Which Way and Next Step

AT Hikers – First Week of August

Pigweeds’ View from Saddleback Mountain. ME

I have been following 14 adventurers on the Appalachian Trail. The only two things they have in common are they all started their thru-hike attempts during January or February and they are capturing their journeys online via trailjournals.com. Half of the original group have left the trail for various reason, while the other half are continuing their trek. A few are getting close to the finish line, while others have a pace that might make it difficult to complete the goal. With the average success rate of 25%, these early are still on track to better the average.

Unfortunately, I am removing Hard Knocks from an active status to inactive. He has not posted in his journal for over a month and 30 days of silence is my maximum for inclusion on the trail roster. I will continue to monitor Hard Knocks journal and let you know if he reappears or updates his status. His last was on July 4th from Franconia Notch, New Hampshire.

Bamadog on Mt. Washington

To my surprise, Bamadog has returned to the trail. He wrote in his journal on Jul 1st, Today is a bittersweet day but a good day. Psalm 118:24.As I hiked the Lord was speaking to my heart letting me know my wife needs me a lot more than the trail does. I did a very tough section over the Kinsman’s today 17 tough miles. Both of my knees are hurting letting me know I don’t need to be where I am alone scaling wet rock walls and cliffs and bouldering from daylight until dark. It is time to go home to my sweetheart.  I double checked his journal last week to discover that he had returned to the AT on July 22 where he left off (Franconia Notch) and as of August 3, he has hiked 116 miles in 13 days over the White Mountains and into the state of Maine. On the 3rd  of August Bamadog was in Andover, Maine with approximately 250 miles to Mount Katahdin.

Chip Tillson spent the night in Dalton, Massachusetts, on August 5th. Dalton is about 30 miles south of the Massachusetts/Vermont border, leaving Chip about 620 miles to complete his thru-hike. I am really cheering for Chip and truly hope he makes it to the big brown sign at the end of the adventure, but I am concerned for his pace. If he maintains his recent week’s speed of 11 the first week of October and the beginning of the snows that can easily close the trails to the summit of “the great mountain.”

Sour Kraut’s last photo was posted on July 21 from Mount Moosilauke, NH around 1,792 onto his hike with approximately 393 to go.

Next Step at Crocker Mountains

Next Step continues to make excellent progress on the trail. He entered the last state, the state of Maine, on July 29th and his last post (August 5th) shared that he was camped at Crocker Cirque Campsite, just shy of the 2,000-mile marker. Racewalker and I stayed at this camp along a beautiful stream in Maine on out 2014 thru-hike. Next Step has about 195 miles (including the 100 miles wilderness) to complete his adventure. He appears to be in a great position to finish strong and add his name to the class of 2018. He has the gorgeous Bigelow Mountains to enjoy, the canoe ride across the Kennebec River into Caratunk, ME, Moxie Bald Mountain, and the final town of Bronson, Maine, before he reaches the 100-Mile Wilderness.

RTK on Summit of Killington Peak

RTK ‘s last weekly post was published on July 24th and Bruce Matson, aka RTK, had hiked into West Hartford, Vermont, on VT 14. He has completed about 1,735 with approximately 455 miles to go. West Hartford is 30 miles south of the Vermont/New Hampshire border. RKT’s time frame looks spot on for a successful climb of Katahdin before the weather become a factor.

Pigweed is making a flip-flop attempt for his thru-hike. He hiked 800 miles to Buena Vista, Virginia, took several days off trail, then travel to Maine and has continued his hike southbound (SOBO). His last post (August 3) found him in Rangeley, Maine about 221 miles south of Katahdin. Combined with his 802 miles from Springer Mountain Georgia, Pigweed has hiked 1025 miles leaving another 1165 miles to complete the hike. Fortunately, Pigweed does not have the major winter snows to face in the weeks ahead, but his hike might stretch into an eight-month trip. I hope that Pigweed endures through southern Maine and New Hampshire. If he succeeds in traversing these miles, he has an excellent chance of completing his journey.

