Thru-Hike

Sour Kraut Posts Photos of the AT

Bridge at the VT/NH

Sour Kraut, aka Tim Pfeiffer, began his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail on February 21 from Amicalola Falls, Georgia, hiking the 8.5-mile approach trail to Springer Mountain. Sour Kraut is a man of few words and his last written post in his online journal was May 17th when he reached the 1000-mile marker of the trail. However, Sour Kraut posts photographs about once a week. He seems to provide a visual post at the border of each new state. On June 13 he posted a shot from the New Jersey/New York border; then the June 19th post captured the Shenandoah Mountain in New York; a selfie in front of the Connecticut/Massachusetts border was shared on June 28th; the 4th of July was celebrated with a photo at the Massachusetts/Vermont border; and then this past Monday (July 16), Sour Kraut posted a posted a photo (dated July 15) of himself crossing the bridge over the Connecticut River from Vermont into the state of New Hampshire.

Prospect Rock

Bromley Mountain

Since Sour Kraut posted his last set of photos on July 4th, he has hiked 250 miles averaging about 21 miles a day. I have included several of his photos to give you an idea of his hike over the past 100 miles: Prospect Rock over-looking Manchester Center, VT (mile 1642); Bromley Mountain (1650.2); Killington Peak (1690.7) and the bridge at the Connecticut River (VT/NH border).

Sour Kraut has been on the trail for 138 days and has trekked at a pace of just under 13 miles a day. The last two states of the Appalachian Trail are comprised of about 450 miles. Sour Kraut has the most difficult terrain still ahead of him as the New Hampshire and Maine include the White Mountains, Mahoosuc Notch (and Mahoosuc Arm), over a dozen streams to ford, and the 100-Mile Wilderness.

Killington Peak

Because Sour Kraut is a little selfish with his words, it is hard to know much about him. He has shared in his profile, however, that he is hiking the Appalachian Trail in memory of his father and in honor of those still fighting ALS (Lou Gehring’s disease). I hope that Tim gains a measure of peace and comfort with each memory of the trails he connects the miles with the thoughts of his father.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class of 2018, Maine, New Hampshire, Sour Kraut, Thru-Hike, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mid-July – Lots of Silence from the AT

Sunfish Pond from RKT’s photos

I have been waiting for a current update from each of the six thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail that I am following via trailjournals.com before making this post. This does not seem to be coming together well, so let me share what I know and catch you up on those who are posting regularly.

Pigweed has been off trail since June 14, taking some time with his wife at the beach. He posted from Buena Vista, Virginia (about AT mile 803), on June 14 and projected his return after the 4th of July weekend. He was considering a flip-flop experience by driving up north, completing the trail in Maine, and then finishing the section that he skipped.

RKT’s look in New York

RTK (Return to Katahdin) posts a week in arrears and his last update was on June 30 (13 days ago). Bruce Matson (RTK) was at mile-1,456. Earlier that week, he spent three zero days at Bear Mountain Bridge Hotel in Fort Montgomery, New York, before hiking north toward the Connecticut border. He crossed over the border on June 29, spent the night close to Bull’s Bridge and then traveled to a family reunion off trail.

Hard Knocks last posted on July 4th. He checked in while he was at Franconia Notch, New Hampshire (mile 1,823), sharing that cell phone coverage was extremely poor and that he would update soon. That was ten days ago and without an update. Entering the White Mountains, he does encounter extreme terrain which is infamous for cell phone blackouts. I would not be surprised to hear that Hard Knocks is hiking in Maine – looking forward to hearing from this strong hiker.

Sour Kraut last photo update was ten days ago (July 4th) picturing himself at the Vermont border and about mile 1,593.

Sour Kraut in Vermont

The number of hikers has increased back up to seven with the return of Vagabond Jack to the trail. Jack left the trail back quest for medical reasons at the end of April while he was hiking close to Newport, Virginia (mile – 671.5). He has taken a long break and now is excited about continuing his a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. He has re-entered the trail close to Dalton, Massachusetts (mile 1565), hiked 9 miles to Cheshire, MA, and plans to hike north to Maine and then complete his hike southbound from Massachusetts to Virginia.

