AT Hiker Update: Part 2

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I wanted to provide a progress report on the other five hikers that I have been tracking as they attempt a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

Sour Kraut at 500 Miles

Chip Tillson (Sorry, he does not post photos to share)

Chip began his AT adventure on February 20, 2018. As of April 9th, he has trekked over 350 miles. He is through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, passed Hot Springs, North Carolina, and ten miles beyond Erwin, Tennessee. Having to take several days to heal from a fall on his shoulder, Which Way and Next Step have caught up with Chip. He mentions meeting them and seeing them several times during the past few days. Chip developed his first blister during his hike into Erwin, TN, so he decided to take a zero-day at Uncle Johnny’s Hostel for some TLC before moving on.

Sour Kraut

Tim Pfeiffer, who started on February 21st.  His photo journal makes it difficult to track his mileage but his last photos show him at hiker-made the 500-mile marker. That puts him in Virginia just north of Grayson Highlands.

Which Way and Next Step

Which Way and Next Step Sunrise at Max Patch

Which Way and Next Step

Darrell (Next Step) and Alicia (Which Way) Brinberry, retired military most recently stationed in Washington, DC, began their adventure on February 24th. My last post found the couple in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on March 24th. They took three more days to complete the park and spent the night outside GSMAP at Standing Bear Farm. On the next day, the trail led them to Max Patch on a beautiful day. The Bald provided an outstanding view with a stunning 360-degree look at the surrounding mountains. Which Way and Next Step camped on Max Patch and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise on March 29th. They arrived at Hot Springs on March 30 and enjoyed three days with family in this wonderful trail town. Hitting the trail again on April 2nd, Which Way began to experience some physical discomfort – sore knees and a tender shoulder from carrying a heavy backpack, so they took a shorter day (10miles) and arranged a shuttle into the Hemlock Hollow Inn. The respite was exactly what was needed and Which Way was ready to go the next day with no discomfort. The trail was filled with rain for a few days and the couple was thrilled to arrive at Erwin on April 7. They spent a zero-day in Erwin, attending a church service and taking in a movie (I Can Only Imagine). I have seen this film and it is just an outstanding movie about the transforming power of God in a person’s life. They experienced a rather discouraging Monday, hiking in the wrong direction for a few hours, walking in the mist and fog, and setting up camp in the rain. I still love their attitudes as shared in their last post, “Mundane Monday was finally over. Looking forward to Terrific Tuesday!”


RTK on March 29

Return To Katahdin (RTK), Bruce Matson is reporting his adventure in posts summarizing each week. He posts a week behind his current location so his last post reflects his journey through April 3.  His strong hike has only included two zero-days in the past sixteen hiking days. He stopped at Hot Springs on the 23rd of March and then again on Easter Sunday in Roan Mountain, Tennessee. He stayed at the Roan Mountain B&B which brought back memories for me, as I enjoyed a day there as well in 2014. His last post finds him camped at mile marker 413.2 at Moreland Gap Shelter about 20 miles north of Roan Mountain.







Hickory who began on February 26. On April 9th, Hickory is staying at one of his favorite hostels on the AT – Woods Hole Hostel, about 11 miles south of Pearisburg, Virginia. He has covered 623 miles of the Appalachian

Woods Hole Hostel

Trail. Hickory has not posted photos in his online journey until April 9th. It was of the hostel. He gives the following insights into his rating of hosels along the trail, “My top-ten hostels on the AT are clean, sanitary, organized, have fabric mattresses (not vinyl “prison pads”), offer meal options or a hiker-kitchen, are walking-distance to the trail, are clean and organized, may have private rooms, respectfully enforce rules, treat hiker-guests like “kin”, and (with redundancy intended) are clean and organized! Succinctly, the best hostels are like B&B’s at hiker rates. Woods Hole tops the list!”

Here is a quick summary of the progress of each nine thru-hikers that I am following.

