Posts Tagged With: Springer Mountain

Grateful 2: A Week of Slackpacking

Grateful 2 is a thru-hiker from Tennessee. He began his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail on March 18th with his son, Gooseman. With many tears, his son has had to abandon his hike and Grateful 2 will continue alone. My last post left Grateful 2 at Rock Gap Shelter, 106 miles from the southern terminus of the AT in Springer Mountain, Georgia about 30 miles into the great state of North Carolina. Let’s pick up his journal on April 1st.

April 1 Rock Gap to Winding Stair Gap – 3.9 miles

“We all anticipate when we get close to the roads out here. The roads bring change for us. First we notice the trail is descending. Then we hear the cars in the distance. Then we see the road. Anticipation. Sometimes the road is a ride into town. Sometimes it holds a trail angel who has set up a hamburger feed. For me today it is the anticipation that my wife and Gooseman are waiting at the next road crossing. And there they are!” The family will spend the next several days together, Grateful 2 will be slackpacking the trailheads, carrying less, experiencing easier hikes because of the lessened load, sleeping in a real bed at night and eating in restaurants. Best of all, the family will get to spend some time together.

April 2 Winding Stair Gap to Burningtown Gap 14.6 miles

Grateful 2 is up early for his wife to drive him to the trailhead at Winding Stair Gap. “I’m hiking faster today than I have yet on this trip. I only have a small day pack and it makes a huge difference. Almost 15 miles today, and I still get to eat at a restaurant with my wife for supper.” 

April 3 Burningtown Gap to Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) 12.9 miles

“Big drop in elevation today. From 5100 to 1770 feet. The climb over the jump-off was very difficult for a guy with a fear of heights. The worst yet. So glad it wasn’t raining. When I got to the NOC we ate an amazing meal called a Sherpa.”

April 4 Zero Day at the NOC

Grateful 2 woke up to a severe weather forecast. He quickly decided that the forecast required a zero day. His family enjoyed a meal at the Sunset Restaurant. They met the owners of the establishment and the food was delicious, especially the pies. After a visit to Walmart, the family just hung out at the room and enjoyed the visit.

April 5 From NOC to Stecoach Gap = 13.4 miles

First thing this morning Grateful 2 visited the NOC and registered for a permit to go through the Smokies. Then, it was the ascent out of the NOC. About an hour into the hike, the rain started to fall… along with thunder and lightning. Fortunately the bad weather had passed by the area before Grateful 2 got to the top of Cheoah Bald. After the summit of Cheoah Bald (2,040 feet) there is a steady 5-mile descent down into Stecoah Gap. The last mile is extremely steep and Grateful 2 described the adventure, “The hike down to Stecoah Gap was the worst 1 mile mud slip-and-slide I’ve ever been on. So glad to see my wife and son in the parking lot to take me back to the motel!” 

April 6 Zero Day at the Stecoah Gap

Snow is predicted for tomorrow morning with winds expected to be forty plus miles an hour. A winter weather advisory is in effect for tomorrow until noon. Tomorrow Grateful 2 has decided to get up early and go to the Nantahala Forestry Ranger station located in Franklin to find out about the weather before he goes up the mountain. This last zero day together as a family included a visit to Walmart again, the Chinese AYCE buffet again, and the outfitter again. They are living the dream.

April 7  From Stecoah Gap to Yellow Creek Mountain = 7.7 miles.

Grateful 2 got up early and we went to First Baptist Church Franklin for a free hiker breakfast of pancakes, orange juice and bacon. Grateful 2 estimated there were seventy hikers in attendance. After breakfast Grateful 2 went over to the forest service to check on the weather and road closures. Everything was open and there was only a dusting of snow in Franklin, so it was time to hike. He hiked a quick 8 miles and then it was back to the car. Grateful 2 has really enjoyed the slack packing approach, “Man, am l going to miss slackpacking. It is the heavy pack that makes hiking the mountains so difficult.” The most notable feature on today’s adventure was Jacob’s Ladder…six hundred feet of elevation change in 0.6 mile, straight up the side of the mountain with no switchbacks. It only took Grateful 2 about twenty minutes to make the ascent, but he described it as “a lung-burner.”

Tomorrow Grateful 2’s family will be headed home and the separation will be about 8 weeks – tough goodbyes in the morning.

