Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Lee Barry at 81

20140522-131602.jpgThe Appalachian Trail was completed and became a continuous footpath in 1937. One year later, a 15-year-old Boy Scout from New Jersey, Lee Barry, took his first steps on the trail. He, along with other scouts, embarked on a 100-mile hike on the AT.   Lee fashioned his own backpack from ash, hickory and old army web belts. He also made the troop’s waterproof tent from white muslin dipped alum and paraffin.

Sixty-six years later (2004), Barry, now living in Shelby, NC, returned for his last long hike on the Appalachian Trail. With shuttles provided by his wife, Lois, he started his thru-hike on Jan. 2 at the trail’s southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Georgia. He would hike for three weeks and then return home for monthly church council meetings. He completed his hike on November 20 at the age of 81, then the oldest thru-hiker, based on the records kept by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Earl-Shaffer-at-Katahdin-5

Earl Shaffer

Lee Barry’s trail name was “Easy One.” The late Earl Shaffer, the first person (1948) to make a thru-hike, completed his third and final thru-hike in 1998, finishing just before his 80th birthday. Easy One said he was unaware of the age record until partway through the trek.

Easy One (I could not find a photo of him anywhere) finished his first thru-hike in 1996 and completed the distance a second time – section by section from the late 1980s to 2000. Easy One spent much of his first four and half years of retirement climbing mountains and fording rivers on the AT.

Lee served in the Navy during World War II, then worked as an engineer in New York. He continued to hike and climb. He conquered  the 46 highest peaks in the Adirondack Mountains. In 1974, he moved to North Carolina to become the general manager of a local industrial plant. The Blue Ridge Mountains were nearby so he joined the Carolina Mountain Club in Asheville. He climbed the forty mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee that are 6,000 feet and higher,

In 2004, Easy One averaged 10 miles a day during his 220140925-100106.jpg20 day thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail. He reached the summit of Mount Katahdin, Maine, the northern terminus, on Aug. 10th, while ending his flip-flop hike in Sugar Grove, Va, on November 20th.

Easy One only carried the essentials. He took no books, no radio, not even a cell phone. He ate typical trail food prepared with boiling water but he ate no snacks, no cookies, no Snickers (what a boring diet). He didn’t get sick and only suffered a sprain to his right wrist during his entire time on the trail.

What an amazing journey for a man his age. But there is always someone out there ready to break any record. Thirteen years after Easy One’s amazing hike, came Dale, Grey Beard, Sanders from Tennessee. His story is the subject of my next blog.

Details for this blog were found online. For more information regarding Lee Barry’s hike see my source:  http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2005/apr/03/nc-man-81-now-oldest-thru-hiker-to-traverse/
Photo of Earl Shaffer found at http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/tales-from-the-appalachian-trail-34902244/
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Earl Shaffer, Harpers Ferry, Lee Barry, Mount Katahdin, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Heather and Eddie

Mama Duck and EddieHeather Bolint began her thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in June of 2017. She decided to make a SOBO (southbound) journey beginning in Maine in order to complete the trail in the southern state of Georgia in the early winter months. Twelve weeks into her hike, she had reached the border of Pennsylvania and Maryland and literally bumped into friend that would bring her hiking story into national attention. I read this story on line (thedodo.com/on-the-farm/appalachian-trail-hiker-rooster-rescue) and thought it was rather unique so I wanted to post some of the details.

Heather is an animal lover and a self-proclaimed “chicken whisperer,” so when she saw a Polish-crested rooster out in the middle of nowhere, on the trail, miles from houses or roads, she naturally stopped and made a friend who would soon to be her hiking buddy. Bolint knew that the possible survival for the rooster was slim to done with the wilderness predators always looking for a chicken dinner, so she decided to swoop up the rooster in her arms and continue down the trail.

Eddie.MasonHeather named her rooster Eddie (not exactly a creative trail name), but her new buddy seemed to enjoy the journey. The first day, the two hiked 15 mile together past the Mason/Dixon line and into Maryland. The rest of the AT hiking community greeted the bird with interest and many desired a photo shoot with the very unusual, feathery section-hiker. Eddie enjoyed a diet of oatmeal, nuts and apple cores.

