Posts Tagged With: North Carolina

AT Thru-Hikers: March 11th Update

Here is an update on the 14 thru-hikers of theApplalchain Trail that I am following. All of them started the trail in January or February of 2018.



Rich Miller from Pennsylvania 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. Coming off Blue Mountain on a very rainy Tuesday (March 8th) both his knees started to hurt, so they decided to drive back to PA to recoup (10-hour drive).  The plan to continue some more hiking on the AT in PA and then drive back to Unicoi Gap over Easter weekend and hike north once again.

Zin Master

Zin, Ken Nieland, decided to get off the trail on February 27 with tendinitis in his lower right leg. No update on his blog since then. 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 experienced some AT winter weather on the 7th and 8th of March. On Wednesday (8th) he was greeted with cold temperatures and 6 inches on snow.  “… the trail footing was hard to see.  Needless to say, I fell down a couple of times but, thankfully, there are no injuries to report.” The next day the wind took over with major gusts that literally knocked him over. He stopped at a crossroad and got a shuttle to Doe River Hostel in Roam Mountain area. He was hoping to slackpack out of the hostel, but March 8th was his most current post.

Vagabond’s Shelter in GSMNP

Vagabond Jack

Jack Masters, from Kansas City, took his first steps on the famous Appalachian Trail on February 1, His last updated was on March 7th and he was camping at Newfound Gap with Okie, and Camo hoping to get to Gatlinburg but the road is closed because of the snow.


Opa’s Trail on March 8

Opa (Reinhard Gsellmeier), the retired engineer from Rochester, NY, began his thru-hike on February 10. He had been hiking as part of the Four Horsemen (including Jeep, Night Train, and Captain Blackbear). The four have now become the three as Jeep elected to stay in Erwin to heal from shin splints. They hit major weather as well as they spent the night at Roam High Knob Shelter (the highest shelter on the AT). ”Accumulations I’m estimating at 5-6”, with drifts up to a foot. Temperatures dropped steadily during the day as well. It was a difficult day, lots of climbing elevation and cold, windy, snowy…. I also had my first two slips and falls of the hike today. Nothing serious, I bounced back. I should put my microspikes on. Oh yeah, I mailed them back home when I was in Hot Springs.  Of the cohort that I am following, Opa has hiked the farthest at 434.5 miles. One interesting fact I learn about Opa this week: he was born in Munich, Germany,  and immigrated with his parents to the US in 1955 when I was three.


Bamadog at Rocky Top

Marty Dockins hit the trail on February 15th. His last post reflected his stay in Hot Springs, the first trail town along the trail, where the AT goes right down the main street of the community (Bridge Street). He hiked through knee-deep snow as well but enjoyed a nero of 3.2 miles from Deer Park Mountain Shelter to Hot Springs for a day of rest.

Class Act

Class Act

Retired physician, Alan Conlon, took his first steps on the AT on February 18, 2018. He has been doing some slack packing (carrying only what is needed for the day and utilizing the shuttle of a hostel to drop him off and/or pick him up after his day’s hike) for several days. Stationed at Wolf Creek Hostel in Stecoah Gap, Class Act has made good progress for the past three days. He met and had dinner with Chip Tillson on Saturday, March 10th. He has his eye on Fontana Dam as his destination for March 12.


Chip Tillson

Chip has experienced some of the attrition that occurs on the AT. In his journal he shares, “Several people I’ve hiked with have already left the trail. Among them: Georgia and Nick were rained out, Music Man got a bad toothache, Gabriel blew out his knee, Marbles got picked up in Franklin with a possible broken foot, Water Leaf just didn’t like climbing mountains, and today I learned John is headed home with a foot injury.”  A few days later he shared that his feet are bothering him, ”My feet have been sore the past couple of days and around noon I felt a growing pain in one foot.” He is planning two zero days followed by two days of slackpacking before he makes his way into the Smokies.

Sour Kraut Photo near Fontana Dam

Sour Kraut

Tim Pfeiffer, who started on February 21st.  His photo journal makes it difficult to track his mileage but his last photos show him in the Fontana Dam Area ready to enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Which Way headed up Albert Mountain

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. I really enjoy reading their journal. They are so optimistic despite some a nagging toe blister and knee problems. They share about trail worship and God’s faithfulness which really pulls me into their adventure. They are staying at the Wayah Bald Shelter on Sunday, March 11.

No New Photos – Abbie

Dave and Abbie

Dave Snow and his dog (trail name Abbie) started the Appalachian Trail on February 26th and Abbie has been enjoying the outdoor environment. Dave seems to express a more pessimistic look at the trail with a little complaining attitude toward the accommodations and the weather. He and Abbie have spent six nights out of fourteen in hotels/hostels, so that are experiencing the inn-environment of the first two states more than some of the other hikers.


RTKs Tent

Return To Katahdin (RTK), Bruce Matson is reporting his adventure in posts summarizing each week. His last post covered his first week of hiking February 23-27. I now that he reached Dick’s Gap on March 3, but that is the latest update I have on my lawyer friend from Virginia.


