Opa

And Then There Was One

Ferry Service Kennebec River

Last February, I started following 14 thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail via their online journals. Three have completed the trail (Which Way, Bamadog, and RTK), another has reported climbed Katahdin, but has not reported doing so on his blog, eight have come up short of their adventure and two remain on the trail. One, Opa, returned to the trail on August 29th, after some major physical problems and several weeks at home. He is hiking SOBO (southbound) after traveling to Maine and moving back toward Vernon, New Jersey, where he left the trail in May. The other, Chip continues to hike NOBO (northbound) racing against time and the coming winter in Maine.

My last update was September 9. Chip was in Gorham, New Hampshire with 300 miles to go while Opa was in Stratton Maine having hiked 188 miles in 12 days including the 100 Mile Wilderness and the Bigelow Mountains.

Chip Pre-hike

Fast-forward to September 26 and Chip is in Caratunk, Maine, having crossed over the Kennebec River (where hikers are shuttled over in canoes as the official part of the trail, including a white blaze in the canoe). He has 152 miles to Katahdin. This portion of the trail took me ten days to complete. If he can duplicate my pace (which should not be that difficult to accomplish) he should summit Katahdin on October 6.

Chip has had some chronic physical injuries throughout his hike including difficulties with his left shoulder due to a fall and knees that have taken a toll over the rugged terrain. He provides some interesting insights into the physical problems still facing him as he progresses toward the finish line.

…..injuries, here’s the current report: I’m hiking with my arm in a “sling” again because of my shoulder re-re-injury. I had a minor fall on the other arm and now my right shoulder hurts too. My knees are screaming for time off (at least I’m not limping because they BOTH hurt). I’m also beginning to get a chest cold accompanied by a nasty cough. I have some antibiotics left over from my mid-hike root canal that I’m taking for that, it seems to be working.”

Opa’s Viiew at Mahoosuc Notch

Opa appeared to be going at a strong pace through Maine averaging 14.8 miles per day. On September 17th he hiked 12 miles including the Mahoosuc Arm and the Mahoosuc Notch, two of the most strenuous obstacles on the trail. Then came the concerning news in his September 18th post,

Looks like I’ve contracted Giardia, which comes from a parasite in untreated water. I make it a point to always treat my water, but I have recently had a couple of instances where I was careless. A few days ago I do recall mixing up water bottles, and not being certain which one had been treated. One bottle may have gotten a double dose of AquaMira, and the other no dose. Also, you are supposed to let Parts A and B mix and sit for 5 minutes before adding to the water. 5 minutes can be an eternity when treating 3 bottles, I maybe gave it a minute. Stupid on my part. I started having a bout of mild diarrhea along with an upset stomach a few days ago and didn’t think anything of it, but last nite….. I was up about 6 times trotting to the privy, and when I woke this AM around 8 (very late for me) I was an exhausted wreck. At one point during the day, I literally laid down right on the trail and took a 30-minute nap I was so exhausted. I didn’t eat anything all day, except for a cup of hot chicken broth tonite for dinner. Every step was a struggle. Not to mention that about every 20 minutes I had to go trotting into the woods….. Of course, the trail had no sympathy, on a couple sections, I thought I was back in the Mahoosuc Notch. I kept thinking of bailout options, how to get to a road, but nothing. On the last climb of the day up Mt. Success, I felt so wasted that I was contemplating calling 911 for help. Lo and behold on that climb I ran into a couple of NOBOs, who turned out to be my salvation.

Opa

Turns out that one was a nurse, and he asked Opa a lot of good questions concluding that he most likely Giardia. He offered some good advice. The other hiker gave Opa some electrolyte pills and some Flagyl pills, which is a prescription drug used to treat Giardia. Opa was able to hike 13 miles the next day and made it into Gorham, NH. He was able to see a doctor who gave hi a prescription for Flagyl and recommended rest for a few days. After zero-days on September 20 and 21, Opa was off again. His next three days averaged 8.7 miles per day, which is not bad through the Whites.

Then on September 26, Opa was hiking over Mount Hight and into Zita Pass in New Hampshire.

