2019 in 2019 Challenge: Week 17

Snow in Springboro

Week 17 in my challenge of walking 2,019 miles by July 31, 2019, started Wednesday, November 21, and ended yesterday, Tuesday, November 27. It was a chilly weather week for walking but, I was able to accumulate a little over eight miles each day except Sunday, which I took as a zero-day and a Sabbath rest. I managed to walk just over 50 miles (50.27 to be exact).

I need to average 38.83 miles each week, so this week I put 11.44 miles into the bank. This brings my cushion to 102.39 miles over the pace needed to accomplish my goal. I am thrilled with the progress so far, but I have a long way to go. I have walked 762 miles so far, but keeping up this pace for 35 more weeks will not be easy, but it could be a ton of fun.

The Polygamist’s Daughter by Anna LeBaron

I also enjoyed listening to four books this week as I walked. The Polygamist’s Daughter by Anna LeBaron was an excellent read, a memoir of a young girl raised in an extremist cult, one of 49 children by the same man, and the daughter of a serial killer, Ervil LeBaron. I also listened to Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. His collection of stories about Odin, Thor, and Loki was a mixture of humor, violence, fantasy, and morals. My first taste of Stephen King was a book called The Langoliers. It was a little creepy, as I knew Steven King would be, but it was not gruesome nor filled with evil. And most recently I finished, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, by Michelle McNamara, a true crime story about the search for the Golden State Killer, also known as the Original Night Stocker and the East Area Rapist. I did not know until after I finished listening to the book, that authorities have arrested a 73-year-old man accused of 13 murders, more than 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries in California from 1974 to 1986.

There are several dangers ahead that could blow up my target. The weather has turned cold in Ohio this week – we’ve even had a little accumulation of snow. I hope that winter stays away for a few more months. I am good with bundling up and enjoying the winter air, but I am not looking forward to wind chills into single digits or below zero that makes my nostrils stick together when I breathe in and cause my lungs to cough with a freeze-warning with each attempt to inhale. I guess I will see how determined I am.


Another danger is injury or sickness. A fall can happen so fast that balance does not become a factor – I am on the ground without warning. I don’t like the feeling of falling – it seems to go in slow motion without any opportunity to change the outcome or the trajectory of the crash. We are also entering flu-season. I have been very fortunate over the last several years to stay away from any knock-down, bed-ridden, chick-noodle-soup-only, day-time-night-time-medication type of sickness, but a bad bug could slow me down.

Toothpick: A Christmas Story

I wouldn’t call it a danger, but a change of priorities might impact my desire to accomplish my goal. It takes two to three hours a day to entertain my walking schedule. I enjoy writing and right now I have a major writing project bouncing around in my brain involving the thoughts of Paul in the New Testament book of Ephesians. I have just completed a young adult novel called Prion-4. After the fall of modern civilization a doctor who is called upon to hike seven hundred and twenty-five miles through dangerous wilderness to deliver a life-saving vaccine to the Blue Springs Mountain Outpost before Prion-4 unleashes its wrath taking thousands of lives. Prion-4 is available on Amazon (click on the cover below). A Christmas book for children called Toothpick: A Christmas Story, can also be found at Amazon. It is my newest children’s book, illustrated by Diane R. Berg, an amazing artist. Diane and I are working together on another children’s book about an incredible little dog called Remarkable Rex. It is not available yet, but the editing and the illustrating processes are well on the way. I hope to be able to continue to balance my walking priority with my zeal for writing.


Polygamist Daughter – Book Cover found at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30956087-the-polygamist-s-daughter?ac=1&from_search=true
Categories: 2019 in 2019, Local Hikes, Ohio, Prion-4, Toothpick: A Christmas Story, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

2019 in 2019

I saw a t-shirt during my vacation this summer in Utah. It simply said 2018 miles in 2018. The idea really caught my imagination and I knew I wanted to take on a challenge like that. So, I came home and started my smartphone calculator humming to figure out the possibilities of such a goal. Of course, it is almost 2019, so that that would be the goal.

