Springer Mountain

Introducing Grateful 2

Before and After –
prepping for the AT

I enjoy following a few thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail closely each season through their online journals (trailjournals.com). I have already posted several articles on Beaker, the retired chemist from Morgantown, West Virginia. My niece’s husband was a co-worker with Beaker in WV. so I felt I already had some connection to the mountaineer.

I like to follow at least one hiker per month. Some of the brave explorers do not make it to the end, so I track several with the hopes that many will trek the necessary 5 million steps through all 14 states. I love to read some of the back stories of the hikers and discover some individuals with whom I can identify and find interesting.

Beaker left the end of February so I began to explore those who stepped out in March. It wasn’t long before I found Grateful 2 and his son Gooseman, natives of Chattanooga, Tennessee who plan to thru-hike together from Georgia to Maine. Grateful 2, real name David Hunter, has had this incredible journey on his bucket list for more than 30 years and an added bonus is the reality that his 24-year-old son is joining the trek.

David will face some challenges. He shares in one of his pre-hike posts, “I’ve had lingering foot issues. My right foot has undergone 5 major surgeries with plates, screws, and fusions. My left foot has developed plantar faciitis in the last year that required a cortisone shot and extensive rehab. Both of my shoulders have been replaced. Besides that, I’m getting older and can’t do what I used to do.” I began to identify with Grateful 2 when he wrote, “I’m sitting on the back porch of our home in Chattanooga overlooking the Cumberland Valley. It’s a beautiful view. God has created an incredible world. I can’t wait to explore it on foot.” The spiritual part of the thru hike was so important to me and one of the major factors of my successful journey. Another journal entry written before he started his hike resonated with my spirit, “Why am I going? I’m not sure I can answer that myself either. It’s almost like the mountains are calling to me. It’s something I must do. I love being outside. I love the endorphin release I get when I hike long distances. It’s something I’ve known I must do … Now this is my chance. I don’t want to waste it.” This is the same drive that dominated my thinking for 14 months before I stepped out on my thru-hike in 2014.

Over the next few posts, I would like to catch you up on Grateful 2’s adventure. Right now, let’s look at their first two days.

March 18 Grateful 2 and Gooseman started from Springer Mountain, Georgia, the southern terminus of the AT. Day one resulted in 7.4 miles and concluded at the Hawk Mountain campsite.

March 19 Dad and son hiked from Hawk Mountain to Gooch Mountain Shelter – 8.4 miles.

Grateful 2 recorded, “When we got up this am it was colder than I expected. My thermometer said 25 degrees. It warmed up during the day to maybe 65, which made for a beautiful day of hiking. So warm, in fact, that both Gooseman and I got sunburned. From 25 freezing degrees to sunburn, and we were outside for all of it!”

 

All information and photos come from Grateful 2’s online journal at http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=559189

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Georgia, Gooseman, Grateful 2, Hawk Mountain, Springer Mountain, Tennessee, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker the Chemist

 

My wonderful mother-in-law is 90 years-old and lives in Wild Wonderful West Virginia. This past weekend Cathy, my bride of almost 45 years, and I piled into our 1999 Toyota Camry and drove from our house in the Buckeye state to the home of the Mountaineers in Morgantown. Our son, Matt, also lives in Morgantown and we enjoyed a weekend of reunion with him as well as a special time with Cat’s mom.

Cathy’s three brothers live close by, so Nana’s house was visited by many during our four-day stay in the Mountain State. One afternoon, my niece and her family including four fantastic, energetic children came for lunch and a time of nice conversation. In the midst of family talk, Bekah shared that a coworker of her husband at the pharmaceutical company was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Any mention of the trail perks my ears to attention and opens my eyes with more than a twinkle of interest.

Bekah shared that the chemist’s name was Rusty Miller and he had the opportunity to take an early retirement with perks allowing him to hike the trail with funds from a severance package and the benefit of health insurance. With a first name like Rusty, I thought his trail name would be an easy decision. To my surprise, I found out his name on the AT is Beaker. What a great name for a chemist!

