Beaker

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 Finishing the Appalachian Trail – The Final Days

9/11/17 Destination: Knot Maul Shelter, VA

Miles hiked: 2175.7 Miles Today 24.4 Miles to go: 14.6

Beaker 9.11.17.Chestnut Shelter

Beaker at the Chestnut Knob Shelter

Beaker was up at daylight. The forecast was for rain in the afternoon, so he wanted to get in as many miles as possible before welcoming the liquid sunshine to the trail. He had to bid farewell to Hoops (Courtney) thanking her once again for coming out to the trail. Dancing Bear slept in a little later but was planning on hiking to Knot Maul Shelter today as well.

It was overcast and windy all morning; but, the rain held off. Dancing Bear passed Beaker fairly quickly into the hike which reminded Beaker of the old days with the young guys blowing past him as he trudged up the hill. Beaker then settled into his steady pace, listening to an audiobook as the miles melted away.

About 15 miles into the hike, Beaker stopped for lunch at Chestnut Knob Shelter. He showed up just as Dancing Bear was heading out. The shelter was so nice, located in a meadow on top of a mountain. It was a fully enclosed shelter with windows, bunks for six, and a picnic table in the shelter. Beaker finished his lunch and reluctantly headed back out into the wind and light rain.

Another ten miles of hiking brought him to his destination, Dancing Bear was already there, reading. They had a pleasant dinner at the shelter, both grateful for the company of another thru hiker.

It still hasn’t quite sunk in that tomorrow is my very last day on trail. I have been doing this since February. Although I’m more than ready to be finished, I know that I will miss the simplicity of this lifestyle where all you have to worry about is putting one foot in front of another. I will also miss the easy camaraderie of the thru hiker community.

9/12/17 Destination: The Finish Line – The Barn Restaurant, Atkins, VA. Miles today 14.6

September 12 would be Beaker’s last day on the trail. Instead of summarizing his journal, I decided to quote portions of post in the hopes of better capturing his spirit and excitement of the end.

Beaker.The Barn.The End

The Thru- Hike COMPLETE!

My final day on the trail was quite epic. The wind gusted all night and the rain arrived around 3:00 AM as the tail end of Hurricane Irma descended upon us. Since I only had 14.6 miles to hike, I slept in until 7:15 AM, allowing it to get light before I drug myself out from under my nice, warm down quilt.  

After eating breakfast and packing up, it became apparent that the wind and rain weren’t going to let up any time soon, so I decided it was time to hike. Dancing Bear was still in his sleeping bag and was contemplating taking a zero day at the shelter to ride out the storm. So, I bade him farewell and good luck and headed out.

The wind was gusting and the rain was pelting as I climbed the ridge. There were leaves and branches down everywhere and I had to climb over a couple of downed trees. ….The trail profile was a little steeper than what I had hiked the past couple of days, with three pretty big climbs. Each time I descended from a mountain, I would have to climb over a stile and traverse a pasture.….The pastures were also much more exposed than the woods. At one point, I came around the hill as I was traversing an open pasture right into a strong headwind, with sheets of rain pelting me. The wind was so strong I had to tighten the drawstring on my hat to keep it from blowing off.

I was trudging up a long, steep hill at one point when Dancing Bear came bounding by like it was nothing. It really warmed my heart to be passed just once more by a young Twenty Something like I was standing still.  It was just like the old days.

Eventually, I climbed over my last stile, walked under I-81 and approached the Barn Restaurant. As I walked up, Dancing Bear was on the porch, cheering me on. He said that he didn’t want me to “summit” at the Barn alone, so he decided to hike through the rain to be there for me.

After 2190.3 miles of hiking through rain, sleet, snow, wind, sun, rocks, roots, and mud, my hike was finally at an end. A casual observer probably would have said that the moisture on my cheeks was a result of the pelting rain. Any thru hiker would’ve known the true source and smiled, knowing that I had now well and truly earned the title of Brave & Fierce Thru Hiker.

 

Categories: Adkins, Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Last Day, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized, Virginia | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Finishing the Appalachian Trail – Part 2

Beaker 9.7.17

View from Peter’s Mountain

9/7/17 Destination: Rice Field Shelter, VA –  Miles Hiked Today 25.3

Beaker had a long day planned, setting him up for a Nero (near zero) hike into Pearisburg on Friday. Although there were two pretty good climbs on the agenda, the majority of the hike was along ridge lines. The weather was great for hiking – cool and sunny.