Pigweed at Ga/NC border

Pigweed, Lee Richards, started with the approach trail from Amicalola Falls on February 26 and started accumulating AT miles on the 27th. As of March 10th, he was a Rock Gap having passed the 100-mile marker at Albert Mountain. He is beginning to have some physical problems. His journal on March 10th reflected some foot pain, “Unfortunately I strained my Achilles heel about halfway through the prior days 16-mile hike. Ibuprofen and general Slow Go hiking got me over Mount Albert and to the first Gap and Road. I decided to call a shuttle and get out at Rock Gap instead of continuing the next 3.7 miles to our destination with the rest of the Gang. I’ll pick that up when I resume the hike. I had planned to do a zero-day in Franklin anyway on Sunday. We’ll see if one zero-day is enough to heal up.”


Hickory – does not post photos

Hickory began the same day as Pigweed but has walked at a much stronger pace. On March 11th, Hickory has covered 179.6 miles of the Appalachian Trail and has entered into the GSMNP (Smokies). He has only taken one nero-day (2 miles) in his first two weeks of hiking. He has thru-hiked the AT in 2011, so he probably knows his pace. I looked at my blog and on day 13 of my thru-hike, I camped at the same shelter, but Hickory is hiking through the winter weather and I was enjoying warmer spring temperatures and sunny skies.

He is the latest update on the hiker’s progress (not some posts are earlier than others).

Up Date Mile Marker Hiker Location Start Date
3/11/18 50.5 Genesis Poplar Stamp Gap 1/14/18
3/2/18 69.2 RTK Dick’s Creek 2/25/18
3/10/18 106 Pigweed Rock Gap 2/27/18
3/11/18 109.8 Dave and Abbie Franklin 2/26/18
3/11/18 120.8 Which Way/ Next Step Wayah Bald Shelter 2/24/18
3/11/18 129.2 Zin Master OFF Trail 1/23/18
3/11/18 150.7 Chip Tillson Stecoah Gap 2/20/18
3/11/18 158.4 Class Act Yellow Creek Road 2/18/18
3/9/18 165.5 Sour Kraut Fontana Dam Area 2/21/18
3/11/18 179.6 Hickory Russel Field (GSMNP) 2/27/18
3/7/18 206.8 Vagabond Jack Newfound Gap 2/1/18
3/11/18 273.9 Bamadog Hot Springs 2/15/18
3/8/18 376 Hard Knocks Roam Mountain Area 1/31/18
3/11/18 434.5 Opa Erwin, TN 2/10/18
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class of 2018, Fontana Dam, Franklin, North Carolina, Gatlinburg, Georgia, GSMNP, Hiking, Hot Springs, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Roan Mountain, Rocky Top, Slackpack, Tennessee, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where Is Everyone on the Appalachian Trail?

I am tracking nine thru-hikers on the trail right now with at least four more to join them before the month of over. One, Genesis, started in West Virginia and is hiking north through Pennsylvania. He posts sporadically and as of February 18th, he had hiked about 79 miles. To help give you a visual on the journeys of the rest of the gang, I constructed the following table. The first column is an indicator of the first 200 miles of the AT. The second column is the miles hiked by a particular thru-hiker; the third is the name of the hiker; the fourth is the destination of each hiker on February 22; the last column is the date that each hiker began his adventure. (The last post by Hard Knocks was made on February 20 so he is, most likely, pushing his way through the Smoky Mountains where cell phone coverage is scarce.)

Miles Miles Hiked Hiker Destination Start Date
0 12.3 Sour Kraut Cooper Gap 2/21
  15.8 Chip Tillson Gooch Mt. 2/20
  31.7 Class Act Neel Gap 2/18
  69.9 Bamadog Dick’s Creek 2/15
  106 Zin Master Rock Gap 1/23
  114 Vagabond Jack Silar Bald 2/1
  164.7 Opa Fontana Dam 2/10
200 199.1 Hard Knocks Clingman’s Dome 1/31

Four individuals were supposed to begin the hike since my last post. One hiker, Rogue Patriot was delayed waiting on his new tent to arrive in the mail. He hopes to hit the trail this Monday, February 26.  However, three others have officially joined the class of 2018.

Class Act

Class Act (Alan Conlon) began his adventure on February 18 and has hiked about 32 miles on the AT. He is a retired physician but is not a stranger to the trail. He took a leave of absence in 2014 (I did not meet him on the trail) to attempt a thru-hike. He completed 554 miles before an injury ended his hike. He is beginning his 2018 hike by utilizing a timeshare in Helen, GA. His wife is helping him slackpack along the way. He hiked 8.1 miles on day one; 7.6 on day two; and then 4.8 on day three having trekked over both the Sassafras and Justus Mountains and then meeting his wife at Woody Gap. They spent a zero-day together on the 21st in Dahlonega and then he hiked to Neel Gap on Thursday before his wife picked him up about 5:30.