Categories: 100 Mile Wilderness, Appalachian Trail, Bamadog, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Dalton, MA, Georgia, Hard Knocks, Kennebec River, Killington Peak, Maine, Monson, ME, Mount Katahdin, Mount Washington, Pigweed, Racewalker, RTK, Sour Kraut, The Whites, Thru-Hike, Which Way and Next Step | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Which Way and Next Step Back Together on the AT

East Brook Pond, Massachusetts

One month ago, the husband (next Step) and wife (Which Way) team from The Washington, DC area, had a difficult decision to make.  Which Way (Alicia) was experiencing a great deal of back pain from an injury suffered prior to their Appalachian Trail thru-hike attempt. It was decided that Next Step (Darrell) would continue on without his wife, while Alicia sought medical help in correcting her physical discomfort. Part of their posting on May 29th reads:

5/29/18 – Distance today: 17.1 miles

“Plot twist. Which Way is getting a ride into Charlestown to the Urgent Care from our trail Angels, Count and Lavender. She reaggravated an old back injury a couple of weeks ago and it’s just keeps getting worse. Hoping she can get some pain relief, but more importantly, some advice on fixing the problem. I suffered through a couple of years of back pain, so I know it’s no fun, especially carrying a backpack up and down mountains! Praying for good results today!” 

Next Step at Conn/Mass border

Next Step has been moving northward at an outstanding pace since beginning his solo hike. He has averaged 17.75 miles per day for the 28 days of their separation. He has hiked through the four miles of West Virginia, the state of Maryland, the rocks of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and 15 miles into Massachusetts. The couple still has 470 miles to reach Mt Katahdin in Maine and most of the miles are difficult, challenging miles that will test the hiking skills they have accumulated along the way.

Happy to be back together

Next Step is thrilled to be reunited with his wife and looks forward to enjoying the trail with Alicia as they move north. Which Way had been spending time “healing” at her parent’s home in Kentucky. Her two-day drive to Massachusetts was filled with excitement to see her husband and some major fog that added some adversity on the roadways. Their reunion in Great Barrington, MA was sweet and they began to hike again on June 30th. They began their trek north with a rather slow, conservative pace, but a portion of their journal on July 2nd raised some concern from my perspective:

7/2/18 – Distance today: 12 miles

“When we started hiking at 0700 the temperature was still bearable. It would heat up significantly as the day wore on. Which Way was hiking without a pack today. I carried enough water for both of us. Unfortunately, it didn’t help her situation much. As soon as we started climbing, her back started hurting. It is very frustrating for her. 

Which Way Back on the AT

The trail crossed a gravel road deep in the forest about 9 miles into the hike. We decided it was best for WW to wait there while I finished the last 3 miles…..Which Way will rest tomorrow while I knock out some more miles. How many miles will depend on when I get started and how I hold up with the heat index well over 100 again.”

Which Way is one determined lady and she has hiked with physical pain, but the terrain ahead in New Hampshire and Maine will demand great effort and will cause a good deal of stress on her back. I hope that her injury will be strengthened each day and will be ready to face the White Mountains and the challenges of Maine. I will be anxious to see what the next few days will bring for this couple on their way north.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class of 2018, Massachusetts, Thru-Hike, Which Way and Next Step | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Lots of Silence on the AT

My View from the Washington Monument in Maryland

Four of my seven thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail have been silent during the last few days. As you may know, I am following seven online journals of folks that began their AT adventures in either January or February. Let me give you a quick update on each hiker.

The silent ones are

1). Hard Knocks (last posted in his journal on May 25 from High Point Shelter about 30 miles from the NJ/NY border).

2). Sour Kraut (his last photo was at the Mason/Dixon line on May 21).

3). RTK (who posts a week behind his location has been silent since 5/23 when he posted from Bear’s Den Hostel in northern Virginia).

4). Pigweed (posted on May 30 from Pearisburg, VA).

Bamadog, Chip Tillson, and WhichWay/Next Step have faithfully journaled and their last posts were 6/4/2018.

Bamadog – June 2018

Bamadog has been averaging 14.23 miles over the past six days and has traveled almost 100 miles – from Mashipacong Shelter (three-quarters of the way through New Jersey) to a shelter about 25 miles from the New York/Connecticut border. On May 30 he hiked by High Point, NJ on a beautiful, cool day. He logged 19.5 miles that day and enjoyed a beautiful sunset despite the forecast of a raining night. Bamadog awakened to a cloudy May 31 with temperatures in the low 70’s. Then, he hit the mosquitos – there were awful as he crossed into New York and faced the challenging climbs of the Prospect Rock area. June 1 proved to be a short day (9 miles) as he stopped at Greenwood Lake for breakfast and a short, 3-day resupply of food. Bamadog did not make an entry on June 2, but on June 3 he recorded his hike through the Bear Mountain Recreation Area (including the zoo) and across the Hudson River near Fort Montgomery, New York. It rained on the morning of June 4 delaying his start till 8:30 am. It was chilly as he hit the trail and he began his day in a long sleeve shirt, but within an hour of hiking, Bamadog was down to his short sleeves looking forward to finishing up the state of New York by Thursday.

