Pearisburg

The First 10 Days of May on the AT

Spring Photo from Which Way and Next Step

And then there were seven… I began following 14 Appalachian Trail Thru-hikers that started their adventures in either January or February. I wanted to see how these early starters managed along the trail. In general, the rate of success for thru-hikers is about 25% – only one in four make it from the southern terminus of Springer Mountain, Georgia all the way to Mount Katahdin, Maine. The 14-state challenge of 2,190 miles is a test of endurance both physically and emotionally. At the end of the first week of May, 50% of the original hikers are off the trail while the other half are continuing to check off miles and days toward their goal.

The weather has blossomed as well as the wildflowers. The forest is green as the foliage creates the green umbrella protecting the path and those who hike it from the blazing sun. The challenge of the winter is drawing to a close and the trail is free of snow and ice.

Let me provide a quick update on the seven remaining hikers and their progress on the AT.

Patrick Knox, trail name Hard Knocks, is the only January starter still on the trail. He has made it over halfway and is resting at Darlington Shelter, 14 miles north of Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, at mile marker 1,131.8. Boiling Springs is such a beautiful small town that embraces the smelly hiker with hospitality. It was one of my favorite trail towns in 2014.

Bamadog in May

Bamadog stayed at the Mountain Home Cabbin (hostel) in Front Royal, Virginia, on May 8th and then hiked 21.7 miles on the 9th to a stealth campsite. He is about to reach the 1000-mile point but must experience The Roller Coaster (13.5 miles of tightly packed ascents and descents) to get there. After the Roller Coaster, there are only 19 miles to Harpers Ferry and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy – a major milestone in the thru-hike adventure. At the Conservancy, hikers get their pictures taken, their names recorded in the official list of hikers, and a number indicating their order of appearance among the class of 2018.

Chip Tillson arrived at Pearisburg, Virginia, on the 6th of May. During the next two days, he hiked 23 miles and finally camped near Bailey Gap Shelter (mile-marker 654.5) on May 8th (the date of his last journal post). He is hoping to hike another 70 miles into Daleville, Virginia, before taking another day off.

Sour Kraut’s Salamander

Sour Kraut posts pictures occasionally so I know he is still on the trail. However, he does not journal with words so I am never sure exactly where he is. The last photo was dated May 6th, but is was of an orange salamander. His last landmark photo was the Guillotine on April 30. I am guessing that he has made it into Shenandoah National Park around 860 miles north of Springer Mountain, GA.

Which Way and Next Step, a retired military couple, are taking on zero-day on May 9th in Daleville, Virginia. Earlier last week (May 4), Which Way experienced some tough hiker discomfort with blisters. The couple decided to shuttle Which Way, Alicia, about 50 miles north to Four Pines Hostel in Catawba, Virginia, while Darrell (Next Step) continued to hike northbound. They rendezvoused in Catawba and continued down the path together. They hiked to McAfee Knob and over Tinker Cliffs before resting in Daleville. One reason for the separation was the need to complete the trail by Labor Day. Next Step shares in their journal, “…it was evident that she [Which Way] needed some time off the trail to clean it [the blister] properly and to let her feet heal. The closest road intersection was VA 235, a gravel road 2.5 miles down the mountain. As she hobbled along we discussed options. I told her that I could take a couple of days off with her, but she did not want to slow our overall progress (we need to complete this journey before Labor Day). In the end, we decided to get her a ride 50 or so miles up the trail while I continued to hike.”

Which Way and Next Step on McAfee Knob

My concern for this wonderful couple is their time constraint. They have great attitudes and seem to be enjoying the adventure with marvelous gusto. But Labor Day is September 3, 2108. They still have time, but they will need to really pick up the pace. At their current rate of 9.65 miles per day, according to my quick calculations, they will be 327 miles short of Mount Katahdin on September 3. It would take them another 34 days to reach their goal. However, they would only need to up their average distance to 12.4 miles per day to reach the brown sign in Maine.

