West Virginia

Easter on the Trail

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

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

April 13 (Thursday)

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

April 14 (Friday)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beaker to Hot Springs, NC

On March 22nd, Beaker, the Mountaineer chemist from Morgantown WV, was camped at Groundhog Creek Shelter just north of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). His spirits were high as he hoped for a two-day journey into the first trail on the AT headed north, Hot Springs, NC.

Beaker’s Day on Max Patch

3/23/17 Destination: Walnut Mountain Shelter, NC. Hiking miles today – 13.1 miles.

March 23 was a beautiful day on the AT – clear skies and full sunshine. Beaker’s hike today was to include another AT highlight – Max Patch. Max Patch, large grassy bald, was originally cleared several years ago for cattle grazing. The bald has become a special spot for hikers because of its incredible 360 degree views of the mountains. Finally, Beaker got to enjoy the view with clouds and rain robbing the panoramic.

Beaker arrived at Walnut Mountain Shelter and was greeted by about 20 other hikers. From his tent he writes, “The wind is roaring up the mountain, my tent is shaking and the guy lines are buzzing in the wind. It will be a brisk night. That’s alright because tomorrow we reach Hot Springs, NC and a much-needed zero day,,,It’s been a week since I’ve showered. I stink!

Beaker and others enjoy the Hot Springs

3/24/17 Beaker stays at the Sunnybank Inn, in the trail town of Hot Springs, NC. 13.1 miles today.

“We all come out here for our own reasons; but, a part of it for all of us is to get away, on some level, from current society. However, we are all drawn in by the towns. After seven days in the woods, a town visit was long overdue. In town, you don’t have to filter water, sleep on the ground, or poop in a hole. Life in town is a brief respite from the rigors of the trail.”

Beaker wasted no time taking advantage of the town of Hot Springs, NC. The first order of business was a long, hot shower; then a trip to the laundromat; and finally food – lunch at the Smoky Mountain Diner. Beaker and several hikers visited the hot springs of Hot Springs, NC

3/25/17 Hot Springs, NC. Zero day in Hot Springs.

Beaker took advantage of the day of rest to refuel, resupply, and rejuvenate those tired legs. After breakfast he did some planning and estimated how many days it would take to make it to Erwin, TN and how much food he’d need for the journey. He sorted through his pack and sent home a few items, such as micro spikes.  He also made some longer term plans including some off-the-trail days at Adkins, VA around Easter to make his move to Knoxville, with a strategy to return to the trail in early May.

Tenting along service road

3/26/17 Back on the trail. 14.8 mile hike today ending at a stealth camp near Allen Gap, NC.

Beaker experienced a restless night at Elmer’s awaking with aches all over. He did not want to get out of bed but eventually he got his hiking stuff organized and packed. He started his day in the rain, but it didn’t last long and the sun broke out turning gray to blue.

By the time Beaker reached Allen Gap, he was feverish and dizzy. Being one of the last to arrive most of the flat spots were occupied, but he found a site on an old forest service road that ran close to the campsite. Soon, two other hikers joined him (see photo).

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Hot Springs, Max Patch, North Carolina, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Thru The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Beaker, Rusty Miller, from Morgantown, WV is a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail. He began his adventure during the last week of February and found himself snowbound in Knoxville for a few days. This post picks up his story as he leaves Knoxville and his lovely visit with his wife and heads up the trail toward the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).

3/18/17 ends at Russell Field Shelter in the GSMNP after hiking 15.7 miles. After a rainstorm during the night at Knoxville, the morning dawned gray and overcast; Beaker’s son, Chris and his wife, Marguerite accompanied him back to Fontana Village. The chemist from WV had a last goodbye and then headed up into the Great Smoky Mountains.

Beaker planned to push straight through the Smokies in five days. The climb up the mountain proved to be pretty tough, but he arrived at the Russell Field shelter and found it filled with a Boy Scout troop and other thru hikers. So, he happily pitched his tent close by and went to sleep listening to coyotes howling in the distance.

3/19/17 Today’s hike totaled another 14.7 miles and ended at Siler’s Bald Shelter, NC. The hike was quite difficult as Beaker encountered snow, ice, mud, rocks, roots, steep ascents, and steep descents. On the northern slopes there was a great deal of ice and snow. Beaker even broke out his microspikes today. His evaluation of the spikes, “They were incredible! It made a huge difference on the icy sections.”

