My original fourteen thru-hikers are down to six. I started to track fourteen brave explorers of the Appalachian Trail who began their adventures in either January or February. Three started in January while only one remains – Hard Knocks who started his adventure on January 31 (Genesis and Zen Master had to leave the trail after giving their best effort). The other eleven began their quests in February and of these eleven only five are still active on the trail: RTK (Return To Katahdin), Sour Kraut, Chip, Next Step, and Pigweed. Vagabond Jack made a brief second attempted, but after ten days and 82 miles through some of Massachusetts and Vermont, a medical condition ended his thru-hike hopes.
Let me provide a quick update on the remaining six:
I have not heard from Hard Knocks since July 4th when he was camped at Garfield Ridge Shelter about 10 miles north of Franconia Notch in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. That is quite a long time of silence and in the past, I have assumed that a hiker has left the trail after three weeks of no entries. But I will continue to monitor Hard Knocks because he was such a strong and determined hiker plus he has entered the Whites where cell phone coverage makes it quite difficult to update an online journal. On July 4th he was about 1825 miles along the trail.
RTK’s last entry was July 17th. He typically posts on Thursdays and communicates a week in arrears. He was in Manchester Center, Vermont enjoying a zero-day while being safe and dry in the midst of a thunderstorm. RTK has been hiking with Hawk, a hiker following the Long Trail, which junctions the Appalachian Trail through the state of Vermont.
Sour Kraut’s last photo was posted on July 20th indicating that he has made it safely to Mt Mooslilauke in New Hampshire about 1795 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia. Mt Mooslilauke has incredible views and introduces the hiker to the White Mountains ahead. It only has an elevation of 4800 feet but the climb to the summit involves a descent of 3750 feet in six miles.
Chip has been consistent in his journal. On July 29 Chip was camping at the Belters Campsite in Connecticut about 35 miles from the New York/Connecticut border. He is not the fastest hiker on the trail having only covered 1486 miles since he started the AT on February 20, but the thru-hike is a marathon, not a sprint. Chip shared in his journal on July 29 an attitude of concern for me. I hope that he is able to work his way through the discouragement. “I’m pretty sure I have (or am about to) hit a physical and mental wall. I’ve felt it coming for several weeks. Don’t worry, its not surprising or unusual as it happens to most thru-hikers. Let there be no doubt that I’ll push through but it’s unavoidable, and perhaps necessary, to sometimes be overcome with fatigue and negative thoughts.”
Next Step began his trek of the Appalachian Trail with his wife (trail name Which Way) on February 24th. The hiked together until May 29 when Which Way needed to “back” away from the trail when a nagging back injury demanded some rehab. After 156 days on the trail, Which Way has reached the final state of the hike – Maine. He has logged in about 1,910 miles with about 290 tough miles to reach Katahdin. On July 29 he was staying at Full Goose Shelter just short of Mahoosuc Notch and Arm tomorrow (the most difficult 2.5 miles along the trail). I found the Arm just a little easier than the Notch, which was brutal.
The last hiker still on the trail is Pigweed. On June 15th, Pigweed took a 25-day rest from the trail with his wife to the beach. He left the trail near Buena Vista, Virginia, then on July 11th, re-entered the trail in Maine, climbing Mount Katahdin and heading south. In the last twenty days he has hiked SOBO (southbound) for 188.2 miles and on July 30 was enjoying a zero-day in Stratton, Maine where he is celebrating his first 1,000 miles. He is significantly behind the pace of the other hikers and I hope that the flip-flop (stopping in Virginia and traveling north to Maine) will allow him to finish before the weather turns too cold to continue.