Days 125 – 128 (7/3/15 – 7/6/15)

Day 125, 7/3/15

Start: Kent, CT
Finish: Kent, CT
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 722.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 1467.1

We woke up with every intention to hike, but…we didn’t. The weather was beautiful and Kent is an awesome town. We went to the grocery store and purchased our resupply items and then spent the rest of the day throwing frisbees and footballs. Oh, and we ate. A lot.

I wanted to take some videos on things that a few people have had questions about, but I am having issues with them. I will try to get these uploaded at a later time.

Taking advantage of power

Taking advantage of power

Charging up!

Charging up!


Day 126, 7/4/15

Start: Kent, CT
Finish: US 7
Miles Hiked: 22.6
Miles To Go: 699.5
Overall Miles Hiked: 1489.7

I awoke at 5:00AM to the sound of a car alarm going off. I peered out of my tent to see if anyone was stirring in camp. It was all quiet, so I went back to sleep. When I woke up and checked again an hour later, I was one of the last hikers remaining! Hikers move quick! I powered down a pop-tart and a protein bar my brother had sent me and moved on.

The trail followed the Housatonic River for several miles and it made for a very enjoyable hike. Apparently, the Housatonic has some good white water rafting and some hikers choose to aquablaze this section of the trail. Aquablazing is when you skip hiking certain sections of the trail that are close to rivers in favor of floating down them in a raft or canoe. While I don’t consider this hiking, who am I to judge?

Since it was July 4th, Miles, Rock Boat, Jeopardy, Roker and I had our eyes on Belters Campsite. The trail book said it had a view and we just hoped it faced Falls Village, CT in the valley below. We were told the town puts on an amazing fireworks show and we wanted to watch it from the mountain.

We arrived at the campsite only to find the view facing the wrong way. We now had a decision to make. We were exhausted from a long day of hiking, but fireworks usually means food and we really like food…and fireworks! We moved on in hopes of finding out where the show would be.

When we got to a road at the bottom of the mountain, we saw a sign promising trail magic to hikers. It was about a mile ahead and we went for it without hesitation. When we arrived at the house, we were excited to see about a dozen hikers we knew already there! Burgers were on the grill and there was snack food everywhere!

July 4th Trail Magic Feast

July 4th Trail Magic Feast

The homeowner, Lisa, had won a grant from the Awesome Foundation and was using the funds to put on this party plus several others in the weeks ahead. We joined Peacedog, Turbo, Kaptain K, Lightning, Pork Chop, Don Vito, Pig Pen, Feed Bag, Wye Knot, Black Bear, Bud, Bud Light and a few others and celebrated the 4th hiker style!

The icing on the cake was that the fireworks show was right down the street. The whole group of us tried to get in around dark, but we were told it was $5 per person. That’s about 10 Snickers bars each, so no one wanted to pay the fee! We went across the street in hopes of scoring a free view, but about 10 minutes later, the guys at the gate waved us over and said we could go for free! We thanked them as we ran to find good seats on a hill with about 2,000 others and anxiously awaited the show. It lasted 30 minutes and we said many Oohhss and Ahhhs, not long after we made many Zzzzs!

Fireworks

Fireworks

July 4th Fireworks

July 4th Fireworks


Day 127, 7/5/15

Start: US 7
Finish: Race Brook Falls Campsite
Miles Hiked: 21.5
Miles To Go: 678
Overall Miles Hiked: 1511.2

We left Lisa’s house early and walked the mile back to the trail. The A.T. went through a neighborhood for a few miles before finally returning to the woods, just after a massive waterfall.

Overcast waterfall

Overcast waterfall

We had stayed up late, about 11:00PM and were pretty tired. In a unanimous decision, Roker, Miles, Rock Boat, Jeopardy, Lightning, Pork Chop and I agreed we should walk about a half mile off trail to a deli and treat ourselves! I ate a 12 inch meatball sub and some fresh fruit and took a power nap in some shade. The pit stop did the trick as the next several miles melted away.

Swimming in a cold river

Swimming in a cold river

The trail gained elevation all afternoon and atop Bear Mountain, we finally got a view. We haven’t had many decent views since Virginia, but now that we are back in the mountains we can expect great views regularly. We took a long break and chatted with several day hikers before moving on.

Hanging out with Pork Chop, Lightning, Rock Boat

Hanging out with Pork Chop, Lightning, Rock Boat

Just before the campsite sits Mt Rare. The last half mile of our climb up was on an exposed cliff. It was very similar to Tinker Cliffs and gave us 180° view. When you are climbing uphill for hours, views like this make it all worth it. We sat for several hours and took it all in before pressing on to our campsite for the night.

Mt. Race - Jeopardy, Rock Boat, Pork Chop, PoBoy Lightning

Mt. Race – Jeopardy, Rock Boat, Pork Chop, PoBoy Lightning

Oh yeah, we made it into Massachusetts today, so another state down! Only 4 more to go! From what we have heard, they get progressively harder.

