Mount Katahdin

Opa is BACK!

Boardwalk near Vernon, NJ.

Occasionally, I check the journals of those thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail that have gotten off the trail to see if they have updated their online blogs with additional information. Most of the time the journals are absent of an update, but a recent check on Opa revealed that he has returned to the trail. He has traveled to Maine, climbed Mount Katahdin, and is now hiking SOBO (southbound) back toward New Jersey.

Opa went off the trail on May 21, 2018, after developing a painful inflammation in the area of the arch on his right foot. He was in Vernon, New Jersey, and was able to get a ride from his son Eric who lives in nearby Westwood, NJ. After getting some X-rays, it was determined that Opa had a stress fracture on the fifth metatarsal. He was anticipating a fitted boot to help support the foot during the healing process. In addition to the foot, Opa was scheduled for hernia surgery in late June followed by some personal commitments during the summer months. He talked about returning to the trail, but honestly, I thought he would not return during this hiking season.

Opa and the Brown Sign

Opa, Reinhard Gsellmeier from Rochester, NY, was one of the strongest hikers I followed this year. He consistently put in high mileage and I thought he would be the first to complete the adventure. I was saddened to hear of his injury that took him from the trail, and I am excited that he has returned. He has about 833 miles to hike to complete his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

On August 22nd Opa posted, “I’ve been thinking about the trail every single day since I had to get off way back on May 21st, so I am raring to go! Instead of being a NOBO I will become a flipflopper as I resume my hike by starting at Katahdin and hiking south. My preference would have been to continue as a NOBO, but I was concerned that with my end of August restart I would simply run out of time and not make it to Katahdin by the time they close the mountain in mid-October.”  

He climbed Mount Katahdin on August 30th, and immediately started his SOBO adventure. In the two weeks since his return to the trail, Opa has hiked 188.2 miles. He has trekked through the 100-Mile Wilderness, across the iconic Kennebec River, over the Bigelow Mountains, and into the trail town of Stratton, Maine averaging almost 14.5 miles a day. However, on September 10th, Opa recorded, “I think my trail legs are back, but as fate would have it my plantar fasciitis has reared its ugly head once again. My left heel is starting to become inflamed, but so far it is not impeding my progress.

On Avery Peak – Bigelow Mountains

Opa has not taken a zero-day since his return although the nero-day into Stratton was only 5.1 miles leaving him with some needed rest time to recuperate from his aggressive pace. While resting in Stratton, his journal reflected his need for some R/R.  “I decided to take an unplanned NERO in Stratton, in part to give my left heel a little relief with a short mileage day, and in part to get cleaned up and dry out my gear. Am staying in a bunk room at the Stratton Motel and Hostel. Stratton is a small town, but has everything I need within a short walk of the hostel. Laundromat, grocery store and a place to get pizza. Ahhhh, pizza!  Guess what I had for dinner!

My plantar fasciitis and the inflammation in my left heel remains a concern, but as long as it doesn’t get much worse it is tolerable. My spirits remain high and I am as determined as ever to finish this thing!”

My prayers are with Opa as he attempts to complete his hike in 2018.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class of 2018, Flip Flop, Maine, Mount Katahdin, New Jersey, Opa, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

RTK Reaches Katahdin

RTK on Katahdin

Bruce Matson, RTK, completed his thru-hike of the Appalachian trail on September 1, 2018. Of the fourteen hikers that I followed this hiking season, RTK is only the third person to complete the journey. He left Springer Mountain, Georgia on February 25 and stood beside the big brown sign in Maine on September 1 – 189 days later. Quite a journey through mud, snow, rain, sunshine, incredible vistas, steep descents, rocks, roots, highs and lows. My heartiest congratulations to RTK who officially joins the class of 2018.

Since entering Maine, RTK had been hiking with Gbolt and Recon. Recon needed to exit the trail due to an injury on August 1, but Gbolt and RTK buddied all the way to Katahdin. I found out that Gbolt is a hiker from the Dayton area. He left for his AT adventure the middle of March, on his 58th birthday.

Let to Right: Recon, Gbolt and RTK

RKT and Gbolt left Monson, Maine, on August 25 and entered the 100-Mile Wilderness. It took them six days to traverse the wilderness and arrive at Abol Bridge. On August 31 they hiked from Abol Bridge to The Birches Campsite in Baxter State Park at the foot of Mount Katahdin. Bruce’s wife, Cheryl, met them at Katahdin Stream Campground about 7:00 in the morning on September 1 and the three of them began their summit at 7:30.

