenge as Jack has experienced several of the mountains in the Smokies this past summer. Monday’s hike ended at Gooch Mountain Shelter just before 3:00. He completed his 7.2-mile trek in under six hours

Tuesday (2/6/18) brought a 12.1-mile trail to Vagabond Jack’s agenda. The goal was to walk to Wood’s Hole Shelter, only 4 miles from Neel Gap and civilization. He was hoping to be on the trail by 8:00 but his need for some added sleep delayed his start by 45 minutes. He was 5.2 miles down the trail by noon when arrived at Woody Gap and State Route 60. It was here that he experienced his first Trail Magic (what I would prefer to call Trail Blessings). A young man hopped out of a car and asked Jack if he was a thru-hiker. He handed Jack a banana and some words of encouragement.

Preaching Rock

Jack continued down the path and was rewarded when he reached Preaching Rock with beautiful views of some the valleys and mountains of the AT in Georgia. About 3:00, he arrived at Lance Creek campground with another 4 miles to Woods Hole Shelter. Rain was predicted for early evening but had not started at 3:00. He did not want to set up or tear down his tent in the rain, so he decided to continue to the shelter. He arrived about 5:45 and the rain was still just a threat in the evening sky. He made himself comfortable in the shelter realizing that he was the only one there. He went to sleep knowing that he was only four miles to Neel Gap, but also aware that he would need to summit Blood Mountain on the way.

Vagabond Jack woke up to rain on Wednesday morning. Knowing that he had a short hike into Neel Gap, he decided to wait for a while hoping that the rain would calm down. About 10:30 the strength of the rain began to weaken and by 11:00 Vagabond Jack was on the trail. Blood Mountain is the real deal. It is a challenge to climb, but it presents a more dangerous descent. It was foggy and misty as Vagabond Jack made his way up and over the summit. The large, rain-slickened rocks demanded the use of his hands to maneuver down the steep sheets of rock.

He was tired and thirsty when he walked into Mountain Crossing, the outfitters at Neel Gap. It was about 3:30 so he bought some food, grabbed a coke and caught a ride to Blairsville, Georgia, about 14 miles away. He checked into the Season’s Motel and took a long hot shower. He is taking a zero-day in Blairsville on Thursday and should be back on the trail on Friday.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Blood Mountain, Georgia, Gooch Mountain, Sassafras Mountain, Shelter, Thru-Hike, Trail Blessing, Trail Magic | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.