Bad news – The online journal of thru-hiker Mileage remains silent. Her last post was over a month ago, July 1.
Good news – Rock and Roots have updated their journal and brought us up to July 31st .
Bad News – The journal of Rock and Roots is not very specific on the destinations and mileage accomplished each day and there two big gaps in their journey. However, let me share what I know for sure and leave most of the speculations alone.
July 11 – Rocks and Roots arrived a Delaware Water Gap on the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. During the next five days they hiked through New Jersey (73.6 miles) and entered the state of New York on July 16. During this trek, they experienced the blessings of trail magic (free food offered by trail angels) three days in a row. They also experienced a major issue with mosquitoes to the point of packing up their stuff inside their tent before dropping their tent and breaking camp. They reported seeing two porcupines along the trail. They also visited the Mohican Outdoor Center (1300-mile marker) and enjoyed some vegetarian food.
The next six days are blank in their journal, but they report arriving at the Appalachian Trail Railroad Station (mile 1444.8) on July 23 with plans to take the train on July 24 into New York City and Manhattan Island. They pitched their tent at a camping area behind the Native Landscapes and Garden Center just down the road from the Railroad platform.
Three days later, July 28, is the next journal entry. Rock and Roots shared that they woke up at Caesar Brook campsite (mile 1476.0) in Connecticut and trekked to Limestone Spring Shelter, also in Connecticut. They ran into a trail maintenance crew working hard building rock steps. Later they encountered a lovely waterfall and soaked their feet in a cool pool. This was a 15.6-mile hike. The journal also shared that Roots has unfortunately been struggling with stressful emotions this week.
On July 29, the couple left Limestone Spring Shelter, walked to Salisbury, CT (which is just 0.5 miles off the AT), enjoyed some time in this quiet, upscale community, and then continued to hike into Massachusetts camping at Glen Brook Shelter. They summited Bear Mountain, the highest peak along the AT in Connecticut. They were thrilled to enter the state of Massachusetts, cross over the 1500-mile marker, and complete an 18-mile day.
Rock and Roots planned a short day on July 30. Their 8-mile trek ended at US 7 which crosses over the AT. They were able to get a free ride into the town of Great Barrington, Massachusetts. They also took a zero day in Great Barrington on July 31, as they focused on refueling, resupplying, and refreshing. They took a trip into town and were entertained by street performers. They mentioned be enthralled with Wacky Chad and his performance. I have included a picture of Wacky Chad and encourage you to check him out on YouTube.
So, Rock and Roots have hiked through New Jersey (73.6 miles), New York ( 88.3 miles), and Connecticut (another 50.6 miles) for a total of 212.5 miles of trail. Rocks and Roots hiked this distance in 20 days, averaging 9.92 miles a day.
For those readers who may not be familiar with this emphasis of my blog, I try to provide a weekly update on a number of thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail. They are each posting their progress on an online website (trailjournals.com). I originally selected five individuals (or teams) that had plans to begin their adventure between March 16 and March 23.
Pippi started on March 16. Her name is Debbie Dunkle. Pippi had successfully hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2011. However, she reported two very sore knees before ending her journal on March 30.
David and Annie Rothman (Rock and Roots) hit the trail on March 17. I believe they are still making their way north to Maine although their last post was on June 10. At that time there were bout 900 miles into the trail looking forward to reaching Harpers Ferry, WV.
Scooby, aka Mike Carpenter, posted several pre-hike entries on his journal and was scheduled to take his step on March 19th , but he never posted from the trail. He might have abandoned to journal and is still out there hiking, or something came up in life that made him postpone or cancel his adventure.
The Hoots (Five women friends) decided to tackle the AT together. The coordinator of the hike was Terri (Five Pair), who is a thru-hiker alumna from 2012. The group consisted of Five Pair, Tina, Maggie (Soul Sista), Nancy (Mileage), and Karen (Jack Rabbit). Of the five only one remains: Tina left the trail first on March 26 (hospitalized family member); then Soul Sista on March 27 (this was a planned early exit); then Jack Rabbit on April 1 (missed her husband); then the previous thru-hiker, Five Pair, had to get off the trail with an injury (fractured tibia and two torn ligaments) on April 19. Mileage is the only Hoot left. (See her update below).
