Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Beaker across the Kennebec River in Maine

Beaker and 1st Sgt Back TogetherMy last post found Beaker, the chemist from West Virginia about to climb over the beautiful Bigelow Mountains. He has been making extremely good time through Maine and hopes to climb Katahdin within the next two weeks.

8/1/17 Destination: East Carry Pond Stealth Site, Miles today: 22.1

Today’s hike of 22.1 miles, indeed, took Beaker over the Bigelows, with the best views he has experienced since the Whites. After climbing and descending several peaks, he reached Avery Peak, named for Myron Avery, who was the driving force behind the construction of the AT. After summiting Avery Peak, the trail became pretty tame – still rocky and rooty; but, no longer as steep.

The afternoon was a pleasant hike under glorious skies on flat, easy trail. Most of the NOBO hikers on this part of the trail were headed for the West Carry Pond Lean-to for the night. Beaker decided to push on another 3.6 miles to a stealth spot on East Carry Pond.

Tomorrow, he hopes to cross the Kennebec River. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has put a ferry in place. The ferry is a canoe operated by a local outfitter. The boat ride is considered part of the trail and actually has a white blaze painted in the bottom of the ferry. Hikers wait in line and cross the river two at a time. The ferry only operates from 9 – 2 every day so hikers need to plan carefully.

East Carry Pond is beautiful in the setting sun. Beaker tested out the water up to his ankles to wash the mud off his legs. He was expecting the water to be cold; but, it was actually quite warm.

8/2/17 Destination:  Sterling Inn, Caratunk, ME  Miles today: 9.4

Beaker Kennibeck River

The Ferry on the Kennebec River

Beaker got up and on the trail early this morning to be sure that he had time to make the ferry. It turns out the trail was quite easy this morning and he made it to the Kennebec River by 10:30. When he arrived, there were about five people waiting to cross. Beaker crossed the river with fellow thru-hiker, Yogi. They waited on the north bank until Feathers, Wild Thing, Grapenut, and Bearslayer all gathered on the other side. Then, they walked to the Caratunk B&B, where they all bought milkshakes. After the shakes, Beaker called the Sterling Inn and the shuttle came and picked them up. The Sterling Inn provided a very pleasant and restful spot for the rest of the day. The group went for pizza and spent the evening watching movies.

8/3/17  Destination: Moxie Bald Mountain Lean-to, ME  18.8 miles today

Beaker heading up Moxie Bald

The View from Moxie Bald

Today was a pretty easy day on the trail. Beaker logged in 18.8 miles. The majority of the hike was flat. Climbs over Pleasant Pond Mountain and Moxie Bald were on the agenda but, compared to what Beaker had been ascending, the summits were pretty tame. The sun poked out from behind the clouds for a while making the day’s journey a very pleasant one.

After an “up and over” of Moxie Bald. A number of the NOBO hikers camped along Moxie Pond. Beaker likes to camp along the ponds and enjoy the atmosphere of the water and the sounds of the water at night. He set up his tent under the trees next to the shoreline. There are about a dozen tents crammed onto any available flat spot. The NOBO group sat on flat rocks by the pond and ate dinner together reminiscing about the trail adventure. Beaker retired to his tent and enjoyed listening to coyotes in the distance and the loons on the pond.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Beaker, Kennebec River, Maine, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dulcigal Into Pennsylvania

Dulcigal and dulcimer

Dulcigal and dulcimer

Dulcigal, Karla Redman from Jackson. Georgia, is attempting a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Stepping out from the southern terminus, Springer Mountain, Georgia on March 13, Dulcigal made solid progress through Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. As she entered Virginia (the state with the most miles on the AT), she faced 550 miles of trail before reaching West Virginia. She entered the Shenandoah Nation Park and had conquered 469 miles of Virginia and then, it happened…. On June 19 (day 99 of the adventure) at 4:00 in the morning, Dulcigal woke up with intense pain from kidney stones – it was a debilitating case of kidney stones that resulted in an emergency room visit, two days in ICU, and a trip back home for recuperation.

