Beaker

Beaker Marching Through Vermont

20140808-090947.jpgBeaker’s hike on the Appalachian Trail from July 5 – 12 have been filled with the state of Vermont. The highlight of the 5th of July was completing Massachusetts and entering the Green Mountain State. He hiked into Vermont just after noon on the 5th and encountered patches of thick, squishy, black mud that stretched across the trail, making it impossible to go around, thus personally recognizing why thru-hikers have dubbed this state “Vermud”.

July 6 – Beaker legged out a whopping 25.8 miles trek today ending at a stealth site about 16 miles from Manchester Center, VT (his destination for July 7). He pushed himself today in order to give himself as much time as possible in town the next day for resupply. The hike was long but not without some adversity – “The mud continues unabated. I got up close and personal with it today when I was crossing a particularly wet and mucky patch. Both feet slipped as I stepped between two rocks in the middle of the mud patch and I plopped my butt right down into it.”

Green Mt HostelJuly 7 – Beaker had to start the day with a 2000 ft climb over Mount Stratton. Coming off the mountain he came face-to-face with Mudpuppy (the wife) and Woodcutter (the husband) from Albany, New York, who had driven 2 ½ hours just to meet him on the trail. Having never met before, they have been following him online and wanted to encourage him. They brought food and drink. Beaker still had 13 miles into town so after a short visit, he departed with their blessing. When Beaker got to Vt 11, he would still had a 5-mile hitch into Manchester Center. Arriving at the road, he was greeted once again by Mudpuppy and Woodcutter ready to drive him anywhere he wanted to go. What a great day of blessing as he finally settled in at the Green Mountain House Hostel, Manchester Center, Vermont.

July 8 – The Green Mountain Hostel rates up there as one of the best I’ve stayed in on the whole trail. It is immaculate and Jeff is very friendly and accommodating. Plus, he sells pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for $2.00. Incredible!

Todays’ hike: 19.6 miles up and over Bromley Mountain. The top of Bromley is a ski slope and after the summit, the rest of the day was pretty much down hill. The weather did decide to rain during the morning hours but the afternoon was sunny and dried things up nicely. Today’s destination was Little Rock Pond Shelter and less than a mile from the shelter, the skies got dark, the winds picked up and then the sound of distant rain… heavy rain. In a matter of moments, Beaker was soaked to the skin. Of course, by the time he reached the shelter the sun was back out.

July 9 – 24 miles today all the way to Cooper Lodge on Killington Mountain, Vermont. Beaker woke up this morning on Little Rock Pond. He describes it, “The sun was rising over the ridge behind the lake and shining through the gently swirling mist. The water was lapping against the shore and the pines were gently swaying in the light breeze. Then I heard it – the sound I had looked forward to hearing before I ever started this hike – loons! What a unique and evocative sound.” The call of the water birds echoed in his mind as he set out for a day filled with constant ups and downs. But the last 4 miles was a major up-hill to the top of Killington Mountain. Beaker did not arrive until 8:00. He immediately pitched his tent and crashed for the night.  

July 10 – Beaker’s destination for today was The Inn at Long Trail, a 8.3-mile descent from Cooper Lodge. Beaker then caught a bus into Rutland, VT for a resupply. Beaker heard from 1st Sgt today. He has been crushing the miles and is almost 90 miles ahead. It does not look good for a reunion on the trail.

Ladder in VTJuly 11 – Another 20+ mile day for Beaker as he hiked to Dan Quinn’s Barn at VT 12, close to Woodstock, VT, for a total of 21.6 miles. As he hiked past Kent Pond early in the morning he was attacked by an army of mosquitoes. He detoured into the town of Killington in order to replace the tips on his hiking poles and to catch a second breakfast (Dove Ice Cream Bars). At one point during the day he came to a 14 ft aluminum ladder affixed to the rock face so he could successfully climb down a 20 ft vertical drop. He finally reached the barn around 7:30 PM – he spent a dry night by himself.

