Posts Tagged With: Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Hike Thru-hikers Forward: Update July 15

Thru-hiker Mileage has gone silent again (last post was July 1 from Boiling Springs, PA – mile 1118), but Rock and Roots have provided several up-dated posts on their online journal. Unfortunately, Rock and Roots do not post photos so I have no visuals for us of their adventure, thus the only photo I have is repeated here.

Last time we heard form Rock and Roots was June 8 and they were 865 miles along the Appalachian Trail camping at Calf Mountain Shelter inside the Shenandoah National Park about seven miles north of Waynesboro, Virginia.

On June 9 the couple hiked 13 miles, stopping about 1:30 for a late lunch and arriving at their evening destination, Blackrock Hut (mile 878.5), at 5:00. They passed over the Skyline Drive eight times during the day’s hike including the Sawmill Run Overlook. Their plan was to reach the 900-mile marker on June 10.

It is not clear whether they reached their 900-mile goal on June 10, but they were able to grab a nice shower at a camp store (possibly the Loft Mountain Store – 885.8).  The journal then has a few blank days, but we do know that Rock and Roots spent the night on Sunday, June 13 at the Skyland Resort at mile 928.2. They commented that it had rained several days in a row so the weather may have caused a slow down of the hiking agenda.

Monday June 14 was a long day hiking day resulting in 24 miles and ending up at Gravel Springs Hut. Roots (Annie) has blisters on her feet for the first time on the trail and Rock needs a new pair of shoes. Despite their feet issues, the couple enjoyed the day’s hike seeing a buck with velvety antlers and later in the day, a doe enjoying some dinner along the trail, as well as two colorful snakes (one with yellow stripes and the other with a yellow head and silver body). Gravel Springs Hut is still located in the Shenandoah Nation Park (SNP), but only about 10 miles from the northern boundary.  

Tuesday, June 15 brought Rock and Roots out SNP. They walked 16 miles and completed their hiking day at Mosby Campsite, 969.2 miles along the Appalachian Trail and about 3.5 miles north of Front Royal, Virginia. The couple is planning on making it to Harper’s Ferry by Friday where they will spend some time with family. The skies were clear today so Rock and Roots got some last day photos of the SNP.

June 16 was a 20-mile day ending at Rod Hollow Shelter around 9:20 pm. They hiked through part of the Sky Meadows State Park. They camped just short of the Roller Coaster (13.5 miles of tightly packed assents and descents) leading to the border of Virginia and West Virginia. Just before arriving at the shelter, Rock experienced a rare sight – a bear climbing down a tree.  

June 17 presented the roller coaster and some challenging terrain. They had lunch 5 miles into the coaster at a spot called Buzzard Hill (appropriate for eating lunch). Close to the end of the coaster the couple passed the 1,000 mile marker. They had hoped to end their day at the Blackburn AT Center  (mile 1007.1), but choose an alternate stealth camping spot a few miles short of the center.

My Photo for 2014

They arrived at Harper’s Ferry and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters, on Friday, June 18th. After checking in at the ATC, Rock’s sister and a niece picked them up. They had an enjoyable weekend in town with family. The ate some good food and took a relaxing tubing trip.

Rock and Roots left Harper’s Ferry on Sunday afternoon, June 20, and hiked 6 miles to the Ed Garvey Shelter. They experienced a crazy rain storm on Sunday evening that lasted through most of morning on Monday. Once the rain cleared on June 21 they hiked to the next campground (Crampton Gap Shelter). June 21 is the longest day of the year but the couple made one of their shortest walks (4.1 miles reaching an accumulated 1,030 miles on the AT). Rock placed a call to his Aunt Anne and Uncle Barry. They came and picked Rock and Roots up and took them to Boonsboro and a nice, warm, dry inn. It was a great morale boost for the two wet hikers. 

