GSMNP

AT Thru-Hikers Hoping for Spring

RTK – Frosty Field

Snow in the middle of April? Yes. And those who started the Appalachian Trail in January and February are more than ready for some warm winds of spring. The higher temperatures are on their way, but not this week. My admiration for this brave group of hikers grows with each day of their determination and perseverance.

I began following 14 hikers. Now, I am down to nine, as five individuals have decided to change their plans and get off the trail. Let me give you a quick update on those hiking this historic long trail.

Pigweed, who got off trail for 15 days with an injury, is back on the trail and has just completed the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He hiked about 4 miles on April 17 and is resting at the iconic Standing Bear Farm (mile-marker 241) just outside the GSMNP. On hiking days since his return, he is averaging 9.5 miles. He will really need to pick up his pace to complete his thru-hike. He still has time, but at this rate, the remaining 1,950 miles will take him six and a half months of hiking.

Which Way and Next Step’s tent on April 17

Chip (Tillson) took two days to visit family in Boone, NC (on April 15& 16). On the 17th he hiked passed the Watauga Lake area. Part of the trail is closed to day-hikers because of increased bear activity so he trekked well beyond the danger area and is stealth camping north of the Lake (about 431 miles along the AT).

Which Way and Next Step (the only couple on my radar) are camped at Abingdon Gap Shelter, the last shelter in Tennessee and about 11 miles from Damascus, Virginia. They have not taken a zero-day since Erwin, Tennessee nine days ago, so I anticipate them taking some rest time in Damascus. Over the past nine days, they averaged 12.8 miles per day with two longer hikes of 16 miles during the last two (April 16 &17).

RTK posts his blog a week late, so my most recent update is from April 10. He is maintaining a strong pace and has crossed the 500-mile line having climbed Mount Rodgers and hiked through Grayson Highlands. He stayed at Wise Shelter in Virginia on the 10th. This shelter is memorable to me, although I did not sleep there. After my wonderful hike through Grayson, the weather began to rain. About a dozen of us took refuge at Wise Shelter to wait out the downpour.

Lindamood School

Vagabond Jack continues to make slow progress along the AT. His last zero-day was in Damascus on April 10th. In the week following this rest stop, Vagabond is averaging 10.3 per day. He and a hiking buddy, Curb, spent the night on the 17th at Lindamood School around the 540-mile marker. Lindamood School is an 1894 one-room schoolhouse located at Settler’s Museum, a 67-acre open-air museum. The school is open to the public and a spot that often provides trail magic. It is not designed to be a trail shelter for thru-hikers, but some seek its warmth for the night.

Sour Kraut 1/4 Way

Sour Kraut’s last photo shows him standing next to a trail sign indicating ¼ of the way to Maine and NOBO mile 547. He posted the photo on April 14th. He has not posted a written update since March 12, so I am tracking him via his photographs.

Bamadog is camped about 651 miles along the Appalachian Trail. He camps regularly at stealth sites which makes it difficult to update his progress. I know he stayed at Woods Hole Hostel (mile 620.9) on April 15th, then in the next two days, he passed through Pearisburg, VA (631.3), took a photo of Rice Field (638.1), and is camping close to Stony Creek (651.0).

Hard Knocks has been struggling with a sore ankle for several days. He took a nero-day ad zero-day at Stanimals 328 Hostel in Waynesboro, Virginia on April 13 &14. He has been hiking with two other thru-hikers (Grumpy and Grinder) the last couple of days and they made camp at Cow Camp Gap Shelter about 4 miles north of Buena Vista, Virginia, on April 17th

Opa has hiked over 1000 miles on the AT. He stopped in Harpers Ferry to sign in as NOBO hiker #16 to have checked in at the AT Conservancy (I was hiker #924 when I hiked in 2014, just to give you an idea of how early he has arrived). He has continued on into Maryland and on April 17 he was camped at Raven Rock Shelter, about five miles from the Pennsylvania border.

Here is an updated chart of the hiker’s progress. As the weather improves, so will their miles.

