AT Hikers: March 17th Update

The AT thru-hikers continue to make their way north. Not everyone posts every day so it is difficult to give an overall update. Most of the hikers posted on March 17th, so the report below reflects their progress on Saturday.



Rich Miller from Pennsylvania and his sister began their hike on January 14. They did some hiking in PA for a few weeks; then made their way to Springer Mountain, Georgia; then began their NOBO hike on March 1. Coming off Blue Mountain on Tuesday (March 8th) both his knees started to hurt, so they decided to drive back to PA to recoup (10-hour drive).  The plan is to drive back to Unicoi Gap over Easter weekend and hike north once again.

Zin Master

Zin, Ken Nieland, decided to get off the trail on February 27 with tendinitis in his lower right leg. No update on his blog since then. I have not taken him off my official list, but he has been silent for 18 days. This will be my last report on Zin Master unless he updates his journal.

Hard Knocks

Hard Knocks

Patrick Knox, tail name Hard Knocks, started on January 31. His journal has been silent since March 10th when he was taking a zero-day at Kincora Hostel off Dennis Cove Road near Hampton, Tennessee. He had injured his ankle and decided to take some rest. His journal reflected three zero-day at the hostel and then no updates. His last entry had a sense of concern for upcoming weather, I am thinking that for me it is better to rest and recuperation for one more day.  There is snow here and reportedly more on the mountain and the winds continue to howl.” I’ll keep you posted when he updates his online journal.

Max Patch

Vagabond Jack

Jack Masters, from Kansas City, took his first steps on the famous Appalachian Trail on February 1. Vagabond Jack continues to plug along. He has made it through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, over the beautiful Max Patch, and at his last post was relaxing in Hot Springs, NC, the first true trail town along the AT.


A wild pony at Grayson Highlands

Opa (Reinhard Gsellmeier), the retired engineer from Rochester, NY, began his thru-hike on February 10. He is the first of this early cohort to have hiked more than 500 miles. On March 17th he was at mile marker 531.2 and the Roan Mountain Visitor Center near Marion, Virginia. Opa has passed through Damascus, Virginia and has seen the wild ponies at Grayson Highlands in the snow. He has been hiking as part of the Four Horsemen, but he reported on March 14, “Well the 4 Horsemen are no longer a foursome. Night Train is unfortunately off the trail, Jeep had to take some time off earlier but is back on the trail (he may catch me), and Capt. Blackbeard is ahead of me with the intention of hiking big miles (he has a work commitment and must be finished sometime in June). It was good while it lasted, I really enjoyed hiking with those guys.”

Bamadog’s Snowy Shelter


Marty Dockins hit the trail on February 15th. Like all of these hikers, he has been slugging through snow, ice, cold winds, and slush for several days in mid-March. He has recently been experiencing some leg pain and hopes for a nero-day into Erwin, Tennessee on Sunday, March 18.

Class Act


Snow on the hills of the GSMNP

Retired physician, Alan Conlon, took his first steps on the AT on February 18, 2018. Unfortunately, he decided to end his hike on March 14th. He had two days of very difficult hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Both days the temperatures were in the 20s and then at night they dropped into the single digits. The snowy and slick trails made the elevation challenges even more difficult. When he arrived at Spence Field Shelter on the 14th, he found a structure built to sleep 12. That night there were 25 hikers sharing the space. Deciding to get off the trail in GSMNP is complicated. There are very few roads that cross the park, so logistics are a problem. Class Act ended up turning around and hiking 17 miles south (two days) back to Fontana Dam. Along the way he had called Stecoah Wolf Creek Hostel and reserved a room/ bed for Friday and Saturday nights, as well as a shuttle ride from the trail-head. From the hostel he journaled, “I am comfortable giving up the thru-hike.  Weather is up and down on the trail – it was not the reason I am stopping.  My bigger problem was that after 4 weeks both my daily distance and speed were not responding. If you hike an average of 15 miles/ day, 6 days/week w/ 1 zero/ week, it takes 5-1/2 to 6 months to complete the AT thru-hike.  I just was not getting there this time.”   


Chip Tillson

Chip began his AT adventure on February 20, 2018. As of March 17 he has trekked over 200 miles and finds himself about half-way through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On March 16, he slipped on some mud and took a nasty fall, landing on his left elbow and wrenching his shoulder. The nearest hitch was almost 18 miles ahead at Newfound Gap. He made plans to hike forward and meet a friend at Newfound Gap and spend some time evaluating his injury in Raleigh, NC. On March 17th he is at Mt Collins Shelter and less than 5 miles from his rendezvous point. (Sorry, Chip does not post photos, so I have no visual for you.)

Sour Kraut near Clingmans Dome

Sour Kraut

Tim Pfeiffer, who started on February 21st.  His photo journal makes it difficult to track his mileage but his last photos show him at the Standing Indian Hostel on the north end of the Great Smoky Mountains, logging in 241 miles of the trail.