3/20/17 Another day in the GSMNP concluded at Icewater Spring Shelter for a total mileage for the day of 15.1. Two highlights awaiting this day’s journey: arriving at the highest point of the AT, Clingman’s Dome, and crossing the North Carolina/Tennessee border. His reflection of the first highlight, “It was a fairly long and steep climb up Clingman’s Dome; but, the sun was hanging in there. As I was nearing the summit, I saw the clouds moving in. Alas, by the time I reached the weird tower on top with the curving walkway, the clouds had settled in. No views. Bummer.” The ice was bad throughout the day and Beaker hiked all day in his microspikes but he remained optimistic and celebrated the crossing into Tennessee at Newfound Gap.

3/21/17 Today was Beaker’s longest day yet on the AT – 19.8 miles. Because of the locations of the shelters and the requirement to camp at the shelters, Beaker had to decide between a 12-mile day to the first shelter or a19-mile day to the second, Cosby Knob Shelter. He pushed on and proved that he is developing some strong trail legs. The weather continued to send foggy conditions, “I couldn’t see 30 feet ahead of me.”

 

If you get a chance, check out Beaker’s expanded journal online: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?trailname=18636.

If you like my blog, check out my ebook, Hike It Forward, at Amazon.com Just click the photo of the book.

Check Out My Book

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Clingmans Dome, Fontana Dam, GSMNP, North Carolina, Shelter, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beaker – Part 3

Beaker on the Trail

Let me continue the story of the thru-hike of “Beaker” the chemist from West Virginia. We last left him in a hotel in Hiawassee, Georgia, warming up after a very cold night on the trail without an ample sleeping bag. Let’s follow his adventure for a few more days.

Saturday, March 4. Beaker had a fortuitous late start out of Hiawassee because when the shuttle dropped him off at the trailhead at Unicoi Gap, a church group from the Raleigh area was putting on a hiker feed, complete with grilled hamburgers and all the fixings – trail blessing at its best.. Beaker’s post has the sound of a happy and dry and contented hiker, “The hiking weather was perfect – high 50s, sunny, and only a light breeze. And the views of the North Georgia mountains were incredible. To top it all off, the Tray Mt Shelter is the prettiest shelter I’ve seen so far. It sits on top of Tray Mt and looks out over a sea of mountains. The sunset was gorgeous! There are probably another 30-40 people here – mostly new faces. The Trail is getting pretty busy.”

Sunday, March 5. Beaker made a fairly easy hike to Dick’s Creek Gap and the Top of Georgia hostel. He reached the hostel by 1 pm and was able to pick up his emergency mail drop from home including a warmer sleeping bag. He decided to press on to the next shelter even though he had already paid a non-refundable fee for the bed, so “ I ‘paid it forward’ and let the next guy who arrived have my spot for free. He was so excited – my own little bit of trail magic.” I don’t know Beaker personally, but I am beginning to appreciate his character and perspective on his adventure.

Border GA/NC

Monday (16.6 miles; 90.4 total miles so far). Beaker awoke to rain on his tent at 4:30 am. He slept much better during the night with the warmer sleeping bag. It was another blustery day with rain on and off until about 2:00 pm. The highlight of the day was crossing the NC/GA border. The AT experienced several major forest fires last year and Beaker came upon one such area. He shares in his journal, “I climbed Standing Indian Mt moved into the area that was so devastated by forest fires last Fall. The standing trees appear to be OK, with scorch marks on the lower 12 – 18 inches of their trunks. However, the undergrowth is completely gone. It looks like some kind of strange war zone.”

Fire Tower on Albert Mountain

Tuesday, March 7. “It was the most miserable day on the trail so far. And the most epic!” Beaker started the day with rain, he walked in a tunnel all day with fog so thick he could only see about 20 ft ahead. The day’s hike included the climb up and over Albert Mountain (5250 ft). The last 0.3 miles is the steepest grade up to this point of the AT. Unfortunately, the climb to the summit changed from a gentle rain to a deluge. There is a fire tower at the top, but again the fantastic views were missed because of the weather. However, the fire tower stands at the 100 mile marker and the sense of accomplishment is amazing. Beaker hiked another five miles past the summit and stayed in a dry hotel in Franklin for the night.

