Fontana Dam

Pigweed is Back!

Pigweed

After two weeks off the trail, Pigweed (Lee Richards) has returned to the Appalachian Trail to continue his thru-hike of the iconic long-trail. During his time back in Delaware, Pigweed had some physical therapy and made some practice hikes to strengthen his injured ankle. He drove a rental car from Delaware to Knoxville on Friday, caught a shuttle ride from Knoxville to Fontana Dam on Saturday, and then returned to the trail on Sunday, April 8th.

Leaving Fontana Dam, Pigweed began his trek through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). He hiked 12 miles on his first day, although his intention was just to travel 6 miles. His intended tent site at mile six was closed. He swapped his tent for a hammock and hoped to stealth camp anyway until he saw signs warning of bear activity, so he continued to Mollies Ridge Shelter. His plan for his return to the trail included a slow start to test his ankle. He was quite pleased that his ankle held up fine during this initial dozen-mile journey.

Fontana Dam – GSMNP ahead

Having slept through a cold and rainy night, Pigweed’s second day in GSMNP was a muddy experience. He waited at the shelter until the rain stopped and hiked 6 miles to the Spence Field Shelter. His third day ended at Derek Knob Shelter (another 6-mile day) Although the weather had cleared for day three, the trail was challenging and with fatigue setting in, Pigweed decided on a short day.

Pigweed’s View from Clingmans

On Wednesday, April 11, Pigweed reached Clingmans Dome after a ten-mile hike, the highest point of the AT. He also hit the 200-mile point on the trail and is about half-way through GSMNP. At Clingmans Dome, he bummed a ride to Gatlinburg to resupply and spend the night. His plan is to grab a shuttle back to Clingmans Dome on the 12th and continue northbound (NOBO) through the park.

It is good to see Pigweed back on the trail and headed north. I put him back on the active list and will continue to monitor his progress. Hopefully, his ankle will continue to cooperate and he will begin to log in more miles each day.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class of 2018, Clingmans Dome, Fontana Dam, GSMNP, Pigweed, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

AT Thru-Hikers: March 11th Update

Here is an update on the 14 thru-hikers of theApplalchain Trail that I am following. All of them started the trail in January or February of 2018.

Genesis

Genesis

Rich Miller from Pennsylvania and his sister began their hike on January 14. They did some hiking in PA for a few weeks (from Harpers Ferry, WV up to Caledonia State Park, PA) logging in about 70 miles on the AT. They made their way to Springer Mountain, Georgia and began their NOBO hike on March 1. Coming off Blue Mountain on a very rainy Tuesday (March 8th) both his knees started to hurt, so they decided to drive back to PA to recoup (10-hour drive).  The plan to continue some more hiking on the AT in PA and then drive back to Unicoi Gap over Easter weekend and hike north once again.

Zin Master

Zin, Ken Nieland, decided to get off the trail on February 27 with tendinitis in his lower right leg. No update on his blog since then. I have not taken him off my official list, but silence is not a good sign.

Hard Knocks

Hard Knocks

Patrick Knox, tail name Hard Knocks, started on January 31. He experienced some AT winter weather on the 7th and 8th of March. On Wednesday (8th) he was greeted with cold temperatures and 6 inches on snow.  “… the trail footing was hard to see.  Needless to say, I fell down a couple of times but, thankfully, there are no injuries to report.” The next day the wind took over with major gusts that literally knocked him over. He stopped at a crossroad and got a shuttle to Doe River Hostel in Roam Mountain area. He was hoping to slackpack out of the hostel, but March 8th was his most current post.

Vagabond’s Shelter in GSMNP

Vagabond Jack

Jack Masters, from Kansas City, took his first steps on the famous Appalachian Trail on February 1, His last updated was on March 7th and he was camping at Newfound Gap with Okie, and Camo hoping to get to Gatlinburg but the road is closed because of the snow.

Opa

Opa’s Trail on March 8

Opa (Reinhard Gsellmeier), the retired engineer from Rochester, NY, began his thru-hike on February 10. He had been hiking as part of the Four Horsemen (including Jeep, Night Train, and Captain Blackbear). The four have now become the three as Jeep elected to stay in Erwin to heal from shin splints. They hit major weather as well as they spent the night at Roam High Knob Shelter (the highest shelter on the AT). ”Accumulations I’m estimating at 5-6”, with drifts up to a foot. Temperatures dropped steadily during the day as well. It was a difficult day, lots of climbing elevation and cold, windy, snowy…. I also had my first two slips and falls of the hike today. Nothing serious, I bounced back. I should put my microspikes on. Oh yeah, I mailed them back home when I was in Hot Springs.  Of the cohort that I am following, Opa has hiked the farthest at 434.5 miles. One interesting fact I learn about Opa this week: he was born in Munich, Germany,  and immigrated with his parents to the US in 1955 when I was three.

Bamadog

Bamadog at Rocky Top

Marty Dockins hit the trail on February 15th. His last post reflected his stay in Hot Springs, the first trail town along the trail, where the AT goes right down the main street of the community (Bridge Street). He hiked through knee-deep snow as well but enjoyed a nero of 3.2 miles from Deer Park Mountain Shelter to Hot Springs for a day of rest.