Honestly, I did not think she would return to the trail, but her resolve is more than incredible. Less than a month after the episode, she is back on the path. On July 12, she returned to mile marker 932 and the trail head at Pinnacles Picnic Area with her two sons to continue the quest for Maine, Mount Katahdin, and the brown sign marking the northern terminus of this very long trail.

Dulicgal has posted several times since resuming her trek. The entry dated July 13 records that her hike through the Shenandoah Mountains was complete. She loved this part of the hike (as did I) with the beauty and freshness of the mountain canopy, but she was pretty excited, anticipating her arrival at Harpers Ferry, WV – only 54 miles away. During her time away from the trail, she lost some of the endurance and strength gained from hiking 930 miles, but she posted that each day was bringing more energy.

Dulci at the ATC

Dulci at the ATC

July 18 found Dulci at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry, WV. She got the traditional photograph taken and entered into the historical record of thru-hikers of 2016. When I arrived here in 2014, the date was June 30 and I was hiker number 924 – Dulci’s official number was 1,436. There are definitely lots of hikers on the trail this year.

Her sons (Jeremiah and Isaac) were able to hike with their mom all week to help her get a safe start back on the path. They returned home when the trio arrived at Harpers Ferry, but Dulcigal decided to stay in West Virginia a couple of days to allow a pulled muscle to recover. She had hiked 87 miles in 5 days but it was the 13.5 mile “Roller Coaster” (endless ups and downs), climaxing the end of the hike through Virginia, that tested her trail legs.

Dulci’s journal on July 20 relates a special story of receiving and carrying a dulcimer along the trail. She got the instrument in Waynesboro and began playing it some during her hike in the Shenandoahs. She shared that she played it every day in Harpers Ferry. I just love this part of her entry, “After the boys left, I carried the dulcimer with me when I went into town in case an opportunity arose to play. One of those times I came across an elderly lady sitting at a park picnic table. She was waiting on her son and his wife to finish a day hike. It didn’t take me long to realize she had some dementia and was struggling with general conversation. When I played her music on the dulcimer, her entire countenance changed. It was a blessing to me to see her enjoy such a simple gift.”

Dulcigal at Midway Point

Dulcigal at Midway Point

July 26 is the date of her most current post. She is in Boiling Springs (one of my favorite trail towns along the AT), having passed by the true half-way point of the AT in Pine Grove Furnace State Park and having walked over 1100 trail miles. She continues to gain strength and to make adjustments to the physical demands of the adventure. On the down side, the past week has been quite tough mentally. The hiking community she knew before leaving the trail is now 300 miles ahead of her. She is really missing her children after spending 3 weeks with them during recovery. And the heat, humidity, and bugs have made the recent days rather difficult.

She writes, “Now I understand the mental challenge piece of the hike. Getting to the halfway point sign at 1094 miles was not exciting to me. I’m ONLY HALFWAY!!! I still have 1094 miles to go!!!! That’s what was going through my mind.”

She began to reflect back on her excitement about returning to the trail. She experienced several deep conversations with herself and with God to sort through the distracting mental struggles and frustrations. She found strength in the ordeal with the kidney stones and being convinced that her journey was not over. She concludes her past journal entry with this insight: “We may not always understand the hills and the valleys in our lives, but we must still go on.”

Keep on hiking on, Dulci!

All photos are from Dulcigal’s online journal at
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Boiling Springs, Class of 2016, Dulcigal, Georgia, Kidney Stones, Pennsylvania, Roller Coaster, Shenandoah National Park, Thru-Hike, Virginia, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fat Hen and Talon at the ATC

At the Appalachian Trail Conservancy

At the Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon made it to Harpers Ferry, WV on June 23rd and became part of the traditional photo shot of thru-hikers. Their picture also reflects the hiker number – representing the rank order of thru-hikers that have checked in at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Dan was number 974 and Rebecca was 975. During my 2014 thru-hike, I arrived on June 30 and was hiker number 924. This shows the increase in participation this year – they arrived one week earlier and yet 50 more hikers have passed through the town headed north.