I have taken excerpts from RTK’s journal to capture his thinking on the last day of his AT thru-hike:

“The hike started on smooth trail with modest incline for a little over a mile until we reached Katahdin Falls (beautiful).  The severity of the climb and the rocks increased as we hiked, but we were excited, and the climb did not seem too difficult.  After about three miles the trail breaks out of the tree line just as the severity of the climb becomes intense.

For almost a mile exactly we had little other than climbing up, over, around and through rocks, boulders, ledges and every formation or type of rock – mostly granite.  The climb was not technical, but vertical and difficult with some scary maneuvers.  We often had to help one another.

Gbolt, Cheryl and RTK at the Sign

Around noon we reached the “Gateway,” – the start of the (relatively flat) tableland.  We could see a congregation of stick figures a mile away at the Katahdin sign.  After a half mile we stopped for lunch on some rocks.  Then we climb the remaining hill to the summit….. It was 2:00 p.m. and we had to get back down the mountain.  We knew that the descent would be more difficult – and therefore would take longer.  

Eventually, finally, after spending a lot of time on our backsides working down rock slabs we got below tree line.  From there it was steep and rocky, but not the intensity of the rocks above the tree line.

With less than a mile to go, we lost most light and had to use headlamps and flashlights for the last 20 minutes. We were all thankful and elevated to return safely to the parking lot – having finished the toughest day, yet final day, on the trail.  We gathered and gave thanks – and then Cheryl drove us to Millinocket.  We dropped Gbolt at the AT Lodge and headed to our motel.

The journey was over.”

Congratulations RTK (and Gbolt) on a successful thru-hike!!!

Only 25 out of 100 make the complete journey GA/ME. Of my 14 selected hikers, three have finished the trail, with three more still plugging away. Twenty-five percent of 14 is 3.5 so my 14 brave early starters have an opportunity to be better than average in success rate.

Categories: Abol Bridge, Appalachian Trail, Class of 2018, Maine, Mount Katahdin, RTK, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

September 9th Update from the AT

The AT in Maine

The last time I shared an update on the thru-hikers that I am tracking on the Appalachian Trail, two hikers had successfully completed their journey (Next Step and Bamadog), nine were off the trail having to abandon their thru-hike, and three were still on the trail (RTK, Sour Kraut and Chip Tillson) making their way north to Maine.

RTK’s photo of the Shaw’s Hostel in Monson

Bamadog reported seeing Sour Kraut on the summit of Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, but Sour Kraut has not updated his journal since August 22nd. I am still awaiting his victory picture, although he might forget to complete his diary even though he has completed his journey. RTK has recorded his progress a week in arrears from the very beginning of his trek. His last post, August 24th, found him in Monson, Maine about to enter the 100-Mile Wilderness. He has had 15 days to hike 114 miles, so unless he has experienced an injury, he has completed his hike as well. Why RTK has not posted his photo from Katahdin, I don’t know, but I will let you know when he does.

Chip before the hike

I was scanning over some of the journals of those who have had to exit the trail before completing their goal and I discovered that Opa is back on the trail. I will post his story soon, but today’s update is on Chip Tillson. Chip crossed over the Vermont/New Hampshire border on August 22nd and since then he has hiked 142 miles to Gorham leaving only 17 more miles to the border of Maine. His pace has been rather slow, averaging 8.9 miles per day, but the terrain in New Hampshire is some of the most strenuous on the AT. (Chip does not post photos so I cannot give you a visual of his adventure.)

Chip has 298 miles to go and at the current pace, he will be hiking for another 34 days. Finishing a thru-hike during the first 10 days of October is risky because Mount Katahdin often receives a winter’s blast with a generous snowfall before mid-October. Freezing winds and ice can make a climb to the mountain’s summit impossible.

Chip is experiencing sore knees and has considered doing a flip by traveling to Katahdin, climbing the mountain before the snow comes, turning around, and hiking back toward New Hampshire. Chip’s journal post on September 2 reflects his thinking but he continues to hike NOBO (northbound), “This morning at a road crossing I got some great Magic from Stitches (NOBO class of 1999). She had soda, doughnuts, and a bag of baby carrots (I so miss baby carrots). She also shared info on conditions ahead and suggested I consider flipping up to Katahdan soon and hiking south to finish up. I’m glad she brought it up as it’s something I’ve got to consider.”

Most recent pic of Chip – Day One

Chip made it to Mount Washington on September 3 but found minimal visibility and crowds of tourist, “At noon I arrived at the top of Mt. Washington. Visibility was less than 100ft and the place was mobbed with tourists who had driven or taken the train up. It was bizarre being amongst so many people so suddenly. There was a line of perhaps 50 people waiting to take a picture in front of a sign right outside the gift shop marking the summit. I went to the cafeteria for pizza and chili ….Then I headed back out into the fog, took some pictures, and wandered around looking for the trail: it was behind the gift shop and I had to cut through the picture line to continue my journey. Then just like that I was alone again in the cloud.”