Wednesday, March 8.  Beaker was greeted with beautiful blue morning skies and no rain! He got a late start because of the need to resupply to replace his water filter. His 8.3-mile day was filled with a climb up Siler Bald (5001 ft) during the late afternoon. The climb was well worth it. The reward was an incredible 360 degree view of the beautiful mountains.

More of Beaker’s hike coming up soon. Stay connected.

Categories: Albert Mountain, Appalachian Trail, Fire-tower, Georgia, Hiawassee, Thru-Hike, Trail Blessing, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Continues

Beaker and Friends dry in a cabin

Rusty Miller (trail name – Beaker) from Morgantown, West Virginia, began his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail on February 26th by conquering the approach trail of 8.5 miles. This is no small task due to the rigor of the ascent and the challenging terrain beginning at Amicalola Falls, Georgia. Beaker made it to the top of Springer Mountain, the actual southern terminus of the AT, on day one and camped with seven other excited hikers ready to dream of Maine and 2,200 miles ahead.

Let me give you a quick fast forward and share some of Beaker’s adventures during the first week of his pilgrimage. Day two, he hiked 7.2 miles with a philosophy of keeping his mileage low until his trail legs begin to strengthen. He took his time breaking camp in the morning and hit the trail around 10:00.  Before the day was over Beaker experienced a common phenomenon on the AT – RAIN.

Day three – his journal begins, “Rain. Again. Lots of rain. Everything is damp.” Despite the moisture, Beaker managed to walk 13.2 miles and ended up at Woody Gap. The rain let up for most of the day but around 2:00 pm the rain arrived accompanied by several claps of thunder. Beaker shares, “I slogged on and finally arrived at Woody Gap in the pouring rain.

Wednesday, March 1 brought a new month to the trail but the rain continued. It had poured all night and Beaker woke up to rain in the morning. To add insult to his dampened spirits, his air mattress sprung a leak during the night. On the up side, the day’s adventure took him up and over his first 4,000 foot mountain: Blood Mountain (4457 ft). The summit displays some wonderful views, but not for Beaker, “Didn’t see ’em! At the top – nothing but clouds.” The climb up Blood Mountain was strenuous but the descent on the other side revealed a rather unnerving, slippery slope of bear rock, “the wet rocks were slick. I had a couple scary slips, but managed not to fall.” The day ended at Neel Gap and a nice warm cabin just before a downpour with thunder, lightning, high winds and pelting rain.

Beaker on the Trail

Thursday, March 2 started with glorious sunshine, although the temperature only reached into the 30’s, and ended at a campsite at Low Gap Shelter. When Beaker arrived he found a tent city involving about 30-40 backpackers. Temperatures dropped in the middle of the night and Beaker discovered that his hiking quilt wasn’t going to be adequate. He recorded, “Even wearing all my clothes, I was very cold. I lay there shivering all night.”

Friday, March 3. After a 9.8 mile hike Beaker opted for a restful and warm bed in a room at the Budget Inn in Hiawassee, GA. He called his wife and made arrangements for an express delivery of a sleeping bag to replace his quilt to be sent to the Top of Georgia hostel in Dick’s Creek Gap.

I love how Beaker describes himself: “As you can see, it’s just me in a kilt with a ponytail, bushy white beard, and a funny red hat, carrying a hiking staff.” (He forget to mention the mobster shades).

End of day five = 52.6 miles. More of Beaker’s story to come.

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Georgia, Hiawassee, Tent City, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Beaker the Chemist

 

My wonderful mother-in-law is 90 years-old and lives in Wild Wonderful West Virginia. This past weekend Cathy, my bride of almost 45 years, and I piled into our 1999 Toyota Camry and drove from our house in the Buckeye state to the home of the Mountaineers in Morgantown. Our son, Matt, also lives in Morgantown and we enjoyed a weekend of reunion with him as well as a special time with Cat’s mom.