Dragon’s Tooth by RTK

RTK, Bruce Matson, like Which Way and Next Step has arrived at Daleville, Virginia. However, RTK posts in his journal a week late. So he arrived in Daleville on April 29th. He experienced a great week on the trail with friends and family joining him for some of the adventures. He has walked by Keefer Oak (the second largest oak tree on the AT – over 300 years old and 18 feet around), the Audie Murphy Monument (the most decorated American soldier of World War 2), Dragon’s Tooth (a huge stone monolith), and of course McAfee Knob (one of the most photographed spots on the trail). He also enjoyed a great all-you-can-eat meal at Homeplace Restaurant. (This hiker favorite in only open Thursday through Sunday. I sadly hiked by on a Wednesday in 2014).

Pigweed celebrated his birthday on the trail on May 4th.  He posted in his journal:

Pigweed – Birthday on Hump Mountain

“Happy birthday to me. 
A great b-day so far.  I woke on top of Hump Mnt and watched the sunrise out my tent doors.  360 degree view from there had awesome sunset sunrise and stars. I slept half out of my tent to enjoy the stars until the wind whipped up and I scooted into the tent.  The wind gave my tent a workout… I then Nero ed into Roan TN and stumbled into station 19 hostel.  They have… a pig roast tonight with live music. A real bed shower laundry and shuttle to town. I may zero tomorrow with rain in the forecast…” 
This was Pigweed’s most recent post. He has been silent for the five days so I am anticipating an up-date very soon. Roan, Tennessee, is at the 392 mile-marker. Pigweed had many, many more miles to travel on his adventure.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Audie Murphy Memorial, Bamadog, Boiling Springs, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Daleville, Dragons Tooth, Harpers Ferry, Keffer Oak, McAfee Knob, Mount Katahdin, Pearisburg, Pennsylvania, Pigweed, RTK, Shenandoah National Park, Sour Kraut, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Tinker Cliffs, Virginia, Which Way and Next Step | 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

AT Hikers: March 25th Update

I have been following several earlier starter on the Appalachian Trail. Here is an update on thier progress.

Genesis

Genesis

Rich Miller (Genesis) is a thru-hiker from Pennsylvania that began his hike in Harpers Ferry on January 14th. He hiked from West Virginia back to his home state through February and then headed to Georgia. He trekked in the Peach State for 6 days and then coming off Blue Mountain both his knees started to hurt, so he decided to drive back to PA to recoup (10-hour drive).  He is now back in Atlanta planning his return to the trail.

Zin Master – started January 23 is now OFF TRAIL – leg injury

Hard Knocks

Patrick Knox, tail name Hard Knocks, started on January 31. His journal has been silent since March 22nd when he was camping a Chatfield Shelter about 4 miles south of Atkins, Virginia. On the 22nd he posted,”Tomorrow I will try to make it to a town as it looks like there may be some big rain coming in on Saturday.” I am hoping that his silence means he has been enjoying so dry and warm rest in Atkins.

Hemlock Hollow Inn

Vagabond Jack

Jack Masters, from Kansas City, took his first steps on the famous Appalachian Trail on February 1. Vagabond Jack last post reflected a hostel about 15 miles north of Hot Springs at Allen Gap. He spent four zero-days there avoiding the winter storms and snow at Hemlock Hollow Inn. His last post on March 22nd“I decided to wait one more day before heading back out onto the trail. Besides giving my toe another day of healing, the weather should be a bit better. The sun finally came out today, and the snow is beginning to melt. I’ll be glad to get back out there instead of lazing around the hostel.” I am still waiting for an update from Vagabond. 

Opa

Opa’s Tent 3/25/18

Opa (Reinhard Gsellmeier), the retired engineer from Rochester, NY, began his thru-hike on February 10. Opa continues to hike through the winter weather and on March 25th he was camping at a stealth site 8.7 miles north of Pearisburg, Virginia (around mile-maker 640). He had wisely taken a zero-day in Pearisburg. On the 25th he hikes through a great deal of snow. He reached Rice Field Shelter around 2:30 but decided to push on a couple more miles and stealth camp. His words give insight into the difficulties of the AT in winter and the attitude to continue,  “Let me tell you it was very slow going as at this point I was on the ridgeline and the snow was deep. Staying on trail was also a challenge, and several times I had to rely on the Guthook GPS feature to keep me on trail. I found a good spot to camp, setup camp quickly, made dinner and hung my bear bag. I am now in my sleeping bag for the nite…. will wait for daylight before heading out. Aside from all the snow, it was a pleasant, sunny day today. I hope it continues. I didn’t pound out a lot of miles today, but am OK with that as it was slow going.”