The hike was pretty uneventful. Beaker didn’t see anyone on the trail all morning. After lunch, he met three women who were doing a southbound section hike. They had stopped to take a break at the shelter. After visiting awhile, Beaker started the long climb up to the Peter’s Mountain ridge line. He passed through a couple of old farm fields along the ridge, complete with apple trees – he ate his fill of the small tart apples. After a long day of hiking, Beaker finally arrived at the Shelter around 7:00. There were five other hikers at the shelter. They had already finished dinner and were settling in for the evening when he arrived, so Beaker set up his tent close to the shelter for the night.

Tomorrow’s journey hopes to be a short 8 mile hike down off the ridge, across the New River, and into Pearisburg, VA. The plan is for his brother Kenny to pick him up and take him to his house in Lewisburg, WV, for the night.

9/8/17 Destination Miller House, Lewisburg, WV.  Miles Today – 7.8

Beaker Fortune CookieIt was breezy and only 43 degrees when Beaker woke up at 7:00.  Getting out from underneath his warm quilt was tough. Once on the trail, the hike was smooth and gentle all the way down into Pearisburg. Then, Beaker came upon the Lucky Star Chinese Buffet (can you say, “All You Can Eat”?). I laughed when I finished eating and opened my fortune cookie and read: “You will obtain your goal if you maintain your course.” Even the Chinese buffet is rooting for me to finish this journey.

Beaker’s brother Kenny picked him up at the Lucky Star and they drove to Lewisburg, WV for the night.

9/9/17 Destination: Trent’s Grocery, VA  Miles Today 25.8

Today ranks high on my list of Great Trail Days. Beaker started off in the fog but climbed out of it as he ascended into the hills. The rest of the day was spent hiking along the ridge. Although he had to navigate a few rocky sections, the trail, for the most part, was smooth and easy. In addition, the weather was just about hiker perfect – cool but clear skies. 

At one point I heard crashing through the underbrush to my right. I have seen a bunch of deer through this section; but, these sounded bigger. Then I saw it – a bear! A fairly good sized bear ran across the trail about 30 feet ahead of me. It then stopped and stood on its back legs and looked at me…it dropped back down on all fours and loped off into the woods.

Beaker and Hoops

Beaker and Hoops

Trent’s Grocery, today’s destination, has everything a thru-hiker needs: a deli, a full selection of resupply options, and a place for camping next to the store –  Beaker arrived there around 6:00 and got a cheeseburger and onion rings.  

Beaker got a text from Courtney (aka Brie, aka Hoops). She was driving up from NC to meet him. The thing I have missed the most on this last section of the hike is the camaraderie of other thru hikers. In fact, I have been downright lonely. Beaker first met Courtney climbing up Blood Mountain on the second day of the hike, they crossed paths many times throughout the hike, and they climbed up Katahdin on the same day. Beaker was excited when she texted. It was so good to see one of his thru-hiker friends. Once her tent was set up, they went back to Trent’s for some ice cream and a bundle of firewood. They were joined in the camp by two other hikers and the four of them had a special evening around a campfire, listening to distance coyotes howling at the moon and telling tales of the trail. Tomorrow, Courtney is going to slackpack Beaker so he can knock out another 25 mile section of trail.

9/10/17 Stealth Site next to VA Rt 615, VA  Today 25.2 miles

Beaker awoke to fog and a heavy dew at his campsite behind Trent’s Grocery. Courtney was slack-packing Beaker today. She even brought him a daypack, so he didn’t have to carry his heavy backpack. Beaker hit the trail by 7:45.

He climbed up out of the fog into full sun and blue skies – another beautiful hiking day. With the lighter pack, Beaker was able to cover ground pretty quickly. Around the 18 mile mark, he crossed US Rt 52 and came upon Courtney sitting at a picnic table next to the road. Beaker refilled his water bottles, ate some snacks, and headed out to finish the last seven miles of today’s hike.

Beaker Hoops and Dancing Bear

Dancing Bear and Hoops and DQ

While Hoops was waiting for Beaker to arrive, a Flip-Flopper named Dancing Bear had passed by. Beaker had first met Dancing Bear in Maine right after Mahoosuc Notch and had seen him off and on through Maine. Courtney invited Dancing Bear to camp with them and to run into Bastion, VA for pizza that evening. After a pizza dinner at the Pizza Plus, the three friends drove over to a Dairy Queen for dessert. They then returned to their stealth site next to Rt 615.

