Posts Tagged With: West Virginia

Easter on the Trail

Beaker left the Appalachian Trail on April 13th in order to return to Morgantown, WV, pack up all his belongings, and move to Knoxville, TN. He and his wife sold their West Virginia home while Beaker was on the trail; they met in Knoxville (hometown of their son) and bought a house within three days; now they are packing up and making the move. Beaker will be off the trail for a couple of weeks. When he returns I will continue his story.

Meanwhile, on April 12th, Grateful 2 made it to Newfound Gap, TN. – close to the half-way point through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He quickly hitched a ride from Newfound Gap into Gatlinburg and planned to take it easy on Thursday.

April 13 (Thursday)

Grateful 2 rested in Gatlinburg today. The “zero” day was filled with sleeping, eating, watching TV, eating, planning for the trail ahead, and eating.

April 14 (Friday)

From Gatlinburg (Newfound Gap) to Pecks Corner Shelter (GSMNP) = 11.0 miles

Grateful 2 commented on the beauty of the trail today. The incredible views were mixed with some apprehension because the trail included a narrow ridge walk. Grateful found himself on top of the ridge walking a path about three feet wide with drop offs on each side.  At some points the drop offs were 80 or 85 degrees on both sides. Grateful 2 is afraid of heights which filled the adventure with added anxiety. Grateful’s solution, “I just look at the trail and put one foot in front of the other.” 
April 15 (Saturday) From Pecks Corner Shelter to Cosby Knob Shelter (GSMNP) = 12.9 miles

Grateful 2 reported a pretty uneventful day. His trek through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) is progressing well as he logged in over a dozen miles. He hiked most of the day with a 61-year-old hiker from St. Louis, trail name: Persistent.  Grateful 2’s feet bothered him a little during today’s hike, but his progress kept him positive. A strong hike tomorrow promises an exit from the GSMNP – a major milestone on any thru-hike.

April 16 (Easter Sunday) Crosby Know Shelter to Standing Bear Hostel = 10.7 miles

Grateful 2 made it out of the Smokies! His Easter hike is best described in his own words,

As I climbed down from 5000 feet to 1500 feet I noticed a distinct change. Life on the trees and ground in the form of leaves! I had not seen leaves on trees on the trail since I began the journey. It was so good to see this sign of life. It almost felt like I walked from winter to spring in a few hours. Gone were the bare tree trunks and solid brown floor covering. In its place were millions of little fluorescent green tree flags and wildflowers everywhere. There was mayapple, dwarf iris, bluets, trillium, and rue anemone ..… From death to life in such a short time. Kind of appropriate for this Easter Day, don’t you think?”

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Gatlinburg, Grateful 2, GSMNP, Knoxville, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Trail Name, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker to Hot Springs, NC

On March 22nd, Beaker, the Mountaineer chemist from Morgantown WV, was camped at Groundhog Creek Shelter just north of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). His spirits were high as he hoped for a two-day journey into the first trail on the AT headed north, Hot Springs, NC.

Beaker’s Day on Max Patch

3/23/17 Destination: Walnut Mountain Shelter, NC. Hiking miles today – 13.1 miles.

March 23 was a beautiful day on the AT – clear skies and full sunshine. Beaker’s hike today was to include another AT highlight – Max Patch. Max Patch, large grassy bald, was originally cleared several years ago for cattle grazing. The bald has become a special spot for hikers because of its incredible 360 degree views of the mountains. Finally, Beaker got to enjoy the view with clouds and rain robbing the panoramic.

Beaker arrived at Walnut Mountain Shelter and was greeted by about 20 other hikers. From his tent he writes, “The wind is roaring up the mountain, my tent is shaking and the guy lines are buzzing in the wind. It will be a brisk night. That’s alright because tomorrow we reach Hot Springs, NC and a much-needed zero day,,,It’s been a week since I’ve showered. I stink!

Beaker and others enjoy the Hot Springs

3/24/17 Beaker stays at the Sunnybank Inn, in the trail town of Hot Springs, NC. 13.1 miles today.

“We all come out here for our own reasons; but, a part of it for all of us is to get away, on some level, from current society. However, we are all drawn in by the towns. After seven days in the woods, a town visit was long overdue. In town, you don’t have to filter water, sleep on the ground, or poop in a hole. Life in town is a brief respite from the rigors of the trail.”