CT- MA border

CT- MA border


Day 128, 7/6/15

Start: Race Brook Falls Campsite
Finish: US 7
Miles Hiked: 9.8
Miles To Go: 668.2
Overall Miles Hiked: 1521

I was the last one out of camp this morning after having slept in to the late hour of 7:00AM. We had camped at the base of Mt. Everett and it was not going to be a fun climb. It only went up 650 ft., but it was one of the steepest and rockiest hikes I have made. When I reached the top I was huffing and puffing, but the view made it all worth it. I was on the peak of the highest mountain around; clouds blanketed the valley below. Views like this make tough hikes worth it.

Mt Everett view

Mt Everett view

I took off my pack and sat down and was just finishing an orange when Rock Boat walked up. We hiked the next several miles together and passed the time swapping stories. We have similar interests and I really enjoy hiking with him. The A.T. crosses many roads and as we were walking across MA 41, a car pulled up and asked us if we knew Jeopardy. We said we did and asked her if he was okay. He was more than okay and was currently waiting for us at a diner up the road. Penny said she would be more than happy to drive us as she had with Jeopardy to the diner. We instantly accepted and within minutes the three of us were stuffing our faces with omelets. We won’t have as many opportunities to take these side trips to calorie-up in the future, so we have been taking advantage of them as often as possible. We got a quick hitch back to the trail and sluggishly started walking. It was hot and nobody was looking forward to hiking the next 12 miles we had scheduled today. We crossed US 7 and entered the woods.That’s when our day took an unexpected turn…

Rock Boat thought he saw a Hertz Car Rental at the road crossing and jokingly suggested we do something fun for a change. I instantly turned around and said, “Let’s do it!” We checked our phones and unfortunately there were no Hertz locations around. There was, however, an AA Car Sales and Rentals just 1 mile down the highway. We looked at each other and it was painfully obvious there would be no more hiking today. Jeopardy asked, “Are we really doing this?” as we were walking down the highway. “HELL YES!” was our reply! Now that we were all onboard, we had to decide what to do. Rock Boat said he thought there was a Six Flags in Massachusetts and as luck would have it, there indeed was and it was only an hour drive away! We crammed all of our gear in the back of a blue Dodge Neon and started navigating our way to Six Flags New England.
Driving to six flags

Driving to six flags

We arrived an hour later and we all high fived our spontaneity. Side trips like this is a big part of what the trail is all about. Jeopardy, Rock Boat, and I spent the next 5 hours riding roller coasters and frolicking in the water park. It was awesome to feel human again! For once, we weren’t looked upon as homeless, smelly hikers. We were just 3 friends having and great time and fit in with everyone else. We closed down the park at 9:00PM and checked into a Holiday Inn – sleep came upon us instantly!
Bizzaro roller coaster

Bizzaro roller coaster

Days 118 – 120 (6/26/15 – 6/28/15)

Day 118, 6/26/15

Start: High Point Shelter
Finish: Wawayanda Shelter
Miles Hiked: 23.9
Miles To Go: 827.5
Overall Miles Hiked: 1361.7

Not long after leaving the shelter, we spotted a giant tower on top of a hill. It was 220 ft tall and sits atop the highest point in New Jersey. Since it was a little ways off trail, we decided to skip it – We had bigger plans in mind.

High Point, NJ - Highest point in the state

High Point, NJ – Highest point in the state

For the second morning in a row, we made a quick pit stop into town to grub up. This time, pizza was on the menu and after 7 quick miles, it was amazing! Big shout out to the staff of Annabelle’s in Unionville, NY. Thanks for taking care of us! While the pizza we gorged on was in NY, the trail was about 1 mile away in NJ and we were back on it in no time.

After about a mile we hit the Wallkill Game Reserve where the trail meandered through for 2 miles. The reserve was mostly shallow flooded fields and was currently home to ducks, cranes and two swans that were close enough to get a few pictures of. It was a really fun hiking along the reserve and reminded me of the flat, boardwalk style trails back home in NOLA.

Wallkill Reserve

Wallkill Reserve

Wallkill Reserve

Wallkill Reserve

Even after we were out of the reserve, the boardwalk style trail continued until we hit Vernon, NJ. We only had 5 miles left and plenty of time on the clock, so we made a quick pit stop at Heaven Hill Farm for some fresh fruit and some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had! Seriously, even if I hadn’t just hiked 20 miles, the ice cream here has got to be in the top 3 of all the ice creams I have ever had, including my Uncle Mike’s homemade blueberry, apricot and whatever concoction he would try to get me to eat as a kid! Sorry Mike! I really wished I could just camp here. Part of it was the good food, but mostly it was due to the fact that we were about to go up the “Stairway to Heaven” leading up to the top of Wawayanda Mountain.