Tomorrow, Beaker plans to hike another 25 miles to Knot Maul Shelter, setting himself up for a 14 mile hike in the rain on Tuesday to complete the trail.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Pearisburg, Peter's Mountain, Thru-Hike, Trent's Grocery, Uncategorized, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Finishing the Appalachian Trail – Part 1

Beaker is very close to completing his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. In the next three days, let me catch you up on his adventures over the past 10 days. He is completing a section of the trail in Virginia that he skipped hiking to Maine. He is now walking SOBO (South Bound) as he completes this final leg of his journey.

Beaker 9.2.179/2/17 Destination: Bobblets Gap Shelter, VA     Miles Today 18.2    Miles to go: 203.0

Another rainy day on the trail. It rained all night and Beaker woke to rain, wind, and fog. He was up and on the trail by 7:20 AM. The trail surface continued to be nice and smooth. He stopped for a break at Bryant Ridge Shelter, one of newer shelters on the trail – double decker structure with room for about 20 people and a big front porch. After a short break, Beaker continued hiking  – the rain lasting most of the day. The trail was pretty quiet today.The rain discouraging most day-hikers.

Beaker took a pretty good fall in the afternoon. He was moving along at a good pace on a level stretch of trail but managed to catch his toe on a trip rock. The momentum from his backpack propelled him forward and, with no time to react, he found himself sprawled out on the trail. He ended up with banged up knuckles on his left hand and scrapes on his left shin.

Beaker arrived at the shelter in the rain around 5:00. The weather is predicted to improve tomorrow and Beaker will be headed into town to spend the night at his cousin’s house, so he fell asleep hoping for better days on the trail.

Beaker 9.3.179/3/2017 Destination: Cousin Bill’s Apartment, Salem, VA   Miles Today:18.5

Beaker headed out around 7:15 AM. The sun broke out of the clouds only a couple of miles after leaving the shelter and by mid-morning, he was hiking under clear blue skies. For the most part, the trail was smooth and gentle, crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway several times.

The bright and beautiful day was dimmed somewhat when I learned via Facebook that a dear friend of mine from my days with the Mountaineer Area Rescue Group had died suddenly and unexpectedly. I spent the rest of the morning hiking with an air of melancholy, thinking of all the times I had spent with Ann on training missions and actual searches.

Beaker arrived in Daleville around 4:00.  Beaker’s cousin, Bill, picked him up around 5:00 in order to spend the night in his apartment in Salem, VA. During the hour wait, Beaker resupplied for his coming hike into Pearisburg. Friends of Bill brought over a wonderful meal of baked spaghetti, corn on the cob, and garlic bread. After dinner, they all settled in to watch the WVU-VT football game on TV. Tomorrow, Bill is going to drop Beaker back off in Daleville and he will slackpack 20 miles via Tinker Cliffs and McAfee’s Knob, where Bill will pick him up and bring me back to his place for another good night’s sleep.

9/4/2017 Destination: Cousin Bill’s Apartment, Salem, VA  Miles Hiked Today: 19.8

Beaker, Shenniguy, Matthew

Beaker and Matt

Today was a beautiful day to be on the trail – both in terms of weather and terrain. Cousin Bill dropped Beaker at the trail around 8:00. Even though most of  the morning involved climbing, trail conditions were very nice, and the pack weight was light. Beaker started listen to audiobooks, which also helped the miles to pass by quickly.

Since it was a holiday with beautiful weather, the trail was filled with day-hikers. Tinker Cliffs were pretty crowded; however, the views were spectacular. Bill’s 15-year-old son, Matthew, met Beaker at McAfee’s Knob, the rock overhang that is the most photographed place along the Appalachian Trail. There was a big crowd at the knob waiting to get their picture while sitting on the edge, dangling their feet over the precipice.

After snapping a few photos of their own, Beaker and Matthew headed for the parking lot and were soon riding back to Bill’s place. After a great shower, they went to an incredible cookout at a friend’s house – hot dogs, hamburgers, mac and cheese, au gratin potatoes, fruit salad, chips, and desserts! Bill will return Beaker to the parking tomorrow, where Beaker will continue heading south.

