Trail Name

Easter on the Trail

Beaker left the Appalachian Trail on April 13th in order to return to Morgantown, WV, pack up all his belongings, and move to Knoxville, TN. He and his wife sold their West Virginia home while Beaker was on the trail; they met in Knoxville (hometown of their son) and bought a house within three days; now they are packing up and making the move. Beaker will be off the trail for a couple of weeks. When he returns I will continue his story.

Meanwhile, on April 12th, Grateful 2 made it to Newfound Gap, TN. – close to the half-way point through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He quickly hitched a ride from Newfound Gap into Gatlinburg and planned to take it easy on Thursday.

April 13 (Thursday)

Grateful 2 rested in Gatlinburg today. The “zero” day was filled with sleeping, eating, watching TV, eating, planning for the trail ahead, and eating.

April 14 (Friday)

From Gatlinburg (Newfound Gap) to Pecks Corner Shelter (GSMNP) = 11.0 miles

Grateful 2 commented on the beauty of the trail today. The incredible views were mixed with some apprehension because the trail included a narrow ridge walk. Grateful found himself on top of the ridge walking a path about three feet wide with drop offs on each side.  At some points the drop offs were 80 or 85 degrees on both sides. Grateful 2 is afraid of heights which filled the adventure with added anxiety. Grateful’s solution, “I just look at the trail and put one foot in front of the other.” 
April 15 (Saturday) From Pecks Corner Shelter to Cosby Knob Shelter (GSMNP) = 12.9 miles

Grateful 2 reported a pretty uneventful day. His trek through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) is progressing well as he logged in over a dozen miles. He hiked most of the day with a 61-year-old hiker from St. Louis, trail name: Persistent.  Grateful 2’s feet bothered him a little during today’s hike, but his progress kept him positive. A strong hike tomorrow promises an exit from the GSMNP – a major milestone on any thru-hike.

April 16 (Easter Sunday) Crosby Know Shelter to Standing Bear Hostel = 10.7 miles

Grateful 2 made it out of the Smokies! His Easter hike is best described in his own words,

As I climbed down from 5000 feet to 1500 feet I noticed a distinct change. Life on the trees and ground in the form of leaves! I had not seen leaves on trees on the trail since I began the journey. It was so good to see this sign of life. It almost felt like I walked from winter to spring in a few hours. Gone were the bare tree trunks and solid brown floor covering. In its place were millions of little fluorescent green tree flags and wildflowers everywhere. There was mayapple, dwarf iris, bluets, trillium, and rue anemone ..… From death to life in such a short time. Kind of appropriate for this Easter Day, don’t you think?”

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Gatlinburg, Grateful 2, GSMNP, Knoxville, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Trail Name, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker, 1st Sgt., and now Bo

My last post about thru-hiker, Beaker, and his hiking buddy, 1st Sgt., placed them at Mountain Harbour Hostel, TN after a 16.3 mile hike including two big climbs over Little Hump and Big Hump Mountains. They had missed the serving of dinner at the hostel, but purchased some pizza, sodas, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at the General Store. The weather forecast was for thunderstorms and 1-2 inches of rain tomorrow, so they were looking forward to a zero day at the hostel on Monday. Let’s continue Beaker’s adventure ….

Mountain Harbour Hostel

4/3/17 Zero Day at Mountain Harbour Hostel, TN.

The rain came as predicted and the dry stay at hostel was enjoyed and appreciated.

4/4/17 From Mountain Harbour Hostel to Moreland Gap Shelter, TN – distance: 18.4 miles.

Beaker and 1st Sgt. left the Mountain Harbour Hostel after another huge breakfast, walked the 0.3 miles along US Rt. 19 to the trailhead, and started hiking north on the Appalachian Trail. The hike was quite productive (18.4 miles) filled with beautiful waterfalls and manageable terrain leading to the Moreland Gap Shelter. The two hikers were joined by a third, Bo. Bo is a professor of anthropology at Duke University. His actual trail name is Bard Owl because he enthusiastically explained the virtues of the Bard Owl one night around the camp fire. As happens with many trail names, Bard Owl got shortened to B.O. He didn’t particularly care for the connotations of that name, considering the bad smell of all thru-hikers. So, it eventually became Bo.

