North Carolina

Grateful 2: A Week of Slackpacking

Grateful 2 is a thru-hiker from Tennessee. He began his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail on March 18th with his son, Gooseman. With many tears, his son has had to abandon his hike and Grateful 2 will continue alone. My last post left Grateful 2 at Rock Gap Shelter, 106 miles from the southern terminus of the AT in Springer Mountain, Georgia about 30 miles into the great state of North Carolina. Let’s pick up his journal on April 1st.

April 1 Rock Gap to Winding Stair Gap – 3.9 miles

“We all anticipate when we get close to the roads out here. The roads bring change for us. First we notice the trail is descending. Then we hear the cars in the distance. Then we see the road. Anticipation. Sometimes the road is a ride into town. Sometimes it holds a trail angel who has set up a hamburger feed. For me today it is the anticipation that my wife and Gooseman are waiting at the next road crossing. And there they are!” The family will spend the next several days together, Grateful 2 will be slackpacking the trailheads, carrying less, experiencing easier hikes because of the lessened load, sleeping in a real bed at night and eating in restaurants. Best of all, the family will get to spend some time together.

April 2 Winding Stair Gap to Burningtown Gap 14.6 miles

Grateful 2 is up early for his wife to drive him to the trailhead at Winding Stair Gap. “I’m hiking faster today than I have yet on this trip. I only have a small day pack and it makes a huge difference. Almost 15 miles today, and I still get to eat at a restaurant with my wife for supper.” 

April 3 Burningtown Gap to Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) 12.9 miles

“Big drop in elevation today. From 5100 to 1770 feet. The climb over the jump-off was very difficult for a guy with a fear of heights. The worst yet. So glad it wasn’t raining. When I got to the NOC we ate an amazing meal called a Sherpa.”

April 4 Zero Day at the NOC

Grateful 2 woke up to a severe weather forecast. He quickly decided that the forecast required a zero day. His family enjoyed a meal at the Sunset Restaurant. They met the owners of the establishment and the food was delicious, especially the pies. After a visit to Walmart, the family just hung out at the room and enjoyed the visit.

April 5 From NOC to Stecoach Gap = 13.4 miles

First thing this morning Grateful 2 visited the NOC and registered for a permit to go through the Smokies. Then, it was the ascent out of the NOC. About an hour into the hike, the rain started to fall… along with thunder and lightning. Fortunately the bad weather had passed by the area before Grateful 2 got to the top of Cheoah Bald. After the summit of Cheoah Bald (2,040 feet) there is a steady 5-mile descent down into Stecoah Gap. The last mile is extremely steep and Grateful 2 described the adventure, “The hike down to Stecoah Gap was the worst 1 mile mud slip-and-slide I’ve ever been on. So glad to see my wife and son in the parking lot to take me back to the motel!” 

April 6 Zero Day at the Stecoah Gap

Snow is predicted for tomorrow morning with winds expected to be forty plus miles an hour. A winter weather advisory is in effect for tomorrow until noon. Tomorrow Grateful 2 has decided to get up early and go to the Nantahala Forestry Ranger station located in Franklin to find out about the weather before he goes up the mountain. This last zero day together as a family included a visit to Walmart again, the Chinese AYCE buffet again, and the outfitter again. They are living the dream.

April 7  From Stecoah Gap to Yellow Creek Mountain = 7.7 miles.

Grateful 2 got up early and we went to First Baptist Church Franklin for a free hiker breakfast of pancakes, orange juice and bacon. Grateful 2 estimated there were seventy hikers in attendance. After breakfast Grateful 2 went over to the forest service to check on the weather and road closures. Everything was open and there was only a dusting of snow in Franklin, so it was time to hike. He hiked a quick 8 miles and then it was back to the car. Grateful 2 has really enjoyed the slack packing approach, “Man, am l going to miss slackpacking. It is the heavy pack that makes hiking the mountains so difficult.” The most notable feature on today’s adventure was Jacob’s Ladder…six hundred feet of elevation change in 0.6 mile, straight up the side of the mountain with no switchbacks. It only took Grateful 2 about twenty minutes to make the ascent, but he described it as “a lung-burner.”

Tomorrow Grateful 2’s family will be headed home and the separation will be about 8 weeks – tough goodbyes in the morning.

