Keffer Oak

Current Progress on the AT

Several of my seven Appalachian Trail thru-hikers have updated their online journals and I am happy to share that all of them are still hiking strong.

Bearded Woods Bunk and Dine, CT

After 13 days of silence, Hard Knocks updates his journal. He has traveled 175 miles in thirteen days (averaging 13.5 miles per day). Two weeks ago, he was in New Jersey. Since then, he crossed over into New York on May 27, entered Connecticut on June 1, and has camped for his first night in Massachusetts on Thursday, June 7. Hard Knocks sounds tired and weary.

June 3, 2018: Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut I made it to the Bearded Woods Bunk and Dine.  It is a very nice place and one where I hope to take a bit of a breather.  it seems I have lost another ten pounds and that is not necessarily a good thing.  I pack is not fitting correctly now and I am getting some blisters from it. I hope to do another shakedown of my pack to see if I can’t lighten it up some more.  Also, I am getting word that some of my former hiking buddies are off the trail.  It is understandable that people develop injuries over such a long trek.  As I am well into my second half I am constantly aware of little aches and pains and I try to not do too

Pigweed on McAfee Knob

much too fast to improve my chances of finishing. He zeroed in Cornwall on June 4. 

June 6, 2018: Salisbury, Connecticut I Zeroed at a house (name?) where they rent out bunks as I was in need of some recuperation.

Hard Knocks is about 680 miles from Mount Katahdin but the most physically challenging aspects of the trail still await. The Green Mountains of Vermont are 80 miles ahead and then the White Mountains of New Hampshire loom 150 miles farther north. Hopefully, he will take some time to find quality rest and strength before taking on these challenges.

Pigweed last post was May 30 until his update on June 7. He has hiked 93.6 miles in eight days, averaging about 11.7 miles per day. On May 30th he was in Pearisburg, Virginia. During the first week of June, Pigweed has hiked passed the second largest oak tree on the AT (Keefer Oak) just north of Newport, VA, the Audie Murphy Monument to the most decorated American soldier of World War 2, the great stone monolith, Dragons Tooth, the one of the most photographed spots along the trail, McAfee Knob. After traversing Tinker Cliffs (a half-mile cliff walk), Pigweed arrived at Daleville, Virginia on June 6th and took a rest day in this hiker friend town on June 7th.

Sour Kraut at Lehigh Gap

Sour Kraut pasted a photo after two weeks of silence. On June 5th, the photo shows him climbing out of Lehigh Gap in Palmerton, Pennsylvania, approximately 1,255 miles into his NOBO trek to Maine. This ascent out of Lehigh Gap is one of the most difficult on the entire AT. The 2.5-mile, rocky, steep, treacherous climb was exhilarating and frightening at the same time. I was glad to safely reach the top and enjoy some solid ground.

To catch all the hikers up to their current postings here is a summary chart:

Name Date Location Miles
Hard Knocks 6/7/18 Hemlock Shelter, MA 1510
Bamadog 6/7/18 Stewart Hollow Brook Shelter CT 1471
Sour Kraut 6/5/18 Palmerton, PA 1255
Next Step 6/7/18 Susquehanna Trail, PA 1145
RTK 5/31/18 Pine Grove Furnace State Park, PA 1098
Chip Tillson 6/7/18 Front Royal, VA 966
Pigweed 6/7/18 Daleville, VA 725

Bearded Wood B/D From Zigzag’s 2014 journal http://www.trailjournals.com/journal/entry/466167

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Audie Murphy Memorial, Bearded Woods Bunk and Dine, Class of 2018, Connecticut, Dragons Tooth, Hard Knocks, Keffer Oak, McAfee Knob, Palmerton, Pennsylvania, Pigweed, Sour Kraut, Thru-Hike, Tinker Cliffs, Uncategorized | 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

Beaker Finishing the Appalachian Trail – Part 1

Beaker is very close to completing his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. In the next three days, let me catch you up on his adventures over the past 10 days. He is completing a section of the trail in Virginia that he skipped hiking to Maine. He is now walking SOBO (South Bound) as he completes this final leg of his journey.

Beaker 9.2.179/2/17 Destination: Bobblets Gap Shelter, VA     Miles Today 18.2    Miles to go: 203.0

Another rainy day on the trail. It rained all night and Beaker woke to rain, wind, and fog. He was up and on the trail by 7:20 AM. The trail surface continued to be nice and smooth. He stopped for a break at Bryant Ridge Shelter, one of newer shelters on the trail – double decker structure with room for about 20 people and a big front porch. After a short break, Beaker continued hiking  – the rain lasting most of the day. The trail was pretty quiet today.The rain discouraging most day-hikers.

Beaker took a pretty good fall in the afternoon. He was moving along at a good pace on a level stretch of trail but managed to catch his toe on a trip rock. The momentum from his backpack propelled him forward and, with no time to react, he found himself sprawled out on the trail. He ended up with banged up knuckles on his left hand and scrapes on his left shin.