Dennis Pack, Bookworm, was scheduled to start om March 23. He fell just days before and broke his wrist. This delayed his hike. He was able to begin on April 19. He decided to hike a flip/flop, starting in West Virginia and hiking to Maine, climbing Mt Katahdin in Maine and returning to WV to complete the AT from WV to Georgia. Currently he is in New Hampshire about 100 miles from the border of Maine
The big news this week is that I have heard from Mileage. Her journal went silent after April 28. She was 368 miles into the hike and a few days north of Erwin, Tennessee. Just this week she posted a quick entry sharing that she hiked beyond the 400, 500, 600, 700, 800, 900, 1000 and 1100 mile markers. She is in Boiling Spring, PA (meaning she completed Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland). She promises to catch us up on her journey, but I will most likely just pick it back up in July and move forward instead of trying to fill in the details.
Mileage is experiencing “Rocksylvania,” but the real challenge of the rocks still awaits her after she crosses over the Susquehanna River. From Boiling Spring to Duncannon, PA is pretty smooth, but then the rocks begin to get sharp and they seem to multiply and grow over night.
The sad news about Terri (Five Pair)’s injury was confirmed by an MRI showing a fractured tibia and two torn ligaments. Healing is goning well and Five Pair is increasingly enthusiastic for a potential return to the trail. I will keep you posted.
So, I followed five groups of people stepping out on the Appalachian Trail in the middle of March. It involved 10 individual hikers. As of today, only 4 are still hiking. Statistics show that only 1 out of every 4 make a successful thru-hike, so they are still ahead of the success rate.
I am more than a little concerned about the online journals for Mileage and The Rothman’s (Rock and Roots). I am hopeful that they are still on the trail, but the last post form Mileage was April 28th (over a month ago) and the Rothman’s checked in on May 19th (silence for two weeks). Most of my concern lies in the difficulties in catching up on a journal as well as getting out of the habit of the daily discipline of recording the journey. It is simply not easy to journal after a long day on the trail. After you set up camp, get some nourishment in your very hungry body, and take a load off your feet, the motivation to sit down and write about the day can sometime be quite low. The after a week of silence, how do you remember where you’ve been, how many miles you hiked each day, what the weather was like, and the highlights of particular day’s journey?
Now there is a possibility that the hikers have been making paper/pencil notes each evening and are just waiting for a zero day to update online. Sometimes the internet connection is weal or non-existent and the hiker needs to wait to upload in an upcoming town. There is also the possibility of a failure in technology – a broken or lost smartphone or maybe a dead battery without a power source for recharging.
All of that to say, I do not have an update this week from the Application Trail. If the journals are silent again this week, I will need to find a different prompt for Thursdays. Let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions. I was thinking about contacting some of my AT trail buddies and giving you an update on their lives, seven years after our adventure. That won’t take too many weeks to exhaust my contacts, but it would be good for me to hear from them.
Or I could tell some trail jokes. Like: How do you recognize a thru-hiker in a restaurant on the trail?:
They have three plates overflowing with food. And then ask for four desserts.
You don’t have to see them, you can smell them.
They lean slightly forward but they are not carrying a backpack.
They have a huge smile on the face, despite the drool escaping from the side of their mouth.
They get eight refills on their sodas before the appetizer arrives.
All of the above.
I’m sorry that is not a joke….just observation and experience.
Here’s one: Mountains aren’t just funny, they’re hill areas.
Pippi started her attempt of a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail on March 16; Dave and Annie Rothman (Rock and Roots) stepped out one day later (March 17); and The Hoot, a team of five women, began their adventure on March 21. Pippi’s last post was on March 30. The Hoot started this week down from five to two women: Five Pair and Mileage. Both Rock and Roots are still moving forward. Here is a quick summary of the online journals submitted by these brave hikers as they have experienced a very cold and wet spring.
The Rothman’s: Rock and Roots
April 16 – Bears in the camp!
Rock and Roots and those camped around the Groundhog Creek Shelter in Deep Gap were awakened several times during the night with a visitation of a family of bears. Some hikers lost their food bags hanging in the trees and they all joined together in the morning to clean up the forest of the “hiker trash” distributed by momma and baby bears.
Shortly after the day’s hike began, Rock and Roots encountered a wonderful Trail Blessing – hot coffee, fresh produce, veggie soup, and vegan cheese and crackers. Rock and Roots made it to Max Patch early in the day and enjoyed the incredible view it offers. They ended their day at Walnut Mountain Shelter having trekked 13.1 miles and hopefully leaving the bear cubs behind.