When Dan and Rebecca arrived in Harper’s Ferry, they developed a creative idea of visiting Washington, D.C. There’s a train station in the historic district of Harpers Ferry that goes to Union Station.  Helping to hatch the idea were the lodging options in Harpers – they were limited and expensive.  But they were too late for the last train into D.C. for the day. And then, trail blessing appeared – a man at the ATC, Glen, offered them a ride into D.C. Fat Hen and Rooster Talon were so excited about the possibilities. Their journal entry expressed it so well,

“We are then booking a hotel (which was cheaper than the one in Harpers Ferry) and in a car, on our way to the city. Glen was kind enough not only to bring us to the city but to our hotel as well, with many recommendations and anecdotes along the way. The time in the car flew by with great conversations! We then spent the night with a real shower, Chinese food and, movies.”

After breakfast the next morning they walked all over the capitol city from the White House to the National Archives to the Air & Space Museum to the National Gallery, then to the Natural History Museum, the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. This was not exactly a day off and certainly not a zero day of rest, but it was a great day of adventure. Their reflection:

Fat Hen and Talen Offical Picture“We had a great day off, even though it meant walking just as much as a normal one. It was a nice change of pace to play tourist for a day. Hopped a late train back to Harpers Ferry and we were back at it again. To head back to the wilderness with our backpacks, thinking that just a day before we touched a moon rock, saw the Wright Flyer, gazed upon Leonardo Davinci’s and Raphael’s works, stood before Lincoln and our country’s founding documents.”

The picture of this young couple on the porch of the ATC revealed some information that I did not know. Dano is Daniel Gottshall and Becky is Rebecca Savaria. They are both from Dundee, NY. Not on the picture but from Wikipedia: Dundee is a village in Yates County, New York, USA. The population was 1,725 at the 2010 census. The name was taken from Dundee, the city in Scotland with a population of 160,000. The Village of Dundee is in the Town of Starkey, New York. I bet this small town is very proud of these two young adventurers.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Fat Hen, Harpers Ferry, Hiking, Journaling, Rooster Talon, Thru-Hike, Trail, Trail Name, Washington. DC | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Stacey Kozel – A Life-Changing Story

stacey kozel 5Stacey Kozel has been getting national attention in the last few weeks from the likes of Today, Washington Post, Popular Mechanics, and The Weather Channel. And well she should be. Stacey has a life-changing story to tell.

Stacey, a 41-year-old hiker from Medina, Ohio, is in the midst of a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, the 2,186 mile trek from Maine to Georgia. And she’s doing it alone. This, however, is not national news nor is it an unusual story for this blog site. What is unusual is that Kozel is paralyzed from the waist down.

When she was 19, Stacey was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage many parts of the body. Lupus often times leaves it impact on an individual during flare-up episodes. She became paralyzed in her legs after one particular flare-up of the disease in March 2014. Stacey told the Washington Post, “It was my worst flare-up. I kind of stumbled into the hospital. … Within a couple of days, I lost all mobility. I couldn’t sit up. I couldn’t lift my head. It took three people to hold me up, because my body was dead weight, just stiff.”

Kozel.DamascusAfter this 2014 traumatic flare, Stacey recovered most of the control of her arms and upper body, but her legs never responded. She found herself restricted to an electric wheelchair, but she began a personal search for anything that could help. She finally discovered the Ottobock C-Brace. The brace actually functions more like a mechanical exoskeleton. The large black brace cups around the foot and extends up the thigh. Its bendable knee joints and sensors that monitor ankle pressure enable great mobility for the user. These microprocessors adjust the hydraulic system (located at the knee) that actually moves the leg. It allows someone with paralyzed legs to walk again because, in essence, it does the walking for you.

Kozel shared, “It’s kind of like a car. The car has hydraulics and when you go over bumps, they kind of give. That’s what these braces do — when walking over holes and terrain, you don’t really feel it.” Kozel was so excited about these braces until she saw a price tag: $75,000….each! She couldn’t afford these new legs. But through great perseverance and diligence, she convinced an insurance company to approve her need.

C-BraceThe C-Braces are pretty incredible but they’re not perfect. First, when she faces boulders and steep inclines or embankments, she has to throw her backpack ahead. Then she sits and pulls herself up backwards, scooting along. This will continue to be a challenge especially over the White Mountains in New Hampshire and wilderness of southern Maine. Second, the braces cannot get wet. Rain, therefore, can be problematic, since it sometimes forces her to remain in her tent to wait until the storm passes by. The Appalachian Trail presents many days of rain. Third, they require a new charge every two days. During most of the trail, a charge every two days will possible, although inconvenient. But I think a few of the stretches, like the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine, will create a substantial challenge.