Chip has done a very nice job updating his journal almost every day of his recent experience. On July 13 he was in New Jersey, his home state, enjoying a brief relieve from the rocks of Pennsylvania. The rocks will reappear very soon, but his walk around Sunfish Pond soothed his feet from the brutal terrain of the Keystone State. Chip was traveled over 1,300 miles and I hope he will make it to the summit before the winter snows force him from his goal.

The Lookout

Next Step continues to hike solo. His wife, Which Way, who took a hiatus from the hike close to Harpers Ferry at the end of May, rejoined him in Great Barrington, MA, on June 28. She tested her back injury for a couple of days and realized that she was not able to fulfill her dream at this time. Next Step has decided to continue without her and continues to make strong hikes to the great mountain in Maine. He has traversed 1,715 miles of the AT and enjoyed a night at The Lookout (a cabin with an observation tower) in Vermont (about 30 miles from the New Hampshire border).

Name Mile State Last Update
Pigweed  803 Virginia 6/14/18
RTK 1456 New York 6/30/18
Hard Knocks 1823 New Hampshire 7/4/18
Sour Kraut 1592 Vermont 7/4/18
Vagabond Jack 1574 Massachusetts 7/12/18
Chip 1315 New Jersey 7/13/18
Next Step 1715 Vermont 7/13/18

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class of 2018, Maine, Massachusettes, Mount Katahdin, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Sunfish Pond, Thru-Hike, Vermont, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Week of July Update on the Remaining Six

The fourteen thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail that I began following this winter are now down to six. All fourteen kept online journals at trailjournals.com and each one began their treks in January or February of 2018. Let me provide a quick update on each of the six remaining hikers.

Latest Photo of Hard Knocks, February 9, 2018!

Patrick Knox, trail name Hard Knocks, had been silent in his journal since June 26th. He updated the record of his journey on July 3rd sharing his hike through July 2. During the past 5 days, he has hiked about 52 miles including a zero-day at Trapper John’s Hostel about 18 miles into the challenging state of New Hampshire. He spent a night at the Hiker’s Welcome Hostel in Glencliff, NH, and on July 2nd he was safe and sound at The Notch Hostel in Kinsman Notch in Lincoln, NH.

Hard Knocks makes very short entries so it is difficult to read between the lines and discern his emotional and physical condition, but let me share his post for July 2:

Destination: The Notch Hostel                                                          Today’s Miles: 9.30

Start Location: Hiker’s Welcome Hostel                                          Trip Miles: 1791.30

Today was a slack pack and whereas the mileage may not look big the hike itself was.  We covered little more than a mile an hour because of the steep, rough terrain and because of the heat and humidity.  That, plus the fact that we are trying to set ourselves up for our first foray into the White Mountains that are looming just before us.  “Looming” sounds a little too depressing so how about “Rising just before us like the sun on a Spring Day.”?  No matter how you say it I suppose it will be a challenge but after all these miles I am confident that it will be a mere bump in the road.  Tomorrow I am planning another slack pack to set put me right where I want to be.  I am still a walkin’.

 

Latest Photo of Chip – Day One!

Chip Tillson, who does not appear to have adopted a trail name other than “Chip,” is about 580 miles behind Hard Knocks in the Keystone State of Pennsylvania. The thru-hike is not a race and there are many paces adopted by the hikers. The biggest concern on a NOBO (northbound) hike is arriving at Mt Katahdin, Maine, before the snow closes the path to the summit – usually the middle of October.

On July 2nd he arrived at Port Clinton. I always breathe a sigh of relief when the thru-hiker travels beyond this nice little community in PA because I spent 5 days there in 2014 trying to recover from injury. v found a hotel in Hamburg (less than 2 miles down the highway from Port Clinton) and enjoyed a zero-day there avoiding the heat of the summer with no injuries involved. I found his post very interesting because in 2014 (four years ago, I watched the championship game of the World Cup on a small B/W TV in my Port Clinton hotel. Chip shares, “Yesterday I checked in to a hotel in Hamburg, PA to get cleaned up buy food. The recent heat has not felt uncomfortable but it’s clearly taken a toll. I woke this morning feeling very fatigued and my feet are sore from stepping on rocks all day every day. Recuperation is in order so I’ll stay here another night There are plenty restaurants nearby for healthy meals and I can catch some World Cup action while I rest. Weather should be cooler tomorrow for the climb back into the mountains.”