April 17 – Trail Blessing
No bears last night. Rock and Roots got on the trail about 8:30. They noticed the transformation of the forest as the flowers are beginning to bloom with color. About lunch time they encountered a great expression of Trail Blessing. A huge spread from breakfast waffles to burgers, along with a table of snacks. They ate well and picked up some nut bars and oranges for the trail.
After hiking 9.9 miles, they arrived at their planned destination (Deer Park Mountain Shelter). They arrived before 3 pm and had plenty of time to rest and settle in. They even took the time for some tea and coffee before dinner. A small rain shower said “hi” as they prepared for their night’s rest. They have plans for a short 3.5-mile jaunt tomorrow into the trail town of Hot Springs, NC
April 18 – Hot Springs
Rock and Roots along with a number of thru-hiker buddies got an Air B & B house in Hot springs. The hikers hiked the 3.5 miles into the trail town and arrived in the morning, just in time for the local brewery to open. It was packed with hikers and was quite a hit – the Taco bar was the spot of choice for lunch.
Rock and Roots completed shopping for their resupply including food for a nice breakfast and a special pasta dinner for Monday. Check-in at the Air B&B was at 4:00 pm, leading to a refreshing shower and the use of the washing machine for their clothes. Dinner was served at the Iron Horse followed by a soak in the Hot Springs at 9:30. Thru-hiking can be so difficult.
April 19 – Zero = Rest
The day was spent in Hot Springs resting and enjoying the town.
April 20 – Fantastic Lookout Tower
After a nice stay in Hot Springs, Rock and Roots and their buddies (often referred to as “tramily” – trail family) all hiked out together. After a few miles they were all spread out along the trail enjoying a sunny day. They took a short side trail later in the day to the Rich Mountain Lookout Tower and took some video of the amazing views. After a 10.7-mile day, they ended up at Spring Mountain Shelter around 5:15, having ample time to set up their tent, make some dinner, and play a couple of games of chess with fellow thru-hikers before crashing for the night.
April 21 – 300 Big Ones
The goal today for Rock and Roots was the 300 mile marker and the Jerry Cabin Shelter which is located at 300.3 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia. They woke early and packed quickly because of the rain. After arriving at the Little Laurel Shelter (a memory for me of my 21st night on the trail) the rain had stopped but the temperature began to drop. They left the shelter and hiked a rather challenging section of the trail requiring quite a bit of climbing and over rocky terrain. They arrived at Jerry Cabin Shelter 6:45 after trekking 15.4 miles. As they were finishing up dinner, the scenery turned into a winter wonderland. The cold temperatures and snow encouraged the couple to retreat into their tent and the warm of sleeping bags – with the satisfaction of a goal completed.
April 22 – Fuzzy Details
David and Annie’s online journal skips April 22 and 23 and continues on April 24. The details of each day’s journey is difficult to discern. They have been doing some slack-packing which makes destinations and direction (north or south bound) a bit confusing. My best guess is that they hiked from Jerry Cabin Shelter to Hogback Ridge Shelter (14.7 miles) on April 22. They both seem well and enjoying the backpacking experience thanks to the kindness of Miss Janet and Tiger (two trail angles who are providing support to this couple).
April 16 – Great Hostel – Sore Ankle
With 20.6 miles of hiking between the Hoots and Hot Springs and with bad weather predicted for the weekend, Five Pair and Mileage decide to make a big dent in the journey today and leave a shorter hike tomorrow to arrive at the trail town. They get a shuttle ride back to Max Patch and begin their trek to a new hiker hostel (the Happy Gnomad Hiker Hostel) 14.0 miles down the trail. The hostel turned out to be a 5-star experience and the day ended with fine accommodations. Five Pair is struggling with ankle pain but anticipates an easier hiking day tomorrow with only 6.5 miles to cover.
April 17 – NWB
The morning presented itself with the blessing of a short distance to Hot Springs but with a major concern – Five Pair woke up with an ankle that was NWB – Non-Weight Bearing. The two Hoots made a decision that Five Pair would visit an urgent care facility in Asheville while Mileage would solo hike to Hot Springs. Five Pair would join her there after the ankle was evaluated. The owners of the Gnomads Hostel agreed to drop Mileage at the trailhead and transport Five Pair to the Asheville urgent care.
Mileage was dropped first and before hiking one step, she was greeted by a special Trail Blessing event: waffles topped with strawberries, as well as Cadbury eggs for “dessert.”
