Posts Tagged With: Springer Mountain

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

The Last Two AT Hikers join up in February

Lee Richards, Pigweed, at 55-years-old, began his Appalachian Trail adventure on February 27 from Springer Mountain. He started his trek with a long-term hiking partner and work colleague, Greg Grant. They hope to hike the first 40 miles together.  Pigweed’s wife, Cindy, dropped the two hikers off at Amicalola Falls on the 26th and they began their trek on the AT on the 27th.

Pigweed in Rain Gear

Their first day on the trail logged 10.5 miles as they made camp at Horse Gap. It was a beautiful first day, but rain is promised for the next two. The rain did not disappoint. They hiked 6.5 miles to Gooch Gap, called a shuttle service, and caught a ride into Dahlonega. They spent March 1 in Dahlonega avoiding the harsh weather. They were hoping to do a 7.5-mile hike on March 2 (Lance Creek) and then arrive at Neel Gap on Saturday. Greg’s car is waiting at Neel Gap and most likely Pigweed will stay at the hostel there on Saturday night.

What an interesting trail name. Here is the history behind it: Pigweed is a family of weeds (Amaranthus) that are resistant to many herbicides and are an increasing problem for farmers to control.  They are an industry scourge for the Agricultural Business in which I work.  They are terrible in the South and moving up into the Midwest.  When I was jawboning with my buddies about a trail name, an article appeared in a trade magazine “Pigweed Marches North”, and my trail name was born PIGWEED.


Hickory is a mystery hiker and the last of the thru-hikers to start in February. I do not know his real name, or where he is from. There is only one photo posted so far as an I.D. picture. He stepped out on the Appalachian Trail on February 27, but this was not his first visit to the trail. In fact, this is his 5th attempt to hike the AT. He completed a thru-hike in 2011 and is back to experience the trail again in 2018.

He made it to Hawk Mountain Shelter on day one (8.1 miles on the AT) and then to Big Cedar Mountain (another 14 miles northbound) by the end of day two.

RTK on Springer

My friend, Bruce Matson, RTK, left for the AT on February 25th. Attached is a picture of Bruce and his wife, Cheryl, at the summit of Springer Mountain. But I have heard nothing from him since that date. He has a website and no news has been posted. I am not sure what to think, but if he checks in and gives an update, I will include him in my early starters and keep you up-to-date on his progress.

So that concludes my trekking cohort of early hikers (beginning in January or February) on the Appalachian Trail. I am following 14 hikers. If the percentage holds true, only 20-25% of these folks will make it (somewhere between 2.8 and 3.5 people). I am hoping for at least four. Stay tuned and relax as these adventurers take us on their journeys to Maine.

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Hawk Mountain, Hickory, Pigweed, RTK, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Which Way and Next Step On the AT

Darrell (Next Step) & Alicia (Which Way) Brimberry began their thru-hike on February 24 from Springer Mountain, Georgia. Next Step enjoyed a 36-year career in the US Army and retired at 55 years-old as a Colonel. They have been living in the nation’s capital until his retirement. As they take the next few months to hike the trail their “stuff” is being housed in Which Way’s parent’s home in Kentucky.

Their first day on the trail brought them to Hawk Mountain Shelter (8.1 miles north of Springer Mountain). The day began with a small entourage (nine people) driving from Atlanta to Amicalola Falls State Park. Which Way and Next Step signed in at the Visitor’s Center and registered as hiker number 294 and 295. They also weighed their backpacks at the center and loaded with four days of food and two liters of water, Which Way’s pack weighed in at 28 pounds and Next Step totaled 35 pounds.

Amicalola Falls

After taking a few pictures at Amicalola, all nine of them piled back into their two vehicles and made the 30-mile, 60-minute drive up the gravel, dirt, and mud service road to a parking lot one mile from Springer Mountain. All nine of the group hiked to the summit of Springer, snapped some historic photos, and walked back to the parking lot. Finally, at 12:15 pm the actual hike began. They hiked most of the afternoon on comfortable terrain through some old growth forest and along several beautiful mountain streams. The warm temperatures brought out many day hikers. They passed by a few thru-hikers, including a blind man and his wife—together they are the Dynamic Duo—from Ohio. I have tried to find out a little more about the Dynamic Duo but without success (yet).