Chip Tillson

On February 20, 2018, Chip Tillson (no trail, yet) hiked the approach trail from Amicalola Falls (8.1 miles to Springer Mountain) Unfortunately this mileage is on an approach trail and does not count as AT miles. Day two lead him 7.6 miles to Hawk Mountain Shelter. Day Three ended a Gooch Mountain after another 7+ mile day. I don’t know much about Chip background (hometown, age, or vocation) He mentions a special girl, Joyce, that I am assuming is his wife and his initial picture has a young man on his shoulders which looks like a son or a maybe a grandson.

Sour Kraut

Sour Kraut (Tim Pfeiffer) is the newest member of the cohort who started this past Wednesday, February 21. Sour Kraut hiked the approach trail as well so day one was only 0.3 miles on the AT. On day two he met a 70-year-old hiker, Dane, aka OG- old guy. He motivated Sour Kraut to hike up and over Sassafras Mountain and log in a 12-mile day. He ran into his first taste of trail blessing provided by “Snap” who offered fresh veggies and hummus. Sour Kraut is well on his way.

Zin Master

To quickly update the adventures of the others let me just give an insight from each. The chart above will tell you where they are. Zin Master, who was off-trail for over 2 weeks with blisters was hiked over 12 miles on two different days in the past week. He shares in his journal, “my feet have remained blister free now for 57 miles since I restarted…. If possible during the day I stop, change into dry socks and make any necessary adjustments to my taping. I’ve noticed the new boots becoming more and more comfortable as time goes on and hope the break in period is about over.”

Hard Knocks (still no photo), who started on January 31, is hiking very strong. He is somewhere in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It has been several days since a post but on February 20, he was at Clingman’s Dome and the 200-mile mark of the trail.

Vagabond Jack

Vagabond Jack, continues to make progress. He is logging less than 10 miles per day, but he seems to be enjoying his adventure. On Thursday, Jack got a late start (11:30) and only covered 4.6 miles. But he also experienced part of the power of the trail, “As the trail passes near Siler Bald [his destination for the day], it enters what appears to be a pasture. A side trail to the left climbs to the top of the Bald, where camping is allowed. It’s a rather steep climb to the top; similar to walking up a ski slope. But the climb is more than worth it. I’m so glad I decided to make the journey, arriving about 4:00. I was blown away by the views from the top. Finally, I was on a mountain without it being covered in fog!”


Four Horsemen -Opa on far left

Opa is putting in some nice mileage each day. He has found three other hiking buddies (Night Train, Jeep, and Captain Blackbeard) and they are calling themselves the four horsemen. “Each of us (the Four Horsemen) hikes at our own pace so we are scattered during the course of the day while hiking, but we have an agreed upon end of day destination.” They are taking a zero-day at Fontana Dam getting ready for the hike through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


Bamadog is making good progress although his journal is rather sketchy and short. He seems to enjoy finding stealth (unmarked) campsites so it is not easy to discern where he is along the trail He stayed at a hostel (Top of Georgia) on February 21 just a few miles from Dick’s Creek Gap. He shares, “Took a nero. It was a good chance to dry out wet gear and get a good meal.I will be in North Carolina tomorrow God willing!”

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Fontana Dam, Georgia, Gooch Mountain, GSMNP, Hiking, North Carolina, Thru-Hike, Trail Blessing | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Opa’s Adventure 2/12-2/16

We last saw Opa, the retired engineer from Rochester, NY, at Woods Hole Shelter on February 12th, just short of 30 miles on the Appalachian Trail. He was tent camping and a light rain was being to fall. As he woke, he found the light rain was still overhead. The rain was not an issue during the day’s hike but the weather remained overcast and foggy all day. Any mountain summit views were obscured by the fog. He hiked 15 miles today and conquered five summits: Blood Mountain (a major milestone for early thru-hikers), Levelland Mountain, Cowrock Mountain, Wildcat Mountain (this was absolutely beautiful when I passed by in 2014 – so sorry it was foggy), and Poor Mountain.

Along the way, he stopped at Neel Gap for some tasty food (a couple of pepperoni Hot Pockets and thee Twinkies – oh the hiker’s diet!) and a quick shower at Mountain Crossings Outfitter. After a nice break, He hiked on and ended the day at Low Gap Shelter. He set up his tent and looked forward to a good night’s sleep.

Wednesday brought another day of rain, but Opa legged out another 15+ mile hike. He arrived at Tray Mountain Shelter 2:00, so he took advantage of some time to air dry his sleeping bag and tent. There were nine hikers camping in or around the shelter, all wet, all hoping for sunshine tomorrow. On a positive note, Opa notes that there is plenty of good mountain stream water available.

Thursday, 2/15/18, was an 11-mile day that started in the dark. After a wet and windy night, Opa was hiking at 4:30 am by headlamp. He was motivated to get to Dick’s Creek Gap and the Top of Georgia Hostel. His plan was to rest as much of the day as possible before moving on Friday morning. He arrived at the hostel at 9:30. Opa had a delightful day at the hostel meeting Sir Packs’o’Lot who runs the place. He is a triple crowner – one who has thru-hiked the AT, the Pacific Crest Trail (Mexico to Canada), and the Continental Divide Trail (another north/south trail that follows the Rocky Mountains through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico).

