Sunday, October 19, 2014

Maybird Gulch

I sit amongst the heap of boulders known as Maybird Gulch. It's a brief easy hike for me in Little Cottonwood Canyon.  What makes this hike nice is the lack of people.  Most on a clear warm fall day will head to Red Pine Lake.  In fact they share the same trail up to the last mile, then this one branches off.  This area reminds me so much of the White's in NH.  Mindful of course the altitude is over three times higher and a peak, the Phiferhorn, looms another 1000 above me.  An early fall of snow hides in the shadows.

A month ago today I entered Baxter State Park, Maine.  My 2,187 mile journey rapidly closing.  I've met many a person and shared with many friends about thus said journey since.  Many are congratulatory, others in disbelief.  Folks, though I'm an avid hiker here in my own back country, averaging 500 miles a year, I too am in as much shock that I completed the Appalachian Trail.  Several of my friends are just as passionate about the outdoors as I.  They shake their heads and say I could never do that.

Part of why I came up here today was to think about the many lessons of the trail.  First I want to apologize to the rocks of Painsylvania.  After hike to the upper bowl of Maybird they aren't so bad, atleast I had white blazes to follow there.  Another lesson was, I learned to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.  I woke up every day knowing my feet would be in some form of pain or discomfort.  I just found out I have flat feet.  No wonder I hurt while trying arch supports.  Being comfortable with uncomfortable isn't to ignore issues, it's more accepting that which is unchangeable while modifying that which is until it's no longer an issue.  Another important lesson is though I like to hike alone, I don't do life alone.  Simply put I enjoy community.  We are created to be involved with one another and not to be solitary creatures.  Not only as social creatures but also in the spiritual realms as well.  I enjoyed spending time with the Van Clain and other Christian believers.  As I've come back to SLC I'm enjoying getting back into a community of believers.  I found I need to nurture both my social and spiritual sides to remain balanced.

I'm finding the balanced lifestyle of the trail is a bit different to create at home.  It does take considerable effort.  That balance looks different now then before I left, and was different on the journey.  When I returned to Salt Lake I literally had to stop.  My my trail life is about moving forward every day.  If I wasn't moving, I wasn't making miles, if I wasn't making miles, I wasn't going to finish.   There were times I deliberately stopped.  I had to my body cried out for rest.  Now, I am getting reaquainted with friends and discovering not much happened.  Most say life is status quo.  Did this journey reawaken a passionate love of life I've suppressed?  Did I find a strength in myself I did not know about?  How now can I get this passion to be shared?  How can the estacy(sp) I feel be multiplied into the lives of others?

I am grateful to live in a metropolis so close to mountains of grandure(sp).  I am thankful for my trail family and my friends here.  The experience of the trail is beyond what I expected.  I shake my head in disbelief that I completed all the miles and do so with a mischievous grin thinking let's do it again or atleast take on another challenge to big for comprehension.   Let's find out together.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Statically Speaking

When I look back at the early days of my hike, this picture stands out as one on those that says, "The impossible can be reached."  Walking around the table we see: Jim and his dad Roger - aka Biscuits and Off Meds; next is Alison's Mom and the restaurant owner; Alison - aka Homestretch; Chris - aka Puzzle; Me -Train; and Slim - I never learned Slim's real name.  We were enjoying pizza in Franklin NC which is about 107 miles into our journey.

The Impossible:  We All Summited Mount Katahdin within weeks of each other.
  • Slim was first on Aug 28 according to Appalachian Trials web page.
  • Alison, sported a Super Girl costume was second on Sept 17, also seen on the same site.
  • Jim & Roger on Sept 19.  I met them at the Hunt trail head as I came into the area.
  • I was next the following day on Sept 20
  • Puzzle is the last of the group on Oct 1.  He txt'd me from town later that day.
According to the Appalachian Conservatory's site 1 in 4 or less successfully complete the journey with in one calendar year of their start date.  This year as reported and estimated 2500 left from Springer Mountain GA.  I was 1044.  My thru-hiker number in Baxter is 564.  

I hiked with amazing people.  I do check Trail Journals and Appalachian Trials sites to see who's made it.  I ran into only a few people the day before I summited and on my summit day as I came back into the trail head area.  Everyone has a back story. Everyone shared similar experiences in light of their back story.  We all are shaped by the story of our trail experience.

Just a few links

Friday, September 26, 2014

Things that Changed Along the Way

I'm a gearhead.  I'll admit that I like to play with things and systems to find what works and doesn't.  I'm always asking questions of other's, poking around gear shops, and reading manuals or reviews.  Along the AT journey I was no different.  My last week at home I changed my system based on a friend's recommendation, a former long section hiker, and along the way I changed several pieces of gear as well.

My pre-leaving kit was based on the Gosamer Gear Mariposa pack and a Kelty 20' down sleeping bag.  I had a homemade under quilt under a Dream Hammock hammock.  My stove was the Caldera Cone wrapping a Snow Peak 700 Ti pot.

The week I left I went to my go to of the Go-lite Pursuit pack.  It held a bit more then the other.  I dropped to the ground in a Six Moon Design Lunar Solo single walled tent with a Therma-rest Z-pad and went with a Hammock Gear 20' top quilt.  I kept the cook kit as is.

My first night at the trailhead in Amicolola State Park GA, I forgot to tuck my ground sheet under the drip zone of my tent and consequently flooded myself out in the rain on April 7th.  From then on I shelter hopped spending only three nights in the tent.  I didn't find the balance between ventilation and condensation.  When I asked Uncle Johnny , at his hostel in Erwin TN, what to do about that issue he replied, "Burn it, single walls don't work in the East." I took his advice and sent it home.  This actually was my second gear swap.

My first gear swap came as my Pursuit started to part at the shoulder straps.  I called REI and ordered a replacement.  Long story short, I ended up with my Granite Gear Crown 60 from the NOC, which remains with me and it never complained about who much weight I put into it.  One benefit to this pack is the hip belt can be swapped out for a smaller or larger size.  It can also take on the optional top lid, aka brain.  The Gosamer Gear and Go-lites have weight limits close to 30 pounds, after that they complain and or start tearing a part.  These are okay for the occasional day or so of 30 pounds plus but, don't count on longevity with the heavier loads.

My second gear swap, I've eluded to already, that of swapping out the tent for the hammock.  I got my original Hennessey Backpacker sent to me during Trail Days at Damascus VA. The original has a bottom entry and is single layered. Later, that weekend I bought the Expedition double layer from Hennessey himself and has a side zipper bug net.  My tarp of choice is the Hex-tarp from OES - Outdoor Equipment Supply.  It sets quickly and is compact.  For the White's, I went to the 10 point  cuben from Hammock Gear for the all around weather protection.

My third major swap out was for the stove.  The Caldera Cone is plan bulky for my set up.  I had an older canister stove sent out.  The max flame setting was larger then my pot base and the most fuel efficient setting took as long as the alcohol stove I just ditched.  I went to a homemade cat food can stove with aluminum wind break.  I found I used 3 ounces of fuel to heat 20 ounces of water.  Someone had a Flat Cat Gear stove/wind screen he liked and I ordered one.  When I got it, my fuel usage dropped to 1 1/2 ounces for my water requirement.    The Flat Cat requires two wires for set up, I lost 'em promptly.  I grabbed a coat hanger and made a new set.  So don't loose 'em if you get a Flat Cat.

My fourth change out was with what I wrapped up in at night.  I'm a restless ground sleeper.  My quilt great for the hammock not for the ground.  I developed a grab and tuck every time I rolled over.  In Damascus I also picked up my 45' sleeping bag.  I did go back to the quilt with my winter gear adding in a 20' under quilt also from Hammock Gear.

Along the way somethings just need replacing.  Foot wear is crucial.  I know of a few who did the journey in two pairs of shoes.  I did it in 4.  My fourth pair will see life beyond the trail.  Sizing is essential to get right for each pair.  Every time get the foot measured to ensure proper fit.  Just cuz one pair fit good don't think the next pair based on insoles fitting will be the right choice.  I did have two good pairs, Moab Ventilators by  Merrell, wear out in the heal padding around 500 miles of my usage though I stretched it out to 600 odd miles.  My third pair, Keens, wore out quickly with the multi rubber sole parting in several places among other wear issues.  I'm doubious if I even got a hundred miles before wear set in with those.  I left them in a hiker box. My fourth pair is back to the Moabs however, I used the previous insoles to size them. This was a mistake.  My toe width was different, it became wider as I hiked.  I should have gone wider or gotten a size larger.  The place I got them though had limited selection.  Limited selection meant I may not have gotten a bettet fit.  Still I should have tried sever pairs instead of just the one.  Thankfully, I only walked away with sore cramped feet.  Am I the only person who did not have to fight major blisters?

Clothing is something to be replaced along the way.  My first shirt wore out from the pack rubbing on it.  My red t-shirt I picked up from, of all places, a laundromat.  I forgot to take rain gear with me to wear when washing my clothes and asked the attendant if she had something I could wear, thus I got my shirt.