Two minutes into my chat with Bekah I was hooked into following Beaker’s blog and taking another vicarious hike through 14 states.  Beaker began his adventure on Sunday February 26. He began in Amicalola Falls State Park and traveled the 8.8-mile approach trail to Springer Mountain, the official start of the Appalachian Trail.  This approach trail contains a brutal start with 650 steps leading up to the falls. The approach trail, itself, has been enough to discourage many hikers to the place of throwing in the towel. Beaker, however, arrived in great spirits.

When he reached the summit, he found eight other pioneers – folks from Florida, New Hampshire, New York, Philadelphia, Paris and South Africa. This country and even the world gather at the southern terminus of this granddaddy of long trails. The AT is truly an international pathway to the Appalachian Mountains. The octave of hikers decided to camp together in the shelter or pitch their tents nearby. It was indeed a great day for the chemist from West Virginia. More of his story to follow…..

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Georgia, Hiking, Ohio, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Hiking Into Retirement

My blog has been silent for several months, even though my life has been spinning in many directions. Early last summer I was given the opportunity to serve my school as both the Superintendent and the Hugh School Principal. From the enrollment of new students to the hiring of teachers to building a master schedule of classes to the faculty orientation to the start of school, my summer’s agenda was filled with variety and demand. School opened its doors in August and the return of students brought athletics, concerts, schedule changes, teachers’ meetings, state reports, faculty observations, board meetings, and the mountain of administrivia.

But then came a sense of peace. The board of trustees renewed their two-year-old commitment to find a new Head of School. As the search began, I knew that the time was right to retire. I have enjoyed an action-packed 34 years in Christian School education. And yet, the decision to pass the leadership baton to others more qualified and filled with the youthful energy of the pink rabbit was filled with relief. I will complete this school year but will erase the chalkboard for the last time in June. There is a sense of sorrow to leave my friends and colleagues but a huge anticipation to discover what lies on the other side of the retirement door.

All of that to say, one of my passions is writing…. another is hiking. So, I anticipate in retirement an opportunity to fill some blog pages with research and personal experiences on the trail. This past January one of my closest colleagues and I were able to offer a two-week class to high school students on hiking. Now hiking in Ohio in January is a risk – a risk of bitter cold weather, slippery trails, inches of snow, and high winds that can blow a man sideways. It was a blast and I had so much fun trekking the trails with teenagers (and getting paid for it). More insights into this extraordinary group of high school students in an upcoming post.

I attended two hiking workshops in the last month that were both interesting and impactful on my hiking plans for the future. One workshop focused on the John Muir Trail in California and the other on the Buckeye Trail, a loop around the state of Ohio. Stay tuned for some of my reflections in the next few posts.

The Appalachian Trail is in my blood and I experience some sort of reminder in the wind every day of Springer Mountain and Mount Katahdin and the two thousand + miles in between. Hike It Forward pages to come will highlight some of the brave (and crazy) people who have declared themselves as thru-hikers during this 2017 season.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Dayton Christian, Hike It Forward, Hiking, Mount Katahdin, Ohio, Retirement, Springer Mountain, Students, Thru-Hike, Trail | Tags: , , , , | 19 Comments

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon – Successful Thru-hikers

fat-hen-on-katahdinThis spunky couple from the state of New York hiked together through the 14 states of the Appalachian Trail and made their final climb up Mount Katahdin on October 9, 2016. Beginning their adventure from Springer Mountain, Georgia on March 19, 2016, Dano and Becky hiked NOBO (north bound) for 205 days (206 if you want to include the approach trail up from Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain).