Beaker Audie Murphy Mem

Audie Murphy Memorial

9/5/17 Destination: Niday Shelter, VA.  Miles Hiked Today: 22.7

Bill got Beaker back to the trail by 8:15. It was a beautiful day, with blue skies and light winds. Most of the day was spent running along ridge lines and scrambling over rock outcropping. Beaker passed two AT landmarks on the hike today. The first one: Dragon’s Tooth is a 50 ft stone monolith at the top of Cove Mountain and the second: the Audie Murphy Memorial marks the spot of the fatal plane crash in 1971 that took the life of Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in World War II.

It was getting pretty dark when Beaker arrived at the shelter. He was alone in the camp tonight. The keyword for this portion of the hike has been solitude.

Beaker. Keefer Oak

Keffer Oak

9/6/17 Destination Warspur Shelter, VA.   Miles Hiked Today 18.2

It rained on and off all night, but Beaker was under way by 7:20.  After leaving the shelter, the rain settled in. It was a cold, steady rain that went on most of the morning. After climbing a couple miles, the trail leveled off and ran along the ridge. The trail along the ridge was rocky – wet, slippery slabs.

Beaker had to slide down some of the tilted slabs, but after descending from the ridge, he hiked through pastures and farmland for several miles, passing the Keffer Oak, a huge oak tree that is the second largest tree on the trail. The trail continues to be empty. Beaker only met two hikers today and they were heading north.

Beaker arrived at Warspur Shelter around 5:30. The clouds had actually cleared and the sun was shining brightly. It was nice to get into camp early enough to fix dinner and clean up before dark. Beaker was alone in the shelter again tonight.

Amazingly enough, I have walked almost 2100 miles now. I can remember way back to Georgia in February. The trail seemed impossibly long and daunting. It seemed like the exhausting 8 to 10 mile nibbles I was doing every day would never get me to the end. Now, I get up and walk 20 miles every day without a thought…..I’m not trying to say what I’m doing is amazing. It’s just funny how what once seemed impossible has become so mundane. Sadly, I also know that I am going to quickly lose this level of fitness when I am not walking 20 miles every day. Hopefully, I can keep off the 40 lbs I have lost when I go home.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Audie Murphy Memorial, Beaker, Keffer Oak, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized, Virginia | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Under 225 Miles to Go

Beaker AAAAA8/30/17 Destination: Stealth Site north of Punchbowl Shelter, VA   Miles Today: 22.2

Today rated up pretty high on my list of Good Days on the AT.

Beaker got up about 6:00. The sun is rising later each day and it wasn’t fully light until after 7:00. As a result, he didn’t get on the trail until almost 7:30 AM. The rain had passed overnight but fog remained and the trees continued to drip. The trail through this section of Virginia is beautiful – smooth, packed dirt moving gently along the ridgetops. To make conditions even better, the trail ran through old farmland, with lots of apple trees. I couldn’t walk past those trees without sampling an apple. Or two. Or three. Or more…

The mist dissipated around 11:00 making the hike even more enjoyable. Beaker stopped for lunch around 1:00 and by 5:30 he arrived at a lovely campsite. While filling up his water bottles to make a final push ahead he struck up a conversation with a northbound hiker. The other hiker shared that a  youth group that was headed to Punchbowl Shelter [Beaker’s initial destination] for the night. Beaker decided that 22.2 miles was far enough for one day. He took his time setting up his tent, eating dinner, cleaning up, and hanging the bear bag before sunset.

Beaker in Glasglow

Beaker in Glasgow

8/31/17 Destination:Glasgow, VA   Miles today 13.2

Town Day! Beaker had a 13.2 mile hike in to Glasgow. Unfortunately, the first five miles were a climb to the summit of Bluff Mountain. Upon reaching the summit of Bluff Mountain, Beaker was rewarded with spectacular views mountains to the east and west.

Taking advantage of good cell phone service at the top of the mountain, Beaker called a hostel and made arrangements to be picked up at 1:00 PM at the road crossing 8.9 miles away Unfortunately, the rocks appeared, loose and wobbly making the descent rather treacherous. Beaker navigated the downhill and arrived at the pick up point with 14 minutes to spare.

Bob is the caretaker at the Glasgow hostel. Beaker jumped in his old car with peeling paint and started the five mile trip over the winding mountain road to Glasgow. Bob’s driving style was a little on the frightening side, passing on the solid lines around curves so Beaker was glad that the car ride was only 5 miles in length. He completed the usual town chores of showering, laundry, washing his pot and spoon, and figuring out how much food he needed for his next segment.