Kozel.Harpers FerryThe June 23 online issue of TODAY stated that Stacey has hiked over 905 miles of the trail since starting her journey on March 24. She’s hoping to reach the halfway mark by July 4. In this article, Stacey shared, “I didn’t start out doing this because I thought it was going to be easy. It’s not going to be pretty and it’s not going to be fast, but I’ll get there. I’ve always wanted to hike, but just I felt like I was trapped in my wheelchair. I was just dying to get outside.”

She made it! Check out her picture from Harpers Ferry complete with her trail name, “Ironwill.” The ATC is not the geographic half-way point (which is another 70 miles away), but Harpers Ferry, WV, certainly is the emotional/psychological half-way spot for thru-hikers.

Stacey Kozel updates the world on her adventure on a public Facebook page.

Photo of Stacey

Photo at Damascus

Photo of C-Brace

Categories: Adversity, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, C-Brace, Courage, Harpers Ferry, Hiking, Stacey Kozel, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

The Two Peas Reach Harpers Ferry and Beyond

Two Peas .1000 milesKristin and Robert (Moonbeam and Big Cypress) began their hike of the Appalachian Trail on February 13. Their post on May 13 came from Harpers Ferry, WV, the psychological half-way point of the AT. It is about 72 miles short of the actual lineal half-way point. But Harpers Ferry houses the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters and all thru-hikers get their picture taken in front of the building and their mug shot is included in the official photo-log kept by the conservancy. Emotionally, for the hikers, this is a really big deal and a huge milestone.

We last saw the Two Peas on May 10 in Front Royal, Virginia. They had three excellent hiking days (averaging over 19 miles per day) making their way into West Virginia. Around the 1000 mile marker there is an excellent hostel called the Bears Den. The two Peas arrived on May 12:

We arrived at Bears Den at 5:30 pm. It’s a castle like stone lodge and boy oh boy do we love it!! For $30pp we get a bunk, shower, laundry with soap, sheets and blankets, pizza, soda and pint of fancy ice cream or gelato AND pancakes in the morning!! AND the accommodations are CLEAN!! Even the shower!! We are in hiker heaven!!

Two Peas at Harpers FerryOn May 13, the couple arrived in Harpers Ferry and got their photo taken for posterity in front of the ATC Headquarters. Notice the assigned hiker number they are given when they sign in. I was hiker number 924 during my thru-hiker to give you a perspective.

Big Cypress had 3 falls today, although he said only 2; since one his rear was close to a rock anyway and when he lost footing, he just “sat down”. One spill was a fall into a good tree, causing elbow & forearm scrape! The other fall was on a slick rock, serious enough that it could have been hike ending!! After evaluating body parts were all ok, he was insistent that we press on and not make a big deal over it. We got our picture taken and logged in as Thru Hikers 159 & 160. At Springer GA we were 64 & 65.

Half Gallon Challenge

They spent three days in Harpers Ferry visiting with family and then pushed for 7 days, hiking through the state of Maryland and into Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania. They reached my favorite trail town (Boiling Springs, PA) on day 100 of their adventure (May 21) and decided to take another zero day in this incredibly quaint community. They have hiked over 1115 miles, celebrating the true half-way point on day 98. As for the tradition of the half-gallon challenge……….

I couldn’t do the half gallon challenge (eat a half gallon of ice cream) and after our buffalo chicken wrap and hiker burger with fries and Amish apple pie, Big Cypress was too full to attempt it!!

I love following this couple and I am so encouraged by their progress, but no ice cream?? really??

