Monthly Archives: June 2018

The Seven Survivors

While Rocky and I have been off enjoying the Appalachian Trail down south in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and southern Virginia, the seven thru-hikers that I have been following on trailjournals.com have been moving north. Let me provide a quick update on their progress and where they are according to their last online journal posting.

Bamadog: Photo from June 25

The hiker that is the farthest north is Bamadog, Marty Dockins. He began his adventure on Feb 15 and has amassed 1741 miles. (All my mileage figures are based on my 2014 thru-hike guidebook. The trail has changed slightly since this time and so my mile-markers are just a bit inaccurate, but they consistent for every hiker and give a good comparison between the seven.) Bamadog is staying in Norwich, Vermont, with some trail angels, just a mile from the New Hampshire border and Hanover, NH, the home of Dartmouth College. Bamadog arrived in Hanover on June 25th and had an opportunity to spend the night in the home of Betsy and Bill Maslin.

Not too far behind Bamadog is Hard Knocks, Patrick Knox, who is resting at Rutland, Vermont, and mile 1697. Hard Knocks has spent three zero-days in Rutland resting in and avoiding a major thunderstorm. He has been struggling lately with stamina. He is such a strong hiker but his recovery seems to be suffering. Hard Knocks wrote in his journal on June 22nd  I find that I can walk +/- 20 miles for about three days when my legs and feet tell me they need a rest.” He is still in an excellent position to complete his thru-hike, but New Hampshire and Maine will test every part of the thru-hiker – legs, spirit, knees, emotion, and determination.

Next Step’s view along the Ten Mile River

Next Step, Darrell Brimberry, has been hiking solo since his wife, Which Way, needed to get off the trail for a while as she rehabs a nagging back injury. She hopes to rejoin him soon. Next Step has been logging major mileage every day and on June 26th crossed over into the state of Connecticut. He has walked 1450 miles toward Mount Katahdin and is well on his way to completing the trail. He shared the walk through the first six miles of the Constitution State. “Connecticut greeted me with a little climb up Ten Mile Hill. Down the other side of the hill the trail crossed the Bull’s  Bridge 19th Century Covered Bridge over the Ten Mile River at its confluence with the Housatonic River. The trail worked its way upstream of the Housatonic for about a mile. A side road led to Bull’s Bridge, a 19th Century covered bridge. On the far side of the bridge was a country store. I stopped in for some dinner and re-supply. The store was run by a friendly Indian couple. Wouldn’t you know it, they had Chicken Vindaloo in the frozen food section. I hung around the store until about 5:45PM. It was about a 4 mile hike from there, up and over Schaghticoke Mountain to the campsite where I was staying for the night.”

Sour Kraut

Sour Kraut, Tim Pfeiffer, blogs with words on a rare occasion, but he posts photographs that indicate where he is on the trail. He posted a photo on June 16th that I recognize as the 911 Memorial Flag on Shenandoah Mountain in New York, at about mile 1422. Shenandoah Mountain is about 22 miles from Pawling, New York, the home of the only railroad station on the AT. This is where several members of my church met me during my 2014 thru-hike, so it is a special place for me.

RTK at Sunfish Pond

RTK, Bruce Matson, last updated his journal on June 19th. He was six miles south of Vernon, New Jersey around mile-marker 1346. He continues to hike consistently along the trail. On June 19th he mentions meeting Next Step and enjoying a visit in Unionville, New York. Next Step does recount the stop in town but does not mention RKT specifically. Because RTK blogs about 7 days behind his journey it is difficult to get a current read on his hike.

On June 25th Chip Tillson was camped 4 miles south of Boiling Springs., Pennsylvania just shy of 1114 miles along the trail. He hiked 19 miles on the 25th, the most he has walked in one day. He passed the geographic half-way marker earlier in the day as he trekked through Pine Grove Furnace State Park. He did not participate in the half-gallon challenge (eating a half gallon of ice cream) because he arrived fairly early in the morning (it would not have stopped me but HYOH -Hike Your Own Hike).