Chip Tillson (he does not post photos!), for the last six days, has been hiking through the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. He averaged 10.7 miles per day covering just over 61.5 miles. May 30 was a short hiking day logging in 6.2 miles and finding shelter at Loft Mountain Campground just off the Skyline Drive. He took care of some laundry needs and picked up some resupply at the camp store. A downpour of rain overnight left the trail like a river on May 31. He wrote that the path “went from running water to muddy quagmire” and yet he was able to hike his longest day of the week (16.2 miles). He ran into his first bear on the trail and caught eye on his second running away from him later the same day. June 1 brought a little discouragement as he discovered about an hour into his journey that he was hiking the wrong way. He met a Ridge Runner along the path who encouraged him with words of assurance that all good hikers make similar mistakes. He spent the night in another “official” campground: Lewis Mountain Campground. More rain greeted Chip on June 2 bringing slippery mud and prohibiting a clear view of the Shenandoah Valley. More hard rain continued on June 3, and more discouragement occurred during the night. Critters chewed a hole in his food bag and ate some of his instant oatmeal. By 4:00 pm, the rain let up. Chip paused for a hot supper and then continued for two additional miles before making camp four miles south of Luray, Virginia. Chip spent the morning of June 4 getting dried out. He stayed at camp with his gear hanging from a clothesline. It was early afternoon before he began to hike. He observed another black bear along the trail before he reached his destination: Pass Mountain Hut.

Which Way and Next Step in Harpers Ferry

Which Way and Next Step have hit a major hurdle in their thru-hike. Which Way (Alicia) became very uncomfortable with an older back injury that was raising its ugly head. On May 30th she knew she needed to get the back checked out and so she was able to arrange a ride into an Urgent Care in Charles Town, WV, about 7 miles from Harpers Ferry. Next Step (Darrell) continued to hike. He logged 19.6 miles into Harpers Ferry and met Alicia at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Which Way was told that she needed rest for the next 5-7 days, so they revised their hiking plans. Next Step would continue to hike north and Which Way would drive a rental car enabling them to meet up each day. Darrell logged 20 miles on May 31 ending his trek in Washington Monument State Park, Maryland. On June 1 he generated 21.5 miles with a final destination at Pen Mar County Park on the Maryland/Pennsylvania border. Another long hike (18.5 miles) on June 2 brought Next Step to Caledonia State Park in PA. Which Way and Next Step then drove 30 min to Chambersburg, PA, where they stayed with good friends from their time in the military. They enjoyed a zero-day in Chambersburg on June 3 before Next Step continued northbound on the AT. Having undergone some physical therapy on her back in Charles Town, Which Way received news from the doctors that she would need to stay away from hiking for four weeks. This sad news was devastating to both of them, but they have decided that Next Step will continue and Which Way will go home to recover. So, Next Step hiked 20 miles on June 4 and met Which Way at the halfway point of the AT at Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Alicia is on her way home and Darrell continues without her. She still hopes to join him in a month and complete the hike together to Katahdin.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Bamadog, Bear Mountain, Black Bear, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Harpers Ferry, Maryland, Mosquitoes, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Pine Grove Furnace, Thru-Hike, Which Way and Next Step | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mid-May Brings Miles on the Appalachian Trail

As a change of pace, I thought I would provide an update on the seven Appalachian Trail thru-hikers with their own words. Since my last post of May 10, each hiker has been making progress. As of their last posts (most of them on May 16th), here is where they are:

Hard Knocks – Port Clinton, PA.: mile 1,214

Bamadog – ten miles north of Boiling Springs, PA.: mile 1,127

Chip Tillson – 25 miles north of Daleville, VA.: mile 750

Sour Kraut – Luray, VA.: mile 938

Which Way and Next Step – VA 56, Tye River: mile 828

RTK – Big Meadows Campground, VA. (Shenandoah National Park) mile 921

Pigweed – Shady Valley, TN.: mile 452

 

Hard Knocks

5/ 10 It was raining on us after a few hours and the rocks got slick and the dirt got muddy.  I lost the end of one of my trekking poles in the mud and it was lost and gone forever.  With this terrain, functional trekking poles are a necessity…stop in Duncannon….so I could buy new poles.  Since we [Hard Knocks, Roam, and Happy Feet] were there and wet, we decided to call it a day.  We checked in at the Doyle Motel.  If passing this way you should know that this is NOT the Hilton!  

5/13 ‘Rocksylvania’ has truly earned its name among hikers.  Lots of different rock challenges here. We have had mazes to go thru, boulders to climb over, and general walking hazards in uneven and unstable steps.