Class Act

Class Act

Retired physician, Alan Conlon, took his first steps on the AT on February 18, 2018. He has been doing some slack packing (carrying only what is needed for the day and utilizing the shuttle of a hostel to drop him off and/or pick him up after his day’s hike) for several days. Stationed at Wolf Creek Hostel in Stecoah Gap, Class Act has made good progress for the past three days. He met and had dinner with Chip Tillson on Saturday, March 10th. He has his eye on Fontana Dam as his destination for March 12.

Chip

Chip Tillson

Chip has experienced some of the attrition that occurs on the AT. In his journal he shares, “Several people I’ve hiked with have already left the trail. Among them: Georgia and Nick were rained out, Music Man got a bad toothache, Gabriel blew out his knee, Marbles got picked up in Franklin with a possible broken foot, Water Leaf just didn’t like climbing mountains, and today I learned John is headed home with a foot injury.”  A few days later he shared that his feet are bothering him, ”My feet have been sore the past couple of days and around noon I felt a growing pain in one foot.” He is planning two zero days followed by two days of slackpacking before he makes his way into the Smokies.

Sour Kraut Photo near Fontana Dam

Sour Kraut

Tim Pfeiffer, who started on February 21st.  His photo journal makes it difficult to track his mileage but his last photos show him in the Fontana Dam Area ready to enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Which Way headed up Albert Mountain

Which Way and Next Step

Darrell (Next Step) and Alicia (Which Way) Brinberry, retired military most recently stationed in Washington, DC, began their adventure on February 24th. I really enjoy reading their journal. They are so optimistic despite some a nagging toe blister and knee problems. They share about trail worship and God’s faithfulness which really pulls me into their adventure. They are staying at the Wayah Bald Shelter on Sunday, March 11.

No New Photos – Abbie

Dave and Abbie

Dave Snow and his dog (trail name Abbie) started the Appalachian Trail on February 26th and Abbie has been enjoying the outdoor environment. Dave seems to express a more pessimistic look at the trail with a little complaining attitude toward the accommodations and the weather. He and Abbie have spent six nights out of fourteen in hotels/hostels, so that are experiencing the inn-environment of the first two states more than some of the other hikers.

RTK

RTKs Tent

Return To Katahdin (RTK), Bruce Matson is reporting his adventure in posts summarizing each week. His last post covered his first week of hiking February 23-27. I now that he reached Dick’s Gap on March 3, but that is the latest update I have on my lawyer friend from Virginia.

Pigweed

Pigweed at Ga/NC border

Pigweed, Lee Richards, started with the approach trail from Amicalola Falls on February 26 and started accumulating AT miles on the 27th. As of March 10th, he was a Rock Gap having passed the 100-mile marker at Albert Mountain. He is beginning to have some physical problems. His journal on March 10th reflected some foot pain, “Unfortunately I strained my Achilles heel about halfway through the prior days 16-mile hike. Ibuprofen and general Slow Go hiking got me over Mount Albert and to the first Gap and Road. I decided to call a shuttle and get out at Rock Gap instead of continuing the next 3.7 miles to our destination with the rest of the Gang. I’ll pick that up when I resume the hike. I had planned to do a zero-day in Franklin anyway on Sunday. We’ll see if one zero-day is enough to heal up.”

Hickory

Hickory – does not post photos

Hickory began the same day as Pigweed but has walked at a much stronger pace. On March 11th, Hickory has covered 179.6 miles of the Appalachian Trail and has entered into the GSMNP (Smokies). He has only taken one nero-day (2 miles) in his first two weeks of hiking. He has thru-hiked the AT in 2011, so he probably knows his pace. I looked at my blog and on day 13 of my thru-hike, I camped at the same shelter, but Hickory is hiking through the winter weather and I was enjoying warmer spring temperatures and sunny skies.

He is the latest update on the hiker’s progress (not some posts are earlier than others).

Up Date Mile Marker Hiker Location Start Date
3/11/18 50.5 Genesis Poplar Stamp Gap 1/14/18
3/2/18 69.2 RTK Dick’s Creek 2/25/18
3/10/18 106 Pigweed Rock Gap 2/27/18
3/11/18 109.8 Dave and Abbie Franklin 2/26/18
3/11/18 120.8 Which Way/ Next Step Wayah Bald Shelter 2/24/18
3/11/18 129.2 Zin Master OFF Trail 1/23/18
3/11/18 150.7 Chip Tillson Stecoah Gap 2/20/18
3/11/18 158.4 Class Act Yellow Creek Road 2/18/18
3/9/18 165.5 Sour Kraut Fontana Dam Area 2/21/18
3/11/18 179.6 Hickory Russel Field (GSMNP) 2/27/18
3/7/18 206.8 Vagabond Jack Newfound Gap 2/1/18
3/11/18 273.9 Bamadog Hot Springs 2/15/18
3/8/18 376 Hard Knocks Roam Mountain Area 1/31/18
3/11/18 434.5 Opa Erwin, TN 2/10/18
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class of 2018, Fontana Dam, Franklin, North Carolina, Gatlinburg, Georgia, GSMNP, Hiking, Hot Springs, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Roan Mountain, Rocky Top, Slackpack, Tennessee, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where Is Everyone on the Appalachian Trail?