My trusted iPhone blinked a weekly goal of 38.83 miles and an average of 5.33 miles every day. I talked long and hard to my legs and to my heart. They had a bit of an argument, rather heated at times until my heart convinced my legs that it would not only be doable, but it would be a great way to get/stay in shape.

Being the retired educator, I think in terms of school years, so I decided to walk 2, 019 miles during the 2018-2019 school year. I started on August 1 and plotted out a plan to complete my personal challenge by the end of July.

So, “How am I doing?” you might ask. My start was not very good. At the end of the first week, I was already in the hole. I pulled 35 miles during my first seven days, putting me more than three miles behind right out of the gate. By the end of the first month, I was seven miles below what I needed. I knew this was not a positive trend, because August is fantastic walking weather compared to the rain, snow and freezing conditions facing me this fall and winter.

I knew that I needed to pick it up. Even though I had not announced my challenge to very many people, I was not going to abandon the goal too quickly. After all, I knew about the challenge and I really hate to disappoint the Rowdy that lives inside of me.

So, during week five, I took advantage of beautiful weather and nailed 54 miles, flipping a seven-mile deficit into an eight-mile surplus. However, before my inflated ego knew what happened, I flopped the very next week accumulating only 27 miles, putting me back in the hole three and a half-miles.

I “yo-yo”ed the next two weeks going from a personal best of almost 60 miles including two ten-mile days and one 12.6 hike at the state park, down to a mediocre 28-mile total the very next week. Fortunately, my legs finally caught up with my heart on week nine. I have averaged a little over 48 miles each week for the last five weeks.

I have probably rambled on with way too much information, but so far, I am 54 miles ahead of pace to complete my challenge. I am convinced that I will need more a padding than this. I am not looking forward to the Ohio winter as it sends its blistery wind and blankets of snow.

I’ll keep you posted as I “hike it forward” in the coming weeks (just 39 more weeks to go).

Categories: 2019 in 2019, Hiking, Local Hikes, Personal Challenge, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 4 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

AT Update May 29, 2018

I have been following a number of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers this season. I began reading 14 trail online-journals. I am now down to seven hikers still on the trail. One of the journals is a husband and wife team, so technically there are eight brave souls still making miles while embracing the weather and the challenges of the path. All seven thru-hikes began in January or February of 2018, but each adventure is going at its own pace with the most aggressive doubling the distance of the slowest hiker’s journey. Speed is not a major requirement, but in order to complete the challenge, one needs to reach Mount Katahdin, Maine before the snow makes a summit impossible. The general rule of thumb is that winter is in danger of closing the mountain about the middle of October.

My magnificent seven are all plugging away. Let me share a quick update on each I wish every hiker would journal every day so I could provide a comparative progress report, but there are a few that are behind in their posts.

Pigweed at Kimberling Creek

Pigweed reported in on May 29 and he is in Pearisburg, Virginia, around 631 miles into his adventure. He began his hike on February 26 and has logged in 92 days so far. Pigweed did get off the trail for 15 days in late March and early April because of an injury so he has really only been putting in miles for 77 days averaging about 8.2 per day. Recently, he has encountered rain along the AT. He shares that one day the trail was a muddy ankle-deep river. Rain also ushered him down into Pearisburg and the mud provided a slippery fall to end his day – fortunately, no injury was involved.  Pigweed’s plan to stay dry includes a zero-day in Pearisburg on the 30th.

Chip Tillson posted on May 29th as well, his 99th day on the trail. He is in the Shenandoah Nation Park at Blackrock Hut, about 40 miles north of Waynesboro, Virginia. Chip spent a relaxing zero-day on May 26th with his sister, Carol, her husband and two children in Bayse, Virginia. He encountered heavy rain on the day he returned to the trail and took a tumble. He shares, “Heavy rain fell a few times during the afternoon making everything slick. I slipped while walking over a large rock slab and fell hard landing on my left side. I lay there for a few minutes cursing myself for the moment of inattention then wriggled free of my pack and assessed the damage: a badly bruised outer thigh seems to be the extent of. It’ll hurt for a week or so but only when I walk.” Chip seems to be okay as he logged 11.7 miles on May 28th  and 14 miles on May 29th.