Socks are a highly debated clothing option.  We all found our favorite brand and or pair.  I started with a brand I hiked comfortablely with for years.  When they crusted up I tried Smart Wool.  They too crusted up quickly and wore out fast.  I finally tried Darn Tough, the only sock endorsed by the ATC.  I can see why.  They rinse out easily, take longer to crust up, and have re-enforcement in critical areas.  Simply put Darn Tough socks are darn tough, a high quality brand of socks.  I actually tried close to 5 different brands of socks.  My gagging factor is to wear the sock as long as possible without washing and check the performance.  Since I might do laundry once every two weeks how long a sock kept my feet comfortable without washing was the deciding factor.  Periodically, I'd stream wash the socks and air dry on my pack.  Steam washing, do so only down from the water gathering area and don't use any soap, rinse a lot only.  A better practice would be to grab water in a bucket or large ziploc and rinse away from the water source area.

I've made a lot of references to companies and specific gear in this entry.  I am by no means endorsing them or receiving any sort of compensation by them.  The expressed is strictly my observations and what I experienced.  Please take what I've expressed just as that, someone's perspective.  Your needs and requirements will be different then mine.  Please take multiple views into account if you are gear shopping.  My opinion, check in return policy, but don't abuse them, and play with the gear until you are comfortable with it. Better yet,  if you are new to long distance hiking or hammocking please try to get to a local event and ask questions.  At an event one will see different set ups whereas a retailer may not have the experience or many options needed for you to make informed decisions about crucial gear.

Enjoy and hike strong.

No Changes

As an admitted gearhead surely somethings must have not changed.  The smallest of items remained the same throughout the epic travel. I'll highlight some here.  I'll also admit I traveled heavier then most with a base weight of 25 pounds or more.  I liked being more comfortable in camp and getting good sleep over hitting big miles and being uncomfortable at night.  One will need to find their own balance the implied question.

I carried and used the same small Bic lighter the entire way.  I kept it in a small prescription bottle with some strike anywhere matches.  I started with and ended with not striking any of those matches.  A flick of the bic is all that's needed to get alcohol or canister stoves going.

I carried a small tube of petroleum jelly.  It backed up my anti-chafing stick when it ran out.  The alternate use is as a fire starter when rubbed on small sticks or onto cloth.

I also had bug dope and a headnet.  I used the headnet twice.  The bug dope almost as much.  I didn't like putting DEET on my exposed skin.  I did pick up some all natural Bug Band brand stuff and used it more to ward away ticks.  I didn't find Bug Band to be all that effective.  Somehow bugs didn't like me as much as they did others.  I think I leave with only picking off fewer then 20 ticks and swatting at fewer then a thousand mosquitoes.

My water system included the Sawyer Mini supplemented by Aquamiria drops.  The Sawyer is just a filter.  It's up to the user to find their own right way of usage.  For me I blew out the supplied bladders, squeezing water through them as directed.  I tried it on top a Smart Water brand bottle.  That too did not work cleanly for me.  I finally found a screw on adapter to hose at a hardware store and went inline.  Attached to a Platapus brand two litter bladder, I sucked on the outlet for my water.  I'd use the Aquamiria drops when I got lazy or wanted not to wait for the inline to drip into another bottle.  Aquamiria works best over time, taking up to 4 hours to kill off all bad stuff in the water.  The Sawyer does not kill viruses wherein the drops will over time.

These next items are what packed on my weight.  I carried a 8x5 notebook for a journal.  I'm on my third of the hike.  Yes, I did write every night.  A sample of my journal can be found on my Flickr page under AT Journals.  I did carry and use an Olympus TG 2i Stylus camera.  It worked flawlessly until the end.  As advertised it's tough, though, I found out on Summit Day not unbreakable.  I cracked a corner of the case and it had fogging issues on my last week.  For being exposed to weather for the last 5 1/2 months I'd say that's a lifetime of use for many non-outdoor folks.  My last heavy item is the Anker 12,000 mAh battery pack.  It met my weekly field charge needs between my phone, camera, and mp3 player.  With the large capacity plan on an 8 hour or over night town stay was needed.  The weight of these three items is over 3 pounds, weight I chose to carry.

My phone worked great as a blogging tool and camera back up device.  Though I did have to get a new battery as the original did not want to hold a charge. Electronic device batteries do have limited life span so check with the manufacturer for details or replace them before the journey begins.

I loved my Black Diamond Cosmo headlamp.    I used only two sets of batteries the whole way.  I only night hiked twice but was often the last to sleep 'cus I was writing.  Expect your usage to vary.

My camp shoes where Crocs, the basic ones.  As a gear hack, tie a loop of cord through two toe holes to make attaching to the pack easier.  They work great for town and shower shoes too.  I'd flip the shoes toe up for regular carry and toe down to carry a piece of fruit for a day or so.

I carried a small 500ml Nalgeen bottle.  Nalgeen's plastic is heat resistant so one can pour boiling water directly into it.  This became my hot and cold drink cup.  My spork found its home in it too.  It doubled as a foam roller when I didn't have one.  On the colder gloveless nights I'd wrap my hands around it.

If something is heavy one does not need to ditch it to loose weight.  Ask these questions: do I use this item daily? Does it work for multiple functions?  Does it simplify what I do?  My answers varied from time to time especially with the little miscellaneous items.  I finally ditched things like nausea meds, sun tan lotion, and sun glasses yet, kept the bug dope and Dr Bronner's soap.  With Dr Bronner's bounce a larger bottle a head or just get a little bottle leaving behind what's not used.  I carried half an ounce the entire way, preferring to wash items in town only.

What worked for me and what works next hike I'm sure will vary.  If you are exploring long distance hiking or interested lightening the load, don't be afraid to mix up the weekend get aways or find a local outing of hikers.  Lightening the load honestly comes down to experience on finding the comfort balance.

Enjoy and hike on.


For the last few months my days were near identical except for the scenery, weather, or towns.  They began often with a chittering critter either a bird or squirrel waking me around 5:45 am, my eyes pry open somewhere underneath my quilt to bark at them.  Then I sought benefits to change clothes, hit the privy, and pack.  Packing would include taking down the hammock, tarp, and stuffing my variety of sacks into the pack generally with the clothes and quilt bags on the bottom and food bags near the top.  Somewhere along the line I'd mix up cold instead coffee and swallow two packs of oatmeal.  Why not boil water for breakfast?  It came down to time and fuel.  I didn't want to take the time nor did I carry that much fuel.

Once all packed, I'd pull on the shoes.  Normally, I'd save what ever was wet from the day before to put on last.  As I began to hike, I'd grab a selfie, a couple of white blaze, and trail photos.  Typically, I'd finish the cold chug around a view point.  My snacks were within reach in either a side shorts pocket or pack pocket.  I'd eat two 500 calorie snacks before lunch.

In the South, I often skipped lunch but, found that when I did eat lunch my energy levels would remain high.  When I recognized this I began scheduling lunch and making larger miles per day.  Lunch would generally be at a shelter or view in or around noon. I'd pull out my blue dry sack which held peanut butter and flour tortillas.  Not much for lunch but two or three rolls.  Occasionally, I'd have an extra power bar, shake on cinamon, or cut a chunk of cheese.  The harder cheeses last longer then the soft cheeses without refrigeration.

A snack sometime in the afternoon would happen around 3 ish and I'd be good until camp.  In the North, I lost my evening hunger so I made sure my last snack happened well before an hour I made supper thus ensuring I'd be sufficiently hungry to choke down what I prepared.

At camp, I'd first locate two trees about 12 feet a part for the hammock by holding out my hiking sticks.  Anything closer wouldn't do, much beyond not either.  The closest I hanged wad 8 feet and the farthest stretch close to 25 feet. I'd then start either by putting up the tarp or hammock, weather depending.  Once this is set, I'd gather water and clean up.  Finally, out came dinner.

Dinner, oh no!  This is one thing I will plan out a lot better.  Dinner is a Knorr pasta, rice, or potato side.  Occasionally, mac and cheese.  I preferred to cook in the bag and add stuff to it.  My most common add in is tuna packet and garlic.  For the mac and cheese I add a small amount of instant potatoes to thicken and help cook the noodles.  Cooking in the bag eases clean up, there isn't any besides licking the spork.  With boiling my water, I filled my pot to the brim.  I always made tea.  My tea got first dibs on the water.  My tea of treat is Egyptian licorice herb tea.  My least favorite is chai and green teas. I used untreated water so bringing my water to a boil, essential.  My fear with mashed potatoes was creating Albert potatoes.  Albert was a cook of mine on the Caribbean Mercy who once served dry & lumpy instant potatoes for dinner just before I left in '01.  My other dinner fear was noodle soup.  Since I cooked in the bag I didn't pour off the excess water and would add instant potatoes to thicken.  At the end of the hike, I stopped carrying extra potatoes and just drank the slurry.

After supper, I'd start to write in my journal.  Chatting around the shelters happens around supper time, at a campfire, and my favorite, breakfast.   The more involved with conversation the more chaotic my journal entries are.  I read a recent issue of Backpacker Magazine that stated quiet time is 10pm.  I'm sorry to report they are wrong.  It's hiker midnight or whenever it gets dark be it 6:30pm or 9pm or whenever hikers start to bed down.  Headlamps are often donned around the same tim as dinner prep is underway.  If you want to cut conversation short keep shining it in someone's face.  I ended many a conversation when someone put their lamp in my eyes.  Please wear it around you neck and dim it.  You'll be surprised with how little light is needed to move about.