Sour Kraut in Massachusetts

Sour Kraut, Tim Pfeiffer, updates via photographs. His last set of pictures was dated June 28th and Sour Kraut was at the Connecticut/Massachusetts and had hiked to the 1500-mile marker.

I gave a brief update on Which Way and Next Step, Darrell and Alicia Brimberry, in yesterday’s blog, but they are in Massachusetts about 1550 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia. Which Way has rejoined her husband after several weeks off trail and they are moving forward hoping Alicia’s back injury will cooperate and allow her to finish the hike.

RTK, Bruce Matson always updates his journal a week at a time, but in arrears. He typically updates on Thursdays, so a post should be coming any day. His last entry ended with June 19th and Bruce was camped at Pochuck Mountain Shelter in New Jersey. He is only about 12 miles from the New Jersey/New York border having covered approximately 1350 miles of the Appalachian Trail

Pigweed, Lee Richards, last posted on June 14th. He shared in that post that he was taking some time off the trail to spend some time at the beach with his wife. I’m going to get off Trail, go to the beach for a while with Cindy then bump to Maine in a flip-flop hike and start hiking South to get some cooler weather. So I won’t be posting for a little while until I achieve that. Probably after the July 4th weekend.” True to his words, Pigweed has not updated his online journal. I am anticipating his next entry sometime this weekend or early next week. Either that or he will decide that the beach and the company of his wife are too beautiful to leave.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Hard Knocks, Massachusettes, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Which Way and Next Step Back Together on the AT

East Brook Pond, Massachusetts

One month ago, the husband (next Step) and wife (Which Way) team from The Washington, DC area, had a difficult decision to make.  Which Way (Alicia) was experiencing a great deal of back pain from an injury suffered prior to their Appalachian Trail thru-hike attempt. It was decided that Next Step (Darrell) would continue on without his wife, while Alicia sought medical help in correcting her physical discomfort. Part of their posting on May 29th reads:

5/29/18 – Distance today: 17.1 miles

“Plot twist. Which Way is getting a ride into Charlestown to the Urgent Care from our trail Angels, Count and Lavender. She reaggravated an old back injury a couple of weeks ago and it’s just keeps getting worse. Hoping she can get some pain relief, but more importantly, some advice on fixing the problem. I suffered through a couple of years of back pain, so I know it’s no fun, especially carrying a backpack up and down mountains! Praying for good results today!” 

Next Step at Conn/Mass border

Next Step has been moving northward at an outstanding pace since beginning his solo hike. He has averaged 17.75 miles per day for the 28 days of their separation. He has hiked through the four miles of West Virginia, the state of Maryland, the rocks of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and 15 miles into Massachusetts. The couple still has 470 miles to reach Mt Katahdin in Maine and most of the miles are difficult, challenging miles that will test the hiking skills they have accumulated along the way.

Happy to be back together

Next Step is thrilled to be reunited with his wife and looks forward to enjoying the trail with Alicia as they move north. Which Way had been spending time “healing” at her parent’s home in Kentucky. Her two-day drive to Massachusetts was filled with excitement to see her husband and some major fog that added some adversity on the roadways. Their reunion in Great Barrington, MA was sweet and they began to hike again on June 30th. They began their trek north with a rather slow, conservative pace, but a portion of their journal on July 2nd raised some concern from my perspective:

7/2/18 – Distance today: 12 miles

“When we started hiking at 0700 the temperature was still bearable. It would heat up significantly as the day wore on. Which Way was hiking without a pack today. I carried enough water for both of us. Unfortunately, it didn’t help her situation much. As soon as we started climbing, her back started hurting. It is very frustrating for her. 

Which Way Back on the AT

The trail crossed a gravel road deep in the forest about 9 miles into the hike. We decided it was best for WW to wait there while I finished the last 3 miles…..Which Way will rest tomorrow while I knock out some more miles. How many miles will depend on when I get started and how I hold up with the heat index well over 100 again.”

