Pigweed Goes Off Trail – August 25

Pigweed’s Snowy Trail

Pigweed hiked NOBO from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Buena Vista, Virginia, logging in about 805 miles. The class of 2018 experienced some good snowfall in March. He took some time off the trail (from March 24 to April 8) to heal from a bad back and sore ankles. Pigweed also took a break from the trail at Buena Vista to spend 25 days with his wife at the beach from Mid-June to Mid-July. Coming back rejuvenated, Pigweed travel to Maine, climbed Katahdin, and headed SOBO (southbound) back toward Buena Vista.

Pigweed injured his foot and struggled with his injury for many days. He even took six days in Gorham, New Hampshire trying to strengthen the foot and purchasing new boots before taking on the Presidential Mountain Range in the White Mountains. Two more days of hiking and his foot proclaimed Uncle! Pigweed decided that it was best for him to exit the trail and head back home.


Here is a section of his online journal for August 25, 2018, “Climbed Mnt Madison and up the ridgeline to Mnt Washington.  Here my journey comes to an end I’m afraid.  My foot is still unhappy even after spending a week of zeroing in Gorham and getting new boots. So, I will hitchhike off of Mount Washington and work my way back home to get some treatment for plantar fasciitis. My research tells me this is not a quick recovery, so I am pessimistic about completion of the AT at this point. 

Mount Washington with its pay road to the top and cog railroad is a tourist attraction. Kind of interesting at over 6,000 feet.  The weather was good, so I took lots of pictures and had an easy time hitching a ride back down… Indeed, I did make it home by bus and train after camping near Pinkham Notch Visitor Center to catch the morning bus.

Pigweed Shaved and Home

Pigweed began his thru-hike attempt of the Appalachian Trail on February 26th by hiking the 8.5-mile approach trail from Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain and then stepped out on the Appalachian Trail on February 27th. His adventure lasted 180 days and he hiked about 1,160 miles of the 2,190 miles of the AT from Georgia to Maine. The AT experience is not just for those who complete the grueling, brutal trail. The trail has deep lessons and impact on most of the brave pilgrims who walk the path blazed in white. My hope for Pigweed is that his experience on the AT will change his life, bring him closer to his family, and reflect seriously on the Creator of the universe. May the AT inspire him, challenge him, and restore him in unique and personal ways.

With Next Step and Bamadog already completing their thru-hikes, I am still tracking three hikers. Sour Kraut has not posted a picture since August 22, but Bamadog commented on my blog that he took a picture of Sour Kraut on Mount Katahdin during his summit on August 25. I am just waiting for Sour Kraut to post his victory photo to share my congratulations with him. RTK lasted posted a photo on Instagram on August 24 from Monson just about to enter the 100-Mile Wilderness. He should be standing on the big brown sign any day and I expect a photo from him declaring victory. Stay tuned for updates on these two hikers in the very near future. Finally, Chip Tillson is in Lincoln, New Hampshire, close to Franconia Notch with about 375 miles to go.  I love his attitude and determination, but his time is running short. One never knows when winter will shut down Katahdin, but assuming he has until October 15, he needs to average 8.2 miles every day to reach the finish line. It is still very possible so I will continue to cheer for him, follow his blog, and keep you posted on his progress.



Categories: Appalachian Trail, Maine, New Hampshire, Pigweed, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Update on the Remaining Five

Bamadog’s Taxi to White House Landing

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

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

Sour Kraut fishing in Maine

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

RTK on Top of the Rocks in NH

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

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

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


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

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

Update from the AT – 8/17/18

Next Step starting the 100-Mile Wilderness

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

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

Bamadog’s Photo at Bald Mountain Pond

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

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

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

Sour Kraut at Mt Mooilauke

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

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

RTK Above Treeline

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

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

Pigweed into New Hampshire

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

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

Katahdin is Drawing Close for Some

Next Step’s Photo of Moxie Bald Mountain

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

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

Next Step

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

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

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

RKT around Crawford Notch, NH

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

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

Rangeley, ME – Unusual Half-way Point

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

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

AT Hikers – First Week of August

Pigweeds’ View from Saddleback Mountain. ME

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

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

Bamadog on Mt. Washington

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

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

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

Next Step at Crocker Mountains

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

RTK on Summit of Killington Peak

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

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

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

THRU-HIKERS – Update End of July

Steep Trail close to the NH/ME border

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

Let me provide a quick update on the remaining six:

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

RTK in Vermont

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

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

Sour Kraut at Mt Mooilauke

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

Next Step at NH/ME border

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

Pigweed in Maine

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

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

The Seven Survivors

While Rocky and I have been off enjoying the Appalachian Trail down south in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and southern Virginia, the seven thru-hikers that I have been following on trailjournals.com have been moving north. Let me provide a quick update on their progress and where they are according to their last online journal posting.

Bamadog: Photo from June 25

The hiker that is the farthest north is Bamadog, Marty Dockins. He began his adventure on Feb 15 and has amassed 1741 miles. (All my mileage figures are based on my 2014 thru-hike guidebook. The trail has changed slightly since this time and so my mile-markers are just a bit inaccurate, but they consistent for every hiker and give a good comparison between the seven.) Bamadog is staying in Norwich, Vermont, with some trail angels, just a mile from the New Hampshire border and Hanover, NH, the home of Dartmouth College. Bamadog arrived in Hanover on June 25th and had an opportunity to spend the night in the home of Betsy and Bill Maslin.

Not too far behind Bamadog is Hard Knocks, Patrick Knox, who is resting at Rutland, Vermont, and mile 1697. Hard Knocks has spent three zero-days in Rutland resting in and avoiding a major thunderstorm. He has been struggling lately with stamina. He is such a strong hiker but his recovery seems to be suffering. Hard Knocks wrote in his journal on June 22nd  I find that I can walk +/- 20 miles for about three days when my legs and feet tell me they need a rest.” He is still in an excellent position to complete his thru-hike, but New Hampshire and Maine will test every part of the thru-hiker – legs, spirit, knees, emotion, and determination.

Next Step’s view along the Ten Mile River

Next Step, Darrell Brimberry, has been hiking solo since his wife, Which Way, needed to get off the trail for a while as she rehabs a nagging back injury. She hopes to rejoin him soon. Next Step has been logging major mileage every day and on June 26th crossed over into the state of Connecticut. He has walked 1450 miles toward Mount Katahdin and is well on his way to completing the trail. He shared the walk through the first six miles of the Constitution State. “Connecticut greeted me with a little climb up Ten Mile Hill. Down the other side of the hill the trail crossed the Bull’s  Bridge 19th Century Covered Bridge over the Ten Mile River at its confluence with the Housatonic River. The trail worked its way upstream of the Housatonic for about a mile. A side road led to Bull’s Bridge, a 19th Century covered bridge. On the far side of the bridge was a country store. I stopped in for some dinner and re-supply. The store was run by a friendly Indian couple. Wouldn’t you know it, they had Chicken Vindaloo in the frozen food section. I hung around the store until about 5:45PM. It was about a 4 mile hike from there, up and over Schaghticoke Mountain to the campsite where I was staying for the night.”

Sour Kraut

Sour Kraut, Tim Pfeiffer, blogs with words on a rare occasion, but he posts photographs that indicate where he is on the trail. He posted a photo on June 16th that I recognize as the 911 Memorial Flag on Shenandoah Mountain in New York, at about mile 1422. Shenandoah Mountain is about 22 miles from Pawling, New York, the home of the only railroad station on the AT. This is where several members of my church met me during my 2014 thru-hike, so it is a special place for me.

RTK at Sunfish Pond

RTK, Bruce Matson, last updated his journal on June 19th. He was six miles south of Vernon, New Jersey around mile-marker 1346. He continues to hike consistently along the trail. On June 19th he mentions meeting Next Step and enjoying a visit in Unionville, New York. Next Step does recount the stop in town but does not mention RKT specifically. Because RTK blogs about 7 days behind his journey it is difficult to get a current read on his hike.