Update          Miles              Hiker                                           Location                                Start Date

4/7/2018 353.7 Chip Tillson Beauty Spot Gap 2/20/2018
4/9/2018 355.7 Which Way and Next Step Unaka Mountain, TN 2/24/2018
4/3/2018 413.2 RTK Moreland Gap Shelter, TN 2/25/2018
4/3/2018 465.3 Bamadog Campsite just south of Damascus 2/15/2018
4/9/2018 468.5 Vagabond Jack Damascus, VA 2/1/2018
4/9/2018 500 Sour Kraut 500 Mile Marker, VA 2/21/2018
4/9/2018 623 Hickory Woods Hole Hostel, VA 2/27/2018
4/9/2018 729 Hard Knocks Fullhardt Knob Shelter, VA 1/31/2018
4/9/2018 907.3 Opa Near Skyline Drive, VA 2/10/2018
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Erwin, Hickory, Max Patch, Roan Mountain, RTK, Sour Kraut, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Virginia, Which Way and Next Step, Wood Hole Hostel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AT Hikers: April 9th Update

I have been on vacation down in North Carolina and West Virginia over the past 10 days, but the nine Appalachian thru-hikers that I am following have been facing some snowy, cold, rainy, windy days. In order to catch you up on their progress and not write a book, I am going to share about four hikers today and the other five tomorrow. The incredible weather of this stubborn spring has made the trail even more challenging as they attempt their 14-state walk.

Hard Knocks with his Parents 2/27/18 (He does not post many photos)

Hard Knocks

Hard Knocks, Patrick Knox Hard Knocks, started on January 31. He just updated his journal that had been spotty since my last update. He did not make a posting from March 22 until March 29. The best that I can tell, he hunkered down at a hostel to avoid the trail storms. He was back on the trail on 3/29 and commented that the trail seemed like a fast-moving creek due to the rain and melted snow. On April 3rd he began having difficulties with his ankle and ended up coming off the trail for three days. He has a niece in Roanoke who picked him up and offered her home for some recovery time. He got a new pair of shoes and replaced his backpack. On April 8th he was back on the trail, passed McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs, and ended his ten-mile hike a Lamberts Meadows Shelter. The next day he trekked fifteen miles to Fulhardt Knob Shelter and mile 729 of the Appalachian Trail. He reports that his ankle and new boots are working well as he eases back into longer hikes.

Vagabond Jack at Damascus, VA

Vagabond Jack

Jack Masters, from Kansas City, took his first steps on the famous Appalachian Trail on February 1. Vagabond Jack is consistently moving north. In the past 16 days, he has only taken on zero-day in Roan, Tennessee. On days that he hikes, he is averaging 10.4 miles per day. On April 9th, he arrived at Damascus, Virginia where he plans to zero on the 10th having hiked 468 miles of the AT. In his blog, he mentions that he has met RTK (Bruce Matson) on March 30 and then again on April 5th. They both know Mighty Blue and have been interviewed on Blue’s podcast so they had an enjoyable conversation sharing their adventures thus far. Vagabond Jack, like the other hikers this spring, faced many cold, rain, snowy, windy days. He mentioned the difficult weather on 11 of the past 18 days. His strategy through these challenging conditions has been to gain cover as much as possible. He has only spent the night in his tent three times; he has sought the warmth of a shelter on seven nights; and he has found the comfort of a motel/hostel on eight occasions. His plan seems to be working for him as he stays warmer and well fed along the way.


Opa on April 1


Opa on McAfee Knob

Opa (Reinhard Gsellmeier), the retired engineer from Rochester, NY, began his thru-hike on February 10. Opa is well over 450 miles ahead of Vagabond Jack and has passed Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro, Virginia, trekked 44 miles into Shenandoah National Park and passed the 900- mile marker on the trail. (There are very few actual markers, but guidebooks provide fairly accurate mileage.) But his walk has not been easy. On April 6th, Opa fell four times. He recounts his adversity in his blog, “I fell four times today, one of them hard. Nothing broken, but I have several aches and pains:  my forehead, right hand, left elbow and left knee all ache pretty good as I lay in my tent tonite. My left knee in particular is pretty sore, cut up and a bit swollen. I must have fallen on a rock pretty hard with the knee, as it put a tear in my rainpants – which have a pretty durable fabric…. The funny thing is, I didn’t fall in any of the steeper sections of trail – it was always on a gradual slope. Go figure!” Opa is still hiking in snow and freezing temperatures with water bottles turning into slushies and temperatures in the 20’s overnight.



Lotus (in green) and Bamadog (on the right)

Marty Dockins hit the trail on February 15th. His last post in his online journal was April 3rd. He was camped at the Abington Gap Shelter just 6.5 miles from the Tennessee/Virginia border and 11.3 miles from Damascus. He had put in his first 20-mile day and was looking forward to celebrating his 61st birthday in Damascus on the 4th. Bamadog took a week off the trail from March 24-30 to spend some time with his “sweetie,” avoid the weather and rest his tired body. He shares about the hiatus in his journal, I took 7 days off and went home with my sweetheart. Went to the doctor and got my leg checked out. He said my hip belt was pushing in on a nerve that comes out from the front of my hip going to my leg. I adjusted my pack so I am good to go! The first two days back my leg is feeling much better. I did 16 miles yesterday and 14 today. Just climbed 1700 feet to get to this campsite.” It sounds like his time off the trail was refreshing and just what he needed to continue his adventure. I am anticipating an update very soon from Bamadog.


Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Bamadog, Class of 2018, Damascus, Hard Knocks, McAfee Knob, Opa, Shenandoah National Park, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Tinker Cliffs, Virginia, Waynesboro | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Hiking Class of 2016 – Making Progress

I have been following a small group of thru-hikers that began their journeys in 2016. These hikers have chosen to track their trek on I am following three thru-hikes very closely but let me give you a broader update on the class of 2016.

Winter StreamFour hikers actually began their thru-hike attempts in January. Two decided to leave the trail before January turned to February. One hiker lasted until March 20th before ending his attempt. And one, who started January 8th, is still on the trail and was camped in Vermont on June 11 having hiked 1,641 miles. One out of four (25%) is about the average for successful thru-hikes.

February was the start month for 20 brave hikers. Eight of those treks have ended and 3 more are questionable. They are in question because they have not journaled for several weeks but they have not declared that have returned home. After 8 weeks of silence, I will assume that they have ended their adventures. Some might be tired of journaling and are still trucking down the path, but my chart will show them as AWOL. For the purpose of this blog, I will include the questionable hikers as current on the trail. So 12 of the 20 that began in February are still active reflecting a 60% success rate.

March is the most popular month to start the Appalachian Trail – 101 of the hikers that have chosen to journal jumped on the trail during March. Thirty-eight of those brave adv20140518-102659.jpgenturers have had to walk away from the trail (15 more in a questionable status) leaving 63 active pilgrims (62% still hiking).

April attracted 50 thru-hikers to the trail. Eighteen have needed to return home while 32, about 64%, remain walking the AT. May reflects a significant decrease in hikers with only 15 individuals slated to journal about their adventure. Of those 15, two hikers have already pulled themselves from the trek. A nice 87% remain, although 3 have been silent for several weeks.

Sixteen individuals reflect a start date sometime in June, two people hope to leave in July, and one man is projecting an August 1 start date. I plan to watch these future backpackers as they put their dreams into action.

Coach.216Of all the journals that I am tracking, only one hiker has completed his hike, summiting Mount Katahdin on June 11, 2016. His trail name in “Coach” and he left Springer Mountain on February 19. I have not read his entire journal, but he made excellent time, completing the hike in 114 days! Coach, real name: Ken Durham, hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2015 so he is not a novice to long trails. Congratulations to this fine hiker.


Winter trail found at

Spring Photo – Rowdy’s 2014 hike

Photo of Coach

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Hiking, Journaling, Mount Katahdin, Pacific Crest Trail, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Rooster Lives!

The Pony at Grayson Highlands

The Pony at Grayson Highlands

My last touch with Fat Hen and Rooster Talon was April 26. That journal post left me with grave concerns about this young couple and their Appalachian Trail adventure. Rooster Talon (Becky) was struggling with a chronic problem of ingrown toenails to the point that hiking long miles was become very painful. She and Fat Hen (Dan) opted for some backcountry surgery thru-hiker style, so they literally took the problem into their own hands. Using some mini-scissors, and tweezers their AT surgery went well. The toe, bandaged and lathered in antibiotic ointment (the healing balm of any successful thru-hike), cooperated in carrying the Rooster into Erwin, Tennessee.

With no news for almost a month, I was beginning to assume that the forest operating room resulted in a more sterile OR and a ticket home for the rest of the hiking season. But, no! The Rooster Talon is proving to be one tough bird.

The journal come back to life on May 15, finding the young team in Marion, Virginia. Having traveled through 50 miles of the state of Virginia, Becky and Dan seem to be hiking well. They took several photos along the way including the one posted here with one of the ponies at Grayson Highlands (a highlight for almost every thru-hiker).

Tent City at Trail Days

Tent City at Trail Days

The couple made a decision to delay their NOBO adventure and returned to Damascus, Virginia for Trail Days. Dulcigal made the same choice although neither journal mentions a connection between the hikers. That is not a big surprise because (Fat Hen notes) Damascus, a town whose population is about 850, sees 20,000 to 30,000 visitors to this festival. Most of those visitors are not thru-hiking the trail, so Dan and Becky decided to opt out of tent city (a place with lots of late night celebration and loud parties). They rented a tent site on the yard of a church for $5.00 per night. They were very happy with their choice.

