Harpers Ferry

RTK Updates His Journal

RTK

Returning to Katahdin (RTK), Bruce Matson, a lawyer from Virginia is hiking a strong NOBO (northbound) hike on the Appalachian Trail. Starting on February 24th, RTK reached the halfway point on May 29.  RTK updates his online journal once per week (usually on Thursdays) and communicates a week in arrears. He just posted on June 7th for the week (8days) of May 24 – 31. During those eight days, he hiked just over 99 miles, averaging 12.4 miles per day. However, in those eight days, he took two zero-days and one shay (short-day) of 3.6. On the other days on the trail, he logged 19.6, 18.1, 18.8, 22.8. and 16.2 miles, so you can see that he is trekking at a very high rate of mileage per day.

Let me share a little bit of his adventure during his last eight days of May. On May 24 he woke up at Bears Den Hostel with about 3 miles left of the roller coaster to traverse (the roller coaster is 13.5 miles of tightly packed ups and downs just prior to the Virginia/West Virginia border). After the coaster “ride,” he had a relatively easy hike to the Blackburn AT Center for lunch. Before arriving in Harpers Ferry West Virginia (home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy – ATC) RTK conquered the challenging rock scramble up and over Buzzard Rocks. It was 7:30 pm when he walked across the Shenandoah River Bridge with a muddy and raging river welcoming him to Harpers Ferry.

Harpers Ferry Shenandoah River

May 25 was a zero-day (a day when no miles are hiked and the hiker resupplies and rests) in West Virginia as RTK got his picture taken at the ATC and visited a local outfitter.

RTK left Harpers Ferry on May 26 loaded down with four days of food and two liters of water. Crossing the Byron Memorial Footbridge, he entered into the state of Maryland. He enjoyed a 3- mile, flat path along the C&O Canal towpath, then climbed to the views atop Weverton Cliffs, looking back on the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. He arrived at Dahlgren Campground about 4 pm. He hiked a tenth of a mile away from camp to a four-star restaurant, Old South Mountain Inn, for dinner.

May 27 was a Sunday and the AT was filled with Memorial Day weekend hikers, section hikers, Boy Scouts, Ridge Runners, and volunteer trail maintenance workers. RTK began his day with a quick visit to the original Washington Monument which lies right along the trail in Maryland.  He also experienced some thoughtful trail blessings including three ladies from Annapolis, who fed him lunch at Black Rock Cliffs with enough left-overs to provide a delicious dinner at his destination shelter for the evening.

AT Museum. Pine Grove Furnace State Park. PA

RTK longest mileage day (22.8 miles) was May 28. His morning began with an adrenalin producing event – a bear encounter. “While taking down my tent around 6:30 I looked up to see a 400 pound bear lumbering over to me.  It was 20 yards away so I yelled “hey there!”  The bear looked up, saw me and turned around.” After his heart rate returned to normal, RTK experienced a misty, drizzly day along the path and was content to camp at Rocky Mountain Shelters. However, two hiking buddies talked him into extending his trek 3.5 miles and a hitchhike into Fayetteville, PA to enjoy a meal at Timbers and a stay at Trail of Hope Hostel. The Timbers was closed for the holiday weekend, but the hostel was nice.

May 29th brought RTK to the linear halfway point on the trail. He was disappointed that there was no signage on the trail but he did spot two snakes during his 16.2-mile hike (one garter and one black snake). He was very impressed with the beautiful shelters in Pennsylvania so far, including his lodging that night – Toms Run Shelter.

RTK’s hike on May 30th was short (only 3.6 miles) but his day was filled with good times. He passed the (old) “halfway” sign (a large sign with flags) just after the Toms Run Shelter. He arrived at Pine Grove Furnace State Park, home of the half-gallon challenge, at 9:30 in the morning. He waited at the PGF General Store for several of his hiking friends to arrive and then enjoyed a leisurely and successful eating-challenge of a half-gallon of ice cream (Neapolitan was his flavor of choice). He visited the AT Museum located across the street from the general store before catching a ride to Boiling Springs and Allenberry Resort. Once settled, he made an important call home. He placed a “Happy Anniversary” call to his bride, Cheryl, of 37 years. Congratulations both of you for a great example of relational commitment!