Info and photo from Grateful 2’s journal located at http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=1093480
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Gooseman, Grateful 2, Nantahala Outdoor Center, North Carolina, Tennessee, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Introducing Grateful 2

Before and After –
prepping for the AT

I enjoy following a few thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail closely each season through their online journals (trailjournals.com). I have already posted several articles on Beaker, the retired chemist from Morgantown, West Virginia. My niece’s husband was a co-worker with Beaker in WV. so I felt I already had some connection to the mountaineer.

I like to follow at least one hiker per month. Some of the brave explorers do not make it to the end, so I track several with the hopes that many will trek the necessary 5 million steps through all 14 states. I love to read some of the back stories of the hikers and discover some individuals with whom I can identify and find interesting.

Beaker left the end of February so I began to explore those who stepped out in March. It wasn’t long before I found Grateful 2 and his son Gooseman, natives of Chattanooga, Tennessee who plan to thru-hike together from Georgia to Maine. Grateful 2, real name David Hunter, has had this incredible journey on his bucket list for more than 30 years and an added bonus is the reality that his 24-year-old son is joining the trek.

David will face some challenges. He shares in one of his pre-hike posts, “I’ve had lingering foot issues. My right foot has undergone 5 major surgeries with plates, screws, and fusions. My left foot has developed plantar faciitis in the last year that required a cortisone shot and extensive rehab. Both of my shoulders have been replaced. Besides that, I’m getting older and can’t do what I used to do.” I began to identify with Grateful 2 when he wrote, “I’m sitting on the back porch of our home in Chattanooga overlooking the Cumberland Valley. It’s a beautiful view. God has created an incredible world. I can’t wait to explore it on foot.” The spiritual part of the thru hike was so important to me and one of the major factors of my successful journey. Another journal entry written before he started his hike resonated with my spirit, “Why am I going? I’m not sure I can answer that myself either. It’s almost like the mountains are calling to me. It’s something I must do. I love being outside. I love the endorphin release I get when I hike long distances. It’s something I’ve known I must do … Now this is my chance. I don’t want to waste it.” This is the same drive that dominated my thinking for 14 months before I stepped out on my thru-hike in 2014.

Over the next few posts, I would like to catch you up on Grateful 2’s adventure. Right now, let’s look at their first two days.

March 18 Grateful 2 and Gooseman started from Springer Mountain, Georgia, the southern terminus of the AT. Day one resulted in 7.4 miles and concluded at the Hawk Mountain campsite.

March 19 Dad and son hiked from Hawk Mountain to Gooch Mountain Shelter – 8.4 miles.

Grateful 2 recorded, “When we got up this am it was colder than I expected. My thermometer said 25 degrees. It warmed up during the day to maybe 65, which made for a beautiful day of hiking. So warm, in fact, that both Gooseman and I got sunburned. From 25 freezing degrees to sunburn, and we were outside for all of it!”

 

All information and photos come from Grateful 2’s online journal at http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=559189

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Georgia, Gooseman, Grateful 2, Hawk Mountain, Springer Mountain, Tennessee, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker the Chemist

 

My wonderful mother-in-law is 90 years-old and lives in Wild Wonderful West Virginia. This past weekend Cathy, my bride of almost 45 years, and I piled into our 1999 Toyota Camry and drove from our house in the Buckeye state to the home of the Mountaineers in Morgantown. Our son, Matt, also lives in Morgantown and we enjoyed a weekend of reunion with him as well as a special time with Cat’s mom.

Cathy’s three brothers live close by, so Nana’s house was visited by many during our four-day stay in the Mountain State. One afternoon, my niece and her family including four fantastic, energetic children came for lunch and a time of nice conversation. In the midst of family talk, Bekah shared that a coworker of her husband at the pharmaceutical company was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Any mention of the trail perks my ears to attention and opens my eyes with more than a twinkle of interest.

Bekah shared that the chemist’s name was Rusty Miller and he had the opportunity to take an early retirement with perks allowing him to hike the trail with funds from a severance package and the benefit of health insurance. With a first name like Rusty, I thought his trail name would be an easy decision. To my surprise, I found out his name on the AT is Beaker. What a great name for a chemist!

Two minutes into my chat with Bekah I was hooked into following Beaker’s blog and taking another vicarious hike through 14 states.  Beaker began his adventure on Sunday February 26. He began in Amicalola Falls State Park and traveled the 8.8-mile approach trail to Springer Mountain, the official start of the Appalachian Trail.  This approach trail contains a brutal start with 650 steps leading up to the falls. The approach trail, itself, has been enough to discourage many hikers to the place of throwing in the towel. Beaker, however, arrived in great spirits.