Prediction of steady rain all day tomorrow, but Beaker plans to hike on assuming I survive the ride back to the trail with Bob.

Beaker.The Guiolltine9/1/17  Destination: Cornelius Creek Shelter,VA.   Miles today 19.9

Today was a nasty day to be out on the trail. The remnants of Harvey reached The Appalachian Trail in Virginia and the weather was wet, blustery, and cold. Bob delivered me back to the trail head by a little bit after 7:00 AM. The ride was calm and not nearly as scary as yesterday. Beaker crossed the 1000 foot long James River Bridge – the longest footbridge on the whole AT. The rest of the day was spent climbing. The rain held off for the first three miles; but, then the wind picked up and the rain settled into a steady, windy downpour. Beaker basically put his head down and cranked out the miles. As long as I kept moving, I didn’t get cold. So, I just kept moving all day. Beaker has also started listening to books on Audible to pass the time, so the miles went by quickly.

Beaker arrived at Thunder Hill Shelter around 1:30 and took a break to eat lunch. Heading back down the trail, he began to realize how cold he had become eating lunch so he began to hustle down the trail finally warmed up enough for my teeth to quit chattering.

Beaker passed by another AT icon along the way today – the Guillotine. It is a rock formation where you pass under a large boulder suspended above your head, trapped by the sides of a narrow passage between two rock faces.

Four people were already in the shelter when I arrived; but, they gladly made room for one more. After changing into dry clothes, eating dinner, and hanging our food bags, we are all settled in our sleeping bags for the night. It is still blustery and rainy and predicted to get down in the 40s tonight; but, I am safe, warm, and dry for the night.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Glasgow, Guillotine Rock, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized, Virginia | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Traveling the Virginia Trails

8/28/17, Destination: Maupin Field Shelter, VA – Miles today 20.8

Beaker.Adam and Jake.New pack

Stanimal and Jack with the New Pack

Beaker waited until the businesses in town opened up. He had identified a tailor who could probably sew his pack strap; but, Adam, Stanimal, suggested an initial visit to Rockfish Gap Outfitters. RGO is an authorized Osprey Packs dealer. Stanimal thought they might be able to talk to Osprey and see if anything could be done. Jack from RGO got on the phone with Osprey and 15 minutes later Beaker was walking out the front door with a brand new replacement pack. Adam dropped him back off at Rockfish Gap, Beaker was able to hit the trail by 11:00.

The trail was smooth, dry, rockless, and rootless….and filled with switchbacks. Unfortunately, with the summit of Humpback Mt, the gentle re-introduction to the AT ended. Reappearing was the rugged trail with all those loose rocks attempting to twist an ankle or trip the hiker right off his/her feet. As a result, by late afternoon, Beaker’s feet, ankles, and knees were really feeling it.

Due to his late start, he did not arrive at the shelter until 8:15. When I arrived at the shelter, I think I startled a couple of the people when a kilted figure silently materialized out of the dark. Rain was expected overnight, so Beaker chose to sleep in the shelter to keep his equipment dry.

8/29/17, Destination: Seely-Woolworth Shelter, VA – Miles today 20.4 (Miles to complete the AT – 276.7)

Beaker. Raining Day in VA

Rainy Day in Virginia

The rain arrived as promised around 4:00 in the morning which delayed Beaker’s start until 9:15. Two things surprised me today. First, I was surprised to find I had very little phone signal. I had better signal in the 100 Mile Wilderness! Second, the trail was much rockier than I expected. And, of course, the rocks were wet and very slick. In fact, I took a pretty good tumble coming down Three Ridges and banged up my right knee pretty badly.

After lunch, Beaker crossed the Tye River and began the long climb up a mountain called The Priest. The climb was 3100 feet over 4.5 miles. It was long and hard but the terrain calmed down and the rocks went away. The weather was nasty and frustrating. It was just a nasty day to be out in the woods hiking.  Beaker finally reached the summit of The Priest in the fog and rain. He arrived at the Priest Shelter about 4:30 only to find it filled with a Freshman Orientation group from Washington & Lee. He decided to push on another 6.6 miles to the Seely-Woolworth Shelter. The rain had tapered off; but, a fog had settled in and the trees continued to drip water.