Several hikers staying at Top of Georgia caught a shuttle into Hiawassee to eat at Daniel’s Steak House an AYCE buffet for $8.00. Opa makes a short list of NOBO thru-hikers that he has met so far along the trail: Jeep, Captain Blackbeard, Vagabond Jack, Reese, Weeds and Zin Master. Notice two others that I am following on Vagabond Jack and Zin Master. I cross-referenced Vagabond Jack’s blog and he was one of the group that went to Daniel’s Steak House. Vagabond Jack mentioned meeting Opa and noted that Opa was hiking much faster than he was so they might not see one another again.

Friday, brought another rainy hike, but Opa maintained a good attitude. He hit the big milestone of crossing the Georgia/North Carolina border, he logged 16.7 miles (for a total of 85 miles so far on the AT), and he saw a large black snake. He has been hiking with three other hikers for the last three days. They scatter during the day but rendezvous at night. They are calling themselves the four horsemen.



Categories: Appalachian Trail, Hiawassee, Neel Gap, Opa | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Who is Pat on the Appalachian Trail?

Pats ID Photo

I really don’t know much. There is not even a good picture of him yet. His name is Patrick Knox and he has been given the trail name Hard Knocks (Knox). He began his adventure on January 30. He began his hike at a modest pace reaching Neel Gap in five days, including the challenging hike over Sassafras Mountain, (approximately 8 miles per day). He took a zero-day on Day Six in Neel Gap to wait out the predicted cold, icy rain. The weight of his backpack was bothering him early in the hike (40 pounds), so he took advantage of a free service at Mountain Crossing to evaluate the contents of one’s backpack called a shakedown. He was able to eliminate 12 pounds!! He removed some un-necessary tools (scissors, Leatherman, small hammer/axe) and some heavy unneeded clothes (blue jeans and cotton shirts).

The Icy Rains on the AT

He increased his distance for the next two days (averaging 10 miles per day) and arrived at Unicoi Gap on February 6. The weather forecast called for two inches of icy rain so Hard Knox, Bob and AJ rented a B&B in Hiawassee and they enjoyed a zero-day on the 7th. Reflecting on his eight days on the trail Pat provided his readers with one warning and one piece of advice: let me add a warning to future hikers. This a serious, strenuous undertaking and not just a walk in the woods. One other bit of advice. Buy quality trekking poles and know how to use them. I would echo this wisdom from the woods.

Hard Knocks increased his output again for the next four hiking days to average 13 miles each day. On February 9th, he conquered Georgia and entered in the state of North Carolina. He experienced two days of constant rain (2/10 & 2/11). He made a statement in his journal after the first day of ten hours of rain walking that so resonates with my philosophy. He wrote: I am not complaining mind you. I find that when people recount their experiences it is always adversity that makes for the best stories. Rocky and I often look at one another on our hikes and sat “No Adversity, No Adventure!”

The rain made his hike and rock scramble over Albert Mountain slick and edgy but he found it to be lots of fun. Then on February 12th, after 4 inches of rain in three days, he and Bob (now Bobcat) walked 3.7 miles to Winding Stair Gap and then hitched a ride into Franklin, North Carolina to dry out, eat and resupply at the Gooder Grove Hostel. Hard Knocks decided to purchase a new backpack in Franklin. His first pack was causing issues for his hipbones.


Tuesday, the 13th brought a no rain day!! Pat and Bob logged in 11 miles of strenuous trail with lots of elevation as they made their camp at Wayah Bald Shelter. Hard Knocks’ new pack seemed to be more comfortable, but the goal of 17 miles on the 14th would provide better insights. The 14th was rain free as well, but the trail maintained their sloppy almost swampy challenge. Pat’s new pack is causing hipbone discomfort like his old one, so his plan was to check at the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) for some advice the next day.

The expert at the NOC made some significant adjustments to Hard Knocks’ pack which made significant improvement to his hike. Because of the late start, Bobcat and Pat only made 6.9 miles, but with the pain-free strides and the trails that are drying up and the beautiful views, Hard Knocks declared the day a good day. He is looking forward to the Smokies, 21 miles further north.

I like the attitude of Hard Knocks that flows from his journal. I firmly believe that emotional balance and spiritual stability are essentials for a successful thru-hike. Distance will increase, legs will get stronger, but within an inner joy and desire to be on the Appalachian Trail the chances of seeing Mount Katahdin greatly decrease. I’ll continue to keep you posted on Pat, Hard Knocks

Categories: Albert Mountain, Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Hard Knocks, Nantahala Outdoor Center, Neel Gap, North Carolina, Thru-Hike, Trekking Poles | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One Encounter All Day Long

161.JPGDay 24 of my Appalachian Trail thru-hike began at 5:45 am and I was on the trail by 7:00. By the end of the day, I had logged in 21 miles. The thing that made the day rather unusual was my hike of solitude. I had a short resupply in Erwin, Tennessee where I interacted with a few hikers at Uncle Johnny’s Hostel, but the rest of the day, on the trail itself, I only encountered one other hiker until I made camp at Curley Maple Gap Shelter. I enjoy being by myself and I found the peaceful solo-hike in the mountains along the border of  North Carolina and Tennessee refreshing and energizing.