July 12 – The day was sunny perfect for a long walk. Beaker responded with another 21-mile hike to Norwich on the Vermont/New Hampshire border. After leaving the Long Trail (close to Rutland), the Appalachian Trail stops running parallel to the ridges and now travels perpendicular to them resulting in lots of ups and downs. Despite the hills, Beaker was pleased to find an open spot in a home/hostel owned by past thru-hikers to spend the night before entering the White Mountains and the state of New Hampshire.

Photo of hostel found at http://hiker-bigtex.com/hostels-hotels-2/green-mountain-house-hostel/
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Cooper Lodge Shelter, Manchester Center, Thru-Hike, Vermont | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker on the Trail After July 2

Beaker, the Chemist from West Virginia, took a few days off the trail to visit his wife at their new home in Knoxville, TN. From June 26 until July 2 his life was filled with the honey do list that often accompanies a new home, finding some new, lighter shoes for the trail, and resupplying for the adventure ahead.

7/3/17

Beaker_2017Beaker flew to Albany, NY, and was met at the airport by his high school friend Linda, her sister, and her niece. They went to dinner at a local pizza place in nearby Bennington, VT while visiting and catching up on the 30 years since they had seen one another. July 4th holds a return to the trail and a climb over the highest peak in Massachusetts, Mount Greylock.

7/4/17  Today’s hike totaled 17.6 miles from Dalton to Mt. Greylock, MA

After a great breakfast of farm fresh eggs, bacon, and French toast, Linda drove Beaker back to the Shamrock Inn in Dalton, MA. Hiker hunger called his name around noon, “Before starting up Mt Greylock, though, I dropped down the back side of Cheshire Cobble into the town of Cheshire, MA. I happened to walk right past an ice cream/sandwich shop at noon. So, naturally, I stopped for a ham and Swiss on rye and a chocolate shake.”

Mt GreylockCheshire, MA nestles within the valley of the Hoosic River at 970 ft. Mount Greylock stands tall at 3489 ft so over the course of 7 ½ miles Beaker climbed 2519 ft. It is not the most difficult uphill on the AT or even the most demanding Beaker has encountered so far on his adventure, but it is a long uphill grade taking most of his afternoon. Arriving at the summit of Mt. Greylock, Beaker was impressed by the War Memorial Lighthouse and the rustic Bascom Lodge. He decided to get a bunk at the lodge for the night, hoping that the next three days will be 20+ milers as he tries to catch back up with 1st Sgt. and the rest of his trail friends.

“I think the week off was just what I needed. My feet are all healed up and appear to be working just fine in my trail runners. Also, I really enjoyed being back in the woods. Tomorrow – Vermont!”

7/5/17  Today’s trek: 22.9 miles Mt. Greylock to Harmon Hill, VT

Beaker found a beautiful day for hiking: clear blue skies and highs in the upper 70s. He got an earlier start, ate his breakfast from his food bag and headed down the path before 7:00 AM. He hiked off Mt. Greylock and down to Williamstown, MA, where he had second breakfast at the Stop N Shop. “It was located about 0.5 miles off-trail. I typically won’t go that far off-trail for waterfalls and overlooks unless they are spectacular; however, I’ll gladly do it for second breakfast. I’m going to miss second breakfast when I am done hiking and start eating like a normal person again.”  

VerMUD

VerMud

Beaker put in some great mileage today. Unfortunately, 1st Sgt. has been putting in the miles slackpacking while his wife is visiting him on the trail, so Beaker has a challenge ahead in trying to catch him. The highlight of the day was completing Massachusetts and entering another state. He crossed into Vermont just after noon. The nickname for Vermont on the AT is “Vermud”. Almost as soon as he crossed the border, the nickname became obvious. He encountered big patches of thick, squishy, black mud sometimes stretching across the trail, making it impossible to go around.