Resting before "stairway to heaven" and Wawayanda Mtn

Resting before “stairway to heaven” and Wawayanda Mtn

It was a steep ascent with many stone steps, but the view from the top was well worth it. I sat with Miles, Samaritan and Roker and soaked it all in.

View from Wawayanda Mtn

View from Wawayanda Mtn

Far off on the horizon we could make out the tower we saw this morning. It was rewarding to see just how much ground we covered after a long day.

Back in the distance is high point monument where we walked from in the morning

Back in the distance is high point monument where we walked from in the morning

A few more miles brought us to the shelter where we were greeted by about 15 other hikers we know pretty well. This is the most people I have seen at a shelter since Georgia!


Day 119, 6/27/15

Start: Wawayanda Shelter
Finish: Greenwood Lake, NY
Miles Hiked: 10
Miles To Go: 817.5
Overall Miles Hiked: 1371.7

New Jersey view

New Jersey view

The weather was supposed to get bad this afternoon, so I left camp early with intentions of making it into town just 10 miles away. After a few miles, I made it to the NJ-NY border. After only 3 and a half days, I was out of New Jersey. For the most part, New Jersey was great. There were a few rocks here and there, but the woods were beautiful and fun to walk through. It was also nice being so close to many small towns and their food! I hope this trend continues into New York.

NJ/NY state line

NJ/NY state line

Roker and I made it to town and started looking for a place to stay. Everything was booked with weekenders, so we gave up hope of staying dry and turned our attention to food. Roker, Jeopardy, Forward, Doc and I sat outside Murphy’s Tavern and waited for them to open. It was just beginning to rain when the two owners opened up and invited us inside. After ordering a round of drinks, we told them our trouble with finding a room. Then, the most amazing thing happened. They invited us to stay at the bar! It turns out that the second story of the building used to be a hotel, but they haven’t had anyone stay since they bought the place 8 years ago. We gladly accepted their offer and didn’t move from our seats until bedtime!


Day 120, 6/28/15

Start: Greenwood Lake, NY
Finish: William Brien Memorial Shelter
Miles Hiked: 21.7
Miles To Go: 795.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 1393.4

Even though the bar below us was rockin’ until 2 AM, we turned in early and were asleep by 10:00PM. It rained all night and was still raining when we woke up. Hiking in the rain isn’t fun, but we didn’t have a choice. By 7:30AM, we were back on the trail. One positive thing about the rain was that Fitzgerald Falls was just gushing with water when I reached it. It is one of the bigger waterfalls on the A.T., so I took a few moments to check it out.

Fitzgerald Falls

Fitzgerald Falls

Over the course of the next few hours, the rain came down harder than anything I have had to hike through yet. What was worse though was that I had to go up and over slippery boulders for most of the day. In good conditions, this terrain must be passed over slowly, today it was going to be a crawl.

Rock climb

Rock climb

Even though I was going slow, I slipped and fell several times. Each time I cursed the A.T. for making me hike over rocks in the rain. Yep, the A.T. and I were not on speaking terms for most of the morning, but things improved once I reached Island Pond. The rain had dissipated to a light mist and visibility improved enough for me to see a few miles ahead. As I descended the mountain, I could see a small pond stretched out before me. The trail brought me right to its edge and for the second time today I sat down to enjoy a great view.  I wish I could have tented right on the shore, but I had more miles to go and was running out of daylight.

Island pond

Island pond

Not far after the lake was a rock formation called the “Lemon Squeezer.” It started off with a cave entrance that got narrower and narrower until I could just hardly fit through. After 20 ft. or so, it opened up but got even harder. The trail went up an 8 ft. vertical ledge. Well, it may shock you to hear this, but I don’t have the strength to pull myself up and over a fence, much less what was before me! I studied my foe for several minutes and decided on a plan of attack. The left side was lower but made of smooth rock. The right side was higher, but much more jagged and even had a tree root or two sticking out from the ground.

Lemon squeezer

Lemon squeezer

I took off my pack and threw it, along with my poles, up and over the left side. Then, I slowly found some good holes I could use to position my hands and feet on the right side and inched my way up. A small cut on my finger and a scraped knee later, I was up! You would have thought I just summited Everest! It was the first time I have actually had a great time while hiking in a while and the last few miles passed without incident. Oh, you may be thinking, “How do they expect everyone to get up that ledge?” Well, just off to the left was a blue blazed trail that you can take to avoid the climb. So far, I haven’t taken any of the blue blazed trails. Yes, they are easier and would save me some time and energy, but they aren’t the official A.T. – Hike your own hike!

I made it to the shelter and setup my tent just in time, as the heavy rains moved back in. It’s going to be a long, wet night!