5/16 [After a zero-day in Port Cilton, PA] Just a quick object lesson I guess.  In addition to staying hydrated you must provide plenty of fuel for the fire, and the calorie fire is huge when you are hiking the AT.  So now I am off to burn more calories!  

Shenandoah River, Harpers Ferry, WV

Bamadog

5/10 The roller coaster was rough. I got overheated. It rained and made everything slick. I turned my foot over again. Very painful….Hope to get into Harpers Ferry tomorrow afternoon. Hope everyone is doing well. Thank you for your prayers

5/13 I have a shin splint on my other leg now. Went into Waynesboro and resupplied. Had wonderful people bring me to town and take me back to the trail head. Very much appreciated. 

5/16 Started walking at 7:20. Walked in rain most of the day. It was a beautiful day in the forest. Climbed boulders in the morning and walked in mud and water in the afternoon. Had to set my tent up in a jungle. The trail is 6 inches wide and on both sides it is grown up with who knows what.

Chip Tillson

Keffer Oak

5/10 The day started nice enough through pasture lands and past the Keffer Oak. At 300 years old it’s “the 2nd largest oak tree along the AT”. Apparently there’s a bigger one in NY, I’ll let you know….I have just enough food to get to Daleville, three days away. There is a small store halfway where I’ll pick up some extra calories to be sure.

5/13 Sunday’s weather was hot. I heard some hikers say it had affected their mileage but I had no problem, maybe I’m not moving fast enough to get overheated. The Rhododendrons were blooming and the Mountain Laurels are getting ready. Late in the day I passed through a long tunnel of Honeysuckle bushes, sweet!

Saw my first rattlesnake. The rattle end was two feet into the trail, the rest hidden in leaves. Hmmm…what to do. I spotted it easily but it wasn’t hard to imagine someone else coming along and stepping on it. I tossed a few sticks to move it along but that only prompted it to lift its head and look at me, flicking its tongue…unnerving.

5/16 It rained nearly all day but was warm enough so that I went without rain gear. It’s just water, it’ll wash off. The big millipedes seem to have been replaced by little orange newts, they’re everywhere! I wonder what they’re thinking as I thunder through their world like Godzilla. The trail paralleled the Blue Ridge Parkway and crossed it several times at pullover viewing spots. Unfortunately it was foggy: no views…

SNP Map

Sour Kraut – No words – only pictures

Which Way & Next Step

5/10 [After a Zero-day in Daleville, VA.] It always seems to be a little more difficult to get going the day after a Zero…. Fortunately the first couple of miles were relatively flat. The trail here paralleled I-81, eventually crossing under the busy interstate, another open pasture, and finally we were back in the forest, where we belong.

5/13 Mother’s Day… our hike started at 0645, because Which Way wanted to get to town so that she would be available to talk to our kids when they called. I usually get flowers for Which Way on Mother’s Day…. As we departed camp I told her that all of the flowers on along the hike today were hers to enjoy for Mother’s Day. Of course, the trail did not disappoint.

Mother’s Day Flowers for Which Way

We had a single significant climb today and it came early in the hike…. At the top of the climb we paused for a break and to worship. It is so easy to count our blessings and give thanks out here. The wildlife was out and about this morning. We ran across a bunny hopping up the trail, two chipmunks playing chase, squirrels, birds and butterflies fluttering about, a deer just off the trail and two snakes. Some of the wildlife actually posed long enough for a pic. 

5/16 We started hiking a little before 7AM with the intent of making it 17 miles to VA Route 56 by 3PM. We wanted to be off the trail on Thursday so that we could be in contact with our daughter who was having surgery.,,,, We emerged soaking wet from the forest at the VA 56 parking area at 2:45PM…. trail angels Dave and Jim…drove me to the Enterprise rental car agency located another mile or so away. We knew that at some point in the hike we would have to make a quick sprint to Washington, DC so that I could get a Retiree ID Card and we could pick up our 90-day refill of meds…. After shuttling a couple of hikers to a local AYCE Chinese Buffet, we hit the I-64, headed to DC. …We arrived at my cousin Bill’s place in Old Town Alexandria a little before 10pm. Bill had brownies and ice cream ready when we walked through the door. Death by chocolate—Perfect! 

RTK – last post 5/8

RTK at Big Meadows

5/8 Wally and I broke the day – which we knew was a tall order: over 18 miles – into thirds.  The first was a six mile stretch that included two, 2-mile climbs.  By focused attention to a steady pace, we conquered the first third.  The morning was brilliant weather but clouded up most of midday. The next six miles rolled through woodland without any views or points of interest except we were able to have lunch at Lewis Mountain campground.  After climbing Bearfence Mountain, Wally waited for a ride at a Skyline Drive parking lot and I finished the last 6 miles by myself.  The afternoon changed back to the brilliant sky with a cool breeze – wonderful conditions for the hike.  The late afternoon light seemed to help illuminate the wildflowers.  I made very good time on an excellent trail….tented at Big Meadows campground. 