The three have made plans to stay at the Boots Off Hostel tomorrow. Due to aggressive bear activity, the next shelter on the AT has been closed to hikers. The hostel is located a comfortable 15-mile distance from Moreland Gap and the weather forecast is predicting yet more thunderstorms tomorrow evening, so a hostel seemed like a good part of their discerning plan.

4/5/17 From Moreland Gap Shelter to Boots Off Hostel in Hampton, TN, today’s hike logged 14.9 miles.

Bo continues to hike with Beaker and 1st Sgt. making a friendly trio of thru-hikers. The three seem to get along well. Their trail conversations today ranged from Native cultures, to AT culture, to Doolittle’s raid on Japan, to hiking the Camino trail in Spain. In addition to these good talks, the best visual part of the hike today was the Laurel Fork Gorge. The Laurel Fork roared through the gorge and the trail ran right next to the creek. Then came the climb up Pond Mountain. Not a particularly difficult climb, it is a long climb. The three amigos gained 2000 ft over 2.5 miles, then descended off the ridge for two and a half miles leading them to the fairly new Boots Off Hostel located near the base of the descent.

“After showering, 10 of us piled into the hostel’s Suburban and got a shuttle to town for food. Most of us ended up at McDonald’s where I learned about a brilliant culinary masterpiece from Hummingbird – you pull apart a McDouble and put a McChicken Sandwich between the two patties and smash it all together.” Now that is hiker hunger at its best!


4/6/17
From the Boots Off Hostel to Iron Mountain Shelter, TN for 15.9 miles.

Winter is back! The three adventurers headed out from the hostel in a light rain. The rain settled into a cold drizzle that went on all morning. The first couple hours of the day’s hike led along the shores of Watauga Lake. After crossing over the dam, the rest of the day was spent climbing. As the men climbed, the wind started intensifying and continued to blow fiercely with gusts up to 30-40 mph. And then the temperatures started to drop.

The rain turned to ice pellets and sleet. The high winds made the ice pellets feel like miniature darts as they stung the faces of the men. Finally, the sleet turned to snow. The afternoon found the ground slowly turning white. Somewhere along the trail, the fellowship of three decided they didn’t want to have to set up tents in the snow. So, they planned to sleep in the Iron Mountain Shelter. They arrived around 4:00 pm finding only three other hikers at the shelter that sleeps six – room for all.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Hostel, Laurel Fork, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Trail Name | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Thru-Hikers at Katahdin

Several thru-hikers that I have been following are arriving at Mount Katahdin, Maine, the northern terminus, of the Appalachian Trail. I’d like to take some blog space from time to time to congratulate these brave adventurers and to share some of the variety of people who make up this strange breed of individuals called thru-hikers: the class of 2016. Here is the first installment.

Cheryl and Kelly 7.26.16

Cheryl (Wonder) and Kelly (Santa)

Cheryl (Wonder) and Kelly (Santa)

Started in Georgia on February 26, 2016

Summited Mount Katahdin on July 26, 2016

Total Days for the Journey – 152

This husband and wife team from Massachusetts are in their 50’s and have three grown children. Both Santa and Wonder are teachers – Santa teaches high school mathematics and Wonder ministers in a Kindergarten classroom. Kelly was able to take a leave of absence from his school at the end of February and Cheryl took the entire year off. They chose to leave at the end of February in order to complete the thru-hike by the beginning/middle of August and be back home for the start of the new school year. Wow, what lessons they will bring into their classrooms!

While hiking the Appalachian Trail they left their lives in Massachusetts in the hands of their two oldest children. The oldest loves spreadsheets and numbers so she was put in charge of the hiker mail drop schedule; the middle child was responsible for the house and actually mailing the resupply packages to mom and dad on the trail. The youngest is a junior in college and focused on the academics at hand.

When asked the question, “Why do you want to do this?” Wonder has many thoughts to share. I thought several were quite interesting:

“When I was little my dad had a book with pictures of the AT and I thought it was “cool”.

“My husband and I have hiked many sections of the AT and then I got obsessed (this happens to me). We hiked a section from Mount Greylock in Mass to Hanover, NH and he got the “backpacking bug.”