Since I last reported their progress on September 13, Fat Hen (Dano) and Rooster Talon (Becky) made two journal posts. One on September 27 from the beginning of the 100 mile wilderness in Maine, and the second on October 9, sharing their victory on top of the big mountain in Baxter State Park, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

The journey through northern New Hampshire and Maine, with the exception of a few foggy days, was clear and beautiful revealing magnificent vistas with 100+ miles of visibility. Any hiker reflection referencing this part of the trail must include a statement about Mahoosuc Notch and the Arm that follows. The experience brought a mixed review form the couple and their post captured their take on the most difficult mile on the AT, “We allotted about 2 hours for it and it took us 3. The first 2 hours were adventurous, climbing under, over and through huge rocks, challenging and unforgiving… The last hour was the worst night hike of our lives, treacherous and dangerous, frustrating and slippery. We stumbled out, into a campsite and spent the evening talking about unnecessary risks.”

They stopped in Caratunk, Maine and like all good hikers searched for a good meal. They found one in the form of a foot high cheeseburger called ‘the exterminator.’ It consisted of “two, 1 pound patties of beef, cheese, fried pickles, a battered-fried chicken breast, battered and fried mac n’ cheese, onion rings, bacon, and barbecue sauce on 3 buns surrounded by spiced potato wedges… One of the best burgers I’ve had in my life!” 

The weather turned cold in Maine and the night temperatures fluctuated down at the freezing mark, but they were determined to complete the adventure and October 5th brought them face to face with Mount Katahdin. The 8.5 mile hike to the summit concluded about 12:30 in the afternoon and the picture at the brown sign shows a beautiful day with clear skies and a beautiful view from the summit.

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

As they reflected back over their experience they were pleased with the hike they made.

“Our hike didn’t skip an inch. We walked every single step, northbound, from Amicalola GA to the summit of Mt. Katahdin in ME…. with absolutely NO ‘yellow blazing’ (taking a shuttle to skip hard or ‘boring’ parts) and no ‘reverse slack packing’ (leaving all your gear at a hostel and getting a ride north to walk difficult sections easier in reverse… to better explain: a ride to the top of a challenging climb so you can walk down hill without any of your gear). Everyone who hikes this trail does so for their own reasons and in their own way, but for Becky and I, it was important not to rely on tricks and gimmicks, but to tackle this honestly, together.”

Rooster Talon and Fat Hen – Congratulations on your successful thru-hike and the integrity of your journey and thanks for recording and sharing your journal online! I applaud your efforts, diligence, and enthusiasm.

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Fat Hen, Mahoosuc Notch, Maine, Mount Katahdin, New Hampshire, NOBO, Rooster Talon, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

GA-ME: SlipKnot – Matt McCoy

SlipKnot – Matt McCoy

January 8, 2016 Started at Springer Mountain

August 3, 2016 Climbed the Summit of Mount Katahdin

Total Days of Adventure – 209

Slip KnotOf the pilgrims that I am following on trailjournals.com, the latest hiker to summit Katahdin after a successful thru-hike from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Maine is Matt McCoy from Vermont. His trail name is SlipKnot and he is the only hiker that started his online journal in January that made it to Maine. Thus far his 209 days on the trail is the longest thru-hike that I have traced.  I am happy for him as he joins the Appalachian Trail Thru-hiker Class of 2016!

SlipKnot purposely selected early January in his thru-hike strategy because he was genuinely excited about experiencing some winter-hiking. He was not disappointed as the snow caused him to initially skip the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in the later part of January. Again, in the middle of February, a winter storm forced him to skip over the forty-five miles of trail between Erwin and Roan Mountain in the state of Tennessee. He faithfully traveled back to these two areas in early March to hike these high-elevation areas.

His most compelling reason for starting in January was simply to provide the maximum amount of time to reach Katahdin. Matt is retired from an electric company in Vermont so he used his lack of employment responsibilities to slow the pace of his hike and provide some breaks along the way. He averaged 10.5 miles a day. He did put in some SlipKnot.January snowlong days, trekking somewhere between 19 to 21 miles per day on fifteen occasions. His longest day of 21.1 miles on June 4 while hiking in Massachusetts. He took two rather extended breaks from the trail (about a week each time) to visit family and enjoy a much needed respite in the comfort of home, sweet home.