Pigweed last post 5/12

Pigweed’s AT Barn

5/12 Today started rainy and the rain actually came intermittently most of the day. However, it never actually broke out into a hard rain, just enough to make me put my umbrella up and down several times in the morning in the afternoon. I was kind of dragging in the morning and came to about a 5-mile mark and at a shelter when the rain was threatening so I stopped and cooked a hot meal and made some coffee. A hot meal at lunch time is a rare thing but… the real pick me up. Rest of the day went quite well and I ended up doing 16 miles stopping at Low gap. A thunderstorm was raging to the north of me and threatening me so I put up my tent and let it pass with barely any effect, just enough to wet my tent. It caused a late dinner as I did not start cooking until close to 8 but I need the calories after 16 miles.
Today’s hike had an interesting pastoral section where I walked through some actual pastures that connected to Mountain sections. The barn had a big AT symbol on it so the farmer is obviously a friend of the trail. 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Bamadog, Boiling Springs, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Daleville, Duncannon, Hard Knocks, Harpers Ferry, Keffer Oak, Pennsylvania, Pigweed, Port Clinton, Roller Coaster, RTK, Sour Kraut, Thru-Hike, Virginia, Waynesboro, West Virginia, Which Way and Next Step | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The First 10 Days of May on the AT

Spring Photo from Which Way and Next Step

And then there were seven… I began following 14 Appalachian Trail Thru-hikers that started their adventures in either January or February. I wanted to see how these early starters managed along the trail. In general, the rate of success for thru-hikers is about 25% – only one in four make it from the southern terminus of Springer Mountain, Georgia all the way to Mount Katahdin, Maine. The 14-state challenge of 2,190 miles is a test of endurance both physically and emotionally. At the end of the first week of May, 50% of the original hikers are off the trail while the other half are continuing to check off miles and days toward their goal.

The weather has blossomed as well as the wildflowers. The forest is green as the foliage creates the green umbrella protecting the path and those who hike it from the blazing sun. The challenge of the winter is drawing to a close and the trail is free of snow and ice.

Let me provide a quick update on the seven remaining hikers and their progress on the AT.

Patrick Knox, trail name Hard Knocks, is the only January starter still on the trail. He has made it over halfway and is resting at Darlington Shelter, 14 miles north of Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, at mile marker 1,131.8. Boiling Springs is such a beautiful small town that embraces the smelly hiker with hospitality. It was one of my favorite trail towns in 2014.

Bamadog in May

Bamadog stayed at the Mountain Home Cabbin (hostel) in Front Royal, Virginia, on May 8th and then hiked 21.7 miles on the 9th to a stealth campsite. He is about to reach the 1000-mile point but must experience The Roller Coaster (13.5 miles of tightly packed ascents and descents) to get there. After the Roller Coaster, there are only 19 miles to Harpers Ferry and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy – a major milestone in the thru-hike adventure. At the Conservancy, hikers get their pictures taken, their names recorded in the official list of hikers, and a number indicating their order of appearance among the class of 2018.

Chip Tillson arrived at Pearisburg, Virginia, on the 6th of May. During the next two days, he hiked 23 miles and finally camped near Bailey Gap Shelter (mile-marker 654.5) on May 8th (the date of his last journal post). He is hoping to hike another 70 miles into Daleville, Virginia, before taking another day off.

Sour Kraut’s Salamander

Sour Kraut posts pictures occasionally so I know he is still on the trail. However, he does not journal with words so I am never sure exactly where he is. The last photo was dated May 6th, but is was of an orange salamander. His last landmark photo was the Guillotine on April 30. I am guessing that he has made it into Shenandoah National Park around 860 miles north of Springer Mountain, GA.

Which Way and Next Step, a retired military couple, are taking on zero-day on May 9th in Daleville, Virginia. Earlier last week (May 4), Which Way experienced some tough hiker discomfort with blisters. The couple decided to shuttle Which Way, Alicia, about 50 miles north to Four Pines Hostel in Catawba, Virginia, while Darrell (Next Step) continued to hike northbound. They rendezvoused in Catawba and continued down the path together. They hiked to McAfee Knob and over Tinker Cliffs before resting in Daleville. One reason for the separation was the need to complete the trail by Labor Day. Next Step shares in their journal, “…it was evident that she [Which Way] needed some time off the trail to clean it [the blister] properly and to let her feet heal. The closest road intersection was VA 235, a gravel road 2.5 miles down the mountain. As she hobbled along we discussed options. I told her that I could take a couple of days off with her, but she did not want to slow our overall progress (we need to complete this journey before Labor Day). In the end, we decided to get her a ride 50 or so miles up the trail while I continued to hike.”

