Mahoosuc Notch

Beaker Into Maine

7/23/17 Destination White Mt Hostel, Gorham, NH     8.4 miles today

911Another pretty day: a little overcast in the early morning but, it soon cleared into full sunshine. Beaker was packed and on the Appalachian Trail little after 7:00 am. He had a nero (near-zero) day planned – an 8-mile hike into the White Mountain Lodge and Hostel. The nero-day included a climb Mt Moriah, the last summit in the White Mountains National Forest.

About a mile into the hike, Beaker came upon Sitting Bull and Hoop’s stealth camp site. He stopped to visit for a few minutes and found out that they were scheduled to stay at the same hostel tonight.  

Arriving at the hostel Beaker received new trail runners that his wife, Marguerite, had ordered from REI and had shipped to the hostel. His last pair lasted a grand total of three weeks… three weeks! I told you the Whites were tough! They were blown out at the sides and ends of the toes and big chunks were missing from the soles. The remainder of the nero-day involved a resupply, a needed rest for the legs, and watching the weather for tomorrow – heavy rain in the forecast.  

7/24/17 Destination: Carlo Col Shelter, ME    16.9 miles today

Overcast skies, but no rain in the morning. Beaker decided to head out rather than take a zero day so he was walking 7:30. Sitting Bull and Hoops were still eating breakfast when he left; he passed Ramsey Bolton’s stealth camp about a mile into the hike – Ramsey was still asleep when Beaker passed.

Around 8:30, it started to sprinkle. Before long, it settled into a steady rain that lasted the rest of the day. Beaker was quickly soaked to the skin. Anytime he stopped for more than a few minutes he would start to get chilled. The trail is out of the Whites; but not out of the mountains. Today’s hike proved to be pretty tough… up, down, mud, rocks, rain…. I managed to take several spills today. Nothing serious. Just enough to get me wet and muddy.

Beaker. NH.ME lineThe highlight of the day Beaker crossed the Maine-New Hampshire border! He reached Carlo Col Shelter just after 6:00 pm, a long, slow day on the trail. The shelter was packed.  All five wooden tent pads were occupied by what appears to be a French Canadian youth group.  Beaker set up his tent on a sloping piece of ground near the shelter. The temperature is in the low 40s, the wind is rattling the tent, and the rain is pelting down. It feels more like March than July. At least I am safe, warm, and dry in my cozy tent. I can’t wait to put on those wet hiking clothes in the morning…

7/25/17 Destination: Speck Pond Shelter, ME   9.5 miles today

For some reason, I thought that once we finished the White Mountains it would be a cruise to Mt Katahdin. Wrong! I hiked 9.5 miles today and it was a full day.

Beaker awoke to rain but by the time he hit the trail, the rain had tailed off and the clouds actually began to thin. By afternoon, he was hiking in full sunshine. The  trail was still a muddy, the rocks were still wet and slick, and Beaker lost count of how many times I went down. Most of the falls were slow and fairly controlled. I had one pretty bad fall on my left hip which left it pretty bruised and tender, though.

Mahoosuc Nothch

A Small Taste of Mahoosuc Notch

The climbs continued to be steep, with sections where rebar steps were embedded in the vertical rock face. Beaker stopped for lunch at the Full Goose Shelter. After lunch is when the real fun began – the Mahoosuc Notch and the Mahoosuc Arm. The Mahoosuc Notch is a mile long narrow gorge with steep, high boulders and rocks of assorted sizes and shapes creating a natural obstacle course on steroids. You have to scramble over, under, and around these boulders as you pick your way through the notch. Upon completing the Mahoosuc Notch, Beaker was immediately faced another obstacle – the Mahoosuc Arm.   It is a climb gaining over 1500 feet of elevation over 0.9 miles. There were many sections that were almost straight up. At the top of Mahoosuc Arm, it was a short hike to Speck Pond Shelter.


Mahoosuc Notch Photo found at
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Mahoosuc Notch, Maine, Mount Moriah, New Hampshire, The Whites, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Dulcigal is a Thru-Hiker


Dulcigal in Georgia

Dulcigal, Karla Redman, has completed her thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail!