The online journal then jumps to July 10 (18 days and 236 miles later). Rock and Roots are almost to the end of Pennsylvania. They are 13 miles north of Palmerton, PA, having climbed out of Lehigh Gap and the iconic rock scramble up the Superfund site. They appear to be staying with John and Linda Stempa at Smith Gap, who are providing a slack-packing opportunity for the couple. They have hiked about 1,266 miles of the Appalachian Trail and are approximately 25 miles from the New Jersey line. I am not sure the reason for the gap in the journal, but we will pick up their adventure from here.

I hope to have a good update next Thursday as we follow these thru-hikers all the way to Maine.

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Snapshot Sad to Go Home

Carolyn, trail name Snapshot, has decided to come off the Appalachian Trail and postpone her attempt to thru-hike the trail from Georgia to Maine. It was a hard and sad, heartfelt decision. I have modified her online journal but tried to use her own words to explain her heart.


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

“I’m still trying to process all my feelings. The reality of remaining on trail was just not possible. Despite the enormous hurt in my heart, my head knows it was the right and responsible thing to do….. “

“The Covid-19 crisis has currently changed the world. Every single person has been affected by this pandemic. This is not just about me.  It’s a scary time for all of us, as these waters are uncharted and so unpredictable.” 

“My thoughts go to all of the health care workers putting their lives in danger. I think of all the small business that were forced to close, whose livelihood depends on customers and clients. I feel for all of the kids whose school year has been cut short and those once- in-a -lifetime events: proms, graduations, class trips have all been canceled. I’m sad for of all the couples who won’t be able to hold their dream weddings. I’m sad for all the elderly who live alone and are now evermore isolated.  And I cry for all who have died and those who have lost loved ones due to this horrible virus.  So much sadness, hurt and disappointment.”   

“Though, I realize not being able to continue my journey of walking through the woods, is minor and insignificant with all that humanity is dealing with, truth is, I can’t help feeling sorry for myself.”

“….for the first few days, the biggest concern was the availability of resupplies and support on trail. Slowly, we started getting word that stores, restaurants, hostels and shuttles were beginning to close. Support that hikers rely on was becoming limited and yet, I still wanted to push on, not wanting, or ready, to believe that my thru-hike could realistically be over.” 

“Word continued to come in with more and more closures and cancellations. The NOC closed, the ATC Headquarters closed, Fontana Damn Lodge closed. At first, they closed the Smokey Mt National Park to everything but foot traffic but within days, it was shut down to that also, leaving no way to hike that section of the trail. Maryland and New Jersey closed all shelters and privies on the AT indefinitely. Trail Days in Damascus was cancelled….”

“The ATC was asking us to comply with their request to leave the trail.  For them to ask this of us was huge. The trail is what they are all about. Promoting the trail is what they do so this was not something to take lightly. We as hikers need to come into the small towns along the trail to resupply, regroup and recharge by getting a hot shower, washing our clothes, eating a hot and hearty meal, etc.  Possibly exposing those we come in contact within town, or town folk unknowingly exposing us, would potentially spread the virus.”

“For now, I’ll take one day at a time and find gratitude in knowing my family members are all healthy. I will continue to hold on to hope that I will, when this is all over, return to the trail that has, for a long time, held a huge part of my heart.”

Snapshot ~

I hope that Snapshot and the rest of the thru-hikers will be able to get back on the trail before the hiking season passes them by – maybe a flip-flop or a SOBO (southbound) adventure would still be possible. The most important thing right now is to be safe and if necessary, plan for another day/year.

Categories: 2020 Hikers, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, COVID-19, Fontana Dam, Nantahala Outdoor Center, Snapshot, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

SNAPSHOT Decides to Stay on the AT

It’s been over a week since getting an up-date from Snapshot. On Day 9  (March 14) she had arrived in Hiawassee, Georgia anticipating a rest day (zero=day) on Sunday before continuing her thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. A great deal has happened, so let me catch you up on Carolyn’s adventure.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Today’s Miles = 0

Snapshot and her group took a zero in Hiawassee, although she walked a bit. She hiked to the corner store for her morning cup of coffee; then to the Dollar Store to resupply for the next 4 days; then to McDonald’s for a small lunch: a Big Mac, fish sandwich, large fry, and a large coke!