Which Way is one determined lady and she has hiked with physical pain, but the terrain ahead in New Hampshire and Maine will demand great effort and will cause a good deal of stress on her back. I hope that her injury will be strengthened each day and will be ready to face the White Mountains and the challenges of Maine. I will be anxious to see what the next few days will bring for this couple on their way north.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class of 2018, Massachusetts, Thru-Hike, Which Way and Next Step | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Bamadog Leaves the Appalachian Trail

White Mountains Ahead

Bamadog, 61-year-old Marty Dockins, who retired in March 2017, has been hiking strong recently and on July 1, he arrived at Franconia Notch, about 70 miles into the state of New Hampshire. During the last few days of June, Bamadog had climbed some significant mountains including Smarts Mountain (3237 ft), Mt. Cube ((2911 ft), Mt. Moosilauke (4802 ft), South Kinsman Mountain (4358 ft), and North Kinsman Mountain (4293 ft). He was poised to enter the White Mountain National Forest and the Appalachian Mountain Club Hut system. Franconia Notch is about 1820 miles into the 2190-mile thru-hike.

Mt Moosilauke

Bamadog had a difficult hike on June 29th as he climbed over Mt Moosilauke. He fell twice descending the dangerous north face of the mountain. The steep descent drops 2,930 feet of extremely technical hiking over 3.8 miles of trail.

He then posted the following journal entry on July 1, 2018:

Today is a bittersweet day but a good day. Psalm 118:24. (This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. – my quote).  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 called her and she is almost halfway here already. Only one speeding ticket so far that I know of. Pray for traveling grace for her please and for us as we make our way home. It has been an amazing journey. I want to thank everyone that has had a part in this. Trail angels and maintainers. Total strangers doing wonderful things for me. The list goes on and on. I want to thank my Lord and Savior Most of all. His Holy Spirit has been with me every step of the way. He promised in His Word that He will never leave me or forsake me. You can count on that if you are a child of the King.

Steep Descent off Mt. Moosilauke

1818.5 miles. Not bad for this ole guy. Only God knows if I will come back and get the rest of it done. That is His call. I have peace about it either way. I needed to prove to myself that I could do this. I have done that with God’s favor on me. None of it would be possible without Him. I could not have done this without my wife. She has been my help and strength and encourager through this along with my two sons. Thank you so much to all of the people who have signed my guest book and have been such an encouragement. It meant so much to me. It I can help any of you down the road let me know. Goodnight sweetheart. Headed home!!!

To God be the glory…Bamadog.

The Rocks of New Hampshire

I am so sad to see Bamadog leave the trail. He started his adventure on February 15 and walked for 4 ½ months. I know he must follow his heart and mind and body, but he was doing so well. Reading his journal on a regular basis, I could tell that God was teaching him many things over the miles on the AT. The last 370 miles of the trail through New Hampshire and Maine are brutal and will challenge the hiker every day to Katahdin. I am sure that the trail has changed Bamadog and that God will use his experiences to share His faithfulness with many friends, family, and acquaintances for years to come.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Bamadog, Class of 2018, Franconia Notch, Mount Moosilauke, New Hampshire, The Whites, Thru-Hike | 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

RTK Updates His Journal

RTK

Returning to Katahdin (RTK), Bruce Matson, a lawyer from Virginia is hiking a strong NOBO (northbound) hike on the Appalachian Trail. Starting on February 24th, RTK reached the halfway point on May 29.  RTK updates his online journal once per week (usually on Thursdays) and communicates a week in arrears. He just posted on June 7th for the week (8days) of May 24 – 31. During those eight days, he hiked just over 99 miles, averaging 12.4 miles per day. However, in those eight days, he took two zero-days and one shay (short-day) of 3.6. On the other days on the trail, he logged 19.6, 18.1, 18.8, 22.8. and 16.2 miles, so you can see that he is trekking at a very high rate of mileage per day.

Let me share a little bit of his adventure during his last eight days of May. On May 24 he woke up at Bears Den Hostel with about 3 miles left of the roller coaster to traverse (the roller coaster is 13.5 miles of tightly packed ups and downs just prior to the Virginia/West Virginia border). After the coaster “ride,” he had a relatively easy hike to the Blackburn AT Center for lunch. Before arriving in Harpers Ferry West Virginia (home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy – ATC) RTK conquered the challenging rock scramble up and over Buzzard Rocks. It was 7:30 pm when he walked across the Shenandoah River Bridge with a muddy and raging river welcoming him to Harpers Ferry.

