AT Thru-Hikers: March 11th Update

Here is an update on the 14 thru-hikers of theApplalchain Trail that I am following. All of them started the trail in January or February of 2018.



Rich Miller from Pennsylvania and his sister began their hike on January 14. They did some hiking in PA for a few weeks (from Harpers Ferry, WV up to Caledonia State Park, PA) logging in about 70 miles on the AT. They made their way to Springer Mountain, Georgia and began their NOBO hike on March 1. Coming off Blue Mountain on a very rainy Tuesday (March 8th) both his knees started to hurt, so they decided to drive back to PA to recoup (10-hour drive).  The plan to continue some more hiking on the AT in PA and then drive back to Unicoi Gap over Easter weekend and hike north once again.

Zin Master

Zin, Ken Nieland, decided to get off the trail on February 27 with tendinitis in his lower right leg. No update on his blog since then. I have not taken him off my official list, but silence is not a good sign.

Hard Knocks

Hard Knocks

Patrick Knox, tail name Hard Knocks, started on January 31. He experienced some AT winter weather on the 7th and 8th of March. On Wednesday (8th) he was greeted with cold temperatures and 6 inches on snow.  “… the trail footing was hard to see.  Needless to say, I fell down a couple of times but, thankfully, there are no injuries to report.” The next day the wind took over with major gusts that literally knocked him over. He stopped at a crossroad and got a shuttle to Doe River Hostel in Roam Mountain area. He was hoping to slackpack out of the hostel, but March 8th was his most current post.

Vagabond’s Shelter in GSMNP

Vagabond Jack

Jack Masters, from Kansas City, took his first steps on the famous Appalachian Trail on February 1, His last updated was on March 7th and he was camping at Newfound Gap with Okie, and Camo hoping to get to Gatlinburg but the road is closed because of the snow.


Opa’s Trail on March 8

Opa (Reinhard Gsellmeier), the retired engineer from Rochester, NY, began his thru-hike on February 10. He had been hiking as part of the Four Horsemen (including Jeep, Night Train, and Captain Blackbear). The four have now become the three as Jeep elected to stay in Erwin to heal from shin splints. They hit major weather as well as they spent the night at Roam High Knob Shelter (the highest shelter on the AT). ”Accumulations I’m estimating at 5-6”, with drifts up to a foot. Temperatures dropped steadily during the day as well. It was a difficult day, lots of climbing elevation and cold, windy, snowy…. I also had my first two slips and falls of the hike today. Nothing serious, I bounced back. I should put my microspikes on. Oh yeah, I mailed them back home when I was in Hot Springs.  Of the cohort that I am following, Opa has hiked the farthest at 434.5 miles. One interesting fact I learn about Opa this week: he was born in Munich, Germany,  and immigrated with his parents to the US in 1955 when I was three.


Bamadog at Rocky Top

Marty Dockins hit the trail on February 15th. His last post reflected his stay in Hot Springs, the first trail town along the trail, where the AT goes right down the main street of the community (Bridge Street). He hiked through knee-deep snow as well but enjoyed a nero of 3.2 miles from Deer Park Mountain Shelter to Hot Springs for a day of rest.

Class Act

Class Act

Retired physician, Alan Conlon, took his first steps on the AT on February 18, 2018. He has been doing some slack packing (carrying only what is needed for the day and utilizing the shuttle of a hostel to drop him off and/or pick him up after his day’s hike) for several days. Stationed at Wolf Creek Hostel in Stecoah Gap, Class Act has made good progress for the past three days. He met and had dinner with Chip Tillson on Saturday, March 10th. He has his eye on Fontana Dam as his destination for March 12.


Chip Tillson

Chip has experienced some of the attrition that occurs on the AT. In his journal he shares, “Several people I’ve hiked with have already left the trail. Among them: Georgia and Nick were rained out, Music Man got a bad toothache, Gabriel blew out his knee, Marbles got picked up in Franklin with a possible broken foot, Water Leaf just didn’t like climbing mountains, and today I learned John is headed home with a foot injury.”  A few days later he shared that his feet are bothering him, ”My feet have been sore the past couple of days and around noon I felt a growing pain in one foot.” He is planning two zero days followed by two days of slackpacking before he makes his way into the Smokies.