“I want to know if I am capable of doing this hike end to end.”

“Can I physically hike 2000+ miles? Am I mentally capable of being challenged, bored, uncomfortable?’Cheryl and Kelly Mason Dixon Line

“Can I stay (happily) married while hiking 2000+ miles with my husband?”

Trail names: Santa got his because he has a big white beard and his rotund belly when he started the hike (Kelly lost over 30 pounds during the adventure). According to their profile, Kelly wants to be a mall Santa when he grows up. Based on his picture, he would have no problem getting the job.

Wonder was given her name during a section hike from Mount Greylock (the highest point in Massachusetts) to Hanover, New Hampshire. She had taken a class on “wondering” – how to engage the natural, innate curiosity of young children and use that inner desire for discovery to help them learn. Because of her own curiosity, Cheryl tends to start a lot of her sentences with “I wonder…” and so the trail name Wonder just seemed to fit her personality and disposition.

Photos/details gleaned for their online journal – http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=518667.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Maine, Mason-Dixon Line, Massachusetts, Mount Katahdin, Mt Greylock, New Hampshire, Thru-Hike, Trail Name, Wonder and Santa | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Fat Hen and Talon at the ATC

At the Appalachian Trail Conservancy

At the Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon made it to Harpers Ferry, WV on June 23rd and became part of the traditional photo shot of thru-hikers. Their picture also reflects the hiker number – representing the rank order of thru-hikers that have checked in at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Dan was number 974 and Rebecca was 975. During my 2014 thru-hike, I arrived on June 30 and was hiker number 924. This shows the increase in participation this year – they arrived one week earlier and yet 50 more hikers have passed through the town headed north.

When Dan and Rebecca arrived in Harper’s Ferry, they developed a creative idea of visiting Washington, D.C. There’s a train station in the historic district of Harpers Ferry that goes to Union Station.  Helping to hatch the idea were the lodging options in Harpers – they were limited and expensive.  But they were too late for the last train into D.C. for the day. And then, trail blessing appeared – a man at the ATC, Glen, offered them a ride into D.C. Fat Hen and Rooster Talon were so excited about the possibilities. Their journal entry expressed it so well,

“We are then booking a hotel (which was cheaper than the one in Harpers Ferry) and in a car, on our way to the city. Glen was kind enough not only to bring us to the city but to our hotel as well, with many recommendations and anecdotes along the way. The time in the car flew by with great conversations! We then spent the night with a real shower, Chinese food and, movies.”

After breakfast the next morning they walked all over the capitol city from the White House to the National Archives to the Air & Space Museum to the National Gallery, then to the Natural History Museum, the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. This was not exactly a day off and certainly not a zero day of rest, but it was a great day of adventure. Their reflection:

Fat Hen and Talen Offical Picture“We had a great day off, even though it meant walking just as much as a normal one. It was a nice change of pace to play tourist for a day. Hopped a late train back to Harpers Ferry and we were back at it again. To head back to the wilderness with our backpacks, thinking that just a day before we touched a moon rock, saw the Wright Flyer, gazed upon Leonardo Davinci’s and Raphael’s works, stood before Lincoln and our country’s founding documents.”

The picture of this young couple on the porch of the ATC revealed some information that I did not know. Dano is Daniel Gottshall and Becky is Rebecca Savaria. They are both from Dundee, NY. Not on the picture but from Wikipedia: Dundee is a village in Yates County, New York, USA. The population was 1,725 at the 2010 census. The name was taken from Dundee, the city in Scotland with a population of 160,000. The Village of Dundee is in the Town of Starkey, New York. I bet this small town is very proud of these two young adventurers.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Fat Hen, Harpers Ferry, Hiking, Journaling, Rooster Talon, Thru-Hike, Trail, Trail Name, Washington. DC | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

RoadRunner and Will

RR and WillSandra and Larry Tyler (trail names RoadRunner and Will) make their home in Arizona but decided to travel to Georgia and attempt a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail during 2016. Will has recently retired from the medical field and Road Runner works as an ultrasound technician. They have one grandson, William, and one Black Lab, Jedi.