Dulcigal began her journey on March 19 and hiked to her finish line on October 29 for a total of 231 days. I have never personally met Karla, but my admiration of her character, faith, and determination grew with every post of her journal. I counted her “out” at the end of June when she suffered a serious bout of kidney stones on the trail. She landed in the hospital including two days in the ICU with kidney and liver failure and septic shock. An additional three days were spent in the hospital before she was able to travel back to her home in Georgia.

But Dulcigal was not done with her dream. After a short two-week recovery, she returned to the trail. With her two sons at her side for a few days, she continued hiking with praise to God’s faithfulness and provision. It became apparent to her that she would most likely not make it to Mount Katahdin in Maine (the northern terminus of the AT) before the threat of winter closed the mountain, so she decided to attempt a flip-flop. She hiked to the Pennsylvania/New Jersey border, then caught a bus to Hanover, New Hampshire. From Hanover, she hiked over the White Mountains, through Mahoosuc Notch, and across the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine. She summited Katahdin and stood atop the brown sign on September 22. She then traveled back to Hanover and hiked south-bound

Dulcigal on Top of Katahdin

Dulcigal on Top of Katahdin

to Delaware Water Gap on the PA/NJ state border. Her finish line was a hostel in Delaware Water Gap located in the Church of the Mountain.

I have included a few lines from the last post on her online journal. Karla writes,

“2,189.1 miles — I’m still trying to digest it all. Today was fantastic…better than I ever expected. The weather was beautiful, the walk was extremely easy and relaxing, and the fun with my 2 sons, Danielle (a family friend), and a few thru-hikers in the area, was phenomenal. The joy of actually finishing the trail is indescribable, but I can understand the bittersweet thoughts as well. It will take some adjusting to adapt to “normal” life again, I am sure….. Though this has been the most challenging life experience, it has been the most rewarding. The question I was asked most often was, “Are you hiking all by yourself?” I was never alone. Other than the many other hikers and trail volunteers I had the privilege to meet and socialize with on the trail, my Lord and Savior was with me every step of the way. I never felt alone. I cherished my talks with God and fellowship with the trail community.”

Karla, the Thru-Hiker

Karla, the Thru-Hiker

I sent Dulcigal a short note of congratulations and my standing ovation for her diligence and bravery. I was surprised to get a response back from her so soon after her completion. Her kind response reflects her humility and the character that enables a person to hike for over 230 days and 2,186 miles through fourteen different states:

“Hi David.  I’m in the lost phase of just getting home and figuring out what to do next….it will be an adjustment for sure.  Although I was so excited about finishing, I’m already missing the woods.  😦  I plan to get out and do some short hikes nearby to feed my desire to being out in nature.  Yes, the reward of being able to complete such a journey is the ultimate gift.  You understand because you have been there, done that.  Thank you for following the journey and your inspiration as well!!   Karla”

My congratulations to Karla Redman – Dulcigal.

Categories: 100 Mile Wilderness, Appalachian Trail, Delaware Water Gap, Dulcigal, Mahoosuc Notch, Maine, Mount Katahdin, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, The Whites, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Two Peas (Big Cypress and Animal) Climb Katahdin

Two Peas at Springer Mt. GA

Two Peas at Springer Mt. GA

Big Cypress and his wife, Moonbeam, started their adventure of hiking the Appalachian Trail on February 14 as The Two Peas, dreaming of summiting Mount Katahdin together in the fall of 2016. Moonbeam experienced a very serious fall, breaking her femur and ending her hike. However, Big Cypress returned with his son (Animal) and continued his northbound trek to Maine. October 6th brought the father and son to the end of the trail. Moonbeam was there, driving a support vehicle along the way. I love this story of diligence and victory. The thru-hike took 236 days!

My last update on The Two Peas found them on September 18 about a day’s hike away from entering the last state on the trail, and 283 miles of rugged trail in Maine. Moonbeam kept such a nice detailed journal so I thought I would take a little extra space and provide a quick synopsis of the end of this wonderful story.