Which Way and Next Step on McAfee Knob

My concern for this wonderful couple is their time constraint. They have great attitudes and seem to be enjoying the adventure with marvelous gusto. But Labor Day is September 3, 2108. They still have time, but they will need to really pick up the pace. At their current rate of 9.65 miles per day, according to my quick calculations, they will be 327 miles short of Mount Katahdin on September 3. It would take them another 34 days to reach their goal. However, they would only need to up their average distance to 12.4 miles per day to reach the brown sign in Maine.

Dragon’s Tooth by RTK

RTK, Bruce Matson, like Which Way and Next Step has arrived at Daleville, Virginia. However, RTK posts in his journal a week late. So he arrived in Daleville on April 29th. He experienced a great week on the trail with friends and family joining him for some of the adventures. He has walked by Keefer Oak (the second largest oak tree on the AT – over 300 years old and 18 feet around), the Audie Murphy Monument (the most decorated American soldier of World War 2), Dragon’s Tooth (a huge stone monolith), and of course McAfee Knob (one of the most photographed spots on the trail). He also enjoyed a great all-you-can-eat meal at Homeplace Restaurant. (This hiker favorite in only open Thursday through Sunday. I sadly hiked by on a Wednesday in 2014).

Pigweed celebrated his birthday on the trail on May 4th.  He posted in his journal:

Pigweed – Birthday on Hump Mountain

“Happy birthday to me. 
A great b-day so far.  I woke on top of Hump Mnt and watched the sunrise out my tent doors.  360 degree view from there had awesome sunset sunrise and stars. I slept half out of my tent to enjoy the stars until the wind whipped up and I scooted into the tent.  The wind gave my tent a workout… I then Nero ed into Roan TN and stumbled into station 19 hostel.  They have… a pig roast tonight with live music. A real bed shower laundry and shuttle to town. I may zero tomorrow with rain in the forecast…” 
This was Pigweed’s most recent post. He has been silent for the five days so I am anticipating an up-date very soon. Roan, Tennessee, is at the 392 mile-marker. Pigweed had many, many more miles to travel on his adventure.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Audie Murphy Memorial, Bamadog, Boiling Springs, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Daleville, Dragons Tooth, Harpers Ferry, Keffer Oak, McAfee Knob, Mount Katahdin, Pearisburg, Pennsylvania, Pigweed, RTK, Shenandoah National Park, Sour Kraut, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Tinker Cliffs, Virginia, Which Way and Next Step | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

April on the AT – Thru-hikers Trek On

AT on April 15, 2018

April 2018 was a cold month with some snow, ice, and slippery trails for those attempting a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. It has only been in the last week of April that the temperatures have been comfortable and the conditions reflect the change of seasons. The last week of April find my nine hikers (those brave souls that I have been following on trailjournals.com) spread out over almost 1000 miles of the trail. All of them began their journeys between January 31 and February 27 and all of them have been diligent in their goal of conquering this iconic long-trail covering 2,190 miles through 14 states from Georgia to Maine.

Let me give you a quick update on each hiker in order of their start dates.

The Clan at Stonybrook Organic Farm and Hostel

Hard Knocks, Patrick Knox, started on January 31. As of his last post (4/30/2018) he has been hiking for 90 days and has covered 1,010 miles. He is camped at Stonybrook Organic Farm and Hostel, a religious commune run by the Twelve Tribes Network. Hard Knox shares, “…it is a religiously based commune.  It is a beautiful place and all of the people seem very nice all for the low price of Zero Dollars.  All they ask is that you work a little (I mopped a floor tonight) or consider a donation before you leave.  It is certainly nice enough for me to consider a zero-day tomorrow before I make the hike to Harpers Ferry.  If so, I will give more of a report on the hostel/commune.  So, maybe arrest day tomorrow before I continue walking.” Hard Knocks is averaging 11.2 miles per day and at this rate, it will take him 196 days to complete the trail.

Vagabond Jack, Jack Masters, began his hike on February 1st. His last post was made on April 28th and Vagabond was about 40 trail-miles north of Pearisburg, Virginia, at Laurel Creek Shelter and 670 miles from Springer Mountain Georgia. Jack is only averaging 7.7 miles per day, although he walked 16.5 miles on April 27th and 14.6 miles on April 28th. At the overall rate of 7.7 miles per day, it will take Vagabond Jack 285 day to complete the Appalachian Trail.