Bamadog’s Igloo

Bamadog

Marty Dockins hit the trail on February 15th. His last post was from a hostel in Roan Mountain, Tennessee. His “sweetie” was meeting him at Roan Mountain and he was planning on a couple of days off trail. Three or four days ago on the trail he had an unwelcomed surprise, “Just made it to my campsite as it started to rain. It poured rain with thunder and lightning. When I woke up I was in an igloo. It had snowed 4 to 6 inches overnight.

Class Act

Class Act

Class Act, a Retired physician, Alan Conlon, took his first steps on the AT on February 18, 2018. Unfortunately, he decided to end his hike on March 14th. He had two days of very difficult hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Both days the temperatures were in the 20s and then at night, they dropped into the single digits. The snowy and slick trails made the elevation challenges even more difficult. His conclusion was that his pace was too slow to complete the journey.

Chip Tillson

Chip began his AT adventure on February 20, 2018. As of March 17, he has trekked over 200 miles and finds himself about half-way through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On March 16, he slipped on some mud and took a nasty fall, landing on his left elbow and wrenching his shoulder. He has taken six days off the trail at a friend’s home in Raleigh, NC, and is now making his way back to the trail. His elbow and shoulder are still sore but a doctor’s visit confirmed that there is nothing broken. March 25th was his first day back and he sloshed and slid 3.1 miles from Newfound Gap to Ice Water Shelter (appropriate name shelter for this time of year).

Sour Kraut

Tim Pfeiffer, who started on February 21st.  His photo journal makes it difficult to track his mileage but his last photos show him in Hot Springs around March 22nd.

Which Way hiking out of Newfound Gap 3/25/18

Which Way and Next Step

Darrell (Next Step) and Alicia (Which Way) Brinberry, retired military most recently stationed in Washington, DC, began their adventure on February 24th. They took two zero-days in Gatlinburg and then along with Chip Tillson (they do not mention meeting him), they left Newfound Gap on March 25 and hiked 8.5 miles to Peck Corner Shelter. They are sharing the shelter with at least ten other hikers and several mice scampering on the rafters – all trying to stay warm.

Dave and Abbie

Dave Snow and his dog (trail name Abbie) started the Appalachian Trail on February 26th. Dave’s last post was on March 11 when he and Abbie were taking a zero-day in Franklin. I will continue to check his journal but I think he is OFF TRAIL.

RTK’s Photo 3/18/18

RTK

Return To Katahdin (RTK), Bruce Matson is reporting his adventure in posts summarizing each week. He posts a week behind his current location so his last post reflects his journey through March 19.  He took the 16th  and 17th of March as zero-days in Gatlinburg and then returned to the Great Smoky Mountains Nation Park. He completed the park on the 19th and enjoyed a stay at Standing Bear Hostel just outside of the park.

Pigweed

Pigweed, Lee Richards, started with the approach trail from Amicalola Falls on February 26 and started accumulating AT miles on the 27th. Pigweed took four zero-days at Wolf Creek Hostel in hopes of nursing an injured an Achilles heel. He got back on the trail, hiked 8.5 miles but realized that the heel was not going to respond for the long haul. He has decided to get off the trail for now, head back to Delaware and evaluate a possible return as he rehabs the ankle.

Hickory

Hickory who began on February 26. On March 17th, Hickory has covered 255.9 miles of the Appalachian Trail. On March 24th (his last post) he was camping at Clyde Smith Shelter at mile marker 368. He did take his first zero-day in Erwin, TN on March 22nd. The cold weather is tough on all the thru-hikers. Hickory shared in his last post, “I am in another shelter, another winter storm, another cold night. In every journey moments arise which require “in-flight corrections” and reassessments. Extensive winter hiking was not anticipated for this journey. I will see what challenges Roan presents tomorrow, then plan day-by-day

Here is the latest mileage update for each hiker.