Pigweed, Lee Richards, has decided to take a break from the trail. On June 14th, he arrived at Buena Vista, Virginia and just over 800 miles on the AT. He is going to the beach with his wife and hopes to return after July 4. He plans on traveling to Maine, climbing Katahdin, and then hiking back toward Buena Vista to complete a “flip-flop” thru-hike. If he is to be successful, I think this plan is the best idea. His pace is just too slow to make it to Katahdin before the snow flies and makes his ending impossible. A “flip-flop” will enable him to hike southbound (SOBO) and complete the adventure in Virginia in the late fall (maybe early winter).

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Bamadog, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Hard Knocks, Hiking, New Hampshire, Next Step, Pigweed, RTK, Sour Kraut, Thru-Hike, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Day Seven of the 14-State Challenge

Grayson Highlands View

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy initiated a 14-State Challenge to anyone who wanted to experience a little bit of the AT in each of the 14 states from Georgia to Maine (Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine). It is done on an honors system with time frame involved. Rocky and I decided we would walk right in and begin our trek this summer. We decided to move NOBO (northbound) by starting in Georgia and touching the first four states along the trail.

A Foggy Beginning

Day Seven (Saturday, June 23) completed our first leg of the challenge as we visited Grayson Highlands State Park in southern Virginia. The state of Virginia comprises some 550 miles of the AT making it the longest state of the 14. It is so long that some thru-hiker get the “Virginia Blues” longing for the next state to arrive. There is so much to see in this wonderful state, that Rocky and I will most likely return to Virginia when we begin part two of our journey. When I thru-hiked the trail in 2014 I divided the state up into three “states” (each comprising about 183 miles) to create smaller hiking goals. I call the first “state” was Southern Virginia, followed by Middle-Earth Virginia, and concluding with Doah Virginia (in honor of the Shenandoah National Park and a great fellow-hiker, Princess Doah). All of our hiking on this first leg was in Southern Virginia, so Rocky and I want to touch Middle Earth and Doah on our next adventure.

Wild Pony Sentry

All of that aside, Grayson Highlands was fantastic! The ponies greeted us, the rocks cried out to us, the rain showered its blessing on us, the wind blew almost blew our hats off, and the clouds almost engulfed us during our incredible hike through the rocky terrain. As Rocky and I drove the 30 minutes from our motel in Marion, Virginia, the rain began to sprinkle on the windshield. By the time we reached the state park, it was raining a constant gentle rain. Pulling into a parking place, Rocky did not hesitate – she was out of the car and wanting to get her trekking poles out of the trunk.

The initial 20-minutes was a little wet and a little cold, but the weather began to cooperate, the rain subsided, and the hike became quite comfortable. The cloud cover and the wind (which was rather intense at times) continued all morning giving us a fantastic cover from the sun’s heat. Most of the highlands is open without tree cover, so the sun can make a hike rather sweltering.

The Game of Tag

We encountered several wild ponies along the way. There were a number of foals that were full of life and had fun with each other testing out their legs with zestful games of tag. Rocky and I watched and laughed as they played totally ignoring the two retired folks with walking sticks. As we moved north, we encountered a few ponies standing right on the path. Rocky used her Mimi skills and “lovingly pushed” the horses off the trail so that we could pass on by.

The elevation change through the highlands is less than 600 feet, but the rocky terrain made the hike a nice challenge for us. Add to the terrain some blustery winds and some wet rocks, and the trail presented some adventure that translated into some special memories for us. Rocky was such a trooper and we laughed, marveled, prayed, and enjoyed the entire trek without one word of complaint or negativity. She is such a special hiking buddy!

Rocky Trail

After completing the trail, we returned to our car and drove to the Virgil J. Cox Visitor Center. Rocky and I got our AT Passports stamped at the center and then enjoyed a drive through the country roads back toward Marion. Sunday is a travel day as we end this portion of the challenge and return to the comfort of home. The adventure was remarkable, but there is no place like home. As we reflected on the last week, Rocky and I also projected the journey ahead of us as we begin to plan for stage two of the challenge. I have heard that the Shenandoah Valley is glorious in the fall.