Cable Gap Shelter

Which Way and Next Step

Darrell (Next Step) and Alicia (Which Way) Brinberry, retired military most recently stationed in Washington, DC, began their adventure on February 24th. They are consistently taking small chunks out of the long-trail. On day 22 of their journey (March 17) they logged 159 miles and are camped at Cable Gap Shelter- just 5 miles south of Fontana Dam and the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Dave and Abbie

Dave Snow and his dog (trail name Abbie) started the Appalachian Trail on February 26th. Dave’s last post was on March 11 when he and Abbie were taking a zero day in Franklin. I am a little concerned that he has been silent for a week. His words sound a little negative, but he has tended toward melancholy throughout his posts. (No new photos)

RTK Water (ice) Fall


Return To Katahdin (RTK), Bruce Matson is reporting his adventure in posts summarizing each week. He post a week behind his current location so his last post reflects his journey through March 10.  He has not taken a zero day in his first fourteen days on the trail and has made it to mile marker 159.2 to Cable Gap Shelter just south of Fontana Dam (the same shelter as Which Way and Next Step only a week earlier).

Pigweed’s Sunset on Cheoah Bald


Pigweed, Lee Richards, started with the approach trail from Amicalola Falls on February 26 and started accumulating AT miles on the 27th. On my last post, I mentioned Pigweed’s struggle with his Achilles heel. He seemed to be doing fine after a zero day in Franklin, NC. However on March 17th, the day after a good climb out of Nantahala Outdoor Center up to Cheoah Bald (3,300 feet in elevation) he found that his ankle injury had returned. He managed to hike 5.5 miles and called Wolf Creek Hostel for a shuttle ride, so he is going to relax at the hostel and give his ankle a rest.


Hickory who began on February 26 (the same day as Pigweed) but is walking at a much stronger pace. On March 17th, Hickory has covered 255.9 miles of the Appalachian Trail. He is through the GSMNP (Smokies), have logged over 17 miles three days, 19 miles twice and one day the trekked 20 miles. He has only taken one nero-day (2 miles) so far and is less than 20 miles from Hot Springs. His pace is excellent but I hope he is able to refresh himself soon. (Hickory does not post photos.)

Here is the latest update on the hiker’s progress (note some of the hiker’s last posts are earlier than others).

Post Date Mile Hiker Location Start Date
3/17/18 50.5 Genesis Poplar Stamp Gap 1/14/18
3/11/18 109.8 Dave and Abbie Franklin 2/26/18
3/17/18 129.2 Zin Master OFF TRAIL 1/23/18
3/17/18 150.7 Pigweed Stecoah Gap 2/27/18
3/17/18 159.2 Which Way/ Next Step Cable Gap Shelter 2/24/18
3/10/18 159.2 RTK Cable Gap Shelter 2/25/18
3/17/18 182.5 Class Act OFF TRAIL 2/18/18
3/17/18 202.3 Chip Tillson Derrick Knob Shelter 2/20/18
3/17/18 240.8 Sour Kraut Standing Bear Hostel 2/21/18
3/17/18 255.9 Hickory Roaring Fork Shelter 2/27/18
3/17/18 273.9 Vagabond Jack Hot Springs 2/1/18
3/17/18 335.7 Bamadog Hot Springs 2/15/18
3/17/18 417 Hard Knocks Hampton, TN 1/31/18
3/17/18 531.2 Opa Mt Rogers Visitor Center 2/10/18
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Captain Blue on the Blue Blazes

The Buckeye Trail is one very long loop trail…. 1,444 miles around the entire state of Ohio. I have hiked on several sections of it because the trail travels right through the city of Dayton. One of my favorite trail in the area is located at Caesar Creek State Park near Waynesville, Ohio – it is part of the Buckeye Trail. Much of the Little Miami Scenic Bike Trail bike trail between Cincinnati and Springfield is part of the trail. Deed’s Point in downtown Dayton is on the trail as well.

I have been fascinated by the Buckeye trail for several years and have read a few books about this unique looped long trail. I have just finished reading a book by Andy Niekamp, Captain Blue, who was the first person to solo thru-hike the trail back in 2011. It took him 88 days and a boatload of determination and perseverance. The book is called Captain Blue on the Blue Blazes and is available on Amazon.

Captain Blue is from Kettering, Ohio but he has been an adventurer for many years.  Captain Blue is an experienced hiker who has logged 14,000 miles in more than 30 states coast-to-coast including 9,500 miles on the Appalachian Trail. I have heard him speak several times and he is a powerful advocate for the outdoors.

Andy began and ended his hike in Dayton. His first steps were taken on March 20 and he ended up back at Deeds Point on June 15, 2011. His 88 days are filled with wonderful stories of support and networking, of kindness from trail angels around the state, of rain and frustrating unmarked trail, and of beautifully blazed sections along country roads, through towns and cities, across old canal towpaths, and through history-rich communities at all four corners the state. Captain Blue even includes a love story into his book that adds a special dimension to the trail.

