Posts Tagged With: Hiking

AT Hikers: March 5th Update

Here is a quick update on the 14 AT thru-hikers that I am following this season.

Genesis and Sister


Rich Miller from Pennsylvania established the earliest 2018 online journal of an attempted thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail (via He and his sister began their hike on January 14. They did some hiking in PA for a few weeks (from Harpers Ferry, WV up to Caledonia State Park, PA) logging in about 70 miles on the AT. They made their way to Springer Mountain, Georgia and began their NOBO hike on March 1. They have trekked another 45 miles from Springer and are camped at Poplar Stamp Gap.

Zin Master

Zin, Ken Nieland, decided to get off the trail on February 27 with tendinitis in his lower right leg. He is evaluating his future on the trail at his in-laws in Kingsport Tennessee. I have not taken him off my official list, but silence is not a good sign.

Hard Knocks

Hard Knocks

Patrick Knox, tail name Hard Knocks, started on January 31. He has experienced some backpack problems in the last week. His waist belt let loose causing his sternum strap to break. He made some on the trail repairs. He also experienced some muscle pain in his inner thigh running down to his knee. He took a zero-day (on March Saturday, March 3) and gave his body a rest.  The next day, he hiked 24 miles into Erwin, Tennessee, totally 341.5 miles on the AT.

Vagabond Jack

Vagabond Jack

Jack Masters, from Kansas City, took his first steps on the famous Appalachian Trail on February 1. He was in Fontana Dam (mile 165) on March 3rd about to enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cell phone coverage is sometimes non-existent in this area, and he did not post in his journal for several days. He updated on March 6th and is camping in the GSMNP at Derrick Knob Shelter (mile 188.8).


Uncle Johnny’s Hostel

Opa (Reinhard Gsellmeier), the retired engineer from Rochester, NY, began his thru-hike on February 10. He has been recently hiking as part of the Four Horsemen (including Jeep, Night Train, and Captain Blackbear). They arrived at Ervin, Tennessee on March 5 and I am interested to see if Opa meets Hard Knocks at Uncle Johnny’s hostel. Opa shared in his journal some sad trail news. Uncle Johnny passed away suddenly about two weeks ago. His wife, Charlotte plans to continue running the hostel. I met Uncle Johnny on my hike and he will be missed by the hiking community.



Marty Dockins hit the trail on February 15th. His sweetheart met him at Newfound Gap (mile marker 206. 8) on March 4th and they spent a zero-day in Gatlinburg, TN on March 5. He lost cell phone coverage for 5 days but averaged 11.5 miles through the first part of the GSMPN (Smoky Mountains).

Class Act

Class Act

Retired physician, Alan Conlon, took his first steps on the AT on February 18, 2018. He has been very strategic in this first part of his hike. He has attempted to avoid the brutal weather but taking a few zero days (two at the Top of Georgia Hostel) but had begun to increase his distance per day with three 12-mile hikes before coming to Franklin, North Carolina. He is planning another zero-day in Franklin on the 6th of March.

Chip Tillson

Chip Tillson

Chip has not mentioned Class Act in his journal, but I think the road into Franklin together on a shuttle on Monday. Chip is planning on a zero-day on Tuesday as well so maybe they will connect. Chip began the trail on February 20th and this will be his first zero-day of his hike.  His pace has been conservative (7.8 miles per day) and he has taken two nero (near-zero) days of less than 4 miles. His consistent effort will begin to pay off with some trail legs and longer distances.

Sour Kraut

Sour Kraut

Tim Pfeiffer, who started on February 21st, is keeping more of a photo/video journal that a written daily entry. It is a little difficult to know exactly where he is, but his last photos seem to indicate that he summitted Siler Bald on March 3. He is enjoying hammock camping along the way.

Which Way and Next Step

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. Their journal bursts with a great attitude and excitement about the trail. Which Way has recently developed a blister on the little toe that had caused some major discomfort. Isn’t it amazing how even the smallest of body parts can be so essential to a successful hike? They have persevered and have already logged in over 78 AT miles.