Opa in hospital

Opa is Reinhard Gsellmeier from Rochester, NY. He began his thru-hike on February 10th but has covered more miles than any hiker in this group. On April 27th he was at the 1,275-mile mark and experiencing the rocks of Pennsylvania. He met family in Wind Gap, PA, and drove home to Rochester for a few days of relaxing. After a day of resupply, Opa took ill and found himself in a New York hospital.He shared on April 30th, I basically have an enlarged prostate, a condition that is not uncommon for men my age.  I will also be scheduled to see an urologist, who will further evaluate my condition and advise as to treatment options.  My doctor also re-examined my hernia, which I’ve had since last fall, and he advised that my hernia now needs to be surgically repaired once my prostate issue is resolved and before I have any notion of continuing on with my AT hike…. These health issues are nothing serious that can’t be dealt with, but it looks like the continuance of my AT thru hike attempt is going to be put on hold for awhile…  In one respect I consider myself very fortunate that the issue with my prostate manifested itself while I happened to be in Rochester for the weekend….This will be my last journal entry for at least awhile.” I will keep you posted on Opa when he updates his journal.

Bamadog on Tinker Cliffs

Bamadog, Marty Dockins, took his first step on the AT on February 15th. He is averaging 11.1 miles per day and at this current rate, his trip to Mount Katahdin will take 197 days. He has just crossed over the suspension bridge at Tye River, climbed about 3000 feet to Three Ridges Mountain, and is about 25 trail-miles from Waynesboro, Virginia.

Chip Tillson started his hike on February 20, seventy days before his last post on April 30. He is camped close to Walker Gap about half way between Atkins and Bland, Virginia. He is only averaging 8.1 miles per day with an estimated total of 271 days needed to complete his thru-hike. Hopefully, the spring weather will enable him to increase his daily mileage.

The Guillotine

Tim Pfeiffer, Sour Kraut, took to the trail on February 21. He has not posted a written journal entry since March 11, but he submits photos to mark his progress. He posted a picture on April 30 (day 69 of his trek) of The Guillotine, a round rock balanced on rock-outcropping, under which the path leads the hiker. It reminds me of the Indiana Jones movie where Indy has to run away from the rock rolling over his head. The Guillotine is 765 miles into the hike. Sour Kraut is averaging 11.4 miles and at this rate will need 197 days to fulfill the dream.

600 miles for Which Way and Next Step

Which Way and Next Step, the couple from Washington, DC, crossed the 600-mile marker after spending 65 days on the trail. The couple is about two or three days away from Pearisburg, Virginia. They left on February 25 and, so far, are averaging 9.2 miles per day. At this pace, their thru-hike will take 238 days. However, they are making much better mileage in recent days and the weather should help their pace as well.

RTK, Bruce Matson, records his journal a week late so it is difficult to compare his trek with the others. However, on day 58 of his hike (April 23), which began on February 25, he is about 663 miles into his northbound (NOBO) adventure. His pace is 11.4 miles per day with an estimated trip of 192 days.

Spring makes such a difference!

Pigweed started his hike on February 27, had to take two weeks off for an injury, and is now back on the trail. He is several hundred miles behind the others who started in February and is only averaging 5.5 miles per day. He is in Erwin, Tennessee and has hiked about 341 miles. This rate will make his trek last more than a year (398 days). During the past six days, he has increased his mileage to 11.5 miles per day. I think to be successful he will need to continue to increase his daily distance if he hopes to complete this challenge.

My hopes and prayers for these thru-hikers is that the good weather ahead will encourage and refresh them. Their legs should be strong and now, more than ever, the emotional aspects of the trail are critical. Injury is only a fall away, sickness can strike any day, and discouragement can creep up on a hiker without too much warning. But, the warmth and color of spring can propel the hiker with zeal and excitement. May the winds of May fill their lungs, hearts, and minds with strength and a renewed commitment to the journey.

Photo of Commune from https://www.twelvetribes.com/community/stoneybrook-farm-dc-area. All other photos taken from trailjournals.com.

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Bamadog, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Erwin, Guillotine Rock, Hard Knocks, Hiking, Hostel, Opa, Pearisburg, Pennsylvania, Pigweed, RTK, Sour Kraut, Thru-Hike, Tinker Cliffs, Vagabond Jack, Virginia, Which Way and Next Step | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

AT Hiker Update: Part 2

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I wanted to provide a progress report on the other five hikers that I have been tracking as they attempt a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.