Opa and the Brown Sign

“The day started so promising today, I felt pretty good  – except for that incessant C Diff diarrhea which won’t seem to go away and is a real annoyance while on the trail…. Then all of a sudden at Zeta Pass I got very dizzy/lightheaded to the point that I thought I might faint. This happened to me once before since I’ve been on the meds for my C Diff, although not as severe. Anyway, today I tried to regroup and regain my strength, and started up the trail towards the next peak, but there was just no way – I was a wreck. My hike was over, my body was trying to tell me something. Fortunately, there was a 3.6-mile bailout trail at Zeta Pass that took me down to the road. I stumbled on down that trail, going ever so slowly so that I wouldn’t fall (as it was I fell once), then hitched a ride back to the hostel. I have no regrets, I gave it my absolute best shot, but my thru-hike attempt is over. I am very comfortable with my decision. I always told my family, and myself, that I wouldn’t do anything stupid and press on with my hike if that entailed compromising my health. The time has come to get off the trail. 

I am very grateful for the time I had on the trail: I met some great people, was the beneficiary of the kindness shown me by others, got to see parts of the country that I had not seen before, and had the time of my life. I have memories to last a lifetime. The good Lord watched over me for 1700 miles, I am grateful and thankful for the many blessings he has bestowed on me.” 

I am very sorry to see Opa have to leave the trail again. He was a warrior and should be very proud of his efforts.

Kennebec River Photo from https://appalachiantrail.com/20150827/hikers-fording-kennebec-river-on-foot-ignore-danger/
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Maine, Mount Katahdin, New Hampshire, Opa, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Opa – Who Knew?

Opa at Springer Mountain

Opa was going so well on his thru-hike attempt of the Appalachian Trail. He started on February 10th and was one of the most consistent hikers that I have been following in the class of 2018. Then, suddenly, an illness puts him in the hospital including a decision to abandon his adventure. If I had to choose the most likely to succeed among the 13 that I began to follow, Opa would have ranked number one. He was strong, he was consistent, and he seemed balanced and realistic in his daily goals. He was on target for a five-month trek. He was the first of this cohort to arrive at The Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia; the first to hike over 1000 miles; the first to cross the Mason-Dixon line; and the first to enter the rocks of Pennsylvania. He hiked over 20 miles on 26 different days and he walked 19+ miles on six additional days.

Opa and Kayanne

Away from the trail Opa goes by Reinhard Gsellmeier, a retired engineer from Rochester, New York. He and his wife, Kayanne, have two children and five grandchildren. Before his adventure on the Appalachian Trail, Opa had done a fair amount of backpacking/ hiking/ snowshoeing in the northeast. He had most of his experience in the Adirondacks but also had adventures in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.

Opa doing some laundry along the way

Opa had reached Wind Gap in Pennsylvania (only 15 miles away from Delaware Water Gap and the PA/New Jersey border) on Friday, April 27th. He had arranged a rendezvous with his sister, Heidi, at Wind Gap followed by a ride to Rochester to see his wife and family. Saturday was filled with errands, planning, and special time with his family.

However, Sunday’s post reflected an entirely different story. Opa shared about a very difficult night, “I was in extreme pain last nite whenever I had to urinate – dropped me right to my knees. I spent a good part of the day in a bed in a hallway in the emergency room at Rochester General getting tests taken (blood work, urine analysis, CT scan). Tomorrow I have an appointment with my primary care physician, who will likely refer me to an urologist. I suppose if there’s a silver lining it’s fortunate that I was in Rochester at the time, and not on the trail. I am hopeful that this is just a temporary setback, and that I’ll be back on the trail soon.”

Opa in hospital

Opa’s primary care physician found an enlarged prostate and a hernia that needs surgery once the prostate issues are resolved. Opa has a scheduled appointment to see a urologist for further diagnosis. Reinhard continued to maintain his optimistic outlook in his last post as he has throughout his hiking experience. “These health issues are nothing serious that can’t be dealt with, but it looks like the continuance of my AT thru-hike attempt is going to be put on hold for awhile.  Another option for me is to complete the AT as a section hiker – if not this year, then perhaps next year.  Certainly, I’m disappointed with this recent chain of events, but I remain enthusiastic and optimistic about completing the AT one way or another.  In one respect I consider myself very fortunate that the issue with my prostate manifested itself while I happened to be in Rochester for the weekend.  I can’t imagine having to deal with the very painful urination issue while out on the trail.