 

Last Post Mile Hiker Location Start Date
3/21/18 50.5 Genesis Atlanta 1/14/18
3/11/18 109.8 Dave and Abbie Franklin – OFF TRAIL 2/26/18
2/27/18 129.2 Zin Master OFF TRAIL 1/23/18
3/23/18 159.2 Pigweed Cable Gap -OFF TRAIL 2/27/18
3/16/18 182.5 Class Act OFF TRAIL 2/18/18
3/2518 209.8 Chip Tillson Ice Water Shelter GSMNP 2/29/18
3/25/18 217.2 Which Way/ Next Step Peck’s Corner Shelter GSMNP 2/24/18
3/19/18 240.8 RKT Standing Bear Farm 2/25/18
3/22/18 273.9 Sour Kraut Hot Springs 2/21/18
3/22/18 288.1 Vagabond Jack Allen Gap 2/1/18
3/24/18 368.1 Hickory Clyde Smith Shelter, TN 2/27/18
3/23/18 391.8 Bamadog Roan Mountain, TN 2/15/18
3/22/18 538.2 Hard Knocks Chatfield Shelter, VA 1/31/18
3/25/18 640.0 Opa North of Pearisburg, VA 2/10/18
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Atlanta, Class of 2018, Gatlinburg, Georgia, GSMNP, Hiking, Hot Springs, North Carolina, Pearisburg, Standing Bear Farm, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Finishing the Appalachian Trail – Part 2

Beaker 9.7.17

View from Peter’s Mountain

9/7/17 Destination: Rice Field Shelter, VA –  Miles Hiked Today 25.3

Beaker had a long day planned, setting him up for a Nero (near zero) hike into Pearisburg on Friday. Although there were two pretty good climbs on the agenda, the majority of the hike was along ridge lines. The weather was great for hiking – cool and sunny.

The hike was pretty uneventful. Beaker didn’t see anyone on the trail all morning. After lunch, he met three women who were doing a southbound section hike. They had stopped to take a break at the shelter. After visiting awhile, Beaker started the long climb up to the Peter’s Mountain ridge line. He passed through a couple of old farm fields along the ridge, complete with apple trees – he ate his fill of the small tart apples. After a long day of hiking, Beaker finally arrived at the Shelter around 7:00. There were five other hikers at the shelter. They had already finished dinner and were settling in for the evening when he arrived, so Beaker set up his tent close to the shelter for the night.

Tomorrow’s journey hopes to be a short 8 mile hike down off the ridge, across the New River, and into Pearisburg, VA. The plan is for his brother Kenny to pick him up and take him to his house in Lewisburg, WV, for the night.

9/8/17 Destination Miller House, Lewisburg, WV.  Miles Today – 7.8

Beaker Fortune CookieIt was breezy and only 43 degrees when Beaker woke up at 7:00.  Getting out from underneath his warm quilt was tough. Once on the trail, the hike was smooth and gentle all the way down into Pearisburg. Then, Beaker came upon the Lucky Star Chinese Buffet (can you say, “All You Can Eat”?). I laughed when I finished eating and opened my fortune cookie and read: “You will obtain your goal if you maintain your course.” Even the Chinese buffet is rooting for me to finish this journey.

Beaker’s brother Kenny picked him up at the Lucky Star and they drove to Lewisburg, WV for the night.

9/9/17 Destination: Trent’s Grocery, VA  Miles Today 25.8

Today ranks high on my list of Great Trail Days. Beaker started off in the fog but climbed out of it as he ascended into the hills. The rest of the day was spent hiking along the ridge. Although he had to navigate a few rocky sections, the trail, for the most part, was smooth and easy. In addition, the weather was just about hiker perfect – cool but clear skies. 

At one point I heard crashing through the underbrush to my right. I have seen a bunch of deer through this section; but, these sounded bigger. Then I saw it – a bear! A fairly good sized bear ran across the trail about 30 feet ahead of me. It then stopped and stood on its back legs and looked at me…it dropped back down on all fours and loped off into the woods.

Beaker and Hoops

Beaker and Hoops

Trent’s Grocery, today’s destination, has everything a thru-hiker needs: a deli, a full selection of resupply options, and a place for camping next to the store –  Beaker arrived there around 6:00 and got a cheeseburger and onion rings.  