Snapshot’s afternoon was filled with some good rest and updating her journal The group got together for pizza and story-telling in the hotel lobby after which Snapshot returned to her room to repack for her return to the trail on Wednesday.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Today’s Miles = 11.8

Snapshot got a 7:30 am. shuttle ride back to the trailhead. It was raining and the trail was very muddy, but she was excited because she was hoping to cross the state line into North Carolina. Coming off a zero-day, Snapshot felt strong and rested. The first 8 miles went by quickly as she reached the Georgia/North Carolina border.

However, the state of North Carolina greets the thru-hiker with a challenging uphill climb to Courthouse Bald and their destination of Muskrat Shelter. The 11.8-mile rainy day ended at a full shelter, but Snapshot found a spot and was happy to spend a dry night without having to pack up a wet tent in the morning.  

Muskrat Shelter

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Today’s Miles = 12

Snapshot slept well during the night but good night’s sleep was still greeted with more rain. Despite the trail which looked more like a mountain stream, the group managed to complete their hiking goal of 12 miles and Carter Gap Shelter.

Today’s hike took Snapshot over Standing Indian Mountain and just as she reached the top, the rain stopped and the fog lifted, offering up a beautiful view. As the evening arrived and the rain abated, Snapshot pitched her tent with the forecast of clear skies until 9 am.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Today’s Miles = 8.7

Snapshot began the hike today at 9:00 with rain an obvious part of the day. She planned an 8.7-mile day making Long Branch Shelter the destination for the evening.

Word reached the group that the ATC (Appalachian Trail Conservancy) was strongly advising thru-hikers to leave the trail in response to COVID-19.  Snapshot records her thoughts, No one in my Tramily including myself, want to leave the trail. We are all happy and healthy out here.  One might think being out here in nature would be the best possible place to be. However, if we choose to stay on trail, we will be faced with limited support and supplies. Already, some of the hostels have temporarily shut down, the NOC is closed and so is the… Conservancy in Harpers Ferry. The other concern is being able to resupply. We are hearing essentials like fuel for our stoves, hand sanitizers, toilet paper and certain foods are becoming scarce. We will be in town tomorrow and will regroup and reassess.  

The group passed the 100-mile marker as they conquered their biggest challenge yet – Albert Mountain.  They arrived early to camp. Long Branch Shelter sleeps 16 and is quite spacious for AT Shelters. Snapshot shared the loft with Salt, Stoneman, Aura, and Rou. Having a roof over our heads and the security of three walls is making all of us very happy. It’s amazing how little time it takes out here to make you appreciate the very simplest of things.

Long Branch Shelter

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Today’s Miles = 7.2

Salt and I were packed up and were on trail by 6:30am. We hiked in the dark until morning broke. At first light we stopped trail side to have breakfast and a cup of coffee. 

Today’s short 7.2-mile trek was designed to end at Winding Stair Gap, and from there, a shuttle ride to Baltimore Jacks Hostel in Franklin N.C. After getting the notice from the ATC, the group decided to spend a couple of days off the trail to discuss the virus and how to best move forward.

In Franklin, the grocery stores and outfitters have remained open. Supplies are plentiful, but all restaurants are closed except for takeout orders. The group was able to eat well and resupply for the trail ahead. 

For now, we have decided to stay on trail for as long as it’s feasible

Friday, March 20, 2020

Today’s Miles = 0    

Snapshot spent the morning putting together my resupply for the next 3 days. The stress of the virus and the whole new sets of logistics in moving forward on the trail took it tole of Snapshot today, Thru-hiking itself is hard,  now we have the added layer of planning days ahead. It’s a minor thing to be worried about with all that’s going on in the world and I recognize how lucky I am even to be out here. Nevertheless, I couldn’t control the tears today. 