 

Vermud photo example found at http://www.trailjournals.com/journal/entry/505240
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Dalton, MA, Massachusetts, Mt Greylock, Thru-Hike, Vermont | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker – From Massachusetts to Knoxville

Beaker and 1st Sgt Back TogetherBeaker and 1st Sgt, are still hiking through the wonderful state of Massachusetts. On June 24 they traveled 15.8 miles making their way to a favorite spot of many thru-hikers – Upper Goose Pond Cabin. The cabin is owned by the National Park Service and is managed by the Appalachian Mountain Club. It offers hikers bunks with mattresses, a fantastic lake for swimming and canoeing, and best of all pancakes for breakfast (a great memory of mine). Squire, a fellow hiker,  and his two sons Stretch and Remix (14 and 12 years old) arrived at the cabin late that night after putting in a 25 mile day. Beaker and 1st Sgt. had a pleasant visit with them over the breakfast flapjacks. Continue reading

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Dalton, MA, Knoxville, Thru-Hike, Trail Magic, Upper Goose Pond Cabin | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Churns the Miles Part 2

1st Sgt. Climbing Rocks in NY

June 12, 2017 –  Five miles of New Jersey trail brought Beaker and 1st Sgt. into a new state, New York, but the continued rocks and the 90+ degree temperatures made the hike difficult. June 13th brought the same terrain and heat. Part of Beaker’s journal reveals the dangers of the Appalachian Trail, “Today was one of the toughest I’ve experienced out here in quite awhile. We are into our third day of heat in the 90+ degree range. That kind of heat just seems to sap all the energy right out of you. As soon as we started hiking, 1st Sgt and I were drenched in sweat…. We spent our second day scrambling up and down over big rocks, sometimes slowing down to a crawl as we negotiated climbs or steep descents. …..these ascents made for dangerous hiking. A young college aged hiker we know named Snooze took a nasty tumble off a particularly tricky climb. His backpack took the brunt of the impact; however, he still ended up with scrapes and a fairly ugly puncture wound on his right calf. Passing hikers helped his sister Sauce patch him up, so by the time we saw them he was doing pretty well. I did insist on examining and cleaning the wound when we got to the shelter tonight. Everyone in the shelter gathered around to watch the show. They were all pretty amazed when I pulled out a set of nitrile gloves. I also told him he needs to get the wound checked when we get to town tomorrow.

The third day of hiking the NY path led the hikers over Bear Mountain and down the other side to the Trailside Zoo, the lowest point on the AT. The next day, June 15, Beaker and 1st Sgt. hiked across the Hudson River via the Bear Mountain Bridge as part of their 20-mile hike ending at Clarence Farhnestock State Park, where thru-hikers get one free night of camping. June 16th was a cooler day in the 60s with a soft breeze that ended with a rain shower about ½ mile from the shelter. Beaker and 1st Sgt. arrived at Morgan Stewart Shelter without being too wet.

Dover Oak

June 17 was the last full day in New York and the path directed Beaker and 1st Sgt. past three great landmarks on the AT: Nuclear Lake (there was a plutonium research facility located here from the 1950s to the 1970s. They experienced an explosion that contaminated the lake and surrounding shoreline. It was remediated years ago and the facility is long gone. What’s left is a beautiful lake, teeming with fish, geese, and beaver.), Dover Oak (the tallest oak on the Appalachian Trail – 114 feet tall, 20 feet think, and about 300 years old), and the train station at Pawling, New York (this functioning train station is designed for NYC folks to catch a ride to the woods and enjoy the beauty of the canopy).

By the end of the day on June 18th, New York was in the books and Connecticut was under foot. Beaker hiked two 19+ mile days followed by a Nero-day of 4 miles to arrive at Salisbury, CT. His feet were extremely tender and even though he is an EMT, he needed to see a doctor for proper diagnosis. Parts of his journal record it best, June 20 – I believe that days of wet feet and staying at less than reputable hotels may have led to vesicular athlete’s foot. It’s not quite like the common athlete’s foot between your toes. It tends to occur under the thick skin on the soles of your feet. I also think the constant moisture and sweaty socks may have led a secondary bacterial infection. As a result, my feet are very sore and swollen…. The doctor…. did a thorough history and exam and most of all confirmed my diagnosis. He suggested I take several days off to rest my feet. However, having treated thru hikers in the past, he knew that wasn’t happening. He then gave me antibiotics and antifungals and suggested I change out my socks as often as possible.

