Days 133 – 136 (7/11/15 – 7/14/15)

Day 133, 7/11/15

Start: Mt. Greylock, Bascom Lodge
Finish: Congdon Shelter
Miles Hiked: 20.4
Miles To Go: 582.5
Overall Miles Hiked: 1606.7

With big miles on our minds, we left the lodge early and made the near 3,000 ft. descent into Williamstown, MA. In town we visited a Stop & Shop and loaded up on resupply items like Knorr’s Pasta Sides, tuna, ramen, candy bars, pop tarts and other items. We got enough to last 5 days which will be our longest stretch in between towns in a very long time. I’m going to miss our near daily visits into town for food!

Just next door to the market was a Papa Johns that gave a 50% discount to hikers, so I along with Rock Boat and Jeopardy, ordered a pizza.

Jeopardy eating pizza in Williamstown, MA

Jeopardy eating pizza in Williamstown, MA

It was almost noon and we still had 14 miles to go, the first of which went over 2,000 ft. up… Not fun with a large pizza in your belly! On the way up, we joined forces with Doc and Forward, two hikers we have been crossing paths with for several weeks. We were all delighted when a sign informed us we had just crossed into Vermont!

PoBoy, Jeopardy, Rock Boat, Forward and Doc at VT border

PoBoy, Jeopardy, Rock Boat, Forward and Doc at VT border

PoBoy made it to Vermont!

PoBoy made it to Vermont!

The A.T. follows the path of the Vermont Long Trail for 105 miles before going their separate ways – The A.T. to New Hampshire and the Long Trail to Canada. We took some photos then continued hiking through mud for the rest of the day. I fell twice, Rock Boat and Doc once – stupid mud!

At first, we tried to jump from rock to rock or upon sticks to avoid the mud, but by the end of the day, we were so filthy it didn’t matter, so we just walked right through it. I hiked with Doc for most of the day. He is am avid hunter and spear fishermen and at 49 years old, a strong hiker. Back home, he works as a veterinarian and it was nice passing the time with him. We all made it to camp tired and muddy, baths would have to wait, sleep would not!


Day 134, 7/12/15

Start: Congdon Shelter
Finish: Story Spring Shelter
Miles Hiked: 23.3
Miles To Go: 559.2
Overall Miles Hiked: 1630

It’s getting harder and harder to get going in the morning. I am usually the last out of camp. Part of the reason is that my body needs more sleep to recover, but I think it also has to do with my lack of motivation to start yet another assbusting day. Long gone are the “easy” days of 1,000 ft. summits and the occasional almost flat hiking. On the bright side, the change in terrain signifies just how close I am to being done with this. It may seem like I don’t enjoy hiking very much and only want it to be over so I can return home; this is precisely the case. But at least I’m not alone with these thoughts. I can honestly say I do not know one other hiker who still wants to be out here. We all curse the trail daily and openly wish the A.T. was only 1700 miles long.

Why are we still out here then? Because we have to. We are all prisoners of the trail and we cannot go home until we climb Katahdin. For most of the day, Doc, Forward, Jeopardy, Rock Boat, and I discussed how badly we want to be done with all this. When asked if anyone has plans to make another long distance hike, we all said, “No!!” Doc said he is giving away all his gear when he’s done and Rock Boat said he is just going to burn it atop Katadhin. I would love to make some smaller hikes in the future, maybe a few days at most, but this long distance thing is over for PoBoy! Rant over, back to today’s hike…

Rock Boat takes a fall

Rock Boat takes a fall

The first 15 miles were predominately uphill as we summited Little Pond Mountain and Glastenbury Mountain. I enjoy hiking in the mountains more than the valleys that we saw from Northern Virginia through Massachusetts. The mountains have higher and longer ascents and descents, while the valleys bring you up and down over and over until your muscles are just shredded. It’s easier to get into a groove who you are going up and down for longer periods of time.

PoBoy & Rock Boat at Glastenbury Mountain lookout tower

PoBoy & Rock Boat at Glastenbury Mountain lookout tower

Glastenbury Mountain lookout tower

Glastenbury Mountain lookout tower

Vermont has some tough trail and it is very muddy, but the woods are some of the most beautiful I have seen along the trail so far. The forest is covered with spruce and fir trees and is more open; I don’t feel as claustrophobic as I did with the states before. It’s still the green tunnel, but at least now it’s a bigger tunnel!

Vermont beaver dam

Vermont beaver dam


Day 135, 7/13/15

Start: Story Spring Shelter
Finish: Bromley Shelter
Miles Hiked: 23.1
Miles To Go: 536.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 1653.1

We had some uninvited guests last night in our campsite. Around 11:00PM, a section hiker tented just a few yards away from us started making a lot of noise and turned on his flashlight. Apparently some “critters” were after his food bag. He hung it up higher, but that didn’t stop whatever animals were after a free meal from investigating our camp. I heard something scurrying outside my tent, but since it wasn’t a bear, I was able to get right back to sleep. Rock Boat said the noises continued for another few hours.

I remember a few times early on when I would hear strange noises at night and have a hard time trying to sleep. Now, I still hear stuff, but am able to sleep just fine. If it’s a bear that wants to eat me then it’s going to eat me whether I’m sleeping or not. If it’s a bear that doesn’t want to eat me, or any other animal, then I’m good to go. Either way, I’m sleeping!

I got out of camp pretty early and immediately made the climb up Stratton Mountain. It was on this mountain that Benton MacKaye developed his idea regarding the creation of the Appalachian Trail in 1921.

Stratton Mtn

Stratton Mtn

It was a hot climb up and I was drenched in sweat. Thankfully, there was a fire tower on top of the mountain, so I dried my shirt out in the sun while I hung out with Rock Boat and enjoyed the view.

PoBoy and Rock Boat at Stratton Mountain lookout tower

PoBoy and Rock Boat at Stratton Mountain lookout tower

At the base of the mountain is Stratton Pond and it was an absolutely beautiful spot for lunch. I could have stayed there all day, but I have to make some miles over the next few days so I can meet my wife and parents between Rutland, VT and Hanover, NH in just 4 days. 

Stratton Pond

Stratton Pond


Just before the shelter, Rock Boat and I met a southbounder who started in Maine and is hiking the A.T. South to Georgia. We swapped info on what to expect and wished each other well. We are starting to see southbounders with increasing frequency although there are not nearly as many of them as us northbounders.

Trail sign - Open to hiking/skiing/cross country skiing

Trail sign – Open to hiking/skiing/cross country skiing


Day 136, 7/14/15

Start: Bromley Shelter
Finish: Greenwall Shelter
Miles Hiked: 22.6
Miles To Go: 513.5
Overall Miles Hiked: 1675.7

Rock Boat, Jeopardy and I have developed a pattern over the last week or so. Rock Boat leaves camp first, then Jeopardy and I head out around the same time. I hike faster than Jeopardy and catch Rock Boat before lunch. Rock Boat and I hike together until 4-5 miles before camp, then I hike faster and get to camp first. Rock Boat comes in not long after and Jeopardy strolls in just before dark. Now, this isn’t always the case, but it happens more times than not! 

7/14 Bridge

7/14 Bridge

After leaving the shelter, I made it to the top of Bromley Mountain where a ski lift sits waiting for winter. For the next several miles, I was walking through spruce and balsam fir forests and it was beautiful. As promised, I caught up to Rock Boat just before lunch and hiked with him the rest of the day.

Little Rock Pond view

Little Rock Pond view

We met 2 section hikers on top of Baker Peak and sat and chatted with them for about an hour before making it downhill to Little Rock Pond Shelter.