RTK Boardwalk in Virginia

RTK (Return to Katahdin) last posted on May 23rd from Bears Den Hostel just across the 1000-mile marker. He found the roller coaster a real challenge and welcomed the rest at the hostel. The roller coaster is a 13.5 mile stretch of continual ups and downs that test the hiker’s endurance. A few days earlier RTK arrived at Front Royal, Virginia. This is where he and I connected during my 2014 hike. He took me out to dinner and treated me to a delicious steak meal. He was one of my trail angels that me with such kindness. He left trail magic during our visit for other hikers. It was only right that trail magic was waiting for him along the trail as he entered the town.

1000 miles for Which Way and Next Step

Which Way and Next Step (the married couple) were also at Bears Den Hostel when they posted on May 29th. So they reached the 1000-mile mark, six days after RTK’s visit. The couple has been on the trail for 95 days. They maintain an excellent journal with lots of insights into their adventure. Their words about the roller coaster were so descriptive that I thought I would let them speak to you:  “About seven miles into our hike we entered into the part of the trail known as the Virginia Roller Coaster, the first part of which we had never hiked. We had kind of envisioned an easy path just going up and down moderate size hills. Unfortunately, it was nothing like that! It ended up being 10 climbs and descents over 10 miles averaging about 400 feet each. However, the path was either filled with rocks or mud. Throw in a stream crossing at every gap with 80 degree temperatures and it made for a grueling hike. Up, rocks, down, rocks, mud, stream crossing, mud, up, rocks, down, rocks…you get the picture.”

Bamadog at Sunfish Pond in NJ.

Sour Kraut has not checked in for the past 8 days (5/21) so I am not sure where he is. The last photo showed him at the Mason Dixon Line (mile 1,060).

Bamadog has been on the AT for 104 days, he is averaging 12.8 miles per day (the most aggressive of the seven) and finds himself in New Jersey (mile marker 1,327) about 40 miles south of the New York border. He is camped at the Mashipacong Shelter. I love the name but the derivation is unclear. One source indicated it might mean “big pond” in the Lenape Native Indian language. Bamadog enjoyed a zero-day recently in Delaware Water Gap on the Pennsylvania/New Jersey border. He spent the day with fellow thru-hikers and attended church. He is camping in his tent at the shelter and plans for a resupply on May 30th.

Hard Knocks is the only thru-hiker (that I am following) that started on the trail in January (January 31). His last post was submitted on May 24th, Day 114 of his adventure. On that date, he was camped at High Point Shelter in New Jersey at about mile marker 1,334. He hiked 19.6 miles that day and was quite tired. His journal reflected his fatigue but his determination as well: “Walked a little farther again today and again today I felt like I ‘hit the wall’.  This time I think it had more to do with the fact that I was walking on, thru and around rocks all day.  I know that Pennsylvania has the reputation for rocks but I find that New Jersey is no slouch when it comes to rocky trails.  Probably a little shorter of a day tomorrow…..”

Name of Hiker Number of Days on the AT Total Miles to Date Ave Miles Per Day Additional days to finish at current rate
Pigweed 92 631 6.9 225
Chip Tillson 99 878 8.9 147
Which Way and Next Step 95 1004 10.6 112
RTK 88 1004 11.4 104
Sour Kraut 90 1060 11.8 96
Bamadog 104 1327 12.8 67
Hard Knocks 114 1334 11.7 73


Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

He Is Risen!!

