Daily Archives: March 20, 2018

AT Hikers: March 17th Update

The AT thru-hikers continue to make their way north. Not everyone posts every day so it is difficult to give an overall update. Most of the hikers posted on March 17th, so the report below reflects their progress on Saturday.



Rich Miller from Pennsylvania and his sister began their hike on January 14. They did some hiking in PA for a few weeks; then made their way to Springer Mountain, Georgia; then began their NOBO hike on March 1. Coming off Blue Mountain on Tuesday (March 8th) both his knees started to hurt, so they decided to drive back to PA to recoup (10-hour drive).  The plan is to drive back to Unicoi Gap over Easter weekend and hike north once again.

Zin Master

Zin, Ken Nieland, decided to get off the trail on February 27 with tendinitis in his lower right leg. No update on his blog since then. I have not taken him off my official list, but he has been silent for 18 days. This will be my last report on Zin Master unless he updates his journal.

Hard Knocks

Hard Knocks

Patrick Knox, tail name Hard Knocks, started on January 31. His journal has been silent since March 10th when he was taking a zero-day at Kincora Hostel off Dennis Cove Road near Hampton, Tennessee. He had injured his ankle and decided to take some rest. His journal reflected three zero-day at the hostel and then no updates. His last entry had a sense of concern for upcoming weather, I am thinking that for me it is better to rest and recuperation for one more day.  There is snow here and reportedly more on the mountain and the winds continue to howl.” I’ll keep you posted when he updates his online journal.

Max Patch

Vagabond Jack

Jack Masters, from Kansas City, took his first steps on the famous Appalachian Trail on February 1. Vagabond Jack continues to plug along. He has made it through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, over the beautiful Max Patch, and at his last post was relaxing in Hot Springs, NC, the first true trail town along the AT.


A wild pony at Grayson Highlands

Opa (Reinhard Gsellmeier), the retired engineer from Rochester, NY, began his thru-hike on February 10. He is the first of this early cohort to have hiked more than 500 miles. On March 17th he was at mile marker 531.2 and the Roan Mountain Visitor Center near Marion, Virginia. Opa has passed through Damascus, Virginia and has seen the wild ponies at Grayson Highlands in the snow. He has been hiking as part of the Four Horsemen, but he reported on March 14, “Well the 4 Horsemen are no longer a foursome. Night Train is unfortunately off the trail, Jeep had to take some time off earlier but is back on the trail (he may catch me), and Capt. Blackbeard is ahead of me with the intention of hiking big miles (he has a work commitment and must be finished sometime in June). It was good while it lasted, I really enjoyed hiking with those guys.”

Bamadog’s Snowy Shelter


Marty Dockins hit the trail on February 15th. Like all of these hikers, he has been slugging through snow, ice, cold winds, and slush for several days in mid-March. He has recently been experiencing some leg pain and hopes for a nero-day into Erwin, Tennessee on Sunday, March 18.

Class Act


Snow on the hills of the GSMNP

Retired physician, Alan Conlon, took his first steps on the AT on February 18, 2018. Unfortunately, he decided to end his hike on March 14th. He had two days of very difficult hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Both days the temperatures were in the 20s and then at night they dropped into the single digits. The snowy and slick trails made the elevation challenges even more difficult. When he arrived at Spence Field Shelter on the 14th, he found a structure built to sleep 12. That night there were 25 hikers sharing the space. Deciding to get off the trail in GSMNP is complicated. There are very few roads that cross the park, so logistics are a problem. Class Act ended up turning around and hiking 17 miles south (two days) back to Fontana Dam. Along the way he had called Stecoah Wolf Creek Hostel and reserved a room/ bed for Friday and Saturday nights, as well as a shuttle ride from the trail-head. From the hostel he journaled, “I am comfortable giving up the thru-hike.  Weather is up and down on the trail – it was not the reason I am stopping.  My bigger problem was that after 4 weeks both my daily distance and speed were not responding. If you hike an average of 15 miles/ day, 6 days/week w/ 1 zero/ week, it takes 5-1/2 to 6 months to complete the AT thru-hike.  I just was not getting there this time.”   