I am tracking nine thru-hikers on the trail right now with at least four more to join them before the month of over. One, Genesis, started in West Virginia and is hiking north through Pennsylvania. He posts sporadically and as of February 18th, he had hiked about 79 miles. To help give you a visual on the journeys of the rest of the gang, I constructed the following table. The first column is an indicator of the first 200 miles of the AT. The second column is the miles hiked by a particular thru-hiker; the third is the name of the hiker; the fourth is the destination of each hiker on February 22; the last column is the date that each hiker began his adventure. (The last post by Hard Knocks was made on February 20 so he is, most likely, pushing his way through the Smoky Mountains where cell phone coverage is scarce.)

Miles Miles Hiked Hiker Destination Start Date
0 12.3 Sour Kraut Cooper Gap 2/21
  15.8 Chip Tillson Gooch Mt. 2/20
         
  31.7 Class Act Neel Gap 2/18
         
50        
         
  69.9 Bamadog Dick’s Creek 2/15
         
         
100        
  106 Zin Master Rock Gap 1/23
  114 Vagabond Jack Silar Bald 2/1
         
         
150        
         
  164.7 Opa Fontana Dam 2/10
         
         
200 199.1 Hard Knocks Clingman’s Dome 1/31

Four individuals were supposed to begin the hike since my last post. One hiker, Rogue Patriot was delayed waiting on his new tent to arrive in the mail. He hopes to hit the trail this Monday, February 26.  However, three others have officially joined the class of 2018.

Class Act

Class Act (Alan Conlon) began his adventure on February 18 and has hiked about 32 miles on the AT. He is a retired physician but is not a stranger to the trail. He took a leave of absence in 2014 (I did not meet him on the trail) to attempt a thru-hike. He completed 554 miles before an injury ended his hike. He is beginning his 2018 hike by utilizing a timeshare in Helen, GA. His wife is helping him slackpack along the way. He hiked 8.1 miles on day one; 7.6 on day two; and then 4.8 on day three having trekked over both the Sassafras and Justus Mountains and then meeting his wife at Woody Gap. They spent a zero-day together on the 21st in Dahlonega and then he hiked to Neel Gap on Thursday before his wife picked him up about 5:30.

Chip Tillson

On February 20, 2018, Chip Tillson (no trail, yet) hiked the approach trail from Amicalola Falls (8.1 miles to Springer Mountain) Unfortunately this mileage is on an approach trail and does not count as AT miles. Day two lead him 7.6 miles to Hawk Mountain Shelter. Day Three ended a Gooch Mountain after another 7+ mile day. I don’t know much about Chip background (hometown, age, or vocation) He mentions a special girl, Joyce, that I am assuming is his wife and his initial picture has a young man on his shoulders which looks like a son or a maybe a grandson.

Sour Kraut

Sour Kraut (Tim Pfeiffer) is the newest member of the cohort who started this past Wednesday, February 21. Sour Kraut hiked the approach trail as well so day one was only 0.3 miles on the AT. On day two he met a 70-year-old hiker, Dane, aka OG- old guy. He motivated Sour Kraut to hike up and over Sassafras Mountain and log in a 12-mile day. He ran into his first taste of trail blessing provided by “Snap” who offered fresh veggies and hummus. Sour Kraut is well on his way.

Zin Master

To quickly update the adventures of the others let me just give an insight from each. The chart above will tell you where they are. Zin Master, who was off-trail for over 2 weeks with blisters was hiked over 12 miles on two different days in the past week. He shares in his journal, “my feet have remained blister free now for 57 miles since I restarted…. If possible during the day I stop, change into dry socks and make any necessary adjustments to my taping. I’ve noticed the new boots becoming more and more comfortable as time goes on and hope the break in period is about over.”

Hard Knocks (still no photo), who started on January 31, is hiking very strong. He is somewhere in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It has been several days since a post but on February 20, he was at Clingman’s Dome and the 200-mile mark of the trail.

Vagabond Jack

Vagabond Jack, continues to make progress. He is logging less than 10 miles per day, but he seems to be enjoying his adventure. On Thursday, Jack got a late start (11:30) and only covered 4.6 miles. But he also experienced part of the power of the trail, “As the trail passes near Siler Bald [his destination for the day], it enters what appears to be a pasture. A side trail to the left climbs to the top of the Bald, where camping is allowed. It’s a rather steep climb to the top; similar to walking up a ski slope. But the climb is more than worth it. I’m so glad I decided to make the journey, arriving about 4:00. I was blown away by the views from the top. Finally, I was on a mountain without it being covered in fog!”

­

Four Horsemen -Opa on far left

Opa is putting in some nice mileage each day. He has found three other hiking buddies (Night Train, Jeep, and Captain Blackbeard) and they are calling themselves the four horsemen. “Each of us (the Four Horsemen) hikes at our own pace so we are scattered during the course of the day while hiking, but we have an agreed upon end of day destination.” They are taking a zero-day at Fontana Dam getting ready for the hike through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Bamadog

Bamadog is making good progress although his journal is rather sketchy and short. He seems to enjoy finding stealth (unmarked) campsites so it is not easy to discern where he is along the trail He stayed at a hostel (Top of Georgia) on February 21 just a few miles from Dick’s Creek Gap. He shares, “Took a nero. It was a good chance to dry out wet gear and get a good meal.I will be in North Carolina tomorrow God willing!”