Categories: 14-State Challenge, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Grayson Highlands, Hiking, Rocky, Rowdy, Trekking Poles, Virginia, Wild Ponies | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

14-State Challenge: Day Six

Shady Valley

Despite the threat of rain, Rocky and I left Johnson City, TN in route to a trailhead at Cross Mountain on TN 91 near Shady Valley. I was a little nervous about parking because Google Maps did not show any distinctive places, but we found ample parking right at the trailhead. I selected this spot because it was totally in Tennessee and it meandered through wide open pastureland. The clouds gave a nice cover from the sun but withheld any raindrops from falling on our heads (There are some great lyrics for a good country song in there somewhere). The 3- mile hike was easy with beautiful views of the mountains surrounding the fields. Rocky and I successfully climbed over a couple of stiles as we avoided cow patties along the way. There were no cows in the fields to sing to, but we heard their mooing off in the distance. Returning to the trailhead, Rocky and I walked (SOBO) toward Iron Mountain Shelter for a couple of miles. The forest was so much different than the open pasture – both so beautiful in their unique ways.

Gentle Rain

We piled our packs and trekking poles in the car and headed down TN 91 to Damascus, Virginia. The half-hour drive was still back roads, but the curves were not as bad as yesterday and the seasickness pills were unnecessary. The trail town of Damascus is the site of Trail Days held every May which boasts as being the largest event of the AT with reunions, talent shows, music, and a hiker parade. Rocky and I gather a few Passport stamps including Dave’s Place, a hostel where I slept during my 2014 thru-hike. Before heading out for a hike north of the city, we stopped in a wonderful little shop called “It’s a God Thing, Too.” This thrift shop is the ministry of One Way Baptist Church in town. Rocky found a couple of purses, a pair of sandals, and some snazzy shorts, but the biggest reward of the shop was meeting Kim and Gail. These two sweet women were volunteers who love the Lord and have such an impactful ministry in this trail town. They shared about the light they share with the community and the thru-hikers throughout the year. They have a special ministry of hospitality during Trail Days. They invited us to return next year and help share the light.

Mount Rogers Visitor Center

Rocky and I walked through the town and ended up hiking some of the Virginia Creeper Trail as it junctional with the AT. As we left the VA. Creeper Trail and headed north on the Appalachian Trail, it began to gently rain. The canopy kept us surprisingly dry, but the moisture created a tropical rainforest effect on the path. Our glasses began to fog up and the sweat began to roll. We climbed for a mile or two before turning around and retracing our steps back to Damascus.

Driving 12 miles out of Damascus, we came to I-81, which was quite a change from the narrow, tight turns of the twisty country roads of yesterday. The drive up I-81 led us to the exit for Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. The AT crosses right in front of the Visitor Center. We stopped at the center to get a Passport stamp and then headed down the trail. In 0.2 miles we arrived at Partnership Shelter (one of the few shelters on the AT where you can order pizza delivery). At the shelter, we met a young man (and his dog) who was section hiking and about to get off the trail to celebrate his birthday. About a mile and a half down the trail it began to rain again. Rocky and I turned around and about halfway back we were surprised by a loud thunderclap. We noticed how much faster we walk when under pressure. Arriving safely back at the welcome center, we slid into our Old Faithful Toyota and made our way to Marion, Virginia.

Rowdy over the Stiles

We stopped at a wonderful restaurant that Rocky found online called the Sisters Café and Gifts. Our waitress was so gracious and friendly. We enjoyed some delicious food and a piece of pie that was as far away from Whole-30 as you can get, but worth every calorie. They invited me to sign a wall in the restaurant devoted to thru-hikers. Rocky and I relaxed after a good day of hiking, laughed at all our inside jokes, and left the Sisters Café full and content.

We have arrived at our hotel for the evening and look forward to Grayson Highlands and the wild ponies tomorrow.

Categories: 14-State Challenge, Appalachian Trail, Damascus, Rocky, Rowdy, Shady Valley, Tennessee, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rowdy and Rocky on Day 5 of the AT 14-State Challenge

Rocky at the French Broad River

Day Five of the AT Challenge (hiking a portion of the trail in all 14 states that run along the Appalachian Trail began in Gatlinburg, TN. Rocky and I spent the night in Gatlinburg before driving to one of my favorite trail towns, Hot Springs, NC. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we safely navigated our Japanese-made vehicle up and over the country roads and across the French Broad River into the quaint village of Hot Springs. The threat of rain was likely today, so we wasted no time in making our first hike.