When he reached the summit, he found eight other pioneers – folks from Florida, New Hampshire, New York, Philadelphia, Paris and South Africa. This country and even the world gather at the southern terminus of this granddaddy of long trails. The AT is truly an international pathway to the Appalachian Mountains. The octave of hikers decided to camp together in the shelter or pitch their tents nearby. It was indeed a great day for the chemist from West Virginia. More of his story to follow…..

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Georgia, Hiking, Ohio, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Hiking Into Retirement

My blog has been silent for several months, even though my life has been spinning in many directions. Early last summer I was given the opportunity to serve my school as both the Superintendent and the Hugh School Principal. From the enrollment of new students to the hiring of teachers to building a master schedule of classes to the faculty orientation to the start of school, my summer’s agenda was filled with variety and demand. School opened its doors in August and the return of students brought athletics, concerts, schedule changes, teachers’ meetings, state reports, faculty observations, board meetings, and the mountain of administrivia.

But then came a sense of peace. The board of trustees renewed their two-year-old commitment to find a new Head of School. As the search began, I knew that the time was right to retire. I have enjoyed an action-packed 34 years in Christian School education. And yet, the decision to pass the leadership baton to others more qualified and filled with the youthful energy of the pink rabbit was filled with relief. I will complete this school year but will erase the chalkboard for the last time in June. There is a sense of sorrow to leave my friends and colleagues but a huge anticipation to discover what lies on the other side of the retirement door.

All of that to say, one of my passions is writing…. another is hiking. So, I anticipate in retirement an opportunity to fill some blog pages with research and personal experiences on the trail. This past January one of my closest colleagues and I were able to offer a two-week class to high school students on hiking. Now hiking in Ohio in January is a risk – a risk of bitter cold weather, slippery trails, inches of snow, and high winds that can blow a man sideways. It was a blast and I had so much fun trekking the trails with teenagers (and getting paid for it). More insights into this extraordinary group of high school students in an upcoming post.

I attended two hiking workshops in the last month that were both interesting and impactful on my hiking plans for the future. One workshop focused on the John Muir Trail in California and the other on the Buckeye Trail, a loop around the state of Ohio. Stay tuned for some of my reflections in the next few posts.

The Appalachian Trail is in my blood and I experience some sort of reminder in the wind every day of Springer Mountain and Mount Katahdin and the two thousand + miles in between. Hike It Forward pages to come will highlight some of the brave (and crazy) people who have declared themselves as thru-hikers during this 2017 season.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Dayton Christian, Hike It Forward, Hiking, Mount Katahdin, Ohio, Retirement, Springer Mountain, Students, Thru-Hike, Trail | Tags: , , , , | 19 Comments

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon – Successful Thru-hikers

fat-hen-on-katahdinThis spunky couple from the state of New York hiked together through the 14 states of the Appalachian Trail and made their final climb up Mount Katahdin on October 9, 2016. Beginning their adventure from Springer Mountain, Georgia on March 19, 2016, Dano and Becky hiked NOBO (north bound) for 205 days (206 if you want to include the approach trail up from Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain).

Since I last reported their progress on September 13, Fat Hen (Dano) and Rooster Talon (Becky) made two journal posts. One on September 27 from the beginning of the 100 mile wilderness in Maine, and the second on October 9, sharing their victory on top of the big mountain in Baxter State Park, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

The journey through northern New Hampshire and Maine, with the exception of a few foggy days, was clear and beautiful revealing magnificent vistas with 100+ miles of visibility. Any hiker reflection referencing this part of the trail must include a statement about Mahoosuc Notch and the Arm that follows. The experience brought a mixed review form the couple and their post captured their take on the most difficult mile on the AT, “We allotted about 2 hours for it and it took us 3. The first 2 hours were adventurous, climbing under, over and through huge rocks, challenging and unforgiving… The last hour was the worst night hike of our lives, treacherous and dangerous, frustrating and slippery. We stumbled out, into a campsite and spent the evening talking about unnecessary risks.”