I’d encourage you to take a look at this book that records Captain Blue’s historic thru-hike of the Buckeye Trail. Click on the book cover for a link to Amazon.

Categories: Buckeye Trail, Captain Blue, Deeds Point, Ohio, Thru-Hike, Trail, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Rocky and Rowdy at Possum Creek

Rocky and I are still on our quest to thru-hike all the trails in the MetroPark System in the Greater Dayton, Ohio area. We have several parks to conquer, but the target on Saturday, March 3rd, was Possum Creek MetroPark off Frytown Road. The day was sunny and clear although a little chilly (high 30s-low 40’s). We layered up, grabbed our trekking poles, and headed out after breakfast.

There are seven color-blazed trails at Possum Creek totally 9.2 miles. We parked just north of Argonne Lake and hiked the three loop trails that depart from this parking lot (purple – 1.4 miles, pink – 1.2 miles, and blue – 1 miles around the lake). We retraced a portion of the blue trail (0.4 miles) in order to connect with the longest trail – orange – 3.5 miles. We hiked a substantial portion of the orange trail (including a short side trail – blazed green – to the farm and back) until we came to the northern trailhead for orange, red and yellow loop trails. We hiked the yellow loop through the Tall Grass and Jean V. Woodhull Prairies. Then we walked the red loop (only half a mile) which was a short trail cutting across the Tall Grass Prairie. Finally, we completed the orange trail through a marshy area, alongside some fishing ponds, and once again around Argonne Lake.

The terrain is nice and flat with very little elevation change. Our biggest challenge was the swampy nature of the path. We have had a good deal of rain in recent weeks and this park tends to retain that water along the flat trails through the prairies and marsh areas. But the day was lovely and the company was wonderful. I always enjoy my time with Rocky. We have great conversations, we laugh a lot at ourselves, and we have look forward to praying together as we walk.

Dance Floor

Argonne lake was beautiful although the ducks on the pond did not seem to appreciate our presence. The trail took us between some catch and release fishing ponds with lots of hopeful fishermen trying their skills. I didn’t see any poles bent over with the weight of a catch, but the fishermen looked content, bundled up against the cold breeze whipping across the waters. I also enjoyed seeing the remnants of Argonne Forest Park (an amusement park in the 1930s and early 1940s) in the North West corner of this Metropark including old streetcars and a dance hall.

With wet feet and encouraged hearts, Rocky and I pounded some knuckles in victory as we checked off the mileage on our trail chart. The short ride home down I-75 was safe and sound. Getting out of the car after sitting for a while was not as easy. The muscles had tightened up and began to complain a bit when we needed them to limp into the house. A few grunts and groans later, we were safe inside and preparing some food for an afternoon snack.

Categories: Local Hikes, MetroPark, Ohio, Rocky, Thru-Hike, Trail, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

AT Hikers: March 5th Update

Here is a quick update on the 14 AT thru-hikers that I am following this season.

Genesis and Sister


Rich Miller from Pennsylvania established the earliest 2018 online journal of an attempted thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail (via trailjounrnals.com). He and his sister began their hike on January 14. They did some hiking in PA for a few weeks (from Harpers Ferry, WV up to Caledonia State Park, PA) logging in about 70 miles on the AT. They made their way to Springer Mountain, Georgia and began their NOBO hike on March 1. They have trekked another 45 miles from Springer and are camped at Poplar Stamp Gap.

Zin Master

Zin, Ken Nieland, decided to get off the trail on February 27 with tendinitis in his lower right leg. He is evaluating his future on the trail at his in-laws in Kingsport Tennessee. I have not taken him off my official list, but silence is not a good sign.

Hard Knocks

Hard Knocks

Patrick Knox, tail name Hard Knocks, started on January 31. He has experienced some backpack problems in the last week. His waist belt let loose causing his sternum strap to break. He made some on the trail repairs. He also experienced some muscle pain in his inner thigh running down to his knee. He took a zero-day (on March Saturday, March 3) and gave his body a rest.  The next day, he hiked 24 miles into Erwin, Tennessee, totally 341.5 miles on the AT.

Vagabond Jack

Vagabond Jack

Jack Masters, from Kansas City, took his first steps on the famous Appalachian Trail on February 1. He was in Fontana Dam (mile 165) on March 3rd about to enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cell phone coverage is sometimes non-existent in this area, and he did not post in his journal for several days. He updated on March 6th and is camping in the GSMNP at Derrick Knob Shelter (mile 188.8).