Slip Knot on KatahdinHis trail name? Matt explains his trail name, SlipKnot, as reflecting three significant meanings for him. First, it’s characteristic of how he ties a bowline. Second, before the AT hike experience, Matt had never slipped while hiking. And third, SlipKnot is a fan of the heavy metal band of the same name. The second aspect of his name (never slipping) only lasted 15 days into the adventure when a trip root brought him to his knees. The Appalachian Trail seems pretty zealous to provide some humility for hikers along the way.

SlipKnot summited Mount Katahdin with his youngest daughter. In his last post he was careful to thank his supportive wife and two older daughters for their encouragement throughout the seven months process. Congratulations to SlipKnot on his amazing accomplishment!

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Erwin, GSMNP, Maine, Massachusetts, Mount Katahdin, Slip Knot, Snow, Springer Mountain, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

North Star on Katahdin

North Star – Alan Kamman

Started from Springer Mountain, Georgia, on March 2, 2016

Summited Mountain Katahdin, Maine, on July 24, 2016

Total Number of Days on the Trail – 145 days

Northstar 7.24.16

North Star On Katahdin

Alan Kamman, known as North Star on the Appalachian Trail, began his attempted thru-hike on March 2, 2016. Alan lives in Lincoln, Vermont. He was granted a leave of absence as a high school guidance counselor at Mt. Abraham Union Middle/High School in Bristol, Vermont. Mt. Abraham is a 7-12 public Middle/High School that serves the five-town district comprised of Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton, New Haven, and Starksboro.

Alan considers himself an avid outdoorsman. He enjoys hiking, alpine skiing, hunting, fishing, and backpacking. He also likes bushwhacking with the goal of finding antler drops (sheds) from moose and deer. He explains in his pre-hike journal, “These [antlers] are best found in the early. I have learned a great deal about moose and seen quite a few just by wandering around their home turf. Once I got run off a hill top by a cow moose. That was an unnerving experience but a good reminder. I have been in close proximity to many moose including some sizeable bulls. While I love seeing large wildlife up close, I have no interest in snakes or ticks!  I think this insight reflects a pretty good perspective of an avid outdoorsman.

Northstar PromoPrior to stepping out on the Appalachian Trail, Alan shared in his online journal his passion and drive to hike this 2,186 mile, 14-state path from Georgia to Maine: “When I was thirteen years old, all I wanted to do in the world was hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. It consumed much of my thought through reading and actual hiking. Over the years, circumstance led me away from that goal. Work, marriage, and family have brought me to my 53rd year happy and healthy, but with that lifelong dream un-fulfilled. My desire to hike the A.T. has never waned and in fact, watching my close colleague and two of my students successfully make this hike, it has grown into a bit of an obsession.”

Northstar 3.2.16

North Star at Springer Mountain, GA

North Star’s comfort with outdoor experiences goes much deeper than the two “practice” hikes. He has completed the Long Trail in Vermont and also hiked to the summit of all the 4000 foot peaks in New Hampshire (48) and Vermont (5). He also spent four summers and two fall/winters working within the Appalachian Mountain Club hut system in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Alan has the background and expertise from someone you would expect to put together a successful thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. And he did!

Cheryl (Wonder) and Kelly (Santa), previously featured in one of my posts as part of the class of 2016, met North Star along their adventure and noted how fast and competent he was on the trail. They shared in their journal that North Star’s daughter had a wedding date in mid-August so Alan seemed highly motivated to conclude his adventure in July. He accomplished this goal rather nicely. My congratulations to North Star with blessings on his daughter’s marriage.

Categories: Alan Kamman, Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Maine, Moose, Mount Katahdin, North Star, Snakes, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Hiking Class of 2016 – Making Progress

I have been following a small group of thru-hikers that began their journeys in 2016. These hikers have chosen to track their trek on TrailJournals.com. I am following three thru-hikes very closely but let me give you a broader update on the class of 2016.