May 31st was spent as a zero-day in Boiling Springs as RTK planned his next month on the trail. Boiling Springs is such a peaceful trail town with good food and a lovely public spot around a well-kept pond/park. I hope the next eight days are just as productive and enjoyable for RTK along the trail.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Appalachian Trail Museum, Class of 2018, Half Gallon Challenge, Harpers Ferry, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Roller Coaster, RTK, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lots of Silence on the AT

My View from the Washington Monument in Maryland

Four of my seven thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail have been silent during the last few days. As you may know, I am following seven online journals of folks that began their AT adventures in either January or February. Let me give you a quick update on each hiker.

The silent ones are

1). Hard Knocks (last posted in his journal on May 25 from High Point Shelter about 30 miles from the NJ/NY border).

2). Sour Kraut (his last photo was at the Mason/Dixon line on May 21).

3). RTK (who posts a week behind his location has been silent since 5/23 when he posted from Bear’s Den Hostel in northern Virginia).

4). Pigweed (posted on May 30 from Pearisburg, VA).

Bamadog, Chip Tillson, and WhichWay/Next Step have faithfully journaled and their last posts were 6/4/2018.

Bamadog – June 2018

Bamadog has been averaging 14.23 miles over the past six days and has traveled almost 100 miles – from Mashipacong Shelter (three-quarters of the way through New Jersey) to a shelter about 25 miles from the New York/Connecticut border. On May 30 he hiked by High Point, NJ on a beautiful, cool day. He logged 19.5 miles that day and enjoyed a beautiful sunset despite the forecast of a raining night. Bamadog awakened to a cloudy May 31 with temperatures in the low 70’s. Then, he hit the mosquitos – there were awful as he crossed into New York and faced the challenging climbs of the Prospect Rock area. June 1 proved to be a short day (9 miles) as he stopped at Greenwood Lake for breakfast and a short, 3-day resupply of food. Bamadog did not make an entry on June 2, but on June 3 he recorded his hike through the Bear Mountain Recreation Area (including the zoo) and across the Hudson River near Fort Montgomery, New York. It rained on the morning of June 4 delaying his start till 8:30 am. It was chilly as he hit the trail and he began his day in a long sleeve shirt, but within an hour of hiking, Bamadog was down to his short sleeves looking forward to finishing up the state of New York by Thursday.

Chip Tillson (he does not post photos!), for the last six days, has been hiking through the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. He averaged 10.7 miles per day covering just over 61.5 miles. May 30 was a short hiking day logging in 6.2 miles and finding shelter at Loft Mountain Campground just off the Skyline Drive. He took care of some laundry needs and picked up some resupply at the camp store. A downpour of rain overnight left the trail like a river on May 31. He wrote that the path “went from running water to muddy quagmire” and yet he was able to hike his longest day of the week (16.2 miles). He ran into his first bear on the trail and caught eye on his second running away from him later the same day. June 1 brought a little discouragement as he discovered about an hour into his journey that he was hiking the wrong way. He met a Ridge Runner along the path who encouraged him with words of assurance that all good hikers make similar mistakes. He spent the night in another “official” campground: Lewis Mountain Campground. More rain greeted Chip on June 2 bringing slippery mud and prohibiting a clear view of the Shenandoah Valley. More hard rain continued on June 3, and more discouragement occurred during the night. Critters chewed a hole in his food bag and ate some of his instant oatmeal. By 4:00 pm, the rain let up. Chip paused for a hot supper and then continued for two additional miles before making camp four miles south of Luray, Virginia. Chip spent the morning of June 4 getting dried out. He stayed at camp with his gear hanging from a clothesline. It was early afternoon before he began to hike. He observed another black bear along the trail before he reached his destination: Pass Mountain Hut.