September 4 brought a strenuous hike over Mt Madison and a rocky descent into Pinkham Notch leaving Chip with sore knees.  The soreness continued for the next several days. September 5: “My sore knees want to take another zero but I cant loose momentum right now so I’ll cut the miles down for a few days instead. The views back towards Mt. Washington as I climbed out of Pinkham Notch were awesome. I can’t believe I was just walking around way up there.” September 6: “Another knee wrecking day of scrambling over and through the steep, wet, and rocky terrain. Thunderstorms rolled through before noon and the mountains were enveloped in clouds the rest of the day.  September 7: “It was cold this morning, a reminder that pleasant hiking days are numbered. The mountains have me pretty beat up and I reluctantly concluded that a zero is necessary – just had to coax my sore knees over one more set of peaks then down to the Rattle River Hostel, right on the trail, for food and rest. …..Tomorrow I’ll rest, take inventory, then catch another shuttle to Walmart to buy food for the next leg.” 

September 8 marks day 201 for Chip on his thru-hike adventure having started his trek on February 20th. I pray he uses wisdom in his decision-making concerning his knees and the weather ahead. I will continue to check his journal daily and keep you posted as he completes his hike.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Mount Madison, Mount Washington, New Hampshire, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bamadog is Top Dog – August 25th

Bamadog

On August 25, 2018 Bamadog, Martin Dockings from Alabama at 61-years-old, earned the title of Thru-Hiker of the Appalachian Trail, class of 2018. Martin is married and has two sons, both of whom served in the military. Bamadog began his adventure on February 15th, after retiring from his career of 39 years. His adventure took him 192 days involving 7 different months (from February to August). That is a long time.

Bamadog’s winter tent

After experiencing some the winter days on the AT, Bamadog took a week off to rest up and thaw out (March 23- April 1). Upon his return, Bamadog hiked strong and consistently until July 1. He shared his decision to leave the trail on this July post, “Both of my knees are hurting letting me know I don’t need to be where I am alone scaling wet rock walls and cliffs and bouldering from daylight until dark. It is time to go home to my sweetheart.” His spiritual commitment, which was obvious in just about every post was so event in this mid-summer post as well, “I want to thank my Lord and Savior Most of all. His Holy Spirit has been with me every step of the way. He promised in His Word that He will never leave me or forsake me. You can count on that if you are a child of the King.1818.5 miles. Not bad for this ole guy. Only God knows if I will come back and get the rest of it done. That is His call. I have peace about it either way.”

His View of Katahdin from Rainbow Stream

Well, Bamadog did return to the trail after three weeks of recovery. He started where he left off at Franconia Notch in New Hampshire on July 22. He trekked through the last two states (the two most difficult states of New Hampshire and Maine) in 34 days covering 375 miles. During his last five days on the trail he enjoyed his final miles of this incredible journey. He arrived at White House Landing on August 21st, the only place along the 100 Mile Wilderness for a hostel rest, food drop, and a comfortable bed. The White House Landing is about 45 miles from Mount Katahdin 30 miles to the end of the 100-Mile Wilderness.

Bamadog let the White House Landing about 8:30 on Wednesday, August 22nd and hiked 15.6 miles ending up at the Rainbow Stream Lean-to. The trail was rocky and rooty (as it is almost throughout the state of Maine). He encountered some around noon that remained with him most of the afternoon making the trail rather slick.

Thursday, the 23rd, was a beautiful day, and Bambadog logged 15.3 miles. After getting a good look at Mount Katahdin from the Rainbow Ledges (about 21 hiking miles away), he ended his day at a camp site near Abol Bridge, the end of the 100-Mile Wilderness and a real restaurant

Bamadog on the Summit

Before leaving Abol Bridge on Friday morning, he had a nice breakfast at the restaurant. He then hit the trail heading down the AT for 10 miles with the destination of The Birches Lean-tos in the Katahdin Stream Campsite. He arrived at 12:20 and too a nice long afternoon nap.

Bamadog got up early on Saturday, August 25th with his eyes set on the summit of Mount Katahdin. The weather was excellent for the climb and he was kissing the big brown sign at 10:45. He hiked down off the mountain via the Abol trail and met a nice lady and her son who picked him up and took him to the Ranger Station to pick up his gear. At the Ranger Station, a fellow hiker offered him a ride into Millinocket where Bamadog spent the last night of his thru-hike experience at the AT Lodge. He planned to start his flight home 9:00 am on Sunday.