Rocky and I hiked back across the French Broad River and headed northbound (NOBO) on the Appalachian Trail. The trail actually is the main street leading through town. The AT beyond the bridge follows the water on a nice flat trail for about half a mile before steeply ascending several hundred feet in elevation. Rowdy and I hiked to Lovers Leap Rock, spent a few moments snapping pictures of the wonderful view, then retraced our steps down the mountain, along the river path, and back to town.

Rocky at Lovers Leap Rock

We visited the library I town, where we received our first Passport stamp. When ventured on the Welcome Center (our second stamp) and picked up information on our second hike for the day, Max Patch. Max Patch is a beautiful bald providing an incredible 360-degree panorama of the surrounding mountains. It is the southernmost bald on the AT and paints a unique perspective on the trail. We drove 18 miles on twisty, turny, roads requiring speeds of 20 mph for safe navigation. The last 6 miles was a gravel road which provided a vibration treatment along with the snake-like turns up the mountain. The adventurous drive was more than worth the magnificent views. The potential rain held off bringing only cooler air resulting in a nice, natural air-conditioning.

A View from Max Patch

The walk along the AT at Max Patch was breathtaking. The climb up the bald was rather steep but once outside the canopy, it revealed the mountains that surround the area. Rocky and I spent some time at the summit enjoying the unique setting, watching some friendly dogs romp with a spirit of freedom and excitement (closely watched by their human companions), and talking about my 2014 thru-hike.

I was very proud of my 1999 Toyota for responding like a monster truck over the gravel road and handling like a sports car around the hairpin turns on the way back to Hot Springs. Rocky and I enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Smoky Mountain Diner (our last Passport stamp of the day). I stopped there in 2014 and we sat at the same table. I can’t remember what I ordered then, except for the cobbler – so we each had cobbler for dessert -it was more than just good.

Smoky Mountain Diner

From Hot Springs, Rocky and I headed for our hotel for the night in Johnson City, TN. It did not rain at all during the day until we checked into the inn. God provided another great day for us on the trail. We are looking forward to a relaxing evening as we finalize our plans for tomorrow.

Categories: 14-State Challenge, Appalachian Trail, Hot Springs, Max Patch, North Carolina, Rocky, Rowdy, Tennessee | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AT Challenge: Day Four

Incredible View

The weather could not have better for us as we visited spots along the Appalachian Trail today (June 20, 2018). Rocky and I have enjoyed each day and today was filled with three fantastic locations. We started the day at the N.O.C. (Nantahala Outdoor Center) about an hour’s drive from Franklin, NC, where we spent the night. We arrived at 8:00 just as River Bend Restaurant opened for breakfast. The NOC is famous for rafting and kayaking down the Nantahala River, so every table in the restaurant faces the river. The NOC states that they are the nation’s largest outdoor recreation company. Over a million guests visit NOC annually to embark on a diverse collection of more than 120 different river and land-based itineraries. https://noc.com/about

River Bend Restaurant

Rocky and I enjoyed a tasty breakfast as we watched the fast-moving river welcome us to our fourth day on the Appalachian Trail. After breakfast, we walked to the NOC Outfitter and obtained a stamp for our AT Passports. The, we retrieved our backpacks from the truck of our car and walked up the AT for about an hour. I say “up” because The NOC is in the valley and the AT takes you up in both directions. We hiked NOBO (northbound) and enjoyed some steep, rocky path, but were rewarded with a beautiful view before we turned around and trekked back to the car.

The drive from the NOC to our next destination (Clingmans Dome) was 48 miles but the mountain roads demanded one hour and twenty minutes for navigation. We parked in a very crowded parking lot and hiked 0.5 miles to the observation

Observation Tower

tower. Clingmans Dome is the highest point on the entire AT elevating the hiker over 6650 feet. The views were quite magnificent. When I hiked the trail in 2014, it rained the day I arrived at Clingmans, so I could only see about 20 feet in front of my face. It was fabulous to mountains on such a beautiful day. After our walk up to the top of the observation tower, Rocky and I took a hike on the AT, itself. As we walked the smells of pine filled our lungs, and the canopy shaded us from the sun. The path was a little wet and quite rocky. The descent off Clingmans Dome was steep, but we loved the tall ferns that graced the trail.