Which Way and Next Step in Harpers Ferry

Which Way and Next Step have hit a major hurdle in their thru-hike. Which Way (Alicia) became very uncomfortable with an older back injury that was raising its ugly head. On May 30th she knew she needed to get the back checked out and so she was able to arrange a ride into an Urgent Care in Charles Town, WV, about 7 miles from Harpers Ferry. Next Step (Darrell) continued to hike. He logged 19.6 miles into Harpers Ferry and met Alicia at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Which Way was told that she needed rest for the next 5-7 days, so they revised their hiking plans. Next Step would continue to hike north and Which Way would drive a rental car enabling them to meet up each day. Darrell logged 20 miles on May 31 ending his trek in Washington Monument State Park, Maryland. On June 1 he generated 21.5 miles with a final destination at Pen Mar County Park on the Maryland/Pennsylvania border. Another long hike (18.5 miles) on June 2 brought Next Step to Caledonia State Park in PA. Which Way and Next Step then drove 30 min to Chambersburg, PA, where they stayed with good friends from their time in the military. They enjoyed a zero-day in Chambersburg on June 3 before Next Step continued northbound on the AT. Having undergone some physical therapy on her back in Charles Town, Which Way received news from the doctors that she would need to stay away from hiking for four weeks. This sad news was devastating to both of them, but they have decided that Next Step will continue and Which Way will go home to recover. So, Next Step hiked 20 miles on June 4 and met Which Way at the halfway point of the AT at Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Alicia is on her way home and Darrell continues without her. She still hopes to join him in a month and complete the hike together to Katahdin.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Bamadog, Bear Mountain, Black Bear, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Harpers Ferry, Maryland, Mosquitoes, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Pine Grove Furnace, Thru-Hike, Which Way and Next Step | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mid-May Brings Miles on the Appalachian Trail

As a change of pace, I thought I would provide an update on the seven Appalachian Trail thru-hikers with their own words. Since my last post of May 10, each hiker has been making progress. As of their last posts (most of them on May 16th), here is where they are:

Hard Knocks – Port Clinton, PA.: mile 1,214

Bamadog – ten miles north of Boiling Springs, PA.: mile 1,127

Chip Tillson – 25 miles north of Daleville, VA.: mile 750

Sour Kraut – Luray, VA.: mile 938

Which Way and Next Step – VA 56, Tye River: mile 828

RTK – Big Meadows Campground, VA. (Shenandoah National Park) mile 921

Pigweed – Shady Valley, TN.: mile 452

 

Hard Knocks

5/ 10 It was raining on us after a few hours and the rocks got slick and the dirt got muddy.  I lost the end of one of my trekking poles in the mud and it was lost and gone forever.  With this terrain, functional trekking poles are a necessity…stop in Duncannon….so I could buy new poles.  Since we [Hard Knocks, Roam, and Happy Feet] were there and wet, we decided to call it a day.  We checked in at the Doyle Motel.  If passing this way you should know that this is NOT the Hilton!  

5/13 ‘Rocksylvania’ has truly earned its name among hikers.  Lots of different rock challenges here. We have had mazes to go thru, boulders to climb over, and general walking hazards in uneven and unstable steps.

5/16 [After a zero-day in Port Cilton, PA] Just a quick object lesson I guess.  In addition to staying hydrated you must provide plenty of fuel for the fire, and the calorie fire is huge when you are hiking the AT.  So now I am off to burn more calories!  

Shenandoah River, Harpers Ferry, WV

Bamadog

5/10 The roller coaster was rough. I got overheated. It rained and made everything slick. I turned my foot over again. Very painful….Hope to get into Harpers Ferry tomorrow afternoon. Hope everyone is doing well. Thank you for your prayers

5/13 I have a shin splint on my other leg now. Went into Waynesboro and resupplied. Had wonderful people bring me to town and take me back to the trail head. Very much appreciated. 