Their second day on the trail ended at Hooch Gap Shelter adding another 7.6 miles on the AT. They woke up to rain, waited until 8:00 to start their trek, and endured the rain until it cleared about 10:00. They were almost to the top of Sassafras Mountain when Next Step took a fall, “About that time, as I was working my way over a slab of wet, moss covered rock, my right foot slipped out from under me. I tried to catch myself and my upper leg buckled up under me and I severely torqued my quad…. Of course, Alicia was worried a bone was sticking out. Fortunately, that was not the case. After a few minutes, I was able to get up and limp for a bit and it finally let up enough for me to hike on…. Just wondering what it’s going to be like tomorrow!” I sure pray this fall does not cause this couple from DC any long-term problems.

They made it to the shelter around 3:00. They made camp, took some time to hang out with other hikers, and enjoyed some supper. A ridge runner, staying at the shelter, counted 14 thru-hikers with them at Hooch Gap. This is a nice bubble but the different paces of the hikers will soon bring separation to the group.

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Hawk Mountain, Springer Mountain, The Fall, Uncategorized, Which Way and Next Step | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Memories from the AT – Lots of emotions

20140924-194204.jpgSeptember 24th was my anniversary, not of my marriage to the best wife in human history, but of my climb to Mount Katahdin and the completion of my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Although that day does not hold a candle to my wedding day or the days of the birth of my four incredible children, it was a significant day, capping a physical, emotional, and spiritual journey that lasted five months. The adventure, up and over fourteen states and through some of the most beautiful land I have even seen, has made a deep and long-lasting impression on my life.

This week, I picked up my journal and began to reminisce on that incredible adventure. On April 26, 2014, I had no real idea of what was ahead of me when I woke up in my son’s home justDr.D.Hiking north of Atlanta, Georgia. I had read close to two dozen books about the Appalachian Trail, including several personal journals of thru-hikers; I had attended a half dozen seminars from how to make a fuel-oil stove to how to make a successful thru-hike of the AT; I had trained physically for fourteen months, hiking 2,200 miles before setting foot on the THE trail. But head knowledge and hiking in Ohio, is a far cry from really living and experiencing, up-close-and-personal, the path from Georgia to Maine.

My wife, Cathy, and I had driven from Springboro to Atlanta on Friday, April 25. My son, Ben, his wife, Vanessa, and their two beautiful little girls greeted us with enthusiasm. They were excited about my crazy idea of hiking 2, 186 miles. I did not sleep too well with the “unknown” bouncing around in my brain. I woke up around 6:00 and before long I could smell the chicken-bacon and eggs breakfast awaiting me in the kitchen.

Three of us (Ben, Cat and I) were pulling out of the driveway and on the road to Springer Mountain by 7:30. Instead of hiking the 8.5-mile approach trail from Amicalola Falls up to Springer Mountain, I talked Ben into driving to a parking lot at Big Stamp Gap, one mile north of the summit of Springer. All three of us hiked the mile up to Springer, took lots of pictures, and made the hike back to the car.

005I remember the mix of emotions that filled the moment of goodbye: feelings of gratitude for my son, driving me to the starting point; feelings of concern for Cathy’s road-trip back to Ohio by herself; feelings of sadness in my heart not knowing when I would see my wife again (I was so fortunate to be able to see her four times during my journey); feelings of excitement for a journey that I had literally dreamed about for over a year; feelings of apprehension knowing that only 25% of thru-hiker wannabes make it to the finish line; and feelings of inspiration having sensed a call to the trail and having received the support of my wife, my kids, my sister, and so many Christian friends; and finally feelings of fear, facing the unknown by myself with very little experience in the back-country.