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Fontana Dam, Georgia, Gooch Mountain, GSMNP, Hiking, North Carolina, Thru-Hike, Trail Blessing | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Early Hikers Continue to Hit the AT

January Start – I have mentioned the first six hikers listed below and thought I would give you an update on their progress.

Genesis

January 14, 2018 Genesis (Rick Miller) lives in Pennsylvania and has begun his hike at Harpers Ferry West Virginia. He is currently (2/18/18) camped at Caledonia State Park, PA, having trekked about 59 miles of the AT. He shares about his trail name: when I start in 2018 I will have just retired which will be a new beginning of life for me. Also a great name after one of the greatest rock bands of the 70s and 80s.

Zin Master

January 23, 2018 Zin Master (Ken Nieland) from Colorado developed blisters on the trail and ended up taking a 17 days break from the trail to get new boots, new trekking poles, and healing/rest for the sore feet. He is back on the trail and is staying (2/18/18) at Top of Georgia Hostel at Dick’s Creek Gap.

Mattman

January 23, 2018 Mattman (Matt Dilly) from Lancaster, Pennsylvania quickly decided that the AT adventure was not for him. He found great discouragement in the wintry weather and the loneliness of the trail He decided to leave the trail on January 27, 2018.

January 31, 2018 Hard Knocks (Patrick Knox) is keeping his hometown hidden from his reader so far. He caught a bus from New Orleans on the way to Atlanta, but I am not sure if that is “home” or not.  He has not posted a picture of himself either. I don’t think he is a criminal on the run, but he is hiking at a good pace. He spent the night (2/17/18) in Fontana Dam just south of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

February Start

Vagabond Jack

February 1, 2018: Vagabond Jack (Jack Masters) from Kansas has been hiking slow but steady since his first day on the trail. He is staying at Cater Gap on 2/18/18 which is about 93 miles into his adventure.

Opa

February 10, 2018: Opa (Reinhard Gsellmeier) is a retired engineer from Rochester, NY. He has been making big strides during his first week on the trail. He took his first zero-day on February 18th in Franklin, NC about 110 miles along the AT.

Bamadog

February 15, 2108: Bamadog (Marty Dockins), 61-years-old, retired last March. He had the pleasure of hiking with his son, Cory, for the first day of the hike. He has covered 44 miles in his first four days on the trail. He is camping on the 18th of February at a stealth camp 13+ miles north of Neel Gap.

Here is a list of those that plan to start the trail in later in February. I will attempt to track these brave folks and keep you posted on their progress.

Coming Up:

February 18, 2018       Class Act (Alan Conlon). He has not posted his first trail entry yet.

February 19, 2018       Rogue Patriot (Jamie Crowley)

February 20, 2018       Chip Tillson (Chip Tillson)

February 21, 2018       Sour Kraut (Tim Pfeiffer)

February 24, 2018       Which Way and Next Step (Darrell & Alicia Brimberry)

February 25, 2018       RTK (Bruce Matson). RTK is a friend of mine that was a trail angel to me in 2014. I look forward to tracking his progress!

February 26, 2018       Pigweed (Lee Richards)

February 27, 2018       Hickory (real name not shared)

Potentials

There are several others who have a start date in February but have not posted a blog entry in quite a while. I am doubtful that they are truly going to make the hike, but I will check and let you know for sure.

February 14, 2018       Kwai – No journal entry since October 31, 2017 (Jeffery Ruth)

February 17, 2018       Jamie Wilson – No journal entry since August 24, 2017 (Jamie Wilson)

February 18, 2018       Nomad – No journal entry since September 19, 2017 (Chip Ringo)

February 19, 2018       Dave and Abbie – No journal entry since September 25, 2017 (David Rouner)

February 28, 2018       Muffin No journal entry since January 30, 2017 (David Quinones)

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Fontana Dam, Georgia, GSMNP, Harpers Ferry, Hiking, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The GSMNP – Day One

My hike through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) was a great adventure. The trek took 5 days and 4 nights (May 8-12, 2014). The path across this grand national park involved 71 miles of rugged terrain. I had beautiful, sunny weather for three days but had to embrace two days of rain. Reflecting on those days on the Appalachian Trail brings back many memories.

087The first day out of Fontana Dam was sunny with blue skies. To arrive at the national park, the hiker actually crosses over the dam and gains a close-up view of the waters of Fontana. Arriving at the park’s trailhead, there is an official box that requires a permit to hike the trails. I purchased the $20 permit in advance at Fontana Lodge.

090

Shuckstack Fire Tower

Hikers in the GSMNP are required to stay in shelters and no stealth camping is permitted so my hiking agenda was limited to the shelter sites. The first day, for example, I had several options. There were four possible destinations 12.1 miles; 14.9 miles; 17.8 miles; and 24.1 miles from Fontana. The trail was a twenty-mile uphill climb to Thunderhead Mountain, so my hope was to get to the second shelter at 15 miles and then evaluate the weather, the shelter, and my energy (the latter being the most important). Shelter #2 at Russell Field, was where my body told me I should stay. I was tired and did not want to push on and find myself exhausted for the next day.