Uncle Johnny’s Hostel

Opa (Reinhard Gsellmeier), the retired engineer from Rochester, NY, began his thru-hike on February 10. He has been recently hiking as part of the Four Horsemen (including Jeep, Night Train, and Captain Blackbear). They arrived at Ervin, Tennessee on March 5 and I am interested to see if Opa meets Hard Knocks at Uncle Johnny’s hostel. Opa shared in his journal some sad trail news. Uncle Johnny passed away suddenly about two weeks ago. His wife, Charlotte plans to continue running the hostel. I met Uncle Johnny on my hike and he will be missed by the hiking community.



Marty Dockins hit the trail on February 15th. His sweetheart met him at Newfound Gap (mile marker 206. 8) on March 4th and they spent a zero-day in Gatlinburg, TN on March 5. He lost cell phone coverage for 5 days but averaged 11.5 miles through the first part of the GSMPN (Smoky Mountains).

Class Act

Class Act

Retired physician, Alan Conlon, took his first steps on the AT on February 18, 2018. He has been very strategic in this first part of his hike. He has attempted to avoid the brutal weather but taking a few zero days (two at the Top of Georgia Hostel) but had begun to increase his distance per day with three 12-mile hikes before coming to Franklin, North Carolina. He is planning another zero-day in Franklin on the 6th of March.

Chip Tillson

Chip Tillson

Chip has not mentioned Class Act in his journal, but I think the road into Franklin together on a shuttle on Monday. Chip is planning on a zero-day on Tuesday as well so maybe they will connect. Chip began the trail on February 20th and this will be his first zero-day of his hike.  His pace has been conservative (7.8 miles per day) and he has taken two nero (near-zero) days of less than 4 miles. His consistent effort will begin to pay off with some trail legs and longer distances.

Sour Kraut

Sour Kraut

Tim Pfeiffer, who started on February 21st, is keeping more of a photo/video journal that a written daily entry. It is a little difficult to know exactly where he is, but his last photos seem to indicate that he summitted Siler Bald on March 3. He is enjoying hammock camping along the way.

Which Way and Next Step

Which Way and Next Step

Darrell (Next Step) and Alicia (Which Way) Brinberry, retired military most recently stationed in Washington, DC, began their adventure on February 24th. Their journal bursts with a great attitude and excitement about the trail. Which Way has recently developed a blister on the little toe that had caused some major discomfort. Isn’t it amazing how even the smallest of body parts can be so essential to a successful hike? They have persevered and have already logged in over 78 AT miles.


Dave and Abbie

Dave Snow and his dog (trail name Abbie) started the Appalachian Trail on February 26th and Abbie was enjoying the outdoor environment. They made it to Dick’s Creek and the Top of Georgia Hostel on March 5th and spent the night in The Wolf Den which is set apart for hikers with dogs. Dave has plans to shuttle to a hotel in Hiawassee on March 6th.



Return To Katahdin (RTK), Bruce Matson was a special trail angel for me during my 2014 thru-hike of the AT. I have been following his preparation for the hike and was excited to follow his adventure. He started on February 24 by conquering the approach trail from Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain plus the one mile of actual AT to the parking lot off USFS 42. I heard nothing from him since that first day and was concerned about his hike. He commented on this blog that he was indeed alive and well and that his posts were coming soon. On March 2 he was safe and sound at Dick’s Creek (about 70 miles along the trail). It is so good to hear that he is stepping out in a strong and consistent trek.




Pigweed, Lee Richards, also started with the 8.8-mile approach trail from Amicalola Falls. He began on February 26 and started accumulating AT miles on the 27th. As of March 5th, he has walked 52.9 and arrived at Unicoi Gap. He grabbed a ride into Helen, Georgia a Bavarian-style mountain town, where got a hotel room, enjoyed a long shower, washed his clothes and was looking forward to a great dinner with several other thru-hikers.



Hickory began the same day as Pigweed but has walked at a much stronger pace. On March 5th, Hickory has covered 87 miles of the Appalachian Trail and is camped at Standing Indian Mountain. He has taken one nero-day (a two-mile hike and stay at the Top of Georgia Hostel) but other than that short day, he has averaged 14.3 miles per day.

Up Date Mile Marker Hiker Location Start Date
3/5/18 44.6 Genesis Poplar Stamp Gap 1/14/18
3/5/18 52.9 Pigweed Unicoi Gap 2/27/18
3/2/18 69.2 RTK Dick’s Creek 2/25/18
3/5/18 69.2 Dave and Abbie Dick’s Creek 2/26/18
3/5/18 78.6 Which Way/ Next Step Bley Gap 2/24/18
3/5/18 87 Hickory Standing Indian Mt 2/27/18
3/5/18 109.8 Chip Tillson Franklin, NC 2/20/18
3/5/18 109.8 Class Act Franklin, NC 2/18/18
3/4/18 114 Sour Kraut Siler Bald 2/21/18
3/5/18 129.2 Zin Master Tellico Gap 1/23/18
3/5/18 188.8 Vagabond Jack Derrick Knob Shelter 2/1/18
3/5/18 206.8 Bamadog Gatlinburg 2/15/18
3/5/18 341.5 Opa Erwin, TN 2/10/18
3/4/18 341.5 Hard Knocks Erwin, TN 1/31/18


Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Erwin, Georgia, Hiking, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized, Uncle Johnny's Hostel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thru-hiker Update – End of February

Let me give you a quick update on the early hikers keeping their online journals on trailjournals.com. I am tracking 11 hikers to date and they are scattered over the first 275 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Let me provide an update based on the start date of each hiker.