Dave and Abbie

Dave Snow and his dog (trail name Abbie) started the Appalachian Trail on February 26th and Abbie was enjoying the outdoor environment. They made it to Dick’s Creek and the Top of Georgia Hostel on March 5th and spent the night in The Wolf Den which is set apart for hikers with dogs. Dave has plans to shuttle to a hotel in Hiawassee on March 6th.



Return To Katahdin (RTK), Bruce Matson was a special trail angel for me during my 2014 thru-hike of the AT. I have been following his preparation for the hike and was excited to follow his adventure. He started on February 24 by conquering the approach trail from Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain plus the one mile of actual AT to the parking lot off USFS 42. I heard nothing from him since that first day and was concerned about his hike. He commented on this blog that he was indeed alive and well and that his posts were coming soon. On March 2 he was safe and sound at Dick’s Creek (about 70 miles along the trail). It is so good to hear that he is stepping out in a strong and consistent trek.




Pigweed, Lee Richards, also started with the 8.8-mile approach trail from Amicalola Falls. He began on February 26 and started accumulating AT miles on the 27th. As of March 5th, he has walked 52.9 and arrived at Unicoi Gap. He grabbed a ride into Helen, Georgia a Bavarian-style mountain town, where got a hotel room, enjoyed a long shower, washed his clothes and was looking forward to a great dinner with several other thru-hikers.



Hickory began the same day as Pigweed but has walked at a much stronger pace. On March 5th, Hickory has covered 87 miles of the Appalachian Trail and is camped at Standing Indian Mountain. He has taken one nero-day (a two-mile hike and stay at the Top of Georgia Hostel) but other than that short day, he has averaged 14.3 miles per day.

Up Date Mile Marker Hiker Location Start Date
3/5/18 44.6 Genesis Poplar Stamp Gap 1/14/18
3/5/18 52.9 Pigweed Unicoi Gap 2/27/18
3/2/18 69.2 RTK Dick’s Creek 2/25/18
3/5/18 69.2 Dave and Abbie Dick’s Creek 2/26/18
3/5/18 78.6 Which Way/ Next Step Bley Gap 2/24/18
3/5/18 87 Hickory Standing Indian Mt 2/27/18
3/5/18 109.8 Chip Tillson Franklin, NC 2/20/18
3/5/18 109.8 Class Act Franklin, NC 2/18/18
3/4/18 114 Sour Kraut Siler Bald 2/21/18
3/5/18 129.2 Zin Master Tellico Gap 1/23/18
3/5/18 188.8 Vagabond Jack Derrick Knob Shelter 2/1/18
3/5/18 206.8 Bamadog Gatlinburg 2/15/18
3/5/18 341.5 Opa Erwin, TN 2/10/18
3/4/18 341.5 Hard Knocks Erwin, TN 1/31/18


Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Erwin, Georgia, Hiking, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized, Uncle Johnny's Hostel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Early Hikers Continue to Hit the AT

January Start – I have mentioned the first six hikers listed below and thought I would give you an update on their progress.


January 14, 2018 Genesis (Rick Miller) lives in Pennsylvania and has begun his hike at Harpers Ferry West Virginia. He is currently (2/18/18) camped at Caledonia State Park, PA, having trekked about 59 miles of the AT. He shares about his trail name: when I start in 2018 I will have just retired which will be a new beginning of life for me. Also a great name after one of the greatest rock bands of the 70s and 80s.

Zin Master

January 23, 2018 Zin Master (Ken Nieland) from Colorado developed blisters on the trail and ended up taking a 17 days break from the trail to get new boots, new trekking poles, and healing/rest for the sore feet. He is back on the trail and is staying (2/18/18) at Top of Georgia Hostel at Dick’s Creek Gap.


January 23, 2018 Mattman (Matt Dilly) from Lancaster, Pennsylvania quickly decided that the AT adventure was not for him. He found great discouragement in the wintry weather and the loneliness of the trail He decided to leave the trail on January 27, 2018.