Beaker wasted no time taking advantage of the town of Hot Springs, NC. The first order of business was a long, hot shower; then a trip to the laundromat; and finally food – lunch at the Smoky Mountain Diner. Beaker and several hikers visited the hot springs of Hot Springs, NC

3/25/17 Hot Springs, NC. Zero day in Hot Springs.

Beaker took advantage of the day of rest to refuel, resupply, and rejuvenate those tired legs. After breakfast he did some planning and estimated how many days it would take to make it to Erwin, TN and how much food he’d need for the journey. He sorted through his pack and sent home a few items, such as micro spikes.  He also made some longer term plans including some off-the-trail days at Adkins, VA around Easter to make his move to Knoxville, with a strategy to return to the trail in early May.

Tenting along service road

3/26/17 Back on the trail. 14.8 mile hike today ending at a stealth camp near Allen Gap, NC.

Beaker experienced a restless night at Elmer’s awaking with aches all over. He did not want to get out of bed but eventually he got his hiking stuff organized and packed. He started his day in the rain, but it didn’t last long and the sun broke out turning gray to blue.

By the time Beaker reached Allen Gap, he was feverish and dizzy. Being one of the last to arrive most of the flat spots were occupied, but he found a site on an old forest service road that ran close to the campsite. Soon, two other hikers joined him (see photo).

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Hot Springs, Max Patch, North Carolina, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker Thru The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Beaker, Rusty Miller, from Morgantown, WV is a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail. He began his adventure during the last week of February and found himself snowbound in Knoxville for a few days. This post picks up his story as he leaves Knoxville and his lovely visit with his wife and heads up the trail toward the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).

3/18/17 ends at Russell Field Shelter in the GSMNP after hiking 15.7 miles. After a rainstorm during the night at Knoxville, the morning dawned gray and overcast; Beaker’s son, Chris and his wife, Marguerite accompanied him back to Fontana Village. The chemist from WV had a last goodbye and then headed up into the Great Smoky Mountains.

Beaker planned to push straight through the Smokies in five days. The climb up the mountain proved to be pretty tough, but he arrived at the Russell Field shelter and found it filled with a Boy Scout troop and other thru hikers. So, he happily pitched his tent close by and went to sleep listening to coyotes howling in the distance.

3/19/17 Today’s hike totaled another 14.7 miles and ended at Siler’s Bald Shelter, NC. The hike was quite difficult as Beaker encountered snow, ice, mud, rocks, roots, steep ascents, and steep descents. On the northern slopes there was a great deal of ice and snow. Beaker even broke out his microspikes today. His evaluation of the spikes, “They were incredible! It made a huge difference on the icy sections.”

3/20/17 Another day in the GSMNP concluded at Icewater Spring Shelter for a total mileage for the day of 15.1. Two highlights awaiting this day’s journey: arriving at the highest point of the AT, Clingman’s Dome, and crossing the North Carolina/Tennessee border. His reflection of the first highlight, “It was a fairly long and steep climb up Clingman’s Dome; but, the sun was hanging in there. As I was nearing the summit, I saw the clouds moving in. Alas, by the time I reached the weird tower on top with the curving walkway, the clouds had settled in. No views. Bummer.” The ice was bad throughout the day and Beaker hiked all day in his microspikes but he remained optimistic and celebrated the crossing into Tennessee at Newfound Gap.

3/21/17 Today was Beaker’s longest day yet on the AT – 19.8 miles. Because of the locations of the shelters and the requirement to camp at the shelters, Beaker had to decide between a 12-mile day to the first shelter or a19-mile day to the second, Cosby Knob Shelter. He pushed on and proved that he is developing some strong trail legs. The weather continued to send foggy conditions, “I couldn’t see 30 feet ahead of me.”

 

If you get a chance, check out Beaker’s expanded journal online: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?trailname=18636.

If you like my blog, check out my ebook, Hike It Forward, at Amazon.com Just click the photo of the book.