PoBoy & Rock Boat at Baker Peak

PoBoy & Rock Boat at Baker Peak

From here, we had 5 miles left to go and plenty of time to do it, so I took advantage of the lake stretched out before me and went for a swim. It was cold at first, but it felt great to get several days of sweat off me. The dip in the lake gave me the boost I needed to hike the remaining miles. I’m sure I smelled a lot better as well!

Little Rock Pond

Little Rock Pond

PoBoy taking a dip in Little Rock Pond

PoBoy taking a dip in Little Rock Pond

Days 129 – 132 (7/7/15 – 7/10/15)

Day 129, 7/7/15

Start: US 7
Finish: Tom Leonard Shelter
Miles Hiked: 6.4
Miles To Go: 661.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 1527.4

By the time we checked in, did laundry and ate it was after 1:00AM. We requested a late checkout and used every bit of our extra time, finally leaving the hotel around noon. We drove back to the small town of Sheffield, MA where we rented the car. We ate and resupplied before returning the car which officially brought our off-trail adventure to a close.

Just as we were about to get going back on the trail, we heard thunder in the distance. According to the radar, it looked like we were about to get nailed, so we waited out the storm in a nearby garden center. Well, the storm skirted just north of us and waiting for it to pass cost us 2 hours. We finally started hiking around 5:00PM!

The first mile of today’s hike was one of the hardest on the trail so far. It wasn’t due to the rocks or a steep incline, it was because of the biggest swarm of mosquitoes I’ve ever had the displeasure of encountering. At one point, I slapped and killed four on my right forearm alone. It was misery. We were getting bit left and right. We were practically running to avoid them! Once we started going uphill, the mosquitoes lessened, but we weren’t completely free from them until we were in our tents. I even had to eat dinner in my tent, which was a first. Misery!


Day 130, 7/8/15

Start: Tom Leonard Shelter
Finish: US 20
Miles Hiked: 22.7
Miles To Go: 639.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 1550.1

The mosquitoes were still really bad in the morning, so I broke camp pretty quickly and got moving. It had rained overnight, so the trail was pretty sloppy. In fact, I slipped twice right off the bat, but thankfully landed on my butt both times. Trying to avoid the worst of the mud pits that now dominate the trail takes a lot more time and energy to successfully navigate, but it keeps my feet dry which is very important. I try to walk along the edges of the trail or on top of roots and rocks to keep my feet out of the thick mud, but sometimes there isn’t any option other than to trudge on through.  By the end of the day, my legs are caked in mud and my boots weigh a ton. Vermont is supposed to be much worse. It’s nickname among hikers is “Vermud” and June 2015 was the wettest month on record in the last 150 years. Lovely! Maybe the mosquitoes will be so thick they will just carry me over the mud!

As I was nearing the end of my day, I came to a small bridge. As I was crossing it, I was stung by 2 yellow jackets – one on each leg. They burned pretty intensely for a minute or two and then the pain subsided. I had already been bitten by 20-30 mosquitoes over the last 2 days and now the yellow jackets want a PoBoy too!

A mile before my intended shelter, I fell a third time, only this time I didn’t fall on my butt. I was navigating over a small stream when I lost my footing and started going down. Trying to avoid falling in the middle of the stream, I pushed hard with my right leg to try to at least hit dryer land. The only thing I succeeded in doing was covering the left half of my body in nasty, rancid mud and straining my right quad. I cursed myself and the A.T. as I tried to wash myself off. Another mile past my intended shelter was a road crossing and motel. I really needed a shower and booked a room with Rock Boat and Jeopardy. As I write this, I am not a happy hiker.


Day 131, 7/9/15

Start: US 20
Finish: Dalton, MA
Miles Hiked: 19
Miles To Go: 620.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 1569.1

I’ve been hiking with Rock Boat and Jeopardy for several days now. Most of the time we go at our own pace and meet up around lunch and again at camp each night. Sometimes we hike together and crack jokes at each other’s expense! Today, I hiked with Jeopardy in the morning and Rock Boat in the afternoon. After yesterday’s events, I needed the company!

7/9 Trail

7/9 Trail


Right around lunch, I came to a road crossing and was surprised to see some awesome trail magic. Pooh Bear thruhiked the A.T. last year and was spending a week doing trail magic. He handed me a cheeseburger and soda and told me and the four other hikers gathered there a brief recount of his A.T. experience. He was such a nice guy! We bid him farewell and moved on.

Pooh Bear's Trail Magic

Pooh Bear’s Trail Magic

Rock Boat and I arrived in Dalton, MA just before the rain and set up our tents in the backyard of Thomas Levardi, a local trail angel. He’s allowed hikers to camp behind his home for 36 years. It rained heavily all night, so I was stuck in my tent for about 13 hours. My tent is a single wall tent as opposed to a double wall. It is much lighter than a double wall, but is prone to condensation buildup on the inside walls, especially while it’s raining. I had to use my camp towel every few hours to dry the walls down so I wouldn’t get soaked. At least it doesn’t rain often – yeah right!


Day 132, 7/10/15

Start: US 20
Finish: Mt. Greylock, Bascom Lodge
Miles Hiked: 17.2
Miles To Go: 602.9
Overall Miles Hiked: 1586.3

The rain finally let up around 3:00AM. I packed up a wet tent and headed out of camp around 8:00AM. The trail is progressively getting worse. It’s extremely muddy, which makes it easy to slip and fall and hikers must exert more energy to try and stay on the trail. There have been sections over the last few days where I am walking through mud for several miles – I have forgotten what color my boots are! 

Jeopardy

Jeopardy

Today was my first day hiking back in some real mountains since Virginia and it felt good to know that I would be rewarded with great views after making the climb up. For too long I’ve made hard hikes uphill hoping for a view, only to descend without much of a glimpse of anything other than trees…The green tunnel indeed. The mountain today was Mt. Greylock, which is the highest peak in MA at 3,491 ft. and was the first mountain over 3,000 ft. in a very long time.

Mt. Greylock Cabin

Mt. Greylock Cabin

Frog at Mt. Greylock

Frog at Mt. Greylock

The climb up wasn’t too bad. Actually, after 4 hours of steady climbing, I finally reached the summit. The view from the top was beautiful and Rock Boat, Jeopardy and I sat for a while and enjoyed it.

Mt. Greylock View

Mt. Greylock view, Highest peak in MA

At the top of Mt. Greylock is the Bascom Lodge built in the 1930s. Hikers can stay in a bunk room there and that sounded just fine after our 2,500 ft. climb up! At this altitude, it was actually a little cold. Just ahead lay the White Mountains of New Hampshire where snow can fall on several of its peaks year round. I’ll be needing my winter gear back soon.


Days 103 – 105 (6/11/15 – 6/13/15)

Day 103, 6/11/15

Start: Somewhere in the PA woods
Finish: Little Dogwood Run Campsite
Miles Hiked: 14.7
Miles To Go: 1071.9
Overall Miles Hiked: 1117.3

Everyone who participated in the half gallon challenge lived through the night! We broke camp and started hiking. Immediately, we knew it was going to be a hot one as sweat began to pour. Within 30 minutes, we looked like we had just climbed out of a pool; we were absolutely drenched. The air in the woods was stagnant – Not a leaf moved on its limb. I’m not sure how much water I drank today, but it has been the most of any day so far.

Around noon, we were looking for a place to bail out of the heat for a few hours and saw the Green Mountain Store was just up ahead, so we walked .2 miles down a state highway to its front door. Inside, I ordered a hamburger and some gatorade and sat down in front of the A/C vent. Even though the burger patty was cooked in the microwave, it was delicious! After eating our various sandwiches, we relocated outside in the shade and didn’t move for the next two hours. Every so often, one of us would go back inside and emerge with chips, ice cream, a soda, or some other snack. Thruhikers spend a lot of money at small establishments such as these and even though we are smelly, the owners are always pretty nice to us.