I offer my toast to Bamadog for a hike of diligence and determination. May he enjoy the trip home and some great days ahead with his family. May he also reflect back on his adventure with fantastic memories of the faithful of God in his life.

Categories: 100 Mile Wilderness, Abol Bridge, Appalachian Trail, Bamadog, Class of 2018, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Update on the Remaining Five

Bamadog’s Taxi to White House Landing

Out of 14 thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail, I started following at the end of February only six remain. One has completed the trail, Next Step! Five others are still on the trail. Let me provide a quick update on those five who are still hoping to complete their journeys. The update is based on their progress.

Bamadog – Bamadog is on his fifth day into the 100-Mile Wilderness. He arrived (8/21) at the White House Landing (a hostel only approachable by boat) for a resupply of food and then last 30 miles of the wilderness into Abol Bridge. White House Landing is located a little over 44 miles from Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park, the northern terminus of the AT. Bamadog is making plans to summit Katahdin on August 25th. My prayers are with him as he completes his dream.

Sour Kraut fishing in Maine

Sour Kraut –  After 32 days of silence online, I had counted Sour Kraut as off the trail having to abandon his attempt to thru-hike the AT. Then, on August 22, he posted 30 photographs. None of them have any titles or captions. They are all dated with the same date. They range from Mount Washington to the Bigelow Mountains to the Kennebec River without any strict chronological order. Many of the pics show beautiful mountain vistas that could be a lot of place along the trail. However, I think there is one of Moxie Bald Mountain in Maine. I am projecting that he is at least this far along the Appalachian Trail, leaving him about 135 miles to reach Mount Katahdin.

RTK on Top of the Rocks in NH

RTK – Although Bruce Matson, RTK, posts a week in arrears and his last journal entry (August 7) records his location in New Hampshire at Gentian Pond about 290 miles from the finish line, he posted a photo on Instagram on August 19th from Pierce Pond in Maine only 155 miles from Mount Katahdin. Hopefully, I will not have to wait for two weeks after he summits the great mountain to hear and see his victory. Instagram might be my best source of up-to-date locations.

Chip – Despite a shoulder injury, Chip continues to hike that AT. He has just crossed over the Vermont/New Hampshire border. He is taking a zero-day on August 22 at Griffin’s Cabin on the border, trying to give his body some time to heal and refresh. He is about 437 miles to Katahdin’s brown sign, but he has the most difficult terrain in front of him – The White Mountains and southern Maine are brutally challenging.

Pigweed –  The last journal entry from Pigweed was August 14, penned from Gorham, New Hampshire, north of the White Mountains. Pigweed flipped directions and is now headed south to Virginia. He has hiked through Maine and is now headed over the Presidential Peeks of the Whites. With his 802 NOBO miles (from Georgia northbound to Virginia) and 320 SOBO miles from Katahdin to Gorham, Pigweed has logged in 1120 out of the 2190 miles of the trail, leaving another 1070 miles to complete his journey. He still has a great distance to cover before the cold weather makes it doubly difficult.

 

I am very excited for Bamadog, Sour Kraut, and RTK as they are in sight of the finish line. I will keep you posted as they complete their thru-hikes. I am more than a little concerned for Chip and Pigweed. I will be watching their progress closely and will try to update this blog regularly.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Bamadog, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Maine, Mount Katahdin, New Hampshire, Pigweed, RTK, Sour Kraut, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Next Step on Katahdin

The Destination!

One Day 176 of his adventure (August 20), Next Step was joined by his wife, Which Way and they both hiked to the top of Mount Katahdin in Maine, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Coming down off the summit Next Step joined the class of 2018 as a Thru-hiker. I offer my applause and greatest congratulations.

Darrell (Next Step) & Alicia (Which Way) Brimberry began their trek on February 24 from Springer Mountain, Georgia. Next Step had just retired from the military as an Army Colonel with 30 years of active duty service. They began their hike right after retirement and had not relocated out of Washington, DC, so technically they hiked the trail as part of the homeless in the US.

Not an Easy Climb

They hiked together for the first 1,000 miles. They were about 20 miles from Harpers Ferry, WV, the home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, when Alicia’s previous back injury flared up to the point of needing some medical attention. She got a ride to Harpers Ferry where she reunited with Next Step and the next day traveled to Charles Town, WV for some therapy. The therapy was not effective enough for her to continue the trek so she ended up making her way to her parent’s home in Kentucky while Next Step continued on without her.

Not Easy at All

Next Step really increased his mileage as a solo hiker. It took Next Step and Which Way 95 days to hike the first 1,000 miles (an average of 10.52 miles per day). Next Step then walked the next 1,000 miles in 69 days (an average of 14.49 miles per day) and finished his last 190 miles in Maine in 12 days (Averaging 15.83 miles per day). He hiked the last 26 days without a true zero-day for rest.

