Author Archives: David Rough

About David Rough

Thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2014 Retired Superintendent of the Dayton Christian School System Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership from Indiana Wesleyan University

Sour Kraut Posts Photos of the AT

Bridge at the VT/NH

Sour Kraut, aka Tim Pfeiffer, began his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail on February 21 from Amicalola Falls, Georgia, hiking the 8.5-mile approach trail to Springer Mountain. Sour Kraut is a man of few words and his last written post in his online journal was May 17th when he reached the 1000-mile marker of the trail. However, Sour Kraut posts photographs about once a week. He seems to provide a visual post at the border of each new state. On June 13 he posted a shot from the New Jersey/New York border; then the June 19th post captured the Shenandoah Mountain in New York; a selfie in front of the Connecticut/Massachusetts border was shared on June 28th; the 4th of July was celebrated with a photo at the Massachusetts/Vermont border; and then this past Monday (July 16), Sour Kraut posted a posted a photo (dated July 15) of himself crossing the bridge over the Connecticut River from Vermont into the state of New Hampshire.

Prospect Rock

Bromley Mountain

Since Sour Kraut posted his last set of photos on July 4th, he has hiked 250 miles averaging about 21 miles a day. I have included several of his photos to give you an idea of his hike over the past 100 miles: Prospect Rock over-looking Manchester Center, VT (mile 1642); Bromley Mountain (1650.2); Killington Peak (1690.7) and the bridge at the Connecticut River (VT/NH border).

Sour Kraut has been on the trail for 138 days and has trekked at a pace of just under 13 miles a day. The last two states of the Appalachian Trail are comprised of about 450 miles. Sour Kraut has the most difficult terrain still ahead of him as the New Hampshire and Maine include the White Mountains, Mahoosuc Notch (and Mahoosuc Arm), over a dozen streams to ford, and the 100-Mile Wilderness.

Killington Peak

Because Sour Kraut is a little selfish with his words, it is hard to know much about him. He has shared in his profile, however, that he is hiking the Appalachian Trail in memory of his father and in honor of those still fighting ALS (Lou Gehring’s disease). I hope that Tim gains a measure of peace and comfort with each memory of the trails he connects the miles with the thoughts of his father.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class of 2018, Maine, New Hampshire, Sour Kraut, Thru-Hike, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mid-July – Lots of Silence from the AT

Sunfish Pond from RKT’s photos

I have been waiting for a current update from each of the six thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail that I am following via trailjournals.com before making this post. This does not seem to be coming together well, so let me share what I know and catch you up on those who are posting regularly.

Pigweed has been off trail since June 14, taking some time with his wife at the beach. He posted from Buena Vista, Virginia (about AT mile 803), on June 14 and projected his return after the 4th of July weekend. He was considering a flip-flop experience by driving up north, completing the trail in Maine, and then finishing the section that he skipped.

RKT’s look in New York

RTK (Return to Katahdin) posts a week in arrears and his last update was on June 30 (13 days ago). Bruce Matson (RTK) was at mile-1,456. Earlier that week, he spent three zero days at Bear Mountain Bridge Hotel in Fort Montgomery, New York, before hiking north toward the Connecticut border. He crossed over the border on June 29, spent the night close to Bull’s Bridge and then traveled to a family reunion off trail.

Hard Knocks last posted on July 4th. He checked in while he was at Franconia Notch, New Hampshire (mile 1,823), sharing that cell phone coverage was extremely poor and that he would update soon. That was ten days ago and without an update. Entering the White Mountains, he does encounter extreme terrain which is infamous for cell phone blackouts. I would not be surprised to hear that Hard Knocks is hiking in Maine – looking forward to hearing from this strong hiker.

Sour Kraut last photo update was ten days ago (July 4th) picturing himself at the Vermont border and about mile 1,593.

