April 2018 was a cold month with some snow, ice, and slippery trails for those attempting a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. It has only been in the last week of April that the temperatures have been comfortable and the conditions reflect the change of seasons. The last week of April find my nine hikers (those brave souls that I have been following on trailjournals.com) spread out over almost 1000 miles of the trail. All of them began their journeys between January 31 and February 27 and all of them have been diligent in their goal of conquering this iconic long-trail covering 2,190 miles through 14 states from Georgia to Maine.
Let me give you a quick update on each hiker in order of their start dates.
Hard Knocks, Patrick Knox, started on January 31. As of his last post (4/30/2018) he has been hiking for 90 days and has covered 1,010 miles. He is camped at Stonybrook Organic Farm and Hostel, a religious commune run by the Twelve Tribes Network. Hard Knox shares, “…it is a religiously based commune. It is a beautiful place and all of the people seem very nice all for the low price of Zero Dollars. All they ask is that you work a little (I mopped a floor tonight) or consider a donation before you leave. It is certainly nice enough for me to consider a zero-day tomorrow before I make the hike to Harpers Ferry. If so, I will give more of a report on the hostel/commune. So, maybe arrest day tomorrow before I continue walking.” Hard Knocks is averaging 11.2 miles per day and at this rate, it will take him 196 days to complete the trail.
Vagabond Jack, Jack Masters, began his hike on February 1st. His last post was made on April 28th and Vagabond was about 40 trail-miles north of Pearisburg, Virginia, at Laurel Creek Shelter and 670 miles from Springer Mountain Georgia. Jack is only averaging 7.7 miles per day, although he walked 16.5 miles on April 27th and 14.6 miles on April 28th. At the overall rate of 7.7 miles per day, it will take Vagabond Jack 285 day to complete the Appalachian Trail.
Opa is Reinhard Gsellmeier from Rochester, NY. He began his thru-hike on February 10th but has covered more miles than any hiker in this group. On April 27th he was at the 1,275-mile mark and experiencing the rocks of Pennsylvania. He met family in Wind Gap, PA, and drove home to Rochester for a few days of relaxing. After a day of resupply, Opa took ill and found himself in a New York hospital.He shared on April 30th, “I basically have an enlarged prostate, a condition that is not uncommon for men my age. I will also be scheduled to see an urologist, who will further evaluate my condition and advise as to treatment options. My doctor also re-examined my hernia, which I’ve had since last fall, and he advised that my hernia now needs to be surgically repaired once my prostate issue is resolved and before I have any notion of continuing on with my AT hike…. These health issues are nothing serious that can’t be dealt with, but it looks like the continuance of my AT thru hike attempt is going to be put on hold for awhile… In one respect I consider myself very fortunate that the issue with my prostate manifested itself while I happened to be in Rochester for the weekend….This will be my last journal entry for at least awhile.” I will keep you posted on Opa when he updates his journal.
Bamadog, Marty Dockins, took his first step on the AT on February 15th. He is averaging 11.1 miles per day and at this current rate, his trip to Mount Katahdin will take 197 days. He has just crossed over the suspension bridge at Tye River, climbed about 3000 feet to Three Ridges Mountain, and is about 25 trail-miles from Waynesboro, Virginia.
Chip Tillson started his hike on February 20, seventy days before his last post on April 30. He is camped close to Walker Gap about half way between Atkins and Bland, Virginia. He is only averaging 8.1 miles per day with an estimated total of 271 days needed to complete his thru-hike. Hopefully, the spring weather will enable him to increase his daily mileage.
Tim Pfeiffer, Sour Kraut, took to the trail on February 21. He has not posted a written journal entry since March 11, but he submits photos to mark his progress. He posted a picture on April 30 (day 69 of his trek) of The Guillotine, a round rock balanced on rock-outcropping, under which the path leads the hiker. It reminds me of the Indiana Jones movie where Indy has to run away from the rock rolling over his head. The Guillotine is 765 miles into the hike. Sour Kraut is averaging 11.4 miles and at this rate will need 197 days to fulfill the dream.
Which Way and Next Step, the couple from Washington, DC, crossed the 600-mile marker after spending 65 days on the trail. The couple is about two or three days away from Pearisburg, Virginia. They left on February 25 and, so far, are averaging 9.2 miles per day. At this pace, their thru-hike will take 238 days. However, they are making much better mileage in recent days and the weather should help their pace as well.
RTK, Bruce Matson, records his journal a week late so it is difficult to compare his trek with the others. However, on day 58 of his hike (April 23), which began on February 25, he is about 663 miles into his northbound (NOBO) adventure. His pace is 11.4 miles per day with an estimated trip of 192 days.
Pigweed started his hike on February 27, had to take two weeks off for an injury, and is now back on the trail. He is several hundred miles behind the others who started in February and is only averaging 5.5 miles per day. He is in Erwin, Tennessee and has hiked about 341 miles. This rate will make his trek last more than a year (398 days). During the past six days, he has increased his mileage to 11.5 miles per day. I think to be successful he will need to continue to increase his daily distance if he hopes to complete this challenge.
My hopes and prayers for these thru-hikers is that the good weather ahead will encourage and refresh them. Their legs should be strong and now, more than ever, the emotional aspects of the trail are critical. Injury is only a fall away, sickness can strike any day, and discouragement can creep up on a hiker without too much warning. But, the warmth and color of spring can propel the hiker with zeal and excitement. May the winds of May fill their lungs, hearts, and minds with strength and a renewed commitment to the journey.
Photo of Commune from https://www.twelvetribes.com/community/stoneybrook-farm-dc-area. All other photos taken from trailjournals.com.