Three members of the group decided to stay in town for a few days. Turtle and Snapshot made the decision to go back to the trail and arranged a shuttle for 7:30 am on Saturday. Their six-day plan is: to get to the NOC in three days where I will pick up my resupply box. The NOC is closed, remaining open for package pick up only.  From there we have another three days to Fontana Damn Lodge. The plan is to zero there for a day or two before heading into the Smokies.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Today’s Miles: 11

Turtle and Snapshot left Franklin and were back on the trail by 8:30 am. Her decision to continue on resulted in a peaceful start, Minutes after being on the trail, I could feel the stress releasing. Calm crept back and reclaimed my being. The sun was shining and all was right once again. 

The 11-mile trek was her best day on the trail. She and Turtle hiked at a comfortable pace and talked and laughed as they basked in the sunshine. The view from Wayah Bald was fantastic, Wayah Bald has a vantage point of 5,342 ft. in elevation, located in the Nantahala National Forest. Although the climb was arduous, the payoff left me speechless. We are camping tonight at Wayah Bald Shelter. It’s one of the nicest shelters, with a wonderful view. I look forward [to] waking in the morning and watching the sun rise.

Photo: Muskrat Shelter

Photo: Long Branch Shelter

Categories: 2020 Hikers, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, COVID-19, Franklin, North Carolina, Georgia, Hiawassee, Snapshot, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Next Step on Katahdin

The Destination!

One Day 176 of his adventure (August 20), Next Step was joined by his wife, Which Way and they both hiked to the top of Mount Katahdin in Maine, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Coming down off the summit Next Step joined the class of 2018 as a Thru-hiker. I offer my applause and greatest congratulations.

Darrell (Next Step) & Alicia (Which Way) Brimberry began their trek on February 24 from Springer Mountain, Georgia. Next Step had just retired from the military as an Army Colonel with 30 years of active duty service. They began their hike right after retirement and had not relocated out of Washington, DC, so technically they hiked the trail as part of the homeless in the US.

Not an Easy Climb

They hiked together for the first 1,000 miles. They were about 20 miles from Harpers Ferry, WV, the home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, when Alicia’s previous back injury flared up to the point of needing some medical attention. She got a ride to Harpers Ferry where she reunited with Next Step and the next day traveled to Charles Town, WV for some therapy. The therapy was not effective enough for her to continue the trek so she ended up making her way to her parent’s home in Kentucky while Next Step continued on without her.

Not Easy at All

Next Step really increased his mileage as a solo hiker. It took Next Step and Which Way 95 days to hike the first 1,000 miles (an average of 10.52 miles per day). Next Step then walked the next 1,000 miles in 69 days (an average of 14.49 miles per day) and finished his last 190 miles in Maine in 12 days (Averaging 15.83 miles per day). He hiked the last 26 days without a true zero-day for rest.

Next Step and Which Way are delightful people who made many friends along the path. They seemed to have an exciting time together and a supportive time apart wishing they could be together. They were determined to summit Katahdin together and it was exciting to see the photos of them climbing the mountain and standing atop the big brown sign together. Hooray! Success!

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

Day Seven of the 14-State Challenge

Grayson Highlands View

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy initiated a 14-State Challenge to anyone who wanted to experience a little bit of the AT in each of the 14 states from Georgia to Maine (Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine). It is done on an honors system with time frame involved. Rocky and I decided we would walk right in and begin our trek this summer. We decided to move NOBO (northbound) by starting in Georgia and touching the first four states along the trail.

A Foggy Beginning

Day Seven (Saturday, June 23) completed our first leg of the challenge as we visited Grayson Highlands State Park in southern Virginia. The state of Virginia comprises some 550 miles of the AT making it the longest state of the 14. It is so long that some thru-hiker get the “Virginia Blues” longing for the next state to arrive. There is so much to see in this wonderful state, that Rocky and I will most likely return to Virginia when we begin part two of our journey. When I thru-hiked the trail in 2014 I divided the state up into three “states” (each comprising about 183 miles) to create smaller hiking goals. I call the first “state” was Southern Virginia, followed by Middle-Earth Virginia, and concluding with Doah Virginia (in honor of the Shenandoah National Park and a great fellow-hiker, Princess Doah). All of our hiking on this first leg was in Southern Virginia, so Rocky and I want to touch Middle Earth and Doah on our next adventure.