Trails Days was a boat load (maybe that should be a backpack full) of fun. Neither hiker won any free gear, but the AYCE pizza dinner and AYCE pancake breakfast made the journey memorable. The highlight for Dan was some disparate repairs on his backpack. The maker of his backpack was not represented in the Damascus event but he took his sick pack to the Osprey booth. They did a wonder repair and charged him nothing. Dan was overwhelmed with the quality of work and the trail angel spirit of the company. I think Dan’s next pack will have the Osprey decal printed on the back.

It is so good to see this couple alive and well on the trail. They are not making great time but they are on the move. My prayers are with them. The weather should turn in their favor and miles should begin to increase.

Photo of tent city:

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Damascus, Dulcigal, Fat Hen, Grayson Highlands, Marion, Rooster Talon, Tent City, Thru-Hike, Trail Days, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dulcigal Travels to Trail Days

Dulci on Blood MtDulcigal arrived in Marion, Virginia on May 10 (Day 59 of her thru-hike), having hiked over 530 miles of the Appalachian Trail. The weather, during the first two weeks of May, was rather unpredictable. One night during the trek to Marion, Dulcigal encounted freezing temperatures and 4-6 inches of snow. After warming up in Marion, a group of hikers, including Dulcigal, hatched a plan to rent cars and return to Damascus, Virginia. The plan to go backward had a purpose: Trail Days. Trail Days is the premier hiker festival along the AT and this year it was celebrated on May 13-15.

Dulci had a great time at the festival raving about gear discounts, give-a-ways and the three basic needs of all thru-hikers: food, showers, and laundry. One of the traditions of Trail Days is the Thru-Hiker parade down through Main Street lined on both sides with the locals, who shoot the hikers with water guns. Quite a strange “gauntlet-like” custom but everyone seems to enjoy the event accompanied with grand laughter and cheers. There is a hiker talent show one evening where the hikers are able to demonstrate their gifts that are often hidden by their beards, backpacks, and trekking garb.

Dulcigal gave the festival high marks and felt the trip was well worth the time. She picked up a lighter backpack (this will provide benefits for days ahead) and was able to obtain some repairs on her trail runners.

In her May 19 post, Dulcigal journaled from Adkins, Virginia. She continues to experience foot pain and is resting for a day or two. She is frustrated trying to balance a longing desire to be hiking the trail with the patience needed for the body to heal itself. Her hope is to be back on the trail in a day or two.

I am a bit concerned for Dulcigal. She has averaged about 8 miles per day during her first 68 days on the trail. I did not stay in Adkins but I passed by the community on day 38 of my adventure. At the current pace, her journey will demand 274 days and a projected end date of December 11. She will be forced to do a flip flop (at some point traveling to Maine to climb Katahdin and hike across the Presidential Mountains in New Hampshire before winter) and finish the hike moving south bound to the spot of her flip flop.

My hope is that she will be able to pick up her pace and increase her daily mileage. If she could increase her daily pace to 12 miles per day for the rest of the journey, she could finish on October 3 (very close to the closing down of Katahdin for the winter). This is still very possible. My cheers and prayers are with Dulci as she attempts to reach this major accomplishment in her life.

Dulcigal - Photo approching Pearsiburg

Dulcigal – Photo approaching Pearsiburg

Update: Dulcigal posted just a few days ago and had arrived at Pearisburg, Virginia – about 634 miles on the AT (an average of 8.45 miles per day). The good news – she is feeling stronger physically and seems to be in excellent spirits. Let me share a little of her most recent posting:

“My knee is great…my feet are better… and life has been good. These past days I’ve been able to stop and enjoy the views, take pictures, think, meditate, pray, and still complete the miles I’ve needed to complete. I’m at 634 miles in Pearisburg, VA. More of God’s creatures are being seen as the weather gets warmer. Unfortunately, the annoying bugs are coming out as well. We’ve had LOTS of rain over the past week or two. Even the locals in the trail towns are complaining about the rain. We’ve been slipping and sliding a lot on the trail. I do want to say, that in spite of the rain, I LOVE VIRGINIA!!!!!!! This is such a beautiful state. I really love the contour of the mountains, the trail, etc. It is just beautiful. God’s handiwork is very much present.”

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Damascus, Dulcigal, Hiking, Marion, Thru-Hike, Trail, Trail Days, Virginia | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

A Thru-hike: Not Everyone Makes It!