They stopped in Caratunk, Maine and like all good hikers searched for a good meal. They found one in the form of a foot high cheeseburger called ‘the exterminator.’ It consisted of “two, 1 pound patties of beef, cheese, fried pickles, a battered-fried chicken breast, battered and fried mac n’ cheese, onion rings, bacon, and barbecue sauce on 3 buns surrounded by spiced potato wedges… One of the best burgers I’ve had in my life!” 

The weather turned cold in Maine and the night temperatures fluctuated down at the freezing mark, but they were determined to complete the adventure and October 5th brought them face to face with Mount Katahdin. The 8.5 mile hike to the summit concluded about 12:30 in the afternoon and the picture at the brown sign shows a beautiful day with clear skies and a beautiful view from the summit.

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon

As they reflected back over their experience they were pleased with the hike they made.

“Our hike didn’t skip an inch. We walked every single step, northbound, from Amicalola GA to the summit of Mt. Katahdin in ME…. with absolutely NO ‘yellow blazing’ (taking a shuttle to skip hard or ‘boring’ parts) and no ‘reverse slack packing’ (leaving all your gear at a hostel and getting a ride north to walk difficult sections easier in reverse… to better explain: a ride to the top of a challenging climb so you can walk down hill without any of your gear). Everyone who hikes this trail does so for their own reasons and in their own way, but for Becky and I, it was important not to rely on tricks and gimmicks, but to tackle this honestly, together.”

Rooster Talon and Fat Hen – Congratulations on your successful thru-hike and the integrity of your journey and thanks for recording and sharing your journal online! I applaud your efforts, diligence, and enthusiasm.

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Fat Hen, Mahoosuc Notch, Maine, Mount Katahdin, New Hampshire, NOBO, Rooster Talon, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Scarfoot – So Close!

Scarfot's Office Space

Scarfot’s Office Space

Scarfoot is a thru-hiker that does not provide his real name in his journal, but his real life before the trail was based in Boston, Massachusetts, where he worked at an investment firm. He decided to exchange his cubical for the canopy of the Appalachian Trail. This choice was not an impulsive decision, but rather one of advanced planning and preparation.

Scarfoot began by losing 50 pounds and addressing several other physical challenges. The Bostonian found himself with major allergies: tree, grass and weed pollen, mold, dust mites, dog and cat – pretty hard to avoid such things on the trail while occasionally staying in hostels/cheap hotels. He also discovered that he was allergic to bees and wasps. So Scarfoot found some allergy treatments – four shots at a time. Scarfoot also struggled with planter fasciitis causing severe heal pain and making hiking very difficult. He attempted to counter this challenge with custom orthotics and Strassburg socks (a sock designed to be worn at night that keeps the plantar fascia in a stretched position, helping to increase flexibility in the morning).

[Just a quick aside – according to the Mayo Clinic, plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It involves pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. Plantar fasciitis commonly causes stabbing pain that usually occurs with your very first steps in the morning. Once your foot limbers up, the pain of plantar fasciitis normally decreases. It is particularly common in runners, people who are overweight, and those who wear shoes with inadequate support. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/plantar-fasciitis/basics/definition/con-20025664 ]

Scarfoot was also concerned about some emotional issues. He suffered from panic attacks and found that sleeping alone in the woods and major heights caused times of intense angst. This is quite a challenge for those considering a thru-hike of the AT. He purchased custom-fitted ear plugs for sleeping. In addition, Scarfoot is married to Ellie who expressed concern with his adventure. Although supportive of her husband, she worried for his safety. So, Scarfoot took a wilderness first-aid course and purchased SPOT, a Satellite GPS Messenger, used by many hikers to reach emergency responders, check-in with family or friends, share GPS coordinates and track the route of the adventure – all at the push of a button and at the cost of about $150.

Atop Mount Madison

Atop Mount Madison

Scarfoot researched trail gear for three years and was attracted to the ultralight approach to long- distance hiking. He organized and reorganized his summer pack until he reached a backpack weight of only 10 pounds (My pack weight varied but I think my lightest burden was 25 pounds).

Hikes of preparation were also part of Scarfoot’s three-year training program. Year one included a four-day hike in Massachusetts; year two embraced a ten-day hike from the Hudson River, New York to the Massachusetts Turnpike just above Upper Goose Pond (about 145 miles); and during year he three logged a 135-mile, 7-day hike through most of Vermont.