Winter StreamFour hikers actually began their thru-hike attempts in January. Two decided to leave the trail before January turned to February. One hiker lasted until March 20th before ending his attempt. And one, who started January 8th, is still on the trail and was camped in Vermont on June 11 having hiked 1,641 miles. One out of four (25%) is about the average for successful thru-hikes.

February was the start month for 20 brave hikers. Eight of those treks have ended and 3 more are questionable. They are in question because they have not journaled for several weeks but they have not declared that have returned home. After 8 weeks of silence, I will assume that they have ended their adventures. Some might be tired of journaling and are still trucking down the path, but my chart will show them as AWOL. For the purpose of this blog, I will include the questionable hikers as current on the trail. So 12 of the 20 that began in February are still active reflecting a 60% success rate.

March is the most popular month to start the Appalachian Trail – 101 of the hikers that have chosen to journal jumped on the trail during March. Thirty-eight of those brave adv20140518-102659.jpgenturers have had to walk away from the trail (15 more in a questionable status) leaving 63 active pilgrims (62% still hiking).

April attracted 50 thru-hikers to the trail. Eighteen have needed to return home while 32, about 64%, remain walking the AT. May reflects a significant decrease in hikers with only 15 individuals slated to journal about their adventure. Of those 15, two hikers have already pulled themselves from the trek. A nice 87% remain, although 3 have been silent for several weeks.

Sixteen individuals reflect a start date sometime in June, two people hope to leave in July, and one man is projecting an August 1 start date. I plan to watch these future backpackers as they put their dreams into action.

Coach.216Of all the journals that I am tracking, only one hiker has completed his hike, summiting Mount Katahdin on June 11, 2016. His trail name in “Coach” and he left Springer Mountain on February 19. I have not read his entire journal, but he made excellent time, completing the hike in 114 days! Coach, real name: Ken Durham, hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2015 so he is not a novice to long trails. Congratulations to this fine hiker.

 

Winter trail found at https://blueridgetreks.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/spy-rock-va-winter-backpack/

Spring Photo – Rowdy’s 2014 hike

Photo of Coach http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=537793

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Hiking, Journaling, Mount Katahdin, Pacific Crest Trail, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Update from the Trail

Cypress and Moonbeam 1

Two Peas – Big Cypress and Moonbeam

Of the many thru-hikers that I selected to follow this season, only three remain on the trail: Two Peas from Florida, Dulcigal from Georgia, and Fat Hen & Rooster Talon from New York. Let me give you an update on these brave hikers.

I have heard nothing from Fat Hen and Rooster Talon since April 26 when they arrived in Erwin, Tennessee. Rooster Talon (Becky) was experiencing some hiking difficulties with a very sore in-grown toenail. The two of them conducted some backwoods surgery on the toe prior to hiking into Erwin. I am anxiously awaiting a revitalization of their online journal.

Both Dulci and the Two Peas updated their journals on May 10. It was great to hear from both of them. Both are still plowing ahead and making northern progress toward Maine.

The Two Peas took a nero (near zero) day entering the town of Waynesboro, VA. They then remained in Waynesboro for three zero days: resupplying, refreshing, and healing from the demands of the trail. Mrs. Pea (Moonbeam, aka, Kristin) had been fighting a UTI and a few days off trail appeared to be needed. Once they left Waynesboro, they hiked 9 days in a row averaging 11.4 miles per day. The last post (May 10) found them on day 88 of their journey and at the northern end of the Shenandoah National Park – over 960 miles of the AT behind them. They took advantage of the wayside restaurants along the Skyline Drive. I stopped at every one on my thru-hike and enjoyed the food immensely.