Sour Kraut Photo near Fontana Dam

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 the Fontana Dam Area ready to enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Which Way headed up Albert Mountain

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. I really enjoy reading their journal. They are so optimistic despite some a nagging toe blister and knee problems. They share about trail worship and God’s faithfulness which really pulls me into their adventure. They are staying at the Wayah Bald Shelter on Sunday, March 11.

No New Photos – Abbie

Dave and Abbie

Dave Snow and his dog (trail name Abbie) started the Appalachian Trail on February 26th and Abbie has been enjoying the outdoor environment. Dave seems to express a more pessimistic look at the trail with a little complaining attitude toward the accommodations and the weather. He and Abbie have spent six nights out of fourteen in hotels/hostels, so that are experiencing the inn-environment of the first two states more than some of the other hikers.


RTKs Tent

Return To Katahdin (RTK), Bruce Matson is reporting his adventure in posts summarizing each week. His last post covered his first week of hiking February 23-27. I now that he reached Dick’s Gap on March 3, but that is the latest update I have on my lawyer friend from Virginia.


Pigweed at Ga/NC border

Pigweed, Lee Richards, started with the approach trail from Amicalola Falls on February 26 and started accumulating AT miles on the 27th. As of March 10th, he was a Rock Gap having passed the 100-mile marker at Albert Mountain. He is beginning to have some physical problems. His journal on March 10th reflected some foot pain, “Unfortunately I strained my Achilles heel about halfway through the prior days 16-mile hike. Ibuprofen and general Slow Go hiking got me over Mount Albert and to the first Gap and Road. I decided to call a shuttle and get out at Rock Gap instead of continuing the next 3.7 miles to our destination with the rest of the Gang. I’ll pick that up when I resume the hike. I had planned to do a zero-day in Franklin anyway on Sunday. We’ll see if one zero-day is enough to heal up.”


Hickory – does not post photos

Hickory began the same day as Pigweed but has walked at a much stronger pace. On March 11th, Hickory has covered 179.6 miles of the Appalachian Trail and has entered into the GSMNP (Smokies). He has only taken one nero-day (2 miles) in his first two weeks of hiking. He has thru-hiked the AT in 2011, so he probably knows his pace. I looked at my blog and on day 13 of my thru-hike, I camped at the same shelter, but Hickory is hiking through the winter weather and I was enjoying warmer spring temperatures and sunny skies.

He is the latest update on the hiker’s progress (not some posts are earlier than others).

Up Date Mile Marker Hiker Location Start Date
3/11/18 50.5 Genesis Poplar Stamp Gap 1/14/18
3/2/18 69.2 RTK Dick’s Creek 2/25/18
3/10/18 106 Pigweed Rock Gap 2/27/18
3/11/18 109.8 Dave and Abbie Franklin 2/26/18
3/11/18 120.8 Which Way/ Next Step Wayah Bald Shelter 2/24/18
3/11/18 129.2 Zin Master OFF Trail 1/23/18
3/11/18 150.7 Chip Tillson Stecoah Gap 2/20/18
3/11/18 158.4 Class Act Yellow Creek Road 2/18/18
3/9/18 165.5 Sour Kraut Fontana Dam Area 2/21/18
3/11/18 179.6 Hickory Russel Field (GSMNP) 2/27/18
3/7/18 206.8 Vagabond Jack Newfound Gap 2/1/18
3/11/18 273.9 Bamadog Hot Springs 2/15/18
3/8/18 376 Hard Knocks Roam Mountain Area 1/31/18
3/11/18 434.5 Opa Erwin, TN 2/10/18
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class of 2018, Fontana Dam, Franklin, North Carolina, Gatlinburg, Georgia, GSMNP, Hiking, Hot Springs, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Roan Mountain, Rocky Top, Slackpack, Tennessee, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker – Slack Packing and Trail Blessing in Maine

7/26/17 Destination; Pine Ellis Hostel, Andover, ME     14.9 miles today

It was a clear but cold night making it very hard for Beaker to get out of his warm tent this morning. Another thing that slowed me down this morning was my tired body. Yesterday’s hike left me a bit stiff and sore. I took a pretty good fall onto my left hip, leaving it feeling bruised today. …. all of us NOBOs are getting weary. Not just tired, which you can recover from after a day’s rest, but weary.  Beaker’s friend Antman, who is 25-30 years his younger, has decided to leave the trail for a while to rest up and try to gain some weight. He’s down to 133 lbs and just not feeling enthusiastic about the trail.