Rocky Trail

A short 7-mile drive from Clingmans was Newfound Gap. We parked at the gap and took a 2-mile NOBO hike up a rather steep, wet, rocky path. It was the most technically challenging path so far, but we completed our circuit without a fall or injury. Our legs were ready for the rest as we arrived back at our car and began our glorious 30-minute drive through the Great Smoky Mountains Nation Forest to Gatlinburg, TN to our hotel. We are catching our breath and will soon be headed out to find some food.

Tomorrow we will point our faithful automobile toward Hot Springs, NC.

Categories: 14-State Challenge, Appalachian Trail, Clingmans Dome, Nantahala Outdoor Center, Newfound Gap, North Carolina, Tennessee | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AT Challenge Day 3

View from Day 3

Rocky and I spent another perfect day on the Appalachian Trail today (Tuesday, June 19, 2018). We got up early in Franklin, NC, had a quick continental breakfast, and began our drive to Winding Stair Gap. After a 35-mile trip that should have been 10.5 miles (it is very important to know if you are to go east or west on US 64), we arrived at Winding Stair Gap, which is located about 110 miles north of Springer Mountain, GA (the southern terminus of the AT).

Rock Gap Shelter

We planned to hike southbound from the gap and travel to Rock Gap Shelter. The 3.8-mile trek began with a nice assent over an unnamed mountain. The path leveled off for a comfortable ridge hike before making a steeper, rather rocky descent into Wallace Gap. In some places, wooden steps had been constructed to make the hike more manageable.  Another half mile brought us to Rock Gap and a short 1/10 of mile led us to Rock Gap Shelter. We enjoyed a little snack and some rest time (including Rocky’s first trip to the privy – maybe her last as well). This was our destination, so we did an about-face and retraced our steps. It was a beautiful day under the canopy – there not as many views as yesterday, but Rocky and I enjoyed the trail just as much, if not more than Big Cedar Mountain. There were a couple of spots that the trees opened up and provided an outstanding peek of the horizon with rolling hills and tall mountains in the distance.

Rocky’s First Privy

We met Michael at the shelter, a young man from Myrtle Beach, SC. We played leapfrog on the trail coming back and had an easy conversation with him. We stopped at an overlook and I shared a little about my 2014 thru-hike. He loved his rocky climb over Albert Mountain yesterday and wanted to know where he could find similar terrain along the AT. Pennsylvania immediately came to mind (anything north of the Susquehanna River). Rocky and I continued down the trail leaving Michael soaking in the view. Once we got back to town, we stopped at McD’s for a quick burger and who was sitting there? Michael (he had gotten a ride into town from Windy Stair Gap). We offered him a ride to his hostel and had another nice visit.

Rocky and I noted many trees charred from the forest fires of 2017, but the forest as made a great recovery. According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy “150 miles of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) were closed at various times this fall — 72 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 68 in North Carolina, and ten in Georgia.” http://www.appalachiantrail.org/home/community/blog/

ATFootpath/2017/03/03/more-than-fire-the-effects-of-the-southeast-

wildfires-on-the-appalachian-trail-community

Beautiful Mountain Stream

The trail crosses two mountain streams and Rocky & I were soothed by the sounds of the tumbling water. We took our time, breathing in the mountain air and praying for our family/friends. Rocky is a fantastic hiker and sets a pace that gets the job done. I am so very proud of consistency and diligence. I am not sure who enjoys the path more.

When we got back to Franklin, we wanted to get some stamps for our AT Passport. We drove to an Outfitter (Three Eagles) and the Post Office in town, successfully collecting their unique stamps. Tomorrow we hope to visit the Nantahala Outdoor Center, Clingmans Dome, and Newfound Gap. We have a hotel reservation in Gatlinburg for tomorrow night. I will try to update tomorrow evening. We are living the dream!

Categories: 14-State Challenge, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Franklin, North Carolina, Rocky, Rowdy, Winding Stair Gap | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The AT Challenge – Day Two

Wildflower near Neels Gap

Rocky and I are in Georgia starting our 14-State Challenge. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has established a 14-State Challenge to anyone interested in visiting all 14 states that make up the AT. Rocky and I have decided to take a week and hike a couple of hikes in the first four states beginning in Georgia, then North Carolina, followed by Tennessee, and ending our first section in Virginia.