Harpers Ferry Shenandoah River

May 25 was a zero-day (a day when no miles are hiked and the hiker resupplies and rests) in West Virginia as RTK got his picture taken at the ATC and visited a local outfitter.

RTK left Harpers Ferry on May 26 loaded down with four days of food and two liters of water. Crossing the Byron Memorial Footbridge, he entered into the state of Maryland. He enjoyed a 3- mile, flat path along the C&O Canal towpath, then climbed to the views atop Weverton Cliffs, looking back on the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. He arrived at Dahlgren Campground about 4 pm. He hiked a tenth of a mile away from camp to a four-star restaurant, Old South Mountain Inn, for dinner.

May 27 was a Sunday and the AT was filled with Memorial Day weekend hikers, section hikers, Boy Scouts, Ridge Runners, and volunteer trail maintenance workers. RTK began his day with a quick visit to the original Washington Monument which lies right along the trail in Maryland.  He also experienced some thoughtful trail blessings including three ladies from Annapolis, who fed him lunch at Black Rock Cliffs with enough left-overs to provide a delicious dinner at his destination shelter for the evening.

AT Museum. Pine Grove Furnace State Park. PA

RTK longest mileage day (22.8 miles) was May 28. His morning began with an adrenalin producing event – a bear encounter. “While taking down my tent around 6:30 I looked up to see a 400 pound bear lumbering over to me.  It was 20 yards away so I yelled “hey there!”  The bear looked up, saw me and turned around.” After his heart rate returned to normal, RTK experienced a misty, drizzly day along the path and was content to camp at Rocky Mountain Shelters. However, two hiking buddies talked him into extending his trek 3.5 miles and a hitchhike into Fayetteville, PA to enjoy a meal at Timbers and a stay at Trail of Hope Hostel. The Timbers was closed for the holiday weekend, but the hostel was nice.

May 29th brought RTK to the linear halfway point on the trail. He was disappointed that there was no signage on the trail but he did spot two snakes during his 16.2-mile hike (one garter and one black snake). He was very impressed with the beautiful shelters in Pennsylvania so far, including his lodging that night – Toms Run Shelter.

RTK’s hike on May 30th was short (only 3.6 miles) but his day was filled with good times. He passed the (old) “halfway” sign (a large sign with flags) just after the Toms Run Shelter. He arrived at Pine Grove Furnace State Park, home of the half-gallon challenge, at 9:30 in the morning. He waited at the PGF General Store for several of his hiking friends to arrive and then enjoyed a leisurely and successful eating-challenge of a half-gallon of ice cream (Neapolitan was his flavor of choice). He visited the AT Museum located across the street from the general store before catching a ride to Boiling Springs and Allenberry Resort. Once settled, he made an important call home. He placed a “Happy Anniversary” call to his bride, Cheryl, of 37 years. Congratulations both of you for a great example of relational commitment!

May 31st was spent as a zero-day in Boiling Springs as RTK planned his next month on the trail. Boiling Springs is such a peaceful trail town with good food and a lovely public spot around a well-kept pond/park. I hope the next eight days are just as productive and enjoyable for RTK along the trail.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Appalachian Trail Museum, Class of 2018, Half Gallon Challenge, Harpers Ferry, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Roller Coaster, RTK, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lots of Silence on the AT

My View from the Washington Monument in Maryland

Four of my seven thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail have been silent during the last few days. As you may know, I am following seven online journals of folks that began their AT adventures in either January or February. Let me give you a quick update on each hiker.

The silent ones are

1). Hard Knocks (last posted in his journal on May 25 from High Point Shelter about 30 miles from the NJ/NY border).

2). Sour Kraut (his last photo was at the Mason/Dixon line on May 21).

3). RTK (who posts a week behind his location has been silent since 5/23 when he posted from Bear’s Den Hostel in northern Virginia).

4). Pigweed (posted on May 30 from Pearisburg, VA).

Bamadog, Chip Tillson, and WhichWay/Next Step have faithfully journaled and their last posts were 6/4/2018.

