Harpers Ferry

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

Opa – First to Reach Harpers Ferry, WV

Opa’s Hike on April 11 – Mary’s Rock

Of the fourteen thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail I began to follow this winter, ten are still on the trail and the first adventurer has reached Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Harpers Ferry is the psychological half-way point of the trail and the home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. It is located about 1020 miles north of the southern terminus (Springer Mountain, GA.) and almost 80 miles short of the geographical mid-way point, but it is a great milestone for all thru-hikers. The Conservancy takes a picture of each thru-hiker, provides a check-in number for each hiker, and places the photo in a historical album documenting the class of 2018.

Old Town – Harpers Ferry

Opa (Reinhard Gsellmeier), a retired engineer from Rochester, NY, began his thru-hike on February 10. He has been hiking strong and putting in some long days filled with many miles. On day 66 of his hike (April 15) he reached Harpers Ferry. He is hiker number 16! He has hiked through rain, snow, ice, and wind. He has averaged about 15.5 miles per day. Out of curiosity, I pulled my journal from 2014 and looked at my destination on day 66. I was in….wait for it…..Harpers Ferry! But I had great weather – no snow, no freezing temperatures, no icy winds. I had some rain but by-in-large the trail was in great shape. Opa is amazing and my hat goes out to his determination and grit.

Opa enjoyed his hike thru the Shenandoah National Park and the food available at the waysides along the Skyline Drive (especially the blackberry milkshakes… and cheeseburgers… and French fries)

On April 12, Opa reflected on the difficulties of the hike: Someone asked me a few weeks ago if hiking the trail was more physical or mental. In my humble opinion, after hiking 900 plus miles so far (but still having a long way to go), I think it is more mental. Certainly, there is a physical aspect as well, but if you’re not in good shape when starting out the trail will whip you into shape after a few weeks. The mental challenge however is there every day for the duration. Stuff Happens as they say, and you have to be prepared mentally to deal with the mishaps and adversity that will come along. You will fall, and have to be prepared to pick yourself up and keep on movin. There will be times when you are cold, wet and feeling miserable, and again need to keep movin on. There will be times when a piece of gear fails or doesn’t perform as expected (eg waterproof boots that aren’t waterproof) and need to keep movin on. There will be times where you will really miss your family and loved ones, as well as the comfort of your home, but need to keep movin on. These and countless other mishaps/concerns/issues will test your mental toughness.

1000 Miles!

Opa conquered the roller coaster (a 13.5-miles stretch tightly packed ascents and descents that will challenge your legs and lungs) on Saturday, April 14. Close to the end of the coaster, Opa reached the 1000 mile marker (an actual plaque on a tree): another giant mental/emotional milestone for the thru-hiker. With the warmer weather over the weekend, Opa noticed the trail filling up with day-hikers and section hikers. He comments that he crossed paths “with at least 200 folks” including a couple of boy scout troops. He camped about 10 miles from Harpers Ferry.

On April 15 (instead of driving to the post office with his income tax forms) Opa hiked into Harpers Ferry. He woke up at 2:45 am, couldn’t get back to sleep, packed up, and hit the trail by 3:45. He arrived in Harpers Ferry by 8:00. He is spending the night at a hostel and happy to be out of another cold wave approaching. It was in the 80’s the last two days, but rain/thunderstorms/cold winds were embracing the little West Virginia town.

Opa has a long way to go, but his attitude is one of gratitude. “I am also so thankful to be able to make this hike. The good Lord has blessed me in so many ways, I’m a lucky man.” Opa plans to spend the night in Harpers Ferry and then to continue on, across the bridge and into state number six: Maryland.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Class of 2018, Harpers Ferry, Opa, Roller Coaster, Shenandoah National Park, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | 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

Lee Barry at 81

20140522-131602.jpgThe Appalachian Trail was completed and became a continuous footpath in 1937. One year later, a 15-year-old Boy Scout from New Jersey, Lee Barry, took his first steps on the trail. He, along with other scouts, embarked on a 100-mile hike on the AT.   Lee fashioned his own backpack from ash, hickory and old army web belts. He also made the troop’s waterproof tent from white muslin dipped alum and paraffin.