Moonbeam continues to struggle a bit physically on the trail. She is walking with painful shin splints. I am amazed that she continues to put in the miles every day. It is obvious that she has very little quit in her spirit. She picked up new boots in Waynesboro and thinks that the sore shins might be related to the boots.

Ducigal and the Wild Ponies

Dulcigal and the Wild Ponies

Dulci also posted on May 10, her 59th day on the Appalachian Trail. She has arrived at Marion, Virginia having hiked five days out of Damascus. She is “hoofing it” at an average pace of 12.5 miles per day. Her journal describes her excitement at Grayson Highlands enjoying the wild ponies. She also shared that she was greeted one morning this past week with 4-6 inches of snow and freezing temperatures. Fortunately she had not sent home her winter clothing yet.

Marion, Virginia is about 530 miles north of Springer Mountain. I remember very clearly having to stay in Marion. I got norovirus just outside of Marion (the only time I got sick during my journey) and ended up taking 2 days off the trail throwing-up and inspecting the bathroom every half hour. My cheap hotel had fairly nice facilities.

To provide a little idea of pace on the trail. The Two Peas arrived at the 530 mile marker on Day 51 of their journey while Dulci arrived on Day 59. After my two days off in Marion I hiked out of the town on Day 38. Everyone hikes at a different pace and the total mileage logged in any given day can vary greatly. Fortunately a thru-hike is not a race against man. It might be a race against the seasons, a race against one’s personal budget, a race against the available days to spend on the hike; but, all things said and done, the finish line only greets winners – 64 days (world record pace) or 200 days doesn’t really matter.

I am rooting and cheering for the Two Peas from Florida and Dulcigal from Jackson, Georgia. Hike your own hike (HYOH) and keep Katahdin in your sights.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Damascus, Dulcigal, Erwin, Fat Hen, Florida, Georgia, Grayson Highlands, Hiking, Journaling, Maine, Mount Katahdin, New York, Rooster Talon, Shenandoah National Park, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Two Peas, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Thru-hike: Not Everyone Makes It!

I am still waiting for an update from Two Peas, Dulcigal and Fat Hen/Rooster Talon: the AT thru-hikers that I am following this year. I decided to explore some of the other online journals. There are still several hikers that are scheduled to hit the trail later this month, but there are 174 active journals on trailjournals.com.

As I have reviewed the journals (yes, I got carried away and checked them all), 44 of those thru-hikers have dropped off the trail. That is approximately 25% of those who began the trail and who are keeping a journal through this particular website. This is just a fraction of the total hikers on the AT, but it is an interesting cross-section of the hiking community. Those 44 hikers averaged 23 days on the trail and completed an average of 114.8 miles.

SandiAmong the 44, the shortest distance traveled on the AT was 0.2 miles by Just Plain Sandi. She began her adventure at the 8.8 mile approach trail in Amicalola Falls, Georgia. The first day she hiked 1.1 miles to the AT Shelter. Day two was a trek of 3.7 miles to Frosty Mountain. The third day of the adventure involved 2.5 miles to Black Gap Shelter where she took a zero day on day four. Day five concluded with 1.7 miles and the summit of Springer Mountain. The night was spent at Springer Mounter Shelter (0.2 miles on the AT itself). Just Plain Sandi fell off a ladder in the shelter and injured both wrists, an elbow and her shoulder. This difficult beginning and her desire to be home with an aging father caused Just Plain Sandi to walk off the trail and head for home.

WoofieThe shortest hike in number of days belongs to Woofie and Wooly Booly whose trek ended after the first day. The couple had walked 8.4 miles when Woofie (Gwen Minturn) twisted her knee ending their 2016 hiking journey. The day after the injury they write “Woofie’s knee and ankle had swollen and become more painful. With both injuries being on the left side, she was almost totally immobilized, making simply getting out of the tent extremely difficult. We knew that our hike was over, and that we had to get off the trail and get medical attention.” Five days later their final post included the following: “Although none of the hardware in her knee implant was damaged in her fall, she did suffer a hairline fracture of the patella (knee cap). She’ll have to keep the leg brace on for another 4-6 weeks.”