Wild Pony Sentry

All of that aside, Grayson Highlands was fantastic! The ponies greeted us, the rocks cried out to us, the rain showered its blessing on us, the wind blew almost blew our hats off, and the clouds almost engulfed us during our incredible hike through the rocky terrain. As Rocky and I drove the 30 minutes from our motel in Marion, Virginia, the rain began to sprinkle on the windshield. By the time we reached the state park, it was raining a constant gentle rain. Pulling into a parking place, Rocky did not hesitate – she was out of the car and wanting to get her trekking poles out of the trunk.

The initial 20-minutes was a little wet and a little cold, but the weather began to cooperate, the rain subsided, and the hike became quite comfortable. The cloud cover and the wind (which was rather intense at times) continued all morning giving us a fantastic cover from the sun’s heat. Most of the highlands is open without tree cover, so the sun can make a hike rather sweltering.

The Game of Tag

We encountered several wild ponies along the way. There were a number of foals that were full of life and had fun with each other testing out their legs with zestful games of tag. Rocky and I watched and laughed as they played totally ignoring the two retired folks with walking sticks. As we moved north, we encountered a few ponies standing right on the path. Rocky used her Mimi skills and “lovingly pushed” the horses off the trail so that we could pass on by.

The elevation change through the highlands is less than 600 feet, but the rocky terrain made the hike a nice challenge for us. Add to the terrain some blustery winds and some wet rocks, and the trail presented some adventure that translated into some special memories for us. Rocky was such a trooper and we laughed, marveled, prayed, and enjoyed the entire trek without one word of complaint or negativity. She is such a special hiking buddy!

Rocky Trail

After completing the trail, we returned to our car and drove to the Virgil J. Cox Visitor Center. Rocky and I got our AT Passports stamped at the center and then enjoyed a drive through the country roads back toward Marion. Sunday is a travel day as we end this portion of the challenge and return to the comfort of home. The adventure was remarkable, but there is no place like home. As we reflected on the last week, Rocky and I also projected the journey ahead of us as we begin to plan for stage two of the challenge. I have heard that the Shenandoah Valley is glorious in the fall.

Categories: 14-State Challenge, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Grayson Highlands, Hiking, Rocky, Rowdy, Trekking Poles, Virginia, Wild Ponies | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

AT Challenge Day 3

View from Day 3

Rocky and I spent another perfect day on the Appalachian Trail today (Tuesday, June 19, 2018). We got up early in Franklin, NC, had a quick continental breakfast, and began our drive to Winding Stair Gap. After a 35-mile trip that should have been 10.5 miles (it is very important to know if you are to go east or west on US 64), we arrived at Winding Stair Gap, which is located about 110 miles north of Springer Mountain, GA (the southern terminus of the AT).

Rock Gap Shelter

We planned to hike southbound from the gap and travel to Rock Gap Shelter. The 3.8-mile trek began with a nice assent over an unnamed mountain. The path leveled off for a comfortable ridge hike before making a steeper, rather rocky descent into Wallace Gap. In some places, wooden steps had been constructed to make the hike more manageable.  Another half mile brought us to Rock Gap and a short 1/10 of mile led us to Rock Gap Shelter. We enjoyed a little snack and some rest time (including Rocky’s first trip to the privy – maybe her last as well). This was our destination, so we did an about-face and retraced our steps. It was a beautiful day under the canopy – there not as many views as yesterday, but Rocky and I enjoyed the trail just as much, if not more than Big Cedar Mountain. There were a couple of spots that the trees opened up and provided an outstanding peek of the horizon with rolling hills and tall mountains in the distance.