My one encounter on the trail occurred in the morning coming down a hill into Spivey Gap as I was about to cross over US 19. I was gaining on the young hiker in front of me and I did not want to scare her by coming up too fast from behind. I clicked my trekking poles together and started to quietly whistle. She heard my noise, quickly turned around, and smiled. I returned her smile and gave my hiker greeting, “Great day for a hike!” She agreed and we began to walk together until we reached the road.

When we arrived at US 19, I decided I was going to take a break and have a protein bar. I invited her to join me thinking she would most likely decline, but to my surprise, she sat down beside me alongside the road. We began to chat and I learned that she was a section hiker and that she taught English at Anderson University in Indiana. She was quiet and soft spoken and very sweet natured. We talked a little about life and family. I shared about my wife and kids and grand kids. I mentioned that I was an administrator of a Christian School and was hiking to help raise money for student financial aid.

In just a few minutes of conversation, I could tell that we were kindred spirits. She said that she had a page of scriptures that she read everyday and wanted to know if I would like to hear the passage for the day. I immediately said I would love to hear the Bible passage. She read some encouraging words from the book of Psalms. I read for her some lyrics of a contemporary Christian song by Matt Redman, “Standing on this mountain top, looking just how far we’ve come, knowing that for every step, You were with us….Never once did we ever walk alone…You are faithful, God, You are faithful.” By the time the snack was done, I felt I had made a true friend. I gave her my blog information, wished her well, and headed down the trail toward Erwin.

163.JPGAt the end of the day, I reflected on God’s sovereign hand and the meeting of a Christian hiker to encourage me. All day long I saw no one. For 21.1 miles of trail and over 10 hours of hiking, it is amazing to only see one hiker. And then, to discover that the one person I encounter was a Christ-follower was just a special event. Thinking about the meeting, I wondered how many of the encounters I have during a normal day in the real world are really appointments made by God for me to be a source of encouragement to others.   

Steph, my friend from Anderson, commented on my blog several times throughout my adventure to Maine sharing more encouraging words that meant a lot . After returning home to Ohio, we have become Facebook friends. She returns to the Appalachian Trail each year to conquer a section at a time. HIF Cover PublishedI find it amazing to consider how impactful a 20-minute talk can be.


Never Once, Matt Redman, 2011:  Chrysalis Music Ltd. Sixsteps Music, Thankyou Music, songs
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Erwin, North Carolina, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Feelings of a Celebrity


Diane and Rowdy in Hot Springs

I had a great stay in Hot Springs, North Carolina, during my thru-hike in 2014. I met my sister, Diane, in the quaint, little trail-town. She and her husband, Tom, and little dachshund drove up from Winston-Salem for a special visit. This was my first opportunity to see anyone in the family for three weeks. She brought lots of great food, including cold cuts so I could create my own fantastic sandwiches, and several dozen homemade cookies.  It was a wonderful visit and brought great energy for the miles ahead.

The first day out of Hot Springs, I was plodding along at my normal pace when I heard some chatting coming from the opposite direction. The chit-chat continued to get louder until I made a bend in the trail and was somewhat surprised by five ladies, all with backpacks, all engaged in trail talk as they walked along.

148I could tell that they were not thru-hikers. They looked too clean; they smelled way too good; and their packs were too small and light. They were definitely section hikers but they seemed to be having the time of their lives. As I saw the group, I smiled, raised my trekking pole and gave a trail greeting, “Good morning ladies.  What a great day for a hike!”

The line leader stopped and asked, “Are you a thru-hiker?”

“Well, I am trying to be. I’ve got a long way to go, but Maine is my goal.”

All the ladies started to talk among themselves. Finally one of them shared, “We’ve been reading about thru-hikers and the Appalachian Trail. We thought we would come out for a few days and see what it was like. Could you answer some questions for us?”

“Sure,” I said, feeling like a celebrity. “Where are you from?”

410They were all the way from California and had the tans to prove it. They asked all the normal questions: “How much food to you have to carry? Do you always sleep in your tent? What do you do for a bathroom? Do you carry a cell phone? How often do you get to shower?  Are you hiking by yourself? Do you always hike in sandals?”

We talked for thirty minutes or so. I really enjoyed the sharing but I was getting a little concerned because I hoped to hike about 20 miles before setting up camp and it was looking a bit like rain. One of the ladies must have felt the same way as she asked, “Before we let you go, could we get a picture with you?” I could not believe the fuss they made over meeting a old, stinky hiker along the trail. After posing for several pictures, I was hiking down the path with a spring in my step basking in my celebrity status like I had just come off the red carpet.

