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 121 – 124 (6/29/15 – 7/2/15)

Day 121, 6/29/15

Start: William Brien Memorial Shelter
Finish: Fort Montgomery, NY
Miles Hiked: 10.2
Miles To Go: 785.6
Overall Miles Hiked: 1403.6

The rain finally stopped around 3:00AM. I may have been dry, but I did not sleep well. The good news is that I will be hiking with a very light pack today since I am completely out of food. Town wasn’t very far away, so at least I didn’t have to hike hungry for long. Just before town is Bear Mountain and as we reached the top, we had an incredible view. About 35 miles away stood New York City! I stood there and named some of the notable buildings including the Freedom Tower and Empire State Building. Very cool!

NYC Skyline

NYC Skyline

On the way down, Jeopardy and I ran into a large group of trail volunteers who were busy installing huge steps into the trail to make it a little easier to navigate. From the base of the mountain to the top is about 1,100 ft. and it has taken them 3 years to get to where they are now, 1 more year and the entire trail up the mountain to the viewing point will have steps. A lot of work goes into the process and it is all done by volunteers, absolutely amazing!

Trail club installing steps

Trail club installing steps

We finally made it down the mountain and into the Bear Mountain Recreational Area and Zoo. The trail goes right through the zoo and it is free for hikers to enter. At the center of the zoo is the bear cage, which has the honor of being the lowest point on the A.T. at 124 ft. above sea level.

Bear cage, lowest point on AT

Bear cage, lowest point on AT

Jeopardy, Roker and I walked around the zoo and eventually met up with Rock Boat and Miles. Most of us needed to resupply and we all needed to do laundry, so we got a room at the Holiday Inn Express and called it a day. They had a pool and a sauna – It was an easy decision!

Pool at the Holiday Inn Express

Pool at the Holiday Inn Express


Day 122, 6/30/15

Start: Fort Montgomery, NY
Finish: RPH Shelter
Miles Hiked: 25.2
Miles To Go: 760.4
Overall Miles Hiked: 1428.8

We left town early and crossed over the Hudson River before heading back into the woods. Our goal for the day was 20 miles and free camping at the Clarence Fahnestock State Park. Since we were “only” doing 20 miles, we hiked slower than normal and enjoyed our day. When we reached the park at 6:00PM, we were instantly disappointed. The grill was closed and the one vending machine was out of order. Oh well, no big deal. We decided we will just setup our tents and cook Ramen. We asked a park employee where the campground was and he said it wasn’t far up a service road. We got moving.

View from trail on 6/30

View from trail on 6/30

About a mile later we reached the campground and were told by a park ranger that A.T. hikers are welcome to camp at zones 1-3 for free. If we wanted to stay in any of the other 20 unoccupied zones, we would have to pay. Well, zone 3 was taken up by non-A.T. hikers, zone 2 was extremely small and on a slope and zone 1 had low power lines directly overhead and there was severe weather forecasted for later this evening. Geez, thanks a lot!

We were all a little pissed and made the hard decision to hike on. The next shelter was 5 trail miles away, but first we had to hike the 1 mile back to the trail, which doesn’t count towards A.T. mileage since it was a side trail. The A.T. is 2189.2 miles long this year and any hiker that makes it all the way can add several hundred more miles onto their trip total due to side trails.

Hardly anyone spoke as we marched on to the shelter. By the time we got there, we had just enough time to set up our tents before nightfall. Ramen never tasted so good!


Day 123, 7/1/15

Start: RPH Shelter
Finish: NY 22
Miles Hiked: 19.9
Miles To Go: 740.5
Overall Miles Hiked: 1448.7

Around midnight the storms moved in and dropped buckets. The lightning was so bad at times the whole campsite was awake. I’m not sure how much sleep I got, but I know it wasn’t enough.

The rain finally stopped around 9:00AM, so I forced myself to get out and pack up my soggy tent. Right off the bat, I had 2 steep climbs and I definitely felt the extra pounds of water weight from my wet tent. For much of the morning, the trail followed open ridge lines and forced me to hike on the slippery backbone of the mountain. There was one 60 ft. section that was sloped toward the edge of the mountain. I had already fallen twice and had I slipped on this section and went over the edge, this PoBoy would have met its expiration date!

I had my headphones in and had my playlist on shuffle. I was trying to concentrate on every step, but all I could think about was how embarrassing it would be if I died while listening to Miley Cyrus!