Five Pair’s results were somewhat predictable: doctors advised six weeks off the trail to allow her ankle to heal. Realizing that Five Pair was most likely not going to take that time off, the physician provided wrap that Five Pair could use when she to the trail. Reuniting in Hot Springs, the Hoots went about resupplying and dining. The day ended with the Hoots satisfied and looking forward to rest and RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) for Five Pair.
April 18 – Hot Springs Zero
The Hoots took the planned zero day in Hot Springs. Five Pair was faithful to the RICE protocol and the day was spent staying dry, relaxing, and evaluating the contents of their backpacks.
April 19 – And Then There Was One…
The Hoots exited Hot Springs by hiking a mile across the bridge over the French Broad River and back into the Blue Ridge Mountains. Six miles of walking brought them to Tanyard Gap, and a discussion between Mileage and Five Pair. The ankle wrap was not providing the support needed, her injury felt worse, and she had already taken a fall that morning. Five Pair decided to get off the trail and take care of herself (with a glimmer of hope that she might be able to rejoin Mileage at a later date). As Five Pair waited for a shuttle from Happy Gnomad Hostel to pick her up, Mileage hiked out of the gap to continue her trek.
Mileage hiked another five miles to the Spring Mountain Shelter where she would call it a day for a total of 11 miles and an accumulated 285.9 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
April 20 – 300 Miles!
Mileage put in some good mileage today as a solo hiker. She ended her day at Jerry Cabin Shelter having trekked 15.9 miles. At the 12-mile mark for the day, Mileage arrived at Big Firescald Knob describing it as “incredibly rocky and steep” and ” a rock scramble with hands.” She passed the 300-mile mark today, but settle down for a cold and chilly night in her tent.
April 21 – What? Snow and Sleet in April?
Mileage began hiking today with two companions: Fidget and Gourmet. As they began the day’s hike the cold and damp conditions, turned onto sleet and snow. After six miles, the trio decided to find some warm accommodations. With no cell phone coverage, they continued walk for two more miles. Once the towers were available, cell phone service connected the hikers to the Supper 8 and reservations for the night.
The three hikers walked another mile and a half to a parking lot at Devil Fork Gap and a shuttle ride. They arrived at the Super 8 cold and wet. But the heat was turned up, laundry was done, hot showers were enjoyed, and a quick visit to the grocery met all their needs.
Total miles for the day=9.4.
April 22 – 20 Degrees – Ouch
8.5 miles completed today. Mileage, Fidget, and Gourmet got a morning ride to Devil’s Fork Gap around 10:30 and the sun greeted their steps. As the day progressed the temperatures dropped, and the wind increased. Despite their layers, hats, and gloves, all three began to feel the sting of the lower temperatures and wind-chill. The predicted weather was a continued high wind and temperatures below 20 degrees F. on the mountain. Mileage and her companions sought the safety of Nature’s Inn hostel, located just off the trail in Sam’s Gap in Flag Pond, TN. The hostel was a small cabin with a common room and a wood burning stove (a source of real joy for the cold hikers).
The Rothman couple: David (trial name: Rock, not Wipeout as I wrongly assumed) and Annie (trail name Roots) hiked 58.9 miles this week. They completed their trek though the Great Smoky Mountains Nation Park and ended the week on April 15 at Deep Gap close to the Groundhog Creek Shelter. They have accumulated just shy of 250 miles (247.7) on the Appalachian Trail and are headed toward a major thru-hiker destination, the first trail town on the AT, Hot Springs, NC. They are camped just over 26 miles from the town, where the AT is marked right through the middle of the main street.
Rock and Roots enjoyed three zero-days thanks to a visit from Annie’s father in his “hostel on wheels” (a comfortable RV). Dad picked them up on May 9th after they completed a long hike from Derrick Shelter to Newfound Gap. They took two days off to visit, resupply and rest.
Rock and Roots returned to Newfound Gap and continued through the Smokies, completing their journey of the National Park on April 13. They took their third zero-day on the 14th so David (Rock) could participate in a special podcast called Break the Cycles. He had the opportunity to share about his recent (last July) motorcycle trip on the TAT (TRANS AMERICAN TRAIL) with his friend Chris.
The Hoots began their hike on March 21 as a team of five determined women. Terri (Five Pair) is a veteran thru-hiker and she included four friends on this return to the Appalachian Trail. Karen (JackRabbit), Maggie (Soul Sista), Tina, and Nancy (Mileage or Miles) joined Five Pair to form the group known as the Hoot. Three of the women have left the trail (JackRabbit, Soul Sista, and Tina) while the two remaining Hoots (Five Pair and Miles) trek on.