AT MapThen it hit me. I had hiked less than 300 miles of the AT and was only in North Carolina. Although it was very sweet for the ladies to treat me like hero, I knew that I had a long way to go before obtaining the title of thru-hiker. From that day on, I tried to avoid using that word to describe  myself. Coming down off Mount Katahdin, I remember saying to myself, “Dave, you are now a real thru-hiker!”

Shortly after leaving my California fan club, it began to rain, but the sun came out in the afternoon and by the time I made camp about 5:00, I was dry. Soon after arriving at the shelter, the temperature turned cold. I was alone at the camp and had the shelter to myself, so I had some dinner, journaled about my day and crawled into my warm sleeping early. Sleep was easy to find after my 19.6-mile day.

HIF Cover PublishedIf you interested in reading more about my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, check out my book, Hike It Forward, sold on Amazon. I have had opportunity to write a few other books so I invite you to check my other offerings as well. I am writing a series of children’s books (two are currently available and a third should be published around Thanksgiving) called The Adventures of Princess Polly and Sir William the Brave and I have just released a book on the spiritual battles of life called, We Are All Warriors. If you are interested, just click on the Hike It Forward cover and it will take you to my author page where you can check out all my books.


Map of the AT found at
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Book, Chaco Sandals, Hot Springs, Mount Katahdin, North Carolina, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Snake Encounter on the Trail

black-rat-snake_624I really dislike snakes. I take that back. I am fascinated by snakes. I enjoy watching them when I know where they are and I am confident that I am a safe distance away. But when they surprise me along the trail and begin their quick, sidewinding movements, my heart does flatline for a bit and I gasp the air of  panic. I had the great opportunity to thru-hike the Appalachian trail in 2014 and I remember being quite concerned about encountering snakes. In my mind, I knew that I really only needed to be concerned about two bad boys, the rattlesnake and the copperhead. But I lacked a little confidence that I would be able to make a quick and proper identification in discerning between friend and foe. Instead, my goal was to avoid all snakes and to keep my cool when avoidance was not possible.

I had researched just a little on proper trail etiquette when meeting a snake along the path. One great tidbit of information that I stored in the backpack of my mind was that snakes have very poor hearing, but rather sense the presence of others through the ground vibrations around them. The advice, based on this information, was to be heavy footed and to bang the ground with one’s walking sticks or trekking poles. I immediately went out and bought trekking poles.


Photo of the Appalachian Trail on Day 9 (May 4, 2014)

The first week of walking on the AT was snakeless. They probably saw me, but I was wonderfully oblivious to them. Then day 9 (May 4th) arrived. I was hiking ion North Carolina. And I was introduced to my first rather large snake. It was a black snake and so I felt pretty confident that this slytherin was not going to inject a lethal dose of venom through my Chaco sandals. On the other hand, it had a mouth and I felt sure that it would defend itself if it felt threatened.

I saw the snake several yards away from me right in the middle of the path. It decided not to escape into the underbrush like I anticipated. Instead, it moved directly toward me, right up the center of the narrow walkway. I removed the advice from my mental backpack and began to stomp my feet and pound the path with my trusty hiking poles. The snake stopped, raised its head as if to look at me, then continued to slither on  its collision course with me. I jumped up and down and struck a nearby rock with my poles….no change, just moving forward.

A couple of things went through my head as I observed this strange reaction. One, maybe this was a mutated black-rattlesnake or a some sort of tarnished-copperhead. Two, maybe I have encountered a snake without the ability to “hear” vibrations. Three, maybe this was a depressed, suicidal snake willing to take on an old man in a life and death struggle.

We kept moving toward one another. I scooted to the right side of the path as it stopped dead center. I bravely (well, with great trepidation) and as quietly as possible stepped alongside the legless creature. It did not coil or flee. But we simply passed in quietness. The snake did not greet me and I did not stop to attempt to engage him in conversation.

Safely passed my first encounter with a large black snake, I removed the vibration advice from my mental backpack and left it behind (leaving no trace, or course). I saw many snakes during my five-month adventure, but I never encountered a rattlesnake or a copperhead – Praise the Lord; God is faithful.

Interested in reading more about my fabulous hike through 14 states on the Appalachian Trail? Check out my book, Hike It Forward on (just click the book).

HIF Cover Published


Snake photo from
Categories: Appalachian Trail, North Carolina, Rowdy, Snakes, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Not My Agenda

highway-64-NCMay 3, 2014 was my 8th day on the Appalachian Trail. By the end of the day I had completed 121.6 miles of the AT while logging in 15.6 miles for the day. I remember this day very well because it was the first of many days that did not go according the the plan of Rowdy (my trail name). My agenda called for an early 5-mile hike to US 64; followed by a hitch-hike into Franklin, North Carolina, for a hamburger at Burger King; a ride back to the trail; and another short 4-mile trek to Siler Bald Shelter.