Today was my first bear sighting on the Appalachian Trail. Just like Goldilocks, I saw three bears, but, unlike her, I did not stop to eat porridge with them or take a nap on their beds. Instead, I quickly passed by them hoping that they were not hungry for backpack food or the backpacker. It was a thrill to see them. Before leaving for my thru-hike, I hoped that I would be able to safely see some bears on the trail. They are such magnificent animals that seem to embody power and agility. I was not sure what to expect. Would they run, would they run toward me, would they charge and attack? I continued walking the trail (as quietly as possible) with the bears on the hillside to my right. To my relief, they just ignored me and kept lounging among the trees.

091

Fontana Lake from the Fire Tower

I also experienced one of my favorite activities on the AT – climbing a fire tower. The Shuckstack Fire Tower is a 60 ft. tall structure with 78 steps. The top of the tower gave me a fantastic view on this clear day of the surrounding North Carolina mountains. I stood in amazement at the beauty and the waves of mountains that filled my 360 degree perspective. From the tower, there is a special view of Fontana Lake that very few people are able to see.  

Seeing the forest from the fire tower gave me a chance to see the big picture and the incredible expanse of the GSMNP. But under the canopy of the woods, I was fascinated to see the variety and beauty of individual trees. Two very unusual trees caught my eye during this first day in the park. One trunk opened up like a teepee inviting me to sit inside to eat my lunch. The other tree stood about four feet off the ground before it bent completely over headed toward the trail and finally completed an “s” shape as it appeared to readjust itself back toward the sky.

Book Cover 2

Day one in the GSMNP was a glorious day on the Appalachian Trail. If you would like to read more of my adventures please check out my book, Hike It Forward, on Amazon.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Fire-tower, Fontana Dam, GSMNP, Hike It Forward, North Carolina, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Hot Water – What a Luxury!

Hot ShowerI take a hot shower almost every day and sometimes I sneak a little added time under the warm water to enjoy the relaxing spray on my back. I take it for granted. But, there was one shower along the Appalachian Trail in 2014 that will stay in my memory for a long time. The warm water hit my face after hiking twelve days in a row on the trail without a break. I had managed a quick shower seven days before, but I was as ripe as a brown banana and smelled like the skunk nest by the city dump.

084

Fontana Lodge

I arrived at Fontana Dam Lodge, North Carolina, on May 7, 2014,  just before lunch but could not check into a room until 4:00. Two good hiking buddies, Beast of Burden and Soul Asylum, and I invaded the hotel restaurant for lunch. The food was excellent but the service was not the best. In hindsight, I could not blame the waitress for staying away from the smelly mountain men right off the trail. The three of us had a great visit sharing trail stories and some details about real life back home.

After lunch, I walked to a local grocery with my backpack over my shoulders and purchased all the food I thought I could fit in my pack to last me five more days on the trail. I made it back to the lodge about 2:30 and decided just to sit in the beautiful, air-conditioned lobby until my room became available. I got out my Trail Guide and mapped out a strategy through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There would be no shower available until I made it through this granddaddy of a national park. I was planning a five day-four night adventure. I grabbed a short nap and before I began to snore too loudly, it was four o’clock and my room was available.

Fontana Lobby

Lobby of the Fontana Lodge

Just taking my sandals off and collapsing on the bed made me feel like a king. At the store, I bought a big bag of potato chips, two bananas and a two-liter of Coke with plans to watch Survivor on TV. In danger of immediately falling asleep, I jumped out of bed and turned on the shower. As the water turned from cold to warm, I realized that I did not remember seeing a laundromat in town. The sounds of the shower offered the best solution. I just walked into the water with my clothes on, including my socks. The water turned the color of chocolate milk before I even started using soap. Doing laundry standing up was pretty fun. After using almost an entire bar of soap on my clothes, I spent another 20 minutes getting my body clean. I never got to sweet smelling but my hair was squeaky and my hands looked like giant prunes.  

Survivor28logoI hung up my wet trail clothes, put on my town clothes (a Dayton Christian t-shirt and shorts), opened my chips, and tuned on the idiot box. I enjoyed the soft pillows until Survivor came on, then I got serious about watching one of my favorite shows. It was a good episode and I had great fun just relaxing. It was time for bed because I needed to hike out of Fontana Dam and into the GSMNP as early as possible. The initial climb out of Fontana was 2,755 feet in 9.3 miles. As I was about to roll over for some good sleep, I knew I had one more thing to do. I threw off the sheets, got ready, and jumped in the shower for one more delightful feeling of being clean, knowing that in 24 hours I would smell as bad as I did when I arrived at the lodge. Ah, the life of the thru-hiker.

If you are interested in reading more about my thru-hike, check out my book, Hike It Forward, on Amazon. Just click the book cover below and it will take you to my page.