The couple is not new to the long distance hiking adventure. They have been involved in long trail experiences since 2005. The hiked the John Muir Trail in 2005, The PCT in 2006 and 2013, The Arizona Trail in 2011, the Colorado Trail in 2012 and the Great Divide Trail in 2015. As they contemplated the AT in 2016, they were only able to commit to a four month window to accomplish it, from March 1 to July 1. This is a very aggressive agenda, but Team Tyler had the experience to understand the mileage needed and the physical ability to hike long distances.

I was rather surprised and disappointed for this Arizonan couple to see them pull off the trail at the 2,000 mile point just 190 miles short of Katahdin. It was day 112 of their adventure, June 18, 2016. Looking back over their journal, it was evident that RoadRunner had a rough go of it from the beginning. She broke out with poison ivy, contracted cellulitis, experienced a pulled calf muscle, took multiple falls, and on day 96 fell directly on her right knee. Despite a hefty pain killer and a regular dose of Vitamin I (Ibuprofen), her constant leg pain brought serious limping and discouraging progress.

Road Runner on the ATRoadRunner and Will stopped in Rangely, Maine, on June 14 to buy some new shoes for Sandra. The new shoes were a big help but RoadRunner was still moving at half speed and it became evident that the couple was not able to make it to Katahdin before their deadline. Their last journal entry was written from Stratton, Maine. RoadRunner pens these sad words describing their decision to end their attempted thru-hike:

When Will woke up I had to break the news. You can imagine I was weeping as I did so. To be within 190 miles of finishing and then to have to abruptly end your hike is agonizing.   We tried to think of ways that he could continue and finish. We were out of spare days. The chipmunks cheeks were empty so we couldn’t just lay low and see if the knee would get better. If he went forward and I couldn’t hike, that left me hanging out at Shaws for somewhere for like 9 days which he was not willing to do…. He was a bit shell shocked by my announcement, and then a bit down. But he rallied and took care of getting our flights home and researching getting us to the airport. ”

Team Tyler are great veteran hikers with a ton of determination and grit. Maybe another season will permit a return trip to the east and a completion of the 200 miles left in Maine.

Photo on Saddleback Mountain: http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=1040124

Photo in woods: http://www.alexperkinsshoots.com/the-appalachian-trail-high-in-the-smokies/

Categories: Adversity, Appalachian Trail, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Pacific Crest Trail, RoadRunner and Will, Saddleback Mountain, Thru-Hike, Trail Name | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Update on Inchworm’s Sad Story

Largay InchwormOne of the saddest stories on the Appalachian Trail is packaged in a small lady named “Inchworm.” Her off-the-trail name was Geraldine Largay, a 66-year-old thru-hiker from Brentwood, Tennessee. She began hiking the AT at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in April, 2013.  After hiking over three months and more than 950 miles north, Inchworm disappeared on July 22. She lost her way with only 211 miles to the summit of the northern terminus, Mount Katahdin, Maine. She was last seen at the Poplar Ridge Lean-to, heading north toward Spaulding Mountain Lean-to (a journey of about 8 miles).

Geraldine remained missing for 26 months, despite an extensive search by the Maine Warden Service. Mid-October, 2015, “Inchworm” was found dead in her sleeping bag zipped inside her tent about two miles from the trail in Redington Township, Maine. She was found on restricted military land belonging to the U.S. Navy by a private contractor. Recent information released by authorities include insights from Geraldine’s trail journal and her cell phone.

A few hours into her hike on July 22 the temperature climbed to near 70 degrees, and Inchworm walked off the trail to relieve herself. She soon realized she was lost and couldn’t find her way back to the trail. Around 11 a.m., she took out her blue Samsung sliding phone and texted her husband: “In somm trouble. Got off trail to go to br. Now lost. Can u call AMC to c if a trail maintainer can help me. Somewhere north of woods road. Xox.” But the message wouldn’t transmit because there was no cell coverage in the area. She tried sending the text 10 more times over the next hour and a half.