Beaker got a text from Courtney (aka Brie, aka Hoops). She was driving up from NC to meet him. The thing I have missed the most on this last section of the hike is the camaraderie of other thru hikers. In fact, I have been downright lonely. Beaker first met Courtney climbing up Blood Mountain on the second day of the hike, they crossed paths many times throughout the hike, and they climbed up Katahdin on the same day. Beaker was excited when she texted. It was so good to see one of his thru-hiker friends. Once her tent was set up, they went back to Trent’s for some ice cream and a bundle of firewood. They were joined in the camp by two other hikers and the four of them had a special evening around a campfire, listening to distance coyotes howling at the moon and telling tales of the trail. Tomorrow, Courtney is going to slackpack Beaker so he can knock out another 25 mile section of trail.

9/10/17 Stealth Site next to VA Rt 615, VA  Today 25.2 miles

Beaker awoke to fog and a heavy dew at his campsite behind Trent’s Grocery. Courtney was slack-packing Beaker today. She even brought him a daypack, so he didn’t have to carry his heavy backpack. Beaker hit the trail by 7:45.

He climbed up out of the fog into full sun and blue skies – another beautiful hiking day. With the lighter pack, Beaker was able to cover ground pretty quickly. Around the 18 mile mark, he crossed US Rt 52 and came upon Courtney sitting at a picnic table next to the road. Beaker refilled his water bottles, ate some snacks, and headed out to finish the last seven miles of today’s hike.

Beaker Hoops and Dancing Bear

Dancing Bear and Hoops and DQ

While Hoops was waiting for Beaker to arrive, a Flip-Flopper named Dancing Bear had passed by. Beaker had first met Dancing Bear in Maine right after Mahoosuc Notch and had seen him off and on through Maine. Courtney invited Dancing Bear to camp with them and to run into Bastion, VA for pizza that evening. After a pizza dinner at the Pizza Plus, the three friends drove over to a Dairy Queen for dessert. They then returned to their stealth site next to Rt 615.

Tomorrow, Beaker plans to hike another 25 miles to Knot Maul Shelter, setting himself up for a 14 mile hike in the rain on Tuesday to complete the trail.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Pearisburg, Peter's Mountain, Thru-Hike, Trent's Grocery, Uncategorized, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grateful 2 – The Key Swapper

Grateful 2’s approach to the thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail is a partner system. They share a truck (sleeper for the night), one drops the other at the trailhead, then drives north to the final destination. The partners hike in opposite directions and pass the truck keys off when they meet along the path. The northbound partner then reaches the truck, drives back to the original trail head and picks up the southbound hiker. He and hiking buddy, Persistent, started this “key swap hike” on April 24 at Erwin, Tennessee. The hike went well for six days with the duo averaging almost 13 miles per day. Then on April 30, Grateful 2 had a bad fall, tripping over a root and finding himself experiencing a face plant that broke his nose and lacerated his forehead.

Grateful 2 was off the trail for seven days healing from his fall. Persistent needed to hike on, so Grateful 2 needed to find a new partner. He drove to Damascus, Virginia, and connected with Chip, a thru-hiker that was needing to rehab a foot. They hiked together for 11 days until the truck developed mechanical problems near Pearisburg, Virginia on May 18th. Chip needed to leave for a conference on May 20th so they needed to say goodbye.

It took several days to repair his vehicle but Grateful 2’s journal entry on May 21 indicated that the “key swap” will continue on the 22nd with another new partner, Peter Pan. In addition to transmission problems the truck needed a repair to the hydraulic lifter delaying the fix until May 26. Peter Pan could not wait for the repairs but Grateful 2 connected with some old trail friends, Bushy and Sparks that agreed to partner in his “key swap” approach.

Dragons Tooth

They hiked 22 miles out of Pearisburg on the first day. The threesome were joined by Grateful 2’s wife and son, Carol and AJ, who planned to help with the slackpacking strategy for a couple of weeks. The hikers were able to see Dragon’s Tooth, an aptly named single massive stone of Tuscarora quartzite. It stands out on its own at the top of Cove Mountain. Bushy and Sparks decided to slow their pace and hike a more traditional hike, so Grateful 2 and his wife and son continued on while looking for yet another partner.