HIF Cover Published

 

Shower Photo found at  https://sites.psu.edu/siowfa16/2016/09/16/hot-or-cold-which-showers-are-better/
Lodge Lobby photo found at http://www.fontanavillage.com/the-lodge/
Survivor Logo found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivor:_Cagayan
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Fontana Dam, GSMNP, North Carolina, Rowdy, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Grateful 2 Into Gatlinburg

 

April 8th marks the 22nd day of Grateful 2’s adventure on the Appalachian Trail. He has spent the last six days with his wife and son, Gooseman. Gooseman has made the difficult decision to get off the trail and return home. Grateful 2’s wife has been supporting her husband’s hike: driving him to the trail head, allowing him to slackpack (taking the just the essentials for the day) and then meeting him at the day’s destination. Their time together had come to an end and Grateful 2 must continue on the trek alone in search of his AT thru-hike.

April 8 From Yellow Creek Mountain to the Fontana Hilton Shelter = 7.9 miles

It was a sad goodbye this morning with the family, as Grateful 2’s wife and son dropped him off at the trail head. It will be months before another planned reunion. However, today was an incredible day to hike. The sky was clear and one of the few days on the trail so far without strong winds. Grateful 2 could see the destination, Fontana Lake, almost all day long. “There are no leaves on the trees at altitude yet, so I can see a long way away. The lake was a beautiful deep Mediterranean blue for miles as I drew closer and closer.” Tonight’s stay was at the Fontana Dam Shelter also known as the “Fontana Hilton” There is a separate restroom building with flush toilets and a single shower stall making this shelter more than a cut above the average shelter on the AT. Located close to the entrance to the Smokies, this shelter will allow Grateful 2 to drop off his permit in the am and begin his adventure in GSMNP.

April 9 (SUNDAY) Fontana Hilton to Mollies Ridge Shelter = 11.4 Miles

“Today is the day we celebrate in Christianity when Christ makes his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The crowds cheered for their new king, even though Jesus knew that less than a week later he would be crucified…Today was a triumphant day for me in my hike. I have been expecting/dreading this day since I finalized plans for the hike. You see, I have hiked the Smokies before. I managed to make it through the last time, but today’s section gave me problems. [Today’s section] mandates you hike 12 miles up almost 3000 feet to the first shelter. The last time I …gave out of gas, about half way up. I had to emergency bivouack in an abandoned campground for the night. I just couldn’t go any more….Today confirmed that last time I was just having a bad day. I made it all the way up the mountain to the shelter this time! Triumphant Reentry! (I just hope the trail doesn’t crucify me in less than a week. Lol)”

April 10 From Mollies Ridge Shelter to  Derrick Knob Shelter = 12.0 miles

Grateful 2 experienced some wonderful ridge walks today including the incredible views of Rocky Top, Tennessee. The summits are indeed fantastic but Grateful 2 reflected on the reality of hiking the Appalachian Trail, “I have noticed that when I hike that I tend to focus my eyes three to six feet in front of where I am walking. This is almost of necessity. There are lots of things that can trip me up. Uneven ground, jumbled rocks, deep mud, and spiderwebs of massive tree roots…. I don’t want to fall. (I’ve only fallen once so far. It was a face plant on the trail when I twisted my ankle.)”

April 11 From Derrick Knob Shelter to Mt Collins shelter = 13.5 miles

At the end of the trail yesterday, Grateful 2 was thinking about calling off his thru-hike. He was concerned about his fatigue and his lack of ability to put longer hikes together back-to-back-to-back.

Today was a much better day. He shares in his online journal, “I walked through spectacular ecosystem after ecosystem.…. In 14 miles I walked through a grassland, an abandoned fruit tree orchard, a mountaintop bald, and into a spruce tree moss covered fairyland. The sky was neon Carolina blue with wisps of cotton clouds. The temperature rose to 75 degrees during midday with a light cool breeze… And I made it – 12, 12, 14 miles on three straight days…. I walked across the top of the sky and I am Grateful 2.”

April 12 Mt Collins Shelter to Newfound Gap, and into Gatlinburg = 4.3 miles

A quick hike in the morning, found Grateful 2 at Newfound Gap. A ten-minute effort of hitch-hiking resulted in a ride down to Gatlinburg. After checking in at the motel and taking a shower, Grateful 2 took a big nap; then clothes had to be washed; then the priority of good food – Five Guys. Tonight Grateful 2 was grateful to sleep clean in a real bed.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Fontana Dam, Gatlinburg, Grateful 2, GSMNP, Rocky Top, Tennessee | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Thru The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Beaker, Rusty Miller, from Morgantown, WV is a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail. He began his adventure during the last week of February and found himself snowbound in Knoxville for a few days. This post picks up his story as he leaves Knoxville and his lovely visit with his wife and heads up the trail toward the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).

3/18/17 ends at Russell Field Shelter in the GSMNP after hiking 15.7 miles. After a rainstorm during the night at Knoxville, the morning dawned gray and overcast; Beaker’s son, Chris and his wife, Marguerite accompanied him back to Fontana Village. The chemist from WV had a last goodbye and then headed up into the Great Smoky Mountains.

Beaker planned to push straight through the Smokies in five days. The climb up the mountain proved to be pretty tough, but he arrived at the Russell Field shelter and found it filled with a Boy Scout troop and other thru hikers. So, he happily pitched his tent close by and went to sleep listening to coyotes howling in the distance.