The two Hoots had a productive walking week covering 89.6 miles and bringing their total of AT miles to 254.1. They begin this week on April 9 from Fontana Dam and entered the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). They spent their first night in the GSMNP at the Mollies Ridge Shelter (about 13 miles into the park). The GSMNP tiptoes up the Tennessee/North Carolina border and hikers usually don’t know what state they’re in at any given moment. Because of the border walking, I called this part of the hike Tennolinia. April 10 brought the Hoot to Spence Field Shelter. They ended their day there after only 6 miles as a nasty downpour forced them to find shelter. They were a little disappointed in the mileage but happy to be safe and dry. Five Pair and Miles almost doubled their production on April 11 as they navigated 11.8 miles and camped at Silers Bald Shelter. They celebrated that they now have less than 2,000 miles to Mount Katahdin.
April 12 brought the hikers to Clingmans Dome, the highest point on the Appalachian Trail (over 6,600 feet). The day was clear and the view was fantastic. They arrived just before 11:30 am and then continued down the trail, crossing over Newfound Gap, and arriving at Icewater Springs Shelter having logged their longest day of their adventure (15.3 miles). After another day of hiking in the GSMNP with strong winds causing some challenges, April 13 ended at Tri-corner Knob Shelter (12.6 miles) with the hope of exiting the park the next day. Their hopes were realized on the 14th as they walked through a tough morning as cold rain greeted their steps. The afternoon turned warmer, and the sun made a welcomed appearance. A new mileage high of 17.6 miles led to a shuttle ride into Newport, Tennessee resulting in a good night’s sleep and a resupply that will take the Hoots into the trail town of Hot Springs, NC.
Five Pair and Mileage decided to slackpack on April 15 to their destination, Max Patch and then shuttle back to Newport. Max Patch is an incredible place with a marvelous view of the countryside. The only problem was the shuttle ride was not there and never showed up. Fortunately, God provided trail angels – three afternoon visitors to Max Patch heard of the dilemma facing the Hoots and agreed to provide transportation to Newport. Mileage and Five Pair were so grateful for the safe ride. They completed their week just 20.6 miles short of Hot Springs, a special place along the trail.
Pippi – this solo hiker began her thru-hike on March 16, 2021. Her last post was made on March 30. I will continue to check her blog, but I have to conclude that she is off trail and maybe had to abandon her journey.
So how are the thru-hikers doing? What’s the update on Pippi, David and Annie Rothman, Scooby, Five Pair and her four friends, and Bookworm?
Let me share the bad news, first. Two of the five did not make the trip to Springer Mountain.
Bookworm – Dennis Pack will not be leaving on time.
On March 18, Bookworm was out on a training hike and he slipped and fell injuring his wrist. After week of pain, he had it x-rayed. It is a minor fracture, but with his arm in a cast and the doctor’s advice to a delay his start, Bookworm will not begin on March 23. During a recent medical follow-up, he was encouraged to give his wrist a few more weeks of recovery. Bookworm plans to get his COVID-19 shots before he hits the trail. SO, he has altered his plan and is now headed to Harpers Ferry on April 18 and will attempt a Flip-Flop thru-hike.
Scooby – Mike Carpenter is a no show.
This is what I call a hiker who shares that he/she is planning on making the hike and shares his start date, but never posts anything in his/her journal. This is fairly common on trailjournals.com. I do not know why Scooby was unable to participate. In reality, Mike might be on the trail somewhere, but he has not logged in to the blog, so I have no way of sharing his story.
Now the good news – the other three teams started on time.
Pippi was the first to leave on March 16. David and Annie Rothman left the next day, March 17. Five Pair and her team hit the trail on March 21. Let me share a brief outline of each hike.
Pippi – Debbie Dunkle
Day 1 A late stat and wet weather resulted in a night on top of Springer Mountain on March 16
Day 2 Pippi hiked to Hawk Mountain Shelter on Day 2 – March 17. (8.1 miles along the AT).
Day 3 The rains came down (March 18) forcing Pippi to get a ride to town and enjoy a dry Zero-Day at the Above the Clouds Hostel.
Day 4 March 19 was Pippi’s longest hike of the week (16.2 miles) from Hawk Shelter to Lance Creek.