  1. Genesis in Harpers Ferry

    Genesis – started on January 14, 2018. He started at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia (the psychological half-way point of the AT and began hiking north into Pennsylvania. He hiked 79 miles to Pine Grove Furnace State Park. He then took care of some appointments at home and is currently driving to Georgia. His goal is to start at Springer Mountain this Friday, March 2, 2108.

  2. Zin Master

    Zin Master, Ken Nieland from Colorado, began his adventure on January 23, 2018. He has had a difficult beginning. He came off trail for 17 days with blisters. Once back on trail, he trekked for eleven days without blisters. His shin began to hurt him, so on February 24, he headed for an urgent care in Franklin, NC. He was diagnosed with tendinitis. He took two zero days then returned to the AT for two logging in 19.4 miles. He continued to slow down with discomfort so on February 27, he called his wife, Peaches, to let her know that he was getting off the trail. He got a shuttle from Tellico to Franklin and drove back to his in-laws in Kingsport Tennessee. He shared on his blog, Until I figure out my plan, I will be suspending updates of this journal. Thank you, everyone for the support you have given me on this journey, it has buoyed my spirits time and again. I will post an update once I figure out what’s next.

  3. Hard Knocks

    Hard Knocks hit the trail on January 31. He is the first hiker to reach Hot Spring, North Carolina, the first trail town along the AT at mile 273.9. This is not a race, but Hard Knocks is making great time with his pace of diligence. He has made it through the Great Smoky Mountains Nation Park and is enjoying some time with his parents who have driven over from Indiana to be with him.

  4. Vagabond Jack at the NOC

    Vagabond Jack’s thru-hike began on February 1st. He is currently averaging 5.33 miles per day. At this current rate, it will take Jack 410 days to complete his hike. He is aware of his pace and commented in his last post, As for putting in more miles, I’m trying not to rush it, but will try to push myself a little harder. It was slow today going up, but my legs and feet feel great now. The new shoes are working out, and I still haven’t had a blister (knock on wood). I know the Smokies will be difficult, but ten or twelve miles a day should be feasible. Another thing I’ve considered is that, should I realize I can’t make it to Katahdin before they close the park in October, I’ll do a flip-flop. I’ll get off the trail, travel to Katahdin, then head south until I meet up with my jumping-off point.

  5. Opa

    Opa made his first steps on the Appalachian Trail on February 10. He continues to hike with three other thru-hikers (they call themselves the four horsemen). He has the best pace of any of the hikers so far averaging 14.2 miles every day. He reached a beautiful spot call Max Patch on a gorgeous day, February 27. He comments, Today we climbed Max Patch, a bald summit covered in a meadow. The views were spectacular in 360 degrees, we were all in awe. I lingered there for an hour, sat down and made my dinner right on the summit. I hated to leave, but it was getting late and we still needed to get to the shelter before nightfall.

  6. Bamadog

    February 15 was Bamadog’s start date. 61-year-old Marty Dockins has logged 150.7 miles. He enjoyed some good food at the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) on February 26 and met Vagabond Jack on the trail on the 27th. They are not hiking together but it was interesting to see two of “journalers” meet along the way. He is staying Wolf Creek Hostel on February 27 about 12.5 miles north of the NOC.

  7. Class Act

    Cass Act began his adventure on February 18. He is putting in about 7.0 miles per day. On the 27th of February took a nero-day (a short day of only 3.6 miles) and spent some rest time at Top of Georgia Hostel (TOG) at Dick’s Creek. He is planning on two zero days at TOG because of some predicted bad weather.

  8. Chip Tillson

    Chip Tillson’s first journal post was February 20 from the top of Springer Mountain having completed the approach from Amicalola Falls. He shared, my bad knee is not performing up to needed specs, lots of pain. I was more than a little concerned about this early comment. He has not complained since and has not taken a zero day. His last post (2/27) indicated, I’m gonna try to push through to the hostel at Dicks Creek Gap on Thursday for cleanup, resupply, and maybe a zero

  9. Sour Kraut

    Sour Kraut headed out for Maine on February 21. His journal consists more of photographs and links to videos. He is not tracking his mileage very well although it appears that on February 27, he is pitching his hammock close to Kelly Knob (mile-marker 65.2.