The next thirty miles of hiking will be filled with great terrain and easy paths. Then comes the rocks! They will be very close to the top of my prayer list as they begin to experience the challenges of Pennsylvania.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Bears Den Hostl, Boiling Springs, Half Gallon Challenge, Harpers Ferry, Two Peas | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Happy Hiking in 2016 – AT Records Made in 2015

Record Number of Hikers in 2015

ATC HQHappy New Year! As we hang up our new calendars it is always significant to review the previous twelve months. 2015 was a popular and productive year on the Appalachian Trail. In addition to speed records being set for both an assisted thru-hike (Scott Jurek: 46 days, 8 hours, 8 minutes) and an unassisted thru-hike (Heather Anderson: 54 days, 7 hours, 48 minutes), The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) has communicated a record-breaking number of hikers who passed through its Visitor Center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, considered the psychological midpoint of the 2,185-mile long footpath. The ATC is a special place that not only greets thru-hikers but also takes their pictures, records their hiker information, and archives their journey photo to be housed at the conservancy.

When a thru-hiker arrives at the headquarters, they register as a NOBO hiker (going NOrthBOund from Georgia to Maine), or a SOBO hiker (hiking SOuthBOund from Mt. Katahdin, Maine toward Springer Mountain, Georgia), or an Alternate Route hiker (for example: Georgia to West Virginia then travel to Maine and hike SOBO back to West Virginia)  According to the ATC’s records as of this December, 1,385 northbound thru-hikers passed through Harpers Ferry: an increase of 9 percent over last year’s data. The number of southbound thru-hikers increased by 14 percent totaling 192 hikers. The number of those who choose to thru-hike the A.T. in an alternative, non-contiguous way increased dramatically, with 291 choosing that method, that’s an increase of 139 percent! If my math is correct, that’s a total of 1,768 hikers reporting in at the ATC as potential thru-hikers.

A-Walk-in-the-Woods-bookThe ATC attributes some of this growth to the recent film releases of “A Walk in the Woods,” (based on Bill Bryson’s best-seller on the Appalachian Trail) and “Wild,” (portraying Cheryl Stray’s book about the Pacific Crest Trail). These two major motion pictures depict attempted thru-hikes on long-distance trails.

The ATC was also pleased to announce that for fiscal year 2015, a record-breaking 6,827 volunteers reported approximately 272,477 hours to maintaining and protecting the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) for hikers to use. I find this truly amazing. During my thru-hike I encountered several trail work teams, maintaining and improving the trail. From repainting the white blazes to creating rock steps on treacherous terrain to clearing the trail of recent blow-downs, the crews were hard at work.  The record number of both volunteers and hours reveals a loyal army commitment to the AT. Volunteers donated time equivalent to what is completed by 137 full-time workers working 40 hour weeks for 50 weeks during the year. These heroes of the trail contributed to a wide variety of projects, including maintaining the A.T. corridor.

Since the ATC began collecting reports in 1983, individuals have contributed more than 5 million hours to the A.T. – it is estimated that it takes 5 million steps to thru-hike the trail, so volunteers have donated an hour for every step along a thru-hike of the AT. It is no wonder why this volunteer network that is recognized worldwide.


Categories: A Walk in the Woods, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Harpers Ferry, Heather Anderson, Mount Katahdin, NOBO, Scott Jurek, SOBO, Springer Mountain, West Virginia, Wild | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AT Thru-Hikers from 1930-1970 

HikeItForward-Final-MediumI have become very interested in some of the statistics regarding thru-hikers over the decades. As I begin to build my own data base on these historic journeys, I am fascinated with the names and trail names of the adventurers. I enjoy seeing where they are from and which of the fifty states sends the most representatives each year. I am also attracted to those who have hiked the trail multiple times and the back stories of some of the early pioneers. Over the next few months I hope to share some of the gold nuggets I’ve found as I have sifted the data provided by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Myron Avery

Myron Avery

To get started, let me share some of the numbers from the early days. In the 1930s there was only one recorded thru-hike. The first and only thru-hiker in the 30s was Myron Avery.  Avery, one of the major forces in the establishment of the AT, measured the entire trail with a measuring wheel taking over sixteen years, culminating in1936.

Three people completed a thru-hike in the 1940s, including the first thru-hike in one year (Earl V. Shaffer) in 1948.

Fourteen pilgrims made the journey in the 1950s including Mildred Norman, later called Peace Pilgrim, the focus of my last post (1952). And 1957 surfaced into history the first person to hike the trail twice (Emma “Grandma” Gatewood in 1955 and 1957).