Days 49 – 51 (4/18/15 – 4/20/15)

Day 49, 4/18/15

Start: Damascus, VA
Finish: Damascus, VA
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 1719
Overall Miles Hiked: 470.2

Took a zero today and moved from a bunk at Crazy Larry’s to his backyard and a cheaper tent spot. The A.T goes right through the heart of Damascus for about 2 miles before heading back into the woods. Every year thousands of former and current thruhikers will assemble in this sleepy town for Trail Days. Trail Days (held this year May 15-17) is a giant party celebrating time spent hiking on the A.T. Hikers, past and present, parade down Main Street and swap stories. From what I am told, it is not a party you want to miss and shuttles to and from Damascus are readily available up and down the trail. As of right now, I don’t intend on making it back here for Trail Days this year, but who knows what is in store for me – Stay tuned!

Of all the zeros I have taken so far, I have probably needed this one the most. I used my time off today resting up and eating healthy. I have been craving fresh fruit for the past week and was able to walk over to a grocery store and purchased watermelon, pineapple and bananas. It was delicious! For dinner, I continued my healthy trend and ate a salad. Just kidding, I had a greasy hamburger and chocolate shake…also very delicious!

Once again, it looks like we are in store for some nasty weather over the next few days. Before starting this A.T. adventure, I knew I would have some unfavorable weather to contend with, but I was certainly not thinking it would be so much! Since the start, I can only remember a handful of days where the weather has been really nice. Oh well, I’d rather be hiking in bad weather than not hiking at all. It was nice hooking back up with Billy Goat. It looks like he will be leaving the trail in a few weeks, so we made plans to continue to hike together as long as possible. Rain or shine, we leave Damascus tomorrow.


Day 50, 4/19/15

Start: Damascus, VA
Finish: Saunders Shelter
Miles Hiked: 8.4
Miles To Go: 1704.3
Overall Miles Hiked: 478.6

It started raining at 6:00AM. I am writing these words now at 7:15PM and it is still raining. It hasn’t let up all day and it doesn’t look like it will anytime soon. We were very tempted to stay in Damascus one more day, but decided to try to save some money and just deal with the rain. We had about 2,300 ft. of climbing to do, so I decided to only wear rain gear on my upper half and just shorts on my lower half. Again, it didn’t matter because after an hour or so I was soaked everywhere from either rain or sweat. By the time I reached the shelter I might as well just have jumped into the river nearby. Speaking of rivers, a lot of the trail today flowed like one. We had no choice but to walk in it and probably accumulated a full cup of water in our boots by the time we reached camp. Absolutely miserable.

The shelter was already full when we got there so we were forced to pitch our tents in a downpour. Not fun. It took me about an hour to dry off the inside of my tent with my small camp towel – I must have rung it out 100 times and removed a gallon of water from inside my tent. “Isn’t this fun?” I asked myself. I’ve heard that it isn’t crazy to talk to yourself, just as long as you don’t answer. Well if that saying is true, then I am definitely crazy! I had a 2 minute conversation with myself about my decision to hike the A.T. What’s even crazier is that I came to the realization that should I ever really come to hate the A.T. and want nothing more than to wave the white flag and come home – I won’t. I don’t care how miserable I may become out here, as long as I can walk, I will see Katahdin in Maine.

Thankfully, I don’t hate the A.T. just yet. I just tell myself that tomorrow will be better or easier than today and move on, whether it is the truth or not. I have overheard several hikers say “Never quit on a bad day.” Well, if everyday is a bad day then I guess you will make it all the way! Now, am I really having a bad time out here? No, I’m just venting because I am cold, wet AND tired. Here is to tomorrow and a better day! Goodnight.


Day 51, 4/20/15

Start: Saunders Shelter
Finish: Whitetop Mountain Rd
Miles Hiked: 12.1
Miles To Go: 1698.5
Overall Miles Hiked: 490.7

It rained all night and finally stopped at 9:00 this morning. Packing up wet gear is the worst, but at least the rain looked like it may be gone for a while. Hikers have the option of either taking the A.T. out of Damascus or the Virginia Creeper Trail. The A.T. is up, down, up, down and repeat, while the Creeper Trail follows a beautiful trout stocked river and is relatively flat. If you were to take the Creeper Trail you could avoid 13 miles of the A.T. and have amazing views the whole way. While I never really considered taking the Creeper Trail, several hikers do. Again, hike your own hike! The A.T. and Creeper Trail meet three times and each time they did, I would take a break and sit down by the river. The Creeper Trail was an old railroad, but is now a 34 mile bike path. I’d love to come back one day and travel it.

Creeper Trail Bridge

Creeper Trail Bridge

Just before lunch, I left the last Creeper Trail/A.T. intersection for good, but not before taking a few pictures. When I arrived at the Lost Mountain Shelter for lunch, Billy Goat and several other hikers were taking advantage of the sun and were attempting to dry out their tents, clothes and other gear. I did the same. After about an hour, most of my gear was dry, so I packed up and moved on.