January 31, 2018 Hard Knocks (Patrick Knox) is keeping his hometown hidden from his reader so far. He caught a bus from New Orleans on the way to Atlanta, but I am not sure if that is “home” or not.  He has not posted a picture of himself either. I don’t think he is a criminal on the run, but he is hiking at a good pace. He spent the night (2/17/18) in Fontana Dam just south of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

February Start

Vagabond Jack

February 1, 2018: Vagabond Jack (Jack Masters) from Kansas has been hiking slow but steady since his first day on the trail. He is staying at Cater Gap on 2/18/18 which is about 93 miles into his adventure.


February 10, 2018: Opa (Reinhard Gsellmeier) is a retired engineer from Rochester, NY. He has been making big strides during his first week on the trail. He took his first zero-day on February 18th in Franklin, NC about 110 miles along the AT.


February 15, 2108: Bamadog (Marty Dockins), 61-years-old, retired last March. He had the pleasure of hiking with his son, Cory, for the first day of the hike. He has covered 44 miles in his first four days on the trail. He is camping on the 18th of February at a stealth camp 13+ miles north of Neel Gap.

Here is a list of those that plan to start the trail in later in February. I will attempt to track these brave folks and keep you posted on their progress.

Coming Up:

February 18, 2018       Class Act (Alan Conlon). He has not posted his first trail entry yet.

February 19, 2018       Rogue Patriot (Jamie Crowley)

February 20, 2018       Chip Tillson (Chip Tillson)

February 21, 2018       Sour Kraut (Tim Pfeiffer)

February 24, 2018       Which Way and Next Step (Darrell & Alicia Brimberry)

February 25, 2018       RTK (Bruce Matson). RTK is a friend of mine that was a trail angel to me in 2014. I look forward to tracking his progress!

February 26, 2018       Pigweed (Lee Richards)

February 27, 2018       Hickory (real name not shared)


There are several others who have a start date in February but have not posted a blog entry in quite a while. I am doubtful that they are truly going to make the hike, but I will check and let you know for sure.

February 14, 2018       Kwai – No journal entry since October 31, 2017 (Jeffery Ruth)

February 17, 2018       Jamie Wilson – No journal entry since August 24, 2017 (Jamie Wilson)

February 18, 2018       Nomad – No journal entry since September 19, 2017 (Chip Ringo)

February 19, 2018       Dave and Abbie – No journal entry since September 25, 2017 (David Rouner)

February 28, 2018       Muffin No journal entry since January 30, 2017 (David Quinones)


Categories: Appalachian Trail, Fontana Dam, Georgia, GSMNP, Harpers Ferry, Hiking, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Zin and the Vagabond

Zin Master (Ken Nieland) after hiking for three days and developing blisters, has been off the Appalachian Trail for 17 consecutive days. He has been staying with his in-laws in Tennessee. His hope is to return to the trail on Tuesday, February 13. He is planning on leaving Tennessee at 4:00 am in order to drop off his rental car in Blairsville, Georgia when Enterprise opens at 8:00. He has arranged for a shuttle driver (Pretzel) to take him to the trailhead at Tesnatee Gap. From there Zin will hike 6 miles southbound (SOBO) – back to Neel Gap while Pretzel takes most of his supplies with him. (This is called slackpacking – someone takes for heavy stuff like your tent, sleeping bag, etc. and meets you down the trail while you hike with just the needed supplies for the day.) Zin will stay at Blood Mountain Cabins or Mountain Crossing on Tuesday night. Pretzel will pick him up on Wednesday morning and shuttle him again to Tesnatee Gap and Zin will continue his NOBO hike from there.

Sounds complicated? I let you know how it all turns out when he posts in his journal in the next few days.

Vagabond Jack (Jack Masters) began his thru-hike on Appalachian Trail on February 1 with a 5.2-mile hike from Springer Mountain to Long Creek Falls. Day Two found him helping another hiker in distress to find refuge in Hightower for a hike of only 3.4 miles. Vagabond took two zero-days in Dahlonega, Georgia to avoid some winter weather. He returned on February 5th and hiked 7.2 miles from Hightower to Gooch Mountain. His longest trek so far was on February 6th from Gooch Mountain to Woods Hole Shelter (12.1 miles). He took a short day on the 7th with a 3.5-mile hike into Neel Gap and then a ride into Blairsville, followed by a 0 day on February 8.