When I stayed in the shelters my daily routine was the same.  As I passed shelters I photo logged the shelter books.  I began this when I looped back.through the NOC and wanted to record what my friends wrote about the experience of cold wet days from there to Fontana Dam.

In town for resupply I started off with just buying stuff hopping I got what I needed.  I found myself over purchasing.  Tim, another thru-hiker, who also had another long distance hike under his feet, introduced me to the gallon bag system.  It uses a bag for every day.  It worked.  I'd place a dinner, all my snacks, breakfasts, and drink mixes for the day including the instant coffee.  Only once under this method did I run out of anything and happened to be coffee packets when I got out of sync.  I left out lunch as it never changed. If I had less then half a package of peanut butter or tortillas I got an extra.  I did at one time carry pb over a hundred miles without so much as taking a spoon full to eat.Once I figured my meal plan out I stopped over spending and leaving so much behind in hiker boxes.

I found my daily routines an essential part of the hiking experience.  They helped me cut time in leaving for the day, forgetting/loosing things, and falling into sync with other hikers. With the amount of stuff I carried, the systematic approach worked.

I will say my time from wake to gone, less privy and breakfast, was close to half an hour if applied.  I'd like to cut it to 15 minutes.  To do that means for me to cut comfort somewhere.  The shorter time to gone translates to less exposure to bugs, cold, or adverse weather.  When I'm moving these things are less irritating.


Some may call it 'reentry', others 'reverse culture shock', others 'getting back to reality.' What ever one calls it, I can say it's a shake up of the senses.  The TV's flash splash at every juncture.  Speakers vie for attention of the ears.  Horns honk to the unaware like me.  Creatures of upright stature, all shapes and sizes, jockey for position.  A reversal of getting away from this all of modern living that happened 5 1/2 months ago is taking place.  My head doesn't know what to do.  I'm already missing the simplicity of trail life.  I'm caught in a whirling mass of sensory overload.  My ears long to hear the chatter of a squirrel.  A long time ago I wanted the presence of of traffic's hum to lull me asleep.

Staying true to exploring the country, I am taking the train out of New England.  To be honest and open, I didn't plan on getting this far.  I didn't plan on finishing.  Stastically less than one in five complete the Appalachian Trail each year.  I figured I'd be in the other four not be the one who finishes.  Can I say I'm successful at failing?  I planned something so huge I knew I wanted to do but didn't think it was possible.

I initially wanted to see how far I could hike.  Then,  I wanted to see who's inside this shell I've become.  I wanted to push myself beyond myself.  I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and experience something beyond.  Yes, I backpack and hike often but, never to this extent.  I can head out and come back as I please.  Once on the trail reaching Mount Katahdin became more then a mark on the papers I presented to everyone.  Reaching Mnt K became not a destination but a starting point.  When I worked in the 'Glades ( winter of '91 & '92) I'd stare at the horizon and think 'what's on the other side for me?' Mnt K's became that new horizon for me. 

The day I climbed that mystical philosophical mountain couldn't been better.  A hard climb that I danced up.  The wind reminding me of the unseen challenges.  The mist clouding the view showing me the beauty of the challenge upon arrival.  The summit, not ideal, nor clear as others wanted that day.  For me, perfect for my ending and new beginning.

With not having plans to leave New England, I winged it.  From the AT Lodge in Millinocket I caught a shuttle to the bus, fom there into Boston.  In Boston I had a 15 hour lay over so I asked around and got a number for a local hostel, Friend Street Hostel near the Garden's.  Now, I'm on Amtrak headed West.

Winging it is possible for the AT, though not recommend.  There are great resource planning materials on  I recommend downloading Baltimore Jack's resupply guide, updated in 2007, a bit old, it's close enough.  For mileage hikers check AWOL's Guide.  For landmark hikers get the set of maps from the ATC.  I used a combination of all.  I also did a lot of reading on and read personal blogs now like mine.

Getting experienced with your gear and knowing how you hike will be the best preparation you can do.  It took me a while to refine my gear even while on the trail.  It didn't help that I swapped out major components right before I left.

This extra time I'm spending on the train is giving me time to sort out the experience.  I've met a lot of folks some who have no clue about the outdoors to those who are well experienced.  Swapping stories and talking with them is helping me to figure out what is expected from others.  It's helpful to know which stories help me tie this trek into relatable clips.

I am reading comments on this site and within my social media content.  If there is something someone wants me to expand on please drop me a line.

I want to give a special shout out to some for their encouragements along the way in specific settings.  First to Hobs who found me at a hostel near Harper's Ferry.  He came out and gave me a pep talk when I seriously considered getting off trail for knee issues.  He encouraged me to do whatever needed to keep going forward.  Thanks to him I am looking at my summit photos as well as my trail family's.  Next to Jenn, who kept a wall map at work and tracked my progress, keeping the team up to date on how far I've gone.  Ross, also from work, who let me know he followed closely.  For the Van Clan, who adopted me in prayer and provided some encouragement along the trail - Oreo's have taken on new symbolism.  My parents of course need a shout out too, just cuz.

Literally there are to many one of encounters along the way that propped me up when I was down to name them all.  Some of these became stories I tell, others already fades away.

Over the next few days I'll stare out the window, try to catch naps, and review what I think are important highlights.

I can't believe I failed at failing.  Now that's a huge confidence booster.  What's next to take on?  Jokingly to Jimmy, who was doing a sweeping video interview, "the CDT in'19." Hum?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Summit Day

Waking long before my alarm rang '10,000 Reasons' by Matt Readman, I git restless.  The morning chill hadn't set to yet.  I tried to con myself back to sleep.  I couldn't.  It's summit day.  A day I'd look forward to long before setting foot on Springer Mountain GA 165 days ago.  I gave in.  I got up.  I packed with a chilly top in mind and lunch to eat in the go.

I left my crown 60 at the ranger station and used a borrowed day bag.  Loads of day hikers were at the Hunt's trailhead making their way up.  They'd never understand the emotions I hit: joy, elation, anger, pain, joy, elation.  Some gave me congratulates as I passed.  Many huffed and puffed up the trail.  I danced.

Along the way, I finally finished my coffee before hitting the tree line.  The wind kicked up a little at tree line.  I tugged a jacket in.  Above the tree line the terrain went from steep to even steeper.

Thr hardest trail on the AT?  Gecko no!  Don't believe the guide book that elevation chart lies.  The hardest part is still, for me, getting to the AT in Georgia.  The hardest trail I've ever hiked is Lone Peak in the Wasatch.

The trail began to require hands on the rock and in one part, a rebar hand hold.  I feared it but, in reality, easy, no worries up or down.  A mile of this class 3 climbing and that was over.

I hit the Table Lands and a mile less, Thoreau Spring.  The spring, iced over.  The emission kicked in again.  The trail reminded me of the White's.  Into the mist I hiked.  Passing more day hikers.

At long last, the a frame sign.  I busrst into tears.  I cried my self to sleep after my sister passed away but, not at her funeral.  I cried the joy of this accomplishment, over whelming, openly.  I handed my camera off to a hiker and asked him to take pictures.  This us my moment if AT glory.  I was the only Thru-hiker there.  The wind fought me as I got on top.  The mist swirling around.

Moments later I tucked in behind rocks to wait for others and for the wieather to break.  Bison and Kozi came 1/2 hour later.  I'd run into the Pope and his group to.  Jolley I saw 1/4 mile down from the top.  We are AT Thru-hikers I yeld at him.

On my way down, inching against the wind, even down thru the toughest steepest sections.  I fought the emotions.

At the trailhead, I made one last White Blaze pose.  I leaned against the tree, knowing this is the last few feet I have on the AT.

I heard a familiar voice, GunPowder of the Van Clain.  I ran and gave her a big hug.  The Van Claim will go up tomorrow with the Von Tramp family.  They showed up too.

My trail family, seeing my friends yesterday and today.  I grabbed photos of many.  Completors, finishers, thru-hikers.  What a feeling.

I found a ride into Millinocket with some day hikers and off I went.  I write but the writing doesn't do much.  The high of this accomplishment lingers and yet hasn't set in.

To all who follow this journey and those I've met along the way, thank you.  This is a journey not taken a lone.  Though I hike a lone, I travel not a lone.

100 Mile Wilderness

The 100 Mile Wilderness is not like what I think of out West: desolate, empty, vast.  It is actually busy with road crossings, abundant with lakes, and active with many uses. 

For me, it is the last hurdle in this epic journey.  It has mountain ridges to traverse, bogs to cross, and miles to move.  I don't like hiking dawn til dusk but, to pull in 20 mile days that's exactly what I've done.  Daylight is gone by 7:30 pm.  I've traveled much of this alone.  I found myself between hiker bubbles, again.  I've grown use to this.  I still prefer to hike alone yet camp with others.

The terrain in the guide book may show flat.  Don't let flat mean easy, some of the easiest is the up an down.  The rocks and roots give way to mud.  Bog bridges are often rotten under foot or moisture soaked. They can be slick traps over mud knee deep.

Did you know Maine is another word for wetland?  I'm joking, the land of Maine is truly stunning and words nor photo can describe what I see.  Next time I come I may sky blaze (take a plane) a section to view the many lakes I've hiked around from above.

The 100 Mile Wilderness begins at Monson and ends at Abol Bridge.  Monson a small town on a lake with two great hostels and an even better bakery, Pete's Place.   Abol Bridge a small convenience store with grill in route to Baxter State Park.