Day 5 March 20 was Blood Mountain Day. This wet day made the rock slabs of Blood Mountain difficult to navigate, but Pippi logged in 8.5 miles and camped at Bull Gap having covered 32.8 miles of the AT.
Day 6 March 21 brought some really hard hiking. Pippi shared that the trek over Cowrock Mountian and Wildcat Mountain tired her out and she was ready to stop when she arrived at White Oak Stamp campsite .
Day 7 Pippi is hiking with a buddy, Scream and they logged in 11 miles (March 22) for a total of 50.5 miles to date. They ended up at Blue Mountain Shelter
Day 8 March 23 brought 8.1 miles of trail taking Pippi over Rocky Mountain and Tray Mountain before she arrived at Tray Mountain Shelter at mile-marker 58.6. (There are no real mile-markers on the AT – it is just my way of sharing the distance hiked)
Day 9 March 24 ended up at Deep Gap Shelter another 7.4 miles further north. The short-mileage day was filled with misty rain and fog along with some slippery mud.
Day 10 March 25 presented some rather severe storms with high winds, so Pippi made it to Dick’s Creek and checked into Around the Bend Hostel for a dry refuge and the hope of some sunshine soon.
David and Annie Rothman
Day 1 March 17 – David and Annie hike the approach trail from Amicalola Falls to Springer. It is 8.8 miles and it does not count as AT miles. It is a strenuous trail with lots of “up” (almost 2,000 feet of elevation change, starting with the 650 stairs). Rain that night – David and Annie stayed dry in the tent but Annie’s clothes got wet. They slept for about 11 hours.
Day 2 March 18 – Hiked from Springer to Hawk Mt Shelter (same location, just a day behind Pippi). They started around 11am when rain came to a stop. It rained again during the night.
Day 3 March 19 – From Hawk Mountain Shelter to Gooch Shelter = 7.7 miles. They experienced a very cold night of rain – yes, that is three rain-filled nights in a row.
Day 4 March 20 – Hiked 10.9 miles and stayed at Jarrard Gap camp site accumulating 26.7 miles of the AT.
Day 5 March 21 – Blood Mountain was the challenge for the day. They stopped at Mountain Crossing Outfitters for a pack shake-down. They ended up sending some gear home and donated some more to the hiker box (a box of free stuff that anyone can take) They had a good meal, spent the night a Mountain Crossing, and felt better about the weight of their packs moving forward.
Day 6 March 22 – David and Annie spent the morning at the Mountain Crossing in Neel Gap and then hiked to Whitley Gap Shelter (about 6.7 miles further north).
Day 7 March 23 – The husband and wife team were up early and on the trail by 8:45. After a good day of hiking they arrived at Blue Mountain Shelter at 4:00 having logged in their best day yet – 12.1 miles. They are staying at the same shelter as Pippi, just one day behind. They ended their day chatting with new hiker friends as we watched a beautiful sun set over the mountains. Then surprise – it started to rain again.
Day 8 March 24 – With another record mileage day (12.8), the couple made it to Sassafras Gap and mile 63.3 on the trail. They were happy with the progress and look forward to completing Georgia ina few days.
Day 9 March 25 – David and Annie took a shorter day of 6.3 miles today and got off a Dick’s Gap. They have caught Pippi although they do not mention meeting her. Miss Janet (a famous trail angel who drives around the area looking for hikers to help) pick them up and took them to Lake Chatuge Lodge in Hiawassee, Georgia.
Five Pair and her four friends have adopted a group name of The Hoots. They started their adventure together on March 21.
Day 1 – March 21The Hoots signed in as AT thru-hikersat the AT Visitor Center in Amicalola Falls and then took an hour drive to a parking lot at the top of Springer Mountain. The group of five headed out on the trail and stopped at Hawk Mountain Shelter (8.1 miles). All three of the groups (Pippi, David and Annie, and now the Hoots) visited this shelter after their first day on the trail.
Day 2 – March 22 Terri (Five Pair), Nancy, Karen, Maggie, and Tina make up the Hoots. After the 8.8 mile hike today Nancy remarked that she thought she was in pretty shape and she “never imagined it would be this tough.” They group stayed in their tents close to the Cooper Gap Road. This was camp site on my first night in 2014.