Info and photo from Grateful 2’s journal located at http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=1093480
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Gooseman, Grateful 2, Nantahala Outdoor Center, North Carolina, Tennessee, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grateful 2 without Gooseman

March 26  From Unicoi Gap to Trey Mountain Shelter

Grateful 2, his wife, and his son woke up this morning at Mulls Inn in Hiawassee. They attended an inspiring church service at McConnell Baptist Church. Then it was onto the AYCE buffet at Daniels Restaurant. His wife and Gooseman transported Grateful 2 to the trailhead by 12:30, and it was time to say goodbye again.

Grateful 2 traded out his hammock setup for one of the tents that his wife brought from home. The hammock was comfortable, but it just took too much time to set up and take down every day. He is concerned about his bad shoulders and their ability to take sleeping on the uneven ground. Time will tell. Hiking miles today = 5.7.

March 27 From Trey Mountain Shelter to Deep Gap = 7.4 miles

Another easy day today on the AT in terms of miles. They will get bigger very soon. Grateful 2 has been walking mostly by himself the last two days. The solitude can be refreshing sometimes. He shared, “Walking alone and seeing the next ridge in front of you can be inspiring. The mountains are majestic when seen from a distance. They are tough when you are climbing them alone. It gives me a lot of time to think.”

NC/GA iconic sign

March 28  From Deep Gap to Bly Gap = 12.5 miles

Grateful 2 logged his biggest day so far today on the Appalachian Trail – 12 ½ miles. He crossed over into North Carolina and is looking forward to the Great Smoky Mountains. He reflected in his journal about the multiple changes in the weather during today’s hike. Last night there was at least an inch of rain -heavy rain. Then the wind began to blow – a cold north wind probably 30 miles an hour. The wind stopped as a fog settled in with visibility of about 20 feet. By mid-morning the fog had lifted and it was sunburn hot. By early afternoon the clouds had thickened and it was cool again. Late this afternoon the sun came back out and the temperatures heated back up. Finally comfortable in his tent at his campsite, the wind kicks up again to whip the sides of his tent with significant force. If you don’t like the weather on the AT, just wait a few minutes.

March 29 The hike today led Grateful 2 from Bly Gap to Standing Indian Shelter for a distance of 7.7 miles. One of the hikers on the trail was having shin and leg issues. It was causing him to go slower than he expected, and it was taking him longer to get to a food resupply than he expected. He was running quite low on food, so all the hikers pitched in a little food so he will make it. Grateful 2 noted in his journal “It’s hard to carry something on your back for miles and then give it up, but I see it all the time in the hiking community. The AT community looks out for one another. I’m grateful to be a part of this giving group.”

March 30 Today’s hike: Standing Indian Shelter to Carter Gap Shelter for a total of 7.6 miles

Grateful 2 atop Albert Mountain

“As I walk down the trail today I misstepped and I twisted my ankle. This was the ankle that I broke in high school and used to have a lot of problems with. For a moment I was very afraid. I thought, “this could be the end of the hike.” I tested it for a moment, and it appeared to be OK. I kept walking and it’s fine now. Out of 5 million steps that it takes to get to Mount Katahdin a thing as simple as one misstep could end it all.”

March 31 Carter Gap Shelter to Rock Gap Shelter = 12.1 miles.

Grateful 2 hiked over Albert Mountain today. The trail is easy leading up to the base of the mountain. The trail is easy on the other side of the mountain. But the trail over Albert Mountain is another story. The rugged, rocky climb provides the first real taste to the thru-hiker that they are mountain climbers as well as trail hikers. There is such a sense of victory once you stand on the summit. However, the word on the trail was that bad storms were on their way. Grateful 2 decided to spend the night inside the shelter. It indeed rained …..buckets, but his stay in the shelter remained dry.

Categories: Albert Mountain, Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Grateful 2, Hiawassee, North Carolina, Thru-Hike, Weather | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Plans Toward Erwin

My last post regarding the thru-hiker from West Virginia who calls himself “Beaker” on the trail, found the chemist from Morgantown feeling sick and camping on an old service road near Alan Gap. Fortunately his sickness was short-lived and his hike continued at a great pace.

3/27/17. The 18.8-mile hike today ended at Flint Mountain Shelter, NC. Beaker has totaled 307 miles with just 1,882.8 left to go.

Beaker’s plan was to hike an 18.8 mile day today, leaving him a 14-mile day, a 13-mile day, and then a short 6-mile Nero day into Erwin, TN. Beaker woke up feeling much better – his fever broke during the night and he was even hungry in the morning. He drank lots of water during the day and took the pace a little slower.