Check Out My Book

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Clingmans Dome, Fontana Dam, GSMNP, North Carolina, Shelter, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beaker – Part 3

Beaker on the Trail

Let me continue the story of the thru-hike of “Beaker” the chemist from West Virginia. We last left him in a hotel in Hiawassee, Georgia, warming up after a very cold night on the trail without an ample sleeping bag. Let’s follow his adventure for a few more days.

Saturday, March 4. Beaker had a fortuitous late start out of Hiawassee because when the shuttle dropped him off at the trailhead at Unicoi Gap, a church group from the Raleigh area was putting on a hiker feed, complete with grilled hamburgers and all the fixings – trail blessing at its best.. Beaker’s post has the sound of a happy and dry and contented hiker, “The hiking weather was perfect – high 50s, sunny, and only a light breeze. And the views of the North Georgia mountains were incredible. To top it all off, the Tray Mt Shelter is the prettiest shelter I’ve seen so far. It sits on top of Tray Mt and looks out over a sea of mountains. The sunset was gorgeous! There are probably another 30-40 people here – mostly new faces. The Trail is getting pretty busy.”

Sunday, March 5. Beaker made a fairly easy hike to Dick’s Creek Gap and the Top of Georgia hostel. He reached the hostel by 1 pm and was able to pick up his emergency mail drop from home including a warmer sleeping bag. He decided to press on to the next shelter even though he had already paid a non-refundable fee for the bed, so “ I ‘paid it forward’ and let the next guy who arrived have my spot for free. He was so excited – my own little bit of trail magic.” I don’t know Beaker personally, but I am beginning to appreciate his character and perspective on his adventure.

Border GA/NC

Monday (16.6 miles; 90.4 total miles so far). Beaker awoke to rain on his tent at 4:30 am. He slept much better during the night with the warmer sleeping bag. It was another blustery day with rain on and off until about 2:00 pm. The highlight of the day was crossing the NC/GA border. The AT experienced several major forest fires last year and Beaker came upon one such area. He shares in his journal, “I climbed Standing Indian Mt moved into the area that was so devastated by forest fires last Fall. The standing trees appear to be OK, with scorch marks on the lower 12 – 18 inches of their trunks. However, the undergrowth is completely gone. It looks like some kind of strange war zone.”

Fire Tower on Albert Mountain

Tuesday, March 7. “It was the most miserable day on the trail so far. And the most epic!” Beaker started the day with rain, he walked in a tunnel all day with fog so thick he could only see about 20 ft ahead. The day’s hike included the climb up and over Albert Mountain (5250 ft). The last 0.3 miles is the steepest grade up to this point of the AT. Unfortunately, the climb to the summit changed from a gentle rain to a deluge. There is a fire tower at the top, but again the fantastic views were missed because of the weather. However, the fire tower stands at the 100 mile marker and the sense of accomplishment is amazing. Beaker hiked another five miles past the summit and stayed in a dry hotel in Franklin for the night.

Wednesday, March 8.  Beaker was greeted with beautiful blue morning skies and no rain! He got a late start because of the need to resupply to replace his water filter. His 8.3-mile day was filled with a climb up Siler Bald (5001 ft) during the late afternoon. The climb was well worth it. The reward was an incredible 360 degree view of the beautiful mountains.

More of Beaker’s hike coming up soon. Stay connected.

Categories: Albert Mountain, Appalachian Trail, Fire-tower, Georgia, Hiawassee, Thru-Hike, Trail Blessing, West Virginia | 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

Fat Hen and Rooster Talon Hike Over 1000 Miles

1000 Mile Marker

1000 Mile Marker

After a couple of weeks of silence, Fat Hen and Rooster Talon have posted to their journal. On June 21, they posted with the excitement of reaching the 1000 mile marker. It is only a small sign nailed to a tree but it is such a motivating sight when you are on the trail. To walk 1000 miles is quite an accomplishment and something to celebrate. This young couple have been on the trail for 95 days and are staying at the Blackburn AT Center about a dozen miles south of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters. In Harpers Ferry each of them will get his/her picture taken and receive a thru-hiker number, putting Dan and Becky into the annals of trail history.