The Ledges of Mount Race

Beaker and 1st Sgt. took a much needed zero-day in Salisbury to give some rest and healing time for their feet. They hiked a modest 12.7 miles on June 22, but left Connecticut and entered the marvelous state of Massachusetts. They hiked over Bear Mountain (in Connecticut), Mount Race with its incredible view from the ledges, and Mount Everett, which only seems like Mount Everest. The feet felt 1000 times better according to Beaker, who demonstrates such a positive attitude.

June 23 involved a 19.6 mile hike and a real test for the feet. Beaker records at the end of the day, “We are tired and our feet are also tired; but, our feet are actually doing better. Talking to other thru hikers, it appears that all our bodies are beginning to break down. Luckily, only 650 miles to Katahdin and I hear it’s all downhill!” I appreciate his attitude and sense of humor, two keys to completing a thru-hikes.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Connecticut, Dover Oak, Mount Everett, Mount Race, Nuclear Lake, NY, Thru-Hike, Zoo | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Burning Up the Miles

Beaker, the chemist from Morgantown West Virginia, jumped off trail on April 13 close to the Partnership Shelter near Marion, Virginia, in order to return to the hills of West Virginia, pack up his entire house, and move to Knoxville, Tennessee. He spent about two weeks in “Almost Heaven” getting packed up and then another 8 days in Knoxville getting unpacked and semi-situated in Tennessee before returning to the trail.

Instead of picking the trail up where he left it, he selected to reconnect with his hiking buddy, 1st Sergeant, at Rockfish Gap close to Waynesboro, Virginia. This is about 326 miles farther north which Beaker plans to hike after they make it to Mount Katahdin, Maine. He and 1st Sergeant hit the trail on May 8th and began to put some huge miles on their legs. The two adventurers hiked 17 days straight covering 283 miles, including one 29

Beaker and First Sergeant Half Way

.5 mile day!

Beaker and 1st Sergeant arrived at Harpers Ferry on May 15 (the home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the psychological half-way point of the trail). They stormed ahead and arrived at Pine Grove Furnace, PA (the actual half-way point) on May 21. The traditional half-gallon challenge (eating a half gallon of ice-cream to celebrate the half-way point) was turned into just a bowl of ice cream while observing a few other hikers engulfing the tasty treat.

The Doyle Hotel in Duncannon, PA was reached on May 24. The Doyle Hotel is another AT icon. It was built in the early 1900s and has received no maintenance or cleaning since. It is, without a doubt, the rattiest hotel I have ever stayed in. It also has a bar on the first floor that makes great burgers and other assorted bar food.  We all gathered in the bar at the Doyle and had lunch. 

1st Sgt and I are getting off trail this weekend to visit our wives. His wife is flying in and meeting up with us to drive to Asheville. They will drop me off with Marguerite in Kingsport, TN, to spend the weekend in Knoxville. As a result, we’ve decided to stay at the Doyle to facilitate the process.” 

 

Beaker spent the next four days in Knoxville with his wife before meeting up with 1st Sergeant at the Doyle and continuing down the path on May 29. Sixteen miles later, the duo made camp at a stealth camp along the trail. The next two days were strong ones as the dynamic duo logged in 26.4 miles on the 30th and 19.2 miles on the last day of May. They find themselves with only a 9 miles trek into Port Clinton, PA – a town I know quite well, having spent 5 days there recuperating from cellulitis during my thru-hike in 2014.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Doyle Hotel, Half Gallon Challenge, Harpers Ferry, Hostel, Knoxville, PA, Pine Grove Furnace | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Easter on the Trail

Beaker left the Appalachian Trail on April 13th in order to return to Morgantown, WV, pack up all his belongings, and move to Knoxville, TN. He and his wife sold their West Virginia home while Beaker was on the trail; they met in Knoxville (hometown of their son) and bought a house within three days; now they are packing up and making the move. Beaker will be off the trail for a couple of weeks. When he returns I will continue his story.