Sour Kraut in Vermont

The number of hikers has increased back up to seven with the return of Vagabond Jack to the trail. Jack left the trail back quest for medical reasons at the end of April while he was hiking close to Newport, Virginia (mile – 671.5). He has taken a long break and now is excited about continuing his a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. He has re-entered the trail close to Dalton, Massachusetts (mile 1565), hiked 9 miles to Cheshire, MA, and plans to hike north to Maine and then complete his hike southbound from Massachusetts to Virginia.

Chip has done a very nice job updating his journal almost every day of his recent experience. On July 13 he was in New Jersey, his home state, enjoying a brief relieve from the rocks of Pennsylvania. The rocks will reappear very soon, but his walk around Sunfish Pond soothed his feet from the brutal terrain of the Keystone State. Chip was traveled over 1,300 miles and I hope he will make it to the summit before the winter snows force him from his goal.

The Lookout

Next Step continues to hike solo. His wife, Which Way, who took a hiatus from the hike close to Harpers Ferry at the end of May, rejoined him in Great Barrington, MA, on June 28. She tested her back injury for a couple of days and realized that she was not able to fulfill her dream at this time. Next Step has decided to continue without her and continues to make strong hikes to the great mountain in Maine. He has traversed 1,715 miles of the AT and enjoyed a night at The Lookout (a cabin with an observation tower) in Vermont (about 30 miles from the New Hampshire border).

Name Mile State Last Update
Pigweed  803 Virginia 6/14/18
RTK 1456 New York 6/30/18
Hard Knocks 1823 New Hampshire 7/4/18
Sour Kraut 1592 Vermont 7/4/18
Vagabond Jack 1574 Massachusetts 7/12/18
Chip 1315 New Jersey 7/13/18
Next Step 1715 Vermont 7/13/18

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class of 2018, Maine, Massachusettes, Mount Katahdin, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Sunfish Pond, Thru-Hike, Vermont, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Week of July Update on the Remaining Six

The fourteen thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail that I began following this winter are now down to six. All fourteen kept online journals at trailjournals.com and each one began their treks in January or February of 2018. Let me provide a quick update on each of the six remaining hikers.

Latest Photo of Hard Knocks, February 9, 2018!

Patrick Knox, trail name Hard Knocks, had been silent in his journal since June 26th. He updated the record of his journey on July 3rd sharing his hike through July 2. During the past 5 days, he has hiked about 52 miles including a zero-day at Trapper John’s Hostel about 18 miles into the challenging state of New Hampshire. He spent a night at the Hiker’s Welcome Hostel in Glencliff, NH, and on July 2nd he was safe and sound at The Notch Hostel in Kinsman Notch in Lincoln, NH.

Hard Knocks makes very short entries so it is difficult to read between the lines and discern his emotional and physical condition, but let me share his post for July 2:

Destination: The Notch Hostel                                                          Today’s Miles: 9.30

Start Location: Hiker’s Welcome Hostel                                          Trip Miles: 1791.30

Today was a slack pack and whereas the mileage may not look big the hike itself was.  We covered little more than a mile an hour because of the steep, rough terrain and because of the heat and humidity.  That, plus the fact that we are trying to set ourselves up for our first foray into the White Mountains that are looming just before us.  “Looming” sounds a little too depressing so how about “Rising just before us like the sun on a Spring Day.”?  No matter how you say it I suppose it will be a challenge but after all these miles I am confident that it will be a mere bump in the road.  Tomorrow I am planning another slack pack to set put me right where I want to be.  I am still a walkin’.

 

Latest Photo of Chip – Day One!

Chip Tillson, who does not appear to have adopted a trail name other than “Chip,” is about 580 miles behind Hard Knocks in the Keystone State of Pennsylvania. The thru-hike is not a race and there are many paces adopted by the hikers. The biggest concern on a NOBO (northbound) hike is arriving at Mt Katahdin, Maine, before the snow closes the path to the summit – usually the middle of October.