Break time

Break time

Just before we left, Pie had the idea to get some hot dogs and buns so we could grill them up around the campfire tonight. We each carried a part of tonight’s meal and headed out. It was about 3:00 and 85°, so hiking was slow on the flat parts and even slower on the ups. The only fun part of our hike today was through the Rock Maze. The Rock Maze is about a half mile section of the trail where the A.T. zigzags in and out and up and over big rock formations. There were several times when our poles had to be put away so we could use our hands to scramble. It reminded me a lot of Albert Mountain back in North Carolina and the descent off Dragon’s Tooth in Virginia.

Rock Maze

Rock Maze

Rock Maze

Rock Maze

We finally made it to our campsite in the woods where I immediately washed off in the nearby stream. It was very cold, but very refreshing! I downed 5 hot dogs and a Snickers and spent the rest of the evening playing cards. Life could be worse!


Day 104, 6/12/15

Start: Little Dogwood Run Campsite
Finish: Darlington Shelter
Miles Hiked: 18.3
Miles To Go: 1052.6
Overall Miles Hiked: 1135.6

We were hiking by 7:00, drenched in sweat by 7:15 and it only got hotter as the day went on. Thankfully though, the trail was very flat. For 13 miles the trail meandered through corn and wheat fields until finally going back uphill into the PA mountains.

Hiking through a corn field

Hiking through a corn field

Boiling Springs, PA sits right in the beginning of the flat section and the trail goes right through the heart of town. Click, Pie and I ate a quick breakfast at Cafe 101. Any chance I get to eat town food I’m jumping on because I’m worried I’m not eating enough on the trail. I can’t really afford to lose much more weight and I’m only halfway through.

Even though the trail was flat, we were forced to take several breaks due to the heat. In conditions like these, low 90s with very high humidity, heat stroke is a real possibility. Every few hours we took a break and downed as much water as we could. A few of our break spots had mulberry trees nearby and I ate as many as I could! A mulberry tastes like a raspberry, but not as sweet. In any condition they are great, in heat like this they are a juicy miracle!

Mulberry Tree

Mulberry Tree

Toward the end of the 13 mile flat section is Scott Farm Trail ATC Crew Headquarters, which serves as a trailhead and work center for A.T. maintenance. We took advantage of their shade and unlimited supply of water and held tight for several hours. No one was in any hurry to get going again!

Scott Farm

Scott Farm

Finally around 6:00, we took the first reluctant steps back onto the trail and slowly hiked up a 900 ft. climb to the shelter. I was so hungry I actually ate two Knorr’s Pasta Sides – That’s a first!

The mountain in the distance is where we hiked from today

The mountain in the distance is where we hiked from today

Just when we were about to get in our tents thunder could be heard in the distance, so I checked my phone for a radar image. Not good. We were in for some serious weather, so we ensured our tents were staked soundly in the ground and our gear would stay dry. Click, Cheese Beard and I rode out the storm for 2 hours in the shelter along with 11 others until it finally passed. A few small branches and a thousand gallons of water came down, but everyone seemed to ride out the storm okay. When I got back in my tent, it was a little wet from splatter under my rain cover, but it wasn’t too bad! Hopefully that is all we get tonight.


Day 105, 6/13/15

Start: Darlington Shelter
Finish: Duncannon, PA
Miles Hiked: 11.3
Miles To Go: 1042.3
Overall Miles Hiked: 1146.9

Thankfully, the weather cleared and the rest of our night passed without incident. I walked over to the shelter with my food bag for some breakfast and was surprised to see 50+ already there eating. The last time I saw him was about a month ago at Wilson Creek Shelter in Virginia. He is getting  close to completing his section hike and we spent some time catching up. After eating our various breakfast bars, Blade, DG and I headed out. Our hiking books made special note of an upcoming section of the trail that was “very rocky” – Yeah! When we got to the pipeline that started the rocky section we were pleasantly surprised. In my opinion, it wasn’t any worse than the miles and miles of A.T. behind us. Pennsylvania is supposed to be extremely rocky. If the trail stays like this section, I would be happy, although I don’t think it will.

Duncannon, PA

Duncannon, PA

A few more miles brought us into downtown Duncannon. Blade and The Cuts will be boarding a bus in the morning headed to New York and will be there for 9 days. I will probably not see them again on the A.T., but hope to meet up again with them at some point down the road. We have talked about a possible reunion next year at Trail Days – We will see! It’s been great hiking with you guys. Enjoy New York and good luck with the rest of your journey.
BBQ Lunch

BBQ Lunch

We intended to stay at the Doyle Hotel in Duncannon, but it was a little too run down for some members of our group, so we made other sleeping arrangements. I would have been happy to stay at the Doyle Hotel and encourage any future thruhiker to at least take a seat at the bar on the first floor. The walls are adorned with hiking photos and memorabilia and you can just feel the history within the walls. DG, 50+, Blade and The Cuts and myself all had one last dinner together at the Ranch House Restaurant and turned in.

Days 100 – 102 (6/8/15 – 6/10/15)

Day 100, 6/8/15

Start: Tumbling Run Shelter
Finish: US 30
Miles Hiked: 9.6
Miles To Go: 1107
Overall Miles Hiked: 1082.2

We left camp around 8:00 and immediately had about a 1,000 ft. climb up a very rocky section of the trail.

Today's view of the trail

Today’s view of the trail

Some pretty nasty weather was supposed to come in just after lunch, so we decided before we left camp this morning that we would go into town and split a room. Blade, Click and I got to the road leading to town first and started thumbing.

Hitching a ride into town

Hitching a ride into town

10 minutes later, we got our hitch and checked into the Scottish Inn and Suites. A few minutes later, Pie and Cheese Beard arrived. We got showered up and walked across the street to the Flamingo Restaurant. The portions were huge and the food was very good at a reasonable price. Blade and I had hamburgers. Click had the veal parmesan and Pie and Cheese Beard elected to go with the breakfast option and had eggs and pancakes. We have all lost a lot of weight, so we look to town food to refuel our bodies with much needed calories. We finished out the evening watching the storm roll in. It did get pretty nasty, but we would have been fine in a shelter in the woods.


Day 101, 6/9/15

Start: US 30
Finish: Quarry Gap Shelter
Miles Hiked: 2.4
Miles To Go: 1104.4
Overall Miles Hiked: 1084.8

We had big miles on our minds, but plans changed just 2 miles into our hike. The day started out great – We ate again at the restaurant and got a quick hitch back to the trail.

Breakfast!

Breakfast!

Even the trail started out great as it was flat, next to a stream with no rocks. Unfortunately though, just before we got to a shelter, Pie began throwing up. We thought it could just be from the beer he had last night, but after several trips into the woods, it was apparent that he wasn’t just hungover. Hopefully it is nothing serious like Noro because by morning we will all be sick. We made it to the shelter and quarantined Pie. The rest of us passed the time with a few card games Blade taught us – Mau Mau and Schnauzer. They both only use the cards from 7 up to Ace and are a lot of fun. We checked on Pie several times, but it doesn’t look like he is getting any better. If worse comes to worst, he will hike back the 2.4 miles and go back to town tomorrow – We shall see!

Playing Mau Mau

Playing Mau Mau

Intense game of Mau Mau!

Intense game of Mau Mau!