On June 25th Chip Tillson was camped 4 miles south of Boiling Springs., Pennsylvania just shy of 1114 miles along the trail. He hiked 19 miles on the 25th, the most he has walked in one day. He passed the geographic half-way marker earlier in the day as he trekked through Pine Grove Furnace State Park. He did not participate in the half-gallon challenge (eating a half gallon of ice cream) because he arrived fairly early in the morning (it would not have stopped me but HYOH -Hike Your Own Hike).

Pigweed, Lee Richards, has decided to take a break from the trail. On June 14th, he arrived at Buena Vista, Virginia and just over 800 miles on the AT. He is going to the beach with his wife and hopes to return after July 4. He plans on traveling to Maine, climbing Katahdin, and then hiking back toward Buena Vista to complete a “flip-flop” thru-hike. If he is to be successful, I think this plan is the best idea. His pace is just too slow to make it to Katahdin before the snow flies and makes his ending impossible. A “flip-flop” will enable him to hike southbound (SOBO) and complete the adventure in Virginia in the late fall (maybe early winter).


Categories: Appalachian Trail, Bamadog, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Hard Knocks, Hiking, New Hampshire, Next Step, Pigweed, RTK, Sour Kraut, Thru-Hike, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Current Progress on the AT

Several of my seven Appalachian Trail thru-hikers have updated their online journals and I am happy to share that all of them are still hiking strong.

Bearded Woods Bunk and Dine, CT

After 13 days of silence, Hard Knocks updates his journal. He has traveled 175 miles in thirteen days (averaging 13.5 miles per day). Two weeks ago, he was in New Jersey. Since then, he crossed over into New York on May 27, entered Connecticut on June 1, and has camped for his first night in Massachusetts on Thursday, June 7. Hard Knocks sounds tired and weary.

June 3, 2018: Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut I made it to the Bearded Woods Bunk and Dine.  It is a very nice place and one where I hope to take a bit of a breather.  it seems I have lost another ten pounds and that is not necessarily a good thing.  I pack is not fitting correctly now and I am getting some blisters from it. I hope to do another shakedown of my pack to see if I can’t lighten it up some more.  Also, I am getting word that some of my former hiking buddies are off the trail.  It is understandable that people develop injuries over such a long trek.  As I am well into my second half I am constantly aware of little aches and pains and I try to not do too

Pigweed on McAfee Knob

much too fast to improve my chances of finishing. He zeroed in Cornwall on June 4. 

June 6, 2018: Salisbury, Connecticut I Zeroed at a house (name?) where they rent out bunks as I was in need of some recuperation.

Hard Knocks is about 680 miles from Mount Katahdin but the most physically challenging aspects of the trail still await. The Green Mountains of Vermont are 80 miles ahead and then the White Mountains of New Hampshire loom 150 miles farther north. Hopefully, he will take some time to find quality rest and strength before taking on these challenges.

Pigweed last post was May 30 until his update on June 7. He has hiked 93.6 miles in eight days, averaging about 11.7 miles per day. On May 30th he was in Pearisburg, Virginia. During the first week of June, Pigweed has hiked passed the second largest oak tree on the AT (Keefer Oak) just north of Newport, VA, the Audie Murphy Monument to the most decorated American soldier of World War 2, the great stone monolith, Dragons Tooth, the one of the most photographed spots along the trail, McAfee Knob. After traversing Tinker Cliffs (a half-mile cliff walk), Pigweed arrived at Daleville, Virginia on June 6th and took a rest day in this hiker friend town on June 7th.

Sour Kraut at Lehigh Gap

Sour Kraut pasted a photo after two weeks of silence. On June 5th, the photo shows him climbing out of Lehigh Gap in Palmerton, Pennsylvania, approximately 1,255 miles into his NOBO trek to Maine. This ascent out of Lehigh Gap is one of the most difficult on the entire AT. The 2.5-mile, rocky, steep, treacherous climb was exhilarating and frightening at the same time. I was glad to safely reach the top and enjoy some solid ground.