5/16 Started walking at 7:20. Walked in rain most of the day. It was a beautiful day in the forest. Climbed boulders in the morning and walked in mud and water in the afternoon. Had to set my tent up in a jungle. The trail is 6 inches wide and on both sides it is grown up with who knows what.

Chip Tillson

Keffer Oak

5/10 The day started nice enough through pasture lands and past the Keffer Oak. At 300 years old it’s “the 2nd largest oak tree along the AT”. Apparently there’s a bigger one in NY, I’ll let you know….I have just enough food to get to Daleville, three days away. There is a small store halfway where I’ll pick up some extra calories to be sure.

5/13 Sunday’s weather was hot. I heard some hikers say it had affected their mileage but I had no problem, maybe I’m not moving fast enough to get overheated. The Rhododendrons were blooming and the Mountain Laurels are getting ready. Late in the day I passed through a long tunnel of Honeysuckle bushes, sweet!

Saw my first rattlesnake. The rattle end was two feet into the trail, the rest hidden in leaves. Hmmm…what to do. I spotted it easily but it wasn’t hard to imagine someone else coming along and stepping on it. I tossed a few sticks to move it along but that only prompted it to lift its head and look at me, flicking its tongue…unnerving.

5/16 It rained nearly all day but was warm enough so that I went without rain gear. It’s just water, it’ll wash off. The big millipedes seem to have been replaced by little orange newts, they’re everywhere! I wonder what they’re thinking as I thunder through their world like Godzilla. The trail paralleled the Blue Ridge Parkway and crossed it several times at pullover viewing spots. Unfortunately it was foggy: no views…

SNP Map

Sour Kraut – No words – only pictures

Which Way & Next Step

5/10 [After a Zero-day in Daleville, VA.] It always seems to be a little more difficult to get going the day after a Zero…. Fortunately the first couple of miles were relatively flat. The trail here paralleled I-81, eventually crossing under the busy interstate, another open pasture, and finally we were back in the forest, where we belong.

5/13 Mother’s Day… our hike started at 0645, because Which Way wanted to get to town so that she would be available to talk to our kids when they called. I usually get flowers for Which Way on Mother’s Day…. As we departed camp I told her that all of the flowers on along the hike today were hers to enjoy for Mother’s Day. Of course, the trail did not disappoint.

Mother’s Day Flowers for Which Way

We had a single significant climb today and it came early in the hike…. At the top of the climb we paused for a break and to worship. It is so easy to count our blessings and give thanks out here. The wildlife was out and about this morning. We ran across a bunny hopping up the trail, two chipmunks playing chase, squirrels, birds and butterflies fluttering about, a deer just off the trail and two snakes. Some of the wildlife actually posed long enough for a pic. 

5/16 We started hiking a little before 7AM with the intent of making it 17 miles to VA Route 56 by 3PM. We wanted to be off the trail on Thursday so that we could be in contact with our daughter who was having surgery.,,,, We emerged soaking wet from the forest at the VA 56 parking area at 2:45PM…. trail angels Dave and Jim…drove me to the Enterprise rental car agency located another mile or so away. We knew that at some point in the hike we would have to make a quick sprint to Washington, DC so that I could get a Retiree ID Card and we could pick up our 90-day refill of meds…. After shuttling a couple of hikers to a local AYCE Chinese Buffet, we hit the I-64, headed to DC. …We arrived at my cousin Bill’s place in Old Town Alexandria a little before 10pm. Bill had brownies and ice cream ready when we walked through the door. Death by chocolate—Perfect! 