Today’s 15-mile hike was actually quite nice. The cloudless skies called Beaker to break out his sunglasses. He climbed up and over Old Speck Mountain, dropped down to Grafton Notch, climbed again to the summit of the West Peak of Baldpate Mountain, and finally another steep climb up the exposed East Baldpate Summit.

A 1,300 ft elevation descent over six miles to East B Hill Rd brought Beaker to a point of rest while he waited for a shuttle from Pine Ellis Hostel to pick him up. The arrangement was for a 5:45 meet time. Finally, at 6:40, a minivan arrived. The driver apologized for being so late. The hostel had sent her to the wrong road crossing. Beaker arrived at Pine Ellis Hostel, quickly showered, threw his clothes into the wash, and headed to the General Store/Diner to grab some dinner before they closed.

“Although this isn’t the nicest hostel I’ve visited, I’ve decided to do an 11 mile slack pack tomorrow and spend another night. I will still get another 11 miles in; but, I won’t be carrying the weight of my full pack and I’ll only spend about five or six hours hiking.”

7/27/17 Destination: Slack Pack back to Pine Ellis Hostel, Andover, ME Miles today 10.1

Beaker awoke to a steady rain at the hostel and seriously thought about just taking a full zero day and staying in bed. He decided to breakfast at the highly recommended Red Hen restaurant. While he was enjoying his meal, the rain stopped. So, he returned to the hostel, loaded up a daypack with a few essentials, and caught the 9:00 shuttle to the trailhead. This section of the AT was actually pretty tame. There was only one really steep climb, Moody Mountain, near the end of the hike. Beaker hiked most of the day with Wild Thing, a primary school teacher from the U.K. About a mile before the pick up point, darkening skies made good on their threats and started gushing with a steady rain. Fortunately, the slack packers arrived at the pick up point at the same time as the shuttle. They were quickly back at the refuge of Pine Ellis Hostel.

Beaker showered and got his wet clothes into the laundry. Around 5:30 several hikers from the hostel headed to the Red Hen for a Mexican Buffet, as did every hiker in a twenty mile radius, including Sitting Bull and Hoops! They had come off the trail at the same road crossing that Beaker had yesterday. So, they are 10 miles behind him, but they made plans to try to meet up in Rangely, ME, on Saturday.

7/28/17 Destination:Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to, ME 17.4 miles today

The shuttle dropped Beaker off at the AT trailhead 8:15. He started with a steep climb to the top of Old Blue Mountain, complete with vertical climbs, rebar rungs in the rock faces, and log ladders. Once reaching the top of Old Blue Mt, the trail terrain settled down a bit and the weather was perfect – full sun, light breezes, and temps in the 70s. The only real issue is that the trail is very rooty. The tree roots can be very slick and it’s easy to trip over them.

Late in the afternoon, about 13 miles into the hike, Beaker saw a handwritten sign announcing trail magic ahead. As he arrived the guy at the grill says, “Hey, Rusty! It’s about time you get here! We’ve been expecting you all afternoon.” Beaker was caught off-guard to be addressed by his real name since everyone uses trail names on the AT.

It turns out that Snowman and his wife Teddie drive 140 miles round trip weekly from Lewiston, ME, to do trail magic at this spot. It also turns out that they read my blog on TrailJournals. These guys really know how to put on trail magic – hamburgers, hot dogs, soda, blueberries, bananas, potato chips, and various snack cakes. Wow!

Beaker (Rusty) had another four miles to his destination so, he stuffed himself and then headed down the path. Shortly after heading out, he passed a SOBO wearing a UT hat and commented on it. The SOBO hiker stopped and said, “Wait! I’m supposed to give a message to a NOBO from Knoxville hiking in a kilt. 1st Sgt says to hurry and catch up.” In reality, the two friends are about 55 miles from one another.

Beaker arrived at Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to. The evening sun on the pond was tranquil and the tunes of the loons lifted his spirits. All in all, this ranks as one of the best days I’ve had on the trail.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Baldpate Mountains, Beaker, Maine, Slackpack, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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