To catch all the hikers up to their current postings here is a summary chart:

Name Date Location Miles
Hard Knocks 6/7/18 Hemlock Shelter, MA 1510
Bamadog 6/7/18 Stewart Hollow Brook Shelter CT 1471
Sour Kraut 6/5/18 Palmerton, PA 1255
Next Step 6/7/18 Susquehanna Trail, PA 1145
RTK 5/31/18 Pine Grove Furnace State Park, PA 1098
Chip Tillson 6/7/18 Front Royal, VA 966
Pigweed 6/7/18 Daleville, VA 725

Bearded Wood B/D From Zigzag’s 2014 journal http://www.trailjournals.com/journal/entry/466167

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Audie Murphy Memorial, Bearded Woods Bunk and Dine, Class of 2018, Connecticut, Dragons Tooth, Hard Knocks, Keffer Oak, McAfee Knob, Palmerton, Pennsylvania, Pigweed, Sour Kraut, Thru-Hike, Tinker Cliffs, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Mid-May Brings Miles on the Appalachian Trail

As a change of pace, I thought I would provide an update on the seven Appalachian Trail thru-hikers with their own words. Since my last post of May 10, each hiker has been making progress. As of their last posts (most of them on May 16th), here is where they are:

Hard Knocks – Port Clinton, PA.: mile 1,214

Bamadog – ten miles north of Boiling Springs, PA.: mile 1,127

Chip Tillson – 25 miles north of Daleville, VA.: mile 750

Sour Kraut – Luray, VA.: mile 938

Which Way and Next Step – VA 56, Tye River: mile 828

RTK – Big Meadows Campground, VA. (Shenandoah National Park) mile 921

Pigweed – Shady Valley, TN.: mile 452


Hard Knocks

5/ 10 It was raining on us after a few hours and the rocks got slick and the dirt got muddy.  I lost the end of one of my trekking poles in the mud and it was lost and gone forever.  With this terrain, functional trekking poles are a necessity…stop in Duncannon….so I could buy new poles.  Since we [Hard Knocks, Roam, and Happy Feet] were there and wet, we decided to call it a day.  We checked in at the Doyle Motel.  If passing this way you should know that this is NOT the Hilton!  

5/13 ‘Rocksylvania’ has truly earned its name among hikers.  Lots of different rock challenges here. We have had mazes to go thru, boulders to climb over, and general walking hazards in uneven and unstable steps.

5/16 [After a zero-day in Port Cilton, PA] Just a quick object lesson I guess.  In addition to staying hydrated you must provide plenty of fuel for the fire, and the calorie fire is huge when you are hiking the AT.  So now I am off to burn more calories!  

Shenandoah River, Harpers Ferry, WV


5/10 The roller coaster was rough. I got overheated. It rained and made everything slick. I turned my foot over again. Very painful….Hope to get into Harpers Ferry tomorrow afternoon. Hope everyone is doing well. Thank you for your prayers

5/13 I have a shin splint on my other leg now. Went into Waynesboro and resupplied. Had wonderful people bring me to town and take me back to the trail head. Very much appreciated. 

5/16 Started walking at 7:20. Walked in rain most of the day. It was a beautiful day in the forest. Climbed boulders in the morning and walked in mud and water in the afternoon. Had to set my tent up in a jungle. The trail is 6 inches wide and on both sides it is grown up with who knows what.

Chip Tillson

Keffer Oak

5/10 The day started nice enough through pasture lands and past the Keffer Oak. At 300 years old it’s “the 2nd largest oak tree along the AT”. Apparently there’s a bigger one in NY, I’ll let you know….I have just enough food to get to Daleville, three days away. There is a small store halfway where I’ll pick up some extra calories to be sure.

5/13 Sunday’s weather was hot. I heard some hikers say it had affected their mileage but I had no problem, maybe I’m not moving fast enough to get overheated. The Rhododendrons were blooming and the Mountain Laurels are getting ready. Late in the day I passed through a long tunnel of Honeysuckle bushes, sweet!

Saw my first rattlesnake. The rattle end was two feet into the trail, the rest hidden in leaves. Hmmm…what to do. I spotted it easily but it wasn’t hard to imagine someone else coming along and stepping on it. I tossed a few sticks to move it along but that only prompted it to lift its head and look at me, flicking its tongue…unnerving.