On July 2nd he arrived at Port Clinton. I always breathe a sigh of relief when the thru-hiker travels beyond this nice little community in PA because I spent 5 days there in 2014 trying to recover from injury. v found a hotel in Hamburg (less than 2 miles down the highway from Port Clinton) and enjoyed a zero-day there avoiding the heat of the summer with no injuries involved. I found his post very interesting because in 2014 (four years ago, I watched the championship game of the World Cup on a small B/W TV in my Port Clinton hotel. Chip shares, “Yesterday I checked in to a hotel in Hamburg, PA to get cleaned up buy food. The recent heat has not felt uncomfortable but it’s clearly taken a toll. I woke this morning feeling very fatigued and my feet are sore from stepping on rocks all day every day. Recuperation is in order so I’ll stay here another night There are plenty restaurants nearby for healthy meals and I can catch some World Cup action while I rest. Weather should be cooler tomorrow for the climb back into the mountains.”

Sour Kraut in Massachusetts

Sour Kraut, Tim Pfeiffer, updates via photographs. His last set of pictures was dated June 28th and Sour Kraut was at the Connecticut/Massachusetts and had hiked to the 1500-mile marker.

I gave a brief update on Which Way and Next Step, Darrell and Alicia Brimberry, in yesterday’s blog, but they are in Massachusetts about 1550 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia. Which Way has rejoined her husband after several weeks off trail and they are moving forward hoping Alicia’s back injury will cooperate and allow her to finish the hike.

RTK, Bruce Matson always updates his journal a week at a time, but in arrears. He typically updates on Thursdays, so a post should be coming any day. His last entry ended with June 19th and Bruce was camped at Pochuck Mountain Shelter in New Jersey. He is only about 12 miles from the New Jersey/New York border having covered approximately 1350 miles of the Appalachian Trail

Pigweed, Lee Richards, last posted on June 14th. He shared in that post that he was taking some time off the trail to spend some time at the beach with his wife. I’m going to get off Trail, go to the beach for a while with Cindy then bump to Maine in a flip-flop hike and start hiking South to get some cooler weather. So I won’t be posting for a little while until I achieve that. Probably after the July 4th weekend.” True to his words, Pigweed has not updated his online journal. I am anticipating his next entry sometime this weekend or early next week. Either that or he will decide that the beach and the company of his wife are too beautiful to leave.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Hard Knocks, Massachusettes, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Which Way and Next Step Back Together on the AT

East Brook Pond, Massachusetts

One month ago, the husband (next Step) and wife (Which Way) team from The Washington, DC area, had a difficult decision to make.  Which Way (Alicia) was experiencing a great deal of back pain from an injury suffered prior to their Appalachian Trail thru-hike attempt. It was decided that Next Step (Darrell) would continue on without his wife, while Alicia sought medical help in correcting her physical discomfort. Part of their posting on May 29th reads:

5/29/18 – Distance today: 17.1 miles

“Plot twist. Which Way is getting a ride into Charlestown to the Urgent Care from our trail Angels, Count and Lavender. She reaggravated an old back injury a couple of weeks ago and it’s just keeps getting worse. Hoping she can get some pain relief, but more importantly, some advice on fixing the problem. I suffered through a couple of years of back pain, so I know it’s no fun, especially carrying a backpack up and down mountains! Praying for good results today!” 

Next Step at Conn/Mass border

Next Step has been moving northward at an outstanding pace since beginning his solo hike. He has averaged 17.75 miles per day for the 28 days of their separation. He has hiked through the four miles of West Virginia, the state of Maryland, the rocks of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and 15 miles into Massachusetts. The couple still has 470 miles to reach Mt Katahdin in Maine and most of the miles are difficult, challenging miles that will test the hiking skills they have accumulated along the way.

Happy to be back together

Next Step is thrilled to be reunited with his wife and looks forward to enjoying the trail with Alicia as they move north. Which Way had been spending time “healing” at her parent’s home in Kentucky. Her two-day drive to Massachusetts was filled with excitement to see her husband and some major fog that added some adversity on the roadways. Their reunion in Great Barrington, MA was sweet and they began to hike again on June 30th. They began their trek north with a rather slow, conservative pace, but a portion of their journal on July 2nd raised some concern from my perspective:

7/2/18 – Distance today: 12 miles

“When we started hiking at 0700 the temperature was still bearable. It would heat up significantly as the day wore on. Which Way was hiking without a pack today. I carried enough water for both of us. Unfortunately, it didn’t help her situation much. As soon as we started climbing, her back started hurting. It is very frustrating for her. 