Inchworm 2Inchworm walked west through the dense and vast woods, seeking higher elevation in the hopes of getting a cellphone signal. The next day, Tuesday, July 23, she tried texting her husband again, at 4:18 p.m.: “Lost since yesterday. Off trail 3 or 4 miles. Call police for what to do pls. Xox.” She tried sending it again 20 minutes later. Still nothing. Geraldine decided her best chance of survival would be to stay put. She set up a tent on a bed of pine needles and sticks and would write in a journal every day for at the next 18 days.

In an Aug. 6 journal entry, Largay wrote this heartbreaking entry, “When you find my body, please call my husband George and my daughter Kerry. It will be the greatest kindness for them to know that I am dead and where you found me — no matter how many years from now. Please find it in your heart to mail the contents of this bag to one of them.”

Jane Lee (in pink) and Inchworm (in green)

Jane Lee (in pink) and Inchworm (in green)

Inchworm had started on the trail in West Virginia in April with a friend, Jane Lee, who had hiked the trail with her until they reached Maine. Jan left the trail because of a family emergency, leaving Geraldine to continue on alone. Her friend described Geraldine as afraid of the dark, scared of being alone and said she never wanted to bring extra supplies because she had a sore back and wanted to avoid having a heavy pack. These insights make this tragedy seem even more difficult.

The warden service, volunteer groups, police and others participated in a search for Inchworm considered one of the most lengthy and expensive in state history. Sadly, they could not locate Geraldine who died of lack of food and water and environmental exposure. According to Lt. Kevin Adam, scene commander of the Maine Warden Service, about 28 Appalachian Trail hikers get lost in Maine every year. Most are found quickly: 95 percent of the time, searchers find the lost hikers in 12 hours and within 24 hours, 98 percent of misplaced hikers are located.

Resources: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/05/25/geraldine-largay-haunting-messages/YFbToegW6bLZgBdIEe065L/story.html

http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/report-geraldine-largay-kept-journal-during-weeks-lost-in-maine-woods/

http://www.centralmaine.com/2016/05/25/report-largay-kept-journal-during-weeks-missing-in-maine-woods/

Photo Closeup: http://appalachiantrail.com/20150721/geraldine-largay-missing-from-the-appalachian-trail-for-2-years/

Photo with backpack: http://www.centralmaine.com/tag/largay/

Photo with Jane Lee: https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2014/12/30/how-could-woman-just-vanish/CkjirwQF7RGnw4VkAl6TWM/story.html

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Geraldine Largay, Harpers Ferry, Hiking, Inchworm, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Tent, Thru-Hike, Trail Name, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

Anniversary Time!

20140426-140033.jpgThis is a week of anniversaries for me, as Rowdy on the AT. On Friday morning, April 25, 2014, my wife, Cathy, and I loaded up our Honda and began the drive to the state of Georgia and my first step ever on the Appalachian Trail. I had walked 2,200 miles in training, I had read over twenty books about the AT, I had purchased some nice camping/hiking gear, but I had never actually seen the trail before. My eldest son, Ben, lives just north of Atlanta, Georgia, the perfect spot for an overnight before the adventure and a wonderful drive to the trail head.

006April 26, 2014 was my first day on the Appalachian Trail. Ben and Cathy drove me to the parking lot, one mile from Springer Mountain, Georgia. Many thru-hikers begin at Amicalola Falls and hike up a pretty grueling 8.8 mile approach trail. Some hikers, with Maine on the minds, don’t make it past this initial hike. The brutal reality of the mountain climb, similar to many in northern Georgia, quickly transforms the dreams of the hopefuls to a rude awakening to the demands of the path.

Looking back on my adventure, I am so glad that I by-passed the approach trail and opted for the ride to the parking lot on top of Springer. Ben, Cathy and I hiked together for the mile up to the summit of Springer, took some pictures of a very nervous Rowdy, hiked back to the car, said a rather quick good-bye with long hugs that needed to last several months, and then I left my wife and son at Springer as I hiked down the trail looking for white blazes.

859Reflecting on the journey, which I do every day, there are times when I cannot believe I completed the thru-hike. Rocky (my wife’s trail name) and I hiked 13 miles recently and I wasn’t sure if I could make the distance. I realized that I averaged more mileage than that every day for 152 days. The people that I met, the incredible views that filled my summits, and the times of both hunger and gluttony only bring smiles to my face in 2016. A 30 pound pack, a dozen bears, four moose, a couple of face plants, the thrill of climbing the fire-towers, my fantastic Chaco sandals, and the relaxation of zero days paste a surreal experience in my mind.