With last minute hugs and kisses, I turned to face the trail about 9:30. I knew there were several possible hiking goals for the day. There was a shelter 2.8 miles from Springer (Stover Creek Shelter), but I was determined to go further than that. At 8.1 miles, a second shelter, Hawk Mountain Shelter, might be a possibility. Fortunately, I got there around lunch time and enjoyed my first meal sitting in my ultra-light chair at the blue blaze leading to the shelter. The next shelter was at mile marker 15.8, seven more miles down the trail, at Gooch Mountain. I was feeling good and I felt fairly confident that I could do seven more miles in three hours. At mile 10.5, I ran into my first significant mountain, Sassafras Mountain. In one mile of trail, the elevation rose 661 feet. Huffing and puffing, I slowly made it over the mountain, down over the other side and into Copper Gap, only to find Justus Mountain, another nice climb, welcoming me to the AT. The hike was tiring but I was happy when I pitched my tent along the trail about a mile past Gooch Mountain Shelter. It was 5:30 and I had hiked 17 miles (16 miles moving NOBO toward Maine and 1 mile from the parking lot to the top of Springer) – not bad for the first day.

20140426-205857.jpgThere were more emotions at the end of the day. Arriving at camp I was nervous about setting up my tent (I had no major problems, although I got much faster as the hike progressed); concern about my appetite (I was not hungry at all, but my thirst was keen. I had two pop tarts for lunch, some GORMP along the trail, but dinner did not appeal to me); tired but content (it was a good tired – satisfied with the day’s adventure). I remember crawling into my tent so excited about actually being on the AT, feeling so good about the distance traveled; wondering what tomorrow would look like; and ready for some sleep…. it was 7:30.

My hike was filled with extraordinary events and the faithfulness of God. If you’re interested in the full story, check out my book at

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Rowdy, Sassafras Mountain, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Congratulations Beaker!

Today’s post is a tribute to Rusty Miller, a chemist from West Virginia, and his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. He began his journey on February 26, 2017 and crossed his finish line on September 12, 2017 for a total of 189 days.  Many of you have followed my blog and his adventures over the past seven months. This post will be a photo diary of this man’s trip across 14 states and his 5 million steps to the finish line. All of these pictures come from Beaker’s online journal found at:

He began at Springer Mountain, Georgia with red shirt and kilt.

North Carolina brought the Smoky Mountains and cold weather.

Tennessee included a bike ride in Erwin to do some laundry and a lovely waterfall with hiking buddy, 1st Sgt.

There’s always a possibility of snow in April in Virginia, but the wild ponies of Grayson Highlands are always a highlight of a thru-hike.

Becker actually sold his home in WV and bought a new one in Knoxville while on the trail. He took three weeks off trail to move his home from West Virginia to Tennessee. This gave him an opportunity to change his trail persona.

Harpers Ferry, WV is the home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the emotional half-way point of the trail. The true, linear, half way point is in Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Pennsylvania.

The month of June brought the rocky trails of PA, NJ, and NY.

July led Beaker above tree-line in New Hampshire.

August 12 was the day for Mount Katahdin, Maine, the northern terminus of the AT.

20. Mount K

Beaker on lower left

After Katahdin, Beaker went home to Tennessee for two weeks before completing a section of Virginia that he skipped on his NOBO journey to Maine. He returned to the trail on August 27 to complete his 2,200 mile trek of the Appalachian Trail. Moving SOBO, he was dropped off in Waynesboro, VA. by his son, Zack, hiked 315 miles in 19 days, and finished his adventure in Adkins, Virginia at The Barn Restaurant.

What a great journey! I give Beaker a standing ovation and two thumbs up.

Categories: Adkins, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Beaker, Dover Oak, Erwin, Georgia, Grayson Highlands, Harpers Ferry, Maine, McAfee Knob, Mount Katahdin, Mount Moosilauke, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Palmerton, Pine Grove Furnace, Springer Mountain, Tennessee, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thru-Hikes Completed

Beaker made it to Katahdin on August 12, but his thru-hike continues as he returns to a 315-mile section in Virginia that he bypassed earlier in his hike. There have been several hikers who recorded their journeys on that have completed their adventures and climbed to the brown sign on top of Katahdin in Baxter Park. Today’s post will quickly highlight the four individuals that have headed home as thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail.


Salesman at border of GA/NC


Salesman on Katahdin

The first of the journal writers to summit Katahdin was Salesman who finished up on July 9th. He began his adventure on February 20 and, like all four of these hikers, walked through some snow and cold weather during the early days of his walk through 14 states. His trek lasted 140 days which is quite a rapid pace especially through those cold trail days. Salesman’s real name is Mike M and he lives outside of Charlotte, NC. He grew up in East Tennessee and had hiked some sections of the southern AT over the years. He started early because he did not want to compete for shelter or hostel spots in the bubble. Mike had been thinking about an AT thru-hike for about 5 years and was waiting for retirement to make the dream a reality. Congratulations to the Salesman.