In this region, I've caught glimpses of Mount Kathadin.  I've watched the mountain go from a blue lump on the horizon to seeing defining features.  As one reads this, I'll be on Mount K celebrating this journey's end.  This journey is hardly over though, I believe it's just begun.

Last Night

The last night on the AT.  I can't believe I lay here listening to a few fellow thru-hikers talk by a crackling fire.  The Birches are the only designated shelters for us and space is limited to 12. Of the guys only one I've hiked with over several weeks, Jolley Green.  I met him in Dalton MA.  The others: Pope, Cruise, Potatoes, and Muffin Man, I've met since the White's

I signed the final registry as hiker 564 from GA.  This is only thru-hikers not any alternative style of hike.  Crazy, less then 1/2 my original thru-hiker number.  Where did everyone go?

As I made dinner, To Long - Sara, came thru.  She summited today.  She'd seen my entry in the Trail Log and came over.  She's trail family.  I've known her since who know's, Georgia?  Probably.  Good to see her one last time.

As I came into this area I caught another face, Forget Me Not.  I've known her only a few weeks.  While talking with her, Jim.and Roger aka Biscuits & Off Meds, came into sight.  I've hike consistently 1/2 day behind them for as long as I've know Forget Me Not.  This son & father team I've known also since Georgia.

We've made it.  2187 miles and a few more for good measure.  Each set out on this journey for a different reason.  I've forgotten why I came out.  I love to hike and see new places.  This hike's taught me a lot about myself in ways I can't put into writing.  One day I will try. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

I Slipped

Knowing I had two fords today, Sept 11, I knew I needed to exercise caution.  I like to take a lot of photos along the way and this day happens to be a rare wet day.  This year's journey is dry compared to previous years.   As I paused to look at the route across the creek, Moe river like, I lost my balance and ended up butt on the ground, feet ankle deep.  Problem solved, I picked myself up and waded across.

Two miles later, the fording, a bit different.  A wider and swifter river.  The rain added a little to the flow.  I pondered if anyone was around.  I whistled and got a response.  I put my SPOT beacon on my belt and turned it on just in case.  I loosed my straps and made sure my hip belt was not fastened.  A rope stretched between the shores.  I looped my poles over it.  My footing , not great but since my boots were already wet, I didn't bother taking them off.  I made the far shore without issue.

I tracked a few more miles for the day without further worries.  I was glad to see a few friends at the Horse Shoe Shelter.  I found a place to set up and dried off.  The slip did leave me muddied but the trail was misfired with the rain of the day.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

200 miles left

As I crossed over Sugarloaf Mountain, I passed the 200 miles left mark for this journey. 

I knew dropping into the cirque the rest of the journey wasn't going to be easy or may be that was for today.  I couldn't tell at the moment as the weather turned from okay to let's put wet on the ground.  I stared into the mist.  The trail guide said steep.  Ha, steep, I've seen that plenty.  What made this steep, steep was the lack of granite slabs.  It was rocky, wtf kind of down. 

I learned several days ago if you find a switch back in New England count yourself blessed.  In Maine a switch back is a frightening down, followed by some sort of traverse with a little up, then back down again.  This wouldn't be so bad of frightening if I didn't have 40 odd pounds on my back.  I think this kind of terrain is fun with lighter loads.  I'm committed at this point, no backing out

Next time I'll, is a common thought as I've refined my gear dozens of times in my head.  200 miles left, will I take the time to refit my ruck as I envision?  Will I begin to plan the next big adventure as many in Georgia wanted to?  Hey, where are those lofty dreamers?  Did they make it this far?

My knees gave way to gravity spills as the rocks seemed to distance themselves farther a part.  I groaned trying to figure out poles or hands.

Eventually, I made the 1100 foot descent in less then 7/8ths of a mile.  The stream at the bottom needed fording.  A Q&A sheet at the last shelter said Maine AT Clubs don't maintain bridges as ice jams in the spring often take em out.  A plank with a fat wire lay across the gushing gap.  I placed one foot then the next.  It held.  I wouldn't need to find an alternative today.  I shuffled my feet, the plank bowed and held.

200 more miles, hum?  What else does Maine have?

Friday, September 05, 2014

Rangeley ME

I haven't seen a mythical beast of Maine yet, better known as a moose but I have seen the line between the equator and the North pole...

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Sawyer Notch

Laying snug in my hammock, I hear the sounds of the night all around. The beatles crawling through the leaves.  The owl hooting.  The creek of Sawyer Notch runs near by.  It always takes a while for me to settle down to the sounds of the night.  My mind plays games on me as acorns fall from the trees and bugs dance on my tarp.

I am alone.  Those I camped with last night at Baldplate shelter chose to call it short angle for into Andover ME via the southern route.  I'm choosing the northern as I have an extra day food supply.  In the morning I've got a 1200 foot climb in a distance of less then a mile and two miles of easy down hill.  If the up is like Carter Notch, I'll get treated with stone steps in sections and quick treadway in others.

The climb over Baldplate Mountain this morning included sections of scrambling on exposed granite slabs meeting with spectacular views.  Down the northern side once I hit tree line, is another story of expletives.  Chutes of lengths I don't like and they were wet.  The hope I had was to cling to the side trees.  Occasionally a ladder would appear, often on the other side of the trail.

Once clear of Baldplate, I made fast time and took long breaks.  A few to many breaks however, I find taking breaks with others is rewarding.  People make the trail what it's become, the outdoor aspect is another.  So I didn't make my destination today.  I did break the 15 mile barrier I haven't seen in two weeks.  I feel good laying here alone this evening.


I jokingly crawled into Maine from New Hampshire.  The White's behind me and the mud traps before.  They say not to discount southern Maine.  I've found this to be true.  Maine is a rugged as it is beautiful.

My first order of business, the Mahousuc Notch.  This notch is a boulder field in a tight canyon about a mile long.  I arrived after nearly a full day of hiking.  My goal was still 5 miles out.  I'd decide after the Notch not to continue.

I paused at the southern end of the space for water and to reset my gear.  I knew from the multiple climbs of the day two poles is a liability of safety.  One can help me balance, push up, and stabilize for other hops.

I felt over all the hardest mile was the funnest.  I can't describe the joy of rock hoping with a 40lbs pack over some spaces to make heart attacks a viable option.  To crawling through narrow spaces that make the Lemon Squeezer of NY seem like a 4 lane highway.  I hooted and hallered my way around enjoying myself as if I was playing on the boulder fields above Red Pine Lake (Little Cottonwood Canyon).

For the hardest mile, I think the last mile of each day is the hardest.  That day I did wrap up by pulling into camp with half a dozen other NoBo's who chose to call it short for the day.  I found a hang on a common tree with another hammocker.

The following day, I began the climb up the Mahousuc Arm.  I climbed up sticky rock chutes.  Not true chutes as one think of terrain traps of the Wasatch more like sections of treeless paths 5 to 15 feet wide and 100 to 300 feet long.  I'd place a foot one up above the other straight up 30 degree angle.  I loved getting to the top of each to see the view behind me except the view I had clouds and mist.

Loving getting to Maine.  I reached 1900 miles hiked, the final State of the hike, and the "hardest mile.". I can say that the trail's rewards are fantastic.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

White Mountain Hostel

What do hikers do on a dat off?  Simply watch hiking movies, talk hiking, and eat...

More in the White's

Easing myself out of a Trail Angel's pick up, I thought nothing of the bad weather not forecasted.  Up out of the parking lot I rose to the ridge line above.  I pushed on under beautiful sky.  The trail at times requiring the use of my hands on the rocks to pull me up.  Other times I used the trekking poles to push or balance.

I made Lonesome Lake Hut past the hour to ask for work for stay.  I went in anyways and asked.  Two other thru-hikers already there meant a yes near impossible.  I got it.  I took a quick swim to wash off before coming back to the porch to wait for the call for us to eat and work.  WFS at the huts mean we get to eat left overs after thr paying guests finish, do some kind of chore, and sleep on the dinning room floor between lights out and the setting for breakfast.

The chore, inventory and clean the chest freezer.  The meal, pulled pork, the sleep, meh, I don't care to sleep on floors.  This night I did get a view of the galaxy above through the window.  To see the stars, wow.  I'd like to say I see them often, in reality, I seldom do for the trees.

In the morning, I waited until after breakfast before pushing on. The forecast changed over night from not a problem & enjoy the views to be ready for rain and winds on the ridges.  Today, the near the top winds pushed me around.  I chose to detour from my goal and bail out to Greenleaf Hut.  I got WFS of washing dishes.  There ended up being six they'd that evening. Very late, a young family comes in and the crew took care of them.  This family on a day hike realized they weren't going to get back to their car and detoured as well.  Kudos to the dad and the croo's for taking care of the family.

The wind whipped all night long.  A thick cloud blew on the mountain.  The mountain I needed to get back on top of.  I waited until the reading of the weather report and grabbed a little breakfast leftovers.  The day more wind in exposed areas, damp with high chance of rain later on.  I hiked a good portion of the day in rain gear while above tree line.  Below tree line, I wore a long sleeved shirt, shorts, and a scarf.

I made a tired decision and bailed to a campsite where I did WFS again with the emphasis, I won't stir the privy compost.  I picked up the little micro trash instead and talked with a host of weekenders. There are six tent platforms and a shelter that accommodates fourteen.  It's all full, tally is 36.