Earl Shaeffer

Earl Shaffer

Thirty-seven successful thru-hikes took place in the 1960s with Grandma Gatewood posting the first three-peat in trail history in 1964, the year before Earl Shaffer completed his second thru-hike (1965). Norman B. Menger wrote his name in the history books by completing two hikes in a three year period (1965 and 1967), becoming only the third hiker to walk the entire trail twice.

The decade of the 1970s ushered in an explosion of thru-hikers. From three successful hikes in the 1940s, to fourteen in the 1950s, to thirty-seven in the 1960s, now in the 1970s, there were 767 successful journeys.

So where did they come from?

Unfortunately, home states were not always part of the records for some of these early hikers but based on the data available, all but six of the fifty states had representatives completing the trail (only Arkansas, Nevada, North and South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming were absent). Most of the hikers came from the fourteen states housing the trail (Florida being the only exception). Here are the top ten:

Pennsylvania – 70 hikers

Massachusetts – 63 hikers

Connecticut – 55 hikers

Virginia – 45 hikers

New Hampshire – 42 hikers

New York – 41 hikers

Georgia – 37 hikers

Florida – 32 hikers

New Jersey – 31 hikers

North Carolina – 31 hikers

I do have to give an honorable mention to the #11 state – OHIO with 27 hikers!!

The first two individuals from outside the United States completed their thru-hikes in the same year, 1973 – one from Canada and the other from England. The Canadian, Ida Sainsbury, became the first woman outside the USA to complete the trail. She hiked the trail in three years with an American (Mary Years) from New York – more about them in an upcoming post.

John Laming was the Brit. Coming from Hertford, England, he completed his thru-hike in one season at the age of only 19. John’s back story will be explored in a post next week. By the end of the decade, six individuals from Canada and two from England would be successful thru-hikers on the AT, less that 1 percent of the total number of 2,000 milers.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Earl Shaffer, Grandma Gatewood, Myron Avery, Peace Pilgrim, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized, Where in the World | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ron Tipton and the AT Conservancy

ron-tiptonIt was a real pleasure to hear Ron Tipton, Executive Director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, speak at Cox Arboretum this past Friday night. It was particularly meaningful because Ron is a Dayton native.

The evening began with a short hike around the Arboretum involving close to 100 hikers. The evening was comfortable and the trails at Cox are easy but beautiful. Cathy and I had a warm conversation as we walked the path. After a group picture, we gathered in a large meeting room with others who came just for the verbal presentation. The room was packed with interested folks. I have found that the topic of the Appalachian Trail is extremely well received in this area.

Andy “Captain Blue” introduced the evening with a slide show relating some basic information about the trail. He started by asking anyone in the audience who had hiked any of the trail to stand. Close to half of the audience stood. He then asked folks to remain standing if they hiked 50 miles or more of the trail…. 100 miles or more….500 miles or more….1,000 miles or more…2,000 miles or more. He asked the final group to come forward and introduce themselves. I was pretty surprised at the number of folks (I did not count but I would guess there were at least 12 of us) who came forward. At least four of the 2,000 milers had completed their thru-hike in the last month. I was the only one who completed in 2014. I would have loved to have gone as a group to a back room and shared stories of our adventures.

Instead, we all took our seats and listened to the insights of Mr. Tipton. He was an articulate speaker who weaved the history of the trail with the current status of the ATC. He has an obvious love for the outdoors and breathes the air of the Appalachian Tail. After his informative talk, he entertained questions from the crowd and provided the inside scoop on his vision moving forward.

A_Walk_in_the_Woods_PosterHe gave a positive plug for the “A Walk in the Woods” movie starring Robert Redford sharing his appreciation for Mr. Redford’s sensitivity to nature and our country’s wilderness areas. The ATC is anticipating an increased interest in hiking the trail this year as a result of the film and Ron commented that the sales of Bill Bryson’s book (of the same title) has put  the volume back on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Ron spoke to the recent speed record set by Scott Jurek this summer. While he sympathized with the celebration of a speed record, he also expressed the need of hiker’s to be sensitive to the rules and regulations of state parks. There are scheduled meetings between the ATC and Baxter State Park officials in the next few weeks that will address these issues and how to cooperate in order to make the thru-hike an enjoyable and safe adventure while maintaining the integrity of the various park systems represented along the trail.