Mountain Crossing at Neels Gap

We started yesterday (Sunday 6/17/18) at Amicalola Falls (the approach trail to the AT). We hiked to the top of the falls and enjoyed the incredible beauty of the cascading water. We then drove to Woody Gap and climbed to the summit of Big Cedar Mountain. With sore legs, we hopped into our car and drove to Dahlonega, GA, for a nice rest in a Quality Inn.

Today’s adventure took us a little further north on the AT to about mile-marker 31.7 and Neels Gap. Located at Neels Gap is Mountain Crossings, a full-service outfitter known for its gear shakedowns as they help thru-hikers eliminate excess weight from the backpacks and send the non-essentials back home. The Appalachian Trail goes right through the property owned by Mountain Crossing and actually travels through a covered porch attached to the outfitter, the only covered portion of the entire Appalachian Trail.

Rowdy at the porch at Neels Gap

We also found out as we entered their parking area that day hikers are not allowed to park there while the hike, so I had to drive almost a half a mile to another parking area. It was a nice warm-up for the 7.2-mile section to follow. Rocky and I started out just before 9:00 and thoroughly enjoyed our section hike over Levelland Mountain, down into Swaim Gap, back up to the summit of Wolf Laurel Top where we turned around and reversed our feet as we marched back to Neels Gap.

Fairy Village

The path was rocky and root-filled, but the adventure blossomed with a lush forest, beautiful skies (when you could see through the canopy), and a cool breeze to refresh our spirits. We drank lots of water as we conquered the challenging hills and dales. We logged 7.2 miles and experienced about 2,218 feet of elevation change. Rocky and I found some beautiful wildflowers, two huge snails, a fairy village created along the path, and several views breath-taking views. We spent some quality time in prayer remembering our friends and family as we worshiped the Creator of it all.

View from Wolf Laurel Top

After our hike, I retrieved that car and we visited the outfitter. We grabbed a refreshing drink and purchased a few bumper stickers for the car (we paid for the drinks, too). Before we left, we got our AT Passports stamped at the outfitters. Sliding into our chariot, we took off for Franklin, North Carolina, our home for the evening. We enjoyed a Wendy’s burger after checking into our motel. When we made reservations for the motel, it did not mention a swimming pool, but we noticed the pool as we pulled into the rest stop. Rocky opted not to take a swim, but I enjoyed to pool a great deal!

Swimming Pool at Franklin, NC

Tomorrow, we will be driving up US 64 to an AT crossing at Winding Stair Gap. We will be hiking SOBO (southbound) for 3.8 miles to Rock Gap Shelter, my camping spot on day seven of my 2014 thru-hike. I shared the shelter with Motown and Archangel, two of my kindred spirits on the trail. I look forward to reminiscing when we arrive.

Categories: 14-State Challenge, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Georgia, Levelland Mountain, Neels Gap, North Carolina, Rocky, Rowdy, Wolf Laurel Top | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rocky and Rowdy on an AT Challenge

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has issued a 14-State Challenge. Anyone brave enough to take the challenge is expected to hike at least a portion of the AT in all 14 states. Rocky and I have decided to begin our quest this summer taking on four states: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

After spending some special time with my son, daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren in Canton, Georgia, Rocky and I are going to spend the next eight days exploring some of the beauty of the AT. Today, Sunday 6/17/18, we drove to the approach trail at Amicalola Falls State Park and hiked the 604 steps to the top of the falls. The cascade is truly amazing. We visited the welcome center and got our first stamp in our official AT Passports; we entered the approach trail via the iconic arch at the welcome center; and we enjoyed meeting three section-hikers hoping to make it North Carolina.