Today’s hike turned out to be more difficult than expected. The climbs were beautiful but long and there were a couple parts than ran along an exposed ridge that involved a lot of rock scrambling. Just as he finished the exposed section, the rain began to fall. He had to trudge through the rain and was pretty worn out when he arrived at the Jerry’s Cabin Shelter. He was tired and had decided to stay, but as he sat there resting, the rain stopped and the sun came back out. He pulled out his map and contemplated the 6.7 miles to the next shelter. He took a look at his watch – 4 pm. He felt he could be there before dark if he pushed on. There was a climb up a mountain but there was a longer descent on the other side of the summit. So Beaker left Jerry’s Cabin Shelter, stretched out his tired legs and made it to Flint Mountain Shelter a little after 7 pm – just enough time to set up his tent, get water, cook dinner, and hang his food before dark.

3/28/17 Destination: Low Gap Campsite, NC for a distance of 14.9 miles.

More of a leisurely day on the trail. Fortunately, the hiker crud Beaker had experienced two days ago was a distant memory. Beaker’s attitude seems positive. He reflected on some of the little things that make a thru-hike very special:

“Waking up to sunshine. The smell of a pine forest. The way the leaves get skewered on the end of your hiking poles. The satisfaction of stepping just right on the edge of the poles to dislodge the leaves without breaking stride. The sound of voices and laughter at the end of the day that tells you you have finally reached the shelter. The constant sound of jets in the distance that reminds you the rest of the world is still out there. The sea of mountain peak after mountain peak as far as the eye can see.”

3/29/17 No Business Knob Shelter, TN 14.6 today.

Beaker awoke to full sunshine and warm temperatures. He hiked all day with First Sergeant, a thirty year US Air Force veteran who is about Beaker’s age. “We talked all day about our kids, grandkids, wives, careers, etc. Although I really like all the young adults I’ve been hiking with, it was nice to talk with a contemporary. As an added bonus, we hike the same pace.”

The men experienced a special reward at the summit of one of the climbs – the found themselves on an open bald. They had somehow missed the bald in the guidebook and it was beautiful, with 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains. Beaker and First Sergeant reached their shelter about 4 pm and found several nice, flat spots for their tents. Tomorrow, there is just a 6.2 mile hike to Erwin, TN.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Erwin, North Carolina, Tennessee, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker to Hot Springs, NC

On March 22nd, Beaker, the Mountaineer chemist from Morgantown WV, was camped at Groundhog Creek Shelter just north of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). His spirits were high as he hoped for a two-day journey into the first trail on the AT headed north, Hot Springs, NC.

Beaker’s Day on Max Patch

3/23/17 Destination: Walnut Mountain Shelter, NC. Hiking miles today – 13.1 miles.

March 23 was a beautiful day on the AT – clear skies and full sunshine. Beaker’s hike today was to include another AT highlight – Max Patch. Max Patch, large grassy bald, was originally cleared several years ago for cattle grazing. The bald has become a special spot for hikers because of its incredible 360 degree views of the mountains. Finally, Beaker got to enjoy the view with clouds and rain robbing the panoramic.

Beaker arrived at Walnut Mountain Shelter and was greeted by about 20 other hikers. From his tent he writes, “The wind is roaring up the mountain, my tent is shaking and the guy lines are buzzing in the wind. It will be a brisk night. That’s alright because tomorrow we reach Hot Springs, NC and a much-needed zero day,,,It’s been a week since I’ve showered. I stink!

Beaker and others enjoy the Hot Springs

3/24/17 Beaker stays at the Sunnybank Inn, in the trail town of Hot Springs, NC. 13.1 miles today.

“We all come out here for our own reasons; but, a part of it for all of us is to get away, on some level, from current society. However, we are all drawn in by the towns. After seven days in the woods, a town visit was long overdue. In town, you don’t have to filter water, sleep on the ground, or poop in a hole. Life in town is a brief respite from the rigors of the trail.”

Beaker wasted no time taking advantage of the town of Hot Springs, NC. The first order of business was a long, hot shower; then a trip to the laundromat; and finally food – lunch at the Smoky Mountain Diner. Beaker and several hikers visited the hot springs of Hot Springs, NC

3/25/17 Hot Springs, NC. Zero day in Hot Springs.