Which Way Back on the AT

The trail crossed a gravel road deep in the forest about 9 miles into the hike. We decided it was best for WW to wait there while I finished the last 3 miles…..Which Way will rest tomorrow while I knock out some more miles. How many miles will depend on when I get started and how I hold up with the heat index well over 100 again.”

Which Way is one determined lady and she has hiked with physical pain, but the terrain ahead in New Hampshire and Maine will demand great effort and will cause a good deal of stress on her back. I hope that her injury will be strengthened each day and will be ready to face the White Mountains and the challenges of Maine. I will be anxious to see what the next few days will bring for this couple on their way north.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class of 2018, Massachusetts, Thru-Hike, Which Way and Next Step | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Bamadog Leaves the Appalachian Trail

White Mountains Ahead

Bamadog, 61-year-old Marty Dockins, who retired in March 2017, has been hiking strong recently and on July 1, he arrived at Franconia Notch, about 70 miles into the state of New Hampshire. During the last few days of June, Bamadog had climbed some significant mountains including Smarts Mountain (3237 ft), Mt. Cube ((2911 ft), Mt. Moosilauke (4802 ft), South Kinsman Mountain (4358 ft), and North Kinsman Mountain (4293 ft). He was poised to enter the White Mountain National Forest and the Appalachian Mountain Club Hut system. Franconia Notch is about 1820 miles into the 2190-mile thru-hike.

Mt Moosilauke

Bamadog had a difficult hike on June 29th as he climbed over Mt Moosilauke. He fell twice descending the dangerous north face of the mountain. The steep descent drops 2,930 feet of extremely technical hiking over 3.8 miles of trail.

He then posted the following journal entry on July 1, 2018:

Today is a bittersweet day but a good day. Psalm 118:24. (This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. – my quote).  As I hiked, the Lord was speaking to my heart letting me know my wife needs me a lot more than the trail does. I did a very tough section over the Kinsman’s today. 17 tough miles. Both of my knees are hurting letting me know I don’t need to be where I am alone scaling wet rock walls and cliffs and bouldering from daylight until dark. It is time to go home to my sweetheart. I called her and she is almost halfway here already. Only one speeding ticket so far that I know of. Pray for traveling grace for her please and for us as we make our way home. It has been an amazing journey. I want to thank everyone that has had a part in this. Trail angels and maintainers. Total strangers doing wonderful things for me. The list goes on and on. I want to thank my Lord and Savior Most of all. His Holy Spirit has been with me every step of the way. He promised in His Word that He will never leave me or forsake me. You can count on that if you are a child of the King.

Steep Descent off Mt. Moosilauke

1818.5 miles. Not bad for this ole guy. Only God knows if I will come back and get the rest of it done. That is His call. I have peace about it either way. I needed to prove to myself that I could do this. I have done that with God’s favor on me. None of it would be possible without Him. I could not have done this without my wife. She has been my help and strength and encourager through this along with my two sons. Thank you so much to all of the people who have signed my guest book and have been such an encouragement. It meant so much to me. It I can help any of you down the road let me know. Goodnight sweetheart. Headed home!!!

To God be the glory…Bamadog.

The Rocks of New Hampshire

I am so sad to see Bamadog leave the trail. He started his adventure on February 15 and walked for 4 ½ months. I know he must follow his heart and mind and body, but he was doing so well. Reading his journal on a regular basis, I could tell that God was teaching him many things over the miles on the AT. The last 370 miles of the trail through New Hampshire and Maine are brutal and will challenge the hiker every day to Katahdin. I am sure that the trail has changed Bamadog and that God will use his experiences to share His faithfulness with many friends, family, and acquaintances for years to come.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Bamadog, Class of 2018, Franconia Notch, Mount Moosilauke, New Hampshire, The Whites, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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