The longest distance traveled by a hiker, so far, that has decided to leave the trail was 590.6 miles, involving 59 days. Aleve (Carl Graves), a retired air traffic controller and a runner of marathons and some ultra-marathons, started on February 17 and hiked until April 9. He took some time off trail, resting for 11 days and then returned, hopping back on the trail at Harpers Ferry, WV. His second hike lasted six days and then Aleve’s Aleveknee communicated that it was not going to carry him any further. Eighteen miles into Pennsylvania, Aleve journals, “My knees really hate rocky trails. I fell today while hiking through a bouldering section between Rocky Mountain Shelters and US 30, the type of fall where your foot is lodged between two rocks while your body continues to pivot. Torqued the bad knee.” Injury claims another journey. Of the 44 hikers that have chosen to end their dream of a thru-hike, 19 hikers point to a physical injury that ended their attempt. Sixteen individuals explain their decision to walk off the trail as a logical/emotional conclusion or an inability to cope with the weather and demands of the trail. One hiker points to a major family health concern that took him off the trail. And eight journals just abruptly ended without explanation. With no updates for over a month, I have concluded that the hiker is no longer on the trail. This might be incorrect and they may be out there piling up the miles, and just tired of posting to the journal. I hope this is the case, but I seriously doubt it.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is not an easy journey. It is filled with potential dangers that can physically end the adventure with one misstep. It is filled with harsh weather that can test the resolve of a bull moose. It comes complete with the stress of booking long miles into the hiker log, with the emotional pull to travel back home to comfort and friends, and with the nagging question echoing daily in the mind of some walkers, “Why am I doing this? Is this what I want to do for five solid months?”

HIF Cover PublishedA thru-hike is not for everyone. However, I have rarely found a hiker that has not been greatly impacted by their adventure. Whether it is 0.2 miles of 590 miles, whether it lasts one day or two months, the hiker is changed by the experience. Just about every hiker that has to walk off the trail feels like a failure. Of course, they are not. They have entered the world of the Appalachian Trail, breathed the forest air, drank from mountain streams, felt the fatigue of walking all day long, tasted the food of the trail, and lived to tell about it. The only failures are those that dream about the trail but never encounter it. Those that plan but never execute. Those with a list that stays in the bucket. My cheers go out to all those who have strapped on the backpack, followed the white blazes, and sought out an adventure.

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Dulcigal, Fat Hen, Georgia, Hiking, Journaling, Pennsylvania, Rooster Talon, Shelter, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Trail, Two Peas, White Blaze | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Update on Thru-Hikers 2016

I have been following several thru-hikers that decided to attempt the epic adventure during the 2016 season. Let me share an update on each hike. Unfortunately, each journal is not current with the last of April, but let’s take a look at the last entry and get a picture of these trail heroes.

I selected six hikes to follow.

  1. MarkHolmgren_19877Mark Homgren, a retired man from the Hershey Company in Pennsylvania, started the AT on February 21. Mark hiked into Fontana Dam, just south of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, on day 15 of his attempt. He left the trail due to a family health matter. Total miles: 164.7

 

  1. Possumhead and CarrotThe Coopers from Jacksonville, Florida stepped onto the trail on March 13. The father (Carrot Stick) and daughter (Possumhead) team made it to Fontana Dam on March 30 seventeen days into their journey, averaging a little over 9 miles per day. They continued into the Great Smoky Mountains and took a rest in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. They took three additional days in Gatlinburg but the rest was not sufficient to restore aching joints and Carrot Stick’s left knee. They left the trail on April 2nd – total miles: 206.8.