Beaker took advantage of the day of rest to refuel, resupply, and rejuvenate those tired legs. After breakfast he did some planning and estimated how many days it would take to make it to Erwin, TN and how much food he’d need for the journey. He sorted through his pack and sent home a few items, such as micro spikes.  He also made some longer term plans including some off-the-trail days at Adkins, VA around Easter to make his move to Knoxville, with a strategy to return to the trail in early May.

Tenting along service road

3/26/17 Back on the trail. 14.8 mile hike today ending at a stealth camp near Allen Gap, NC.

Beaker experienced a restless night at Elmer’s awaking with aches all over. He did not want to get out of bed but eventually he got his hiking stuff organized and packed. He started his day in the rain, but it didn’t last long and the sun broke out turning gray to blue.

By the time Beaker reached Allen Gap, he was feverish and dizzy. Being one of the last to arrive most of the flat spots were occupied, but he found a site on an old forest service road that ran close to the campsite. Soon, two other hikers joined him (see photo).

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Hot Springs, Max Patch, North Carolina, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Thru The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Beaker, Rusty Miller, from Morgantown, WV is a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail. He began his adventure during the last week of February and found himself snowbound in Knoxville for a few days. This post picks up his story as he leaves Knoxville and his lovely visit with his wife and heads up the trail toward the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).

3/18/17 ends at Russell Field Shelter in the GSMNP after hiking 15.7 miles. After a rainstorm during the night at Knoxville, the morning dawned gray and overcast; Beaker’s son, Chris and his wife, Marguerite accompanied him back to Fontana Village. The chemist from WV had a last goodbye and then headed up into the Great Smoky Mountains.

Beaker planned to push straight through the Smokies in five days. The climb up the mountain proved to be pretty tough, but he arrived at the Russell Field shelter and found it filled with a Boy Scout troop and other thru hikers. So, he happily pitched his tent close by and went to sleep listening to coyotes howling in the distance.

3/19/17 Today’s hike totaled another 14.7 miles and ended at Siler’s Bald Shelter, NC. The hike was quite difficult as Beaker encountered snow, ice, mud, rocks, roots, steep ascents, and steep descents. On the northern slopes there was a great deal of ice and snow. Beaker even broke out his microspikes today. His evaluation of the spikes, “They were incredible! It made a huge difference on the icy sections.”

3/20/17 Another day in the GSMNP concluded at Icewater Spring Shelter for a total mileage for the day of 15.1. Two highlights awaiting this day’s journey: arriving at the highest point of the AT, Clingman’s Dome, and crossing the North Carolina/Tennessee border. His reflection of the first highlight, “It was a fairly long and steep climb up Clingman’s Dome; but, the sun was hanging in there. As I was nearing the summit, I saw the clouds moving in. Alas, by the time I reached the weird tower on top with the curving walkway, the clouds had settled in. No views. Bummer.” The ice was bad throughout the day and Beaker hiked all day in his microspikes but he remained optimistic and celebrated the crossing into Tennessee at Newfound Gap.

3/21/17 Today was Beaker’s longest day yet on the AT – 19.8 miles. Because of the locations of the shelters and the requirement to camp at the shelters, Beaker had to decide between a 12-mile day to the first shelter or a19-mile day to the second, Cosby Knob Shelter. He pushed on and proved that he is developing some strong trail legs. The weather continued to send foggy conditions, “I couldn’t see 30 feet ahead of me.”

 

If you get a chance, check out Beaker’s expanded journal online: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?trailname=18636.

If you like my blog, check out my ebook, Hike It Forward, at Amazon.com Just click the photo of the book.

Check Out My Book

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Clingmans Dome, Fontana Dam, GSMNP, North Carolina, Shelter, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Journey is the Reward

Mount Katahdin fogI remember lying in bed before I began my thru-hike adventure of the Appalachian Trail trying to image the journey and what I would see, the experiences that I might encounter, the people that I would meet, and the animals that would cross my path. I remember my mind going to the topic of sleep as I felt so comfortable in my own bed. Would I be able to get to sleep, would I get enough sound sleep to feel rested in the morning, would I find good spots for my tent or would I be sleeping on rocks and roots that would prohibit a peaceful slumber in the woods? I tried to think of climbing Mount Katahdin (a mountain that I had never seen before) and arriving at the famous brown sign that graces the northern terminus of the AT. My mind’s eye could never focus in on that picture – I just could not see myself on the summit.