Scarfoot was ready. His last day at work April 6th and he was on the trail on April 10. He hiked the 8.8 mile approach trail from Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia on April 9th and began his actual AT miles from Springer Mountain on Sunday the 10th. All the training and preparation enable Scarfoot to make very good time hiking though the Appalachian Trail.

Then came this surprising post on Day 140 of his adventure, August 27th,

“Well this is it. No summit photo. No finish…. The trail becomes very technical with big boulders above tree line. Very dangerous and not what I signed up for. One more mile of very nasty trail remained then the ‘tablelands’. In the meantime it follows a ridge with shear drops behind and both sides in places. I could do it physically but would have hated every moment of it. I got what I wanted out of this. I was in it for the hike and that last 2.3 miles was mountain climbing to me not hiking. At the hostel met a woman who broke 4 ribs yesterday on Baxter. Seams I made the right choice at least for me.”

With 2.3 miles left to complete the journey, Scarfoot turns around. Over half way up Mount Katahdin, his hike was over. I continue to look for another post that shares a successful return and climb to the brown sign, but nothing appears.

scarfootI personally found the climb out of Palmerton, Pennsylvania a much more technical climb than Katahdin and yet Scarfoot journals (on June 6, 2016), “Rocks getting worse and lasting longer between breaks. Got stuck in the middle of a 40 person Korean hiking club on the rockiest toughest climb yet over the superfund site. Real rock scramble.”

I also wondered what his experience was over the Whites and into the first 100 miles of Maine. I wondered how he responded over Mount Washington, another nice climb on the trail. He simply mentions on August 3, “Was warm, sunny and practically no wind so fantastic weather.” Two days later (August 5), he climbs Mount Madison and descends into Pinkham Notch. His comments: Tough day for 13 miles. Two 2000 foot climbs plus the smaller ones. Very steep. The last down was incredible. Easily the hardest steepest down so far.

I also checked his journal on August 8th, the day he reached Mahoosuc Notch (one of the most difficult miles on the trail). He had completed the Notch and the major climb up Mahoosuc Arm by noon. The notch only took Scarfoot 1 hour and 45 minutes to navigate, compared to my 3 hours and 20 minutes. He noted, “The arm was very steep. Took 9 hours to do 12 miles today.”

I feel so badly for Scarfoot. He was so close and he conquered so much. He made the decision that he felt best and I admire him for his convictions. May he realize that he is indeed a thru-hiker. The sign is not the goal – the journey is the reward. He shared that he walked away from the trail with what he wanted – the true meaning of Hike Your Own Hike (HYOH).

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Mahoosuc Notch, Massachusetts, Mount Katahdin, Mount Madison, Mount Washington, Scarfoot, The Whites, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GA-ME: SlipKnot – Matt McCoy

SlipKnot – Matt McCoy

January 8, 2016 Started at Springer Mountain

August 3, 2016 Climbed the Summit of Mount Katahdin

Total Days of Adventure – 209

Slip KnotOf the pilgrims that I am following on trailjournals.com, the latest hiker to summit Katahdin after a successful thru-hike from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Maine is Matt McCoy from Vermont. His trail name is SlipKnot and he is the only hiker that started his online journal in January that made it to Maine. Thus far his 209 days on the trail is the longest thru-hike that I have traced.  I am happy for him as he joins the Appalachian Trail Thru-hiker Class of 2016!

SlipKnot purposely selected early January in his thru-hike strategy because he was genuinely excited about experiencing some winter-hiking. He was not disappointed as the snow caused him to initially skip the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in the later part of January. Again, in the middle of February, a winter storm forced him to skip over the forty-five miles of trail between Erwin and Roan Mountain in the state of Tennessee. He faithfully traveled back to these two areas in early March to hike these high-elevation areas.

His most compelling reason for starting in January was simply to provide the maximum amount of time to reach Katahdin. Matt is retired from an electric company in Vermont so he used his lack of employment responsibilities to slow the pace of his hike and provide some breaks along the way. He averaged 10.5 miles a day. He did put in some SlipKnot.January snowlong days, trekking somewhere between 19 to 21 miles per day on fifteen occasions. His longest day of 21.1 miles on June 4 while hiking in Massachusetts. He took two rather extended breaks from the trail (about a week each time) to visit family and enjoy a much needed respite in the comfort of home, sweet home.