Walking through someone's farm

Walking through someone’s farm

I had another 2,000 ft. climb in front of me and wanted to get to camp ASAP because the weather was not looking like it was going to hold up much longer. After climbing and climbing, I finally reached the summit of Whitetop Mountain and was rewarded with 30 seconds of sunshine and some great views. I sat down and ate a snack while I soaked it all in. The sound of thunder in the distance got me moving again and I just had enough time to eat dinner and set camp before the rain started. For the second night in a row, I write in my journal to the sound of rain against my tent, only this time I’m in much better spirits. Being dry and warm has 99% to do with that!

The bad weather approaching

The bad weather approaching

Days 44 – 48 (4/13/15 – 4/17/15)

Day 44, 4/13/15

Start: Roan Mountain, TN
Finish: Mountaineer Shelter
Miles Hiked: 8.8
Miles To Go: 1786.6
Overall Miles Hiked: 402.6

We awoke to light rain and tried desperately to delay our inevitable departure. Since Hot Springs, all anyone can talk about is reaching Damascus, VA by the 17th for the second Hiker-Trash open mic night. The first one was a big hit and now hikers who aren’t even in our bubble are making plans to attend the festivities.

A “bubble” is a group of hikers who after miles of hiking side by side have formed close bonds and try to stick together while hiking. Generally, although not always the case, hikers that form these bubbles start the A.T. around the same time. Our bubble is comprised of Billy Goat, Blazer, Hula, Car Bomb, Made It, Pie, Blade, Click, No Hat, Just Matt, Luna, Taser, T-Square, Thunder God, Genesee, Turtle, 45, Peck, Rocky Mountain High, Lonestar, Far Out, Q-Tip, Small Fly, a few others and myself. All of these hikers are spaced out within about 25 miles of one another on the A.T. There are many more hikers out there, but either by choice or some other reason, are not members of our bubble. When we get to town, we all get there around the same time, generally stay at the same places and eat in the same restaurants. We have basically formed a really stinky hiking gang! We have been told that our bubble is the second one to have formed by this point on the A.T., the first one is about 2 weeks ahead and smaller than our crew. I imagine there are several more behind us. Safety in numbers!

We took a quick side trail to Jones Falls. Outside of Amicalola Falls on day 1, this was by far the biggest waterfall we have come across. We stopped there for lunch then moved on. We walked through intermittent rain until we finally arrived at our shelter for the night.

Jones Falls

Jones Falls


Day 45, 4/14/15

Start: Mountaineer Shelter
Finish: Dennis Cove Road
Miles Hiked: 15.9
Miles To Go: 1770.7
Overall Miles Hiked: 418.5

It rained all night. Hikers are slow to leave camp when it is raining and this morning is no exception. The only difference today is that I was one of the first ones out of camp – A rare phenomenon! I looked at my map and it seemed today would be the easiest day of hiking since I started. Although the terrain was relatively flat, the sporadic rain and high temps led to high humidity. You would have thought it was raining, I was completely soaked after a few hours.

Big Hump Mountain - Can you spot the hikers?

Big Hump Mountain – Can you spot the hikers?

Throughout the day I was passed by every single hiker I left behind this morning at the shelter. Oh well, some days you have it and some days you don’t. Today, I definitely didn’t have it and was the last one into camp. Just when you think you have an easy day in front of you, the trail has a way of humbling you. The fact is, there are no easy days. What’s worse is I’ve noticed a weird feeling in my right knee. It is not painful, but I feel pressure behind my kneecap on the downhills. Knee injuries are the most common reason for hikers to leave the trail. I will take it slow on the downhills and plan on buying a knee brace as soon as I reach Damascus, VA. When I reached camp, I learned that Click and Turtle were also dealing with knee injuries of their own. We have all hiked over 400 miles on the A.T. and it looks like the miles are showing in places other than our waist bands. A good night’s sleep does an amazing job on a tired and sore body. Hopefully we will all be in a better condition in the morning.


Day 46, 4/15/15

Start: Dennis Cove Road
Finish: Shook Branch Recreation Area
Miles Hiked: 8.6
Miles To Go: 1762.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 427.1

Again, we awoke to rain. We didn’t have any dry clothes left since nothing could dry overnight due to fog and humidity. There was a hostel not too far off the trail, so we walked over and paid to have our clothes dried. The owner of the hostel approached us with the opportunity to do a slackpack. For a few bucks he would drop us off at the trailhead and then pick us up a few hours later. We all took him up on his offer and hit the trail a few pounds lighter. Before today, I didn’t think I would have been interested in slackpacking, but because of the rain and pain in my knee as well as the 1,800 ft climb awaiting me today, I decided to go for it. Click, Pie, Made It, Car Bomb and I were dropped off and we hiked in constant rain, hating every single minute of it. I can only imagine how much worse it would have been with our packs on. The only, and I mean only, highlight of the day was Laurel Falls. Laurel Falls put the Jones Falls waterfall to shame. The only positive of all this rain is that the waterfall was quite powerful. I didn’t bring my camera today because of the rain, but I did take a GoPro video. If I learn how to upload it, I will.