 

  1. Two Peas. Blood MtTwo Peas (Kristen and Robert), a married couple from Florida introduce themselves as Moonbeam and Big Cypress. They began their journey on February 13 and the most recent online post is dated April 23 (day 71 of their hike). They have traveled 791 miles and camped on April 23 at Punchbowl Shelter about ten miles south of Buena Vista, VA. Moonbeam has been sick for a few days – a little dehydrated but also struggling with UTI. They have averaged almost 17 miles each day for the past four days, but the journal entries reflect fatigue and frustration with the sickness. Moonbeam simply writes on their April 23 post, “Tough day for the Two Peas.” As they made camp that night they were greeted with the deep chirping sounds of the frogs in the pond near their shelter (I hope they can get some sleep). I am praying that the Two Peas can make it into Buena Vista and get some rest and relief.

 

  1. Dulci on Blood MtDulcigal, Founder of Crosspoint Counseling Center in Jackson, Georgia, left Springer Mountain on March 13. She arrived at Fontana Dam on April 1 (day 20), hiked through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and arrived at Hot Springs, North Carolina (the first trail town) on day 35 of her hike. Her last online post, April 20 and day 39, finds her in Erwin, Tennessee having trekked 341.5 miles. She recently fell, going uphill, and injured her knee. She reports that she feels stronger each day and the climbs seem easier as she adjusts to the trail and the weight of the pack. She is content mentally and is enjoying a daily spiritual walk along the path.

 

  1. Fat Hen and Rooster Talon 5Fat Hen (Dan) and Rooster Talon (Becky) began the approach trail on March 19 and their last online post was dated 4/26/16, day 39 of the trip. They arrived in Ervin, Tennessee after running into some very cold and uncomfortable rain. They were chilled to the bone a few days before arriving at Erwin. Becky has problems with a recurring ingrown toenail and it decided to flare up out in the middle of nowhere. The couple decided to attempt some “backwoods” surgery to address the infected toe. They removed the nail, cleaned and bandaged the toe. They made it to Erwin and Becky’s toe, according to their post was doing quite well. In Erwin, they camped along the Nolichucky River and were able to observe a bald eagle fly-by and a successful grab of a fish right from the river.

 

  1. Mustard Seed 3Mustard Seed (Michelle Mayne), a middle school teacher at Central Christian School in Sharpsburg, Georgia, began her journey with her dad (Negotiator – Michael Williams) on April 1. Her last post was April 27 from Erwin, Tennessee. She and her dad hiked the first 27 days with only one zero day in Hot Springs. They had to take a 15-mile ride from Hot Springs (mile 273.9) to Allen Gap (mile 288.7) because of the forest fires blazing along the trail right now. Mustard Seed was averaging over 13 miles a day. However, she posted on April 26th that the physical demands of the trail were taking their toll. Up at 5:30, hiking all day, and setting up camp at 7:00 every day was sapping her energy and robbing her of her anticipated spiritual/peaceful experience. She and her dad decided to walk off the trail on April 27 have a last hike from Spivey Gap down into Erwin – a 10.7 mile hike. I was cheering for her and was saddened to see her have to walk away.

 

Just to give you an idea of the similarities and differences in these thru-hikes, let’s look at a comparison.

Two Peas       Dulcigal           Fat Hen           Mustard Seed              Rowdy

Start               Feb 13        March 13       March 19             April 1                    April 26

Fontana         Day 22       Day 20           Day 19                 Day 13                     Day 12

Hot Springs  Day 31        Day 35           Day 32                 Day 22                     Day 19

Erwin             Day 37        Day 39           Day 39                 Day 27                     Day 24

I share this information to show the variance in the pace and speed of the hikers. I also think it interesting to look at the impact of spring weather (those leaving later) has on the hiker experience and ability to log greater distances on drier paths and in warmer temperatures (just my theory).

 

Photos of hikers taken from their online journals – trailjournals.com

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Dulcigal, Fat Hen, Fontana Dam, Georgia, GSMNP, Hot Springs, Mark Holmgren, Mustard Seed, Springer Mountain, Tennessee, The Coopers, Thru-Hike, Tn, Trail Name, Two Peas, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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