9/19/16: Carlo Col shelter in Maine to Grafton Notch State Park/ME 26 for 14.1 miles

The 19th involved Mahoosuc Notch – the most difficult mile of the AT. Then they went on to Mahoosuc Arm at 3770′. Several times that day Big Cypress & Animal heard…“you can’t or you shouldn’t do the notch & arm on the same day.” Well, hind sight, they wouldn’t, but they did and lived to tell the tale. Several falls were taken. Animal thought for sure dad was gonna need a helicopter off the trail. But after a short rest, and great surprise by both, off they went down the path. Big said, “God took care of me on that one, cuz I know I should’ve been all broken.”

9/20/16: Grafton Notch to East B Hill Road for 10.3 miles.

Hiking Highlights: Baldpate West & East peaks, Dunn Notch and Falls. Slept in until about 6:30. Pancakes, coffee – Big Cypress & Animal hit the trail about 9am. After a five hour hike, Moonbeam prepared hot water for foot soaking.

9/21/16: Start at East B Hill Rd to South Arm Rd. for 10.1 miles

Hiking Highlights: Wyman Mtn 2920′ down to Sawyer Notch at 1095′ and Moody Mtn at 2440′ then South Arm Rd. They tented in backyard of Little Red Hen. Church bells were our alarm clock this morning.

9/22/16: South Arm Rd to ME 17 Oquossoc ME for 13.2 miles.

Highlights today: South Arm Rd, Old Blue Mtn., Bemis Mtn, Bemis Mtn Second Peak, Bemis Stream. The guys headed out about 8 am. After eggs on tortillas for breakfast.

9/23/16: Left at 7:45 am. ME 17/Height of Land view to ME 4 for 13.2 miles then continued on to Redington Campsite 8.0 miles for 21.2 Miles today!

Hiking Highlights: Moxie Pond, Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to, Little Swift River Pond, South Pond and after lunch Eddy Pond 2643′, up to Saddleback Mountain 4120′, The Horn 4021′, and sleeping at Redington Campsite – arrived at 5:30 pm

9/24/16:  Redington Campsite mile to Caribou Valley Rd/Caribou Pond Rd for 15.9 miles,

Hiking Highlights: Saddleback Mtn Junior, Orbeton Stream, Sluice Brook, Lone Mountain, Mt Abraham, Spaulding Mtn, and finally Sugarloaf Mountain – arrived at 7:45 pm. Big Cypress & Animal camped out last night and had a tough night with freezing temperatures.

2000 mile mark

2000 mile mark

9/25/16: Caribou Valley Rd to ME 27 (at AT mile 2000.9) for 8.3 miles

Reached the 2000 mile goal today! The Crocker Cirque campsite & stream, then up to South Crocker Mountain & North Crocker Mtn. with a well-deserved Nero & Zero at the Stratton Motel. Sunny, 38° chilly & very windy.

9/26/16: Great night sleep and Breakfast at The Looney Moose….big hiker meal & chocolate chip pancakes….delicious!! Trail planning and TV binge watching, Criminal Minds on ION channel.

9/27/16: ME 27 to East Flagstaff Rd for 16.7 miles

Hiking Highlights of today’s hike: Stratton Brook Pond, South Horn, Bigelow Mtn., Avery Peak, Little Bigelow Mtn, to East Flagstaff Rd. The hikers arrived at about 4 pm. Big Cypress, Animal and Moonbeam had dinner, and a walk down to Flagstaff Lake. After a foot soaking, it was off to bed at about 5:30-ish.

9/28/16:  East Flagstaff Rd to Otter Pond Rd for 16.9 miles

Hiking Highlights for today: West Carry Pond & Lean To, East Carry Pond, Scott Rd., Carrying Place Stream, Pierce Pond. The guys arrived early at about 230-3 pm. Trail meals and soaked feet. Hit the hay about 5 pm.

9/29/16: Otter Pond Rd to Kennebec River 3 miles then to Moxie Pond/Troutdale Rd for 15.3 miles

Hiking Highlights: Canoe across the Kennebec River, Pleasant Pond Mtn and nice hiking day. This morning they splurged and had pancakes at Harrison’s Camp. The hikers arrived at about 3:30, in good spirits and both wanting a foot bath tonight. They had a small campfire and dinner before

Moxie Pond

Moxie Pond

9/30/16: Moxie Pond to Lake Hebron parking area for 21.5 miles today.