Day 102, 6/10/15

Start: Quarry Gap Shelter
Finish: Somewhere in the PA woods
Miles Hiked: 17.8
Miles To Go: 1086.6
Overall Miles Hiked: 1102.6

Last night just before bed, Click asked if I wanted to learn a few things with my camera.  It was a clear night and the stars were out, so I wisely took him up on the offer. He taught me and Cheese Beard some light painting techniques and the results were really cool.

Light Painting

Light Painting

After that, we took some longer exposure shots of the stars and you could actually see some rotation after only 4 minutes – Very cool!

Great shot of the stars - Thanks again, Click!

Great shot of the stars – Thanks again, Click!

I thanked him for the lesson and we all climbed in our bags, but sleep would have to wait. A horrific sound reached out to us from the dark woods. The hair on my neck stood up on end. “What the $#!^ was that?” Cheese Beard cried. God’s honest truth, it sounded like a woman screaming. It was absolutely terrifying. It happened every minute or so, sometimes there would be three or four shrieks back to back. I thought it could be a screech owl, but a quick YouTube search for owl sounds ruled that out. Click and Cheese Beard thought they were going to be murdered by the sound’s owner. I was a little creeped out as well. More searching on YouTube brought me to the sounds of the red fox…Bingo! Perfect match. I was immediately put at ease, but decided not to share the good news with my buddies. It went on sporadically all night and in the morning it was obvious Click and Cheese Beard didn’t get much sleep! Blade had his headphones in and slept through the entire experience, while Pie was still sick and couldn’t care less.  We packed up and headed out.

image2

Blade hiked full speed ahead and left us behind. Pie was struggling and took it slow. After 9 miles of hiking, Cheese Beard, Click and I walked out of the woods into a parking lot and were greeted by two trail angels! Marie and Dennis treated us to an amazing spread of hot dogs, hamburgers, Oreos, chips, fruit, soda and other goodies. It was their first time giving out trail magic for hikers, but it didn’t show – They did a fantastic job! Thanks again!

Hanging out with trail angels Dennis and

Hanging out with trail angels Dennis and Marie

Just one mile after our feast was another amazing sight…The 2015 official halfway point at 1094.6 miles! With just one more step, we would be closer to Katahdin than Springer! It was a great sight. For all thruhikers who have made it this far, great job! It is a hell of an accomplishment! We were very proud of ourselves and high fives were rampant, but the celebration was short lived.

OFFICIAL HALFWAY POINT!!

OFFICIAL HALFWAY POINT!!

The halfway point meant that just ahead on the trail was Pine Grove Furnace State Park, home of the “half gallon challenge.” For years, hikers have sat down at the state park’s general store with a half gallon of ice cream before them, taunting them, daring them to finish. The reward is a small wooden spoon and respect from other ice cream warriors. Blade and Pie sat out, Click, Cheese Beard and I sat down. Click chose Neapolitan, Cheese Beard selected Vanilla, and I disregarded the warnings from the store worker and went with Cookies n’ Cream.

Ready for the half gallon challenge!

Ready for the half gallon challenge!

So far, the fastest time of the day was 70 minutes – We were determined to beat it. We dug in. The first 15 minutes were a breeze, but Click and Cheese Beard started slowing down around the 20 minute mark. PoBoy forged ahead with amazing focus and an iron stomach. At minute 24, I put down my spoon and stood up in celebration; my container was empty. I had prevailed! A few minutes later, Cheese Beard and Click put away their last spoonfuls of ice cream and entered the record books. The 3 of us completed the task in less than 30 minutes. This feat will most assuredly be talked about among hikers for years to come. Our story will enter the vaults of hiker lore! Well done boys!

Challenge Complete!

Challenge Complete!

30 minutes later, Cheese Beard was stretched out in the sun, not exactly feeling 100%. Click and I were sitting at the same table with cheeseburgers in front of us. Sick, I know! After knocking out our burgers, we walked slowly out of the park and into the woods where we found a nice camp spot alongside a stream. Amazingly, the three ice cream eaters feel fine. We will see if our luck holds in the morning.

…Midnight update – All is well!


Days 95 – 99 (6/3/15 – 6/7/15)

Day 95, 6/3/15

Start: Bears Den Hostel
Finish: Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Miles Hiked: 19.9
Miles To Go: 1166.4
Overall Miles Hiked: 1022.8

With another day of rain ahead of us, we took our time leaving the hostel. No sense rushing towards misery! The hostel treats patrons to a pancake breakfast in the morning, so full bellies also added to our sluggishness. After considering stealing the owner’s puppy (a beagle mix) we headed out. DG and I were in deep conversation when all of a sudden we stopped dead in our tracks, speechless. Just in front of us was the most beautiful sight ever – The VA/WV state line. We were finally out of Virginia after 550 miles! Spirits were boosted and the remaining miles of the day practically melted under our steps.

Finally out of VA!

Finally out of VA!

Hiking with DG has been great, I enjoy his company and conversation. Just two years ago DG weighed 420 pounds. After a few lifestyle changes, he worked his ass off, literally, to drop the weight. Now he is 210 pounds and determined to permanently keep the weight off. Hearing his story was inspirational – Way to go DG!

Trail view 6/3

Trail view 6/3

A few more miles brought us to the steps of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), a non-profit working to protect the A.T. through land rights and organizing the 30 or so hiking clubs maintaining the trail. It is a tradition for hikers to stop in and get their picture taken for the annual catalog. I was hiker number 412 to reach the ATC this year. I was the 121st hiker to register with Amicalola in Georgia back on March 1st. The disparity in numbers is from a few factors, many hikers do not register with Amicalola, while most make it a point to stop in at the ATC. The other reason is that I have no doubt been passed by many others. Just in the last 5 days, 100 hikers have made it to the ATC. I’m at the back of the first wave of hikers to make it this far. Several hundred more are behind me.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry, WV

Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry, WV

During the last 7 days, I have hiked 150 miles and I’m now in Harpers Ferry, WV. 60% of intended thruhikers will not make it this far and the hard miles are yet to come. I called Click and we made plans to get back on the trail together Friday morning. I now get to enjoy a well deserved zero tomorrow. DG and I got a ride to the Harpers Ferry Hostel and checked in. $20/night includes all the free food you can eat, it is a great deal!

Potomac River

Potomac River


Day 96, 6/4/15

Start: Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Finish: Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 1166.4
Overall Miles Hiked: 1022.8

I awoke to the wonderful aroma of pancakes! Pancakes, fruit, bacon, sausage, eggs and cereal made up our tasty display. After eating my fill, I returned to bed for a nap! Around noon I woke up from my nap and my thoughts immediately turned to food – crazy, I know! I raided the fridge and found some ground meat. Burger time! It felt good to be in the kitchen again. Back home, I really enjoy cooking with Leigh. Most Sundays are spent in the kitchen for what we call Slow Jam Sundays. We will put on some good tunes and cook up a storm! Several hungry hikers gathered around as the burgers were served. It wouldn’t have taken much, but everyone agreed they were super tasty! I spent the rest of the evening relaxing. I will need the rest because the trail ahead is supposed to be pretty demanding. It looks like the feelings I had last week have subsided, I’m now anxious to get back out there and make miles. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

From left to right: Rocky, DG, PoBoy at the Harpers Ferry Hostel

From left to right: Rocky, DG, PoBoy at the Harpers Ferry Hostel


Day 97, 6/5/15

Start: Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Finish: Rocky Run Shelter
Miles Hiked: 16
Miles To Go: 1150.4
Overall Miles Hiked: 1038.8

DG and I were treated to pancakes again and we each ate about a half dozen. When a hiker is given free food, it must be capitalized on! We were then able to get a ride back to the ATC where we met up with Blade and The Cuts – Blade, Pie, Click and Cheese Beard. The trail takes you right through downtown Harpers Ferry. I would have loved spending some time in the museums there and checking out the sights. Harpers Ferry has a lot of Civil War history and if the weather was better yesterday I would have played the part of tourist. Oh well, just another spot Leigh and I will have to come back and visit one day!