Me on McAfee

During the next three days, the three family members hiked past McAfee Knob, one of the most photographed spots along the AT, along Tinker Cliffs and into Daleville, Virginia for a rest day. The next day (June 2) they met Goalie and Ten, the next partners in the “key swap” adventure. They partnered for seven days, hiking under the Guillotine Rock (which looks a bit like the rolling rock in the first Indiana Jones movie), along the James River, past the 800 mile mark, over Cold Mountain, and to the Tye River – a distance of 100 miles. Goalie and Ten then decided to aquablaze (canoe) down the Shenandoah River, leaving Grateful 2 looking for yet another key swapper.

Guillotine Rock

On June 9th, the day his wife and son returned home to Chattanooga. Tennessee, Grateful 2 connected with a young hiker, Sandals, in Waynesboro, Virginia. Sandals could only commit to a nine-day partnership until he had to leave the trail for a church mission trip, but they started out together through the Shenandoah National Park.

This “key swap” idea has some positive aspects to it – less pack weight to carry every day, a nice, dry place to sleep every night, and easy access to food and town whenever desired – but the down side so far for Grateful 2 are the mechanical difficulties of his truck and needing five hiking partners in 47 days. How hard will it be to continue this process? Only time will tell.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Daleville, Damascus, Dragons Tooth, Grateful 2, Guillotine Rock, McAfee Knob, Pearisburg, Shenandoah National Park, Thru-Hike, Waynesboro | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The AT Class of 2017

The class of 2017 thru-hikers is off and climbing over the hills of Appalachia. The excited adventurers all hope that they have what it takes to hike 2,186 miles and the fortitude to travel through 14 states in order to complete the journey. There is a small percentage of thru-hikers that post their journals online through a website, trailjournals.com. I enjoy reading their stories as I retrace my journey in 2014. Several brave men and women have answered the challenge of the mountains and have set out on the path as early as January.

Vagabond on a snowy path

Only one journal began in January – an older hiking team of Vagabond and Wiesbaden started at Dennis Cove, TN on January 18, 2107. Sickness demanded that they spend several days off trail, but they have returned and their journal on 3/30/17 located them about 7.5 miles north of Pearisburg, VA. They are making slow progress but they have also encountered some difficult weather. They have logged in 234.8 total miles during their 70-day trek.

Nineteen active hikers began their attempts in February and I am tracking 71 hikers that jumped on the AT during the month of March for a total of 91 current pilgrims on the trail. But wait…. there will be a bulging bubble of hikers that start during April and a few late bloomers hitting the AT in May. I will continue to add to my statistics as others join the travelers.

There are also a large number of excited bloggers that anticipate being part of the class of 2017, but for one reason or another simply do not follow-through on their journal. Typically, they just drop off the website with no journal entries after some pre-hike posts. If there is no entry, then I take them off my watch list and turn my eyes to those who are active. From January through March there are 47 hikers with blank pages

Bacon on the AT

from the trail. They might be on the AT somewhere or they might have reason for staying home – either way, they are not included in my numbers.

Of the 91 hiker-diaries active online, six of those journals record the hiker’s need to leave the trail. Physical, emotional, and unknown reasons tell the tale. Let me let their journals share the stories.

Trail name: Bacon“Due to some unexpected issues that have popped up over the last several days, I am forced to leave the trail this year”

Giggles: “Giggles tried to hike another day with his bad knees but decided BEFORE going over Bull Gap to call the hike! He and Chitz rented a car and headed home. He was in good spirits and looking forward to shower and clean clothes! We are sure that giggles will section hike in the future but for now he will just enjoy his new status of ‘retired’.”

Poncho Gorilla and Idgie2/23/17 “The MRI showed a complex tear of meniscus. The doctor said that he would like to do surgery next Wednesday. He said full recovery would be around 30 days. We now plan to do a flip flop hike.” 3/3/17 “I had surgery on March 1. It was a partial meniscectomy. I am icing frequently and have been walking in the house. Some swelling is still present. I can feel daily improvement and caution

Pokeymom

myself not to over do it. I am still cautiously optimistic for a start this month on the trail. We will do a flip flop if able to get on trail”

Pokeymom: “I am a wimpy slow fair-weather hiker. I’m friendly and cheerful and cautious of my foot placement to the point of extreme low mileage. I had no aches or pains or blisters or falls….although I did start with bronchitis which is still lingering around the edges. I carried too much food and too much weight but used everything I brought and was comfortable.”