  10. Which Way/Next Step

    Husband and wife, Which Way and Next Step, from Washington DC, just started their trek on February 24. They arrived at Neel Gap on February 27. Taking advantage of a shuttle ride to nearby Blairsville, the couple has headed to the Seasons Inn for a zero-day on the 28th.

  11. Abbie

    The newest hiker to this year’s cohort is Dave (David Snow, currently from Louisiana) and Abby (his dog: Border Collie/Australian Shepard mix.), who began their journey on February 26. Their first day in the AT found them at Hawk Mountain Shelter (8.1 miles) and day two ended at Woody Gap (12 more miles). Dave hiked the AT in 2000 and is now back for a second attempt.


It is hard to track them all. Here is a chart that might give you a perspective on their hikes.

Miles Distance Hiker Destination Start Date
20 21 Dave and Abbie Woody Gap Feb 26
  31.7 WhichWay /Next Step Neel Gap Feb 24
  58.6 Chip Tillson Tray Mt Shelter Feb 20
  65.2 Sour Kraut Kelly Knob Feb 21
  69.6 Class Act Dick’s Creek Feb 18
  79.2 Genesis Pennsylvania Jan 14
  129.2 Zin Master Tellico Gap Jan 23
  144 Vagabond Jack Sassafras Gap Feb 1
  150.7 Bamadog Stecoah Gap Feb 15
  255.9 Opa Roaring Fork Feb 10
  273.9 Hard Knocks Hot Springs Jan 31
Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Which Way and Next Step On the AT

Darrell (Next Step) & Alicia (Which Way) Brimberry began their thru-hike on February 24 from Springer Mountain, Georgia. Next Step enjoyed a 36-year career in the US Army and retired at 55 years-old as a Colonel. They have been living in the nation’s capital until his retirement. As they take the next few months to hike the trail their “stuff” is being housed in Which Way’s parent’s home in Kentucky.

Their first day on the trail brought them to Hawk Mountain Shelter (8.1 miles north of Springer Mountain). The day began with a small entourage (nine people) driving from Atlanta to Amicalola Falls State Park. Which Way and Next Step signed in at the Visitor’s Center and registered as hiker number 294 and 295. They also weighed their backpacks at the center and loaded with four days of food and two liters of water, Which Way’s pack weighed in at 28 pounds and Next Step totaled 35 pounds.

Amicalola Falls

After taking a few pictures at Amicalola, all nine of them piled back into their two vehicles and made the 30-mile, 60-minute drive up the gravel, dirt, and mud service road to a parking lot one mile from Springer Mountain. All nine of the group hiked to the summit of Springer, snapped some historic photos, and walked back to the parking lot. Finally, at 12:15 pm the actual hike began. They hiked most of the afternoon on comfortable terrain through some old growth forest and along several beautiful mountain streams. The warm temperatures brought out many day hikers. They passed by a few thru-hikers, including a blind man and his wife—together they are the Dynamic Duo—from Ohio. I have tried to find out a little more about the Dynamic Duo but without success (yet).

Their second day on the trail ended at Hooch Gap Shelter adding another 7.6 miles on the AT. They woke up to rain, waited until 8:00 to start their trek, and endured the rain until it cleared about 10:00. They were almost to the top of Sassafras Mountain when Next Step took a fall, “About that time, as I was working my way over a slab of wet, moss covered rock, my right foot slipped out from under me. I tried to catch myself and my upper leg buckled up under me and I severely torqued my quad…. Of course, Alicia was worried a bone was sticking out. Fortunately, that was not the case. After a few minutes, I was able to get up and limp for a bit and it finally let up enough for me to hike on…. Just wondering what it’s going to be like tomorrow!” I sure pray this fall does not cause this couple from DC any long-term problems.

They made it to the shelter around 3:00. They made camp, took some time to hang out with other hikers, and enjoyed some supper. A ridge runner, staying at the shelter, counted 14 thru-hikers with them at Hooch Gap. This is a nice bubble but the different paces of the hikers will soon bring separation to the group.

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Hawk Mountain, Springer Mountain, The Fall, Uncategorized, Which Way and Next Step | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

The First Thru-hiker of 2018

Zin Master is the first thru-hiker to post his journal online (trailjournals.com). He stepped forth on the Appalachian Trail on January 23rd after a 14-month period of preparation in his hometown in Colorado. His journal does not tell too much about his personal life – I don’t even know his real name (which is not unusual). He is married to Peaches (probably not her real name either) and had a daughter and son-in-law. He was an accountant and seems to be retired.

Let me fill you in on his first week of hiking on the AT. The weather, although cold, has been clear and beautiful. Zin and Peaches arrived at Springer Mountain, Georgia (the southern terminus of the AT) on January 21. They spent two days at Amicalola Falls State Park waiting for a break in the weather for a good start. Zin signed in at the Amicalola visitor center and received his hiking number – he is number 17.