I write in pieces.  At this moment it is raining.  Tomorrow, I'm sure more of the same.  What's making the misery of the White's different from that of the Smokies is I'm dry.  My feet down south were wet for 5 days.  I've only had my feet wet once here due to muck.  I'm sure that could change but let's hope not.  More as I continue.

Aug 25,  as the week continued, the weather improved.  The sky I woke to on the next day, clear and bright.  I'd like to say I made fast miles however the ruggedness of the White's kept me slow.  I kept a pace that got me into the next notch in time to grab a bite to eat from a snack bar before they closed.  After the quick bite of daily leftovers, six hot dogs and two slices of pizza, I found a stealth site to camp.    Stealth camping is no trace camping amped up and typically done where not allowed.  In this case not a lot of options so I did.

In the morning I climbed up the trail of Webster's Cliffs, over to the next hut and then on to Lake of the Clouds.  Another WFS opportunity and an awesome sky of stars to see from the floor of the dining hall.

On August 25, the time came to hike over Mount Washington.  This mountain's weather is known for being the worst in the lower 48 and can change instantly from being great to below miserable.  I lucked out all day.  It was sunny and slightly cloudy.  The hike over to the next notch, harsh.  Think stair masters on broken glass except after getting on top of the mountain, all down hill.

Now there's a lot of details I am leaving out as this post is bordering on being lengthy.  As I lay again in the hammock, I think of the little stories the last week encapsulates.  Little things like asking for leftovers and leaving full.  Like asking how far the next land mark will take to reach and getting a snack.  About hiking with a family of thru-hikers and learning of the lifestyle they've chosen for this year.  Which story is my favorite?  It's hard to say, other then asking which do you want to hear.

Tomorrow, more up and up as I hit the Carter Ridge.  Soon the White's will come to a close.

I'm sitting in White Mountains Hostel, the White's officially behind me.  I did WFS at Carter Notch Hut.  Love the intimacy of the hut however the walls of the notch intimidating, steep beyond imagination.  Once going, it wasn't so bad, steps most of the way with sticky slabs in other areas, up 1500 feet gain Plus.  The ridge easy comparative, then the drop.  The drop, at times I looked over a few sloping areas to see 'oh my!'   Only to get halfway down and realize the drop was only half as bad, the next half added the punctuation mark.  Thankfully those parts were few.  I stayed at a shelter for the night before a quick drop into the hostel.

The White's took a lot out of me and gave me renewed sense if awe and wonder.  The rumors of the White's being brutal are true as well as understated.  My truth for the White's rugged awesomeness requiring huge amounts of humility.  One cannot hike the AT alone, even less the White's.  Don't try to keep up with people yet don't forget to enjoy them.  Remember to look behind you as it may prevent you from hiking the wrong way and you may get views not expected.

As I wrap this up, I've left out a lot of details. Stories and details that just can't be added due to time and space.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The White's

I've arrived at one of the last great challenges of the AT.  This is also one of the greatest sections.  This is the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

On Aug 18 I got a taste of them with a slack pack over Mount Moosilaki, okay my spelling is off.  The day began from Hikers Welcome Hostel with breakfast and loading into cars.  I hiked with Conductor, Blood Cookie, and Jolley Green Giant.  These three I've stayed and hiked with over the last few weeks.

We went to the North side to hike back to the hostel.  Up a rain slicked trail we followed a water fall.  Steeper then what I want to come down with a pack. The guys spread out with the pace and soon I was listening to my own steps.

As I climbed, I met NoBo's with packs on.  Several of whom I haven't seen for quite a while.  One can oftentimes be half a day away from someone for weeks and never know it.

Nearing the top, the trees got shorter and denser.  I tugged on my hat and made ready for the cold wind.  The clouds hadn't broken yet for the day.  I took a hit as the wind bit into my face.  Visablity, but a few hundred feet, carins built to be seen, stood in the mist.

Nearing the top, rock walled wind pits held shelter against the bitterness.  I hunkered down for a few minutes with two others hopping the clouds would break and the view open up.  After half an hour I gave up and pushed on.

The way down, just as steep and slick as the way up.  Shortly after making the tree line, I took off the rain gear I used to block the wind.  A few minutes later the sky cleared.  I'd have to see someone else's photos for the view.  I wasn't going to go back up.

Carefully, I picked my way down.  Past other hikers, I could see why after passing so many NoBo's, the SoBo's grunt at us.  There's a lot of people going North.

At the roadway I walked back to the hostel to wrap up a few chores and kick back with other guests.

Loosing Things

The morning after the wooded zero, I repacked my rucksack twice looking for things.  First, it was for my journal then for my tent stakes.  Later, I paniced as I went over the VT/NH bridge fearing I left my SPOT at the shelter.  I even made contingency plans to try to get it without hiking 11 miles back the way I came.  Most recently, I left two tent stakes behind.

Routine is the way I prevent loosing things out here.  Everything has a place in the pack.  Everything has a place in camp.  It's when the routine gets up set that things go missing.  Most of the time loss of something is only temporary.  I'll find it because I didn't remember to place it in that spot instead placing it elsewhere.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wooded Zero

The deafening roar of rain on a tin shelter roof is the music I listen to right now, 9 am.  I put in a 22 mile day to get within half a day's hike from my next resupply point, Hanover.  The forecast called for 3 to 5 inches of rain in the next day, which is today.  I took full advantage of the smooth mud free trail from Stony Brook to Thistle Mountain.

Last night, there were 5 hikers staying.  One needed to push on weather depending or not.  Two others decided to go in spite of the rain.  I lay back thinking in need coffee but, will settle for tea since I ran out of coffee a few days ago.  The last fellow hiker lays on his mat reading his kindle.

Puddles form at the roof's drip line.  I ponder if there are hikers on the trail bound for this shelter or if they'll deli blaze and stay at a barn near the convenience store where the farmer let's hikers stay.  There is one other older shelter that hikers may detour to about 2 miles back from where I'm at.

The rain continued to pour down until 6:30.  Since then the water's been dripping off the trees.   Tomorrow should be good Vermud hiking into New Hampshire.

As the day progressed the few hikers that came through stayed.  Three SoBo's came in.  Two of them married were excited when they crossed paths with their friend from earlier up north.  Most had stopped for a break and stayed.  Four NoBo's I've hiked with the last week planned to stay at this place.  The NoBo's stayed at the red barn on VT 12 last night.

As folks came in with wet gear, drying lines began to criss cross the front of the shelter.  At one point the lines looked like a yard sale.

We are 8 in the shelter.  The shelter shuffle began hours ago as dinner and snacks came out, hot water boiled, and some shared goodies.  The one drippy spot is on the foot of my hammock, arugh.  I hope the morning shuffle will go quickly.

At this point in my hike, the saying "No rain, no pain, no Maine" holds little meaning as I can take a break for weather.


500 1700

What do these numbers mean?  Why should they come up?  Will there be more like them?  Surely this guy isn't into numbers?  Actually, I like numbers.  17 holds significance in my  life.

These numbers do hold significance in this hike.  500 is miles left on this journey.  1700 is miles I've hiked on the journey.  Both came within a day's hike of each other.  One was well marked. The other not.

Tonight I lay slung in a shelter with others celebrating these miles in simple ways.  There's not much to say beyond so far so good, let's finish strong.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Mount Greylock

Knowing a fellow hiker's family was going to do trail magic on MA's highest peak, Mount Greylock, I made sure I got there.  I hustled up from Dalton where I crashed on Tom L's lawn.

I got up to early, so I paid for an over priced burger and an ice cream.  SoBo's and NoBo's are mixing and somehow a lot of weekenders as well.  Stories floowed around outside on the grass.

Something caught my eye and I  investigated.  The eastern side opened up to a drop and good wind.  Para-sails and hang gliders littered the field.  Several guys watched the wind at various points.

I saw Pig Pen, a fellow hiker from my first month on the trail.  He got off in southern VA to tend to matters at home.  He's back on the trail picking up different sections.

Eventually the sun kicked up a few strong thermals for the fliers to take to the air.  I watched in awe.  In Utah, we have Point of the Mountain State Air Park with regular cycles daily.  Here there's only a few good days of flight.

The family did come.  They did have plenty of fresh fruit and cheap sodas.  15 odd hikers enjoyed the efforts.

I moved on down an old ski cut, now hiking trail.


The rain of last week refreshed the mud on the other side of the border.  My feet slipped not on mud but on rock in MA.  In MA majority of slippery rock is marble based.  The MA/VT border, marked by welcome to the Long Trail, brought a sticky rock that is slip resistant.  I pushed myself through the mud looking for the slip resistant rocks even on the downhill.

I can't say much is changing since I got into Vermont.  My attitude is focused on doing miles.  My mind does wander to what will the end bring.  My MP3 player died and I replaced it with a cheap radio.  I miss listening to worship music.  I can picture the worship leader, Josh, at City Church getting excited on Sunday morning when I cranked to one of the albums loaded.  For now, I'll listen to the air waves.

Saturday, August 02, 2014


Some folks on the trail are the folks who keep the trail moving, be they hikers or not. Over the last few days I've met two of the lesser known but more famous.  They both started out by doing something good for a hiker and word spread.