We made it back to the hostel and dried out. A few other hikers we knew were about to be shuttled into town to grab steaks, veggies and other goodies. All would be prepared tonight by our resident chef, Peck. We got in on the action and had one of our best meals yet on the trail. Sorry for the lack of pictures, as soon as the rain lets up I’ll be sure to snap a few extra!


Day 47, 4/16/15

Start: Shook Branch Recreation Area
Finish: Iron Mountain Shelter
Miles Hiked: 15.9
Miles To Go: 1746.2
Overall Miles Hiked: 443

For most of the day we walked around Watauga Lake. The first 4 miles were in lower elevation and every half mile or so there would be a sign warning hikers of recent bear activity and advising them to move on as fast as possible. In fact, the only shelter in the area has remained closed for 2 years due to aggressive bears. Camping in this 4 mile stretch is strictly forbidden, so I moved out of there fast!

Watauga Lake

Watauga Lake

Watauga shelter closed

Watauga shelter closed

After crossing the Watauga Dam, the trail starts gaining elevation and the posted notices stopped. It looked like it was going to rain all day, but it never did. About half way through our hike we were surprised to see Blazer, Hula, Peck, Thunder God, Taser and a few others coming towards us. For a second, we thought we had been walking in the wrong direction, but as it turns out, they were slackpacking southbound to avoid the steep climb we were in the middle of. They were planning on walking 13 miles southbound and then getting a ride tomorrow to get dropped off where they started today and continue northbound. To call yourself a thruhiker you just have to get from Georgia to Maine. It doesn’t matter how long it takes or what direction you hike. There are many different ways to hike the A.T. and because of the trail’s rising popularity, more and more hikers are choosing to hike the A.T. in a non-traditional style. Although most hikers, such as myself, hike the whole trail northbound, there are some who are called flip-floppers because they start somewhere in the middle, walk to either Springer Mountain in Georgia or Mt. Katahdin in Maine and then go back to do the other half of the trail from either direction. This helps alleviate possible overcrowding on the trail and in the shelters. Again, hike your own hike! After saying our goodbyes, (which in hiker lingo is “Have a good hike!”) we moved on.

Another view of Watauga Lake

Another view of Watauga Lake

Something else to note is that many hikers, myself included, do not shake hands with anyone and instead opt for a fist bump. This helps prevent the transmittal of germs in a very germy environment. When showers can be a week apart, hand sanitizer is our only defense against the spread of germs. But, since not all hikers use it, shaking hands is not very common for us. Enough about germs!

We continued our hike and made camp for the evening around 7:00PM. I pitched my tent and spent about 30 minutes rubbing my aching feet. My knee held up a little better today, but my feet are incredibly sore. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. At the end of a long hiking day, my average pain level from 1 to 10 (10 being I‘m on the way to the hospital!!) is somewhere between a 5 or 6 on average, but again we are all pretty sore all the time. The only remedy is a good night’s sleep – Good night!

Appalachian Trail Sign

Appalachian Trail Sign


Day 48, 4/17/15

Start: Iron Mountain Shelter
Finish: Damascus, VA
Miles Hiked: 27.2
Miles To Go: 1719
Overall Miles Hiked: 470.2

The only way for us to reach open mic night on time would be to put in an epic day. The worst part is that we were already in front of the bubble. I’m not really sure how everyone else is planning to get into town on time, but our only option was to put in a marathon day.

We left camp early at 7:00AM and headed north. Thankfully, the weather was amazing and the trail was relatively easy. We were making really good time and cracking jokes all day to take our minds off the miles. The section of trail we were hiking is part of a hiker challenge where some hikers elect to hike 40 miles in one day to get to Damascus. We were only doing 27 miles and I’m damn thankful it was not a mile more. Mile after mile passed under our feet until we finally reached the Tennessee/Virginia state line. We would now be in VA for more miles than we have hiked since starting the trail on Springer Mountain. The Virginia section of the  trail is a little easier than Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina, but still kicks your butt.

TN/VA state line

TN/VA state line

Made It, Car Bomb, Pie, Click and I took some pictures and slowly walked the remaining 5 miles into town. I met back up with Billy Goat and checked into Crazy Larry’s Hostel. After showering and eating, we walked over to the mic night location and I was surprised to see most of our bubble already there. Hardly anyone had hiked in as we had, most had arranged shuttles to pick them up and bring them here. Now, they would either have to get a ride back to where they left the trail or just skip that section completely. This is the problem walking with a time goal – you can’t hike your our hike. The good news is that mic night was a big success! I was asked to revive my story about Unicoi Gap – I was happy to do so and received a round of applause.  In total, I would say that there were about 50 hikers at mic night, most with a song, story or joke to perform. It was a great time!