Cathy’s three brothers live close by, so Nana’s house was visited by many during our four-day stay in the Mountain State. One afternoon, my niece and her family including four fantastic, energetic children came for lunch and a time of nice conversation. In the midst of family talk, Bekah shared that a coworker of her husband at the pharmaceutical company was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Any mention of the trail perks my ears to attention and opens my eyes with more than a twinkle of interest.

Bekah shared that the chemist’s name was Rusty Miller and he had the opportunity to take an early retirement with perks allowing him to hike the trail with funds from a severance package and the benefit of health insurance. With a first name like Rusty, I thought his trail name would be an easy decision. To my surprise, I found out his name on the AT is Beaker. What a great name for a chemist!

Two minutes into my chat with Bekah I was hooked into following Beaker’s blog and taking another vicarious hike through 14 states.  Beaker began his adventure on Sunday February 26. He began in Amicalola Falls State Park and traveled the 8.8-mile approach trail to Springer Mountain, the official start of the Appalachian Trail.  This approach trail contains a brutal start with 650 steps leading up to the falls. The approach trail, itself, has been enough to discourage many hikers to the place of throwing in the towel. Beaker, however, arrived in great spirits.

When he reached the summit, he found eight other pioneers – folks from Florida, New Hampshire, New York, Philadelphia, Paris and South Africa. This country and even the world gather at the southern terminus of this granddaddy of long trails. The AT is truly an international pathway to the Appalachian Mountains. The octave of hikers decided to camp together in the shelter or pitch their tents nearby. It was indeed a great day for the chemist from West Virginia. More of his story to follow…..

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Georgia, Hiking, Ohio, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Dulcigal Into Pennsylvania

Dulcigal and dulcimer

Dulcigal and dulcimer

Dulcigal, Karla Redman from Jackson. Georgia, is attempting a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Stepping out from the southern terminus, Springer Mountain, Georgia on March 13, Dulcigal made solid progress through Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. As she entered Virginia (the state with the most miles on the AT), she faced 550 miles of trail before reaching West Virginia. She entered the Shenandoah Nation Park and had conquered 469 miles of Virginia and then, it happened…. On June 19 (day 99 of the adventure) at 4:00 in the morning, Dulcigal woke up with intense pain from kidney stones – it was a debilitating case of kidney stones that resulted in an emergency room visit, two days in ICU, and a trip back home for recuperation.

Honestly, I did not think she would return to the trail, but her resolve is more than incredible. Less than a month after the episode, she is back on the path. On July 12, she returned to mile marker 932 and the trail head at Pinnacles Picnic Area with her two sons to continue the quest for Maine, Mount Katahdin, and the brown sign marking the northern terminus of this very long trail.

Dulicgal has posted several times since resuming her trek. The entry dated July 13 records that her hike through the Shenandoah Mountains was complete. She loved this part of the hike (as did I) with the beauty and freshness of the mountain canopy, but she was pretty excited, anticipating her arrival at Harpers Ferry, WV – only 54 miles away. During her time away from the trail, she lost some of the endurance and strength gained from hiking 930 miles, but she posted that each day was bringing more energy.

Dulci at the ATC

Dulci at the ATC

July 18 found Dulci at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry, WV. She got the traditional photograph taken and entered into the historical record of thru-hikers of 2016. When I arrived here in 2014, the date was June 30 and I was hiker number 924 – Dulci’s official number was 1,436. There are definitely lots of hikers on the trail this year.

Her sons (Jeremiah and Isaac) were able to hike with their mom all week to help her get a safe start back on the path. They returned home when the trio arrived at Harpers Ferry, but Dulcigal decided to stay in West Virginia a couple of days to allow a pulled muscle to recover. She had hiked 87 miles in 5 days but it was the 13.5 mile “Roller Coaster” (endless ups and downs), climaxing the end of the hike through Virginia, that tested her trail legs.

Dulci’s journal on July 20 relates a special story of receiving and carrying a dulcimer along the trail. She got the instrument in Waynesboro and began playing it some during her hike in the Shenandoahs. She shared that she played it every day in Harpers Ferry. I just love this part of her entry, “After the boys left, I carried the dulcimer with me when I went into town in case an opportunity arose to play. One of those times I came across an elderly lady sitting at a park picnic table. She was waiting on her son and his wife to finish a day hike. It didn’t take me long to realize she had some dementia and was struggling with general conversation. When I played her music on the dulcimer, her entire countenance changed. It was a blessing to me to see her enjoy such a simple gift.”