Heather (trail name, Mama Duck) needed to get some rest, so she sent up her tent and went to sleep. Eddie joined her in her tent and they slept for two hours. Then the two pilgrims got up at midnight and continued their journey to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Mama Duck was hoping to make it to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy before a predicted rain became a reality making the journey more difficult. Hiking at night would also provide cooler temperatures for the long journey.

Mama Duck and Eddie hiked the 27 miles together to reach the ATC headquarters arriving in the late morning. In two days, they had traveled through three different states (PA, MD, WV) covering over 40 miles together. The headquarters’ staff had never encountered the likes of these two hiking buddies. It is believed that Eddie is the first rooster-section-hiker of the Appalachian Trail.

Eddie at New Home

Mason at his new home

But it was time to find a home for Eddie. Mama Duck discovered an animal shelter in Poolesville, Maryland who was extremely excited to add to their family. One problem: they already had a peacock named Eddie (who would have seen that coming?), so they had to changed the rooster’s name to Mason because he was found very close to the Mason/Dixon line on the trail (I think that is a much better trail name, anyway). Mama Duck drove with Mason to his new home to be sure that her trail friend would fit well into his new community. Once happily settled in his new home, Mason and Heather said their good-byes and Heather returned to Harpers Ferry.

Mama Duck changed her trail name to Mama Cluck and continued down the trail hoping to complete her thru-hike by Christmas.  

Details and Photos found at: https://www.thedodo.com/on-the-farm/appalachian-trail-hiker-rooster-rescue
https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/10/23/hiker-appalchian-trail-carries-lost-rooster-for-miles-safety/Y6Zu8j7sZMYfgdlkQu8WRL/story.html
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Maryland, Mason-Dixon Line, Pennsylvania, Rooster, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Stacey Kozel Update-

Kozel.Harpers FerryIn July of 2016, I posted a blog about Stacey Kozel, a 41-year-old hiker from Medina, Ohio, who was in the midst of a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. When she was 19, Stacey was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage many parts of the body. Lupus often times aggressively attacks an individual during flare-up episodes. Stacey became paralyzed in her legs after one particular flare-up in March 2014.

After this 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 until she discovered a brace that actually functions like a mechanical exoskeleton. It allows someone with paralyzed legs to walk again because, in essence, it does the walking for you. My post of July 2016  found Stacey at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, the site of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters. She later claimed to have completed her thru-hike of the trail.

This past hiking season (2017), Stacey reported thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada – 2,650 miles). She began her hike on March 30 and completed the journey the last week of August – a journey of 5 months. However, her thru-hike has come under some question. Many are scratching their heads when trying to validate her journey. As with the Appalachian Trail, the PCT goes on an honor system regarding thru-hikes. There are no mandatory sign-ins, or photographic proof, or tangible evidence to be submitted with a claim of hiking the entire trail.

Stacey recently received national coverage when ABC reported her recent completion of the PCT. The story found its way to many sources of the news around the world, and she indicated that she was hoping to write a book about her adventures. Shortly after the ABC story was released, the hiking community began to examine her claims.

Most thru-hikers of the PTC plan on around five months to complete the journey, assuming good conditions. This year however, there were not good conditions: the Sierra Nevada mountains were snow packed far longer than usual. In early July, the streams were nearly impassable and very dangerous while then the mountains were still snowed covered. Several people have died trying to finish the PCT this year. For the hikers who made it out of the Sierras, they were faced with numerous wildfires through Oregon and Washington lasting into the later part of the summer. Stacey claims to have hiked up to 30 miles per day to stay ahead of the fires.  

Concern was drawn to Stacey’s hike from the lack of testimony. Nobody has been able to verify that they saw Kozel on the trail. Patrick Redford, in his blog at https://deadspin.com/  comments, ”PCT hikers are, like the hiking community in general, inherently collaborative and cooperative, since completing such a demanding athletic feat essentially requires help from other hikers and trail angels, who house and feed hikers as they make their way up the trail. Nobody makes it to Canada alone.”