I am still waiting for an update from Two Peas, Dulcigal and Fat Hen/Rooster Talon: the AT thru-hikers that I am following this year. I decided to explore some of the other online journals. There are still several hikers that are scheduled to hit the trail later this month, but there are 174 active journals on

As I have reviewed the journals (yes, I got carried away and checked them all), 44 of those thru-hikers have dropped off the trail. That is approximately 25% of those who began the trail and who are keeping a journal through this particular website. This is just a fraction of the total hikers on the AT, but it is an interesting cross-section of the hiking community. Those 44 hikers averaged 23 days on the trail and completed an average of 114.8 miles.

SandiAmong the 44, the shortest distance traveled on the AT was 0.2 miles by Just Plain Sandi. She began her adventure at the 8.8 mile approach trail in Amicalola Falls, Georgia. The first day she hiked 1.1 miles to the AT Shelter. Day two was a trek of 3.7 miles to Frosty Mountain. The third day of the adventure involved 2.5 miles to Black Gap Shelter where she took a zero day on day four. Day five concluded with 1.7 miles and the summit of Springer Mountain. The night was spent at Springer Mounter Shelter (0.2 miles on the AT itself). Just Plain Sandi fell off a ladder in the shelter and injured both wrists, an elbow and her shoulder. This difficult beginning and her desire to be home with an aging father caused Just Plain Sandi to walk off the trail and head for home.

WoofieThe shortest hike in number of days belongs to Woofie and Wooly Booly whose trek ended after the first day. The couple had walked 8.4 miles when Woofie (Gwen Minturn) twisted her knee ending their 2016 hiking journey. The day after the injury they write “Woofie’s knee and ankle had swollen and become more painful. With both injuries being on the left side, she was almost totally immobilized, making simply getting out of the tent extremely difficult. We knew that our hike was over, and that we had to get off the trail and get medical attention.” Five days later their final post included the following: “Although none of the hardware in her knee implant was damaged in her fall, she did suffer a hairline fracture of the patella (knee cap). She’ll have to keep the leg brace on for another 4-6 weeks.”

The longest distance traveled by a hiker, so far, that has decided to leave the trail was 590.6 miles, involving 59 days. Aleve (Carl Graves), a retired air traffic controller and a runner of marathons and some ultra-marathons, started on February 17 and hiked until April 9. He took some time off trail, resting for 11 days and then returned, hopping back on the trail at Harpers Ferry, WV. His second hike lasted six days and then Aleve’s Aleveknee communicated that it was not going to carry him any further. Eighteen miles into Pennsylvania, Aleve journals, “My knees really hate rocky trails. I fell today while hiking through a bouldering section between Rocky Mountain Shelters and US 30, the type of fall where your foot is lodged between two rocks while your body continues to pivot. Torqued the bad knee.” Injury claims another journey. Of the 44 hikers that have chosen to end their dream of a thru-hike, 19 hikers point to a physical injury that ended their attempt. Sixteen individuals explain their decision to walk off the trail as a logical/emotional conclusion or an inability to cope with the weather and demands of the trail. One hiker points to a major family health concern that took him off the trail. And eight journals just abruptly ended without explanation. With no updates for over a month, I have concluded that the hiker is no longer on the trail. This might be incorrect and they may be out there piling up the miles, and just tired of posting to the journal. I hope this is the case, but I seriously doubt it.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is not an easy journey. It is filled with potential dangers that can physically end the adventure with one misstep. It is filled with harsh weather that can test the resolve of a bull moose. It comes complete with the stress of booking long miles into the hiker log, with the emotional pull to travel back home to comfort and friends, and with the nagging question echoing daily in the mind of some walkers, “Why am I doing this? Is this what I want to do for five solid months?”

HIF Cover PublishedA thru-hike is not for everyone. However, I have rarely found a hiker that has not been greatly impacted by their adventure. Whether it is 0.2 miles of 590 miles, whether it lasts one day or two months, the hiker is changed by the experience. Just about every hiker that has to walk off the trail feels like a failure. Of course, they are not. They have entered the world of the Appalachian Trail, breathed the forest air, drank from mountain streams, felt the fatigue of walking all day long, tasted the food of the trail, and lived to tell about it. The only failures are those that dream about the trail but never encounter it. Those that plan but never execute. Those with a list that stays in the bucket. My cheers go out to all those who have strapped on the backpack, followed the white blazes, and sought out an adventure.