Meanwhile, on April 12th, Grateful 2 made it to Newfound Gap, TN. – close to the half-way point through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He quickly hitched a ride from Newfound Gap into Gatlinburg and planned to take it easy on Thursday.

April 13 (Thursday)

Grateful 2 rested in Gatlinburg today. The “zero” day was filled with sleeping, eating, watching TV, eating, planning for the trail ahead, and eating.

April 14 (Friday)

From Gatlinburg (Newfound Gap) to Pecks Corner Shelter (GSMNP) = 11.0 miles

Grateful 2 commented on the beauty of the trail today. The incredible views were mixed with some apprehension because the trail included a narrow ridge walk. Grateful found himself on top of the ridge walking a path about three feet wide with drop offs on each side.  At some points the drop offs were 80 or 85 degrees on both sides. Grateful 2 is afraid of heights which filled the adventure with added anxiety. Grateful’s solution, “I just look at the trail and put one foot in front of the other.” 
April 15 (Saturday) From Pecks Corner Shelter to Cosby Knob Shelter (GSMNP) = 12.9 miles

Grateful 2 reported a pretty uneventful day. His trek through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) is progressing well as he logged in over a dozen miles. He hiked most of the day with a 61-year-old hiker from St. Louis, trail name: Persistent.  Grateful 2’s feet bothered him a little during today’s hike, but his progress kept him positive. A strong hike tomorrow promises an exit from the GSMNP – a major milestone on any thru-hike.

April 16 (Easter Sunday) Crosby Know Shelter to Standing Bear Hostel = 10.7 miles

Grateful 2 made it out of the Smokies! His Easter hike is best described in his own words,

As I climbed down from 5000 feet to 1500 feet I noticed a distinct change. Life on the trees and ground in the form of leaves! I had not seen leaves on trees on the trail since I began the journey. It was so good to see this sign of life. It almost felt like I walked from winter to spring in a few hours. Gone were the bare tree trunks and solid brown floor covering. In its place were millions of little fluorescent green tree flags and wildflowers everywhere. There was mayapple, dwarf iris, bluets, trillium, and rue anemone ..… From death to life in such a short time. Kind of appropriate for this Easter Day, don’t you think?”

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Gatlinburg, Grateful 2, GSMNP, Knoxville, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Trail Name, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Introducing Grateful 2

Before and After –
prepping for the AT

I enjoy following a few thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail closely each season through their online journals (trailjournals.com). I have already posted several articles on Beaker, the retired chemist from Morgantown, West Virginia. My niece’s husband was a co-worker with Beaker in WV. so I felt I already had some connection to the mountaineer.

I like to follow at least one hiker per month. Some of the brave explorers do not make it to the end, so I track several with the hopes that many will trek the necessary 5 million steps through all 14 states. I love to read some of the back stories of the hikers and discover some individuals with whom I can identify and find interesting.

Beaker left the end of February so I began to explore those who stepped out in March. It wasn’t long before I found Grateful 2 and his son Gooseman, natives of Chattanooga, Tennessee who plan to thru-hike together from Georgia to Maine. Grateful 2, real name David Hunter, has had this incredible journey on his bucket list for more than 30 years and an added bonus is the reality that his 24-year-old son is joining the trek.