Redford personally spoke with many trail angels and 2017 PCT thru-hikers. He read the posts of dozens of PCT’ers via their Facebook pages. He concludes “The PCT is a long, desolate road, but it’s not without a well-developed network of people keeping an eye on the trail. None of them ever saw her.”

Clay (Bonnyman) Evans in his blog found at http://claybonnymanevans.com/  concurs with the lack of evidence of a successful thru-hike and doubts that Kozel thru-hiked the PTC or the AT.  “All this is really, truly a shame. Stacey Kozel would be inspiring simply doing sections of the trail, but in her exaggerations, she has diminished anything she has done on the trail. It’s very clear that she did virtually none of the PCT, and only limited portions of the AT.”

Stacey still stands behind her claims of thru-hiking both long trails. However, her Facebook page has been removed and no positive evidence has been forthcoming. I hope she can, and will, defend her claims or at least tell her true story.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Harpers Ferry, Pacific Crest Trail, Stacey Kozel, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Congratulations Beaker!

Today’s post is a tribute to Rusty Miller, a chemist from West Virginia, and his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. He began his journey on February 26, 2017 and crossed his finish line on September 12, 2017 for a total of 189 days.  Many of you have followed my blog and his adventures over the past seven months. This post will be a photo diary of this man’s trip across 14 states and his 5 million steps to the finish line. All of these pictures come from Beaker’s online journal found at: http://www.trailjournals.com/journal/photos/18636

He began at Springer Mountain, Georgia with red shirt and kilt.

North Carolina brought the Smoky Mountains and cold weather.

Tennessee included a bike ride in Erwin to do some laundry and a lovely waterfall with hiking buddy, 1st Sgt.

There’s always a possibility of snow in April in Virginia, but the wild ponies of Grayson Highlands are always a highlight of a thru-hike.

Becker actually sold his home in WV and bought a new one in Knoxville while on the trail. He took three weeks off trail to move his home from West Virginia to Tennessee. This gave him an opportunity to change his trail persona.

Harpers Ferry, WV is the home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the emotional half-way point of the trail. The true, linear, half way point is in Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Pennsylvania.

The month of June brought the rocky trails of PA, NJ, and NY.

July led Beaker above tree-line in New Hampshire.

August 12 was the day for Mount Katahdin, Maine, the northern terminus of the AT.

20. Mount K

Beaker on lower left

After Katahdin, Beaker went home to Tennessee for two weeks before completing a section of Virginia that he skipped on his NOBO journey to Maine. He returned to the trail on August 27 to complete his 2,200 mile trek of the Appalachian Trail. Moving SOBO, he was dropped off in Waynesboro, VA. by his son, Zack, hiked 315 miles in 19 days, and finished his adventure in Adkins, Virginia at The Barn Restaurant.

What a great journey! I give Beaker a standing ovation and two thumbs up.

Categories: Adkins, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Beaker, Dover Oak, Erwin, Georgia, Grayson Highlands, Harpers Ferry, Maine, McAfee Knob, Mount Katahdin, Mount Moosilauke, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Palmerton, Pine Grove Furnace, Springer Mountain, Tennessee, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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 http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=523064
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.

http://www.today.com/health/woman-who-paralyzed-hikes-appalachian-trail-alone-t99811

http://www.popularmechanics.com/adventure/outdoors/a21585/high-tech-leg-braces-gets-this-paralyzed-woman-hiking/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/07/01/the-incredible-technology-thats-helping-this-paralyzed-woman-hike-the-appalachian-trail/

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

Photo of Stacey  http://www.nwcn.com/news/health/high-tech-braces-aid-handicapped-hiker/262010477

Photo at Damascus http://www.littlethings.com/stacey-kozel-hikes-appalachian-trail/

Photo of C-Brace http://www.popularmechanics.com/adventure/outdoors/a21585/high-tech-leg-braces-gets-this-paralyzed-woman-hiking/

Categories: Adversity, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, C-Brace, Courage, Harpers Ferry, Hiking, Stacey Kozel, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , | 8 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

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