Slip Knot on KatahdinHis trail name? Matt explains his trail name, SlipKnot, as reflecting three significant meanings for him. First, it’s characteristic of how he ties a bowline. Second, before the AT hike experience, Matt had never slipped while hiking. And third, SlipKnot is a fan of the heavy metal band of the same name. The second aspect of his name (never slipping) only lasted 15 days into the adventure when a trip root brought him to his knees. The Appalachian Trail seems pretty zealous to provide some humility for hikers along the way.

SlipKnot summited Mount Katahdin with his youngest daughter. In his last post he was careful to thank his supportive wife and two older daughters for their encouragement throughout the seven months process. Congratulations to SlipKnot on his amazing accomplishment!

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Erwin, GSMNP, Maine, Massachusetts, Mount Katahdin, Slip Knot, Snow, Springer Mountain, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

North Star on Katahdin

North Star – Alan Kamman

Started from Springer Mountain, Georgia, on March 2, 2016

Summited Mountain Katahdin, Maine, on July 24, 2016

Total Number of Days on the Trail – 145 days

Northstar 7.24.16

North Star On Katahdin

Alan Kamman, known as North Star on the Appalachian Trail, began his attempted thru-hike on March 2, 2016. Alan lives in Lincoln, Vermont. He was granted a leave of absence as a high school guidance counselor at Mt. Abraham Union Middle/High School in Bristol, Vermont. Mt. Abraham is a 7-12 public Middle/High School that serves the five-town district comprised of Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton, New Haven, and Starksboro.

Alan considers himself an avid outdoorsman. He enjoys hiking, alpine skiing, hunting, fishing, and backpacking. He also likes bushwhacking with the goal of finding antler drops (sheds) from moose and deer. He explains in his pre-hike journal, “These [antlers] are best found in the early. I have learned a great deal about moose and seen quite a few just by wandering around their home turf. Once I got run off a hill top by a cow moose. That was an unnerving experience but a good reminder. I have been in close proximity to many moose including some sizeable bulls. While I love seeing large wildlife up close, I have no interest in snakes or ticks!  I think this insight reflects a pretty good perspective of an avid outdoorsman.

Northstar PromoPrior to stepping out on the Appalachian Trail, Alan shared in his online journal his passion and drive to hike this 2,186 mile, 14-state path from Georgia to Maine: “When I was thirteen years old, all I wanted to do in the world was hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. It consumed much of my thought through reading and actual hiking. Over the years, circumstance led me away from that goal. Work, marriage, and family have brought me to my 53rd year happy and healthy, but with that lifelong dream un-fulfilled. My desire to hike the A.T. has never waned and in fact, watching my close colleague and two of my students successfully make this hike, it has grown into a bit of an obsession.”

Northstar 3.2.16

North Star at Springer Mountain, GA

North Star’s comfort with outdoor experiences goes much deeper than the two “practice” hikes. He has completed the Long Trail in Vermont and also hiked to the summit of all the 4000 foot peaks in New Hampshire (48) and Vermont (5). He also spent four summers and two fall/winters working within the Appalachian Mountain Club hut system in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Alan has the background and expertise from someone you would expect to put together a successful thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. And he did!

Cheryl (Wonder) and Kelly (Santa), previously featured in one of my posts as part of the class of 2016, met North Star along their adventure and noted how fast and competent he was on the trail. They shared in their journal that North Star’s daughter had a wedding date in mid-August so Alan seemed highly motivated to conclude his adventure in July. He accomplished this goal rather nicely. My congratulations to North Star with blessings on his daughter’s marriage.

Categories: Alan Kamman, Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Maine, Moose, Mount Katahdin, North Star, Snakes, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Hiking Class of 2016 – Making Progress

I have been following a small group of thru-hikers that began their journeys in 2016. These hikers have chosen to track their trek on TrailJournals.com. I am following three thru-hikes very closely but let me give you a broader update on the class of 2016.

Winter StreamFour hikers actually began their thru-hike attempts in January. Two decided to leave the trail before January turned to February. One hiker lasted until March 20th before ending his attempt. And one, who started January 8th, is still on the trail and was camped in Vermont on June 11 having hiked 1,641 miles. One out of four (25%) is about the average for successful thru-hikes.

February was the start month for 20 brave hikers. Eight of those treks have ended and 3 more are questionable. They are in question because they have not journaled for several weeks but they have not declared that have returned home. After 8 weeks of silence, I will assume that they have ended their adventures. Some might be tired of journaling and are still trucking down the path, but my chart will show them as AWOL. For the purpose of this blog, I will include the questionable hikers as current on the trail. So 12 of the 20 that began in February are still active reflecting a 60% success rate.