Highlights: Moxie Bald Mountain and several stream & the East Branch of the Piscatiquis River. Supposed to ford this river, but all hikers have said it’s a rock hop, as water levels are crazy low. Big & Animal were on trail by 7 am. and completed the 20+ mile trek at 4:00 pm.

10/1/16: Lake Hebron mile to Otter Pond Near Long Pond Stream Lean-to mile 2089 for 18.6 miles

Big Cypress & Animal were on the trail about 7 am. After a 4 pancake breakfast whipped up by Moonbeam. The hikers’ voices were heard again at 4:30. Snacks, foot soaking, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches were on the menu. Bed by 6 pm. “Hard to believe we are under 100 miles left, 99.2 to be exact.”

Animal met with an angry group of ground nesting yellow jackets. He suffered about a dozen stings but Moonbeam was on the rescue with anti-itch cream & anti-histamine Crisis averted.

10/2/16: Otter Pond to Katahdin Ironworks Rd for 14.5 miles.

Hiking Highlights: Barren Ledges, Barren Mtn., Fourth Mtn., Mt Three and a Half, Third Mtn. Columbus Mtn,, and Chairback Mtn.

Big Cypress and Animal were off at a few minutes after 7. Animal arrived at 2:15, Big Cypress arrived about 30 minutes later.

10/3/16: KI Rd  to Jo-Mary Rd for 28.7 miles.

Only about in the 50’s for high temp. Moonbeam arrived at Jo-Mary Rd. Paid $12 for herself & truck, plus $10 for 2 nights’ sleep out on the roads in the area. Tacos for dinner.

10/4/16:  Jo-Mary Rd to Pollywog Stream for 23.5 miles

Hiking Highlights: Nahmakanta Lake, then Nesuntabunt Mountain, Pollywog Gorge. Big miles yesterday and big miles day tomorrow!!

10/5/16: Pollywog Stream to Katahdin Stream Campground @ Baxter Park for 27.4 miles.

Biggest Highlight today: Rainbow Ledges with a view of the finish line of Baxter Peak and Mount Katahdin.

two-peas-katahdin10/6/16: SUMMIT DAY – Awake at 4:30, anxious for the day! On the trail at 6 am. Animal was hiker #1087 and Big Cypress #1088 to summit Katahdin. Cold morning (30-40 degrees) but close to 70 for the high today. Clear & sunny & gorgeous. For the accomplishment, Animal received a special card for completing his 582 miles. The trek down the mountain ended about 1:30 pm. The words of Moonbeam are quite appropriate:

1:30 pm, Big Cypress logged in the trail register that party of two returned from the summit. So….when I saw a brown hat & blue shirt through the trees, I knew it was Big. I started walking towards him and I completely lost it, I was a blubbering mess. Just about hysterical!! We hugged for several minutes and I regained my composer. We sat & talked & Big Cypress ate, while we waited for Animal.

When Animal finally arrived, I greeted him up the trail with a fist bump and congratulations!! Ok, so Big and I were talking about this last 5 miles. “If I didn’t have to go up there in order to finish I wouldn’t have, I would have turned around & went down.” “It’s a dangerous mountain & precarious edges.” Hats Off and DEEP bow to those who have reached the sign for that famous finish picture and Conquered their fear of heights etc….

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Mahoosuc Notch, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Thru-Hike, Two Peas | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon – Successful Thru-hikers

fat-hen-on-katahdinThis spunky couple from the state of New York hiked together through the 14 states of the Appalachian Trail and made their final climb up Mount Katahdin on October 9, 2016. Beginning their adventure from Springer Mountain, Georgia on March 19, 2016, Dano and Becky hiked NOBO (north bound) for 205 days (206 if you want to include the approach trail up from Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain).