I thoroughly enjoyed following Opa along the trail. I will continue to update his condition as he posts new information on his online journal.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Class of 2018, Opa, Pennsylvania, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

April on the AT – Thru-hikers Trek On

AT on April 15, 2018

April 2018 was a cold month with some snow, ice, and slippery trails for those attempting a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. It has only been in the last week of April that the temperatures have been comfortable and the conditions reflect the change of seasons. The last week of April find my nine hikers (those brave souls that I have been following on trailjournals.com) spread out over almost 1000 miles of the trail. All of them began their journeys between January 31 and February 27 and all of them have been diligent in their goal of conquering this iconic long-trail covering 2,190 miles through 14 states from Georgia to Maine.

Let me give you a quick update on each hiker in order of their start dates.

The Clan at Stonybrook Organic Farm and Hostel

Hard Knocks, Patrick Knox, started on January 31. As of his last post (4/30/2018) he has been hiking for 90 days and has covered 1,010 miles. He is camped at Stonybrook Organic Farm and Hostel, a religious commune run by the Twelve Tribes Network. Hard Knox shares, “…it is a religiously based commune.  It is a beautiful place and all of the people seem very nice all for the low price of Zero Dollars.  All they ask is that you work a little (I mopped a floor tonight) or consider a donation before you leave.  It is certainly nice enough for me to consider a zero-day tomorrow before I make the hike to Harpers Ferry.  If so, I will give more of a report on the hostel/commune.  So, maybe arrest day tomorrow before I continue walking.” Hard Knocks is averaging 11.2 miles per day and at this rate, it will take him 196 days to complete the trail.

Vagabond Jack, Jack Masters, began his hike on February 1st. His last post was made on April 28th and Vagabond was about 40 trail-miles north of Pearisburg, Virginia, at Laurel Creek Shelter and 670 miles from Springer Mountain Georgia. Jack is only averaging 7.7 miles per day, although he walked 16.5 miles on April 27th and 14.6 miles on April 28th. At the overall rate of 7.7 miles per day, it will take Vagabond Jack 285 day to complete the Appalachian Trail.

Opa in hospital

Opa is Reinhard Gsellmeier from Rochester, NY. He began his thru-hike on February 10th but has covered more miles than any hiker in this group. On April 27th he was at the 1,275-mile mark and experiencing the rocks of Pennsylvania. He met family in Wind Gap, PA, and drove home to Rochester for a few days of relaxing. After a day of resupply, Opa took ill and found himself in a New York hospital.He shared on April 30th, I basically have an enlarged prostate, a condition that is not uncommon for men my age.  I will also be scheduled to see an urologist, who will further evaluate my condition and advise as to treatment options.  My doctor also re-examined my hernia, which I’ve had since last fall, and he advised that my hernia now needs to be surgically repaired once my prostate issue is resolved and before I have any notion of continuing on with my AT hike…. These health issues are nothing serious that can’t be dealt with, but it looks like the continuance of my AT thru hike attempt is going to be put on hold for awhile…  In one respect I consider myself very fortunate that the issue with my prostate manifested itself while I happened to be in Rochester for the weekend….This will be my last journal entry for at least awhile.” I will keep you posted on Opa when he updates his journal.

Bamadog on Tinker Cliffs

Bamadog, Marty Dockins, took his first step on the AT on February 15th. He is averaging 11.1 miles per day and at this current rate, his trip to Mount Katahdin will take 197 days. He has just crossed over the suspension bridge at Tye River, climbed about 3000 feet to Three Ridges Mountain, and is about 25 trail-miles from Waynesboro, Virginia.

Chip Tillson started his hike on February 20, seventy days before his last post on April 30. He is camped close to Walker Gap about half way between Atkins and Bland, Virginia. He is only averaging 8.1 miles per day with an estimated total of 271 days needed to complete his thru-hike. Hopefully, the spring weather will enable him to increase his daily mileage.

The Guillotine

Tim Pfeiffer, Sour Kraut, took to the trail on February 21. He has not posted a written journal entry since March 11, but he submits photos to mark his progress. He posted a picture on April 30 (day 69 of his trek) of The Guillotine, a round rock balanced on rock-outcropping, under which the path leads the hiker. It reminds me of the Indiana Jones movie where Indy has to run away from the rock rolling over his head. The Guillotine is 765 miles into the hike. Sour Kraut is averaging 11.4 miles and at this rate will need 197 days to fulfill the dream.

600 miles for Which Way and Next Step

Which Way and Next Step, the couple from Washington, DC, crossed the 600-mile marker after spending 65 days on the trail. The couple is about two or three days away from Pearisburg, Virginia. They left on February 25 and, so far, are averaging 9.2 miles per day. At this pace, their thru-hike will take 238 days. However, they are making much better mileage in recent days and the weather should help their pace as well.