Beaker finally arrived at the shelter around 7:30 PM to find five people already in the shelter, so he decided to set up his tent. I am now snug, warm, and dry in my tent. The rain has stopped for now; but, more rain is predicted for tomorrow. I am so tired of hiking in rain.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Rockfish Gap, Stanimal, The Priest, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized, Virginia | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Back on the Trail

Beaker and Zak

Beaker and his son, Jack

August 27, 2017

Beaker is back on the trail. During the two-week rest after his climb up Mount Katahdin in Maine, he has been busy doing some remodeling his new home in Knoxville, Tennessee; he was able to catch the eclipse with just an hour’s drive to the path of totality – a spectacular event; he had two job interviews for full-time paramedic positions resulting in one offer and the other with high promise; and he finished off his rest-time with a wedding in Columbus, Ohio. He flew out of Columbus and met his son, Zack, in Charlottesville, Virginia. They had dinner together and then Zack dropped his dad off at Rockfish Gap to continue his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

Beaker had walked less than a mile when he felt a pop and felt his backpack fall limp on his shoulders. He quickly stopped and examined the damage. The left shoulder strap had worn through about an inch above where it attaches to the body of the pack. With no way to fix it on the trail, his best option was to call Zack for an emergency pick up.

They drove to Waynesboro, Virginia, and Beaker found a spot at Stanimal’s Hostel. Adam Stanley, Stanimal, is a 2004 thru-hiker of the AT and completed a 2010 hike of the PTC (Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada). Beaker ended up being the only hiker in his hostel for the night. Stanimal promised Beaker a shuttle ride to a tailor in the morning for a pack strap repair or to an outfitter to get the pack replaced.  

This is a fairly inauspicious beginning to this last segment of my hike; however, at least the strap did not break when I was two days’ hike from a town. Hopefully, I can get it repaired and be on my way late morning tomorrow.

I had a similar problem on my thru-hike of the AT in 2014. I sensed a unevenness in my backpack one day and upon closer inspection, notice that my strap was pulling away from the bag. I was able to order and replace my backpack before permanent damage left me having to carry the pack in my arms for miles. Reading of  Beaker’s experience was a reminded of God’s faithfulness to me during my adventure in what could have been a very difficult situation.

It is good to see the chemist from West Virginia (now the paramedic from Knoxville) back on the trail with only a section of 318 miles in Virginia to complete his 2017 thru-hike of the AT.. More to come.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized, Virginia, Waynesboro | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker at Baxter State Park

8/9/17 Destination: Rainbow Stream Lean-to;  Today:21.7 miles; Miles to Katahdin: 30.1

Beaker and 1st Sgt Back TogetherShortly after falling asleep last night, Beaker was awakened by the bright light of a full moon shining in his tent. He got up, walked to the shore of Lower Jo-Mary Lake in order to see the moon rising over the pond. Getting closer to the pond, he saw Odin, Big Style, and Teabag still sitting by the fire. They started reminiscing about the trail. They all had our journals, so we started picking random days and everyone would read their entries. Beaker thoroughly enjoyed their time together and  hearing the perspectives of the others.

Wednesday, the 9th, was another good day on the trail. Beaker was up and on the trail by 6:15. I didn’t even fight it this morning. I immediately applied DEET to keep the swarming mosquitoes away. The 100-Mile Wilderness brings this ominous image of a remote, desolate section of trail, but the closer Beaker and his group of thru-hikers get to Baxter State Park, home of Mt Katahdin, the more crowded the trail becomes with NOBOs, SOBOs, section hikers, day hikers, and various hiking groups.

Beaker Beach Party

The Beach Party with some of the Fellowship

The group hiked for several miles in the morning hours along Nahmakanta Lake. The shoreline has several beautiful sandy beaches. The ponds have been my favorite part of hiking in Maine. Beaker joined Wild Thing, Feathers, and Scout on the beach for lunch. The water was so inviting that, after checking for leaches, some of the hikers decided to take a  short dip. It was wonderful to rinse the accumulated dirt, sweat, bug spray, and grime off of my body. After swimming, we sat on the beach soaking up the sun.

After the beach party, they started climbing Nesuntabunt Mountain. Nesuntabunt is the last mountain before Baxter State Park. At the summit, the hikers got a good view of the mighty Mount Katahdin.  After logging in over 21 miles today, Beaker was tired and looking forward to a fairly flat 15-mile hike tomorrow – along with a great meal at the end of the 100 Mile Wilderness.  The destination this evening was Rainbow Stream Lean-to. It resembled a tent city with around 30 people camping out around him.

