Opa, Reinhard Gsellmeier, lives in Rochester, NY. He is a 66-year-old retired engineer. Opa is happily married to his wife, Kayanne, and they have a wonderful family including two children/spouses and five grandchildren. His grandchildren call him Opa and his wife Oma – thus his trail. Opa has done a fair amount of backpacking/ hiking/ snowshoeing in the northeast. He has most of his experience in the Adirondacks but also has had adventures in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.
Opa’s plan for his AT thru-hike will consist of 2-parts. He began on the 10th of February and part one will run through the beginning of June (he hopes to be somewhere in New Hampshire). He will then get off the trail for family reasons and resume the thru-hike in early September.
In a pre-hike journal entry, Opa listed several reasons for making his hike of the AT. Two of them touched my heart and made me an instant fan:
Reason No. 2: I want to complete the AT for my wonderful grandkids. Maybe someday, at a time in each of their lives when they are faced with their own challenge, they’ll be inspired by their old Opa. Maybe they’ll say to themselves that Hey, if Opa can hike the AT, then I can overcome my challenge as well. Who knows, maybe they’ll someday even be inspired to undertake their own AT thru-hike – now wouldn’t that be grand!
Reason No.4: It is my understanding that there are just over 500 people 60 or older that have completed an AT thru-hike. That’s a relatively small number. I’d like to add my name to that list!
The Adventure Begins: February 10, 2018
Opa’s adventure began with an Amtrak ride from Rochester, NY to Gainesville, GA. The bad news was Amtrak was about 2 hours late pulling into Gainesville, but the good news: the shuttle driver, Ron Brown, was ready to go as soon as Opa got off the train. Opa was on the approach trail of the AT in Amicalola Falls State Park at 10:30 in the morning. He registered at Amicalola as hiker number 62. The approach trail is 8.8 miles to the summit. These miles obviously don’t count, so Opa’s total AT mileage was only 0.2 miles. It did rain all afternoon, but it was a vertical rain and not blowing in his face and the temperatures were mild. The trail ended up being wet and muddy, but the rain provided a good shakedown of his rain gear. Opa ratings: “all systems are a go.” He spent the first night in the Springer Mt. Shelter with Greg and Big Load.
February 11, 2018: 7.9 miles of hiking (total 8.1 miles)
Opa was so glad he spent the night in the shelter because it poured down the rain most of the night. The heavy rain didn’t let up till about 10:00 so Opa got a rather late start. Once he, Big Load and Greg began hiking they found the trail in decent shape despite all the rain. Somewhere along the way, Greg dropped behind. The heavy rain started in again about 3:00 and the radar indicated more rain to come (flash flood warnings), so Opa and Big Load elected to stay at Hawk Mt. Shelter for the night.
February 12, 2018: 19.4 miles!! (total 27.5 miles)
Monday was a long day but a delightful one. Opa and Big Load got a 6 AM start, hiking by headlamps. There was no rain for a change but the weather was misty and foggy all morning. The sun broke through in the afternoon turning the day into a sunny but cool one – it ended up being a perfect afternoon for hiking, enabling Opa to pound out some long mileage. He decided to sleep in his tent, as opposed to the shelter, to avoid the annoying mice. Opa was the only one at Woods Hole Shelter. He was not sure where Big Load was along the trail, although Opa hoped that he will show up at their rendezvous point before nightfall.
What a good start for the retired engineer from New York State.