On the 23rd, they drove to the parking lot one mile from the summit of Springer and Zin began his adventure on a beautiful day. He hiked 7.4 miles during his first day and ended up pitching his tent at the newly constructed Hawk Mountain Campsite. Built in 2016 the site has 30 tent pads, 3 bear boxes, and a privy. Zin stayed at the site all by himself.

After a frosty night in the 20’s, Zin discovered how difficult it is to break down one’s tent and pack up one’s backpack with bare hands in the cold temperatures. He also found the second day of hiking to be more challenging. He trekked 8.3 miles during the day and conquered Sassafras Mountain (the first nice climb in the Georgia mountains) but broke a trekking pole when he tripped along the trail.

Night two was spent in a shelter and Zin was welcomed by mice that reside in just about every shelter along the AT. One decided to make his welcome personal as he (or maybe she) ran across his head in the middle of the night. Day three brought a struggle with blisters. He still managed to hike 8.1 miles arriving at a campsite almost 24 miles into the adventure. Fortunately, the weather presented another delightful day for hiking.

Top of Blood Mountain

The big agenda item on day four was Blood Mountain. At 4,461 feet, Blood Mountain is the highest peak in the state of Georgia. Zin started out the day strong but once again the blisters began to make the hike painful. By the time he reached the summit of Blood Mountain (about 5 miles into the day’s trek) he was pretty miserable. After the summit, there is a challenging descent off the mountain that intensified the discomfort.

Arriving at Neel Gap and Mountain Crossing, a full-service outfitter right on the trail, Zin decided to get off the trail and allow some time for the blisters to heal. His in-laws live in Kingsport, Tennessee and Zin was able to catch a ride into Gainesville, GA and then a slow 10-hour, Greyhound bus ride to Johnson City, TN (typically a 4 ¼ hour drive and 215 miles).

Zin has been resting and recovering for the past few days, knowing that he needs to heal before he can continue but feeling antsy to continue the adventure. His last post (1/30/18) did not indicate anticipated return date to the trail. I will keep you posted.

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Huffman and Eastwood Parks

The Blue Blaze of the Buckeye Trail

Rocky and I took advantage of a beautiful November day last week to explore both the Eastwood MetroPark and the Huffman MetroPark as part of our thru-hike of the Dayton MetroPark System.  Although the hikes were very different, we enjoyed both settings and the sun quickly warmed the day for a comfortable hike in the woods.

The trails at Eastwood are just south of Eastwood Lake, a mile-long, 185-acre man-made body of water. It was completed in the early 1970s and leased to the MetroPark in 1992. The lake is a popular spot for boating and fishing and the Ohio Division of Wildlife stocks the waters on a regular basis.

The northern loop of the hiking trails at Eastwood follows the Mad River. It is a beautiful stroll along this fast-moving river inviting kayakers to try their skills. There is easy access to the river at the far northeast corner of the park and paddlers, if they desire, can travel 4.5 miles down to RiverScape MetroPark in downtown Dayton. Rocky and I forgot our paddles, so we just enjoyed the walk along the riverbank. This section of the loop trail is also part of the Buckeye Trail, the 1440-mile continuous loop around the entire state of Ohio and the North Country Trail, which spans seven states and boasts of 4,600 miles.

The biggest difficulty of the hike was finding the trail. With the paths being unmarked (other than the

Kayak rapids

Buckeye and North Country Trails) it was easy to be confused with bike paths, paved park roads and grassy areas that seemed just to dead end. I think we hiked more than four miles to cover the 3 miles of actual trails, but we thoroughly enjoyed the fresh air and lovely setting.

Rocky and I hopped in our chariot and, within ten minutes, we arrived at Huffman MetroPark, just off Route 4. The park sits to the northeast of Huffman Dam, which was built after the flood of 1913 to protect the Miami Valley. In the summer of 1919 while workers were constructing an outlet tunnel for the dam, workers unearth a giant trilobite fossil (14 ½ inches by 10 ½ inches) which is still on display at the Smithsonian in Washing D.C. as one of the largest complete trilobites ever found.  We looked for its mother along the way…. without success.

Huffman MetroPark

The gentile path around the west side of Huffman Lake was a leisurely walk on leaf-covered trails. Coming out of the woods, we encountered a large open area on the

Along Huffman Dam

back side of the dam. The three long tiers of straight stretches just below the dam were treeless and we could see the entire half-mile distance from end to end. We hiked back and forth three times before entering back into the tree line toward Huffman Lake. After a short distance, we had completed the loop and arrived back at our car.

Two more parks off the list, but a lot more miles to come.

Categories: Buckeye Trail, Eastwood MetroPark, Huffman MetroPark, Local Hikes, MetroPark, Ohio, Rocky, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Day with the Horses

215Grayson Highlands State Park (GHSP), located in Virginia along the Appalachian Trail about 30 miles north of Damascus, Virginia, is the home of the wild ponies. I looked forward to hiking through this park from the first moment I heard about it. Every book I read about the AT made mention of an encounter with the horses as the thru-hiker made the journey through the highlands.