Sixty-six years later (2004), Barry, now living in Shelby, NC, returned for his last long hike on the Appalachian Trail. With shuttles provided by his wife, Lois, he started his thru-hike on Jan. 2 at the trail’s southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Georgia. He would hike for three weeks and then return home for monthly church council meetings. He completed his hike on November 20 at the age of 81, then the oldest thru-hiker, based on the records kept by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Earl-Shaffer-at-Katahdin-5

Earl Shaffer

Lee Barry’s trail name was “Easy One.” The late Earl Shaffer, the first person (1948) to make a thru-hike, completed his third and final thru-hike in 1998, finishing just before his 80th birthday. Easy One said he was unaware of the age record until partway through the trek.

Easy One (I could not find a photo of him anywhere) finished his first thru-hike in 1996 and completed the distance a second time – section by section from the late 1980s to 2000. Easy One spent much of his first four and half years of retirement climbing mountains and fording rivers on the AT.

Lee served in the Navy during World War II, then worked as an engineer in New York. He continued to hike and climb. He conquered  the 46 highest peaks in the Adirondack Mountains. In 1974, he moved to North Carolina to become the general manager of a local industrial plant. The Blue Ridge Mountains were nearby so he joined the Carolina Mountain Club in Asheville. He climbed the forty mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee that are 6,000 feet and higher,

In 2004, Easy One averaged 10 miles a day during his 220140925-100106.jpg20 day thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail. He reached the summit of Mount Katahdin, Maine, the northern terminus, on Aug. 10th, while ending his flip-flop hike in Sugar Grove, Va, on November 20th.

Easy One only carried the essentials. He took no books, no radio, not even a cell phone. He ate typical trail food prepared with boiling water but he ate no snacks, no cookies, no Snickers (what a boring diet). He didn’t get sick and only suffered a sprain to his right wrist during his entire time on the trail.

What an amazing journey for a man his age. But there is always someone out there ready to break any record. Thirteen years after Easy One’s amazing hike, came Dale, Grey Beard, Sanders from Tennessee. His story is the subject of my next blog.

Details for this blog were found online. For more information regarding Lee Barry’s hike see my source:  http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2005/apr/03/nc-man-81-now-oldest-thru-hiker-to-traverse/
Photo of Earl Shaffer found at http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/tales-from-the-appalachian-trail-34902244/
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Earl Shaffer, Harpers Ferry, Lee Barry, Mount Katahdin, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Stacey Kozel Update-

Kozel.Harpers FerryIn July of 2016, I posted a blog about Stacey Kozel, a 41-year-old hiker from Medina, Ohio, who was in the midst of a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. When she was 19, Stacey was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage many parts of the body. Lupus often times aggressively attacks an individual during flare-up episodes. Stacey became paralyzed in her legs after one particular flare-up in March 2014.

After this traumatic flare, Stacey recovered most of the control of her arms and upper body, but her legs never responded. She found herself restricted to an electric wheelchair until she discovered a brace that actually functions like a mechanical exoskeleton. It allows someone with paralyzed legs to walk again because, in essence, it does the walking for you. My post of July 2016  found Stacey at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, the site of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters. She later claimed to have completed her thru-hike of the trail.

This past hiking season (2017), Stacey reported thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada – 2,650 miles). She began her hike on March 30 and completed the journey the last week of August – a journey of 5 months. However, her thru-hike has come under some question. Many are scratching their heads when trying to validate her journey. As with the Appalachian Trail, the PCT goes on an honor system regarding thru-hikes. There are no mandatory sign-ins, or photographic proof, or tangible evidence to be submitted with a claim of hiking the entire trail.

Stacey recently received national coverage when ABC reported her recent completion of the PCT. The story found its way to many sources of the news around the world, and she indicated that she was hoping to write a book about her adventures. Shortly after the ABC story was released, the hiking community began to examine her claims.

Most thru-hikers of the PTC plan on around five months to complete the journey, assuming good conditions. This year however, there were not good conditions: the Sierra Nevada mountains were snow packed far longer than usual. In early July, the streams were nearly impassable and very dangerous while then the mountains were still snowed covered. Several people have died trying to finish the PCT this year. For the hikers who made it out of the Sierras, they were faced with numerous wildfires through Oregon and Washington lasting into the later part of the summer. Stacey claims to have hiked up to 30 miles per day to stay ahead of the fires.  