David will face some challenges. He shares in one of his pre-hike posts, “I’ve had lingering foot issues. My right foot has undergone 5 major surgeries with plates, screws, and fusions. My left foot has developed plantar faciitis in the last year that required a cortisone shot and extensive rehab. Both of my shoulders have been replaced. Besides that, I’m getting older and can’t do what I used to do.” I began to identify with Grateful 2 when he wrote, “I’m sitting on the back porch of our home in Chattanooga overlooking the Cumberland Valley. It’s a beautiful view. God has created an incredible world. I can’t wait to explore it on foot.” The spiritual part of the thru hike was so important to me and one of the major factors of my successful journey. Another journal entry written before he started his hike resonated with my spirit, “Why am I going? I’m not sure I can answer that myself either. It’s almost like the mountains are calling to me. It’s something I must do. I love being outside. I love the endorphin release I get when I hike long distances. It’s something I’ve known I must do … Now this is my chance. I don’t want to waste it.” This is the same drive that dominated my thinking for 14 months before I stepped out on my thru-hike in 2014.

Over the next few posts, I would like to catch you up on Grateful 2’s adventure. Right now, let’s look at their first two days.

March 18 Grateful 2 and Gooseman started from Springer Mountain, Georgia, the southern terminus of the AT. Day one resulted in 7.4 miles and concluded at the Hawk Mountain campsite.

March 19 Dad and son hiked from Hawk Mountain to Gooch Mountain Shelter – 8.4 miles.

Grateful 2 recorded, “When we got up this am it was colder than I expected. My thermometer said 25 degrees. It warmed up during the day to maybe 65, which made for a beautiful day of hiking. So warm, in fact, that both Gooseman and I got sunburned. From 25 freezing degrees to sunburn, and we were outside for all of it!”

 

All information and photos come from Grateful 2’s online journal at http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=559189

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Georgia, Gooseman, Grateful 2, Hawk Mountain, Springer Mountain, Tennessee, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker, 1st Sgt., and now Bo

My last post about thru-hiker, Beaker, and his hiking buddy, 1st Sgt., placed them at Mountain Harbour Hostel, TN after a 16.3 mile hike including two big climbs over Little Hump and Big Hump Mountains. They had missed the serving of dinner at the hostel, but purchased some pizza, sodas, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at the General Store. The weather forecast was for thunderstorms and 1-2 inches of rain tomorrow, so they were looking forward to a zero day at the hostel on Monday. Let’s continue Beaker’s adventure ….

Mountain Harbour Hostel

4/3/17 Zero Day at Mountain Harbour Hostel, TN.

The rain came as predicted and the dry stay at hostel was enjoyed and appreciated.

4/4/17 From Mountain Harbour Hostel to Moreland Gap Shelter, TN – distance: 18.4 miles.

Beaker and 1st Sgt. left the Mountain Harbour Hostel after another huge breakfast, walked the 0.3 miles along US Rt. 19 to the trailhead, and started hiking north on the Appalachian Trail. The hike was quite productive (18.4 miles) filled with beautiful waterfalls and manageable terrain leading to the Moreland Gap Shelter. The two hikers were joined by a third, Bo. Bo is a professor of anthropology at Duke University. His actual trail name is Bard Owl because he enthusiastically explained the virtues of the Bard Owl one night around the camp fire. As happens with many trail names, Bard Owl got shortened to B.O. He didn’t particularly care for the connotations of that name, considering the bad smell of all thru-hikers. So, it eventually became Bo.

The three have made plans to stay at the Boots Off Hostel tomorrow. Due to aggressive bear activity, the next shelter on the AT has been closed to hikers. The hostel is located a comfortable 15-mile distance from Moreland Gap and the weather forecast is predicting yet more thunderstorms tomorrow evening, so a hostel seemed like a good part of their discerning plan.

4/5/17 From Moreland Gap Shelter to Boots Off Hostel in Hampton, TN, today’s hike logged 14.9 miles.

Bo continues to hike with Beaker and 1st Sgt. making a friendly trio of thru-hikers. The three seem to get along well. Their trail conversations today ranged from Native cultures, to AT culture, to Doolittle’s raid on Japan, to hiking the Camino trail in Spain. In addition to these good talks, the best visual part of the hike today was the Laurel Fork Gorge. The Laurel Fork roared through the gorge and the trail ran right next to the creek. Then came the climb up Pond Mountain. Not a particularly difficult climb, it is a long climb. The three amigos gained 2000 ft over 2.5 miles, then descended off the ridge for two and a half miles leading them to the fairly new Boots Off Hostel located near the base of the descent.