Bamadog – June 2018

Bamadog has been averaging 14.23 miles over the past six days and has traveled almost 100 miles – from Mashipacong Shelter (three-quarters of the way through New Jersey) to a shelter about 25 miles from the New York/Connecticut border. On May 30 he hiked by High Point, NJ on a beautiful, cool day. He logged 19.5 miles that day and enjoyed a beautiful sunset despite the forecast of a raining night. Bamadog awakened to a cloudy May 31 with temperatures in the low 70’s. Then, he hit the mosquitos – there were awful as he crossed into New York and faced the challenging climbs of the Prospect Rock area. June 1 proved to be a short day (9 miles) as he stopped at Greenwood Lake for breakfast and a short, 3-day resupply of food. Bamadog did not make an entry on June 2, but on June 3 he recorded his hike through the Bear Mountain Recreation Area (including the zoo) and across the Hudson River near Fort Montgomery, New York. It rained on the morning of June 4 delaying his start till 8:30 am. It was chilly as he hit the trail and he began his day in a long sleeve shirt, but within an hour of hiking, Bamadog was down to his short sleeves looking forward to finishing up the state of New York by Thursday.

Chip Tillson (he does not post photos!), for the last six days, has been hiking through the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. He averaged 10.7 miles per day covering just over 61.5 miles. May 30 was a short hiking day logging in 6.2 miles and finding shelter at Loft Mountain Campground just off the Skyline Drive. He took care of some laundry needs and picked up some resupply at the camp store. A downpour of rain overnight left the trail like a river on May 31. He wrote that the path “went from running water to muddy quagmire” and yet he was able to hike his longest day of the week (16.2 miles). He ran into his first bear on the trail and caught eye on his second running away from him later the same day. June 1 brought a little discouragement as he discovered about an hour into his journey that he was hiking the wrong way. He met a Ridge Runner along the path who encouraged him with words of assurance that all good hikers make similar mistakes. He spent the night in another “official” campground: Lewis Mountain Campground. More rain greeted Chip on June 2 bringing slippery mud and prohibiting a clear view of the Shenandoah Valley. More hard rain continued on June 3, and more discouragement occurred during the night. Critters chewed a hole in his food bag and ate some of his instant oatmeal. By 4:00 pm, the rain let up. Chip paused for a hot supper and then continued for two additional miles before making camp four miles south of Luray, Virginia. Chip spent the morning of June 4 getting dried out. He stayed at camp with his gear hanging from a clothesline. It was early afternoon before he began to hike. He observed another black bear along the trail before he reached his destination: Pass Mountain Hut.

Which Way and Next Step in Harpers Ferry

Which Way and Next Step have hit a major hurdle in their thru-hike. Which Way (Alicia) became very uncomfortable with an older back injury that was raising its ugly head. On May 30th she knew she needed to get the back checked out and so she was able to arrange a ride into an Urgent Care in Charles Town, WV, about 7 miles from Harpers Ferry. Next Step (Darrell) continued to hike. He logged 19.6 miles into Harpers Ferry and met Alicia at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Which Way was told that she needed rest for the next 5-7 days, so they revised their hiking plans. Next Step would continue to hike north and Which Way would drive a rental car enabling them to meet up each day. Darrell logged 20 miles on May 31 ending his trek in Washington Monument State Park, Maryland. On June 1 he generated 21.5 miles with a final destination at Pen Mar County Park on the Maryland/Pennsylvania border. Another long hike (18.5 miles) on June 2 brought Next Step to Caledonia State Park in PA. Which Way and Next Step then drove 30 min to Chambersburg, PA, where they stayed with good friends from their time in the military. They enjoyed a zero-day in Chambersburg on June 3 before Next Step continued northbound on the AT. Having undergone some physical therapy on her back in Charles Town, Which Way received news from the doctors that she would need to stay away from hiking for four weeks. This sad news was devastating to both of them, but they have decided that Next Step will continue and Which Way will go home to recover. So, Next Step hiked 20 miles on June 4 and met Which Way at the halfway point of the AT at Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Alicia is on her way home and Darrell continues without her. She still hopes to join him in a month and complete the hike together to Katahdin.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Bamadog, Bear Mountain, Black Bear, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Harpers Ferry, Maryland, Mosquitoes, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Pine Grove Furnace, Thru-Hike, Which Way and Next Step | 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

Bamadog

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…

SNP Map

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

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