Next Step and Which Way are delightful people who made many friends along the path. They seemed to have an exciting time together and a supportive time apart wishing they could be together. They were determined to summit Katahdin together and it was exciting to see the photos of them climbing the mountain and standing atop the big brown sign together. Hooray! Success!

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Class of 2018, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Thru-Hike, Which Way and Next Step | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Update from the AT – 8/17/18

Next Step starting the 100-Mile Wilderness

I identified 14 hikers attempting to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. All of them began their journeys in either January or February of 2018. And all of them were keeping an online journal via trailjournals.com. Three individuals took to the trail in January while the other eleven waited until February to begin their treks.

Eight of the fourteen are no longer on the trail. Zin Master embarked on January 23 but had to leave the trail after 130 miles because of a nagging injury on February 27. David Snow and his dog Abbie started on February 26 and ended his journal on March 11 in Franklin, NC. He had hiked 110 miles. Class Act, retired physician Alan Conlon, hiked just shy of one month, from February 18 to March 17, logging in 183 miles of the AT. Hickory, another strong hiker on the trail, began his journey on February 27 and then on April 17, he decided to change his approach from a true-hike goal to the completion of a section of the trail instead. He had arrived at Daleville, Virginia, and had hiked 725 miles of the AT. Genesis, Rick Miller from Pennsylvania, started his hike with his sister on January 14. He hiked on the weekends in Pennsylvania and then traveled to Georgia on March 1st. He began hiking NOBO (northbound) but he returned home after some difficult days on the trail. He and his sister returned one more time in April to try to complete the trail but could not make it. Vagabond Jack left Springer Mountain, Georgia on February 1. He hiked 675 miles through Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and over 200 miles into Virginia. He left the trail on May 1 but then returned on July 12th. He continued his attempt until July 22 covering 82 more miles before a painful injury forced him from the trail. Opa, Reinhard Gsellmeier, from Rochester, NY, hiked from February 10 to May 21. He was such a strong hiker and had traveled over 1350 miles before a foot injury made it impossible to continue. Hard Knocks, Patrick Knox, began his hike on January 31. His last post found him power hiking through New England and then he just stopped journaling. On July 4th, he had arrived at Franconia Notch (about 1815 miles along the trail) in New Hampshire about to enter the hut system of the White Mountains.

Bamadog’s Photo at Bald Mountain Pond

Of the six remaining hikers, two are about to complete their journeys, one has been silent for over a month, one has suffered an injury in Vermont, one is hiking in the White Mountain in NH, and one is still over 1000 miles from the finish line.

The two hikers that are drawing wonderfully close to the end of the hike are Next Step, who is within 45 miles of Katahdin, and Bamadog, who has just arrived in Monson, Maine with 115 more miles to the big brown sign. Next Step began his adventure on February 24 and Bamadog stepped out one day later on February 25.

Next Step’s post on August 16th was from Whitehouse Landing. This wonderful hostel was not open in 2014 when I walked the path, but it reopened in 2016. It does provide a welcomed stopping place along the 100-Mile Wilderness for thru-hikers. Next Step’s wife and hiking companion for the first 1000 miles, Which Way, will join her husband on the 19th and they plan to summit Mount Katahdin together on August 20th. When he posts photos from the top, I will share his celebration with you. I am excited to see him finish.

Sour Kraut at Mt Mooilauke

On August 16, Bamadog had arrived at the last community before the 100-Mile Wilderness, Monson, Maine. His knees are sore, but he has the end in sight. The first 40 miles of the 100-Mile Wilderness contains many rivers to ford, steep ascents, root-dominated trails and challenging terrain, but the last 60 are much easier and enjoyable for the hiker. The entire wilderness experience is absolutely beautiful. Bamadog is so close to the end, but perseverance is still critical. He saw a moose along the trail on the 16th as he dodged thunderstorms throughout the day.

Sour Kraut rarely posts in words, but he has been fairly regular in updating his journal with pictures since his first on the trail, February 21. However, it has been 27 days since the last photo. He was on Mount Moosilauke in New Hampshire about 1795 miles into his trek. The number of days between pictures over the last three months has varied between 5 and 14 days. This long period of silence has me concerned. He might post tomorrow from Maine or even atop Katahdin, or he may be off trail without notification.