 

Up-Date Mile Marker Hiker Location Start Date
4/17/2018 241 Pigweed Standing Bear Farm, NC 2/27/2018
4/17/2018 431 Chip Tillson Stealth n. Watauga Lake, TN 2/20/2018
4/17/2018 457.2 Which Way and Next Step Abingdon Gap Shelter, TN 2/24/2018
4/10/2018 500.5 RTK Wide Shelter, VA 2/25/2018
4/17/2018 540 Vagabond Jack Lindamood School, VA 2/1/2018
4/14/2018 547 Sour Kraut 1/4 Way Sign, VA 2/21/2018
4/17/2018 651 Bamadog Stealth near Stony Creek, VA 2/15/2018
4/17/2018 804 Hard Knocks Cow Camp Gap Shelter, VA 1/31/2018
4/17/2018 1055.6 Opa Raven Rock Shelter, MD 2/10/2018
         
         
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Class of 2018, Damascus, Grayson Highlands, GSMNP, Harpers Ferry, Lindamood School, Thru-Hike, Woods Hole Hostel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 Hikers: March 25th Update

I have been following several earlier starter on the Appalachian Trail. Here is an update on thier progress.

Genesis

Genesis

Rich Miller (Genesis) is a thru-hiker from Pennsylvania that began his hike in Harpers Ferry on January 14th. He hiked from West Virginia back to his home state through February and then headed to Georgia. He trekked in the Peach State for 6 days and then coming off Blue Mountain both his knees started to hurt, so he decided to drive back to PA to recoup (10-hour drive).  He is now back in Atlanta planning his return to the trail.

Zin Master – started January 23 is now OFF TRAIL – leg injury

Hard Knocks

Patrick Knox, tail name Hard Knocks, started on January 31. His journal has been silent since March 22nd when he was camping a Chatfield Shelter about 4 miles south of Atkins, Virginia. On the 22nd he posted,”Tomorrow I will try to make it to a town as it looks like there may be some big rain coming in on Saturday.” I am hoping that his silence means he has been enjoying so dry and warm rest in Atkins.

Hemlock Hollow Inn

Vagabond Jack

Jack Masters, from Kansas City, took his first steps on the famous Appalachian Trail on February 1. Vagabond Jack last post reflected a hostel about 15 miles north of Hot Springs at Allen Gap. He spent four zero-days there avoiding the winter storms and snow at Hemlock Hollow Inn. His last post on March 22nd“I decided to wait one more day before heading back out onto the trail. Besides giving my toe another day of healing, the weather should be a bit better. The sun finally came out today, and the snow is beginning to melt. I’ll be glad to get back out there instead of lazing around the hostel.” I am still waiting for an update from Vagabond. 

Opa

Opa’s Tent 3/25/18

Opa (Reinhard Gsellmeier), the retired engineer from Rochester, NY, began his thru-hike on February 10. Opa continues to hike through the winter weather and on March 25th he was camping at a stealth site 8.7 miles north of Pearisburg, Virginia (around mile-maker 640). He had wisely taken a zero-day in Pearisburg. On the 25th he hikes through a great deal of snow. He reached Rice Field Shelter around 2:30 but decided to push on a couple more miles and stealth camp. His words give insight into the difficulties of the AT in winter and the attitude to continue,  “Let me tell you it was very slow going as at this point I was on the ridgeline and the snow was deep. Staying on trail was also a challenge, and several times I had to rely on the Guthook GPS feature to keep me on trail. I found a good spot to camp, setup camp quickly, made dinner and hung my bear bag. I am now in my sleeping bag for the nite…. will wait for daylight before heading out. Aside from all the snow, it was a pleasant, sunny day today. I hope it continues. I didn’t pound out a lot of miles today, but am OK with that as it was slow going.”

Bamadog’s Igloo

Bamadog

Marty Dockins hit the trail on February 15th. His last post was from a hostel in Roan Mountain, Tennessee. His “sweetie” was meeting him at Roan Mountain and he was planning on a couple of days off trail. Three or four days ago on the trail he had an unwelcomed surprise, “Just made it to my campsite as it started to rain. It poured rain with thunder and lightning. When I woke up I was in an igloo. It had snowed 4 to 6 inches overnight.