Since I last reported their progress on September 13, Fat Hen (Dano) and Rooster Talon (Becky) made two journal posts. One on September 27 from the beginning of the 100 mile wilderness in Maine, and the second on October 9, sharing their victory on top of the big mountain in Baxter State Park, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

The journey through northern New Hampshire and Maine, with the exception of a few foggy days, was clear and beautiful revealing magnificent vistas with 100+ miles of visibility. Any hiker reflection referencing this part of the trail must include a statement about Mahoosuc Notch and the Arm that follows. The experience brought a mixed review form the couple and their post captured their take on the most difficult mile on the AT, “We allotted about 2 hours for it and it took us 3. The first 2 hours were adventurous, climbing under, over and through huge rocks, challenging and unforgiving… The last hour was the worst night hike of our lives, treacherous and dangerous, frustrating and slippery. We stumbled out, into a campsite and spent the evening talking about unnecessary risks.”

They stopped in Caratunk, Maine and like all good hikers searched for a good meal. They found one in the form of a foot high cheeseburger called ‘the exterminator.’ It consisted of “two, 1 pound patties of beef, cheese, fried pickles, a battered-fried chicken breast, battered and fried mac n’ cheese, onion rings, bacon, and barbecue sauce on 3 buns surrounded by spiced potato wedges… One of the best burgers I’ve had in my life!” 

The weather turned cold in Maine and the night temperatures fluctuated down at the freezing mark, but they were determined to complete the adventure and October 5th brought them face to face with Mount Katahdin. The 8.5 mile hike to the summit concluded about 12:30 in the afternoon and the picture at the brown sign shows a beautiful day with clear skies and a beautiful view from the summit.

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

As they reflected back over their experience they were pleased with the hike they made.

“Our hike didn’t skip an inch. We walked every single step, northbound, from Amicalola GA to the summit of Mt. Katahdin in ME…. with absolutely NO ‘yellow blazing’ (taking a shuttle to skip hard or ‘boring’ parts) and no ‘reverse slack packing’ (leaving all your gear at a hostel and getting a ride north to walk difficult sections easier in reverse… to better explain: a ride to the top of a challenging climb so you can walk down hill without any of your gear). Everyone who hikes this trail does so for their own reasons and in their own way, but for Becky and I, it was important not to rely on tricks and gimmicks, but to tackle this honestly, together.”

Rooster Talon and Fat Hen – Congratulations on your successful thru-hike and the integrity of your journey and thanks for recording and sharing your journal online! I applaud your efforts, diligence, and enthusiasm.

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Fat Hen, Mahoosuc Notch, Maine, Mount Katahdin, New Hampshire, NOBO, Rooster Talon, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Scarfoot – So Close!

Scarfot's Office Space

Scarfot’s Office Space

Scarfoot is a thru-hiker that does not provide his real name in his journal, but his real life before the trail was based in Boston, Massachusetts, where he worked at an investment firm. He decided to exchange his cubical for the canopy of the Appalachian Trail. This choice was not an impulsive decision, but rather one of advanced planning and preparation.

Scarfoot began by losing 50 pounds and addressing several other physical challenges. The Bostonian found himself with major allergies: tree, grass and weed pollen, mold, dust mites, dog and cat – pretty hard to avoid such things on the trail while occasionally staying in hostels/cheap hotels. He also discovered that he was allergic to bees and wasps. So Scarfoot found some allergy treatments – four shots at a time. Scarfoot also struggled with planter fasciitis causing severe heal pain and making hiking very difficult. He attempted to counter this challenge with custom orthotics and Strassburg socks (a sock designed to be worn at night that keeps the plantar fascia in a stretched position, helping to increase flexibility in the morning).

[Just a quick aside – according to the Mayo Clinic, plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It involves pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. Plantar fasciitis commonly causes stabbing pain that usually occurs with your very first steps in the morning. Once your foot limbers up, the pain of plantar fasciitis normally decreases. It is particularly common in runners, people who are overweight, and those who wear shoes with inadequate support. ]

Scarfoot was also concerned about some emotional issues. He suffered from panic attacks and found that sleeping alone in the woods and major heights caused times of intense angst. This is quite a challenge for those considering a thru-hike of the AT. He purchased custom-fitted ear plugs for sleeping. In addition, Scarfoot is married to Ellie who expressed concern with his adventure. Although supportive of her husband, she worried for his safety. So, Scarfoot took a wilderness first-aid course and purchased SPOT, a Satellite GPS Messenger, used by many hikers to reach emergency responders, check-in with family or friends, share GPS coordinates and track the route of the adventure – all at the push of a button and at the cost of about $150.