The trail out of Harpers Ferry follows along the C&O Canal Towpath for 3 miles. The canal stretches on for a total of 185 miles and was used to transport coal from the Allegheny Mountains for about 100 years. The towpath along the side of the canal is some of the flattest trail an A.T. hiker will travel. Too bad it is only 3 miles! Just about where the A.T. makes a turn away from the towpath is the WV-MD state line. Another state down!
View of the trail

View of the trail

I hiked with Blade and The Cuts all day, it was nice to be back with old friends. We caught up on the last few weeks of hiking and shared a few jokes. There really haven’t been many views lately and the miles of trail behind and before us have picked up the nickname PUDS – Pointless Ups and Downs! Those of us who have made it this far are probably in the best shape of our lives and the ups and downs don’t faze us like they used to. I have been having the urge to run lately. I feel like I have the legs and lungs to run for days and as soon as I get back home I am going to act on this urge. I may even start training for a marathon. I just hope I still feel this healthy in New Hampshire. From what I’ve heard, it doesn’t sound easy!
Break Time!

Break Time!

We made it to our shelter for the evening and set up our tents on the ridgeline above. We have been joined by Dessert Wrap (aka Swahili) who I have known since Georgia. He is one of the funnier hikers I have met and we all enjoy his company. Many jokes and laughs were made around the campfire tonight – We are all happy to be out of Virginia.
Journaling about my day.

Journaling about my day.


Day 98, 6/6/15

Start: Rocky Run Shelter
Finish: Ensign Cowall Shelter
Miles Hiked: 15.7
Miles To Go: 1134.7
Overall Miles Hiked: 1054.5

Around 3:00 this morning a pretty bad thunderstorm moved in and woke up the whole camp. It was pretty nasty, but we all made it through okay. The terrain has been pretty rocky and it is hard to get tent stakes in the ground. One of mine must not have been in the ground all the way because halfway through the storm a part of my tent caved in. It wasn’t too bad and still kept me dry, but had another pulled out then I would have been in trouble. I waited until it was just drizzling before I got out and fixed it. Blade, The Cuts and I headed out of camp around 10:00AM, a really late start, but a wet campsite will do that.
Breaking camp this morning

Breaking camp this morning

After a few miles we arrived at the Washington Monument. No, not the one in D.C. This Washington Monument was the first one dedicated to George Washington. It was built in 1827 by nearby villagers and was even used by the Union Army during the Civil Was as a signal station. We ate a few snacks and enjoyed the beautiful weather before continuing on.
Washington Monument

Washington Monument

Looking down from Washington Monument

Looking down from the Washington Monument

It looks like Blade and I are the fastest hikers of the group and we hiked together and talked most of the day. He was born in Dresden, Germany and this is his first time in the U.S. Blade usually keeps to himself more than the others, I think his accent has something to do with that. When there are more than one or two people talking he has a hard time following along, but today it was mostly just the two of us and we talked a lot about how life in the U.S. is different from Germany. It was a really interesting conversation for both of us! We decided to take a .2 mile side trail to Annapolis Rocks and I’m glad we did. Annapolis Rocks are an outcropping with an amazing view. Blade and I sat down on the rock’s edge and enjoyed the view for nearly an hour. Just to our left, rock climbers were gearing up for a climb – it was fun to watch them set up their gear, but we had to get back to the trail before they started climbing.
Blade and I at Annapolis Rocks

Blade and I at Annapolis Rocks

Annapolis Rocks

Annapolis Rocks

The original plan was to do 20 miles, but it was late afternoon and Blade and I were pretty exhausted from the trail which has been very rocky. At a road crossing just shy of the shelter we made an executive decision on behalf of the group. We ordered 3 large pizzas and had them delivered to the trail! As you can imagine, the others were most appreciative. We ate them right on the trail and walked to the shelter with full bellies!

Day 99, 6/7/15

Start: Ensign Cowall Shelter
Finish: Tumbling Run Shelter
Miles Hiked: 18.1
Miles To Go: 1116.6
Overall Miles Hiked: 1072.6

We woke up much earlier today and hiked 10 miles before noon.We were pretty hungry, as we always are, and stopped at the PenMar Country Park and found a nice shady picnic table. There were 20 or so locals spread out through the park and although we received a few odd looks, they were very nice. Apparently on Sundays during the summer the park turns into a craft show with live music and other festivities. We were there a little early, so we didn’t see too much activity, but we did spot an ice cream vendor near the park’s entrance. Lunch could wait! I ate two scoops of homemade Oreo ice cream and savored every delicious second of it! On a warm day like today, it was exactly what we needed. We only had 8 more miles to do today, so we took our time and enjoyed the park. After my lunch of Ramen, I could have gone for a nap, but instead I took another trip to the ice cream man! This time, I ate the triple caramel! SO GOOD!
Pie negotiating a stream

Pie negotiating a stream

As you can imagine, hiking was a little slow going at first, but it was fine because as soon as we got going again, we had to stop – We had reached the Mason Dixon line and the Maryland/Pennsylvania border! We will be in Pennsylvania for the next 230 miles. We took some pictures, high-fived each other for another state down and continued on.
Maryland/Pennsylvania Border

Maryland/Pennsylvania Border

Today, I walked with Click. Click is a professional photographer and videographer and is shooting pictures for a book he is working on. He is very passionate about photography and even though a lot of what he says about it goes over my head, I find it very interesting. He is shooting all of his pictures on one of two cameras that use something called film – Way before my time! One is black and white, his Pentax shoots color. His equipment and film rolls are pretty heavy, but he says he would rather hike without food than his cameras! When his book is published, I will let you all know, I hear PoBoy will be featured once or twice!
Click taking a picture

Click taking a picture

We got to camp early and made a nice fire as we ate dinner. By 9:00, hiker midnight, everyone was in their tents. As I write, I can hear snores in all directions!

Days 91 – 94 (5/30/15 – 6/2/15)

Day 91, 5/30/15

Start: Bearfence Mountain Hut
Finish: Pass Mountain Hut
Miles Hiked: 26.8
Miles To Go: 1246.3
Overall Miles Hiked: 942.9

Well, since I’m a pro at 12×12’s now, this will be the last one I write about! I’ve been doing pretty well physically since I got the new boots and it definitely shows in my mileage. Right after camp was a quick climb up Bearfence Mountain and the view was great. To get to the summit, you have to take a short side trail, but it was well worth it. I soaked in the view, as well as the sun and allowed it to set my mood for the rest of the day. Well, it worked because I didn’t think of quitting once today! Seriously though, today was better than the last few have been – One day at a time.

Poboy at Bearfence Mountain Overlook

Poboy at Bearfence Mountain Overlook

Today is Saturday and the trail is packed with day hikers.  Some are familiar with the A.T., some aren’t and it never gets old telling someone you are hiking from GA to ME. As I was climbing up the trail, I noticed 2 people hunched over in the woods picking up logs and rocks. I thought the situation was odd and casually asked them what was going on. They were researching salamanders. Whenever they find one, they would measure its length as well as the temperature of its environment – Pretty cool!