Icy Blood Mountain

Mattman: “Coming down off Blood Mt. on the way to Neel Gap I slipped on ice and injured my shoulder. It’s bad. I cannot lift my arm. The attempt is over. I am so disappointed. I suppose I am lucky–it could have been worse.”

Stay in touch and I will attempt to update the class of 2017 on a weekly basis.

Photos captured from the journals

Vagabond – http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=1090036

Bacon – http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=1087472

Pokeymom http://www.trailjournals.com/about.cfm?trailname=21129

Mattman’s Blood Mountain http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=1091779

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Blood Mountain, Class of 2017, Pearisburg, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Dulcigal and Fat Hen/Rooster Talon – Both in Daleville, Virginia

DalevilleDulcigal (Karla from Jackson, Georgia) began her thru-hike on March 13 and on Day 83 (June 3) of her adventure she posted a journal post from Daleville, Virginia.

Fat Hen (Dan) and Rooster Talon (Becky) started their trek on March 19 and on June 3rd (Day 77 of their thru-hike) they arrived at the same trail town of Daleville, Virginia.

Will they meet? Will they show up in each other’s journal? It is kind of like an Appalachian Trail soap opera. If not in Daleville, maybe soon. I will keep you updated.

My last post regarding Dulcigal, found her in Pearisburg, Virginia (mile 631) on May 26. She submitted a journal entry on May 29 from The Captain’s Place, a camping area about 30 yards from the trail. She had just missed a big hiker feed the night before – 200 hikers were there (I would have purposely missed that huge of a gathering). In order to get to the camping area, the hiker must ride a zip line over a creek. Dulcigal commented on the fun zipping into camp. She spent the night at The Captain’s Place before moving on down the trail.

McAfee Knoc

Dulcigal at McAfee Knob

Five days of hiking and 72.2 miles later, Dulcigal posted from Daleville, VA. She commented on reaching McAfee Knob and loving the view. Lots of rain had fallen over the five-day trek and so had many hikers. Rain mixed with the rocks and dirt of the path result in a very slippery trail.  One female hiker had fallen and broken her leg. On another day, a male hiker took a tumble and fractured his wrist. It only takes a slippery step to end your adventure.

Dulcigal has heard that there is a hiker festival being held in Troutville, just a few miles down the road. She is planning on heading that way to enjoy the festivities.

Fat Hen.6.1.16

Fat Hen near Tinker Cliffs

Meanwhile, Fat Hen and Rooster Talon posted a journal entry on June 3 after 19 days of silence. They were in Damascus on May 15, they spent the Memorial Day weekend with Dan’s family (they did not share where Dan’s parents are from but they drove 7 ½ hours one way to pick them up), and then they put things in high gear, hiking over almost 60 miles in 3 days. One day they hiked until early in the morning! Only the young bucks can do stuff like this. Here is part of their post:

“We hiked 56 miles in 2 1/2 days. Two of those days were at 23.5 miles. thats a lot for us and we picked some of the roughest (and prettiest) terrain we’ve seen in a while. One day we hiked until 1:30 am. We don’t recommend it. It was all worth it though and it was fun to see the limits of our abilities. We hope to increase our daily mileage from here on out.”

Dulcigal, Fat Hen and Rooster Talon continue to be in my prayers as they hike northbound toward the incredible state of Maine. They have completed approximately 1/3 of the AT, but still have 1,460+ miles to go. Multiply the days on the trail by three and Dulci will need a total of 249 days to complete her thru-hike and Hen/Rooster will finish after 231 days on the trail. Unfortunately, the trail gets more difficult as the hikers move north. After a zero day in Daleville, I left this restful town on Day 49 of my thru-hike (and I was not a very fast hiker).

Map of Daleville: https://acornhikestheat.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/trail-report-pearisburg-va-to-waynesborova-857-miles/

Dulcigal photo: http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=1034207&back=1

Fat Hen photo: http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=1033423

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Captain's Place, Daleville, Damascus, Dulcigal, Fat Hen, Georgia, McAfee Knob, Pearisburg, Rooster Talon, Thru-Hike, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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