Vagabond Jack returned to Neel Gap on the 9th and hiked 11.5 miles to Low Gap. The next day he managed 7.3-miles from Low Gap to Blue Mountain Shelter. He then hiked into Unicoi Gap (2.4 miles) and took a shuttle into Hiawassee, Georgia. He zeroed in Hiawassee on the February 12th. Vagabond Jack plans to return to the trail on the 13th and hike from Unicoi Gap to Tray Mountain (about 5.7 miles).

I am hoping that the warmer weather coming in the next few weeks will allow Jack to up his mileage. Less than 4.5 miles per day does not spell a successful thru-hike. I can tell by his journal that he is becoming discouraged and fighting for some determination to continue. He shares in his 2/12/18 post from Hiawassee:

“It’s said that about 25% of all people who start out as thru-hikers quit at Neel Gap, about 32 miles into the 2200-mile trek. I can see why. It’s not easy! It is not a walk in the woods. It is constantly climbing up and going down. In some sections, the trail is nothing but rocks, and each step has the potential to twist an ankle or worse. It’s taking 10 steps up a slope, then stopping for 10 seconds to catch your breath, then repeating that process for an hour. It’s taking even longer going down the other side of that mountain because you have to carefully consider every step. It’s sleeping on a hard platform in a shelter, side by side with strangers who snore, fart, and toss and turn. It’s your nose getting cold in the middle of the night, but knowing you can’t sleep with your head in your sleeping bag or you’ll wake up with a wet bag from the condensation from your breath. It’s eating crappy food, filtering water when your hands are numb from the cold…”

My prayers go out to both these hiker. They have both had a difficult, discouraging start.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Blood Mountain, Georgia, Hiawassee, Neel Gap, Thru-Hike, Vagabond Jack, Zin Master | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Opa’s Thru-hike

Opa, Reinhard Gsellmeier, lives in Rochester, NY.  He is a 66-year-old retired engineer. Opa is happily married to his wife, Kayanne, and they have a wonderful family including two children/spouses and five grandchildren. His grandchildren call him Opa and his wife Oma – thus his trail. Opa has done a fair amount of backpacking/ hiking/ snowshoeing in the northeast. He has most of his experience in the Adirondacks but also has had adventures in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.

Opa’s plan for his AT thru-hike will consist of 2-parts.  He began on the 10th of February and part one will run through the beginning of June (he hopes to be somewhere in New Hampshire). He will then get off the trail for family reasons and resume the thru-hike in early September.

In a pre-hike journal entry, Opa listed several reasons for making his hike of the AT. Two of them touched my heart and made me an instant fan:

Opa and one of his grandsons

Reason No. 2:  I want to complete the AT for my wonderful grandkids. Maybe someday, at a time in each of their lives when they are faced with their own challenge, they’ll be inspired by their old Opa.  Maybe they’ll say to themselves that Hey, if Opa can hike the AT, then I can overcome my challenge as well. Who knows, maybe they’ll someday even be inspired to undertake their own AT thru-hike – now wouldn’t that be grand!

Reason No.4: It is my understanding that there are just over 500 people 60 or older that have completed an AT thru-hike. That’s a relatively small number. I’d like to add my name to that list!

The Adventure Begins: February 10, 2018

Opa’s adventure began with an Amtrak ride from Rochester, NY to Gainesville, GA. The bad news was Amtrak was about 2 hours late pulling into Gainesville, but the good news: the shuttle driver, Ron Brown, was ready to go as soon as Opa got off the train. Opa was on the approach trail of the AT in Amicalola Falls State Park at 10:30 in the morning. He registered at Amicalola as hiker number 62. The approach trail is 8.8 miles to the summit. These miles obviously don’t count, so Opa’s total AT mileage was only 0.2 miles. It did rain all afternoon, but it was a vertical rain and not blowing in his face and the temperatures were mild. The trail ended up being wet and muddy, but the rain provided a good shakedown of his rain gear. Opa ratings: “all systems are a go.” He spent the first night in the Springer Mt. Shelter with Greg and Big Load.