Fat Hen GlasgowTheir June 3rd post was from Daleville, Virginia. Several days of hiking and 56 miles later, they arrived at Glasgow, Virginia, a town about 5.9 miles off trail. Catching a ride into town brought back three-year-old memories of a visit the couple made to the town while driving through the area. They remembered the fiberglass dinosaur that graces one of the town’s major intersections and the incredible fried chicken the purchased from the Natural Bridge Country Store. The also remembered giving a thru-hiker a ride into town – what a change of roles this time around. On this return visit, they took a photo with Dino and purchased a 16 piece bucket of chicken, a 2 liter of Dr. Pepper and a half gallon of ice cream from the country store. They enjoyed their stay in Glasgow at a town shelter with electricity and a hot shower.

After leaving the town with the dinosaur, they made their way north past Waynesboro, Virginia and into the Shenandoah National Park. Their hike through the SNP was filled with a menagerie of wildlife and lots of good food. During a four-day period in the park, Dan and Becky saw 12 bears, 2 rattlesnakes and 1 copperhead. They did not share the details of these animal encounters but I can image that they have some exciting stories to tell. They also enjoyed the Waysides along the trail – these are great car-stops along the Skyline Drive that are easy walking from the AT. Th389ey serve some great ice cream as well as some good food. Fat Hen and Rooster Talon specifically commented on the blackberry milkshakes!

After their journey through the national park and a quick stay in Front Royal, Virginia, they hiked through the brutal Roller Coaster (13.5 miles of tightly packed ascents and descents) that will test the calves and shins of any hiker. They safely arrived at Blackburn AT Center and now have their sights on Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Stay tuned for a picture in front of the ACT Headquarters. My hiker number was 924 when I arrived on June 30, 2014 – I am curious to see how their numbers compare.

Photos or Dan and Becky: http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?trailname=20168

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Fat Hen, Glasgow, Harpers Ferry, Roller Coaster, Rooster Talon, Shenandoah National Park, Thru-Hike, Virginia, Waynesboro, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Update on Inchworm’s Sad Story

Largay InchwormOne of the saddest stories on the Appalachian Trail is packaged in a small lady named “Inchworm.” Her off-the-trail name was Geraldine Largay, a 66-year-old thru-hiker from Brentwood, Tennessee. She began hiking the AT at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in April, 2013.  After hiking over three months and more than 950 miles north, Inchworm disappeared on July 22. She lost her way with only 211 miles to the summit of the northern terminus, Mount Katahdin, Maine. She was last seen at the Poplar Ridge Lean-to, heading north toward Spaulding Mountain Lean-to (a journey of about 8 miles).

Geraldine remained missing for 26 months, despite an extensive search by the Maine Warden Service. Mid-October, 2015, “Inchworm” was found dead in her sleeping bag zipped inside her tent about two miles from the trail in Redington Township, Maine. She was found on restricted military land belonging to the U.S. Navy by a private contractor. Recent information released by authorities include insights from Geraldine’s trail journal and her cell phone.

A few hours into her hike on July 22 the temperature climbed to near 70 degrees, and Inchworm walked off the trail to relieve herself. She soon realized she was lost and couldn’t find her way back to the trail. Around 11 a.m., she took out her blue Samsung sliding phone and texted her husband: “In somm trouble. Got off trail to go to br. Now lost. Can u call AMC to c if a trail maintainer can help me. Somewhere north of woods road. Xox.” But the message wouldn’t transmit because there was no cell coverage in the area. She tried sending the text 10 more times over the next hour and a half.

Inchworm 2Inchworm walked west through the dense and vast woods, seeking higher elevation in the hopes of getting a cellphone signal. The next day, Tuesday, July 23, she tried texting her husband again, at 4:18 p.m.: “Lost since yesterday. Off trail 3 or 4 miles. Call police for what to do pls. Xox.” She tried sending it again 20 minutes later. Still nothing. Geraldine decided her best chance of survival would be to stay put. She set up a tent on a bed of pine needles and sticks and would write in a journal every day for at the next 18 days.

In an Aug. 6 journal entry, Largay wrote this heartbreaking entry, “When you find my body, please call my husband George and my daughter Kerry. It will be the greatest kindness for them to know that I am dead and where you found me — no matter how many years from now. Please find it in your heart to mail the contents of this bag to one of them.”