It’s a good thing I prevailed because a few short miles later I was walking around Nuclear Lake. Weird name, but definitely beautiful! Sights like this make up for the endless miles of nothing but trees and shrubs that give the A.T. its nickname of “The Green Tunnel.” I sat down on a boulder and appreciated just how beautiful mother nature could be.

Nuclear Lake

Nuclear Lake

Nuclear Lake

Nuclear Lake

I was still thinking of the lake when I reached my goal for the day and arrived at NY 22. Just off the highway is Native Landscapes Garden Center where hikers are allowed to camp for free. The only drawback is that the tenting area is between the highway and railroad! Oh well, looks like it may be another night of little sleep.


Day 124, 7/2/15

Start: NY 22
Finish: Kent, CT
Miles Hiked: 18.4
Miles To Go: 722.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 1467.1

The trains passed by every 45 minutes until 2:00AM; it was another night of little sleep.

Jeopardy, Miles, Rock Boat, Roker and I slowly made it out of camp and didn’t really speak much until a magical sight perked us up. We had just crossed the NY-CT border! Another state down, just 5 more to go! We took a few pictures and continued trekking.

Connecticut State Line

Connecticut State Line

CT border

CT border

Several miles later, we reached the wealthy town of Kent, CT. Miles and I each had packages waiting for us at the Outfitters and everyone else was low on food. We made our way down to Country Clothes which is an upscale women’s clothing store, but the owners love hikers and let us camp for free behind their home. There is even an outdoor shower and port-o-potty. Even better is that there are no train tracks or busy roads in sight.

Lunchtime tomfoolery

Lunchtime tomfoolery

After I setup my tent, I went over to the Outfitters to get my packages. I had 2 waiting for me, one from my brother, Zack, and another from my great friend, Gary. Zack sent me some energy chews, Oreos and a really nice card. Gary sent me some candy bars, an assortment of drink mixes, an inspirational handwritten note and an Ebony magazine! Thanks guys, your encouragement and care packages are just what I needed to get to the next state! Thanks a lot, love y’all and can’t wait to see you again.

We all bought bandanas! Roker, Rock Boat, Jeopardy, PoBoy, Miles

We all bought bandanas! Roker, Rock Boat, Jeopardy, PoBoy, Miles

We still had a little time before bed, so we made our way over to a local pizza place and ordered 5 large pizzas – Rock Boat was the only to finish. They also had a trivia game that started just as we arrived. Our team, Team Stroganoff (named for the Knorr’s Pasta Side we loathed the most) took 1st place of course!

Trivia Winners!

Trivia Winners!

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 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 12 – 14 (3/12/15 – 3/14/15)

Day 12, 3/12/15

Start: Muskrat Creek Shelter
Finish: Betty Creek Gap
Miles Hiked: 16.2
Miles To Go: 2091.6
Overall Miles Hiked: 97.6

We awoke to light rain again and packed our gear with damp spirits. For now, our little foursome has doubled. We seem to be hiking within a bubble with some other hikers and we tend to cross paths every night or so. Along with my quartet, we now have Hawkeye and his dog, Lucy, Happy Warrior and two younger guys from New Hampshire. We all mesh pretty well and the company is welcome. The eight of us, plus the dog, all left camp within 10 minutes of each other and crossed paths all the way to Standing Indian Mountain. At 5,500 ft. it was our highest peak yet, but once again the weather robbed us of a great view. All day and the overwhelming majority of the last week and a half, we could not see more than 50 yards ahead of us. The weather has definitely been tough to deal with. Everything is wet, muddy and an endless damp cold has crept into our bodies. The only cure is sunlight, which I have only seen twice and for no more than an hour total. The rest of the time so far we have been blanketed in thick fog, rain or snow. My advice to any future thruhikers is to hike in April! I heard a few trail updates from Happy Warrior and Hawkeye today. It seems a few more guys I started with are now gone. Apparently, one of them had been hiking with a girl he met on the trail. The girl had already hiked the A.T. two years ago and was in great shape too, but was still struggling with the trail. Anyway, the two had become inseparable and had been discussing how great it will be to hike together for the next 5 months. About 200 yards from their intended campsite, he took a bad step and blew out his knee, ripping a tendon. He had been pushing himself hard to keep pace with her. As quickly as it began, their A.T. romance was over. The girl hiked on, our Romeo did not. One bad step is all it could take out here and your hike is over. It is impossible to spot every rock or branch in your way, so there is a certain amount of luck needed to successfully complete a thruhike. We walked into our expected shelter for the evening around 4:00PM. On one of the three walls was a hand written note:

TRAIL MAGIC FEAST

Rock Gap

Friday, March 13th

Late morning to early afternoon

PIZZA! FRIED CHICKEN! FRUIT! SODA!