Chip Tillson

Chip began his AT adventure on February 20, 2018. As of March 17 he has trekked over 200 miles and finds himself about half-way through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On March 16, he slipped on some mud and took a nasty fall, landing on his left elbow and wrenching his shoulder. The nearest hitch was almost 18 miles ahead at Newfound Gap. He made plans to hike forward and meet a friend at Newfound Gap and spend some time evaluating his injury in Raleigh, NC. On March 17th he is at Mt Collins Shelter and less than 5 miles from his rendezvous point. (Sorry, Chip does not post photos, so I have no visual for you.)

Sour Kraut near Clingmans Dome

Sour Kraut

Tim Pfeiffer, who started on February 21st.  His photo journal makes it difficult to track his mileage but his last photos show him at the Standing Indian Hostel on the north end of the Great Smoky Mountains, logging in 241 miles of the trail.

Cable Gap Shelter

Which Way and Next Step

Darrell (Next Step) and Alicia (Which Way) Brinberry, retired military most recently stationed in Washington, DC, began their adventure on February 24th. They are consistently taking small chunks out of the long-trail. On day 22 of their journey (March 17) they logged 159 miles and are camped at Cable Gap Shelter- just 5 miles south of Fontana Dam and the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Dave and Abbie

Dave Snow and his dog (trail name Abbie) started the Appalachian Trail on February 26th. Dave’s last post was on March 11 when he and Abbie were taking a zero day in Franklin. I am a little concerned that he has been silent for a week. His words sound a little negative, but he has tended toward melancholy throughout his posts. (No new photos)

RTK Water (ice) Fall


Return To Katahdin (RTK), Bruce Matson is reporting his adventure in posts summarizing each week. He post a week behind his current location so his last post reflects his journey through March 10.  He has not taken a zero day in his first fourteen days on the trail and has made it to mile marker 159.2 to Cable Gap Shelter just south of Fontana Dam (the same shelter as Which Way and Next Step only a week earlier).

Pigweed’s Sunset on Cheoah Bald


Pigweed, Lee Richards, started with the approach trail from Amicalola Falls on February 26 and started accumulating AT miles on the 27th. On my last post, I mentioned Pigweed’s struggle with his Achilles heel. He seemed to be doing fine after a zero day in Franklin, NC. However on March 17th, the day after a good climb out of Nantahala Outdoor Center up to Cheoah Bald (3,300 feet in elevation) he found that his ankle injury had returned. He managed to hike 5.5 miles and called Wolf Creek Hostel for a shuttle ride, so he is going to relax at the hostel and give his ankle a rest.


Hickory who began on February 26 (the same day as Pigweed) but is walking at a much stronger pace. On March 17th, Hickory has covered 255.9 miles of the Appalachian Trail. He is through the GSMNP (Smokies), have logged over 17 miles three days, 19 miles twice and one day the trekked 20 miles. He has only taken one nero-day (2 miles) so far and is less than 20 miles from Hot Springs. His pace is excellent but I hope he is able to refresh himself soon. (Hickory does not post photos.)

Here is the latest update on the hiker’s progress (note some of the hiker’s last posts are earlier than others).

Post Date Mile Hiker Location Start Date
3/17/18 50.5 Genesis Poplar Stamp Gap 1/14/18
3/11/18 109.8 Dave and Abbie Franklin 2/26/18
3/17/18 129.2 Zin Master OFF TRAIL 1/23/18
3/17/18 150.7 Pigweed Stecoah Gap 2/27/18
3/17/18 159.2 Which Way/ Next Step Cable Gap Shelter 2/24/18
3/10/18 159.2 RTK Cable Gap Shelter 2/25/18
3/17/18 182.5 Class Act OFF TRAIL 2/18/18
3/17/18 202.3 Chip Tillson Derrick Knob Shelter 2/20/18
3/17/18 240.8 Sour Kraut Standing Bear Hostel 2/21/18
3/17/18 255.9 Hickory Roaring Fork Shelter 2/27/18
3/17/18 273.9 Vagabond Jack Hot Springs 2/1/18
3/17/18 335.7 Bamadog Hot Springs 2/15/18
3/17/18 417 Hard Knocks Hampton, TN 1/31/18
3/17/18 531.2 Opa Mt Rogers Visitor Center 2/10/18
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