Jane Lee (in pink) and Inchworm (in green)

Jane Lee (in pink) and Inchworm (in green)

Inchworm had started on the trail in West Virginia in April with a friend, Jane Lee, who had hiked the trail with her until they reached Maine. Jan left the trail because of a family emergency, leaving Geraldine to continue on alone. Her friend described Geraldine as afraid of the dark, scared of being alone and said she never wanted to bring extra supplies because she had a sore back and wanted to avoid having a heavy pack. These insights make this tragedy seem even more difficult.

The warden service, volunteer groups, police and others participated in a search for Inchworm considered one of the most lengthy and expensive in state history. Sadly, they could not locate Geraldine who died of lack of food and water and environmental exposure. According to Lt. Kevin Adam, scene commander of the Maine Warden Service, about 28 Appalachian Trail hikers get lost in Maine every year. Most are found quickly: 95 percent of the time, searchers find the lost hikers in 12 hours and within 24 hours, 98 percent of misplaced hikers are located.

Resources: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/05/25/geraldine-largay-haunting-messages/YFbToegW6bLZgBdIEe065L/story.html

http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/report-geraldine-largay-kept-journal-during-weeks-lost-in-maine-woods/

http://www.centralmaine.com/2016/05/25/report-largay-kept-journal-during-weeks-missing-in-maine-woods/

Photo Closeup: http://appalachiantrail.com/20150721/geraldine-largay-missing-from-the-appalachian-trail-for-2-years/

Photo with backpack: http://www.centralmaine.com/tag/largay/

Photo with Jane Lee: https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2014/12/30/how-could-woman-just-vanish/CkjirwQF7RGnw4VkAl6TWM/story.html

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Geraldine Largay, Harpers Ferry, Hiking, Inchworm, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Tent, Thru-Hike, Trail Name, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Thru-hike: Not Everyone Makes It!

I am still waiting for an update from Two Peas, Dulcigal and Fat Hen/Rooster Talon: the AT thru-hikers that I am following this year. I decided to explore some of the other online journals. There are still several hikers that are scheduled to hit the trail later this month, but there are 174 active journals on trailjournals.com.

As I have reviewed the journals (yes, I got carried away and checked them all), 44 of those thru-hikers have dropped off the trail. That is approximately 25% of those who began the trail and who are keeping a journal through this particular website. This is just a fraction of the total hikers on the AT, but it is an interesting cross-section of the hiking community. Those 44 hikers averaged 23 days on the trail and completed an average of 114.8 miles.

SandiAmong the 44, the shortest distance traveled on the AT was 0.2 miles by Just Plain Sandi. She began her adventure at the 8.8 mile approach trail in Amicalola Falls, Georgia. The first day she hiked 1.1 miles to the AT Shelter. Day two was a trek of 3.7 miles to Frosty Mountain. The third day of the adventure involved 2.5 miles to Black Gap Shelter where she took a zero day on day four. Day five concluded with 1.7 miles and the summit of Springer Mountain. The night was spent at Springer Mounter Shelter (0.2 miles on the AT itself). Just Plain Sandi fell off a ladder in the shelter and injured both wrists, an elbow and her shoulder. This difficult beginning and her desire to be home with an aging father caused Just Plain Sandi to walk off the trail and head for home.

WoofieThe shortest hike in number of days belongs to Woofie and Wooly Booly whose trek ended after the first day. The couple had walked 8.4 miles when Woofie (Gwen Minturn) twisted her knee ending their 2016 hiking journey. The day after the injury they write “Woofie’s knee and ankle had swollen and become more painful. With both injuries being on the left side, she was almost totally immobilized, making simply getting out of the tent extremely difficult. We knew that our hike was over, and that we had to get off the trail and get medical attention.” Five days later their final post included the following: “Although none of the hardware in her knee implant was damaged in her fall, she did suffer a hairline fracture of the patella (knee cap). She’ll have to keep the leg brace on for another 4-6 weeks.”