RTK, Bruce Matson, records his journal a week late so it is difficult to compare his trek with the others. However, on day 58 of his hike (April 23), which began on February 25, he is about 663 miles into his northbound (NOBO) adventure. His pace is 11.4 miles per day with an estimated trip of 192 days.

Spring makes such a difference!

Pigweed started his hike on February 27, had to take two weeks off for an injury, and is now back on the trail. He is several hundred miles behind the others who started in February and is only averaging 5.5 miles per day. He is in Erwin, Tennessee and has hiked about 341 miles. This rate will make his trek last more than a year (398 days). During the past six days, he has increased his mileage to 11.5 miles per day. I think to be successful he will need to continue to increase his daily distance if he hopes to complete this challenge.

My hopes and prayers for these thru-hikers is that the good weather ahead will encourage and refresh them. Their legs should be strong and now, more than ever, the emotional aspects of the trail are critical. Injury is only a fall away, sickness can strike any day, and discouragement can creep up on a hiker without too much warning. But, the warmth and color of spring can propel the hiker with zeal and excitement. May the winds of May fill their lungs, hearts, and minds with strength and a renewed commitment to the journey.

Photo of Commune from https://www.twelvetribes.com/community/stoneybrook-farm-dc-area. All other photos taken from trailjournals.com.

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Bamadog, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Erwin, Guillotine Rock, Hard Knocks, Hiking, Hostel, Opa, Pearisburg, Pennsylvania, Pigweed, RTK, Sour Kraut, Thru-Hike, Tinker Cliffs, Vagabond Jack, Virginia, Which Way and Next Step | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Opa – First to Reach Harpers Ferry, WV

Opa’s Hike on April 11 – Mary’s Rock

Of the fourteen thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail I began to follow this winter, ten are still on the trail and the first adventurer has reached Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Harpers Ferry is the psychological half-way point of the trail and the home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. It is located about 1020 miles north of the southern terminus (Springer Mountain, GA.) and almost 80 miles short of the geographical mid-way point, but it is a great milestone for all thru-hikers. The Conservancy takes a picture of each thru-hiker, provides a check-in number for each hiker, and places the photo in a historical album documenting the class of 2018.

Old Town – Harpers Ferry

Opa (Reinhard Gsellmeier), a retired engineer from Rochester, NY, began his thru-hike on February 10. He has been hiking strong and putting in some long days filled with many miles. On day 66 of his hike (April 15) he reached Harpers Ferry. He is hiker number 16! He has hiked through rain, snow, ice, and wind. He has averaged about 15.5 miles per day. Out of curiosity, I pulled my journal from 2014 and looked at my destination on day 66. I was in….wait for it…..Harpers Ferry! But I had great weather – no snow, no freezing temperatures, no icy winds. I had some rain but by-in-large the trail was in great shape. Opa is amazing and my hat goes out to his determination and grit.

Opa enjoyed his hike thru the Shenandoah National Park and the food available at the waysides along the Skyline Drive (especially the blackberry milkshakes… and cheeseburgers… and French fries)

On April 12, Opa reflected on the difficulties of the hike: Someone asked me a few weeks ago if hiking the trail was more physical or mental. In my humble opinion, after hiking 900 plus miles so far (but still having a long way to go), I think it is more mental. Certainly, there is a physical aspect as well, but if you’re not in good shape when starting out the trail will whip you into shape after a few weeks. The mental challenge however is there every day for the duration. Stuff Happens as they say, and you have to be prepared mentally to deal with the mishaps and adversity that will come along. You will fall, and have to be prepared to pick yourself up and keep on movin. There will be times when you are cold, wet and feeling miserable, and again need to keep movin on. There will be times when a piece of gear fails or doesn’t perform as expected (eg waterproof boots that aren’t waterproof) and need to keep movin on. There will be times where you will really miss your family and loved ones, as well as the comfort of your home, but need to keep movin on. These and countless other mishaps/concerns/issues will test your mental toughness.

1000 Miles!

Opa conquered the roller coaster (a 13.5-miles stretch tightly packed ascents and descents that will challenge your legs and lungs) on Saturday, April 14. Close to the end of the coaster, Opa reached the 1000 mile marker (an actual plaque on a tree): another giant mental/emotional milestone for the thru-hiker. With the warmer weather over the weekend, Opa noticed the trail filling up with day-hikers and section hikers. He comments that he crossed paths “with at least 200 folks” including a couple of boy scout troops. He camped about 10 miles from Harpers Ferry.