Day 3 – March 23The group decided to up the mileage today to get to Neel Gap and a cabin at the Mountain Crossing outfitter. In order to get there, they had to hike (climb) over Cedar Mountain and then up and over Blood Mountain. Up is hard but down is treacherous. Mix in a little water and the stone slabs of Blood Mountain become like ice. After safely navigating Blood Mountain they found there was no room in the inn, so they shuttled to Misty Mountain Inn about 12 miles away where delivery pizza and drink were enjoyed by all.
Day 4 – March 24The Hoots caught a ride back to Neel Gap from Misty Mountain Inn and the Inn agreed to pick them up at the end of the day and bring them back for another night’s sleep in the comfort of the Inn. The women got their first Trail Magic (I like to call it Blessing not Magic) today. It was a day of firsts – The first Hoot received a trail name. Karen has been dubbed “JackRabbit” for her speed in getting up and down the trail in the mornings. The Hoot made it to Hogpen Gap (6.9 miles) where Misty Mountain Inn shuttled them back to comfort.
Day 5 – March 25The rain and thunderstorms that were predicted came rolling in, so the Hoot enjoyed a ZeroDay at the Inn.
For this hiking season, I have selected five hikers attempting a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. This year the trail is over 2,190 miles. Since last year’s season was cancelled due to COVID, there is a renewed interest this year. I have identified five hikers that will all begin Between March 16 and March 23. Done of them will be leaving on the same day, but it will be fun to see if they find each other and cross paths along the way. Three of the five are hiking solo; one is a husband wife team; and one is the leader of a five-women team. Let me introduce them to you.
Pippi – Debbie Dunkle – Leaving March 16
Pippi (after Pippi Longstockings) is a veteran thru-hiker (2011). This trek is quite a bit different than the first. She is attempting this thru-hike to help her deal with a lot of grief and anger resulting from her youngest daughter’s death from an overdose. Debbie struggles with PTSD and depression.
Shadow, another of Pippi’s daughters, will be posting updates to the journal. Shadow is excited to help document her mom’s journey of over 2,190 miles as Pippi walks over the mountains of 14 states
Pippi shared, “Though I have hiked the trail before, I am also older now and recognize that I am not as strong or well as I was in 2011.”
David Rothman (and Annie) – Leaving March 17
Little is known about these hikers. It appears from the pre-hike posts that David’s wife, Annie, is part of the thru-hike team, but only David is listed on the journal. They are first-time thru-hikers and they have been researching and reading as much about the trail as possible. Neither has a trail name, yet.
I am interested in getting to know them as they blog about their adventures.
Scooby – Mike Carpenter – Leaving– March 19
Scooby was ready to hike the Appalachian Trail last season but COVID ruined his plans. He has already hiked over 140 miles of the AT, but he plans to repeat these miles in order to complete a pure thru-hike all in one season. He has not shared much biographical information, but hopefully we can learn more about him as he makes his way from Georgia to Maine.
Five Pair – Terri O’Brien – Leaving March 21
Terri O’Brien is a veteran thru-hiker of the AT, having successfully navigated a NOBO hike in 2012. This year she has found four other friends to join her second trek. The five friends will be embarking their adventure on March 21.
Five Pair received her trail name when her hiking companions realized (via a clothes washing event) that she was carrying five pairs of socks, undergarments, shirts and skirts/pants. Most hikers typically take two sets of clothes – the one they are wearing and one in their backpack.
Five Pair has a son, Torin and a husband, Jim. Torin has a trail name, “Triple T” which stands for Talking, Tooting, and Tortoise. Jim goes by “Ground Control” as he serves as a support and problem solver while Five Pair is on the trail.
It will be interesting to follow these five women as they experience the trail together. Statistics would say that only one of them will finish – can they beat the odds?
Bookworm – Dennis Pack – Leaving March 23
Bookworm is 59-years old. He is married (his wife Marie plans to meet him a few times along the trail journey) and has two grown kids, two beautiful granddaughters, an amazing cat, and two siblings. Dennis recently resigned from my job so he could embark upon this once- in-a-lifetime experience of hiking the Appalachian Trail.
He lists several reasons for hitting the trail: the physical and mental challenge; he is dedicating his journey to his late parents, who both loved the outdoors; he desires to show his son, daughter and granddaughters what’s really possible when you put your mind to it; he also wants to raise awareness and support for Lewy Body Dementia in honor of his cousin Tim who struggles with this difficult disease; and finally he wants to thru-hike because he hears the trail calling him.
Bookworm has served in the U.S. Coast Guard and currently lives in the state of New York.
Check in next Thursday for an update – Spoiler: One of them does not even get started!