The longest distance traveled by a hiker, so far, that has decided to leave the trail was 590.6 miles, involving 59 days. Aleve (Carl Graves), a retired air traffic controller and a runner of marathons and some ultra-marathons, started on February 17 and hiked until April 9. He took some time off trail, resting for 11 days and then returned, hopping back on the trail at Harpers Ferry, WV. His second hike lasted six days and then Aleve’s Aleveknee communicated that it was not going to carry him any further. Eighteen miles into Pennsylvania, Aleve journals, “My knees really hate rocky trails. I fell today while hiking through a bouldering section between Rocky Mountain Shelters and US 30, the type of fall where your foot is lodged between two rocks while your body continues to pivot. Torqued the bad knee.” Injury claims another journey. Of the 44 hikers that have chosen to end their dream of a thru-hike, 19 hikers point to a physical injury that ended their attempt. Sixteen individuals explain their decision to walk off the trail as a logical/emotional conclusion or an inability to cope with the weather and demands of the trail. One hiker points to a major family health concern that took him off the trail. And eight journals just abruptly ended without explanation. With no updates for over a month, I have concluded that the hiker is no longer on the trail. This might be incorrect and they may be out there piling up the miles, and just tired of posting to the journal. I hope this is the case, but I seriously doubt it.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is not an easy journey. It is filled with potential dangers that can physically end the adventure with one misstep. It is filled with harsh weather that can test the resolve of a bull moose. It comes complete with the stress of booking long miles into the hiker log, with the emotional pull to travel back home to comfort and friends, and with the nagging question echoing daily in the mind of some walkers, “Why am I doing this? Is this what I want to do for five solid months?”

HIF Cover PublishedA thru-hike is not for everyone. However, I have rarely found a hiker that has not been greatly impacted by their adventure. Whether it is 0.2 miles of 590 miles, whether it lasts one day or two months, the hiker is changed by the experience. Just about every hiker that has to walk off the trail feels like a failure. Of course, they are not. They have entered the world of the Appalachian Trail, breathed the forest air, drank from mountain streams, felt the fatigue of walking all day long, tasted the food of the trail, and lived to tell about it. The only failures are those that dream about the trail but never encounter it. Those that plan but never execute. Those with a list that stays in the bucket. My cheers go out to all those who have strapped on the backpack, followed the white blazes, and sought out an adventure.

Categories: Amicalola Falls, Appalachian Trail, Backpack, Dulcigal, Fat Hen, Georgia, Hiking, Journaling, Pennsylvania, Rooster Talon, Shelter, Springer Mountain, Thru-Hike, Trail, Two Peas, White Blaze | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Hiking in 2016 – AT Records Made in 2015

Record Number of Hikers in 2015

ATC HQHappy New Year! As we hang up our new calendars it is always significant to review the previous twelve months. 2015 was a popular and productive year on the Appalachian Trail. In addition to speed records being set for both an assisted thru-hike (Scott Jurek: 46 days, 8 hours, 8 minutes) and an unassisted thru-hike (Heather Anderson: 54 days, 7 hours, 48 minutes), The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) has communicated a record-breaking number of hikers who passed through its Visitor Center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, considered the psychological midpoint of the 2,185-mile long footpath. The ATC is a special place that not only greets thru-hikers but also takes their pictures, records their hiker information, and archives their journey photo to be housed at the conservancy.

When a thru-hiker arrives at the headquarters, they register as a NOBO hiker (going NOrthBOund from Georgia to Maine), or a SOBO hiker (hiking SOuthBOund from Mt. Katahdin, Maine toward Springer Mountain, Georgia), or an Alternate Route hiker (for example: Georgia to West Virginia then travel to Maine and hike SOBO back to West Virginia)  According to the ATC’s records as of this December, 1,385 northbound thru-hikers passed through Harpers Ferry: an increase of 9 percent over last year’s data. The number of southbound thru-hikers increased by 14 percent totaling 192 hikers. The number of those who choose to thru-hike the A.T. in an alternative, non-contiguous way increased dramatically, with 291 choosing that method, that’s an increase of 139 percent! If my math is correct, that’s a total of 1,768 hikers reporting in at the ATC as potential thru-hikers.

A-Walk-in-the-Woods-bookThe ATC attributes some of this growth to the recent film releases of “A Walk in the Woods,” (based on Bill Bryson’s best-seller on the Appalachian Trail) and “Wild,” (portraying Cheryl Stray’s book about the Pacific Crest Trail). These two major motion pictures depict attempted thru-hikes on long-distance trails.