The heavens declare the glory of God

A Foggy Morning in Massachusetts – 2014


When morning gilds the skies,
My heart awaking cries:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Rangeley, Maine 2014


Categories: Trail Worship, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Weather Begins to Break on the AT

Spring Photo from Vagabond Jack

The harsh winter of the past few weeks on the Appalachian Trail is slowly releasing its grip on the trail. Hikers are beginning to report the signs of spring: birds singing, wildflowers, squirrels, and even snakes. Of the 14 thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail that I began following on trailjpurnals.com during January and February, only nine remain. Let me give you a quick update on where they are and their hiking progress. I will list them based on their starting date.

Starting on January 31 (the only January starter still on the trail), Hard Knocks, aka Patrick Knox, lasted posted on March 22nd from Chatfield Shelter at mile marker 538.2. He concluded his post with his hope to make into town before the rain. The shelter is only about 4.5 miles south of VA 683 and Atkins, VA. I am anxiously awaiting his update.

Vagabond Jack (Jack Masters) began his journey on Feb 2nd. His post just yesterday (March 28) shared that he is 7.8 miles north of Erwin, Tennessee at a campsite near Indian Grave Gap. This is not the name of a place where I would want to sleep, but there is a campground nearby called Rock Creek Recreation Area, so maybe Vagabond Jack is staying there. He has managed to hike 350 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

Next Step – Out of the GSMNP

Opa, Reinhard Gsellmeier, hiked 22.5 miles yesterday and camped at Pickle Branch Shelter in Virginia at mile marker 691.6. He began his thru-hike on February 10 and finds himself over 100 miles ahead of his cohort. He is hoping to reach VA 311 (about 13 miles ahead) tomorrow and meet his brother John. They will be spending a few days together on Roanoke.

Bamadog, Marty Dockins, last posted on March 23 from Roan Mountain, Tennessee, (mile 391.8) where he was planning on taking off a few days with his sweetie. The bad weather may have convinced him to spend a few more nights out of the snow and ice. I anticipate an update very soon from Bamadog.

Chip Tillson began his hiking adventure on February 20. He posted yesterday that he was celebrating his completion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He is staying at the very popular hostel, Standing Bear Farm, having hiked 10.4 miles during the day. The hostel is 241 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia the southern terminus of the AT.

Sour Kraut, Tim Pfeiffer, had not posted since March 12th in writing, but his photos continue to show him on the trail. His last picture showed him in the snow at the 300-mile mark around March 25th.  He hit the AT on February 21st.

Which Way and First Step, the only husband/wife team that I am following, are retired military from Washington, DC. The couple began their hike on February 24th. They were a day ahead of Chip Tillson but were staying at Standing Bear Farm on March 27th having completed their snowy, cold trek through the GSMNP. They shared the welcomed difference in the weather, A complete 180 from the snow storm we faced less than a week ago! The trail meandered through the woods following a rushing mountain stream. The birds were chirping, the sun was shining, the perfect breeze was blowing. There were small white, yellow and purple wildflowers blooming and we even saw our first butterflies of the season.

RTK Tent on March 21

RTK, Bruce Matson, started the trail on February 25th and makes his posts one week behind his actual hike so his last post was for March 21. He was still in the middle of the winter storm. He woke up on the 21st with 4-5 inches of snow on the ground. He experienced high winds throughout the day as the accumulation of “white stuff” reached about 10 inches. He was able to hike 14.2 miles in the difficult conditions before catching a shuttle a Garenflo Gap and a ride into Hot Springs, North Carolina, and the Mountain Magnolia Inn.

Hickory who began the trail on February 27 has maintained a fast pace. He is past Hot Springs, past Erwin, Tennessee and is about 22 miles from Damascus Virginia. His post on March 28th indicated a 15-mile to the Watauga Lake area (mile 427.3). Hickory does not post any pictures, so I cannot visual his journey at all for you. I think he must be hiking too fast to take a photo.

And then there were nine. I will keep you posted as each makes his/her way toward Maine.

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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

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