Amicalola Falls

Although Amicalola Falls is not part of the official Appalachian Trial, many thru-hikers begin here and hike the 8.5-mile approach trail to Springer Mountain, Georgia. Rocky and I came down the steps faster than we went up, loaded in our 2018 Maserati (disguised as a 1999 Toyota Camry), and headed down the road to Woody Gap just south of Suches, Georgia. The AT crosses GA. Route 60 at Woody Gap (about mile 21 into the AT) that houses a nice little road-side parking lot and picnic area. Rocky and I parked and headed NOBO (northbound) toward the summit of Big Cedar Mountain. It was beautiful. The forest kept the sun at bay and provided a nice, cool hike. We reached Preaching Rock with an incredible view to the east and finally, the summit of Big Cedar Mountain opened up onto a rocky ledge with another amazing view of the mountain range in the distance. Rocky and I enjoyed a relaxing moment on the summit taking in the glory of God’s creation. We met several section hikers on the way back down the mountain. They were all headed for Franklin, North Carolina. We talked with another hiker from Hawaii who is planning to hike as far as she can. She was carrying a pack that looked like it was over 50 pounds while I would guess that she weighed no more than 110 pounds. She was such a sweet lady and we talked for several minutes and wished her well on her journey.

Rocky on Big Cedar Mountian

From Woody Gap, we drove to Dahlonega, GA, and got a hotel for the night. Rocky went to the outdoor pool and I hit the computer to document the adventure on this blog. Tomorrow we head for Neels Gap, Georgia, at the 31.7-mile marker. I will try to post some photos and some words capturing out adventure.

Categories: 14-State Challenge, Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Georgia, Hiking, Neels Gap, Rocky, Rowdy, Trail, Woody Gap | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Caesars Creek Loop

Caesers Creek

Rocky and I took advantage of a beautiful Friday, June 8, to enjoy the trail that encircles part of Caesars Creek Lake. The 12.7-mile loop trail has some elevation change and some road walking, but the terrain is beautiful and peaceful. We began our trek at 8:40, took our time, enjoyed a couple of rest breaks and completed the trail about 2:10 for a 5 ½-hour hike. The temperatures were moderate to high but hydration was our biggest challenge. Rocky tried out a new camelbak-style water bladder and I went old school with two water bottles. She loved her easy access to refreshment and I had a few sips left at the end of the loop.

Birds serenaded our walk throughout the day and the lush green forest shaded our heads from the heat of the sun. The treeless, 0.7-mile walk over the bridge and along Route 73 treated us to the power of the sun and the traffic of the four-lane road, but 50 Springs Picnic Area welcomed us with a covered pavilion and a restful spot to grab some trail food and take a load off our feet.

After rock-hopping one of the many little streams that crisscross the trail and heading up a hill on the other side, Rocky told me to stop and look at the fawn. I had walked right by Bambi without noticing his camouflaged spot among the underbrush. I stopped and was able to get a photo of the little guy. No mom in sight, but hopefully nearby.

We saw numerous tiny frogs (just right for a snake’s dinner), chipmunks, squirrels, a groundhog, a garter snake, and several fellow hikers, including Theresa, our friendly librarian from the Miami Township Library.

Rocky recently purchased some new trekking pole at REI and this was the break-in walk for this new equipment. The poles saved her from a faceplant when a trip root snuck up on her. She twisted her knee a little but the trekking poles prevented a fall – money well spent! We have found it hard to walk comfortably in the woods without our “sticks.”

About half-way through our loop, we came to a large parking lot and a ramp to launch boats into the lake. As we were walking through the parking area to reach the trailhead, we noticed a sign that I have never seen before… anywhere! The sign read Warning Vultures May Cause Damage to Vehicles. When I got home, I researched this phenomenon. Here is an interesting quote from Indiana State Parks:

The black vulture, the gray-headed cousin of the turkey vulture, is causing damage to vehicles–often trucks and SUVs –parked at boat ramps. Windshield wipers, sunroof seals, and rubber or vinyl parts are at particular risk. Most of the time, perching black vultures do little or no damage. However, in some cases, the destruction can be extensive. The vultures can tear out rubber seals, peck pieces out of truck bed liners, and scratch paint with their claws. Why are they “attacking” vehicles? The quick answer is that no one knows for sure. https://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/files/sp-black_vulture_vehicle_damage_brochure.pdf

Rocky’s New Trekking Poles

We were tired at the end of the loop, but it was a good tired, filled with accomplishment, and serotonin, and Vitamin D. Getting out of the car after the 25-minute drive home might have been the most difficult part of the day. It is amazing how fast those muscles tighten up. Dinner tasted especially good and sleep came easy that night. I am Rowdy and my wife is Rocky and we had a great day together in God’s creations. I would recommend a hike to release some stress, to clear the mind, and to breath the air of beauty and health.