I love being around conversations regarding the Appalachian Trail. There is something special about the excitement the trail generates in others and the incredible stories that come from the adventure.

Categories: A Walk in the Woods, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Captain Blue, Harpers Ferry, Local Hikes, Scott Jurek, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Scott Jurek Pays FIne

Scott Jurek broke the speed record for a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail on July 12, 2015. He traveled from Georgia to Maine in 46 days, 8 hours and a pocketful of minutes. The ultramarathoner ran and hiked and climbed the trail in the midst of a fairly significant media coverage. His assisted journey (aided by a team with a vehicle providing meals and lodging enabling a minimalist backpack with just water and food essentials) provided support for this incredible hike of 2,186 miles.

Scott Jerek getting ticketsHowever, there was a disappointment waiting on the summit of Mount Katahdin, the finish line in Maine. He received three citations by the Baxter park rangers: Littering, consuming alcohol, and including a group of more than 12 hikers. The rules within Baxter State Park are rather rigid but well documented. Even on their website, the regulations are clear. Here are the specific statements regarding Scott’s violations:

2.1. The maximum size of hiking groups shall be 12 persons. Affiliated groups on the same trail separated by less than one mile shall be considered one group.

4.5. All trash, rubbish, litter, camping gear, equipment, and materials carried into the Park must be carried out of the Park. No trash, rubbish, or litter shall be deposited in any type of vaulted or un-vaulted toilet.

6.5. General laws of the State pertaining to alcohol and drugs apply within the Park. Maine law prohibits the drinking of alcoholic beverages in public places.

Scott Jurek got into trouble with park rangers when he popped a bottle of champagne while surrounded by a group of supporters in July after completing the 2,186 mile trail from Georgia to Maine in 46 days, eight hours. A ranger later cited him for public drinking, littering and hiking in an oversized group. This past Wednesday Scott paid a $500 fine to settle the citations over his celebration atop the summit of Mount Katahdin. A district judge in Millinocket validated an agreement between Scott’s lawyer and the district attorney in which Jurek paid a fine for public drinking. The other citations were dropped.

Formally, the summons issued to Jurek was for consuming alcohol within the park, hiking with a group larger than 12 people, and littering, which occurred when champagne sprayed into the air on the 5,268-foot summit hit the ground. But it was clear by the statements made by Baxter officials that it was much more than an issue of spilled champagne. Baxter Park Director Jensen Bissell said that Jurek and the corporate sponsorship that helped carry him to the record are anathema to the vision of the park set out by former governor Percival Baxter, whose 1931 donation of land and funding has made the park what it is today. Bissell lamented the commercialization of a natural resource. “Let’s be clear and concise, Scott Jurek’s physical abilities were recognized by corporations engaged in (selling) running and outdoor related products.”  He continues in a Facebook post, “The race vehicle used to support Scott in his run, as well as Scott’s headband, clearly display these corporate sponsors. The sponsors are providing money and equipment to support Scott’s run in exchange for advertisement and engagement that they expect will protect or increase their market share and improve their profits. … When Scott arrived at Baxter Park to complete his run at the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, he brought all of this to Baxter Peak, in Maine’s largest wilderness.”

Jurek, who wasn’t in court, said afterward that he was unfairly singled out by park rangers to set an example for other hikers. Jurek claims rangers approved the size of his hiking party and allowed them to carry alcohol to the summit; these two matters were the basis of two of the three summons he received. Jurek said he registered with rangers at the base of the mountain, and they confirmed his group was within the allowable size. Jurek told Newswire the summons for littering came because of champagne spray. He said he was careful to pack out all of his trash, including the cork, before he hiked down. “Anybody who knows me knows the way I practice leave-no-trace ethics,” he said. “Of course I am not going to litter.” His wife and part of his support team throughout the adventure, Jenny, wrote. “How a person handles themselves in the darkest hours when nobody is looking speaks volumes. Scott carried out every scrap of trash, every square of used toilet paper, every wrapper he found on the trail that wasn’t his. Scott continually moved downed trees and branches that had fallen on the trail.”