8/10/17 Destination: Abol Bridge Stealth Site, ME; Today: 14.9 miles

Beaker Tent City - Abol

Tent City – Abol Bridge

Beaker was up and out of camp by 6:00 to hike the 14.9 miles into Abol Bridge for lunch. There were a few muddy sections; but, in general, the trail was quite gentle. There was only one small climb to Rainbow Ledges, where he had a beautiful view of Mt Katahdin. I was glad to see that the summit was absolutely clear and cloudless because I knew that 1st Sgt was up there working his way to the summit today. I hope it stayed clear for him.

Beaker made it to the Abol Bridge campground by 11:30, where there was a restaurant and convenience store – fried chicken for lunch and ice cream for dessert. There are two campgrounds at Abol Bridge – both full. Beaker and his group found a stealth site just outside the park that turned out to be perfect. We set up a nice little tent city under the power lines about 0.2 miles from the campground. After getting settled, Wild Thing, 4WD, and Beaker went back to the restaurant for dinner.

Tomorrow, they have a short 10-mile hike through Baxter State Park to Katahdin Stream Campground, where they will apply for thru-hiker permits at the Ranger station to hike up Mt Katahdin on Saturday. They will then catch a shuttle to Wilderness Edge Campground in Millinocket and prepare for the summit on Saturday.

8/11/17 Destination Wilderness Essie Campground;  Today: 9.9 miles

Beaker. BaxterToday’s hike was only 9.9 miles of relatively flat, smooth trail to the Ranger station at Katahdin Stream Campground. Beaker was up and on his way by 6:20. He arrived at the Ranger station at little after 10:00 and procured his permit to summit Mt Katahdin tomorrow. Soon after checking in, a thunderstorm arrived making Beaker glad that he had not decided to summit today – Katahdin is not the place to be in a thunderstorm!

The rest of the Fellowship arrived shortly thereafter, checked in, and then waited for the shuttle to arrive at 1:00. Soon they were on their way out of Baxter State Park and arrived at Wilderness Edge Campground. They promptly showered and caught a ride into town to eat.

The plan for tomorrow is to meet at 5:00 am. at the campground office for the ride back to Baxter State Park. We are hoping to be on the trail as early as possible. We hope to summit and be on our way back down by early afternoon to beat any potential afternoon thunderstorms. After months of hiking through rain, sleet, snow, wind, and blistering sun, it still doesn’t quite seem real that we will be standing on the summit of Mt Katahdin tomorrow. Wish us luck!

Categories: 100 Mile Wilderness, Abol Bridge, Baxter State Park, Beaker, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Beaker into the 100 Mile Wilderness in Maine

After a good night’s sleep at Moxie Pond, Beaker has turned his face toward Monson, Maine and the 100 Mile Wilderness, the last major obstacle before the climb up Katahdin Mountain.

8/4/17 Destination: Shaw’s Hostel, Monson, ME Miles today – 17.9

Beaker. River Guide

Rope Guide to Help Ford

Beaker was up early and cranked out the miles – 17.9 miles by 1:15 pm. The route on the Appalachian Trail was fairly flat; but, still dominated by rocks and roots. He had to ford two streams, which resulted in wet feet. He was the second to leave camp and, as usual, he was passed by just about everyone throughout the day. Everyone was stepping it out in order to get into Monson today and maximize the amount of downtime to prepare for the next week. Monson is the last town before Baxter State Park, home of Mt Katahdin. Between Monson and Baxter is the 100 Mile Wilderness. Thur-hikers have to carry food for the next week unless they arrange a food drop off a private logging road.

Beaker  decided to spend the night at Shaw’s Hostel today. It is one of the best known hostels on the trail due to its location. It is the last hostel the NOBOs pass and the first one the SOBOs pass. About 60 hikers joined him. Once he got checked in and showered, he went shopping and bought supplies for the next six days. I hate carrying that much weight; but, there aren’t many alternatives.