“After showering, 10 of us piled into the hostel’s Suburban and got a shuttle to town for food. Most of us ended up at McDonald’s where I learned about a brilliant culinary masterpiece from Hummingbird – you pull apart a McDouble and put a McChicken Sandwich between the two patties and smash it all together.” Now that is hiker hunger at its best!


4/6/17
From the Boots Off Hostel to Iron Mountain Shelter, TN for 15.9 miles.

Winter is back! The three adventurers headed out from the hostel in a light rain. The rain settled into a cold drizzle that went on all morning. The first couple hours of the day’s hike led along the shores of Watauga Lake. After crossing over the dam, the rest of the day was spent climbing. As the men climbed, the wind started intensifying and continued to blow fiercely with gusts up to 30-40 mph. And then the temperatures started to drop.

The rain turned to ice pellets and sleet. The high winds made the ice pellets feel like miniature darts as they stung the faces of the men. Finally, the sleet turned to snow. The afternoon found the ground slowly turning white. Somewhere along the trail, the fellowship of three decided they didn’t want to have to set up tents in the snow. So, they planned to sleep in the Iron Mountain Shelter. They arrived around 4:00 pm finding only three other hikers at the shelter that sleeps six – room for all.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Hostel, Laurel Fork, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Trail Name | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker From Erwin to Roan Mountain

3/30/17  Beaker got up early in order to make his 6.2- mile trek to the well-known hiker spot of Uncle Johnny’s Hostel in Erwin, TN. The day was filled with clear skies and moderate temperatures. First Sergeant had reserved a “cabin” at Uncle Johnny’s and offered to share the room if Beaker wanted. The weather forecast, thunderstorms and a high wind advisory overnight, made the decision fairly easy. Beaker and 1st Sgt joined many of the hikers at the hostel on a lunch trip to an AYCE pizza buffet (All You Can Eat). Beaker gathered a resupply at a local IGA.

After lunch Beaker decided to rent a bike ($2) and peddle the 4 ½ mile trip to the laundromat to wash his clothes. After his bike ride, twenty four hikers piled into two vans for a trip to a Mexican restaurant. Satisfied and warm, back at the cabin, Beaker listened to the thunder and wind outside – it was not a good night to be in a tent on top of a mountain.

3/31/17 Destination: Cherry Gap Shelter, TN. Today’s hike = 17.1 miles. It rained most of the night, with a line of thunderstorms moving through around midnight. 1st Sgt and Beaker were up around 7:00, checked out of the hostel in Ewin, TN, and hit the trail before 8:00. The planned destination today was a campsite about 12 miles away. They climbed out of the river valley. They found that their paces and their personalities were quite compatible making walking and talking, even in the pouring rain, to be quite enjoyable. Beaker and 1st Sgt arrived at their planned stopping point at 2:30 pm, so, they pressed on another 5 miles, up and over Unaka Mountain, to the Cherry Gap Shelter. The summit of the mountain was covered with a thick spruce forest. (Photo) The weather had turned quite blustery and chilly, so Beaker didn’t waste time setting up his tent, changing into warmer clothes, and fixing dinner.

4/1/17  Beaker and 1st Sgt ended their day at Roan High Knob Shelter having hiked 17.6 miles today. The two hikers awoke to another misty morning. Today’s hike was one of climbing as they trekked toward Roan High Knob Shelter. They climbed up smooth, well graded trail. Then climbed on rocky trail. Then climbed on rocky, wet, muddy, steep, rooty trail. The sun finally broke out about 4 pm and it turned into a beautiful afternoon. When they arrived at the shelter they discovered that it was a fully enclosed cabin with a loft. They set up in the loft -snug, dry, and warm, safely out of the bitter wind.