RTK – last post 5/8

RTK at Big Meadows

5/8 Wally and I broke the day – which we knew was a tall order: over 18 miles – into thirds.  The first was a six mile stretch that included two, 2-mile climbs.  By focused attention to a steady pace, we conquered the first third.  The morning was brilliant weather but clouded up most of midday. The next six miles rolled through woodland without any views or points of interest except we were able to have lunch at Lewis Mountain campground.  After climbing Bearfence Mountain, Wally waited for a ride at a Skyline Drive parking lot and I finished the last 6 miles by myself.  The afternoon changed back to the brilliant sky with a cool breeze – wonderful conditions for the hike.  The late afternoon light seemed to help illuminate the wildflowers.  I made very good time on an excellent trail….tented at Big Meadows campground. 

Pigweed last post 5/12

Pigweed’s AT Barn

5/12 Today started rainy and the rain actually came intermittently most of the day. However, it never actually broke out into a hard rain, just enough to make me put my umbrella up and down several times in the morning in the afternoon. I was kind of dragging in the morning and came to about a 5-mile mark and at a shelter when the rain was threatening so I stopped and cooked a hot meal and made some coffee. A hot meal at lunch time is a rare thing but… the real pick me up. Rest of the day went quite well and I ended up doing 16 miles stopping at Low gap. A thunderstorm was raging to the north of me and threatening me so I put up my tent and let it pass with barely any effect, just enough to wet my tent. It caused a late dinner as I did not start cooking until close to 8 but I need the calories after 16 miles.
Today’s hike had an interesting pastoral section where I walked through some actual pastures that connected to Mountain sections. The barn had a big AT symbol on it so the farmer is obviously a friend of the trail. 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Bamadog, Boiling Springs, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Daleville, Duncannon, Hard Knocks, Harpers Ferry, Keffer Oak, Pennsylvania, Pigweed, Port Clinton, Roller Coaster, RTK, Sour Kraut, Thru-Hike, Virginia, Waynesboro, West Virginia, Which Way and Next Step | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The First 10 Days of May on the AT

Spring Photo from Which Way and Next Step

And then there were seven… I began following 14 Appalachian Trail Thru-hikers that started their adventures in either January or February. I wanted to see how these early starters managed along the trail. In general, the rate of success for thru-hikers is about 25% – only one in four make it from the southern terminus of Springer Mountain, Georgia all the way to Mount Katahdin, Maine. The 14-state challenge of 2,190 miles is a test of endurance both physically and emotionally. At the end of the first week of May, 50% of the original hikers are off the trail while the other half are continuing to check off miles and days toward their goal.

The weather has blossomed as well as the wildflowers. The forest is green as the foliage creates the green umbrella protecting the path and those who hike it from the blazing sun. The challenge of the winter is drawing to a close and the trail is free of snow and ice.

Let me provide a quick update on the seven remaining hikers and their progress on the AT.

Patrick Knox, trail name Hard Knocks, is the only January starter still on the trail. He has made it over halfway and is resting at Darlington Shelter, 14 miles north of Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, at mile marker 1,131.8. Boiling Springs is such a beautiful small town that embraces the smelly hiker with hospitality. It was one of my favorite trail towns in 2014.

Bamadog in May

Bamadog stayed at the Mountain Home Cabbin (hostel) in Front Royal, Virginia, on May 8th and then hiked 21.7 miles on the 9th to a stealth campsite. He is about to reach the 1000-mile point but must experience The Roller Coaster (13.5 miles of tightly packed ascents and descents) to get there. After the Roller Coaster, there are only 19 miles to Harpers Ferry and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy – a major milestone in the thru-hike adventure. At the Conservancy, hikers get their pictures taken, their names recorded in the official list of hikers, and a number indicating their order of appearance among the class of 2018.

Chip Tillson arrived at Pearisburg, Virginia, on the 6th of May. During the next two days, he hiked 23 miles and finally camped near Bailey Gap Shelter (mile-marker 654.5) on May 8th (the date of his last journal post). He is hoping to hike another 70 miles into Daleville, Virginia, before taking another day off.