Beaker arrived at the shelter in the rain around 5:00. The weather is predicted to improve tomorrow and Beaker will be headed into town to spend the night at his cousin’s house, so he fell asleep hoping for better days on the trail.

Beaker 9.3.179/3/2017 Destination: Cousin Bill’s Apartment, Salem, VA   Miles Today:18.5

Beaker headed out around 7:15 AM. The sun broke out of the clouds only a couple of miles after leaving the shelter and by mid-morning, he was hiking under clear blue skies. For the most part, the trail was smooth and gentle, crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway several times.

The bright and beautiful day was dimmed somewhat when I learned via Facebook that a dear friend of mine from my days with the Mountaineer Area Rescue Group had died suddenly and unexpectedly. I spent the rest of the morning hiking with an air of melancholy, thinking of all the times I had spent with Ann on training missions and actual searches.

Beaker arrived in Daleville around 4:00.  Beaker’s cousin, Bill, picked him up around 5:00 in order to spend the night in his apartment in Salem, VA. During the hour wait, Beaker resupplied for his coming hike into Pearisburg. Friends of Bill brought over a wonderful meal of baked spaghetti, corn on the cob, and garlic bread. After dinner, they all settled in to watch the WVU-VT football game on TV. Tomorrow, Bill is going to drop Beaker back off in Daleville and he will slackpack 20 miles via Tinker Cliffs and McAfee’s Knob, where Bill will pick him up and bring me back to his place for another good night’s sleep.

9/4/2017 Destination: Cousin Bill’s Apartment, Salem, VA  Miles Hiked Today: 19.8

Beaker, Shenniguy, Matthew

Beaker and Matt

Today was a beautiful day to be on the trail – both in terms of weather and terrain. Cousin Bill dropped Beaker at the trail around 8:00. Even though most of  the morning involved climbing, trail conditions were very nice, and the pack weight was light. Beaker started listen to audiobooks, which also helped the miles to pass by quickly.

Since it was a holiday with beautiful weather, the trail was filled with day-hikers. Tinker Cliffs were pretty crowded; however, the views were spectacular. Bill’s 15-year-old son, Matthew, met Beaker at McAfee’s Knob, the rock overhang that is the most photographed place along the Appalachian Trail. There was a big crowd at the knob waiting to get their picture while sitting on the edge, dangling their feet over the precipice.

After snapping a few photos of their own, Beaker and Matthew headed for the parking lot and were soon riding back to Bill’s place. After a great shower, they went to an incredible cookout at a friend’s house – hot dogs, hamburgers, mac and cheese, au gratin potatoes, fruit salad, chips, and desserts! Bill will return Beaker to the parking tomorrow, where Beaker will continue heading south.

Beaker Audie Murphy Mem

Audie Murphy Memorial

9/5/17 Destination: Niday Shelter, VA.  Miles Hiked Today: 22.7

Bill got Beaker back to the trail by 8:15. It was a beautiful day, with blue skies and light winds. Most of the day was spent running along ridge lines and scrambling over rock outcropping. Beaker passed two AT landmarks on the hike today. The first one: Dragon’s Tooth is a 50 ft stone monolith at the top of Cove Mountain and the second: the Audie Murphy Memorial marks the spot of the fatal plane crash in 1971 that took the life of Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in World War II.

It was getting pretty dark when Beaker arrived at the shelter. He was alone in the camp tonight. The keyword for this portion of the hike has been solitude.

Beaker. Keefer Oak

Keffer Oak

9/6/17 Destination Warspur Shelter, VA.   Miles Hiked Today 18.2

It rained on and off all night, but Beaker was under way by 7:20.  After leaving the shelter, the rain settled in. It was a cold, steady rain that went on most of the morning. After climbing a couple miles, the trail leveled off and ran along the ridge. The trail along the ridge was rocky – wet, slippery slabs.

Beaker had to slide down some of the tilted slabs, but after descending from the ridge, he hiked through pastures and farmland for several miles, passing the Keffer Oak, a huge oak tree that is the second largest tree on the trail. The trail continues to be empty. Beaker only met two hikers today and they were heading north.

Beaker arrived at Warspur Shelter around 5:30. The clouds had actually cleared and the sun was shining brightly. It was nice to get into camp early enough to fix dinner and clean up before dark. Beaker was alone in the shelter again tonight.

Amazingly enough, I have walked almost 2100 miles now. I can remember way back to Georgia in February. The trail seemed impossibly long and daunting. It seemed like the exhausting 8 to 10 mile nibbles I was doing every day would never get me to the end. Now, I get up and walk 20 miles every day without a thought…..I’m not trying to say what I’m doing is amazing. It’s just funny how what once seemed impossible has become so mundane. Sadly, I also know that I am going to quickly lose this level of fitness when I am not walking 20 miles every day. Hopefully, I can keep off the 40 lbs I have lost when I go home.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Audie Murphy Memorial, Beaker, Keffer Oak, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized, Virginia | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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