Atop Mount Madison

Atop Mount Madison

Scarfoot researched trail gear for three years and was attracted to the ultralight approach to long- distance hiking. He organized and reorganized his summer pack until he reached a backpack weight of only 10 pounds (My pack weight varied but I think my lightest burden was 25 pounds).

Hikes of preparation were also part of Scarfoot’s three-year training program. Year one included a four-day hike in Massachusetts; year two embraced a ten-day hike from the Hudson River, New York to the Massachusetts Turnpike just above Upper Goose Pond (about 145 miles); and during year he three logged a 135-mile, 7-day hike through most of Vermont.

Scarfoot was ready. His last day at work April 6th and he was on the trail on April 10. He hiked the 8.8 mile approach trail from Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia on April 9th and began his actual AT miles from Springer Mountain on Sunday the 10th. All the training and preparation enable Scarfoot to make very good time hiking though the Appalachian Trail.

Then came this surprising post on Day 140 of his adventure, August 27th,

“Well this is it. No summit photo. No finish…. The trail becomes very technical with big boulders above tree line. Very dangerous and not what I signed up for. One more mile of very nasty trail remained then the ‘tablelands’. In the meantime it follows a ridge with shear drops behind and both sides in places. I could do it physically but would have hated every moment of it. I got what I wanted out of this. I was in it for the hike and that last 2.3 miles was mountain climbing to me not hiking. At the hostel met a woman who broke 4 ribs yesterday on Baxter. Seams I made the right choice at least for me.”

With 2.3 miles left to complete the journey, Scarfoot turns around. Over half way up Mount Katahdin, his hike was over. I continue to look for another post that shares a successful return and climb to the brown sign, but nothing appears.

scarfootI personally found the climb out of Palmerton, Pennsylvania a much more technical climb than Katahdin and yet Scarfoot journals (on June 6, 2016), “Rocks getting worse and lasting longer between breaks. Got stuck in the middle of a 40 person Korean hiking club on the rockiest toughest climb yet over the superfund site. Real rock scramble.”

I also wondered what his experience was over the Whites and into the first 100 miles of Maine. I wondered how he responded over Mount Washington, another nice climb on the trail. He simply mentions on August 3, “Was warm, sunny and practically no wind so fantastic weather.” Two days later (August 5), he climbs Mount Madison and descends into Pinkham Notch. His comments: Tough day for 13 miles. Two 2000 foot climbs plus the smaller ones. Very steep. The last down was incredible. Easily the hardest steepest down so far.

I also checked his journal on August 8th, the day he reached Mahoosuc Notch (one of the most difficult miles on the trail). He had completed the Notch and the major climb up Mahoosuc Arm by noon. The notch only took Scarfoot 1 hour and 45 minutes to navigate, compared to my 3 hours and 20 minutes. He noted, “The arm was very steep. Took 9 hours to do 12 miles today.”

I feel so badly for Scarfoot. He was so close and he conquered so much. He made the decision that he felt best and I admire him for his convictions. May he realize that he is indeed a thru-hiker. The sign is not the goal – the journey is the reward. He shared that he walked away from the trail with what he wanted – the true meaning of Hike Your Own Hike (HYOH).

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Mahoosuc Notch, Massachusetts, Mount Katahdin, Mount Madison, Mount Washington, Scarfoot, The Whites, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Bionic Hiker

HikeItForward-Final-MediumI love stories like the one that surrounds Niki Rellon. I read three powerful articles about Niki (see below) and this post is a summary of these writings. Niki is a current 2015 thru-hiker, on the trail at this moment. Her trail name is “Bionic Woman” for a good reason.

Niki is forty years old and was a world-class athlete: kickboxer, swimmer, snowboarder, rock climber, and bicyclist. In 2006 Niki hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada.