RTK Above Treeline

Chip Tillson started on February 20 and on August 16th he was in Vermont. He posted from Cooper Lodge close to the summit of Killington Mountain. He has reinjured a shoulder during a fall. He writes, I had a bad fall this morning, slipped on a rock and went down hard re-injuring the same shoulder I hurt back in March. I was able to keep going dispite the pain but it was all uphill; it’s relatively easy to walk uphill with one arm in a sling – downhill not so much. At least I know what to expect: it’ll hurt a lot so use it as little as possible for a few weeks. Taking much time off at this point is definitely not an option. Fortunately, Superfriend Dan is coming up early next week with my fall weather gear so I’ll take a zero with him while kicking back at Ted Griffins cabin, maybe I can get in some slack packing with his help. Chip has some very difficult terrain ahead of him and I hope he will be wise in resting/healing that shoulder.

RTK, Bruce Matson began his hike on February 25. He usually posts on Thursday and reports a week in arrears. I have not heard from him yet this week, so his last entry was August 1. On that date, he was in the White Mountain about eight miles north of Zealand Fall Hut and 15 miles south of Mount Washington. My guess is that he is into Maine and could be as far as Stratton with about 190 miles to go. I will give you an update as soon as he posts this week.

Pigweed into New Hampshire

Pigweed, Lee Richards, took his first step on the AT on February 27th. He hiked a little over 800 miles NOBO (northbound) then traveled to Maine and began walking SOBO (southbound). He has logged in 319 miles heading south and posted from Gorham, NH, on August 14th. He is headed into the heart of the White Mountains with Mount Washington less than 15 miles away. My greatest concern for Pigweed is the number of miles left to travel – he has over 1000 miles yet to hike. I hope that time will not run out before he is able to complete his trek.

Categories: 100 Mile Wilderness, Appalachian Trail, Bamadog, Class of 2018, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Mount Moosilauke, Mount Washington, New Hampshire, Next Step, Pigweed, RTK, Sour Kraut, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Katahdin is Drawing Close for Some

Next Step’s Photo of Moxie Bald Mountain

Of the six thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail that I am following, a couple of the adventurers are getting close to the big brown sign on top of Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the trail. Others have quite a few miles left to complete their treks.

Next Step is still hiking strong as he has conquered New Hampshire and is trekking through Maine. On the 11th of August, he was hiking toward Monson, the last spot of civilization prior to the 100 Mile Wilderness. However, after the 100 miles to Abol Bridge, he is only a 10 miles hike to Katahdin Stream CampgroundowH – the base camp for the climb us Katahdin. His published plan was to meet his wife, Which Way on the 19th of August and hike the last 10.4 miles together (5.2 miles one-way to the summit and 5.2 miles back down). My guess for them is that they could do it on August 17th is they wanted to move up the plan. Either way, Next Step has been so strong throughout New England and he is so close to recording his name in the roster of the class of 2018. My prayers are with him as he tackles the wilderness and the great mountain.

Next Step

I have not heard from Sour Kraut since July 20th. But, if he has maintained his regular pace, he should be right behind Next Step. In fact, if Which Way and Next Step delay their summit until the 20th, they may summit together. This is just a calculated guess. If Sour Kraut took some time off, or sustained an injury, or developed some trail sickness, he may be behind this schedule. On the other hand, if he has picked up his pace and made incredible time through the Whites, he may find himself atop Katahdin in the next few days.

If he would just post a picture, I would let you know where he is along the AT.

Bamadog is hiking well along the trail. He is over 70 miles into Maine – about 11 miles north of Rangeley with approximately 210 miles to go. The terrain is tough, and the daily mileage tends to be lower through this final state. I am estimating 16 days more days for Bamadog and a target summit of August 24.

RKT around Crawford Notch, NH

RTK posts a week in arrears so it is more difficult to suggest an ending date for him. A wild guess is August 28th if he progresses at the approximate rate as Next Step. As of August 1st, RTK was in Crawford Notch about 14 miles from Mount Washington in the White Mountains in New Hampshire with about 350 miles to his final destination. He will need to average 12.5 miles a day over difficult terrain to make my prediction, but he is a seasoned, strong hiker with deep determination.

Chip is about 25 miles into the state of Vermont. He needs to hike another 570 miles to reach Katahdin. From this point on the AT, it took me 47 days to complete my thru-hike in 2014. At my pace, he will summit the great mountain on September 26th. If he can manage a pace of 13.3 miles per day, he can cross the finish line on September 22nd. Either way, that is a lot more sleeps and miles to hikes through challenging mountains. If he arrives on the 22nd, his journey will have taken him 184 days. Keep going Chip – you can make it.