March is the most popular month to start the Appalachian Trail – 101 of the hikers that have chosen to journal jumped on the trail during March. Thirty-eight of those brave adv20140518-102659.jpgenturers have had to walk away from the trail (15 more in a questionable status) leaving 63 active pilgrims (62% still hiking).

April attracted 50 thru-hikers to the trail. Eighteen have needed to return home while 32, about 64%, remain walking the AT. May reflects a significant decrease in hikers with only 15 individuals slated to journal about their adventure. Of those 15, two hikers have already pulled themselves from the trek. A nice 87% remain, although 3 have been silent for several weeks.

Sixteen individuals reflect a start date sometime in June, two people hope to leave in July, and one man is projecting an August 1 start date. I plan to watch these future backpackers as they put their dreams into action.

Coach.216Of all the journals that I am tracking, only one hiker has completed his hike, summiting Mount Katahdin on June 11, 2016. His trail name in “Coach” and he left Springer Mountain on February 19. I have not read his entire journal, but he made excellent time, completing the hike in 114 days! Coach, real name: Ken Durham, hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2015 so he is not a novice to long trails. Congratulations to this fine hiker.

 

Winter trail found at https://blueridgetreks.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/spy-rock-va-winter-backpack/

Spring Photo – Rowdy’s 2014 hike

Photo of Coach http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=537793

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Hiking, Journaling, Mount Katahdin, Pacific Crest Trail, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Two Peas Reach Harpers Ferry and Beyond

Two Peas .1000 milesKristin and Robert (Moonbeam and Big Cypress) began their hike of the Appalachian Trail on February 13. Their post on May 13 came from Harpers Ferry, WV, the psychological half-way point of the AT. It is about 72 miles short of the actual lineal half-way point. But Harpers Ferry houses the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters and all thru-hikers get their picture taken in front of the building and their mug shot is included in the official photo-log kept by the conservancy. Emotionally, for the hikers, this is a really big deal and a huge milestone.

We last saw the Two Peas on May 10 in Front Royal, Virginia. They had three excellent hiking days (averaging over 19 miles per day) making their way into West Virginia. Around the 1000 mile marker there is an excellent hostel called the Bears Den. The two Peas arrived on May 12:

We arrived at Bears Den at 5:30 pm. It’s a castle like stone lodge and boy oh boy do we love it!! For $30pp we get a bunk, shower, laundry with soap, sheets and blankets, pizza, soda and pint of fancy ice cream or gelato AND pancakes in the morning!! AND the accommodations are CLEAN!! Even the shower!! We are in hiker heaven!!

Two Peas at Harpers FerryOn May 13, the couple arrived in Harpers Ferry and got their photo taken for posterity in front of the ATC Headquarters. Notice the assigned hiker number they are given when they sign in. I was hiker number 924 during my thru-hiker to give you a perspective.

Big Cypress had 3 falls today, although he said only 2; since one his rear was close to a rock anyway and when he lost footing, he just “sat down”. One spill was a fall into a good tree, causing elbow & forearm scrape! The other fall was on a slick rock, serious enough that it could have been hike ending!! After evaluating body parts were all ok, he was insistent that we press on and not make a big deal over it. We got our picture taken and logged in as Thru Hikers 159 & 160. At Springer GA we were 64 & 65.

Half Gallon Challenge

They spent three days in Harpers Ferry visiting with family and then pushed for 7 days, hiking through the state of Maryland and into Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania. They reached my favorite trail town (Boiling Springs, PA) on day 100 of their adventure (May 21) and decided to take another zero day in this incredibly quaint community. They have hiked over 1115 miles, celebrating the true half-way point on day 98. As for the tradition of the half-gallon challenge……….

I couldn’t do the half gallon challenge (eat a half gallon of ice cream) and after our buffalo chicken wrap and hiker burger with fries and Amish apple pie, Big Cypress was too full to attempt it!!

I love following this couple and I am so encouraged by their progress, but no ice cream?? really??

The next thirty miles of hiking will be filled with great terrain and easy paths. Then comes the rocks! They will be very close to the top of my prayer list as they begin to experience the challenges of Pennsylvania.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Bears Den Hostl, Boiling Springs, Half Gallon Challenge, Harpers Ferry, Two Peas | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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