This sounded incredible, but there was just one problem – Rock Gap was over 12 miles away. If we made camp here, we would not make it in time the next day. It was decision time. Do we let the promise of free food push us another 4 miles despite our aching bodies? Or do we set camp and take a much deserved rest? Exactly, free pizza it was! We hiked the additional 4 miles like zombies to Betty Creek Gap where we would be in a much better position to reach the feast in the morning.

Hawkeye and Lucy

Hawkeye and Lucy

Rocky descent of Standing Indian Mountain

Rocky descent of Standing Indian Mountain

Trail Magic Feast sign!

Trail Magic Feast sign!


Day 13, 3/13/15

Start: Betty Creek Gap
Finish: Rock Gap
Miles Hiked: 8.5
Miles To Go: 2083.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 106.1

We woke up early and traveled in darkness for the first hour with only our headlamps showing the way. Free pizza is one hell of a motivator! A few miles into our hike had us standing at the base of Albert Mountain. The last 50 yards of the mountain are some of the steepest steps a hiker will have to endure on the A.T. Some hikers are even forced to put away their hiking poles and use their hands to scale the jagged rocks. After scaling the nearly vertical trail and reaching the summit, hikers are welcome to climb the Albert Mountain Fire Tower for an even better view. Because of the wind and cold on top of the mountain, the steps to the top of the fire tower were covered in a thin coat of ice. My movement up the tower was slow and deliberate, but well worth the risk. I snapped a few pictures and moved on.

Albert Mountain Fire Tower

Albert Mountain Fire Tower

Rainy view from Albert Mountain Fire Tower

Rainy view from Albert Mountain Fire Tower

Selfie on Albert Mountain Fire Tower

Selfie on Albert Mountain Fire Tower

We reached Rock Gap around 11:15AM – No one was there! We were in panic mode as our great day had suddenly been turned upside down. Most of us had skipped breakfast in hopes of satisfying our hunger with greasy pizza and other goodies. After 30 minutes, a few hikers moved on, disheartened. My group of 8 (Billy Goat, Hannah, Blazer, two guys from New Hampshire, Happy Warrior and Hawkeye) gave up hope as well, but decided to call for a ride into Franklin, North Carolina instead of walking an additional 4 miles off trail to get there on foot. While we were waiting for our ride, a big white van pulled up. The doors opened and eight teenagers and one adult spilled out of the van and charged towards us. What they were carrying almost brought us to tears. Dominos pizza, donuts, sodas, fruit, fried chicken, candy bars and many more tasty treats were being presented to us. The group was on Spring Break from Ohio and wanted to “pay it forward.” More hikers showed up as we shook hands and offered thanks to our benefactors; our words barely audible through our stuffed mouths. Fat and happy, we piled into our shuttle and rode into Franklin. We found a cheap motel and checked in. We performed our hiker chores of laundry, resupplying and checking our gear and turned in for the night.

Rock Gap Feast Trail Angels

Rock Gap Feast Trail Angels


Day 14, 3/14/15

Start: Rock Gap
Finish: Rock Gap
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 2083.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 106.1

We took a well deserved and much needed zero today. After hiking 40 miles in 3 days we were sore and needed to rest our legs. The best way to go home early is to push yourself this early in the game. Many successful thruhikers advise taking one or two “zeros” a week until you get into Virginia. By then, your body is accustomed to the miles and the trail gets a little easier. I spent most of the day holed up at McDonalds to use their free WiFi. It is  still raining, so there isn’t much else to do. For dinner, we decided on a Chinese Buffet restaurant. All you can eat (AYCE) places are always first on a hikers eat list. We called on a local shuttle driver for a ride. Beverly Carini arrived to bring us to dinner. She was a sweet older lady who loves shuttling hikers all over Franklin. Her deceased husband was a hiker, so she knows how much it means for us to have support. When we arrived at the restaurant, we invited Beverly to join us. We were not surprised when she gladly accepted our offer. Beverly seemed to take a liking to Billy Goat despite the 50 year age difference. We made sure she had a seat right next to him so they could talk undisturbed. Billy Goat was not amused. After dinner, we all had sleep on our minds, but Beverly tried to recruit Billy Goat to attend a local watering hole with her. Unfortunately, she was not successful – Oh, what could have been! The weather is supposed to clear up tomorrow as we hit the trail again…it better.