Salamander Researchers

Salamander Researchers

A short while later, I reached the top of a mountain and took a seat next to some day hikers to enjoy a cold pepsi. I apologized for being stinky and they said that they didn’t mind. They do a lot of hiking and are familiar with the A.T. We talked for several minutes until it was time for me to leave. As I was walking away, one of them asked if I needed good luck. “All I can get,” I said. She put a plastic band on my right wrist. The band was in memory of her daughter, Sydney, who passed away a few years ago from Leukemia. I will wear the band proudly and I will think of Syndey every time I see a ladybug – They were her favorite.

Sydney band

Sydney band

A few hours later I arrived at Stony Man Cliffs. It reminded me a lot of Tinker Cliffs, except these had people climbing up them in their full climbing apparel. I sat down and watched a few of them negotiate the step cliffs, thinking no way would I ever try something that crazy! The Stony Man Cliffs are a short hike from a visitor parking lot below and I strongly recommend it if any of you make it to the Shenandoah Park. I made it to the shelter just before dark and pitched my tent – Snoring could be heard from it moments later!

Stony Man Cliffs

Stony Man Cliffs


Day 92, 5/31/15
Start: Pass Mountain Hut
Finish: US 522
Miles Hiked: 26.5
Miles To Go: 1219.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 969.4

Deer

Deer

A few miles from the shelter way the last wayside I would have the opportunity to visit and having passed up several already I decided to make the short hike from the A.T. to it. I was not disappointed! I treated myself to two ham, cheese and egg biscuits and powerade and took a seat next to some other hikers. One of them was named Tic Toc and she is averaging 27 miles a day out here – That is booking it! She actually hiked the Pacific Crest Trail last year and hopes to hike the mother of them all, the Continental Divide Trail, next year. If all goes as planned, she will earn the Triple Crown of Hiking by the end of next year, a title she will share with fewer than 200 other hardcore hikers. Good Luck Tic Toc!

AT

AT

Another hiker I met there, Woodchuck, would become my hiking buddy the rest of the day. He is a 51 year old retired Marine and our pace is the same. Being able to talk to someone while hiking really helps to pass the time! Oh, and this happened today. I’ll let the sound speak for itself:

Hitting these big miles has been great, but they have certainly taken a toll on my feet. The new boots are great, but there is only so much comfort they can provide. There is no pain free way to hike over 20 miles day after day. What’s worse is that I’ve developed rashes on my ankles and toes. I think it is because they are wet a lot of the time, so I need to do a better job switching out wet socks when I stop for lunch. Hopefully it helps because the rash is quite painful.

I am out of food and dry clothes, so I will be heading into Front Royal, VA tonight. It’s just a few miles off trail and there is a $20/night hostel where I can stay. WIth town food on our minds, Woodchuck and I cruised through the last few miles. We got a ride over to the hostel and got cleaned up. Next we headed further into town to resupply and grab a burger and shake – hiker diet staples. Mountain Home Cabbin, where we are staying tonight, is owned by Anything and Possible. Anything thruhiked in 2012 and together they operate  one of the nicest hostels I have stayed in so far – highly recommended! A good night’s sleep will do this body good, so I am turning in early, night night!


Day 93, 6/1/15

Start: US 522
Finish: Dicks Dome Shelter
Miles Hiked: 15.2
Miles To Go: 1204.6
Overall Miles Hiked: 984.6

Possible woke us up around 7:00AM for a home cooked breakfast of eggs. sausage, toast,  fresh fruit….and pancakes!

I wish I was in need of a zero because this place would be an awesome layover! Possible dropped me off at the laundromat where I spent the next few hours trying to wash and dry clothes. The washing went as expected, but drying my clothes tested my patience. What had happened was, I put my clothes in the machine, added my quarters and hit start. The clothes started tumbling and I walked away.  20 minutes later, I opened the dryer and my clothes were still soaked. I told the attendant that I thought the machine was broken and she said, “They are old machines and go out a lot, try a different one.” There was no mention of reimbursing me my $2.00, so I asked. After a 5 minute conversation, she finally gave me 8 quarters. I was a little perturbed, but said thanks nonetheless. I repeated the steps as before, except for hitting start. I walked back 20 minutes later and my clothes were still just as wet with 20 minutes on the timer. This time I was the dummy! I tried for the third time and was finally successful.

I was hoping to get back on the trail early, but now it was almost noon. I grabbed a quick bite at a local eatery (yes, I got a burger again!) and finally made it back to the trailhead. Thunderstorms were in the forecast so I hiked fast. In fact, I averaged over 3 mph for my 15 mile hike today! For me, that is flying. Of course, that average does include the last 4 miles of my day where I literally ran. I made it through the first 10 miles dry, but thunder could be heard in the distance for most of the day. I was at a shelter and had a decision – do I stay here after only 10 miles, or do I press on to the next shelter 5 miles away? The radar looked okay and the lightning had stopped, so I decided to go for it. Well, 1 mile in the skies became very dark. I started running. The closer I got to the shelter, the worse the weather got. I did the last 4 miles in about 48 minutes as the wind gusted and lightning popped. I walked up to the shelter and scared the hell out of the 3 guys in there – They weren’t expecting to see anyone in this weather! Unfortunately, you can’t always hike in good weather. I don’t like hiking in lightning, but I didn’t have a choice. Now, if lightning is in the area and you know you are about to go over a bald or over a ridge, it is best to stay down in lower elevation. Fortunately, I was on the way down the mountain when the worst of it came in.

I stripped down, got into some dry clothes and got into my bag. The temperature dropped about 20° and I was cold and wet – not a good combination, but I was able to warm up pretty quickly. One of the guys in the shelter is a thruhiker I’ve met a few times named DG. The first time I met him was in Hot Springs, NC and he gave me and BIlly Goat some homemade cookies he got from home. There were no such cookies tonight.


Day 94, 6/2/15

Start: Dicks Dome Shelter
Finish: Bears Den Hostel
Miles Hiked: 18.3
Miles To Go: 1186.3
Overall Miles Hiked: 1002.9

It rained all night, but I stayed dry in the shelter. A heavy mist descended upon us all day and by the time we reached our destination for the evening, we were completely soaked. For much of the day, I hiked with DG. He is a slightly faster hiker than me, so I had to kick up my pace to keep up. The trail meanders through Sky Meadows State Park for a few miles. On a sunny day I am sure the park would be a beautiful hike, but because of the mist, not much could be seen past 50 yards.

Sky Meadow State Park

Sky Meadow State Park

After a few hours, we arrived at a section of the trail known as the Roller Coaster. For 13 miles, the trail consisted of tightly grouped ups and downs. This section of trail gets a bad name because you don’t have a chance to rest, it is just one after another. Instead of the Roller Coaster, I think it should be renamed Georgia!

Rocky trail on 6/2

Rocky trail on 6/2

About halfway through sits the Bears Den Hostel. We were soaked to the bone and cold, it was a no brainer. For $30 a hiker gets a bunk, shower, laundry, soda, pizza and pint of Ben & Jerry’s! For all of you who are planning a thruhike, it is a don’t miss hostel! We checked in and immediately ate our pizza. After that, my attention turned to getting cleaned up and warm. Sleep followed shortly after.

Days 76 – 79 (5/15/15 – 5/18/15)

Day 76, 5/15/15

Start: U.S. 60
Finish: U.S. 60
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 1382.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 806.4

Everyone was excited in the morning but me. I still didn’t have a ride and now I really wanted to go to Trail Days. I made a crude sign out of a beer box that simply stated, “A.T. Hiker, Damascus” and headed for the I-81 on-ramp 3.5 miles away. In the hour it took me to walk there, I had convinced myself that this was a waste of time. No way would I be able to get a ride from Buena Vista, VA (where I was currently) to Damascus, VA…3 hours away. I had a frown on my face, but put my thumb out towards the first car coming down the ramp to the interstate anyway. Nine cars and 13 minutes later, something amazing happened. A car pulled over. I did a double take and started walking towards the car, suddenly the passenger door burst open and all I heard was “PoBoy!” It was Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and their friend, Not Ophelia! I hadn’t seen these guys in the last 400 miles and now we were all in a car together headed for Damascus. The trail provides! We laughed about my crazy hitch and how things just seem to usually work out on the trail.