On April 15 (instead of driving to the post office with his income tax forms) Opa hiked into Harpers Ferry. He woke up at 2:45 am, couldn’t get back to sleep, packed up, and hit the trail by 3:45. He arrived in Harpers Ferry by 8:00. He is spending the night at a hostel and happy to be out of another cold wave approaching. It was in the 80’s the last two days, but rain/thunderstorms/cold winds were embracing the little West Virginia town.

Opa has a long way to go, but his attitude is one of gratitude. “I am also so thankful to be able to make this hike. The good Lord has blessed me in so many ways, I’m a lucky man.” Opa plans to spend the night in Harpers Ferry and then to continue on, across the bridge and into state number six: Maryland.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Class of 2018, Harpers Ferry, Opa, Roller Coaster, Shenandoah National Park, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

AT Hikers: April 9th Update

I have been on vacation down in North Carolina and West Virginia over the past 10 days, but the nine Appalachian thru-hikers that I am following have been facing some snowy, cold, rainy, windy days. In order to catch you up on their progress and not write a book, I am going to share about four hikers today and the other five tomorrow. The incredible weather of this stubborn spring has made the trail even more challenging as they attempt their 14-state walk.

Hard Knocks with his Parents 2/27/18 (He does not post many photos)

Hard Knocks

Hard Knocks, Patrick Knox Hard Knocks, started on January 31. He just updated his journal that had been spotty since my last update. He did not make a posting from March 22 until March 29. The best that I can tell, he hunkered down at a hostel to avoid the trail storms. He was back on the trail on 3/29 and commented that the trail seemed like a fast-moving creek due to the rain and melted snow. On April 3rd he began having difficulties with his ankle and ended up coming off the trail for three days. He has a niece in Roanoke who picked him up and offered her home for some recovery time. He got a new pair of shoes and replaced his backpack. On April 8th he was back on the trail, passed McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs, and ended his ten-mile hike a Lamberts Meadows Shelter. The next day he trekked fifteen miles to Fulhardt Knob Shelter and mile 729 of the Appalachian Trail. He reports that his ankle and new boots are working well as he eases back into longer hikes.

Vagabond Jack at Damascus, VA

Vagabond Jack

Jack Masters, from Kansas City, took his first steps on the famous Appalachian Trail on February 1. Vagabond Jack is consistently moving north. In the past 16 days, he has only taken on zero-day in Roan, Tennessee. On days that he hikes, he is averaging 10.4 miles per day. On April 9th, he arrived at Damascus, Virginia where he plans to zero on the 10th having hiked 468 miles of the AT. In his blog, he mentions that he has met RTK (Bruce Matson) on March 30 and then again on April 5th. They both know Mighty Blue and have been interviewed on Blue’s podcast so they had an enjoyable conversation sharing their adventures thus far. Vagabond Jack, like the other hikers this spring, faced many cold, rain, snowy, windy days. He mentioned the difficult weather on 11 of the past 18 days. His strategy through these challenging conditions has been to gain cover as much as possible. He has only spent the night in his tent three times; he has sought the warmth of a shelter on seven nights; and he has found the comfort of a motel/hostel on eight occasions. His plan seems to be working for him as he stays warmer and well fed along the way.

 

Opa on April 1

Opa

Opa on McAfee Knob

Opa (Reinhard Gsellmeier), the retired engineer from Rochester, NY, began his thru-hike on February 10. Opa is well over 450 miles ahead of Vagabond Jack and has passed Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro, Virginia, trekked 44 miles into Shenandoah National Park and passed the 900- mile marker on the trail. (There are very few actual markers, but guidebooks provide fairly accurate mileage.) But his walk has not been easy. On April 6th, Opa fell four times. He recounts his adversity in his blog, “I fell four times today, one of them hard. Nothing broken, but I have several aches and pains:  my forehead, right hand, left elbow and left knee all ache pretty good as I lay in my tent tonite. My left knee in particular is pretty sore, cut up and a bit swollen. I must have fallen on a rock pretty hard with the knee, as it put a tear in my rainpants – which have a pretty durable fabric…. The funny thing is, I didn’t fall in any of the steeper sections of trail – it was always on a gradual slope. Go figure!” Opa is still hiking in snow and freezing temperatures with water bottles turning into slushies and temperatures in the 20’s overnight.