The ATC was also pleased to announce that for fiscal year 2015, a record-breaking 6,827 volunteers reported approximately 272,477 hours to maintaining and protecting the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) for hikers to use. I find this truly amazing. During my thru-hike I encountered several trail work teams, maintaining and improving the trail. From repainting the white blazes to creating rock steps on treacherous terrain to clearing the trail of recent blow-downs, the crews were hard at work.  The record number of both volunteers and hours reveals a loyal army commitment to the AT. Volunteers donated time equivalent to what is completed by 137 full-time workers working 40 hour weeks for 50 weeks during the year. These heroes of the trail contributed to a wide variety of projects, including maintaining the A.T. corridor.

Since the ATC began collecting reports in 1983, individuals have contributed more than 5 million hours to the A.T. – it is estimated that it takes 5 million steps to thru-hike the trail, so volunteers have donated an hour for every step along a thru-hike of the AT. It is no wonder why this volunteer network that is recognized worldwide.

 

Categories: A Walk in the Woods, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Harpers Ferry, Heather Anderson, Mount Katahdin, NOBO, Scott Jurek, SOBO, Springer Mountain, West Virginia, Wild | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ida Sainsbury – First Canadian to Hike the Appalachian Trail

Ida in Background, Mary up front

Ida in Background, Mary up front

Ida Sainsbury from Toronto, Canada was the first woman outside of the United States to complete a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.  It was a section hike that bridged four years. Ida traveled to Shippensburg, Pennsylvania in May of 1970 to attend a weekend convention of the Appalachian Trail Conference. On the last day of the conference, she met Mary Years of Newark, New York, who had been looking for a hiking partner for three years. The match seemed to be ordained. They began the journey as perfect strangers but soon became life-time friends.

Although Ida had minimal backpacking experience, she and her husband were long time mountain climbers belonging to the Bruce Trail Club of Canada. The two ladies, both in their 50s, began their adventure the hard way. The tackled their first leg of the journey by hiking 300 miles through Maine. The thirty-day trek involved some of the most difficult terrain of the entire trail. They entered the trail with 37 pound packs and lots of enthusiasm. Despite a struggle with a serious water shortage, the women successfully completed their first exposure to the AT.

A four day adventure over Easter, 1971, allowed Mary and Ida to hike through Maryland and West Virginia. In August of 1971, they completed phase two of the plan covering 430 miles in five weeks beginning in New Hampshire and trekking south through Connecticut. 1972 brought the third phase taking on New York and moving southward once again through the rocks of Pennsylvania. Mary and Ida kept a regimen on the trail. Their typical day began a dawn with the goal of stepping onto the trail by 7 am. They hoped to hike 10-15 miles per day and make camp around 4:30.

bruce-trail-2

Bruce Trail in Canada

Before completing the final phase of the AT, Ida was selected to lead a hike on the Bruce Trail in her homeland. According to The Canadian Champion, on January 17, 1973, she was to lead the Moonlight to Midnight hike from Crawford Lake to Rattlesnake Point. Returning to America, Ida and Mary completed their trek in 1973.

Ida returned to Toronto having conquered the White Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains of America. She served for 20 years with the Canadian Cancer Society but managed to walk the Bruce Trail at least three times. In 1984, at age 70, Ida climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The Ottawa Citizen in 1986 tipped their hats to this amazing woman of the trail that challenged the myths and stereotypes on aging. Ida was part of a learning series on aging called The Best Years, which aired on TVOntario in 1986.  

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2194&dat=19861208&id=i8EyAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Ze8FAAAAIBAJ&pg=1405,4692482&hl=en

Photo of Mary Years and Ida Sainsbury (Mary foreground, Ida background)  The Geneva Times 1971

http://fultonhistory.com/Newspaper%2011/Geneva%20NY%20Daily%20Times/Geneva%20NY%20Daily%20Times%201971%20Sep-Oct%201971%20Grayscale/Geneva%20NY%20Daily%20Times%201971%20Sep-Oct%201971%20Grayscale%20-%200280.pdf

http://images.ourontario.ca/Partners/MPL/MPL002496075pf_0056.pdf

Map and more info regarding the Bruce trail found at http://www.carp.ca/2015/03/21/halton-chapter-community-meetings-in-april/

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Bruce Trail, Canada, Connecticut, GSMNP, Ida Sainsbury, Mary Years, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, The Whites, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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