Class Act

Class Act

Class Act, a Retired physician, Alan Conlon, took his first steps on the AT on February 18, 2018. Unfortunately, he decided to end his hike on March 14th. He had two days of very difficult hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Both days the temperatures were in the 20s and then at night, they dropped into the single digits. The snowy and slick trails made the elevation challenges even more difficult. His conclusion was that his pace was too slow to complete the journey.

Chip Tillson

Chip began his AT adventure on February 20, 2018. As of March 17, he has trekked over 200 miles and finds himself about half-way through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On March 16, he slipped on some mud and took a nasty fall, landing on his left elbow and wrenching his shoulder. He has taken six days off the trail at a friend’s home in Raleigh, NC, and is now making his way back to the trail. His elbow and shoulder are still sore but a doctor’s visit confirmed that there is nothing broken. March 25th was his first day back and he sloshed and slid 3.1 miles from Newfound Gap to Ice Water Shelter (appropriate name shelter for this time of year).

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 Hot Springs around March 22nd.

Which Way hiking out of Newfound Gap 3/25/18

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. They took two zero-days in Gatlinburg and then along with Chip Tillson (they do not mention meeting him), they left Newfound Gap on March 25 and hiked 8.5 miles to Peck Corner Shelter. They are sharing the shelter with at least ten other hikers and several mice scampering on the rafters – all trying to stay warm.

Dave and Abbie

Dave Snow and his dog (trail name Abbie) started the Appalachian Trail on February 26th. Dave’s last post was on March 11 when he and Abbie were taking a zero-day in Franklin. I will continue to check his journal but I think he is OFF TRAIL.

RTK’s Photo 3/18/18

RTK

Return To Katahdin (RTK), Bruce Matson is reporting his adventure in posts summarizing each week. He posts a week behind his current location so his last post reflects his journey through March 19.  He took the 16th  and 17th of March as zero-days in Gatlinburg and then returned to the Great Smoky Mountains Nation Park. He completed the park on the 19th and enjoyed a stay at Standing Bear Hostel just outside of the park.

Pigweed

Pigweed, Lee Richards, started with the approach trail from Amicalola Falls on February 26 and started accumulating AT miles on the 27th. Pigweed took four zero-days at Wolf Creek Hostel in hopes of nursing an injured an Achilles heel. He got back on the trail, hiked 8.5 miles but realized that the heel was not going to respond for the long haul. He has decided to get off the trail for now, head back to Delaware and evaluate a possible return as he rehabs the ankle.

Hickory

Hickory who began on February 26. On March 17th, Hickory has covered 255.9 miles of the Appalachian Trail. On March 24th (his last post) he was camping at Clyde Smith Shelter at mile marker 368. He did take his first zero-day in Erwin, TN on March 22nd. The cold weather is tough on all the thru-hikers. Hickory shared in his last post, “I am in another shelter, another winter storm, another cold night. In every journey moments arise which require “in-flight corrections” and reassessments. Extensive winter hiking was not anticipated for this journey. I will see what challenges Roan presents tomorrow, then plan day-by-day

Here is the latest mileage update for each hiker.

 

Last Post Mile Hiker Location Start Date
3/21/18 50.5 Genesis Atlanta 1/14/18
3/11/18 109.8 Dave and Abbie Franklin – OFF TRAIL 2/26/18
2/27/18 129.2 Zin Master OFF TRAIL 1/23/18
3/23/18 159.2 Pigweed Cable Gap -OFF TRAIL 2/27/18
3/16/18 182.5 Class Act OFF TRAIL 2/18/18
3/2518 209.8 Chip Tillson Ice Water Shelter GSMNP 2/29/18
3/25/18 217.2 Which Way/ Next Step Peck’s Corner Shelter GSMNP 2/24/18
3/19/18 240.8 RKT Standing Bear Farm 2/25/18
3/22/18 273.9 Sour Kraut Hot Springs 2/21/18
3/22/18 288.1 Vagabond Jack Allen Gap 2/1/18
3/24/18 368.1 Hickory Clyde Smith Shelter, TN 2/27/18
3/23/18 391.8 Bamadog Roan Mountain, TN 2/15/18
3/22/18 538.2 Hard Knocks Chatfield Shelter, VA 1/31/18
3/25/18 640.0 Opa North of Pearisburg, VA 2/10/18
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Atlanta, Class of 2018, Gatlinburg, Georgia, GSMNP, Hiking, Hot Springs, North Carolina, Pearisburg, Standing Bear Farm, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Virginia | 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 Five

120Beast of Burden and I hiked at different paces and enjoyed being alone on the trail, so we did not hike side by side, but we planned to stop at Davenport Gap Shelter for the night. Beast of Burden was a section hiker from Iowa and his wife was going to pick him up after completing the GSMNP so this would be our last day together on the trail.  