Hawk Mountain Shelter

February 11, 2018: 7.9 miles of hiking (total 8.1 miles)

Opa was so glad he spent the night in the shelter because it poured down the rain most of the night. The heavy rain didn’t let up till about 10:00 so Opa got a rather late start. Once he, Big Load and Greg began hiking they found the trail in decent shape despite all the rain. Somewhere along the way, Greg dropped behind. The heavy rain started in again about 3:00 and the radar indicated more rain to come (flash flood warnings), so Opa and Big Load elected to stay at Hawk Mt. Shelter for the night.

February 12, 2018: 19.4 miles!! (total 27.5 miles)

Tent at Woods Hole Shelter

Monday was a long day but a delightful one. Opa and Big Load got a 6 AM start, hiking by headlamps. There was no rain for a change but the weather was misty and foggy all morning. The sun broke through in the afternoon turning the day into a sunny but cool one – it ended up being a perfect afternoon for hiking, enabling Opa to pound out some long mileage. He decided to sleep in his tent, as opposed to the shelter, to avoid the annoying mice. Opa was the only one at Woods Hole Shelter. He was not sure where Big Load was along the trail, although Opa hoped that he will show up at their rendezvous point before nightfall.

What a good start for the retired engineer from New York State.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Georgia, New York, Opa, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zin Master Waiting in Tennessee

Zin Master began his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail on January 23, 2018, in Springer Mountain Georgia. He hiked 7.4 miles on Tuesday the 23rd.  Wednesday’s hike was 8.3 miles; Thursday equaled 8.1 miles; Friday (1/26/18) totaled 7.3 miles including a climb over Blood Mountain into Neel Gap.

Zin had developed some major blisters on his feet and decided to get off the trail to allow for some physical healing. Fortunately, his in-laws live in Kingsport Tennessee, so he traveled by bus to retreat with family.

Zin needed to address a couple of hiking issues in addition to his blisters. He needed to find a more comfortable boot/shoe and he needed to replace a broken trekking pole.

Zin began a daily soak of his feet in warm water and Epsom salt and then moisturizing them with Aquaphor. I used Aquaphor on my feet in 2014 and not only did it keep the skin from cracking but it left them a water resistance almost like a waxy, oily film. It doesn’t sound very good, but it truly helped maintain strong and happy feet.

Zin found some longer and wider shoes (14W) and was able to find someone to modify his inserts to fit his new Keens (which he had to order). He sent his Leki trekking pole to the company who is making repairs and sending them back to him. As of February 7th, he is still waiting for his new/repaired gear.

Top of Blood Mountain

Zin has also checked on transportation back to the trailhead at Neel Gap. The bus ride was long and involved traveling to Tennessee, but it was going to be horrendous on the return trip – 20 hours including a 10-hour layover in Atlanta. So, he has decided to rent a car for a few more dollars than the bus ticket and he will be able to drive with 13 miles of the trailhead in 4 hours. He will then be able to get an inexpensive shuttle to the trailhead itself.

He has been on the trail for four days and resting in Tennessee for twelve days. Once those shoes and trekking poles arrive, he should be healed and ready to move. It must be discouraging to have to wait, but maybe the weather will be warmer as he moves forward. Hopefully, he will be on his way toward Maine by this weekend.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Blood Mountain, Georgia, Neel Gap, Springer Mountain, Tennessee, Zin Master | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vagabond Jack Begins

Jack Masters, aka Vagabond Jack, is from Kansas City, Missouri but for the next several months he hopes to be homeless as he travels the Appalachian Trail. He began his thru-hike on February 1, 2018, with the dream of hiking 2,200 through 14 states from Georgia to Maine.

Vagabond Jack retired at the age of 66 as a database engineer. The year of 2017 was a major year of transition for Jack. His wife passed away after a 5-year illness. Since the sadness of her death, Jack sold his house and all his possessions, purchased a truck camper, and traveled around the country. He has longed to hike a long trail for many years but could not decide which trail to choose.