When I arrived at the Tableland, the gateway to the summit, with a distance of just 1.6 miles to the iconic sign, the reality began to set in that I was going to make it. With one mile to go I walked past Thoreau Spring (just a trickle on September 24, 2014) and began the final climb to the summit. Then I saw the sign in the distance and realized that many hikers were at the top celebrating their victory and the climax of months of hiking.

The Celebration

During this last mile of the hike, a principle that I had incorporated in my life during my doctoral studies came crashing into my mind. Katahdin was not the reward. The fantastic sign at the summit filled with celebration, high-fives, hugs, and voices of congratulations was not the reward. The journey was the reward. The sign marked the end of the journal, the last page of the recorded adventure, the final entry documenting the walk of 2,186 miles. It was the period after the title, Thru-hiker. It was a crowning experience to stand atop the sign and shout a victory cry of joy.

But the real reward was the journey. The 5 million steps counted one at a time. The sunny days and the rain storms, the sweltering hot July days in Pennsylvania and the cold nights in September in the wilderness of Maine provided the weather that defined the journey. The special friends and bonds of brotherhood that were crafted along the path formed the relationships of the reward. 20140603-185040.jpg 20140524-141412.jpg 20140505-084828.jpg Each campsite, shelter, hostel, and hotel brings a memory of the reward of the hobo lifestyle and independent uniqueness of the thru-hike. No two thru-hikes are the same and part of the reward is working through the personal struggles, victories, joys, and tears that make up the walk.

On the last day of the hike, the brown sign was a great reward. But reflecting back on the journey and this life-changing experience, the sign plays a pretty small part. Mount Katahdin was amazing, but so was Blood Mountain in Georgia, Mount Albert in North Carolina, Thunderhead Mountain in Tennessee, McAfee Knob in Virginia, Mount Lafayette in New Hampshire, and about twenty other absolutely incredible vistas experienced along the trail.

The reward is reading my journal and reflecting on the faithfulness of God – everyday, in every state, every night, and in every need – always protecting, always guiding, always providing. The journey was the reward.

 

Photo – Dream of Katahdin –  https://www.tripadvisor.ie/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g40744-d145958-i122917743-Mount_Katahdin-Millinocket_Maine.html

All Other Photos from my Thru-hike 2014

Categories: Albert Mountain, Appalachian Trail, Blood Mountain, Maine, McAfee Knob, Mount Katahdin, Mount Lafayette, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tableland, Tennessee, Thoreau Spring, Thru-Hike, Thunderhead Mountain, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Fat Hen, Rooster Talon, and Mustard Seed

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon encounter some snow and ice

I am following several potential thru-hikers during the 2016 hiking season. In addition to Dulci and the Two Peas, who are still on the trail, I selected a young couple because they left on my birthday (March 19). I know almost nothing about them. Their real names are Dan and Becky but their trail names are Fat Hen (Dan) and Rooster Talon (Becky).

So far they are posting more pictures than written journal entries. I have posted several of their photographs in this blog and offer only this spotty itinerary to demonstrate their progress. They began with the demanding 8.8 mile approach trail from Amicalola Falls, Georgia on the 19th. Ten days later they arrived at Bly Gap just over the Georgia/North Carolina border (mile marker 78.6) averaging 7.9 miles per day. They hiked to the

Rooster Talon Camped In Snow/Ice

Rooster Talon Camped In Snow/Ice

NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) in North Carolina by day 16 boosting their per day mileage up to 8.5 miles and on to Fontana Dam, North Carolina on day 19 increasing the daily mileage to 8.73 miles. They entered the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and camped at the Mollies Ridge Shelter on day 21 at mile marker 176.8.  They have been experiencing some ice and snow along the way. On day 22 of their hike they arrived at Newfound Gap with frigid temperatures. They caught a ride into Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for a resupply with a plan to continue the next day. They have not posted since then (April 9). I remember having no cell phone coverage through the Smoky Mountains, so they may be trucking through the national park without being able to journal online. I am awaiting the end of their radio silence as they approach civilization.

Mustard Christian School

Mustard Seed with Students

I decided to follow at least one more thru-hiker this season. Her trail name is Mustard Seed. That name immediately caught my eye because of the possible biblical reference to faith. A little investigation led me to Central Christian School in Sharpsburg, Georgia where Michelle (Mustard Seed) teaches middle school Math and Bible. Michelle Mayne (what a great last name for a hike to Katahdin, Maine), was born in Alabama but now lives in Georgia with her husband Bill and two sons, Zak and Michael. Mustard Seed is hiking the AT with her father, Michael Williams aka, Negotiator. They began their adventure on April 1 heading NOBO toward the wilderness of Maine.