Categories: Caesar Creek, Hiking, Local Hikes, Ohio, Rocky, Rowdy, Trail, Vultures | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Current Progress on the AT

Several of my seven Appalachian Trail thru-hikers have updated their online journals and I am happy to share that all of them are still hiking strong.

Bearded Woods Bunk and Dine, CT

After 13 days of silence, Hard Knocks updates his journal. He has traveled 175 miles in thirteen days (averaging 13.5 miles per day). Two weeks ago, he was in New Jersey. Since then, he crossed over into New York on May 27, entered Connecticut on June 1, and has camped for his first night in Massachusetts on Thursday, June 7. Hard Knocks sounds tired and weary.

June 3, 2018: Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut I made it to the Bearded Woods Bunk and Dine.  It is a very nice place and one where I hope to take a bit of a breather.  it seems I have lost another ten pounds and that is not necessarily a good thing.  I pack is not fitting correctly now and I am getting some blisters from it. I hope to do another shakedown of my pack to see if I can’t lighten it up some more.  Also, I am getting word that some of my former hiking buddies are off the trail.  It is understandable that people develop injuries over such a long trek.  As I am well into my second half I am constantly aware of little aches and pains and I try to not do too

Pigweed on McAfee Knob

much too fast to improve my chances of finishing. He zeroed in Cornwall on June 4. 

June 6, 2018: Salisbury, Connecticut I Zeroed at a house (name?) where they rent out bunks as I was in need of some recuperation.

Hard Knocks is about 680 miles from Mount Katahdin but the most physically challenging aspects of the trail still await. The Green Mountains of Vermont are 80 miles ahead and then the White Mountains of New Hampshire loom 150 miles farther north. Hopefully, he will take some time to find quality rest and strength before taking on these challenges.

Pigweed last post was May 30 until his update on June 7. He has hiked 93.6 miles in eight days, averaging about 11.7 miles per day. On May 30th he was in Pearisburg, Virginia. During the first week of June, Pigweed has hiked passed the second largest oak tree on the AT (Keefer Oak) just north of Newport, VA, the Audie Murphy Monument to the most decorated American soldier of World War 2, the great stone monolith, Dragons Tooth, the one of the most photographed spots along the trail, McAfee Knob. After traversing Tinker Cliffs (a half-mile cliff walk), Pigweed arrived at Daleville, Virginia on June 6th and took a rest day in this hiker friend town on June 7th.

Sour Kraut at Lehigh Gap

Sour Kraut pasted a photo after two weeks of silence. On June 5th, the photo shows him climbing out of Lehigh Gap in Palmerton, Pennsylvania, approximately 1,255 miles into his NOBO trek to Maine. This ascent out of Lehigh Gap is one of the most difficult on the entire AT. The 2.5-mile, rocky, steep, treacherous climb was exhilarating and frightening at the same time. I was glad to safely reach the top and enjoy some solid ground.

To catch all the hikers up to their current postings here is a summary chart:

Name Date Location Miles
Hard Knocks 6/7/18 Hemlock Shelter, MA 1510
Bamadog 6/7/18 Stewart Hollow Brook Shelter CT 1471
Sour Kraut 6/5/18 Palmerton, PA 1255
Next Step 6/7/18 Susquehanna Trail, PA 1145
RTK 5/31/18 Pine Grove Furnace State Park, PA 1098
Chip Tillson 6/7/18 Front Royal, VA 966
Pigweed 6/7/18 Daleville, VA 725

Bearded Wood B/D From Zigzag’s 2014 journal http://www.trailjournals.com/journal/entry/466167

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Audie Murphy Memorial, Bearded Woods Bunk and Dine, Class of 2018, Connecticut, Dragons Tooth, Hard Knocks, Keffer Oak, McAfee Knob, Palmerton, Pennsylvania, Pigweed, Sour Kraut, Thru-Hike, Tinker Cliffs, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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