Sour Kraut at 500 Miles

Chip Tillson (Sorry, he does not post photos to share)

Chip began his AT adventure on February 20, 2018. As of April 9th, he has trekked over 350 miles. He is through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, passed Hot Springs, North Carolina, and ten miles beyond Erwin, Tennessee. Having to take several days to heal from a fall on his shoulder, Which Way and Next Step have caught up with Chip. He mentions meeting them and seeing them several times during the past few days. Chip developed his first blister during his hike into Erwin, TN, so he decided to take a zero-day at Uncle Johnny’s Hostel for some TLC before moving on.

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 hiker-made the 500-mile marker. That puts him in Virginia just north of Grayson Highlands.

Which Way and Next Step

Which Way and Next Step Sunrise at Max Patch

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. My last post found the couple in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on March 24th. They took three more days to complete the park and spent the night outside GSMAP at Standing Bear Farm. On the next day, the trail led them to Max Patch on a beautiful day. The Bald provided an outstanding view with a stunning 360-degree look at the surrounding mountains. Which Way and Next Step camped on Max Patch and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise on March 29th. They arrived at Hot Springs on March 30 and enjoyed three days with family in this wonderful trail town. Hitting the trail again on April 2nd, Which Way began to experience some physical discomfort – sore knees and a tender shoulder from carrying a heavy backpack, so they took a shorter day (10miles) and arranged a shuttle into the Hemlock Hollow Inn. The respite was exactly what was needed and Which Way was ready to go the next day with no discomfort. The trail was filled with rain for a few days and the couple was thrilled to arrive at Erwin on April 7. They spent a zero-day in Erwin, attending a church service and taking in a movie (I Can Only Imagine). I have seen this film and it is just an outstanding movie about the transforming power of God in a person’s life. They experienced a rather discouraging Monday, hiking in the wrong direction for a few hours, walking in the mist and fog, and setting up camp in the rain. I still love their attitudes as shared in their last post, “Mundane Monday was finally over. Looking forward to Terrific Tuesday!”

RTK

RTK on March 29

Return To Katahdin (RTK), Bruce Matson is reporting his adventure in posts summarizing each week. He posts a week behind his current location so his last post reflects his journey through April 3.  His strong hike has only included two zero-days in the past sixteen hiking days. He stopped at Hot Springs on the 23rd of March and then again on Easter Sunday in Roan Mountain, Tennessee. He stayed at the Roan Mountain B&B which brought back memories for me, as I enjoyed a day there as well in 2014. His last post finds him camped at mile marker 413.2 at Moreland Gap Shelter about 20 miles north of Roan Mountain.

 

 

 

 

 

Hickory

Hickory who began on February 26. On April 9th, Hickory is staying at one of his favorite hostels on the AT – Woods Hole Hostel, about 11 miles south of Pearisburg, Virginia. He has covered 623 miles of the Appalachian

Woods Hole Hostel

Trail. Hickory has not posted photos in his online journey until April 9th. It was of the hostel. He gives the following insights into his rating of hosels along the trail, “My top-ten hostels on the AT are clean, sanitary, organized, have fabric mattresses (not vinyl “prison pads”), offer meal options or a hiker-kitchen, are walking-distance to the trail, are clean and organized, may have private rooms, respectfully enforce rules, treat hiker-guests like “kin”, and (with redundancy intended) are clean and organized! Succinctly, the best hostels are like B&B’s at hiker rates. Woods Hole tops the list!”

Here is a quick summary of the progress of each nine thru-hikers that I am following.

Update          Miles              Hiker                                           Location                                Start Date

4/7/2018 353.7 Chip Tillson Beauty Spot Gap 2/20/2018
4/9/2018 355.7 Which Way and Next Step Unaka Mountain, TN 2/24/2018
4/3/2018 413.2 RTK Moreland Gap Shelter, TN 2/25/2018
4/3/2018 465.3 Bamadog Campsite just south of Damascus 2/15/2018
4/9/2018 468.5 Vagabond Jack Damascus, VA 2/1/2018
4/9/2018 500 Sour Kraut 500 Mile Marker, VA 2/21/2018
4/9/2018 623 Hickory Woods Hole Hostel, VA 2/27/2018
4/9/2018 729 Hard Knocks Fullhardt Knob Shelter, VA 1/31/2018
4/9/2018 907.3 Opa Near Skyline Drive, VA 2/10/2018
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Chip Tillson, Class of 2018, Erwin, Hickory, Max Patch, Roan Mountain, RTK, Sour Kraut, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Virginia, Which Way and Next Step, Wood Hole Hostel | Tags: , , , , , , | 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

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