I made it to US 64 by 9:30 fitting perfectly into my schedule, but then all my plans blew up. I tried hitch-hiking for 30 minutes without success. It was then that I realized that I did not present a good visual-risk as a hitchhiker. I was old and gray with a scruffy face carrying trekking poles (potential weapons) in both hands. I looked like I would stink (and I did!). If he could smell me, the driver would not want my odor absorbed in his vehicle. Even small pets were in danger of asphyxiation if I sat next to them in the car.

055I sadly gave up on my quest for Burger King about 10:00. I reviewed my Trail Guidebook and mapped out an alternate path for the day.  I filtered some water from a piped spring close to the road and turned to cross US 64 in order to pick up the trailhead on the other side of highway. As I turned around I saw a man get out of his truck with three folding chairs. I smiled, “Are you having a picnic?” and He said “No, we’re here to feed you!” Three trail angels set up a table filled with fantastic food. I helped them set up and then dug in. I was there until noon. Several other hikers joined me as I ate 2 hot dogs with chilly, cole slaw, quiche, five cherry cookies, cheese-its, 2 cups of coke and took 2 granola bars for the trail – better than any trip the Franklin!

After the great lunch provided by the trail angels, I decided to thank God for His wonderful alternate plan and His incredible provision. I experienced many emotions on the trail over the thru-hike’s 5-month adventure, but this afternoon was such a surprise that I shocked myself. Hiking by yourself for hours gives you lots of time to think and reflect. I purposely did not take any music or audio-books with me so that I might pray and fellowship with God as much as possible. I started to sing songs like the Doxology, Amazing Grace and a contemporary song by Steven Curtis Chapman called Long Way Home. I decided that I would pray for my family and sing a song I used to sing to my kids at bedtime. It’s called Looked All the World Over and at one point in the song you put the name of your child in the lyrics to communicate how special he/she is. I decided to sing the short little song, put the name of my eldest son in the right spot, and then pray for him and his family.

I could not believe what happened. When I sang his name, I began to weep. I wasn’t even sure why. I had just seen him eight days ago in Atlanta. Lots of memories and mental pictures of his childhood poured into my head – sled riding, shooting baskets in the backyard, science fair, high school graduation, dropping him off at Asbury for his first day at college, his wedding day, fatherhood, and his spiritual depth. I cried and wept tears of joy and thanksgiving. The tears scared me at first – I thought I was having a mental breakdown. The exact same thing happened when I began to sing for my second son – more great memories, tears, and thankfulness for the godly man he has become. The third verse was for my only daughter and I knew I did not have a chance to stay in control. And I was right. I had to stop hiking for a bit because my tears blurred the trail. By the time I sang for my youngest son, I welcomed the tears because they were refreshing to my spirit and freeing to my very bones. It was an amazing experience that allowed me to feel so close to my family.


Close to the end of day May 3, 2014

By the time I made camp, I was so encouraged that God had changed my agenda, provided such a blessing at US 64, and filled my afternoon with the tears of a grateful father and husband. One lesson I learned that day (and one that would be repeated many times during my journey) was that I needed a plan for each day, but I also needed the sensitivity to submit to God’s agenda when He had something different in mind for me. He always had the perfect plan and I just needed to submit to it.

(It you’re interested, check out more of my story in my book – Hike It Forward available on Amazon. Just click on the book for a link)

HIF Cover Published

US 64 Photo found at
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Franklin, North Carolina, Hike It Forward, Rowdy, Thru-Hike, Trail Angels, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grateful 2 without Gooseman

March 26  From Unicoi Gap to Trey Mountain Shelter

Grateful 2, his wife, and his son woke up this morning at Mulls Inn in Hiawassee. They attended an inspiring church service at McConnell Baptist Church. Then it was onto the AYCE buffet at Daniels Restaurant. His wife and Gooseman transported Grateful 2 to the trailhead by 12:30, and it was time to say goodbye again.

Grateful 2 traded out his hammock setup for one of the tents that his wife brought from home. The hammock was comfortable, but it just took too much time to set up and take down every day. He is concerned about his bad shoulders and their ability to take sleeping on the uneven ground. Time will tell. Hiking miles today = 5.7.

March 27 From Trey Mountain Shelter to Deep Gap = 7.4 miles

Another easy day today on the AT in terms of miles. They will get bigger very soon. Grateful 2 has been walking mostly by himself the last two days. The solitude can be refreshing sometimes. He shared, “Walking alone and seeing the next ridge in front of you can be inspiring. The mountains are majestic when seen from a distance. They are tough when you are climbing them alone. It gives me a lot of time to think.”

NC/GA iconic sign

March 28  From Deep Gap to Bly Gap = 12.5 miles

Grateful 2 logged his biggest day so far today on the Appalachian Trail – 12 ½ miles. He crossed over into North Carolina and is looking forward to the Great Smoky Mountains. He reflected in his journal about the multiple changes in the weather during today’s hike. Last night there was at least an inch of rain -heavy rain. Then the wind began to blow – a cold north wind probably 30 miles an hour. The wind stopped as a fog settled in with visibility of about 20 feet. By mid-morning the fog had lifted and it was sunburn hot. By early afternoon the clouds had thickened and it was cool again. Late this afternoon the sun came back out and the temperatures heated back up. Finally comfortable in his tent at his campsite, the wind kicks up again to whip the sides of his tent with significant force. If you don’t like the weather on the AT, just wait a few minutes.