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Dulcigal, Fat Hen, Georgia, Hiking, Journaling, Pennsylvania, Rooster Talon, Shelter, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Trail, Two Peas, White Blaze | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Hike Around the Creek

IMG_1099Saturday morning (April 16), Rocky and I watched our four grandchildren. We had a great time with iPads, tea parties, and a treasure hunt for fruit snacks. The kids came over to “Mimi and Poppy’s” house around 8:15 and their mom picked them up about 10:45. It is enjoyable to spend time with them and see them grow up right before our eyes.

After the visit, Rocky and I decided to throw a backpack filled with hiking essentials (water, first aid kit, a couple of snacks, and sunglasses) into the trunk along with our trekking poles and to head out for a two hour hike in the woods. We wanted to catch some of the early spring wildflowers and the day was absolutely perfect – warm temperatures without a cloud in the bright blue skies.

We headed for Caesar Creek, one of my favorite local hiking spots. We arrived at the state park at noon feeling energized and excited about our adventure on such a beautiful day. With our lunch safely stored on my back, I remembered a special picnic table down by the lake that I thought would be a great place to pause and enjoy the breeze off the lake.

IMG_1109What I failed to remember was the distance and time involved to reach that picnic table. It took about two hours of pretty rugged hiking to reach the table on the beach. It was a great spot but the thought of turning around and hiking back the way we came did not appeal to either of us. Rocky asked how far it was to complete the loop trail and not retrace our path. We quickly did some math and figured that we were close to the 5 mile marker and the loop was 12.7 miles.

IMG_1111After discussing the pro and cons, we decided to continue on and do the loop! At 5:30 we arrived back at the parking lot, exhausted and elated. Our feet hurt but our spirits soared. We were glad that the circle was completed but celebrated with high fives and fist bumps. Rocky and Rowdy setting some records. Longest hike this year…. a loop trail without getting lost…. both of us making it from the garage to the living room without a leg cramp after sitting in the car for the 25 minute ride home from the park. As we chowed down on delicious food for dinner, neither of us had a solid conviction that we would be able to successfully stand up the following morning.

IMG_1104With all the background story aside, the hike was glorious. The occasional breezes coming off the lake made the trek quite comfortable. The natural air-conditioning helped to clear the mind and remove stress. The blue skies lifted our spirits heavenward and the wildflowers dotted the trail with life and spring and color. By the end our feet hurt but smiles ruled the day. We plopped into our Civic but breathed the air of accomplishment. Our senses were filled with God’s creation and our emotions were packed with peace and joy. It was a good day!

Categories: Backpack, Caesar Creek, Hiking, Local Hikes, Ohio, Rocky, Trail | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Lessons from the Thru-hike – Embrace the Adversity

Creek Flood 4The old saying, “No Pain, No Gain” is modified on the AT to “No Pain, No Gain – No Rain, No Maine.” I understood before stepping out from Springer Mountain that adversity was just around the bend in the trail. The weather, the food, the shelters, and the terrain were all potential sources of adversity. Being soaked to the bone only to have a cold wind chill your shirt so it felt like you were wearing a Frosty the Snowman costume, was only an hour’s worth of temperature change away. Finding yourself surrounded by a baseball team worth of smelly men, all snoring a chorus of the Hall of the Mountain King was going to be a pretty common experience in the shelters of the AT. Rain mixed with rain would transform the trail into rivers of cascading precipitation. Adversity would be a reality.

Knowing that and still wanting to make this journey, I decided that I needed to embrace adversity. So I created a motivational speech for myself. The speech was short and rather redundant but I found it most effective. The speech consisted of four words repeated over and over until I believed its truth. No Adversity, No Adventure…No Adversity, No Adventure.

I tried my best to prepare for the AT by purposely facing adversity and attempting to embrace the challenges as an exciting part of the adventure. I planned an eight mile hike on a day that had a 100% change of rain. It rained and it poured and the MetroPark creeks filled to overflowing with torrents of fresh rain water. I put my rain gear on and attached my rain cover to my backpack and headed for the trail. I had a blast! I was the only idiot in the park and I sloshed through trail and waded through ponds covering the trail. At the end of the day, however I got to get in my car and return home. On the drive I wondered if I could embrace the adversity if I had to pitch my tent, try to dry off and go to sleep after the deluge of the heavens.