3/19/17 Today’s hike totaled another 14.7 miles and ended at Siler’s Bald Shelter, NC. The hike was quite difficult as Beaker encountered snow, ice, mud, rocks, roots, steep ascents, and steep descents. On the northern slopes there was a great deal of ice and snow. Beaker even broke out his microspikes today. His evaluation of the spikes, “They were incredible! It made a huge difference on the icy sections.”

3/20/17 Another day in the GSMNP concluded at Icewater Spring Shelter for a total mileage for the day of 15.1. Two highlights awaiting this day’s journey: arriving at the highest point of the AT, Clingman’s Dome, and crossing the North Carolina/Tennessee border. His reflection of the first highlight, “It was a fairly long and steep climb up Clingman’s Dome; but, the sun was hanging in there. As I was nearing the summit, I saw the clouds moving in. Alas, by the time I reached the weird tower on top with the curving walkway, the clouds had settled in. No views. Bummer.” The ice was bad throughout the day and Beaker hiked all day in his microspikes but he remained optimistic and celebrated the crossing into Tennessee at Newfound Gap.

3/21/17 Today was Beaker’s longest day yet on the AT – 19.8 miles. Because of the locations of the shelters and the requirement to camp at the shelters, Beaker had to decide between a 12-mile day to the first shelter or a19-mile day to the second, Cosby Knob Shelter. He pushed on and proved that he is developing some strong trail legs. The weather continued to send foggy conditions, “I couldn’t see 30 feet ahead of me.”

 

If you get a chance, check out Beaker’s expanded journal online: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?trailname=18636.

If you like my blog, check out my ebook, Hike It Forward, at Amazon.com Just click the photo of the book.

Check Out My Book

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Clingmans Dome, Fontana Dam, GSMNP, North Carolina, Shelter, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Update on Thru-Hikers 2016

I have been following several thru-hikers that decided to attempt the epic adventure during the 2016 season. Let me share an update on each hike. Unfortunately, each journal is not current with the last of April, but let’s take a look at the last entry and get a picture of these trail heroes.

I selected six hikes to follow.

  1. MarkHolmgren_19877Mark Homgren, a retired man from the Hershey Company in Pennsylvania, started the AT on February 21. Mark hiked into Fontana Dam, just south of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, on day 15 of his attempt. He left the trail due to a family health matter. Total miles: 164.7

 

  1. Possumhead and CarrotThe Coopers from Jacksonville, Florida stepped onto the trail on March 13. The father (Carrot Stick) and daughter (Possumhead) team made it to Fontana Dam on March 30 seventeen days into their journey, averaging a little over 9 miles per day. They continued into the Great Smoky Mountains and took a rest in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. They took three additional days in Gatlinburg but the rest was not sufficient to restore aching joints and Carrot Stick’s left knee. They left the trail on April 2nd – total miles: 206.8.

 

  1. Two Peas. Blood MtTwo Peas (Kristen and Robert), a married couple from Florida introduce themselves as Moonbeam and Big Cypress. They began their journey on February 13 and the most recent online post is dated April 23 (day 71 of their hike). They have traveled 791 miles and camped on April 23 at Punchbowl Shelter about ten miles south of Buena Vista, VA. Moonbeam has been sick for a few days – a little dehydrated but also struggling with UTI. They have averaged almost 17 miles each day for the past four days, but the journal entries reflect fatigue and frustration with the sickness. Moonbeam simply writes on their April 23 post, “Tough day for the Two Peas.” As they made camp that night they were greeted with the deep chirping sounds of the frogs in the pond near their shelter (I hope they can get some sleep). I am praying that the Two Peas can make it into Buena Vista and get some rest and relief.

 

  1. Dulci on Blood MtDulcigal, Founder of Crosspoint Counseling Center in Jackson, Georgia, left Springer Mountain on March 13. She arrived at Fontana Dam on April 1 (day 20), hiked through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and arrived at Hot Springs, North Carolina (the first trail town) on day 35 of her hike. Her last online post, April 20 and day 39, finds her in Erwin, Tennessee having trekked 341.5 miles. She recently fell, going uphill, and injured her knee. She reports that she feels stronger each day and the climbs seem easier as she adjusts to the trail and the weight of the pack. She is content mentally and is enjoying a daily spiritual walk along the path.

 

  1. Fat Hen and Rooster Talon 5Fat Hen (Dan) and Rooster Talon (Becky) began the approach trail on March 19 and their last online post was dated 4/26/16, day 39 of the trip. They arrived in Ervin, Tennessee after running into some very cold and uncomfortable rain. They were chilled to the bone a few days before arriving at Erwin. Becky has problems with a recurring ingrown toenail and it decided to flare up out in the middle of nowhere. The couple decided to attempt some “backwoods” surgery to address the infected toe. They removed the nail, cleaned and bandaged the toe. They made it to Erwin and Becky’s toe, according to their post was doing quite well. In Erwin, they camped along the Nolichucky River and were able to observe a bald eagle fly-by and a successful grab of a fish right from the river.