 

Bamadog

Lotus (in green) and Bamadog (on the right)

Marty Dockins hit the trail on February 15th. His last post in his online journal was April 3rd. He was camped at the Abington Gap Shelter just 6.5 miles from the Tennessee/Virginia border and 11.3 miles from Damascus. He had put in his first 20-mile day and was looking forward to celebrating his 61st birthday in Damascus on the 4th. Bamadog took a week off the trail from March 24-30 to spend some time with his “sweetie,” avoid the weather and rest his tired body. He shares about the hiatus in his journal, I took 7 days off and went home with my sweetheart. Went to the doctor and got my leg checked out. He said my hip belt was pushing in on a nerve that comes out from the front of my hip going to my leg. I adjusted my pack so I am good to go! The first two days back my leg is feeling much better. I did 16 miles yesterday and 14 today. Just climbed 1700 feet to get to this campsite.” It sounds like his time off the trail was refreshing and just what he needed to continue his adventure. I am anticipating an update very soon from Bamadog.

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Bamadog, Class of 2018, Damascus, Hard Knocks, McAfee Knob, Opa, Shenandoah National Park, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Tinker Cliffs, Virginia, Waynesboro | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Opa’s Adventure 2/12-2/16

We last saw Opa, the retired engineer from Rochester, NY, at Woods Hole Shelter on February 12th, just short of 30 miles on the Appalachian Trail. He was tent camping and a light rain was being to fall. As he woke, he found the light rain was still overhead. The rain was not an issue during the day’s hike but the weather remained overcast and foggy all day. Any mountain summit views were obscured by the fog. He hiked 15 miles today and conquered five summits: Blood Mountain (a major milestone for early thru-hikers), Levelland Mountain, Cowrock Mountain, Wildcat Mountain (this was absolutely beautiful when I passed by in 2014 – so sorry it was foggy), and Poor Mountain.

Along the way, he stopped at Neel Gap for some tasty food (a couple of pepperoni Hot Pockets and thee Twinkies – oh the hiker’s diet!) and a quick shower at Mountain Crossings Outfitter. After a nice break, He hiked on and ended the day at Low Gap Shelter. He set up his tent and looked forward to a good night’s sleep.

Wednesday brought another day of rain, but Opa legged out another 15+ mile hike. He arrived at Tray Mountain Shelter 2:00, so he took advantage of some time to air dry his sleeping bag and tent. There were nine hikers camping in or around the shelter, all wet, all hoping for sunshine tomorrow. On a positive note, Opa notes that there is plenty of good mountain stream water available.

Thursday, 2/15/18, was an 11-mile day that started in the dark. After a wet and windy night, Opa was hiking at 4:30 am by headlamp. He was motivated to get to Dick’s Creek Gap and the Top of Georgia Hostel. His plan was to rest as much of the day as possible before moving on Friday morning. He arrived at the hostel at 9:30. Opa had a delightful day at the hostel meeting Sir Packs’o’Lot who runs the place. He is a triple crowner – one who has thru-hiked the AT, the Pacific Crest Trail (Mexico to Canada), and the Continental Divide Trail (another north/south trail that follows the Rocky Mountains through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico).

Several hikers staying at Top of Georgia caught a shuttle into Hiawassee to eat at Daniel’s Steak House an AYCE buffet for $8.00. Opa makes a short list of NOBO thru-hikers that he has met so far along the trail: Jeep, Captain Blackbeard, Vagabond Jack, Reese, Weeds and Zin Master. Notice two others that I am following on trailjournals.com: Vagabond Jack and Zin Master. I cross-referenced Vagabond Jack’s blog and he was one of the group that went to Daniel’s Steak House. Vagabond Jack mentioned meeting Opa and noted that Opa was hiking much faster than he was so they might not see one another again.

Friday, brought another rainy hike, but Opa maintained a good attitude. He hit the big milestone of crossing the Georgia/North Carolina border, he logged 16.7 miles (for a total of 85 miles so far on the AT), and he saw a large black snake. He has been hiking with three other hikers for the last three days. They scatter during the day but rendezvous at night. They are calling themselves the four horsemen.

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Hiawassee, Neel Gap, Opa | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Opa’s Thru-hike

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:

Opa and one of his grandsons

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.

Hawk Mountain Shelter

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)

Tent at Woods Hole Shelter

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.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Georgia, New York, Opa, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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