Beaker

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

Beaker to Hot Springs, NC

On March 22nd, Beaker, the Mountaineer chemist from Morgantown WV, was camped at Groundhog Creek Shelter just north of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). His spirits were high as he hoped for a two-day journey into the first trail on the AT headed north, Hot Springs, NC.

Beaker’s Day on Max Patch

3/23/17 Destination: Walnut Mountain Shelter, NC. Hiking miles today – 13.1 miles.

March 23 was a beautiful day on the AT – clear skies and full sunshine. Beaker’s hike today was to include another AT highlight – Max Patch. Max Patch, large grassy bald, was originally cleared several years ago for cattle grazing. The bald has become a special spot for hikers because of its incredible 360 degree views of the mountains. Finally, Beaker got to enjoy the view with clouds and rain robbing the panoramic.

Beaker arrived at Walnut Mountain Shelter and was greeted by about 20 other hikers. From his tent he writes, “The wind is roaring up the mountain, my tent is shaking and the guy lines are buzzing in the wind. It will be a brisk night. That’s alright because tomorrow we reach Hot Springs, NC and a much-needed zero day,,,It’s been a week since I’ve showered. I stink!

Beaker and others enjoy the Hot Springs

3/24/17 Beaker stays at the Sunnybank Inn, in the trail town of Hot Springs, NC. 13.1 miles today.

“We all come out here for our own reasons; but, a part of it for all of us is to get away, on some level, from current society. However, we are all drawn in by the towns. After seven days in the woods, a town visit was long overdue. In town, you don’t have to filter water, sleep on the ground, or poop in a hole. Life in town is a brief respite from the rigors of the trail.”

Beaker wasted no time taking advantage of the town of Hot Springs, NC. The first order of business was a long, hot shower; then a trip to the laundromat; and finally food – lunch at the Smoky Mountain Diner. Beaker and several hikers visited the hot springs of Hot Springs, NC

3/25/17 Hot Springs, NC. Zero day in Hot Springs.

Beaker took advantage of the day of rest to refuel, resupply, and rejuvenate those tired legs. After breakfast he did some planning and estimated how many days it would take to make it to Erwin, TN and how much food he’d need for the journey. He sorted through his pack and sent home a few items, such as micro spikes.  He also made some longer term plans including some off-the-trail days at Adkins, VA around Easter to make his move to Knoxville, with a strategy to return to the trail in early May.

Tenting along service road

3/26/17 Back on the trail. 14.8 mile hike today ending at a stealth camp near Allen Gap, NC.

Beaker experienced a restless night at Elmer’s awaking with aches all over. He did not want to get out of bed but eventually he got his hiking stuff organized and packed. He started his day in the rain, but it didn’t last long and the sun broke out turning gray to blue.

By the time Beaker reached Allen Gap, he was feverish and dizzy. Being one of the last to arrive most of the flat spots were occupied, but he found a site on an old forest service road that ran close to the campsite. Soon, two other hikers joined him (see photo).

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Hot Springs, Max Patch, North Carolina, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker in Knoxville

My last post about Beaker, the chemist from West Virginia had him snow-bound in Knoxville, TN, enjoying his son’s home and awaiting the arrival of his wife, Marguerite. The next few days were rather eventful… off trail.


Tuesday March 14

Beaker enjoyed the zero day in Knoxville hanging out with his son’s dogs and visiting the local outfitter store.

Wednesday March 15 – A cold, clear day in Knoxville. The road to Newfound Gap was still closed and the temperature was bitterly cold at the top of GSMNP. Most of Beaker’s hiker buddies were planning to move forward on Thursday. Beaker’s wife, Marguerite, was on her way to Knoxville so his plan was not to leave Saturday. “I’m just sort of bumming around town today checking out downtown Knoxville.” Marguerite arrived in Knoxville later that day. “We’re just planning to hang out until I return to the trail on Saturday morning.”

Beaker’s wife, Marguerite

Thursday, March 16 – Beaker’s blog begins, “So, we bought a house in Knoxville yesterday.”  I think Marguerite and Beaker did a little more than just hang out yesterday. It turns out that the couple had worked hard to put their house in WV on the market just before Rusty headed off for the AT on February 26. The house went on the market Monday, Feb 27th  and the very first couple to look at it signed a contract for the asking price! Beaker needed to find a cell-phone signal to be able to electronically sign the contract for the sale of their house from the trail.

“I already had plans to come off the trail to look at a potential house in Knoxville. The weather just pushed me off the trail a little earlier than planned. So, anyway, we liked the house and when Marguerite arrived yesterday we signed the contract. I plan to return to the trail Saturday morning and continue my northbound journey until mid to late April, when I will have to take a couple weeks off-trail to help move the household (including three dogs and two cats) to Knoxville.”

Friday, March 17 I have mixed feelings as I prepare to return to the trail tomorrow. On the one hand, I am excited to continue my journey north – especially in the Smokies. On the other hand, it’s very hard to leave Marguerite again.”

Beaker completes every entry of his blog with the Latin phrase, Montani Semper Liberi, Mountaineers Are Always Free, the fabulous state motto of the state of West Virginia. The state motto of Tennessee is “Agriculture and Commerce.” I hope he doesn’t change his signature when he becomes a resident of Knoxville.