Sour Kraut’s Salamander

Sour Kraut posts pictures occasionally so I know he is still on the trail. However, he does not journal with words so I am never sure exactly where he is. The last photo was dated May 6th, but is was of an orange salamander. His last landmark photo was the Guillotine on April 30. I am guessing that he has made it into Shenandoah National Park around 860 miles north of Springer Mountain, GA.

Which Way and Next Step, a retired military couple, are taking on zero-day on May 9th in Daleville, Virginia. Earlier last week (May 4), Which Way experienced some tough hiker discomfort with blisters. The couple decided to shuttle Which Way, Alicia, about 50 miles north to Four Pines Hostel in Catawba, Virginia, while Darrell (Next Step) continued to hike northbound. They rendezvoused in Catawba and continued down the path together. They hiked to McAfee Knob and over Tinker Cliffs before resting in Daleville. One reason for the separation was the need to complete the trail by Labor Day. Next Step shares in their journal, “…it was evident that she [Which Way] needed some time off the trail to clean it [the blister] properly and to let her feet heal. The closest road intersection was VA 235, a gravel road 2.5 miles down the mountain. As she hobbled along we discussed options. I told her that I could take a couple of days off with her, but she did not want to slow our overall progress (we need to complete this journey before Labor Day). In the end, we decided to get her a ride 50 or so miles up the trail while I continued to hike.”

Which Way and Next Step on McAfee Knob

My concern for this wonderful couple is their time constraint. They have great attitudes and seem to be enjoying the adventure with marvelous gusto. But Labor Day is September 3, 2108. They still have time, but they will need to really pick up the pace. At their current rate of 9.65 miles per day, according to my quick calculations, they will be 327 miles short of Mount Katahdin on September 3. It would take them another 34 days to reach their goal. However, they would only need to up their average distance to 12.4 miles per day to reach the brown sign in Maine.

Dragon’s Tooth by RTK

RTK, Bruce Matson, like Which Way and Next Step has arrived at Daleville, Virginia. However, RTK posts in his journal a week late. So he arrived in Daleville on April 29th. He experienced a great week on the trail with friends and family joining him for some of the adventures. He has walked by Keefer Oak (the second largest oak tree on the AT – over 300 years old and 18 feet around), the Audie Murphy Monument (the most decorated American soldier of World War 2), Dragon’s Tooth (a huge stone monolith), and of course McAfee Knob (one of the most photographed spots on the trail). He also enjoyed a great all-you-can-eat meal at Homeplace Restaurant. (This hiker favorite in only open Thursday through Sunday. I sadly hiked by on a Wednesday in 2014).

Pigweed celebrated his birthday on the trail on May 4th.  He posted in his journal:

Pigweed – Birthday on Hump Mountain

“Happy birthday to me. 
A great b-day so far.  I woke on top of Hump Mnt and watched the sunrise out my tent doors.  360 degree view from there had awesome sunset sunrise and stars. I slept half out of my tent to enjoy the stars until the wind whipped up and I scooted into the tent.  The wind gave my tent a workout… I then Nero ed into Roan TN and stumbled into station 19 hostel.  They have… a pig roast tonight with live music. A real bed shower laundry and shuttle to town. I may zero tomorrow with rain in the forecast…” 
This was Pigweed’s most recent post. He has been silent for the five days so I am anticipating an up-date very soon. Roan, Tennessee, is at the 392 mile-marker. Pigweed had many, many more miles to travel on his adventure.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Audie Murphy Memorial, Bamadog, Boiling Springs, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Daleville, Dragons Tooth, Harpers Ferry, Keffer Oak, McAfee Knob, Mount Katahdin, Pearisburg, Pennsylvania, Pigweed, RTK, Shenandoah National Park, Sour Kraut, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Tinker Cliffs, Virginia, Which Way and Next Step | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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: , , , , , | 7 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

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