Concern was drawn to Stacey’s hike from the lack of testimony. Nobody has been able to verify that they saw Kozel on the trail. Patrick Redford, in his blog at https://deadspin.com/  comments, ”PCT hikers are, like the hiking community in general, inherently collaborative and cooperative, since completing such a demanding athletic feat essentially requires help from other hikers and trail angels, who house and feed hikers as they make their way up the trail. Nobody makes it to Canada alone.”

Redford personally spoke with many trail angels and 2017 PCT thru-hikers. He read the posts of dozens of PCT’ers via their Facebook pages. He concludes “The PCT is a long, desolate road, but it’s not without a well-developed network of people keeping an eye on the trail. None of them ever saw her.”

Clay (Bonnyman) Evans in his blog found at http://claybonnymanevans.com/  concurs with the lack of evidence of a successful thru-hike and doubts that Kozel thru-hiked the PTC or the AT.  “All this is really, truly a shame. Stacey Kozel would be inspiring simply doing sections of the trail, but in her exaggerations, she has diminished anything she has done on the trail. It’s very clear that she did virtually none of the PCT, and only limited portions of the AT.”

Stacey still stands behind her claims of thru-hiking both long trails. However, her Facebook page has been removed and no positive evidence has been forthcoming. I hope she can, and will, defend her claims or at least tell her true story.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Harpers Ferry, Pacific Crest Trail, Stacey Kozel, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Congratulations Beaker!

Today’s post is a tribute to Rusty Miller, a chemist from West Virginia, and his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. He began his journey on February 26, 2017 and crossed his finish line on September 12, 2017 for a total of 189 days.  Many of you have followed my blog and his adventures over the past seven months. This post will be a photo diary of this man’s trip across 14 states and his 5 million steps to the finish line. All of these pictures come from Beaker’s online journal found at: http://www.trailjournals.com/journal/photos/18636

He began at Springer Mountain, Georgia with red shirt and kilt.

North Carolina brought the Smoky Mountains and cold weather.

Tennessee included a bike ride in Erwin to do some laundry and a lovely waterfall with hiking buddy, 1st Sgt.

There’s always a possibility of snow in April in Virginia, but the wild ponies of Grayson Highlands are always a highlight of a thru-hike.

Becker actually sold his home in WV and bought a new one in Knoxville while on the trail. He took three weeks off trail to move his home from West Virginia to Tennessee. This gave him an opportunity to change his trail persona.

Harpers Ferry, WV is the home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the emotional half-way point of the trail. The true, linear, half way point is in Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Pennsylvania.

The month of June brought the rocky trails of PA, NJ, and NY.

July led Beaker above tree-line in New Hampshire.

August 12 was the day for Mount Katahdin, Maine, the northern terminus of the AT.

20. Mount K

Beaker on lower left

After Katahdin, Beaker went home to Tennessee for two weeks before completing a section of Virginia that he skipped on his NOBO journey to Maine. He returned to the trail on August 27 to complete his 2,200 mile trek of the Appalachian Trail. Moving SOBO, he was dropped off in Waynesboro, VA. by his son, Zack, hiked 315 miles in 19 days, and finished his adventure in Adkins, Virginia at The Barn Restaurant.

What a great journey! I give Beaker a standing ovation and two thumbs up.

Categories: Adkins, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Beaker, Dover Oak, Erwin, Georgia, Grayson Highlands, Harpers Ferry, Maine, McAfee Knob, Mount Katahdin, Mount Moosilauke, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Palmerton, Pine Grove Furnace, Springer Mountain, Tennessee, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beaker Burning Up the Miles

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

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

Beaker and First Sergeant Half Way

.5 mile day!

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

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

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

 

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

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

Fat Hen and Talon at the ATC

At the Appalachian Trail Conservancy

At the Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon made it to Harpers Ferry, WV on June 23rd and became part of the traditional photo shot of thru-hikers. Their picture also reflects the hiker number – representing the rank order of thru-hikers that have checked in at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Dan was number 974 and Rebecca was 975. During my 2014 thru-hike, I arrived on June 30 and was hiker number 924. This shows the increase in participation this year – they arrived one week earlier and yet 50 more hikers have passed through the town headed north.