HIF Cover PublishedThanks to all of you who have read my ebook, Hike It Forward (if you have not got your copy, just click on the book icon and it will take you to my Amazon listing). I have received many kind and encouraging shout outs from many of you. Please continue to pass the word among your friends. I would love to hear your comments and feedback (especially if you like it). Please let me know, as well, if you have any questions about the hike, or if you know of an opportunity for me to share the adventure. I am always looking for a chance to speak about the AT.

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Book, Chaco Sandals, Fire-tower, Georgia, Hike It Forward, Hiking, Maine, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Trail, Trail Name, White Blaze | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fat Hen, Rooster Talon, and Mustard Seed

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon encounter some snow and ice

I am following several potential thru-hikers during the 2016 hiking season. In addition to Dulci and the Two Peas, who are still on the trail, I selected a young couple because they left on my birthday (March 19). I know almost nothing about them. Their real names are Dan and Becky but their trail names are Fat Hen (Dan) and Rooster Talon (Becky).

So far they are posting more pictures than written journal entries. I have posted several of their photographs in this blog and offer only this spotty itinerary to demonstrate their progress. They began with the demanding 8.8 mile approach trail from Amicalola Falls, Georgia on the 19th. Ten days later they arrived at Bly Gap just over the Georgia/North Carolina border (mile marker 78.6) averaging 7.9 miles per day. They hiked to the

Rooster Talon Camped In Snow/Ice

Rooster Talon Camped In Snow/Ice

NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) in North Carolina by day 16 boosting their per day mileage up to 8.5 miles and on to Fontana Dam, North Carolina on day 19 increasing the daily mileage to 8.73 miles. They entered the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and camped at the Mollies Ridge Shelter on day 21 at mile marker 176.8.  They have been experiencing some ice and snow along the way. On day 22 of their hike they arrived at Newfound Gap with frigid temperatures. They caught a ride into Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for a resupply with a plan to continue the next day. They have not posted since then (April 9). I remember having no cell phone coverage through the Smoky Mountains, so they may be trucking through the national park without being able to journal online. I am awaiting the end of their radio silence as they approach civilization.

Mustard Christian School

Mustard Seed with Students

I decided to follow at least one more thru-hiker this season. Her trail name is Mustard Seed. That name immediately caught my eye because of the possible biblical reference to faith. A little investigation led me to Central Christian School in Sharpsburg, Georgia where Michelle (Mustard Seed) teaches middle school Math and Bible. Michelle Mayne (what a great last name for a hike to Katahdin, Maine), was born in Alabama but now lives in Georgia with her husband Bill and two sons, Zak and Michael. Mustard Seed is hiking the AT with her father, Michael Williams aka, Negotiator. They began their adventure on April 1 heading NOBO toward the wilderness of Maine.

Mustard First Day

Mustard Seed and Dad, Negotiator

Mustard Seed and Negotiator appear to have done some nice physical preparation for the journey because they have averaged 12.7 miles during the first thirteen days of the hike including an 18.3 mile trek on day four. Their last post was from Fontana Dam, NC, on April 13. They were staying at the resort in order to rest up before entering the Smoky Mountains. If they left according to plan, they may be walking a part of the Appalachian Trail that makes contact with the outside world rather sporadic. They are making excellent progress but they have not taken a zero day in the first thirteen days of the adventure. I think they will soon discover the need for an extended rest.

I am interested to see if Dulci, Fat Hen & Rooster Talon, and Mustard Seed connect along the trail. Each started several days apart (March 13, March 19 and April 1) but they are all hiking through GSMNP at very different paces. I am interested to see who makes it out of the park first and who makes first contact via their online journals.