Rocky’s First Privy

We met Michael at the shelter, a young man from Myrtle Beach, SC. We played leapfrog on the trail coming back and had an easy conversation with him. We stopped at an overlook and I shared a little about my 2014 thru-hike. He loved his rocky climb over Albert Mountain yesterday and wanted to know where he could find similar terrain along the AT. Pennsylvania immediately came to mind (anything north of the Susquehanna River). Rocky and I continued down the trail leaving Michael soaking in the view. Once we got back to town, we stopped at McD’s for a quick burger and who was sitting there? Michael (he had gotten a ride into town from Windy Stair Gap). We offered him a ride to his hostel and had another nice visit.

Rocky and I noted many trees charred from the forest fires of 2017, but the forest as made a great recovery. According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy “150 miles of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) were closed at various times this fall — 72 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 68 in North Carolina, and ten in Georgia.”



Beautiful Mountain Stream

The trail crosses two mountain streams and Rocky & I were soothed by the sounds of the tumbling water. We took our time, breathing in the mountain air and praying for our family/friends. Rocky is a fantastic hiker and sets a pace that gets the job done. I am so very proud of consistency and diligence. I am not sure who enjoys the path more.

When we got back to Franklin, we wanted to get some stamps for our AT Passport. We drove to an Outfitter (Three Eagles) and the Post Office in town, successfully collecting their unique stamps. Tomorrow we hope to visit the Nantahala Outdoor Center, Clingmans Dome, and Newfound Gap. We have a hotel reservation in Gatlinburg for tomorrow night. I will try to update tomorrow evening. We are living the dream!

Categories: 14-State Challenge, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Franklin, North Carolina, Rocky, Rowdy, Winding Stair Gap | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The AT Challenge – Day Two

Wildflower near Neels Gap

Rocky and I are in Georgia starting our 14-State Challenge. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has established a 14-State Challenge to anyone interested in visiting all 14 states that make up the AT. Rocky and I have decided to take a week and hike a couple of hikes in the first four states beginning in Georgia, then North Carolina, followed by Tennessee, and ending our first section in Virginia.

Mountain Crossing at Neels Gap

We started yesterday (Sunday 6/17/18) at Amicalola Falls (the approach trail to the AT). We hiked to the top of the falls and enjoyed the incredible beauty of the cascading water. We then drove to Woody Gap and climbed to the summit of Big Cedar Mountain. With sore legs, we hopped into our car and drove to Dahlonega, GA, for a nice rest in a Quality Inn.

Today’s adventure took us a little further north on the AT to about mile-marker 31.7 and Neels Gap. Located at Neels Gap is Mountain Crossings, a full-service outfitter known for its gear shakedowns as they help thru-hikers eliminate excess weight from the backpacks and send the non-essentials back home. The Appalachian Trail goes right through the property owned by Mountain Crossing and actually travels through a covered porch attached to the outfitter, the only covered portion of the entire Appalachian Trail.

Rowdy at the porch at Neels Gap

We also found out as we entered their parking area that day hikers are not allowed to park there while the hike, so I had to drive almost a half a mile to another parking area. It was a nice warm-up for the 7.2-mile section to follow. Rocky and I started out just before 9:00 and thoroughly enjoyed our section hike over Levelland Mountain, down into Swaim Gap, back up to the summit of Wolf Laurel Top where we turned around and reversed our feet as we marched back to Neels Gap.

Fairy Village

The path was rocky and root-filled, but the adventure blossomed with a lush forest, beautiful skies (when you could see through the canopy), and a cool breeze to refresh our spirits. We drank lots of water as we conquered the challenging hills and dales. We logged 7.2 miles and experienced about 2,218 feet of elevation change. Rocky and I found some beautiful wildflowers, two huge snails, a fairy village created along the path, and several views breath-taking views. We spent some quality time in prayer remembering our friends and family as we worshiped the Creator of it all.