I intentionally hiked fourteen miles on a trail that I knew was going to be intensely muddy. I was determined not to avoid the mud but to hike right down the middle of the trail. I slipped going uphill and went to my knees several times, I tried to ski down the descents only to find myself visiting the mud on my posterior in a spectacular butt-drop… several times. But I decided before getting out my car, that I was going to embrace the difficulties with laughter. And I did. I had the best time pretending that I was a small boy playing in the mud. No Adversity, No Adventure.

frog 2I also experienced a few situations of adversity that I had not planned. Like the overnight backcountry camp site I reserved. Upon arrival I found the site quite acceptable and located beside a nice pond. However, dusk revealed that I was not alone. There were 10,000 (plus or minus five) frogs that called the pond home. According to Wikipedia (my source for answering stuff like this), “most camouflaged frogs are nocturnal; during the day, they seek out a position where they can blend into the background and remain undetected.” I came to the conclusion that this pond was the training ground for camouflaged reptiles. As the sun went down, the time of hiding was over and the frogs began to celebrate. I began to laugh knowing that a good night sleep was going to be impossible. The later it got, the louder the croaking became. I began to try to sing with them, I conducted them like a giant choir singing a famous aria of Verdi or Wagner, and I told them jokes pretending that their response was just their way of laughing uncontrollably. In reality, I did not sleep much at all and my frustration level did elevate. But when I got home from the weekend out, the first story I told my wife was about the singing frogs and their eight hur concert. Why? Because it was the best story of the adventure. The bouquet of wild flows in the open meadow was beautiful HikeItForward-Final-Smalland the bridge over the running brook was worthy of a picture but nothing compared to the frogs – they were unique, they were a surprise, they were a challenge. No Adversity, No Adventure.

So it is in life. The most exciting times in our day to day experience can be often be during those times of adversity. The resistance, the hurdle, the blockade, or the problem can be filled with adventure and challenge. Embrace the situation and find the adventure. Let the adrenaline of adversity pump the excitement of adventure in to your life. Hike it forward!


Camouflage frog photo:

Categories: Adversity, Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Frog, MetroPark, Rain, Springer Mountain | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hike It Forward – Book Review #2

Book Cover 2Last week I shared two reviews of my ebook, Hike It Forward, posted on Here are two more insights from readers. The first is from Bruce Matson on January 10. Bruce is an author himself – check out his inspiring book: The Race Before Us: A Journey of Running and Faith sold on Amazon. Bruce shared his comments on January 10 and provided me with a five star rating. He gave his comments about my book under the headline: Humble, Honest and Engaging.

I was honored to receive his comments and so pleased to read his insights. Bruce wrote,

“I have read many memoirs about thru-hiking and this stacks up with the best of them. Rowdy avoids a repetitious day-by-day journal approach and makes the material and the Trail very accessible. Its humble and honest and engaging. Dr. D also fills the chapters, more organized by subject, with solid information and tips that will aid anyone considering a thru-hike”

When individuals, that are well read in the Appalachian Trail literature, compare my book with some of the best available, I am so amazed and truly shocked. I did not want my book to be just another journal of a thru-hiker, so I put my experience into topics. I was very pleased to hear Bruce’s positive comment on this approach. Thanks Bruce, for such a gracious and kind review.

Book Cover 2The second review comes from Debbie, who posted her thoughts on January 18. She gave my book four stars with the following headline, “Good read for aspiring AT hikers.” She provided the following comments.

“As someone who has hiked the AT, I probably approached this book differently than a novice hiker would. There is a lot of good information that would be useful to a newbie hiker. I thought the author’s synopsis of the trail at the end of the book was very good. On the downside, the book could have used better editing. The religious/spiritual aspect, that is the underlying theme, was certainly sincere, but less than inspiring. There are lots & lots of books on the AT out there. This one is worth reading!”

I really appreciate this feedback because it comes from a veteran hiker. I am not sure if she has thru-hiked the AT, but she seems quite knowledgeable and well read on the trail. I hope that she is correct in pointing newbie hikers to my book as a good source of trail information, particularly in my synopsis chapter of the trail. Again, my spiritual theme comes out loud and clear although she did not find it very inspiring. This is my fault as a writer because the experience was so inspiring to me, the trail shouted the glory of God, and I was enveloped by the creation and theBook Cover 2 Creator Himself. I do bask in the last words of the reviewer as Debbie gave me a “worth reading” rating – not bad from an individual that has read many books about the trail.