I got a nice early start and found the trail to be mostly downhill. Although the knees take a beating, the miles tend to go by much faster. It was another beautiful day on the Appalachian Trail and I arrived at the Davenport Gap Shelter at 3:00. I was rather disappointed at what I saw. The shelter was a dark structure with a chain front wall. The chain was to deter bears from bothering the campers at night.

 

Davenport Shelter

Davenport Shelter

I understand that most of the shelters in the GSMNP had been equipped the same chain protection in the past. It reminded me of a jail (although I have never spent time behind bars) and I was thankful that the chain had been removed from the other shelters along the way. It was only 3:00, so I decided to continue on a few miles to a hostel. I felt badly about not being able to say good-bye to my friend from Iowa, so I wrote him a note and left it at the shelter.

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Standing Bear Farm

I hiked on to the Standing Bear Farm. There was plenty of room in the bunkhouse for $15, and the price included a hot a shower (which a desperately needed) and electric outlets to charge my phone. The hostel was actually outside of the GSMNP, but it was a great ending to my adventures in this famous section of the AT. I was alone in the bunkhouse for a while when I quiet young man, Isaac (no trail name),  showed up. We exchanged the normal thru-hiker greetings and then he went off to get some food at the hostel’s store.

I was relaxing on my bunk when I heard someone else approach the hostel. It was a young lady that I had met at the shelter last evening, Glow Worm, and right behind her walked in Beast of Burden. I was happy and surprised to see him. He got my note and said his wife was picking him up tomorrow at the I-40 interchange (just 0.8-mile from the hostel), so he decided to hike on. He treated me to a microwave pizza from the hostel and we had a great talk about our final day in the Smokies. As we said our goodbyes the next morning, Beast of Burden gave me his bear spray for my protection on the adventure ahead. I carried it with me all the way to Mount Katahdin in Maine.

121My hike through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was filled with beauty, friendship and a little adversity that translated into a great adventure. Bears, rain, a spectacular sunrise, a few falls, a kindred spirit, and a view from a fire tower dotted the trail with lots of great memories.

Check out my book, Hike It Forward, if you are interested in reading about more of my time on the Appalachian Trail.

Book Cover 2

Davenport Shelter Photo found at http://www.trailjournals.com/journal/entry/117472
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beast of Burden, Davenport Shelter, GSMNP, Rowdy, Standing Bear Farm, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The GSMNP – Day Four

114I had a difficult night sleep in the shelter. I am sure that others were not happy with me. I tossed and turned which means I most likely disturbed others in the process. From the activities last evening,  it seemed like most of the people in the shelter were part of a larger group of section hikers. Most were calling each other by real first names (not trail names typically used by thru-hikers) and Beast of Burden and I were not brought into any conversations or asked any introductory questions. There was lots of cigarettes and alcohol shared among the cliques. I was very content to hide in my sleeping bag and look forward to the miles ahead.

Day four in the GSMNP broke forth with an incredible sunrise. The brilliant colors painted the end of rain and the glory of the morning skies. I managed to hit the trail by 8:00 with a shorter hike (13 miles) on the agenda. I had 28 miles left in the GSMNP and I did not think I could hike that far in one day, so I decided to stop at Tri-Corner Knob Shelter tonight, leaving a reasonable hike of 15 miles the next day to the last shelter in the park located less than one mile from the boundary.  

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Charlies Bunion

It was a perfect day for hiking. Clear skies but not too hot. There were lots of ups and downs (what hikers call Muds and Puds – Mindless-ups-&-downs and Pointless-ups-&-downs) along the trail. I realized that the Appalachian Trail is steep. It is steep going up and it is steep going down. There is very little flat. Going up is exhausting causing many huffs and puffs in my lungs. Going down is tough in the knees and rather dangerous. Each step must be carefully made watching for stumble rocks and trip roots desiring to take you down to their level.