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon Photos: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=524129

Mustard Seed Photos: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=527226

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Fat Hen, Fontana Dam, Georgia, GSMNP, Hiking, Mustard Seed, NOBO, North Carolina, Rooster Talon, Snow, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Trail Name | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Coopers and Dulci

HikeItForward-Final-MediumI have chosen, somewhat randomly, a few potential thru-hikers to follow during their adventures on the Appalachian Trail. I have already shared about three hikers that stepped out from Springer Mountain in February. A husband and wife team (Big Cypress and Moonbeam) are making good time and are well into Virginia. Mark Holmgren, from Pennsylvania, had to get off the trail after about 15 days due to family health concerns.

I selected three thru-hikers to follow that began their journeys in March. Two started on March 13 and one started on my birthday, March 19 (this third hiker will be the topic of my next blog). The two adventures that began on March 13 belong to the Coopers (father and daughter) and a single hiker, Dulcigal. Let me share some background and the current status of each.

Possumhead and CarrotThe Coopers are a father and his oldest daughter from Jacksonville, Florida. They were both given trail names while on the AT. The Dad is called “Carrot Stick” because he wears lots of orange. His daughter, Ariel, has been dubbed “Possumhead” because of the short buzz cut she adopted for the hiking adventure (I love this trail name). They signed in at Amicalola Falls and received hiker numbers 597 and 598 as they began their thru-hike. I love the idea of a father/daughter bonding experience and I was intrigued by their philosophical statement made at the end of each post, “It feels good to be lost in the right direction.”

They began on March 13 from Springer Mountain and hiked 8.5 miles of the AT ending their first night at Hawk Mountain Shelter. Neel Gap (mile 31.7) was reached on day four and on Day 10 of the hike they had hiked to Muskrat Creek Shelter and mile marker 81.4, for an average of 8.14 miles per day. The Coopers stayed at the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) on day 15 increasing their daily average to 9.1 miles per day.

PossumheadThey made it to Fontana Dam on March 30 maintaining a little over a 9 mile per day pace. They took three days at Fontana to rest and refuel before stepping out into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The fourth day into GSMNP they arrived at Newfound Gap (39 miles into the 71 mile trek through the park) and decided to rest some aching joints in Gatlinburg, TN. They took three additional days in Gatlinburg and decided to abandon their thru-hike experience.

Their final post ended with a sad note, “Well we tried getting back on the trail but the swollen knees didn’t seem to want to cooperate. So after taking another few days off we have decided to end our journey. Both of us are very sad with this decision. We wanted to go much farther up the trail. However, we don’t want to jeopardize permanent damage to either of us. As I had said earlier this was going to be a test to my left knee. The knee has failed the test.” http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?trailname=20146  Sometimes a physical injury prohibits any more advancement and your body tells you to walk away. Wisdom says to obey what your body is saying. Walk away in order to walk again someday.

Dulci on SpringerKaral RedmanMy second potential thru-hiker leaving on March 13 is Dulcigal from Jackson, Georgia. She is 53 years old and her real name is Karla Redman. She is the founder and CEO of Crosspoint Counseling Center in Jackson and has been a mental health provider for 25 years. Dulcigal earned her MS from University of Texas, her Masters from Liberty University and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. She took her trail name with her on the AT and it reflects her love for Appalachian music and her skill as a dulcimer player. Her name has been shortened by fellow hiker to “Dulci,” which she seems to have embraced with pleasure.

Dulci does not keep a consistent journal so it is not easy to track her progress but I have discerned some major landmarks in her quest so far. She began on March 13 from Springer Mountain and arrived at Neel Gap on day five, March 17, averaging 6.34 miles per day. She hiked to Dick’s Gap by day 10 by maintaining the same basic daily mileage. She stopped in Franklin, NC for a zero day, arriving there on day 13 and increasing her daily mileage to 8.5. Dulci made it to Fontana Dam and mile marker 165.8 on day 20 before taking on the GSMNP. Like the Coopers, she made it to Newfound Gap. She met one of her cousins on April 8th at Newfound Gap and they took a break from the trail in Gatlinburg, TN.

Cooper Photos: http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=1006792

Head Photo of Karla: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karla-redman-a720a246?authType=name&authToken=Ox0y&trk=prof-sb-browse_map-photo

Dulci at Springer: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=527167

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Duligal, Fontana Dam, Georgia, GSMNP, Hiking, Journaling, Springer Mountain, The Coopers, Thru-Hike, Trail Name | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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