When Dan and Rebecca arrived in Harper’s Ferry, they developed a creative idea of visiting Washington, D.C. There’s a train station in the historic district of Harpers Ferry that goes to Union Station.  Helping to hatch the idea were the lodging options in Harpers – they were limited and expensive.  But they were too late for the last train into D.C. for the day. And then, trail blessing appeared – a man at the ATC, Glen, offered them a ride into D.C. Fat Hen and Rooster Talon were so excited about the possibilities. Their journal entry expressed it so well,

“We are then booking a hotel (which was cheaper than the one in Harpers Ferry) and in a car, on our way to the city. Glen was kind enough not only to bring us to the city but to our hotel as well, with many recommendations and anecdotes along the way. The time in the car flew by with great conversations! We then spent the night with a real shower, Chinese food and, movies.”

After breakfast the next morning they walked all over the capitol city from the White House to the National Archives to the Air & Space Museum to the National Gallery, then to the Natural History Museum, the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. This was not exactly a day off and certainly not a zero day of rest, but it was a great day of adventure. Their reflection:

Fat Hen and Talen Offical Picture“We had a great day off, even though it meant walking just as much as a normal one. It was a nice change of pace to play tourist for a day. Hopped a late train back to Harpers Ferry and we were back at it again. To head back to the wilderness with our backpacks, thinking that just a day before we touched a moon rock, saw the Wright Flyer, gazed upon Leonardo Davinci’s and Raphael’s works, stood before Lincoln and our country’s founding documents.”

The picture of this young couple on the porch of the ATC revealed some information that I did not know. Dano is Daniel Gottshall and Becky is Rebecca Savaria. They are both from Dundee, NY. Not on the picture but from Wikipedia: Dundee is a village in Yates County, New York, USA. The population was 1,725 at the 2010 census. The name was taken from Dundee, the city in Scotland with a population of 160,000. The Village of Dundee is in the Town of Starkey, New York. I bet this small town is very proud of these two young adventurers.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Fat Hen, Harpers Ferry, Hiking, Journaling, Rooster Talon, Thru-Hike, Trail, Trail Name, Washington. DC | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Stacey Kozel – A Life-Changing Story

stacey kozel 5Stacey Kozel has been getting national attention in the last few weeks from the likes of Today, Washington Post, Popular Mechanics, and The Weather Channel. And well she should be. Stacey has a life-changing story to tell.

Stacey, a 41-year-old hiker from Medina, Ohio, is in the midst of a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, the 2,186 mile trek from Maine to Georgia. And she’s doing it alone. This, however, is not national news nor is it an unusual story for this blog site. What is unusual is that Kozel is paralyzed from the waist down.

When she was 19, Stacey was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage many parts of the body. Lupus often times leaves it impact on an individual during flare-up episodes. She became paralyzed in her legs after one particular flare-up of the disease in March 2014. Stacey told the Washington Post, “It was my worst flare-up. I kind of stumbled into the hospital. … Within a couple of days, I lost all mobility. I couldn’t sit up. I couldn’t lift my head. It took three people to hold me up, because my body was dead weight, just stiff.”

Kozel.DamascusAfter this 2014 traumatic flare, Stacey recovered most of the control of her arms and upper body, but her legs never responded. She found herself restricted to an electric wheelchair, but she began a personal search for anything that could help. She finally discovered the Ottobock C-Brace. The brace actually functions more like a mechanical exoskeleton. The large black brace cups around the foot and extends up the thigh. Its bendable knee joints and sensors that monitor ankle pressure enable great mobility for the user. These microprocessors adjust the hydraulic system (located at the knee) that actually moves the leg. It allows someone with paralyzed legs to walk again because, in essence, it does the walking for you.

Kozel shared, “It’s kind of like a car. The car has hydraulics and when you go over bumps, they kind of give. That’s what these braces do — when walking over holes and terrain, you don’t really feel it.” Kozel was so excited about these braces until she saw a price tag: $75,000….each! She couldn’t afford these new legs. But through great perseverance and diligence, she convinced an insurance company to approve her need.

C-BraceThe C-Braces are pretty incredible but they’re not perfect. First, when she faces boulders and steep inclines or embankments, she has to throw her backpack ahead. Then she sits and pulls herself up backwards, scooting along. This will continue to be a challenge especially over the White Mountains in New Hampshire and wilderness of southern Maine. Second, the braces cannot get wet. Rain, therefore, can be problematic, since it sometimes forces her to remain in her tent to wait until the storm passes by. The Appalachian Trail presents many days of rain. Third, they require a new charge every two days. During most of the trail, a charge every two days will possible, although inconvenient. But I think a few of the stretches, like the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine, will create a substantial challenge.