117What I missed at Clingman’s Dome was soon forgotten as I encountered numerous (at least ten) vistas with panoramic views that took my breath away. I would be walking through the green tunnel of the forest canopy when suddenly the trail would open up to reveal this amazing view of the valley below. Charlies Bunion began the day. It was a side trail but well worth the small diversion. It was a huge rock with a huge view. There was also a huge dropoff that made me hugely nervous to take a closer look…but I did. It was a long way down, but getting a glimpse of the intimidating cliff was worth the danger.  I stopped many times throughout the day to attempt to capture the sights on my iPhone’s camera.

My fall happened so fast that I am still not sure how it happened. I had fallen several times over the past 200 miles, but this time I hit my head on the ground and had a difficult time bouncing up. I ended up heading downhill and my backpack had shifted up in such a way that it’s weight pinned my shoulders to the ground. Instead of trying to stand straight up, I just needed to roll on my side, shift the weight a bit and then I was free to stand and hike again. After a quick examination to find no blood, no dislocated joints, no blurred vision, and no need for the first aid kit, I was thanking God for His faithfulness and singing down the trail.

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Beast of Burden and I met at the shelter and enjoyed meeting a more friendly crowd at Tri-corner Knob. A ridgerunner (park ranger) showed up for a while, shared some interesting insights about the trail, and checked our permits. There were 17-20 people at the site designed to sleep 12. The ridgerunner gave permission to several volunteers to tent. I did not make the shortlist so I remained in the shelter. It was a good day.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beast of Burden, Charlies Bunion, GSMNP, Rowdy, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The GSMNP – Day Three

098Day three of my 71-mile trek through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park via the Appalachian Trail began at daybreak as I exited out of the shelter trying my best not to disturb my new found shelter-friends from South Carolina or my hiking buddy, Beast of Burden. As quietly as possible, I packed up my sleeping bag and loaded my food sack into my backpack. I walked toward the trail and was greeted with such a beautiful sight. I left the shelter at 7:15 and only ten yards from the three-sided structure I saw two deer standing at the edge of the path half hidden by the foggy mist that accompanied the dawn.

The DomeI had anticipated this day for months. It was my day to summit Clingmans Dome, the highest point on the Appalachian Trail (6,643ft). The man-made observation tower provides an incredible view that boasts a reach of 100 miles. The tower is just off the AT and the hiker must walk up a paved, half-mile, circular, walkway to the top.

The Dome was about five miles from the shelter. I did not know exactly what to expect, although I had seen many pictures of the observation platform and the panoramic views offered on top of the structure. It continued to be a misty morning until about 9:00 when the rain began to come with sheets of heaviness. As I approached the summit of Mount Buckley, I was getting pelted with cold rain. It poured until 1:00 in the afternoon.

Even though I knew visibility would be terrible, I climbed the observation tower anyway. It was pretty amazing to be the only person standing on the platform. (This might say something about my intelligence, but I wanted to stand at the highest point no matter the weather). My view from Clingmans Dome might have reached 100 feet. It was my youngest son’s birthday and with no one else around, I sang happy birthday to him twice, while standing at the highest point during my 2,186 mile journey. Happy Birthday, Dan!

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Clingmans Dome 2014

I had a great laugh at Clingsman Dome, took a picture of the white non-view, and within a mile from the dome completed 200 miles of the AT. Unfortunately, the rain was not only relentless but it was very cold. Coming down off the mountain I could not get warm. I began to shiver and my hands became very uncomfortable, almost numb. I decided to take a side trail to a shelter with hopes of getting out of the rain and drying off. The Mt Collins Shelter was 0.5 miles off the trail but I knew I needed stop. This turned out to be a good thing. The shelter was indeed dry. I took off my shirt and put on my dry, down jacket. I got some food and drank lots of water. Once the chill was gone and I felt rested and refueled, I continued back to the AT and toward Newfound Gap

The rain tapered down and had finally stopped by the time I reached US 441 and Newfound Gap. Many hikers were sticking out their thumbs and heading toward Gatlinburg, about 15 miles from the trail. But the sun was out, I was feeling so much better, and warmth had returned to my body so I chose to continue on another 3 miles to Icewater Spring Shelter. It was packed, but Beast of Burden had arrived much earlier and had saved a spot for me. My heart was so blessed and I thanked my hiking buddy several times for looking after me.