View from Wolf Laurel Top

After our hike, I retrieved that car and we visited the outfitter. We grabbed a refreshing drink and purchased a few bumper stickers for the car (we paid for the drinks, too). Before we left, we got our AT Passports stamped at the outfitters. Sliding into our chariot, we took off for Franklin, North Carolina, our home for the evening. We enjoyed a Wendy’s burger after checking into our motel. When we made reservations for the motel, it did not mention a swimming pool, but we noticed the pool as we pulled into the rest stop. Rocky opted not to take a swim, but I enjoyed to pool a great deal!

Swimming Pool at Franklin, NC

Tomorrow, we will be driving up US 64 to an AT crossing at Winding Stair Gap. We will be hiking SOBO (southbound) for 3.8 miles to Rock Gap Shelter, my camping spot on day seven of my 2014 thru-hike. I shared the shelter with Motown and Archangel, two of my kindred spirits on the trail. I look forward to reminiscing when we arrive.

Categories: 14-State Challenge, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Georgia, Levelland Mountain, Neels Gap, North Carolina, Rocky, Rowdy, Wolf Laurel Top | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rocky and Rowdy on an AT Challenge

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has issued a 14-State Challenge. Anyone brave enough to take the challenge is expected to hike at least a portion of the AT in all 14 states. Rocky and I have decided to begin our quest this summer taking on four states: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

After spending some special time with my son, daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren in Canton, Georgia, Rocky and I are going to spend the next eight days exploring some of the beauty of the AT. Today, Sunday 6/17/18, we drove to the approach trail at Amicalola Falls State Park and hiked the 604 steps to the top of the falls. The cascade is truly amazing. We visited the welcome center and got our first stamp in our official AT Passports; we entered the approach trail via the iconic arch at the welcome center; and we enjoyed meeting three section-hikers hoping to make it North Carolina.

Amicalola Falls

Although Amicalola Falls is not part of the official Appalachian Trial, many thru-hikers begin here and hike the 8.5-mile approach trail to Springer Mountain, Georgia. Rocky and I came down the steps faster than we went up, loaded in our 2018 Maserati (disguised as a 1999 Toyota Camry), and headed down the road to Woody Gap just south of Suches, Georgia. The AT crosses GA. Route 60 at Woody Gap (about mile 21 into the AT) that houses a nice little road-side parking lot and picnic area. Rocky and I parked and headed NOBO (northbound) toward the summit of Big Cedar Mountain. It was beautiful. The forest kept the sun at bay and provided a nice, cool hike. We reached Preaching Rock with an incredible view to the east and finally, the summit of Big Cedar Mountain opened up onto a rocky ledge with another amazing view of the mountain range in the distance. Rocky and I enjoyed a relaxing moment on the summit taking in the glory of God’s creation. We met several section hikers on the way back down the mountain. They were all headed for Franklin, North Carolina. We talked with another hiker from Hawaii who is planning to hike as far as she can. She was carrying a pack that looked like it was over 50 pounds while I would guess that she weighed no more than 110 pounds. She was such a sweet lady and we talked for several minutes and wished her well on her journey.

Rocky on Big Cedar Mountian

From Woody Gap, we drove to Dahlonega, GA, and got a hotel for the night. Rocky went to the outdoor pool and I hit the computer to document the adventure on this blog. Tomorrow we head for Neels Gap, Georgia, at the 31.7-mile marker. I will try to post some photos and some words capturing out adventure.

Categories: 14-State Challenge, Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Georgia, Hiking, Neels Gap, Rocky, Rowdy, Trail, Woody Gap | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

RTK Updates His Journal


Returning to Katahdin (RTK), Bruce Matson, a lawyer from Virginia is hiking a strong NOBO (northbound) hike on the Appalachian Trail. Starting on February 24th, RTK reached the halfway point on May 29.  RTK updates his online journal once per week (usually on Thursdays) and communicates a week in arrears. He just posted on June 7th for the week (8days) of May 24 – 31. During those eight days, he hiked just over 99 miles, averaging 12.4 miles per day. However, in those eight days, he took two zero-days and one shay (short-day) of 3.6. On the other days on the trail, he logged 19.6, 18.1, 18.8, 22.8. and 16.2 miles, so you can see that he is trekking at a very high rate of mileage per day.