Mountain Harbour Hostel

4/2/17 Today’s hike incorporated 16.3 miles ending at Mountain Harbour Hostel, TN.  Beaker has logged just shy of 400 miles on the AT (393.7). Beaker and 1st Sgt got a slow start this morning (9:00) but it was a gorgeous day, full of sun and highs in the 70s. They encountered numerous weekend hikers, including a physical education class from Appalachian State University. One student and Beaker had a friendly disagreement over whether Appy State or WVU are the “true” Mountaineers. Beaker concludes,  “I think we all know the answer to that one!”

The two hikers had two big climbs over Little Hump and Big Hump Mountains, then a five-mile descent to US Rt 19. From US Rt 19 there was a short 0.3 mile walk down the road to the Mountain Harbour B&B and Hiker Hostel. The hostel had already stopped serving dinner, but Beaker and 1st Sgt were able to buy frozen pizza, sodas, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the General Store, so they were set for the evening. The weather forecast: thunderstorms and 1-2 inches of rain tomorrow, so they planned a zero day for Monday.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Erwin, Hiking, Roan Mountain, Tennessee, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Beaker Plans Toward Erwin

My last post regarding the thru-hiker from West Virginia who calls himself “Beaker” on the trail, found the chemist from Morgantown feeling sick and camping on an old service road near Alan Gap. Fortunately his sickness was short-lived and his hike continued at a great pace.

3/27/17. The 18.8-mile hike today ended at Flint Mountain Shelter, NC. Beaker has totaled 307 miles with just 1,882.8 left to go.

Beaker’s plan was to hike an 18.8 mile day today, leaving him a 14-mile day, a 13-mile day, and then a short 6-mile Nero day into Erwin, TN. Beaker woke up feeling much better – his fever broke during the night and he was even hungry in the morning. He drank lots of water during the day and took the pace a little slower.

Today’s hike turned out to be more difficult than expected. The climbs were beautiful but long and there were a couple parts than ran along an exposed ridge that involved a lot of rock scrambling. Just as he finished the exposed section, the rain began to fall. He had to trudge through the rain and was pretty worn out when he arrived at the Jerry’s Cabin Shelter. He was tired and had decided to stay, but as he sat there resting, the rain stopped and the sun came back out. He pulled out his map and contemplated the 6.7 miles to the next shelter. He took a look at his watch – 4 pm. He felt he could be there before dark if he pushed on. There was a climb up a mountain but there was a longer descent on the other side of the summit. So Beaker left Jerry’s Cabin Shelter, stretched out his tired legs and made it to Flint Mountain Shelter a little after 7 pm – just enough time to set up his tent, get water, cook dinner, and hang his food before dark.

3/28/17 Destination: Low Gap Campsite, NC for a distance of 14.9 miles.

More of a leisurely day on the trail. Fortunately, the hiker crud Beaker had experienced two days ago was a distant memory. Beaker’s attitude seems positive. He reflected on some of the little things that make a thru-hike very special:

“Waking up to sunshine. The smell of a pine forest. The way the leaves get skewered on the end of your hiking poles. The satisfaction of stepping just right on the edge of the poles to dislodge the leaves without breaking stride. The sound of voices and laughter at the end of the day that tells you you have finally reached the shelter. The constant sound of jets in the distance that reminds you the rest of the world is still out there. The sea of mountain peak after mountain peak as far as the eye can see.”

3/29/17 No Business Knob Shelter, TN 14.6 today.

Beaker awoke to full sunshine and warm temperatures. He hiked all day with First Sergeant, a thirty year US Air Force veteran who is about Beaker’s age. “We talked all day about our kids, grandkids, wives, careers, etc. Although I really like all the young adults I’ve been hiking with, it was nice to talk with a contemporary. As an added bonus, we hike the same pace.”

The men experienced a special reward at the summit of one of the climbs – the found themselves on an open bald. They had somehow missed the bald in the guidebook and it was beautiful, with 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains. Beaker and First Sergeant reached their shelter about 4 pm and found several nice, flat spots for their tents. Tomorrow, there is just a 6.2 mile hike to Erwin, TN.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Erwin, North Carolina, Tennessee, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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