Tomorrow, he will head into the 100 Mile Wilderness. Due to its remoteness, he is concerned that his cell phone service will be pretty limited, making his blog posts difficult to publish. The goal is to make it through the wilderness in time to summit on Saturday, August 12. After I summit next Saturday, I will catch a flight home (missing the post-hike partying), see an eclipse, go to a wedding, and head back out August 27 to complete the portion of the Virginia AT that I missed while moving back in April. The adventure isn’t nearly over…

8/5/17  Destination: Long Pond Stream Stealth Site,  Miles today- 14.8;  Miles to Katahdin  100.2

Beaker.Shaw's InnAfter a big breakfast at Shaw’s, a large group of thru-hikers from Shaw’s entered the 100 Mile Wilderness – just the name sounds dangerous and remote, like you’re entering a dark, mystical forest in a Tolkien story. There is an ominous warning sign as you enter the wilderness telling the adventurer to carry a minimum of 10 days of supplies and to not underestimate the difficulty of this section. Beaker discovered that it was the same old rocky, rooty, muddy AT that he’s been hiking all through Maine. Instead of 40 miles between towns, it’s 100 miles.

Beaker hiked under overcast skies with the threat of rain all day. The whole group started out together after being dropped off by the shuttle; but, it began to spread out as the day progressed. Beaker hiked most of the morning with Odin and 4WD, then he hiked mainly by himself during the afternoon. I would catch back up every couple miles at the numerous stream fords. We crossed several streams that were too deep to rock hop. So, we’d all stop, remove our shoes, wade across, and put our shoes back on. I have actually had extensive stream fording experience with my years of hiking around WV. As a result, I would generally pass the group at the stream and they would all pass me again over the next couple of miles.

The group decided to stop about a mile short of the shelter and camp by the Long Pond stream because the water supply was plentiful and easy to obtain. It was a bit of a short day; however, since their  packs are heavier than normal with extra food, no one seemed to mind stopping early. The rain that had been threatening all day finally arrived. So, we all retired to our tents. I am now all snug and dry in my tent listening to the rain.

8/6/17 East Chairback Pond Stealth Site, ME Miles today- 14.8

Beaker. Trail in MaineThe skies opened up shortly after going to bed and it poured most of the night. Beaker was able to  stay dry in his tent. The hikers awoke to overcast skies, which stayed with them most of the day. The sun occasionally peeked out; but, generally, it was overcast and blustery until evening, when the skies finally cleared.

Today’s hike turned out to be pretty tough! It’s as if Maine is reminding the thru-hikers that they aren’t done yet. Beaker climbed up and over six mountains today but none of the peaks were overly tough for the hiking legs developed over the past 2,000 miles. However, the combined up and down of all the summits wore Beaker out.

It was nice to climb back up on the ridge tops, though. That’s where you get the incredible views. It’s amazing to look out and see nothing but wilderness – no roads, no houses, no power lines. And the ponds are incredible! Huge ponds everywhere that do not appear to have been touched by people – no boats, no piers, or any other evidence of humans.

Throughout the 100 Mile Wilderness, Beaker has been hiking with a group of thru-hikers that call themselves the Fellowship.  They are a great bunch of kids. Actually, they aren’t all kids. 4WD is a 50-something Hungarian man now living in FL. Wild Thing is a 45 year old school teacher from Stratford Upon Avon. He teaches 3rd and 4th grade. Misplaced is a 30 year old woman who has been working in a corporate office for a restaurant chain. All the rest are 20-somethings. Giggles and her brother Waldo, Feathers, Odin, and Scout (all guys) are Americans. Big Style and his friend Teabag are both British guys.

Generally, Beaker hikes alone; but, if one of the Fellowship takes a snack break or stops to look at a view he would catch up. They would then hike together for awhile. Today, he had lunch with Odin and Big Style atop Fourth Mountain.

Beaker arrived at East Chairback Pond, where the group decided to camp for the evening, around 5:20 PM. The clouds had cleared, leaving sunny skies and cooler temperatures. He fixed dinner with everyone else.  After dinner, he decided to make a cup of tea to help counter the evening chill.

Odin and Big Style decided that a hot cuppa sounded pretty good too. We took our tea to the rocks on the pond and watched a pair of loons fishing while the sun slowly set over the pond. It was a magical moment – a 53 year old guy sitting there with a 25 year old American kid and a 19 year old British kid, sipping tea. At that moment, we were just three thru hikers enjoying the evening after hiking a tough section of trail. We are all ready to be done with the trail; but, this moment wasn’t lost on any of us. We realized what a special space out of time this was and that we would really miss moments like these when we all returned to our regular lives.

Shaw’s Photo – http://packpedal.com/post/128105520258/hikers

 

 

 

Categories: 100 Mile Wilderness, Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Maine, Monson, ME, Shaw's Hostel, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a 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

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