Yesterday, I met the Cookie Lady.  She's been serving fresh cookies to hikers for twenty-five years.  Her place is on a little road crossing next to a cultivated blue berry patch.  Her cookies are a treat and a treasure after a good long day.  She also let's thru-hikers camp on her property.

Today, Tom L, in Dalton MA.  He's on a quiet street just in town and let's thru-hikers camp in his yard.  When I mean quiet, I mean keep the conversations to a whisper.  He'll let hikers borrow a bike to run for errands for showers, library, and a variety of restaurants.  In '79 he let a hiker stay in his yard, the next three more showed up.

Some of the more boisterous trail movers include Miss Janet and Baltimore Jack.  I met both down in TN.  These two follow the bubble up the trail.  Miss Janet's van is easily recognized by the many AT stickers.  She'll shuttle hikers around or help them find services in weird locations.  Baltimore Jack is an expert on who what where and when of the trail.  If you need advice on hiking he's the go to.  Both, however, if you see then at Trail Days let them come to you for they are so well known they can suffer from celebrity over load.

Movers on the trail.  These four are but a small percentage of folks who help the hikers move up and down the AT.  Thousands of others could easily be highlighted as well.  My appreciation goes out to everyone I've met.

Upper Goose Pond

A couple miles out of South Wilcox Shelter I ran into a familiar face I hadn't seen for 6 weeks, since central Virginia.  We kicked up the trail chatter and hiked the rest of the day together. Seldom do I hike with someone for more then an hour.  The destination, Upper Goose Pond an AMC facility.

The day included only a few ups and downs through mud and once water floowed trails.  Dodging mosquitoes easy with the chilly weather.  At one road crossing, trail magic by Mother Hen, cookies and lemonade.  Drying out happened the day before, now the trail is drying out with hiker boots.

The last mile is the hardest of each day.  A sign said 'Thru-hikers keep to the White Blazes.' Easy enough, I knew the blue blaze would cut 2 miles off our journey.  The trail wrapped around a beautiful calm pond, with no jump out places for photos.  The final mile came to be with another sign 0.5 miles.  Ah.

The cabin rivals any other I've seen and puts some hostels to shame.  It's comfortable sized, clean, and well cared for by the AMC.  Several hikers already there taking bunks inside and others camping out on the grounds.  Stories of the day and other chatter ensued.

One of the last hikers to arrive, Sky Chicken (a helicopter pilot) brought stories and advice of the Whites.  I listened with note taking on how to plan a day and what to expect for the weather.  Those I hope don't play out to be bad weather and cold nights.

It's hard to think about the ending of the journey being just 550 odd miles away and yet the hardest part being the next section.  I hope the miles don't mater to me.  I hope the psychological/physical challenges of the Whites don't mess with my head. Every stage of the journeys had issues.  What lay a head?

PS I am sleeping in the bunk. The last few night's the cold front on the East Coast is a bit nippy for me.


CT north of Kent according to Baltimore Jack's trail resupply guide is the worst place for bugs.   When I read that I knew he didn't mean that.  As I scratch yet another thousand mosquito bites.  He didn't mean it after all he's the first person to hike the AT five or more times consecutively.  May be he means Maine.  I scratch again.  No, there is no other place on the AT where the king of the hill isn't a TV show.  They are little buzzing insects that bite everything and I mean everything.

In PA the saving grace was the people.  Dido here too.  The people I've talked to in Kent, Falls Village, and Salsbury are fantastic.  They are open and friendly like no other.  Who said there isn't hospitality North of the Mason-Dixon Line?   They aren't hiking my hike.  Warm and receptive.  I've sat outside many a small town shop chatting with folks.  At the IGA deli, the guy behind the counter asked why so many hikers order a particularly sandwich.  I explained we've had the ham & cheese, the turkey clubs, the ruben's etc so this is a likely choice.

The AT in CT is fairly well maintained.  There are parts that could use a little more help.  The terrain is easy with a few steep sections of built stone steps.  Lots of ferns and small creeks.

I'm meeting a fair share of South Bounders.  They've summitted Mnt K already.  Their mountain is Springer, personally anti-clamatic.  They've got miles to do.  I've got the Whites just around the bend of New England where 80% of the effort is said to be had.  Effort okay but, the psychological aspect of miles of VA's mindless scenery, PA's rocks, NY's top of the mountain swamps, and CT's bugs will make that effort grand.

I lay in the hammock trying not to scratch, hearing the bugs swarm around my head.  Baltimore Jack's words hold meaning.  The worst pests are North of Kent.

PS: I lay close go the 1500 mile mark for this year's measurement.  I have 687 left to go.  Wow, I've just tripled what I typically hike every year.  What challenges do I face in the last quarter?


Descending into the Delaware Water Gap PA  I heard the sounds of traffic.  The trail though getting steeper also got smoother and reminded me of Georgia, with the rhododendron bushes in bloom.  I hit a rocky out crop to see I-80 below.  Thoughts of hitching a ride to Utah flooded my mind.  Two days ago with my attitude, because of the rocks, would have propelled me down the mountain side to try for that one lucky ride and be home in a couple of days.  This day, July 14, however, my attitude flipped.  Earlier in the day I crossed a seemingless landmark, a pipeline.  This pipeline marked 899.9 miles left to Mount Katahdin.  Less then 900 miles to go! I didn't race down, I tenderly let my feet down.

Pennsylvania's rocks took their toll on my feet.  The shoes worn from stepping on pointy tips of rocks from little ones to basketball sized ones.  The biggerones I can step easily on depending on the angles of slant.  The worst ones were hinden under vines of various tormentors.  The trail maintenance lacking greatly.  Then the worry of snakes, added to it.  I had two slither out under foot over the past 100 miles of rock.  Thankfully those were garden snakes.  Most of the rocks are contained in the sections north of Duncannon.

The people of Pennsylvania, fantastic.  Most days I came upon folks they added to life.  Serveral days, I didn't dig into my pack for lunch.  Other days, I didn't ask for a ride, they happened.  Other days, there was a restaurant along the trail.  Several grocers offered a piece of fruit to thru-hikers.

In the southern regions I couldn't help but let myself be detoured by the history.  Tracts of stone boundary walls marked ancient, to the US, farm property.  Tiny cemeteries hide just out of site of farmer's fields with no established trails to them.  A large monument, like a castle arch and tower, commemorates fallen Civil War war correspondents.

Rocks, rocks, rocks, arugh!  They tenderized my feet, added shin splints, and added to the beating of my knees.  I've added a foam roller to massage out the knots to my kit.  My attitude sank as the rocks didn't let up.  Stretches of rocks with little relief of forest duff or big ones.  The big ones, that one can hop from one to another were fun without the pack however, the pack needed to bounce along with me.

Passing the 900 miles left mark lifted my spirit.  This state really tested my tenacity to keep going, to keep pressing forward.  This state showed different colors.  I can't believe I've come within reach of the goal.

Each state brings a different lesson.  I wonder what do the remaining states have for me?  What lessons will I learn? What will I take with me from each state?  Where and how will I apply each of the state's lessons?

Hike on.  Let the lessons remain...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

New York

Everyone loves NYC but, how many love the State?  When one thinks of New York and places to visit they think of either the City or Up State.  How many think of the other areas?  I didn't.  I'm surprised by how easy the terrain is to cover and how beautiful the lower south east corner is.

Before crossing the Hudson River, I stopped at Bear Mountain.  The views showed the city in the distance.  The mix of hikers, great.  I met my first SoBo's, Spoons and Toey.  They summited Mnt K on May 31st, making them some of the first SoBo's of the season.  They're in now for the miles.  Their only rough spot is the first 150 miles of PA, then the psychological play afterwards.

Crossing the Hudson on the bridge is cool.  Not really, its's a road walk.  However in June and July of '94, 20 years ago, I sailed under this bridge with Mercy Ships.  The M/V Anastasis of Mercy Ships was enroute to and from Albany for a Public Relations Tour.  I tried to picture myself looking up and seeing hikers, I didn't recall seeing any then.  I hoped to see boats passing, I didn't.

I'm sitting in Pawling working on DVD photo burning and have a few minutes to write.  Like many towns I hit, T-Mobile isn't here.  I use the library later to post.

Yesterday I crossed over several points that gave an opportunity to get into the City by train.  However I found the ups and downs, the climbing through the rocky craigs and boardwalks through swamps more fun.  I didn't think NY had swamps.  The AT crosses many swampy areas.  Swamps equate to ticks and snakes, so far I haven't see either on me or on the ground.  The trail crews have placed boardwalks through many of the areas.  Thank you.

One highlight was the walk around Nuclear Lake.  Nuke Lake was the sight of a processing material spill in the 70's.  The plant is no longer but still fenced off.  The rest looks untouched by human intrusion less a rock wall at the northern end.  This wall looks constructed in haste as if there was a battle of old here.  The wall but 3 foot high close to the water's edge and zigzaging.  Other old stone walls I've seen are old property boundaries, not this one.

I think waiting on the memory card to load onto the DVD unit is hurting my hike time. I think I'll send the card home next time.  I'm sorry I'm not posting many photos.  Little connectivity through my service provider and slow Wi-Fi at other locals drag.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


What did I get for my birthday?  Lemons.  Okay, not exactly.  I did squeeze myself through the rock formation known as the 'lemon squeezer'. This is a bit of New York ridge line rock that instead of being routed around or over one is routed into.  There is a bypass for the faint at heart or to fat.  Yes, I said to fat.  With my pack I wanted to try it though I'm close go being to big for this narrow cleft of rock passage.  I barely fit.  I managed to get through the split in the mountain.  Every opportunity like this is preparing the NoBo for what's a head.