Vagabond Jack heard a podcast by Mighty Blue (a fellow AT Thru-hiker in 2014 that I hiked with for a few days). Mighty Blue was sharing about a Fat Guys Hike that would last a week on the Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap southbound through the Great Smoky Mountains. He joined the group, was challenged by the trail, but decided to thru-hike the AT anyway.

On January 31, Vagabond Jack drove his truck camper to Georgia and put his rig in storage in Marietta. He arranged a shuttle ride from Marietta to Amicalola Falls State Park, where he officially signed in at the welcome center as a thru-hiker number 29. He entered his starting pack weight at 25 pounds. The shuttle driver then took Vagabond Jack to the parking lot located 1 mile north of Springer Mountain (the southern terminus of the AT). Jack then hiked 0.8 miles to the Springer Mountain Shelter to spend the night.

After a cold and windy night, on February 1, Vagabond Jack Hiked the remaining 0.2 miles to the summit of Springer. It was a foggy hike, but Jack reached the iconic rock summit, took some pictures at the commemorative plaque, then turned around and began his trek of the AT.

The weather improved throughout the day, but Vagabond soon realized that he had taken a wrong turn. He walked for about a quarter mile when he realized his error. He backtracked and successfully found the white blazes once again.

About 3:30 in the afternoon, he came upon Joe, a section hiker that camped along Jack the night before. Joe was ready to call it a day and planned to take a short side trail to Long Creek Falls. Vagabond Jack was hoping to hike on to Hawk Mountain shelter (another 2.9 miles). However, he calculated that it would be close to sundown by the time he got there, so he agreed to go to the falls and find a place for the night. Having hiked 5.2 miles on the AT, they pitched their tents and had an early dinner. Joe built a campfire, but they went to bed early.

Long Creek Falls

Jack woke up around 6:00 am but snoozed another half hour before crawling out of his toasty sleeping bag. His goal was to hike 10 miles to Gooch Mountain Shelter.  By 7:00 he was packing up his tent when Joe rolled out of his tent. During the night, Joe’s tent had leaked soaking his sleeping bag. He was shivering and extremely cold. Jack pulled out his stove and made him a hot cup of coffee. They packed up and headed down the trail, but after a mile, Joe indicated that he needed to get off the trail. They called for a shuttle ride and hiked another 2.4 miles to a road crossing at Hightower Gap.

Because of the time lost with Joe’s struggles, Jack realized that he could not make it to Gooch Mountain. The weather report looked intense for the weekend, so Jack decided to ride with Joe into Dahlonega and find a room until Monday. He has had a slow start, covering only 8.6 miles in two days, the weather report looks better for the coming week.

I will give you an update when Vagabond Jack hits the trail again.

Check out his journal and photos at

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Long Creek Falls, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Vagabond Jack | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Hike at Englewood

The first day of February in Dayton, Ohio, threatened to be filled with rain, but when Rocky checked her phone app at 6:15 am, the prediction had changed. It was in the mid-40’s and was to remain stable until after 1:00 when the slide was to tumble down into the teens. No rain was showing on the Doppler Radar until the afternoon as well. So…. Rocky and Rowdy quickly planned a morning hike at Englewood MetroPark as part of our thru-hike of the local park system.

We have hiked this park several times over the years but we needed an official log during this season. There are seven loop trails at Englewood, but the total distance is only 8.4 miles. We knew that the path might be soggy but we also knew that we wanted to take a walk and breath in some fresh air. It is not a short drive (about 40 minutes) up the I-75N to I-70W and then onto Route 40 to the entrance, but traffic was thin and it was a valuable time to share and catch up on our week.

We started the hike with the shortest loop (Black Blaze = 0.4 miles) just to get our blood moving and our joints lubricated. We then broadened our strides and went for the 3.8-mile Green Trail leading up to Martindale Falls. The path was really in decent shape with puddles that were easily avoided until we came down the eastern side along the Stillwater River. The mud began to cake on our shoes and made walking a little slower. It is amazing how much mud can weigh as it adheres to your sole (soul). (I think there is a major analogy there but I will let you consider it.)

