Blood Mountain

Grateful 2’s Climb Over Blood Mountain

Grateful 2, a thru-hiker from Chattanooga, and his son, Gooseman, Have begun their attempt at hiking 2,186 miles through 14 states on the Appalachian Trail. They began their journey on March 18 and have trekked 15.8 miles. Their second night on the AT was spent at the Gooch Mountain Shelter. This post finds the father/son team on day three of the trek.

March 20 was a beautiful day for a hike on the AT and Graetful 2 and Gooseman covered 8.4 miles. The hike is not an easy one and the challenge is real. Grateful 2 writes in his journal on day three, “Up-and-down the mountains seeing the splendor of God’s creation. It is awe-inspiring to imagine the one who created all that we see and enjoy…. Walking in the outdoors is enjoyable. Walking in the outdoors up and down 1000 foot elevation gains and losses can be hard. Walking in the outdoors up and down 1000 foot elevation gains and losses with a 35 pound pack can be downright difficult sometimes…. My legs ache, my knees hurt, my back kept cramping, my feet burned, but still we kept walking. I was so glad to finally get to the campsite for the evening.”

March 21 Today was a day for big adventure (7.2.miles). An anticipated climb over Blood Mountain with the reward of real food at the end of the descent. The descent down to Neel Gap was a brutal rock scramble. Grateful 2 and Gooseman rented a cabin at Blood Mountain Cabins. A few hours after their arrival a horrific storm enveloped the area – heavy rains, marble sized hail, fierce winds, lightning and thunder.

March 22 Today hike was a tough 6.9 miles for the men from Chattanooga. ”As we started down the trail this morning, Gooseman said to me, ‘My knees are hurting bad.’ Not good. He never complains about his body hurting so i knew it must be bad. I asked him when they started hurting. ‘After we finished the rock scramble down Blood Mountain yesterday.’ We had planned to hike 11 miles today. The first mile took us over an hour. Usually Gooseman is bounding down the trail; his six foot three, two hundred thirty pound frame leaving me in his dust at 2-3 miles an hour. Not today…. I hope he can walk on them tomorrow. He’s really loving the hike so far, and then this. Tomorrow will be a better day, and I’m Grateful 2.”

March 23 Father and son hiked 8.2 miles today in an attempt to get back to civilization. They should be at Unicoi Gap tomorrow. Gooseman’s knees are still not doing well so they are planning to meet Grateful 2’s wife and take a couple of days off for them to recuperate.

March 24  The hike up and over Blue Mountain today was quite difficult. The 6.1 miles trek involved 40 degree temperatures with 30-40 mph winds with rain and fog. Gooseman’s knees were still bothering him significantly, so the men eventually decided to hitch a ride into Hiawassee, Georgia. They ended the day warm and dry.

March 25  “Zero Day- I cried. And I’m not a crier. I got up from the bed and went to the bathroom of this two-bit motel room where my wife, son, and I are staying and I cried some more so they wouldn’t hear me. I cried hard. Gooseman has decided he’s going home. His knees are hurting, he has a sinus infection, and he’s decided to go home.
I’ll miss him so much but that’s not why I’m crying. We’ve had a great week and shared a lot of laughs. It will be hard without him but that’s not why I’m crying.
I’m crying because I hurt for Gooseman. What many of you don’t know about Gooseman is that he has autism. I’ve watched him his whole life not be accepted. I’ve watched him try so hard to be successful in life, and he struggles. He’s doesn’t have a job and he still lives at home. He’s a good man with a great sense of humor, but he struggles. He’s generous and loves giving to others. He always stands up for the underdog.
On the trail, if he can walk, he’s normal. I’ve watched him being accepted this week. I so wanted him to finish- to be accepted as a hiker. Not for me but for him.”

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

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Blood Mountain, Georgia, Gooseman, Grateful 2, Hiawassee, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The AT Class of 2017

The class of 2017 thru-hikers is off and climbing over the hills of Appalachia. The excited adventurers all hope that they have what it takes to hike 2,186 miles and the fortitude to travel through 14 states in order to complete the journey. There is a small percentage of thru-hikers that post their journals online through a website, trailjournals.com. I enjoy reading their stories as I retrace my journey in 2014. Several brave men and women have answered the challenge of the mountains and have set out on the path as early as January.

Vagabond on a snowy path

Only one journal began in January – an older hiking team of Vagabond and Wiesbaden started at Dennis Cove, TN on January 18, 2107. Sickness demanded that they spend several days off trail, but they have returned and their journal on 3/30/17 located them about 7.5 miles north of Pearisburg, VA. They are making slow progress but they have also encountered some difficult weather. They have logged in 234.8 total miles during their 70-day trek.

Nineteen active hikers began their attempts in February and I am tracking 71 hikers that jumped on the AT during the month of March for a total of 91 current pilgrims on the trail. But wait…. there will be a bulging bubble of hikers that start during April and a few late bloomers hitting the AT in May. I will continue to add to my statistics as others join the travelers.

There are also a large number of excited bloggers that anticipate being part of the class of 2017, but for one reason or another simply do not follow-through on their journal. Typically, they just drop off the website with no journal entries after some pre-hike posts. If there is no entry, then I take them off my watch list and turn my eyes to those who are active. From January through March there are 47 hikers with blank pages

Bacon on the AT

from the trail. They might be on the AT somewhere or they might have reason for staying home – either way, they are not included in my numbers.