Mustard First Day

Mustard Seed and Dad, Negotiator

Mustard Seed and Negotiator appear to have done some nice physical preparation for the journey because they have averaged 12.7 miles during the first thirteen days of the hike including an 18.3 mile trek on day four. Their last post was from Fontana Dam, NC, on April 13. They were staying at the resort in order to rest up before entering the Smoky Mountains. If they left according to plan, they may be walking a part of the Appalachian Trail that makes contact with the outside world rather sporadic. They are making excellent progress but they have not taken a zero day in the first thirteen days of the adventure. I think they will soon discover the need for an extended rest.

I am interested to see if Dulci, Fat Hen & Rooster Talon, and Mustard Seed connect along the trail. Each started several days apart (March 13, March 19 and April 1) but they are all hiking through GSMNP at very different paces. I am interested to see who makes it out of the park first and who makes first contact via their online journals.

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon Photos: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=524129

Mustard Seed Photos: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=527226

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Fat Hen, Fontana Dam, Georgia, GSMNP, Hiking, Mustard Seed, NOBO, North Carolina, Rooster Talon, Snow, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Trail Name | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Thru-Hikers – Where in the World Do They Come From?

Where in the world do thru-hikers come from? The answer to that question is, yes!

The thru-hiker class of 2014 hailed from 47 out the 50 states of the union. The rebellious rouge states were Hawaii (this is a little understandable), Nevada, and Wyoming. To counter the absentee trio, Washington D.C. was represented by three delegates.

Flag-map_of_Germany.svgThe world invaded the trail too, as the AT welcomed ambassadors from 11 different countries outside of its national borders. Germany led the invasion with 17 pilgrims; the UK sent 11 redcoats and bluebloods; Canada and Switzerland arrived with a glove full (5) of participants; Australia, Austria, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Taiwan rounded out the world-wide entourage with one or two participants per country.

Virginia outlineThe amazing delegation from the USA represented a true melting pot of American accents and state mascots. The top spot falls to the state with the most miles on the trail, the state of Virginia, with 75 hikers. The silver medal, with 55 thru-hikers, is awarded to the tar heels of North Carolina. A close photo-finish for third is another trail state, the Keystone State of Pennsylvania (52 rock lovers). In fact, 8 of the top 10 states help house the trail through the Appalachians Mountains. In addition to Virginia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, the great states of Tennessee, Massachusetts, New York, Georgia, and Maine fall in the top ten. The two states that claim no property on the AT but sent a large contingent were Florida with 48 suntanned beachcombers (ranked #4) and the Buckeye state of Ohio boasting 37 thru-hikers, most dressed in scarlet and gray (ranked #9).

HikeItForward-Final-SmallThe Garden State, New Jersey, was represented with 31 hikers (ranked #11). Five states (CA, CT, MI, NH, TX) had over 20 participants; ten other states (AL, CO, IL, IN, KY, MD, MN, SC, VT, WA) fell into the hands-and-toes category (between 10-19). The remaining 22 states sent less than ten brave souls that eventually conquered the AT challenge. Only one cornhusker carried the flag of Nebraska to Katahdin and a trio of mountaineers from West Virginia formed the smallest group from a state that embraces the trail within its borders.

Let’s take a quick census of the trail states (from south to north) and the number of successful thru-hikers involved:

Georgia                       38

North Carolina            55

Tennessee                  43

Virginia                        75

West Virginia                3

Maryland                     19

Pennsylvania               52

New Jersey                  31

New York                     38

Connecticut                 25

Massachusetts            42

Vermont                      14

New Hampshire          21

Maine                          32

The Appalachian Trail truly is a national trail with a world-wide impact. May it live long, provide adventure for many, and find protection from its travelers.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Germany, Hiking, Mount Katahdin, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Thru-Hike, Trail, Virginia, West Virginia, Where in the World | Leave a comment

Cold on the Trail

HikeItForward-Final-MediumIt was a rather cold morning for a hike today. Actually a walk in the cold is not bad (unless the north wind blows in your face and makes your nostrils stick together), but stopping can be really uncomfortable. As long as I am dressed properly, my body generates plenty of warmth while I’m moving. In fact, most of the time I am sweating down my back because of the heat that’s caught by the backpack. But once I stop, take off my pack, and grab something to eat, the cold air begins to do a number on my perspiration. The reality of the outside temperature and the wind chill begins to communicate with the central nervous system sending unkind and frosty messages to my brain.