As we hiked along the river, we noticed one, two, three deer staring at us from a grove of trees. Two remained perfectly still just looking at the pair of super-hikers, but number three freaked out and started to bound through the underbrush, his white tail serving as a wonderful flag to follow his movements. A short distance further down the trail we discovered the deer’s destination – deer number four was waiting for him to arrive. They continued to dart into the woods until we could no longer see their bright whitetails.

I am always thrilled to see deer in the woods. They make the forest come alive for me with the wonder of the wild. Rocky loves the river because she is always on the lookout for herons and cranes doing some fishing or wading. As she was scouting out the water’s surface, she looked up and pointed, “Look, a bald eagle!” I could not believe – A BALD EAGLE. The majestic bird flew down the river providing a portrait worth painting. I did not want to take my eyes off the bird to find my camera, so I did not get a picture. I have hiked a lot of miles but I have never seen a bald eagle – 9:45 on February 1, 2018 – what a special event for us.

The trails at Englewood are all loops but they do not overlap very much and each one is quite distinctive. There are several nice waterfalls, a little elevation change that provides some cardio, and easy access to the trailheads. This is a great park to visit if you want to try some hiking without the danger of major hills and dales.

We conquered all the marked trails at Englewood. Rocky and Rowdy checked off all 8.4 miles on their log, enjoyed the drive home, and had some lunch before the cold weather invaded the day.

Categories: Englewood MetroPark, Local Hikes, Ohio, Rocky, Thru-Hike, Trail | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Carriage Hill MetroPark – Done!

Carriage Hill Park from Boardwalk

January 26th, the last Friday of January, was a beautiful day in Dayton, Ohio. Rowdy and Rocky could not let a perfect hiking day go without an adventure. We plotted out a series of trails at Carriage Hill MetroPark that we needed to complete for our thru-hike of the park system. The temperatures had dipped below freezing during the night, so we were hopeful that we could cover the vast majority of our miles before the temperature changed the solid path into a slippery, muddy trail.

We enjoyed a drive up I-75N to I-70E to State Route 201 which dropped us onto East Shull Road. Two swishes of a horse’s tail and we were turning into the parking lot. The hiking menu for the day consisted of four loop trails totally 7.4 miles. We decided to go from the longest trail to the shortest trail, so the Orange Blaze was first on the list. We started at a trailhead by the boardwalk on Cedar Lake and hiked in a clockwise direction.

Fishing Pier

The trail was in great shape and we enjoyed the past North Woods Pond, then we came to a confusing junction of trails without blaze markers. Putting my Davy Crockett instincts and map reading skills to work, I confidently moved forward. I was wrong. We got twisted around just a bit, ended up on a horse trail for a while, but finally made our way in the right direction. I had a few choice words for those who failed to place a clarifying trail marker, but I did not throw anything or kick a tree. We saw some of the trails that very few get to see.

Each of the four loops junction along the southern side of Cedar Lake, so we walked this area four separate times (which got a little redundant after a while). Ducks and geese were on the lake and the fishing pier/boardwalk provided a beautiful setting for the ending of each circuit.

The MetroPark contains some nice wooded areas, an open prairie of tall grasses, a small pond, and the larger 14-acre Cedar Lake. There were several windmills on the property with one of them right along the trail. The easy walk was peaceful and relaxing.

The sun warmed the day and our last short loop (the Red Trail) of 0.7 miles was muddy and wet, but we managed to traverse the path just fine. No falls, no screams, no frowns – we just absorbed the gorgeous day and the opportunity to walk the trails together. Mud comes off the shoes with minimal effort.

Categories: Carriage Hill MetroPark, Local Hikes, MetroPark, Ohio, Rocky, Thru-Hike, Trail | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rocky and Rowdy on the Move!