I would love to hear from you if you feel led to read the ebook. It is not available in paperback or hard cover, but only as an electronic download. Kindle tablets or iPads with the free Kindle app provide a nice read. Here is a quick link to the book simply click on any of the photos of the book in the post, or you can just search for Hike It Forward on

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Book, Hike It Forward, Hiking, Thru-Hike, Trail | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Simplicity Still Demands Strategy

HikeItForward-Final-MediumIt might seem like hiking the Appalachian Trail is simply getting up in the morning, putting on your backpack, hike until break time, snack, hike until lunch, eat, hike until afternoon break, snack, hike until dinner, eat, find a spot to camp, set up the tent, enjoy a few hours rest, climb into the tent, sleep until morning and start all over again. In one sense, this is precisely the routine. However, the journey is not that simple. The strategy for each day’s journey is critical for success.

Let me provide an actual example. I got sick on the trail just south of Marion, Virginia and took two days off the trail in Marion to recover from an intestinal virus. Getting back on the trail I knew I had 123.2 miles to Pearisburg, Virginia where my sister planned to meet me for some home cooked food and a comfortable bed. I needed a strategy for hiking this mileage.

First, I needed to estimate the number of days for the journey. If at all possible I wanted to reach my sister’s company in a week. If I wanted a seven-day trip, I would need to trek 17.6 miles each day. To reach Pearisburg in 6 days I would have to average 20.53 miles per day. And if I wanted to try to arrive in 5 days, I would need to maintain a pace of 2
4.64 miles every twenty-four hours. I quickly eliminated the 5-day trip not thinking that I could not  hike that far for five consecutive days especially after being sick for two days.

3 BooksSecond, I pulled out my AT Guidebook and began to map out shelters, campsites, and towns as potential places to stay each night. Unfortunately, there was not a shelter every 17.6 miles. I decided to plot a trail of no more than 18.5 miles a day. With that restriction, I found shelter at 16.7 miles for day one; 17.9 for day two, 15.1 for day three; 17.9 for day four; then only 14.0 on day five (the next shelter would have demanded a 23.8 mile day) 18.4 on day six; 15 miles on day seven; and 8.2 miles on day eight. This seemed very doable. There was a resupply town at the end of day two (Atkins, VA), but I would still have to buy and carry enough food to last me five and half days to reach Pearisburg. But this would be my conservative itinerary.

IMG_0875Third, I developed a more aggressive agenda and plotted a map to arrive in six days (averaging about 21 miles each day. Even the first day presented a dilemma. I could hike 16.7 miles to a campsite or push another 6.3 miles to a shelter. Still being queasy from the stomach bug, I plotted the 16.7 miles knowing I would have to make up the mileage during the next five days. Day two would demand 21 miles to Davis Path Camp. The third day would require a 19.9 mile trek to Chestnut Knob Shelter. Day four would have to be a 21.9 mile hike to Bland, VA. The fifth day was going to be a challenging 23.9 miles to Dismal Creek campsite. Day six into Pearisburg was another long hike of 19.8 miles.

Fourth, I committed myself to a flexible mindset and an adaptable agenda. Rain could determine pace, sickness could delay my hike again, a fall could always demand a change of plans, and the possibility of taking a wrong turn and spending hours getting back on the AT was not out of the question. So I decided to hike the first day and then evaluate the itinerary for day two.

Fifth, I was still not 100% on day one, but I did not want to delay my adventure, so I returned to Fox Creek, Virginia and started up the trail. I had five viable camping options depending on my health. There was a shelter just 3.3 miles up the trail; a trail (0.7 miles) to a campsite at mile marker 6.5; a town at 8.5 miles (not including the 2.6 mile hitch into Troutdale); another shelter at 12.4 miles; a tent site at 16.7 (my prime target); and a third shelter at 23.0 miles. I decided to hike until my body said stop and adjust my plans from there.

This planning was a typical and important aspect of my hike. Plotting out places for resupply was critical as well. Water was plentiful most of the time, but the plan for each day included the best spot to stop for water and the careful rationing of water along the way.

Life on the Appalachian Trail is a simple one and the routine is much the same each day. Walking in creation and enjoying the fresh air of the trail was the order of the day. But this simplicity demanded strategy and planning. Life after the Appalachian Trail is often too complex but even when I am able to simplify the agenda, planning and strategic thinking are still vital to effectiveness.

By the way, I was able to fulfill my more aggressive agenda and arrived in Pearisburg in six days. There were some other aggressive agendas that I did not fulfill, but God was always faithful to provide the strength and the direction along the way.

In case you want to read more – check out my ebook (Hike It Forward) at

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Hike It Forward, Hiking, Simplicity, Strategy, The A.T. Guide, Thru-Hike, Trail, Uncategorized, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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