Kozel.Harpers FerryThe June 23 online issue of TODAY stated that Stacey has hiked over 905 miles of the trail since starting her journey on March 24. She’s hoping to reach the halfway mark by July 4. In this article, Stacey shared, “I didn’t start out doing this because I thought it was going to be easy. It’s not going to be pretty and it’s not going to be fast, but I’ll get there. I’ve always wanted to hike, but just I felt like I was trapped in my wheelchair. I was just dying to get outside.”

She made it! Check out her picture from Harpers Ferry complete with her trail name, “Ironwill.” The ATC is not the geographic half-way point (which is another 70 miles away), but Harpers Ferry, WV, certainly is the emotional/psychological half-way spot for thru-hikers.

http://www.today.com/health/woman-who-paralyzed-hikes-appalachian-trail-alone-t99811

http://www.popularmechanics.com/adventure/outdoors/a21585/high-tech-leg-braces-gets-this-paralyzed-woman-hiking/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/07/01/the-incredible-technology-thats-helping-this-paralyzed-woman-hike-the-appalachian-trail/

Stacey Kozel updates the world on her adventure on a public Facebook page.

Photo of Stacey  http://www.nwcn.com/news/health/high-tech-braces-aid-handicapped-hiker/262010477

Photo at Damascus http://www.littlethings.com/stacey-kozel-hikes-appalachian-trail/

Photo of C-Brace http://www.popularmechanics.com/adventure/outdoors/a21585/high-tech-leg-braces-gets-this-paralyzed-woman-hiking/

Categories: Adversity, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, C-Brace, Courage, Harpers Ferry, Hiking, Stacey Kozel, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon Hike Over 1000 Miles

1000 Mile Marker

1000 Mile Marker

After a couple of weeks of silence, Fat Hen and Rooster Talon have posted to their journal. On June 21, they posted with the excitement of reaching the 1000 mile marker. It is only a small sign nailed to a tree but it is such a motivating sight when you are on the trail. To walk 1000 miles is quite an accomplishment and something to celebrate. This young couple have been on the trail for 95 days and are staying at the Blackburn AT Center about a dozen miles south of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters. In Harpers Ferry each of them will get his/her picture taken and receive a thru-hiker number, putting Dan and Becky into the annals of trail history.

Fat Hen GlasgowTheir June 3rd post was from Daleville, Virginia. Several days of hiking and 56 miles later, they arrived at Glasgow, Virginia, a town about 5.9 miles off trail. Catching a ride into town brought back three-year-old memories of a visit the couple made to the town while driving through the area. They remembered the fiberglass dinosaur that graces one of the town’s major intersections and the incredible fried chicken the purchased from the Natural Bridge Country Store. The also remembered giving a thru-hiker a ride into town – what a change of roles this time around. On this return visit, they took a photo with Dino and purchased a 16 piece bucket of chicken, a 2 liter of Dr. Pepper and a half gallon of ice cream from the country store. They enjoyed their stay in Glasgow at a town shelter with electricity and a hot shower.

After leaving the town with the dinosaur, they made their way north past Waynesboro, Virginia and into the Shenandoah National Park. Their hike through the SNP was filled with a menagerie of wildlife and lots of good food. During a four-day period in the park, Dan and Becky saw 12 bears, 2 rattlesnakes and 1 copperhead. They did not share the details of these animal encounters but I can image that they have some exciting stories to tell. They also enjoyed the Waysides along the trail – these are great car-stops along the Skyline Drive that are easy walking from the AT. Th389ey serve some great ice cream as well as some good food. Fat Hen and Rooster Talon specifically commented on the blackberry milkshakes!

After their journey through the national park and a quick stay in Front Royal, Virginia, they hiked through the brutal Roller Coaster (13.5 miles of tightly packed ascents and descents) that will test the calves and shins of any hiker. They safely arrived at Blackburn AT Center and now have their sights on Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Stay tuned for a picture in front of the ACT Headquarters. My hiker number was 924 when I arrived on June 30, 2014 – I am curious to see how their numbers compare.

Photos or Dan and Becky: http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?trailname=20168

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Fat Hen, Glasgow, Harpers Ferry, Roller Coaster, Rooster Talon, Shenandoah National Park, Thru-Hike, Virginia, Waynesboro, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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