My day began out with a little over night rain and a weekender wishing me happy birthday.  His greeting spawned a chorus of similar greetings from other campers.  One (as on one of the herd) brought down a Little Debbie's snack cake.  Jade, Steady, and One sang.  I danced.  No candle to blow out.

The rain left some wetness around.  It gave me a chance to try out the new kicks on wet rock without being in a bad spot.  Yesterday as I got to NY 17a, I set down and no sooner had I pulled out my trail guide two cars pull over.  That's fast and I didn't even hang my thumb out.  The lady I spoke with asked me a few hiker questions on why I wanted to get into Campmor.  She replied there was a shoes store in Warwick.  Soon I was on my to renewed trail comfort but first a detour past the ice cream shop.

Where will I be next year is anyone's guess.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Day 100

Today marks ny 100th day on the AT.  I woke up rested on a cot in a St Thomas Episcopal, a church that provides rest for the weary. This is not dedicated space like I've been previously.  I knew I wanted to take it slow.

My feet, not looking like hamburger, still hurt.  Red spots decorate where skin and sock meet.  The soles ache to walk on.  I found a pair of new inserts in the hiker box and cut them to fit.  These will help, temporarily.

I walked to Dunkin' wearing my crocks, camp shoes.  Sat for a while reading about the airliner that was shot down over Russia.  Terrible, how could anyone target innocent people like this.

I found my way to the grocery store for some resupply and innovation.  I left a couple of thin wires needed for a windscreen I recently picked up at a campsite two nights ago.  Arug, I was tired and it was dark when I'd finished my supper then.  I found something that'd make due.

After doing a couple of chores at the church, I grabbed my ruck and headed for the highway.  It's the most unlikely people that will pick me up, ironically.  Today a lady well into her 60's driving a Volvo station wagon.   We both missed the trailhead as we went down the road.  Finally, I recognized we went to far and she drove me back.  The location was just shy of where she was originally headed.

I heaved my pack fresh from resupply onto my back and headed into the field leading to the mountains.  It gradually changed from level and smooth to steep and rocky.  The blazes became the dot to dot trail of PA for a moment.  The locals call this climb the 'stairway to heaven.' Not super steep considering what I've seen and will see.

Near the top I met a couple of day hikers.  One gal asked how I was doing.  Great less my feet, I responded mentioning my worn out shoes.  She had her friend look up Campmor.  I've only known Campmor as a cheep catalog outlet.  Apparently, they have stores and one just up the trail in a day or two in NY off HWY 17.  This many not be trail magic but, it's great news for sore feet.

The view from the top looked down upon Jersey and New York states.  Green, rolling farm land as far as one can see.  This isn't TV, this is real.  The hiker who knew the area said Jersey's been advertising a lot on getting out hiking.  That's probably why so many people I've met don't know where they're at on the trails.

As for me I bade the gals audue and treked into the woods.  Today's a short day, only 5 or so miles to Wawayanda shelter, mile remaing 827.4.  Wait!  Less than 830, cool creeks.  That's about 50 days at 16 miles a day.  Soon, very soon, my sore feet will be but a memory.

As for now I need to get off this rock and move along.  I chose a slow day yet still have a mile yet to go...


I'm not sure if New Jersey is trying to be like Pennsylvania for the rocks or Georgia for the forested trails. NJ is its own state with its own variety.

One of the first things I noticed is, it's not flat.  This region has rolling forested hills.  There are stretches of ridge lines covered with scrub oak and berries of many kinds.

I do enjoy the many flat lands of Jersey.  Just off the Murray property the trail dives deep into some marsh lands.  The Jersey boardwalks may be a hit with those on the beach but few will take shelter and makeout under these unless you're a frog or snake.  These boardwalks are but planks on logs to keep an open path.  One could say the rocks of PA give way to the boardwalks of Jersey.  Without these awesome planks Jersey would be the new word for suck.  I did find the marshes mystical in a neat way.

Another thing I noticed is of the few people I've met, no one knows where they are at.  When I ask how much further to the next landmark the folks want to know where I am going first.  This is slightly annoying as I've just told them the next landmark.  Is this a Jersey thing?

Well this is one of the smaller states I visit and I won't be able to give much of a report on it beyond, this isn't Jersey Shores the TV show.  Expect the rocks of PA to make one last feeble attempt to destroy the shoes, know where you're at, and eat hearty on the berries.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sometimes I Write

Somedays a lot of thoughts come to my head, somedays few.  This week is one of those weeks not a lot is coming to where and when I want to share.  I could run down the who, what, where, and when's of my hike.  I find that pretty boring actually.  After all I hike.  I travel daily through the woods.  Walking through the woods sounds pretty boring, write?

I will say Pennsylvania is one of those states that needs to be respected on the trail.  I cuss a lot on the trail because of the rocks.  The terrain looks flat yet, in reality it's not.  Fill it with jagged rocks and a 15 mile day becomes hard.  Add to that different layers of danger.  This could be over growth of vegatation covering rocks.  The vegitation itself could be thorns or poison ivy, a danger right there.  In sunny spots, toss in the possibility of snakes.  There's always jagged rocks under foot with these vines.  Occasionally, I find the trail follows a PA Game Land road, aka 4 wheeler track.

On July 10th, as I left Dan's Pulpit, I nearly stepped on a rattler sunning its lethargic self on the rocks.  Jade yelled up to me "I want to see it."  Her husband, Steady, joined us a moment later.  Then the debate came, how to step around it through the rocks and brush.  We all took a different route.  Now, when I say nearly stepped on this creature, I mean I saw it well enough in advanced that it gave me a fright but, far enough to be at a safe distance.

This same day we crossed the Knife's Edge, a rocky out crop of a quarter mile length.  The danger here is just falling with a heavy pack.  There is no danger of falling any distance.  Snakes were on my mind, as well as falling.  Erin Saver, aka Wired, had fallen a few days before and wrote about her bad experience on her blog.  As a Triple Crowner, I can see this may also hurt a bit on her pride. For me her warning was simple, be ready to use all surfaces to my advantage and put the poles away.  I did and I did take a few photos.  I'd love to redo this section as a day hike.  It is a fun, play on chunk of trail.

Somedays, a bit of delay can make a huge difference.  It could be a simple long lunch or a detour.  Also on July 10th, we stopped for a second lunch.  While finishing, the owner came in talking about the weather.  We went back out, brought our packs under cover as the sky darkened.  A few minutes later, the sky was no longer dark but, heaving massive amounts of rain down.  Thanks to stopping for a few extra moments we stayed dry.  Another friend of ours had pushed on.  That poor fella already having a bad day, must have buried his attitude even further down.  Hopefully something will shift into his favor.

I did catch up with this fellow hiker the next day.  Trail magic lightened his mood with a favorite snack.

Everything I see or experience on the trail is preparing me for some greater challenge.  Even as I hike over these rocks, I can say, I've done it.  Cyber hikers will tell a tall story on how bad they are.  I'll tell ya, when one take these rocks one day at a time, even one step at a time, they really aren't that bad.  The hazards out here aren't hazards when one is paying attention.  The hazards are pretty cool.  Who can say they've nearly stepped on a snake and yet be far enough away to enjoy watching it for a few minutes and not have disturbed it?  Who can say they've climbed over jagged rocks to see views few locals know of?

One day at a time,  hike on...

Monday, July 07, 2014


Jagged, sharp, small, large, baseball sized, marvel sized, car tire sized, just every where, ROCKS!  Hardly a step in any direction will not result in stepping on some form of rock.  The hammock pays off for sleeping except for trying to drive a stake in the ground, then it's a game of roulette.  Hiking is tough, slow going.  My ankles twist often, knees belch, and the feet moan with no delight.

Welcome to Pennsylvania.

The funny thing is, I'm not even close to where it gets bad.  I am just north of the 501 shelter on PA 501.  I'm expecting my shoes to be torn up by the time I hit Kent CT after the trail get back to sudo normal.  I got barely 700 miles out of the last pair and Kent will be about the right place to get a new pair.  Hiking shoes come to die in Pennsylvania, aka Rocksylvania.

These rocks make the local hikes, in SLC, above Red Pine Lake, and Maybird Gulch a sinch.  There its climbing or stepping from one to another except on a few path like areas.

I know when I'm on the AT, its the worst trail around.  In places so over grown I use my sticks as weed wackers.  In other places, I see the white blazes and play connect the dots while hoping I don't end up with a picture of a house.  As I cross other trails they tend to be a bit better taken care of or atleast the dirt hasn't been worn away from around the rocks.

Every so often, I get lucky and the AT follows an abandoned road.  That's if I'm lucky.  I like seeing ferns as they tend to put more plant matter on the ground between the rocks.  Ferns are also an indicator of a near by spring, even un-marked ones.

There's other issues with Pennsylvania that I won't go into.  I'll say, ticks and scant water, to end what I need to say about the above.

Hike on & watch how you step...