HIF Cover PublishedI fell once during the wet descent off of Clingmans Dome, but my trekking poles saved my body several times. The day was filled with adversity and my motto was tested and remained true: No Adversity, No Adventure! Day three was not a disappointment at all but a day filled with God’s faithfulness and protection.

If you are interested in learning more about my 2014 thru-hike, check out my book, Hike It Forward on Amazon.

 

 

Photo of observation Tower found at https://rootsrated.com/stories/6-ways-to-hike-to-clingmans-dome-tennessee-s-highest-mountain
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Clingmans Dome, GSMNP, Hike It Forward, Rowdy, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The GSMNP – Day Two

099After the first night in the GSMNP, I realized that I did not like sleeping in shelters. It is, however, a requirement in the park. Tent camping is not permitted unless the shelters are full. It might have been fun if I knew all of the hikers, but sleeping with 14 smelly strangers in a spot designed for 12 was a bit overwhelming for an introvert like me. I woke sometime during the night to hear the shelter resound with the sounds of a dissonant choir of snorers all “singing” out of different hymnbooks. Shelter life was just not my cuppa tea. I was up early on day two, welcomed by a very windy and cold day. There was a threat rain with sprinkles most of the day. I remained fairly dry until I was half an hour away from my designated shelter. Then the rain came in full force. I arrived at Siler’s Bald Shelter totally drenched but only four strangers inhabited the shelter designed to sleep 12.

In addition to the four unknowns, there was the face of a friend. I had last seen Beast of Burden at Fontana Lodge two days before. He was such a gentle, soft-spoken man and we had enjoyed many conversations since our initial meeting close to Franklin, NC. Beast of Burden had arrived just before the rain began. It was 5:30 and the rain appeared to be ready for a long visit, so Beast of Burden and I decided to stay put instead of moving down the trail 1.7 miles to the next shelter, which might have been packed with soaked hikers. The four unknown faces from South Carolina soon became friends as we laughed and told stories about the trail and life back home.

102I quickly discovered that I was not the fastest hiker on the trail. I was passed by several hikers on Day Two through the park. Consistency was the key for me. Slow but sure. I tried to only take a short break in the morning, then a longer sit-down lunch time, a 10-minute afternoon breather, and then push until I found camp. Slow but sure seemed to work for me. I tried not to put pressure on myself to keep up with others or to compare my progress with the miles of the young.

May 9 was filled with some good spiritual time. I liked to sing in the woods, so I belted out “Shout to the Lord,” and the lyrics “Mountains bow down and the seas will roar at the sound of Your name.” brought chills up my back realizing just how powerful God really is. I began to reflect on God’s omniscience and the reality that He knows all of my thoughts, attitudes and feelings. He knows me to the intimate detail and yet He loves me anyway. His vast knowledge ranges from the universal to the microscopic. And in the center of all that, He is faithful to me.

103I also found myself focusing on ways to conform my life to please my Father. I began to think about transforming my eyes so that I could see people like Jesus sees them. I frequently view people as numbers or irritations or awkward moments demanding forced conversations. I wanted to see them more as divine appointments, as personal opportunities to encourage and help, as hearts that needed my words of support and friendship. If I could only see differently, I would live differently. I wanted to “Turn my eyes upon Jesus” so that I could take my eyes off myself and see others through the lenses of the Savior. I’m still working on that every day, but sometimes I can actual see.

HIF Cover PublishedDay Two on the Appalachian Trail through the GSMNP was a little wet but was also a day of spiritual growth in the life of Rowdy from Springboro, Ohio. If you would like to read more about this incredible five-month journey, please check out my book, Hike It Forward, available on Amazon – Click the cover for a link.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, GSMNP, Hike It Forward, Rowdy, Shelter, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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