The harsh winter of the past few weeks on the Appalachian Trail is slowly releasing its grip on the trail. Hikers are beginning to report the signs of spring: birds singing, wildflowers, squirrels, and even snakes. Of the 14 thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail that I began following on trailjpurnals.com during January and February, only nine remain. Let me give you a quick update on where they are and their hiking progress. I will list them based on their starting date.
Starting on January 31 (the only January starter still on the trail), Hard Knocks, aka Patrick Knox, lasted posted on March 22nd from Chatfield Shelter at mile marker 538.2. He concluded his post with his hope to make into town before the rain. The shelter is only about 4.5 miles south of VA 683 and Atkins, VA. I am anxiously awaiting his update.
Vagabond Jack (Jack Masters) began his journey on Feb 2nd. His post just yesterday (March 28) shared that he is 7.8 miles north of Erwin, Tennessee at a campsite near Indian Grave Gap. This is not the name of a place where I would want to sleep, but there is a campground nearby called Rock Creek Recreation Area, so maybe Vagabond Jack is staying there. He has managed to hike 350 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
Opa, Reinhard Gsellmeier, hiked 22.5 miles yesterday and camped at Pickle Branch Shelter in Virginia at mile marker 691.6. He began his thru-hike on February 10 and finds himself over 100 miles ahead of his cohort. He is hoping to reach VA 311 (about 13 miles ahead) tomorrow and meet his brother John. They will be spending a few days together on Roanoke.
Bamadog, Marty Dockins, last posted on March 23 from Roan Mountain, Tennessee, (mile 391.8) where he was planning on taking off a few days with his sweetie. The bad weather may have convinced him to spend a few more nights out of the snow and ice. I anticipate an update very soon from Bamadog.
Chip Tillson began his hiking adventure on February 20. He posted yesterday that he was celebrating his completion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He is staying at the very popular hostel, Standing Bear Farm, having hiked 10.4 miles during the day. The hostel is 241 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia the southern terminus of the AT.
Sour Kraut, Tim Pfeiffer, had not posted since March 12th in writing, but his photos continue to show him on the trail. His last picture showed him in the snow at the 300-mile mark around March 25th. He hit the AT on February 21st.
Which Way and First Step, the only husband/wife team that I am following, are retired military from Washington, DC. The couple began their hike on February 24th. They were a day ahead of Chip Tillson but were staying at Standing Bear Farm on March 27th having completed their snowy, cold trek through the GSMNP. They shared the welcomed difference in the weather, A complete 180 from the snow storm we faced less than a week ago! The trail meandered through the woods following a rushing mountain stream. The birds were chirping, the sun was shining, the perfect breeze was blowing. There were small white, yellow and purple wildflowers blooming and we even saw our first butterflies of the season.
RTK, Bruce Matson, started the trail on February 25th and makes his posts one week behind his actual hike so his last post was for March 21. He was still in the middle of the winter storm. He woke up on the 21st with 4-5 inches of snow on the ground. He experienced high winds throughout the day as the accumulation of “white stuff” reached about 10 inches. He was able to hike 14.2 miles in the difficult conditions before catching a shuttle a Garenflo Gap and a ride into Hot Springs, North Carolina, and the Mountain Magnolia Inn.
Hickory who began the trail on February 27 has maintained a fast pace. He is past Hot Springs, past Erwin, Tennessee and is about 22 miles from Damascus Virginia. His post on March 28th indicated a 15-mile to the Watauga Lake area (mile 427.3). Hickory does not post any pictures, so I cannot visual his journey at all for you. I think he must be hiking too fast to take a photo.
And then there were nine. I will keep you posted as each makes his/her way toward Maine.