 

  1. Mustard Seed 3Mustard Seed (Michelle Mayne), a middle school teacher at Central Christian School in Sharpsburg, Georgia, began her journey with her dad (Negotiator – Michael Williams) on April 1. Her last post was April 27 from Erwin, Tennessee. She and her dad hiked the first 27 days with only one zero day in Hot Springs. They had to take a 15-mile ride from Hot Springs (mile 273.9) to Allen Gap (mile 288.7) because of the forest fires blazing along the trail right now. Mustard Seed was averaging over 13 miles a day. However, she posted on April 26th that the physical demands of the trail were taking their toll. Up at 5:30, hiking all day, and setting up camp at 7:00 every day was sapping her energy and robbing her of her anticipated spiritual/peaceful experience. She and her dad decided to walk off the trail on April 27 have a last hike from Spivey Gap down into Erwin – a 10.7 mile hike. I was cheering for her and was saddened to see her have to walk away.

 

Just to give you an idea of the similarities and differences in these thru-hikes, let’s look at a comparison.

Two Peas       Dulcigal           Fat Hen           Mustard Seed              Rowdy

Start               Feb 13        March 13       March 19             April 1                    April 26

Fontana         Day 22       Day 20           Day 19                 Day 13                     Day 12

Hot Springs  Day 31        Day 35           Day 32                 Day 22                     Day 19

Erwin             Day 37        Day 39           Day 39                 Day 27                     Day 24

I share this information to show the variance in the pace and speed of the hikers. I also think it interesting to look at the impact of spring weather (those leaving later) has on the hiker experience and ability to log greater distances on drier paths and in warmer temperatures (just my theory).

 

Photos of hikers taken from their online journals – trailjournals.com

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Dulcigal, Fat Hen, Fontana Dam, Georgia, GSMNP, Hot Springs, Mark Holmgren, Mustard Seed, Springer Mountain, Tennessee, The Coopers, Thru-Hike, Tn, Trail Name, Two Peas, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fat Hen, Rooster Talon, and Mustard Seed

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon encounter some snow and ice

I am following several potential thru-hikers during the 2016 hiking season. In addition to Dulci and the Two Peas, who are still on the trail, I selected a young couple because they left on my birthday (March 19). I know almost nothing about them. Their real names are Dan and Becky but their trail names are Fat Hen (Dan) and Rooster Talon (Becky).

So far they are posting more pictures than written journal entries. I have posted several of their photographs in this blog and offer only this spotty itinerary to demonstrate their progress. They began with the demanding 8.8 mile approach trail from Amicalola Falls, Georgia on the 19th. Ten days later they arrived at Bly Gap just over the Georgia/North Carolina border (mile marker 78.6) averaging 7.9 miles per day. They hiked to the

Rooster Talon Camped In Snow/Ice

Rooster Talon Camped In Snow/Ice

NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) in North Carolina by day 16 boosting their per day mileage up to 8.5 miles and on to Fontana Dam, North Carolina on day 19 increasing the daily mileage to 8.73 miles. They entered the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and camped at the Mollies Ridge Shelter on day 21 at mile marker 176.8.  They have been experiencing some ice and snow along the way. On day 22 of their hike they arrived at Newfound Gap with frigid temperatures. They caught a ride into Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for a resupply with a plan to continue the next day. They have not posted since then (April 9). I remember having no cell phone coverage through the Smoky Mountains, so they may be trucking through the national park without being able to journal online. I am awaiting the end of their radio silence as they approach civilization.

Mustard Christian School

Mustard Seed with Students

I decided to follow at least one more thru-hiker this season. Her trail name is Mustard Seed. That name immediately caught my eye because of the possible biblical reference to faith. A little investigation led me to Central Christian School in Sharpsburg, Georgia where Michelle (Mustard Seed) teaches middle school Math and Bible. Michelle Mayne (what a great last name for a hike to Katahdin, Maine), was born in Alabama but now lives in Georgia with her husband Bill and two sons, Zak and Michael. Mustard Seed is hiking the AT with her father, Michael Williams aka, Negotiator. They began their adventure on April 1 heading NOBO toward the wilderness of Maine.

Mustard First Day

Mustard Seed and Dad, Negotiator

Mustard Seed and Negotiator appear to have done some nice physical preparation for the journey because they have averaged 12.7 miles during the first thirteen days of the hike including an 18.3 mile trek on day four. Their last post was from Fontana Dam, NC, on April 13. They were staying at the resort in order to rest up before entering the Smoky Mountains. If they left according to plan, they may be walking a part of the Appalachian Trail that makes contact with the outside world rather sporadic. They are making excellent progress but they have not taken a zero day in the first thirteen days of the adventure. I think they will soon discover the need for an extended rest.

I am interested to see if Dulci, Fat Hen & Rooster Talon, and Mustard Seed connect along the trail. Each started several days apart (March 13, March 19 and April 1) but they are all hiking through GSMNP at very different paces. I am interested to see who makes it out of the park first and who makes first contact via their online journals.

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon Photos: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=524129

Mustard Seed Photos: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=527226

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Fat Hen, Fontana Dam, Georgia, GSMNP, Hiking, Mustard Seed, NOBO, North Carolina, Rooster Talon, Snow, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Trail Name | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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