Dulcigal at Midway Point

Dulcigal at Midway Point

July 26 is the date of her most current post. She is in Boiling Springs (one of my favorite trail towns along the AT), having passed by the true half-way point of the AT in Pine Grove Furnace State Park and having walked over 1100 trail miles. She continues to gain strength and to make adjustments to the physical demands of the adventure. On the down side, the past week has been quite tough mentally. The hiking community she knew before leaving the trail is now 300 miles ahead of her. She is really missing her children after spending 3 weeks with them during recovery. And the heat, humidity, and bugs have made the recent days rather difficult.

She writes, “Now I understand the mental challenge piece of the hike. Getting to the halfway point sign at 1094 miles was not exciting to me. I’m ONLY HALFWAY!!! I still have 1094 miles to go!!!! That’s what was going through my mind.”

She began to reflect back on her excitement about returning to the trail. She experienced several deep conversations with herself and with God to sort through the distracting mental struggles and frustrations. She found strength in the ordeal with the kidney stones and being convinced that her journey was not over. She concludes her past journal entry with this insight: “We may not always understand the hills and the valleys in our lives, but we must still go on.”

Keep on hiking on, Dulci!

All photos are from Dulcigal’s online journal at http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=523064
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Boiling Springs, Class of 2016, Dulcigal, Georgia, Kidney Stones, Pennsylvania, Roller Coaster, Shenandoah National Park, Thru-Hike, Virginia, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Stacey Kozel – A Life-Changing Story

stacey kozel 5Stacey Kozel has been getting national attention in the last few weeks from the likes of Today, Washington Post, Popular Mechanics, and The Weather Channel. And well she should be. Stacey has a life-changing story to tell.

Stacey, a 41-year-old hiker from Medina, Ohio, is in the midst of a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, the 2,186 mile trek from Maine to Georgia. And she’s doing it alone. This, however, is not national news nor is it an unusual story for this blog site. What is unusual is that Kozel is paralyzed from the waist down.

When she was 19, Stacey was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage many parts of the body. Lupus often times leaves it impact on an individual during flare-up episodes. She became paralyzed in her legs after one particular flare-up of the disease in March 2014. Stacey told the Washington Post, “It was my worst flare-up. I kind of stumbled into the hospital. … Within a couple of days, I lost all mobility. I couldn’t sit up. I couldn’t lift my head. It took three people to hold me up, because my body was dead weight, just stiff.”

Kozel.DamascusAfter this 2014 traumatic flare, Stacey recovered most of the control of her arms and upper body, but her legs never responded. She found herself restricted to an electric wheelchair, but she began a personal search for anything that could help. She finally discovered the Ottobock C-Brace. The brace actually functions more like a mechanical exoskeleton. The large black brace cups around the foot and extends up the thigh. Its bendable knee joints and sensors that monitor ankle pressure enable great mobility for the user. These microprocessors adjust the hydraulic system (located at the knee) that actually moves the leg. It allows someone with paralyzed legs to walk again because, in essence, it does the walking for you.

Kozel shared, “It’s kind of like a car. The car has hydraulics and when you go over bumps, they kind of give. That’s what these braces do — when walking over holes and terrain, you don’t really feel it.” Kozel was so excited about these braces until she saw a price tag: $75,000….each! She couldn’t afford these new legs. But through great perseverance and diligence, she convinced an insurance company to approve her need.

C-BraceThe C-Braces are pretty incredible but they’re not perfect. First, when she faces boulders and steep inclines or embankments, she has to throw her backpack ahead. Then she sits and pulls herself up backwards, scooting along. This will continue to be a challenge especially over the White Mountains in New Hampshire and wilderness of southern Maine. Second, the braces cannot get wet. Rain, therefore, can be problematic, since it sometimes forces her to remain in her tent to wait until the storm passes by. The Appalachian Trail presents many days of rain. Third, they require a new charge every two days. During most of the trail, a charge every two days will possible, although inconvenient. But I think a few of the stretches, like the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine, will create a substantial challenge.