Let me share a little bit of his adventure during his last eight days of May. On May 24 he woke up at Bears Den Hostel with about 3 miles left of the roller coaster to traverse (the roller coaster is 13.5 miles of tightly packed ups and downs just prior to the Virginia/West Virginia border). After the coaster “ride,” he had a relatively easy hike to the Blackburn AT Center for lunch. Before arriving in Harpers Ferry West Virginia (home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy – ATC) RTK conquered the challenging rock scramble up and over Buzzard Rocks. It was 7:30 pm when he walked across the Shenandoah River Bridge with a muddy and raging river welcoming him to Harpers Ferry.

Harpers Ferry Shenandoah River

May 25 was a zero-day (a day when no miles are hiked and the hiker resupplies and rests) in West Virginia as RTK got his picture taken at the ATC and visited a local outfitter.

RTK left Harpers Ferry on May 26 loaded down with four days of food and two liters of water. Crossing the Byron Memorial Footbridge, he entered into the state of Maryland. He enjoyed a 3- mile, flat path along the C&O Canal towpath, then climbed to the views atop Weverton Cliffs, looking back on the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. He arrived at Dahlgren Campground about 4 pm. He hiked a tenth of a mile away from camp to a four-star restaurant, Old South Mountain Inn, for dinner.

May 27 was a Sunday and the AT was filled with Memorial Day weekend hikers, section hikers, Boy Scouts, Ridge Runners, and volunteer trail maintenance workers. RTK began his day with a quick visit to the original Washington Monument which lies right along the trail in Maryland.  He also experienced some thoughtful trail blessings including three ladies from Annapolis, who fed him lunch at Black Rock Cliffs with enough left-overs to provide a delicious dinner at his destination shelter for the evening.

AT Museum. Pine Grove Furnace State Park. PA

RTK longest mileage day (22.8 miles) was May 28. His morning began with an adrenalin producing event – a bear encounter. “While taking down my tent around 6:30 I looked up to see a 400 pound bear lumbering over to me.  It was 20 yards away so I yelled “hey there!”  The bear looked up, saw me and turned around.” After his heart rate returned to normal, RTK experienced a misty, drizzly day along the path and was content to camp at Rocky Mountain Shelters. However, two hiking buddies talked him into extending his trek 3.5 miles and a hitchhike into Fayetteville, PA to enjoy a meal at Timbers and a stay at Trail of Hope Hostel. The Timbers was closed for the holiday weekend, but the hostel was nice.

May 29th brought RTK to the linear halfway point on the trail. He was disappointed that there was no signage on the trail but he did spot two snakes during his 16.2-mile hike (one garter and one black snake). He was very impressed with the beautiful shelters in Pennsylvania so far, including his lodging that night – Toms Run Shelter.

RTK’s hike on May 30th was short (only 3.6 miles) but his day was filled with good times. He passed the (old) “halfway” sign (a large sign with flags) just after the Toms Run Shelter. He arrived at Pine Grove Furnace State Park, home of the half-gallon challenge, at 9:30 in the morning. He waited at the PGF General Store for several of his hiking friends to arrive and then enjoyed a leisurely and successful eating-challenge of a half-gallon of ice cream (Neapolitan was his flavor of choice). He visited the AT Museum located across the street from the general store before catching a ride to Boiling Springs and Allenberry Resort. Once settled, he made an important call home. He placed a “Happy Anniversary” call to his bride, Cheryl, of 37 years. Congratulations both of you for a great example of relational commitment!

May 31st was spent as a zero-day in Boiling Springs as RTK planned his next month on the trail. Boiling Springs is such a peaceful trail town with good food and a lovely public spot around a well-kept pond/park. I hope the next eight days are just as productive and enjoyable for RTK along the trail.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Appalachian Trail Museum, Class of 2018, Half Gallon Challenge, Harpers Ferry, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Roller Coaster, RTK, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | 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

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