Damascus, VA

Damascus, VA

Days 36 – 39 (4/5/15 – 4/8/15)

Day 36, 4/5/15

Start: Allen Gap
Finish: Flint Mountain Shelter
Miles Hiked: 18
Miles To Go: 1882
Overall Miles Hiked: 307.2

I was a little late getting out of camp and hadn’t gone very far when up from behind me came Bill Goat. He left Car Bomb and Made It in Hot Springs because they were taking too long. He had hiked most of yesterday by himself and had already done 4 miles and planned on another 17 today. I fell in line behind him and we BS’ed back and forth until lunch. We had just descended from an extremely rocky area that I’m sure has taken several hikers off the trail over the years. The two rocky miles of trail is known as Black Stack Cliffs and Big Firescald Knob and although rocky and dangerous, they provided amazing views of the valley outstretched below.

The weather was perfect and if we could have made lunch up there we would have. We climbed down and found a flatter area several hundred feet below and stopped for lunch. About halfway through our lunch two day hikers named Caveman and Rocky T walked past us and said, “Happy Easter! Would you like some candy?” Now, I know my mother said never to take candy from strangers, but they had chocolate…and lots of it! We each grabbed a handful from their bag of goodies and thanked them 100 times. As they were leaving, they handed us each a 6 inch chocolate bunny – Happy Easter indeed! I’m sorry to say that none of the candy, including the bunny, made it to our campsite for the evening.

Believe it or not, I’ve lost several pounds already out here. My hiking pants do not fit without being supported by a cinched belt. I also have a T-shirt that I never thought I’d fit into that is now a regular on my back. I’m not entirely sure how much weight I’ve lost, but in Hot Springs I weighed myself on the only two scales I could find. One said I lost 10 pounds and the other said 18 pounds, I guess I am somewhere in the middle! We arrived at the shelter to a round of applause. Several hikers had already arrived to the shelter and had been congratulating each other on reaching 300 miles today. Apparently, about 44% of hopeful thruhikers won’t make it this far. Feeling pretty proud of myself, I setup my tent, ate dinner and went to bed.

Rocky View from Big Butt Mountain

Rocky View from Big Butt Mountain

PoBoy: Pondering or Perplexed?

PoBoy: Pondering or Perplexed?


Day 37, 4/6/15

Start: Flint Mountain Shelter
Finish: Low Gap
Miles Hiked: 14.9
Miles To Go: 1867.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 322.1

When I painfully crawled and cracked out of my tent, as I do every morning, I was surprised to see Car Bomb and Made It eating breakfast. They had hiked 25 miles yesterday, the last 8 in the dark and had stumbled into camp around midnight. Oh to be 18 again! If I were to pull 25 miles in these mountains, my knees would detach themselves from my body and slap me in the face!  Congrats on an epic day boys, I’m sure you will be feeling it today!

Billy Goat and I left camp together and talked for a good bit. I found out that just before he started the trail, he passed the CPA exam and has a job lined up in San Francisco later this year. After becoming a CPA and realizing he had a few months to kill before starting work, he decided to hike the A.T. In only 2 months he planned his trip. I’ve wanted to do this for 10 years and it took me nearly a year to plan! He told me he never really had any intention of hiking all the way to Maine and plans on getting off the trail around the halfway point so he can look for a place to live in San Francisco. Whenever he decides to get off, I’m sure it won’t be the last time we see each other. We both agreed to look each other up if we are near the other’s city.

Around lunch, a hiker coming Southbound informed us of some trail magic up ahead. He was a thruhiker hiking south from Mt. Katahdin for several months, battling freezing temps and up to 5 ft. of snow. Some days he would only make a few miles and had to even abandon the trail on a few occasions due to severe weather and snow. Hats off buddy, only a few hundred miles to go! He is only the second Southbounder I have met or even heard of thus far. I left Billy Goat in search of the trail magic. When I arrived at the Gap, I was informed by 3 hikers I knew that I was 15 minutes too late. One of them, Turtle, felt sorry for me and gave me a soda he was planning on saving. Thanks, Turtle!

I pressed on, trying to beat the forecasted rain and within a few hours I arrived at Low Gap. The weather was deteriorating, so I quickly setup my tent and prepared myself for my first night completely alone in the middle of the woods. I filtered some water from a source nearby and prepared dinner – Knorr’s Pasta Sides. It was still a little early and was only drizzling, so I decided I would make my first fire out here. The wood I gathered was pretty dry and it lit up fast. I had an endless supply of wood and kept it going as I made my journal entry. Just before dark, I heard, “Thank God for PoBoy!” as Made It, Lonestar, his wife, Amber, and dog, Bear, walked into the campsite. The fire was a very welcoming sight for these soaked hikers. Lonestar will now be hiking to Maine with his wife and dog, good luck buddy!