Will-da-beast at Springer

Will-da-beast in Georgia


Will-da-beast in Maine

Will-da-beast after hike
Will-da-beast post hike

 Will-da-beast, summitted Katahdin on July 21st after starting at Springer Mountain, Georgia on March 1 for an adventure lasting 143 days. Will-da-beast, Charlie Quattro, is a 53 year-old grandfather who had desired to hike the Appalachian trail for many years. He had many experiences on the AT in the past, having trekked through all of Georgia, part of North Carolina, and all of West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. He began the trail with a long beard but he cut the growth at the brown sign in Maine.  


Whistler – Day One


Whistler – Day 141

Whistler, Bill Monk, from Nova Scotia, Canada, began his epic hike on March 5th and completed the adventure on July 24th. His journey of the  2, 180+ mile trail encompassed 141 days. Bill is married to Annie and they have two sons, Brian and Richard. He and his sons did some hiking on the AT in 2002. He had the privilege to actively support the Annapolis Board of Trade (similar to the Chamber of Commerce in the US) for the past eight years while recently serving two terms as their vice president.  

1st Sgt.Ga

1st Sgt at the Approach Trail – GA

1st Sgt.ME

1st Sgt at the brown sign

First Sergeant, Dave, began his his thru-hike on 23rd  of February and completed his journey on August 10 – a 169-day trek. He is a retired United States Air Force member (30 years) and an avid Geocacher. The rank Dave held for about the last 10 years of his career was First Sergeant (thus the trail name). Hiking the Appalachian Trail had been a dream of Dave’s since he was just a boy. He planned for the hike for more than a year. 1st Sgt hiked two large sections of the AT with Beaker, reaching the summit of Mount Katahdin just two days before the chemist from West Virginia. Dave’s wife Christine joined him a few times during his thru-hike of the trail.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Class of 2017 – January to March: Part 2

As I shared in my last post, there are 139 online journals posted on that reflect a start date on the Appalachian Trail in January, February and March. Of these 139 bloggers, there are only 27 active journals at the end of the day on July 8. Let me give you a quick update on these “early starters.”


Buttercup and D.P.Roberts

Just today, July 9th, another journal shared its final entry as a knee injury is forcing a couple from Germany, Buttercup and D.P.Roberts, off the trail. Their diary was written in German so I found a German translation app to help me understand their posts. They had reached Wind Gap in Pennsylvania. The boulders of PA claimed another twist and in just that quick of a moment the hike needed to be postponed and abandoned. Therefore only 26 remain.

There is no one left on the trail who began their trek in January. Only six of the 27 hikers began the journey in February while the remaining 21 (including Buttercup and D.P.Roberts) initiated their adventure in March. 1st Sgt. and Beaker, the hiking buddies that I am following more closely, started the journey 2 days apart – 1st Sgt. began on February 24 and Beaker left Springer Mountain on Feb 26.


Springer Mountain Southern Terminus

All 26 hikers still on the trail began in Springer Mountain, Georgia and are hiking northbound (NOBO) although two hikers have just decided to do a Flip Flop – a hike that stops hiking NOBO, travels to Maine, climbs Katahdin while the weather is still nice, and then turns around and heads southbound (SOBO) to completion.  

These brave adventurers are spread out over seven different states. In addition to the two flip floppers who are in Maine, three other NOBOers find themselves hiking their last state. The leader of this group is Salesman, from Charlotte, NC, who is very close to his victory climb to the top of Katahdin. Four of the thru-hikers are in Vermont; another four in Massachusetts; one in New York; one in New Jersey; nine are fighting through the rocks of Pennsylvania; and three are still working their way up the state of Virginia.

The journals that remain are recording the adventures of  sixteen men, four women, and six couples. I pray that each has an amazing experience and I will be excited to see how many are able to complete this physically and emotionally challenging event.  

Photo of  Buttercup and D.P.Roberts found at
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Class of 2017, Georgia, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Pennsylvania, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at