High profile demands high scrutiny. No one cares too much about a hike that takes 152 days by a normal Joe. But an ultramarathoner attempting a speed record accompanied by national media coverage, gets the attention of many – fans and foes. For many AT officials, the thru-hike is not a sport, not a race, not a commercial event. Some fear that speed records will become the goal of many aspiring trail runners and with popularity come an invasion that might destroy serenity and wilderness.

Celebrating on Katahdin 1Was Scott targeted as an example and watched carefully for violations? Probably. Alcohol on the big
brown sign is not uncommon. Google image “victory on Katahdin” and see how much bubbly you can find (Neither of these phoCelebrating on Katahdin 4tos is Scott).



On the other hand, I am glad to see Scott pay his $500 fine (it could have been up to $1,000 per fine) and Baxter back off of two thirds of their complaints. It is sad that a great physical accomplishment was tarnished by the avoidable.

For more information on this story:


Photo of Scott Jurek receiving citations

Celebrating on Katadhin 1

Celebrating on Katahdin 2


Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Hiking, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Scott Jurek, Thru-Hike | 2 Comments

How Many Hikers Made It in 2014??

HikeItForward-Final-MediumAs of mid-March, 2015, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) provided statistics for the thru-hiking class of 2014. The ATC classifies a successful thru-hike into one of four categories. First, the Northbound Thru-hike from Georgia to Maine (NOBO for short). The second classification is for those who begin in Maine and finish in Georgia (SOBO). The third designation reflects an alternative thru-hike, typically referred to as a Flip Flop (for example, NOBO part of the way, then travel to Maine, climb Katahdin, and then finish going SOBO). The fourth slot is reserved for those hikers who have completed the trail by sections over several years.

ATmapThe number of NOBO thru-hikers leaving Springer Mountain, Georgia, this year was estimated at 2,500. It is an estimate because there is no official sign-in location to begin the trail. Amicalola Falls State Park is an 829-acre Georgia state park and serves as one gateway into the Appalachian Trail. It provides an 8.5 miles approach trail ending at Springer Mountain. Some hikers don’t complete this strenuous approach trail and fold up their tent before they reach the actual starting line.  Amicalola Falls has a nice lodge and an “unofficial” register for the trail. The true southern terminus of the AT is found on Springer Mountain which contains another “unofficial” sign-in register at the rock which houses the terminus plaque. I did not travel the approach trail, rather I got a ride to a parking lot one mile from Springer. My name is under the rock but not in the lodge at Amicalola.

The first good accounting of thru-hikers is obtained at Harpers Ferry, WV, the headquarters for the ATC. Just about every thru-hiker stops at the headquarters because they take your picture and include your mug shot in a notebook as an historical record of that year’s participants. In 2014, 1,267 NOBO hikers reported to the ATC. I was number 924.

The final stop for the 2014 census is at Mount Katahdin itself. The ranger station at Baxter State Park registers hikers before they make their climb to the brown sign. Typically, half of the hikers that report to Harpers Ferry are unable to complete the journey. In 2014, there were 653 brave souls that scrawled their names in the record book. I was number 618 at Katahdin.

SOBO numbers (the chosen course of the very few) are much smaller. There were 242 hikers that started at Katahdin; 168 SOBO pilgrims made it to Harpers Ferry and only 76 SOBO thru-hikers arrived at Springer Mountain.

The number of thru-hikers that declared a flip-flop at Harpers Ferry was 122 and only 70 individuals reported a successful completion of the journey. In addition, there were 129 hikers that reported the successful completion of their thru-hikes by sections1178.

If I have figured correctly, about 2,742 thru-hikers began their trek this year; 1,435 made it to Harpers Ferry (53.33% of those who began); and 799 reached their terminus of completion (29% of those who began the trek). An additional 129 hikers victoriously completed the last section of their multiple year journey.

My heartfelt congratulations to the class of 2014! May each of us wear the honor wisely, represent the trail with dignity, and recognize the Creator of it all.

AT Map found at


Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Georgia, Harpers Ferry, Hiking, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized, West Virginia | 2 Comments

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