Hikers camped on a Bald

Hikers camped on a Bald

There are several grave sites along the AT

There are several grave sites along the AT

Cool view of where the trail crosses a street

Cool view of where the trail crosses a street


Day 38, 4/7/15

Start: Low Gap
Finish: No Business Knob Shelter
Miles Hiked: 14.6
Miles To Go: 1852.5
Overall Miles Hiked: 336.7

It stormed all night, but the inside of my tent remained pretty dry. The only moisture I had to deal with inside the tent is from my breath. When it is dry outside, I sleep with the flap open which does a great job of ventilating my tent, but when it is raining I have to keep it closed. This created condensation which I had to wipe off a few times during the night. I was packing up my gear when I heard a peculiar sound emanating from the foggy woods. I wasn’t sure at first, but the closer it got, the more sure I was. From out of the fog marched Remedy, Scooby, Mile Marker, Loon, T-Bone, Tiny Elf, Puffin and Big Bear singing in near unison Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” They were already 10 miles in to a 27 mile hike and were all slackpacking. Slackpacking is when you hike without your pack. For a small fee, in this case $5 cash, you could pay someone from a nearby town to drive your pack to your destination, while you hike without the added weight. Eliminating the weight allows you to pull some pretty serious and easy miles. I have not had the opportunity to slackpack yet and am honestly not sure I would even do it if had the chance. Hike your own hike!

It had stopped raining for the moment, so I hiked fast while I could. 5 miles in, the skies opened up. I had just finished hiking over Big Bald when the lightning started. A Bald (no trees and you are the tallest thing around for miles) is not an ideal place with lightning around. I hurried another 2 miles to Bald Mountain Shelter and ducked in with 5 others during the worst of the storm. Two hours later the lightning was gone, but the rain was not. It was 2:00PM and I had 10 miles to go before my intended shelter for the day. Although every ounce of me wanted to stay put and camp there, I put on my rain gear and headed out. There is a saying on the trail – No Rain, No Pain, No Maine! Within a few miles the rain turned to a drizzle and then stopped completely. I stopped at High Rocks, a giant rock outcropping, to take a selfie and eat lunch and then continued on. I was tested again at Spivey Gap where a shuttle driver was just about to leave to take some wet hikers to a warm, dry night in Erwin, TN. I was close to accepting the ride as I still had 5 miles to go and it was now 6:00PM, but I kept on and arrived at the shelter around 8:00PM. It was a long, wet day and I was lights out within the hour.

Lunch time stop at High Rocks

Lunch time stop at High Rocks

PoBoy at High Rocks

PoBoy at High Rocks


Day 39, 4/8/15
Start: No Business Knob Shelter
Finish: Erwin, TN
Miles Hiked: 6.2
Miles To Go: 1846.3
Overall Miles Hiked: 342.9

At 4:00AM this morning, the whole camp was awakened to the sound of 4 owls screeching and hooting for 30 minutes. It was awesome to hear! When we all started moving around the camp, I told everyone that I am fluent in owl and it turns out Owl 4 owes Owl 1 some mice, but Owl 4 said that she gave the mice to Owl 3 to give to Owl 1. Owl 3 has no recollection of this transaction and called Owl 4 a liar. Owl 2 was just there to egg on the confrontation. Major drama. The argument ended when a deaf mouse wandered too close; the chase was on! After a few laughs we slowly trickled out of camp.

Did I say I hate stairs yet?

Did I say I hate stairs yet?

I made it to where the A.T. intersects with Erwin, TN around 10:00AM and called Mike and Peggy with the Cantarroso Farm and arranged a one night stay and ride into Erwin to resupply. After resupplying my food items, I turned my attention to lunch and quickly zeroed in on a KFC all you can eat buffet! In 2 hours I literally quadrupled the amount of fried chicken I’ve eaten in the last 2 years. After three full plates, I wasn’t quite full, but was tired of eating fried chicken and mashed potatoes, so I called Mike to pick me up. On the way back to the farm I asked him to stop at a local milkshake place and ordered a LARGE chocolate shake! It was heavenly.I know my diet seems very unhealthy, and you’re right it is, but hikers need the calories and you aren’t going to get them from eating salad!

When we got back to the farm, I showered and noticed a digital scale in the bathroom, I weighed myself and the scale showed I was 22 pounds lighter than when I left home almost 6 weeks ago. I asked Mike and Peggy if the scale was accurate and they assured me it was. I trust it more than the two rinky dink ones in Hot Springs, at least. At any rate, when it comes to calories, I need them and in large quantities.

Mike approached me about a possible work-for-stay opportunity tomorrow morning. If the weather holds up, I will be building a ramp for his tractor in exchange for tonight’s stay. Stay tuned!

View of Erwin, TN

View of Erwin, TN