5/16 It rained nearly all day but was warm enough so that I went without rain gear. It’s just water, it’ll wash off. The big millipedes seem to have been replaced by little orange newts, they’re everywhere! I wonder what they’re thinking as I thunder through their world like Godzilla. The trail paralleled the Blue Ridge Parkway and crossed it several times at pullover viewing spots. Unfortunately it was foggy: no views…


Sour Kraut – No words – only pictures

Which Way & Next Step

5/10 [After a Zero-day in Daleville, VA.] It always seems to be a little more difficult to get going the day after a Zero…. Fortunately the first couple of miles were relatively flat. The trail here paralleled I-81, eventually crossing under the busy interstate, another open pasture, and finally we were back in the forest, where we belong.

5/13 Mother’s Day… our hike started at 0645, because Which Way wanted to get to town so that she would be available to talk to our kids when they called. I usually get flowers for Which Way on Mother’s Day…. As we departed camp I told her that all of the flowers on along the hike today were hers to enjoy for Mother’s Day. Of course, the trail did not disappoint.

Mother’s Day Flowers for Which Way

We had a single significant climb today and it came early in the hike…. At the top of the climb we paused for a break and to worship. It is so easy to count our blessings and give thanks out here. The wildlife was out and about this morning. We ran across a bunny hopping up the trail, two chipmunks playing chase, squirrels, birds and butterflies fluttering about, a deer just off the trail and two snakes. Some of the wildlife actually posed long enough for a pic. 

5/16 We started hiking a little before 7AM with the intent of making it 17 miles to VA Route 56 by 3PM. We wanted to be off the trail on Thursday so that we could be in contact with our daughter who was having surgery.,,,, We emerged soaking wet from the forest at the VA 56 parking area at 2:45PM…. trail angels Dave and Jim…drove me to the Enterprise rental car agency located another mile or so away. We knew that at some point in the hike we would have to make a quick sprint to Washington, DC so that I could get a Retiree ID Card and we could pick up our 90-day refill of meds…. After shuttling a couple of hikers to a local AYCE Chinese Buffet, we hit the I-64, headed to DC. …We arrived at my cousin Bill’s place in Old Town Alexandria a little before 10pm. Bill had brownies and ice cream ready when we walked through the door. Death by chocolate—Perfect! 

RTK – last post 5/8

RTK at Big Meadows

5/8 Wally and I broke the day – which we knew was a tall order: over 18 miles – into thirds.  The first was a six mile stretch that included two, 2-mile climbs.  By focused attention to a steady pace, we conquered the first third.  The morning was brilliant weather but clouded up most of midday. The next six miles rolled through woodland without any views or points of interest except we were able to have lunch at Lewis Mountain campground.  After climbing Bearfence Mountain, Wally waited for a ride at a Skyline Drive parking lot and I finished the last 6 miles by myself.  The afternoon changed back to the brilliant sky with a cool breeze – wonderful conditions for the hike.  The late afternoon light seemed to help illuminate the wildflowers.  I made very good time on an excellent trail….tented at Big Meadows campground. 

Pigweed last post 5/12

Pigweed’s AT Barn

5/12 Today started rainy and the rain actually came intermittently most of the day. However, it never actually broke out into a hard rain, just enough to make me put my umbrella up and down several times in the morning in the afternoon. I was kind of dragging in the morning and came to about a 5-mile mark and at a shelter when the rain was threatening so I stopped and cooked a hot meal and made some coffee. A hot meal at lunch time is a rare thing but… the real pick me up. Rest of the day went quite well and I ended up doing 16 miles stopping at Low gap. A thunderstorm was raging to the north of me and threatening me so I put up my tent and let it pass with barely any effect, just enough to wet my tent. It caused a late dinner as I did not start cooking until close to 8 but I need the calories after 16 miles.
Today’s hike had an interesting pastoral section where I walked through some actual pastures that connected to Mountain sections. The barn had a big AT symbol on it so the farmer is obviously a friend of the trail. 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Bamadog, Boiling Springs, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Daleville, Duncannon, Hard Knocks, Harpers Ferry, Keffer Oak, Pennsylvania, Pigweed, Port Clinton, Roller Coaster, RTK, Sour Kraut, Thru-Hike, Virginia, Waynesboro, West Virginia, Which Way and Next Step | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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