Rangeley, ME – Unusual Half-way Point

Pigweed has flip-flopped along the trail having completed a little over 800 miles headed north, then travel to Maine, climbed Katahdin, and began his southbound (SOBO) journey back to Virginia. His last post was on August 8th from Andover, Maine about 260 from Baxter State Park, the home of Mount Katahdin. Pigweed has the longest hike of the six hikers to complete as he needs over 1100 miles. My best estimate for completion for Pigweed is the middle of October. The next 185 miles will be the key to Pigweed’s success. I think if he can make it over the southern part of Maine and through the White Mountains of New Hampshire, he will have a real shot of completing his thru-hike. Since he began his adventure, he went off trail for 15 days during the last of March and first of April and then again in June/July he took 25 days to recoup at the beach. I will be anxious to see how much he wants to complete the trail. It will take a great deal of perseverance to maintain his journey.

Categories: 100 Mile Wilderness, Abol Bridge, Appalachian Trail, Bamadog, Baxter State Park, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Maine, Monson, ME, Mount Katahdin, Mount Washington, New Hampshire, Next Step, Pigweed, RTK, SOBO, Sour Kraut, The Whites, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

AT Hikers – First Week of August

Pigweeds’ View from Saddleback Mountain. ME

I have been following 14 adventurers on the Appalachian Trail. The only two things they have in common are they all started their thru-hike attempts during January or February and they are capturing their journeys online via trailjournals.com. Half of the original group have left the trail for various reason, while the other half are continuing their trek. A few are getting close to the finish line, while others have a pace that might make it difficult to complete the goal. With the average success rate of 25%, these early are still on track to better the average.

Unfortunately, I am removing Hard Knocks from an active status to inactive. He has not posted in his journal for over a month and 30 days of silence is my maximum for inclusion on the trail roster. I will continue to monitor Hard Knocks journal and let you know if he reappears or updates his status. His last was on July 4th from Franconia Notch, New Hampshire.

Bamadog on Mt. Washington

To my surprise, Bamadog has returned to the trail. He wrote in his journal on Jul 1st, Today is a bittersweet day but a good day. Psalm 118:24.As I hiked the Lord was speaking to my heart letting me know my wife needs me a lot more than the trail does. I did a very tough section over the Kinsman’s today 17 tough miles. Both of my knees are hurting letting me know I don’t need to be where I am alone scaling wet rock walls and cliffs and bouldering from daylight until dark. It is time to go home to my sweetheart.  I double checked his journal last week to discover that he had returned to the AT on July 22 where he left off (Franconia Notch) and as of August 3, he has hiked 116 miles in 13 days over the White Mountains and into the state of Maine. On the 3rd  of August Bamadog was in Andover, Maine with approximately 250 miles to Mount Katahdin.

Chip Tillson spent the night in Dalton, Massachusetts, on August 5th. Dalton is about 30 miles south of the Massachusetts/Vermont border, leaving Chip about 620 miles to complete his thru-hike. I am really cheering for Chip and truly hope he makes it to the big brown sign at the end of the adventure, but I am concerned for his pace. If he maintains his recent week’s speed of 11 the first week of October and the beginning of the snows that can easily close the trails to the summit of “the great mountain.”

Sour Kraut’s last photo was posted on July 21 from Mount Moosilauke, NH around 1,792 onto his hike with approximately 393 to go.

Next Step at Crocker Mountains

Next Step continues to make excellent progress on the trail. He entered the last state, the state of Maine, on July 29th and his last post (August 5th) shared that he was camped at Crocker Cirque Campsite, just shy of the 2,000-mile marker. Racewalker and I stayed at this camp along a beautiful stream in Maine on out 2014 thru-hike. Next Step has about 195 miles (including the 100 miles wilderness) to complete his adventure. He appears to be in a great position to finish strong and add his name to the class of 2018. He has the gorgeous Bigelow Mountains to enjoy, the canoe ride across the Kennebec River into Caratunk, ME, Moxie Bald Mountain, and the final town of Bronson, Maine, before he reaches the 100-Mile Wilderness.

RTK on Summit of Killington Peak

RTK ‘s last weekly post was published on July 24th and Bruce Matson, aka RTK, had hiked into West Hartford, Vermont, on VT 14. He has completed about 1,735 with approximately 455 miles to go. West Hartford is 30 miles south of the Vermont/New Hampshire border. RKT’s time frame looks spot on for a successful climb of Katahdin before the weather become a factor.

Pigweed is making a flip-flop attempt for his thru-hike. He hiked 800 miles to Buena Vista, Virginia, took several days off trail, then travel to Maine and has continued his hike southbound (SOBO). His last post (August 3) found him in Rangeley, Maine about 221 miles south of Katahdin. Combined with his 802 miles from Springer Mountain Georgia, Pigweed has hiked 1025 miles leaving another 1165 miles to complete the hike. Fortunately, Pigweed does not have the major winter snows to face in the weeks ahead, but his hike might stretch into an eight-month trip. I hope that Pigweed endures through southern Maine and New Hampshire. If he succeeds in traversing these miles, he has an excellent chance of completing his journey.