March 29 The hike today led Grateful 2 from Bly Gap to Standing Indian Shelter for a distance of 7.7 miles. One of the hikers on the trail was having shin and leg issues. It was causing him to go slower than he expected, and it was taking him longer to get to a food resupply than he expected. He was running quite low on food, so all the hikers pitched in a little food so he will make it. Grateful 2 noted in his journal “It’s hard to carry something on your back for miles and then give it up, but I see it all the time in the hiking community. The AT community looks out for one another. I’m grateful to be a part of this giving group.”

March 30 Today’s hike: Standing Indian Shelter to Carter Gap Shelter for a total of 7.6 miles

Grateful 2 atop Albert Mountain

“As I walk down the trail today I misstepped and I twisted my ankle. This was the ankle that I broke in high school and used to have a lot of problems with. For a moment I was very afraid. I thought, “this could be the end of the hike.” I tested it for a moment, and it appeared to be OK. I kept walking and it’s fine now. Out of 5 million steps that it takes to get to Mount Katahdin a thing as simple as one misstep could end it all.”

March 31 Carter Gap Shelter to Rock Gap Shelter = 12.1 miles.

Grateful 2 hiked over Albert Mountain today. The trail is easy leading up to the base of the mountain. The trail is easy on the other side of the mountain. But the trail over Albert Mountain is another story. The rugged, rocky climb provides the first real taste to the thru-hiker that they are mountain climbers as well as trail hikers. There is such a sense of victory once you stand on the summit. However, the word on the trail was that bad storms were on their way. Grateful 2 decided to spend the night inside the shelter. It indeed rained …..buckets, but his stay in the shelter remained dry.

Categories: Albert Mountain, Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Grateful 2, Hiawassee, North Carolina, Thru-Hike, Weather | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Plans Toward Erwin

My last post regarding the thru-hiker from West Virginia who calls himself “Beaker” on the trail, found the chemist from Morgantown feeling sick and camping on an old service road near Alan Gap. Fortunately his sickness was short-lived and his hike continued at a great pace.

3/27/17. The 18.8-mile hike today ended at Flint Mountain Shelter, NC. Beaker has totaled 307 miles with just 1,882.8 left to go.

Beaker’s plan was to hike an 18.8 mile day today, leaving him a 14-mile day, a 13-mile day, and then a short 6-mile Nero day into Erwin, TN. Beaker woke up feeling much better – his fever broke during the night and he was even hungry in the morning. He drank lots of water during the day and took the pace a little slower.

Today’s hike turned out to be more difficult than expected. The climbs were beautiful but long and there were a couple parts than ran along an exposed ridge that involved a lot of rock scrambling. Just as he finished the exposed section, the rain began to fall. He had to trudge through the rain and was pretty worn out when he arrived at the Jerry’s Cabin Shelter. He was tired and had decided to stay, but as he sat there resting, the rain stopped and the sun came back out. He pulled out his map and contemplated the 6.7 miles to the next shelter. He took a look at his watch – 4 pm. He felt he could be there before dark if he pushed on. There was a climb up a mountain but there was a longer descent on the other side of the summit. So Beaker left Jerry’s Cabin Shelter, stretched out his tired legs and made it to Flint Mountain Shelter a little after 7 pm – just enough time to set up his tent, get water, cook dinner, and hang his food before dark.

3/28/17 Destination: Low Gap Campsite, NC for a distance of 14.9 miles.

More of a leisurely day on the trail. Fortunately, the hiker crud Beaker had experienced two days ago was a distant memory. Beaker’s attitude seems positive. He reflected on some of the little things that make a thru-hike very special:

“Waking up to sunshine. The smell of a pine forest. The way the leaves get skewered on the end of your hiking poles. The satisfaction of stepping just right on the edge of the poles to dislodge the leaves without breaking stride. The sound of voices and laughter at the end of the day that tells you you have finally reached the shelter. The constant sound of jets in the distance that reminds you the rest of the world is still out there. The sea of mountain peak after mountain peak as far as the eye can see.”

3/29/17 No Business Knob Shelter, TN 14.6 today.

Beaker awoke to full sunshine and warm temperatures. He hiked all day with First Sergeant, a thirty year US Air Force veteran who is about Beaker’s age. “We talked all day about our kids, grandkids, wives, careers, etc. Although I really like all the young adults I’ve been hiking with, it was nice to talk with a contemporary. As an added bonus, we hike the same pace.”

The men experienced a special reward at the summit of one of the climbs – the found themselves on an open bald. They had somehow missed the bald in the guidebook and it was beautiful, with 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains. Beaker and First Sergeant reached their shelter about 4 pm and found several nice, flat spots for their tents. Tomorrow, there is just a 6.2 mile hike to Erwin, TN.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Erwin, North Carolina, Tennessee, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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