In my mind’s eye, it was a place of gentle meadows with tall grasses and an occasional apple tree. The highlands should have revealed rolling hills boasting of lush green moors and the distant call of bagpipes and Scottish tenor drums played with soft mallets. I imagined a cool breeze blowing across my face as I followed the narrow path through the fields of wild ponies, stopping to stroke the neck of colt or filly, or gazing at mare with her foal close by her side.

216In reality, my thru-hike of 2014 through the GHSP was significantly different. There was no gentle meadow but rather a rocky trail over rugged terrain. There was no cool breeze but rather a blazing sun that made me glad for my long-brimmed hat. The canopy of trees had opened to reveal not lush green foliage but a strenuous path with lots of elevation change to add to the adventure. I experienced some rock scrambles and some trails richly populated with trip roots and loose rocks. It was not what I was expecting but it was still breathtaking and beautiful in its own way.


The horses were there! I came upon ten beautiful ponies as I hiked down from Tom Knob Shelter. They greeted me warmly and welcomed me to the highlands. One pony, in particular, walked right up me and put his nose against my chest. I quickly realized that he wanted to eat me or at least lick the salt off my sweat-filled hiking shirt. He took a nibble of my shirt in his mouth, and I rubbed the blaze on his nose, talking is calm tones to quiet his advances and my pounding heart. He decided that salt produced by a 64-year-old thru-hiker was not worth his effort. We parted friends with my shirt in one piece including just a little horse slobber as a free souvenir.

222I did not see too many ponies through the highlands themselves, but close to the end, I took a short side trail and found six or seven ponies – one new born sleeping close to mom. When I arrived at Massie Gap, just south of the park’s northern boundary, I heard a bazaar noise to my left. The trail was a narrow path with tall, five-foot high brushes on either side. Suddenly, a horse trotted by right in front of me, followed by a foal, followed by another adult horse. They did not pause, look at me, or slow down. They reminded me or a snooty church going family arriving late for Sunday school.

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As I made my way through the stiles at the north end of the highlands, I thought I could hear the faint sounds of bagpipes and drums. I continued to walk the trail with hopes of returning to visit the ponies on another day.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Grayson Highlands, Rowdy, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized, Virginia, Wild Ponies | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sugarcreek Finally Complete

SCrrek 3This past Wednesday, November 8, Rocky came home from work and suggested we take a hike in order to complete the trails at Sugarcreek Metropark. We hiked the park several weeks ago and thought we had covered every trail. When we got home to update our log, we noticed that there are two unmarked trails at Sugarcreek included in the thru-hike challenge sponsored by the Five MetroPark System.

It was a little before 4:00 and we knew that the sun would be setting around 5:30. The “falling back” of daylight savings time adds some sunshine to the morning hours, but it sure makes the evenings short. Forty minutes round trip to Sugarcreek would leave fifty minutes to complete the two trails. We knew that one trail (Planted Prairie) was a paved 0.25 mile meadow walk and the other (Big Woods Trail) was on the far side of Sugar Creek itself and about a two-mile round trip hike from the parking lot. As long as we walked our no-nonsense pace, we felt very confidence we would complete the trails without the use of a headlamp.

SCreek 2Since the Planted Prairie Trail was around a wide open meadow, we left this trail for the end of our journey. We headed down the Red Trail, turned right on the Blue Trail and came quickly to the junction of the Big Woods Trail. A series of step steps took us down the creek where we needed to rock hop across the water. However, the recent rains had risen the water levels over top of the large steps. We could easily see the rocks but some of them were under a few inches of stream water. After a short consideration of conditions, we decided to get our feet wet and accomplish our goals. The water was cold and our shoes squeaked after navigating the creek, but a safe ford added to the adventure and the sense of accomplishment. After completing the loop trail, the creek greeted us again with a refreshing footbath.

SCreek 4We really enjoyed the Big Woods Trail. I might have just become my favorite trail at Sugarcreek Metropark. It was a narrow path beginning along the creek and then looping up and down through the forest. I enjoy a little elevation change and this trail delivered a nice climb and descent as it wound around the wooded area. The other trails at Sugarcreek are well traveled and the park is popular to dog-owners and trail runners. The Big Woods Trail is much less traveled and gave the feel of a more private spot.

Within 35 minutes, Rocky and I were back to the shelter at the junction of all the blazed trails and ready to conquer the Painted Prairie. The quick loop around the wheelchair accessible path was enjoyable as we enjoyed the last rays of sunshine before heading back to the parking lot. The sunset on the drive home was golden and reminded us of how fortunate we are to have so many miles of parks in the Dayton area and the lovely opportunities the give us to see the wonders of nature and the beauty of God’s creation.

Categories: Every Trail MetroPark Challenge, Local Hikes, Rocky, Sugar Creek, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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