Categories: 100 Mile Wilderness, Appalachian Trail, Bamadog, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Dalton, MA, Georgia, Hard Knocks, Kennebec River, Killington Peak, Maine, Monson, ME, Mount Katahdin, Mount Washington, Pigweed, Racewalker, RTK, Sour Kraut, The Whites, Thru-Hike, Which Way and Next Step | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THRU-HIKERS – Update End of July

Steep Trail close to the NH/ME border

My original fourteen thru-hikers are down to six. I started to track fourteen brave explorers of the Appalachian Trail who began their adventures in either January or February. Three started in January while only one remains – Hard Knocks who started his adventure on January 31 (Genesis and Zen Master had to leave the trail after giving their best effort). The other eleven began their quests in February and of these eleven only five are still active on the trail: RTK (Return To Katahdin), Sour Kraut, Chip, Next Step, and Pigweed. Vagabond Jack made a brief second attempted, but after ten days and 82 miles through some of Massachusetts and Vermont, a medical condition ended his thru-hike hopes.

Let me provide a quick update on the remaining six:

I have not heard from Hard Knocks since July 4th when he was camped at Garfield Ridge Shelter about 10 miles north of Franconia Notch in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. That is quite a long time of silence and in the past, I have assumed that a hiker has left the trail after three weeks of no entries. But I will continue to monitor Hard Knocks because he was such a strong and determined hiker plus he has entered the Whites where cell phone coverage makes it quite difficult to update an online journal. On July 4th he was about 1825 miles along the trail.

RTK in Vermont

RTK’s last entry was July 17th. He typically posts on Thursdays and communicates a week in arrears. He was in Manchester Center, Vermont enjoying a zero-day while being safe and dry in the midst of a thunderstorm. RTK has been hiking with Hawk, a hiker following the Long Trail, which junctions the Appalachian Trail through the state of Vermont.

Sour Kraut’s last photo was posted on July 20th indicating that he has made it safely to Mt Mooslilauke in New Hampshire about 1795 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia. Mt Mooslilauke has incredible views and introduces the hiker to the White Mountains ahead. It only has an elevation of 4800 feet but the climb to the summit involves a descent of 3750 feet in six miles.

Sour Kraut at Mt Mooilauke

Chip has been consistent in his journal. On July 29 Chip was camping at the Belters Campsite in Connecticut about 35 miles from the New York/Connecticut border. He is not the fastest hiker on the trail having only covered 1486 miles since he started the AT on February 20, but the thru-hike is a marathon, not a sprint. Chip shared in his journal on July 29 an attitude of concern for me. I hope that he is able to work his way through the discouragement. “I’m pretty sure I have (or am about to) hit a physical and mental wall. I’ve felt it coming for several weeks. Don’t worry, its not surprising or unusual as it happens to most thru-hikers. Let there be no doubt that I’ll push through but it’s unavoidable, and perhaps necessary, to sometimes be overcome with fatigue and negative thoughts.”

Next Step at NH/ME border

Next Step began his trek of the Appalachian Trail with his wife (trail name Which Way) on February 24th. The hiked together until May 29 when Which Way needed to “back” away from the trail when a nagging back injury demanded some rehab. After 156 days on the trail, Which Way has reached the final state of the hike – Maine. He has logged in about 1,910 miles with about 290 tough miles to reach Katahdin. On July 29 he was staying at Full Goose Shelter just short of Mahoosuc Notch and Arm tomorrow (the most difficult 2.5 miles along the trail). I found the Arm just a little easier than the Notch, which was brutal.

Pigweed in Maine

The last hiker still on the trail is Pigweed. On June 15th, Pigweed took a 25-day rest from the trail with his wife to the beach. He left the trail near Buena Vista, Virginia, then on July 11th, re-entered the trail in Maine, climbing Mount Katahdin and heading south. In the last twenty days he has hiked SOBO (southbound) for 188.2 miles and on July 30 was enjoying a zero-day in Stratton, Maine where he is celebrating his first 1,000 miles. He is significantly behind the pace of the other hikers and I hope that the flip-flop (stopping in Virginia and traveling north to Maine) will allow him to finish before the weather turns too cold to continue.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Connecticut, Hard Knocks, Maine, Manchester Center, Mount Katahdin, Mount Moosilauke, New Hampshire, Next Step, Pigweed, RTK, Sour Kraut, The Whites, Thru-Hike, Vagabond Jack, Vermont, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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