Before we knew it, we were in Damascus. It was early Friday afternoon on Day 1 of the event and there were already hikers everywhere. I bid my heroes farewell until Sunday and started looking for Click, Pie, Blade and Cheese Beard who were tented at Crazy Larry’s Hostel, which is where we all stayed when we hit Damascus a month ago. I walked over to the hostel and was told by one of Larry’s employees that there was no more room inside or out back with the tents. I found Larry and luckily he remembered me, and liked me, so he told me I was free to set up anywhere I liked! I found the other guys and setup my tent.

Tents set up at Trail Days

Tents set up at Trail Days

There were 2 main areas where hikers gathered, the vendor area and tent city. Tent city is where most people camp – close to 2,000 hikers and other carefree people make up tent city in the woods along the river, just upstream from the vendor area. As I was walking through, I came across Hula, Blazer, Car Bomb and Made It. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my old group, so we spent some time catching up. They are all about 200 miles behind me on the trail. Next, I walked through vendor row and entered every raffle I could! The drawings a few hours later were of no success, but it was worth a shot and besides, the better prizes would be given away tomorrow! I walked back to Crazy Larry’s where Click’s dad was grilling up some steaks! Being from New Orleans, I love festivals and Trail Days is definitely one I’d like to come back to.

Vendors Row at Trail Days

Vendor Row at Trail Days

Waiting to hear the raffle outcome on 5/15

Waiting to hear the raffle outcome on 5/15


Day 77, 5/16/15

Start: U.S. 60
Finish: U.S. 60
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 1382.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 806.4

I woke up early and most of my morning was occupied by much of the same activities as the day before – enjoying the amazing weather with good company and entering every raffle available! Oh, and eating – lots of eating! Hikers and townspeople were cooking everywhere – free food was easily accessible which made everything taste that much better!

Trail Days - Damascus, VA

Trail Days – Damascus, VA

Around 2:00PM, Cheese Beard, Car Bomb, Made It and some others lined up for the parade. A few minutes later, we were underway. The parade was great and of course, 2015 was the biggest group. We were sprayed with water guns the whole way by the townspeople. During the parade, I met a hiker I hadn’t seen since night 3. Of the 9 guys in the shelter that night, one was unaccounted for and 6 had left the trail. After the parade ended, I met Click and Pie and we walked back to the vendor area for the last round of raffles. The big prizes up for grabs were a lightweight backpack and a sleeping bag. I had two chances for each and waited along with a few hundred others for my number to be drawn. Well guess what, it was! I was speechless as I walked away with a $350 sleeping bag! The trail provides indeed! I finished the night hanging out with Pie, Thunder God, Mile Marker, Scooby and some others in tent city – great times had by all!

More vendors at Trail Days

More vendors at Trail Days

Right before my number was called for the sleeping bag raffle!

Right before my number was called for the sleeping bag raffle!


Day 78, 5/17/15

Start: U.S. 60
Finish: U.S. 60
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 1382.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 806.4

Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and Not Ophelia were planning on heading back early, so I called them up and arranged my ride back to Buena Vista. We made the 3 hour drive back and all agreed that Trail Days was an amazing time. I thanked them for the ride and checked into a hotel room. Mile Marker, Scooby, Murphy’s Law, Skipper and Cookie Monster pulled up a few hours later and split the room with me. These guys are known as Team Vortex. A hiker vortex is when you could have hiked, but decided to stay in town or at a shelter instead, even though you really didn’t need rest. Team Vortex is made up of really fast hikers who hike 100 miles in 4 days, then won’t hike at all for 2 days. We filled the afternoon with cards and stories from Trail Days and were all eager to get back on the trail in the morning.

Team Vortex  Top row left to right: Skipper, Scooby, Mile Marker Bottom Row: Murphy's Law, PoBoy, Cookie Monster

PoBoy with Team Vortex
Top row left to right: Skipper, Scooby, Mile Marker
Bottom Row: Murphy’s Law, PoBoy, Cookie Monster


Day 79, 5/18/15

Start: U.S. 60
Finish: Spy Rock Campsite
Miles Hiked: 16.7
Miles To Go: 1366.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 823.1

It was hard to get going this morning, several zero days will make you weak! Since there were 6 of us needing to find a ride back to the trailhead several miles up the road, we decided to split up to make it easier to land a hitch. Scooby, Murphy’s Law and myself were the first to get picked up and we were back on the trail in no time. We had a really steep 2,000 ft climb before the trail evened out some. The weather was warming up quite a bit and I was sweating profusely, literally dripping. I usually only carry about a liter of water and fill up at every water source, but now I have to carry 2 liters. The extra liter means I am adding 2.2 lbs to my pack weight. In a given day, you can expect to have at least 3-4 water sources that cross the trail. These can be small springs just barely trickling, up to large rivers. Some days, there is water every few miles. I filter 100% of my water, not all hikers do, but it is worth the extra time it takes for me to treat it.

Trail shot 5/18

Trail shot 5/18

It started raining at 3:00PM and it felt great! Usually, I would hate hiking in the rain, but because of the heat and humidity, it was welcomed. I didn’t even bother putting on my rain gear. It let up around 7:00PM which was just when I was getting into camp.Spy Rock is a large rock outcropping that hikers can climb up to see the sunset. Just below the giant rock is the campsite where about a dozen hikers had already called home. After setting up our tents, Mile Marker, Scooby, Murphy’s Law, Cookie Monster, Skipper and myself got on the rock and watched the sun go down over the Virginia valley – awesome! Before bed, Skipper treated us to a violin performance. He has been carrying it for the last few hundred miles and is very talented. He has been playing for 19 years and can play anything from Beethoven to Disney songs.

Spy Rock Sunset

Spy Rock Sunset

Another picture of the sunset from Spy Rock

Another picture of the sunset from Spy Rock

Days 40 – 43 (4/9/15 – 4/12/15)

Day 40, 4/9/15

Start: Erwin, TN
Finish: Curley Maple Gap Shelter
Miles Hiked: 4.3
Miles To Go: 1842
Overall Miles Hiked: 347.2

I awoke to blue skies and took Mike up on his work-for-stay offer. In between his house and chicken coop is a section of woods much lower than the surrounding land. He has a small tractor that has a hard time going up and down the steep trail leading into and out of the bowl and wanted me to construct a crude ramp made out of old firewood and mulch. I put one layer of wood down and then would cover it in a layer of mulch. After a few layers, the ramp was complete and turned out pretty good considering what I was using for building materials. It took me three hours, but I was able to pay off my stay!

Back at the trailhead, I got word that Billy Goat left the trail for a few days to find beer, pizza and girls; probably in that order too! He was going to try and meet back up with the group in a few days. I left Erwin with Click, Pie, Just Matt, No Hat and Blade. Just Matt and No Hat are section hiking and will be leaving the trail in one week to go back home.