 

 

Categories: Beaker, GSMNP, Knoxville, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Continues

Beaker and Friends dry in a cabin

Rusty Miller (trail name – Beaker) from Morgantown, West Virginia, began his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail on February 26th by conquering the approach trail of 8.5 miles. This is no small task due to the rigor of the ascent and the challenging terrain beginning at Amicalola Falls, Georgia. Beaker made it to the top of Springer Mountain, the actual southern terminus of the AT, on day one and camped with seven other excited hikers ready to dream of Maine and 2,200 miles ahead.

Let me give you a quick fast forward and share some of Beaker’s adventures during the first week of his pilgrimage. Day two, he hiked 7.2 miles with a philosophy of keeping his mileage low until his trail legs begin to strengthen. He took his time breaking camp in the morning and hit the trail around 10:00.  Before the day was over Beaker experienced a common phenomenon on the AT – RAIN.

Day three – his journal begins, “Rain. Again. Lots of rain. Everything is damp.” Despite the moisture, Beaker managed to walk 13.2 miles and ended up at Woody Gap. The rain let up for most of the day but around 2:00 pm the rain arrived accompanied by several claps of thunder. Beaker shares, “I slogged on and finally arrived at Woody Gap in the pouring rain.

Wednesday, March 1 brought a new month to the trail but the rain continued. It had poured all night and Beaker woke up to rain in the morning. To add insult to his dampened spirits, his air mattress sprung a leak during the night. On the up side, the day’s adventure took him up and over his first 4,000 foot mountain: Blood Mountain (4457 ft). The summit displays some wonderful views, but not for Beaker, “Didn’t see ’em! At the top – nothing but clouds.” The climb up Blood Mountain was strenuous but the descent on the other side revealed a rather unnerving, slippery slope of bear rock, “the wet rocks were slick. I had a couple scary slips, but managed not to fall.” The day ended at Neel Gap and a nice warm cabin just before a downpour with thunder, lightning, high winds and pelting rain.

Beaker on the Trail

Thursday, March 2 started with glorious sunshine, although the temperature only reached into the 30’s, and ended at a campsite at Low Gap Shelter. When Beaker arrived he found a tent city involving about 30-40 backpackers. Temperatures dropped in the middle of the night and Beaker discovered that his hiking quilt wasn’t going to be adequate. He recorded, “Even wearing all my clothes, I was very cold. I lay there shivering all night.”

Friday, March 3. After a 9.8 mile hike Beaker opted for a restful and warm bed in a room at the Budget Inn in Hiawassee, GA. He called his wife and made arrangements for an express delivery of a sleeping bag to replace his quilt to be sent to the Top of Georgia hostel in Dick’s Creek Gap.

I love how Beaker describes himself: “As you can see, it’s just me in a kilt with a ponytail, bushy white beard, and a funny red hat, carrying a hiking staff.” (He forget to mention the mobster shades).

End of day five = 52.6 miles. More of Beaker’s story to come.

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Georgia, Hiawassee, Tent City, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Beaker the Chemist

 

My wonderful mother-in-law is 90 years-old and lives in Wild Wonderful West Virginia. This past weekend Cathy, my bride of almost 45 years, and I piled into our 1999 Toyota Camry and drove from our house in the Buckeye state to the home of the Mountaineers in Morgantown. Our son, Matt, also lives in Morgantown and we enjoyed a weekend of reunion with him as well as a special time with Cat’s mom.

Cathy’s three brothers live close by, so Nana’s house was visited by many during our four-day stay in the Mountain State. One afternoon, my niece and her family including four fantastic, energetic children came for lunch and a time of nice conversation. In the midst of family talk, Bekah shared that a coworker of her husband at the pharmaceutical company was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Any mention of the trail perks my ears to attention and opens my eyes with more than a twinkle of interest.

Bekah shared that the chemist’s name was Rusty Miller and he had the opportunity to take an early retirement with perks allowing him to hike the trail with funds from a severance package and the benefit of health insurance. With a first name like Rusty, I thought his trail name would be an easy decision. To my surprise, I found out his name on the AT is Beaker. What a great name for a chemist!

Two minutes into my chat with Bekah I was hooked into following Beaker’s blog and taking another vicarious hike through 14 states.  Beaker began his adventure on Sunday February 26. He began in Amicalola Falls State Park and traveled the 8.8-mile approach trail to Springer Mountain, the official start of the Appalachian Trail.  This approach trail contains a brutal start with 650 steps leading up to the falls. The approach trail, itself, has been enough to discourage many hikers to the place of throwing in the towel. Beaker, however, arrived in great spirits.

When he reached the summit, he found eight other pioneers – folks from Florida, New Hampshire, New York, Philadelphia, Paris and South Africa. This country and even the world gather at the southern terminus of this granddaddy of long trails. The AT is truly an international pathway to the Appalachian Mountains. The octave of hikers decided to camp together in the shelter or pitch their tents nearby. It was indeed a great day for the chemist from West Virginia. More of his story to follow…..

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Georgia, Hiking, Ohio, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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