Of the 91 hiker-diaries active online, six of those journals record the hiker’s need to leave the trail. Physical, emotional, and unknown reasons tell the tale. Let me let their journals share the stories.

Trail name: Bacon“Due to some unexpected issues that have popped up over the last several days, I am forced to leave the trail this year”

Giggles: “Giggles tried to hike another day with his bad knees but decided BEFORE going over Bull Gap to call the hike! He and Chitz rented a car and headed home. He was in good spirits and looking forward to shower and clean clothes! We are sure that giggles will section hike in the future but for now he will just enjoy his new status of ‘retired’.”

Poncho Gorilla and Idgie2/23/17 “The MRI showed a complex tear of meniscus. The doctor said that he would like to do surgery next Wednesday. He said full recovery would be around 30 days. We now plan to do a flip flop hike.” 3/3/17 “I had surgery on March 1. It was a partial meniscectomy. I am icing frequently and have been walking in the house. Some swelling is still present. I can feel daily improvement and caution

Pokeymom

myself not to over do it. I am still cautiously optimistic for a start this month on the trail. We will do a flip flop if able to get on trail”

Pokeymom: “I am a wimpy slow fair-weather hiker. I’m friendly and cheerful and cautious of my foot placement to the point of extreme low mileage. I had no aches or pains or blisters or falls….although I did start with bronchitis which is still lingering around the edges. I carried too much food and too much weight but used everything I brought and was comfortable.”

Icy Blood Mountain

Mattman: “Coming down off Blood Mt. on the way to Neel Gap I slipped on ice and injured my shoulder. It’s bad. I cannot lift my arm. The attempt is over. I am so disappointed. I suppose I am lucky–it could have been worse.”

Stay in touch and I will attempt to update the class of 2017 on a weekly basis.

Photos captured from the journals

Vagabond – http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=1090036

Bacon – http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=1087472

Pokeymom http://www.trailjournals.com/about.cfm?trailname=21129

Mattman’s Blood Mountain http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=1091779

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Blood Mountain, Class of 2017, Pearisburg, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Journey is the Reward

Mount Katahdin fogI remember lying in bed before I began my thru-hike adventure of the Appalachian Trail trying to image the journey and what I would see, the experiences that I might encounter, the people that I would meet, and the animals that would cross my path. I remember my mind going to the topic of sleep as I felt so comfortable in my own bed. Would I be able to get to sleep, would I get enough sound sleep to feel rested in the morning, would I find good spots for my tent or would I be sleeping on rocks and roots that would prohibit a peaceful slumber in the woods? I tried to think of climbing Mount Katahdin (a mountain that I had never seen before) and arriving at the famous brown sign that graces the northern terminus of the AT. My mind’s eye could never focus in on that picture – I just could not see myself on the summit.

When I arrived at the Tableland, the gateway to the summit, with a distance of just 1.6 miles to the iconic sign, the reality began to set in that I was going to make it. With one mile to go I walked past Thoreau Spring (just a trickle on September 24, 2014) and began the final climb to the summit. Then I saw the sign in the distance and realized that many hikers were at the top celebrating their victory and the climax of months of hiking.

The Celebration

During this last mile of the hike, a principle that I had incorporated in my life during my doctoral studies came crashing into my mind. Katahdin was not the reward. The fantastic sign at the summit filled with celebration, high-fives, hugs, and voices of congratulations was not the reward. The journey was the reward. The sign marked the end of the journal, the last page of the recorded adventure, the final entry documenting the walk of 2,186 miles. It was the period after the title, Thru-hiker. It was a crowning experience to stand atop the sign and shout a victory cry of joy.

But the real reward was the journey. The 5 million steps counted one at a time. The sunny days and the rain storms, the sweltering hot July days in Pennsylvania and the cold nights in September in the wilderness of Maine provided the weather that defined the journey. The special friends and bonds of brotherhood that were crafted along the path formed the relationships of the reward. 20140603-185040.jpg 20140524-141412.jpg 20140505-084828.jpg Each campsite, shelter, hostel, and hotel brings a memory of the reward of the hobo lifestyle and independent uniqueness of the thru-hike. No two thru-hikes are the same and part of the reward is working through the personal struggles, victories, joys, and tears that make up the walk.

On the last day of the hike, the brown sign was a great reward. But reflecting back on the journey and this life-changing experience, the sign plays a pretty small part. Mount Katahdin was amazing, but so was Blood Mountain in Georgia, Mount Albert in North Carolina, Thunderhead Mountain in Tennessee, McAfee Knob in Virginia, Mount Lafayette in New Hampshire, and about twenty other absolutely incredible vistas experienced along the trail.

The reward is reading my journal and reflecting on the faithfulness of God – everyday, in every state, every night, and in every need – always protecting, always guiding, always providing. The journey was the reward.

 

Photo – Dream of Katahdin –  https://www.tripadvisor.ie/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g40744-d145958-i122917743-Mount_Katahdin-Millinocket_Maine.html

All Other Photos from my Thru-hike 2014

Categories: Albert Mountain, Appalachian Trail, Blood Mountain, Maine, McAfee Knob, Mount Katahdin, Mount Lafayette, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tableland, Tennessee, Thoreau Spring, Thru-Hike, Thunderhead Mountain, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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