I’ve met several hikers on the A.T. from other countries, all here on 6 month travel visas and are spending their time “seeing America” on the A.T. Big Bear is from Australia and loves American Whiskey. Blade is from Germany and really loves knives, seriously – American knives, German knives, whatever. If it is sharp, he wants it. Earth is also from Germany and says the A.T. is boring and filled with too many trees! Salty and Chanty are a married couple from Switzerland and are having  a great time. They say the best part of the trail is just talking to other hikers. Pie is from England, he has been to the U.S. a few times and even spent a week in New Orleans. Amazingly, he is one of the only hikers to know what a PoBoy is! We got on the trail around 4:00PM and walked to the next shelter, Curley Maple Gap, setup camp and awaited the rain.

Curley Maple Gap Shelter

Curley Maple Gap Shelter


Day 41, 4/10/15

Start: Curley Maple Gap Shelter
Finish: Greasy Creek Hostel
Miles Hiked: 20
Miles To Go: 1822
Overall Miles Hiked: 367.2

We awoke to light rain and took our time getting ready. There are many different thoughts on rain gear among hikers. Some wear just the top and others, just the bottom. A lot of hikers refuse to wear any rain gear at all. The biggest complaint is that many hikers sweat heavily while hiking in rain gear and end up soaked whether they wear it or not. Unfortunately, I’ve have this problem as well, but my rain gear comes with a lot of venting zippers. Although I still sweat while wearing my gear, I don’t have it as bad as some hikers.

Just 4 miles in, we were treated to some trail magic from Brother Tom. Everyday from March 1st to sometime in May, Brother Tom comes to Indian Grave Gap and offers fresh fruit, juice, soda, cheese and crackers and sweet treats to passing hikers. Thanks, Brother Tom!

Lunch at Beauty Spot Gap

Lunch at Beauty Spot Gap

Our hike for the day would be taking us over Unaka Mountain and its dense spruce forest. It was an eerie hike in the spruce because it was extremely thick in the canopy, but pretty open underneath making it quiet and dark. It was also harder to follow the trail because there was no discernible path due to all the spruce needles on the ground. For hikers up there during foggy weather, special attention needs to be given in locating the white blazes or one could be easily become lost.

Unaka Mountain spruce forest

Unaka Mountain spruce forest

Today was Click’s birthday, so we decided to hike to a hostel close to the A.T. to celebrate. After walking 20 miles the idea of going another .6 along a steep and rocky downhill was not the easiest sell, but real food, showers and beer for the birthday boy seemed worth it. Well, it was worth it as I was treated to the most amazing $5 double bacon cheeseburger on the planet. I also ordered chicken fingers with fries and an Oreo shake. Connie at the Greasy Creek Friendly is an amazing host and will do anything she can for her hiking guests. I definitely recommend staying here to any future thruhikers. Pie, Blade, Just Matt, No Hat, Connie and myself sang “Happy Birthday” to Click, had a few drinks and then turned in.


Day 42, 4/11/15

Start: Greasy Creek Hostel
Finish: Overmountain Shelter
Miles Hiked: 17.4
Miles To Go: 1804.6
Overall Miles Hiked: 384.6

We thanked Connie once more and then hiked the .6 miles back to the A.T. The rainy weather from the day before had given way to clear skies and cooler temps. Hiking was much easier in these conditions and before long we stood at the base of Roan Mountain. Roan’s elevation is 6,212 ft. making it the second highest peak on the A.T. All we had to do was ascend 2,200 ft. I was the slowest in the group as it took me nearly 3 hours of constant climbing to reach the top of the mountain and Roan High Knob Shelter. This shelter is the highest on the A.T. and was currently being occupied by my cohorts as they ate lunch.

Roan High Knob Shelter

Roan High Knob Shelter

View from Roan Mtn

View from Roan Mtn

We still had another 7 miles to hike and it was getting late. I really wanted to press on so I wouldn’t have to hike in the dark, but I forced myself to eat a quick lunch. We left the shelter and headed down into Carvers Gap. The parking lot in the Gap was nearly full as day hikers climbed up and down the balds there to take in the 360º views. If I ever make it back this way, I will make a point to stop at Carvers Gap as if offered some of the best views on the A.T. so far.

After stopping several times to soak it all in, I got back in hiker mode and crushed the remaining miles to arrive at Overmountain Shelter just before dark. This shelter is the most popular on the entire trail. The shelter is actually an old barn and was even featured in the movie The Patriot. The barn is huge and could probably fit 40 hikers. Tonight, there are about 20 hikers in the barn and another 20, including myself, camped outside. The fire was inviting so I sat down with several hikers and traded war stories and dumb jokes. After laughing for a few hours, it was time for bed.

Overmountain Shelter

Overmountain Shelter


Day 43, 4/12/15

Start: Overmountain Shelter
Finish: Roan Mountain, TN
Miles Hiked: 9.2
Miles To Go: 1795.9
Overall Miles Hiked: 393.8

The temperature dropped several degrees overnight and after two days of 80º hiking, I looked forward to the change. What I didn’t know was that the wind on the top of the two balds I had to cross was blowing even harder than it was at Max Patch a few weeks ago. Hikers were literally being blown a step or two off trail as they tried to negotiate the steep path. The two balds were Little Hump Mountain and Hump Mountain and both were void of all trees allowing hikers to see everyone in front and behind them for several hundred yards. On the top of the second bald were some big boulders that allowed a reprieve from the wind. I stopped there to take a few pictures and eat a granola bar of the chewy and chocolate variety.

About halfway down the second bald was the last border between North Carolina and Tennessee, we had been crisscrossing between these two states a dozen times or so and now only had 75 miles left in Tennessee before reaching Virginia. The farther down from the top of Hump Mountain we hiked, the less wind we had to contend with. By the time we reached the highway to Roan Mountain, TN, the weather was absolutely amazing and we decided to get a hitch into town to celebrate our near 400 mile achievement and to resupply. It was my first attempt at hitchhiking, but only minutes after sticking up my thumb at passing cars, a truck pulled over and offered us a ride. The first stop was Bob’s Dairyland where I ordered a double bacon cheeseburger and a chocolate shake – this seems to be my order of choice when arriving in town! After inhaling our food, we walked over to Dollar General to resupply. I was getting really sick of Pasta Sides and Ramen so I decided to try a few new items. I purchased a block of Pepper Jack cheese, tortillas, and salami in hopes of making some kind of cheesy burrito thing. I was told the cheese would keep for a week or so – we will see! Our next and final spot was Mountain Harbour Hiker Hostel where I got a cheap bunk for the night.

It was still early so we decided to make a fire. As the hours passed, hiker after hiker trickled in, including Car Bomb, Made It, Blazer and Hula, and they all joined in the circle. The weather was forecasted to deteriorate overnight and rain for the next 5 days so we took advantage of our last good night and went to bed around 11:00, which is super late as far as hikers are concerned.

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

Recap: My first month on the A.T.

I’ve spent one month on the A.T. and for the most part I have loved every minute of it. The people, both hikers and townspeople, have been amazing and make you feel like family around every turn. I guess in a way we are a family. The hikers are your brothers in arms, there to cheer you up when you need it and make fun of you when you deserve it. They are your college roommates, always ready for a party and have your back in good times and bad. They are your younger brothers and sisters you worry about when they don’t arrive home (or in this case, at camp.) The townspeople are your mom and dad, there to pick you up when you need a ride, feed you when you are hungry and house you when you need shelter…sometimes at no cost! They are your aunts and uncles, there to give you unsolicited, but welcome advice. To all of the amazing people I have met so far, THANK YOU! To everyone back home and around the country reading these words, THANK YOU for joining me on this crazy journey. We still have 1,932.8 miles to go!

-PoBoy

Day 1:

Pack weight 45 leaving Amicalola

Pack weight 45 leaving Amicalola

Day 31:

PoBoy at Max Patch

PoBoy at Max Patch