With the prediction of cold temperatures and even snow on Tuesday, I am glad that I am not hiking the Appalachian Trail today. Springer Mountain and Blood Mountain, GA (mile 30) both predicted lows of 30, 18, 28 degrees during the next three nights. I will gladly wait another 33 days before beginning my trek.

I checked just a few spots along the early part of the trail: I am rather amazed at how similar the temperature are across the board and how close they are to Ohio’s predictions : Springboro – 27, 16, 30 degrees for the next three nights.

Franklin, NC (mile 110) – temperatures on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – 36, 18, 25 degrees

Hot Springs, NC (273 miles from Springer) – temperatures on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – 30, 21, 28 degrees

Erwin, TN (mile 345) – temperatures on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – 32, 19, 27 degrees

Damascus VA (470 miles from the southern terminus) – temperatures on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – 27, 12, 19 degrees.

The lows for the next three nights at Harpers Ferry (mile marker 1,016 – the traditional half-way point), WV look like 23, 21, and 19 degrees.

Twin Creek SnowAll of these spots are showing snow on Tuesday… this could be quite an adventure in a tent!

But take courage – this afternoon on Mount Washington the temperature was -7.2°F, the wind was blowing at 54 mph taking the wind chill to -42.2°F. And Mount Katahdin, ME will drop to 3, 16, & 16 degrees the next three days with white stuff on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

There are lots of thru-hikers on the trail today. Please remember them as you crawl under your warm blankets this week. If it snows on Tuesday say a prayer for the brave adventurers called thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail. If you want a couple of names to remember, Sarah (trail name “Ent”) – she started on March 16th and is really struggling to continue. Ent is from new England and I “met” Sarah on her blog – thruhikeat2014.wordpress.com – I really hope she can make it; and Steve from Kentucky (trail name HifiGuy) – I am not sure when he leaves but it’s one day this week. Steve is a friend of my son who lives in GA.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Damascus, Georgia, Harpers Ferry, Hiking, Hot Springs, Local Hikes, Mount Katahdin, Mount Washington, North Carolina, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Trail, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

Hot Springs, North Carolina

HikeItForward-Final-MediumThe very first town that the A.T. passes through if your are headed north from Springer Mountain is Hot Springs, North Carolina. This very inviting trail town is 273 miles from the southern terminus so it is a welcomed sight for most thru-hikers. After clearing Bluff Mountain, the AT descends about 3000 feet in ten miles in a rather drastic drop into Hot Springs. The town itself is nestled in a valley supported by the French Broad River – a popular white water rafting port.  Hot Springs is also home of Trailfest held on April 11-13 this year (Friday night spaghetti dinner for $5 at the Community Center). I won’t make the festival but I hope to enjoy a nice hot meal when I arrive. Elmers Sunnybank Inn has a special rate for thru-hikers of $20 for a private room including linens, towel, and shower. After 273 miles, it might be time for a zero day – or at least a comfortable bed!!

Trailfest at Hot Springs

Trailfest at Hot Springs

I checked a couple of website regarding this trail town (http://hotspringsnc.org/ and http://www.townofhotsprings.org/visitors.htm) and they sure make the town sound inviting. Hot Springs was recently voted the Best Small Mountain Town from Georgia to West Virginia by readers of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine. Knoxnews.com described the small town in these terms, “This hospitable enclave of 650 people, with its eclectic blend of stores, shops and town folk with big personalities, can be habit-forming.”

Hot Springs StreetAnd does Hot Springs have hot springs? You betcha! One website entices me with, “Soak in the hot mineral springs at the end of the day’s activities. Heated deep within the earth, the 103-degree crystal-clear carbonated waters are said to have curative qualities that will relax and rejuvenate you.” I am not sure which will cry louder – my stomach for a hot meal, my back for a comfy bed, or my feet for the waters of rejuvenation, but all three might have to be satisfied in Hot Springs, North Carolina.

Trailfest Photo: http://www.visitmadisoncounty.com/activities/hike-the-appalachian-trail-in-madison-county/trailfest-in-hot-springs/

Street Ph0to: http://hotspringsnc.org/

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Hiking, Hot Springs, North Carolina, Thru-Hike, Trail | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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