I said “was” a world-class athlete because on Nov. 1, 2013, Niki was climbing a rock face in Utah when tragedy called her name. Her harness failed, she fell 45 feet and broke several ribs, her sternum, her pelvis and spinal cord. Her life was spared but her body was severely damaged. Her left leg was so crushed that doctors had to amputate below the knee.

Niki 1According to the news report from the Bangor Daily News, Niki Rellon shared, “Every day was the same. I was going into the stages of depression. Exercise, rehab, yoga, physical therapy – after a while I was able to come up with excuses not to do it. I decided to walk to recovery because I didn’t like myself anymore after my accident.”

On March 9 — just 14 months after that terrible fall — Rellon, a German-born Colorado resident took her first steps from Springer Mountain, the southern terminus in Georgia. Niki will become the first woman with a leg amputation to ever through-hike the trail. Rellon is hiking unassisted and as far as I can discern she has reached the 1,200 miles point.

niki 3The injury has made quite a difference in Niki’s speed. She averaged more than 40 miles a day on the Pacific Crest Trail. Now, on the Appalachian Trail she is pushing to cover 12 miles in a day. At times, she feels more like “Snail Trail” than “Bionic Woman.” I personally would vote for the Bionic handle shouting admiration for her spunk and determination.

Rellon is a “flip-flop” hiker, meaning she started in Georgia and walked about halfway north before flying to Maine and starting atop Mount Katahdin for the journey south. Her summit to the top of Katahdin was difficult indeed. She hiked the mountain on a 90-degree day that turned ugly when 80-mile-per-hour winds complete with a major thunderstorm blasted through Baxter State Park. The powerful gusts of air knocked her over several times before she was forced to call for help. Niki and her rescuer had to descend on their hands and knees at times to avoid being blown off the mountainside. It was 1:30 in the morning before they reached the safety of the campground below.

Niki2Rellon shared with a local Virginia TV station, “On the trail, no excuse, you wake up in the morning, you have to start hiking again. There’s no magic pill that cures all your pains. You have to overcome the pain and push yourself and live with the pain for a while, but when you push yourself and live with the pain for a while, the pain then goes away.” Niki declared that the trail itself was giving her physical strength, but the friends she’d met along the way were providing needed emotional support.

Niki is on my prayer list. I am trusting that God will speak to her with a powerful affirmation of His love for her and the strength and protection that He offers to those who draw near to Him.


Trail Photos from Niki’s Facebook

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Mahoosuc Notch, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Pacific Crest Trail, Thru-Hike, Trail, Virginia | Tags: | Leave a comment

Katahdin – The Finish Line

HikeItForward-Final-MediumMount Katahdin is on the mind of most NOBO thru-hikers when they take their first step off Springer Mountain, GA. The finish line is part of the motivation from the start. Katahdin is probably the topic of conversation around campfires in the Great Smoky Mountains, in the shelters of the Shenandoah Valley, during snack breaks on the rocks of Pennsylvania, and amid the squeezes of Mahoosuc Notch. The beautiful mountain and the big brown sign at its summit are etched on the thru-hikers mind even if the pilgrim has only seen pictures of the finale.

Mt. Katahdin is Maine’s highest peak at 5,267 feet above sea level. It is surrounded by 200,000 acre Baxter State Park and miles of forests beyond that. There are several trails that lead to the top of Katahdin but the official A.T. path is the Hunt Trail. It begins close to the Birches Lean-tos and Campsite at about 1,000 ft above sea level. During the five mile trail to the summit the hiker will gain more than 4,000 ft in elevation. That sounds steep….very steep. When the thru-hiker reaches the top, embraces the wooded sign marking the northern terminus of the AT, celebrates the victory with weeping or laughter or joyful shouts or thankful prayers, spends some time reflecting on the reality of completion, there is only one thing left to do…. turn around and hike down.

The Penobscot Indians named this rugged yet beautiful mountain, Katahdin, which means “The Greatest Mountain.” Katahdin seems like a fitting end to the great adventure… a final challenge to cap off the very long trail… the true trophy of the thru-hiker.