Kozel.Harpers FerryThe June 23 online issue of TODAY stated that Stacey has hiked over 905 miles of the trail since starting her journey on March 24. She’s hoping to reach the halfway mark by July 4. In this article, Stacey shared, “I didn’t start out doing this because I thought it was going to be easy. It’s not going to be pretty and it’s not going to be fast, but I’ll get there. I’ve always wanted to hike, but just I felt like I was trapped in my wheelchair. I was just dying to get outside.”

She made it! Check out her picture from Harpers Ferry complete with her trail name, “Ironwill.” The ATC is not the geographic half-way point (which is another 70 miles away), but Harpers Ferry, WV, certainly is the emotional/psychological half-way spot for thru-hikers.

http://www.today.com/health/woman-who-paralyzed-hikes-appalachian-trail-alone-t99811

http://www.popularmechanics.com/adventure/outdoors/a21585/high-tech-leg-braces-gets-this-paralyzed-woman-hiking/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/07/01/the-incredible-technology-thats-helping-this-paralyzed-woman-hike-the-appalachian-trail/

Stacey Kozel updates the world on her adventure on a public Facebook page.

Photo of Stacey  http://www.nwcn.com/news/health/high-tech-braces-aid-handicapped-hiker/262010477

Photo at Damascus http://www.littlethings.com/stacey-kozel-hikes-appalachian-trail/

Photo of C-Brace http://www.popularmechanics.com/adventure/outdoors/a21585/high-tech-leg-braces-gets-this-paralyzed-woman-hiking/

Categories: Adversity, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, C-Brace, Courage, Harpers Ferry, Hiking, Stacey Kozel, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon Hike Over 1000 Miles

1000 Mile Marker

1000 Mile Marker

After a couple of weeks of silence, Fat Hen and Rooster Talon have posted to their journal. On June 21, they posted with the excitement of reaching the 1000 mile marker. It is only a small sign nailed to a tree but it is such a motivating sight when you are on the trail. To walk 1000 miles is quite an accomplishment and something to celebrate. This young couple have been on the trail for 95 days and are staying at the Blackburn AT Center about a dozen miles south of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters. In Harpers Ferry each of them will get his/her picture taken and receive a thru-hiker number, putting Dan and Becky into the annals of trail history.

Fat Hen GlasgowTheir June 3rd post was from Daleville, Virginia. Several days of hiking and 56 miles later, they arrived at Glasgow, Virginia, a town about 5.9 miles off trail. Catching a ride into town brought back three-year-old memories of a visit the couple made to the town while driving through the area. They remembered the fiberglass dinosaur that graces one of the town’s major intersections and the incredible fried chicken the purchased from the Natural Bridge Country Store. The also remembered giving a thru-hiker a ride into town – what a change of roles this time around. On this return visit, they took a photo with Dino and purchased a 16 piece bucket of chicken, a 2 liter of Dr. Pepper and a half gallon of ice cream from the country store. They enjoyed their stay in Glasgow at a town shelter with electricity and a hot shower.

After leaving the town with the dinosaur, they made their way north past Waynesboro, Virginia and into the Shenandoah National Park. Their hike through the SNP was filled with a menagerie of wildlife and lots of good food. During a four-day period in the park, Dan and Becky saw 12 bears, 2 rattlesnakes and 1 copperhead. They did not share the details of these animal encounters but I can image that they have some exciting stories to tell. They also enjoyed the Waysides along the trail – these are great car-stops along the Skyline Drive that are easy walking from the AT. Th389ey serve some great ice cream as well as some good food. Fat Hen and Rooster Talon specifically commented on the blackberry milkshakes!

After their journey through the national park and a quick stay in Front Royal, Virginia, they hiked through the brutal Roller Coaster (13.5 miles of tightly packed ascents and descents) that will test the calves and shins of any hiker. They safely arrived at Blackburn AT Center and now have their sights on Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Stay tuned for a picture in front of the ACT Headquarters. My hiker number was 924 when I arrived on June 30, 2014 – I am curious to see how their numbers compare.

Photos or Dan and Becky: http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?trailname=20168

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Fat Hen, Glasgow, Harpers Ferry, Roller Coaster, Rooster Talon, Shenandoah National Park, Thru-Hike, Virginia, Waynesboro, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Update on Inchworm’s Sad Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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