Triple Digits

I almost fell over it.  I was day dreaming my way down one of the few smooth places in Pennsylvania when I saw it, 1200 set on the pathway in stones.  2187 minus 1200, I recognize is less then 999.  I am well into the triple digit count down.  The miles to Mount K are rapidly clicking off.

Up coming is another number that only a few people will understand.  Be ready to see it marked with the SPOT.  If you do know this number, you'very known me a long time.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Half Gallon

Can you do it?

My last few town stops didn't have ice cream.  I really wanted ice cream.  I dreamed about ice cream.  As I got up this morning I wanted ice cream more then crossing the physical halfway point on the AT.

I got to Pine Grove Furnace State Park and headed straight to the General Store.  I walked in with my spoon in one hand and cash in the other.  The lady begin the counter pointed to the half gallon freezer.

I grabbed mint chocolate chip and headed outside.  Thus began not the challenge but, indulging my ice cream fantasy.  I am now just resting delightfully satisfied.

My reward, a wooden spoon.

PS what's the challenge?

Physically Halfway to Katahdin

Just before Pine Grove Furnace State Parks is the physical halfway point with the AT.  There's the mobile marker as the length of the AT varies from year to year and the stationary marker for the average years length.

Before I realized where I was at this morning, I was upon the actual mileage marker, 1092.65.  Every step beyond this marker I am closer to Mount Kathadin then I am Springer Mountain.

The stationary marker was beyond another shelter.  This is the big marker with many decorations.

When I happen upon the first, tears followed.  I couldn't believe I stood closer to Mount Katahdin then Springer Mountain.  Miles of ache and joy, friends and angels, hopes and fear.  This is one of my joyous moments.

A Logistical Nightmare

In Damascus I sent myself a resupply box -aka bounce box- a head to a town that was listed as poor resupply.  I had some basic get me up the trail stuff, snacks, and lunches.

Well I ended up with to much in my food inventory the day I passed through that small town and didn't stop, figuring they could just forward the package. I made the call the next time I got phone service.  Side note T-Mobile sucks on the lower half of the AT.

Since the initial call I'very made over 4 calls and got no where.  The person whom I've spoken to never provided options or showed knowledge on how to forward a hiker's bounce box.

Today, when I called, I expressed my frustration and told her I will be calling the Better Business Bureau.  All of a sudden I got a rebuttal, 'You can't do that, you'll never get your package.' The lady then started providing me options on how to get it.

This issue is now 5 weeks in the making.  I will be sending the correct amount via check made out to the postmaster.  I've learned not to send packages a head without first calling the business to find out what their mail holding policy I'd for hikers. 

I hope to see this issue resolved soon.  As a professional customer service representative, I find it appalling that it's taken more then two calls for a resolution.  Typically, it should be the consumer calling to say there is an issue and the second call by the CSR saying the issue is resolved.

PS.  Once my package is in hand, I'll fill in the town and business name.  Depending on the timeliness ist report then to the editor of the guide book I use and to the BBB of their town.

A New Segment

As with Damascus' Trail Days I am seeing a New bubble of hikers.  I am either in between groups or more hikers are dropping out. 

Today, I called it short.  I didn't want to push my knee.  I did pass up going into two shelters just off the trail.  On a typical day I'll swing into read the shelter logs.  I hiked just over 15 miles including 1 mile of road walking to get back to the trail from the hostel.

The terrain, mellow.  The rock, well, in the way on the tread.  Rocks slow me down when I need to, err, want to look around without stopping.  Water sources, good.  Historical value, high.  In the region I now walk the Civil War ragged with the intensity of World Cup and strategy of chess masters.

I'm camping at a place called Dahlgren Backcountry Campground.  Don't let the name for you, its right off a road just out if sight.  Showers, electricit, and T-Mobile service.  The last one is nice for a change.

I'm camping here are a few other hikers I've met in the last few days:  O-Positive, Catch Up, and Sprout.  I've stayed with Sprout in before the Shenandoah's.  A few other hikers held up here during the day's heat and just headed out as I drowned a mug of noodles with garlic salt.

I ponder where the next mixer will be?  I acknowledge life on the trail is much like life at home.  There's a mix of seasons, mix of drama, mix of strengthening.

I've noticed a few shelters are missing log books.  I am also skipping Shelton that are a distance from the trail so I might just be fooling myself that so many folks are off the trail but, as I talk with SoBo's and day hikers I get the impression that there are truly fewer and fewer NoBo's.

Hike on...

Here You Go

In the last few days I can't believe the number of times people have just given me something I needed, without asking.

I passed thru Pen Mar State Park.  A couple of day hikers I passed earlier in the day came over with a paper grocery sack full of fresh picked cherries.  The hiker I'm with and I dive into them, even filling quart sized bags at their urging.  Later, these ladies pass the bag around to other hikers.  Fresh fruit is something we seldom see when hiking and oftentimes the first thing we reach for when offered.

I head up to look for an electric outlet while at Pen Mar.  I didn't find one.  A lady sitting on a park bench ask me and a different hiker if we are hungry.  I respond, I can be.  We fill our bellies with picnic leftovers.

A different day, on another part of the trail, someone gives me a bag of chips.  This supplements my lunch for the day.

At some random over look just north of the Bear's Den Hostel, I'm hiking with Oregon and his gal Little Bit, two ladies on a day hike happen to bring up lunch just for hikers to this spot.

I've got other trail magic stories to say.  I wrap it up this way, I haven't cooked dinner for three days now.  I am amazed by this culture of giving that I am seeing and experiencing.

PS someone gave me two packets of Starbucks Viva at this shelter after I mentioned I robbed a future day's ration of its coffee.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Halfway Psychologically Speaking

I pushed myself up and over more baseball sized rocks.  The map said level, hardly flat, I thought.  The guide book showed a border crossing, I didn't pay attention to the other landmarks.  I guzzled water.  Later to realize, I missed the context of the landmark.  I needed that water 2 miles later.

Harper's Ferry is a National Park and town in one, a strange blend of government owned and privatization of business.  I followwd the blue blazes up to the ATC.  After chillin in the hiker lounge I got my picture taken and my second thru-hiker number, 773.

I paged through the photo album.  The Van Clan's numbers were mixed colors.  Some had sectioned hike, while others registered as thru-hikers.  I saw but 3 others I had started with in Georgia.  Everyone else I'd met in the last 2 or 3 weeks.

By the time I decided to leave my right knee belly ached giving me the sign I needed to call it a short day.  I found out there was room at the Teahorse Hostel, half a mile away.  I limped over.

In the morning, I stalled getting out, the knee still aching.  I went back to the ATC and hit the post office to mail back a few more items.  Since I use the Bible App more the paper back version, that went.  A few other small items headed back as well.  My base weight is now 19 pounds.  If I gave up the electronics I could drop another 2 pounds but, that'd mean you wouldn't be reading entries like this.

I made way back to the AT and through the historical district.  I debated on an ice cream before deciding the lines were to long to wait.  I wanted to make miles, all of 3 trail miles and 1 up to the hostel.  I hobbled on.  A knee brace given to me by another hiker getting off the trail eased my pain.  I didn't vitamin I up.  I needed to.

I'm psychologically halfway.  I'm at a great jump off point.  The journey is far from over.  Hobs swung by.  I ran into his bride, of many years, at the ATC.  His visit alone showed me how important this journey of mine is to others on the trail, my trail family, and even those at home.  The fact he came by shows that more then anything else.  He travels light base weight of 11 lbs, 25 max with full load.  By the way he's in his 60's.

The hostel manager said many folks use this place as a decision maker.  Many leave for one reason or another.

Physically my knee aches.  I've read up on some stretches I can do, which I haven't been doing.  That's the invincible thru-hiker in me attitude coming out verses reality.  I'm going to try to take it slow over the next week and throttle back to less then 15 miles a day.

Psychologically, I'm no where near to giving up.  Quitting isn't a word in my vocabulary.  I'm not stronger then that, I've looked at options and quitting leads down a trail I just don't want any part of.  There are options.  Slowing down is one and if I don't make it to summit Mnt K, I can flip flop to finish.  I have miles and I have time.  Miles don't equal time.

I'm on my way.  One step at a time.  One day at a time.  I am a thru-hiker on the AT.  I daily embrace the lessons of the trail with gratitude and thanksgiving.    I daily take time to see that which is around me.  I daily listen to my body, my gear, and the trail.  I daily look for ways to encourage others who are down and those who are feeling good.  I take time to learn from others and where requested be the resource for others to learn from.

I am an Appalachian Thru-hiker.

Hike on...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Almost Halfway

Harper's Ferry is the psychological halfway point.  Today, in Sky Meadows State Park I saw a sign saying 'Harper's Ferry 32.8 miles.' I cried.  I am almost halfway to Mnt K.  I am almost halfway there.

I am pushing on through days of being achy all over.  I am pushing through weeks with more days of rain then sun.  I am pushing through meals so awful mice beg for the dinner mint first.

I am over coming myself and working with the trail to get to the next point.  Every day has a goal.  Every week has a rest point and a point of achievement.

Not a day goes by when I don't think taking time away was a waste.  My job us to walk, only walk.  I get up.  I pack my gear, all my belongings into the Crown Vic (Granite Gear Crown 60 backpack).  Then I start to walk.

I've walked nearly a thousand miles.  In the next two or three days I will have.  In the next 2 to 5 days I will cross both the psychological and the physical halfeay points.

Hike on.  Keep hiking...