Photo 1

Photo 1


Katahdin 2

Photo 2

Once I stand on the top I will feel ready to describe the view. Until then, I remain quiet in humility and retrospective in my dreams. My hope is to post my own pictures of the peak of the Greatest Mountain but until then, let me post the view of others.

Katahdin 3

Photo 3

Photo 4

Photo 4


Photo 5

Photo 5

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 3

Photo 4

Photo 5

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Hiking, Mahoosuc Notch, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Shenandoah National Park, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

The A.T. State by State – Maine

HikeItForward-Final-MediumOn a NOBO thru-hike, the last state to visit is Maine. The ultimate landmark during the adventure in the Pine Tree State is the wooden sign on top of the beautiful Mount Katahdin. In order to arrive at this iconic signpost a thru-hiker must traverse 281 very difficult miles. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy considers the trail in Maine to be the most difficult of all fourteen states. Beginner hikers are discouraged from attempting this part of the A.T. Even experienced hikers often average one mile per hour in some parts of this rugged terrain. Some sections in Maine require that the thru-hiker grab onto tree roots and limbs in order to climb up or descend through the trail’s obstacle course. Parts of the path are especially slippery and hazardous in wet weather making it necessary to slide down on the seat of one’s pants or crawl on one’s hands and knees. I am very nervous about Maine and yet I look forward to it at the same time.

The Appalachian Trail through Maine encounters numerous lakes, streams, and bogs. Such abundant water sources attract the magnificent moose and the mournful, crazy calls of the common loon (want to hear the loons? – The water also makes for muddy trail-ways and numerous mountain streams that must be forded. Some of these fords can be tricky and potentially life-threatening when water is high so common sense and extreme care are the orders of the day.

The 281 miles in Maine can be roughly divided into three segments: let’s consider the first on this blog and leave the other two for additional postings.

Welcome to Maine SignThe southern section (technically the western section) is an area of extremely steep, 4,000-foot mountains, arguably the toughest part of the entire A.T. It includes the notorious mile-long boulder challenge of Mahoosuc Notch – up, down, over, under and around the rocks. There are several videos trying to capture the experience – this one is really short but I like it because it paints a good picture of hiking the notch with a full pack on your back –

This southern section runs (although “crawls” might be a better verb to use) for 109 miles from the New Hampshire state line (NOBO mile 1904) to Bigelow Preserve (mile 2013). During this stretch of the trail there are 13 shelters (an average of a shelter every 8.4 miles) so there is plenty of safe places to spend the night but only four towns “close” to the path: Andover (9 miles east), Oquossoc (11 miles west), Rangeley (9 miles west), and Stratton (5 miles west). This section of the trail will take some wise strategy in planning a food resupply – my plan will hopefully fall in place once I figure out how many miles I can hike a day in this terrain. Hitch-hiking into town may be very appealing at the 1,965 mile marker.

Welcome Photo:

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Mahoosuc Notch, Maine, Mount Katahdin, New Hampshire, Thru-Hike, Trail | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Preposition Mile

HikeItForward-Final-MediumKnown as the most difficult mile on the trail, the reputation of Mahoosuc Notch is widely known among thru-hikers. This challenging notch is located just over the New Hampshire boarder into Maine. Tales of the physically challenging terrain cause many NOBO hikers to stop and ready themselves at the nearest shelter (Full Goose Shelter – a mile and a half south of the Notch) like knights preparing to do battle against a fire-breathing dragon.

Mahoosuc Notch 2 And at the Notch, hikers must use almost every preposition in the dictionary to climb over, crawl under, maneuver around and jump between huge rock slabs and boulders. Many travelers remove their backpacks and drag them in order to pass through the tightest squeezes. Mahoosuc Motch 1Some of the caves hold ice well into summer, and snow often makes the notch impassable even in June. It often takes hikers an hour to travel one mile through Mahoosuc Notch. I’ve never seen it referred to as the Preposition Mile but I kind of like the title.

Photo on left from      Photo on right from

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Hiking, Mahoosuc Notch, Maine, Thru-Hike, Trail | 2 Comments

Blog at