I have been on vacation down in North Carolina and West Virginia over the past 10 days, but the nine Appalachian thru-hikers that I am following have been facing some snowy, cold, rainy, windy days. In order to catch you up on their progress and not write a book, I am going to share about four hikers today and the other five tomorrow. The incredible weather of this stubborn spring has made the trail even more challenging as they attempt their 14-state walk.
Hard Knocks, Patrick Knox Hard Knocks, started on January 31. He just updated his journal that had been spotty since my last update. He did not make a posting from March 22 until March 29. The best that I can tell, he hunkered down at a hostel to avoid the trail storms. He was back on the trail on 3/29 and commented that the trail seemed like a fast-moving creek due to the rain and melted snow. On April 3rd he began having difficulties with his ankle and ended up coming off the trail for three days. He has a niece in Roanoke who picked him up and offered her home for some recovery time. He got a new pair of shoes and replaced his backpack. On April 8th he was back on the trail, passed McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs, and ended his ten-mile hike a Lamberts Meadows Shelter. The next day he trekked fifteen miles to Fulhardt Knob Shelter and mile 729 of the Appalachian Trail. He reports that his ankle and new boots are working well as he eases back into longer hikes.
Jack Masters, from Kansas City, took his first steps on the famous Appalachian Trail on February 1. Vagabond Jack is consistently moving north. In the past 16 days, he has only taken on zero-day in Roan, Tennessee. On days that he hikes, he is averaging 10.4 miles per day. On April 9th, he arrived at Damascus, Virginia where he plans to zero on the 10th having hiked 468 miles of the AT. In his blog, he mentions that he has met RTK (Bruce Matson) on March 30 and then again on April 5th. They both know Mighty Blue and have been interviewed on Blue’s podcast so they had an enjoyable conversation sharing their adventures thus far. Vagabond Jack, like the other hikers this spring, faced many cold, rain, snowy, windy days. He mentioned the difficult weather on 11 of the past 18 days. His strategy through these challenging conditions has been to gain cover as much as possible. He has only spent the night in his tent three times; he has sought the warmth of a shelter on seven nights; and he has found the comfort of a motel/hostel on eight occasions. His plan seems to be working for him as he stays warmer and well fed along the way.
Opa (Reinhard Gsellmeier), the retired engineer from Rochester, NY, began his thru-hike on February 10. Opa is well over 450 miles ahead of Vagabond Jack and has passed Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro, Virginia, trekked 44 miles into Shenandoah National Park and passed the 900- mile marker on the trail. (There are very few actual markers, but guidebooks provide fairly accurate mileage.) But his walk has not been easy. On April 6th, Opa fell four times. He recounts his adversity in his blog, “I fell four times today, one of them hard. Nothing broken, but I have several aches and pains: my forehead, right hand, left elbow and left knee all ache pretty good as I lay in my tent tonite. My left knee in particular is pretty sore, cut up and a bit swollen. I must have fallen on a rock pretty hard with the knee, as it put a tear in my rainpants – which have a pretty durable fabric…. The funny thing is, I didn’t fall in any of the steeper sections of trail – it was always on a gradual slope. Go figure!” Opa is still hiking in snow and freezing temperatures with water bottles turning into slushies and temperatures in the 20’s overnight.
Marty Dockins hit the trail on February 15th. His last post in his online journal was April 3rd. He was camped at the Abington Gap Shelter just 6.5 miles from the Tennessee/Virginia border and 11.3 miles from Damascus. He had put in his first 20-mile day and was looking forward to celebrating his 61st birthday in Damascus on the 4th. Bamadog took a week off the trail from March 24-30 to spend some time with his “sweetie,” avoid the weather and rest his tired body. He shares about the hiatus in his journal, I took 7 days off and went home with my sweetheart. Went to the doctor and got my leg checked out. He said my hip belt was pushing in on a nerve that comes out from the front of my hip going to my leg. I adjusted my pack so I am good to go! The first two days back my leg is feeling much better. I did 16 miles yesterday and 14 today. Just climbed 1700 feet to get to this campsite.” It sounds like his time off the trail was refreshing and just what he needed to continue his adventure. I am anticipating an update very soon from Bamadog.