With a rise in temperatures above the teens, a little blue sky peeking through the friendly clouds, and a touch of cabin fever, Cathy and I decided to put on our hiking togs and explode out of our phone booths as Rocky and Rowdy. Last Thursday (1/25/18), we took a deep breath of January air and headed toward Twin Creek to continue our thru-hike the Dayton MetroParks.

We hoped to complete the trails of this park during this third visit to one of my favorite areas in the Dayton area. Rocky and I had two more trails to trek to finish our thru-hike of this park – the Pink Trail (2.2 miles) and the Orange Trail (6.0 miles). The trailhead for both paths can be accessed from the parking lot on Chamberlain Road, so we pulled our brand new 1999 Toyota into the almost empty lot at 8:30 am and began our little adventure.

The temperatures were in the high-20’s as we started down the pink trail. There were small patches of snow, but the trail was frozen. The mud-made footprints created by hikers of the past were hard as rocks as we maneuvered along the path. Some of the streams were beginning melt, but any water free standing along the trail was ice. We carefully skated and slipped and glided through these areas enjoying the brisk winter’s breeze. The terrain shifted from meadow to forest and back to meadow during the two-mile, pink-blazed, loop trail.

Can you see Rocky between the trees at the bottom?

Rocky and I paused at the picnic table at the trailhead for a snack before starting out counter-clockwise loop around the Orange Trail. The temperatures were quickly rising to the freezing mark and I was a little concerned that the eastern portion of the trail that runs alongside Twin Creek might be sloppy and muddy. Fortunately, my concerns were a little premature. The path maintained a nice firmness for most of the circuit.

The trail did begin to deteriorate about a mile or so from the end as the frozen mud turned soft and sloppy. We took our time and sloshed our way back to the parking lot. Rocky and I had so much fun. The conversation was rich, the day was beautiful, and it was so good to be walking with my special hiking buddy.



Categories: MetroPark, Rocky, Thru-Hike, Twin Creek MetroPark | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Encounter on a Gravel Road

It was day thirty-nine of my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2014, and I was on my way to Chestnut Knob Shelter, 20 miles north of Atkins, Virginia. The last 4.5 miles to the shelter involved quite a climb (2,100 feet of elevation change) along Chestnut Ridge. Before beginning the last leg of the day, I decided to take off my pack, eat a granola bar, and enjoy a nice swallow of mountain water. I sat beside a gravel road (USFS 222) allowing my feet to rest before demanding they carry me up the hillside.

I heard the truck before I saw it. The driver rolled down the passenger-side window and he stopped the vehicle. He asked me if I was thru-hiking. I told him I was meeting a friend at the top of the ridge, remembering the warning in many thru-hiker books to beware of locals asking if you’re were hiking alone. He then asked me if I had seen any other trucks on this road. I said that I hadn’t but that I had only arrived five minutes before he pulled up.

He went on to tell me that he was out driving around trying to find his son. His son had left the house in a rush and the dad did not where his son was going. The man was greatly concerned because his wife had left the home recently and now his son was having major troubles with his girlfriend. He wished me luck on my hike and I expressed my hope that he would safely find his son. As he drove off, I quickly prayed for both the dad and the son.

Just a few minutes after he left, a truck traveling in the opposite direction came flying up the gravel road. The young driver zoomed right past me without looking to the left or right. Shortly afterward, dad returned in his truck. As he sped by, he gave me a thumbs-up. I loaded up and began my climb, hoping that the son would stop and allow his dad to talk to him. Part of my time climbing the hill involved asking God to intervene and bring peace to the family.

This is one of those stories that doesn’t have a known, final chapter or a written ending of reconciliation. I never saw the man again, but I sure prayed for him and his son. I recorded the encounter in my journal and each time I reflect on this entry, I remember this concerned father and his son trying to escape the stress of his day.  It reminds me of the need to seek reconciliation and the love that surrounds us even in the darkness of anxiety and disappointment. It also reminds me of God’s relentless pursuit of his children even when we are driving as fast as possible in the wrong direction, filled with angst and discouragement. There are times when we all need to stop and allow the Father to comfort us.


Photo of truck – simulation found at
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Thru-Hike, Virginia | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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